Iron Goddess - Bonus Content

Boosted: A Shea Stevens Short Story

Ajo, Arizona — September 1999


“There it is, on the left.” Shea Stevens pointed at the hand-painted sign for AA Ajo Auto Repair.

A ripple of nervousness ran down her spine. She combed a hand through her short-cropped hair and straightened her leather biker jacket.

“I see it.” Mystic nodded and drove the Elantra hatchback into the fenced-in parking lot, stopping next to one of the shop’s tow trucks.

“You sure about this, babes?” Mystic asked as the engine idled. “We don’t know who these people are. They could be assholes. Or worse, Republicans.”

“Ralph said they were cool.”

“Ralph? Your father? The man murdered your mama in front of you. Not exactly a sound endorsement for this place.”

Shea cradled Mystic’s silver-ringed fingers in hers. Under Mystic’s goth makeup, piercings, and don’t-give-a-fuck expression was a frightened girl. Shea recognized it because she felt the same fear.

“What else am I gonna do, Myst? I’m tired of slinging dope for chump change.”

“You managed to buy me a new car with that chump change.”

“Only cause I took Stookey’s stash after he caught a bullet from Lester. I’m tired of those punk ass dealers fighting over corners, and the goddamned tweakers who will cut you over an eight-ball. 

“Can’t say I blame you.” 

Shea shook her head, trying not to feel sorry for herself. “With this scarred up face, no one wants to look at me, much less hire me. My only career choices are boosting cars and flipping burgers. And I sure as hell ain’t gonna flip no burgers.”

Mystic burst out laughing. “Yeah, I can’t see my little biker chick working at Mickey D’s. ‘Hey, lady, ya want a bag of weed to go with that Big Mac?’” she said in a silly voice.

Mystic kissed Shea, then rubbed the black lipstick smudge off her face. “For the record, I think your facial scars are sexy.”

“I’m serious. I wanna earn some decent bank and get us out of that shit-hole apartment. I wanna build a future with you.”

Mystic turned off the ignition. The heat from the lingering desert summer immediately warmed the car. “Well, if you’re sure, future girl, let’s do this.”

Shea opened her door and took a deep breath, shaking off the ghosts from her past. “I ain’t sure of nothing. Just don’t got a lot of options.”

The two of them walked past the tow truck and a few dust-smeared junker cars, then through the glass door of the repair shop.

Behind the counter stood a hulking guy with long, black hair, wary eyes, and the name Caz stitched onto his blue work shirt.

“Can I help you?” His voice was gruff, but polite, with an inflection that suggested he grew up on the nearby Tohono O’odham reservation.

“I need to speak to Goblin,” said Shea, puffing out her chest and trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach.

“No one by that name works here. Does your car need servicing?”

“Car’s fine. Where’s Goblin? I need to talk to him about a job.”

All politeness evaporated from Caz’s face. “We got no job openings. I suggest you be on your way, little girl.” He lifted the front of his shirt enough to reveal a .38 revolver stuck in his jeans. 

“Look, Caz, I know this is Goblin’s chop shop. Ralph Stevens told me.” She hated dropping her father’s name, but if it got her past this gatekeeper’s bullshit, so be it.

“And who are you to Ralph Stevens?”

“Oh, so you hearda him! I’m his kid. Now where the hell’s Goblin?”

“Just a moment. Wait here.” Caz chuckled darkly and slipped through the door into the service bay.

“Shea, that guy freaked me out,” said Mystic. “Maybe we oughta go.”

“And do what, Myst? I gotta find a way to earn.”

“We can sell my car.”

“No! That was my birthday present to you. You said you liked how the rear lights look like bloody vampire teeth.”

“I do, but . . .” Mystic’s gaze dropped as Caz returned.

A mushroom of a man with a bulbous nose, a pencil-thin beard, and an air of authority followed Caz into the waiting room. “Can I help you, ladies?” 

“You Goblin?” Shea asked.



“I know who you are, chica. Your papi runs the Confederate Thunder Motorcycle Club. Last time I dealt with those pendejos, they used one of my primos for target practice. Maybe Cazador here should do the same to you. Even the score a bit.”

