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Nothing butfuckingdust, as far as the eye could see. Dust, dirt, sand, whatever the fuck you wanted to call it, the expanse of dry, stale earth was only broken visually by the flat slate blue of the sky, dotted with the occasional billowy cloud.

And, of course, the road.

A black streak of asphalt cutting down the center, generating visible heat waves that created a haze over the road. Riding with the top down was supposed to feel like a privilege, but the atmosphere utterly lacked the moisture to make the heat palatable.

Hell, bearable.

I fuckinghatedNevada.

If it weren't for the fact that the air conditioning had been the first thing to go when the - admitted - piece of shit car I'd purchased with my first legit check decided to start wearing at the seams, I wouldn’t even attempt it. But, closing myself into a metal box on wheels wasn’t a viable alternative, so there I was, speeding down the road, cursing my luck as the hot, stale breeze whipped the sweat from my brow.

Remember – you asked for this shit.


That was definitely one way to look at it – the presumption that I had a choice. Or hell, maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part – finally, some semblance of control over my life, now that I was outside the confines of TheGarden. It wasn’t like the fall of theBelrosesleft me with a lot of career potential.

Couldn’t exactly put your number of kills on a resume.

So this was where I found myself.

In a half-broken-down drop-top, whipping down the highway with my sights set on the outskirts of Vegas and a mission in mind that contradicted what had been bred into me.

I wasn’t the type to back off from a challenge though.

Far in the distance of the desert terrain, I spotted a group of structures – the first sign of life for miles. I pressed my foot to the gas and murmured sweet words to the car as its’ violent sputtering worsened, pleading with it to at least get me to that cluster of dusty, ramshackle buildings.

Behind my aviators, my eyes narrowed as the wheels ate up the miles, taking in everything I could as I drew closer.

Big Jake’s Auto Repair and Salvagewas painted in big, peeling white letters on the side of one building, beckoning weary travelers in that direction. Now, I could see lines and piles of defunct vehicles, rusted and dilapidated, devolving back into the minerals used to create them.

It looked a whole lot like somebeginning of a horror movie where the Black man dies firsttype of shit. Which still didn’t really come close to the most harrowing situation I’d ever been in, but I was nobody’s fool. I was still toying with the possibility of simply driving on, when the car made the decision for me.

It just stopped.

In the middle of the fucking road.

No amount of cranking, cursing, or chastising would bring the engine back to life, but I damn sure tried, even as my sweat-soaked tee shirt baked onto my body. The lack of clouds was visually appealing, sure, but practically, it meant there was nothing to filter the intense heat from the sun.

It seemed to shine extra hard as I slammed the car door and peered up one side of the road, then the other, looking for anybody coming from either direction before I set off on foot, heading forBig Jake’s, horror movie vibes be damned.

IfBig Jakewanted smoke, I had it for his ass.

By the time I made it up to the shop, I was even less confident than I’d been before. A mile in the scorching desert heat felt like ten, and I couldn’t see any signs of human presence among the cracked blacktop and abandoned cars. The largest of the buildings had three big garage-style doors, all closed except one. Against my better judgement, I drifted closer, pausing when I heard something that made my face twist into a frown.


What kind of fucking mechanic shop played goddamn Beyoncé?

Loud, too.

There must have been some kind of break in the music as I approached, because it consumed me now, drowning out my damn thoughts as I moved closer to the open repair bay and stepped inside. Off to one side was a sleek motorcycle, gleaming chrome and polished black leather that starkly contrasted… everything else. The walls and shelves were covered in typical grease and grime, and a dusty Cadillac took up the open space of the bay. The hood was up, and through the slight breaks in the music I could hear the sound of something happening underneath.

With narrowed eyes, I peered around it without getting closer, calling out, “Hey! I’m looking for Big Jake!”

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