This is a continuing CC serial; the last episode can be found here.
Louis Broderick was having his patience tested more with every passing skip of the centerline. He knew this job could be vexing at times yet this was quickly making his ordinary taxiing of various mobsters and embezzlers start to look like child’s play. And it was child’s play that was relentlessly testing his calm.
Sitting in the backseat of the nearly new Volvo was seven year-old Joshua and his five year-old sister Rose Marie. The sporadically precocious children of a high-profile national politician, Louis was relocating them to a safer location around Overland Park, Kansas, after several underworld figures had made various threats.
The rendezvous had been in Indianapolis. In an effort to minimize any tails, Louis had been instructed to not take a direct route. This was great news to Louis; he was enjoying the thought of avoiding I-70 and his recent escapade in St. Louis. His mental list of towns to temporarily avoid was growing longer.
Louis left Indianapolis on I-74, aimed for Davenport, Iowa, with the intention to go west on I-80 to Omaha then cutting south on I-29. His goal was to make the trip in about ten to eleven hours. Seven hours later Louis was entering Davenport, Iowa, roughly the half-way point. So far during the trip Louis had been bombarded with Rose Marie’s Barbie doll parties with all the royalty on the planet attending, Joshua’s GI Joe opening a few barrels of whoop ass after instigating and single-handedly winning World Wars 8, 9, and 10, and relentless requests to use the toilet.
Joshua had been worse about testing Louis’s mettle. Barely thirty minutes after a restroom stop, Joshua announced his urgency to yet again empty his bladder. When Louis objected, sweet little Joshua responded “Fine, I’ll just hang it out the window, you heartless bastard.” As a retort Louis gave Joshua an empty styrofoam cup only to be both amazed and befuddled when Joshua filled it up, necessitating an unplanned stop to discard it.
Louis kept reminding himself if the interiors of all Volvo wagons had seen similar behaviors, the population of Europe would have withered away long ago.
Somewhere west of Iowa City, Louis realized there had been no recent requests to use the can. Thank heaven for little miracles, he thought. With no growling about anything, he decided to keep running as long as he could.
When Louis was given the nearly new Volvo, he was warned this car was still mechanically stock with its only modification being 65 gallons of fuel capacity. Louis could feel the extra weight on the chassis, but he figured a Volvo wagon was likely about a half-step away from being as robust as a World War II era Sherman tank. Joshua had been giving him an ongoing tutorial about tanks, so Louis felt qualified to make the comparison.
A little while later, Joshua succumbed to battle fatigue and fell asleep. Rose Marie – whom he had been warned had a extremely unusual aversion to sleep – was kicking off another royal engagement with Princess Barbie and her ponderously sized entourage.
Louis kept heading west, the Volvo trudging along like a laden workhorse. As he was behind schedule, Louis was considering several alternate routes, deciding to stay on I-80 to Lorah, then taking US 71 south. It would necessitate going through Missouri, but Louis knew Northwest Missouri was Nowheresville and any tail would be quite obvious.
It was just the ticket.
Somewhere east of Des Moines, as Louis was starting to enjoy the long legs of the weighted down Volvo, Rose Marie started getting mad in the backseat. It seems one of the members of the vast royal brigade was being uncharacteristically rude at the mid-afternoon ball.
“Louis? Can you tell Odette to stop being mean?”
His interest piqued, Louis asked what was wrong.
“Odette and La-La and some of the girls were having a conversation about cats. La-La says kitties are obligate carnivores, but Odette said kitties are worthless fleabags and anyone who thinks otherwise is a poopy-face do-do head. Odette then got mad when Olivia agreed with La-La so Odette started calling everyone a poopy-face do-do head. Louis, that’s being awfully crass and unsophisticated. I need to banish Odette from the kingdom; can I throw her in prison in the front seat?”
Keeping a laugh to himself, Louis took the Barbie doll and tossed it on the front seat.
Rose Marie’s excitement had caused Joshua to awaken and he was grumpy.
