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Authors: Simon Wood


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As Simon Janus



The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Text copyright © 2008 Simon Wood

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Thomas & Mercer

P.O. Box 400818

Las Vegas, NV 89140

ISBN-13: 9781612184067

ISBN-10: 1612184065

eISBN: 9781611092424

For mum and dad, who believed in all possibilities.

Ring around the rosie,

A pocket full of posies;

Ashes! Ashes!

We all fall down.

—Nursery rhyme


he BMW 530i’s engine screamed, but it was unclear whether it was in agony or ecstasy. Vee8 squashed the gas pedal deeper into the carpet and tipped the balance into the pain barrier. The car accelerated through the narrow, car-lined street, occasionally clipping door mirrors as it sped by.

“Spank it, Vee8. Spank it,” Donkey shrieked hysterically, thumping the passenger-side dash with his fist. In chorus, D.J. and Trey seconded Donkey’s request from the backseat.

Donkey might have been hung like one but he was sure as shit as dumb as one. Vee8 didn’t need Donkey telling him what to do. He’d been jacking cars since he was fourteen, and in four years he’d thrashed, crashed, and cremated over three hundred of them without ever being caught. The cops had chased him across the San Francisco Bay Area, but they’d never come close to netting him. Many had tried and all had failed. Several had woken up in the hospital to discover that sorry fact. Like that old-school gangster Dillinger, Vee8 would be an old man before they ever got their hands on him.

He threw the powerful sedan through the left-handed kink. He’d learned his trade among the sideshow kings of Oakland. He’d been taught by the best until he was the best. Most of his teachers were now in prison, but in their heyday they’d shown Vee8 how to make a car dance.

Infineon Raceway was only a thirty-mile burn across the bay, and he could have been a legitimate race driver, but why? He didn’t have the money or the connections to race. Anyway, race car drivers were pussies. Where was the fun in driving on a road where the traffic went in one direction? Oncoming traffic: now that was a challenge.

Even though he was eighteen and old enough to possess a driver’s license, he hadn’t bothered. What did he need a license for? He didn’t own a car and why should he? There were too many people like him who would have a set of wheels out from under you before you’d locked the doors. No, if he wanted a car, then he had Donkey snatch one. They appeared more frequently than buses, and made for a nicer ride.

Donkey started up again. “Vee, get off these pissy little streets. If the po-po catches our scent, we’re fucked.”

Vee8 hated the way Donkey spoke. He came from the Deep South somewhere. Alabama. Louisiana. One of those fuck-your-sister, marry-your-cousin states. His southern drawl intensified when he whined, and it grated on Vee8.

“Who’s fuckin’ driving, Donk?”


“That’s right. Me. When you’re driving, you can make the decisions.”

Although Donkey bitched, he was a necessary part of the operation. He was a magician with locks and alarm systems. Cars just opened themselves up to him. With the aid of a few tools that appeared from his pockets, he did his work in a matter of seconds. Even with Donkey’s talents, Vee8 was the star. Donkey got them in, but Vee8 got them out.

Despite his grating voice, Donkey was right. Tearing strips off the residential streets was asking for trouble. They’d jacked the BMW from the El Cerrito del Norte BART station around noon, before the suit returned home from a hard day of stroking his secretary’s thigh. Now that it was after eight, the car would be on the hot list and the cops would be looking for it. But like Cinderella’s coach at midnight, it would be a rotting husk by the time they found it.

Vee8 threaded his way through the Sausalito streets, avoiding downtown. He headed for Highway 1. The narrow coastal road snaked and heaved, and it would put him and the BMW to the test. It contained more than enough thrills for a Wednesday night.

He got clear of the town. The full moon gave him a clear view of the road ahead well beyond his headlight beams. He brought his speed up to eighty-five. The turnoff to the two-lane highway was coming up on his left.

