Mad Crab Mojave: Chapter 65

In which our heroes anger the local militia

Jones lay face down in the sand, listening to the crackle and pop of the flames as they consumed the trunk of the car. An ant crawled across the back of his neck. He ignored it. He could hear Bugs mumbling to himself, narrating the progress of the flames as they licked at the car’s tires. Then he heard an engine, and the crunching of gravel. Bugs put his hand on Jones’ shoulder, warning him to stay down. 

“Someone’s here,” muttered Bugs. “He’s got a beard. What is that shirt about?”

Jones shifted his head and peaked out of one eye. About ten yards away, a pickup truck idled, driver side door open. A bearded man strode through the dark smoke towards their burning vehicle. He wore flannel and faded jeans. Homemade embroidered patches covered his upper shoulders. He had a fire extinguisher and a wrench. Jones glanced over at the truck. A gun lay in the driver’s seat. 

“Militia,” he groaned. The man looked around. Jones and Bugs froze. As the militia member set about extinguishing the flames, they came to the same decision. Jones leapt up and sprinted towards the truck, Bugs right behind him.

Jones swung himself into the drivers’ seat and scrabbled at the door locks, trying to open the other side. The militia member roared with anger and ran towards them, wrench raised in the air, ready to strike. The locks popped, and the passenger door opened. Jones slammed on the gas as Bugs wrested the door shut. The bearded man brought his wrench down on the side mirror, knocking it off, then swung at the windshield with all his might. The windshield shattered, raining safety glass down into the cab. Bugs grabbed at the wrench and pulled as Jones fishtailed the truck across the gravel lot. For a few agonizing seconds, the bearded man held on. Then he let go. They were safe. Jones couldn’t hear him over the sound of the wind, but in the rearview mirror, the man’s rage was obvious and total.

Both men panted, trying to relax as their chests heaved.

“I’m driving,” said Jones. 

“Fine by me,” muttered Bugs, folding his arms in front of him. As they picked up speed, he squinted and reached up to deflect a piece of debris that had sailed through the missing windshield. The roar from the wind was starting to put pressure on Jones’ eardrums. He eased off the gas. Finally, after some experimentation, he was able to find the right speed: slow enough to be safe, but fast enough that conversation between the two men was impossible. 

Jones felt ready to close the case.