This is a continuing CC serial. The previous episode can be found here.
Louis Broderick pulled the brown Coupe deVille into the freshly paved parking lot. Sighing as he turned off the ignition, he lit another Brougham cigarette before getting out of the car.
He realized he had been smoking a lot lately, but he also realized he was likely one of the few people in the history of mankind whose smoking habit had saved his life. If it weren’t for his beloved cigarettes, he would have had a very unpleasant time recently in Paducah.
The smoking kept Louis’s nerves calmed. He had been a nervous wreck since offing those two goons and sleep had been an abstract thought ever since. No matter how much one is professionally prepared for such acts, nothing ever quite readies a conscionable person for the psychological fallout.
Enhancing Louis’s psychological upheaval was having received instructions to ferry another passenger. In and of itself that was benign, but Louis was going back to Missouri – a state he was really wanting to avoid for a while. Supposedly it was simply a change of venue for a trial, but Louis knew if he was getting involved there was a palpable degree of risk to navigate.
Walking up to the front door of the Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Sr. Federal Courthouse at 553 Independence Street in Cape Girardeau, Louis stamped out his cigarette and fished out his badge. The irony to his having a badge still made him smile, but he was getting paid handsomely for being that unique combination of The Driver, James Bond, and Hercule Poirot.
The officer at the door smiled and waved Louis on through. Knowing he needed the basement, Louis headed toward the steps.
Ten minutes later, Louis was pulling the Cadillac around to the back to retrieve Wilhelm.
Wilhelm was a gentleman whose age was hard to determine, but Louis figured him to be anywhere between 65 and 80. A tall, slender gentleman, Wilhelm was the most pleasant and talkative passenger Louis had had.
Wilhelm had only two requests; to drive by the riverfront to see the Mississippi Queen moored at the bank and to stay off the interstates as much as possible. Louis was more than happy to oblige.
Louis was having a grand time driving north on US 61, forgetting all his recent troubles and enjoying good conversation for a change. Wilhelm had a lot of grand experiences and Louis was enjoying hearing about Wilhelm’s travels and escapades with women. Wilhelm was getting an equal joy hearing Louis’s tales from driving the working girls in the RV camper and about his limited endeavors in trying to find his birth parents.
Getting closer to St. Louis, Wilhelm had another request. He wanted to tour the Anheuser-Busch factory and see if they were giving tourists free samples. Louis knew there was plenty of time, but was reluctant to stop. However, thinking about just sitting around waiting at the federal courthouse, along with being thirsty, Louis pulled off I-55 onto Arsenal Street and continued north on 13th Street to Pestalozzi Street.
After a delightful tour with free flowing samples, Louis and Wilhelm walked back out to the Cadillac. As they approached, Wilhelm and Louis both noticed the pumpkin colored Buick.
Across the parking lot, two gentleman sitting in a 1973 Buick LeSabre suddenly perked up. Getting into the Cadillac, Wilhelm calmly and deliberately put on his seat belt. “Louis,” he flatly said, “the blond driver has promised to kill me. I’ve been in a few of these scrapes before, but I’m turning it over to you to do your thing.”
Reassured, Louis fired up the Cadillac’s engine. Louis had again quickly deduced the original engine in this Cadillac was long gone, replaced with something different. Putting the Cadillac in reverse, Louis intentionally eased by the front of the Buick on his way out of the parking lot.
Taking Pestalozzi across I-55, Louis decided to weave around and see if the Buick was sincere.
Turning right onto Salena Street, Louis went a few blocks and turned left onto Lynch. He then went west on Lynch then took a left onto McNair, toward Pestalozzi. As they approached Pestalozzi, the Buick was heading toward them. With both Louis and Wilhelm smiling, they figured the hook was about to be set. Pulling out in front of the Buick and continuing northwest on Pestalozzi, Louis at the last moment turned right onto Ohio Avenue.
The Buick followed, its suspension forcing the tires to announce the haste with which the driver made his turn.
“Louis, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I think they need to either shit or get off the pot. What do you think about some inspiration?” Louis said he had just the thing in mind.
Approaching the intersection with Gravois, Louis bent down and flipped a switch, a breaker for the circuit to all exterior lights. Rolling to a stop, he waited for the Buick. Throwing the Cadillac in reverse, Louis gunned it, quickly gaining speed and heading toward the approaching Buick.
The Buick driver nearly didn’t see it in time, veering to the right at the last second with the right rear of the Cadillac side-swiping him, pushing the Buick’s front fender back into his door and cracking his door glass. Everything was soon in a cloud of smoke as Louis had his foot tackling the firewall of the Cadillac, heading northeast on Gravois. The Buick quickly followed suit.
“Ha! He’s serious – we called that!” Wilhelm exclaimed. “Now, we just can’t get the attention of the constabulary…Damn boy! You’re already running nearly 70 miles per hour!”
Louis laughed. “Wilhelm, don’t worry; around here you’d have to stand naked on the hood before anybody noticed!” Staying comfortably ahead of the Buick, Louis was ramrodding his way through three lanes of traffic, heading toward the interchange with eastbound I-44.
