The sun blazed straight over head and nothing registers more than a blur in the brightness of it all. Jay branch can see the old disgusting shack in the middle of the junk yard. He is behind an old Ford or Chevy he doesn’t know which he just knows that it is huge and he can hide behind it. He stares into the windows as closely as he can hoping that he will see anything that will give him proof that Grace is inside. In the front room he can make out a giant figure that seems to be lurking back and forth with some sort of large stick or hunk of wood slung over his shoulder like a soldier would carry his rifle. He can hear what sounds like Suicidal Tendencies playing somewhere in the distance and for some reason the ground is beginning to shake.
At once there is reality appearing through heavy eyelids, Jay Branch is behind the wheel of the Volvo and there doesn’t appear to be lines on the road anymore, or even an edge to the road. SLAM! The car hits something hard. Suddenly Jay realizes he wasn’t on a road at all but cruising through a large field at a ridiculous speed. The old Volvo bouncing around like a drunk falling down stairs and then just like a well lubed alcoholic on an all-night bender the old 850 found the bottom of the stairs so to speak. A huge ditch in the middle of the field was the Volvos new home, the hood was pushed back into the windshield and steam shot straight to the stars from the now exposed radiator. He took a moment and got his bearings and then opened the door and stumbled from the car and out into the field completely shell shocked from what had just happened. He was horrified and unable to turn to see the damage. He just stood there looking into the night sky knowing there was no way he was driving the car out of there and all he could do was think about how bad this was. His chest ached from the seat belt and his neck felt like someone had slapped him in the back of the head. His heart was pounding like a crack addicted monkey performing a drum solo for a speed metal band. He was stranded in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night and all he could think about was that he couldn’t spend any money; he needed every last dime and ten thousand more. He couldn’t waste any time; he didn’t know what time it was but he knew he probably only had less than 7 hours to get there to save his daughter, to battle an evil psychopath and to face the great unknown.
He turned slowly and faced the harsh reality. The trusty old Volvo was totaled, he could see the front tires were now almost under the front doors and he knew he wasn’t going to be able to jack this up and fix it.
His mind spun out of control, he almost passed out and it felt like the world’s worst hangover combined with an aching across his chest that felt like he had taken a 2×4 to the tits. He shuffled back to the wreckage, he had to get his phone and see if he could figure out where the hell he was and what time it was. The door creaked open loudly and then made a loud popping sound of metal on metal as it fully opened and he could see the phone was on the floorboard still attached to the car charger and it looked like it was still charging. He grabbed his keys out of the ignition and took the Volvo key off his key ring and put it back in the ignition then gathered up random items from the glove box, center console and back seat and shoved them into the criminal from Clinton’s duffel bag. The trunk would not open, it was unlocked and the handle was acting right but it was jammed. His backpack with everything in it was trapped in the stupid fucking trunk. “Are you fucking kidding me?” He screamed out as if questioning God himself. Then he thought about the giant screwdriver Grace had shoved into the space between the armrest and the passenger seat years before. “You can stab a carjacker in the neck if they try to carjack you dad.” She said in an innocent little voice making it both the most adorable and disturbing thing he had ever heard in his life. “Don’t worry kid I don’t think ten year old Volvos are in high demand on the black market. They could probably buy one in the paper for nine hundred bucks.” And then the most brilliant thought came from his little girls amazing mind. “Not to sell it; to use it as a getaway car. Everyone knows Volvos are reliable, and who wouldn’t want a reliable car when you’re robbing a bank? You can use a Porsche cause its fast but then when you come running out of the bank the darned thing probably wouldn’t start.” The way that her mind worked always amazed him.
It was still there between the seats, the giant old screwdriver with a faded orange handle. It was the perfect tool for the job, it only took a second to jam the end of the screwdriver into an open space in the trunk lid and pry open the lid. Inside was the old black backpack that had almost forty thousand dollars and some old protein bars from that one time that he was going to get in shape and eat healthy. It was the only thing in the car that was worth saving, he shoved the big orange handled screwdriver inside and then he poured out a Gatorade bottle and filled it back up with vodka and then shoved 2 energy drinks and 2 packs of Camels and the Glock that had been in his center console in the bag and he began to walk before he realized he had no idea where he was or what time it was.