Mystic gasped. Shea stepped between her and the two men at the counter.

“Look, I got nothing to do with the Thunder anymore either. Not after Ralph killed my mama. That’s why I’m here. I ran away from all that. I just want to work for you.”

“Do you see a Help Wanted sign in the window?”

“No, but—”

“Then we must not be hiring.”

“But I can boost cars. Even ones with chipped keys. I’m like a panther. Sneaky, but quick and quiet.”

“A panther, huh?” Goblin narrowed his eyes. “¡Dígame, Panterita! You even old enough to drive?”

Shea pulled out her driver’s license and handed it to him.

Goblin examined it and tilted it at odd angles, the embedded holograms winking in the light. “It’s a good fake.”

“It ain’t a fake.”

“No way you eighteen.”

“As far as the Arizona MVD knows, I am.”

Goblin rubbed his pencil-thin beard, then handed the license back to her. “Lo siento, chica, I don’t need you.”

“Please, Mr. Goblin, sir.” Shea felt the walls closing in on her. “I’m really good. I got my own tools and everything. Whatever you want, I’ll get it for you. Domestics. Imports. High-end. Low-end. You name it. I can get it.”

“What do you think, Caz?” Goblin asked.

“I say we shoot them and feed them to the coyotes,” Caz said with a wicked grin.

“Please. Just gimme a chance. It’ll be worth your while. I promise.”

Goblin stared at her for a beat. “I got a call for a Caddy Escalade. Black. You think you can hunt one down for me, Panterita?”

“Escalade? Wow, they’re pretty new. Good security system.” Shea swallowed hard. “But I can get you one.”

“You do that, Panterita, I hire you.

“How much will you pay me?”

“Two grand for the Caddy.”

“A measly two thou for an Escalade? They sell for forty.”

“This ain’t a car dealership, chica. We’re a chop shop. You wanna work for me? That’s what I pay.”

“Fine. Two grand it is.” Shea offered her hand and Goblin shook it.

“Have it here no later than seven o’clock tonight. And it best be in primo condition.”

“It will be.”

“Two more things. First, you never boost cars in Ajo. I don’t shit where I eat.” Goblin locked eyes with her, glaring so hard Shea took a step back. “Second, you get caught, you don’t know me. You don’t work for me. You just a couple of kids on a joyride. You snitch on me, Caz will rip you apart. ¿Comprende?

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now get the hell out of here.” He dismissed her with a wave and disappeared back into the service bay.

Shea and Mystic walked out of the shop.

“Where are we going to find an Escalade?” asked Mystic as they climbed into her car.

“I got a pretty good idea. Just take us back to Tucson.”

A couple hours later, they were driving north on Interstate 10 in the heart of Tucson.

“Where are we going?” asked Mystic.

“Take the Speedway exit and turn right,” said Shea. “There’s a strip club called Bush Palace, just past Alvernon Way, that always has a black Escalade in the lot.”

“How do you know this?” Mystic asked with a suspicious smirk on her face. “You go there often?”

“Never been inside. I used to walk past it every day to my crib. Before you and I hooked up.”

“Uh huh. Likely story.”

When they reached Alvernon, Shea pointed at a building on their left. Mystic turned into the lot. A handful of cars were parked near the club’s entrance. The Escalade, as usual, sat near the street, tricked out with custom graphics and 26-inch gold wheels. Mystic pulled her Hyundai alongside it.

From her backpack of tools, Shea pulled out an electronic device called the Jackhammer. She turned it on, selected the make and model on the display screen, and pointed it at the Caddy.

A press of the GO button sent a series of RF signals from the device’s loop antenna, cycling through all of the potential electronic codes for that model.

Ten minutes later, they were rewarded with a flash of headlights and a couple of chirps from the Caddy’s alarm system.

“Piece of cake.” Shea gave Mystic a quick kiss on the lips and handed her one of the two walkie talkies from her pack. “I’ll meet you back at the chop shop. Mama’s gotta go to work.”

“Be careful.”


Shea emerged from the Hyundai and took a look around for potential witnesses. No one was in the parking lot. None of the pedestrians on the sidewalk were paying her any attention. She opened the Caddy’s door and hopped inside.

