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"I'm screwed," said Joe as the restraints lowered and clicked into place, making it impossible for him to change his mind. "I'm completely dead." From around the thick black padding, he glared at Frankie. "What was I thinking, letting you talk me into this? You must have put something in my beer!"

"Did not! You haven't even had any beer since lunch," his brother pointed out with a grin. Frank had made Joe get in the car first, so now he sat that magical few inches closer to freedom, though with the straps on he was as trapped as Joe. "Just relax. It'll be fan-fucking-tastic. You'll have fun."

"I'll puke all over both of us!" Joe was glad he hadn't eaten dinner yet and doubly glad the toilet had been their previous destination. He didn't think he'd survive the humiliation of pissing himself on a roller coaster. The people sitting in front of them were strangers, and he also didn't relish the idea of throwing up on someone he didn't even know, who might recognize him -- a cop.

With longing Joe glanced back at the line, where the next group of riders waited to get into the next car. There behind it were Maria and Dorothy, lost in conversation about who knew what women talked about, kids or sunburn or men. Dorothy couldn't ride, of course, being pregnant, and Maria was perfectly happy to stay with Raffael, though Joe thought that he should have let her fly with Frankie and stayed with Dorothy himself. "You big girl," Frank drawled, grinning, pantomiming surfing over giant hills with one hand, as if he wasn't about to risk his life for the cheap thrill of an amusement park ride.

Their car gave a lurch forward, making his stomach lurch as well, and at his side Frank let out a pleased laugh. "See, bro? You'll love it!" Mentally Joe cursed him, cursed Dorothy for inviting them along to the park, cursed Maria for standing there oblivious with that big happy smile on her face while his little brother goaded him into agreeing to ride the damn thing.

The car lurched again and a horrible groaning creak began beneath them as the mechanism that would tow them up the first hill locked into gear. "I hate you," Joe said through clenched teeth. "Hate you hate you hate you hate you hate you...," all the way up the hill so steep that he was practically flattened on his back while they climbed, until they teetered for a moment that lasted forever at the precipice.

"You don't hate me, you love me," Frank said.

Then, with excruciating slowness, the front of the car began to tilt downward, and Joe fell momentarily forward against the restraints before being flung against the seat as they began the plummet.

He screamed in mortal terror as he fell, hearing Frank shout gleefully next to him, vowing brutal revenge if he lived long enough. The wind tore at his scalp and shrieked in his ears, blocking out his own wail. The rattling of the car as it plunged reminded him of the noise inside a chopper and he wondered if it reminded Frankie of Vietnam, or the long ride to the top of the construction site where he worked, not very happily but he said he enjoyed the view from the unfinished bridge.

Not Joe. Each time they came down a hill, Joe could see the ground rushing up at them. He closed his eyes and tried to inhale, but as they hit bottom the car would jerk viciously and begin to climb again, more quickly and without benefit of a tow. It was too fast, he was sure they would go shooting off the top of the next hill, miss the track and fall far below, leaving their babies fatherless...then they were descending again, twisting this time, jerking Joe's neck and guts in opposite directions.

It went on for two more minutes that seemed like hours, bouncing them over smaller hills that slammed his body within the restraints, then tossed him from side to side as the car entered a pitch-black passageway where he couldn't even see which way he was about to be smashed. His head throbbed, his stomach churned, his throat burned raw from screaming, and the gardening scar on his left hand flared painfully from clenching his fist so tightly. When at last they jolted and shuddered to a stop, he tried to wipe the tears from his face.

No sooner had the restraints lifted and Joe turned to exit the loathed car than he found himself trapped again, this time by Frankie's merciless arms. "You did it!" the crazy sonofabitch shouted gleefully, hugging Joe hard enough to rob him of what miniscule precious air remained in his lungs. Then, as Joe contemplated passing out in his lap, Frank pulled back a fraction, grabbed Joe's head in both hands and gave him a wet, sloppy kiss that seemed to last as long as the roller coaster ride.

By the time Frankie released him, the crowd in line was hooting and the annoyed attendants were pulling on his shirt to haul them out of the car before the automatic machinery pushed it forward for the next pair of riders. Joe stumbled out of the car and into Frankie's arms just as the next car pulled in, full of grinning kids who joined the crowd jeering them.

"It's the magic of the Tunnel of Love!" Frankie shouted, and Joe remembered that that was the name of the ride.

Maria was laughing, and threw her arms around Joe as he came through the exit so enthusiastically that he nearly fell over. "Enjoy the trip?" she asked.

"My brother is a dead man," Joe managed to croak before his legs went out from under him and he sat heavily on the wooden boardwalk stairs that exited the ride. Maria and Dorothy hauled him to his feet, but left him teetering until Frankie slipped under his arm and helped Joe stand as if he were drunk.

Thinking about his vow of revenge, Joe decided it would have to wait. He let his head slump against Frankie's shoulder, shuffling slowly toward solid ground.