“I’ll hand you over to this fare in Tempe,” the radio crackled. “I’ll get the address. It’s not handy. Andrea got it and went to the can.”
The first thing that he noticed about the bike was the bright silver-polished pipes running along the engine framed by the black leathered legs of the rider. The smell of oil and exhaust billowed up through the half-open window as Jason’s ran his gaze over the black and chrome sweep of the fenders.
Ahead, the light turned green.
He put his eyes to the road and listened as the bike’s engine roared to galloping life beside him. The motorcyclist paced the taxi easily even when Jason pushed the gas. Eagerly, the bike revved his engine and forged ahead; grinning, Jason followed. The next stoplight wasn’t for another two miles or more, so he poured on, drinking in the exhilaration of the race. The bike had pressed ahead early, but the cab gained.
Soon they were once again neck and neck. The stoplight ahead flashed from red to green. Jason smirked at his midnight companion, whose bike now thundered like an entire herd of mustangs charging across the blacktop. The biker’s leather outfit whipped and billowed as the taxi’s speedometer needle began to exceed 60 mph.
Grinning in maniac delight through the wind lashing at his hair and eyes, Jason craned his head to glimpse his speed-rival. His broad shoulders surmounted a barrel chest, and his gloved hands engulfed the handlebar grips; but when Jason’s gaze met the man’s eyes—
“Sierra Alpha,” Gary said, “I have that fare’s location...”
Or where his eyes should have been.
A black gloved hand reached through the window. Glass shattered. Brakes shrieked—the cab kissed the narrow side of a brick wall—and everything stopped.
“Sierra Alpha are you out there?” the radio hissed weakly as the wind howled across the lonely road. “Salter, unless you’re chatting up some blonde with big knockers, I expect you to pick up the radio.”
* * *
“I know it's your day off, but we don't have enough people to cover the entire shift that night.”
Irritated, Vex drummed her fingers on the kitchen counter and bit her lip, cradling the phone between her shoulder and cheek. She knew she could say no, but it wasn't going to happen. With three of the taxi company’s cabs in the garage and one more driver out of commission it wasn't like she could find someone to cover that shift. Halloween night and she was going to have to spend at least six hours on the job. She mused that maybe she could get off early for good behavior.
Normally, her dad wouldn't have been the one calling. It would have been Gary, night manager of the Phoenix branch and dispatcher who ruled his garage with an iron hand and his radio with a sharp tongue. He was not one to mince words or back away from responsibility, so why he'd gone and asked her dad to call from the Vegas office she couldn't follow. Seemed she was going to have some words with Gary about using family against her. Of course, her dad did own the company, so it could just be politics.
Finally, into the telephone she said, “Fine. I'll do it.”
There must have been a rough edge to her tone because her dad was quiet for a moment.
“Don't call me that,” she said. “It makes me sound like
“What else do you want, Da?”
“You don't have to go see him in the hospital, you know. I reckon that I can't stop you anyway, never have, but this time, why don't you just leave it well enough alone. I know he's one of your coworkers, but just because of the...accident, you don't have to go and see him. You're not obligated."
Vex sighed. He couldn't even bring himself to say it—to say, “Just because your mother died in a car accident.” Even though he himself had only learned of that tragedy a year after it happened he still couldn't grasp how much that had bent Vex's mental world. Car accidents, freak or ordinary, gained a strange semblance to that heart-breaking memory and earned their own superstitious ceremony. Her mother had died at the scene, Vex never got to visit her in any hospital; never had a chance to say goodbye.
“He's a friend of mine, Da,” Vex said. It wasn't worth fighting with him over, but she wasn't going to back down. “I want to make sure he's okay. This isn't about mom.”
“Fine," her dad said, she could almost see the creases forming on his brow. “Just promise me you won't take him a rose.”