Escape to Sindom – Don Elliott/Robert Silverberg (Leisure Book #686, 1964)

for your reading pleasure…

CHAPTER ONE

THE CELL WAS SMALL, HOT, SWEATY, a box with bars on one end. The lone guard sat sleepily at the door to the jailhouse, with his back to the single prisoner. Inside the cell, Val Sparkman clenched his fists and peered anxiously out, thinking of the lovely, full-breasted girl who was waiting for him down Mexico way. Cindy…

….Cindy with the dark hair and the white, white skin, Cindy with the breasts like two swollen melons tipped with ripe cherries, Cindy who was all, all his.

Cindy who was his to caress and his to love, his to touch and his to take, if he could only get out of this stupid, stinking jail.

He was in the thriving metropolis of Gorman, Iowa. Population, a resounding, impressive figure of 2163. And here Sparkman was in the Gorman calabozo, and he knew that if he didn’t get out of here fast he was going to find himself in trouble, big trouble, trouble right up to his neck.

Trouble that might stretch his neck a little, even.

It all depended on how smart these Iowa hicks really were, Sparkman thought. Right now they had him booked on a Breaking and Entering charge, just a felony, good for thirty or sixty days at best — or at worst. Sparkman had needed a couple of bucks, needed them bad, and had cracked into a downtown store hoping to overpower the night clerk before he got the money out of the till to deposit it.

But the night clerk had turned out to have a gun, damn him, and he wouldn’t let himself be bluffed. He yelled copper, copper came running, and Val Sparkman wound up in the Gorman jail. A long way from Cindy.

Sparkman thought of her now, down there in the warm Mexican sun. He pictured her wearing her red dress, because red went so well with her jet-black hair. The red dress tight over the lush body, with firm flesh rippling underneath, Cindy-flesh, the flesh he loved to touch.

And then he imagined her getting out of the dress peeling like a snake shedding its skin. Tossing the dress aside and stripping away the undergarments, ridding herself of bra and panties and garter belt and stockings, and standing there in all her glory, Cindy unadorned.

With her skin so white, and the nipples blazing redly against the taut, jutting curves of the luscious breasts, and the dimpled buttocks inviting his hands to seize them and knead them.

Her lips against his. Her nakedness warm and exciting, her big firm breasts heaving.

Her warm arms accepting him. Big hard breasts jammed against him. Body moving wildly. Arms locked tight around him. Her breath warm against his skin.

The finish — furious, frenzied, for both of them in the same moment, the all-devouring blaze of fulfillment, the moment of ecstasy. And then afterward lying back, kissing the now-softening tips of her breasts.

Sparkman trembled with desire. He clenched his fists, gritted his teeth, coiled and uncoiled his lanky body within the cell. The more he thought of Cindy and her seductive, splendiferous nude body, the worse things got for him. Because Cindy was far away in sleepy Mexico, eating tortillas and putting back the tequila and wondering what had happened to him — and he was in Gorman, Iowa, possibly about to get into the worst trouble of his life.

The Breaking and Entering charge — that wasn’t so bad, Sparkman thought. Matter of fact, could be a lot worse. But what scared him was that wise little deputy, the one who had said, when Sparkman was brought in for booking, “I think I’ve seen that guy’s face somewhere before, you know?”

“In the funny papers, maybe?”

The one who had answered was the older one, the sheriff, a big, beefy guy with a red face and a round paunch. Thought he was a clown.

The deputy shook his head. He was small and hatchet-faced, with ratty little eyes. “Uh-uh. I mean his face is up on the wall in the post office, that’s where I’ve seen it before.”

Sparkman had winced at that, suddenly realizing he was in real trouble. The Federals didn’t overlook a town when they sent their damn little notices out, did they? And if that deputy hadn’t had such sharp eyes —

The sheriff shrugged, his beef jiggling. “Post office’s closed for the night, Johnny.”

The deputy grinned enthusiastically. “I’ll check first thing in the morning, how’s that? For all we know, we got one of the Ten Most Wanted right here in our dinky little jail.”

“Ah, you’re crazy,” the sheriff said, hitting the spittoon with practiced aim. “This guy’s just a tramp. This ain’t no case for the FBI.”

“I tell you I seen his face before,” the ratty little deputy insisted.

That was where it had ended, for the moment. But suddenly Sparkman felt a long, long distance from Cindy and her squeezable breasts, Cindy and her huggable body, Cindy and her gasps of delight. He was in a mess.

It had been after six when they had pulled him in. The postmaster had gone home to his dinner, and there was no way that the sheriff’s deputy could check the Wanted signs in the post office until morning. So they would wait till morning. No sense bothering the postmaster this late at night, was there? No hurry.

Now it was half past seven in the evening, and Spark-man was all alone in the jail except for his guard. Twilight was ending, and the stars were coming out. A chilly breeze whisked through the little jailhouse.

Sparkman was worried.

He knew what the sheriff and his deputy were going to find, more likely than not, when they went over to the post office in the morning. They would find the little glossy poster, with the front and side views and the number and the description. And they would stand there reading it, maybe moving their lips a little as they read, and they would learn that Val Sparkman, alias Vadal Sparks, alias Vic Santelli, alias Victor Spears, etc., etc., was a very highly wanted man indeed.

Wanted in Michigan for using the mails to defraud — that was the dirty pictures racket.

Wanted in New York for felonious assault — the bet-welching business.

Wanted in Indiana for statutory rape — that spicy little birdbrain with the tip-tilted boobs who had fooled him into thinking she was of age, and who then had yelled for Uncle Cop the minute he was finished with her.

Wanted in Tennessee for murder.

Wanted in Alabama for questioning in relation to a murder.

Wanted in Illinois for murder.

Three murders, all of them premeditated and therefore First Degree, all of them necessary executions from the viewpoint of Val Sparkman’s general scheme of things. Plus sundry lesser offenses, arising out of Spark-man’s need for money and love. He could explain away everything as necessary for his well-being and health. The law took a different view.

The law in three different states would be glad to assist Sparkman into his grave.

There had been stoolies here and there who had tipped the cops off to Sparkman’s whereabouts, but always Sparkman had managed to get out of town just in the nick of time. He had been in Wisconsin when the last narrow escape happened, on the check-passing business. They had nearly caught him that time, and Sparkman had been forced to leave the state without his car, without any clothing, without any money. Thrown back on his native wit, so to speak.

Things were getting too hot in the States. Sparkman had planned to head due south, over the border into Mexico, where he had built up an emergency fund for himself at a Juarez bank. Cindy was there already, tanning herself in the Mexican sun, turning her lovely body honey-colored for him, toasting her plump buttocks and her high-crested, jutting breasts, waiting eagerly for him to come along and enjoy the sweetness of her.

Sparkman had hitchhiked his way from Wisconsin to Iowa, picking up a little cash along the way. But he had run out of funds in Gorman. There was nothing else he could do but bust in somewhere and make a grab.

And it was really ironic that a man with three murders to his record should finally get nabbed on a Breaking and Entering charge. But that was the way it had happened, and now here he was.

The Gorman authorities only vaguely suspected what a big fish they had caught. There would probably be celebrations and a municipal fireworks display tomorrow when the post office opened and the dumb sheriff and his smart deputy realized that they had caught one of the big shots of crime, and had thereby put Gorman on the map.

Sparkman thought of Cindy — Cindy whom he’d never see again, unless he worked something in a hurry.

Sparkman knew he had to get out of this jail, out of this town.

And fast.

The all-night guard they had posted to watch over him was a pudgy fellow in his middle forties, who didn’t act as though he were very bright. He wasn’t used to guarding a prisoner, either. The Gorman lock-up evidently didn’t get much use, outside of putting the town drunk, away every couple of Saturday nights.

The cell was the old-fashioned kind, with bars big enough for Sparkman to pass his hand through. There was no automatic lock on the outside, none of the fancy breakout-prevention devices that any jail worth a nickel would have. That stuff cost money, and money meant taxes, and towns like this didn’t feel much like paying taxes. The jail was obviously a hundred years old, and since the end of the Indian Wars they probably hadn’t had many customers. Except for the town drunks, that is.

Sparkman pondered ways of getting out. He could try to lure the guard over, and reach through the bars and grab him with his hands. But carrying that off would take both luck and agility, and while Sparkman was confident of his agility he couldn’t be sure of his luck just now. And if it failed, there would be no second chance. Once warned, the guard would keep his distance.

What else?

Well, Sparkman thought, he could attempt to wheedle the guard into relaxing and coming into the cell for a friendly bit of poker. Once Sparkman had the guard on the same side of the bars, he could jump him. The guard was armed, but Sparkman was willing to bet that the man wouldn’t use the weapon on a human being except perhaps to save his own life.

Sparkman nixed both of those ideas in favor of a still older one — phony cramps.

He lay down on the hard cot at the side of the cell, grabbed his middle, and let out a soul-curdling groan of sheer agony.

It drew no immediate response. Sparkman groaned again. He put everything he had into it. That groan was for Cindy, he thought. He imagined himself lying in the sunlight, Cindy by his side, he reaching over to take a nip of a jutting, round breast…

The guard rocked back on his chair, peered over his shoulder in Sparkman’s general direction. “You having trouble there, feller?”

“My stomach,” Sparkman murmured. “It feels like someone just jabbed a knife into it.”

“Something you et, huh?”

Sparkman just groaned. Sweat was pouring down his forehead, and his face was a grimace of sheer torment. He was a good actor when he had to be, and right now he had to be, because his life depended on how convincing his performance would be.

The guard stood up and peered in at him sympathetically. Sparkman held back the next groan, pacing himself, not wanting to make the attack seem too serious for fear of arousing suspicion. The dream of getting into bed with Cindy danced in Sparkman’s brain. He could practically feel the texture of breasts and legs and bouncy buttocks. But first he had to get out of this place. He looked up appealingly at the guard.

“Can — can you get me some water?” Sparkman said in a harsh whisper. “Some cold water, maybe? I think it’s my appendix.”

“Mebbe I better phone the doc — ”

“Water first,” Sparkman gasped piteously. “Please! I’m on fire!”

The guard shrugged at the man in the cell, shuffled over to the cooler, filled a paper cup with water, and came shuffling slowly back. He wasn’t in any hurry, that was for sure. He unlocked Sparkman’s cell.

Sparkman did not rise from his crouched position. He opened his eyes wide enough to see that the guard was keeping one hand on the butt of his gun, but that the hand was in a relaxed state.

“Here, now,” the man said soothingly. “You drink this down and then I’ll ring up Doc Webber to look after you. Wouldn’t want you to die on us, now, heh heh! Even if you are a lawbreaker.”

He lowered the paper cup to Sparkman’s lips.

Sparkman rose as if to take it, and kept right on rising,’ catapulting himself upward until the top of his head bashed into the chin of the guard. Sparkman felt a satisfying burst of pain at the impact of skull and chin, and heard the other grunt in confusion and surprise.

Reaching out quickly, Sparkman grabbed the man’s gun hand, pulled the big .45 from the holster, and slammed the butt across the guard’s head. He didn’t stop until he had pistol-whipped the guard into the land of dreams.

“Sleep tight,” Sparkman muttered.

The whole thing had taken no more than about fifteen seconds. The guard lay in a crumpled heap on the floor of the cell, with blood trickling slowly from his scalp and his mouth. It had happened so fast that he had probably never known what hit him.

Sparkman looked at the gun, scowling in annoyance. It was a big blunderbuss of a .45, that couldn’t be concealed easily. Regretfully, Sparkman came to the decision that he would have to leave the weapon behind. It was better to travel unarmed than to travel with an attention-getter like that. He might just as well be packing a cannon. And Sparkman wanted a minimum of attention drawn to himself, all the way down to the Mex border.

Carefully, he broke the gun open and dumped the bullets out, just in case the guard awoke suddenly, Sparkman figured that it was safer to disarm him. Placing the useless gun on the floor next to the slumbering guard, he took the keys, tiptoed out, and locked the man snug and sound into the cell.

He threw the keys off into the darkness, and, chuckling to himself, stepped out the side exit of the jailhouse into the night.

He could taste, that tequila now.

And Cindy — warm and soft as she moved her naked body against his and let him begin the trip to the land of sweet delights.

Half a state away in the town of Nero, Missouri, Jane Haskell was finishing her day’s stint as a waitress in a nondescript hash house. She took her green and white uniform off and hung it up in back.

Another day, another couple of dollars, Janey thought. And that’s the way it goes.

Janey was nineteen years old, going on twenty in another four months. She was a good-locking girl, the kind who kept being told, “You ought to be in the movies, you know that, Janey?”

Janey privately thought she ought to be in the movies, too. She knew that she had good breasts, high and firm and close together, and lush hips and a narrow waist, the kind that excites a man, and long, tapering legs and a sleek rear. And Janey was passionate, besides. She liked to make love, and was easily aroused.

But what was the sense of going to Hollywood?

Janey was smart — a lot smarter than a waitress in the gumdrop-sized town of Nero, Missouri, had any right to be. She knew that the country was full of girls with pretty bodies, with big breasts and flaring hips and narrow waists and sparkling eyes and arms that would curl around the right sort of guy, and Janey also knew that a good many of those girls went to Hollywood, chasing after the pot of gold that was supposed to be out there.

The competition was too rough. Janey didn’t want to fight it. She figured that she’d probably end up as a waitress in a hash house out there, not as a big movie star, so what was the use?

That was why Janey didn’t go to Hollywood.

But Janey was rusting away in Nero. She was bored silly, eager to get away somewhere, anywhere, just so it wasn’t a small Missouri town. She felt like a prisoner condemned to a life sentence.

Janey wanted to escape. And one of these days she knew she would.

In the meanwhile, she was just going through the paces, working at the restaurant daytimes, going out with fellows in the evenings. She had love with a lot of the fellows. That was one way of keeping from dying of boredom. But even love could get dull, if the guys who you were putting out for were a bunch of dreary clodhoppers.

She stepped out into the street. Sid Carpenter’s car was waiting for her. Sid was her current most frequent date, not that he was much different from any of the rest. Twenty-one years old, he was a farm boy who was looking around for a wife in the worst way, because if he could get married fast he wouldn’t have to go into the Army.

Janey wasn’t going to marry him, or anybody else in this one-horse town. But nobody but Janey knew that yet. They all had their hopes. She smiled at him. “Hi, Sid.”

He gave her a calf-eyed stare. “Hello, Janey. Gosh, you look great!”

“Do I?”

“You look marvelous. Give us a little kiss, how about it, Janey?”

“Sure, Sid. Sure.”

She slid onto the front seat of the car beside him, and he arched his right arm around her shoulders and put the left hand right spang on her breast, and his mouth covered hers and his kiss went exploring while his fingers tightened on that ripe, jutting mound of flesh.

Here we go again, Janey thought. Ho-hum.

She kissed him as though she really meant that, and he pushed against her, giving her boob a good feel. There was no need to worry that anybody would see them, even though they were parked right out here in the street. It was a dark night and the street didn’t have much in the way of illumination and in any event nobody was around.

After a minute or so Sid let go of her and sat up straight. His horse-featured face was flushed and beaded with sweat, and his eyes were gleaming.

“Gosh,” he said, “I never knew anybody who could kiss like you, Janey.”

“I bet you’ve kissed a lot of girls, huh, Sid?”

“Not so many. Not as many as you think. You think I’m a real sinner, don’t you?”

“Well, you’ve been around some.”

“Don’t be too harsh on me,” he said earnestly. “I’m a pretty respectable guy at heart, Janey.”

She grinned at him. He sounded like he had come into the First National looking for a loan and was trying to tell the banker that he didn’t drink or gamble. Well, Janey thought, as men went around this part of the world, Sid Carpenter wasn’t the worst possible kind of husband material. He was a hard worker and he didn’t have too many bad habits, and any girl who married him would have a pretty good time of it, all things considered. He was also fair in the love department, as Janey had discovered some time ago.

But he was dull, dull, dull, dull. Dull!

She knew what her life would be if she married Sid Carpenter. A child next year, and a child the year after that, and lots more children. Farmers liked big families. So she’d get homely and plump, and she’d wear herself out with the diaper duties, while Sid spent his time with his cronies, complaining about the increasing size of the Federal government in Washington and complaining even more bitterly because farm subsidies weren’t high enough.

Not for me, Janey thought.

Not for a whole lifetime, anyway.

But Sid would do for the time being. The evening followed a familiar pattern. He took her bowling — there was no bowling alley in Nero, but only about a dozen miles away there was a ten-lane one that they had put in a few years ago — and then on the way back they stopped along the road, Sid pulling the car into a dark, secluded little path.

He looked at her sheepishly. “Well, here we are again, Janey.”

“Yeah. Looks that way.”

“Gosh, you’re pretty tonight.”

“You mean I’m not pretty every night?”

“You know what I mean,” he said, confused and turning red in the face. “You’re always twisting my words around and making me mean things I didn’t say.”

“I guess I’m just too smart for my own good,” Janey said lightly.

“Also too pretty,” Sid told her. “Move a little closer, huh, Janey?”

“Why don’t we move onto the back seat,” she said, knowing that he would get around to suggesting that sooner or later anyway, and wanting to save a little time in the process. “We’ll be more comfortable back there.”

“Gosh, Janey, I was just thinking the same thing,” he said solemnly.

So they got out of the car and squirreled onto the back seat, and from that point on it became inevitable that Sid Carpenter was going to have her that evening. Not that Janey ever doubted that would happen. Not for a moment. Nearly all her dates consisted mostly of love-making. That was about the only thing that kept her from going off her rocker entirely in this yawnsome town.

They began the ritual of love-making.

Since Sid Carpenter was a conventional, conformist-minded young man, he didn’t set out right away to grab her, even though that was why he had stopped the car in this particular place and both of them knew that. Instead, he pretended that all he wanted to do was kiss and cuddle a little bit.

Janey went along with the routine. What else could she do? Live and let live, she believed. She didn’t plan to rock the boat. Love-making in Nero took a specific form, as ritualized as the ballet, and Janey knew it would do her no good at all to rebel.

She kissed, then. Gently at first. Gradually more wildly.

More passionately, now.

Sid’s hand clutching for the ripe young hillocks of her breasts. Finding them — outside her blouse, at first. Caressing, squeezing them. The kiss continuing, growing more and more passionate.

Then a pause for conversation.

“Sure is a pretty night tonight, Janey.”

“Sure is.”

“Little chilly, though.”

“You have to expect that, this time of year.”

“But we got ways of keeping ourselves warm, don’t we, Janey?”

“Yeah, we sure do, Sid.”

His hands began to grope again. One of them under her dress, now. Sliding up from her hem, over her stockinged knee, toward the place where her stockings reached their upper ends.

Janey knew that that was her cue. The moment Sid Carpenter’s hand touched the bare skin of her leg above her stocking top, Janey shifted her position. He didn’t rush, though. He stroked his hand over the satiny skin of her leg while with his other hand he took care of the buttons of her blouse.

Soon he had her blouse open. But he would need two hands to deal with her brassiere. Since one of his hands was busy, she helped him out by unhooking her bra herself.

The cups dropped away. Sid’s hand slid forward, seizing ripe, firm flesh.

Janey had good breasts. The best in town, she suspected. They didn’t need any sort of artificial support, because they stood out from her body firm and strong, held up by excellent muscles. A lot of girls that Janey knew seemed to have big bosoms, and looked that way in sweaters. But Janey had seen them in the locker room of the high school gym, had seen them take off their sweaters and their bras, and half the time the bras were the push-’em-up kind that took big saggy boobs and made them look like they stuck straight out, and the other half of the time the brassieres were padded cleverly or not so cleverly to improve the state of things.

Janey didn’t wear any padding, and she didn’t wear any kind of push-’em-up gadgets, either. She wore a simple cloth bra that did nothing but keep her breasts in place so that they didn’t go jiggling and joggling all over everywhere whenever she walked down the street. Even without any bra at all, Janey’s figure would have been eye-catching. Not too many other girls in town could say that.

Sid shifted from breast to breast, playing with the nipples, making them turn firm, rubbing his thumbs over their puckered tips, digging at the yielding, bouncing, firmly taut flesh.

Janey caught her breath in mounting excitement. She let her eyes become little slits.

“Oh, Sid,” she whispered as he grasped her left breast tightly. “That’s so good when you play with me like that, honey!”

He laughed. “I’m gonna make you feel a lot better in a minute, baby!”

The hand that had been snooping around her legs now moved a few inches. She welcomed his touch. His other hand kept busy at her breasts. Their mouths remained pressed together, too.

Janey grew more and more excited. That wasn’t hard for her to get passionate when a boy touched her. She had been doing this since she was thirteen, and she had plenty of experience by this time.

She didn’t really care much for loving on the back seat of a parked car, but even there she could enjoy the experience. She preferred to have all her clothes off, to be naked with a naked man holding her in his arms. Instead, here she was with her blouse open but still on, and her brassiere hanging down below her breasts, and her skirt pushed up around her hips, and the cold upholstery of an automobile in contact with her buttocks, and her body cramped and contorted.

Even so she got thrills from that. Even in this uncomfortable arrangement.

Carpenter went on playing with her, one hand on her legs and the other one on her breasts, and Janey twisted as excitement surged to a furious level for her.

“All right,” she said hoarsely. “Let’s go, Sid!”

“You sure you want to?”

“Yes!” she cried. “Take me! I’m on fire, Sid! I need you!”

The idiot, she thought. Asking if she wanted to. Of course she did. But he was playing the game again, right down to the finish. A girl was supposed to be a little reluctant about love. Janey hadn’t bothered to make the traditional refusals before giving in and going the route, and so he was doing that for her.

But this wasn’t their first time. This was more like their twentieth. So she was obviously no virgin, and could be convinced, and he knew that, and why did he bother playing around as though this was the first time for both of them, anyway?

She began to pull her panties off, arching her back, drawing her buttocks away from the car seat. Down they went, baring the flesh of her, the firm white buttocks pressing against the upholstery where they had pressed many times before — and plenty of other girls had had their buttocks bare on this seat too, Janey knew.

The panties were off. Moonlight glinted on her as she waited for him.

Sid was fumbling with his clothes, now. He got them open, finally. Instantly Janey shot her hand out.

“Gee, Janey —” he panted.

Janey knew that she was breaking the rules again. A girl wasn’t supposed to be too forward. She wasn’t supposed to be so impatient, and grab hold of a guy like that. But she didn’t give a damn.

“Hurry,” she panted.

Finally he turned to her. “Janey,” he muttered passionately. “Janey!” A moment later, he took her.

This was the only thing worth living for in this whole dreary town, Janey thought. She loved this. She loved every moment and every movement.

Her body tingled with excitement. She clutched her arms around him, pulling him close. Her lips crushed against his. His broad chest flattened the warm-tipped globes of her nearly-bare breasts.

Again and again and again.

Janey was aware of her ecstasy, rising with each violent move, her heart beating faster and faster, her whole frame trembling. Her arms gripped him tightly. The springs of the seat creaked protestingly.

Passion drew near.

Then she was there, with a gasp of breath, and she closed her eyes and dug her fingers at his back muscles and let things-happen, and she heard him make a soft little crying sound as his own fulfillment hit. That was happening for him at almost the same moment of her own completion.

He gave one last gasp. Then he was still.

In the darkness, they grasped each other tightly, perspiring, panting, resting.

“Mmm, good!” Janey murmured dreamily. “I had a ball, honey!”

“You really liked that, Janey?”

“You know I did.”

“That was terrific for me too,” he said.

Janey smiled. She didn’t say anything. Her legs were beginning to feel a little cramped.

Sid said, “We could have this every night of the week, Janey.”

“Here on the back seat of your car?”

“I mean on a bed, silly! I mean where we can be comfortable and really enjoy ourselves.”

Janey frowned in the dark. She knew what was next: the marriage pitch.

“Don’t let’s talk about that, Sid.”

“But I love you so damn much, Janey.”

“I know you do.”

“Then why won’t you — I mean, it isn’t so hard to say yes, is it?”

“I want more time to think,” she told him.

“Don’t you like me?”

“I like you fine, Sid. You think I’d be here like this if I didn’t?”

“Then why won’t you say yes?”

“Don’t spoil it, Sid. We had a nice evening, and now let’s just go home. I told you, I want more time to think about things, and that’s that.”

“Okay,” he said disappointedly. “I guess I won’t get anywhere like this.”.

