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Drive - Chapter One

'Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake. Later still, of course, there'd be no doubt. But for now Driver is, as they say, in the moment. And the moment includes this blood lapping toward him, the pressure of dawn's late light at windows and door, traffic sounds from the interstate nearby, the sound of someone weeping in the next room.

The blood was coming from the woman, the one who called herself Blanche and claimed to be from New Orleans even when everything about her except the put-on accent screamed East Coast – Bensonhurst, maybe, or some other far reach of Brooklyn. Blanche's shoulders lay across the bathroom door's threshhold. Not much of her head left in there: he knew that.

Their room was 212, second floor, foundation and floors close enough to plumb that the pool of blood advanced slowly, tracing the contour of her body just as he had, moving toward him like an accusing finger. His arm hurt like a son of a bitch. This was the other thing he knew: it would be hurting a hell of a lot more soon.

Driver realized then that he was holding his breath. Listening for sirens, for the sound of people gathering on stairways or down in the parking lot, for the scramble of feet beyond the door.

Once again Driver's eyes swept the room. Near the half-open front door a body lay, that of a skinny, tallish man, possibly an albino. Oddly, not much blood there. Maybe blood was only waiting. Maybe when they lifted him, turned him, it would all come pouring out at once. But for now, only the dull flash of neon and headlights off pale skin.

The second body was in the bathroom, lodged securely in the window from outside. That's where Driver had found him, unable to move forward or back. This one had carried a shotgun. Blood from his neck had gathered in the sink below, a thick pudding. Driver used a straight razor when he shaved. It had been his father's. Whenever he moved into a new room, he set out his things first. The razor had been there by the sink, lined up with toothbrush and comb.

Just the two so far. From the first, the guy jammed in the window, he'd taken the shotgun that felled the second. It was a Remington 870, barrel cut down to the length of the magazine, fifteen inches maybe. He knew that from a Mad Max rip-off he'd worked on. Driver paid attention.

Now he waited. Listening. For the sound of feet, sirens, slammed doors.

What he heard was the drip of the tub's faucet in the bathroom. That woman weeping still in the next room. Then something else as well. Something scratching, scrabbling...

Some time passed before he realized it was his own arm jumping involuntarily, knuckles rapping on the floor, fingers scratching and thumping as the hand contracted.

Then the sounds stopped. No feeling at all left in the arm, no movement. It hung there, apart from him, unconnected, like an abandoned shoe. Driver willed it to move. Nothing happened.

Worry about that later.

He looked back at the open door. Maybe that's it, Driver thought. Maybe no one else is coming, maybe it's over. Maybe, for now, three bodies are enough.

Copyright © No Exit Press

About Drive

RELATED LINKS

James Sallis' Website

Guardian Interview with James Sallis

James Sallis' work profiled

James Sallis on Patricia Highsmith

Shutting Darkness Down (short story)

James Sallis reviewed in the Los Angeles Times

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