Soon merging onto I-44, Louis immediately took the next exit, hoping to evade the Buick. Not seeing them, Louis was able to slow down, turning right onto Park Avenue, then stopped and signaled to make a left onto 4th Street. The courthouse was downtown and Louis thought he had this trip in the bag.
Awaiting his turn, Louis heard the sound of a large displacement V8 rapidly approaching from behind him. How in the world??? It was the LeSabre.
Not wanting to see what was on their mind, Louis nailed the throttle of the Cadillac, throwing chunks of rubber and gravel on queued cars. Louis was remarkably calm, likely from the positive influence of Wilhelm. But as Louis was navigating his way around taxi cabs and delivery trucks, he was curious.
“Wilhelm, who have you pissed off? Who is after you?”
“Louis, I’ve been chased by everything from Nazis to irate husbands. Right now, the driver who is chasing us is a hitman with the Luxembourg Mafia. They’ve heavily infiltrated the country music industry in Nashville. This trial I’m testifying at stems from my embezzling a few million from them. Oh, and the passenger is also in the Mafia and quite the major force; I entertained his wife in a manner I don’t think he appreciated as much as she did. That’s likely what he’s so peeved about.”
Rolling his eyes, Louis was not sure if he should applaud or punch Wilhelm. The Luxembourg Mafia? Louis sensed an ugly ending to this escapade, the very reason he didn’t want to be back in Missouri again so soon.
Continuing his breakneck sprint north on 4th Street, Louis formulated a plan. He also figured his Cadillac likely had a tracking device of some sort that could work to his benefit.
The further north Louis went, the thicker traffic got. Thankfully, 4th Street was one way and he didn’t have to worry about opposing traffic. Getting close to Market Street, Louis stood on the brakes, looking for a small gap. After a seeming eternity of looking for one, Louis punched the throttle and cut the wheel left to head west on Market Street.
Hearing the sound of crashing and crunching sheet metal, Louis looked behind him. Sure enough, the Buick had smacked a Camry in the A-pillar, pushing the Camry into a light pole that broke and fell onto the cab of a Ford Ranger. Far from unscathed, the Buick still had enough wherewithal to continue its hysterical charge toward Louis’s Cadillac.
Louis continued on Market Street until reaching the Thomas F. Eagleton Federal Courthouse at the intersection of Market and 10th Street. Honking his horn, Louis made one lap around the one city block complex, trying to let somebody, anybody know he was there and thinking help may not be a bad thing. Louis started his second lap, but aborted it as the Buick drew ever closer. Louis then shot east toward the river on Walnut Street. He had one final contingency plan.
Heading back toward 4th Street, the noontime pedestrians were gawking at the spectacle of the damaged Cadillac being chased by the steaming heap of Buick. Cab drivers lined up along the curb were eyeing the events and taking bets on outcome. The adjacent Busch Stadium was thankfully empty as it had crossed Louis’s mind to make use of it.
Blasting east, Louis crossed over the depressed section of I-70 and across Memorial Drive, into the parking lot for the Old Cathedral. Logistics were working to Louis’s benefit.
Turning left and jumping the curb at the east side of the Cathedral property put Louis and his Cadillac on a very wide walking trail toward the St. Louis Gateway Arch. With Louis allowing the Buick to nip on his heels, Louis knew he could end this pretty handily – if guards with the United States Park Service didn’t shoot them first.
As Louis hopped the curb onto the walking trail, Wilhelm laughed. “If you don’t get us killed, I’ll buy you the biggest steak you’ve ever eaten. I can’t wait to see what you have in mind!”
Picking up speed, Louis was on the car horn again, trying to vacate the oblivious pedestrians sauntering along at a snails pace.
“Oh, screw it!”
Hitting the grass next to the trail, Louis was royally pissing off the tourists from the spray of topsoil he was creating from his ample use of the throttle on wet ground. Heading straight for the Arch, Louis knew this could be over in less than a minute. Getting to the midpoint of the 630′ between the two bases of the Arch, Louis cut to the right and drove right beneath the Arch, one of the biggest and blatant wrongs Louis had ever committed. By now, Wilhelm was giggling like a five-year old girl.
With the Buick nipping at his heels, Louis continued straight under the Arch, pointing himself to the river. With tourists now parting like the Red Sea in biblical times, Louis had a clear and unimpeded shot. As he approached the trail just east of the Arch, Louis taunted the Buick into coming ever closer. With his exterior lights still inoperable, Louis slammed on his brakes and cut a hard left.
Unable to react in time, the Buick blasted off the top of the steps approaching the riverfront, gliding silently through the air, heading ever earthward. As the nose of the Buick was perpendicular to the horizon, it slammed down into the concrete of the steps with a deafening cacophony of bending steel and breaking glass, rolled onto its roof, and came to rest in the middle of Wharf Street on the St. Louis riverfront.
Relieved, Louis murmured “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
With the enormity of it overcoming him, Wilhelm remained jovial. “So, young man, do you like Porterhouse or sirloin?”
Without haste, Louis got Wilhelm to the courthouse and the Cadillac was quietly whisked away.
To be continued….