An orange needle ran through 70-75-80. Noise from the exhaust running back from the small block V8 would have been deafening without the stereo in the dashboard burning up Iron Maiden tracks one right after another.
The sun had been down for a couple of hours now out here on the interstate. Bourbon sloshed in a half empty bottle in the passenger seat. A Colt 1911 kept the bottle company in the darkness on that side of the car.
Bright light flashed from behind, filling the rearview in red and white and blue.
Turning wrenches at the filling station on Saturday night was a bitch, but it was life for McKenzie Garrett. Garrett kept the truckers, tourists and late night travelers on the highway. It’s just what he did, it was living out here in the middle of nowhere.
Paradise was just a flat spot in the road between two mountain passes and didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment for the folks that lived in the area, a filling station along the highway where those passing through could fill up and get some snacks. Farther off the road the desert community had what could pass for a grocery store and a little post office.
“Give it up motherfucker,” someone said just inside of the door. “Before I shoot your old ass full of holes.”
It wasn’t the kind of accent that one heard much out here in the high desert community.
Garrett had showered up after changing the last of eight over-the-road truck tires after lunch and drove over to the grocery to use Pops Watkins telephone.
The plan had been to call his girl—her folks had a phone out at their place—and see if she wanted to run over the hill for the night, maybe grab a burger at the In-N-Out and a movie in Barstow. Garrett had known old man Watkins since before he could walk and he liked the old man.
Garrett had a glance around the gravel lot that passed for parking outside of the rundown grocery. Watkins Ford Courier was pulled up to the wall in the handicapped space just like it always was. Watkins wasn’t handicapped, but neither was anyone else in town so the old man just parked there. Garrett’s lime green Duster and one of the SUV’s with big wheels and low profile tires out closer to the road.
Whoever sat inside of the idling vehicle was taking in a good dose of rap music from the thumping the speakers made in the doors.
Garrett backed away to his car and removed the Colt that sat in the Duster’s glove box. Cycling the action to chamber a round, he had another glance around the empty lot. The dirty pickup and the muscle car sat empty. Tortured speakers continued to pound out music—if you could call it that—from the SUV.
“Motherfucker,” that out of town sounding voice said again as Garrett neared the open door for the second time. “I told you I want the money you got under that register.”
“Don’t do much business out here mister,” Pop Watkins said in a nervous voice that quavered at the thought of a gun in this young intruder’s hand.
“Trouble Pops,” Garrett asked stepping inside and pulling the door closed to deaden—somewhat—the blow from the .45 in his hand.
Watkins, along with the gunman turned at the distraction. Watkins stood behind the counter with his hands in the air. The gunman with his palm level and a shiny new pistol cocked 90 degrees aimed at the old man.
Garrett spoke up in a firm voice. He could afford to be a little cocky standing behind the would-be robber, just as long as his partner didn’t decide to investigate.
“Old Pop here just told you that he didn’t have any more mister,” Garrett said leveling the Colt just feet from the out-of-towner’s right shoulder blade. “Come to think of it,” he continued, “if I were you, I’d give him the money that you already got and take to walking right back out to your buddy and that fancy car before any one gets hurt?”
“Fuck you man,” the assailant said waving the gun back and forth at the store clerk behind the register. “This shit wasn’t supposed to go down this way.”
“Like I said pal,” Garrett said standing behind with a good clear shot at the aggressor between him and the counter. “Just turn around and walk back to that car of yours. No harm done.”
“He’s right son,” Watkins said, with his hands lowering somewhat. Everyone in town knew that Pop Watkins kept a short-barreled 12 gauge up under the counter.
“Fuck you man,” the aggressor said again. It seemed that this fellow with the pistol was a bit short on vocabulary. “Fuck the both of you,” he said becoming more agitated as time passed.
This kid from the city—and most likely passing from LA to Vegas—was about as fucked as one could get. He’d stepped inside to make a grab for some cash to continue on to sin city not expecting a Good Samaritan to walk in behind and surprise him like he did.
“Look man,” Garrett said in a firm voice. “I’m about fucking done being nice to you. There ain’t nothing I’d like to do more than ventilate that pretty shirt of yours seeing as how you’re pointing your gun at my friend there. If your ass ain’t moving by the time I count to three, it’s mine. Got it? It’s fair game brother.”
“Fuck this man,” the intruder said and let one go over Watkins shoulder and harmlessly into the cigarette rack behind.
Garrett eased back his trigger and put two holes in the boy from the city when the door to the outside world swung wide.
“Fuck man,” the first of the thugs said to his partner—who had so far remained in the idling SUV—“These crazy motherfuckers shot me.”
The partner’s hand dove into the waistband of the athletic pants he was wearing. Garrett shook his head in the negative.
“I wouldn’t even try it pal.”
Thug number one, fired a wild round up through the counter and into the dusty ceiling, where it did no harm other than shake up the pigeons roosting atop the store's missing shingles. Watkins had the Winchester in his hands now fumbling to get it a round chambered.
Number two produced a Glock with an extended magazine and tried to steer it in Garrett’s direction. Garrett got four into the young man before he could fall out the door and into the dark gravel lot.
“Fuck man,” Number one said, crying at the thought of how things had turned out, how things had gone wrong maybe? “You just killed my brother, man!”
“You don’t shut the fuck up and toss that pistol,” Garrett said, “and you’re next. Got it big city?”
Number one could no longer use his shattered right arm and struggled to make some use of his left.
“Put the gun down son,” Watkins said from his place behind the counter. “Ain’t no good going to come out of this now?”
“Fuck you old…” Number one said trying to get his piece pointed in Watkins' direction. The Colt fired one last time. The young intruder never finished the sentence.
“You best be getting along McKenzie,” Watkins said even before the dust had settled in the out of the way grocery store. “The Sheriff will be along shortly with all of this damn shooting you been doing.”
Garrett nodded and started out the door. Watkins was right. Good or bad, two kids—up to no good—had been killed here in this roadside rest stop. It was one of the few that remained after the new road came through driving little towns like these into history.
Once the media got wind of the two innocent boys making their way to Vegas and getting shot dead in the process, Garrett would pay. He’d pay one way or another.
All four barrels of the Holley up front now open the Mopar 340 came to life. Those flashing lights behind fell a little farther back. McKenzie Garrett smiled and turned up the radio.