You meet the nicest people...

Molina barely spared a sidelong glance to the dark thicket where the van was a slightly denser darkness among random scatterings of leaf-strewn moonlight. The 'putt-putt' of the motor was steady and even, and he didn't move the scooter's throttle a hair, because he didn't want Pavlov and the woman to suspect anyone was interested in them.

Things would be more critical from here on, so he'd need stay close enough to Milo and Lenore to intervene if he had to...

On the whole, he was was fairly satisfied with the way things had gone so far.

In Chicago, he'd purloined a well-used Honda 50 Super Cub, with a semiautomatic transmission, and beige plastic knee guards mounted on the stepthrough frame behind the front wheel. It looked a bit like a chintzy red Vespa. It was a whim. His long life on the run had endowed him enough felony-worthy skills that he could have swiped almost anything that rated a grand theft charge, but he'd decided to fly low on the law-enforcement radar for now.

And Molina enjoyed the irony conjured up by those dopey ads: "You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda." Take him, for instance.

If he'd considered, he might have opined that a middle-aged man of oily countenance, tooting down Route 66 on a tiny motorbike, swaddled in a seedy trenchcoat and the fumes of the Turkish cigarette stuffed in his mug, looked ridiculous.

But he didn't consider. He was on a mission, bending each tool that presented itself to his need, and the Honda was, for now, a perfect tool.

The damned thing went a couple hundred miles on each thimble-sized tankful of gas, buzzing at a steady 50 m.p.h. flat out, except when it overheated and seized, which it did every two days. Whenever this occurred, Molina would coast to the shoulder, hoist it onto the kickstand, enjoy a leisurely smoke, and take a pee on the motor to cool it down. Then he'd unscrew the sparkplug with a pair of pliers, push a long screwdriver into the hole, and bang on it with a big rock until the piston freed up again. After he threw in a little more oil from the re-purposed mickey bottle in his pocket, it was ready for another few hundred miles.

It was certainly taking far more abuse than Molina had imagined it could. He'd even forded the Rio Grande on it. He was beginning to regard it as indestructable.

And all he'd really had to do up to now, anyway, was read the signs each morning when he rolled out of whatever ditch he'd slept in, to divine whether he was still on Milo Pavlov's winding trail. He hadn't wanted to get too close at first, so he'd usually made a point of hanging back a hundred miles or so, and relied on his skill at reading the gestalt to stay on Milo's scent. Until Texas, it had been bus routes anyway, and hadn't been much of a stretch.

Things had gotten a bit more interesting when Milo had headed cross-country. The federal heat had risen the farther south Pavlov had made it without getting caught, the FBI circling the back roads of rural America ever-more frantically, searching long after Milo had skipped the border.

The Mexican federales were supposed to watch for him on their side, but since it was those polite Americans respectfully and unpushily doing the asking, and since they'd already bitten his ass rather nastily on numerous occasions, about all the dope greasing north through his turf, the commandante in charge of the federales decided unilaterally and passive-aggressively that the request could wait. Mañana -- indefinitely.

Since Molina was himself was a fugitive, he took to riding at night, sleeping off the days in haystacks, after covering himself and the scooter with straw. It usually worked, except for one morning when he'd gotten impatient and covered the bike too quickly. The overheated exhaust pipe had lit off the stack. Molina had gotten both himself and his transport out in time, and was well away before the volunteer fire department arrived to stand around and watch it burn down, but somewhere back there was a very pissed off farmer.

Molina cackled suddenly in the dark. No matter about the haystack. He had a strong sense that far larger eggs than that would get busted before this particular omelet was cooked. And he ought to know.