John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

Two cars went into position southwest of the Opelika Exit 60, all lights spinning and flashing, blocking the northeast lanes down to a single lane, all personnel out of the vehicles, shotguns ready to shred the tires if the speeding car tried to run the block. They let three interstate trucks through, and then in the silence saw the oncoming lights and heard the faraway keening of the pursuing siren.

The oncoming car slowed somewhat, and then, about two hundred yards short of the roadblock, it went to the left, off the highway and down into a drainage swale, came up the far side and became airborne. As the awed officers watched, it made a slow roll, left to right, in the air. It was obvious to them that the driver had hoped to cut across the median to the southwest-bound lanes, clear the block and then come back to the northeast lanes. The car went to a height they had never seen a car reach before. It gave the strange impression of something floating.

“Son of a bitch!” said Officer Caffrey, a twenty-year veteran using profanity for the first time since being born again ten years earlier.

The car landed upside down on the far lane, bounced up again looking oddly flattened, whirled and bounded end for end off a slope and down, down to the Exit 60 underpass, crossed Route 280 and came to rest in a tiny patch of slash pine in front of an animal hospital. The law gathered around, put the spotlights on it, sprayed foam where needed, summoned the jaws of life, in this case misnamed, and cut and pried the two bodies out of something that no longer even looked like an automobile. They were two young males, estimated age seventeen to nineteen. One of them had some limited identification on him Armando Hernandez of Metairie, Louisiana. They found it in his left hip pocket which seemed to be all too close to his right armpit. The BMW had been licensed in Mississippi, and the numbers were on the computer file as wanted in connection with a murder in West Bay.

Before going off duty at six in the morning, Officer Caffrey held forth to his captive audience of fellow officers in the squad room of the state police barracks.

“What it comes down to,” he said, “is all this jumping automobiles around on the TV. These pointy-headed kids, they don’t know about it’s always special cars, special conditions. Now you take the average vee-hikel, you jump that mother ten feet from here to there, and what you got, you got like a four-hundred-dollar repair bill and you prolly got a whiplash to go with it.”


A bad dream jolted Wade Rowley awake at five, after a very few hours of sleep. The dream faded before he could recapture any part of it. It left him sweaty and shaky. He got up quietly, showered and dressed and went in and kissed Beth on the temple. She rolled over and opened her eyes.

“Wha’ you doing up?”

“Couldn’t sleep. I’ll go in and get caught up on a couple of things. You go back to sleep.”

“I don’t think I can now.”

When he looked in on her before leaving she was buzzing softly, breathing deeply and slowly.

The sun wasn’t up by the time he got to Ezra Feeney’s trailer. In the gray morning light Feeney was backing his white pickup toward the travel trailer. Fred was in the bed of the pickup, as was the thick roll of chicken wire and the posts from his daytime jail. Feeney gave him a quick glance and got out of the pickup and went back and, with a great straining effort, lifted the trailer cup onto the ball of the hitch on the back of the pickup.

“What are you doing?”

“What the hell does it look like to you?”

“I’d say you were leaving.”

“Bet your ass,” Feeney said. He made the hitch fast, then made the electrical connections for the taillights and brake lights on the trailer. “Get in and step on the brake while I check.”

Fred rumbled at him as Wade got in. When he stepped on the brake Feeney yelled, “Okay.”

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