The Cars of Tomorrow
by Rix Roundtree-Harrison
Nikolas Thime arrives at the Washington DC convention center and finds an African American security guard sitting at a small wooden table posted on the inside of the entrance. As Nick Thime enters the building the security guard asks, "Excuse me sir; your name please."
The security guard looks at the paper affixed to a clip board he possesses.
"Sorry sir, but you are not on the list. Only approved convention center staff, auto show personnel, and police are allowed in."
At that moment a familiar female voice drifts from the hallway behind the security guard. "You can allow Mr. Thime to enter; he's with me."
Nick looks behind the guard to see the beautiful journalist Layna Jade approaching him.
"Well hello Miss Jade."
Nick's face registers surprise at Layna Jade knowing his profession. Layna Jade notices this reaction.
"Yes, I know what you do in order to keep a roof over your head and food on the table."
"How? When Jo Bascopolous introduced us at the auto show she didn't mention my profession."
"Mr. Thime, you surprise me. I'm a reporter; it's my job to find out things. I know that you are Nikolas Thime, famous Washington DC defense attorney. I also know that you are representing the NASCAR drivers."
"And how do you know that Miss Jade?"
"When the NASCAR boys were arrested and taken into custody, I went to the police station and camped out there trying to ferret out a story from the police when I saw you come to their aide. So tell me, what are you doing here?"
"I just came to look around the scene of the crime, to see if I can get some ideas as to what happened the night this place was almost destroyed and the concept vehicles stolen. Miss Jade, you are not auto show personnel, so how did you get in here?"
Layna Jade flashes a wicked smile. "I'm special."
"I can see that," says Nick smiling flirtatiously, "but tell me, just how special are you?"
"None of the automakers want to tick off my magazine, so they've allowed me access hoping that I will be fair and objective when I write my piece about this fascinating crime."
"Mr. Thime I can tell you with the utmost certainty that since you are not connected with the auto show, if you go in there attempting to get answers from that crowd, you will be out of luck because they won't tell you anything, unless of course you know the right people."
"Are you the “right people,” Miss Jade?"
The wicked smile returns to Layna Jade's face, "I can be."
"Is that why you got me inside?"
"So why are you willing to help me?"
"Actually," says Layna Jade cozying up to Nick and now smiling flirtatiously, "I'm helping myself. This car theft and the involvement of the NASCAR drivers, makes for a scintillating and scandalous story, my readers will eat it up. So the way I see it is, if I help you, you'll help me."
"Help you how?" Asks Nick suspiciously.
"Well as you find things out, I know will give me any juicy details that you can for my story, won't you counselor?"
"Miss Jade, as a reporter you know the rules of the game. You know that I can't divulge any information that would jeopardize the case of my clients."
"Yes counselor, I know that and I don't expect you too. All I'm asking is that you share with me any juicy info that you can, that you feel won't hurt your client's cases. Beggars can’t be choosers. Have we a deal?"
Nick gives the woman a discerning gaze. "Alright, yes, we have a deal."
Layna Jade entwines her arm around Nick Thime's arm. "In that case you're with me. C'mon lets go in, and let me do the talking. If they find out you are the lawyer for the NASCAR boys they will have your beautiful behind thrown out of here so fast it will make your head spin."
The inside of the convention center is a hubbub of activity, as men hose down still smoldering platforms, the spinning blades of large roaring fans blow out the drifting smoke that hangs in the air. Scores of busy people assess the damage to automobiles and the facility. At The Cars Of Tomorrow pavilion, the curtains are closed and the area is wrapped off with police tape.
In front of the police tape is a beautiful Caucasian woman in a man's fedora which is cocked to the side of her head. She’s dressed in a dark pinstriped suit with slacks which makes her look more like a gangster than gangster's moll. She is engaged in a heated conversation with the man who had been master of ceremonies at The Cars Of Tomorrow exhibition, Harley Erle, the president of GM.
Harley Erle speaks curtly to the woman. "Aurora, were you sent to spy on me, and to see just how badly things were screwed up?"
"No of course not. Father sent me to check things out and to offer you any assistance, if you needed it."
"Well you can tell your father that this has nothing to do with Chrysler and is none of his concern. We can take care of this without his help."
"He's your father too Harley and he's genuinely concerned about you."
"That'll be the day. Well, you tell pop that I don't need his help."
"Harley, dad isn't all that bad, he just wants what best for all of us, for the family."
