Hell’s Interstate is an action-packed crime novel about two desperate men traveling down the highway to Hell. Financing their travels by robbing convenience stores along the Interstate, the one predictable fact about their next robbery will be the fact that they will leave no witnesses. Reed Haskell, the ringleader, knows how to rob a store and do it fast, but what he doesn’t know is that someone is watching his partner, Vernon Sanger, very closely.
Michael Smith, an apparent vagrant they came in contact with one rainy night along the Interstate, keeps showing up wherever they go, and he is not shy about intervening in their business. How he continues to appear, and why he shows up when he does, neither man has an answer to. Although Vernon is curious about the man, for some reason the otherwise unflappable Reed is quite unsettled by him. Does Reed know more about Michael Smith than he’s willing to admit, or does he just suspect the purpose of Michael’s persistent interference?
If Reed was truly in the dark as to Michael’s identity and purpose, he’d not have long to wait before being enlightened. As for Vernon, that enlightenment lies over ten years away.
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Whether it was fate that had hooked them up, or perhaps just dumb luck, Vern wasn’t sure. His life was in the toilet anyway, and had been ever since the armored car robbery had gone amuck. He had been a lifer at Carson, sentenced to life because one of his buddies had panicked, after their means of escape had been plowed over by the Wells Fargo truck. When Wesley had seen that take place, he had panicked, and he shot and killed one of the guards wheeling the moneybags out of the K-Mart store. A stupid mistake, in as much as they had nowhere to run at that point anyway, and no hope of pulling the job off to its successful conclusion.
His escape from Carson had not been bold or daring; it had just been clever. He had been bunked with another inmate, Carl Johnson, who by chance looked remarkably like him. They were the same height, weight, and build. All Vern had needed to be his “twin brother”, was a pair of black frame glasses, a black mustache, and a black wig, easily enough obtained with the proper trade items. The only other item necessary to pull off his escape would be a little chloroform; and again, easily obtained for a carton of Camels. All items in place, Vern had simply to wait for the twenty-sixth of the month, Johnson’s release date. At five that morning, Vern slipped his bunk, chloroformed Carl, much to Carl’s disapproval, and then, first donning his disguise, he traded bunks. At seven that morning, he had simply walked out of prison, a free man, processed out as Carl Johnson, while Carl slept through it all.
Now fate, or dumb luck, had brought him together with Reed Haskell. Better to run with company, than to run alone he supposed, even if the company was a bit unsavory. But, then again, he was no angel either. The only difference between them, as far as he could see, was that Reed was a cold-blooded killer, and he was just a common, everyday criminal. But now, even that might be changing. He suspected, if he could find Brinks, he too would become the killer that Reed is. One way or the other, it was probably only a matter of time before they became one in the same.
The drive to Topeka was uneventful, not even seeing a state trooper, county mountie, or local yokel, anywhere along the way. As they entered the suburbs, Vern pulled off the Interstate, and entered the outskirts of Topeka via the local highway system. It was now mid-afternoon and traffic was still light, rush hour not yet upon them. Vern spotted a Conoco and pulled in for gas, some refreshments, and hopefully, a payphone with a phonebook. He parked by the furthest pump out.
“Okay, you fill her up while I go in and check for a phonebook. Give me some money.”
Reed smiled at Vern, and replied, “We’re on pump seven, here’s thirty bucks to pay for the gas, and get me a sandwich; ham and cheese, if they have them. Here’s another five bucks for the food.”
“Right, ham and cheese. Anything else?”
“Nope, just a Coke; diet. And, be careful. The cops have had time to work up sketches of us by now. They may even have our names, since we’ve both been in prison. They may have made the connection, so be careful. But, look around while you’re in there, and get the layout. We might hit this place on the way out of town. It’s close enough to the highway. Oh yeah, get me a bag of chips too.”
“Right, anything else? Maybe a T-bone, or a New York strip?”
“Just go, smart ass.”
By the time Vern had finished shopping, Reed had finished pumping the gas. Vern paid for their purchases and then hurriedly took his leave of the place. Back behind the wheel, he looked at Reed, and his face told it all.
“They have our sketches in there, don’t they,” Reed stated, with certainty.
“Worse–Just a sketch of you, but they have my mug shot. They have made the connection.”
“Were you made in there?”
“Ha! No, the jerk behind the counter was an old Chinese fart, with glasses thicker than Coke bottle bottoms. He didn’t bat an eye.”
“So, they’ve made us then. The cops I mean. They’ve figured out who we are.”
“Yeah, and I know what you’re thinking; but there was no mention of my Blazer.”
“Good, then we can finish our business here. Did you find a phonebook in there?”
“And the address?”
“Life, my friend, is that easy.”
“What a fool. But, then again, I don’t reckon Brinks ever figured you to be on the loose again. Was there a map in the phonebook? Do you know where to go?”
“Yep. I got it all up here,” Vern said, pointing to his head, “and it isn’t far away, either.”
Vern pulled out of the Conoco station, and began following the mental roadmap he had stored away. Eight blocks later, they cruised slowly past Edward Brinks’s house, at 1127 Edgewater Drive, for now, just to check it out. Their business here would wait until well after dark, after the household was sleeping.