The Cars of Tomorrow
by Rix Roundtree-Harrison
An excited Nick Thime with a scruffy face and in a white t-shirt and dark pajama bottoms runs upstairs to the third floor and bangs on the large metal door. The door has a number of signs posted on its surface. There is a large square sign that reads, "KEEP OUT!" A large triangular sign that reads "DANGER!" Another square signs reads, "DO NOT ENTER!" A rectangular signs reads "ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!" and at the bottom of these signs about a third of the way down the door a small rectangular sign reads, "PLEASE KNOCK BEFORE ENTERING!"
To the right of the door runs a windowed sidewall. Outside of this window the only thing that is visible is the brick wall of the building next door. The brick wall of the building has several large windows on its façade. Theses windows reflect the image of Nick Thime's building within them. They capture the entire side of Nick's building. The windows near the building's roof capture the image of the top of Nick's building. In the mirror-like glass can be seen the glistening pipes and a television antenna that protrude from the roof of the Nick Of Time building.
Also on the black tar roof of Nick's building are skylights. The morning sunbeams shoot down through the skylights filling the room below with dust-filtered light.
Rays of dust filtered sunlight shine down on the baldhead of the tall, powerfully built, African American scientist, Strode. In his white lab coat he stands before a strange apparatus. With his right hand pushes buttons while his left hand throws switches.
Sitting on a laboratory table behind Strode is a vial that begins a throbbing, pulsing, glow as sparks fly from it. With his right hand the man snatches the vial from its housing, clinches it in his fist, and brings it to his face. With his left hand he reaches up to his face and whips off the goggles. His large thick eyebrows shaped like thumbs, push down on his eyelids making his eyes angry narrow slits. He concentrates on the vial before his face. The steely pupils of his naked eyes seem to bore into his luminous elixir as if they were microscopes that could see the formula's chemical make-up.
"Stroddy, you awake?"
Strode opens the door and Nick Thime enters the laboratory. "Yes Nikolas."
"What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to solve the water-thing dilemma."
"Turn on your TV to channel 9, quick."
Strode with a concerned and questioning look on his face complies with Nick Thime's request. He goes to the portable TV sitting on a back shelf in his lab and turns it on.
On the television a frantic blonde female reporter is at the site of a truck stop explosion; she is trying to explain waht has transpired. "Yes the Quantico truck stop, the restaurant and motel attached to it have all been completely destroyed, nothing remains but melted metal. There are many dead and injured people. The strangest thing is that all the tractor trailers that were parked here last night are missing. This is eerily similar to the car dealership destruction and stolen vehicles that took place at Sheehy Ford in Woodbridge the night before."
Nick and Strode give one another questioning looks. They turn away from the television. "Eerily similar?" Strode asks.
"Coincidence, connection, or pattern?" Nick asks. "We've got work to do, let me grab a shave and showe…..Dammit! I can't take a shower, that water-thing will accost me. Stroddy, you've got to solve this problem pronto, I can't walk around folks smelling funky." Nick gives Strode a curious look then leans into him and sniffs him. "You're clean and shaved. You showered?"
"Yes, without incident. As I told you Nikolas, the water-thing is afraid of me and stays away from me, allowing me to bathe in peace."
"Lucky you," says Nick Thime with sarcasm in his voice.
"Stroddy, I've got a lot to do today, I can use the electric razor to shave, but I still can't shower."
"I may be able to help you with that Nikolas."
Nick gives Strode an inquiring look. Strode notices the look and explains. “Electromagnetic energy can be controlled. I've invented a device that I call the "Electromagnetic Shower." By funneling electromagnetic energy through a specially designed shower head I've designed the EMS can manipulate electromagnetic waves around you and those in your body in a manner that changes the magnetic polarity of the dirt on your person. This causes the dirt on you to repel itself from your body, thus cleansing you."
"You're saying that you can use electromagnetic energy of my body to repel the dirt sweat and grime off of me?"
"Stroddy, it's not that I don't have faith in your abilities, but I won't get blown up will I?"
"No Nikolas not a chance. There is nothing flammable, combustible or explosive about this experiment."
"Okay, then I won't get turned to glass, stone, rubber, or heaven forbid, be melted will I?"
"Nikolas this is a very simple experiment using manipulated electromagnetic waves, nothing can go wrong."
