The Getaway God by Kadrey, Richard
This book was finished on William S. Burroughs’s
one--hundredth birthday. This one is for you, Bill.
Thanks to my agent, Ginger Clark, and my editor, Diana Gill. Thanks also to Pamela Spengler--Jaffee, Kelly O’Connor, Caroline Perny, Shawn Nicholls, Dana Trombley, Emma Coode, and the rest of the team at Harper Voyager. Thanks also to Dave Barbor, Sarah LaPolla, and Holly Frederick. Big thanks to Martha and Lorenzo in L.A. And thanks to Suzanne Stefanac, Pat Murphy, Paul Goat Allen, and Lustmord for the sound track to Hell. As always, thanks to Nicola for everything else.
They stood on the far shore of a river and called to him. Tattered gods slouching in their rags across the waste.
—-CORMAC MCCARTHY, THE ROAD
“I’m very brave generally,” he went on in a low voice: “only to--day I happen to have a headache.”
—-LEWIS CARROLL, THROUGH THE LOOKING--GLASS
YOU’D THINK THE end of the world would be exciting, but this apocalypse is about as much fun as dental surgery.
Take the current situation. Sitting at a dead stop in traffic, as lively as a stone angel over a tomb. Not one car has moved in ten minutes. It’s bumper to bumper on Sunset Boulevard, which is nothing new, but this kind of traffic is 24/7 these days, as it seems like half the city is hightailing it out of Dodge all at once. And the rain. It’s been coming down nonstop for two weeks. It’s like L.A. lost a bet with God and the old bastard is pissing his Happy Hour whiskey all over the city. Which, when you get down to it, isn’t far from the truth. This isn’t how I figured I’d ring in the apocalypse.
“Any time now, Jeff Gordon,” says Candy from the passenger seat. “I thought this was supposed to be a car chase.”
“By current L.A. standards, this is a car chase.”
“Current L.A. seriously blows. And I think my boots are starting to grow gills.”
We’re in an Escalade I stole in Westwood. I hate these showboats, but it can handle the flooded streets and gets me high enough over the other cars that I can keep an eye on a cherry black ’69 Charger up ahead. There’s a guy inside that U.S. Marshal Wells, grand high shitbird boss of the Golden Vigil, wants to talk to.
“I should go up there, rip the fucker’s door off, and stuff him in the back of the van.”
“And you could take a brass band so no one misses the show. Your boss would love that.”
“He wants discreet, but he knows I’m not good at discreet. I swear he did this to me on purpose.”
I reach for the Maledictions in my coat pocket. Drop them and the lighter on the floor on Candy’s side. She picks them up and taps out a cigarette.
“Marshal Wells is a man of God,” says Candy, grinning. “He only has your best interests at heart.”
“Abraham was a man of God and he almost did a Jack the Ripper on his kid to prove it.”
“See? You get off light. Your father figure just sends you out in the rain to drown.”
Candy flicks the lighter and sparks a cigarette. Hands it to me and rolls down her window to let out the smoke.
I say, “Wells is a father figure like I’m one of Santa’s elves.”
“There you go. You’re getting into the Christmas spirit. I’ll have to get you a pointy hat with a bell so you feel like a real elf.”
“You already gave me the Colt. I thought that was my present. And I gave you the guitar.”
“That was different. Those were ‘We might die tonight’ presents. And it was November, so they don’t count.”
“This is just you angling to get another present.”
“It’s the end of the world, sweetheart. Crack open the piggy bank.”
“We spent the piggy bank on Max Overdrive.”
“That’s your problem. I already have something picked out for you, so don’t try to weasel out of this. I want a real damned present on real damned Christmas morning.”
I puff the Malediction. Brake lights go dark in the distance.
“Yes, ma’am. Anything else? Eight maids a--milking maybe?”
“Are they hot maids? ’Cause I never had a nine--way before, so, yeah.”
Somewhere far away a car moves. More brake lights go off ahead of us. In the distance, I actually see a truck inch forward.
“It’s a Christmas miracle,” shouts Candy. “God bless us every one.”
Like some great wheezing machine no one has fired up since D--Day, cars around us begin to creep tentatively forward. I take my foot off the brake and let the Escalade roll.
At that moment the sky opens up. I hit the windshield wipers, but a second after the glass goes clear, it’s drenched again. I roll down my window and stick my head out. The Malediction is instantly soggy. I spit it out. The sky has gone dark gray, dulling the colors on all the cars. In the downpour I lose sight of the Charger.
“Do you see it?”
Candy has her head out her window.
“It’s about a block ahead,” she says. Then, “Wait. It’s got its signal on. I think it’s turning. Yeah, there it goes.”
Traffic lurches to a stop. Horns honk. -People shout at each other.
“Wait. He’s gone?”
“Yeah, around the first corner.”
It’s a sea of brake lights again. No one is going anywhere.
“What?” says Candy.
“I’m about to call in that brass band. Get your head back inside the car.”
“Now you’re talking.”
Traffic is ass to nose again. I put the Escalade in reverse and ram the car behind me. Put it in drive and ram the car ahead. Reverse again, then drive the van up onto the sidewalk. I hit the horn and floor it.