“What are we doing here?” she asked.
“Just hold on,” he said, leaning to the left again.
She leaned, too, and waited until they’d made the corner before she stressed, “I am!”
Mud covered the roads. She could imagine why it was there, and it wasn’t because it had rained anytime lately. Her body had started to read Scooter’s slightest shift, and it was almost as if they were one, the way she instinctively leaned, to the right this time, as he took a corner around a large wooden pen.
A truck parked in the roadway made her shout, “Watch out!”
“Just hold on,” Scooter said again.
Their speed slowed, but he was still heading directly for the back of the truck. “Scooter, there’s a truck!”
The motorcycle shot forward again with a jolt and flew right up the long tailgate of the truck...where a huge bull stood.
The motorcycle came to an abrupt stop. “Jump off,” Scooter said.
Josie got off on the side near the truck’s sidewall, and spun around to dash down the ramp, but it was already slamming shut. Turning back around and purposefully not looking toward the bull, which took up a large portion of the truck bed, she saw Scooter covering the bike with a tarp.
“Get down,” he said, “and hold on.”
He nodded toward the bull. The truck jolted forward and Josie stumbled.
Her natural reaction to save herself from falling made her reach for something to hold on to. The hard and lifeless form of the bull shocked her more than warm flesh would have.
“Get down,” Scooter repeated, pulling her down to the floorboards.
“It’s not real,” she said.
“It’s very real,” Scooter said. “They’re out for blood.”
“I meant the bull,” she said.
“Humphrey,” Scooter said. “He’s real, all right. Just no longer living.”
Josie shifted, unfolding her legs from where she’d landed on her knees, and settled back on the floorboards. “Since when?”
“Last year.” Also on his knees, Scooter had spun around and was lifting a corner of the tarp as if checking on his motorcycle. After pulling out a few strands of straw, he tucked the corner of the tarp under the back tire. Turning toward her, he said, “I don’t want the muffler setting anything on fire.”
Josie couldn’t get her mind off the bull. It was all there. A massive black body, four legs, a head, complete with eyes, a tail and other things she tried to not look at. “He looks just like he did when he was alive.”
“Dac had him stuffed.”
“Because no one’s ever searched his truck for booze with Humphrey in the back.” Scooter stretched underneath the bull and pushed aside a thin layer of straw. “Which reminds me, if I tell you, climb through here.” He’d lifted a board up a couple of inches.
“I’ll fall beneath the truck,” she said, briefly glancing toward the dark space.
He lowered the board and the bouncing of the truck shifted the straw back into place. “No, you won’t. It’s a hidden cavity. It’s where Dac hides the shine he runs for your father.”
“Dac runs shine for my father?”
“Everyone runs shine for your father.”
It would be impossible for her to know all of the bootleggers driving for her father, but she hadn’t suspected Dac. “Do you?”
“No,” Scooter said, crawling beneath the bull’s belly. “I stay busy enough keeping their cars fuelled up. That’s my bread and butter.”
He was between the bull’s back legs, peering out the little square hole that Humphrey’s tail stuck out of. Josie had more questions about that—the stuffed bull—and about Scooter not running shine, but instead asked, “What are you doing?”
“Checking to see if we are being followed. I think we lost them, but nothing’s guaranteed.”
Above the rumbling and rattling of the truck, other vehicles could be heard. She’d like to check if they were being followed, but was not about to crawl between the bull’s legs. “And?”
“Are we being followed?”
“There’s too much traffic to tell.” He backed out from beneath Humphrey and then crawled over to sit down beside her.
His nearness made her heart do funny things, which was rather ironic after she’d been glued to his back for miles on end. Maybe it was the way he was looking at her right now. The glimmer in his eyes made her throat grow thick and sticky. Her lips grew dry, too, and she had to lick them.