“I think we’d better figure out how to get out of town… and fast.” Skreft said nervously looking over his shoulder in the Checkerboard Pancakes restaurant.
It had been a few days since they had made quite a mess at the Verilone factory. This was first time that they had met up since that night.
“What happened?” Cymaenie asked leaning in to find out what was up.
“We stirred up hell I’m afraid.”
“With the Verilones?”
Skreft nodded. “We mixed up some very bad blood with them. And now, they’ve got a personal vendetta against every family until they find us. Then, it’s only a matter of time until we’re dead.”
“We just can’t up and leave… what about Don Tass…”
“I already talked to him. He knows the gravity of the situation. I’ve already put our retirement requests in. He was most hospitable. He knows that we’re marked furs. And he knows all to well that the Verilones won’t rest until we’re made to suffer. They are the strongest family in all of Herdnan.”
“And just what makes you think that running away will solve that problem?”
“The Verilones have made it very clear that if we are hiding under any family’s protection, our suffering will be great. If we are not found in the city, then they won’t go on a killing spree. The Don doesn’t want an unnecessary mob war on his paws. He said that if we choose, we can stay and the family will do everything in their power to remedy this, but it will be violent.”
Cymaenie nodded and Skreft looked around the restaurant again. The brown coon nervously sucked down a mug of coffee and lit up a cigarette, then continued.
“They know your truck… they’re out looking for it. They even know your car. You’re in more danger than I am. Hell, we’re all in danger. I’ve already got a train ticket out of here tonight.”
Cymaenie nodded. “Alright. Where are you going?”
“I have no idea. I got the first open train out of Herdnan. I suggest that you do the same… get as far away from this whole city as you can. Warn everyone you know on a regular basis.”
“Do you think it’s safe to go back to my house? I’ve got to get some important things…”
“If you do, you better make it really quick Cy. I’m sure that’s gonna be one of the first places they’re going to check.”
“When did you find all this out?”
“This afternoon. That’s why I’m getting out of town tonight. The longer you wait here, the more chance of something bad happening you have. If you must go home, be cautious, be armed to the teeth and have a damn good escape route, and please Cymaenie, don’t hang about there.”
Cymaenie nodded, his head rushing. “Yea…”
Skreft looked at the time on his watch and pulled out some money to cover his coffee and slid out of the booth. “You’ve got my number, give me a call.”
Cymaenie nodded and slid out of the booth as well. He followed Skreft out the door and gave him a hug. “Don’t worry about me. Go ahead and get yourself out of here… I should be out of here right behind you.”
He nodded and headed off towards the nearest bus stop. Cymaenie climbed into his car and roared out of the parking lot and on his way home quickly. He backed into the garage and jumped out of the car.
He went inside the house and breezed through to the bedroom. He opened the closet and grabbed clothes and tossed them onto the bed.
He opened the floor panel to his underground safe and snagged a duffle bag from the closet floor. He quickly descended and quickly started grabbing his important papers, and all of his stashed money.
He zipped this out, looked around to make sure the safe was clean and then climbed out of the floor and closed up the opening. He exited the bedroom and into his pantry where he had plastic and paper bags stored. He grabbed a pile of these and went back to the bedroom.
He quickly started packing his clothes into them, and running the bags out to the car. He grabbed his thieving gear as well, along with a few other odds and ends.
He got back into the car and started it. He rolled out of the garage and closed the door behind him. He stopped at the mailbox, hopped out and pulled his name plates from the box.
He paused only for a moment to look over his house. Years of hard thievery down the drain. He sighed, and got back into the Chevy and pulled out of the driveway.
In his rear view mirror he saw a car turn the corner and drive up to his house quickly. It slowed only for a moment, and then began pursuit of him.
“Oh shit!” he exclaimed punching the throttle. The Chevy roared and tore down his street. He looked in the rear view mirrors to see a black Mercedes with several mobsters inside. One leaned out of the window with a sub-machine gun, Cymaenie cursed and quickly cranked the wheel, and mashed the clutch, and down shifted, to take a corner.
