The Doctor looked carefully over the side of the seat and saw the road race by under the running boards. The outside was a mixture of dirt and snow. The only clear visibility was through the windshield and that sight was terrifying to say the very least. The small flying machine was bouncing all over the road, and there was now forest on each side of the primitive passage beyond the steep ditches. He reached frantically over his shoulder for the belt, and to his horror found only more seat.
"Belt! Where's the belt!" He shouted and was met with loud laughter. "Door! Gone! Road! Right there!" The Doctor was pointing madly at the road while keeping his eyes directly in front of him. He wasn't going to panic straight away, but there were trees to the left, trees to the right…and trees directly in front of them. And they were headed in that very direction – very fast. "Tr…..Tr…Tre…"
"You might want to find something to hang onto, Doc."
The Doctor extended his arms to top of the car and braced his legs straight in front of him. His body was as tight as a stretched rubber band. If he lost tension, he would have shot out of the door as if from a slingshot. Still, the trees got nearer and nearer with no deceleration.
Suddenly, the ground fell out from under them. The car was airborne for a split second, but the Doctor lived an eternity in that flying car until he felt the jarring crash to the ground. They landed on all four wheels just a few hundred feet from a sharp turn. The Doctor couldn't decide how he wanted to die – crashing into the trees ahead or skidding into the turn and flipping down the road. They were both equally horrendous. And he had just learned about that hand brake...seemed a damn shame to regenerate in those hideous clothes. He hated to think that the new him would think that the old him made a habit of looking so ridiculous.
He was still braced from ceiling to floor when River took the turn on two wheels and pulled it all back together to keep on going. "That was great fun, yeah?" She giggled that laugh that meant more trouble was sure to follow.
When he bent his arms and legs, they ached from the tense position they had been holding. He inhaled a sharp breath and turned to face River for the first time since jumping into the barreling deathtrap. "What…in the hell…are…" He paused as he gave her a lookover.
"…you wearing?" He pointed to her ankle. "Is that real?"
"Of course, they are, Sweetie. I'm still River, after all. You can take a girl out of space…"
"…but you can't take the rather large handgun away from the girl?" He squeaked.
"Something like that, I guess," she answered with a laugh.
There was a very good reason why the Doctor did not immediately recognize River as the driver of the runaway vehicle. Her hair had been gathered and was hidden under a homburg hat which sat low on her head. The sleeves of her white oxford shirt were rolled up to her elbows, and it was unbuttoned dangerously low. The black braces lined up her torso in a way that caused the shirt to blouse open just enough to cause his brow to sweat. Black trousers ran the length of her legs and ended just short of black and white high-heeled oxfords. With the exception of the right leg. The bottom of the trousers on the right leg was tucked into a gun holster, giving easy access to the large and intimidating handgun it housed.
River turned her body towards him slightly, revealing another holstered gun nestled at her side under her left arm. "Two? Really? One won't do the trick?"
She looked at him and smiled innocently. "They were a matching set, Sweetie." As if no other answer was necessary to make the situation sensical. Like she was refering to earrings and a pendant.
The car continued to race down the road, throwing dirt and rocks in its wake. He slid a little closer to River – there was a greater chance that he'd be bounced out than shot by spontaneous discharge. "Where are we?" The words reverberated in his throat as they hit every bump and hole in the road.
"About midway between Bristol and Johnson City, I'd wager. Not much further," she explained nonchalantly.
The Doctor's eyebrows turned inward, and he looked at River skeptically. "I've saved Bristol an arseload of times, and what I can barely see of this landscape looks nothing like Bristol. And where the hell is Johnson City? Is that on the coast near Poole?"
"Not Bristol, England, honey. Bristol, Virginia…or Tenessee. Either-or, really."
"So, we're in America?"
"Unless you know of another Tennessee."
"And the year is…" The question hung in the air, and he waited for the other shoe to drop.
"1926." She knew then that it was only a matter of time before his wandering timelines would make sense of the madness.
He rolled together all the thoughts and facts running though his mind and finally understood the context of his newfound circumstances. The car, the guns, the clothes, the guns, the backwoods road, the guns….
He stared at River with a gaping mouth, which closed only to clarify. "River, please tell me…that you are not…"
River cut him off before he could finish his sentence, peering backwards out of the window. "Uh oh."
"Here we go."
"This is my favorite part." Her smile was menacing and rather off-putting. If Daleks could smile, they would look just like River did as she gripped the steering wheel tighter.
"River, are you – " His words got lost in the air as he turned his head and leaned carefully out of the car to look behind them. A similar box-like vehicle was in hot pursuit of them and was joined by another, bursting onto the road from beyond the trees. He heard the very distinctive sound of a firing gun and spun around quickly.
"ARE YOU A BOOTLEGGER? IS THERE LIQUOR IN THE BACK OF THIS CAR?"
River grinned and nodded, reaching under the car's front panel and causing the Doctor to squeal high and loud. "Another one?"
"No, silly." She fiddled with what looked to be small remote. With one click, the sound of banjos and drums filled the empty space in the speeding car.
