And waited some more.
Nothing moved until a dirty red, late-model Pontiac Vibe station wagon approached from the opposite direction. It swept past and swung down on the wrong side of the street behind me. I watched in my rearview mirror as it backed along the curb until there was only a short space between my bumper and its tailgate. The Vibe was a small vehicle with a wimpy four-cylinder engine that had about as much pickup as a road grader, and I thought, They’re going to try to get away in this? Kids on skateboards could outrace a Vibe.
I stared at the back of the driver’s head with such intensity that I didn’t hear or see anyone approach the Reliant until the kidnapper spoke.
“Put both hands on the steering wheel,” he said.
His words startled me. I turned to look out the passenger window. A man dressed in white coveralls and a black ski mask was squatting on the cracked sidewalk about a yard away; I didn’t know if he came from the yellow house or not. He had one arm wrapped around Victoria Dunston’s shoulder and neck and another carelessly gripping a nine-millimeter automatic. He was pointing the gun at the girl’s ear, yet she did not respond to it at all. She stood stoically, her jaw set, her eyes glittering.
“I said put both hands on the steering wheel.”
I did what the kidnapper told me while staring into Victoria’s eyes. I found there exactly what I prayed I’d find—rage, pure and untempered by humiliation or embarrassment or disorientation or shock or fear. She was angry, but she wasn’t hurt. The sight of her nearly made me smile. She’s all right, my inner voice told me. She’s going to be fine.
“Here she is all safe and sound.” The kidnapper spoke as if he had cotton in his mouth. He was still trying to hide his identity, yet it was Scottie—I knew it.
“This is how it’s gonna work, you listening, McKenzie?”
“How ’bout you?” Scottie nudged Victoria. She didn’t answer. “Now you’re quiet. I gotta tell ya, McKenzie. This girl, she’s got some mouth on her. The things she said to me—I thought you had to be married to hear girls talk like that.”
“Possibly she was upset,” I said.
“Oh, she’s upset. Ain’t that the truth, huh, honey?”
Victoria didn’t reply.
“This is how it’s going to work,” Scottie said. “I’m going to stand here with the girl and you’re going to sit there with your hands on the steering wheel. My partner is going to transfer the money from your trunk to the back of the wagon, one packet at a time, like we said. He had better not see any kind of GPS or listening device. If he does, you’re both dead.” I flashed on the device taped to my thigh. I squeezed my legs together, forced myself not to look down for fear of attracting Scottie’s attention to it. “If it’s cool, if we’re satisfied, the girl, she goes into your car and the both of you drive away. We do the same. No harm, no foul. Okay?”
“Pop the trunk. There’s a lever between the seat and the door.”
I did what I was told. Afterward, I gripped the steering wheel in the ten and two positions and worked to control my anger.
“This won’t take long,” Scottie said.
I heard Scottie’s partner get out of the Vibe and open the rear hatch of the station wagon, but I couldn’t see him—the trunk lid of the Reliant blocked my view. I spent most of my time watching Scottie and Victoria. Scottie should have kept his eyes on me. Instead, he was watching his partner. Victoria stared straight ahead.
“Are you all right?” I asked.
Scottie answered for her. “I said so, didn’t I?”
Victoria remained silent.
I wanted her to speak. I wanted her to smile. I wanted her to tell me how lame I looked sitting there in my wet shorts. Maybe if I made a joke. Only nothing came to me. I sat in the car, watching Victoria’s face, my hands gripping the steering wheel tighter and tighter until the knuckles were white. After a couple of minutes, I heard the hatch of the station wagon close.
“We ready?” Scottie asked.
I didn’t hear an answer, but Scottie must have been satisfied.
“A deal’s a deal,” he said. He took his arm away and pushed Victoria forward. “Get in the car,” he said. Victoria opened the door, slid in next to me, and closed the door. She still didn’t speak.
“Buckle your seat belt, honey,” I told her.
She glared at me and shook her head as if she thought I were seriously deranged, but she buckled her belt.
“Okay,” said Scottie. “You can go.”
He put his gun in his pocket.
I started up the car, put it in gear.
“You’re an asshole, Scottie,” I said and hit the accelerator. “I’ll be seeing you real soon.” I glanced at him in the rearview as I sped down the street. From his body language, he looked like he had just been zapped with a Taser. I liked the look.