It was like crossing an invisible line. On one side was lively, vibrant Pinkerlee. On the other side was dead Pinkerlee. Buildings stood with missing eyes and missing souls. No one had bothered to board up the gaps.
A person shuffled down the street, bundled up in what appeared to be either a ton of blankets or a futon’s mattress. It could have been a man. Might have been a woman. There was no way to tell.
Tough looking characters in rat-chewed jeans and patched leather jackets huddled at the street corners.
“I’m thinking this was a bad idea.”
Ambrose laid his hand on Barbara’s shoulder. “I will protect you.”
“What if there’s a shoot-out?”
Ambrose imagined the sudden crack of glass.
Would she cry out?
Her blood would be everywhere. All over me.
She’d be dead.
There’d be nothing I could do to save her.
The only functioning street light in that side of town turned red.
“Let’s switch places.”
“Bullets can’t kill me. You know nothing can kill me except a stake to the heart. Right? You know that, right?”
“Yes, everyone knows that, but—”
His pupils widened as the nearest group of thugs noticed the stationary car. “Barbara. Move. Back seat. Lock the doors.”
Barbara didn’t question him. She did as he said.
The light stayed stuck on red.
The thugs charged towards the car. Crowbars glinted bright silver in their hands.
Ambrose muttered, “There better not be any cops around.” He stomped on the accelerator.
The car took off like a shot.
Straight towards the nearest building.
“Barbara! Buckle up!”
He turned the steering wheel and careened towards a graffiti-laced phone booth.
He swerved away from that, which put him back in line with the motley crowbar crew, who were still coming at him.
Ambrose narrowed his eyes. Oh, you want a piece of this? Fine. EAT IT! He headed straight for them.
They scattered in all directions: into buildings, into alleys. One jumped into an open sewer hole.
“umm. Ambrose. Can you pull into somewhere safe so I can switch places with you? I don’t want you to kill me. Or my car.”
“All right. Hold on.” He thud-thunked the right corner and dinged out a non-functioning light post.
“Seriously. Just stop here.”
“No. Not yet.”
He kept going straight, since it was the least stressful direction.
“Ambrose. If you don’r slow down, we’re going to get killed. We’re going to crash or flip or something.”
“How do I slow down?”
“Take your foot of the pedal you’re stomping on. And gently, please gently, step on the other pedal. Don’t stomp on it. Just gentle.”
He followed her directions. The car gradually slowed down.
A smile stretched across his face as he saw the large, garish sign up ahead: Mark Caten’s Funorium.
“And here we are.”
He shut the car off and sat there, trying to catch his breath. “Barbara? You okay?”
“I’m alive. Does that count?”
He laughed. “Yes.”
She unbuckled her seat belt and leaned forward. “So, now that we’re no longer a crazy moving machine, where are we?”
“Mark Caten’s Funorium.”
She looked at him, completely puzzled.
“Normally, I wouldn’t go anywhere near one of his foul places, but I heard about this place on my last train ride. I was curious about it.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t check it out by yourself.”
“I considered it, but I thought it would be a whole lot more fun to explore it with you.”
She smiled at him. “You sure know how to charm a girl.”
“Of course. Do you want to check it out?”
“It might be dangerous.”
“I’ll protect you.”
She sat back. “It’s crazy. It’s dangerous. I’ll probably come down with typhoid flu from poking around in there.”
“So,” Her smile grew. “let’s do it.”