“Oh, Jesus, get moving.” They were almost out of sight of the driveway when the Dodge shot back down the driveway and took the corner. Ray could see it fishtailing, and it almost kept going across the road into the trees, but the driver got it under control and gunned it. Smoke formed around the rear wheels as the car gained traction and shot forward after them. They lost sight of it as the van rounded a corner and began to climb.

THEY WERE LOST, and Manny was moving too fast for them to get their bearings. Ray tried to keep him moving east toward the Delaware, and Manny made turns when he figured the van could make it without catapulting them across an intersection and into the trees that lined the dark country lanes. Ray climbed across the seats and tried to hold himself at the rear window with the shotgun. He jacked more shells into the breech and held on to a seat belt strap as the van banked from side to side. Manny jammed on the brakes to make a turn, and Ray smacked his head against the door. The car would be faster and handle better on the wet roads, but once they had made a couple of turns it didn’t seem likely that the men following them would know where they were.

Ray climbed awkwardly into the front and dropped into the passenger seat, sweating and cursing under his breath. There were no lights and not many signs, and none of them meant anything to Ray. They passed farms and small developments with a few houses and crossed a creek swollen and black in the moonlight.

There was a hissing, clicking noise, and Ray jumped in his seat.

A voice, close by, said, “Ten- four, good buddy.”

Ray looked at Manny, who looked at Ray’s waist. The walkie-talkie. Christ, they must have dropped the other one in the yard. The cheap thing only carried a few miles, so that meant the Charger was still behind them and moving fast to stay close.

“Man, you guys know how to party.” Ray unclipped the radio from his belt and held it up. “Come on, let’s talk for a minute.”

Manny shook his head. “Throw that thing the fuck out the window.”

Ray held up his hand. There was something about the voice. Ray wondered if it was the young guy he had seen at the wheel of the Charger. It was deep, confident. Amused, maybe, at how fast things could get fucked up.

“Say something. I figured you left this one behind ’cause you wanted to talk things over, figure out how to resolve this thing.”

The guy had a soft accent, a New En gland burr that slightly opened the vowels with r’s and twisted others, like the way he said “resolve” with a throaty “aw” sound.

Ray clicked the handset twice, then, after a beat, twice again. Manny slowed at a five- way intersection, headed vaguely left.

The voice said, “Okay, that’s better.” There was a long pause. “I’m just trying to understand this. I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Old Randy was a crazy man. Maybe things just got out of hand? You were just going over there to cop and Charlene came on to you, shows you her stuff. Randy flips out, starts in with the black he li cop ters or some shit? Something like that?” The voice was calm, but in the background they could hear the Charger’s engine racing, trying to catch up with them.

Manny shook his head, glaring. “Will you throw that fucking thing away? Suppose they can home in on the fucking thing or something.”

“They’re not the CIA, man. It’s just a pissed- off dealer, and maybe he tells us something we can use to stay the fuck out of his way.”

The voice said, “I guess there are two problems with that scenario, where it’s all just a big misunderstanding. One is this here radio. Which I can’t figure unless you were police, or miscreants, and this little dime store thing is not police issue. The other thing’and this is where things get real complicated’the other thing is you stole my fucking money and my dope.” The voice had an edge now. “Now, I know you might think I want to avenge the deaths of those two hillbillies or some shit. I tell you sincerely I am only thinking about the money.” The voice was fading, static building on the line.

“So here’s a way out for everyone. You just tell me where you are, you drop the bag out the door and drive away. Then this becomes a funny story about how you almost ended up getting tortured to death for no good reason, instead of a sad story about two headless corpses found in the river.” Riv- ah, the way the guy said it. Ray tried to think if the guy at the farm house, Randy, had an accent, or the woman. Rick had called him a Piney, and that’s what Ray remembered, a backwoods kind of accent tinged with Philly.

They came to a stop sign, and Manny turned right. The road climbed and twisted, and the van slowed with the effort. The voice got louder and clearer. Ray stared into the rear window, eyes burning with the strain of trying to pick something meaningful out of the wet dark behind the van. “What do you think, that you’d be that tough to find? A couple of white guys ripping off dealers in a brown van? This walkie- talkie tells me you’ve been doing this a while. And that means there are a bunch of people out there who want me to catch you and put a bullet in your eye.”

There was lightning, and the walkie- talkie hissed and popped with static. “You should think about this. You can still make it all go away. The fire, that’ll probably keep the cops out of it. I love a good fire, it’s like the fuckup’s friend.” Ahead, two yellow eyes appeared in the road, and Manny stood on the brakes. The van jerked and swiveled in the water, and Manny fought to hold the road. The van spun until it was sliding broadside down the road. Ray was thrown against the door, trying to grab at the dash, the seat, anything. The eyes in the road got huge, like some kind of monster bearing down on them. Finally the van stopped with a scream of rubber. They sat for a moment, watching the deer move daintily into the trees. Manny let a breath out like air escap-ing from a tire and cranked the wheel until the van pointed back down the road.

The voice said, “Don’t make me do all the talking, pal. I’m patient, but you gotta start dealing with this situation or there are going to be serious fucking repercussions.” There was hissing and a harsh click timed with a flash of lightning. “I need that fucking money, you hear me?”

Manny hit the roof of the van with his fist. “That’s enough of that shit.” He grabbed the radio out of Ray’s hand and sailed it out the window into the trees.

Ray nodded. “Yeah, fuck it. Just go.” But he had wanted to hear more. He wasn’t learning anything, not really, and he probably wouldn’t have. It would have been impossible to say why he wanted to keep hearing the deep voice, telling him he was going to be caught and die, but he did. He would have sat there all night with the walkie- talkie listening to the terrible shit that was going to happen, if Manny hadn’t grabbed the thing and thrown it away.

THEY MADE A right and then a quick left again and passed an old Victorian house with a bed- and- breakfast sign and then came to a dead end.

Manny yelled at Ray, “Where am I going?”

Ray took in the yellow sign marked with arrows pointing north and south. “This is River Road. Turn right and haul ass.”

Ray stowed the shotgun under the first row of passenger seats and covered it with a parka and then climbed into the passenger seat again. The road was narrow, and they began to see traffic going the other way. Ray stiffened every time a car passed them, thinking they were going to get a face full of windshield if it was the Charger.

What could they know? So they had gotten that there were two of them in a brown van. The guys in the Charger had been at the house for like five minutes before they came out after Ray and Manny. If they had looked at their faces, what could they have seen? Ray had barely registered the driver of the Charger, and it seemed to Ray that the guy had been staring straight ahead.

“Assume the worst, right?” He looked over at Manny, whose face was dripping, as if the rain were coming directly at them into the van.

“I’m way out ahead on that. I’m thinking they’re already at my house with a blowtorch.”

“I mean, how much trouble could we be in? What could they even find out?” Ray’s mind raced and his head throbbed. “They saw the van, so what? The plates are from the junkyard, and we dump the thing tomorrow somewhere.” He wanted a cigarette. “They ID Rick? Can they tie him to us? And why would they? Who knows our business?”

“Hoe Down.” Hoe Down was Ho Dinh, a Viet nam ese in Philly they downed drugs to from the dealers they took off. Ho was the one they ran all their scores by, the guy connected to the bikers and the organized guys running speed. They talked with Ho about everything they did, and Ho would warn them off dealers or cookers who were

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