This article is part of the Eastwood series.

The Firebird jumps back onto the road like a dog pulling at its leash. The crazies are starting to drift back onto the sidewalks, but I figure we have plenty of time for a little detour.

Of course I think that and then the fucking line at In-N-Out Burger is twenty cars long. I'd park it and go in, but somehow I doubt the antique we're driving has an alarm. It looks like a beast, lurking at the end of the line of little micro-compact citycars. It's growling at them.

A scraggly water peddler roves up and down the line of cars, hawking bottles of brackish liquid for ten dollars each.

"I'll buy one if you pour some of that in your eye first," I shout at him when he tries his sales pitch on us.

He flips me the finger and moves on. It looks like sewer runoff, but it could be worse. I've seen guys selling acetone and lacquer in their bottles. Fuck those guys.

Morrison gets a three by four Animal Style with a root beer and starts chowing down before I've even pulled away. We don't have time to stop anymore, so I keep it clean with a chocolate shake and a two by two that I can eat with my other hand on the wheel. Neither of us has eaten much of anything in the past couple days. The food disappears quickly and sits heavy in my gut.

The checkpoints and roadblocks for the afternoon are already starting to go up, but they haven't gone hot yet so we breeze all the way to the Pacific Coast Highway. The Greenbeans are running day and night there, keeping the onramps locked down so the rich kids have the privacy to crash their Baraccas into light poles. A couple troopers sidle up to the car with their 27's slung and one of them motions for me to roll down the window. The Corporal has a grin on his face instead of the bored cruelty that's the trademark of your average guardsman.

"That's one helluva genuine American classic automobile," he exaggerates it as aw-toe-mo-beel. "You boys make sure to pass a couple of them Germans and Italians out there."

He waves us through and I drop the hammer and peel out, just for him. Once you're on the Pacific Coast Highway it's free and clear. No speed limits and virtually no traffic. I bury the needle and let the hot wind blow in through the windows. Morrison shoots me a dirty look and clamps his dew rag down on his head to keep it from flying away.

We make Malibu right on time. The Barbie Castle, they call it. I just call it a hellhole.

Malibu proper is surrounded by a mile of the filthiest most run-down infill north of the Dallas DMZ. This is Campertown, the wretched expanse of servant's quarters for the rich landowners inside the walls.

Beyond the checkpoints and their car bomb pylons, behind the twelve foot walls covered in pink stucco, is a paradise for the rich. Even the spoiled brats living in their Hollywood mansions hate Malibu because it's new money. Plastic surgeons and lawyers and the anemic crop of modern celebrities live inside. It's a plastic ghetto for people afraid of the world.

The peddlers from Campertown work the lines queued up to get into Malibu. The wind is hot. It smells like raw sewage and barbecued meat. I wave away a group of black kids trying to hock little wax statues of the Virgin Mary. The wax is soft from the heat and I can see their fingerprints on her face.

"What do you think is in these cases?" Morrison asks me as he begins to monkey with one of them.

"Leave it alone," I tell him, "Howser told us not to open them and we aren't gonna open them."

"Since when do you give a shit what that little-," I cut him off.

"Since never, but Howser is the kind of shithead that would wire it up with an alarm or pepper spray or something just to piss us off."

As bad as the Greenbeans and the LAPD are, the Malibu sheriffs are worse. They're a bunch of thick-necked racists in aviator sunglasses one testosterone injection away from twisting the heads off puppies. They let us through, because we've got money wrapped up in our car. A bearded Hells Angel looking motherfucker in a Malibu strike vest hands us a pair of laminated visitor passes to wear around our necks like a couple of tourists.

"Have a nice day," he tells us and waves us through.

Right, I doubt it.

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The misadventures of an aging mercenary navigating the intrigues of the dividing States of America.

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