Curbside Fiction: The Passenger

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Louis Broderick had been born in the back of a clapped out Dodge station wagon and things had not improved much since.  Twenty-eight years later, as Louis was driving an Oldsmobile Delta 88 down Broadway in downtown Kansas City, he was unaware things were about to change.

Growing up in foster care, Louis had bounced around his entire childhood, spending his adult life working in various dead-end jobs.  Despite his aimlessness, Louis had one pure talent in life – he could outdrive Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, and Dale Earnhart.

Louis had discovered and honed his driving talent at the wheel of a 32′ Winnebago, careening around gravel and dirt roads.  The owner of the Winnebago had sought a wheelman who could be highly elusive at a moment’s notice.  Louis’s on-the-job training working in a support capacity for portable prostitution had provided him even more benefits than he had anticipated.

As all people who dance on the fringes of legality will inevitably do, one fateful day Louis stepped across this well-defined line.  Working as a delivery driver for a local distillery, one whose work occurred under the shine of the moon, the nondescript Ford van Louis was piloting caught the attention of the constabulary.  Knowing his liquid cargo was not one to be embraced by any governmental agency, Louis did what he knew best – he attempted to evade the trouble nipping at his heels.

The naturally feeble 300 cubic inch straight six in the Ford van was further compromised by being seriously out of tune and being called upon to pull some significant liquid weight.  Louis failed in his efforts to maintain his freedom, but he did succeed in making a positive impression upon the well-dressed gentleman who rode shotgun with the apprehending highway patrolman.

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After his booking, Louis had been coerced to journey to Kansas City to fetch a passenger for the well-dressed gentleman.  His doing so would require about three days of his time and it would allow all charges against Louis to be dropped.  As Louis had been told, his demonstration of driving talent eclipsed his various felonies.  Pragmatic person that he was, Louis preferred this voyage into the unknown over spending three years in a tiny cell eating bologna sandwiches with Bubba Joe.

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The morning after his booking, Louis had been driven to a desolate location and was dropped off by a large pole barn.  Sitting inside was a white Oldsmobile Delta 88.  The well dressed gentleman emerged as Louis’s ride drove off.

The assignment Louis received was to drive to his native Kansas City and take delivery of his passenger, who would be providing further directions.  The only specifics the well-dressed gentleman would provide to Louis was the passenger was aware of some dealings by a particular group of Kansas City businessmen who didn’t play well with others.  He assured Louis it would be a very uneventful trip.

Pulling into the parking garage at 3100 Broadway at 9:48 am the next day as per his instructions, Louis flashed his headlights twice upon parking near the entrance door.  A tall, slender dark-haired woman walked out and climbed into the Oldsmobile.

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“We need to swing by the Hyatt Regency.”  Renee gave no hello, no acknowledgement of Louis being there to help her.

Turning out of the parking garage onto 31st Street and crossing Broadway, the Olds was giving its two passengers a noticeably firm ride.  Upon leaving for this trip, Louis immediately noticed this Olds had had serious suspension work performed on it, coming out stiffer than the Chevrolet Caprice patrol cars he had ridden in.

Louis had already inspected the engine compartment, discovering the factory 307 cubic inch engine had been discarded for a 455 cubic inch engine.  While the 455 block was slightly larger in every physical dimension, some judicious work had resulted in a car that weighed little more than it did upon leaving the factory and it pulled like a freight train.

The work on the Delta 88 was started to raise Louis’s suspicions.

It was a five minute trip to the Hyatt Regency on Grand Boulevard.  Pulling up to the front door, a bellhop walked up to Renee’s open window.

“Ma’am, we’ll put your luggage in the trunk.  You dropped this earlier,” he said, handing Renee an envelope.

Louis watched carefully as Renee opened the envelope.  Unfolding it, Louis could read what was printed: “They know what you are up to and you won’t leave town alive.”

Renee was startled.  Louis, confirming his suspicions that something was greatly amiss, fired up the 455 in the Oldsmobile and chirped the rear tires leaving the driveway.  He turned towards Children’s Mercy Hospital, aiming for US 71 north, wishing to use it to access I-70 eastbound.

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Approaching the bridge at the interchange of East 22nd Street with US 71, a ratty Plymouth Fury blasted off a side street, hitting the Delta 88 just behind the front bumper and shoving Louis toward the ramp for US 71 southbound.  Seeing the pistol on the dash of the Fury, Louis said “Game on, you son of a bitch!”.  He then nailed the throttle of the Olds, rocketing him over the concrete island to the southbound ramp, continuing east on East 22nd Street.

Picking up speed at a furious rate, the Olds was staying well ahead of the pursuing Fury.  Louis was going to stay ahead of them regardless of what got in his way.

Renee, who had been sporting a stoic veneer, was starting to cry.