He pulled himself away and they began to adjust their clothing. Janey found her panties on the floor of the car and slid them up over her legs. She had known he would propose. He always did. Ever since Sid Carpenter had first made her, six months ago, he had been eager to marry her.

He didn’t mind that she had been around, that she had been had by half a dozen of his best friends. Every girl in town had been had by at least two or three different guys before she got through high school, so that was nothing special. Virginity didn’t count for much out here, where love was just about the only way kids could keep amused.

But she knew that would be the end of her dreams, if she let Sid Carpenter drag her to the altar. There would be no escape after that. She’d soon be tied down with family responsibilities.

And so she stalled him off. She slept with him, because that made him happy and gave her her jollies too, and she slept with other guys who dated her, too, but she always side-stepped the subject of marriage.

She pulled the cups of her brassiere up over her breasts and fastened the catch. She tugged her skirt down where that belonged.

“I’m ready,” she said.

“So am I.”

They got back onto the front seat of the car. Janey felt relaxed and a little drowsy, now. She always slept well after getting made.

But she couldn’t shake off that sense of boredom, that feeling that her whole life was wasting away day by day by day in this town.

Something had to give, she knew. She’d be twenty pretty soon, high time to make up her mind at last and either get out or give in.

Marry Sid Carpenter? Well, if she had to, she would. And then she’d have him every night, and he’d boff away in his good-natured way, and after a while she’d be middle-aged from too many kids, and Sid would be helling around after the teen-agers just the way the older married men in town did now, and wasn’t that something to look forward to?

On the other hand, maybe she could escape. Get out of town, leave all this drabness behind her.

If only some stranger would come along and pick her up. Someone dynamic, someone handsome, someone mysterious, someone she could give herself to and run off with.

If!

CHAPTER TWO

NIGHT HAD FALLEN NOW IN GORMAN, IOWA, AND the streets of the little town were empty as Val Sparkman stepped out of the jail building. Under cover of darkness, Sparkman walked briskly toward the main highway that led south out of town, moving fast but not so fast that he was likely to attract any attention.

The guard would be unconscious for a couple of hours at the very least, Sparkman figured. With any luck at all, the man would sleep till the day shift arrived in the morning, by which time Sparkman hoped to be as far from Gorman as he could possibly get.

That old fool of a guard was going to be surprised to wake up and find himself behind bars with a lump on his head and the prisoner gone, Sparkman thought in amusement. And that smart aleck of a deputy would regret not having bothered the postmaster at dinner time.

Mexico, here I come!

Cindy, I’m on my way!

Sparkman walked springily southward. His luck had held once again, and after a nasty moment or two he was again moving as a free man.

Over the last ten years, he had quietly been depositing money in the Juarez bank, using a Mexican intermediary so that the risk would be less great. What with interest and all, close to a hundred grand had piled up in that account by now. Sparkman figured he’d draw it out and reinvest it at about six per cent.

That was an income of $6,000 a year, leaving capital completely untouched. And that, Sparkman knew, would be enough to let a man live like a prince south of the border, without ever having to do a lick of work, legit or otherwise.

That would be the ever-loving life!

And he had friends down there, too. A dozen retired “business associates” who, when things finally became too hot for them in too much of the United States, slipped across the border. Joey, Max, Elaine, Cindy — all the old crowd. Especially Cindy. His Cindy. They would be glad to see him at last.

All he had to do was elude pursuit all the way down, and he’d have it made. The map formed in his mind, glowing brightly with his route traced across it. South. South through Iowa and Missouri and Oklahoma and Texas. And then across the border at EI Paso. All he had to do was stroll across the International Bridge over the Rio Grande, and he would be in Juarez, a rich man, free from any further worries.

Sparkman thought about what he would do when he met Cindy finally, that first day in Mexico.

He wouldn’t waste time. He’d rip the clothes off her like a man who had just come back from years all by himself on some desert island.

“Lie down!” he’d yell.

And she’d do so, because she’d always wanted him. She’d sprawl out there, a magnificent panther of a woman with her powerful legs and muscle-rippling skin.

Sparkman would drop beside her. He would take her. And they would start, the hard tips of her breasts drilling against his skin, his lips on her mouth, and they’d go skyrocketing off to the land of bliss on a purple cloud.

That would be only the beginning. He smiled. Every night, baby, and the daytime too. We’ll make up for all the lost time. Just let me get down there into manana-land.

There were only two hitches.

Just two, but they were big ones. He had no car, and he had no money. And it wasn’t possible to walk all the way from Iowa to Mexico on an empty stomach and an empty wallet. Which meant that Sparkman would have to commit a few more crimes before his retirement to sunny Meheeco.

A car, money, and luck — he would need all three, if he hoped to make it down there safely.

He was at the highway now. He stuck up his thumb, and waited for luck to hit him.

Luck was a little slow. Sparkman had to walk along the highway for better than half an hour before he finally got a ride. The highway was dark, and in this sparsely populated region there just weren’t many cars coming along.

And none of the cars that did come down the road would stop for him. Maybe Iowans were just naturally suspicious when it came to giving lifts to strangers, Sparkman thought. Or maybe there had been some recent nasty incidents involving hitchhikers in these parts — a couple of robberies, maybe a rape or a murder or two.

Whatever the reason, he wasn’t pleased with the way things were working out. He didn’t want to march down this road all night. His thumb was getting sore and his neck was getting stiff from turning around again and again to watch the cars zoom by.

Sparkman began to develop visions of having to hike all night, step after plodding step. Visions of hiking all the damn way to the Rio Grande. And worse, visions of getting picked up on a vagrancy charge by some cruising state police auto.

That would really foul him up. Maybe they had a hitchhiker patrol here, as they did in a few states. A car would pull up, and a couple of cops would get out, and they’d want to know who he was and where he was heading. If they picked up a local kid, they’d let him go with a warning, but not a stranger who didn’t have proper identification.

They’d take him down to the nearest station house automatically, and check the wires to see if he was wanted — and it would be bye, bye, Mexico, the instant that they did that.

Sparkman’s luck changed around quarter past nine. He had practically given up all hope, and was beginning to resign himself to sleeping in a cornfield and resuming the jaunt in the morning when traffic would be heavier.

Then he heard the screech of brakes.

A flashy two-toned new Oldsmobile pulled to a halt about ten yards ahead of him.

“Get in!” a friendly male voice called.

As Sparkman sprinted toward the car, he noticed that it had a Wisconsin license plate. Good, he thought. Less chance of trouble that way.

He opened the car door and peered inside. The driver was a man in his middle thirties, cheerfully grinning at him. He wore a loud shirt, a crew cut, a bow tie. His face was deeply tanned, and he was starting to grow a couple of extra chins.

“How far down the road are you going, friend?” Sparkman asked.

“Far as Des Moines. That do you any good?”

Des Moines was fine, Sparkman thought. It was a hundred miles closer to Mexico than his current locale, and it would get him a hundred miles away from the scene of his jailbreak.

“Swell,” Sparkman said. He got in. The car took off in a zooming hydramatic flurry and the speedometer shot up to sixty in no time.

When they had gone about a quarter of a mile the driver glanced at Sparkman and said, “You come from around these parts?”

“Nope,” Sparkman said. “Lansing, Michigan’s my home town, matter of fact.”

“Lansing, huh? Well, we’re neighbors, then. I’m just across the lake from you a little ways, so to speak. A Milwaukee man.”

“I figured that. I saw your plates.”

“You ever get over to Milwaukee?” the driver said.

“Sometimes.”

“Great town. Though it’s a damned shame about the Braves. I can’t get over that. What did they want to move down to Atlanta for? I used to go to see the Braves play every chance I got. That Henry Aaron, he can hit the ball a country mile and a half. And Spahn. There’s a ballplayer for, you Spahnie! Real Hall of Fame stuff. Gave me a thrill to watch him play, knowing I could tell my grandchildren some day that I saw Warren Spahn pitch.”

“You’re a big baseball fan, huh?” Sparkman said. “You bet I am.”

“Me too. Only I’m a Tigers man myself.”

“That figures. You being from Michigan and all.”

Sparkman had already sized his driver up. The man was a cheerful nonentity, not quite a nitwit but not too bright either, probably a salesman, maybe a Rotary type or an Elk. Strong, good-natured, earnest, a hard worker, and more than a little dumb.

“My name’s Joe Garrett, by the way,” the Milwaukee man announced after a brief silence. “I bet you can’t guess what my line is.”

“Advertising man?” Sparkman suggested.

“Close, but no cigar! Truth is, I’m a public relations man for Kriebert beer. On my way down to old Des Moines for a little old business conference. You know how those things work. A little bit of business, a whole lot of fun.”

“Sounds like you’re looking forward to that.”

“Sure I am,” Garrett bubbled. “I always have a ball. Last year I picked up the damnedest cute little blonde. They always keep a few girls around, pros, I guess, to make the out-of-towners happy. You go for girls?”

“You bet I do,” Sparkman said.

“Well, let me tell you about this one. She was a real sultry type, and she filled up a size forty bra with something to spare. You ought to have seen those big things. Like a couple of softballs. All you got to do, you put your hands on those boobs of hers, and she starts to pant right away. And goes for your clothes. This was the kind of girl, she’d go to bed with a guy five minutes after she met him.” Garrett chuckled at the memory. “I had myself one damned unforgettable time.”

“Sometimes with these pros, you know, a guy turns them on and that isn’t just business,” Sparkman suggested.

Garrett nodded. “Yeah! Well, that’s just what happened to me. I mean, the two of us in this motel room, so I get the clothes off her fast, and I grab her boobs and I feel these nipples like rocks hitting me on the hand. And next thing I know she’s kissing me. I must have loved her a dozen times that night. Every way in the book, you name that, we tried that, including a couple I would not even want to tell you about, because I don’t want you to get the idea I’m crazy or anything.”

“A guy’s got to experiment every once in a while,” Sparkman remarked.

“That’s just what I’ve always said!” Garrett boomed. “Hey, we think alike on a lot of stuff! Not that I want you to get the idea I’m the lecherous type, y’understand — got three kids, I want you to know, been married nine years — but a man likes a little variety now and then. The little lady’s sweet, but she isn’t so much of a hotshot in bed, and she wouldn’t do some of them things for me if her life depended on that. She’s very conventional that way. She was a virgin when I married her, and, well, she just doesn’t go for fancy stuff. If I ever asked her to do some of them things, she’d think I flipped.”

“Wives are like that,” said Sparkman noncommittally. “A lot of them, anyway.”

“They sure are. Say,” Garrett asked, “I don’t mean to change the subject so abruptly, but how come you’re out hitching by yourself this late at night so far from home, anyway?”

The sudden question, tacked on almost as an afterthought, could have been dangerous. But Sparkman had prepared himself for it minutes ago.

He said, “This may sound crazy to you, but I’m trying to hitchhike all over the country. I want to hit every state in the union.”

“Hey now, really? Just for the hell of it, or you got some angle?”

“Well, a kind of an angle,” Sparkman said glibly. “I’m a writer, you see, and I’ll do a book about my trip when I get home. How I Hitchhiked Through the United States, something like that. I mean to get to every state except Hawaii this year.”

“Can’t hardly hitchhike there, I guess.”

“No,” Sparkman said. “Although maybe I’ll give it a try, bum a ride on a freighter or something like that. And then I’ll write up my experiences, everything that happened to me when I traveled around.”

“I didn’t catch your name,” Garrett said. “Maybe I’ve read something by you.”

“Stan Sparks,” Sparkman said.

“Sounds familiar. What’ve you written?”

“Odds and ends,” said Sparkman vague. “I don’t use my own name much. I doubt that you’ve seen any of my stuff, anyhow.”

“But you get published?”

“Sure. Enough to live on. And I figure this new book of mine, the hitchhiking one, it might even become a pretty good bestseller.”

“Gee there,” Garrett said, impressed. “Hey, you gonna mention me in your book?”

“I might.”

“Listen, if you do — do me a favor and don’t put in that bit about the blonde in Des Moines, huh? I mean, my wife thinks that it’s an all-stag convention without any funny stuff going on, and I’d hate to have her —

“Sure, sure.” Sparkman nodded. “Don’t worry about me. I wouldn’t say anything that would get you in any trouble. You could count on me.”

“I appreciate that,” Garrett said.

They drove on through the night. Joe Garrett kept an eye on the dashboard, not because he gave a damn about what speed he was doing — there wasn’t much of a highway patrol out here — but because he wanted to tick off the remaining miles to Des Moines in a hurry. If he got there before midnight, he might find a little action for himself.

He thought about last year. Damn, what a time! That blonde with the boobs — kissing him, her mouth busy, her head moving as her lips did their work —

And all the crazy things they tried!

Garrett couldn’t ever forget that wild session. The girl down on her hands and knees, for instance, all that pink flesh sticking out, her buttocks taut and jutting toward him. And him moving to her — behind her, actually! There she was, tipped forward, and then…

Oh yes, that had really been something! Something he couldn’t get at home, for sure.

He remembered putting his hands on her. Feeling the boobs hanging down, those big balls of flesh. With the nipples like little pebbles. Squeezing them, listening to her gasp.

“Oh, Joe,” she had said. “I could love you all night and I wouldn’t get tired.”

He wondered if she’d be at the convention again this year. Maybe she would be. Maybe she’d remember him. Probably she didn’t meet too many guys like him in one year, guys who could show her that kind of a good time.

If she was there again, Garrett wondered, would he take up with her again?

Or try somebody new? Maybe that would be a good idea. The blonde wouldn’t hold any secrets for him this year. He had loved her so many times that last year. Maybe one of the others — that slim brunette with the little pointy boobs, she looked like a good one too — or the tall one, the one who didn’t wear any panties so you could flip her skirt up and show her rear to everybody. The guys were having a lot of fun with her, Garrett remembered, thinking of the sudden surprise of a girl’s bare buttocks on display in the main meeting room —

He glanced at the hitchhiker, the writer.

He said, “I bet you’ve had plenty of good times with girls too, huh? I mean, a writer like you, traveling around the country all the time, you get lots of opportunity that a guy tied down to his family doesn’t get.”

“I guess that’s true,” Sparkman said.

“And you look like the kind of guy who gets plenty and always has. How old were you when you first got any, huh? I bet you were pretty young.”

The hitchhiker shrugged. “I guess I was around fourteen,” he said. “A long time ago, anyway.”

Garrett grinned. “You know how old I was, my first time with a woman?”

“Thirteen?”

“Guess again.”

“I give up.”

Garrett said, “I was eleven years old. Can you believe that? Eleven! I was kind of precocious, I got to admit, but I don’t know any other guy who ever started that early.”

“Eleven,” the hitchhiker said. “How about that!”

“That’s something for your book, isn’t that?” Garrett asked. “I mean, if you don’t put my name in, of course.”

“Of course.”

“I wasn’t really out looking for anything when that happened, you understand. That just sort of happened to me. One of those crazy things, a once in a lifetime that kids dream about but that hardly ever happens,” Garrett said.

Memory welled up in him. Happy, hazy memories of that fabulous day a quarter of a century before the eleven-year-old Joey Garrett had his first woman.

What a time that had been!

He had been tall for his age, and well developed, so that he looked like he might be twelve or even thirteen. But that was still a long way from being grown up. It had been the summer time, and Joey’s parents had rented a summer cabin out at Lake Michigan, and one blazing hot July afternoon while his parents were taking a nap Joey had gone for a walk along the shores of the lake, looking for frogs and other small creatures of the shoreline.

And then suddenly he found himself at the edge of a secluded shorefront garden, boxed in by hedges and shrubbery, and he took another step and suddenly the garden was no longer so secluded, because Joey was looking right into it.

There was a woman in the garden. She was taking a sun bath.

She wasn’t wearing a bathing suit. Or anything else. Not a stitch of clothing covered her tan, full-blown nude form.

Joey stared. His eyes popped out. She was flat on her back with her eyes closed, and she couldn’t see him, and he stood there and got himself a real good look. He had seen his mother naked sometimes, but only a quick glance when she didn’t know he was peeping, and he felt so ashamed of doing that that he didn’t try often. And he had seen his sister naked too, lots of times, but she was only eight years old and there wasn’t much to see, no breasts or anything like that. She was just like a boy, Joey thought, and what was so interesting about that?

This was different.

This was a grown-up woman who wasn’t his mother. Joey didn’t have any idea how old she was, except that she had to be at least twenty years old or so, and she couldn’t be much past forty at most, because she still looked pretty.

Joey stared.

Stared at the big round breasts that rose and fell with each breath she took. Stared at the little reddish nipples set in their circles of darker brown. Stared at the broad hips and the heavy legs.

Then she stirred, and he darted back. But all she was doing was shifting around restlessly, and now she brought her legs up, her toes in the air. Then, as he listened in astonishment, he could hear her sighing and panting. I didn’t know women did that too! he thought. I thought only boys —

He watched. Fascinated and a little disgusted by what he saw, he eyed the heaving, fleshy body, the sweat-, shiny skin. The sight disturbed him. Then the woman rolled over onto her front, and Joey saw a different part of her, the big white fleshy buttocks.

She reached a hand out for a pack of cigarettes lying near her beach towel. Without sitting up, she took a cigarette out, put that in her mouth, lit that.

Then she said, “Okay, you can stop pretending you aren’t there. Come sit down here.”

Joey leaped as though she had thrown at dart at him. He jumped back into the underbrush.

“Don’t run away. I won’t arrest you. Come here.”

“You — want me?” Joey asked timidly.

“Sure I do. Come out here.”

On legs that were turning to water, Joey stepped from his hiding place and walked toward the naked lady. Her bare body seemed to be shining like a mirror in the sunlight. Her nude buttocks were big and dimpled.

She propped herself up on her elbows. Joey could see the heavy globes of her bare breasts dangling downward. His face reddened. He was ashamed to be looking at her, now that she knew he was here, but he could not tear his eyes away from the dazzling lushness of her.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Joey Garrett.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirteen,” he lied.

“Want a cigarette?”

“No,” he said. “I don’t like them.”

She chuckled. Then she uncoiled suddenly, reaching up and grabbing Joey’s wrist. A quick twist and he toppled down next to her. His face landed against her big breasts, and he felt the softness of them as they jiggled against his cheek.

“Sit down,” she said. “Relax.”

She was older than he had thought, he realized, close up. She was at least thirty.

He was scared stiff. The nakedness of her terrified him. And why wasn’t she ashamed?

She said, “You ever see a naked woman before?”

“Sure,” he lied. “Lots of times.”

“Then why are you so scared?”

“I don’t know.”

“Let’s be friends. My name’s Judy and I’m all alone here today. My husband got called away on business. How would you like to take a sun bath too?”

“Well — ”

“Come on. Take your trunks off and cuddle up next to me, Joey.”

He didn’t want to tell her that he had never shown himself naked to a strange woman before. He didn’t want to tell her that he was right on the edge of panic. What could he do? Her hands were tugging at his trunks already, pulling them down, and in a moment he was naked as she was, his face blazing with shame.

She looked at his body and said, “Well, I guess you were telling the truth. You are only thirteen. Maybe even younger. But you’ll do.”

The next thing he knew, she had her hand on him. Then she was pressing her sweaty body against him, whispering words he didn’t understand, kissing him, pushing her breasts against his skin.

She pulled him very close to her.

She was like a big soft air mattress. He settled against the heavy cushions of her breasts. “Welcome to the club, Joey,” she whispered. “Here’s where everything begins for you.”

Her hand slipped over him. She helped him and guided him, and a moment later she began to move while gripping his skinny boyish body with both arms. She was murmuring little pleasure-sounds.

Joey felt as though his head would blow off from sheer pleasure. She was so warm, so soft, and the sensations he felt were so incredible —

Then he knew something was happening.

All the strength went out of him with a new sort of pleasure.

But Judy didn’t let go of him, and she didn’t stop moving. Her big fleshy body continued to work, going on and on, and at one point he opened his eyes and looked at her and saw her face all twisted and weird, with the nostrils wide open and the mouth pulled out of shape, and then she began to make terrible noises, and a moment later that was all over.

She lay back. She was sweatier than ever, and her legs were flung out loosely. Joey looked at her breasts again, and then at her legs.

Her eyes opened. “You were just what the doctor ordered,” she whispered. “Did you enjoy that?”

“Yes,” he whispered, so dazed and stunned he was barely able to get the word out.

“So did I, Joey. So did I!”

“That was where I started,” Garrett said. “She gave me a dollar for having her. Then she told me to go home. I was so flustered I damn near forgot to put my trunks back on before I left her place. And you should have seen how tongue-tied I was when I had to face my parents.”

“You ever see her again?” Sparkman asked.

“Nope,” Garrett said. “Never. It took me a week to work up the nerve to go back there. There wasn’t anybody around. Then a week later I went again, and this time there was a man around sixty, seventy years old, and I asked him where the woman was and he said she had gone away and wasn’t coming bade, that she was a bad woman and was getting punished for her wickedness. So I guess maybe she fooled around with some other kid and the husband came home and caught her, and that was that.”

“You had an early start, anyway.”

“I sure did. And believe me, it was another few years before I scored again. But I never stopped hoping. That was the big experience of my life, getting made when I was eleven. In a way, everything that’s happened to me since then has been kind of pale by comparison.”

Sparkman was silent. He was thinking that he was about to give Garrett another experience to remember, but not such a pleasant one.

Garrett said, “I’ve never forgotten it. I mean, when she gave me a look at the goodies, and then that hand reaching for me, grabbing hold of me, pulling me to her — ”

He laughed and hit the accelerator hard, as though excited just by the memory.

They drove on through the night.

Sparkman leaned back against the comfortable upholstery, relaxing, letting Garrett do most of the talking. Talking seemed to come naturally to him, anyway, and he was content to have such a good audience.

He went on and on in great detail about each of the women he had seduced since the age of fifteen, which was when he had begun his love life for the second time, after his pre-adolescent experience. And after each account, he pleaded with Sparkman not to include that particular episode in the book he was writing.

Sparkman promised secrecy. “Sure, sure,” he said. “I understand the meaning of the word confidential, Joe. You don’t need to worry about that.”

“Swell. I’m reminded of the time —

He didn’t stop. His mouth moved in an endless cycle of activity as he talked about this redhead, that big-boobed brunette, the married woman in Fond du Lac, the little teen-ager in Sheboygan who had practically raped him, the witchy-butted waitress in Oshkosh, this one and the other one. The world seemed to be full of broads for Joe Garrett.

“But don’t get me wrong,” he kept saying. “I love my wife dearly. A guy needs to get some variety in his life, that’s all.”

“Of course,” Sparkman said.

Sparkman kept an eye on the speedometer. The road was empty and the land out here just about perfectly flat; Garrett drove at a steady sixty most of the time, and by eleven o’clock that night they were approaching the outskirts of Des Moines.

Sparkman decided that this was as good a time as any to give brother Garrett the bad news about his car.

He waited until they had passed through a skimpy, dilapidated town — three stores and a filling station — and as they wound into an area of lonely farm land Sparkman said, “Excuse me, Joe, would you mind stopping the car a second for me?”

“Something the matter?”

“I — I’m feeling a little woozy,” Sparkman muttered. “Been doing a lot of moving around, y’know — takes a lot out of you — ”

“You gotta take care not to wear yourself out, fella,” Garrett observed sagely as he braked the car to a halt. He pulled off the road, onto the wide shoulder. Sparkman stepped out and took a look in both directions. The whole vicinity was empty, no cars on the road. Fine.

He put his hands to his waist and started to sag. “Got a cramp — ”

It worked once, why not twice in one night, Sparkman thought.

Garrett sprang out of the car at the first groan, and ran around to Sparkman’s side to see what was the matter with the hitchhiker.

“Hey, fella, maybe you’re sicker than you think you are,” he said.

“My stomach — ”

Garrett approached, his fleshy face furrowed with sympathy and concern. Sparkman balled his fist and lifted a punch straight from the ground, putting all the muscle in his frame behind it. It connected with the point of the beer man’s chin.

Sparkman felt the solid impact go shivering through his knuckles, and Garrett went toppling backward. He recovered his balance after taking a few flailing steps. He looked woozy, but not completely out.

He took a wild, panicky swing at Sparkman, which the criminal dodged without much difficulty. Then Sparkman stepped in, powering his fist into Garrett’s middle. The well-developed muscles gave resistance; beneath the outer layer of flab, Garrett was in better condition than it might seem.

But the punch was a potent one. Garrett folded up and crumpled stupidly into a slouch by the side of the road, losing his supper.