The Mercedes squealed behind him to slow and make the corner. It was one of the times that Cymaenie was glad he had a stick shift. He accelerated again, bringing the car up to 80. He downshifted again and turned another corner, waiting till the last possible to throw off the Verilone car behind him.
His plan seemed to work, making them skid past the cross street he was on. Cymaenie red lined the Chevy to get some distance on them, and turned another corner, disappearing from view.
He kept on the pedal, and turned the next corner he came to. He kept going, tearing through the peaceful suburb. He went two blocks, and still saw no one in the rear view. He took another corner and kept going as fast as he could.
The mobsters were certainly gone, but he still didn’t slow down until he got to Honest Al’s.
He slid into the parking lot and slammed on the brakes, coming to a squealing stop. He left the car in gear and shut it off, and got out of the car, closing the door.
The office door flung open and Al stumbled down the stairs, “Friend! Have I got a car for… oh it’s just you.” Al said smoothing out his suit. “What can I do for you today?”
“I need to make a trade.”
“A trade? I thought you liked this car…” Al said looking over the Chevy.
“I love it… but I need something else.”
Al looked at him curiously, and looked over the car… pausing when he saw the piles of stuff hastily thrown into paper bags sitting in the back seat. “Did something happen?”
“You could say that. Listen Al, I know you can take care of me in this. I need something that I’ll like that I can be certain won’t fall apart.”
“Well…” Al said hesitantly, unsure of what to say about the situation.
“Trade you a ’38 Chevy and my house for whatever you’ve got.”
“Your house? What the fuck happened? Are you leaving town?”
“You could say that… Al… I need to keep moving… can we expedite this process?”
“A house though? I don’t have anything that would be comparable to that…”
Cymaenie looked around the lot, and spotted a chrome bumper tucked away behind a few piles of tires and some wooden pallets.
He quickly walked across the lot, passing through a few rows of cars and looked. Buried under some old cardboard boxes, old tires, a few canvas tarps, and covered in dust and dirt was a 1970 Dodge Challenger that at one point was a dark tan metallic, but now was mostly dull spots of beige, and gray primer paint.
He stepped through the piles of stuff surrounding the car and to the hood. He reached in the grille and opened the hood up. He was delighted to see a fairly clean 426 Hemi resting under the hood.
“You got keys for this?” Cymaenie asked checking the choke and throttle.
“Inside in the ignition… but… this is an old junk beater… are you sure that…”
“Toss in a free battery and you’ve got yourself a deal.”
Al knew better than to argue. He nodded and hurried off to get to work on the paperwork. Cymaenie quickly started moving things off of the car and from behind it. He checked the tires, which much to his surprise were still in good shape.
He opened the door and climbed in and looked around. He rolled down the windows and closed the door which squeaked. He pushed the clutch in and it felt smooth. He smiled and saw Al coming back with one of his servicemen carrying a battery.
Cymaenie opened the hood again and the mechanic dropped it in and pulled a wrench and attached it. Cymaenie got back into the car. He pumped the gas pedal a few times to prime the engine and then tried starting the car.
The starter spun, but nothing happened. He pumped the gas again and tried it again. The Challenger coughed, and backfired ran for a moment, and then died again.
The third attempt, the engine caught right away and roared to life. The mechanic closed the hood and gave him a thumbs up and then wandered back off to the garage.
Cymaenie revved the engine a few times, and dropped the transmission into reverse and with spinning tires, pulled out of its resting spot.
He pulled through the lot and stopped next to the Chevy. He got out, leaving the Dodge running. He tossed the house and car keys to Al. “All yours my friend.”
He opened the back door on the Chevy and started grabbing stuff and packing everything into the newly acquired car.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m not sure yet Al. As far as this car’ll get me till it breaks down. Hopefully it makes it out of Herdnan.”
Cymaenie soon finished transferring all of his grabbed belongings to the Challenger and took the title from Al and stuffed it into the glove compartment.
“Alright… I’ve got to make tracks. You might want to hide that car for a while. Just until things cool down.”
“Well, take care of yourself. Drive carefully. Sorry things happened the way they did.”