"Hah! He wants to control the family, have us all jump to his tune. Well I won't have any part of it, so go tell pop to butt out of my affairs."
"Harley why don't you…."
"I don't get you Aurora, how can you be so loyal to him after what he's done to you? How can you be his lapdog?"
At that remark the young woman's face takes on a look of deep hurt. The hurt expression on his sister's face does not go unnoticed by Harley Erle and shame covers his own face. "I'm sorry Aurora, I didn't mean that, please forgive me. It's just that five million dollars in missing concept cars has got me a little on edge."
"I understand Harley. I'm really sorry that this has happened to you, hopefully your cars will be found soon. I'm going over to talk to Woody; you take care of yourself, okay?"
The woman leaves Harley Erle passing Nikolas Thime and Layna Jade.
With Layna Jade on his arm, Nick ask, "Miss Jade have you any idea how the stolen vehicles were gotten out of the convention center?"
"That part of this mystery is easy." The journalist points to the large ceiling to floor plate glass window of which the middle section is covered with large pieces of plywood. "Based on tire tracks found the police say the concept cars were driven right out through there."
They reach the area of the convention centre where the Cars Of Tomorrow showcase took place and Nick and the beautiful journalist lift the police tap and walk under it. They walk onto the stage, and Layna Jades parts the thick curtain and they enter the stage where The Cars Of Tomorrow performance had taken place.
Nick glances around the empty backstage area that was once filled with glamorous models and futuristic concept cars and recognizes Harley Erle. He also sees three other people, an attractive middle aged white female whose grey hair sat atop her head in elegant curls, and two middle aged white males. One man has a long face covered with a grey beard like the hair on his head and the other had a round pudgy face and his shiny black hair is slicked back.
The two men and the woman all had on long white lab coats and were huddled in intense conversation; their very demeanor just seemed to ooze superior intelligence.
"That's Harley Erle," says Nick Thime to Layna Jade, "but who are those people with him?"
"I don't know counselor," answers Layna Jade, "so let's find out shall we?" Layna Jade waves to Harley Erle. "Hello again Harley."
Harley Erle turns to see Layna Jade and Nikolas Thime, annoyance covers his face.
"What now Layna, and who is that you have with you?"
"Harley, this is…."
Nick Thime cuts Layna Jade off and introduces himself. "I'm Nikolas Thime Mr. Erle; I'm investigating the theft of your concept cars."
"Another detective? Has Detective Kumnick been taken off the case Detective Thime?"
"Oh no, this is still Detective Kumnick's case. I'm here as a second pair of eyes, just to make sure that no piece of evidence, or any small clue that could shed some light on the whereabouts of your SUVs has been overlooked."
Layna Jade strokes Nick's arm, smiles and gives him a look of approval. "I have to run over to my hotel, I’m expecting a package, but I’ll be right back. Wait here for me until I return, detective."
Having overheard Layna Jade, the lab coated woman, flanked by the two lab coated men approach Nick Thime with a frantic look on her face. "Did those hooligans talk detective? Have they told you what they did with our automobiles?"
Nick looks at the woman questioningly. "No I'm afraid not."
"Detective Thime," says Harley Erle, "this is Dr. Olive Graffam, Dr. Stone, and Dr. Izmaylov; collectively they are known as "The Geniuses."
"Yes, detective, you see I designed and created the SUVs, but The Geniuses are responsible for the creation of the SUVs onboard computer technology. Dr. Graffam is a brilliant mathematician who during the war was one of the team of women who programmed the massive ENIAC computer, and Doctors Stone and Izmaylov are both brilliant computer technicians."
The Geniuses again huddle in conversation, and then turn to Harley Erle, "If only we were further ahead with the science of this project,” says the female scientist. “How I wish that satellite technology were not in its infancy and more advanced."
"What do you mean Doctor Graffam?" Nick asks.
"You explain Dr. Stone," says Dr. Graffam.
"With pleasure doctor," The round faced dark haired scientist turns to Nikolas Thime.
"Detective, are you aware that last year the Russians sent a satellite into space?"
"Yes I know about that it was called Sputnik, wasn't it?"
"Yes that is correct detective. Then in January of this year the US launched its first successful satellite, Explorer 1."
"Okay, the “space race” I’ve got all that, but what has that to do with the SUVs?"
"Currently nothing, but in the future this could have fantastic implications."
"Did you attend the opening of The Cars Of Tomorrow detective?" Harley Erle asks.
