The thinning fog drifted from the asphalt and puddled in the ditches on either side of the road. Ruddy paint scabbed a fading sign just ahead: Welcome to Beuteburg.
“Beuteburg? Sounds like someone thought your town was beautiful.” Rayanna eased her foot off the gas and glanced back at the slouched officer.
He blinked his drooping eyes, then lunged forward. “Hey!”
She whipped her focus forward and gasped. A cyclist veered from the edge of the road into the headlight beams. With a squeal of tires, she braked and yanked the wheel sideways. The passenger windows breezed past the tattered fellow within inches of grazing his flesh. He tumbled from his bike.
Highbeams flashed into her eyes from around a curve. Her muscles seized at the blare of the vehicle bearing down on her. She swerved back into the right lane. A postal truck gusted by.
Rayanna glanced in the rearview mirror at the hobbling cyclist as she pulled off the road. She set the gear in park.
Grantham tapped the divider. “Keep it running, but let me get out to handle this.”
The engine growled as she stepped out and opened the back door. He gripped the frame and heaved himself to stand.
“You sure you’re all right to–?”
“Good enough.” As he gimped toward the victim, Grantham pointed to Rayanna. “Get in the car.”
First, she rose onto her toes to get a better look at the scene. Long, white tufts of hair flared in errant directions around the bald peak of the man’s head. His ragged trenchcoat slipped off one of his bony shoulders as he lifted the dented bicycle from the road amid a stream of slurry, unintelligible curses. His shouts mounted as the officer approached.
“You hurt, Skully Egg?”
Rattling his bike with one hand and a raised fist, Skully screeched like a wildcat and frothed from the corners of his crooked mouth. He lunged unevenly in attempts to bypass him, but Officer Bowery gently hemmed him back. Chilling threats of mutilation sailed toward the squad car.
Rayanna slipped back into the driver’s seat, shut the door, and locked it.
*** TO BE CONTINUED ***