"That's what you said when you lived on Otis street; remember Otis street?"
The veil of recollection covers Strode's face and he groans, "Ooooooooh. But that was different I was working with volatile genetically engineered popcorn. I miscalculated the amount of explosive force that the altered kernels would exert."
"Well yes that was of little comfort to the homeowners of the three houses, including yours, that got blown to smithereens. I don't want my home blown up."
Ignoring him Strode turns away from Nick Thime and mumbles, "Oh Nikolas, don't be ridiculous. I haven't blown this house up yet, and I've come close many times." Strode turns to Nick with alarm registered on his face, "I, I, didn't say that out loud, did I?"
"You know Stroddy you really need to work on keeping your thoughts inside your head. Alright, let's get this over with; what do I have to do?"
"You see that booth in the corner?"
Nick walks over to the booth; it's about seven feet tall and looks like a vertical metal coffin. Nick opens the steel door and the inside metal walls are lined with looks like tiny one inch in diameter speakers.
Strode hands Nick a pair of dark goggles and says, "Put these on and step inside, then take off your clothes and hand them to me."
But before the EMS can begin Nick and Strode's attention is brought again to the morning news on the television.
Two news co-anchors, a white male, and a black female issue a warning to the viewing audience.
"Ladies and gentleman, we are about to show you graphic footage from a murder so violent and gruesome that we suggest that you get small children away from your televisions as it may be too upsetting for them," says the male anchor.
The female anchor continues. "Early this morning the body of Bentley Erle, the President and CEO of Chrysler Motors was found dead at the Washington DC convention center."
As they stand before the television, Nick and Strode's faces fill with revulsion and horror at what they see on the television screen.
On the screen is a handsome, gray haired, naked Caucasian male in his late sixties or early seventies. He hangs staked to the "T" in the word "Tomorrow" in The Cars of Tomorrow logo.
His head is thrown back resting on the top bar of the T, his mouth and eyes are wide open. The dead open eyes are rolled up in his head and almost seem as though they are looking into the great beyond, silently pleading with the keeper of the golden gates above to forgive the recently departed for his past transgressions, and allow his soul to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Wrapped around his forehead and neck and head are black wires, wrapped so tight that they cut into the flesh.
His arms are stretched outwards to the sides, parallel with the arms of the T. His hands are staked to the ends of the T's arms by the sharp pointed ends of the tail fins cut from a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, which are nailed through the center of his palms. The torpedo like tail lights are still attached to the tail fins.
At the base of the T, his feet are overlapped and an automobile radio antenna is pushed through both overlapped feet staking his feet to the shaft at the base of the T.
For several seconds Nick and Strode are speechless.
"What sick mind would do such a thing Nikolas?" Asked Strode, "What an over the top and controversial way to murder someone."
"Yes, that is definitely over the top Stroddy. But that is no ordinary murder; the murderer is also sending a message."
"What kind of message Nikolas, and to whom?"
"The message could be directed to someone who knows or saw something related to the murder of Bentley Erle. And the message could be anything from, keep your mouth shut, to, stay out of my business, to, give me what I want or this could happen to you.
"In ancient Rome crucifixion was used as a form of punishment and intimidation to keep the Roman citizens in line. To use it in this way is very intimidating, not to mention controversial and dramatic, so controversial and dramatic in fact, that it can deflect attention from other serious issues and questions."
The no nonsense look comes over Nick's face. "C'mon Stroddy, lets get this electromagnetic shower business over with, I've got a feeling its going to be a busy day."
Nick puts on the goggles, steps inside the booth, and hands out his clothing through the partially opened booth door, and says, "Strode, in the movie "The Fly" a man stepped into a booth and came out a half man half fly creature, that better not happen to me."
Strode rolls his eyes and slams the booth door. He walks over to a bank of levers and switches and works the controls of the EMS. Suddenly the room is filled with an eerie electronic howl. Strode throws a lever and the howling comes to an end. Strode then walks over to the EMS booth, partially opens the booth door and hands Nick a towel.
Nick sticks his head out of the slightly open booth door, "What this for?" asks Nick, "You used electromagnetic energy to bathe me, I'm not the least bit wet."
The scientist rolls his eyes again, "It's to cover your nakedness, Nikolas."