“Rose Marie! Those dolls in a fight again? Let me get my potato gun and I’ll blast them all to Kingdom Come. Hey, Louis – I gotta take a leak. Now. And don’t give me that damn styrofoam cup.”
At the next interchange, they all got out to stretch their legs and relieve themselves. Louis was really liking the Volvo, although he was curious how one powered by a nicely enhanced 351 cubic inch Ford V8 would behave.
In a weird way, Louis was enjoying these children despite their behavior, figuring he had to cut them some slack given their home environment. The only thing he was despising was the bathroom stops; family bathrooms weren’t yet in common usage in the United States at this time, and he had to separate the kids so they could relieve themselves while he tried to keep an eye on both of them while occasionally answering the same call himself. These stops had him the most tense he had ever been while transporting any passengers.
Getting back into the Volvo, and hitting the interstate, Joshua was agitated. “Louis, where’s my potato gun? I have my potato gun in here; where is it?”
Louis was puzzled. “I didn’t know you had a potato gun. What does it look like and why do you ask?”
“It’s black plastic pipe and about two foot long. Maybe it’s in the back; I’m gonna look.”
Louis was getting worried. “Joshua, why do you ask?”
“This man back there told me I would be traveling with him. He told me that at the last stop, also.”
Shocked, Louis probed further. “What do you mean? He’s talked to you twice? What did he look like? What color was his car?”
Pulling out a piece of black plastic pipe from the cargo area, Joshua was getting emphatic. “He’s about your height with dark hair and he needs to shave his neck. He said I wasn’t going to see my parents again. I called him a goofy bastard and told him to go to Hell. He laughed at me.”
In his time working for the organization, Louis had ferried all sorts of lurid characters. He had never before been responsible for anyone innocent, let alone innocent children. Knowing that someone was out to possibly destroy this innocence angered him beyond both description and compare. This assault of an innocent seven year-old brought back memories of his own undesirable childhood, along with memories and emotions Louis thought he had buried long ago.
Louis swore these children would never have to worry about anything unsavory; he didn’t care what it took to accomplish this.
There was a small sense of relief when Louis learned nobody had approached Rose Marie.
With a focus he had never before experienced, Louis was determined but had to distract everyone in a positive direction. Louis excitedly told Rose Marie he had heard there was going to be a royal wedding; he knew this would keep her busy for hours. In turn, Louis told Joshua he needed his help by using his keen level of observation to keep a lookout for this guy; Louis added that if he yelled “NOW!”, Joshua needed to find a foxhole and jump in. Both kids were profoundly excited.
Louis knew he had to reduce the duration of this trip. With his foot in the throttle, Louis cut south on I-35 at Des Moines. He could still make the Nowheresville of Northwest Missouri work out for him; he had seen times a person could have an unimpeded picnic on the centerline of I-35.
The driver of the tailing Buick LeSabre knew to keep his distance from the Volvo.
Louis exited the interstate at every third or fourth interchange in an effort to snag any pursuer. A few hours later, at the interchange in Liberty just outside of Kansas City, the driver of the Buick screwed up. Louis had seen the Buick with Ohio plates one too many times since Des Moines and the driver was swiftly changing lanes and craning his neck as Louis came up from behind.
Why do these goons always seem to be in a Buick LeSabre? Louis asked himself.
Louis kept his distance behind the Buick for several miles. At Vivion Road, on the northern outskirts of Kansas City and several miles south of the Ford Plant at Claycomo, Louis exited to remove himself from sight of the Buick. Taking Vivion Road west, Louis continued on past Antioch to the interchange with I-29. Louis then continued south on I-29 a short distance to North Oak Trafficway; Louis then continued south on North Oak Trafficway.
He had not anticipated the driver of the Buick exiting at Armour Road, just south of the point in which I-29 and I-35 merge and run concurrently. Louis soon saw the Buick sitting on Armour Road, at the signalized intersection with North Oak Trafficway.