“Da-a-a-amn,” she purred. “This is nice. Multi-disc CD player, in-dash GPS, leather seats. Can’t believe I’m only getting a couple grand for this.”

She pulled a set of master keys and another device, known as an immobilizer programmer, from her pack. She hooked the immobilizer programmer to the OBD-II port under the steering wheel and cycled through a series of screens to bypass the need for a transponder key.

With one of the master keys inserted, she turned the ignition and was rewarded with a satisfying VROOM.

“You ready?” Shea asked into her walkie-talkie.

“Whenever you are,” replied Mystic.

“This beast is sitting on empty. I’ll need to gas up before we head back to Ajo.”

“I’ll follow you.”

Shea was joking around with Mystic as she gassed up the Escalade, when a red Corvette pulled up to the other side of the pump. A skinny guy in an unbuttoned, sleeveless plaid shirt stepped out.

“Hey!” said the guy in a thick Texas accent. “What the hell you doing with Milo’s ride?”

Shea ignored him. She didn’t know who Milo was, nor did she care. Probably some poser wannabe with too much money and a small dick. Who else would buy a tricked out ride like this?

“Hey, shorty, I’m talking to you!”

“Why don’t you wait in your car,” Shea whispered to Mystic before facing off with the guy. “Mind your own business, buddy.”

“I’m making it my business, bitch.” Mr. Plaid got up into her face, towering above her by a good six inches.

“Look, asshole. Milo ordered me to gas it up. You got a problem with that, take it up with him.” She hoped he’d accept the lie and move on. She didn’t need anything complicating matters.

“Oh really? And just who the hell are you? Sure as hell ain’t his girlfriend or one of his dancers. Not with a fucked-up face like yours.”

“You wanna know who I am?” Shea shoved him. “Ask Milo the next time you see him. ’Til then just step the fuck off.”

Shea turned away, returned the pump nozzle to its cradle, and climbed into the Escalade, while Mr. Plaid made a call on his cellphone.

Time to get the hell outta here. She put the Escalade in gear and pulled back onto Speedway, with Mystic falling in behind her. She took Interstate 10 to the 19 South and finally exited onto the Tucson-Ajo Highway.

Mystic’s voice squawked on the walkie-talkie. “Yo, babes! You there?”

“Yeah, what’s up?”

“I think that red Corvette is following us.”

Aw, shit! “Yeah, he seems to know the owner of the truck. Some guy named Milo.”

“I think I know who Milo is.”


“Milo Volkov. He’s into a lot of bad shit, Shea. Mostly human trafficking. His family has ties to the Chechen mafia. Maybe stealing his ride wasn’t such a good idea.”

“Too late now. Keep heading back to Ajo. I’ll deal with this joker in the Vette and meet up with you shortly.”

“What if he follows me?”

“He won’t. He’s after the Caddy. Probably doesn’t even know you’re with me.”

“I can’t just abandon you, Shea. From what I hear, Milo and his crew are fucking animals.”

“You’re not abandoning me. Trust me, my gothic princess. I grew up around outlaw bikers and Mexican gangbangers. I can handle this guy.”

“Okay, if you’re sure. Please be careful, babes.”


Shea let Mystic pull around her and speed on toward Ajo. The red Corvette appeared in Shea’s rearview mirror.

As she approach a red traffic light, she remembered riding with her father on drug runs with the Confederate Thunder. Most of the evasive maneuvers the bikers used wouldn’t work with a top-heavy SUV.

A quick check of the glovebox and the center console didn’t turn up anything she could use to scare this guy off. Only an owner’s manual, some wadded-up fast food receipts, a plastic lighter, and a pack of cigarettes. No guns. No knives.

The light held red when she pulled into the left turn lane to make a u-turn. The Corvette stopped behind her, and Mr. Plaid jumped out. She grabbed a pair of bolt cutters from her pack. Better than nothing.

Mr. Plaid pounded on her window. “Open the fucking door, bitch.”

