Jason Salter dared to check his rearview mirror again. The single bright-star of a motorcycle headlight still hung there. It had been there for the past half-hour while he wove the cab through the Foothills’ winding neighborhood roads. Every turn, every bend, it reappeared in the distance—seeming almost a quarter-mile off—and remained a steady companion.
Old urban legends sprang to his mind in paranoid bursts, but he pushed them away. Ahwatukee wasn’t exactly gang central and wasn’t the end of civilization either. Rich subdivisions sprang up all around in carefully cultivated rows. To the north, South Mountain reared up into the star speckled midnight horizon like a torn piece of paper, and the red lights of the radio towers shimmered like fireworks suspended in the sky.
In the mirror, the ominous headlight began to draw closer. Jason watched it nervously, blowing air out between pursed lips as he gripped the steering wheel tightly.
The radio squawked, jolting him. Gary doing dispatch. Jason depressed the send button. “This is Sierra Alpha Three-Six-Nine, come back.”
“Salter, what’s your twenty? Over.”
Jason got himself into the hack business only four months earlier. Coming out of pizza delivery in metro Phoenix it seemed a step up, and it paid a bit better. On the old delivery job, the drivers kept in contact with cell phones, and the radio jargon wasn’t always easy to remember.
“Uuuh, what? Over.”
A long pause.
“Where are you at? Over.” Jason could almost make out the sigh before the radio clicked back in.
“I’m hanging-ten east on Chandler, then I’ll hop on I-10.”
“You’re way off station, Salter.”
“Couldn’t be helped,” he said, “the dude I picked up at Sky Harbor changed his mind mid-drive.”
“I have a fare for you,” Gary said, “but he’s cooling his heels the other side of Tempe.”
“I’m supposed to be off in twenty.”
“Did it really take you an entire hour and a half to drive that last fare down there?”
Jason didn’t feel like saying that he got lost.
“Nevermind,” Gary said. “The boss says you can take some overtime if you like. With Jack and Sue out, three of our chariots in the garage, and the old man’s daughter taking the next few days off we’re kinda short handed. Whaddya say?”
He slowed the cab to a stop for a red light and thought over his reply. Behind him, a low, deep thrum rumbled in a cadence that reminded him of the hoof beats on stone.
Jason pressed send. “Sure. I could use the money.”
The drumming tempo slowly rose in volume and diminished in rhythm as it approached, idling down to an unhurried pace. The light from the single headlight glowed momentarily through his back window and slid off to the side as the thrumming rolled up beside the cab.
Jason turned his head to look.