We jolted out of bed, pausing long enough to pull on underwear (and in Bekka's case, a t-shirt) before going to investigate. Bekka screamed when we stepped outside and saw what had happened. I ran for the phone to call 911, just like all my neighbors were doing at the same time. Then I went back outside to see how Bekka was doing.
She was crying, her face buried in her hands. "How could they?" she asked, over and over.
I told her, "This was their last hurrah. Look, when the cops get here, we don't have a clue as to who would want to blow up our car. No idea. Got it?"
She said, "Yeah...." and continued sobbing at the loss of her mechanical friend. We both loved that car.
Neighbors were approaching cautiously. A hell of a way to get to meet people. One said, "Was that your car?"
I confirmed as much. He replied accusingly, "You're the guy whose wife was attacked a few months ago, right?"
"She's standing right here," I said.
"You guys attract a lot of trouble," he said, still with the accusing voice.
"It seems to find us. We don't seek it out."
The fire department and the police arrived at the same time. The fire department did its job, extinguishing the flames from the now-destroyed Falcon. The police began interviewing people, none of whom made good witnesses --- including ourselves --- due to the fact that we were all sleeping when the Falcon went up. As it was our car, the cops latched on to us and didn't let go.
Did you notice any movement? "No. We were asleep."
Any idea who would want to do this to you? "Not a clue, honest."
Are you insured? "Of course."
How much was the car worth? "To us, it was priceless. Why the hell do you think my wife can't stop crying?"
You sure you don't know who would do this? "No idea. Someone that really hates old Fords, I guess."
I noticed several people standing a ways off, watching me, waiting for the questioning to get over with. Once the cops left me alone, I was besieged by car owners all wanting my insurance information. I sighed, escorted Bekka inside, and dug the insurance policies, both auto and renter's, out of the fireproof box we kept them in. Then I went back outside and told them to get their own damn pens and paper so they could write down information. That completed, I asked if anyone wanted to come in for a drink. This was refused.
Bekka was in a ball on the sofa. I sat down beside her and stroked her hair.
"I'll kill them. I'll kill them all," she said.
God knows we had the means.
In the morning I broke the news to Angel and to Boss. Angel was far more upset than I would have guessed he'd be.
"Was it that motorcycle gang you've been tussling with?" he asked.
Undoubtedly, I told him.
"Damn them! I personally want a shot at whoever did the deed. Listen, thanks for letting me know, let me know if you want any help shopping for a new car. I can point you at a couple dealerships that are in tight with the family, we can get Bekka a hell of a deal."
"Thanks. She's still in mourning right now, and adjusting to the idea of us being a one-car household temporarily. She'll have to ride into work with me in the mornings, no matter when she's working."
"Well.... It's only a temporary setback. I'm so sorry for your loss, Lenny. Pass that on to Bekka for me."
Boss sounded depressed at the news. And he blamed himself.
"If I hadn't gotten you two tangled up in my problems, this never would have happened. God damn! You ain't part of this!"
"But we are," I pointed out. "We have been ever since I tackled you in the parking lot of the restaurant, and Bekka took out their shooter. We've taken risks."
"I know, and I never wanted you to," Boss grumbled.
"Hey man, it's called friendship," I said. "We knew what we were getting into. I like to think we've helped keep you alive, and that's the important part."
"Yeah, but you guys loved that car. Are ya gonna buy a new one, or try to replace it with another hot rod?"
"That's entirely Bekka's call. The Acura fills out our need for late model cars, so I honestly could see her reading through Hemmings and Classic Auto Trader to find something she likes. Whether it's another Falcon remains to be seen."
Boss said, "Well.... Thanks for letting me know. I'm real sorry this happened."
"Us too. Later."
On Saturday we picked up Bekka's new Colt, and on Sunday we arranged to meet Boss at the firing range at two o'clock.
Bekka and I had shown up a little early, so we were showing off Bekka's new toy and generally gabbing with one of the guys behind the counter. We'd already bought three hundred rounds of standard-point 9mm ammunition, so he was happy to pass the time with us while we waited on Boss.
He came in with a big grin on his face. "C'mon out in the parking lot, guys, I gotta show you something. I gotcha a present, Bekka."
We went out in the lot and followed him to a huge black slab of a car. He stopped next to it and said, "So, what do ya think?"
"You bought a new car?" I asked.
|1970 Plymouth Fury. Christine's nephew.|
"My god.... Boss...." Bekka stammered. "Can I try driving it first?"
"Sure, sure! Here's the keys, take 'er for a spin."
I jumped in the passenger seat, telling Bekka, "Turn right out of the parking lot and go down to Ruffin Road. We'll see what this thing can do."
Bekka turned the key and the first thing we noticed was the deep rumbling of the engine, a much deeper sound than the Falcon ever had. We were dealing with a serious big block living in this beast.
The second thing we noticed was the blast of air conditioning coming from the vents. The Falcon never had AC, and the puny system in the Acura barely made a difference on the days you needed it most.. We looked around. The interior appeared to be entirely original, and well maintained. Every smooth surface had a gloss and shine to it. The carpet couldn't have been original, as there was no sign of wear.
Boss tapped on the glass, Bekka rolled her window down. He said, "It's a 1970 Plymouth Sport Fury, with the beefy suspension and the 440 motor. It looks big, but it's a rocket and it handles good too. G'wan, get it out on the road and see what you think."
