A halloween tribute for Mill Ave and Phoenix -- revisiting an old legend, updated for a gritter era.


Salter’s cab, taxi 369, had been towed to the Fairlight garage after the ambulance and police patrol cars left the scene. Gary told Vex that the vehicle now amounted to probably little more than scrap metal. The frame managed to only barely withstand the wall and the engine cracked clear through on impact. The cab, crumpled and forlorn, sat in an unused garage alongside the main stalls—the dusty white light filtering in through the high windows and the smell of motor oil always reminded her of sick horses. This garage was for sick cars.

The taxi’s windshield and driver’s side windows were both gone, leaving only the passenger’s side window, which sported a multitude of spider web cracks. Looking at the back of the cab one would have thought it hadn’t been damaged at all—with the exception of the trunk, which seemed to have violently twisted open during the accident. Fragments of safety glass still twinkled inside, sitting atop the upholstery. Peering through the vacant driver’s side window, Vex noticed her own eyes gazing back from the passenger’s seat, the rearview mirror rested there.

She reached into her pocket and withdrew a lipstick canister, Pale Moonlight White. It applied slickly to the surface of the driver’s side mirror as she drew an incantation circle and traced out the Futhark based runes for memory and change.

In her experience with psychometry, objects didn’t remember things like people did; their recollections did, however, often remember people. Jason’s intimate presence with the side mirror at the time of the accident would probably be enough to cement at least a few glimpses of the headless Indian biker. Hopefully one glimpse enough for her to know the face of her faceless prey.

Vex touched her fingers to the pattern and exhaled, looking internally for that place where divination resets, the strange sensation of burning butterflies seated sometimes in her sternum. When she found it, the world shifted. Divining through psychometry always made her think of Johnny Smith from The Dead Zone, but the connections were never so perfect or encompassing. Instead, flashes of insight, the strange sense of forgetting something passed over her like an electric current.

—the bright single headlight of a motorcycle resolved into view, hazy and wavering as if across a great distance, for a moment it was three headlights, one in the center and two smaller on the sides. A dark shape mounted behind the glowing light.

—a motorcycle, black and bronze, seemed to float on nothing. The asphalt road quivered like a torrent of black beneath its wheels as it levitated alongside the taxi, Vex could see the cab’s exterior curving away—familiar. The Indian appeared as described, a keg-chested, leather clad mountain atop his bike. Thick arms gripped the handlebars, neckline ending in nothing.

—the Indian turned, only visible by the shoulders shifting. A shadow crossed her vision.

—the road had stopped moving, the stars were fixed in place. This motionlessness made her queasy in a way that the non-world of driving hadn’t before. The ponderous bulk of the Indian, no longer astride his bike, walked away from the mirror and toward the back of the cab.

The mirror could recall no more.

“Thank you,” Vex said to the mirror. It couldn’t hear her, she knew, but she still felt it was important to offer thanks. She wiped the lipstick off of the mirror with a handkerchief. “Now that I’ve seen you, I can find you.”

When she returned to the main garage to check out, Andrea waved her down from the dispatch table. “Happy Halloween!” she called.

“Thanks, you too,” Vex said. “It’ll be happier when I get off of this shift.”

As a taxi dispatcher, Andrea Bass was mild mannered, witty, and to-the-point—all the things that Gary wasn’t. Wrinkles formed around her mouth when she smiled at the joking tone in Vex’s complaint and she nodded, the blue bow she tied into her graying hair bobbing as she did so. Outside of her job as a dispatcher, Andrea gave Vex the impression of an Old West Sunday schoolmarm—she would have looked poignant and stunning in a dress with a shady hat. Vex’s father had hired her out of retirement from being a day care coordinator. Gone from babysitting toddlers to babysitting childish hacks, it couldn’t have been that big of a trade for her.

“Don’t get too down on yourself, hon,” Andrea prodded cheerfully. “It’s only a six-hour run. Tomorrow is another day and a couple temp drivers are coming in. We’ll recover. We always do.”

Vex nodded. “Say, does Gary still have that pair of company cell phones in his desk? The ones with the headsets.”

“You need them for something? I have a key to his desk. I doubt he’d mind.”

“Yes. Jason promised to keep me company tonight.”

“From his hospital bed?” Andrea’s keys jingled as she flipped through them. “What a sweet kid.”

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