Why I’d bothered to stop at a red light at 2 a.m. in a contraband racing vehicle in a town in the American Midwest, I couldn’t say. The Beaux Voyous sure weren’t bothering about the traffic laws.
A familiar white Bugatti racer flew past us through the intersection, its wheels off the ground, its engine revving high and loud like a Stuka dive-bomber. It ran ahead of us a hundred feet and screeched to a sideways halt blocking our way forward. The two men in the car got out and stood up, tugging at their lapels and leering at us. We saw one speak into a two-way radio and in the distance, we heard a second Bugatti engine roar to life.
I looked like a bloody corpse, but still I spun the steering wheel as far left as it would go, then floored it. A strafe of gravel pelted the thugs, and they cowered behind their car. I raced back in the direction we’d come from, back into Toledo. Soon there were two Italian race cars behind us, their engines making double the noise of my one. But I used this to my advantage.
I turned into the first narrow lane I came to, a low-income housing area, three-story tenement buildings to the left and right. I zigged and zagged, taking turn after random turn, engines echoing and roaring. Lights came on and heads and shaking fists appeared out windows. I banked as hard around turns as I dared, and the Lancia responded with glee, seeming happier now than at any time since the first day I sat in her seat.
Driving the Lancia was becoming more natural. I felt the suspension, tight and responsive. I spawned a wild intuition about how hard I could turn, how hard I could break. I knew how much power and acceleration she would deliver.
We had another advantage. Dimity and I were smaller in frame, but they were grown men, probably carrying at least two-hundred extra pounds per car. We were lighter and could cut and jump, street to alley to street. We lost the thugs in no time.
But I knew I had to get off the road quick. Cops would be coming soon, and more angry spectators would emerge, disturbed from their beds.
I hazarded turning onto a main avenue. We had to find someplace to hide. Dimity pointed to a Paint and Body Shop with the bay door opened and the lights on. I put the gears in neutral, turned off the engine, and coasted into the garage.
“See if you can find a rag for your head. I’ll get the door,” Dimity said. She leaped onto a chain at the side of the garage door and drew it down. I found a dirty shop rag and put it to the side of my bleeding head and then turned out the lights.
I saw man in a back office with bleary eyes blinking and lifting his head from the desk where he sat hunched over and sleeping, soused under the influence of the bottle of bourbon set before him. He looked up with that mole-like expression one has when roused from a stupor.
“What do you kids want?” he mumbled.
“Ah, I need a…a paint job! For my car.”
“Can’t you see we’re closed, for the love of Jiminy Christmas and all the king’s men?” He blew a raspberry.
“Oh, sorry. The door was open and the lights were on.”
“What? Aw dammit, that damn Lenski sumbitch. Left it open again. I’ll show him, the damn Bolshevik sumbitch, if he can’t be trusted to…I’ll chop his head off and spit in his neck, I will, that filthy red bastage…”
“We closed the door for you. I’ll just leave the car until tomorrow,” we started shuffling toward the exit. “We’ll come back first thing in the morning. Good night!” We waved as we ducked out the door, and he flipped a hand and continued mumbling curses as his head fell back down.
We skipped out on the street to the sidewalk. My greasy rag was getting soaked. Ahead was another tenement building, completely dark. We heard police sirens in the distance, and the two Bugatti engines were still buzzing somewhere nearby, muffled by descending fog. One hand holding the rag to my head, with the other I took Dimity’s hand and we scampered toward the building ducking into a corridor just as the Bugattis burst out on the avenue. The first door we came to was unlocked, and we slipped in and drew the bolt. The darkness was nearly complete, but we could make out vague outlines of furniture.
“What are we doing here?” she hissed.
“I don’t know. Hiding.” We were both rasping in the dark.
“This is a terrible hiding place. They may have seen us.”
“We just have to lay low here until daybreak. If they lose our trail, maybe we can get some sleep here.”
“There could be people sleeping back in the bedrooms! And if the thugs come, we’re trapped. We can’t stay here—”
“Listen. They want the car, not us. Maybe we should—”
“Bo! Did you lock the—”
Suddenly the doorknob rattled and then a harsh knocking began and a voice barking in French.
“Ouvre la porte!”
My head began to swim. I had lost a lot of blood, but something else was at work. I fell over a piece of furniture onto the floor. This couldn’t be happening. It was the scene from my first dream.
“Nous voulons rencontrer votre petite amie! Haha! Elle est très chic! N’est-ce pas vrai, mes amis?”
“Oh my God! Did you hear that? He said petite amie? Do you know what that means? Dimity! It’s you they want!”
“Bo, open the door.” I heard a small click and saw her gun appear glinting beside her temple in the darkness.
“NO! We can’t open the door! Dimity I saw this. I can’t open the door!”
I was drunk with terror. I couldn’t get up on my feet; I could barely speak beyond a gasping whisper, like when you try to scream in a dream but you can’t get your voice to come out.
“Don’t do it! Don’t do it! Please!”
I managed to get upright on my knees despite my head spinning with vertigo. The scene played out in slow motion because although my body was essentially paralyzed, my mind was now racing faster than the Lancia along the breezy Italian countryside.
As I knew she would, Dimity gave a long, heavy exhale through her teeth. She had gone to the door. There was a light switch and she turned it on. The banging stopped. As I knew she would, she unlocked the door and took some steps back. I knew exactly what was going to happen. It was like a movie I had watched over and over and knew every detail. I knew how her hair would be falling over her shoulder, how she would extend the gun in front of her and tilt her head to align the sight. I knew how the four thugs would come tumbling in, how they would all die.
Did I want to stop her? At that point I was incapable of will. I didn’t know what I wanted. I was captive to the moment, possessed by the vision. This time it wasn’t a dream.
Even the deafening pain in my ears from the four gunshots was exactly as it had been in my dream. One-two-three-four. They rang as fast as I could count them out loud. The four men lay on top of each other in a heap, their eyes wide open, and mouths too, all agape in an expression of grim surprise.