Shea rolled down the window and jabbed him in the face with the bolt cutters. It wasn’t a hard blow, but enough to send Mr. Plaid reeling away, moaning and holding his face.

Shea gunned the engine and pulled a u-turn, forcing oncoming cars to swerve, their drivers laying on their horns.

With her heart pounding, Shea raced through the traffic and turned so hard onto the I-19 on-ramp that the SUV rode up on two-wheels before slamming down a moment later. As she merged onto the highway, the red Corvette was again closing in on her.


She pressed the accelerator to the floor, weaving between cars on the two-lane highway, flashing her headlights and honking to encourage the more reasonable drivers to get the hell out of her way. At times, she was forced to ride the shoulder, kicking up a cloud of rocks and sand. Maybe it’ll give me some more cover to get away.

When she reached the outskirts of the city, the traffic had diminished considerably. On the one hand, it gave her more room to maneuver. On the other, it made it harder to hide. Outrunning the Corvette was unlikely, and the Escalade’s higher center of gravity made tricks like a bootlegger’s turn a remarkably bad idea. The one thing she had in her favor was the Caddy’s size and weight. 

She pulled into the right lane, and slowed down. The Corvette rode up on her left. A bald guy in a black shirt sat in the Vette’s passenger seat waiving a very large pistol at her. From the shape of the barrel, Shea guessed it was a Desert Eagle .50 caliber.

“Pull over!” shouted Baldy, gesturing with the pistol.

Shea swerved into the Corvette. Metal crunched and tires squealed as the Vette struggled to resist the SUV’s momentum. Shea smiled as the sports car was forced off the road, the occasional shrub raking its undercarriage.

Baldy aimed the Desert Eagle at her and fired off a shot. Shea’s window shattered, showering her in bits of glass. The blast stunned her for a moment. When she realized the bullet missed her, she glanced back at the Corvette. Baldy was lining up his next shot.

Shea slammed on the brake pedal. The Caddy shuddered as the anti-lock brakes kept the vehicle from skidding. The Corvette jetted ahead of her as another gunshot sounded.

Shea hit the gas again, catching up to the sports car, which was back in the left lane. She veered right, pulled the Escalade’s front end even with the Corvette’s back wheels, and swerved hard left.

The Corvette spun out across the front of the SUV, before launching into a series of somersaults off the right side of the road. 

Shea floored it down the highway in a rush of adrenaline. “That’ll teach them to mess with the Panther.”

She picked up her cellphone and hit Mystic’s number on speed dial.

“Hello?” Mystic still sounded worried.

“Good news, babe. The Corvette’s toast. I’m headed back to Ajo.”

“Uh, hon. We . . . we have a problem.”

“What’s wrong?”

Shea heard the phone changing hands and an gruff male voice with an eastern European accent got on the line. “This is Milo Volkov. You think you can steal from me? Well, now I got your little friend.”

“Don’t you hurt her, you commie fuck!” A vein in Shea’s temple throbbed with anger.

“Commie fuck,” Milo said with a chuckle. “I like that. Listen up, you stupid gash, you want her back alive? Give me back my Cadillac. Otherwise, we carve her up piece by piece. You understand this?”

Fuck, fuck, fuck! “Yeah, I understand. Where do we do this?”

“There is warehouse on Sandario Road, north of Highway 86. You meet us there. Fifteen minutes. Otherwise . . .”

There was a sharp squeal and the call dropped.

Shea pounded the steering wheel and tossed her phone on the passenger seat.

Shea slowly cruised up Sandario Road. When she reached the warehouse Milo had mentioned, she kept driving for a half-mile, doubled back, passed it again, and parked the Escalade on the shoulder a hundred yards south of the building.

She searched the SUV more thoroughly this time, looking for anything she could use. But there wasn’t a lot to choose from. A hefty crowbar from the back of the truck looked like her best choice for a weapon. She stashed it in her pack and pocketed the lighter and cigs from the glove box. Not having the key fob, she left the Caddy unlocked and hoped no one would jack it before she got back.

The warehouse was a two-story building covered in pale green aluminum. A ten-foot fence topped with razor wire surrounded the crumbling blacktop lot. A cracked plastic sign with the words Volkov Industries stood near the open gate on the east side by the road.

