Chapter 5.

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Dion floors the gas and peals out of the neighborhood where we dropped the old man off. The road leaves the old village and folds out in straight lines around a new development where all the houses look like Lego kits. Dion takes the corners at such high speeds my knees slam alternatively against the door and the gear shift. When we finally race on to the Pacific Highway at breakneck speed, it's a relief that, for now at least, we'll be going in a straight line.

The speedometer in my parents' ancient Honda is touching 100 kph, I note, and Dion gives no indication he's about to slow down at intersections. Not that there is any reason to. There is hardly any traffic, for the same reason planes no longer fly to Asia: too many people are afraid to drive. (Cycling, on the other hand, is increasingly popular these days.) Police, fire trucks, and ambulances are the exceptions to the rule, and that is the reason I warily tell him, "They have traffic lights here, you know."

Without saying a word, Dion depresses the gas pedal deeper and the speedometer moves to 120, 125, 130. We easily overtake a Nissan Micra, and the small car swerves, startled by the other driver on the road.

"You'll make us crash." I wrap one hand around the panic bar and the other around the side of my seat when we hurtle around the bend to the Fraser Highway, but at the same time I feel strangely exhilarated. Of all the ways people are disappearing every day, flying off the road or smashing into a building at least would be clear-cut. Collapsed lungs, broken ribs, skull fractures, ruptured aorta, and that would be that. No fear, no uncertainty. The idea has a macabre kind of charm.

"What are you grinning about?" Dion snaps. I hadn't realized I was.

He presses the gas pedal down deeper, with a ferocious look in his eye. The speedometer moves toward 135, and the car objects to our speed with a high-pitched whine. We dart across 164th street straight through a red light, and then, suddenly, there is a police car in front of us. Disappointed, I watch the sign start blinking "POLICE – FOLLOW".

Dion curses. I'm actually hoping he'll ignore the warning, but he slows down until we reach a decent 70 kph and follows the police car to the empty lot of a car dealership. Dion's hands are clenching and relaxing around the wheel, clenching and relaxing.

I let go of the panic bar and gently massage the cramps from my fingers.

The police officer appears at the driver's side window, and Dion lowers it.

"Do you know how fast you were going, Sir?" the officer asks. He is just a few years younger than my father was, in his late thirties maybe, and his voice has a paternal tone: strict, but just.

Dion doesn't even look at the man but keeps staring at the dashboard. "Of course I know. I can read, can't I?" His hands clench and relax, clench and relax.

The officer's attitude changes so subtly I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been studying him so attentively. His voice suddenly sounds a lot more businesslike. "And did you also happen to read that the maximum speed here is 80 kilometers an hour? Or notice the traffic lights were red?"

Dion lifts his head. "Seriously, dude? There's no one on the roads anymore. Haven't you got better things to do?"

"Your driver's license, please, Sir."

"Haven't you heard about all the break-ins? Shouldn't you be working on those?"

"Your driver's license, if you please, Sir."

Grunting, Dion fumbles his wallet from his back pocket. The officer studies his photo silently, as if convinced it must be a fake. Finally he says, "Mr. Besser, you were going almost fifty kilometers faster than the speed limit when you ignored a red light. That means we'll be revoking your license ..."

"What?"

"... and I'll have to fine you. A judge will decide if and when you will get your license back."

"What is this shit?" Dion grabs the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles turn white.

The officer pockets Dion's driver's license. "I'm sorry, Mr. Besser, but those are the rules."

"The rules?" Dion squeezes the wheel again. "The whole world is going to hell." Before the officer can respond, Dion slams the middle of the steering wheel with his fist. The car honks loudly, startling me. "Why the hell," he shouts, and he hits the wheel again, eliciting another honk, "should I care about the rules?" Another punch, and this time I feel the vibrations in my seat. That must've hurt.

The officer's tone hardens. "Please stay calm, Sir. We have rules to keep everyone safe."

Dion mock-laughs. "Safe? Do you even hear what you're saying, you stupid prick?"

The officer leans forward into the window, his face suddenly stoic. "Please step out of the vehicle, Sir."

I don't know what I want, but staying behind in an empty parking lot while my cousin is taken away in the back of a patrol car is definitely not on my list.

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