"Yes I did," answers Nick.
"Do you remember when I made the comment about never getting lost in my SUV or telling it where you want to go and it will takes you there?"
"Well," says Dr. Stone, "that is where satellite technology comes in. In the future there will be satellite networks linked to automobiles. With this technology, through longitudinal and latitudinal mapping, satellites will be able to give cars directions, essentially telling them how to get to a specific destination. Thus the driver can never get lost and never have to ask for directions. But most importantly this also allows for a stolen vehicle linked to a satellite to be easily located and retrieved."
"I see,” says Nick, “so if this technology were more advanced and functioning today…."
"We could easily pinpoint the location of the SUVs and retrieve them."
"But unfortunately the science has not yet caught up with our theories thus we have to rely on you and old fashion police work to locate our vehicles."
"I'm not a scientist like you guys but it would seem to me that you would have a main computer housed somewhere that would be connected to each SUVs individual computer that could say, talk to one another, telling the main computer where they are?"
The geniuses look at Nick with amazement. "I like him," says the gray bearded Dr. Izmaylov, "for a police officer he is very astute. Yes detective that would have been a most logical component to have connected to the SUVs. But we did not want to control the SUVs through a main computer we wanted the SUVs to be capable of functioning independently of a main computer, to process information individually, thus they each contain their own independent, individual electronic brain."
"That is all very fascinating doctors and I must say I'm impressed. But despite the SUVs advanced technology they were still stolen, and I'm here to try and determine by whom. The NASCAR drivers admit that they originally came to take the cars for a joyride, but did not steal them. So I have to ask this question, could you be mistaken? Could someone else connected to the auto show or auto manufacturers have stolen the vehicles?"
"No, that's not possible," says Dr. Graffam.
"But the NASCAR racers say that they believe that someone, who had gotten here ahead of them were already inside the SUVs."
"What made them think that?" Dr. Stone asks.
"They said that they tried to get inside the SUVs but when they attempted to do so, someone inside the vehicles locked the doors. They said that the tint on the windows of the SUVs was so dark that could not see who was inside the vehicles. But whoever was inside locked the doors and they could not gain access to them."
The Geniuses turn away from Nick and give each other strange looks, huddle and turn back to Nick Thime and say, "Good day detective," and are about to walk away.
"One moment doctors, I've another question. I remember Mr. Erle saying that these vehicles possess voice activated ignition, how does that work?"
"It's very simple," said Dr. Stone, "the automobile's computers are programmed to recognize a specific voice and start the engine when that voice issues the command, "Start engine."
"Where the SUVs programmed to recognize a specific voice or voices?"
"Yes they were programmed to respond only to the voices of Mr. Erle and the three of us."
"So the SUVs could not have been stolen via this method unless one of the four of you stole them?"
Dr. Izmaylov gives Nick an insulted look. "We did not steal our own vehicles, but yes that is correct."
"Could these sophisticated vehicles have been hot wired?"
"Most definitely yes."
"Being that they would only respond to your voices, I'd bet money that they were."
"So would we detective," say The Geniuses in unison.
"Thank you, you've all been a tremendous help." Nick turns to walks away, then turns back around. "Oh, one more thing doctors, the keys?"
"The keys?" The Geniuses ask in unison.
"Yes, even though these vehicles have voice activated ignition, I would imagine that they could still be started by the conventional method of an ignition key, you know, in case a family member or friend whose voice was not programmed into your vehicle’s computer wanted to borrow it. So these vehicles did have keys correct?'
"Why yes, of course, detective," says Dr. Stone.
"Then may I see them?"
"See them?" Dr. Graffam asks. "I'm afraid not, you see the keys are gone, missing."
"I see, thank you doctors."
The Geniuses walk away giving Nick Thime a strange look. Nick turns his attention to Harley Erle.
"Mr. Erle, why do you think the NASCAR drivers would want to steal the SUVs?"
"Because they hate us," answers the auto company president.
"Who is "us" Mr. Erle? Do they hate you personally, or do they hate GM, just who is us?"
"We've already given Detective Kumnick this information; didn't he share it with you?"
"I want to hear it from you for myself, so just humor me please."
"Well, they hate my family, the Erles."
"But two of them, Junior Johnson and Wendell O. Scott are working for a member of your family, Woody Erle; he's their sponsor is he not?"
"Yes, but so what, even enemies sometimes form profitable business partnerships."
"You say Johnson, Scott, Anderson, Hood and Fields hate the Erles, why?"
