VII

Another Lonely Highway

Another blond, another lonely highway, Ann Francis, Route 66, 1961, Flickr

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI

Outside in the chill, Perry said, “You don’t want to be on Route 2 tonight in either direction. Taking those two phones out gave us maybe ten minutes before he can get to somewhere to make the call, less time if another customer shows up. There’s usually a deputy and a state trooper somewhere on Route 2 at night. It might not be a good idea to take the chance either of them are close. Follow me.”

To the gates of hell — the expression just popped up…


VI

Considered Ugliness

Tears and regrets, will they ever leave you alone? cJ-M Lasonde, Flickr image

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

Hardin’s waitress left, moving to the far corner of the bar to exchange words with this dark greasy-haired man, to attempt to calm him, but from what he could see, without much success. Their talk murmured low. If he couldn’t distinguish the words, he could tell it was troubled, angry talk, and that she was afraid of him.

He’d hit her. Their interaction had that dynamic. Hardin tried to concentrate on his coffee. Their problems were none of his business.

“You slut.” The young man gripped her arm over the…


V

A Rundown Bar

Buffalo on high plains of Montana, east of Glacier, writer photograph.

Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV

Exhausted from long hours of driving, Hardin pulled into the diner. He didn’t like it that it was also a rundown bar, but in this part of Montana outside of one of the larger towns they all were.

The almost young if hard-used woman behind the bar looked dead on her feet, which caused him to take a stool at the near empty bar, forgoing his usual practice of finding the darkest booth in the farthest corner of the back. In seconds, he wished he hadn’t when he found himself noticing the…


IV

The High Plains

Simple diner coffee, what dreams can be seen in the black depths of the next cup? Image by Just some dust, Flickr

Part I, Part II, Part III

Running with the night, running across the high plains of Montana, Hardin’s diesel truck roared down Route 2 east of Glacier. It was good to be back in America.

Had the unlikely happened, and had he been stopped in Canada, an RCMP officer might have looked under the tarp covering the bed of his truck and wanted a look inside the nylon bags he used to carry the rhodium. …


III

Deep Muddy Water

Smith & Wesson 629–1 and El Paso Saddlery crossdraw, writer photograph.

Part I, Part II

He’d never reach the Remington pump shotgun fast enough to get them all. His conscious decision not to have it in his hands when they landed may have been a mistake, but if he could have warned them away with the shotgun that would only have put it off. They’d have come at him later. He hadn’t been quite ready to cut them down in the boat before they said a word or declared the first intention, although he had considered that doing so might have been his first and best chance to live.

If he’d…


II

Out of the Morning Glare

Mackenzie River at Fort Simpson, Sarah Bradfield, Flickr image

Part I

With the wind in the wrong direction, Hardin picked the boat out of the morning glare before he heard the engine. Several miles out, the big aluminum semi-vee with the large outboard might ignore him. They usually did. His binoculars showed four men.

In those years when he traveled in a smaller canoe only by paddle power, he’d had native boats pull close only to gun their outboards and rush away. No one explained these situations, but he suspected they mistook his canoe for a moose in the water and had rolled in close to put him in…


I

Unrivaled Luxury

Cornbread in Dutch oven, writer photograph

Hardin ran late under the midnight sun. The end of June in these latitudes this close to the Circle had almost no darkness. The Mad River Grand Laker cut the muddy waters of the Mackenzie into a white foam a sharp eye could pick up for miles, and know it for what it was, much further away than the square stern canoe itself could be resolved by the naked eye.

Often on this expansive river, in places several miles wide, the next bend blocking his vista stretched eight to ten miles. The forty-horse Evinrude outboard had the power to push…


X

The sort of aging farmer you don’t want to mess with: nasty, mean, and low, utterly ruthless. Model release based upon promise of anonymity. Writer photograph.

Read: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, VI, VII, VIII, IX

The Price of Doing Business

The tracks in the newly emerging oats from previous landings and the supporting truck traffic did considerable damage to the soft, tilled ground in Hardin’s long field by the river. These druggies weren’t used to this kind of farmer. About any of them, Sandy knew, would react hard; the law, proportionate response, be damned.

After he drove past the little screen of woods fronting where the public road curved in to the field, he found R. Model already there, out…


IX

Male Indigo Bunting, they return to the fields of the South every year, Flickr image.

Read: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, VI, VII, VIII

Dispassionate Observer

A crashed airplane, its cargo hold packed full of marijuana, put Sandy out of the office and on the road before that critically important first cup of coffee. Exact nature of the mechanical failure was yet to be determined. A good guess, according to the deputies on the scene, might be that the failure had some relationship to the significant number of thirty caliber holes riddling its frame.

He asked about injuries. None of the bullet holes came near the cockpit. It could be…


VIII

Luck: is it like water in a glass, finite? Paul Ian Magpantay, Flickr.

Read: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, VI, VII

Was She Worth It?

A half an hour later, the technician came into the waiting room with the results of the blood test, which he handed to Sandy in obvious deference to his status as senior law enforcement officer present. After a studied glance, he announced, “No significant traces of alcohol.”

His eyes on Hardin, he handed off the document to R. Model without looking at her, as if it were used tissue paper she could dispose of for him.

R. Model took a hard look at…

Edd Jennings

Edd Jennings runs cattle on the banks of the New River in the mountains of Virginia.

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