As he approached the four-way, Vee8 eased the BMW hard over to the curb to get a faster turn-in for the left turn. A Honda Civic sedan approached the intersection from Vee8’s right, but it didn’t bother him. He was on the through road and had the right-of-way. The Civic would have to stop. Even if he didn’t have the right-of-way, so what? No one in their right mind was going to argue the point with a car driving at breakneck speed.

Vee8’s smile slipped. The Civic wasn’t slowing. It wasn’t traveling as fast as he was—no more than fifty—but it wasn’t going to stop.

Vee8 stepped off the gas and jumped onto the brake. Everyone in the car was thrown forward against their seat belts as the BMW dived on its suspension. Vee8 watched the speedometer dial sag as the speed was sloughed off and ignored the whoops of his boys.

“I don’t think he’s stopping,” Trey said flatly, seeing what Vee8 had seen.

Trey’s words silenced everyone.

Vee8 pressed down on the brake harder and thumped the horn twice with his fist.

The Civic showed no sign of stopping for the BMW. It leaped across the intersection and into Vee8’s path. Everyone in the BMW swore and braced themselves for the impact. Vee8 stamped on the brakes and the antilock system went into action. He didn’t bother to turn onto Highway 1 as he’d planned. It would have just made the collision worse. The best he could hope for was to T-bone the bastard and do as much damage to him and as little to himself as he could.

For a moment, Vee8 thought he was going to get away with it. The Civic was passing out of his field of vision faster than expected, but not quite fast enough. The BMW clipped the Civic’s rear panel and wraparound light cluster. A deafening bang echoed through the car as sheet metal collided with sheet metal. The Civic wiggled after its glancing blow and carried on its merry way unhindered. The BMW was less fortunate. The car plowed on, veering right, and struck the curb hard. The front wheels jackhammered into the wheel arches and relayed their agony through the steering wheel. Vee8’s hands and arms tingled in sympathy. The car leaped the curb and came to a halt in the field beyond the pavement.

“Christ, my head,” Donkey moaned. He put a hand to his nose, checking for blood. There wasn’t any. He touched the dashboard where he’d smashed his face.

Vee8 checked the rearview mirror and saw D.J. and Trey were holding their heads where they’d banged them together. Both were looking dumbly at each other and moaning about whose head hurt more.

Christ, what a cluster fuck

“Am I bleeding?” Donkey asked, jabbing his face in Vee8’s direction.

“No, you’re not, you dumb shit,” Vee8 said.

The BMW had stalled and Vee8 tried to start the car. He was greeted by an overlong electronic whine before the engine caught and fired. He jammed the selector into reverse and stamped on the gas. The wheels spun on the soft earth and the car went nowhere. The tires and the engine shrieked.

“Come on, you bastard,” Vee8 hissed.

As if by command, the tires bit into the earth, found traction, and the car lurched back.

“Where are we going?” Donkey asked.

“We’re going to get that son of a bitch.”

The BMW bumped down off the curb, raced away from the scene of the collision, and joined the coast road as planned. The engine sounded off-key and the steering sucked. Only one headlight cut through the darkness; the passenger-side light was obviously lost. But none of this bothered Vee8. The coast road went on for miles with no intersections to any other major roads. He had no doubt that he would catch the Civic driver. It was just a matter of when.

Vee8’s passengers were still bleating about their injuries and the accident.

“I think I have a concussion or something,” D.J. said.

“God, you’re a pussy,” Trey retorted.

“Shut the fuck up,” Vee8 shouted. “Keep your eyes open. Yell when you see that bastard Civic.”

Vee8 scanned the fields to his right and the beach to his left. Dark thoughts of what he would do to the Civic driver when he got hold of him clogged his mind. It wouldn’t be the first time he used a vehicle as a weapon, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Vee8 caught sight of his quarry in a twisting section of the highway descending toward the ocean, then lost him when he hit a series of switchbacks. He drove miles without seeing him again. He turned to faith that the Civic remained ahead and his faith was rewarded on the descent into the town of Stinson Beach.

“There it is. Down there.” Donkey pointed at the beach falling away from the roadside to their left.