Shea scanned the place, looking for surveillance cameras. Either they were well hidden or Milo didn’t want to record the goings-on at the warehouse. They wouldn’t see her coming. Still, she was on enemy turf and most likely outnumbered.

A childhood memory surfaced of Ralph telling her, “You don’t hunt a bear in its den. You lure it out and ambush it.” It seemed the best strategy under the circumstances.

She crept around the perimeter fence. The back of the building was ablaze with the light of the late afternoon sun. The rear entrance opened onto a four-foot tall concrete platform. A ramp led from the platform to where two sedans sat parked—a black Lexus and a beige Mercedes. No sign of the Corvette or Mystic’s Hyundai. Shea hoped she was here and safe, but with guys like Milo, anything was possible.

With the bolt cutters, she snipped a three-foot vertical cut into the fence, folded it back at an angle, and raced across the lot to hide behind the Lexus. Her heart thundered in her chest while she figured out a plan and the many ways it could go horribly wrong. 

Using the crowbar, she popped open the Lexus’s fuel door and unscrewed the cap. She fished out a cigarette, lit it, and winced at the taste of the smoke.

“Ugh, damn menthols.” Like tobacco mixed with Vick’s VapoRub.

She jammed the filter end into neck of the fuel tank and hauled ass past the Mercedes to duck behind the concrete platform.

She waited for what felt like an eternity, fingers plugging her ears, braced for the explosion. And she waited. Her bladder signaled an urgent need to pee.

What is taking so long? Did the cigarette go out? Is it not the right mix of gas fumes and air? Gasoline was tricky that way.

An explosion rocked the ground beneath her, sending a fireball forty feet into the air. She peeked above the platform only to be knocked on her ass by a second explosion. The Mercedes, no doubt.

Burning car parts rained down around her.  The metal wall of the building was scorched and bowed inward. Shea gathered her wits, grabbed the crowbar, and hopped onto the platform.

The door opened. A skinny guy with a scabby face and neck tats emerged. Shea clocked him in the head with the crowbar.

He fell back into the building and was replaced with a mountain of a guy with slicked back hair, a goatee, and a Glock. As he brought the pistol up to shoot her, Shea knocked it from his hand.

Before she could swing again, he wrapped her in a crushing bear hug. The crowbar fell from her hands. Shea struggled, but couldn’t break his grip. Her ribs felt like they were cracking. She couldn’t breathe. As her vision grayed, she stomped the heel of her boot into the side of his knee.

When he released her, she whirled around and drove her palm into the guy’s nose, then kneed him hard in the groin. He collapsed, moaning, his nose broken and bleeding.

She picked up the Glock and was about to shoot him when a bullet from inside the warehouse ricocheted above her head. She turned to face her new attacker.

“I give you credit. You make a hell of an entrance,” said a familiar accented voice. Milo.

Shea’s eyes adjusted to the dark interior of the building. Milo was ducked down behind Mystic, holding a gun to her head. From what Shea could see, he was a handsome man, but with dead eyes.

“I’m torn between killing you and hiring you,” he said.

Shea studied her target. There weren’t many places she could hit him without risking Mystic. “You want me to work for you? Let her go and drop your gun.”

“Certainly. Soon as you put down yours.”

Shea released the breath she was holding and squeezed the trigger. Milo’s elbow exploded in a spray of blood. His gun clattered to the floor unfired, as he screamed curses in a language Shea didn’t recognize.

Shea ran to Mystic, who was trembling, and wrapped an arm around her. “It’s okay, sweetie. You’re safe.”

“Goddamned bitch!” Milo lay on the floor, cradling his ruined arm. “I fucking tear you apart.”

Shea released Mystic and approached Milo, pointing the Glock at his chest. Memories of Ralph and the brutality of his outlaw biker club crackled through her mind like television static.

She had sworn she’d never be the ruthless murderer Ralph was. And yet here she was, Daddy’s little girl, with a gun pointed at a man’s chest. Her grip tightened, but the smell of his blood brought back the memories of her mother bleeding out in her arm. The pressure on the trigger eased. “God damn you,” she muttered.

