A late Spring rain had made the streets slippery, so they kept to the speed limit. It had been dark for hours, and the city lights reflected off the roadway as the two men drove aimlessly around. “So, you thinkin’ satin box, maybe?” Lenny asked.
“Yeah, maybe. I haven’t got that far. I’m still on the part where I’m in shock, you know?” Vern muttered. “Talk about unexpected.”
Lenny checked his rear view mirror and changed the station on the car radio. “Hey, you like classical? Take your mind off things.”
“Whatever,” Vern replied flatly. After a few moments, he turned to Lenny and angrily responded, “He was in a clinical trial for a frickin’ skin condition, for Christ’s sake. His dermatologist had him on some experimental thing. And he just ups and dies like that? What’s that all about, anyway?”
Lenny shrugged, “Maybe that’s why the stuff was experimental, right? And maybe he got the other stuff, you know, whatta they call it?”
“The placebo? You think maybe he got an aspirin instead of the experimental shit?” Vern replied sarcastically. “People don’t die from taking aspirin, Lenny!”
“Well, then, have them do an autopsy, okay?”
“Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. He probably signed some sort of a waiver, anyway. What good would it do,” Vern said in resignation.
They drove on in silence for a while, both just staring at the road ahead and listening to whatever was on the radio. The news came on at some point and related that the death toll from the latest Covid variant was skyrocketing among the young and that the current vaccines were ineffective against it. “Hey, you want to stop for a drink, or something. I know a place up ahead,” Lenny asked, trying anything to help his friend out of his funk.
“Just keep driving, Lenny. You know the drill. We don’t stop except for gas, fast food, and sleep. How much money you got left, anyway?”
“Four hundred and change.”
“Okay, I got about that, too. That’ll keep us in the car and safe for about two months, probably. You still good with that?” Vern asked forcefully.
“Yeah, yeah, but I was just thinkin’, what’s one drink, right? What could it hurt, Vern?”
Vern just shook his head and looked over at the gas gauge. “Head for the desert. We can camp out near Palm Desert in the rocks south of town for a day or two. I know where we can get water.”
“What about your Dad’s funeral and all that?” Lenny wondered.
“I told ‘em where to wire me my share of his money. I figure it’ll be enough to keep us safe for months, maybe longer. They’ll understand.”
Lenny tried just once more. “How about just one beer, Vern? C’mon, just one, then we’re off to the desert. Whatta ya say?” he asked pleadingly. “I’m dying to get out of this car. I’m going crazy.”
Vern patted the pistol grip sticking out of his waistband and answered coldly, “I can do this with or without you, Lenny. Your choice.”
“Okay, okay. Just sayin’, Vern.”
“Just drive, Lenny.”