Heading southwest on Highway 1, I slow before reaching the pull-out for Ranger Hill. Just recently paved, the asphalt’s still bubbling with oil. Even cold, the moisture has made it slicker than snot on a skillet. And near the top I’m betting it’s frozen.
Sliding to a stop, I grind the gears before shifting into reverse and whipping around to face the way I’d just come. Multiple sets of headlights grow larger—bear’s eyes emerging from the back of a cave.
Like dancing on a banana peal, I back up the steep hill at full throttle, using gravity to keep gas and oil in the engine and ground up pecan shells to keep me on the road. Ranger Hill has bested stout vehicles and skilled drivers during good weather. Never me mind you, but I’ve never tried it in the snow.
After the first thirty yards it’s slow going, but I’m still going. The lead company car hits the base of the hill at full speed, trying to use its momentum to reach me. It damn near works, but as soon as a bullet spiderwebs my windshield I pull the chains dangling from the roof. With a bark, muffled by the accumulating snow, the shotguns shatter the company car’s windshield and spew an oily steam from the block, scalding both men instantly. The car careens off the road, smashing into a clump of trees.
The two cars remaining have already started up the hill in reverse, taking the slow but steady pursuit. I switch my left foot over to the gas pedal and try to lift my right to kick out the splintered glass, but the movement reminds me of my pulled groin.
Suddenly a spotlight ignites the air around me and I decide to worry more about what’s waiting for me at the top of the hill. Holding the wheel steady, I continue my slow ascent while racking my mind on how to deal with the surprise check point. As I near the crest of the hill one car has fallen away, apparently stuck, but the other is keeping pace.
The guard booth sits on the south side of the road. A couple of company Model Ts block the road, parked grill to grill. I picture little Abby waiting for me in the cold, depending on me, and my paternal instincts clutch my guts. In a flash of orneriness, I decide the least likely approach seems the best. So I gun the engine, still in reverse, and head straight for the roadblock.
Bullets perforate the back of the cabin and the door, shattering the glass. While spinning on the ice and trying to correct, I lean across and open the passenger-side door, equipped with a fully-loaded Browning. Aiming with the door itself, I start pulling the trigger.
As long as I’m part of this gunpowder ballet, I might as well keep calling the shots. The guard booth splinters, papers exploding from the desk like geese from a pond. “Hyaw!” All five shells spent, I flop back in my seat, leaving the door open.
Without time to think I direct the T toward the guard rail on the north side of the road. There’s a tiny gap between the parked cars and the rail. Not enough to fit through, but…
The back of the car collides with the tapered end of the rail, bucking up and over the top of it. One wheel off the ground, I keep backing up the railing, clipping the passenger-side door against the parked car and tearing it off. But with two wheels off the ground and the other two slipping on the ice, the car sticks fast.
Before I can cuss I catch a flash of movement through my spidered windshield. The fool company goons in the only remaining Model T had intended on following my lead. The brakes locked and still sliding on the ice, they smash into me.
The sudden jolt squirts me through the roadblock, popping my spent Chiclet from my mouth and onto the dash. Wobbling on two wheels and watching the hard lump of gum tumble toward the missing passenger-side door, I hold my breath. Find your feet, girl.
But the T gasps and collapses to its side just behind the pile-up, spinning slowly on the frozen surface of the road. Gunfire whizzes overhead and pings off the undercarriage, coming dangerously close to puncturing the carbide reservoir I welded there—the effects of which I don’t care to explore.
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