"Oh." Nick sniffs himself. "Gee, that was great. I feel and smell clean and fresh, and best of all, I'm still alive. Thanks Stroddy."
Powaqa arrives at the office and rushes into Nick's office where he sits at his desk dressed in a crisp white shirt and tie decorated with African American jazz musicians. Strode sits on the couch in front of Nick's desk reviewing some documents.
"Nikz! Strode! Did you see the morning news? Bentley Erle…..murdered! It was horrible!"
"Yes we saw it Aqa, and it's got me worried."
"Worried about what?" Powaqa Nightbird asks.
"I'm worried that my NASCAR clients, who happened to be out on bail when this guy was murdered, may be charged with this crime. I'm sitting here waiting for the phone to ring and find Johnson, Scott, Hood, Anderson and Fields on the other end of the line telling me that they have been arrested again, this time for murder.
"Stroddy, while we wait and see what's going to develop, I want you to go down to the destroyed Quantico truck stop and see what you can find out about that. Also, do you have some special operatives you can send over to the convention center and look for something for me?"
"That depends Nikolas; what do you want operatives to look for?"
"Keys, eight sets of car keys, specifically the keys to the five stolen SUVs and keys to the '59 Chrysler 300, '59 Corvette, and '59 Caddy Eldorado that were on exhibition. They could be locked in a lock box, packed away in crate; they could be anywhere in there, or, they may not be there at all."
"I think I have just the operatives for that Nikolas."
Powaqa leads three men dressed in dark work overalls and wielding tool boxes out of the office and then walks back to Nick Thime's office. "Nikz, the workers have completed the installation of the new window and the office sofa has also been repaired so I'm going to take a long lunch and do some shopping."
"Okie doke. Ah, Aqa, while you are out, could you do me a couple of favors?"
"Sure Nikz, what do you need?"
"Could you pay another trip to the library? Check out three or four books on radio controlled vehicles and toys."
"You've got it Nikz."
"You know, while you're gone I think I'll take a little break myself and watch a movie until Stroddy gets back from the truck stop in Quantico.
“Nikz, you asked if I could do you a “couple of favors.” The library is only one, what’s the other?”
“Oh, while you're out, pick me up a 5th Avenue bar, willyaplease, thank you."
The street post sign reads "MONROE." Below the sign stands the little boy Chevy reading a piece of paper. He looks around and spies the Nick Of Time law office. He meanders through the pedestrians on the sidewalk and walks over to the building.
He grabs the door knob and enters the building but finds no one in the office. He quietly and softly walks through the empty office.
The door to Nick's office is halfway open and he sticks his head in but again sees no one. Then he notices the slightly ajar screening room door and hears sounds coming from behind that door. Chevy eases his little body through the cracked opened door.
Chevy looks in the dark room and sees Nick Thime lying relaxed on a futon illuminated by the light from a movie projector. He is about to speak to him until he sees the action taking place on the large projection screen, and Chevy sits quietly on the floor.
Enraptured in the movie Nick Thime didn't even notice when Chevy entered the dark room.
On the projection screen a gigantic dripping wet dinosaur, a scaly multi-finned Rhedosaurus, rises from a river as screaming dock workers flee in terror.
A policeman fires his gun at the dinosaur until he runs out of bullets and has to reload, taking his eyes off the creature. The dinosaur scoops up the policeman in its fanged mouth and quickly devours the screaming policeman with two hungry chomps.
Chevy is unable to contain his excitement and shouts out, "Oh wow!"
Nick startled by the voice springs from the futon, grabs the light chain hanging from the ceiling, turns on the ceiling light and with surprise and recognition sees Chevy sitting on his screening room floor. "Chevy?"
"Hiya Mr. Thime."
Nick stops the projector which causes Chevy to protest, "No Mr. Thime, don't stop it. I like The Beast from 20 Million Hundred Thousand Phantoms. Could you show the part when the dinosaur eats the policeman again? That's my favorite part."
Nick smiles at Chevy, "That's my favorite part too kiddo, but the movie is called "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms."
Chevy looking perplexed says, "That's what I said."
"No it's twenty thousand, and fathoms, not phantoms." Chevy has a look of incomprehension on his face, causing Nick to say, "Never mind. So, Chev, tell me what brings you here, and how did you get here?"
