Mustang to Paducah
COMING IN 2023
After stumbling onto a multiple murder on a road trip, two aimless hippies become the prime suspects.
Cruiser and Peanut, two Miami hippies, are returning a brand-new ’69 Mustang for a gay tourist from Kentucky who has gone romping on his lover’s yacht. Their spur-of-the-moment trip lands the pair in the hot pursuit of an unhinged FBI agent and a mob contract killer.
Set in 1969, MUSTANG TO PADUCAH is a companion story to THE SKINNY YEARS.
Until yesterday, I’d never been north of West Palm Beach. And once this shit was over, man, I’d never leave Miami again.
Peanut and I had passed the last vestiges of civilization after we stopped for gas and munchies in Nashville. Now we were in the boonies of Kentucky on a two-lane through the woods with more ups and downs than getting laid on a waterbed.
I’m a city boy and driving in the middle of nowhere seriously creeps me out – even in broad daylight.
Besides, I had a lot on my mind.
I was totally zoned on avoiding the potholes. The last few miles of road could have been the training site for a moon landing. And I sure as hell didn’t want to ding this sweet ‘69 aqua blue Mustang that still had that sexy new-car smell.
Meantime, Peanut was in the seat beside me rattling off directions while Hendrix blared from the 8-track. Okay, there was another thing messing with my concentration. I was still a little buzzed from the joint we’d fired up about thirty miles back.
Next thing I know, Peanut lets go with a spit-flying scream. “I said STOP, man! We missed our turn!”
I hit the brakes hard, slamming Peanut into the dashboard.
“Goddamit, Cruiser!” Peanut said, rubbing the goose egg rising on his forehead. “Your hearing needs some glasses, man.”
I turned off the 8-track. “Sorry. I kinda spaced out,” I said, glad as hell the dash was padded. “Are you okay?”
“I’ll be fine,” he huffed, too cocky to show any pain. Being half baked helped.
“Where was I supposed to turn?”
“Back there,” Peanut said, pointing through the rear window to a narrow gravel path that disappeared into the trees.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, goddamit. Look,” Peanut said, holding out the hand drawn map that had gotten us this far. “It says ‘next right after the Clarks River bridge.’ This is it, man.”
“How could anybody live there? That’s not even a street.”
“Cruiser, I’ve got family in Georgia who live down a lane just like that. We’re not in Miami anymore, man.”
“No shit, Sherlock,” I said, turning the Mustang around. “We’re in Tobacco goddam Road.”
The gravel crunching under the tires drowned out the Mustang’s engine as we started down a path through the woods just wide enough for a car. The trees around us were mostly bare.
Holding a half-cold can of Pepsi to the bump on his forehead, Peanut said, “Don’t get too close to the branches, Cruiser. You’re gonna scratch the paint.”
“Hey, man! If Vardon really lives back here, he should be used to losing some paint,” I said. “But if he doesn’t, I’m going to let you explain the scratches on his Mustang.”
“Screw you, Cruiser. Just be careful.”
After driving through the woods for what seemed like forever, I was starting to get freaked. “You see a house yet? Cause if we don’t get someplace where I can turn around soon, I’ll have to back all the way out of here.”
“There it is!” Peanut said, pointing to a gray cabin peeking through the tree trunks.
“Yeah? Well, you better hope that’s where Vardon lives,” I said, pulling up to the house, “and not Jethro Bodine’s evil cousin who shoots hippies on sight.” Our long hair and bell bottoms had earned us some hard looks every time we’d stopped for gas or food in Grand Ole Opry country.
I turned off the engine and buttoned up my jean jacket. March was a lot colder up here than in Miami. When I got out of the car, I took two steps and stopped in my tracks.
An eerie wail was coming from the house – like the music in a sci-fi flick when the evil aliens are about to land. “What’s that?” I asked Peanut, my knees a little wobbly.
“I don’t know, man,” Peanut said. “Maybe we should knock and find out,” he said walking toward the door.
“Maybe we should come back later,” I said, sliding back into the car.
“Hey! Come here, chickenshit! We drove two days to get here and now you’re going to freak out over some strange noise? We promised to bring this car here – and I’m not giving up on that thousand bucks they owe us.”
Ashamed but still leery, I got out of the car. “Man, you’re going to get us killed one of these days.”
“Cruiser, you’re such a pussy,” Peanut said in disgust, then knocked on the door.
As we waited, my stomach was turning cartwheels. Here we were, two hippies in the middle of the sticks, knocking at a strange house with a scary-movie soundtrack. I was ready for a seven-foot, shotgun-toting bubba to open the door – or maybe brain-eating aliens.
When no one answered, Peanut knocked again. After a moment, he turned the handle and opened the door.
I almost shit.
“What the hell are you doing?” I said, trying to hold him back.
Peanut pushed my hand away. “We’ve got to find Vardon and get our money, man” he said, walking inside.
I stood frozen in the doorway as all five-foot-seven and 130 pounds of Peanut O’Connor disappeared around a corner inside the dimly lit house.
Since we were kids, that boy had always had more guts than gray matter. I was four inches taller and outweighed him by forty pounds. But I’d always avoided tangling with the little shit.
“Cruiser! Come here!” Peanut yelled over the screeching. There was fear in his voice.
Heart in my throat, I went inside.
In a large room, I saw Peanut standing over four bleeding bodies sprawled on the floor – and found the source of the weird noise. It was the feedback from a Marshall amp.
The dead guys were a band, gunned down while they were practicing. A couple of the Glenn Campbell-looking dudes on the floor still had guitars strapped on their shoulders. Another one was near a drum set. They’d knocked over microphone stands and amplifiers as they fell, creating the feedback.
Peanut pointed to a blond guy among the bodies. “That one’s Vardon. I recognize him from the pictures Donnie showed us,” he yelled over the feedback. “What the hell do we do now?”
MUSTANG TO PADUCAH COPYRIGHT
Registration Number: TXu 2-305-151
February 19, 2022