Joaquin pushed the rattletrap Civic to its limit swerving around slower cars, ignoring their blaring horns. He took another sharp turn and left the boulevard to descend smaller streets; emptier streets outside the International District, leaving the bright lights for frail and sickly yellow ones that built the path to Jensen’s mysterious disappearance. They entered a roll of cars that screeched and propelled themselves with absurd speed up and down dirty streets. Every vehicle was a stranger; behind every window was a face that didn’t look, caught up in the sound of music and aggressive verse. Joaquin blended in with the slow traffic, but the SUV stood out. People blocked its path shouting with their horns. Agents ran a red light within an inch from an oncoming truck that stopped abruptly and blocked them. Joaquin took his chance and left the angry trail and bounced alone on the road to nowhere.
The road became uneven, with patches of asphalt overlapping one another, dark gray, light gray, charcoal rattling under the tires. From the manholes, white underground fumes turned the street misty and gray, and the windows of dark homes aligned identical left and right glistened with tiny droplets slipping down the glass. Joaquin sped past all that hitting every pothole and splashing gathered muddy water. He looked in his rearview mirror still looking for the SUV and when he found the street clear he let out a cheer. But just then the SUV erupted from a side alley and bumped into him sending the Civic slipping sideways, its bumper collecting trash cans, fences, and other obstacles. Joaquin recovered and found himself side by side with the SUV. The window rolled down, and the broken-nosed agent aimed his gun at Joaquin. The agent’s face contorted, his mouth blew blood and saliva as he yelled some order, but Joaquin didn’t care. He twisted the wheel and collided into the side of the SUV knocking the agent out of view.
The narrow street seemed to do the trick. The stunt gave Joaquin enough time to gain speed and rush ahead. The agents didn’t chance a showdown so near homes that had ears and eyes. They didn’t shoot at him, but that didn’t mean they were over and done with their hunt.
The SUV went up a gear and caught up on Joaquin with lightning speed. Its front bumper hit the Civic lurching Joaquin in his seat and his control into a short frenzy.
“Fuckin’ shit!” Another bump dislocated the Civic’s back bumper cover, and it rolled under the SUV in a heap of sparks.
Joaquin tried to focus as his eyes searched street names in the dark. He was close, he knew. The smell of the river hit his nostrils through the drafty shattered window. He could hear the seagulls in the distance, the ever growing splash of water. He had to act fast. The SUV hit him again and sent him skidding. He involuntarily took a sharp left and nearly rolled the Civic. His world became a blur, the wheel spun out of control, the view outside matched his head. His foot tried to find the pedal to hit the brakes, but it missed. Joaquin recovered in time to see an elderly woman pushing a shopping cart across the street. He grabbed the wheel and slammed his foot on the brakes. The maneuver sent him sliding past the woman, but he hit a street light, and the car flipped on its side crumpling the passenger door. Behind him, the SUV didn’t stand a chance. Its weight carried it further on the slippery road. The SUV took flight, tires rolling in the air and crashed through a small red shack spilling nets and fishing rods on its way. The out of control speed carried it through the small patch of woods that grew at the bank, and it flew into the gaping blackness of the Duwamish River.
Joaquin climbed out of the shattered windshield of the Civic. He could feel all the tiny glass fragments digging into his palms and fingers, but they couldn’t pierce his skin. He looked around and found people climbing out of their cars and running toward him. Joaquin waved them away and took one look at Andy’s car shaking his head at the wreckage he had made. He then ambled to where the SUV was slowly sinking in the river.
There were no signs of life, no bubbles in the water, no hand emerging from the water asking for help. People were diving desperately to save whoever was caught up in that car, drowning. Joaquin just stood in the periphery of it all numb from the receding rush of adrenaline. He squeezed where his arm had hurt a moment ago and realized there was no pain left. He let go of his tattered sleeve and tucked is hands in his pockets.
A large, bald man emerged from the water dragging a body with him. He laid it on the low river bank and others joined to help him pull the man to safer shore. Someone, a lady, put her finger against his pale, wet neck and then shook her head. He was dead and judging by the still pooling blood around his face it hadn’t been a pretty death.
“Are there others?” someone asked but the bald man still in the water shook his head. Joaquin took a mental note. His chaser had been only one of the agents. Had the other one stayed with Andy?
He pulled his hood over his head and turned away from the ever growing crowd. Sirens wailed a badass orchestra with blue and red flashing in the dark.
Joaquin went on his way. He had a single bridge to cross and then he was going to learn Miles Jensen’s secret.
Next: Paper Window