Drinking 151 rum straight from the bottle on top of a couple lines of cocaine spread out on the table, someone passed Welcome a joint. He took a whiff of the smoke before he took a hit and declared with absolute certainty and hilarity in his voice, “This is great! Opium dipped Thai stick! I haven’t seen this since the first Gulf war when my brother brought some straight from Afghanistan.” He took a long deep pull and held his breath.
Exhaling a huge billowing cloud of blue, he gasped, “Sun’s going down, it’s getting late. I gotta go. Who needs a ride?”
Kenny and Sarah-Ruth said, “We do,” at the same time.
“Jinks, jinks, you owe me a coke. Jinks, jinks, no jinks back,” Kenny said rapidly and laughed.
They piled into Welcome’s classic hardtop ’65 Corvair Corsa, Kenny in front riding shotgun. He fished the two ends of his seat belt out and strapped it across his waist.
Welcome chose to ignore the safety equipment.
At the first intersection, the light was turning against him, so Welcome floored it. They blew through.
Sarah-Ruth said, “It’s windy back here. Turn up the front window.”
“I will if you’ll rutabaga the back seat,” Welcome said as he obligingly wound the hand crank.
This distraction caused him to miss the fact the car in front came to an unexpected and abrupt halt. Welcome swerved, but the Corvair clipped a rear tail light. Dutifully, the driver pulled over, unbuckled and opened his car door to inspect the damage and discuss the accident. Welcome whipped around just as the guy stepped out of his car.
Kenny said jokingly, “Whoa, there big fella. Aren’t you going to stop? You’re gonna bring some heat down on us.”
“Are you kidding?” Welcome was openly hostile to the idea. “I can’t stop now. In my condition I’d flunk a field sobriety test. This would be my third offence. I’d go straight to jail. Do not pass go; do not collect two hundred dollars. Hell, no, I ain’t gonna stop. In fact, I think I should speed up.”
Sarah-Ruth chimed in with, “Great. Just great. Glad I ain’t driving.”
Welcome’s response to this nagging comment was, “Never so few fine statements set in so much crap.”
Kenny said nothing as the car picked up speed, but his eyes widened and his hands leaped out to press against the dash. He calmed himself when he realized Welcome appeared to have developed a heightened sense of driving seriousness: both hands on the wheel, arms in the racing position straight out from the chest, head slightly inclined, eyes moving rapidly from left to right and back to the highway again as if instantly taking every circumstance and all traffic into consideration.
They drove the winding road rapidly but not wildly and came out of the Malibu hills onto Highway 1 with the shoreline lying before them. Welcome scanned the rear view mirror to be sure they were not being followed. He took a left on Pacific Coast Highway heading south, but put even more care into his driving. He matched but never exceeded the speed of surrounding traffic.
If only the Ludes don’t kick in, he thought, we might make it back just before sunset.
Their two lane side of the highway moved at a nice clip through the coastal communities. When he got to Santa Monica, Welcome was sure a Highway Patrol officer gave him a longer look than necessary, but broke away at the next exit.
They traveled at normal highway speed through Marina Del Rey, Manhattan and Redondo Beach, caught the traffic signal at Palos Verdes Boulevard where PCH stops following the coast and veers inland toward Wilmington.
The siren and red light sprang to life together, instantly, in a heart beat. Kenny said, “Oh, shit,” and tried to make out who was after them by turning around in his seat. A white tube of brilliance blinded him as the spotlight beam was shined over the car. An amplified female voice said, “Blue Corvair. Pull over. Blue Corvair, pull over now.”
Welcome sped up.
From the back seat, Sarah-Ruth screamed, “What the fuck are you doing, asshole? The cops said pull over.”
Welcome hit the accelerator even harder. The second set of carbs became engorged with fuel, turned on with such power everyone was thrown hard against their seat backs. Sarah-Ruth was unable to pull herself forward or she would have punched Welcome in the back of his head.
Kenny contained his scream as they barely made it through the Crenshaw intersection in the yellow, dodged a double parked mail truck in Lomita, blasted through Harbor City above the Terminal Island Freeway as the wail of sirens increased behind them.
The light weight American sports car was in its element on the wide open highway and out-ran their pursuers who were hesitant lest they cause an accident.
When Kenny was finally able to look backward, the cops seemed to be losing ground, falling behind. He considered grabbing the wheel, but that was not really an option at such high speed. He had no idea their exact rate because the recessed dash hid the speedometer from view, but his body felt the rush of acceleration. Vehicles in front appeared to be standing still as Welcome wove a path in and out of traffic.
As for Welcome, he felt the increased thrill of adrenalin mixed with the rush of the Quaaludes taking hold. He saw with perfect clarity and his mind raced faster than the 4500 rpm engine as they crossed Long Beach Boulevard. He slowed in order to turn right on Atlantic and Kenny took that opportunity to unbuckle and jump into the back seat with Sarah-Ruth.
They hugged each other in terror.