Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Until Dawn - 6

Coyle was beginning to get concerned about the snow. He’d grown up in Pennsylvania, so it wasn’t that he was unfamiliar with driving in bad weather. But this had the look of something that was going to overwhelm the plows. He’d only passed one PennDOT truck on his way here from the bank, and that was a bad sign.

The town he’d passed through hadn’t much help. One red light, one grocery store, two gas stations, three bars and precisely zero places to spend the night. He’d familiarized himself with the area when he was planning this job, and he knew that he was a good forty miles from a hotel. Not a big deal in and of itself, that was less than an hour’s drive, normally. Tonight, though, that could end up taking until dawn, at best.

Coyle was in no particular hurry. He knew that getting impatient meant making mistakes, and mistakes meant getting caught. Coyle didn’t have a criminal record at all, even under his real name, and he intended to keep it that way. So he was keeping well within the safe range of speed for this kind of weather, even thought that meant he was perilously close to driving at a walking pace.

He saw a pair of headlights, pinpoints in white, way out ahead of him. He’d barely seen any traffic so far. People out in the sticks generally had the good sense to stay inside when the weather got bad. These headlights, though, were definitely getting too close, too fast. Coyle frowned.

In the distance beyond them, he saw flashing lights. He was concerned, but he kept it steady. The odds were better that some podunk cop was trying to pull over the truck heading towards him rather coming for him, but he’d just have to wait and see.

The blue truck started to slide. It was going faster than it should have been, but that didn’t mean that it was going fast, so Coyle had plenty of time to hit the brakes. He was slowing down fast when the truck ended up going broadside into a spin. Coyle didn’t see much choice, so he jerked his wheel to the side.

He started to slide sideways himself, and there was a dull crunch as the cars hit. He spun some more and ended up off the road. Shit.

He was just stepping out of the car when the police blazer slowed and stopped. He felt the weight of the gun in his pocket and put a concerned look on his face. The door of the blazer and Podunk got out.

“You all right?” the cop said.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Gimme a second, okay?”

The cop was big, wide thick shoulders and a belly going soft. Uniform shirt but a Carhart jacket and worn jeans. Town cop, Coyle figured, but he couldn’t read what the blazer said in the dark. The cop went over to the truck and opened up the door.


Emmerson didn’t recognize the guy that Mattingly hit. He was somewhere in his thirties, tall, sandy hair from the looks of it. Not a local, which was a problem, because that car wasn’t going anywhere. They hadn’t hit too hard, but the rear fender was jammed into the tire. Mattingly’s truck was thirty years and probably indestructible, but Em would be damned if he were going to left Mattingly drive it.

“You all right?”

The out of town guy looked concerned, but he was moving fine, snow covering his dark jacket already.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

Em nodded.

“Gimme a second.”

He yanked the door open on Mattingly’s truck.

“I ought to strangle you, Johnny.”

Mattingly blinked at him and then threw up on his boots.

“Damn it,” Em said.

Mattingly stumbled out of the truck, nearly went down in the snow, and then,m unbelievably, tried to make a run for it. He didn’t make it two steps before Em grabbed him his collar. Matting slipped again, and pretty much the only thing that kept him from making little drunken snow angels.

“Get up, you jackass. What do you think you’re doing?”

“I can’t go to jail again.”

Emmerson hauled him toward the Blazer.

“Yeah, you can. I’ll have someone pick up your truck later on.”

Em stuffed him into the back of the Blazer and turned towards the other man. The man was running a hand along the dents in his car.

“Buddy,” Em said, “I’ve got bad news for you. That car isn’t going anywhere.”

“Well, shit.”


The other man stood up and wiped his hands on his jacket. He was already covered in snow.

“I can call you a tow truck, but I can pretty much tell you that you’re not going to get anyone out here until the storm is over. Do you have a place to stay?”

“No. No, I was just passing through. This storm caught me by surprise.”

“You and everyone else. Well, I’ll give you a ride into town. Not much point in standing out here in this mess when he could be a warm car. Warm enough, anyway.”

“Just let me grab some stuff out of the car.”


Coyle considered his options. The town cop was right: the car wasn’t going anywhere, especially not tonight. The real question was whether or not he should kill the cop and the asshole who’d hit him and take the blazer.

On one hand, he could take the Blazer, dump it near the next town and get a hotel room for the night and probably never be connected with it. The weather would be in his favor, there.

On the other hand, he didn’t know how bad this storm was going to get, and if something else happened while he was driving the cop’s vehicle, he would be in trouble. Plus, shooting cops, even town cops in the middle of nowhere, wasn’t something that you should do lightly.

He grabbed the gym bag of cash and another full of clothes out of the car. He was aware that he probably should have left the money in the car. He knew that, but he also knew that he wasn’t going to.

The cop had already gotten in the blazer, so Coyle went around to the other side and got in. The big cop smiled at him.

“You know, this is exactly what I was trying to stop him from causing.”

He jerked a thumb back at the drunken asshole who, to Coyle’s considerable annoyance, had fallen peacefully asleep. His mouth was open and he was snoring slightly.

“My name’s Emmerson Swift. I’m the chief of police here in Stonebury. That’s John Mattingly, local drunk”

Coyle shook his hand.

“Cameron Coyle. Will my car be alright here?”

“Should be. It’ll need dug out in the morning, but nothing else should happen to it in the meantime. I’ll take you back to the station and we can fill out the accident report paperwork there, unless you really want to insist on staying out in this crap.”

The car was clean and legal, so that wasn’t a problem. What was an issue was getting the hell out of this place in a halfway timely fashion. It wasn’t as if there were any car rental places around here. Stealing one was out. He’d figure something out. As it was, all he had left to do was settle in and listen to the big cop chatter about the weather. Coyle sat, mostly silent, idly caressing the gun in his pocket with a gloved finger.

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