Desperate Times

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Alexis Brinker has a Porsche, and normally I feel like Porsches are douchy—the official car of middle-aged losers struggling through their midlife crises—but I don't want to be around when Santos and his minions go all 30 Days of Night on the crow...

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Alexis Brinker has a Porsche, and normally I feel like Porsches are douchy—the official car of middle-aged losers struggling through their midlife crises—but I don't want to be around when Santos and his minions go all 30 Days of Night on the crowd, so we climb in and I back out and punch the pedal and peel out black ribbons of rubber.

We launch ourselves through the Central Texas hills, top down, stars gleaming. Alexis Brinker sits next to me, slouched forward, eyes slack, mouth open. She's totally useless, but for the moment I'm okay with that. I need silence. I need solace. I need time to think.

I don't have a destination in mind, really, so I just drive. I pass through Dripping Springs and then I'm off like a shot toward Fredericksburg, whipping past sad-sack wineries and worn-down barbecue joints, pathetic tourist traps slumbering in the deep-night darkness as I flee Austin and its lame attempt at a vampire invasion.

I'm starting to get hungry, but I don't want to stop and gauge. Too much trouble. I need to keep going, faster, faster, get away. I'm not nearly drunk enough or high enough to face the thoughts crowding the back of my mind, and I know pretty soon I'll need to wrestle them. I also need to figure out what to do about Burn Time. I'll need to find a place to crash. But for now, I just drive.

"How did I get into this mess?" I ask. Alexis Brinker responds by giving me a look so blank I wonder if I broke her. Is that possible? Did I come on too strong with the sway? Pour too much angst into her poor, addled brain? Who knows. She may just be drunk. "I mean, I'm not even sure I wanted to do this vampire thing. It was Vince's deal. I was just being supportive."

The more I think about it, the more I'm starting to realize that Vince kind of screwed me over. I shouldn't have let him talk me into becoming a vampire, and as I reflect on that fact,  I realize I should have cut ties with him a long time ago. Because yeah, he's hot and there was that one time in high school when he saved my ass from getting beaten, but overall, he's been nothing but a drag on my life, like an anchor weighing me down, holding me back. I mean, he's the reason I'm here in lame-ass, tiny Austin instead of a place that really matters. He's the reason I'm stuck with Diana and her histrionics. He's the reason I'm speeding through hicksville with a brain-dead B-lister and a douchebag car in a desperate attempt to avoid death and dismemberment.

"You did this to me," I tell Vince, wherever he is. The Porsche plunges down a hill and speeds over a rise and I realize I'm on the outskirts of Fredericksburg, a horror show of a town with this cloying knock-off German vibe. I feel a wave of fear and loathing rise through me. This is an insipid little place, full of tourists and craft stores, and I don't want to interact with it in any way. I don't want to be anywhere near it, in fact. and I'm about to make a uturn when police lights flip on.

"Motherfucker," I tell Alexis Brinker, who just stares at me. Her eyes are glazed donuts. Yep, she's broken.

I really don't want to deal with some backwoods law dog, so I'm tempted to ignore him and his damn  lights, let him follow me around for a while. But I decide this would be a bad idea. While I'd love to watch this redneck asshole try to keep pace with the Porsche on these tight hill curves, I know that I'll be better off just pulling over and getting this over with. No reason to have him calling out the entire sheriff's department to chase me, especially when it shouldn't take much to get rid of him. 

Gravel crunches as the Porsche slides to a stop and stands panting, eager, ready to race. I watch in the rearview mirror as the cop hauls himself out of his car and approaches. He doesn't seem to be in any hurry, the fucking hillbilly. I should make him pay for this inconvenience, I think.

Mark this down as yet another reason to hate Fredericksburg.

The cop leans down to speak to me and I make eye contact. Bam! I'm inside his head.

Asshole's name is Bud — no kidding.

It takes me around three milliseconds of digging to see this took is like a total country-song cliche, but that also means he should be easy enough to sway. Dude hates his job, hates working nights, hates his wife, hates his life. Wants to be back home in Georgia — or at least home in bed — so he's not really loving life at the moment. He's practically begging to be sent home to drink beer, so before he can launch into his schtick, I just cut him off and I'm like, "Hey, man, why are you putting up with this shit?"

Why don't you just go back to the station and put in your notice? I think. Just take off. You could be in Louisiana before that birch wife of yours Cheryl even wakes up.

Bud looks at me thoughtfully. "You know what? You're right. Fuckit."

Then he straightens and turns and walks away, ready to haul ass out of the state.

I turn my thoughts back to the issue at hand — my future. I have no idea where I'm going now, but it'll need to be quick. Burn Time is approaching, so I wonder if I should hear back to Austin. Maybe so. I'll have to check my phone to see what time the sun rises, but it'll be a close shave, considering it'll take about an hour to get to Austin if I'm speeding. And even if I do make it back in time, where will I go? I don't really have a place to crash, so I'll have to put some siphon under my sway..

Oh well. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

I'm reaching for the gear shift, ready to turn back, when Bud reappears. And this time he's holding his gun.

What the fuck? Grunting with exasperation, I turn to re-establish eye contact, but the redneck bastard isn't looking at me. He's looking past me, at the passenger seat. "Excuse me, ma'am, are you Alexis Brinker?"

Alexis gapes at him. Totally off in the atmosphere.

"Ma'am?"

Alexis is counting satellites.

"That's it," he says, finally turning his attention to me, and suddenly I'm staring down the barrel of his pistol, "I'm going to need you to get out of the car."

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