"Wireless radio? In a bootlegging roadster? In 1926? Really?"
"Mood music, Sweetie…A girl needs to be put in the mood. Now, remember when I said to hold on a few minutes ago?" He nodded up and down with panicked speed and wide eyes. "That was nothing…I haven't even initiated the custom boosters…"
East bound and down, loaded up and truckin'…We gonna do what they say can't be done…We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there…I'm east bound, just watch ol' Bandit run…
"B-b-b-oosters? 1926 doesn't have boosters!" He cried as he angled every appendage to brace himself for the chase.
She laughed that laugh she was so good at and that always led to dangerous tomfoolery. "But I'm not from 1926, now am I?"
Now keep your foot hard on the pedal…son, nevermind those brakes…let it all hang out 'cause we got a run to make…
"Oh, and I prefer rumrunner…" She said with a smile and wink as the sound of more gunfire added to the mood, hers being excited, his terrified.
The Doctor swallowed hard and finally understood why entire nations and worlds had come crashing into defeat on the whisper of a pretty girl.
I don't wanna die…I don't wanna die…I don't wanna die…I like these arms… The words sounded like a sung prayer in-between gunshots.
River swerved the car from left to right, making them a harder target to hit. The Doctor could tell by the louder sounds of gunfire that the police wagons were gaining on them.
"Sweetie, take the wheel."
"Take the wh-what?"
"The wheel. Take it. Come on, now. We haven't got all day!" She shouted, darting her eyes from his to the steering wheel.
He reluctantly relinquished a support beam and reached for the wheel. River turned her body while keeping her foot steady on the accelerator. "River…please tell me you're looking for your white flag."
"I'd be lying..." She drew the gun from its holster under her arm and leaned out of the window.
"DON'T SHOOT! RIVER, DON'T SHOOT. BLEEDING WILL MAKE THEM MADDER!" He yelled in vain. He looked at the road, then at her, then back at the road. "USE THE BOOSTERS! GIVE US A BOOST! BOOSTERS ARE COOL!"
She ducked inside just long enough to give him a shrug. "Where's the fun in that? I always like to give it a go the old fashioned way first."
Old Smokey's got them ears on, he's hot on your trail…and he ain't gonna rest 'til you're in jail…So, you gotta dodge him, you gotta duck him…You gotta keep that diesel truckin'…Put that hammer down and give it hell…
Two-way fire was exchanged briefly as the Doctor guided the roadster back and forth across the road,hoping that the swerving would also work in reverse. After only a round of fired shots, River plopped back down in the seat and took over the wheel. The Doctor looked through the small oval window in the back and saw them pull farther and farther ahead of the stopped wagons.
He looked at her with horror. "You killed them!"
She rolled her eyes at him and returned the gun to its holster. "I did no such thing, you idiot. I blew out their tires. Look again."
The Doctor saw four tiny specs moving around in the distance. He tried his best not to look so impressed. "Really? So easily?" It was scary and a bit sexy at the same time. And he was appalled to even think such a terrifying thought.
"I'm good at what I do," she answered smugly.
"So I've seen," he mumbled under his breath.
"What was that?"
"Nothing." He settled back into the seat and waited for his hearts to stop pounding. "So, where to next? Church?"
They slowed down after a several minutes of silent riding and began to pass signs of civilization – homes, other vehicles and a few businesses. The light had begun to fade, and he feared even more trouble in the dark. "Are we no longer in danger of being caught?" he asked, noting the slower speed.
"Oh, we're always in danger of being caught, Sweetie. I'm rather notorious around these mountain towns…or I should say my roadster is notorious," she acknowledged, beaming with pride. "This face is not synonymous with this car."
"How…splendid," he replied dryly. "How long have you been here, exactly?"
"Long enough to make some friends."
"And apparently some enemies."
"Everywhere and every when I go, honey. That's the business of badass," she said with a chuckle.
They made several turns, weaving around the downtown area, and had reached their destination just after darkness had fallen upon the seemingly quiet town. River drove up to a nondescript warehouse and parked near a large door in the alley. She flashed her lights in a short rhythmic pattern and eased out of the car.
"Shhh. Just duck down and wait here. I'll only be a few minutes," she instructed as she grabbed her suit jacket from the seat. She slid her arms into it, and it hugged her curves in all the right places. As she stood there dressed head-to-toe in manly attire, he had never seen her look more sexy, and he felt the stirrings in his own not-so-manly clothing.
"Wait..River. One question."
She turned and lifted an inquisitive eyebrow. "Just one?"
"Do you have a day job? You know, something that obviously doesn't pay the bills…"
She gave him another of her sexy smile-and-wink combos and whispered with a laugh. "I'm the town librarian."
He could do nothing but stare after her as she slinked around the corner and disappeared through a door.
NOTE: IF YOU ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE TERM "BOOTLEGGING" IN CONTEXT WITH THE ERA, GOOGLE "BOOTLEGGING IN THE 1920S"