"I got a hotel phone book looked under lawyers and found you. I wrote your address down then went to the hotel front desk and found a subway map and figured out the closet subway stop to you and I came here, it was easy."
"Okay that explains how you got here. So what's up, what brings you here?"
"Mr. Thime you're a lawyer right?"
"That's what they tell me," said an amused Nick Thime with a smile. "You need a lawyer?"
Instantly Chevy goes from bright smiling kid to troubled child. "No, but Jo does, so I came to you to get you to help her. Jo didn't kill grand pop Mr. Thime, I know she didn't."
Nick's smile fades and is replaced by concern and confusion. "Chevy, what are you talking about? What's happened to Jo?"
"The police took her; they think she killed grand pop. But she didn't do it." Chevy says, "Jo didn't kill grand pop Bentley. She is a nice person she wouldn't kill anybody."
The confusion on Nick's face is now more pronounced. "Grand pop Bentley?" As in Bentley Erle?"
"Yes Mr. Thime Bentley Erle is my grandfather and my pop’s father. Harley Erle is my dad."
"Well I'll be Chevy; you're an Erle?"
At that moment a commotion is going on at the front door as Powaqa, flanked by the five NASCAR drivers, enters the law office.
"I got the door ma'am," says Wendell O. Scott as he opens the door for Powaqa.
"Thank you Mr. Scott."
Bo Fields and Hooker Hood are carrying grocery bags.
"Like, where would you like us to sit these bags Miss Nightbird?"
"You can set them on the sofa there."
The southern gentlemen reply with a polite, "Yes ma'am."
Inside the office they all take off their NASCAR emblazoned black ball caps in Powaqa's presence.
"Nikz, I met these gentleman at Safeway, they were causing a bit of a ruckus and giving the cashier grief about the price of cigarettes in our fair city. I heard them mention NASCAR and your name and I realized that they are our clients. They said they were on their way to see you regarding an urgent matter."
Excitement fills Chevy's face when he sees the NASCAR drivers and he runs to them yelling, "Uncle Junior, Uncle Wendell, Uncle Bo, Uncle Hook and Uncle Ax!"
The drivers are equally excited to see Chevy. Junior Johnson is the first to greet him
"Well hey 'lil Chev."
Chevy jumps into Junior Johnson's arms and after Junior Johnson gives the boy warm fatherly like hug he gets passed along to his other "uncles" for a hug.
As Hooker Hood lowers the boy to the floor Chevy asks, "What are you guys doin’ here?"
Junior Johnson's face displays a look of nervousness and he looks away from Chevy and at Nick Thime. "Well, a friend of ours is in trouble and we come to ask Mr. Thime if he would help get our friend out of trouble."
"Is this "friend" Miss Bascopolous?" The attorney asks.
The NASCAR drivers give a nod of affirmation.
"Then I'm afraid Chevy here has beat you too it. He came to ask if I would help her."
Surprised, Axel Anderson speaks, "Then Chevy knows about, about……"
"Yes, Chevy knows about his grandfather and he doesn't believe that Miss Bascopolous had anything to do with it."
"Well bless his heart," says Wendell O. Scott. "Are you going to help Jo Mr. Thime? She came to you and got you to help us; we felt it was only fittin' for us to return the favor. We don't think she had nothin' to do with what happened to Bentley Erle."
"Like, will you help her Mr. Thime?" Bo Fields pleads.
Nick looks into the pleading eyes of the five race car drivers and Chevy. "Yes, I will. But I need to get busy right away."
"Chevy would you like to get back to that movie?"
"You bet!" The excited little boy shouts.
"What's the name of it again?" Nick asks playfully.
"The Beast From 20,000, FATHOMS!"
"Excuse me for one minute gentleman while I take Chevy into the screening room and get the projector started."
Excitement lights up the face of Axel Anderson, "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms!" I love that movie, can I watch it too?"
"No,” says Nick, “you gentleman stay here I need to talk to all of you."
Nick takes Chevy into the screening room and after a minute comes out alone, shutting the screening room door behind him.
"I don't want Chevy to hear our conversation. Have a seat gentleman."
The racers sit down and Powaqa with notepad in hand also takes a seat.
"Can any of you tell me anything about this situation?"
