The Corvette roared like a lion, the race-tuned, three-hundred-and-twenty-seven cubic inch engine thrusting the car along at terrifying speed. The sound of that snarling motor was almost loud enough to drown out the wail of sirens from the police cruisers swarming behind them like a battery of barracuda. The Doc hurled the car into another bone-shaking turn, leaving long stripes of rubber on the road and a burning smell behind them before rocketing down into another street, headlong into traffic.
Susan didn’t know why she’d come with him, she didn’t know why she hadn’t run screaming at the sight of his car once they’d reached it, all chrome and blower and a strange-looking steering wheel, she certainly didn’t know why she wasn’t screaming for help or hurling herself bodily from the car to take her chances, rather than waiting for the inevitable crash.
“I have no idea why they’re chasing us!” Hollered Doc Osmium, terrifyingly taking his eyes off the road to look at her. Her nails dug into the leather of the seat and she squeaked, raising her hand to point at the road ahead as a bus whistled past her right ear, inches away.
“Might it be something to do with the speed you’re driving?” Susan screamed over the roaring engine, the wailing sirens and the honking of distressed car horns.
“We’re supposed to have an understanding!” The Doc swung the car into another corner with a banshee wails of protesting tyres and hurtling forward again, weaving through the oncoming cars with unerring accuracy.
“They don’t seem to think so!” Susan leaned across the car, close to his ear as she yelled, trying to make herself heard.
“Another strange coincidence! We should get to the bottom of it!” The Doc grinned his easy grin and swerved left without looking, almost clipping a police cruiser that darted out of the side road to try and cut them off.
“Hard to investigate anything with an APB out on you!” Susan twisted her head, hair whipped into her face by the airflow around the convertible, there were still three, maybe four cruisers, doggedly on their tail and, hair stuck to her face or not she gave the doc a frown.
The gave a throaty growl and hauled forward again with even greater speed. Now the doc was paying attention, eyes fixed rigidly to the road and she could see his lips moving, counting down. Then he turned and she finally screamed in terror, he was turning too fast, too soon, there was a blur of brick and concrete and she flew forward against her harness, her scream choked as she felt as if she was being crushed into the harness and then as she flew back into her seat doc’s hand slammed like steel over her mouth and stopped her from breathing in and screaming again.
They were in an alley, inches to spare either side of the car, stopped now, engine off, the metal of the engine pinging and clicking as it began to cool down. Behind them she heard sirens wailing and rushing past, one after another until all their pursuers vanished, chasing their imaginary route across the city. Once they were clear, the doc’s hand moved from her mouth and she gasped for breath.
“You bastard. I thought we were going to die!” She gasped, balling up her fist and punching the doc hard in the shoulder, it was like punching a wall.
“We had to lose the police and get some space to think and to formulate a plan.” He explained, calmly. “I think if we’re going to get them to stop chasing us…”
“Chasing you.” Susan folded her arms and gave him a glare.
“As you wish, chasing me then. Now, where’s the last place they would look and the best place to find out why they’re after me?”
Susan knew, but she wished she didn’t.
The door swung in front of Susan before the shove of her hand as she strode into the police station and slapped her hands down upon the sargeant’s desk with a loudness and determination that felt utterly unconvincing to her. She swallowed back her nervousness and stared at the surprised policeman behind the counter, raising her voice to a shrill and ear-piercing shriek of indignation, trying to ignore the breaking squeak of fear.
“I demand to see a senior officer, I have a complaint!” She screamed into the dace of the man at the desk, drawing eyes from every corner.
Behind her, moving in plain sight, came the doc, barging through the door of the station and striding confidently, as though he belonged there, across the entryway and through a door to the back marked ‘No Civilians Beyond this Point’. Now he was inside, her outrage and nervousness lost their convincing edge and she began to bluster before the sudden attention of several police officers, some of whom seemed to be trying to judge whether they knew her.
The door swung shut behind Doc Osmium and he strode forward through the desks as though he belonged there, an attitude and a conjurer’s trick that he found tended to convince people that you did belong there, more than any badge or ID card you cared to mention. Head held high the people at the desks couldn’t get a good look at him and he swept by with no indecision, snatching up a pile of papers as he strode forward and tucking them in his arm as his confident pace took him deeper and deeper into the heart of the thin blue line.
