Black Mask

Hit and Run

by Doug Allyn


“I did time with your cousin Kane,” I said. “We worked together in the prison laundry.  He said when I got out, I should look you up.” I paused, giving Chip time to answer. He didn’t, of course. I was alone in my car, talking to the steering wheel. Rehearsing my scam.

“I was D Block, for violent offenders,” I continued, “Kane was in the junkie wing—crap!”

I broke off my monologue, knowing I’d just made a fatal mistake.

Some idiot behind me blew his horn—or maybe not an idiot. The traffic light up ahead had gone green, but our line wasn’t moving—“Damn it!” I shouted at the wheel. “D Block is Junkieville, you moron, C Block is violent offenders! Get your head out, or they’ll take it off!”

I was only cursing myself, but the startled grandma in the lane beside me didn’t know that. Gunning her engine, she blew through the red light, burning rubber all the way, banging off a pickup, triggering a deafening chorus of horns as she disappeared into traffic. It was the smart thing to do. A guy alone in a car yelling at nothing? Scram! Better to be safe than sorry. They don’t call Detroit Murder City for nothin’.

The light turned red again, but we still hadn’t moved. Waiting for the next green, I quickly ran over the bogus jailhouse legend I’d memorized. I’d be passing as a drug dealer fresh out of the Jackson slam. I’d dressed for the part, leather jacket and torn jeans, three-day stubble, biker boots. Channeling McQueen or James Dean for a generation who wouldn't recognize them on Facebook.

My target was a new kind of dealer, a college kid at Detroit University. Started as a small-time player, a street-level Dr. Feelgood supplying frat parties with angel dust and oxy. But that was then. More recently, he’d upped his game, hired a couple of Aryan OutKasts as biker bodyguards, and started moving much heavier product into a perfect market. College dorms. Upper-class kids with cash, far from home and dealing with new pressures, new angst. Easy targets for a dealer like Chip Steadman, a grad student who was actually one of them, forgodsake. The kid was already on the academic escalator, headed to the top floor. He could have a legit Fat City life, high-dollar job, Lexus, vacations in Rome.

But why work for your grades when oxy’s a four-hundred-percent markup, and even Freud claimed coke would jack up your GPA?

Waiting out the light, I was so focused on memorizing my lines that I didn't see the car coming up behind me until it suddenly filled my rearview, coming on much too fast, a woman at the wheel, with her freakin’ eyes closed—


The impact slammed me back in my seat hard, more startled than hurt, then the airbag exploded in my face, pinning me against the seat. Fighting my way clear of it, I checked my rearview mirror but couldn’t see squat because the trunk lid had popped up—

The trunk! Sweet Jesus! I had two keys of uncut coke back there, fifty grand worth in a plastic Walmart shopping bag. Bolting out of the car, I rushed to the back.

The coke bag was intact, but the trunk lid was wide open, folded nearly in half. The car that rear-ended me was a Buick Minivan. Its nose was crumpled, but not heavily damaged.

The driver was in worse shape. She was blond, maybe thirty with a short, boyish haircut. She was in tears and shockingly roughed up, her face was a mess and her yellow sundress was blood-spattered, which made no sense. I didn’t have a mark on me and—then I realized her bruises were already purpling, and the blood on her dress was turning black.

“Omigod, omigod,” she sobbed, “look what I did. My husband’s going to kill me.”

“Lady, it looks like he made a pretty good start already. What the hell happened to you? Who roughed you up?”

“No one! It was an accident. I—fell down. Please don’t call the police.

“Ma’am, you’ve obviously been beaten, you need medical attention. The police—”

“No! He is the goddamn police! My husband’s a desk sergeant with Major Crimes and whenever he has a bad day, I walk into a door or fall down the damn stairs. If you call it in, he’ll explain it away to whoever they send, about how clumsy the little woman gets this time of the month. I’ve complained before, and only got beaten worse afterwards. Let it go, please. Let me go!”

Traffic was stacking up behind us now, more idiots blowing their horns. Four or five vehicles back, I could hear a motorcycle rumbling quietly, not revving up impatiently, just sitting there. Was he watching me? As bright as my target was supposed to be, he might have sent one of his biker pals to tail me, to make sure I was legit. I needed to be gone, and quick, before a traffic cop showed and took a look in my trunk.

“Listen, ma’am,” I said, dialing 911 on my cell, “when the cops show, just—”

But I was talking to the air. Slamming her minivan into reverse, she banged into the car behind her, then shifted into drive and floored it. I had to dive out of the way as the battered blonde in her battered Buick roared around me, tires howling, nearly running me down.

I memorized her license plate as she blew past, but then the light changed and it was my turn to hustle. Stripping off my belt, I pulled my dented trunk down, strapped it to the bumper, then scrambled back behind the wheel. I thought about calling in the assault, but if she was telling the truth, she could be right. The system would only fail her again. The “blue wall” would protect her husband, and calling it in would only make things worse for her.

I definitely wouldn’t forget it, though. In my book, wife beaters rank at rock bottom, beside child molesters and pimps. I would definitely have a conversation with her old man, and soon, but for now, he’d have to wait.

And so would I. I was still blocked in as the line of stalled traffic crawled around me, drivers glaring, a few flipping me off as they passed. No offers of help, nobody wanted to get involved, which suited me fine. I just wanted to be gone.

A redneck in a jacked pickup yelled something about my mother as he went by, then two kids in a VW bug, a granny in a Mini Cooper . . . and then the motorcycle.

It was a big Harley, a custom knucklehead. The rider looked outlaw, dressed in faded denim and a leather vest, but he wasn’t wearing colors. His vest was unmarked. He looked me over carefully as he rumbled by, but I couldn’t return the favor. His helmet shield was mirrored. I could only see my own distorted, fun-house image in it. My reflection looked spooked. And I damn sure was.

I considered calling off the meet, but it had taken weeks to set up, I had the coke in the trunk and just enough time to make it—

I blew the red light, barely missing a delivery van, triggering a hundred horns as I sped off, zigzagging through the traffic jam. . . .


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Copyright © 2021. Hit and Run by Doug Allyn

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