"All we know Mr. Thime is what was in the news," says Junior Johnson.
"And what's flying around the racer's rumor mill daddy-O," adds Hooker Hood.
"What sort of rumors?"
"That old Bentley was gonna like try and git Jo kicked off the NASCAR circuit," Bo Fields answers.
"Why would Bentley Erle do that?"
"Dunno," says Axel Anderson, "but he thought he was the king of the auto world and could do anything he damned well pleased."
"What kind of relationship did Bentley Erle and Miss Bascopolous have?"
"The same as everyone else," said Axel Anderson, "nobody liked that lyin', cheatin', untrustworthy old bastard."
"Including you gentleman I understand. I've discovered that you all had a falling out with him over the 1955 Daytona Grand National."
"Now hold your horsepower daddy-O; you aint thinkin' that one of us mighta killed old Bentley Erle over that?"
"I'm saying that none of you were fans of Bentley Erle, and that makes you all suspect."
"But like, he was killed in the convention center and you know we aint allowed in there, pendin' this car theft ‘vestigation."
"That didn't stop you a few nights ago Mr. Fields. So I have to ask, where were you all last night?"
"We went to the Auto Awards Ceremony and then from there we went out bar hoppin," says Junior Johnson.
"I hope for your sakes, you are telling the truth."
"Of course we're telling the truth,” said Wendell O. Scott. “Everyone who was at the Auto Awards can vouch foe us. And there's plenty of folks who saw us at the bars, we made enough ruckus. Mr. Thime we thought you was on our side, our friend."
"Not to mention our like, lawyer," adds Bo Fields.
"Yes I am your lawyer and as your lawyer it is my job to have you absolved of the B&E, arson, trespassing, assault, grand theft auto charges, and the possible murder charge, all of which I honestly believe you gentleman are innocent of.
"But the murder of Bentley Erle is a whole different ball game that may or may not be connected to the theft of the SUVs, or the 1955 Daytona Grand National, or some automotive world conflict that I know nothing about.
"So if Miss Bascopolous is accused of the murder of Bentley Erle, as her attorney it will be my job to get to the truth no matter who it involves.
"So, if you gentleman wouldn't mind taking Chevy back to his family at their hotel, I need to get down to the police station and see about Miss Bascopolous. But before I leave I need to ask Mr. Johnson and Mr. Scott a question."
"What you wanna know Mr. Thime?" Junior Johnson asks.
"At the conclusion of The Cars Of Tomorrow exhibition I noticed you and Mr. Scott in a heated exchange with Woody Erle, what was that about?"
"Well Mr. Thime," answers Junior Johnson, "Woody Erle told me and Wendell that as long as we was under contract to AMC that there was to be no cussin', no drinkin', and no fightin'."
Appalled, Bo Fields says, "Like, no cussin'?"
"No drinkin' daddy-O?" says Hooker Hood aghast.
"No fightin'?" The dismayed Axel Anderson asked, "Who the hell does that two-bit tyrant thinks he is?"
"That's 'xactly what I axed him,” says Wendell O. Scott. "Who the fuck do you think you is? You aint our Goddamn muthafuckin’ daddy, so don't tell us how to act, you muthafuckin' bastard! And listen here you fuckin' asshole, we gonna cuss, drink, and fight and much as we Goddamn muthafuckin' please, and if you don't like it you can stick yo' old ass in that ugly ass, muthafuckin' piece of shit, Cheetah El shitto car of yourn and drive yo' ugly muthafuckin' ass straight to muthafuckin' hell! But before you leave for hell you sorry muthafucka, you can kiss my Goddamn muthafuckin' ass, muthafucka!" Then Wendell O. Scott's eyes which possess an apologetic look in them look up towards the heavens as he says, "OhLordhavemercyJesus, please ‘cuse my mouth and fo’gimme, that Woody Erle brings out the worst in me."
Nick's left eyebrow arches and a slight smile forms on his lips, "Oooookay."
Police officers and men in dark suits carrying briefcases enter and exit the police precinct that resembles an old inner city school house.
Inside, Detective Kumnick and an Native American detective have Jo Bascopolous in a bleak interrogation room questioning her.
"But, from what we've been able to put together Miss Bascopolous, you were the last person to see Bentley Erle alive."
