Exit Stage Left

Molina dipped his hitherto-unused paper napkin into his water glass, fussily daubed its wet, crepey corners on his mouth and fingers, then dropped it on his plate.

Dinkley excused himself and ambled shiftily in the general direction of the Men's.

"Fantastic meal! Well...! Duty calls!" Molina said brightly.

He rose and pulled on his leather flying helmet and goggles while eyeing Marilyn Monroe's perfect, strapless back.

"Where are you going?" Milo blurted, taken aback.

"Can't tell you exactly. But hey! I'll give you a thousand dollars each for your jerry cans."

Molina reached into a breast pocket before anyone could protest and produced a sheaf of crisp hundred dollar bills. With a practiced gambler's thumbflick, he threw the small stack to the table, Franklin side up.

Lenore stared vacantly at Molina as they landed in front of her, blinked down at Ben's cryptic grin for a split second, then turned back up to him. She recovered before Milo.

"A thousand dollars each? What the hell for?"

"Can't tell you exactly," Molina grinned back over his shoulder as he pushed open the diner door. "Hey! Thanks for everything! Lenore. You really should hide that book of yours so 'Sunshine' here can't find it again!" He cocked his head at Milo. "See you soon!"

The door's hydraulic closer hissed behind Molina. His helmet had bobbed almost out of sight when Milo and Lenore, as one, finally roused themselves from a trancelike consideration of the bills, grabbed them, and blasted through the door after him. As they bore down, a pair of jerry cans were already roped to the scooter, and Molina was checking knots with an extended index finger, humming tunelessly. His body shielded from them a quick thumbs-up to Dinkley, who seemed to be loitering coincidentally on the corner.

They were still a hundred yards away when Molina twisted the scooter's key, deftly kicked it to life and pushed it off the kickstand with a series of tinny engine-revs. He clicked the little Honda into gear and lurched forward, swallowed by a rising cloud of thick red dust. Re-emerging seconds later, he swung left and disappeared again for good, somewhere behind the town library.

Grinning beatifically at Molina's back, Dickie hastily patted a gigantic wad of large denominations into his money belt, so full it pooched out his gut like a badly-hung colostomy bag.

"Wonder what an enterprising guy like him can do with ten gallons of high-grade coke? No telling. No telling at all" he giggled.

Dickie strode into the thickly rising, rouge-tinged dust, emerging from the other side to meet Lenore and Milo sporting an artistically-feigned expression of surprise.

It didn't snow them for a hot second, but he had his story from Molina, and he was going to stick to it...