Russian spies, ex-Nazis, private eyes, and femmes fatale with an extra dose of “fatale.” What more could one want for a trip down Route 66?
— A large-bore handgun, that’s what.
Route 66 and a .45
The Soviet interrogators are brutally demanding information about hidden uranium ore. They’ve obviously been through this many times, and the head interrogator is clear that this is the Germans’ last chance. The “truth serum” given to the prisoners, though, appears to have left the prisoners unable to respond even if they wanted to. The first two prisoners are executed by shooting them in the head. A Soviet soldier points his gun to execute the last Third Reich officer, and . . . the gun jams. The Soviets start to argue over how to clear the jammed mechanism. Their argument is interrupted when the last addled prisoner starts singing, then blathering. Within the gibberish, though, one or two sentences—especially one or two words—make the Soviets’ jaws drop. Their interest is definitely piqued.
In the summer of 1946, Americans Jim and Susan Smith awaken in bed together in a hotel room in Chicago, U.S.A. The thing is, neither recognizes the other, or has any memory of who they are or how they got there. Identification papers, clothing in the closet and suitcases, and other clues tell a partial story: that they are man and wife from a small town near Los Angeles, California, and that Jim is a decorated war veteran, recently discharged from the U.S. Army.
Before they’ve even finished getting dressed, they receive a threatening note. They start looking for a car matching their keys, and Jim is instinctively drawn to a well-maintained, pre-war convertible—sure enough, a match. While looking for the car though, a big man in a black suit and hat watches the Smiths’ every move. And when they actually try to leave, they find themselves caught between two groups of armed men who start shooting at each other, or at the Smiths, or at both. Jim and Susan make a narrow escape in the convertible.
Because of the gunfight incident and the threat, the Smiths opt not to go to the police or the Army. Instead, they hightail it down Route 66 toward “home” in California. Hopefully they’ll remember what’s going on as they drive.
But the adventure has only begun. Followed by at least two groups of gunmen, there is also the big man in black watching them. Along the way, the big man starts to be accompanied by a smartly dressed brunette who wears sunglasses and never smiles. The woman in sunglasses, it turns out, is as dangerous as any of the gunmen.
But the Smiths are also up against their strange, shared amnesia. When they hear some of the pursuers speaking Russian to each other, the Smiths are shocked to realize that they understand the language. And at another point, Jim and Susan suddenly realize that they are speaking German fluently. Are they Russian spies who tried to defect? Nazi war criminals on the run?
The game of cat and mouse moves through, in, and around the landmarks and landscape of 1946 Route 66. Along the way Jim and Susan try to figure out who they are, who their menacing pursuers are, and why these people seem to want them dead.
Question is, will they find the answers before their enemies find them?
Copyright 2016 T.L. Fischer
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