"I don't know about all that," replies Josephine Bascopolous with a tinge of irritation in her voice, "all I know is when I left Bentley Erle he was alive and well."
The interrogation room door is opened by a young Caucasian woman who announces, "Miss Bascopolous' attorney is here."
Nick Thime enters the room and addresses the police detectives, "What are the charges Kumnick?"
"Currently there are no charges Thime; Miss Bascopolous is here for questioning."
"Have you any evidence linking my client to this crime?"
"Not yet. But Miss Bascopolous was the last person to see Bentley Erle alive. She and Berntley Erle are the only two people who did not show up at the Auto Awards ceremony"
"And since when is that a crime Detective Kumnick?"
The detectives give Nick a sour look.
"Is my client under arrest?"
"Then my client is leaving."
"We're not through with Miss Bascopolous."
"You've had her long enough, either arrest her or we're leaving."
"Alright Miss Bascopolous,” says the police detective, “you are free to go. But we'll want to talk to you again, so don't leave town."
"But I have to race in Richmond in a few days," says the female NASCAR driver.
Detective Kumnick gives Jo Bascopolous a no nonsense look. "As I said, don't leave town. We can make arrangements to keep you here if necessary."
"My client will remain in town and at your disposal detective. Won't you Jo?"
"Yes Mr. Thime," says Jo Bascopolous reluctantly.
As Nick Thime and Jo Bascopolous are about to leave the interrogation room, Nick turns to Detective Kumnick, "Kumnick, tell me, how was Bentley Erle killed?”
"He was strangled with spark plug wires," answers the detective.
"I take it my clients fingerprints were not found on those wires?"
"No Thime, they were not. But, did you know that fingerprints can be wiped clean?" The detective said with dry sarcasm.
"Who discovered the body?" Nick asks.
"Your friend and mine, Miss Layna Jade."
Nick delivers Josephine Bascopolous to her hotel. Inside her hotel room he gives her a discriminating look.
"Josephine, I need to know, are you any way involved in the murder of Bentley Erle?"
"No Mr. Thime I am not."
"What makes the police think that you are?"
Obviously uncomfortable with the question, Jo breaks eye contact. “Because they think I was the last person to see him alive."
"I don't know, I admit I did see him first when he arrived in here in Washington."
"How did that come about?"
"I met him when he arrived by plane at the airport."
"Was he expecting you?"
"Then why did you meet him at the airport?"
"I had business to discuss with him."
"What kind of business?"
"Just racing business."
"Jo, this "racing business" must have been very urgent for you to meet him unannounced at the airport. Was this "racing business" concerning Bentley Erle's mission of having you removed from the NASCAR circuit?"
Taken aback by the question, the look on Jo's face indicates that Nick has flustered her. "Wh-who, told you that?"
"Was it Josephine?"
A defeated look canvases Jo’s face, "Yes."
"Why did Bentley want you removed from NASCAR?"
"Because I'm a woman, and he didn't think a woman even a successful one like me, had a place on the racetrack."
"And you met him at the airport toooo….."
"Talk him out if it."
"Did you have any success?"
"No, I'm afraid not."
"Do the police know that Bentley Erle wants you out of NASCAR?"
"I don't know, they didn't ask me about that?"
"Did you tell them?"
"No, I didn't tell them anything except that I went to see Bentley regarding racing business."
"So after you failed to talk Bentley Erle out of trying to have you removed from NASCAR, did you leave Bentley Erle at the airport?"
"No, I rode with him to the convention center, still trying to talk him out of his plan."
"So he went straight from the airport to the convention center? He didn't go to his hotel first?"
"Did you two go to the convention center via taxi?"
"No, Bentley Erle had a limousine waiting for him."
"And you rode with him in his limo to the convention center?"
"And when you got to the convention center, did you go in with him?"
"No, we had concluded our business."
"What did you do then?"
"I came back here to the hotel."
"How did you get back to the hotel?"
"His limo driver dropped me off here."
"Other than the limo driver, did anyone see you? Can anyone vouch for you?"
"I don't know. I didn't pay enough attention to who was watching my comings and goings."
"Okay, this Auto Awards ceremony, what was that?"
"It is an annual Auto Show awards for excellence in the automotive industry given by the UAW."
