Honda Man was actually reversing, confused.
“Hey Man! Whass your probrem?” his speakers bull-horned across three empty lanes. “You race or not?”
“Yeah, I have a problem,” Mark said to himself, without breaking his stride. This new zenitude was cleansing. Invigorating. It seemed to have an effect on the other Rider, too, for he got out…
And drew a gun.
“Hey. N-No funny business. You gonna finish or what? Car break down?”
Just then, twin head-beams rose like moons upon them. A lone trailer. It rumbled toward them, almost shat its cargo across the 401 at the un-expected speck of human in its way. As with the occasional highway patrol car, the driver didn’t stop. A glimpse of the mangled cars in the rearview mirror would’ve told them all they needed to know.
“You know,” said Mark, closing space. “This afternoon you called me an old man…”
Honda Man lifted his weapon. “You stay there. Don come close.”
“… and you know what, you’re r– ”
The shot felt like it had blown his shoulder away, knocked him tits over arse for the asphalt.
“Oh. Go-o-o-o-od! Oh God…”
“You play with me? Huh? You thin’ I’m stupid?”
“Oh God. OH. GOD!” Mark tried to roll over onto his good side, determined to stagger to his feet. No might as well finish him off plausibility allowed here. No, he had to get up, NOW. Look Honda Man in the eye. Make him feel like this had just been a small mistake they could both totally recover from. A ride to remember, that’s all.
“Jesus! Don’t fucking shoot again. I t-t-TOLD you. You’re right, OK? I’m…”
He gathered himself up onto to his knees, light-headed.
“I’m an… old man.”
The small axe was still clenched in the hand clamped over his left shoulder. By the time he had staggered onto his feet he was panting like he’d ran a marathon
“What are you? 18? 20? I give you 20 max. Why don’t you. Head to the finish. Tell ‘em you won.”
Honda man lowered his weapon, more out of incredulity than any acceptance of the proposal. He paced nearer. He seemed… disgusted.
“We are Pacific Pact. We don play like that! You show up you ride. This is my reput—”
“I’ll give you kill.”
Singlish. Import. Mark could’ve punched himself for not noticing earlier. Japanese-tinged, maybe.
“Full kill. I’ll stay here till I get picked up.”
Something was happening to Mark’s composure. Was this guy kidding? He was being handed the ultimate victory, with Mark assuming all of the sacrificial costs of being handed over to whatever passed as law enforcement in these parts. And he wasn’t playing ball?
“You FINISH the ride!”
“Thing is, I’m not sure I can,” said Mark, nodding at his wounded shoulder.
There was a quiet between them.
“You drive one hand,” Honda Man responded.
And then it dawned on him.
He knew. They knew. It had been a setup. They’d won the moment he’d agreed to even show up. What would it have ended like? They’d trot it out about town regardless: guess who we rode? Has-been, washed up Mark Hannsen… big in his day. A notch on the belt, regardless of how it shook out in the end.
And it was the way he’d said it.
Honda Man was saying something, but Mark couldn’t hear it.
A red sun had risen over short-lived serenity, searing every thought with a sudden, blazing heat. Something reptilian feasted on the charred remains of that zen-like bliss. And then, gorged with this new fuel, moved the body.
Swiftly, the axe: straight to the jugular, and the whole of his body torqued into the delivery. Long before it cleaved apart flesh, fresh bullets burrowed into the left half of his torso. He could care less. He barreled into the other Rider, knocking him to the asphalt and retrieving the axe. The gun had spilled away. He swung again. And again. And again. It was wholly ineffective, this thing, as a killing instrument.
And it was a good thing, as his lawyers were wont to point out, many, many times, many months later.Tags: Janna, Mark, The Treble