S&M Iron Works, 31351 Mandeville St., New Orleans

The Chrysler two-twenty-five slant six engine was truly a wonder of automotive technology. Based upon an earlier design by Mercedes Benz, the slant six provided for a lower center of gravity and simpler maintenance. Though capable of being built in either aluminum or iron, the iron engine blocks proved the superior choice over time, and became the exclusive model after 1963. So reliable was the slant that Chrysler, along with its’ offshoots Dodge and Plymouth, built it into their auto designs up through production year 1983. It was said that slant sixes would run in the worst conditions and neglect, even with very little oil remaining.

As she used the third quart from the case she carried in her trunk, Catbite was profoundly grateful for the engine’s legendary durability. “I’m so sorry, sweetie,” she apologized to Sophie as the car gulped the life giving oil. “I shoulda checked before we left.”

“Hooooooooweee!” a voice shouted from behind her. “Dat’s some sweet lil ass you got dere, girl!”

With one hand pouring the oil, Kat used the other to reach out from under Sophie’s hood. Her middle finger bobbed in the air.

The man laughed. “I’ma take me a pitcha ‘dat ass!” he chortled.

“You wanna picture?” Catbite snarled as she came out from under the hood, the Castrol bottle dripping in her hand. “You wanna fuckin’ picture, Boudreaux?” With a round house swing, she hurled the bottle, striking the man squarely in the center of his white tee shirt.

“God damn, bitch!” he sputtered, falling back as she advanced upon him. “Fuckin’ oil! You got ‘dat shit all over my shirt!”

Both fists balled at her sides, the petite girl didn’t stop. “Fuck off now, or you’re gonna be scrubbing blood out of it, too!”

“Man, fuck you!” the cat caller shouted as he loped off. “I’ma fuck you up, bitch!”

“Run on home, little boy!” she sassed. “That’s right..just keep running!” As his stream of profanity echoed off down the street, Kat turned back toward her car. Just another day as a woman in New Orleans. She bent to collect the bottle from the cracked sidewalk. After dropping it onto the growing collection in her trunk, she tore a paper towel from the roll. Kat wiped her hands after locking down Sophie’s oil cap. This is the place, she thought as she closed the Dart’s hood.

She never locked Sophie. During the warm times of the year, Kat kept the Dart’s windows rolled down, permitting easy access for anyone so inclined to steal the big speakers that she seat belted into the back. With the burgeoning number of pawnshops in New Orleans, she’d concluded that it was less hassle to just buy another set instead of turning the car in for unnecessary repairs. Today was no different. Her Dark Sky app didn’t show rain chances until the usual four o’clock thundershower rolled up from the Gulf, so she felt comfortable letting the old girl hang open.

The S&M Iron Works appeared closed, the large metal door standing firm before the green front wall. Five til, she noted, glancing at her phone. Jaiden’s dad should be along any minute. Catbite had the impression that Owen Walker was a man who knew how to be on time. She’d spoken with Antoine Fourchette’s daughter. “Just knock,” the woman told her. “He hear. He always hears.”

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