“Okay,” Sparkman murmured. “Time to take a little nap now. Dream of what fun you had when you were eleven years old.”

He put his hands underneath Garrett’s arms and dragged him into the tangle of underbrush that bordered the side of the road. Garrett was out cold now. Reaching into the man’s trouser pocket, Sparkman extracted Garrett’s wallet and riffled hurriedly through it.

Money. Two hundred dollars in bills!

Sparkman didn’t bother with the driver’s license or the registration, since if he got stopped by the police the documents would be of no help to him — especially not if the cop had enough brains to compare Garrett’s description with Sparkman’s appearance.

He did take, though, Garrett’s gasoline credit card. It was going to require a lot of gas to get to Mexico, Sparkman knew.

Garrett was still unconscious. To make things a little more difficult for the pudgy Milwaukeeite when he woke up, Sparkman stripped him right down to the buff, and stuffed his clothing into the trunk of the car. Stark naked, Garrett would think twice about venturing out onto the highway for help. It was a nasty trick, but Sparkman didn’t feel too guilty about it, after the boredom of having had to suffer through an endless narration of Garrett’s adventures.

Smiling to himself, Sparkman slipped into the car on the driver’s side, started her up, and drove away, heading south.

He had a car now, and he had some money. A good night’s work indeed.

By morning, there would be a pretty fair-sized manhunt on for him, he imagined — but, by morning, he would be safely across the state line and into Missouri. By observing all the speed laws religiously, staying out of big cities, and doing most of his traveling by night, Sparkman figured that he stood a better than even chance of making it to the Mexican border before the net closed in.

It was midnight, now, and Janey Haskell was coming home from her date with Sid Carpenter.

She felt sleepy, because of the loving, and she felt a little depressed. Also bored, but that was nothing new for Janey. The evening had been just like all the other evenings in Janey’s recent life.

Nothing excited her any more. She had done everything she could, in this town, and that was a pretty sad commentary on the state of her existence as her twentieth birthday approached.

The car pulled up in front of the Y. That was where Janey lived, now that her parents were dead. Sid pulled up the handbrake and gave her a sheepish grin. He was always a little embarrassed after he had made her. As though he had done something wrong.

“Well,” he said, “I guess it’s time for us to say good night.”

“I guess so, Sid.”

“It was a swell evening, Janey.”

“You bet it was.”

“See you tomorrow night?”

“Let’s make it the night after, okay?”

“Whatever you say, Janey. Well — good night now, Janey. And thanks for a swell evening.”

“Good night, Sid.”

He pulled her close to him and gave her a kiss. That was nowhere near as passionate as the kiss with which he had greeted her, a few hours before, but that was only to be expected. After all, he had made out with her in those few hours, and some of the spark of life goes out of a man for a while after he gets what he wants.

So instead of getting excited and squeezing her breasts while he kissed her, Carpenter was content this time just to press his lips against hers for a brief, cool contact.

“Good night,” he said again.

“Good night,” Janey said.

She got out of the car and walked briskly into the YWCA building — a squat, four-story brick structure that had been built seventy years ago, and which was the closest thing to a hotel in town, except for the motel, and that was a short distance out of town anyway.

Janey had a single room up on the top floor. About twenty women lived in the building. Janey was the youngest. The next youngest was three years older than she was, and from there the curve went way up. Most of the Y residents were women in their fifties and sixties, single women who didn’t have any other place to live in this town — Miss Barton, the county librarian, and Miss Grace, the principal of the little school, and Miss Hawkes, the secretary to the bank president, and other gray-haired dames.

A few months ago there had been one other girl close to Janey’s age living in the Y. Janey wouldn’t forget her for a long, long time.

Claudine.

Claudine had been only two years older than Janey — a short, slender girl with silky golden hair and wide blue eyes and an open, friendly smile. Claudine had been born in this town, but she hadn’t been raised there; she had grown up in San Francisco and now she was studying in the university out there. She had come back to Nero to do some kind of sociological study of the town, and she had taken a room in the YWCA while she was there. Her room had been right next door to Janey’s.

Claudine looked wonderfully innocent, pure, virginal in her blue-eyed blondeness.

She wasn’t.

She was a devil with an angel’s face, and she had taught Janey some of her deviltry, and then she had finished taking her notes and had packed her bags and gone back to San Francisco, leaving Janey forever changed by what had happened between them.

It was too bad that Claudine had gone away. Too bad, too, that Janey hadn’t had the courage to follow her to San Francisco. Claudine had even suggested that.

“You could live with me,” she said. “I need a new roommate anyway.”

“No,” Janey had said. “Thanks, but no.”

She had been afraid to go — afraid to uproot herself, afraid to settle in a big city like San Francisco, afraid that after a few months Claudine would grow tired of her and break off their relationship. So Janey had stayed behind in Nero, Missouri, pop. 1150, full of longings and frustrations, paralyzed by boredom, consumed by the desire to get far away from this town, to go — anywhere.

Janey let herself into her drab little room and began to get undressed.

Although it was late at night, Janey decided that she would take a shower. She always like to take a shower after she had loved. She was fastidious that way. Loving made her feel sticky and sweaty, and before she got into bed she liked to clean herself up.

She stripped quickly. She eyed herself in the cracked, tarnished mirror that hung over the battered old dresser. She liked what she saw.

Big round breasts, deep-set and firm, with a dark line between them marking the valley. Firm mid-section, too. Wide hips. Long legs.

She touched her breasts, gripping them affectionately with her fingertips, letting the nipples peep out past her fingers like little red blind eyes. A waste, she thought. All this good flesh going to waste in this hick town. Maybe they’re right. Maybe I ought to try my luck in Hollywood after all, despite the odds.

But — no.

She was irritated with herself because she couldn’t find the courage to get out of Nero. It was stupid to spend all her time angry and frustrated at being here, when all she had to do was get up and go. But getting up and going was a big step, and she held back from it.

Janey shrugged. She picked up a towel and draped it over her arm.

Naked, she walked out of her room and down the hallway toward the shower at the end of the floor.

Janey always walked naked to the shower. There were only two other women living up here on this floor, and they didn’t give a damn about Janey’s immodesty. And Janey took a kind of pleasure in doing something uninhibited and free, like walking around naked. Even if it was only in the Y, where there were just two old women to see her body.

But that was how the affair with Claudine had started, Janey remembered.

It had been just this way — Janey walking down the hall naked toward the shower, a bar of soap in one hand and a towel dangling over her wrist. And a door had opened — the door of Claudine’s room, which was empty now — and Claudine had stepped out into the hall.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Claudine.”

Janey’s face blazed with embarrassment. Somehow she didn’t feel so brazen in front of a complete stranger, and to be caught naked like this was a little awkward. But she tried to be casual about that.

She stopped, with her breasts and middle and everything showing, and didn’t even try to cover part of herself with the towel. She smiled at the new girl, who was blonde and short and cute, and who wasn’t wearing much herself, just a little shortie house coat that stopped way above her knees. The house coat was half open in front. Janey could see everything — pink-tipped breasts, and the deep socket of Claudine’s navel, and the upper half of her tummy.

“I heard somebody moved in,” Janey said. “Welcome to our mansion. I’m Janey Haskell.”

“Want to stop in for a drink?”

“I was just on my way to take a shower.”

“Come have a drink first,” Claudine prodded. “Let’s get acquainted.”

Janey wasn’t accustomed to socializing in the nude. But if Claudine didn’t mind the unconventional aspects of the meeting, why should Janey?

She went into the room.

Claudine closed the door. She said, “Would that make you more comfortable if I took my house coat off?”

“Well, I don’t really — ”

“You look a little uneasy,” Claudine said. “This ought to balance things out a little.”

She slipped her coat off. Now she was nude. Even nuder than Janey, as a matter of fact, because Janey still had a towel over one arm. But she took that off quickly, and put that down, with her soap on top.

The nude girls faced each other.

Janey saw Claudine’s eyes rove her body, breasts, legs, hips, buttocks, everything. Janey looked Claudine over, too. The blonde girl was short and compact, petite, but her breasts were out of proportion to the smallness of her frame — not as big as Janey’s, but plenty big for a girl who didn’t stand much more than about five-feet-two. Big round pink globes of flesh.

And the nipples were standing tall, as though Claudine was excited by seeing Janey naked.

Claudine said, “I can’t offer you much in the way of drinks, I don’t have any hard whiskey, but I’ve got a few liqueurs. Would you like some Kahlua?”

“What’s that?”

“A coffee liqueur. It comes from Mexico.”

“Fine,” Janey said.

They had a drink, then. The liqueur was smooth and sweet, and went down easily. It tasted like coffee, but the effect wasn’t the same. After a couple of sips, Janey stopped feeling that there was anything strange about the two of them being together in the nude.

Claudine did most of the talking. She told Janey how she had left Missouri when she was three, growing up in California. She talked about college life, and about the thesis she was writing.

Janey didn’t understand too much of that. Janey was shrewd, but she wasn’t particularly well educated, even though she had finished high school. High school out here didn’t teach you too much.

“Another drink?” Claudine asked.

“I guess so.”

“You’ve got a lovely body,” Claudine said softly, as she poured the drinks.

Janey flushed. She wasn’t used to getting that sort of compliments from other girls.

“Thank you,” she said. “You do too.”

“I love your breasts,” Claudine murmured. “They’re so perfect —- so big, and yet they don’t droop or sag or hang at all. You’ve got a very unusual bosom, do you know that, Janey? Really remarkable.”

Janey was flustered by all this intimate talk and by the close scrutiny her nude body was getting. She put her glass to her lips and drank quickly to cover her confusion and her embarrassment.

Claudine moved very close to her.

The next thing Janey realized was that Claudine had her hands fastened on Janey’s breasts, and her breath was warm against Janey’s cheeks as she moved closer, and Claudine was whispering eager, passionate words of love.

“No,” Janey said, confused. “This isn’t right. We shouldn’t —

“Please,” Claudine murmured. “You’re so wonderfully beautiful, Janey. You can’t imagine how deeply in love with you I’ve fallen.”

Feminine hands stroked Janey’s jutting breasts. A feminine body pressed close against Janey’s body. Feminine lips, soft and warm, covered hers, and Claudine’s kiss was deep.

And then —

NO, Janey thought. I mustn’t keep going over and over that in my mind. That’s dead and done with. Claudine’s back in San Francisco.

She felt sweat burst out all over her as the memory of her first Lesbian experience surged through her brain for the millionth time. Breasts against breasts, bodies meeting, hands prying, soft lips touching her with a kiss of fire —

Janey trembled.

The affair with Claudine had been brief but intense and violent. That had been Janey’s secret. None of the dull, dreary, conventional people of the town even remotely suspected what had been going on between Janey and Claudine on the top floor of the YWCA.

Janey stepped into the bathroom and switched on the light. She hung up her towel.

She got under the shower and turned the water on. Hard bristles of spray cascaded down against her.

Claudine, I miss you, she thought longingly. I should have gone back to San Francisco with you, But I muffed my chance.

Will I ever get another one?

Janey didn’t know. The way it was starting to look, she was condemned to spend the rest of the nights of her life the way she had spent this one—getting loved by Sid Carpenter or somebody else just like him.

She soaped her breasts. She let the water flow down over her, and tried to get Claudine out of her mind, tried not to think of those nights of forbidden love.

But it was hard to banish Claudine from her mind completely. Those tender kisses, those artful caresses, the meeting of body and female body—all that was hard to forget. The memory glowed in Janey’s brain.

Claudine, she thought. Claudine!

CHAPTER THREE

SPARKMAN HUNCHED DOWN BEHIND THE WHEEL of the powerful Oldsmobile, and kept his foot on the gas, and sent the car surging ahead for mile after mile after mile. Des Moines retreated in the background and disappeared, and still Sparkman headed south, putting the distance between himself and the naked form of Joe Garrett.

Garrett would think a while before he picked up any more hitchhikers, that was for sure.

About four in the morning Sparkman stopped for gas. He didn’t like to do it, because there weren’t many travelers at this hour and he was inviting attention. But he couldn’t help it. The tank was low, and that was all there was to it. He’d have to take the risks.

All-night gas stations were hard to find around here. When Sparkman saw a station with the lights on, he pulled in. The service attendant was inside, and he didn’t come out for a couple of moments, but Sparkman didn’t honk the horn or display any other signs of irritation that might brand him in the man’s memory.

He came out, finally, lean and lanky, looking sleepy and bored.

“Evening,” he said.

“Fill it up with regular,” Sparkman said automatically. That was what he usually used in his own cars.

It drew him a puzzled look from the attendant. “You sure you don’t mean premium?”

“Sure,” Sparkman said, cursing himself. “Did I say regular? Must be getting sleepy.”

The attendant went to work on the car. To keep him from getting a chance to study Sparkman’s face, he got out and went into the station, used the men’s room, looked at the rack of road maps and picked out those that were likely to help him on his way down to Mexico. When he came out, the gas station attendant was racking up the nozzle.

“That’ll be five-eighty,” he said.

Sparkman handed him Joe Garrett’s credit card and got back behind the wheel. He put the maps in the glove compartment and waited for the charge to be recorded. Damn nice of you to buy me all that gas, Joe, he thought pleasantly.

“Here you are sir, check the oil and water?”

“Don’t bother,” Sparkman drawled. He scribbled a signature on the charge form, took Garrett’s credit card back and pocketed it, and started the car. The attendant nodded to him, and Sparkman zoomed off into the night with enough gas to take him another three hundred miles or so.

In the early hours of the morning, with pink splotches of dawn streaking the sky to his left, Sparkman crossed the Iowa-Missouri border.

He was dead tired from stem to stern. He had been awake for close to thirty hours on end, now, and Sparkman knew that that was a risky way to do things. The more frayed his nerves got, the greater the chance was of making a mistake. He had already made one mistake lately, back in Gorman when he let himself get caught knocking over that store, and it had nearly finished him.

He knew that he might not necessarily have the same good luck the next time he goofed.

Almost anything could mess him up. All he had to do was get into a tiny auto accident, anything that would bring a cop to the scene, and he’d have to present his identification and he’d be in trouble.

Time to get off the road, Sparkman thought.

He knew what he had to do before he could consider himself even a little bit safe. Garrett would no doubt report the theft of his car as soon as he came to and managed to cover his nakedness, and at the same time the Gorman people would definitely check the post office posters, once they found that their prisoner had flown the coop. It wouldn’t take much brain power for them to come to the conclusion that the wanted criminal Val Sparkman had indeed passed their way and had been briefly in their clutches.

So there might be a ten- or twelve-state alarm out for him by mid-morning.

Ditching the car, Sparkman figured, wouldn’t accomplish anything much. He would only have to get another one somewhere, and that would mean taking more risks. The best thing was to keep this car, even though Garrett would have given the cops a description. Sparkman would simply have to find some local hot-rod specialist garage who would change the colors for him.

That would be delicate. The first thing they would suspect was that he was camouflaging a stolen car. So it would call for some finesse to keep the garage boys from tipping off the fuzz.

The license plates would have to go too, naturally. If he went driving around in Oklahoma or Texas with a set of Wisconsin plates, they’d stick out like bright beacons. But that could be coped with. All it took was some fast work with a screwdriver. Switching plates with somebody would be okay. No, not switching, Sparkman corrected. That would be a damn fool thing to do. Just taking. He had to avoid leaving traces of his presence, and it would be a big loud advertisement if he stuck Joe Garrett’s plates on somebody else’s car and took off with the other plates.

The sun was coming up, now. Sparkman was wearing a two-day growth of beard, and he felt unwashed and sweaty, a real wreck. He was hungry, too. They hadn’t given him any dinner in the jail last night. He’d been going along on sheer nerves since sundown. Time to change that. Far behind him, a commotion was probably being made in Gorman at the discovery that there had been a jailbreak, and a confused beer salesman was waking up stark naked in Farmer Brown’s cornfield and wondering what the hell happened to his car.

Sparkman slowed down. He was coming to a town, he discovered.

A sign proudly proclaimed that the name of the town was Nero, Missouri, population 1150. This was as good a place to stop as any, the weary Sparkman decided. He just had to remember not to let himself get overconfident; the last small town he had stopped in, after all, had put him in jail.

He parked the car in front of a seedy-looking diner that was open for breakfast business. He didn’t worry much about the Wisconsin plates. It was too soon for the alarm to have gone out, and in any event the sight of his plates wouldn’t be occasion to cause any stir in Nero. Wisconsin plates and two-toned Oldsmobiles weren’t likely to attract attention here.

He entered the diner.

At half past seven in the morning, which was what the time happened to be, the only customers in the place were three or four all-night truck drivers hunched over their cups of coffee. They didn’t look at Sparkman. He took a table near the back.

The waitress, a scrawny flat-chested blonde, came slouching over to take his order. She seemed completely indifferent to him — he was just one more all-night traveler, that was all.

“What’s yours?” she asked.

Sparkman shrugged. “Scrambled eggs and coffee.”

“Toast?”

“Why not,” he said.

She disappeared into the kitchen to tell the cook, or maybe to cook the order herself, for all Sparkman knew. He stared at her retreating buttocks, and found himself picturing what she’d look like without the starchy uniform. Not much, he decided. Not enough flesh on her bones. Her rump probably looked like a boy’s. Her front too, for that matter, Sparkman thought.

Still, she was the first woman he had seen in a day and a half. She put thoughts in his mind.

Thoughts of love.

Not with her, naturally. She wasn’t his type. He liked a woman with some meat on her. But surely there was some action to be had somewhere around here, and he’d try to get some before he left town. A woman would relax him right now, would put him in shape for the long grind behind the wheel all the way down to Mexico.

Sparkman didn’t worry about being faithful to Cindy, or anything like that. He wasn’t married to her. She didn’t expect him to live like a monk while they were separated. And he was pretty well damned sure that she was getting plenty of action for herself down in Juarez while she waited for him to show up.

Cindy…

Sparkman closed his tired, throbbing eyes, and instantly the image of Cindy burst into glowing life against the screen of his eyelids. She was naked, her breasts heaving, nipples hard and tall. Body gleaming in the bright light as she reached for him, lips parting.

“Here’s your eggs,” the waitress said.

Sparkman was jolted out of his dreamy half doze. He blinked his eyes open and reached for his coffee.

The coffee was miserable, the scrambled eggs were greasy, and the toast was so cold it might just as well have been toasted the night before. Sparkman didn’t care. Food was food, and he hadn’t eaten in a long time.

He wolfed his breakfast down, paid his check, and left the diner, making sure that his tip was neither oversized nor undersized. The important thing to remember, he knew, was to avoid calling any unnecessary attention to himself on his way south. He had to be a gray, shadowy figure, leaving no imprint on other people’s memories. That way, he could slip through any kind of net.

He stepped outside into the sunlight. The town of Nero was slowly coming awake. It looked like any other town of its size — a straggly street with a few shops, a newsstand, a post office, a filling station or two. Houses set back a way, stretching out along the highway.

Sparkman strolled down the single main street, feeling more sure of himself now that he had a meal inside him. He sauntered along, in no hurry to get on the road. What he wanted now was a place to sack out for a while — and some bed action, besides.

He stopped in front of a store window and caught sight of his own reflection. He didn’t like what he saw, not at all. The face was too stubbly, the hair long and unkempt. He looked like a wild man. People would remember a face like that, Sparkman figured.

A sign across the street caught his eye — the familiar striped pole of a barber shop. Were they open yet? He could get himself fixed up so he looked a little more civilized. He went across to it.

The shop was open.

“Come in, come in!” the barber called. “Got a seat just waiting for you, friend!”

Sparkman smiled and entered. He settled down in the chair and the barber flung a cloth over him. It was an old-fashioned looking shop, not very clean. The barber, who was the only person in the place, was an old gaffer of sixty or sixty-five, probably full of talk.

“Leave the mustache alone,” Sparkman instructed him. “Give me a shave and a haircut. Come to think of it, make it a crew haircut. The weather’s getting kind of warm. Time to cut that mop off.”

The mustache would help, Sparkman thought. He had not worn one in years. And the close-cropped hair — not his style at all. Cindy would be surprised when he showed up in Mexico with a bristletop hairdo. But it would grow in, sooner or later. And getting it would change his appearance just enough to foul the trail a bit. Every little gimmick helped in its own way.

The barber began to slash and snip away. After a minute or so he said, “What brings you to town, stranger?”

Sparkman was ready for the inevitable question when it came. “Traveling man,” he said curtly. “Been over in St. Louis a while, and now I’m heading out toward Kansas City a bit.”

“Old K.C., hey?” The old man chuckled. “Knew a man from there once. Charlie Gardiner, his name was. Charlie Gardiner. Taught school there a while, must have been a few years back. You know him?”

“Afraid I don’t.”

“Too bad you didn’t. This Charlie Gardiner, he was one hell of a guy, let me tell you. He — ”

And so on, for twenty minutes, while the scissors snipped away. Sparkman listened, making polite noises from time to time to keep the conversation alive. The barber had lost all interest in Sparkman and was concerned now with unraveling his memories of 1920 and thereabouts, which was absolutely okay with Sparkman.

Finally the job was done. Sparkman confronted himself with a mirror and had a little trouble recognizing his own face. His hair cut short gave him a military look and took a few years off his appearance. The mustache was already beginning to thicken on his upper lip. In another two or three days it would be fully grown in — but by then he wouldn’t need to worry about such things, he hoped.

He paid his bill — a haircut was eighty cents out here — and started to leave.

“Come again, young man!”

“Next time I’m in town, for sure,” Sparkman promised solemnly.

He returned to the car and started it up. He drove southward out of Nero, leaving the town behind in about ninety seconds. As he came to the outskirts, he searched for some sign of a motel. At last, when he had driven about eight miles, he came to a billboard.

He discovered that the motel was somewhere behind him. He must have driven right past it. It was a sign that he ought to get some shut-eye fast.

Backing off the road, Sparkman cut around and headed back toward Nero, driving slowly and watching both sides of the highway. When he was within a mile and a half of the southern end of town, he saw another billboard advertising the motel, and soon he came to it.

It was on the southbound side of the road, but set back some twenty yards from the highway. It was nothing fancy, just a cluster of little wooden cabins that could stand a fresh paint job, but Sparkman wasn’t going to insist on the Waldorf-Astoria just now.

He cut across the road and pulled up in front of the motel office. A clock out front told him that it was ten minutes to nine. He went in.

A fat woman in a kind of kimono smiled at him as he entered the office. She was about thirty-five, Sparkman figured, and she might have been pretty with about thirty-five pounds of weight taken off. As it was, she just looked sloppy — but she looked a damned sight better to him than the skinny blonde waitress in that diner.

He looked at her. She looked back at him. And suddenly there was something electric in the air, an atmosphere of lust, on both sides of the desk. Sparkman knew the story right away. This must be a family type motel, the wife running it by day, the husband by night. Hubby was off snoozing somewhere, and the wife was sitting here bored stiff, waiting for a little excitement.

Excitement which Sparkman would be happy to provide. Free of charge.

He leaned forward over the desk. Her kimono was partly open at the throat and Sparkman could see the deep crease between the heavy globes of her breasts. He couldn’t see too far below her neckline, but he began to suspect that she wasn’t wearing a bra. That might explain why she looked so fat and sloppy, he thought. That would also tend to make things a whole lot quicker and easier for him.

“Hi there,” she said.

Sparkman nodded. “I’ve been driving all night,” he said. “Got a nice quiet room for me where I could sack out for a while?”

She flicked a quick, probing glance at him. Sizing him up for bed, he thought.

She said, “Got loads of rooms here, mister. You want a seven-buck room, an eight, or a nine?”

“Let’s have the eight.”

“Come on with me and I’ll show you where.” She led him to a cabin in the back of the grounds and pushed the door open. The room was no great shakes, but it had a bed and a shower and that was all that he needed right now.

“Okay?” she said.

“Swell.”

“Come on and register, then.”

He followed her back to the office and signed the card. He registered as Stan Bartlett, of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Figuring that he would be stopping at a motel, he had memorized the car’s license number, and now he transposed the last two numbers on his license plate as well as altering the first letter.

The proprietress filed the card away without looking at it, and Sparkman handed over eight dollars in cash.

“I’ll probably be leaving around sundown,” he said.

“Like to drive at night, do you?”

“Cooler that way,” Sparkman said. “Heck, it must be in the nineties already, and it’s only around nine o’clock in the morning.”

