The Greed Factor
Every time the bomb rattled in Dane Kanter’s trunk, icy neurons fired through his bloodstream. With each sharp turn his heart stuttered with anticipation. It was pure greed that put him in this situation, driving up the Pacific Coast Highway at five in the morning, heading toward Los Angeles. A college dorm prank that turned into the scariest driving experience of his life.
Traffic was light on this portion of the winding road, but his brain throbbed with every creak that came from the back of his Honda Accord. The ocean waves were just peaking out of the morning fog to his left as the sun seeped between the tree line to his right. He’d been gripping the steering wheel so tight that his arms were getting fatigued. How did he ever consider taking the envelope from that stranger in Tijuana?
A fine mist was spitting on his windshield as he manually engaged his wipers every thirty or forty seconds. The road glistened with moisture and he felt his tires hydroplane on the sharpest turns. Everything seemed to conspire against him. Even the city planning wouldn’t cooperate. His gas gauge had been on empty for twenty miles, but this stretch of road was quiet and lacking a gas station. Just trees and asphalt and the continual threat of an explosion to keep him company.
Dane kept imagining ways to rectify the situation. He couldn’t abandon the car, the Mexican had made sure of that. The detonation device was strapped to his chest and the bomb would explode should he move even three feet from the driver’s seat. A code-locked keypad secured the chest strap and only one person knew the proper code to detach the strap. One wrong sequence of numbers and Dane’s worries would disintegrate. Along with Dane.
The ‘low gas’ warning light blinked on and Dane almost puked at the sight. He was being monitored with a GPS device and a miniature camera attached to the windshield so even a slight disruption to his movement would be considered suspicious. A gas stop might be tolerated, but a prolonged stoppage like running out of gas on the side of the road could only expedite the explosion.
Plus there was the deadline. He’d been given eight hours to get to his destination. At eight hours and one minute he became extinct. There had to be a way of getting rid of this device without exploring the next world, but nerves and rain and wet roads kept him focused on just one thing. Get to the drop and have the detonator removed safely.
He wiped a patch of sweat from his forehead, then squinted as he turned around a sharp bend and saw flashing lights swirl against the trees to his right.
“Shit,” Dame muttered. Less than a mile ahead was a road block with white and green SUV’s parked on each side of the single lane bottleneck of cars. He thought about turning, but saw that it was Border Patrol vehicles. It was rare to see a road block this far north, but Dane was a pasty white teenager with blonde surfer hair. He should be of no interest to them. Unless he acted suspicious.
Dane tried to control his breathing as he approached the line of cars waiting for the inspection. Even in the morning chill, Dane’s hands were clammy around the steering wheel. There were three cars ahead of him, the first car was waved through by the green-uniformed Border Patrol Officer as he bent over to inspect the contents of the small sedan. The line crept forward as each car received a quick glance and a wave of an arm.
Finally it was Dane’s turn. With his window open, he rolled the car forward expecting the officer to wave him through without stopping, but the guy held up a hand and Dane nearly dropped a load in his pants. That’s when he looked at his side view mirror and spotted the German Shepherd sniffing at the back of his car. Another officer was pulling on the leash to restrain the dog.
“Are you carrying any weapons with you?” the officer asked.
The question surprised Dane and he stammered. “N-no, of course not.”
The dog was sniffing so hard Dane could hear him snorting at the base of his car. The two guards glanced at each other.
“Would you please pull the car over to the side of the road?” the officer asked.
That was it. There was no chance he could survive a car inspection. And the Mexican was hearing everything. Seeing everything. He could detonate the bomb remotely at any moment. Dane’s heart pounded the inside of his chest like a jackhammer.
There was no choice.
Dane slammed on the accelerator.