This article is part of the Eastwood series.
Rocks and bottles begin to crash against the armored hide of the Escalade. A cinderblock thumps loudly on the hood and sits there in a shallow dent. Probably dropped off a balcony or out a window.
"Mississippi," I shout over the growing chaos outside the vehicle, "did you follow the nav system?"
"Yeah, it routed me around the roadblocks the Greenbeans-"
"God damn it," I cut him off, "they make those things in China where they don't have riots. The Greenbeans leave these streets open to funnel the rioters into a cordon."
A bullet collides loudly with the windshield and leaves hairline cracks in the hardened glass.
"You're driving us right into the middle of it!" I shout, just in case Mississippi still has not figured out what I mean.
I start laughing. It's more of a wheezing good-humored seizure. It hurts like hell.
"Fuck," Dorothy says and then adds, "fuck, fuck."
Mississippi hops the Escalade up onto the center median of Wilshire and tries to turn us around. They're on us though, sensing our sudden attempt to flee. The riot is growing in size and scope, emerging into a thrashing octopus of mayhem, and we're all wrapped up in one of its tentacles before we even know what happened.
Hands and feet batter against the doors and windows. Faces press against the darkly tinted glass as people try to peer inside. A few pros close in on the driver's side and start trying to smash out the window with bats and crowbars. It won't work, but they're breaking the layers of laminated glass up into nice chunks.
"Run them over!" Ted shouts.
Mississippi keeps trying to roll the big SUV forward a few inches at a time, but it's no use. The throng around us is growing larger and denser by the second. They're beginning to rock the Escalade from side to side despite the extra weight of the armor.
I want to intervene in some fragile, intangible way, but I don't. When Mississippi drops his foot on the gas and the screaming starts I just stare straight ahead. The Escalade bounces up and down on the bodies it catches and pulls beneath its tires. I can hear the bones splintering through the floor plate.
Gunshots spark off the doors and craze the glass of the windows. Blood spurts up in thick fountains from torn arteries and pulverized bones. Mississippi turns on the windshield wipers. The rioters fall away as we pick up speed. A pair of Molotov cocktails burst behind us on the road in a feeble last attempt at revenge.
I navigate Mississippi back to the secured routes with detachment. At the first Greenbean checkpoint the soldier that approaches our vehicle is weeping. Just a kid in camouflage with a rifle on his shoulder. He sniffles and wipes the tears from his puffy eyes with the back of his hand.
"What happened here?" He examines the gore coating the Escalade and plucks a piece of scalp from the chromed rim of the tire well.
"It's paint," I yell from the back seat.
The soldier doesn't believe me, but I can tell he doesn't want to push the issue either. He's fighting back tears with pursed lips and a trembling chin.
"What's wrong with you?" I shout past Mississippi.
"Ain't you heard?" He pushes his helmet back from his forehead like it's a straw hat. "They went and did it. They killed them."
"Who?" Mississippi asks. "Who killed who?"
"They said on the GAEN it was them bastards from Nevada," the soldier pauses to steady his emotions, "they shot the President's plane down. All of 'em are dead. President, Vice President, Secretary of State."
"All of them?" Dorothy gives voice to our collective disbelief.
"All of 'em," the soldier nods. "They was flying to Colorado and those Nevada motherfuckers shot them with a missile from the ground. Captain Dauterive said we're fixing to invade their asses."
We all just stare at the poor kid.
"I didn't sign up for that," he stammers, "I-I&"
He looks at us and waves us through the checkpoint without saying anything else.
I reach up and flip down the GAEN mounted in the ceiling of the Escalade. The connecting logo rotates for several seconds and then it jumps straight into the HBO12 feed of LadyHoles.
I'm almost startled when Ted's mute friend breaks his silence and speaks in a feminine voice.
"That's the episode where Katie uses the carrot on Roxanne's ass to break her in for The Greek."
Everyone in the car turns to look at him. He grins and shrugs his shoulders.
"Roxanne is hot as hell."
After years of being misunderstood, I had hoped we finally had "our" story. I was wrong.
He had a yellow inflatable tube around his waist, the kind with a comical duck head. There was a tiny fish in one of his hands, and a trident in the other. In the background a squirrel wearing shades was water skiing.
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