“The temperature’s eighty-eight, mister,” she informed him gravely. “Says so right there on the thermometer. But it’ll be a hundred by lunch time. It hit a hundred and three yesterday at noon. You’re smart to drive at night. The temperature falls awful fast once the sun goes down.”

“Sure does,” Sparkman said. He wondered if he ought to make a play for her now.

She saved him the trouble. She said, “I forgot to put fresh towels in your room. You run along back, and I’ll bring them over.”

Sparkman had seen fresh towels hanging on the rack in the bathroom when he had looked at the room. So she was only looking for an excuse, then. Fine. They were thinking along the same lines.

He went back to the room, let himself in, and didn’t bother to lock the door. He peeled off his sweaty shirt and stripped down his trousers. He was wearing nothing but a pair of tight white briefs when the motel proprietress opened the door without knocking.

She looked his muscular body over from head to toe. Then, as though she saw nothing unusual about walking in on him in his underwear, she said, “I brought you your towels.”

“Thanks,” Sparkman said. “Put ’em down on the chair.”

She dropped the towels and looked expectantly at him.

“Now come here,” Sparkman told her.

She moved toward him, grinning. He reached out for her and a moment later his mouth was clamped over hers, hard, and her lips were soft and he felt the sudden passion of her kiss.

He stuck his hand under the front of her kimono. Nothing but warm flesh there, full and exciting. No bra, just as he had expected. He slid the hand lower, and she was bare there, too. She jerked her lips away from his to gasp with hoarse wheezing excitement.

“You always skip underwear?” he asked.

“In this weather, why not?” she said.

He pulled the kimono off her. She was stark naked. She wasn’t exactly the most beautiful woman he had ever had, with her heavy buttocks and chunky hips. But she would do. Her breasts were enormous, but they didn’t sag anywhere near as much as they might be expected to, considering their great size.

Sweat oiled her body. Her nipples, which were set in huge aureoles, were standing up like telephone poles. She was breathing hard.

He pulled his briefs off.

Then he tugged her down to the bed.

CHAPTER FOUR

SHE WAS VERY, VERY COOPERATIVE, as though that had been a long time since anybody had given her a proper loving. The moment they landed on the mattress he felt the soft flesh of her tightly against him.

Grabbing her breasts, he kneaded them until she began to pant wildly. She ran her hands through the hair on his chest. Her eyes gleamed. She wanted a man, that was for sure, this big fleshy broad. She had just been sitting there in that office waiting for somebody to come along and give her a tumble, obviously.

Their arms clasped and unclasped. Then she put her mouth to him and her hands clutched at him while her head moved.

“Okay,” Sparkman said. “That’s enough of that.”

She raised her head. Her eyes were little slits of lust. Her plump cheeks were flushed. She looked half crazy, Sparkman thought.

He pushed her away from him.

Then he took her.

Her arms shot out instantly and wrapped themselves around him, her nails digging at his back. He touched her and found her ready to go, and with a single move he possessed her.

“That’s good,” she whispered hoarsely. “Go on, all the way! Everything!”

Sparkman put his arms around her, his hands on the soft, almost flabby flesh of her buttocks, and began.

The bed complained bitterly about the treatment that was getting. Sparkman wouldn’t have been at all surprised if the legs had caved in altogether under the pressure of their combined weights. He weighed a shade under two hundred pounds, and he figured that she was a good one-sixty, at the very least. That was a lot of weight for those springs to bear, especially the way they were both thrashing around. But the bed held.

Sparkman worked at the big soft body again and again. She loved that.

“Harder!” she yelled. More, lover-man! Go on!”

He felt the big jiggling breasts against him, the nipples hard as rock. Sweat made their bodies slippery. They grappled like wrestlers, twisting on the bed, and the heavy-fleshed woman gripped him tight as though she wanted to devour him.

“Here I am!” she gasped. She threw her head back, closed her eyes, and shrieked, a curiously thin, high-pitched sound to be produced by such a big woman.

Sparkman relaxed and let the tide of pleasure go ripping over him.

When that was all over, he lay there in semi-exhaustion. He put his hand on one of her breasts and gave her a squeeze. He had long fingers, but he had to stretch them wide apart to get a good grip on that gigantic boob.

A few minutes went by.

Then she said, “I better get out of here before you fall asleep. I got to tend the shop.”

“Okay,” he said. He rolled to one side. Out of slitted eyes he looked her over. No glamour girl, certainly, not with all that flab on her. But not bad looking, either. And a good one. He was grateful to her.

She winked to him. “You were just what I needed right then,” she said.

He watched her pulling her kimono on over her sweat-streaked fleshy body. When her breasts and buttocks were covered, Sparkman lost interest in her.

“Sleep well,” she said.

She went out. He smiled and dosed his eyes, and almost immediately sleep took him.

When he awoke, it was five in the afternoon, and he felt tremendously refreshed. He took a shower and got back into his clothes. The room smelled sweaty.

He went back up front, half expecting to find the fat woman’s husband on duty in the office. But no, she was still there. She had put some clothes on, now, instead of the kimono, and with a brassiere and a corset on she looked a whole lot less sloppy.

He winked at her. But there was someone else in the office, a lean white-haired old man, and she didn’t wink back. She said, “You have a good sleep?”

“Terrific,” Sparkman said. “Guess I’ll be pulling out now.”

“We’ll be sorry to lose you.”

“Yeah,” he said, giving her jutting breasts an appreciative glance. “I’ll be sorry to go. But I can’t settle down here. Where’s a good place to snag some supper around these parts, you know?”

“Down the road a stretch, ’bout five hundred yards, on the left.”

“Back toward town, you mean?”

“That’s right. You won’t miss it. There’s a big neon sign out front. You get a pretty good steak there.”

“Thanks,” Sparkman said.

The plump woman gave him a smile. “Don’t mention it. Stop again, you hear?”

“I sure will,” Sparkman said, eyeing the lush rounds of her breasts, the jutting breadth of her hips, remembering that wild, slightly fantastic session in his motel cabin that morning. “You can count on that. Next time I travel this way, I’ll know where to stay.”

He went out.

He realized that he didn’t even know what her name was. But he wasn’t going to forget the shape of her body in any hurry.

It was getting toward the end of Janey’s working day, and she was glad of it. After you had slung hash for eight hours plus, you were glad to get a change of scenery.

Janey didn’t know what she’d do after she finished work tonight. Maybe nothing at all. A couple of guys had bothered her for dates, but she didn’t feel like going through the old routine for the millionth time. Onto the back seat, fool around, get to the business — no.

That made her yawn.

That was a hell of a situation, Janey figured, when love made her yawn. She had never dreamed, back when she was a thirteen-year-old swinger just beginning to discover the tricks her body could do, that within six years she’d be bored as hell with love.

But that wasn’t true, Janey knew.

It wasn’t love that bored her. She could still get turned on, even by Sid Carpenter, even by the other idiots that inhabited this town. The old magic wasn’t gone. Let them touch her bare breasts, let them get their hands on her, and she’d be ready to go right away, gasping and panting and eager. So love wasn’t to blame. It was the guys she knew that bored her. All those cut-from-a-cookie-mold small town guys.

Now, if someone interesting would come along —

Janey wasn’t necessarily hungering for a Lesbian relationship. It so happened that Claudine was the most interesting person she had ever gone to bed with, and that Claudine had happened to be female. But Janey would have been just as glad to see a really interesting man arrive on the scene and sweep her off her feet.

As she went through her table-waiting chores, Janey thought of Claudine.

Her mind kept going back to that first wonderful time, there on the top floor of the YWCA, the day that she had gone traipsing down the corridor in the nude to take a shower, and Claudine had met her and had invited her into her room for a couple of drinks.

Janey remembered the Kahlua sliding down her throat so easily, so smoothly.

The pleasant warm sensation of having had a little too much to drink.

And then Claudine’s compact, pink-skinned body against hers. Claudine kissing her breasts, caressing them, touching the tips of them with her lips, tormenting the suddenly desire-hardened nipples.

Claudine pushing her gently down onto the bed.

Claudine saying, “I want to kiss you, darling.” And then not kissing her on the lips, as Janey had expected, but kissing her somewhere else, the most fantastic kiss Janey had every experienced in her life.

Claudine’s cheeks cool and smooth against Janey. Claudine’s mouth finding the most sensitive places on Janey’s body, caressing, exciting her.

And then, spurred by an inner compulsion, Janey moving around so she could put her kiss to Claudine the way Claudine was doing for her. The two of them, kissing that way, buttocks taut, breasts heaving, nipples aching.

Strange ecstasies coursing through her bodies.

The two of them, both naked, the brown-haired tall girl and the blonde-haired short one, touching their heavy globular breasts together, moving their bodies together, arms intertwining, muscles tensing —

And then Claudine with her, pressing close the way a man might, pleasing Janey’s nude form with her own lush bareness, sending Janey surging upward toward a dazzling blaze of passion —

Janey had never thought that one woman could give another woman such pleasure. She had always thought that love could have no meaning unless that was between a man and a woman. That wasn’t true.

This was real. This was true. This was unforgettable in its intensity.

And afterward, when that was over, when the gale of passion had swept over them both, they lay still, naked in each other’s arms, and Claudine reached her head forward and kissed the tips of Janey’s firm breasts, first the right nipple and then the left one, and whispered gently, “You’ll never forget this moment, darling.”

Even now, months later, she relived that over and over again. Claudine was gone, back to San Francisco, back to her sophisticated bed partners, her coterie of Lesbian girl friends, and Janey was here, stuck in a mudhole of a town. She didn’t even get post cards from Claudine. She had missed her chance, not going back with Claudine, and now it was too late, because Claudine was probably caught up in the gay whirl of San Francisco Lesbian life and didn’t have any need for Janey any more. Janey had been just an amusement for her, just someone with whom to pass the time while she did her college research in dreary old Nero.

Janey could imagine Claudine now, at some orgy near the Golden Gate, lying in a room with four or five other girls, all of them naked, all of them beautiful. Lying in a big circle, maybe, each one kissing the next girl.

And Claudine saying, “I met the most fascinating girl while I was doing my research in Missouri recently. Terribly naive and unsophisticated, of course. A mere waitress with no education. But such lovely breasts. And so eager to be taught our ways of love. That would have been fun if she’d come back West with me. Not that she was our type of person, of course, but such a marvelous body —”

And one of the other girls would say, “Hey, snap out of it, Janey. You daydreaming or something? We got better things to do!”

The reverie shattered. Janey realized that she was standing near the kitchen door, polishing a plate over and over again while her mind relived the ecstasy of her all-too-brief Lesbian fling.

Her nipples were aching. They ached within her brassiere. She had grown excited just thinking about such things.

And now it was back to dull reality.

Back to slinging hash — and afterward, back to dull boys in parked automobiles.

Janey walked out into the restaurant. There was a man sitting near the door, a stranger. She looked at him. He seemed hard and tough, with a lean, muscular body and a face to match. Crew cut, a new mustache, thin lips, flat, cold eyes. He was a little frightening.

But she knew him from somewhere.

How could that be? She knew everybody in town, and he certainly wasn’t from around here. Even so, the face looked familiar. She knew that she had seen that face, or a face much like it, somewhere recently.

Very recently.

Where, though? Janey searched through her memory as she walked toward him. This morning, she thought. The picture in the newspaper?

No. No, it couldn’t be.

But — yes! Yes, it was the same one!

Suddenly a torrent of excitement went flooding through Janey. Fear and confusion and doubt and lust were all mixed up in it. Plenty of the last. Plenty of lust.

She wondered if she would have the nerve to do what she was suddenly tempted to do.

The restaurant was just about where the motel woman had said it would be, and the garish neon sign flashed out big and clear, spreading the word, STEAKS CHOPS BEER WINE LIQUOR. Sparkman pulled in, parked, went inside.

It was an undistinguished roadhouse, one of a million just like it scattered all over the length and breadth of the countryside. A few tables, a grill, a bar, a juke box, which didn’t happen to be playing anything right now. Just as well.

Sparkman sat down. A few minutes passed, and nothing happened. Then a waitress appeared, a startlingly pretty girl of eighteen or nineteen. Her eyes seemed to widen a bit as she emerged from the back room. Was she surprised to see a customer, he wondered?

“Good evening,” she said, “hungry tonight?”

“You bet I am,” Sparkman said.

He liked the sound of her voice, soft and husky and sultry. He liked the shape of her, too. But he was puzzled by the way she kept staring at him.

She gave him the menu. There wasn’t much choice — steak, hamburger, chicken in the basket, two or three other things along the same general lines. Sparkman ordered steak and French fries.

“Make the steak rare,” he said.

“Yes, sir. Will there be something to drink with that? A cocktail? A glass of beer?”

“No,” Sparkman said. “I’ve got a lot of driving ahead of me tonight.”

She smiled, nodded, shot him another close look. Then she went in back to place the order. Sparkman watched the provocative twitching of her buttocks against the rear of her uniform. The uniform was tight, and he imagined he could see the lines of her panties.

A nice little butt, he thought. She probably used that, too. Gave all the local boys a good time. What else was there for a pretty girl to do in this town?

He amused himself by mentally stripping away the uniform from her and eyeing the smooth pink rear. Then he turned her around, still in imagination, and inspected her bare breasts. Were they as big as they seemed to be when she was dressed? Probably not. She probably had them padded, or was wearing some kind of trick brassiere. She was a tall girl, and Sparkman’s experience told him that most tall, willowy girls didn’t really have such big breasts, and usually padded them out.

The food arrived.

The steak was rare, just as he ordered. That was about the only thing that could be said in its favor. It was a tough, stringy piece of meat. And the French fries were greasy and limp. But what did you want for three bucks, anyway? Sparkman was accustomed to the fact that once you got outside the big cities you just didn’t eat well.

He was hungry, though, and he forced himself to overlook the shortcomings of the meal. He figured he’d drive twelve or thirteen hours at a clip before stopping again, and he’d, need nourishment under his belt for that.

There were a couple of other diners in the restaurant, but none of them paid any attention to Sparkman. No one looked at him except the pretty waitress. Sparkman caught her staring at him a couple of times.

He felt uncomfortable about that. What did she want? Did she just have a yen for him? Or did she recognize him, maybe? Was there an alarm out already?

No, he thought. That couldn’t be it. She was just curious. Interesting stranger in town, so she gave him the eye, that was all there was to it.

Halfway through his dessert, a new waitress came on duty, the night girl, a fat, horsey-looking one with nostrils big enough to plug half dollars into. The other one, the pretty brown-haired one, went in back, probably to change out of her uniform and go home for the night.

Sparkman still wondered why she had found him so interesting. Just a dumb kid, he thought. A hick town glamour queen. His stomach roiled.

Time to get on the road, he thought tensely. I’ve been in this town long enough.

“Will you get me my check?” he asked the new waitress.

She brought it, sloppily wiggling her hips as she slouched across the room. She might even have been the kid sister of the fat witch in the motel office, Sparkman thought. Same chunky build, same heavy breasts, same lazy slouch, although this girl was a lot uglier than the one that Sparkman had had some hours back.

He left a medium-sized tip, paid his check, and went outside. He walked quickly toward his car, thinking that this was the night to get himself a new pair of license plates. He was too far south for comfort, a long way from Wisconsin. Down here, those Wisconsin plates were conspicuous, and they’d get more and more conspicuous as he headed across the state.

And by now the pickup order had probably gone out all over the Middle West. They’d be looking for the two-tone Oldsmobile with Wisconsin plates. In another day or so, driving with those plates would be like driving with a Russian flag waving from his aerial.

He was near his car, now. And suddenly Sparkman’s throat went dry. The girl, the pretty waitress, was standing by the car, waiting for him.

Sparkman moistened his lips and stared at her. She was a good looker, all right. Light brown hair, pretty face, well built. She had a man’s shirt on, buttoned tight over the full thrust of her breasts, and she wore a short skirt. Nice ankles. Nice legs. Probably nice all the way up. He imagined a nice pair of upper legs, a nice waist, nice soft breasts for the weary head of a traveling man.

She was about nineteen or twenty, Sparkman decided, upping his first estimate a little bit. Pretty and interesting-looking.

But what the hell does she want with me? he wondered. He smiled tentatively at her.

She said in that low, husky voice, “You’re Val Sparkman, aren’t you?”

CHAPTER FIVE

THE SOUND OF HIS OWN NAME was like the blow of a billy club across the nose. Sparkman did his best to roll with the unexpected blow. He forced himself to remain calm as he said, “There must be some mistake here, miss. My name’s Stan Bartlett. I’ve never heard of this Val What’s-his-name fellow, sorry to say.”

Her dark eyes sparkled mischievously. Underneath the white tight shirt her breasts were rising and falling rapidly, giving away her state of excitement.

She said, “That’s pretty nice going, Mr. Sparkman. You’re real quick on the uptake. But I recognize you. Six feet one, thin lips, black hair, brown eyes — that’s you. Just like it says in the paper. You’ve started to grow a mustache lately, and you’ve had yourself a haircut, but you’re the same man, all right.”

Just like it says in the paper, she had said.

Sparkman felt a little dizzy. But he kept himself under control. She had spotted him, but she was only a broad, and from the looks of things a pretty warm broad. He had ways of handling her if she started trouble for him — he hoped.

He sucked his breath in deeply and said in a slow, unruffled voice, “That’s very interesting, miss. You know something, this is the third time in the last day and a half that I’ve been accused of being somebody else. What did this guy Sparkman do, anyway, rob a bank?”

The girl produced a folded newspaper clipping from her breast pocket and handed it to him.

“This was in the morning paper,” she said.

Sparkman looked it over coldly.

It was an AP dispatch. It said:

The town of Gorman, Iowa, unknowingly detained a wanted murderer last night on a Breaking and Entering charge. 36-year-old Val Sparkman, wanted in half a dozen states on charges ranging from murder to passing bad checks, broke out of the Gorman jail several hours after local police had picked him up on a charge of attempted robbery.

It was only after his escape that the Gorman authorities learned who their prisoner was. Sparkman is believed to be heading south, and he is not thought to be armed. A twelve-state dragnet is being organized. Motorists are urged to beware of hitchhikers.

They had published his picture, too, the front-face post office photo. It wasn’t exactly a flattering shot, but he had to admit it was a good likeness. It still was, even now that he had the crew cut and the beginnings of a mustache.

He weighed his options. He could try to bluff, or he could bash the girl in the jaw and make his escape, or he could admit the truth and see what kind of a gimmick she was trying to work by bracing him so boldly with his real identity. He decided to bluff.

He handed the clipping back to the girl, keeping his expression stony and unrevealing.

“So that’s the guy I’m supposed to be, huh? No wonder there’s such a fuss. Bad checks and murder too — quite a guy, this guy.”

“He’s you, Mr. Sparkman. And you’re him. You can stop pretending it isn’t so. Don’t worry. I won’t turn you in. I want to help you get away!”

Sparkman stared at her in astonishment for a moment.

She was very close to him, her eyes wide, her expression a sincere one.

“What did you say?” he asked. “Are you out of your head or something?”

“I don’t care what it is you’re supposed to have done,” she said in a low voice. “I want to help you get out of the country. Take me with you, won’t you please? I’ll do anything you want me to do. I mean that. Anything. Just let me go with you.”

For the first time, Sparkman recognized the look in her eyes for what it really was. It was hero worship. Hell, he thought, she’s in love with me!

And she wanted to run away with him. Wanted to be his accomplice as he made his escape from the country. Was she nuts, getting herself mixed up with a wanted murderer? And would he be nutty, too, to take her along?

She might be useful, though.

And more. With a single glance he mentally stripped away her clothes once more. He saw high, pink-tipped breasts, a flat middle, flaring hips, long, tapering legs.

Maybe that would work out, he thought. It was a wild thing for him to do, but — just maybe —

“Get in the car,” he said.

Her face lit up with a sudden radiant burst of joy. She scrambled into the car beside him. Sparkman started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot without saying a word. He got on the highway and drove slowly up the road toward the main part of town at about fifteen miles an hour.

After a moment he glanced at her and said, “What’s your name?”

“Janey Haskell.”

“And how old are you?”

“Nineteen. Nineteen and a half, really.”

“Are you crapping me or are you really that old? I don’t need any jailbait.”

“I can show you my birth certificate if you don’t trust me,” Janey said. “I’m going to be twenty in four months. I’m old enough.”

Sparkman nodded. “Old enough to have more sense than getting into cars with strange men, at any rate. What makes you so anxious to help this guy Sparkman, anyway?”

“Aren’t you — ”

“Just answer me. Why are you interested in helping this criminal escape?”

She shrugged, and out of the corner of his eye Sparkman saw the way the shrug lifted her breasts and thrust them excitingly forward against the taut-stretched fabric of her white shirt.

She said, “Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to spend all your life living in one small dumb Missouri town. You go to public school, to high school, and then you’re supposed to get married and raise a bunch of kids and start the cycle all over. But I’m different. I can’t go along with the standard bit. I’ve got dreams. I want to get out of this place, out where people are really alive.”

“You live with your parents?”

“No,” she said. “They’re both dead — died when I was just a kid. I’ve got a room at the Y in town. Nobody would miss me if I ran away with you. You came along, I mean, a regular bandit, somebody practically out of the movie shows, and here’s my chance. I recognized you right away. We need each other. You’re my ticket out of town. And I can be a lot of help to you, Mr. Sparkman.”

“Val’s the name,” he said.

“Then you are —!”

“Yeah, I’m Sparkman,” he admitted.

“I knew it. I knew it.”

Sparkman frowned, thinking it all over. Now that he had revealed his identity, he was committed, in a way, to taking the girl along.

But did it make any sense?

The girl was pretty, and she looked like she’d do anything for him, both on and off a bed. He wouldn’t mind banging her. Aside from the bulky female at the motel, Sparkman hadn’t had a woman in a while, and he felt the need. This one was stacked and she looked enthusiastic. She might be a little on the inexperienced side, but he wouldn’t mind that either. That would be variety for him, after helling around with knowing chicks so much.

That took care of the bed side of that. But would she have other uses?

Yes, he thought. She would be good camouflage for him as he made his way southward. The cops would be looking for a man traveling alone, not for a man and a woman. A lot of people who might be on the watch for him would simply see right through a couple.

And she could help him in lots of little ways, like taking the car to be repainted — people wouldn’t suspect her of some of the things they’d suspect him of. She would be plenty useful, Sparkman figured, if she kept her mouth shut. Of course, he’d have to dump her when he got to the border. Cindy wouldn’t exactly go for his bringing a girl friend along.

But he’d face that problem when he got to it. Anyway, he doubted that Janey would mind very much. She’d get her big adventure, and that seemed to be what she was interested in having. A thrill-seeker, sick to death of small-town life and looking for a wild time.

“I don’t know which one of us is nuttier,” Sparkman said. “You for getting yourself into this, or me for letting you.”

“Then you will let me?”

“Yeah.”

“I can’t tell you how glad I am.”

“Don’t bother. Just cooperate.”

“Anything you want.”

“First thing,” Sparkman said. “Stop off somewhere and telephone the Y. Tell them you’re going to visit your cousin in Kalamazoo for a couple of weeks. Tell your boss the same thing. Then we’ll hit the road.”

She looked at him doubtfully. “Won’t I have time even to go to my room and pack?”

“No. I can’t waste time here.”

“But all my clothes, and my lipstick, and even my toothbrush — ”

“Look,” Sparkman said heavily, “there’s one thing you got to understand right now. This isn’t a picnic you’re going on. You’re helping a fugitive from justice. You can’t stop to pack. And if you think I’m going to let you out of here to get the cops after me, you’re crazy. You make those calls, and then we leave.”

“All right,” she said. “No toothbrush.”

“Good girl.”

She would do fine, Sparkman thought. And tonight, wherever and whenever they stopped for the night, he’d give her a good loving to show her that he appreciated having her volunteer her services. He’d thrill her every which way, give her the time of her life.

Was she a virgin, he wondered? Well, maybe not. Virgins didn’t give themselves to the first fugitive murderer who came through town. Maybe she had tried two or three times, he guessed. But he’d teach her a few tricks tonight, that was for sure.

He pictured her naked before him. Running his hands over the jutting curves of her breasts. Were those boobs really as big as they seemed to be when she had her clothes on? He’d find out tonight. He’d find out how she reacted, too, and what kind of sounds she made when a man loved her, and whether she was a real woman or not.

Suddenly Sparkman found himself looking forward to bedtime tonight.

But there was a lot to do before they could sack out.