He removed his phone from the front pocket of his jeans and typed Lake Havasu City in the mapping app and then selected “My Location “ so that he could get some idea of where he was and how far from his goal he was as well. He stood amazed at the information on his cell. It was 5:30 in the morning and according to the map he was less than ten miles outside of Gallup, New Mexico. His brain was foggy but by calculations he had somehow slept for over an hour from the last time he could remember and had somehow not driven off the road earlier and died. In fact it looked as if he was still right on schedule and if he could figure out some way to create a miracle and get some new wheels fast he would still be fine. He thought for a second about the guns that were now in his bag and his front pocket and if maybe he should just car jack the next person that passed him on the highway. But that was a colossal mistake, he had jacked cash from two scumbags but stealing a car from an innocent person would surely be instant bad karma. He mentally scratched his brain and knew what had to be the fastest and safest thing to do. He opened the browser on his phone and typed in the address for craigslist.org and went straight for cars and trucks for sale and put in a max price of one thousand dollars and in the search box the words clean title and runs good. What he got was the usual garbage, a dozen car dealers advertising a thousand down and a few cars that didn’t run but in the mess he found the perfect vehicle for the job.
1985 Ford Bronco 4×4 – 351engine, RUNS AND DRIVES GREAT sold as is- $800 obo (Gallup)
The following pictures were of a perfect primer black battle tank for the job at hand. Complete with a duct taped driver seat and no back bench seat just a dirt covered non carpeted floor that ran the length of the interior. He could even see that it was updated on Craigslist 20 minutes ago. Somewhere in Gallup, New Mexico there was a drunk redneck who hadn’t gone to sleep yet and was about to make a quick couple of dollars. Jay could also tell that it was only about ten miles from where he was so if he could get the owner to meet him half way this transaction could take less than thirty minutes. He typed in the number and called it to the amusement of the obviously inebriated young man on the other end of the line. He could hear him turn to a friend and say in a very elated tone.
“Dude, I chopped the Bronco to $800 and some dudes calling me at six in the fucking morning.”
“So I’m guessing you still have it then?” Jay asked in a joking tone.
“Yeah dude and if you pick it up before noon you get a fifty dollar discount.”
“I would actually like to buy it right this second, I fell asleep and wrecked my car and I’m stranded out here in the middle of nowhere and I have seven hundred bucks in cash if you could bring the truck to me and the title, you could have plenty of money for a really good breakfast.” He heard the young man shuffle around and then respond.
“Dude, where are you at we’ll be there in a second I’m fuckin starving?”
“Now one question before we meet. I need this Bronco to run; I don’t give a shit what it looks like but it needs to keep running, you got that dude.” He thought about threating the dudes with bodily harm but he thought that might scare them off.
“Yeah dude its ugly as shit and needs a ton of pretty work but that fucker‘ll crank every time.”
“So it needs nothing mechanical right?”
“Not unless you count windows, the passenger and rear windows don’t move but the driver’s side does.”
“Yeah that’s not a problem, look I am now walking on the side of I-40 West a little under ten miles from Gallup how soon till you can be here?” He was standing on the interstate with a backpack full of booze, Powerbars and cash feeling more than a little insane.
“Dude I’m walking out the front door now I’ll be there in like 10 minutes, just keep your cell on so I can call you if I don’t see you, what are you wearing?”
“A black T-shirt and jeans and I’ve got a backpack.”
He could hear the mighty roar of a big V8 engine starting up over the phone, there wasn’t even a hesitation in it and that was a good sign.