Not an empathetic person, Louis really didn’t care to have this annoying distraction beside him.  He had to focus on the task at hand and really didn’t care to be listening to a bunch of blathering and slobbering.

He wasn’t so fortunate as to escape it.

“My whole life is nothing but a pile of shit.  I loved Vinnie, but what he did was so wrong.  Now I’ve got other people involved and I’m going to die in a damned Oldsmobile.  I should have kept my mouth shut.”

Louis was going to nip it.  He had been formulating a plan in his head and was really wanting to focus on its execution, not babysit a woman having her cranial faucet running.

“Listen, lady.  I don’t give a damn about what you’ve done.  These people are out to eliminate us.  So please shut the hell up and let me drive!”

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By this point Louis realized he was heading the wrong way for where he wanted to go.  At the next side street, Louis turned the steering wheel hard to the left and nailed the throttle.  Turning onto The Paseo, the Fury shot past him, continuing east on 22nd Street.

Knowing this wouldn’t last for long, Louis kept his foot in the throttle as best he could while avoiding traffic.  The lack of sound insulation in the Olds really allowed the 455 to sound vibrant, but Louis didn’t have time to enjoy the auditory sensations.  He was feeling used and set-up by the well-dressed gentleman; only a highly volatile situation could have progressed this far so quickly.  Louis knew he was being used as a patsy and he was really worried about what was in the trunk of the Oldsmobile.

Keeping the hammer down, Louis continued his hard press up The Paseo toward I-70.  His hope was to ensnare his pursuer into following him west into downtown.  Louis had a surprise up his sleeve.  During his days driving the RV, Louis knew being chased involved more than simply staying ahead of the other guy – to lose him, you had to trick him.  That was exactly what he had in mind.

Approaching the interchange with I-70, Louis saw the Fury coming toward him on Truman Road.  Okay, he has more under the hood than I thought if he’s here by now, thought Louis.  That’s okay; you don’t know what I’m up to. 

Again turning the wheel to the left and nailing the throttle, the Olds blasted up the ramp to I-70, hitting 115 mph by the end of the merge lane.  Shooting across three lanes, Louis stayed to the far left and hit the ramp for I-670.  A mile later, at the exit ramp beneath Bartle Hall, Louis did the steer and throttle maneuver onto Broadway, coming back to a point he had been to only twelve long and grueling minutes earlier.

Turning right onto Broadway, Louis could see the Fury behind him.

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Renee could see the Fury also.  Having recovered from the shock of being told to shut-up, something she was thoroughly unaccustomed to being told, she started crying and groveling again.

“The story of my life…no good deed goes unpunished.  I try to do the right thing and what happens?  I get tossed around like a dirty diaper by some ass wipe kid driving a shitty looking Oldsmobile.  What a way to go!”

Louis calmly looked over at her.  “Lady, I told you to shut your damn mouth.  I’m trying to keep us from getting killed by your man’s goons.  Stick a sock in it!”

Wanting to go east on 12th Street, Louis was starting to encounter a lot of traffic on Broadway.  Weaving in and out of traffic, the Olds remained as flat as a table top.  Louis knew somebody had done a good job on this Delta 88, but he didn’t have time to think about it.

Taking a huge risk, Louis shot into the oncoming lanes of traffic and bolted into the intersection, cutting the wheel and going right.  The Fury was nipping on this heels and followed suit. As they skidded through the intersection, the driver of the Fury slid into a dark blue car trying to turn left.

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Louis’s fortunes were starting to look up.

Straddling the centerline, Louis was taking whatever open space in the street could be found.  Just a few more blocks, he kept telling himself.

The Fury was growing closer and the police were now in on the chase.

With the secondaries on the Oldsmobile’s four-barrel carburetor having perpetually been open the last few minutes, their roar was getting louder as Louis could see his destination.

Taunting the Fury by letting it stay on his bumper, Louis inched his way further to the left.  The end was in sight.  If only…

At the last second, Louis cut the wheel to the left toward the closed garage door.  The driver of the Fury, more adrenaline fueled than Louis, was nearly touching the rear bumper of the Olds.  Flinching, Louis slammed on his brakes, causing the Fury to smash into his rear end, spraying its antifreeze all over and pushing Louis through a closed garage door.  The Fury pummeled into the Oldsmobile with the cops right behind the Fury.

It worked.  Louis had driven right into the drop area for booking at the Kansas City Police Department.  The cops had the Fury boxed in and everyone in the building was immediately on the scene.  There was no escaping for either Renee or the driver of the Fury.

Renee was livid; she knew any plea deals she had made could now be denied.  As she sat there, looking at the smile and relief on Louis’s face, she said.  “Young man, I have had a lot of indignities in my life, but this was even worse than giving birth in the back of a station wagon.”

Louis smiled and got out of the now ruined Oldsmobile.

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