They were just about in the middle of town, now. Sparkman pulled the car up in front of a general store that had its lights on. A sign dangling over the doorway said that they had a public telephone in there.

He felt a little edgy. Town like this, they’d be sure to recognize her — and they’d see a stranger with her, maybe even recognize him from his picture, and put two and two together. On the other hand, this might all be some complicated trick, some plot to get him behind bars, and he didn’t want to chance that she’d call the cops as soon as she got out of his earshot.

He weighed the options again.

He decided to risk going in with her.

He accompanied her inside. It wasn’t crowded, and no one seemed to take notice of them.

“Make your calls,” he said. “Do it fast.”

He stood over her in the phone booth, listening to every word while she called the Y and then the roadhouse and told them she’d be going away for a while. Finally she put down the phone and stood up.

“You don’t trust me, do you?”

“Not yet,” he grinned. “Wait till we’ve been traveling together a while.”

“We going to leave now?”

“One more thing. Go over there and buy a copy of the afternoon paper.”

He watched her as she went over to the newspaper rack. She moved well, with a kind of long-legged coltish grace. He liked that. Girls who were graceful on their feet tended to be graceful in bed, too.

A few hours now. He’d strip her bare and find out all her secrets. He imagined her lying warm and naked on some motel room bed, looking up at him with those hero-worshipping eyes while he gave her all he had.

“Let’s go,” he said.

They got back into the car. He swung it around, got it onto the highway heading south again. They shot past the restaurant and then past the motel where Sparkman had had his jollies in the morning.

“Take a look at the newspaper while I drive,” he told her. “I want you to look for a particular news story. See if there’s anything in the paper about a guy getting his auto stolen just outside of Des Moines last night.”

She riffled the pages while he kept his foot to the gas, taking them further and further away from the little town. The paper wasn’t a very thick one, but she had to look all the way through it before she got to the story Sparkman wanted her to find. It was on the last page.

“Here it is,” she said. “Read it to me.”

“It’s just a little box. It doesn’t say much.” She read it off. Joseph Garrett, 33, of Milwaukee, it said, public relations man for Kreibert beer, picked up a hitchhiker in mid-Iowa — beaten and robbed, new two-tone Oldsmobile stolen.

“That’s all?” he asked.

“That’s all.”

Sparkman relaxed. There was nothing in the newspaper article that linked the fugitive Val Sparkman to the theft. The article didn’t even specify that Garrett had picked up the hitchhiker near Gorman, the town where Val Sparkman had escaped from jail at about the same time.

Of course, it wouldn’t take long for some smart bird to add up the obvious, Sparkman knew, and even out here in the hick country there had to be a few smart birds somewhere. They would figure it out: Sparkman was on the loose in Iowa, he needed a car, he was totally unscrupulous. Ergo, he was the unknown hitchhiker who had victimized Milwaukee’s pride, Joe Garrett. The newspaper piece didn’t even print a description of the hitchhiker. Probably Garrett hadn’t been clever enough to identify his assailant. A real dim bulb, that one. He probably didn’t even take a close look at me, Sparkman thought, just a quick glance.

“Okay,” Sparkman said. “It isn’t as bad as I thought.”

“You’re the one who stole the car?”

“You get the uranium-plated medal, baby. But according to this article, they hadn’t figured it out as of last night that I was the one. But by the time this bit reached the newspapers, they probably knew that I’m riding around in a two-tone Oldsmobile with Wisconsin plates.”

“The first thing we’re going to do,” Sparkman said, “is to get us a new set of license plates. Then we’re gonna get us a brand new color for this car. And you’re going to help me, Janey.”

“Anything you want me to do, Val.”

“You know how to drive?”

“Yes,” she said. “Sure. But I don’t have my license with me.”

“What you’re doing now is a damn sight more illegal than driving without a license,” Sparkman said. “But first let’s take care of getting the plates. We can get the color fixed in the morning.”

“A spray-job, you mean?”

“Yeah,” he said.

On a sudden impulse he reached out and put his hand on her leg, on the fleshy part, no more than a couple of inches from where her legs joined her body.

He gave her a good squeeze. She felt fine, nice and solid, with the little bumps of her garters the only interruptions of the firm flesh.

He heard her catch her breath in excitement. She wanted him, that was for absolutely certain. All he had to do was touch her and she’d start to pant. A snap of the fingers and she’d take her clothes off for him, Sparkman knew.

Taking his hand away, Sparkman concentrated on his driving again. The girl moved closer to him, nestling against his side. Her leg felt warm where that touched his. She was a little afraid of him, Sparkman saw. Maybe more than a little. Shy, hesitant about getting close to him. But they’d get the ice broken pretty soon.

It was growing dark, now. It was getting close to eight o’clock, and the sun was down, and twilight was coming to its end. Sparkman had already decided to abandon his earlier policy of traveling by night and sleeping by day. That had certain risks to it. And once he was camouflaged with a new coat of paint and a set of new license plates, he wouldn’t have to be so cautious — especially with a traveling companion along to keep the police confused.

So he figured they’d stop at a motel soon. He wasn’t sleepy yet, not by a long shot — he had awakened only at five that afternoon — but he was eager to get himself within four walls with this chick and see what kind of performance she put on.

“Here’s where we get our license plates,” Sparkman announced.

“You mean we’re going to steal them?”

“No,” he said. “They’re going to drop from heaven and we’re going to pick them up out of the road.”

He swung the car up a lonely road with some houses spotted along it, new little brick boxes of some recent subdivision. There weren’t too many street lamps yet. The houses were lit, though. This was the television hour, with everybody glued to the set soaking up the prime time shows.

“Looks pretty quiet here,” Sparkman said, halting at the first parked car in the street. “You keep your eyes open for anybody coming in any direction. The moment you spot someone, sing out.”

They got out of the car. For a moment they stared at each other as they stood face to face.

Then Sparkman reached out. He put one of his hands on each of her breasts, feeling them firm and taut-fleshed underneath her shirt, and gave them a quick squeeze.

“For luck,” he said.

He set to work.

CHAPTER SIX

JANEY WATCHED HIM. HER breasts tingled from that quick contact; moments later, she could still feel the sudden hard impact of his fingertips digging at the resilient globes of firm flesh. Her nipples were aching and taut with excitement.

She wanted desperately to give herself to him.

If he had told her to strip and lie down in the street right here, she would do that for him, she knew. She’d peel to the buff and stretch out with her buttocks on the dirt, and she’d let him take her.

There was something irresistible about him for her. He was hard and cold and tough, and he had probably committed all kinds of terrible crimes, but he was the first exciting person to come into her life since — since Claudine — and she was determined not to let him get away from her.

Only this wasn’t the place for love. That would happen later, wherever he wanted, maybe in a motel, she hoped, or maybe just in the parked car, or right out in an open field under the canopy of stars.

She watched him work.

He was very casual, extremely businesslike about it. There was a tool kit in the trunk of the car. He found a screwdriver and, working rapidly, unscrewed the Missouri license plates from the parked car, while Janey kept guard, pivoting in every direction.

The whole thing took no more than a couple of minutes. Then he straightened up, the purloined plates tucked under his arm.

“Okay,” he said, nodding to her. “Get in the car and let’s beat it!”

They drove away, back to the main highway. Sparkman stopped in a shady, tree-lined lane a couple of miles further to the south, and told Janey to keep watch again. Quickly, he removed the Wisconsin plates from the Olds-mobile and put the new ones in place. He bundled the discarded plates up in a sheet of newspaper and hid them in the trunk.

“Some fellow’s going to be awfully surprised in the morning when he comes out of his house and finds his license plates gone,” Sparkman said.

“Won’t they suspect that you’re the one who took them?” Janey asked.

Sparkman smiled confidently. “The law can make only so many right guesses, Janey. They’ve got to deduce that I’m in Missouri, that I’m driving Joe Garrett’s stolen car, and that I grabbed the missing plates. Assuming they can put all these deductions together — which isn’t easy, if you’re on the other side of it and don’t know what direction the fugitive is moving in — they can conclude that I’m driving around in a blue and gray Oldsmobile with Missouri license plates number such-and-such. Only by the time they manage to figure that out, I’ll be halfway across Oklahoma, and I’ll be driving a red and green car.”

Janey nestled up against him. “You’re a clever one, Val. Real smart.”

His arms slipped around her. One hand slid between their bodies and cupped her breasts again, and Janey tingled at the close contact. Her body was close against his. She could tell he was ready for loving.

I bet he’s good, Janey thought. I bet he’s awful good in bed.

He rubbed his hands over her, caressing her buttocks, gripping the taut, saucy mounds through the tight fabric of her skirt. Janey got more and more excited. She wanted him bad, wanted him right now.

Then he kissed her.

That was their first kiss, and was all that Janey had expected that would be. She felt his firm, lean tense body against hers, curving to match the curve of her body. His thin lips crushed down against her soft, full ones. His hands spread out over her buttocks, drawing her close against him.

His kiss was deeply, excitingly passionate. The fire in Janey built up to a raging intensity, and she became dizzy, weak with desire. There was a fierce pounding in her chest. Sweat burst from every pore on her skin. She longed to rip her clothes off, to stand naked before him and display her bare body to him and see his eyes light up with pleasure and approval — and then to give herself to him, to accept his love-making.

He let go of her.

“Val,” she said, panting. “I want you so much, Val —”

“Not here. Wait a little while.”

“I’m burning up, Val.”

“It’s too risky to out here.” He patted her on the rump. “Come on. Let’s hit the road again. We’ll find a place to stop.”

They got back into the car. Janey leaned against the upholstery, waiting for her heart to stop pounding in this abnormal rhythm. She crossed her legs, as if to hold back her turbulent yearning desires.

Sparkman said, “I still can’t figure you out, you know, Jane. A nice kid like you ought to be sipping sodas in the candy store, not running off with middle-aged con men like me.”

“That’s just it, Val. I want some excitement. This is the first exciting thing I ever did.” Then she thought of her affair with Claudine. “Well, practically the first,” she corrected.

Sparkman smiled. He kept on driving until another eight or ten miles had gone by. He came to a place where there was a stone fence on one side of the road. He brought the car to a halt about ten feet before the fence, maneuvered over until the left side of the Olds-mobile was just touching one stone, and eased forward at about five miles an hour, so as to remove the paint all along the left flank of the car without actually denting the metal.

“Why’d you do that?” she asked.

“So that now we’ve got a legitimate excuse for having her repainted. That’ll be your job to handle, tomorrow.” Sparkman got out and inspected the fender. “Pretty fair job,” he said.

He got back in.

Janey said, “You’ve planned everything, haven’t you, Val?”

“Mostly.”

“Why did you say you were middle-aged?”

“Because I am.”

“You aren’t old.”

“Thirty-six,” he said. “Almost twice your age. By my way of reckoning that’s middle age.”

“Not by mine,” she said.

“We’ll see about that.” Sparkman looked at his watch. “It’s after ten,” he said. “What say we find a motel and sack out.”

“Okay, Val.”

It seemed to her that there was more than a little nervousness in her voice.

The moment of truth was close now, Janey knew. The moment when she finally bared her body to him and let him take her and love her. She was edgy about that. She didn’t think he’d find fault with her body, because she knew that was a good body, better than most, and she could see in his eyes that he liked the looks of her body. What she was afraid of was that she wouldn’t measure up in performance. He was a man who had been around, who had slept with all kinds of sophisticated women. He probably demanded a lot from his bed partners.

Janey had always thought she knew a lot about love. But that was by local standards, and local men weren’t up to very much. She might fall flat by Val Sparkman’s ideas of what a woman should do in bed.

She sat tense and silent as the miles reeled off. There weren’t too many motels out here.

She was edgy and uneasy. This whole expedition was a crazy one, running off with a man like that. They said he was a murderer. Was he, really? He seemed tough and completely ruthless, tough enough to kill. Yet there was a charm about him, a kind of good humor, that made it hard for Janey to believe he was a killer.

She was suddenly frightened of what she had done tonight. It had been a spur of the moment decision, a jumping off into a vast abyss, like —

Janey remembered that now. She had felt the same way back then, the same sensation of cutting loose from all rhyme or reason, of doing something forbidden and dangerous.

She had been only thirteen, then. Thirteen is a little early for girls to be getting made. But Janey Haskell had been pretty ripe for thirteen. She had bought her first brassiere when she wasn’t much past eleven.

And now, at thirteen, she was desperately eager to find out what love was all about — to know what the older girls giggled over so much.

There was one good way of finding out, and that wasn’t from reading books. The way to learn was to go out and find out, she knew.

She could remember back across the six years as though it were only yesterday.

There had been a man in town named Buddy Blackmon — he was dead now, killed in an automobile accident during the big blizzard the year Janey was fifteen. He had quite a reputation around town as a wolf. He was about thirty, thirty-two years old, and he had married the high school beauty queen when he was seventeen and she was sixteen. They had six or seven children, and Buddy Blackmon’s wife didn’t look like any beauty queen any more, and he made out with a lot of other girls around town, including the current high school beauty queens.

He had never fooled around with a really young girl, though. To him, Janey Haskell was young. He had a son a year older than Janey, and a daughter only a few months younger.

He kidded around with Janey a lot, though. Whenever he saw her in the drug store or the post office he flirted with her, made little jokes about her rapidly ripening young body.

“You’re growing up fast,” he’d say. “Gonna need a new sweater now.”

Or he’d say, “Just another couple of years, Janey, you’re going to be ripe for plucking, and I want to be around when that day comes.

He’d let it be known in no uncertain terms that he wouldn’t mind bedding Janey down when she got to be fifteen or sixteen or some decent age like that. Sometimes he practically invited her to put out for him right then, though he was obviously joking about that.

Janey decided to take him seriously, though. Around the time she turned thirteen she began to want to find out about love very badly, and she made up her mind that the one who was going to introduce her to love was Buddy Blackmon.

She was scared, of course. But determined.

When he led with his chin, she swung good and hard. That happened in the post office one Saturday afternoon. She was picking up the mail, and Buddy came in, and grinned at her and winked at her, and began to launch into his usual kidding line.

“Why don’t you run off with me, baby? We could go for a long drive and a hike in the woods, and I’d teach you a thing or two about the facts of life.”

“All right,” Janey told him.

His jaw dropped. “You almost sound like you’re serious, Janey!”

“I am.”

“But I wasn’t.”

“It isn’t nice to proposition a girl and then back out on that, Buddy.”

He was staring at her in bewilderment. “Come off that,” he said. “You don’t want to.”

“Try me and see.”

“I half believe you mean that,” he muttered. “What are you, twelve, thirteen”

“Thirteen. And willing.”

“I’ll be damned.”

“I’m calling your bluff,” Janey said.

She didn’t know how she got the courage to talk to him like that. But she put on a confident look, and she took a deep breath so that her breasts jutted out and practically hit him in the eye, and suddenly Buddy Blackmon saw that he would look like a damned fool if he backed out.

“Okay,” he said. “But I shouldn’t take the risk. I could get in real trouble.”

“I won’t snitch,” Janey said.

They got into his car and they went for a long drive, and when they parked the car they got out and took a long walk, into the woods. Nobody would see them there. Blackmon didn’t want to risk going to a motel with her, on account of her age. It was better to go off into the woods.

Janey got more and more frightened as the big moment approached.

Suppose that hurt bad?

Suppose she hated that? She couldn’t say no now, not after she’d led him all this way out of town. He looked nervous too, not like a great lover at all. Scared that his bluff had been called and that he now had to love a girl of thirteen.

They reached a secluded place in the middle of the woods, with close-packed birches all around them.

“Nobody can see us here,” Buddy said. “You sure you still want to do this?”

“Yes. Sure.”

“Okay. Then let’s get undressed.”

“Everything off?”

“Everything,” he said. “You first. You undress and then me.”

Janey had never been so embarrassed in her life. But she had set this up, and she had to follow through. She unbuttoned her blouse and took that off, while Buddy Blackmon watched her with glistening eyes. Although it was a mild day, she shivered as she stood there in her bra and slacks.

She took her slacks off next.

Then her socks.

“You’re stalling,” he said. “You’re chicken, aren’t you, Janey?”

“Who says?” she shot at him defiantly. “Which do you want me to take off first, top or bottom?”

“Top,” he said.

She unhooked her brassiere and peeled that off. She felt like she was jumping into a bottomless pit as she bared her breasts to him. Her face blazed with shame, and the blush went all the way down to those big creamy bowls of flesh, tipped with little virginal nipples that suddenly were turning as hard as rock.

His eyes widened. They seemed to shine. He stared at the mounds of her breasts.

“You’re sure you’re only thirteen?” he asked finally.

“Cross my heart.”

“I got a daughter almost your age,” he said. “I saw her take a bath the other night. She don’t have no pair like you’ve got there.”

“I’m precocious,” Janey said.

She pulled her panties off.

Once she had shown him her nude breasts, she didn’t feel so embarrassed about showing him the rest. So she tossed the panties aside and gave him a full front view look, and then, adding a flourish, she turned in a circle so he could see her side view with her outjutting breasts, and then her rear.

She faced him again. Her face was warm and red and she felt mingled excitement and fear.

“Your turn,” she said.

He got out of his clothing. His body was hairy and thick-set, and when he got down to his undershorts, Janey felt a kind of panic, and had to fight to keep from turning and running naked through the woods away from him. Then the shorts slid off too.

The next moment, she was in his arms, and he was touching her breasts and fooling around with her buttocks and the skin of her legs, and then he was pushing her down onto the ground. The grass was cool and soft against her.

“Don’t be afraid,” he whispered.

He began to touch her, not trying to take her yet, just getting her ready. She began to be more and more eager.

Then he put one of her breasts to his mouth. He kissed her breast, and that distracted her attention, so that she hardly noticed the first moment when he moved closer.

“This’ll just hurt a second,” she heard him say.

“Go on,” she whispered. “Do that, Buddy!”

He moved again. And this time he took her.

There was a moment of pain, but that was only at the beginning, and then after that was just the pleasure.

She began to move as her nervousness and shyness melted away.

“Easy does this,” he whispered, comforting her, as he lay naked with her under the open sky, moving carefully. “How is this, Janey?”

“That — that’s the most wonderful thrill in the world,” she murmured.

His hairy chest was crushed against her breasts. But she didn’t mind at all. He kept working. So did she.

And then the pleasure started, a warm exciting feeling invading her entire body. Buddy began to work faster and faster, and then he gasped and dug his hands at the soft flesh of her shoulders, and a moment later there was the unmistakable sensation as he had his pleasure.

“How was that?” he asked.

“Wonderful, Buddy. Just what I dreamed that would be!”

“You say a word to anybody that I did this, you’ll feel sorry.”

“Don’t worry.”

“Let’s go now.”

“Wait,” she said. “Lie here next to me a little while, Buddy. Hold me in your arms. I waited thirteen years for this to happen. I don’t want this to be all over with so soon.”

He cuddled her for a while, and she enjoyed the strange but thrilling feeling of his nakedness against hers.

Then they got dressed, and he drove her home, and that was how her first time ended.

It wasn’t long before she was going out with a lot of the boys, because they sensed somehow that she had crossed the boundary between girl and woman and was now available to them even though she was so young. After a while she stopped being so young.

Then Buddy was killed in the auto accident. He had never touched her after that first time, had always seemed a little embarrassed just to look at her, as though he felt guilty at having loved a girl of thirteen. But she cried when he died, as if he had been a member of her own family, and secretly she went out to the cemetery and kissed the dirt on his grave, because he had been her first lover.

More than six years had passed since that great adventure. Except for the other adventure, the one with Claudine, nothing much had happened to Janey in all that time. Now she was embarked on something exciting, again.

It had worked out all right that first time, with Buddy, she told herself. She had done a crazy thing, but she hadn’t suffered for it.

Now she was doing another crazy thing, running off with a murder, helping him escape. It might be the dumbest thing she had every done in her life, or the most exciting.

Time would tell.

They were twenty miles now from the place where Sparkman had changed the license plates.

“There’s a motel,” he said. “They’ve got a vacancy, too. We’re in luck.”

He slowed the car.

The big moment was arriving, Janey knew.

CHAPTER SEVEN

SPARKMAN WAS GLAD TO SEE THE MOTEL. IT WAS newer than the one he had stayed in last night, or rather this morning. It was a U-shaped place with a two-bit-sized kidney-shaped swimming pool and about thirty rooms arranged around the courtyard. The place looked to be about half full, judging from the cars parked in front of the rooms.

As they got out of the car, Janey said, “What if the owner wants to see a marriage license?”

“Nervous?”

“What if he does?”

“He’ll be glad enough to see the color of our money,” Sparkman said. “He isn’t going to ask any questions. Just try not to look guilty. They don’t give a damn who rents their rooms so long as nothing actually criminal is committed in them. Let’s go in.”

Sparkman led the way into the office. A weary-looking middle-aged man was sitting behind the desk, reading a dog-eared paperbacked book. Sparkman felt a surge of tension as the man looked up at him. His face had been recognized from his newspaper portrait once this evening, by Janey. If this one spotted him too —

But there was no flicker of recognition or awareness in the pale, washed-out-looking blue eyes.

“We’d like a double,” Sparkman said.

“Sure thing. Want to take a look at the room before you rent it?”

“That’s okay,” Sparkman said. “We’re pretty tired, so we’ll take our chances.”

The man laughed. “I don’t think you’ll regret it. Is this on a credit card?”

“No,” Sparkman said. “Cash.”

“That’ll be nine-fifty. Mind signing our register here, please?”

Sparkman put a ten dollar bill on the counter and filled out the registration card, signing them in as Mr. and Mrs. Lew Roseboro of Jefferson City, Missouri. The motel man handed Sparkman fifty cents and the key to Room 11.

“It’s right in back, just to the side of the swimming pool. You need any ice, there’s a machine near Room Six that sells it. Anything else, why, I’m at your service here till midnight.”

“That’s all right,” Sparkman said. “I think we’ll get along.”

He smiled, led Janey out. They got into the car and he drove it over to Room 11’s parking area. Then they went into the room — neither of them with any luggage at all, which might have seemed a little odd to the man in the motel office if he were watching, which he probably was.

The room wasn’t bad at all, Sparkman decided. It was small, just a little beaverboard-walled box, but it was neat and clean, with a comfortable-looking double bed, a television set, a shiny-looking set of bathroom fixtures, a dresser, a couple of chairs, a Gideon Bible, a telephone directory. All the comforts of home.

“Be it ever so humble,” Sparkman said, “there’s no place like a motel room.”

Janey giggled. She seemed nervous. Like a bride on her wedding night, Sparkman thought.

She said, “I wish I had my toothbrush.”

“I’ll buy you a new one tomorrow.”

“You do that,” she said. She stood hesitantly in the middle of the room, glancing at Sparkman, glancing at the double bed.

He said as gently as he could manage it, “Shall we sack out?”

“We might as well. That’s what we’re here for, isn’t it?”

He smiled. “You look kind of edgy. Don’t be. I won’t bite you.”

“I can’t help it, Val. I mean, I want this to be so good for us —

“Relax and enjoy yourself and don’t worry about what you want this to be.” He walked toward her and put his hands on her shoulders. Looking her in the eye, he said, “This isn’t your first time, is this?”

“God, no! Do I look like a virgin?”

“Frankly, no. But you’re acting like one.”

Janey shrugged. “That’s only because I want this to be good, Val. But I’m a long way from being a virgin. The first time I had a man, I was thirteen years old, would you believe that?”

Sparkman thought of Joe Garrett and his seduction at the age of eleven, and laughed out loud.

Janey looked puzzled. “Did I say something funny?”

“Not really. I was just thinking of the guy I borrowed the Oldsmobile from. He told me a long story about his first time. When he was eleven. And here you are at thirteen. Everybody seems to get an early start on love out here.”

“What about you, Val? I suppose you were a virgin till you were twenty-one, is that right?”

“Not quite,” Sparkman said. “I got an early start too. But not as early as you people. Anyway, I’m glad to know this won’t be the first. I don’t like virgins much. They’re more trouble than they’re worth.”

Her eyes sparkled. “I’ll try not to be any trouble to you at all, Val.”

“Good girl. Suppose we get undressed.”

“Okay,” she said.

She began to get undressed, and Sparkman stepped back a little to watch the show, casually removing his own clothes at the same time. He could see her nervousness beginning to ebb away as she bared herself to him.