“Excellent, see you in a second.” Jay bent down by the side of the road and pulled out seven hundred dollars in twenties out of the Crown Royal bag and about another fifteen in ones and shoved them into his pocket so that it would look like all of the money he had in the world. He then placed the purple bag in the bottom of the back pack and then put the bank bag on top of it and covered them both with a black T-shirt and then he set one energy drink on the side of the road and put the other in the bag and the refilled Gatorade bottle on top of the T-shirt and the cigarettes and Powerbars on top of that. He made sure that there was nothing else in the duffel bag that could connect him to it or even it to the robbery in Clinton and then he tossed it into a ditch by the side of the road and kicked a good pound of dirt on top of it. He flung the backpack over his shoulder and started walking west, gulped down the Rock Star Zero Carb happily and watched the sun as it slid into the frame.
Ten minutes into his walk he saw the primer black beast roll over the horizon and come to a slow stop in front of him.
“Hey, are you Jay?” The young blond dreadlocked man in a faded T-shirt poked his head out of the driver side window and squinted his eyes at the sun before donning a pair of gas station Wayfarers.
“That’s me.” Jay replied noticing a brown Volvo 240 station wagon pulling up behind the Bronco. The young man jumped out of the truck and approached Jay and as he did Jay half expected Scooby Doo to be by his side, he was the spitting image of Shaggy from the cartoon if Shaggy had shoulder length blonde dreads; he was skinny and tall in an oversized faded orange shirt and a pair of old almost bell bottom jeans with holes in the knees with flip flops that housed long skinny feet with oversized toes sticking out from underneath them. He walked up to Jay and holding what appeared to be the title leaned in forward like he was presenting a bag of weed asked.
“You got the money bro?”
“Yes, you got the stuff man?” Jay asked in a joking tone but quickly realized that he had confused Shaggy Marley and quickly followed with “The title to the Bronco, and does it have a recent tag on it.”
“Yeah dude, here’s the title and the tag expires in 2 months.” They walked together over to the old truck as if they were actually discussing the purchase as you would with a car salesman. But Jay didn’t have any doubts, he had heard the old Bronco crank on first try over the phone and now after his new friend explained what the usual oddities were about the beast he was even more confidant that he would be off and back on his journey soon and from what he remembered about when his dad had a Bronco of similar age he would probably first be headed to the gas station. After the list of odd things too keep an eye on; oil every five hundred miles, keep an eye on the water and the key wasn’t necessary, it would start if you just turned the ignition, Jay threw the backpack in the passenger seat, shook Shaggy’s hand and asked his friend in the old 240 if he was a fan of Volvos.
“Yeah their ok, my dad fixes the old ones so there’s always one around to drive.”
“Well there’s an old 850 in a ditch off the right side of the road about a ten minute walk from here if you want it, the keys in the ignition and the title should be in the glove box, just give me a call if you find anything in there that I forgot about okay?”
“Wow, thanks man.” Shaggy’s friend replied. And with that good deed he turned the beast on and drove off noticing as he expected that it was under a quarter of a tank and he would need gas soon.
Jay pulled over outside of Gallup and filled up his new beast finding that at $3.75 a gallon it racked up over $117.00 in a matter of seconds somehow managing to cram over thirty-one gallons in his new beastly friend’s belly. He checked the oil and the water and they were both fine but he bought a quart of oil, a gallon of water and a large roll of duct tape just in case as well as a big gulp full of ice, a sausage biscuit that was warming under a heat lamp and a pair ear buds for his phone since the beast did not have a stereo and since he had not taken the time to properly fill his phone as Grace had told him a million times. He would be enjoying his Pandora app thoroughly as long as there was 3g in the middle of the desert. He had less than four hundred miles to go and would probably need another gas stop before he made it. It was 7:00 in the morning Gallup time and according to Google maps it would take him another five hours to get to Topock, Arizona. He would be there by 2:00 Georgia time and 11:00 Arizona time still giving him almost three hours to get there and assess the situation and try to figure out what the fuck he was going to do. He poured a healthy dose of vodka into the big gulp cup and then a wild berry Cowboy Up energy drink over that. He put the ear buds in and selected the Nothingface radio from his Pandora stations, took a big drink from the cup and said in a manly voice that was half trying to convince himself more than anyone else “Yes it is a good day to die.” But it came out more of a question than a declarative statement from a warrior getting ready for battle. He almost made it to the highway again when Sam Dantello’s face appeared on his cell.