Bekka put it in Drive and pulled into traffic, rolling down Balboa Ave. towards Ruffin Rd. Bekka commented on how happy she was with the smooth acceleration. I was happy with the smooth ride, far more comfortable than either the Falcon or the Acura. This car also sat slightly higher, providing for better visibility.
She turned right on Ruffin and opened it up. It wasn't quite as quick off the line as the Falcon, but that was to be expected out of a three-speed automatic. Unquestionably more weight than the Falcon, too. We shot down Ruffin at seventy-five, Bekka expertly dodging through traffic. When we reached Aero Dr. she pulled over and said to me, "Your turn." I decided a quick run up the freeway couldn't hurt, and pointed that way.
I leaned on the gas all the way around the cloverleaf, getting some tire noise but not breaking traction. Not as much body sway as I expected, either. Pulling into traffic, I quickly made my way towards the left lanes and opened it up. It reached a hundred nearly as quick as the Falcon did, and I was happy with how it handled. I took the Fury as far as the east gate to Miramar Naval Air Station and jumped back down to Balboa.
"So what do you think?" I asked Bekka. "This is gonna be your car, your daily driver, just like the Falcon was. Me, I like it. If you're not happy with it, don't worry about offending Boss, because I don't want you to have to live with a car you hate."
Bekka said, "Are you kidding? This thing is fun. Way more comfortable too. While I still grieve the loss of the Falcon, I'll be happy in this one for quite a while. And it has a back seat big enough to fuck on, too."
"So I guess pragmatism wins the day."
"Exactly. Now let's go thank Boss for his generous gift."
We pulled into the lot of The Gun Range just in time for Boss to be accosted by one of the range officers. Apparently they had him pegged as a suspicious individual and were asking him to move on.
"I'm jist waitin' for my friends.... And here they are now. Hey, so what did you think of the car?"
Bekka said, "It's wonderful, Boss! Thank you so much!" And gave him a big hug. He in turn picked her up and cuddled her, to the confusion of the range officer. Setting her down, Boss got the keys back from me, got in the trunk, and removed two pistol cases, explaining that one contained a Smith & Wesson .357 revolver, the other a .45 caliber semi-automatic of the same brand. The range official asked, "Are you supplying your own ammunition, sir?"
"Don't you have it for sale here?" asked Boss.
"We do, but it's practice ammo. It may not feel like what you're used to."
Boss laughed and said, "Hell, it's been long enough since I've fired either of these that I don't remember what they're supposed to be like at all. I just wanna make sure I can still hit a target with either one."
We went in and paid for our lanes, Boss buying a hundred rounds each of ammunition. He stopped in his ready area to load, ran a target out to fifteen yards, then stepped up to the line and fired the double-action revolver, emptying the barrel. Running the target in, it showed him with three tens, two nines, and an eight. He clipped on a fresh target and stepped back to retrieve the automatic.
I looked at the target and said to him, "You've done this before, haven't you?"
He smiled and replied, "Beginner's luck."
I stepped over to see how Bekka was doing. She was in the ready area, reloading both clips for the Colt. "I like it a lot," she said. "It's damn steady when firing, it doesn't kick upwards like the little Beretta, and it holds eight in the belly. I'll run more ammo through to be sure, but I'm pretty sure this is the one going on my waist. It's heavier than the Beretta, so that's another good reason to keep it out of my purse."
I ran a fresh target out for her and got out of the way. She rapid fired the Colt through the first clip, with fair results. She took her time through the second one and scored well. Drawing in the target, she said, "Yeah, the Beretta wins points for its compact size, but I definitely like firing my new one a lot better." She switched out targets for a fresh one. "Your turn for a while."
After we finished shooting we went to a strip club called Dirty Dan's on Convoy St. for a couple drinks at the bar. I asked Boss how he'd done with the automatic and the revolver.
"Damndest thing," he said, "I have better control with the .357, even though it weighs more. I wouldn't want to wear it in a shoulder holster like you do your Beretta, Lenny. I didn't really keep track of points, but I'm satisfied that I'll hit what I'm aiming at. It felt good to just blast away for a while. It was a, uh.... What's the word I'm looking for...."
"Cathartic?" suggested Bekka.
"Yeah, that's it. It was a cathartic experience. Good stress reliever. I gotta remember that place, it's better'n driving all the way out to the desert to do some shooting. Haw, desert canyons ain't air conditioned!"
I sipped at my Johnnie Walker and asked, "So what kind of mileage does the Fury get, any idea?"
Boss scratched at his beard. "It all depends on how you drive it. Take off slow and keep to the speed limit, you'll probably see about fifteen miles per gallon. Jackrabbit everywhere and you'll drop to eleven. Don't worry, that thing's gotta have at least a twenty-eight gallon tank, so you won't get caught out anywhere. Best part is it runs good on 87 octane gas, so you don't need to buy super. Unless you want to."
"I was thinking about adding about five gallons of helicopter fuel to a full tank," I smiled. "Just to see what happens."
"Tell ya what, you wanna go that route, just fill up out at California Fuels on Jamacha in El Cajon. They sell 110 octane racing fuel straight from the pump, and you will feel the difference. I tried some in my putt and the damn thing nearly shot out from underneath me. It's pricey, but if you want some serious get up and go, that's the ticket. They're on Jamacha at East Washington."
"Too cool. We'll fuel up both cars and race all the way back to Encinitas."
"Guns and fast cars," Boss giggled over his Budweiser. "You two are gonna end up turnin' into superheroes. 'Kay, one more round and then let's cut out. I'll need a ride home from you."