Sparkman always found this a suspenseful moment, when a girl first showed him the goodies. You could do a lot to hide flaws of the body with clever undergarments, but there had to be a time when the foundations came off, and then there were no secrets left. He hoped this girl would live up to the advance promise of her clothed figure.

So few of them did, Sparkman thought. They looked like knockouts until they stripped, and then you discovered that their boobs hung, or that their upper legs were flabby, or that their buttocks stuck out like mountains of dimpled flesh.

He watched Janey very carefully.

She got her skirt off, and her shirt. No slip underneath. So far so good. Her eyes glistened as she reached around in back to unclasp the catch of her brassiere. A flick of the fingers and the bra opened. The cups tumbled forward and she slid out of them.

Sparkman studied her breasts.

They reminded him of Cindy’s, except that Cindy was even bigger up there. Cindy was a kind of a freak in the bosom department, though, with those big taut globes of swollen flesh. This girl was better proportioned. And her boobs were superb: pale, rosy-tipped mounds of perfectly molded flesh that rose high and close together.

There were dots of color in Janey’s face. She said, “Do I pass muster?”

“You look swell,” Sparkman said.

His eyes lingered on the ripe globes, and he could see the small nipples beginning to tense as he watched, standing up like tiny watchtowers of flesh. Then his attention was distracted as she began to roll her gauzy panties down, inch after inch, baring the flaring juts of her hips. She stepped out of the final garment and stood nude before him.

Then she pivoted, giving him a three-hundred-sixty-degree look at her charms. Right profile, rear view, left profile, front. Jutting breasts sticking way out, the tip-tilted nipples aimed at the ceiling. Smooth, seductive-looking buttocks, white and firm.

She was good to look at.

Her body was lean and tanned and lovely, with its high, rounded breasts and long, slim legs and broad hips, a body designed for love, a body designed for loving. Sparkman realized that he had caught himself a prize.

She still looked nervous. Virgin or no virgin, she was scared, he saw, just like a bride on her wedding night. But she didn’t look as scared as she had been five minutes ago. Now she was out of her clothes and unselfconscious about her nakedness, and she seemed relieved that he had approved of her body. What did she think, he wondered, that I’d object to a build like that?

He figured that the rest of her nervousness would wear off as soon as they got going. She was just tense with a kind of stage fright, probably afraid that she wouldn’t live up to his expectations.

But he expected that she’d do just fine.

She was a bonus, he thought. An unexpected stroke of luck, getting hooked up with somebody built like this. He hadn’t figured on having a sleeping partner to keep him company on the trip to Mexico. But you never could tell what kind of luck would come your way. Everything balanced out. She was the reward the law of averages had given him for getting arrested in Gorman.

“Come to papa,” he said, pulling off the undershorts that were his only remaining garment.

He heard her catch her breath sharply as he uncovered his nakedness, and he knew that the sight of his body had excited her as much as the sight of hers had turned him on. Which was a good sign.

And then she was in his arms, and her supple nude body was pressed tight against his.

She was soft and sleek, smooth as satin, everywhere except her nipples. They were digging at Sparkman’s chest, and they were hard as rock. He locked his arms around her back, pulling her against him so that the firm globes of her breasts were crushed to him.

His hands wandered down her back, to the silken mounds of her buttocks. The flesh was springy, bouncy, resilient. A sign of youth, he thought. He had always liked a woman to have a nice tight backside.

Their lips met.

His kiss was immediately deep and the sudden caress drew a shiver of response from her. He felt her fingernails clawing at his back as the passion rose higher and higher for her. He maintained the kiss a long moment, gradually drawing one of his hands from her firm buttocks and wedging that between their tight-pressed bodies to cup her warm-tipped right breast.

They stood that way a while. When he let go of her, they were both breathing hard, and her eyes had the glassy look of a woman’s lust in them.

“Let’s lie down,” Sparkman suggested.

“Yeah,” she panted. “Let’s.”

They went sprawling together toward the bed, landing in a tangled heap of arms and legs. He gripped her tight for a moment. Then he pushed her over and kissed her.

He listened to her gasps of deep-throated passion. They were music to his ears.

He realized, suddenly, that she was eager and ready to go — that not only didn’t she need any further preliminaries, she didn’t even want them.

“Take me!” she gasped. “Take me, Val! I’m burning up! I want you!”

Sparkman smiled. He rose to a half crouch, touched her. Yes, she was ready. She was warm and hungry for him.

And she wasn’t any virgin, either. Virgins wouldn’t act like this their first time. This was a girl who had been around plenty in her short life of nineteen years. She had probably been telling the truth, Sparkman decided, when she said she had been thirteen the first time she loved.

“Val!” she cried.

He took her. She made a high whining sound of pleasure.

She was good. She was soft and warm and agile and full of energy, and as Sparkman moved with her, she matched his motion with countermotion of her own, equal to the intensity of his attack.

Flesh met flesh. Sweat ran down their panting bodies, mingling, making their skins slippery.

Sparkman felt her beginning to tense with her completion. That hadn’t taken long, no more than a couple of minutes. So she was an eager one. Nervousness and all, she was responding in a hurry.

He didn’t intend to let matters reach a conclusion so soon, though.

He held her tight, moving again and again to carry her through her ecstasy, and after a moment she lay back, her eyes closed, her face flushed, and caught her breath and than Sparkman began once more.

“Val — oh, God, Val!” she gasped, as the new actions set fire to her.

Sparkman worked his hands underneath her body, holding her. In a short while he felt her starting to tremble again, and he lifted her toward a second peak, and a third, and a fourth, until she twisted on the bed like a madwoman, leaping around, going through ecstasy after ecstasy, pleading with him to finish, clawing at him, crying out in joy and exhaustion.

“Oh, God, you’re so good, Val, I’m going to go out of my mind, I’m going to crack up, Val, I can’t take this, this is so good, oh, oh!”

An instant later there was her final fulfillment in answer to his.

And then — silence.

They lay quietly, letting their strength rebuild. Sparkman opened his eyes and smiled at her. Her forehead was beaded with droplets of sweat, and her soft brown hair was pasted to the skin. He winked at her. She winked back.

“Still nervous?” he asked.

“I feel wonderful, Val. I’ve never felt so good in all my life.”

“I feel pretty good too, kid.”

“How was I?” she asked. “Do I compare with all your other women?”

“Let’s just say that you made me forget a few of the others.”

“I bet there’ve been a lot of them.”

“My share,” he said. “Just like you’ve had your share, huh, Janey?”

“Too many,” she told him. “I’ve been sort of the town door mat, I guess. No, I shouldn’t say that, really. I’m no worse than a lot of the other girls. It’s just that there’s nothing else to do in town. That’s the only game going there. Only — only that’s never been like that just was with you, Val.”

He smiled and ran his hand lightly over her body, from her legs upward, patting her, cupping her breast. She put her hand over his and gripped tightly. Her body snuggled against his.

They rested for a while.

Sparkman felt pretty good about things. This girl was for real. She had brains and energy and appeal, and what more did he need in a traveling companion?

He stroked her smooth skin for a while. Then, suddenly, she flipped over so that her face was toward him, and she began to go to work. She offered her kiss to him, and then, as suddenly as she had begun, she stopped, raised her head, looked at him.

She said, “You don’t mind if I do this, do you?”

“Hell, no! Why should I mind?”

“I don’t know. You might not want me to. You might think this was wrong.”

“I’m not one of your small town boys,” he said. “Go ahead. If you want. I like that when a girl does that for me, Janey.”

“I want to do this,” she said.

She touched him with her kiss again. Her hands found him too, and the combined pressure soon has the usual effect.

She kept at him. She wasn’t really expert, Sparkman thought — probably hadn’t had much experience along these lines. But she was good enough, for a beginner. Sparkman knew a girl out in Los Angeles who had turned this particular stunt into a fine art, who could give a man the most unbelievable pleasures that way. But of course she was a kook. She didn’t like a man to have her the regular way. Using her lips was her escape from love.

Once Sparkman had managed to take her the regular way. That hadn’t been any fun. She was cold, cold as ice. She got her kicks with her kisses. A kook. But a very gifted kook when she got to her particular specialty.

Janey continued to work at him, and in very short order they were both excited again. Her head moved, and the tips of her breasts rubbed against his skin as she moved, and he began to breathe hard, and before long so did she, and they were ready to go.

She lifted her face and looked at him. Her eyes were little slits of lust. Her lips were shiny, her face flushed.

“I’m — ready,” she whispered.

“So am I.”

She smiled and started to roll over so that he could take her. But Sparkman wasn’t particularly minded to do that just that way right now. He put his hand on her buttocks and gently but firmly forced her to move as he wanted.

“You stay there,” he said.

“Is that how you want me? You don’t mind doing that?”

“Why should I mind?”

“The other guys I know all minded. They said that was embarrassing to them. A man ought to be in control all the time, they said. Only a pervert lets himself do this, according to them.”

Sparkman chuckled. “A bunch of hicks. Afraid to let the woman have her say, are they? Well, I told you, I’m not like them. Love is love is love, and that’s fun no matter who’s leading the way.”

“That’s what I say too. I like to experiment. It’s the fellows who don’t.”

“Here’s one who does,” Sparkman said. “Go ahead.”

Janey frowned. “How are we going to work this?”

“Just do what seems natural, that’s all.”

CHAPTER EIGHT

JANEY LET HIM MOVE HER AS HE WISHED. This was one thing she had always wanted to try, just to see what this was like. But up till now she had never had a chance. She sensed that she was going to have a chance to experience a lot of new things now. She began to move.

In this position, she saw, she would be doing all the work. The man just rested, having a good time. That was why the local boys didn’t like to try this, Janey realized. They felt that was too humiliating to let the woman lead the way.

But Val Sparkman had more confidence in his own powers of manhood. So he didn’t need to assert himself a hundred per cent of the time.

Janey moved.

Sparkman smiled. “That’s pretty good. Nice and restful, too.”

“Not for me. But I don’t mind.”

Sparkman chuckled and cupped his hands over the swaying globes of her breasts. He put his thumbs to the nipples, teasing back and forth across the sensitive tips.

Janey gasped. She moved faster.

And faster and faster.

A jolt of current began to surge through her. Sweat streamed down her skin. She closed her eyes and moved with violent motions, body shivering with the onset of ecstasy, and his hands gripped her breasts tighter, and she was aware of her arriving fulfillment.

Then he exploded, thrilling her to a new peak, and then that was all over.

Gasping, panting, exhausted, she kissed him lightly on the lips. Drowsiness overtook her, and after a while they settled down to do some serious constructive sleeping.

“Good night, kid,” he whispered.

“Mmm.”

He cupped one of her breasts lightly. Janey curled up against him and told herself that this had been one of the strangest and most wonderful days of her entire life. Running off with a murderer, helping him steal license plates, going to a motel to make love — strange, weird things to do, but a damned sight better than sitting around the YMCA reading some stupid magazine.

The next thing she knew, it was morning, and bright sunlight was battering at the slats of the Venetian blinds of their motel room.

Janey’s eyes fluttered open. At first she was a little startled not to find herself in her room at the Y, and she was more than a little startled to find a naked man lying on the bed next to her. She had never in her life spent the whole night on a bed with a man. All her loving had been on dates, in the evening, almost never in bed at all.

Memory flooded back. She remembered who he was and where they were and what she was doing here.

“Val?” she said softly. “Val, are you awake?”

“Sort of. I’ve been awake around ten minutes. How do you feel?”

“Terrific,” Janey said.

As though to prove that, she leaped up out of bed and did a wild little dance in front of him, capering gaily. Her bare breasts jiggled and jounced as she jumped around. He watched her, laughing.

She danced right on into the shower room and got under the spray. A good cold shower, that was the finest way to begin the day, Janey thought. She let the water come down, hitting hard against her breasts and nipples.

When she came out of the shower, Sparkman was just getting out of bed. He stood up slowly as though moving on hinges, a big, firm-bodied man, and grinned at her. She saw him admiring the play of the muscles of her moisture-flecked body, and that excited her to know that he desired her.

“Come here,” he said. “It’s breakfast time.” She went to him. He bent down to kiss one of her breasts, still wet from the shower. He took a playful little bite.

When he let go of her, he laughed and said, “Good. Freshly washed girl for breakfast.”

“Maybe we ought to get back into bed for a while.”

“No.” he said. “I want to too, but we don’t dare. We’ve got to hit the road.”

“Can’t we have a little fun first?”

“Later,” he said.

He seemed to mean it. He went in to take a shower while Janey put her clothes on. She felt a little peculiar about getting into last night’s soiled clothes, but there was nothing she could do about it. She didn’t even have a change of underwear with her. She didn’t have any money, either, just five or ten dollars. She had literally left her whole life behind when she had hopped into Val Sparkman’s Oldsmobile. She hoped he’d let her stop somewhere today and pick up a few of the necessary things.

He came out of the shower and got dressed too. Sparkman drove the car out to the front of the motel, and then they got out and went into the office. There was a different middle-aged man on duty, who could have been the brother of the one who had checked them in the night before.

“Help you?” he asked.

“Yes,” Sparkman said. “I banged my car up a little last night on my way here. Just a scrape, but I’d like to get it fixed. You know where there’s a gunge around here that could touch up my paint job?”

The man thought for a moment. “Try Whitey’s,” he said finally. “That’s in Brewsterville.”

“Which way’s that?”

“Five, six miles straight up the road. They’ll do a good job for you.”

Sparkman thanked him, and they left. They drove a couple of miles and stopped for a quick breakfast at a roadhouse. Janey found that she was ravenously hungry. There was nothing like an hour or two of love and a good night’s sleep afterward to bolster the appetite, she thought.

As they ate, she said, “Will we be able to do some shopping today? I need a lot of things, Val.”

“I know. A toothbrush. And call me Jim when we’re in public, okay?”

“Sure, Jim,” she said, grinning. “I need more than a toothbrush, though.”

“Such as?”

“Some stockings and some panties, and a couple of brassieres, and lipstick, and — oh, a lot of stuff.”

“What do you figure it’ll cost?”

“Say, twenty bucks.”

“You carrying any money?”

“Not much,” she said.

He pulled out his wallet and put two tens on the table. “Here,” he said. “Since I’m to blame for your not having any stuff, I guess I ought to do the paying. We’ll stop and you can get whatever you need. But first we get the car taken care of.”

“Fair enough, Val — uh, Jim.”

Sparkman paid for breakfast and they got back into the car. Another mile along the road and they came to a sign welcoming them to Brewsterville, but they didn’t pull into the town itself for another mile beyond that.

It was bigger than Nero, a town of about five thousand people, which was pretty substantial as towns went in this part of the world. Sparkman pulled the car up at the side of the curb.

He said, “You take the car, now, and find this garage Whitey’s.”

“What am I supposed to say?”

“Tell ’em that you sideswiped a fence last night, and you want the car fixed up — and while they’re at it, they might as well change the color scheme altogether. Tell them to make it red and green where they have blue and gray now. They probably won’t give you any trouble. If they ask questions, play dumb and open up the top couple buttons of your shirt. That usually works.”

“Where will I find you when I get back?” Janey asked.

“I’ll be sitting on a bench right here in the town square,” he told her.

“And how much should it cost?”

“I don’t know. Take fifty bucks. If they want more than that, give them a hard luck story. It shouldn’t come to that much.”

Janey took the money from him, and the keys to the car. She got behind the wheel and started it up. She hadn’t driven this car at all, and though it wasn’t any different from any other car, Janey found herself feeling tense somehow; because Sparkman was watching her. It was a little like having to pass her driving test all over again.

She grinned at him and tried to make her nerves behave. Then she put the car into drive and stepped on the gas, and went heading away down the street, leaving Sparkman at the corner grinning at her.

When she got to the next block, she stopped and leaned out her window.

“I’m looking for Whitey’s garage,” she said.

“Just down the next block and turn left.”

Janey nodded and went on her way. She came to the place in short order. It wasn’t much, just a filling station with what looked like a machine shop adjoining it, and a big sign that said WHITEY’S.

She pulled the car up and got out. It was a bright, sunny morning, heading for a hot day. A garage attendant in a greasy brown uniform came strolling out and grinned hello at her. She noticed that he took a good look at the front of her tight shirt and at the two big round things that were sticking forward.

“Morning, ma’am. What can I do you for?”

Janey said, “I had a little trouble with my car. The fender got scraped.” Quickly, she explained that she wanted the whole car sprayed new colors, as long as it had to be painted at all. “It’s my husband’s idea,” she improvised. “He’s tired of the old colors.”

“Time for a change, huh?” the garage man said. He flashed a quick glance at Janey’s left hand, and she found herself wishing she hadn’t started talking about her husband and his ideas. Not without a wedding ring on her finger. She colored a little.

The garage man said, “Can I see your registration?”

“What for?”

“We’re supposed to make a note of the registration when we change a car’s colors.”

Janey felt a stab of fear. “Just a minute,” she said. “I’ll let you have it.”

She opened her purse and made a great show of fumbling through an assortment of documents. The garage man watched her for a little while, then shrugged and sauntered back into the building.

Panicky, Janey was half tempted to jump back into the car and drive away fast. But she stopped to think that through, and realized it might be inviting trouble. The garage man already suspected that something was wrong. She had talked about being married, but she didn’t have a wedding ring on, and she had seemed surprised when he asked for the registration. If she drove away now, that might be like coming right out and saying the car was stolen, and he was likely to telephone the police. Val wouldn’t like that much.

She remembered the suggestion he had made to her. “If they ask questions,” he had said, “play dumb and open up the top couple buttons of your shirt.”

She also remembered the way the garage man had stared at her breasts.

It was worth a try, Janey thought.

She unbuttoned her top button. Then she unbuttoned her second button, and looked down at herself. Good. The swelling curves of her breasts were visible, and she was wearing the kind of bra that showed off plenty of flesh.

She strolled into the garage. The attendant was setting up his spray-painter.

Janey said, “I can’t seem to find the registration. I guess my husband forgot to give it to me. Do we really need to have it?”

“It’s the rules, lady,” he said.

Then he turned. And saw the display. His eyes bugged a little.

Janey said softly, “Maybe you could make an exception to the rules. I mean, it isn’t all that important, really, is it now?”

“Well — ”

He looked flustered. He looked confused. He also looked very excited.

Janey said, “You take care of the paint job, and then maybe I’ll take care of you. How does that sound? Fair is fair.”

He nibbled at his lip and shot a glance at Janey’s cleavage again. Then he shrugged.

“Okay,” he said. “What colors you want? We got a big run on purple stripes this year. All the kids — ”

“No,” Janey said. “Not for this car. Make it red and green. That’s fancy enough.”

“Sure,” he said. “Sure.”

He got to work on the job. Janey waited in the building. She wasn’t sure how much he thought he was going to get from her in return for overlooking the regulations. Maybe he thought she was going to give him everything, go all the way with him. He was going to have to think again, if that was his idea. She wasn’t going to tumble for any garage man.

But of course that was all up to her. He’d be spraying the car first, collecting afterward. And if he wanted more than she was prepared to give, that would be tough. Let him try any funny stuff and she’d yell for help.

Her heart was pounding as she waited for him to finish the job. So much was at stake — so many risks involved, when you traveled like this —

“Almost finished!” he called out to her.

Janey nodded. She stood up, went into a quiet corner of the room, and unsnapped the catch of her brassiere. She’d give him a good feel and a kiss, and that would be all he rated. No matter how much he yelped.

He walked in. His eyes were bright with desire. He opened an inner door.

“In here,” he said.

Janey followed him. He was practically panting. He was a flat-nosed little fellow who needed a shave pretty badly.

There was couch in the room. But Janey didn’t go close to it.

“Come here,” she said to him.

He went to her, and she opened the rest of her blouse buttons, so that he could see that her brassiere was loose. He caught his breath and reached with his hand, shoving the cups aside and grasping the bare, high rises of her firm young breasts.

He took a good feel and pressed his mouth against hers in a sloppy kiss. He hung onto her breasts for a moment, fingers digging.

Then Janey pulled her mouth away.

“Okay,” she said. “That’s about enough.”

“Come on, sister. Let’s finish the job. You can lay down right over there.”

“Are you crazy?”

He shrugged. “You want to, don’t you?”

“You got a thrill. That’s all. You’re lucky to get that. If my husband knew — ”

“God,” he said. “I thought I was gonna get more than that.”

“You were wrong.”

He lurched at her and grabbed for her breasts. He got one good grab of soft nude flesh, pinching her nipple a little, and then Janey stepped away from him.

She fastened her bra back into place before he could get another grab.

She started to button her blouse.

She was taller than he was, and she donned an expression that let him know in no uncertain terms that he’d get a swift kick if he tried any more funny stuff.

“You got plenty for doing nothing,” she told him. “Better be satisfied with that. It’s more than most get. How much do I owe you, now?”

As Janey drove away to get the car painted, Sparkman stood on the corner looking after her, wondering if he’d ever see her again.

It was perfectly possible that she’d simply vanish with the car and leave him stranded. But Sparkman didn’t think that Janey would do that.

Not after last night.

She didn’t seem to be afraid of his criminal record, and she appeared to relish having love with him. So he figured she was going to be on his side all the way.

Having her negotiate the color-change job was a big advantage, an extra that he hadn’t been able to count on but was certainly glad to have. It broke the chain of information that the police from several states might be in the process of putting together.

Even if the men at Whitey’s garage knew that a fugitive was driving around the state in a blue-and-gray Olds-mobile with Wisconsin plates, as was possible, though not likely, they certainly wouldn’t suspect anything if a pretty girl in a blue-and-gray Olds that had Missouri plates wanted a paint job. Step by step, he was putting walls between himself and what his pursuers knew about him.

While he was waiting for her, he walked into a magazine store and bought a copy of the local paper. Then he sat down to read it.

He read every page and practically every word as the time slid by. But the first thing he looked for and found was the article about himself. It was just a squib, tucked away on an inside page — police were still hunting for Val Sparkman, wanted for this, that, and the other thing, who broke out of jail in Gorman, Iowa, etc.

It didn’t say anything about the color of the car he might be driving. Which meant that they still hadn’t linked him with the theft of Joe Garrett’s car, and so the odds against his getting caught were growing better and better.

Also, they said that they believed he’d be in the Iowa-Missouri-Kansas area. Well, he was still in Missouri, but at the south end of the state, where they didn’t seem to expect him to be. And by tonight he figured to be deep in Oklahoma, anyway.

Things were looking better and better.

The only problem was that of cash. Sparkman was down to less than a hundred dollars, and Janey wasn’t carrying any money. He didn’t think they could make it all the way to Mexico on that, even with the gas taken care of by Joe Garrett’s handy little credit card. It might be necessary to manage another holdup some place along the way.

Sparkman didn’t want to do that. The fewer crimes he had to commit, the better his chances were to slip right out of the country. They’d have to start economizing, he decided. Stay at the cheapest motels, eat light.

He tossed the paper aside and glanced at his watch. Getting late. Where was Janey?

Maybe she had ditched him!

Don’t be such a worrywart, he told himself. That girl’s crazy wild over you. She won’t run away. It takes time to get a car sprayed, that’s all.

The morning crawled away. It was getting close to noon before Janey finally reappeared. The car, he was glad to see, looked completely different — a bright, glossy red roof, shiny green sides.

“How do you like it?” she asked.

“It looks great. They give you any trouble?”

“Not a bit. All they wanted to know was could they give me some fancy stripes of purple. That’s the rage around here now, they said. But I told them no. Just do it red and green, I said.”

Sparkman frowned. “You’ve got some grease on your shirt.”

“Do I? Oh, damn!”

“How’d that happen?”

Color came to her cheeks. “The garage man got a little grabby. He started to make a fuss because I didn’t have any registration with me, so I did what you said and opened up my shirt a little. I gave him his thrill for the day and he forgot about the registration.”

“We better get out of here all the same,” Sparkman said. “He might just feel like making trouble. Is the paint dry yet?”

“He said it would dry right away. We’d better not touch it, just in case.”

Sparkman smiled. “You’re a lifesaver. From here on it ought to be clear sailing.”

“What about my shopping trip?”

“Next town,” Sparkman said. “Let’s hit the road.”

CHAPTER NINE

LATER THAT DAY, THEY BYPASSED JOPLIN and crossed over into the state of Oklahoma. One more boundary crossed, one more state left behind. Mexico was getting closer and closer with every spin of the engine.

Sparkman had his course pretty well plotted out in his mind. He planned to take a more or less diagonal route across Oklahoma, staying clear Of Tulsa and Oklahoma City on the theory that the bigger cities were likely to have more efficient police departments than the mudholes.

