Finn hit the brakes as the Mustang he and Simcox were following darted behind the mobile home. They had been through this before too many times. They chased the deadbeat down the half mile dirt driveway and somehow he always vanished before they could repossess the car.
But not today.
He glared at Simcox as his partner played with a handgun. “For God’s sake, man, put that away. You’re not in the Wild West. We’re here to repo a car.”
Simcox shrugged. “You’re not my boss.” He set the safety and tucked the gun under his belt.
Finn leafed through the stack of legal paperwork to find a copy of the title. “If there’s trouble, we’ll call the cops. I’m not shooting my way out of here.”
Simcox snatched the title photocopy from Finn. “I’ll take that.” He jumped out of the bank’s van and strutted up to the trailer like he was Marshall Dillon going after some desperados in the saloon.
Finn stepped outside and cursed. The heat and humidity didn’t help his mood, but that was the North Carolina sand hills in September.
The jungle of pokeweed and dandelions that passed for the front yard looked like it had never been mowed. A hound dog sprawled lazily beneath a scraggly pine beside a rusty pile of used auto parts. It gnawed on an enormous bone that was larger than a ham hock and almost dwarfed the dog.
Finn whistled. “Good lord, that might as well be a dinosaur bone.”
Simcox ignored the comment. “That guy best not be stripping our car.”
“What are you gonna do? Shoot him?” Finn noticed the shiny new convertible peeking out from the back of the trailer. The deadbeat hadn’t had time to pull his Houdini act. “It’s over there.” The Mustang seemed to be in good shape. Thank God it wasn’t on blocks like the last repo.
“I’ll drive it back,” Simcox said.
Finn suspected his partner just wanted to get the sports car out on the Interstate and open up the engine. But he didn’t care. He would enjoy a few minutes away from Simcox. “Sure.”
Finn’s foot hit something solid. A disk about the size of a hockey puck lay in the weeds. He picked it up. “Fission Auto Battery. What the hell is this?”
Simcox rolled his eyes “Who cares? It’s just a toy.”
The battery was cool to the touch and vibrated slightly. Finn dropped it on the ground.
An unshaven middle-aged man wearing grease-covered jeans and a sweat-soaked cigarette logo t-shirt, the kind that sometimes came free with a carton, strolled around the corner of the trailer. He held a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. “Can I help you boys?”
The dog barely raised its head from the bare patch it had worn in the weeds.
Finn took a step forward. “Sir, are you Amos Jernigan?”
“I was when I went to bed last night.”
Finn sighed. He hated this part of the job. He felt sorry for the people who were losing their cars. Jernigan lived out in the sticks. He couldn’t just hop on a bus. “We’re from the bank. We need to repossess your car.”
Jernigan took another sip of beer. “I ain’t finished with it yet, bossman.”
Simcox stared at Jernigan with steely eyes as if he were a gunslinger in a quick draw contest. “We ain’t negotiating. We’re taking our car back.” He waved the title in Jernigan’s face. “It’s our car.”
Jernigan downed his beer, crumpled the can and tossed it into the yard. “Y’all couldn’t come back tomorrow?”
Simcox frowned. “You don’t call the shots. You haven’t made a payment in six months, pal.” He walked over to the car and pulled out the bank’s keys.
“If y’all come back later, I could go back and win the lottery or something. I could buy both of y’all cars.”
Simcox started the engine.
Jernigan rapped on the car door. Scowling, Simcox rolled down the window. “You better not give us any trouble, pal. I have a gun.”
“We’re not using guns,” Finn called out.
Swaying slightly Jernigan steadied himself against the car. “Bossman, I’ve made some modifications. Set the trip odometer or you won’t know how far you’ve gone. You might have trouble getting back.” He reached inside the car. “Here, let me do it.”
Simcox swatted back Jernigan’s hand. “I’m not coming back here, pal. If you make six payments, the car will be waiting for you at the Sanford branch if we don’t sell it first.”
Jernigan had to shout as Simcox revved the engine. “Just remember. If you go in reverse, you go back. If you go forward, you go ahead. When you stop, be careful. Some times are dangerous.”
Simcox closed the window. Jernigan picked up a socket wrench that had been lying on the hood. He hummed a Hank Williams tune and tossed the wrench up in the air a few times as he ambled over to Finn.
Simcox put the car in reverse and gunned the engine. The car roared backwards a half dozen feet. It stopped for a fraction of a second like a photo freeze frame before vanishing in a flash of light. All that was left was a lingering smoky smell like burnt popcorn.
Finn raced to where the car had disappeared. He knelt down and felt the ruts left by the tires as if he might find the car buried in the mud. He looked at Jernigan. “What the hell happened?”
Jernigan cackled. “Most trips I don’t go back more than fifty years. Your buddy might go clear past that.”
“I could tell the bank he took off in the car,” Finn muttered.
Jernigan bent down and scratched the hound’s head. “I hope your buddy does more than just talk about having a gun. He’ll need it where he’s heading. Especially if he runs into some moonshiners or injuns.”
Peter Wood is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina. He has had stories published in Ray Gun Revival, Bull Spec, Stupefying Stories and Every Day Fiction. He loves living in the South and considers this story to be part of a new genre, Southern Fried Science Fiction.