It was a relief. They all started heading up into the mountains. Bonner and the Sisters had to slow down quite a bit to keep the lone two riders ahead of them. The big bikes the Sisters rode, and of course, Bonner's monster machine, put out much more power than the smaller machines that Buggy and Roy got around on.
Roy and Buggy had to nurse their hard-pressed vehicles up and over the high mountain passes. They had hardly stopped riding since they had dashed out of the City of Glass. They were in a hurry to put the mountains between them and their pursuers. Buggy looked at the towering purple peaks and decided that if there was anything that could separate him from Bonner, these goddam mountains could.
The trouble was, he wasn't sure they were high or hard enough to stop the man.
One thing kept on bothering him, though. He figured that Bonner had to know that there were no more than two of them left. Why didn't he move up on them and take them? Suddenly it dawned on him. He could have taken them anywhere he wanted. All the way back in the Snowstates he could have cut them to pieces. It was almost like he wanted them to get away . . .
The thought made Buggy happy for himself. But it made him worry about the future of the golden land that Roy had babbled about for the last seven hundred and fifty miles.
"You know," yelled Buggy over the whine of his hard-working four-cylinder, "I think the Rich Man got troubles."
"Don't you worry about the Rich Man, friend," said Roy. He seemed to get happier the closer he got to the coast.
There he goes with that friend shit again, thought Buggy. He rode a few hundred yards and then wondered, for about the ten thousandth time what he was doing here, so far from home with only this creep for company. "I'm never gonna learn," he said into the wind.
It was cold, too. Nights were freezing and without cheer. The previous set of mountains had looked like little hills compared to these. They bunked down in the ruins of a motel one night, an old police station the next.
The third day in the mountains Roy suddenly pulled up and shut down his motor quick.
Trouble, thought Buggy and shut down also. The wind whipped around them. On the edge of the breeze they could smell the winter coming on.
"What is it?"
Roy was looking over the side of the mountain. The road curved away from them, winding down the side of the mountain.
"Look." He pointed.
Buggy looked. Far off down the road, below them, a column of men crawled down to the valley floor, only to have to ascend to other side.
"Who? The Rich Man?" asked Buggy.
"There's a lot of them."
"Better keep clear then, right?" said Buggy, his voice full of hope.
"Why don't we try to take 'em?"
Buggy looked down the slope again and then looked back at Roy. "Don't be an asshole," he said wearily.
"Because there are more of them than us. Simple, no?"
"Follow me," said Roy, kicking his bike into fife.
Buggy slammed his Honda into gear and followed Roy. "I swear," he shouted, "I have lived a very violent life. Mister Roy, but I have gotten into more jams following you than in a lifetime of riding . . . You ain't listening to me, is you?"
They followed the column. They could hear the grinding of a dozen low gears as the bikes and automobiles bumped down the mountain road. It wasn't a big body of men, but it was large enough that no two men in their right minds would plan on attacking and expect to live through.
"And I'll tell you something else," said Buggy, "I am not planning on making no suicide raid. I might have agreed to fight for the Rich Man but sure as shit didn't agree to die for him. And while we're on the subject, how come I ain't been paid yet? Seems to me that I been doing a fair amount of work on behalf of your beloved fuckin' leader. Huh? How come."
"Shut your yap," shouted Roy.
The squads had stopped. Ahead of them was a narrow bridge that looked too old to accommodate all of them at once. The Snowman commander chose to send a rider across to see if it could take one man's weight before committing his force.
As might be imagined, there was a certain amount of debate amongst the Snowmen about who was to go first.
It was while this discussion was going on that Buggy and Roy moved into position high above the bunched up force. There was a ragged outcropping of rock a couple of hundred feet above the Snowmen. There were huge boulders perched precariously on the edge of the cliffs and a couple of dozen smaller ones just below those. It was a situation tailor-made for an avalanche.
Buggy saw exactly what Roy was up to. This wouldn't be such bad fighting. They parked their machines and scrabbled down the side of the mountain. Once Buggy lost his footing and sent a shower of little rocks cascading down the steep side. None of the Snowmen looked up, so engrossed were they in their argument about who was going to risk getting snuffed for the good of his brother fighters.
There was a spirited debate going on and Buggy and Roy could hear snatches of it as they put their backs to the first of the big boulders.
"The hell I will," screeched someone from the road below them.
Buggy and Roy flattened themselves against the first rock and found that it wouldn't move.
"Come on," hissed Roy.
"Uggggh," said Buggy.
Roy dug his heels into the gravel and said, "At the count of three. One . . . two . . . three."
They heaved and were rewarded with an inch of give. "Okay, let's try it again."
The two strong men pushed against the rock again and it slipped another inch.
"Fuck you," said Buggy. But he pushed anyway.
The rock tottered an inch again and then slipped a little.
"Bye rock," said Buggy.
The rock left. It turned over once, hit another one, and the two of them rumbled down the side of the mountain. The two rocks gathered a couple of big heavy friends when they were about a hundred and fifty feet from the Snowmen.
A Snowman looked up. "Hey," he said, "look."
Buggy and Roy were trying to budge another big boulder. As if it had seen the first rock take off and was intrigued by the sudden craze to travel, this rock was easier to move. It skittered down the hill and bumped into a few more.