And then he’d enter Texas near Wichita Falls. From there, right across the dry wasteland, making the trip as rapidly as possible — passing above Lubbock, then across the lower tip of New Mexico, and into El Paso. That country was so empty that nobody would give them any trouble as they went through.

It would be a breeze.

That was going to be messy. He felt bad about it, too. She was okay, a good, smart kid with plenty on the ball, a terrific body and a knack for using it. Last night she had been damned good in bed.

But she was really only a wide-eyed kid skylarking around for adventure to pep up a boring life, and Sparkman knew that he had better stuff waiting for him below the border. Janey was swell, and he was glad to have met her — but she wasn’t Cindy.

And so the best thing was to dump her this side of the border, in El Paso. Once she got into Mexico with him, she might tag around after him like a puppydog forever, and Sparkman didn’t like that idea.

He smiled to himself, thinking of Cindy and the welcome he would get from her when he finally made his arrival in Juarez.

Cindy, black-haired, big-bosomed, the girl with the educated body — she was down there, and she was hungry for him, needing some loving. Sparkman had gotten a post card from her a month ago, in Michigan, with a gaudy Mexican stamp on it.

Lonesome for my loverman, she had written.

She was dancing in a fancy Juarez strip joint, and unless Sparkman missed his guess by a wide margin she was also selling herself for a fancy price. But you’re the only one I want, baby, she had written to him. Cindy was worth two hundred bucks a night, but she would give herself to him for nothing any time.

Only she would slit his throat if he ever showed up in Juarez accompanied by a nineteen-year-old kid from Missouri that he had just somehow happened to pick up along the way down.

So Janey had to get dumped. There were no two ways about it.

It was going to be a shock to her to discover that she didn’t have a lifetime deal, but there wasn’t any helping it, Sparkman knew. He had his choice—between Janey and Cindy, and that just wasn’t a choice. Bombs like Cindy got born maybe once in a century and a half. Janey was just a nice, good-looking, mixed-up kid who belonged back in Missouri knitting doilies and raising kids, instead of helling around in motels keeping company with a fugitive murderer.

He thought of Cindy doing her strip act. Down south of the border they didn’t fool around with G-strings and pasties. When they got to the end of the act, that was a real end, with everything showing.

Sparkman could see her, naked in a steamy little joint, body shining with sweat, the huge globes of her breasts shivering as she shimmied, her nipples standing tall, the spotlights highlighting her. And then after the show, he’d go to her and put one hand to her fleshy buttocks and the other to her breasts, and he’d pull her to him.

A feast for a king. And he was the king. King Val the First, and Queen Cindy.

He felt guilty about Janey. But he figured she’d have some good memories out of this trip.

All the way down through Oklahoma, they talked. They talked mostly about him, because Janey didn’t seem to have much of a past, only small-town experiences of the usual kind, including a lot of loving but not much else. But she wanted to know all there was to know about him. How old he was, where he had grown up, why and when he had become a criminal, and what his crimes consisted of. Sparkman told her as much as he thought it was safe to let her know about him.

She said, “Did you really murder three people, Val? Really?”

“That’s what it says in the post office poster, doesn’t it?”

“Yes, but is it true?”

“That’s a hell of a thing to ask a man, Janey.”

“I can’t help it. I mean, I think I have a right to know, considering that I’m helping you escape and everything, not to mention the other things I’m doing for you.”

Sparkman frowned, closed his eyes for a moment against the brick-yellow glare of the sunbaked road ahead of him. “Yes,” he said finally. “It’s true.”

Janey caught her breath. He realized that she had never actually believed in his murders — and that now she was afraid of him all over again.

He said, “But nobody understands. I wasn’t doing it for the thrills. Murder’s too risky to be fun. I had to make those kills, Janey. Two of them were really nothing but pure self-defense. What I mean is, if I hadn’t gotten to those guys first, they would have gotten to me.”

“What about the third?”

Sparkman shrugged. “The guy cheated me. If I hadn’t cooled him off, I wouldn’t have any reason to stay alive myself. I live by my rules. There’s a certain pride a man has to uphold, you know And when a guy cheats you, I mean cheats you bad, you’ve got to take steps to even things out. Follow?”

“I think I see what you mean,” she said. She was silent for perhaps a mile and a half, digesting what he had told her. Then she said suddenly, “Val, tell me, would you ever want to kill me?”

Sparkman laughed. “You? Why the hell would I want to lull you?”

“I don’t know. But you’ve killed others. Once a man has killed, he doesn’t worry too much about killing more people, does he?”

“Where’d you get that nutty idea?”

“Well, a man can only hang once,” she said. “So if you’ve already committed a murder — ”

“Sure,” he said. “You only hang once, I won’t argue with that. But you can kill once and get away with it. Lots of guys do. There are more perfect crimes committed every week in this country than you can imagine, Janey. So the occasion arises and you kill again. Maybe twice, maybe even three times like me, getting away with it But every time you kill someone, the law gets that much more interested in you. You pile up the odds against yourself. And finally they catch you, if you keep on asking for trouble. I’m no saint, but I happen to believe murder’s a risky business that usually isn’t worth the odds. I play the percentages. If you think I did it for the hell of it, think again, girl. I did it because I had to do it.”

“I think I see,” Janey said.

But Sparkman knew that she didn’t, not really. He saw that she couldn’t really understand the compulsion that could drive a man to take another man’s life. Sparkman didn’t try to explain it any further. He had lived his life the way it had been shaped for him. He didn’t have very many regrets. And soon he would be over the border in Mexico, with money and friends and plenty of sunshine all the day long, and he would no longer find it necessary to kill and steal and cheat.

Night began to fall.

“I guess we better start looking for a motel,” Sparkman suggested.

It took them a while to find one. This wasn’t exactly tourist country they were riding through, nor was there a heavy trade in traveling businessmen, and so there wasn’t much reason for anybody to open a motel. The first one they came to looked a little too expensive, and Sparkman kept going, but he regretted it when he found that he had to drive another fifteen miles to the next one.

“Let’s hope it has a vacancy,” Janey said.

“Looks that way.” He pulled up in front of the office. “Here we are. Lodging for the night.”

As she watched Sparkman register them in as man and wife and pay the eight dollars for the room, Janey began to feel the tension start to grow again, just as that had grown last night.

She was annoyed with herself about that. There had been a kind of reason for being nervous last night — that had been, after all, their first time in bed together. But why feel edgy tonight? She had passed last night’s test with flying colors. He had loved her and she had responded eagerly and passionately, and he had been pleased.

Yet the same tension was returning tonight. She was so desperately anxious to make him happy, to make him want her, and she kept feeling that he was comparing her with all the other girls he had ever gone to bed with, legions of them. Maybe he was just being polite to her when he praised her body and her love-making. Maybe his inner feelings were entirely different.

But Janey remembered that she had felt nervous a lot of the time with Claudine, too. Because. Claudine was sophisticated and experienced, while Janey, though she had had a lot of loving in her short lifetime, had slept only with boys from the neighborhood who weren’t any great shakes.

In a way, she thought, her romance with Claudine was very similar to this jaunt with Sparkman. One was a Lesbian, one was a murderer — both beyond the pale of normal society. And both were tremendously exciting to her. She couldn’t make up her mind whose embrace she found more exciting, Sparkman’s or Claudine’s. They were hard to compare. Claudine had been so soft and cuddly and warm, while Sparkman was so strong and cold and tough.

As they went into the room, Janey said on the spur of the moment, “Val, would you — would you mind if I had gone to bed with another woman?”

He looked at her in surprise. “No. Why should I?”

“I was just wondering.” Janey’s cheeks reddened. “I once did, with another girl. That’s why I brought the subject up.”

“You did?”

“Her name was Claudine, and she went to college, and she was living in the Y on the same floor as me. And one night I was going down the hallway naked and she saw me and invited me into her room, and she gave me some drinks, and the next thing I knew we were in bed together and she was kissing me and touching me, and — and —” Janey paused. “I don’t know why I’m telling you all this.”

“That’s very interesting,” Sparkman said. “I never would have thought you were the sort of girl who — who went in for kinky stuff like that. Somehow out here in the innocent Middle West I thought that sort of stuff didn’t go.”

“She grew up in San Francisco. She was very sophisticated.”

“I bet.”

“She was the only girl I ever did that with.”

“Did you like that?” he asked.

Janey couldn’t meet his eyes. “Yes,” she confessed. “Very much.”

“Better than men?”

“Different. Better than most men. Not better than you,” she said. “But interesting. That was just about the most interesting thing I ever did in my life, until the day you came along.”

“You slept with her just once?”

“No,” Janey said. “Lots of times. For a couple of months. I’d go into her room every night and she’d undress me and then she’d kiss me here and here and she would really turn me on. I’d go wild.” She felt the flush of embarrassment in her cheeks. Looking up at Sparkman, she said, “Val, are there — are there a lot of girls who like to sleep with other girls?”

“Couple of million, I guess. That’s a pretty popular sport in some parts of the country.”

“Did you ever know any — any others?”

He grinned. “Plenty. What’s the matter, you think you’re the only one who ever did that? I bet maybe half of all college girls do that at least once. They like to experiment.”

“And you knew other girls who —?”

“Yes,” he said. “I once had a pretty good time with a couple of them, as a matter of fact. Now that you remind me.” He kicked off his shoes and sat down on the edge of the bed to begin unbuttoning his shirt. “Two cute little weirdoes who happened to like men on the side. I met them in New York, five, six years ago, and they really showed me a time.”

“That sounds wild.”

“That was wild,” Sparkman told her. “Do you want to hear about them?”

“Sure,” Janey said.

Sparkman smiled and let his memory slide back along the time track, back to that miserably cold winter when he was living in New York, the winter when it snowed about every other day and the cold white stuff was heaped four and five feet high in the streets.

He hadn’t wanted to spend that winter in New York. He had wanted to head for the warm Southland, down to the track at Hialeah, or maybe even further south, to Puerto Rico and its shiny new El Comandante track — any place but New York in the winter. But he had a job in New York, an assignment that he couldn’t afford to turn down, and that stuck him there for the snowy season.

It could have been an endless drag, but it wasn’t. Thanks to Jody and Nolie.

Their names were similar, and so were their looks. They might just as well have been sisters, except they weren’t. Both Nolie and Jody were short girls, around five-feet-three, with glossy dark hair and trim, breasty bodies. They were both dancers in Broadway shows, limber and agile, lean in the legs and not so lean in the other places.

They were both Lesbians.

But not exclusively Lesbians. They liked a little fun with men, too.

Sparkman met Jody first, through a mutual friend. She took to him right away, giving him a bedroom look with dark, sparkling eyes. Sparkman was attracted to her, too. She was a lively little bundle of charm, and he figured he’d have himself a ball.

“You’ve got to visit me,” she said.

“Sure. Glad to. When and where?”

“We’ve got a lovely apartment on Central Park West,” Jody said.

“We?”

“Nolie and me. My roommate.”

“I’ll be glad to stop up,” Sparkman said. “Any time that Nolie isn’t home.”

“You’d be making a mistake,” Jody told him. “You’d love to meet Nolie.”

He let the point pass, and arranged to visit Jody at her apartment. Since the dancer worked evenings on Broadway, the visit was scheduled for one in the afternoon. When Sparkman went there, he didn’t bother to ask whether the roommate would be there or not. He just assumed that she’d be out of the way for him and Jody.

He rang the bell. It was a fifteenth-floor apartment in an old but still respectable building fronting on Central Park, in what had been the extremely upper-crust neighborhood of Manhattan when Woodrow Wilson was in the White House.

The door opened. A girl in a gauzy black negligee answered. She grinned at him. Sparkman grinned back. He liked the effect. The negligee was diaphanous, showing off the ripe curves of plump round breasts. He could see the dark circles of the brunette’s aureoles, the deep indentation of her navel.

“Hi,” she said.

“Hi, Jody.”

“I’m not Jody.”

Sparkman brought his gave up from her body to her face. “I’ll be damned,” he muttered. “You aren’t!”

“You’re Val,” she said. “I’m Nolie. Jody’s roommate. Come on in and relax.”

She pivoted around and led the way into the apartment. Sparkman stared at the plump rounds of the girl’s buttocks, so clearly revealed underneath the negligee. The resemblance between Nolie and Jody was fantastic. They looked almost like twins, both the same height and build, the same dark hair, the same pale skin.

Then Jody appeared from an inner room. She was wearing a show-it-all negligee too. And when the girls stood side by side, Sparkman realized that the resemblance wasn’t as close as it had seemed. He had been led astray by the sudden baring of flesh through the negligees. Now that he concentrated on their faces, both at the same time, he saw that it was only a superficial resemblance.

But the bodies — they could have been cut from the same pattern. And a first rate pattern it was, too.

“Hi,” Jody said. “How do you like us?”

“Fine,” Sparkman said. “I wasn’t expecting to find two of you, though.”

“Two’s more fun than one,” Nolie said. “How about something to drink?”

“Yeah. I think it would be a good idea, maybe,” Sparkman said.

He glanced around the apartment. A big place, room after room after room, winding off down hallways in all directions. Big windows facing Central Park, looking out to the towers of Fifth Avenue on the other side of the park.

Nolie handed him a drink. It was a strong one. So was the second one.

By the third one, both girls were stripping for him.

They peeled their negligees off, up over legs and hips and waists and breasts, and tossed the flimsy garments aside, letting them drift to the floor. Sparkman stared at the two firm, trim bodies, the short, muscular legs, the high, full globed breasts tipped with hard, jutting nipples. There was a dryness in his throat as he contemplated the double nakedness before him.

Then Jody and Nolie began to dance.

They moved in sinuous, supple patterns, their nude bodies twisting and turning, pirouettes that made their full, firm breasts sway and swing. They did a minuet of nudity, an exotic pavan, bodies meeting and parting again, breast-tips touching with sly little provocative pokes.

Sparkman watched, entranced, his eyes traveling over four breasts, four inflamed nipples, four legs, over buttocks and hips. He began to decide that that wasn’t so annoying to have the roommate here after all.

They danced up to him. They drew him lightly up out of his chair, twining their bodies around his. Sparkman felt the firm globes of their breasts pressing against his sides. He felt the warmth of them, and he slipped his arms around them, cupping satiny buttocks, stroking silken skin, savoring the sweet perfume of them.

They began to undress him, artfully peeling his garments away until he was as nude as they were. Then they moved toward the bed.

CHAPTER TEN

JANEY, LISTENING WITH HER BREATH HELD AND HER eyes wide, said, “All three of you?”

“All three of us,” Sparkman said. “We got down there on the bed together, and let me tell you, that was one wild scene.”

“You — you loved them both?”

“At the same time.”

“But how?” Janey shook her head. “That just isn’t possible for one man to — to love two women at once. I don’t see — ”

Sparkman laughed. “Well, maybe not both at precisely the same time. I grant you, that would be a pretty good trick. But there are other ways to manage.”

He described them.

Janey listened, fascinated.

In her throbbing mind she conjured up images of the acts that Sparkman described — strange acts, things that she had never dreamed anyone could or would attempt.

She saw Sparkman naked on the bed with the two dark-haired girls, filling his hands with the bounty of their breasts and legs, their buttocks and knees. Saw Nolie bending forward, putting her mouth to Sparkman while Sparkman, in turn, brought his face against the warmth of Jody. And Jody doing the same for Nolie.

The complicated three-way kiss went on for a long time, until all three of them were gasping with strange desire. Then Sparkman turned, and found Nolie waiting for him.

He took her.

As he did so, Nolie gasped and quivered and began to move in passionate rhythms of sensuality. Nor was Jody forgotten — this was really her date, after all. She sprawled out on the huge bed within reach of Sparkman’s mouth, and he took the hint. So while he was loving Nolie, he was attending Jody with his lips.

And then Nolie went into a paroxysm of ecstasy, screaming as she reached her culmination. Without hesitating, Sparkman moved away from her to take Jody.

Now began the passion-quest all over again. Move after move brought Jody toward the summit of her ecstasy, and this time Sparkman could not hold back, and he received from Jody the pleasure that he had begun to take while embracing Nolie.

Afterward they lay still, the three of them resting a while, satisfied by their first round.

Then Nolie and Jody began to make love.

Janey, with the memories of her own Lesbian experience vivid in her mind, listened with fascination as Sparkman described the scene. The naked dark-haired wenches grappling on the bed with Sparkman close by and watching. Firm breasts jumping around, rosy nipples once more growing rigid with desire.

Bodies meeting.

Lips, hands giving stimulation. Soft female flesh in close contact. Mouths busy.

Hands busy, too, traveling over satiny skin, squeezing breasts and buttocks, exploring, touching.

Body clasping female body with an ecstasy of Lesbian lust. Mouths wide open to gasp out the cries of passion.

And Sparkman, watching the performance, staring in fascination at the two Lesbians loving each other in front of him, felt his own virility returning. Moment by moment there was the pleasure of reawakening.

Finally Nolie and Jody were through with each other. They lay back, weary from their mutual gratification. And Sparkman reached out. He grabbed one of the girls at random and drew her close.

That was Jody. He touched her, found her warm and ready for him.

Then he took her.

And the cycle repeated itself all over again, with Sparkman loving one of the roommates, leading her on to the summit of bliss, while the other one pressed close and gave herself over for a different kind of caress. Once more, Sparkman brought one girl to an acme of ecstasy and then switched quickly to the other, and the two of them completed the journey to passion.

Afterward, they rested once again. And then the girls approached each other anew, their bodies clinging in another Lesbian embrace. Some time toward evening Sparkman felt strong enough to take them again. He did — once each, in a final blaze of voluptuousness.

“And then I slept,” Sparkman said. “The girls got up and dressed and went to their evening performance, and I sacked out cold, and I was still fast asleep when they got back around midnight. When I woke up the next morning I found them both in bed with me, one on either side. So we started all over, naturally.” He laughed. “It was four days before I finally got out of that apartment. I lost eleven pounds. But that was worth while.”

Janey stared at him in awe. “Does this kind of thing go on all the time in New York?”

“Lesbians?”

“No. I mean a man sleeping with two girls.”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. That only happened to me once. I guess some guys make a specialty of that, though. And I got the impression that Nolie and Jody worked that little game all the time, whenever they found a man that they thought could handle both of them.”

Janey said, “I wonder what that would be like. You and me and Claudine, all on the same bed.”

“We ought to try sometime.”

“That wouldn’t be Claudine, though. She’d never let a man touch her, not even you. But some other girl — someone like that. And me, and you. We’d get into bed and stay there all night, and you’d have both of us, and then I’d have her and she’d have me, and — ”

Sparkman chuckled. “You’re really running hog-wild about this, aren’t you?”

“I was never any prude, Val. I was always a girl who loved to experiment. Trouble was, nobody in town wanted to experiment the same ways. All the boys like love, but they like that their way, you know, same old thing all the time. And the girls — well, I don’t think any of them would have gone for any of the things that Claudine taught me.”

“How do you know? Did you ever try to make a pass at one of them?”

“I didn’t dare, Val. In a town like that, one scandal could ruin you.”

“The worst they could have done was run you out of town,” Sparkman said. “And that’s what you wanted anyway, isn’t it?”

Janey smiled. “I didn’t think of that that way. I was afraid of becoming notorious.”

She stood up. They had both undressed completely while Sparkman was telling her the story of his adventures with Nolie and Jody, and now they faced each other stark naked across the motel room.

Sparkman beckoned to her. “Come here,” he said.

Janey realized that she was in a wicked, playful mood all of a sudden. She grinned at him and said, “Uh-uh. Chase me. If you want me, you’ve got to catch me.”

“All right, I’ll chase you.”

There wasn’t much room for a chase in the motel room, but they had one anyway. Janey leaped nimbly over chairs and over the bed, side-stepping him as he lunged after her. Her bare breasts bounced as she jumped and ran.

Once he almost got her, clamping his hand down on the heavy part of her right leg, but she slipped by him. A lamp went crashing off the night stand to the floor, but didn’t shatter.

Then he cornered her. She got up on an armchair and he stood before her while she dodged from side to side, just eluding each lunge. Suddenly he rushed straight at her. Janey leaped, trying to spring right over his shoulder and land on the bed.

That didn’t work.

“Got you!” he cried.

He caught her around the waist while she was in mid-air, one hand grabbing her nude buttocks, the other one clasping the tautness of her middle. Janey kicked at him and tried to break loose, but he pivoted easily and dumped her face down onto the bed.

Then he leaped at her.

He held her pinned down, with the pink mounds of her bare buttocks upturned to him.

Laughing, he said, “I’ll show you who’s boss, now! Make me chase you, will you?”

His hand went up. And descended. His open palm collided with the firm flesh of her left buttock. Janey hissed in surprise and pain at the impact of the unexpected slap. He spanked her again, even harder.

“Ouch!” she cried. “That hurts!”

“That’s supposed to,” Sparkman told her.

“Let go of me!”

“When I’m good and ready,” he said, and slammed his hand down again. And again. And again.

The hand connected with the quivering bare flesh, and that began to glow a fiery red as the spanking continued. Janey twisted and tried to free herself, but it was impossible to get loose. He had her pinned with one powerful hand while the other one whaled away.

She made a strange discovery in the middle of her pain and discomfort.

She discovered that the spanking was having a strange and exciting effect for her.

She was excited already, of course — first of all, simply from being in a motel room with this big, passionate man; secondly, from having listened to his provocative story of orgies in New York; thirdly, from being naked and having him naked too; fourthly, from having jumped and cavorted around the room with him pursuing her. But now there was a fifth reason for Janey to warm up, and that made her more excited than the other four put together.

What was that? Why was that happening? Why should a spanking, and a rather painful spanking at that, not just a joking one, turn her on?

She didn’t know. She didn’t understand this at all. All she knew was that her buttocks were sizzling from the repeated impacts of his hand, and that she was sizzling too, with a different sort of warmth.

She heard him grunting. He was really getting carried away with this, now. His hand was clipping the backs of her legs as well as her buttocks. She was close to tears. The stinging pain made her grit her teeth there was a tightness in her throat, and her head began to throb. The spanking hurt fiercely, and yet at the same time encouraged her to a wild fervor.

“Val,” she gasped. “Please, Val — stop — I can’t take any more — I’m burning up, Val — ”

He made a harsh grunting sound. There were no further blows.

He fell at her. Janey was still lying face down on the bed. Then his hands moved to her.

Janey wasn’t sure what he was going to do. But in another moment he made his intentions clear, and she found that what he was doing was strangely pleasant in spite of the oddness.

They began a rhythm of passion. He reached with his hands to cup the ripe thrusts of her breasts, digging at those lush mounds.

Janey closed her eyes. Eddying currents of excitement ran over her, dazing her, numbing her.

“Oh, God, that’s so good, Val, that’s so wonderful — I never did this before, never even thought of this — ”

“There’s a first time for everything,” he said.

“I’m going to blow my top, Val, I’m going to crack up! This is too much! Oh Val —!”

He laughed. He bit lightly at her neck, mingling pleasure and pain once more for her as his teeth nipped the soft flesh.

Then his right hand left her right breast, releasing its tight grip and sliding away while the other hand continued to hold her left breast firmly. His right hand began to work.

Janey reacted. Violently.

Janey went wild.

She was experiencing pleasurable sensations with many different parts of her body, now. The combination of thrills drove her to a frantic frenzy of sensuality.

Her body twisted and thrashed about. She worked as though she had gone out of her mind. The surge of ecstasy was immediate and overpowering.

That hit her first, making her muscles tense as though she had grabbed a live wire, and she twisted and shook as the voltage blazed through her nervous system.

Sparkman seemed to wait, hesitating until she was at the absolute peak of her ecstasy, and then he cut loose with his own fulfillment, driving Janey to a still higher notch of fulfillment.

And then that ended.

She felt herself floating down, down, down out of the empty regions of intergalactic space, down toward the real world once again. Her mind was strangely calm, oddly tranquil after the near burnout of that wild session of love making. She kept her eyes closed. The thunder of her heartbeat was like the booming of a muffled drum, growing calmer from one moment to the next.

Holding her in a tight embrace, Sparkman was still with her. But there was no question of any further love-making tonight. The cataclysmic fury of that one overpowering session had made any repeat unnecessary.

He kissed the tip of her ear lobe, kissed the nape of her neck. Then he pulled the sheet up over their nude forms and tucked that around her.

