An hour later found me in the dust and the extreme heat of a Texas impound yard in South Austin.
“Only a matter of time,” said the thin man staffing the place that broiling afternoon. “It was gonna turn up, you shouldn’ta been worried.”
“Fucking where is it?” I asked.
“This way,” he said. His drawl seemed overheated, too. “You might could drive it away. We’ll see.”
The car had a long triangular hole in the roof, matching the scrap of canvas I kept on my desk at work. The back lip of the trunk lid had been crowbarred up all around the latch it protected.
“Motherfuckers,” I said, adding, “Sorry,” noticing the man’s badge. I think he was a deputy of some kind. I was a stuttering Texas boy with a foul mouth, but I had my manners.
He shrugged and spat off to one side. “Gang initiation,” he said. “One o’ them has to cut into the car, then they use a long, thin metal strip, pop it into a slot behind the ignition key hole and kinda jiggle it around—”
My face fell. “That all it takes?”
He nodded and spat again. “Thassit.”
I hopped in the driver’s seat and popped the key in. Don’t be afraid. I turned the key and the engine started right up. It had half a tank of gas left. I revved the engine in astonishment, then killed it.
“Do I need to sign anything?”
“Can I see some ID?”
“Sure,” I said. While he messed with paperwork, I checked the glove box: empty. The center console panel, too. Still, waves of hope lifted me up out of the car to unlock the trunk.
Everything was exactly as I’d left it, all my stupid crap: papers, random electronics, tools, music. They hadn’t been able to get in, though they’d tried.
A friend at another game company had sent me a bottle of tequila, which I’d dropped in my trunk a month before and forgotten about, it was still there, unopened. Something felt appropriately triumphant about popping it open right there and taking a big gulp in the burning gaze of a mid-summer Texas day. If only I didn’t then have to drive away meekly under the watchful eye of an officer of the law.
Drive away I did, though I only made it so far.