The sounds of women shouting caught Shea’s attention. “Let us out! Please!”

A series of cages filled with women lined the north wall. Shea turned back to Milo. “Where’s the keys for the cages?”

“Fuck you, bitch.”

Shea put a bullet in Milo’s left knee. He screamed in agony.

“Where are the keys?”

Milo glared at her and grabbed his crotch with his good arm. “Right here, cunt!”

She shot him in the crotch. He wailed louder, blood pooling between his legs.

In the distance, sirens approached. Unless she wanted to explain to the cops about stealing the Escalade, they needed to get out of there. 

Shea rifled through Milo’s pockets and grabbed his wallet and two sets of keys. One set was for the Caddy, which she pocketed. The other was a cluster of padlock keys.

She rushed to the nearest cage where a woman covered in bruises and reeking of filth was standing. Shea handed her the padlock keys and the Glock.

“Get everyone out. When the cops get here, tell them you overpowered Milo and his crew. Don’t mention me or my girlfriend. Got it?”

The woman nodded vigorously. “Anything you say. Thank you! Thank you!”

Shea found Mystic kicking a groaning Milo. “Come on, Myst. Let’s get the hell outta here.”

They rushed out of the building and through the hole in the fence. By the time they reached the Escalade, a fire truck and two sheriff’s SUVs blew past them toward the pillar of smoke rising from the warehouse.

“You’re late. And what the hell am I supposed to do with this?” Goblin asked as he walked around the Escalade.

The left side of the truck was crumbled and streaked with red paint from the Corvette. Glass from the driver’s side window blanketed the interior. A hole the size of an orange gaped in the roof.

“I told you, Panterita, I need one in good shape. Not a trashed pimpmobile from a Fast and Furious movie.”

Shea stared at the floor in the chop shop’s service bay and shrugged. “We ran into a little trouble. Most of it’s in good shape. The rest can be repaired.” She looked up at him with an optimistic smile.

“Does this look like a body shop, chica?” Goblin’s bulbous nose flushed red.

Shea tried to look appropriately ashamed. “I’m sorry. I’ll do better next time. I just really need the work. There ain’t much I know how to do. I’m only sixteen. If I try to get a legit job, DCS’ll find me and stick me in the foster system.”

“And what happens when you get caught boosting a car? How do I know you won’t rat on me?”

“I grew up around the Confederate Thunder. I know how to keep secrets. I don’t snitch.”

Goblin glared at her, then looked to his second in command. “Caz, what do you think?”

“Honestly, I’m surprised they showed up back here at all, much less with an actual Escalade. And she’s got the keys to boot. Girl’s got some skills. I’ll give her that. I say we pay her half the original deal and give her another chance.”

“Half? That’s only a grand. For an Escalade? After all the trouble I went through?”

Cazador shrugged. “Or we can kill you.”

Shea shook her head. “No, half is good. I can live with half.”

Goblin nodded and extended his hand. “Welcome to the team.”

Shea shook it, breathing a sigh of relief. “Thanks. Oh, by the way, could we get a ride back to Tucson? Mystic’s car somehow got left back there.”

“Do I even want to know why?” asked Goblin.

Shea grimaced. “Not really.”

Goblin led her over to a Honda Magna motorcycle. “One of our guys picked this up. Not much of a market for motorcycle parts. You can have it.” He pulled the keys from the ignition and handed them to her.

“Seriously?” Shea’s face lit up like a child’s on Christmas morning.

“For a grand.”

Shea glanced toward the waiting room where Mystic was sitting, then looked at the motorcycle. It was only a 750-cc bike, but it had a four-cylinder engine and some decent horsepower. Plus there’d been twelve grand in the wallet she stole from Milo. All in all, she was still coming out ahead. “Deal.”

Fifteen minutes later, Shea started the Magna. Mystic sat behind her wearing Shea’s backpack of tools.

“You ready?” asked Shea over the rumble of the engine.

Mystic, who had never ridden on the back of a bike before, looked a little wary. “I think so. Just be careful.”

“Always!” Shea revved the engine, and the motorcycle roared onto the highway.

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