"Why else? They feel that they were cheated or done wrong at some point by us."
"Why do they feel this way?"
"How would I know? I don't know what goes on in a person's mind. Instead of asking me these asinine questions maybe you be asking those criminals what did they do with the SUVs. Those cars are irreplaceable prototypes worth a million dollars apiece, five millions dollars total to be exact, and we want them back. Make them tell you what they've done with them. Now, if you are done detective I have work to do. Due to the damages done to this place by those race car drivers, the auto show has been cancelled and we need to pack up, good day."
At the American Motor's platform containing the Cheetah El Gato, Woody Erle is there accessing the damage. He sees the woman Aurora approaching and his face breaks into a bright excited smile. "Well if it isn't Mrs. Aurora Erle-Fisher!" They give each other a loving sibling embrace. "It's great to see you. How's my favorite little sister?"
"I'm your only little sister."
"And I couldn't have been blessed with a better one. What brings you here?"
"Father sent me to see if Harley needed any assistance."
A sour expression comes over Woody Erle's face. "How is the old man?"
"He's worried about Harley's predicament."
"I don't suppose he's at all worried about me huh?"
The woman’s eyes developed a sorrowful apologetic look as she doesn't answer her brother's question."
"Yeah I know; he only cares about his favorite son, Harley."
"Speaking of siblings," says Aurora, "have you seen Link?"
A look of surprised astonishment comes over Woody Erle's face. "Lincoln? Here? But there are cars here, and we both know that the only thing Link cares about in a car is an obedient chauffer in the front seat, and an obedient girl in the back seat."
"Well be that as it may," says Aurora, "his wife is here for Ford, and I've noticed that here lately she has been keeping our baby brother on a very short leash. So if she is here, I’ll wager that Link is here somewhere.
As Nikolas Thime leaves The Cars Of Tomorrow pavilion he spies the same tall, dark haired man he saw hidden away with Layna Jade and Miss Maxima at the auto show.
This time he is tucked intimately behind a large TOYOTA kiosk that is cloaked in shadows. In his arms he holds a beautiful Muslim woman who wears horn rimmed glasses on her face. A glittering glamorous hajib covers the woman's head, and she is dressed in a well tailored gray business suit.
Nick walks in the direction of the American Motor's platform where Aurora Erle-Fisher is talking with her brother Woody Erle. "Well Woody, speaking of her majesty," Aurora points in the direction of the Ford Motors display, "there she is, Queen Victoria Ford-Erle."
A tall beautiful regal woman with her head held high parts the crowd as she walks through the exhibition space. Her eyes looked straight ahead never making eye contact with the clipboard wielding men and women surrounding her. As she spoke to her entourage, there came from them a constant chorus of, "Yes Mrs. Erle," in obedient subjugated tones.
Stunning in dress, she is draped all in white. A hat that looked like a small bowl perched on the top of her head. Extending from this hat is a large brim that extends outward, casting a shadow on her lovely angular face. A light gossamer gauze veil is attached to the top of the brim then falls off the brim like a waterfall in front of her shadowed face. The veil falls past her face and onto her chest draped in a shimmering blouse. The blouse was covered by a padded shouldered white blazer with large shiny buttons. The skirt beneath the blazer was straight and calf length. White gloves went from her hands, up her slender arms and to her elbows.
Making no eye contact and turning to no one in her troupe, she asks, "Extent of the damage?"
"Mrs. Erle," said a Native American man with a clipboard, "it appears that none of the Ford vehicles were damaged in the fire and destruction, we came out of this without a scratch. Just some smoke damage to the interior of a couple of automobiles, but otherwise we came out unscathed."
"Excellent, grandfather will be pleased to hear that. Gentleman, ladies, I leave the remaining clean up packing details in your capable hands."
"Yes Mrs. Erle," rings out from the group.
Mrs. Erle turns and looks to her left and to her right, then shouts, "Zola!"
Suddenly the bespectacled Muslim woman in the glittering hajib comes running with a frightened look on her face. "Yes Miss Ford, I mean, Mrs. Erle?"
"Zola, where have you been? Where is my husband?"
"I don't know Mrs. Erle, he's here somewhere."
"Find him Zola, I'm ready to leave."
"Yes Mrs. Erle."
The young woman has a frantic look on her face as she quickly and obediently begins to search for Mrs. Erle's missing husband. Relief paints Zola's face when she sees the tall, dark wavy haired, mustached handsome man she had been hidden away in the corner with walking in her direction. "Here he is Mrs. Erle."
