Nina looked like she was trying to identify the dialect I spoke.

“She already has plenty,” I translated for her.


“McKenzie, as usual you’re missing the point.”

“What’s the point?”

“Your place or mine?”

Hers. It was closer.

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’Course, it’s never simple with Nina. First we had to drive to the Black Sea, a Turkish restaurant located near Hamline University for a takeout order of what Nina claimed was the best baklava in the Twin Cities. Some people like a cigarette after sex. Nina prefers dessert.

She insisted on driving and slid behind the steering wheel of her brand-spanking-new Lexus while I rode shotgun. “It still has that new car smell,” she insisted, inhaling deeply. I didn’t agree but wasn’t about to say so. People with new cars—especially people with new cars that are the same color as their eyes—you don’t mess with them.

A few quick turns after we left Rickie’s parking lot, we were on Dale heading north toward 1-94. Almost immediately an SUV appeared on our back bumper. It rode higher than the Lexus, and its lights flooded the inside of the luxury car and reflected off the rearview into Nina’s eyes. She adjusted the mirror without thinking about it.

“Did I tell you the salesman gave me a discount?” she asked.

“Yes, you did. Several times. If I had been the salesman, I would have given you a discount, too.”

“You know why?”

“Because you’re an extremely attractive woman?”

“No.” Nina sounded offended. “It’s because I know how to haggle.”

“That, too.”

“I’m not kidding. I’m a great haggler. Want me to prove it? If you expect to come to my place tonight, you have to pay for the baklava.”

“I’d be happy to.”


Nina slowed to make the right turn off Dale onto the service road that led to the 1-94 entrance ramp. Apparently she was too slow for the SUV. It edged just inches from her bumper and leaned on the horn. Nina flinched. “What’s he doing?” she wanted to know.

I turned in my seat to look out the rear window and got an eyeful of high beams.

“Probably afraid he’ll miss the Law and Order reruns on TV tonight.”

Nina accelerated faster than she normally would have to accommodate the tailgater. That’s what we do now—we hit the gas and hope to avoid trouble. There was a time, if someone was riding my bumper, I would have deliberately slowed down and make the guy pass me or back off. But that was before growing population, urban sprawl, and an overworked traffic system turned road rage into a spectator sport. It’s become so nasty out there that I, for one, refuse to use my horn for fear of setting off a confrontation—especially since the state legislature now permits any Clint Eastwood wannabe over the age of twenty-one who completes seven hours of classroom and firearms training to carry a concealed weapon.

Nina was five miles over the speed limit by the time she reached the bottom of the ramp. The SUV was still on her bumper, but it now had three freeway lanes on the left to pass us. Only it didn’t swerve away. It accelerated. And rammed the back of Nina’s Lexus.

The blow shoved Nina forward against the steering wheel. Yet she kept control of the car, kept it moving in a straight line. She righted herself and glanced in her rearview mirror and did what most of us would have done. She began to slow down.

The SUV hit us again. Harder.

The Lexus swerved abruptly to the left, but Nina brought it back.

I was looking out the rear window, but the headlights were in my eyes. I couldn’t identify the vehicle or read its license plate.

The SUV made another run at the rear of the Lexus. This time Nina saw it coming and accelerated. The SUV just grazed her bumper before the Lexus leaped ahead, gaining speed, gobbling up freeway.

Nina was heading for the next exit, moving fast.

The driver of the SUV must have read her thoughts, because he pulled into the left lane and punched it. The SUV surged ahead, drawing next to us.

It could have been a Chevy Blazer, but I wasn’t sure. I stared hard, but the freeway lights were reflecting off the SUV’s windows and I couldn’t see the driver.

The SUV and Lexus were side by side, going at least ninety, maybe faster. I was afraid to look at the speedometer.

And then I noticed the SUV’s passenger-side window rolling down.


Nina stomped on her brakes.

The nose of the Lexus angled down toward the pavement and the rear seemed to lift upward as the car came to a sliding, shrieking halt.

Balloons of bright orange popped inside the SUV—one, two, three—followed by snapping sounds that reminded me of a kid’s cap gun. The vehicle was well past us now. It traveled fifty yards before its red taillights flared and it rolled to a stop.

“If it goes into reverse, you fly past it,” I said.

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