Lainie blinked at the sudden glare of lights in her rear view mirror. The cops were behind her. If they stopped her and found what was in the trunk, she’d end up in jail. Without hesitation, she tromped on the gas with her left foot. The 1974 Pontiac Catalina hesitated for a second then lurched ahead quickly gaining speed as the 455 Cleveland engine coughed and shot ahead quickly gaining speed. A siren whined behind her, the cruiser getting smaller and smaller in the mirror.
Careening around clots of slower moving cars on Chef Menteur Highway, she maneuvered in and out of traffic, putting distance and steel between her and the cops. Soon, the steady beat of a helicopter sounded overhead and the whine of a single siren became a chorus. Her hip ached from the unaccustomed angle of her right leg, but she could not shift the dead weight of her right leg off the hump of the drive shaft, at least not while trying to outrun the cops.
A command to stop barked from a bull horn above her, probably from one of the helicopters buffeting the top of the Catalina as they swooped lower. Cars slowed and pulled to the sides of the road. The Catalina shot forward, the needle of the speedometer trembling at one hundred miles per hour as the car barreled forward.
Just in time, she spotted the road block, six cruisers parked across the road. Palming the wheel with her left hand, she thumped and bumped through the wet grass in the neutral ground, the rear end skidding a few feet before digging in, grass and dirt flying up behind her, obscuring the back window.
Horns blared. Tires screeched on the wet pavement, skidding to a stop as the Catalina’s front tires gripped the pavement and headed in the opposite direction, the rear end fishtailing as she floored the accelerator, quickly regaining speed. A quick look in the mirror confirmed her fears. The cruisers from the road block sped through the neutral ground and onto the pavement behind her, one cruiser flipping sideways and stopped on its roof. The tires spun as a cop crawled out of the window.
The Catalina dodged through cars too slow to move out of the way, nearly side swiping a red Toyota when she palmed the wheel too quickly and momentarily lost control. She had to reach the Pontchartrain Bridge before the cops caught up with her. She glanced at the fuel gauge. Or before she ran out of gas. She jammed her foot on the gas pedal and leaned forward as if it would help the car go faster.
The engine coughed.
The fuel gauge needle juddered near E.
She was running out of time and out of gas.
The sirens screamed and whined above, nearly on top of her.
The muffled growl of a voice overhead ordered her to stop. The voice grew to a chorus as if echoed from a whole flock of helicopters.
The way to the bridge was clear—for a moment. Two cruisers screeched to a halt across the entrance to the bridge. Foam-capped dark water pounded the rocky shore on either side of the bridge. The entrance was blocked but the side routes were clear. She chose quickly. It was now or never. Good thing she knew how to swim.
She palmed the wheel and ran off the road onto the shoulder headed for the water. The engine coughed and wheezed. The red needle on the speedometer shuddered and drifted down as the car slowed. She just might have enough speed still to make it to the water. She closed her eyes and prayed, letting go of the steering wheel. She leaned back against the seat as the car slowed and stopped, shells and rocks crunching under the wheels. “I didn't make it.”
Lainie looked out. The car was surrounded by cops, guns drawn, helicopters buzzing overhead, circling.
“Come out with your hands up.”
“I hope one hand is enough.” She swung around in the seat after opening the door and the withered right arm dangled by her side. “Wait a minute. Gotta get my leg.” With practiced ease, she pulled the right leg out, set it on the ground and then stood up, left hand raised. “Will that do?”