Janey lay still, listening to the purr of the air-conditioner and to the throbbing of her own heart. She had never felt so happy in her life.

She said softly, “You know, it was the luckiest day of my life when you walked into the restaurant and sat down the other night.”

“Was it, really?”

“I’d still be serving a life sentence in Missouri if you hadn’t come along to rescue me, Val.”

“I didn’t rescue you. You rescued yourself.”

“You gave me a reason for leaving. You helped me break out of the spell I was in.” She laughed. “And now I’m in a different spell. A good spell.”

He squeezed her breast fondly. “Let’s try to get some sleep now. We’ve got a lot of driving to do when tomorrow comes.”

“Will we get to Mexico tomorrow, Val?”

“Not unless we fly. We’ve got a lot of desert country ahead of us.”

“I can’t wait till we’re safe over the border, Val. Till we can stop running.”

He didn’t answer. In the silence, Janey assumed that he must have gone to sleep.

“Good night,” she whispered.

“Night,” he said.

She was tired from the wild session of love-making, but she did not go to sleep right away. She lay awake, nestling against the warmth of his big, strong body, thinking back over the experience she had had tonight — the spanking, the dizzying ecstasy of the unfamiliar loving. That had been unbelievably exciting and wonderful. What other surprises did he have in store for her? What other ways of love could he teach her?

And I thought I was so sophisticated, she told herself ruefully. I guess I was — by small town standards.

She couldn’t get the story that Sparkman had told her out of her mind — the business with him and the girls named Nolie and Jody, in New York. Three of them on one bed. That would be marvelous, Janey thought, to be able to get Lesbian loving and Val Sparkman’s embrace the same night, one right after the other. She was glad that she had confessed her liking for Lesbianism to him, though she didn’t know why she had brought the subject up. It could have been embarrassing, though it hadn’t turned out that way.

Maybe when we get to Mexico, Janey thought, we’ll try something like that.

They’d find some girl down there who went in for Lesbian fun and games. And they’d get into bed together, just as he and Nolie and Jody had done, and he’d take the two of them on, and then they’d love each other while he watched, and then he’d have them again, and then —.

Janey smiled. They’d really gape back in Nero if they knew what sort of stuff she was getting herself involved in. She would love to see Sid Carpenter’s expression while she described a few of these little amusements.

But she never would, she knew. Because he was back in poky old Nero, and she was headed south on a one-way journey to sunny Mexico.

She smiled. She huddled up in a warm naked little ball of flesh. She was very, very happy.

She slept soundly that night.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

SPARKMAN WAS THE FIRST TO AWAKEN, THE FOLLOWING morning. He yawned, stretched, sat up in bed, looked at his watch. Ten after seven. High time to be moving along, he figured.

He glanced down at Janey. She was still sound asleep. Sparkman carefully took the sheet between two of his fingers and drew that down, to reveal the nakedness of her. She looked terrific, he thought. She was still lying on her side, with her knees drawn up close to her breasts. He eyed the smooth white curve of her buttocks, the heavy globes of her breasts, the seductiveness of her legs.

A first-class chick, he thought. It was a pity that the time for saying good-bye was coming so near.

He slipped his hand over her arm and cupped that onto her bare, firm breast. She made a little purring sound of pleasure at the contact.

Sparkman shook her.

“Come on, bright-eyes. Time to get moving.”

Janey stirred. She sat up, stretched, the deep bowls of her breasts rising steeply. She yawned and thumbed the sleepiness out of her eyes. In the morning sunlight she looked more beautiful than ever.

“Val, can’t we sleep a little while longer?” she asked.

“Up,” he said.

“You’re merciless.”

“I’m hungry to get closer to that border, baby. Upsy-daisy.”

He took her by her slender wrist and tugged her out of bed. She came to her feet and glided into his arms, and he held her tight, crushing her against him, feeling the warm, hard-tipped globes of her lovely young breasts pressing close….

She began to make soft murmuring noises of desire. “No,” he said. “Don’t distract me, woman! Lets take a shower and get moving!”

He let go of her, spun her around, put his hands to the firm ripenesses of her buttocks, and propelled her swiftly toward the bathroom. He followed her and nudged her into the shower.

He turned the water on. It came out ice cold, and Janey let out a little shriek of surprise as the chilly cascade hit her sleepy face and warm breasts. A moment later Sparkman had the temperature adjusted.

They had a good time in the shower. When they were wet, Sparkman gave her a thorough soaping, his hands lingering over the jutting curves of her breasts, the sumptuous tautness of her buttocks. He worked his hands over her legs, making her giggle with pleasure as he administered the soap.

Then that was her turn to soap him and she did just as comprehensive a job, kneeling to finish. Sparkman caught his breath with delight as she worked with the soap. Instantly he was ready to go. But he forced back the temptation.

Tugging her to her feet, he pushed her under the spray and they washed all the soap off. He could see the disappointment in her face. She was a real eager one, he thought. She simply couldn’t get enough loving, no matter how many times she tried.

He shaved, trimming carefully around his mustache. The mustache was nearly all grown in now, and he was willing to bet that there weren’t many who would recognize him this way, with the short, bristly haircut and the military-looking lip foliage.

He stepped out of the bathroom. Janey was getting dressed — walking around the room in her panties and nothing else, hunting for her clothing. He watched her breasts bobbling as she moved. That was a pleasant sight. Then she picked up her brassiere, pulled the cups into place over the twin mounds of luscious white flesh.

Five minutes later, they were both ready to go. It was quarter to eight. They stepped out of the motel room, into the full blast of the morning sun.

“Going to be a hot day,” Sparkman said. “I wish I had grabbed an air-conditioned car while I was at it.”

“You still can,” Janey suggested. “The same way you got the Oldsmobile.”

He shook his head. “Don’t put ideas in my skull. There’s no sense multiplying our risks. We’ll just sweat a little in this one.”

The motel room had been paid for the night before, when they checked in, so there was no need to go to the office. Sparkman left the room key sticking in the door and they got into the car.

Two miles down the road, they found a place which was open for breakfast, and they had a meal, of sorts. Then they got on the road again, as the temperature started to climb higher and higher toward the furnace heat of a Southwestern afternoon.

They drove in shifts — Sparkman behind the wheel for two hours or so, then the girl driving for one hour. He wasn’t too happy about letting Janey drive, though she was competent enough; he just wasn’t used to getting chauffeur service from women. But there was no real choice. In this hot, sunbaked country, it wasn’t safe to sit behind the wheel for hour after hour. The glare could do funny things to the eyesight, and the sheer emptiness could numb the brain. It was safer to let her take her turn.

Sparkman picked up Route 70 near Frederick, Oklahoma, and rode it right into Texas, crossing just as he had planned to do, well above the city of Lubbock, and shooting straight westward across the thinnest part of Texas into adjoining New Mexico.

It was wide, flat, barren land. Brown mountains, lots of sagebrush, not many towns, hardly any trees at all. The roads ran straight as arrows, scarcely curving at all for twenty or thirty miles in a row. You could make good time out here, averaging seventy or even seventy-five.

From here on in, Sparkman knew, the trip was going to be a simple one.

He intended to drive straight southwest on 70 once he had entered New Mexico at Clovis. That would take him through a lot of empty desert to Roswell, where he could pick up Highway 285 southbound, and from there it would be straight down into the Carlsbad Caverns area.

Sparkman didn’t have any plans to stop and sightsee at the caverns. The road map in his mind told him that he would grab Highway 62-180 coming south out of Carlsbad, and take that westward across the mountains and salt flats into Texas once again, heading for El Paso. It was a slightly roundabout route, which was exactly what Sparkman wanted. He wasn’t paying for the gas. And he was interested in avoiding the big population centers where the police might be likely to look for any out-of-state Oldsmobiles, and pick them up just on general reasons.

The trouble with taking the back route to El Paso was that the motels got pretty sparse. It was thirty and even forty miles from one town to the next, out here, and nobody cared to stick a motel down in the middle of nowhere. So as the day began to wane, it started to look as though they would have trouble finding a place to stay. Mile after mile after mile went by — without a motel or even so much as a sign of civilization.

“What are we going to do, Val?” Janey asked, when night began to descend like a curtain. “Are we just going to keep on driving forever?”

“No,” Sparkman said. “We’ll give it another five miles or so.”

“And then?”

“Then we’ll stop,” he said. “Wherever we are. We’ll camp out like pioneers.”

He was dead tired. They had driven hundreds of miles that day, through oven-like heat that even now had not relented, pausing only to catch a quick meal at lunch time and another about seven o’clock. Now it was half past nine, and he felt that if he had to keep his foot on the gas pedal another five minutes he’d flip his stack completely. If only a motel would appear —

No motel. No nothing.

Sparkman clocked off the five miles that he had set as his quota. Then he braked the car to a halt. It took a while to slow down, going at their speed, but no motels showed up while he was braking, either.

“Okay,” Sparkman said. “Here’s where we spend the night. Under the Texas sky.”

“Out in the open?”

“Why not? We’re running low on cash anyway. This’ll save the motel bills.”

He pulled the car onto the shoulder of the road, and then, since the countryside was perfectly flat, he kept right on going into a sagebrush patch, finally halting the car when they were about two-fifths of a mile off the highway. They got out.

They might just as well have been on the moon. The world was completely silent here. The temperature was up around ninety-nine, but it was a dry desert heat. Not a breath of breeze was stirring. There was sagebrush everywhere. There was no moon tonight, and the only light came from the hard, bright points of the stars.

Now and then a car whizzed by on the distant highway, traveling at seventy or eighty miles an hour — too fast to see them, too fast to notice a thing.

They looked at each other.

“You know what I want?” Janey asked.

“Can’t guess.”

“I want you to love me right out here in the desert. Right in the open air. Not on the back seat of the car or anything, but under just the sky.”

Sparkman laughed. “Aren’t you afraid somebody’ll come along and peep?”

“Here? Maybe a coyote will see us. That’s all.”

He grinned at her, and they began to undress. His clothes were sweaty from the long day in the car, and he was glad to get out of them. He felt grimy, too. What he wouldn’t have minded right at this moment was a cool, crystal-clear, fast-flowing stream to jump into. But this wasn’t Vermont, this was the west Texas desert, and the nearest body of water bigger than a mud puddle might be sixty miles away.

Janey undressed faster than he did. It was wonderful to see how quickly she got out of her clothing, as though she couldn’t make herself naked fast enough out here under the stars. Bra and panties dropped away, and then she was bare to the night.

Her white skin seemed to glisten and shine by the starlight. Her breasts rose and fell gently, her nipples grew rigid. She held her arms outstretched, filled her lungs with air, grinned at him.

“I feel so free,” she said, “people ought to be naked outdoors more often. Instead of being cooped up in clothes all the time.”

She did a little dance, the deep bells of her breasts swaying enticingly. Sparkman removed his last garment and moved toward her, embraced her, captured her lips with his own.

They kissed. Her response was torrid, passionate, excited. He clasped her body to his.

Then they parted, and she stretched out full length on the sandy ground between two clumps of sagebrush. She held her arms out to him.

“I’m all yours, Val,” she whispered huskily. “Take me, darling. Take me!”

Sparkman, naked, stood beside her, looking down at the opulent globes of her breasts, the satiny sleekness of her legs.

“Are you going to be comfortable there?”

“So I’ll get some cactus needles in my behind,” she said. “Who cares? You can pick them out later. Come here to me.”

He lowered himself to her.

They met. She was ready, and he took her easily. They began to move, gasping and panting in the silence of the night.

She uttered a sharp little cry, half pleasure and half pain, as he worked.

Then she began to quiver and tremble, and soon the culmination was there for her with a rush of ecstasy, and for him also, and when that was over he kissed her tenderly on each puckered nipple, and rolled away from her, over on his back.

She put her hand in his. They stared up together at the great vault of the heavens, at the shining stars like so many diamonds against a black velvet display case.

Janey said, “I feel so wonderful, Val. Even with the cactus under me. Just to lie here naked like this — it’s great, isn’t it?”

“It sure is. But it won’t be so good when we try to get some sleep.”

“Who needs sleep?” she asked, laughing.

Sparkman felt as wide awake as she did, even after their session of passion, even in the desert heat. She was right; there was something bracing about nudism, and especially about love in the open. For a long while they lay on their backs next to each other. Then she moved close to him, and he cupped the heavy globes of her nude breasts, and played with the nipples, and kissed her ears and the tip of her nose.

“Let’s try to get some sleep,” he suggested.

He got up and spread out their clothing so they wouldn’t be sleeping on the rough, prickly ground. But it wasn’t much good. Neither of them got a real night’s sleep. Sparkman found himself dozing for half an hour or so, then waking up because of the discomfort of his position. Janey seemed to be awake most of the night too.

Once, with dawn staining the horizon, they both awoke at the same time. They grinned at each other with the washed-out look of people who have had too little sleep. Then, with one accord, they rolled close to one another and began to make love.

They dozed a little, again, after that.

But then came sunrise and there was no possibility of further sleep.

They rose, dusted the sand from their bodies, yawned, stretched. She looked kind of frazzled, with her hair a mess and her eyes ringed with dark circles. He knew that he wasn’t much better, needing a shave and a shower in the worst way.

“This is the time when you wish you’d gone to a motel,” he said. “Well, maybe tonight — ”

They fixed themselves up and got into their clothing after one last nude hug in the thin light of dawn. By six o’clock, they were on the road again.

That night they stopped in a motel. One night bedded down in the desert was enough.

Sparkman knew that the end of the journey was near, now, and in a way he wasn’t looking forward to it. He had grown pretty fond of Janey in the short time that they had been traveling together. She was a good kid, he told himself. She was still a little awed by him, though not as much as at the beginning. But she was eager to help, eager for experience. She had a hunger for new things — for balling in a Texas desert, for shacking up in a motel and learning new things, for making out with a dyke and him at the same time. She had lots of ambitions.

Sparkman wasn’t looking forward to the moment when he had to tell her the truth — that El Paso was going to be the end of the line for her.

He stalled about breaking the news to her. But finally she brought it on herself.

They were rolling along Route 180 at about half past six in the morning, having gotten an early start to beat the killing heat. This was going to be the last day of their trip south, Sparkman figured. They were only about ninety-five miles from El Paso.

Sparkman was counting on getting there by eight or eight-thirty that morning. At that hour, he could slip casually across the bridge into Mexico with all the morning workers, and nobody would be the wiser. Good-by, U.S.A. Hello, Cindy-babe.

But somewhere between now and then he was also going to have to say good-bye to Janey.

She was riding along snuggled up against his shoulder while he drove the first shift. She was pretty drowsy; they had been up late the night before, and Janey hadn’t wanted to get out of bed when morning came. They had done a lot of boffing yesterday in the motel room.

But then she said suddenly, just when he thought she was asleep, “Val?”

“Urn?”

“Val, what’s it going to be like for us when we get to Mexico? I mean, how are we going to get along Are we going to try to find jobs, or are you going to keep on being — being a criminal — or what?”

“I’ve got some money socked away down in a bank in Juarez,” Sparkman said. “Enough to live on without having to do anything crooked.” He nibbled his lower lip nervously, not liking the way Janey was talking about us, about what we would do when we got to Mexico.

“Maybe we can rent a little villa, Val,” Janey said, her eyes closed dreamily, her head still resting on his shoulder. “How would you like that? We can have Mex servants, lots of them, a butler and everything, and we’ll sit on the veranda of our villa and sip tequila. That’s the stuff they drink down there, isn’t it, tequila?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Only you don’t sip it. You belt it down in a hurry.”

“Well, whatever you do with it. And we can have the American newspapers shipped down. It’ll be a ball, won’t it, Val? We’ll go swimming and make love and sunbathe and make love and see all the sights and make love. All the Aztec temples and the pyramids, or whatever they’ve got down there. Maybe we can even have a family. You ever been married, Val? I think maybe it would be fun if we had a family, and when they grew up we could tell them how we met. We’d say, ‘Your father had just escaped from jail when I met him,’ that’s what I’ll say. And — ”

“Hold it,” Sparkman said. This was the moment, if ever there was one. He had to puncture her little daydream now. “There ain’t going to be any family, Janey. Or any little villa for you or me. Or servants or tequila or pyramids or all the rest.”

CHAPTER TWELVE

THERE WAS A SUDDEN PAINFUL SILENCE IN THE CAR.

“What’s that, Val?” Janey said after a moment. “I don’t get you.”

Sparkman took a deep breath and ran his tongue quickly around his suddenly dry lips. “I guess I should have told you this from the start, Janey, only there never was any chance to say it. I got friends in Mexico. I got a girl friend name of Cindy who’s waiting for me there, and she isn’t expecting me to bring company along.”

She pulled her head off his shoulder. Sparkman stared hard at the road, his face tightly clenched. He didn’t want to look at her.

He said, “You’ve been swell, kid. I want you to know that. I’ve loved every minute of it, and I can’t thank you enough for making this trip. But your ticket expires in El Paso, Janey. Cindy would murder me if I took you across the border.”

Janey caught her breath in what sounded to him like a muffled sob. She said, “You mean, I’ve just been — sort of a sidekick for the trip, Val? Somebody to sleep with and run your errands on the way down A girl to bang, a girl to get your car painted — and now that we’re almost there you’re letting me go?”

“I can’t help it, honey. That’s the way things have got to be.”

“No, Val.”

“Yes. You had some excitement, you had some adventure, you had a good time in bed. You learned a few things and you won’t forget them too soon. I’ll give you the car when we reach El Paso, and you can go back home. You’ve lived. You got as good as you gave.”

“But I didn’t want it to end so soon! And I slept with you and all, Val. All the things we did — some of them were pretty wild. And — ”

“Look,” Sparkman said, “I’m not the first guy you slept with, right? Not by a couple of dozen. So I don’t owe you anything, I didn’t take anything away from you. And I won’t be the last to ball you either. So go back to Missouri and find yourself some nice guy and have that family.”

“No, Val. Can’t I go with you? Maybe you and me and Cindy — the three of us — ”

He laughed. “Cindy won’t go for that kind of stuff. She doesn’t share, and she doesn’t ball girls, and she absolutely wouldn’t buy you. No, Janey. You don’t want to get involved in that kind of stuff. You won’t want to mess around with a guy like me. I’m practically twice your age and I’m no good. I lie, I cheat, I drink. I’m a wanted murderer. You’d better get those stars out of your eyes. You won’t be happy living with a guy like me.”

She was silent for a long while. Sparkman felt like a heel. He thought of how radiant she had looked naked in the desert with starlight bouncing off her breasts. Or coming out of the shower, flecked with moisture. He thought of her pinned to the bed, her buttocks growing cherry red as his hand pummeled them. And then, taking her, making love with her…

“I don’t blame you for being sore at me, hon,” Sparkman said after a while. “But I honestly can’t take you with me past the border. Can you understand that? You won’t fit in with my friends, with the kind of life I lead. It would never work. You’ve had your big thrill in life, Janey. Now go home and remember it forever. Okay?”

After a long moment she said, in a small, wounded voice, “Okay, Val. I — I think I understand.”

He smiled. “You’re a smart girl. I almost wish I could have taken you with me. I’ll miss you. But I can’t. You understand that.”

“Yeah, Val. I understand.” She was trying hard not to start sobbing. After another long silence she said, “Val, there’s a filling station coming up on the left. You better stop. You’re running low on gas.”

Sparkman glanced at the indicator on the dashboard. She was right; he needed gas. She was still taking care of him, even now.

They pulled up at the filling station and the attendant came out.

“Fill it up,” Sparkman said.

Janey turned to him. “Val, I’m going into the ladies’ room to wash up.”

He nodded. Her face was streaked with tears, and she looked very pale, very beautiful. He watched her go into the station, moving gracefully, seductively. The image of her naked body flashed into his mind again. He felt sadder than ever at saying good-bye. But Cindy was waiting, and Sparkman knew that Cindy would make him forget Janey and her attractions in a hurry.

He presented the credit card when the tank was filled up. Then he waited for her. It was almost ten minutes before she came out of the station. Sunlight flashed on her tight shirt, outlining her full breasts.

She came toward the car.

“Feeling better?” he asked.

“Lots.”

“Hop in, then.”

He drove away, hiking the speed swiftly as they returned to the highway. It was only seventy miles to El Paso, now. He didn’t intend to speed the rest of the way. Now that he was getting into a more inhabited area, where there was likely to be a police force, he decided to play it cautious, stay just below the speed limits. Even so, he’d get to El Paso in an hour and a quarter.

The kid had taken the bad news pretty well, Sparkman thought. It had been a jolt for her, but she would recover. She was young, she could ride with a blow. And she’d be a lot better off in the long run this way. He knew he wasn’t the right kind of guy for her, not on a long-term basis. He had given her a thrill of a lifetime, and now it was time to bid farewell.

Sparkman was feeling pretty relaxed, now. The end of his chase was in sight at last, after weeks of crossing the continent. Mexico was just ahead. And for practically the only time in his life, he had prevented another human being from making a bad mistake, from wasting her life. Janey would rot away in Mexico, digging deeper into strange lusts as the tropics took hold of her. This way she’d go home, settle down, and she could always reminisce about her wild journey from motel to motel.

His good mood abruptly ended half an hour later, when he saw the roadblock ahead.

The road was completely closed off, maybe half a mile in front of him. Sparkman’s keen eyes picked out the motorcycle cops sitting by the barricade, ready to give chase.

“What the hell—” he muttered, numb. He braked the Oldsmobile, swung it around in a hasty U-turn, jammed down hard on the accelerator. He started heading back the way he had just come, goosing the car up to seventy miles an hour.

“Where are you going?” Janey asked. “Val, what’s the matter?”

“Roadblock ahead,” he gritted. “I don’t know what the trouble is down there, but I don’t want to get mixed in. If they stopped us and asked questions it would be a real mess. And so close to Mexico, dammit.”

“Are you sure the road’s blocked?”

“The whole highway was cut off,” Sparkman said. “Maybe there’s a horse thief in the neighborhood that they want to catch, if they still have horse thieves here. My luck to pick this damn road.”

Abruptly Janey said, “Val, maybe you’d better not run away from them.”

“Huh?”

For an answer, she reached out and tried to grab the wheel.

“Hey!” he yelled. “You crazy kid —!”

The car went skittering off the road. Sparkman jumped hard on the brake as the Oldsmobile cut through the flat sagebrush land. A tree loomed up in front of them.

There was a tremendous crash.

Sparkman felt his chest dissolve into white-hot fury.

After he did not know how long, he opened his eyes. The girl had hit the windshield, but it had held. She had a big bruise on her cheek, nothing else. Her blouse was ripped open, showing the white cups of her bra and the creamy swells of her breasts.

As for him, he was pinned back of the wheel. His chest ached. Broken ribs, probably, he decided. Lucky it was nothing worse. Why had the little idiot panicked like that? She could have killed them both.

He heard the whining of police sirens.

“Help me, Janey,” Sparkman said thinly. “We’ve gotta get out of here.”

She didn’t answer. She didn’t move.

And then it was too late. There were motorcycles all around. A mob of big tan-faced Texas Rangers.

He heard someone saying, “We set up the block soon as you called, miss. Is this the man?”

“Yes, he’s the kidnapper,” Janey was saying. “Forced me all the way down from Missouri. Raped me over and over. And he even bragged that he was wanted for murder. Plus other things.”

“Janey!” Sparkman cried. But all that, came out of his mouth was a feeble breath of air — and then a rush of blood.

He understood now. At the filling station, Janey had telephoned ahead. Asked the authorities to block the road, claiming she was a kidnap-rape victim.

And it was good-bye, Mexico, now. Good-bye to Cindy, to that soft life below the border. All because of a girl.

“Looks like he’s in bad shape,” someone was saying. “Pinned back of the wheel. I don’t think he’ll last. You were sure lucky to get out of the crash so easy, miss.”

“It was a miracle we didn’t both get killed,” Janey said. “But he deserves whatever happens to him.”

Sparkman turned his glazing eyes toward her. She was staring at him, her face stark with hatred. As clear as if she had spoken it out loud, he read the thought on her face. If I can’t have you, no one’s going to have you.

Seventy miles from the border. Sparkman tried to curse his lousy luck. And then the waves of pain rose up over him, drowning him in agony.

THE END

One Response to “Escape to Sindom – Don Elliott/Robert Silverberg (Leisure Book #686, 1964)”

  1. Wow, an entire book transcribed!?! Thank you. And I’m sure I’m not the only grateful reader.

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