The Doc didn’t know where he was going but if there was one thing about public building you could rely on it was clear signposting. Left, right and left again and he was striding into the records office, slamming down the stack of papers on a desk with a thump that startled the poor desk-jockey sat there nearly out of his seat. The Doc made his gamble.
“You sent the wrong record up to traffic, they’re pretty pissed.”
Panic clouded the man’s mind and he swallowed nervously, springing up from his seat and dashing off in the direction of the traffic department offices. The Doc slide down into his chair and began rifling through the records, looking for anything that could tell him why they were after him. They’d been supposed to have a deal, the Doc would help on certain cases and, in exchange, they would leave him alone most of the time. Something had clearly gone wrong with that.
Even as he flipped through the records, relying on his superior peripheral vision to alert him if he saw something relevant, he noticed something about the record-keeper’s desk. The peeled back plastic from a sticking-plaster, tucked to one side, brown with specks of blood. Almost the same instant he found the references to himself and frowned at the number thoughtfully, not even a glance over his shoulder – that would look nervous – as he got back up and wandered over to the stacks.
His file wasn’t where it should be, the lazy desk jockey had filed it in the wrong place, the last digit of the reference number obscured by blood and then wiped away, the pencilled in number faded to near illegibility, the misfiling placing him on Salt Lake City’s most wanted, rather than being flagged up as a friend to the force.
The Doc suppressed a growl of frustration that so much could come down to a stupid mistake, another coincidence like the ones at the crash site but he needed a city’s resources to uncover what was going on. This was correctable though, a few strokes of a pen, a refiling and note on the clerk’s desk and things should be sorted out in a matter of hours, briskly efficient for the police force.
Now there was just the matter of Susan…
It had been some time, maybe two hours, maybe more, since she’d first walked into the station and once they’d worked out that she was the passenger in the Doc’s car she’d been manhandled, cuffed and bundled into a holding cell to await questioning. At least they’d taken the cuffs off once she was locked up but there was nothing to do in here, unless you fancied reading The Bible or The Book of Mormon and, well, she didn’t. Instead she paced the cell and went over everything in it, every inch of wall, every scratched bit of graffiti, the little sleeping bench, even the toilet, just for something to do, comfort in being methodical.
Tucked into the edge of the mattress her fingers found two tiny lumps of plastic and she plucked them out, a pair of dominoes – of all things. What was the use of that? You couldn’t play a game with two dominoes, these cells were for one person so you couldn’t play a game or gamble. Susan flipped them over in her hands, they were nice little things, very tactile, weighty for their size and she wasted a minute or two just turning them between her fingers until there was a cough from the door.
The eyes peering through the slot she recognised, the Doc, the very man who’d gotten her into this mess in the first place. The eyes were replaced by a grin and the door swung open to reveal perhaps the least inconspicuous man in the universe, unmolested by the police and walking about, free as a daisy.
“Your chariot awaits my lady.” The big man bowed ostentatiously and Susan sniffed haughtily an strutted out, pausing only to give the big man a punch on the arm.
“We hardly know each other and you’re using me. How’d you get them to free me?” The answer presented itself in the form of two unconscious police slumped over their desks with bruises on their necks.
“They’ll be fine, just a little pressure-point tap it’ll just take a while for everything to get sorted out and there’s too many coincidences here too.” The Doc got her up to speed as they slipped out the back through the garage and out onto the street, keeping off the main streets as they made their way back to the Corvette to wait for police bureaucracy to catch up with events.
As they sat down in the warm leather of the seats again, Susan fished out the dominoes that she’d pocketed from the cell and tossed them onto the dashboard. The Doc froze, instantly, staring at them with an intensity so fierce Susan could almost hear the gears whirring in his mind.
“What? They’re just dominoes.”
The Doc reached across her and stood them up on the dashboard, tapping one so it fell into the other and knocked it down. “No, someone’s sending us a message. None of these coincidences are coincidences. Not the crash, not Jose, not the police, not these dominoes, not even you. Someone is doing this on purpose, stretching my credulity, making a challenge and it’s one I have to answer.”
“And you just assume I’ll go along with it?” Susan folded her arms and stared at him challengingly, though his gaze was hard to meet.
“You wouldn’t be here if you weren’t going to come along the rest of the way.”
Susan opened her mouth to argue with him, but then snapped shut again. He was right damn him. “So… where to Osmium? We know someone’s sending you a message, but how do we find them?”
He held up the domino between his thumb and forefinger. “We go back to the previous domino in the chain.”
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