Cymaenie winked. “Me too. I’ll see you around.” He revved up the engine and pulled out into the street and headed down to the nearest gas station. Here, he filled up the tires, and deciding to burn off what gas was left in the tank, he headed from there to Kiryan’s.
He was rather surprised to find that his place looked deserted. There was a note taped to the door. “Usual place.” Is all it read, which Cymaenie knew that it was code for a hiding place. He turned and walked across to the other side of the alley and pried out a loose brick where a note was tucked in.
He pulled it out, replacing the brick and read the message, “Skreft told me what happened already. I’m probably well out of town when you get this. I’ll be in touch as soon as I can. Take care Cymaenie and watch out… they’re everywhere. See you soon.”
Cymaenie pocketed the note and returned to his Dodge and pulled out and into the street.
He had one more stop to make for those who were in present danger.
- - -
A fifteen minute drive and he pulled to a stop outside of The Red Lantern. He quickly got out of the car and headed inside. His dad was tending the nearly empty bar and looked up.
“Hey Cymaenie! What brings you here?”
He looked around nervously. “I need to talk to you.”
The old raccoon nodded and gestured to the office door. Cymaenie headed inside, followed by his dad.
“What’s the trouble son?”
“I need to get out of town. I’ve got my car packed and everything.”
“What happened? Is the law after you or…”
“Worse. Mob family.”
“You got involved in a mafia?”
“Yea… but it’s not the family that I was in that’s after me… rather a family that we attacked. I think we may have gone just a little too far. They’re looking for me all over this city… I nearly got caught at my house. I’ve covered my tracks fairly well, but I don’t know if you’re in danger or not. I need somewhere to go…”
“I just can’t up and leave unfortunately.”
“I know… I just thought that you should know… you have a shotgun behind the bar don’t you?” Cymaenie asked.
“Listen… I’ll be fine. You best get out of here though. Do you need some money for a plane ticket or some gas money?”
“I’ve got all that covered fine. I grabbed everything that I had stashed away.”
Cymeanie’s father nodded grimly. “I’m not sure if you’re interested… but, I have a property in Palm River. I’m sure that it looks like hell by now. It’s been twenty… maybe twenty-five years since last I’ve been there. Maybe you can get back on your feet over there.”
“It’s a bit of a hike… but there are a lot more opportunities there than here in Herdnan. It’s a long drive as you have to go around Umbran Bay, and to the extreme east coast… but I think that you’ll like it. It’s far more tropical, a little warmer as it’s a bit farther south, but you should be able to figure something out.” He dug in his desk and pulled out a folder. He handed these to Cymaenie. “Here’s the deed, property taxes, legal paper worth so forth and the keys. Hopefully the place is still standing.”
“Thanks dad, for everything. I’ll call you when I get there. Assuming I get there.”
His dad smiled with a laugh. “You’ll get there. Drive carefully Cymaenie. And I’ll hopefully see you soon.”
He hugged his dad tight. “I hope so dad. Please be careful. These goons won’t play pretty.”
“Don’t you worry about me; this ole coon’s still got plenty of fight left in him, and still a strong survivor mentality. Now, you better get moving.”
Cymaenie nodded and headed out of the office. He exited the bar and got into the Challenger. His dad stood in the door and watched as he started up the car and pulled away from the bar waving.
His dad waved after him and Cymaenie watched intently in the rear view mirror the whole time. He turned a corner, and as soon as the bar disappeared from view, he felt alone.
The feeling grew worse as he merged onto the interstate and headed south out of Herdnan, passing the city limit sign and suddenly being immersed in nothing but trees. As he rounded a lazy corner in the four lane interstate, his mirrors caught a view of the Herdnan skyline. The sun was setting somewhere behind the trees, casting the whole sky in a brilliant orange, making the skyscrapers of downtown glimmer brightly. He watched as it was soon all swallowed up by the tree line and gone from view.
That was when everything he had ever known was suddenly ripped from him. He pulled the Dodge over to the side of the deserted highway and stopped, listening to the grumble of the exhaust.
And there, on the side of I-182 southbound, alone in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but the car he sat in, he cried.