In the dream she rode shotgun, slouched sleeping against the window while her grandfather drove through the cloudless Montana night. The dash lit his face and he smoked while he drove, Salem after Salem, flicking the ash out the cracked window and the air howling there. The movement and vibration of the vehicle settled him. He thought he could drive a truck for a living once they were in Canada, but the thought of it was like being in a room of rising water, except the water was loneliness.
The granddaughter stirred and settled back to sleep. Seventy more miles and they’d be in Critt’s Creek, bare and homely, but functional. He’d fill up the tank there and buy more Salems. Five times in the past fifty miles he saw a tent pitched by the highway. But the road was his alone, a clean gash through the valley to freedom. They were close enough that he could taste it.
The detective lay in the motel bed naked save his socks. He watched the vehicle’s movement via satellite on a tablet. The woman stubbed out her Salem and stood to dress. He thought she moved like a cat in the dim lamplight, though she’d been aggressive before.
She glanced at him and tucked the cash deeper into her clutch purse. She always put her heels on last in case she needed to defend herself. She said nothing and left, closing the door quietly. He set down the tablet and dialed his boss, the sergeant.
Hey boss, he said. Got lucky back in Yellowstone. They left the vehicle to hike and I planted a tracker on it. They’re headed north on 15 out of Great Falls, to Critt’s Creek. He’ll need to refuel there, and that’s where we’ll get em.
He was quiet a while, listening to the voice on the other end.
Yes sir, he said, and disconnected the line.
He stood to dress and gather his items into the pack. He took a final blast of cocaine and washed it down with a shooter of cinnamon whiskey. Then he lit a cigarette and looked back at the room to make sure he didn’t leave anything. The fresh air was silk on his face.