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I said, “Tell you what. I changed my mind. I’ll give you a hundred bucks and the booze for three things.”

Colin said, “Name ‘em.”

“Let us rent two of your guns.” I tossed him my car keys. “And go boost my car from in front of my house.”

“That’s two things.”

“Three,” I said. “Two guns and one car. What’re they teaching you kids these days?”

One of the kids laughed. “Helps if you go to school.”

Colin said, “You just want to rent the guns? You’ll definitely bring them back?”

“Probably. If not, we’ll kick in enough to buy you two more.”

Colin stood, handed me his gun, butt first. A .357, scratched along the barrel, but well oiled. He slapped a buddy’s shoulder and the buddy handed his gun to Angie. A .38. Her favorite. He looked at his buddy. “Let’s go get Mr. Kenzie’s car.”

While they were gone, we walked across the street to the liquor store and filled their order five cases of Bud, two liters of vodka, some OJ, some gin. We carried it back across the street and had just given it to the kids when the Vobeast came hurtling down the avenue and smoked rubber the last quarter block to the curb. Colin and his pal were out of it before it stopped rolling. “Get going, Mr. Kenzie. They’re coming.”

We scrambled into the car and pulled off the curb as the headlights loomed large and malevolent in back of us. There were two sets of headlights and they were right behind us, three silhouettes in each car. They started firing half a block past the school, the bullets ripping into the Vobeast. I cut across the wrong lane of traffic and jumped the divider strip as we entered Edward Everett Square. I banged a right past a tavern, punched the pedal as we lit down the small, densely packed street, the cars fat on both sides. In my rearview, I saw the first car spin around the corner and straighten out cleanly. The second car, though, didn’t make the turn. It bounced off a Dodge and the front axle snapped in two. Its fender plowed into asphalt and it flipped up onto its grill.

The first car was still firing away, and Angie and I kept ducking our heads, not sure which explosions came from a gun muzzle and which came from the barrage of fireworks in the sky overhead. Straight out, like this, there was no way we’d last. A Yugo could outrun the Vobeast, and the streets were growing tighter and tighter with less cover and more parked cars.

We crossed over into Roxbury and my back window imploded. I took enough shards of glass in my neck to think I’d been shot for a moment, and Angie had a cut on her forehead that was bleeding a thick river down her left cheekbone. I said, “You OK?”

She nodded, scared but pissed off too. She said, “Goddamn them,” and swiveled on the seat, pointing the .38 at the space where the window used to be. My ear exploded as she squeezed off two shots, her arm steady.

Angie’s one hell of a shot. The windshield of the car splattered into two big spiderwebs. The driver spun the wheel and they rammed a white panel truck, bounced back into the street sideways.

I didn’t stop to check their condition. The Vobeast careened onto a badly paved stretch of road that rocked our heads off the ceiling. I spun the wheel to the right and turned onto a street that was only marginally better. Someone screamed something at us as we went past, and a bottle shattered against the trunk.

The left side of the street was one big abandoned lot, scorched overgrown weeds pouring up out of piles of gravel, crumbled cinder block and brick. To our right, houses that should have been condemned a half-century ago sagged toward the earth, carrying the weight of poverty and neglect with them until the day they’d spill into one another like dominoes. Then the right side of the street would look identical to the left. The porches were crowded and no one seemed too pleased with the whiteys in the rolling piece of shit tearing down their street. A few more bottles hit the car, a cherry bomb blew up in front of us.

I reached the end of the street, and just as I saw the other car appear a block back, I took a left. The street I turned onto was even worse, a bleak, forgotten path through brown weeds and the skeletal remains of abandoned tenements. A few kids stood by a burning trash can tossing firecrackers inside, and behind them two winos tackled one another for the rights to that last sip of T-bird. Beyond them, the condemned tenements rose in crumbling brick, the black windows empty of glass, singed in places by some forgotten fire.

Angie said, “Oh, Christ, Patrick.”

The street dead-ended, no outlet, twenty yards away. A heavy cement divider and years of weeds and rubble stood in our way. I looked behind me as I began to apply the brakes, and saw the car turning the corner toward us. The kids were walking away from the barrel, smelling the battle and getting out of the line of fire. I stood on the brakes and the Vobeast gave me a belligerent “fuck you” in reply. Metal clacked against metal, and I might as well have been in a Flintstone car. It seemed to almost pick up a last burst of speed just before we hit the divider.

My head popped off the dashboard and a rush of metal taste fragmented within my mouth as the impact shook me. Angie had been a little more prepared. She snapped forward, but her seatbelt held her in place.

We barely looked at one another before we jumped out of the car. I scrambled across the hood as the brakes behind us squealed on the torn cement. Angie was sprinting like an Olympian across the lot of weeds and cinder block and broken glass, her chest out, her head thrown back. She was a good ten yards ahead of me by the time I got going. They fired from the car, the bullets chunking into the ground beside me, what remained of natural soil spitting up between the garbage.

Angie had reached the first tenement. She was looking at me, waving me to go faster, her gun pointed in my general direction, craning her head for a clear shot. I didn’t like the look in her eyes at all. Then I noticed the shafts of light jerking up and down in front of me, shining off the tenement, jagged where my body blocked them. They’d driven in after us. Exactly what I’d been afraid of. Somewhere in all these weeds and gravel, roads had existed before this area was condemned. And they’d found one.

A burst of gunfire stitched a pile of torn brick as I jumped over it and reached the first tenement. Angie turned as I came through the doorway and we ran inside, ran without thinking, without looking, because we were running into a building that had no back wall. It had crumbled some time ago, and we were just as out in the open as we’d been before.

The car came across the middle of the building, rocketing over an old metal door ahead of us. I took aim because there was nothing to hide behind. The front passenger and the guy in the backseat were sticking black weapons out the windows. I got off two shots that punched the front door before they let loose, tongues of fire bursting from their muzzles. Angie dove to her left, landing behind an overturned bathtub. I went up in the air, nothing to cover me, and I was halfway down when a bullet burned across my left bicep and snapped me around in midair. I hit the ground and fired again, but the car had gone out the other side and was circling for another pass.

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