|Posted on April 15, 2019 at 9:55 PM|
Qarinah stood on the centerline of the highway, long arms by her sides and her beautiful face pensive. Before her, two rumbling machines made their way up to the line. The red El Camino chirped its big back tires with a growl of its 454 and a puff of white smoke. The driver pushed back his sandy blonde hair, eyed Qarinah’s tight shorts and bikini top, and then focused on the road.
Leonard feathered the clutch and tapped the gas and Wendy’s 300s spun and smoked, drifting the nose of the black Challenger up to the line. There was nothing but calm behind his Wayfarers as he felt the rhythm of the supercharged 426 and Rammstein thumping through the Kicker system. He caught Qarinah’s eyes and nodded his head.
The sight at the end of the quarter mile stretch was unmistakable. Azrael, the Angel of Death, sat upon his great pale steed in front of the smoking Hell mouth.
Leonard did not look across at his opponent in the El Camino, but he could feel the stare back. He could feel the nerves, the fear, and the adrenaline drifting across to him. All Leonard felt was 3...2...1...
Qarinah raised both of her arms high and then dropped them, flexing at the hips and knees.
Leonard could hear tires scream beside him. He let out the clutch and eased on the gas and gravity threw his heart into the back seat. His shoulders pinned back to the seat and it felt like someone chained him to a Tomahawk missile as the tires hooked up with the asphalt. He was hardly conscious of the revs when he hit the sweet spot and shifted out of first. Second came and went so fast, it was barely a memory. His sight was a long tunnel, and he pushed and shifted like Michelangelo’s soul possessed his hand and painted its way through the gears. The roar that filled his ears became his heartbeat. The howl of the supercharger was his war song!
It was not until he saw Olivia jump high into the air as he flew past her, that he knew it was over. She waved a red bandana like a checkered flag and he could barely hear her screaming as he passed by. Leonard lay on the brakes and the Brembos howled and chattered in protest. He looked at the display. 9.66 seconds and 140 mph.
“That’s my Wendy,” Leonard smiled. “Thank you, baby!” He patted the dash with a gloved hand.
Leonard stepped out of the Challenger to greet his opponent. The stocky blonde man rose from the El Camino in his sleeveless flannel and dirty jeans.
“That’s a Hell of a fast car,” said the man. “I can’t believe I ran a 10.0 and there you were still ahead of me!”
“Yeah,” Leonard nodded. “That El Camino had me worried for a bit. I could hear that engine screaming the whole time. It was a good race!”
“Fair race!” the man nodded. He put out his hand and Leonard took it and shook, just as they had before the race, when they made the deal.
“IT IS TIME,” said Azrael’s hollow voice.
“We had a deal,” said the man. “I’ll go peaceful, you just lead the way.”
“Good luck,” said Leonard.
The man just nodded.
Azrael turned his horse and rode into the Hell mouth. The man walked behind him, his back straight and his head held up high. Leonard took off his flat-brimmed black cowboy hat and held it to his chest as he watched them go. Soon the Hell mouth closed up and they were no more. Leonard felt a small body slip underneath his duster and an arm curl around his waist. He leaned down and kissed Olivia behind her ear.
“Don’t ever do that again, lover,” said Olivia.
“Do what?” Leonard smiled.
“You bet your soul on a race!” Olivia glared at him. “That could have been you, being led down there!”
“No I didn’t,” he said.
“The Hell you didn’t!” Olivia was annoyed. “I saw you-“
“That wasn’t a bet,” he said. “It was a boon. I knew he was going to lose and so did he.”
“Then why did you do it?” Olivia narrowed her eye at her fiancée.
“Every time we meet these fugitives, they are cowards,” said Leonard. “They go out pleading and crying at the end of Azrael’s chain. This one wanted to go out like a man, with his head held high. I decided give him a shot, to let him be a man instead of a screaming little worm, like Howe was.”
“Well it still scared the shit out of me,” growled Olivia, but she pulled Leonard tighter. “Don’t do that anymore!”
“I won’t,” said Leonard. “I promise.”
“Good,” she gave two pulls on the lapel of his duster, which meant, “bend down and kiss me.”
Leonard lowered his head and closed his eyes. He felt her hands on his face, then her nose and finally her lips pressed against his. He opened his mouth a little and he felt her tongue slip between his lips and search for his. He touched her tongue with his and she made a contented sound.
“Good race, son,” Leonard felt Qarinah’s hand on his back. He looked up from his kiss. “We have work to do,” she said.
“Of course,” said Leonard. “New Orleans.”