The Civic, with its driver-side taillight snuffed out, sat untidily on the beach.

Vee8 swung the BMW left onto a private road the Civic had taken. He didn’t stop at the road’s edge. He followed the Civic driver’s lead and drove onto the beach. He bumped the BMW over the curb and the car slithered on the sand, the tires failing to grip the shifting surface. The car tore down the sloping beach before crashing into a sand dune, where it leveled out.

Vee8 and his crew flung the doors open, leaped from the stricken BMW, and charged down the beach. The Civic sat cocked at an angle to the rolling waves, with the driver’s door open and the engine running. Beyond the car, the headlights picked out its driver, an East Indian, standing at the water’s edge.

The broad-shouldered man stood some six inches taller than Vee8. He might have had the strength advantage, but Vee8 doubted the guy possessed the fighting skills. Not that Vee8 cared. His blood was up. The prick was going down.

“Hey, bitch,” Vee8 shouted. “We need to talk.”

The man didn’t react. He stared out across the darkened ocean with the moon reflected on its surface. Vee8 heard the man mumbling something but couldn’t make out what he was saying.

“What’s that?” he barked in a mocking tone. “I can’t hear you.”

The man took a step forward into the waves. That stopped Vee8 in his tracks.

Vee8 glanced back at his boys and found they’d already given up the chase. They’d picked up the strange vibe early. Vee8 had been too pissed off to see it.

He gestured to his crew for answers. D.J. shrugged at him with a what-the-fuck expression plastered across his face.

The man strode out farther. The water lapped over his knees.

There was something very wrong here. It looked pretty obvious what it was. Vee8 wasn’t sure he wanted to be part of this, but he already was. Slowly, he followed the man to the water’s edge, but no farther. This guy might get lonely and want to take someone with him.

“Hey, Gandhi,” Vee8 said. “What are you doing?”

Vee8 hoped the slur would provoke a reaction, but the Indian didn’t respond. He continued to wade out, chanting his incantation.

“Hey, guy. It don’t have to be this way.” Vee8 looked down at his feet. A wave licked at his Lugz, chilling his toes, and he edged back.

“I think we should get the hell out of here,” Donkey suggested.

Vee8 turned to face him.

“He’s right, Vee,” D.J. echoed.

“I don’t think we should get mixed up in this,” Trey added.

“But we can’t just let him kill himself,” Vee8 said.

“Can’t we? Just watch me,” Donkey said and started to back away. D.J. and Trey followed suit.

Vee8 swore under his breath and chased out into the waves after the guy. He caught his breath the moment the ice-cold water hit him. Its chill climbed up into his core, but it didn’t stop him from reaching the Indian. Vee8 reached out and placed a gentle hand on the man’s shoulder, which stopped him in his tracks. The strong surf thrust against them, urging them back to shore. Vee8 hoped the guy would take the hint. He took the man’s hesitation as a positive sign.

“You don’t have to do this,” Vee8 said. “Nothing can be that bad.”

The Indian turned to Vee8. “I have done a terrible thing and I can’t be forgiven. I must pay for it. This is the only way.”

Vee8 could have argued with the man to get him to see sense, but he knew there was no point. He’d seen a lot of broken people. Fathers and mothers beaten down by mistakes. Friends lost to booze or drugs. No matter how far gone they were, they still clung to hope. While they hung on, they could be saved. But not the Indian. He’d let go. Vee8 had never witnessed total hopelessness before, but he saw it in the Indian’s eyes. He’d surrendered to whatever haunted him. There was nothing Vee8 could do for him.

“I have to do this,” the man said.

Vee8 nodded and removed his hand from the man’s shoulder.

The Indian smiled and resumed walking out to sea. Vee8 watched him go. The man’s determination was hypnotic. But by the time the Indian was waist-deep, Vee8 had managed to wrench his gaze away and was heading back to shore.

When he reached dry land, Vee8 glanced back at the man just in time to see a wave wash over his head.

It was obvious the Civic driver wasn’t turning back.

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