As the man passes Zola he winks at her. Zola blushes with embarrassment and turns away.
The man walks up behind his wife pulls back her veil and kisses her on the cheek.
Victoria Ford-Erle turns to face her husband eyeing him with annoyance. "Lincoln, where have you been?"
"Oh, I was just checking out the chassis construction of your competitors my darling."
The eyes of Victoria Ford-Erle give her husband a scrutinizing and skeptical look.
As Nick Thime approaches the American Motor's display, he sees the woman Aurora Erle-Fisher kiss Woody Erle on the cheek, and walks away from him.
Aurora Erle-Fisher nervously turns to see if anyone is watching her. When she sees that she is not being watched she slips behind a large six foot by six foot lit sign that has the Ford logo at the top of it and reads, "FORD HAS A BETTER IDEA." Hidden away behind the sign she pulls a small liquor flask from her suit jacket pocket and takes a quick swig of the flask's contents.
Nick walks up to Woody Erle who is looking under the hood of the Cheetah El Gato. "Good afternoon Mr. Erle," says Thime.
Woody Erle comes from under the hood of the car and gives Nick an unhappy look.
"You're that detective that was talking to my brother about his stolen cars. What do you want?"
"I want to ask you a few questions about your business associates Junior Johnson and Wendell O. Scott."
"You mean, former business associates, I don't do business with car thieves."
"Alleged car thieves who have been released on bail."
"And they've been released from their contract with me. I cannot afford the negative publicity that comes with their arrest."
"Mr. Erle, do you think they stole your brother's SUVs?"
"You guys do, or you wouldn't have arrested them."
"Mr. Erle, the job of the police is to bring the perpetrators of criminal acts to justice. The NASCAR drivers were arrested because physical evidence points to their possible involvement in this crime, but they are innocent until proven guilty. Based on gathered evidence the judge and jury will decide if these men are actually guilty of their alleged crimes, not the police. So please answer my question, can you think of any reason why they would steal the SUVs?"
"To ruin us."
"When you say "us" do you mean American Motors?"
"No, I mean our family, the Erles."
"Why would they want to ruin your family?"
"Because they hate us, and nothing would please them more than to get revenge on us for their own failures."
"I don't understand." Nick opens his mouth to ask another question, until a gruff and belligerent male voice cuts through the convention center.
"What are you doing here Thime?"
Nick turns to see the angry face of Detective Kumnick. "How did you get in here?"
Harley Erle appears with the Geniuses, and joins Woody Erle who asks, "Isn't he with your department?"
"No," says the detective, "this is Nikolas Thime the attorney representing the men accused of destroying this place and stealing your automobiles."
"What? But you said you were with the police," said an angry Harley Erle to Nikolas Thime.
"No I did not, you assumed, I was with the police," said Nick.
The angry police detective turns to Nick Thime with eyes filled with venom. "Thime, I have been waiting for you to make a major mistake so I could throw the book at you. Impersonating a police officer may just be the break I have been waiting for."
"Kumnick, I did not and would not impersonate a police officer. But why am I wasting my breath on you? Like you said you've been desperately waiting to pin something, anything, on me in hopes that it will make you feel better about yourself. But locking me up or causing me lose my license won't fix what's wrong with you."
"Wait a moment Detective Kumnick," says the approaching Layna Jade. "Mr. Thime told the truth, he never told anyone he was with the police; they assumed that he was. Actually he is here at my invitation as my guest."
An angry Detective Kumnick turns to Layna Jade. "Who gave you the authority to bring a guest in here young lady?"
Layna Jade bats her voluminous eyes at the detective and moves closer to him. "You didn't tell me that I couldn't, Brian."
The gruff detective melts as he looks into Layna Jade's eyes. "Miss Jade, you shouldn't mess around with this guy, he's trouble, and he used you to get in here."
"As I said Brian, I invited him."
"That's what he'd like you to believe. I know this guy, and he knew that he was not allowed access to the crime scene without police authorization. But he came here bound and determined to get in, without authorization. If he hadn't run into you he would have bamboozled that poor security guard posted out front and gotten in. Thime is a snake, a slithering serpent that can get any woman to take a bite of the apple."
Layna Jade gives scrutinizing looks to both Nick Thime and Detective Kumnick. With the index fingers of both her hands she makes the shape of a triangle in the air in front of her, smiles and says, "I wonder who the woman of this triangle is that has caused so much animosity between you two?"
