A  James Rudolph Novel




Morning drive time on Interstate 80, ten miles northeast of Sacramento. A full-up, Reno-bound Gambler’s Special is cruising northeast at 70 mph. Big washers squeegie the windshields, scooping out rivers of rain. Clogged lanes inch toward the California State Capitol in the opposite direction. An AM jock howls from the portable radio in the lap of a blue-haired lady in the front window-seat.


“An overturned big-rig in the westbound lanes of I-80 has y’all backed up ta Roseville. All you early mornin’ cowboys are advised the git yerself over onta I-50 for the last leg into Sacktown. And a little Reba should make life easier for y’all.”


Reba makes everybody up front smile. Window seat blue hair pipes up as the bus barrels up the long, new skyway leading to Roseville, grinning at the congestion in the lanes below. “Wouldn’t trade places with those fools for a jackpot in Virginia City!”


“Holy shit!” The bus driver’s grin turns to horror. Cars and trucks rapidly disappearing from the road.


He slams on the binders and forty-four folk fly forward along with purses, packs, donuts and coffee as the bus screeches to a stop. Bedlam.


The bus hangs on the edge of the collapsed portion of the skyway. Distorted faces looking up through rain-streaked windows. Reba wailing as the Gamblers Special, bound for Reno, slowly tilts and falls out of sight.

Henry squinting up the bucket ladder to the huge tank that mixes, stores and pumps out soup into the waiting line of delivery rigs. A morning sunburst, then Henry down with both hands on dead Vinnie.


“Yeah. Sounds like a plan.” Henry and Dad with big jerks on dead Vinnie, blood-blobs pumping from Vinnie’s head-hole. Dad ripping off Vinnie’s gold, jamming it in his jeans.


Nobody driving by on the highway would have noticed the ladders rolling in the Purvis yard on a quiet Saturday morning. But if they were closer they would have seen a forty-inch gray, steel bucket containing the remains of a skinny, dark-skinned hit-man, clacking up the tank ladder like a ghastly roller-coaster with a corpse in a black suit as it’s only passenger. Then a plop and a bong.

Henry finds Solly G, flat out on the floor behind the bar.


“Over here behind the bar. Right between the eyes.”


He looks up at a black and white movie playing on the big flat-screen. “Hey. That’s Treasure of Sierra Madre. Now that there’s a great movie.” Pointing.


“Let’s get him out of here. Grab the gun.” Sarah taking charge.


“Why don’t we just leave him. Case solved.” Henry hypnotized by Bogie and the bandits. Watches the bandits open the saddle bags. Watches the gold dust disappearing in the wind. “We don’t need no steenking batches.”