Shit, Louis thought, I’m back in Kansas City. Of all the places in this country to have some sleaze tailing me, why here? Suddenly, Louis had an idea. Cutting off the driver of a tan Camry, Louis maneuvered the Volvo into the left turn lane. With Louis having a green light, and the Buick having to wait, Louis was going to work things to his advantage.
“Joshua, look out the window and tell me if this is the guy.” Turning left and rolling down his window, Louis stopped the Volvo in the middle of the street adjacent to the Buick. The driver of the Buick ignored him, and cars behind Louis were started to honk in anger.
Sticking his arm out the window of the Volvo, Louis was looking directly at the hairy-necked driver of the Buick. With his middle finger extended, Louis yelled “Welcome to Kansas City you worthless son of a bitch!”
As Louis did so, Joshua started jumping up and down on his seat. “That’s him! That’s him! It’s that dumb goofy bastard I saw at the rest area! Can I get my potato gun?”
Standing on the throttle of the Volvo as the driver of the Buick was cutting a hard 180 degree turn, and smacking a few cars in the process, Louis realized he had a golden opportunity staring him in the face.
“Joshua, can I see your potato gun? How do I load this thing?”
Joshua was so excited he was almost wetting his pants. Handing his potato gun to Louis, Joshua was hardly able to talk. “You just need to put some butane in this hole, but close the cap really quick. Then you just pull the trigger. But I don’t have any potatoes.”
This was an unparalleled problem. Louis had to think for a moment as he climbed the ramp onto I-29 / I-35 southbound.
Looking into the back seat, Rose Marie and her Barbie dolls were trying to find appropriate wedding attire. As Louis turned his head back forward, the answer was quietly lying on the front seat.
The banished and exiled Odette.
Once again thankful for being a smoker, Louis weaved through traffic on the interstate while taking his Zippo lighter and filling the potato gun. He picked up the Barbie doll and dropped it down the barrel of the potato gun.
Joshua saw Louis make use of the Barbie doll. Ever more excited Joshua offered up five more.
With the gun loaded and ready to go, Louis got into the middle lane of the interstate and drove an excruciatingly slow 30 mph, waiting for the Buick. He knew with this Volvo being stock this encounter was going to take finesse, as brute strength was simply not an option.
Louis rolled down the other front window, anxiously awaiting the Buick. No sooner had Louis settled into waiting, the Buick blasted out from behind a large Federal Express truck, coming up on his right side.
“Joshua, NOW! Jump into your foxhole!”
As Joshua jumped into the floorboard, the shaggy-necked Buick driver began rolling his window down to yell for Louis to pull over. The hirsute necked goon was cranking the window down with one hand while keeping his other hand on the wheel. Joshua left his foxhole long enough to verify this as the man who had accosted him.
Before the man could finish getting his window down, all he could see was a piece of black plastic pointed his way. With a PHWAT! sound he could not hear, the Barbie doll shot out in a posterior position, her head hitting him on the temple, her outstretched right arm jamming itself into his eye socket. Upon Barbie’s impact, her flexible hips continued to move, her pointed feet burying themselves under the skin of his scalp.
As Barbie was leaving her first impressions upon the goon’s cranium, Louis swept over to the far left lane. Distracted, the Buick driver picked up amazing speed while swerving all over the right two lanes of the Paseo Bridge, not seeing the slow moving auto carrier he was rapidly approaching. As Louis exited on the left from I-29 / I-35 onto The Paseo, the Buick driver slammed into the back of the carrier full of new pickups from the Ford plant, the Buick hopping the lip of the trailer and jamming itself beneath a new blue F-150.
Louis drove two miles down the road before the wedding began and Joshua popped out of his foxhole, announcing he needed to use the toilet.
To be continued…
The Volvo pictures were taken by Tom Klockau in Davenport, Iowa.
The Buick pictures were taken by your author in Hannibal, Missouri, in 2012.