Layna Jade's assumption garners no response from either of the two men; she then looks at the police detective apologetically. "Well I'm sorry Brian, maybe I shouldn't have brought Mr. Thime in, but if you must be angry at someone you should be angry with me. Let Mr. Thime off the hook."
"Alright Miss Jade," said the detective softly, then he turns to Nick with a look of jealous hostility, raises his arm and points to the exit, issuing the command, "Thime, get out!"
Nick turns to Layna Jade offers his hand which she accepts and they shake. "Thank you Miss Jade, I'll be in touch." Nikolas then sticks out the tip of his tongue and makes the sound of a serpent's hiss. Layna Jade smiles and winks at Nick Thime, then Nick turns and starts walking towards the convention center exit.
“Nikolas Time,” says Kumnick as he watches Nick with displeasure as he walks away, “who is he? Where is he from? I don’t like him. He just showed up one day outta nowhere, and from the moment he hit town strange things have been happening. Somethin’s not right about him. I don’t like him, I just don’t like him.”
Nick returns to the office and Powaqa and Strode are there waiting for him. "Okay team let's meet in my office. Okay Stroddy, what did you learn at the car dealership in Woodbridge?"
"The car dealership was completely destroyed; every car on the lot, a hundred or so, was stolen, including the cars in the showroom. The dealership manager was killed by decapitation."
"Decapitated? Was the decapitation an accident or murder?" Nick Thime asked.
"That's what I'm not sure of."
"What do you mean?"
"She was decapitated by glass."
"Yes, there is shattered glass littered throughout the entire car lot. The way the glass is laid out indicates that it wasn't broken or smashed with a bat, pole, bricks or stones. It's almost as if the glass was forcefully broken and blown by some sort of powerful force. It was a force so powerful that it moved glass at such speed that could sever a head."
"Like an explosion?" asked Powaqa Nightbird.
"Yes, but unfortunately there was no tell tail residue that would indicate an explosion took place."
"Stroddy, what makes you think that glass took off this woman's head?"
"I learned that glass fragments were found in the severed flesh of her neck."
"Do you think that the dealership woman saw too much and had to be silenced by someone who decapitated her with glass?"
"That's interesting too. It seems the bloody shard of glass that decapitated the woman was found near her body, and just like all the broken glass on the lot, there were no fingerprints on it. Actually the only prints found there are the prints of the employees."
"This is bizarre."
"It gets more bizarre Nikolas. I told you every car that was on the lot was stolen. Well, the keys to every missing car are still hanging in the manager's office."
"A mass hot wiring?"
"Again I don't know."
"What do the police think?"
"They too are baffled, so baffled that they called in the FBI for assist."
"Nikolas, we are working on the theft of some concept cars correct? So why did you have me look into a used car lot vandalism that took place miles away from the auto show and the death of the dealership manager? Do you think these things are connected?"
"I don't know Stroddy; I just don't want to overlook anything. Okay Aqa, what did you find out at the library? When I talked to the Erles they said that the NASCAR drivers hated them. Was there any gossip in the auto magazines to support this?"
"Actually Nikz there was. It seems the Erles and several of the NASCAR racers have a history of partnerships and falling outs; but the biggest falling out concerns the 1955 Daytona Grand National race."
"Hey I heard about that, something about a driver and his race car being disqualified."
"Yes Nikz, the Buick M-1 driven by Fireball Roberts was disqualified, so a Chrysler 300 driven by Tim Flock won by default. You know about that? I didn't know you were into racing."
"Actually Miss Bascopolous told me about that. But what did Johnson, Scott, Anderson, Fields, and Hood have to do with that?"
"It seems that just like Fireball Roberts they all drove GM vehicles in that race. These GM vehicles were equipped with Phish carburetors which were believed to give a car an unfair advantage; they were all disqualified for that reason. This action hurt their racing stats for the year and they felt betrayed by the Erles."
A confused frown covers Nick’s face when he asks, "I don't get it, why hate the Erles for that?"
"At the time Chrysler was NASCAR's biggest sponsor. Rumor has it, Bentley Erle, president of Chrysler told the NASCAR board to disqualify Fireball Robert's Buick and all cars using Phish carburetors. If they didn't comply he would pull Chrysler's sponsorship of NASCAR. NASCAR complied as they did not want to lose Chrysler's generous monetary sponsorship.
