By the time Will came back, it was past midnight. There was a flight from Paris, with connections for New York and then San Francisco, leaving at one PM. “There is a train leaving for Paris in an hour,” Will added. “You could make it easily.”
I said to Raven, “It’s up to you, but either way, there is no turning back.”
She smiled. “I’m staying. I’m not finished with Europe yet, or with you.”
“What are you two talking about?”
I said I would explain in the car. Will carried my pack; Raven carried her own along with the cardboard box holding holster and ammunition. I walked with my arms crossed, ostentatiously carrying my injured hand across my chest so I could conceal my left hand and the .45. The gear went into the boot, Raven rode shotgun, and I squeezed into the back to watch behind us as Will pulled away.
“The train station,” I said and explained what we had in mind. Will did not agree. He thought Raven should head home. He and Raven argued while I kept a watch out the back window.
Midweek and past midnight, Marseille was still alive. The drive up la Canebiere and Blvd. D’Athenes was a kaleidoscope of images; great trees black above the street lights, revelers, streetwalkers, and an occasional tourist looking nervous, Disneyesque, and out of place. A dangerous city at night, I had been told. It had certainly proved so for Raven and me, but I was unhappy to be leaving it before I had really had time to know it.
Kids with their backpacks were sprawled on their sleeping bags on the high steps outside Gare St. Charles as Will circled up to the parking lot. Raven and I waited in the car. Three other cars had rolled into the parking lot with us. I watched the two that had parked and worried about the one that had circled and exited again. It might have parked down below out of sight. I didn’t like being caught in the cramped back seat, but I could hardly lean up against the fender in the parking lot of a busy train station with a gun in my hand.
Eventually, Will came back with a handful of train schedules. He pulled out and I watched to see if anyone was following. We soon had a half dozen new sets of headlights behind us. I gave up. In the darkness, I couldn’t tell one car from another. I used a flashlight to study the schedules while I devised a plan of action.
Will drove skillfully through the streets of Marseille. Soon we were out of the city and crossing the marshy delta of the Rhone. He headed down the shoreline road past la Couronne before heading up to Martigues and the Barre Lagoon. We had all four windows open, and the warm, moist, Mediterranean air swirled through the car. Raven and Will were silent. There was no sound but the wind, the motor humming, and the occasional swish of a passing car. I leaned against the right hand door and watched out the back and side windows with the automatic cradled in my lap. I might have been lulled to sleep if it had not been for the throbbing in my hand.
There is a feeling in a night drive that is like no other feeling. The sound of humming tires induces it; the warm heaviness of the air, the darkness beyond the car, and the tiny, friendly lights from the dash make it complete. It is a child’s feeling. Drivers catch the edge of it, but to know it fully you have to be in the back seat, insulated from responsibility. It is a form of time travel. It will send you back to those days when your rode home, half asleep, stretched out in the back seat while your parents conversation dwindled to a meaningless buzz and the thickness of the air was so palpable that it slid in and out of your throat like oil.
My eyes were growing heavy. The pain was receding. I was going back to those long rides home from St. Cloud.
Then the scene changed to nightmare. more tomorrow