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the whole school year. I bet you ll probably be taking lots of people there.
 And taking them home too?
 Maybe, maybe not. The woman winked, then walked toward the sorority house. I watched her until
the door closed behind her, then waited a little while longer, just to be sure, silently wishing her health and
safety.
****
My shift s end evaluation determined that it was indeed a good shift; my mood was that of satisfied
exhilaration as I refueled my cab, especially because Nicole was refueling at the same time. She had
worked for her roommate, Maggie. Nicole had said she needed the money because her quickly
approaching final examinations would cause her to miss work. Regardless of the reason, it pleased me
that she had worked this night, for it provided more mutual free time for us.
 Got us a vid, Nicole said, waving a video cassette in the air, overhead halogen light reflecting off the
plastic case.  By the way, you ever figure out how to program your VCR?
I smiled shyly. A thousand years old, an accomplished biologist, biochemist and a few other things, yet
this contemporary technology was beyond my comprehension.  That contraption is the work of sheer
devilment, I replied.
 Don t feel bad. She smiled saucily, almost tauntingly.  A million VCR owners can t program their own
machines.
 Ah, such security in the company of such competent minions. It is quite reassuring. So, what will we be
viewing tonight?
The saucy smile turned downright devilish.  H.P. Lovecraft sRe-Animator . I ve heard it s supposed to
be pretty good. Her gas pump clicked off loudly. Nicole coaxed a bit more fuel into her tank, then hung
the nozzle.
 Ah, Lovecraft, I replied,  the father of modern horror. Of Modernist horror. No longer evil, but
otherness. A writer far ahead of his time.
 A sexist pig actually, and a racist too, Nicole corrected.
 Once again, you have chosen horror. Why are we always watching films literally dripping with red-dyed
corn syrup? Would there be anything wrong with a nice comedy, or perhaps a romance?
Nicole laughed loudly, her expression that of feigned nausea.  Guilty pleasure, I guess. They re fun. Fake
horror is a good way to forget about the horrors of the real world. It s therapy. She climbed inside her
cab, tires squealing as she searched to find the last available parking space, leaving me to have to move
my car in order to park my cab.
Moving with great alacrity, I managed to reach the dispatch office at roughly the same time as Nicole,
only to find Dexter sitting in the dispatch chair, indeed a puzzling scene. By the blisters of Satan, what
was he doing there on a Friday night? Was this not his weekend? Where was the other dispatcher?
He handed us our call slips, hands shaking, face ashen. His Adam s apple bobbed rapidly up and down,
but there was no joy in his face, which was the expression that normally accompanied the excited
movement in his throat.
 What are you doing here, Dexter? I asked.
He looked at me, eyes glazed.  Howard was too upset. He split. He swallowed hard, took a deep
breath, his Adam s apple bobbing with increasing rapidity.  The police called a little while ago. They
asked us not to say anything over the radio.
 What s wrong? Nicole asked. I felt her hand reach for me, fingers clamping hard against my waist.
 Truck s dead. Dexter ran his hands roughly through the little hair that remained on his head.  The cops
called an hour ago. They just found his body. He s been murdered. Somebody cut him up real bad and
just dumped him at the side of the road. Over near the bonezone. Just left him there to die.
Without a thought, I laid a hand on the dispatcher s shoulder and let it linger there. Even though the night
was cool, his shirt was soaked with sweat.  Murdered? How? Why?
 The cops don t know anything, but they probably figure it s their buddy who they don t know dick
about. They ll round up the usual list of suspects. Jeez, it was Truck s.... His voice trailed off for a
moment.  It was his night off, so it wasn t like some psycho he d picked up decided to slice and dice
him. Another deep breath.  There ll be a funeral in a few days. If you re working, you should go. Even if
you re not working, you should come here and grab a cab. We owe it to Truck, to give him a big cabbie
send-off.
 I will be there. You have my word on that.
Dexter was silent for a few moments. I withdrew my hand.  Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I don t understand
this. Everybody liked Truck. And that motorcycle club, they re just a bunch of guys into Harley s. It s
not like they re a gang or anything like that. Who could ve done something like this?
I shook my head. Indeed. Who could have done something like this?
Then, it struck me. There was no hand on my waist. No familiar scent wafting over my olfactory. Nicole
was gone.
An engine revved loudly. I ran from the building in time to see Nicole s car disappear into the night.
Chapter 15
Funeral For A Cab Driver
Nicole was gone. Gone without a word. Gone without even having done her paperwork, which surely
would prompt a summons from the waybill office. Gone before I even noticed her leaving, nothing but a
pair of glowing, scarlet eyes shrinking into the night.
I completed my own paperwork, confusion and anger alternating as supreme emotions, battling each
other as numbers violated their own cold, constant mathematical rules, one plus one somehow equaling
something other than two.
Why had Nicole fled? A reaction, yes, but this from the same woman who had so strongly stood by my
side under far more gruesome circumstances?
And motherless spawn of Satan, who in the name of the four winds of Hades would murder Truck? Here
truly was a kindly fellow. This I knew well, having experienced firsthand the generosity of his concern.
Inside the dispatch office, Dexter stared at the computer screen, silently rubbing his chin. Upon seeing me
drop my waybill envelope into the safe, a flood of words flew from his lips, all at once angry and [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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