"Then the disqualified NASCAR drivers were even more incensed with the Erles because neither Harley nor Woody Erle, who both had had mutually beneficial partnerships with the racers in the past, came to aide them against papa Bentley.”
“Hmmmm, interesting story,” says Nick.
Powaqa adds, "Except for the disqualification of the drivers for the use of the Phish carburetors, none of the rest of this story was ever confirmed by Chrysler or NASCAR. It was all rumor and speculation, but many within the NASCAR community believed it to be true."
"What was Bentley Erle's beef with Phish carburetors?"
"That issue was not addressed in any of the information that I obtained."
"Can you tell me if Jo Bascopolous drove in the '55 Daytona Grand National and if so, was she also disqualified?"
"Yes, she did participate in that race, but her GM automobile was not equipped with a Phish carburetor, so she was not disqualified."
"What was her finish?"
"Originally she finished eighth, after Robert’s Buick M-1, Flock’s Chrysler, Johnson, Scott, Fields, Hood and Anderson. But Miss Bascopolous got bumped up to second when the Chrysler got bumped up to first place with the disqualification of the Buick M-1 and your five race driver clients."
"Okay, the automakers GM, FORD, Chrysler, and American Motors Corp; what can you tell me about them Aqa?
"Just that they are considered wonderful employers who pay their workers great salaries, offers extremely generous health benefits, and has a retirement plan to die for. They make up the largest segment of American manufacturing, making them a major force in the American economy. And with the exception of American Motors, they are enjoying record sales and profits."
"What about concept car development?"
"They all develop concept cars as they are an important part of the development strategy of future models. GM is without a doubt the concept car leader, building the most innovated and technologically advanced models. One thing of note though, Bentley Erle, president of Chrysler, was president of GM many years ago, his son Harley succeeded him to the throne of GM presidency."
“Lastly Aqa, the magazine AutoErotic, what’s their story?”
“It is the number one, best selling automobile magazine in the country. They have millions of devoted readers. It was a barely selling, sleepy little unnoticed magazine until they hired Layna Jade. Her aggressive writing style, tell all storytelling, abrasive wit and spectacular photographs turned the magazine around.”
"Yes, very interesting. I need to ponder all this for awhile. Aqa, Stroddy, why don't we call it a day?"
"I'll be staying late Nikz, as I've got a client coming by for a reading a little later."
"As for me Nikolas I'm going up to my lab and work on the water creature dilemma," says Strode.
"Well you two dedicated workers keep up the good work. As for me, I think I'll run over to the Cinemas at Potomac Yard and catch a movie. I think I'll go see the western "Day of the Bad Men" with Fred MacMurray, I hear it's pretty good."
As Strode takes the steps up to is laboratory Powaqa goes into her outer office. Nick Thime exits the building and as he walks down the sidewalk he turns to see a very attractive woman with her dark hair piled atop her head enter his building. He looks the beautiful woman up and down and his face displays a look of approval.
When Nick returns from the movies it is dusk, but there is enough light for him to see the fragments of shattered glass on the sidewalk in front of his building. When he gets closer he sees the large pieces of plywood that cover the front of his building where a plate glass window was.
Nick anxiously walks into the office to find the place a disheveled mess littered with broken furniture and glass. An angry expression begins to form on his face and he yells, "STRODE!"
Suddenly Powaqa appears behind him, "Nikolas."
Nick turns to her. "Aqa, what has Stroddy done this time? Or was it the water-thing, did it return?"
Powaqa hangs her head in shame, "It wasn't Strode this time Nikolas, or the water-thing, it was me."
"You?" Says Nick with a confused look on his face and disbelief is in his voice. "I don't understand Aqa, if this had been caused by Stroddy I wouldn't be surprise, but you are always in such remarkable control with everything you do. I can't believe that you are responsible for this mess, what happened?"
"I had a client come by for a reading. It was a simple reading as she only wanted me to tell her if her lover was faithful. As I tried to determine this, a deceased relative, who obviously got up on the wrong side of the spirit world, appeared. As Powaqa Nightbird tells Nikolas Thime her story it replays in her mind.
With her face adorned with her pasty white “magic war paint,” Powaqa sits at a circular table. The beautiful woman with dark curls piled atop her head sits across from her. "Miss Salmon, please extend your hands over the table, palms down."
