“Perfect! How many cars?” Liam turned around in his seat. “What are you doing? Don’t slow down.”
“But the cops. If I don’t slow down, I’ll get charged with resisting arrest.”
“If you slow down, we won’t make it there in under ten minutes and you won’t get your ten grand – and I won’t defend you in court.” That last made Greg turn to look at Liam, the obvious gleam of fear in his eyes. “I’m the best, Greg. I need you to trust me and drive faster.”
Greg nodded and the car began slowly accelerating back to its maximum speed.
“Only one police cruiser, so far. Open your eyes, Chef, we aren’t dead yet.”
Chef opened his eye, letting out a breath he may as well have been holding for hours. He trained his eye forward, trying to calm himself. “This is getting out of hand,” he muttered. The cab continued to swerve through traffic, still tossing him around and sending pain arcing through him with everything his body hit.
Sirens wailed from behind them, two now. Liam pumped his fist and leaned his head out of the window. “That’s right, come and get us!” Only a second after he shouted, a loud crunch invaded Chef’s senses, followed by Liam shouting, “Holy shit! That cop just rear-ended somebody!” The second – or perhaps the first, Chef wasn’t sure – siren cut out.
From the corner of his eye, Chef could see Greg smiling. “I guess he wasn’t that great of a driver.”
“You’re a sick man, Greg.”
“Oh, they’ll be fine. How am I doing on time?”
Liam checked his watch. “Four more minutes.”
“Heh. We could stop at a drive-through and still get there in time. You’d better hang onto something.” The street they needed was coming fast, and instead of getting into the right lane to turn, Greg steered left.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Set my line. If you believe in God, pray for us on this turn.” He didn’t slow the car much before yanking on the wheel. Tires squealed at the same pitch as Greg’s delighted scream. At another time, Chef would have taken a moment to marvel at their unity. As it was, he was terrified and convinced that the car, beneath them, had lifted off of the ground.
It had. Chef’s own terrified scream joined Greg’s and Liam’s.
Tires crunched back onto the street and the cab lurched forward, once again gaining speed. Liam looked back and hollered wordlessly. Chef turned to look, instantly regretting it, not only for the pain it caused him but because of the sight. The police car hadn’t made the turn as well as the taxi had. It had started to roll and barreled into a house, destroying most of the exterior wall around the front door. Faintly, Chef heard Greg muttering about not setting a proper line.
“Please slow down, just a little bit. You’ve gotten us there; you’ll get your money. Just, for the love of God, slow down!” Liam’s eyes were still wide, minutes later when they pulled up to Skip’s house.
Life In the Fast Lane played from the radio.
Chef shook his head, levering himself out of the car. “The Eagles. I asked him to change it, but no. He is not getting a tip.” Complaints aside, he was grateful to be on solid ground again.
“Agreed,” Liam said. He bent over and looked at Greg. “Stay here, I’m going to need to get home after this.”
“I’m not going anywhere. You owe me ten grand.”
“Right.” Liam patted the roof of the car and started walking, unsteadily, up the sidewalk toward the house.
The front door had been kicked in. It hung askew in the frame, as if it had been hastily put in place to try to mask that anything had happened.
“Oh, no,” Chef said, and half-ran toward the door. He shoved it open with his shoulder, instantly regretting it. This wasn’t the first time he’d walked into a house that made him feel this way but this time it wasn’t his own memories strewn broken across the floor and it wasn’t his wife’s blood on the floor, it was Skip’s mother’s memories. Harriet’s blood. Chef turned the corner into the kitchen to see her lying on the floor, a halo of blood around her head.
“Oh, God, Harriet, no.” He knelt at her side and put his fingers to her neck. “Liam, get in here!”
Liam stepped into view, looked down, and paled. His jaw dropped, he started to gag.
“Liam, stop. She’s alive, and if an ambulance gets here soon enough, she’s going to make it.” Chef pointed to the slashed up couch. “Throw me one of those pillows, and have Greg call an ambulance. Meet me downstairs.”
Liam nodded, still looking sick. He tossed a throw pillow and disappeared out of the front door.
“I’m so sorry, Harriet,” Chef said with tears welling up in his eyes. He stroked her curled, snowy hair. “I’m going to get this guy, I promise.” He kissed her forehead and stood. Liam was coming back up the path to the house. Walking around the corner again into the hallway, he nodded to his friend and pulled open the door, leading into the basement. Together, they stepped down, both wincing at the creak of the stairs.
“Chef?” Liz’s voice floated up to them.
“Are you alone?” Chef answered.
He wasn’t aware that he’d been holding his breath. Chef stepped the rest of the way down the stairs, not rushed in the least. “What happened upstairs? Why didn’t you two – Aah!”
Liz lay on the floor with a blood-soaked hand pressed to her belly.
“Liz!” Chef knelt at her side. “Move your hand, let me see.” Dimly, he could hear the groaning of Skip’s desk chair spinning. “Oh, God, Liz, what happened?”
“Tortured … Skip.” Liz’s eyes were cloudy, distant.
Chef heard Liam vomiting.
“Wanted to know … how we found him. Asked about you … your family.”
“No, no, no.” Liam was crying. He knelt on the floor at Skip’s feet. His arms wrapped around Skip’s bulk and head against his wide belly. Blood, still leaking from Skip’s slit throat, soaked Liam’s hair.
“Liz,” Chef said. “We’re going to get you through this.”
She shook her head weakly. “He knows your family. Go … Protect them.”
“An ambulance is coming, Liz. I’m going to kill him, and we’re going to get you through this, okay?”
“Don’t kill,” Liz coughed. Blood leaked from the corner of her mouth. Her eyes focused on Chef. “All can be forgiven.”
Chef held her for the last moments of her life, weeping.