Here’s snippet number two:
“A little closer,” Jack mutters under his breath. “Just a little more.”
The road is not perfectly flat, and Jack’s aim isn’t steady. The bike judders and vibrates over every imperfection. Nor is the tar man making it easy with his random swerves left and right. But Jack knows his gun well. All he needs is a smooth half-second with the tar man holding his line. That, and a little less distance between them.
Lennox is an experienced rider. She knows how to get the best from her bike even on roads that aren’t the greatest, and the tar man seems to be slowing down. Within just a few moments, they have closed the gap to no more than twenty yards.
Jack feels a surge of vengeful satisfaction as he gets his smooth half-second. It is all he needs.
Jack pulls the trigger just as the tar man makes an abrupt left turn. Lennox and Jack both curse at once, and Lennox has to brake very hard to make the same turn. She does so, and they find themselves in a better-lit part of New Sanctum, with less garbage piled up on the streets.
They are out of Hope Town. The streets are wider, but this is a long way from good news. There are more people here, both in vehicles and just walking along the pavement. Lennox and Jack have come to a restaurant district. It is a picturesque area that surrounds a loop of the Styx, New Sanctum’s largest river, and not even its proximity to Hope Town can keep people away.
It is just the type of place Jack feared the tar man would lead them toward. There are too many people about in search of entertainment and a meal. It is a bad place for the tar man to release his spawn.
Jack curses again as Lennox pulls the Ducati over to the side of the road.
“Where is he?” she demands over her shoulder.
For an instant, Jack doesn’t answer. Despite the comparative brightness of this area, he too has lost sight of their target. “Look for where the most people are,” he says, and scans left and right.
It doesn’t take long to find him again. Jack spots the tar man at the same time as Lennox points and shouts, “There!”
The tar man is standing next to his bike, which he has parked in a crowded motorcycle parking space. He is staring straight at them from a few dozen yards away, and although he is no longer laughing, there is a wide grin on his oily, mucous-covered face.
He is in front of a restaurant with outdoor seating that nearly blocks the whole pavement. “Mario’s Pizzeria and Bar,” the sign cheerfully advertises in a mixture of reds and black on a white background. There are perhaps a dozen people seated at the outdoor tables under a scattering of gas heaters that resemble old-fashioned street lamps. Waiters and waitresses in crimson and black are taking and delivering orders.
Jack doesn’t bother too much with restaurant food beyond the occasional messy burger and fries. He sometimes doesn’t bother with food at all, and can go for days without it affecting him one way or the other. But to him, Mario’s looks like a nice place. He only hopes it will remain that way.
The tar man is still taunting them. He gives them a grin that is no different from a sneer and raises both middle fingers in their direction. Then he turns his back to them and walks into the restaurant as if he has a right to do so. Lennox and Jack are too far away from him to smell it themselves, but they are familiar with his stench. The customers at the restaurant and the serving staff all recoil. It is like a pebble thrown into a pond, creating ripples of revulsion as the waves of foulness expand.
In moments, the tar man is gone from view.
“Move!” Jack grates. Lennox opens the throttle at the same moment. The Ducati lurches into motion and they reach the motorcycle parking bay within seconds.
Jack is off before Lennox stops the bike properly. He puts too much weight on his wounded leg and winces in pain as it starts to buckle. He has to lean on the bike seat, gun still in hand, to steady himself.
“You all right, old man?” Lennox asks. She has taken off her helmet and looks worried.
Jack knows that it isn’t his wound that is the key source of her worry. Like him, Lennox fears what might happen in the restaurant. Even now the first shouts of shock and confusion are starting to ring out. Soon the shouts will turn into panic and horror. Beyond that, there will be screams and anguish beyond measure.
Unless Jack and Lennox can stop the tar man.
“I’m fine,” Jack says. “Let’s go!”
Together, they step up onto the curb.