The woman complies and Powaqa places her hands palms up beneath the woman’s hands. With their palms touching the Native American sorceress closes her eyes and begins to speak. "Spirits, oh spirits who guide the heart, tell me; is her lover true?" Powaqa's eyes spring open as a soft breeze fills the room.
A disturbed look fills Powaqa's eyes. "Something’s wrong," she says to herself. She then grips Miss Salmon's hands tightly which causes her face to be flush with fear.
"What's wrong Miss Nightbird?" The frightened woman asks.
Powaqa does not answer and she shouts out, "Who is here? Who is here? Reveal yourself!" The soft breeze now becomes a high wind which blows in the vague distorted ghostly apparition of a man who is obviously not at peace. "Beware, beware," says the apparition.
Powaqa asks the spirit, "Who are you spirit? What is your name? What do you want?"
The ghostly spirit shrieks, "BEWARE! YOU ARE IN DANGER MY DAUGHTER, BEWARE!"
Miss Salmon’s eyes open wide, "Father? Father I'm in no danger, actually I'm thinking of marriage."
The spirit screams out, "NO MARRIAGE! NO MARRIAGE! NO LOVE! HATE! PAIN! EVIL! EVIL! WILL DESTROY YOU!.......BEWARE!”
Powaqa tries to obtain more answers from the spirit, "Tell us spirit, who will hurt Miss Salmon?"
"SALMON FISH! SALMON FISH! BEE IS DANGEROUS HE IS THE ONE!”
Suddenly a wind whips into a frenzy. Dark light bulbs explode and the small fragments of glass fill the air joining papers and paintings that are flying through the room. Two lamps take flight and smash into the wall.
Powaqa's eyes grow wide with fear as she sees the office sofa leave the floor and goes flying through the air towards them. With Miss Salmon's hands still in her grip Powaqa pulls her to the floor and the speeding sofa whizzes over their heads and smashes through the office plate glass window and lands on the sidewalk outside.
"I must dispatch your father back to from whence he came," says the sorceress.
Miss Salmon pleads with Powaqa. "No Miss Nightbird don't send father back! I must know what he means! I must know who means to harm me!"
As office furnishings smash against the walls Powaqa ignores Miss Salmon's pleas and silently mouths an incantation.
"No Miss Nightbird no, don’t send father back! Father! Father! What do you mean? Dad! Dad!"
The spirit seems to float through the office but in actuality it is growing smaller. Miss Salmon chases the fading apparition screaming, "Dad, dad, come back, please come back, I don't understand, DAD!"
The apparition vanishes and the flying broken furniture and articles fall to the floor. On their knees in the middle of the floor strewn with debris, a shaken and confused Miss Salmon sobs in Powaqa Nightbird's arms.
“And that’s what happened Nikolas,” said Powaqa Nighbird as she begins to cry. "I'm sorry Nikolas; I'll pay for everything. I've got window and furniture repairmen coming in the morning, I'll take care of this Nikolas, I'm sorry."
Nick takes the sobbing Powaqa in his arms, "That's okay Aqa, don't worry about it. Are you alright? You weren't hurt were you?"
"I wasn't hurt Nikolas."
"Stop crying now, it's alright. You go on home now; we'll deal with this mess tomorrow, okay?"
Passing auto headlights strike and illuminate the US 1 highway marker. Ahead of it another sign sits next to the road that reads "Welcome To Quantico."
At a truck stop motel and diner just off of US 1, idle tractor trailer trucks of various types such as gas tanker, explosive, lumber, chemical, and milk tanker trucks sit quietly in the truck stop parking lot.
In the truck stop diner, hungry truckers of every ethnic group are devouring their dinner and flirting with the attractive racially diverse waitresses.
A thundering explosion rocks the truck stop diner in which plate glasses and silverware jump from the table and counter tops and falls to the diner floor. The startled occupants of the diner are rocked by a second explosion which causes the lights of the diner to blink out leaving the truckers, cooks and wait staff in darkness.
The frenzied truckers, waitresses and cooks rush to the front window to see what is happening. Then a blinding searing white light shoots through the window and cuts through the darkness lighting up the diner's interior.
The light is so bright that causes them to cover their eyes and turn their faces away from it. Suddenly the diner with all its occupants explodes in a hellish ball of flame, lighting up the night.
As flames crackle and debris falls from the night, there is the loud thundering "vroom" of multiple automobile engines. That sound fades and then the only sound heard is that of the raging crackling fire that hungrily consumes the truck stop, the motel and diner.
© 2010 Rix Roundtree-Harrison