The first wave of boulders landed on a Snowman who was trying to kick start an ornery old Harley. The rock bounced on the highway like a happy puppy and then smashed down, squashing the rider inextricably into the framework of the bike. The boulder rolled off the confused mass of man and machine and crushed a Snowman against the stout metal guard rail that must have been there a hundred years or more. The weight of the stone crushed the man's spine against the metal and pushed a fair amount of his guts up through his mouth. It was not a pretty sight.
Rocks big and small were raining down on the Snowmen. They weren't used to this kind of fighting. A couple had drawn their guns but realized that it would be pretty stupid to shoot a rock.
The smaller rocks that the big boulders sent before them knocked the Snowmen down. The bigger boulders then came down and and splattered the Snowmen who were dazed by the first blows.
A waterfall of rock was pouring off the side of the mountain. It seemed that all of the boulders had gotten the idea. All Buggy and Roy had to do now was sit back and watch the show. A Snowman writhed and thrashed under the weight of the rock that had crushed his legs into the blacktop. He stretched out his arms and tried to push the huge boulder off him. The force of his pushing only made the great weight teeter back and forth on his lower body, squashing bone and flesh almost to the consistency of thick soup.
The screams of the crushed men tore through the cool, fresh mountain air. Buggy and Roy laughed . . .
"Hey," said Buggy suddenly, "let's shoot too."
The two riders unslung their weapons and opened up.
It was with something like relief that the Snowmen heard the shots that suddenly tore up pieces of highway around them. Gun shots were something they could deal with. The Snowmen who had escaped the rocks got down behind the ample cover that Buggy and Roy had sent them and started returning fire.
Suddenly, Buggy and Roy found themselves in trouble. There were a lot of Snowmen and they all had guns. The rocks were still falling and they were still catching hard guys, but not as often.
Besides, the Snowmen were mad.
It dawned on Buggy and Roy that things weren't that healthy for them in these parts anymore.
"You and your fuckin' great idea," snarled Roy as they darted back up the slopes, dodging bullets that whistled around them.
"We'll discuss it later," bellowed Buggy.
They got back to their vehicles and started them up. "Where to?"
They certainly couldn't head down the road. That would bring them face to face with the Snowmen.
"We head back the way we came."
"Sure. Straight into Bonner."
"Come on, Roy, you know this country." "There are only two choices. Up or down." "Well, let's take it off the road." "Look at it, asshole, look how steep it is." "It's a lot prettier than a couple of dozen Snowmen.
"Good point," said Roy. He kicked his bike into low gear and tore off the road into the pine forests that covered the slopes. There was hardly enough room for Buggy to edge his Honda between the trees. In addition, the slope was getting steeper. He slammed it down to low but all he succeeded in doing was tearing up a trench in the pine needles and soft earth on the forest floor.
"Come on, baby, please, come on . . ."He gunned the engine, the tires screamed, and the cut-down machine slipped a few feet further down the hillside. There was about twenty-five yards of open ground and then a sharp drop down to a lower part of the mountain.
Buggy was working the handbrake and standing on the gas pedal. But, inexorably, the Honda slithered a good twenty feet down towards the sickening drop.
Roy had his heels out and he was working as hard as the engine of his bike at pushing the two-wheeler up the steep sides. He stopped and looked over his shoulder. It looked like a moment or two from now he would be alone. Good, he though, I can move faster that way . . .
"Roy, man," screamed Buggy.
Roy pretended not to hear. He urged his bike a few yards further up the mountainside.
Buggy slid a few feet towards the edge. A wheel slipped off land and out into the void. Roy glanced down quickly. If he knew a rider, he'd go down with his wheels. Never abandon your transport. Roy pulled back on the handlebars and shot a few more yards up the slope.
When he looked back the Honda was gone. He could hear it bouncing down the rocks. There was a dull "whump" as the gas tank went up.
"Poor fuck," said Roy because in spite of it all, he had sort of almost liked Buggy.
Roy pulled his heavy bike another hundred yards into the the forest and set it against a tree. He was going to lay up there for the night, and then head out on the road. He assumed that the Snowmen would have picked themselves up and moved on by then. He slumped down on the pine-needle carpet, put his head back and fell asleep.
He awoke when Buggy put his revolver to his head. "Wake up, prick."
"Hey, Buggy, my man. You made it."
"You sonovabitch . . ."
"No, really, I'm glad to see you."
"The hell you are."
"The only reason I don't blow your head off your shoulders is that I need you to get to the Rich Man. I figure he owes me for a rig and a fill up and a coupla hundred slates."
Roy was relieved he wasn't gonna get shot. That was something at least.
"You got it, man."
"You're damn right I do. Get up." Roy got up. "Okay, we head back to the road." It was harder going down the mountainside than going up. Roy had to use all his strength to keep the bike under control. If he let go of it for a second, then it would go over the side and they would have to walk all the way to the Bay City. Buggy didn't help because he was mad at Roy still.
They got to the road. It looked clear. They couldn't hear any engines. They figured they were safe. Buggy sat astride the big double seat. "Now just remember, I got a gun in your ribs.
Nothing funny, okay?"
"No problem." He kicked the bike into life and they took off. Before they hit the first bend, Roy shouted something over his shoulder.
"What?" said Buggy.
"I said 'Do you smell smoke?' "
Just then they went around the curve and looked down into the valley. It was a huge, orange pool of fire.
"You and your fuckin' Honda ..." shrieked Roy
into the wind. The gas tank had started a forest fire. Buggy shook his head. Was he ever gonna get a break?
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