Every Saturday leading up to its release, I'm posting a new chapter of Bullet Rain here at the website. You can check out chapter 1 here. Happy Saturday!
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Nova was doing seventy-five, the needle inching up toward eighty, Guns N’ Roses blasting from the speakers, when the Mustang’s rear tire blew and nearly sent him careening off the highway.
He only had one hand on the steering wheel—his right—while his left arm was on the open windowsill, his fingers tapping a quiet beat to the pounding music. But once the tire blew and the car began to buckle and he felt the centrifugal force start to pull him off the highway, he grabbed the wheel and gripped it hard, jerking it to the left just a bit, enough to keep him on the macadam.
A second later, the front tire blew—the same side as the rear—and Nova wrestled the wheel again to gain control, then lifted his foot off the gas and coasted to a shaky stop along the side of the highway.
From the speakers, Axl Rose screamed that the jungle was going to bring Nova to his knees.
Nova punched the power on the ancient stereo, cutting Axl off mid-scream.
The engine was still idling, purring like a beast, eager to keep eating up miles.
Nova cut the ignition, withdrew the key, and opened his door.
At once the silence of the desert enveloped him. There were sounds, yes, the desert sounds of nature—wind, cicadas, a bird, possibly a hawk, calling from somewhere nearby—but the sounds he was used to hearing—traffic, construction, people—were absent. It was one of the reasons why he had taken this road trip in the first place, to just get away from it all. But this right here, not one but two of his tires blown flat, had not been part of the plan.
He shut his door—the sound of metal meeting metal becoming the loudest sound in the desert—and circled around the hood to check on the tire.
Yep, the thing was flat, just like the rear tire.
Crouching down, Nova squinted at the worn rubber. The light was leaving the sky, but there was still enough to see that the tire had been shredded in one spot. Even though he knew he was going to find the same thing, he checked the rear tire.
“Son of a bitch.”
He stood back up and stared down the empty space of highway he’d just driven. He hadn’t noticed anything in his path, broken glass or shaved metal, anything to cause two tires to blow like that … though he had been getting into the song at the time, singing along with the chorus like a jackass.
There was a spare tire in the trunk, but it was just one spare, and right now one spare was not going to help.
He withdrew his iPhone from his pocket, slid the bar across the screen, entered his PIN, but then said, “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
NO SERVICE, the iPhone informed him.
Nova held up the phone, slowly turned himself in a full three-sixty as if that might magically restore cell service.
Nova released a heavy breath. He knew what this meant. He knew what it meant and he didn’t like it one bit.
The last town he had passed through was about six miles back. It had been a small town, a handful of houses, trailers, some buildings, and not much else. He wasn’t sure how far up the next town was, and without cell reception, he couldn’t check Google Maps.
Which meant he had no choice but to head back the way he had come.
He considered grabbing one of his bags from the trunk but decided he only needed his leather jacket instead. The temperature wasn’t too bad—was rather comfortable, in fact—but he knew just how cold it got in the desert. In the next hour or so, once the sun disappeared, it would be best to have a jacket.
He locked the doors and stood back from the car for a moment to take in its beauty.
It was a 1966 Mustang Shelby GT 350, cherry red with white racing stripes. He had always wanted a Mustang, ever since he was a kid, and had promised himself he would eventually buy one. But then life, as it always did, got in the way, and he was barely home for long enough to enjoy such a car.
But then all that shit went down back in D.C., and his pickup ended up in the Potomac, and then he quit his job and needed a new ride and figured, what the hell, he’d always wanted a Mustang, didn’t he?
The price for this one was a pretty penny—just over six figures—but it was more than worth it and Nova had the extra money to spend so he went all out.
And now here it was, a vintage classic with two blown tires, sitting slumped along the side of an empty highway in the Nevada desert.
“Son of a bitch,” Nova said again.
He started walking.