"I understand that you and Bentley Erle were the only no shows for this award ceremony. Why didn't you attend?"
"I knew that Bentley was going to the ceremony and after arguing with him in the limo I decided I didn't want to attend out of fear of having a public run in with him."
"So you don't show up at the Auto Awards and Bentley doesn't show because he's dead and you were the last person to see him. You two have a heated argument when you did. Circumstantial it all may be, but it doesn't look good. All that could make you the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Jo, I get the feeling that you are holding something back, tell me everything."
"Mr. Thime there is nothing to tell. And as you saw I wasn't charged with Bentley Erle's murder, I've only been questioned," says Jo Bascopolous stubbornly.
"But keep in mind Jo that the possibility exists that you could eventually be charged with Bentley Erle's murder."
"Well should it come to that I'll deal with it. But for now I'm drained and tired and I need to get some rest."
Nick realizing he is being dismissed, "Alright Jo I'm leaving, but please remember what the police said about not leaving town."
"I'm not guilty of anything Mr. Thime, so I won't be running."
Dusk settles on the Washington DC metropolitan area. As the sky grows dark, in the background the lit Washington Monument is seen from a massive 12 lane bridge crossing a wide river.
The sign at the bridge's entrance reads "WOODROW WILSON BRIDGE." The bridge is congested with bumper to bumper slow moving automobile traffic.
Beneath the section of bridge that covers the riverbank, a ragged Caucasian man pushes a beat up shopping cart. He stops and places a blanket on the ground and lies on it.
But before he can drift off to sleep he hears a strange noise that sounds like a growling beast. He sits up and comes to his feet and walks in the direction of the sound to investigate.
His face fills with fright and he begins slowly stepping backwards. Suddenly there is a strange buzzing sound that starts off soft but grows so loud that it dwarfs the thundering sound of the bridge traffic above.
The man turns to run but is illuminated and struck by a thick column like beam of bright burning white light wrapped in circling thin spirals of light.
The light emits a loud buzzing crackling sound like some sort of futuristic electric ray blast.
The light consumes the man and he screams out a horrific cry as his flesh begins to sizzle and cook, and is burned from his body. His now dead, charred, carcass falls to the ground. From the man’s cooked body rise dancing strands of smoke that wisp up into the dark night air.
Then two beams of the same deadly focused light strike a row of eight massive rotund concrete pilings that support the center span of the massive and long bridge.
The pilings erupt with a deafening explosion and their chunks are sent shooting through the night. Then the strange beams of energy strike another group of the bridge's center support pilings.
Then the entire bridge begins to weave and tilt, and with a domino like effect, spans of the bridge slowly begin to break off outwardly from the center cascading towards the river banks on both sides of the river.
The bridge spans crumble and fall splashing into the river below taking dozens of automobiles filled with doomed screaming people with it in the spiraling plunge into the river. The only the sections of the bridge that remain standing are the ends over the river bank.
The black river churns as automobiles and massive pieces of bridge debris quickly sink beneath the river surface. From the rapidly sinking vehicles the moaning cries from scores of dying automobile entombed humans waft through the dark night air.
From the air one can see that due to the bridge's destruction, automobiles are unable to cross the river, causing traffic to back up on the interstate highway on both sides of the river.
Further down the interstate are a series of raised curved entrance ramps, exit ramps and bridges that form a large circular raised three tiered roadway that resembles a large concrete bowl.
Inside this highway bowl are a series of two highway interchange cloverleaves with lanes extending outside of the bowl to the north, south, east and west.
Tucked in the shadows beneath one of the highway interchange bridge ramps, a vehicle cloaked in ebony shadows crawls slowly through the darkness.
The front windshield of this vehicle begins to glow softly and like the screen of a modern personal computer when it is booting up.
Images begin to appear on the windshield. At the top of the windshield the words "SPRINGFIELD MIXING BOWL INTERCHANGE" appears in digitized capital lettering. Beneath that, an animated digitized engineering schematic of the highway interchange appears.
On the windshield, images of digitized animated automobiles are placed on portions of the digitized animation of the highway interchange schematic.
On the screen two of the large digitized animated concrete pilings that support the bridges and ramps are marked "A" and "B." Two additional animated automobiles appear on the screen. One is placed next to piling "A" and the other next to piling "B."
Then in what appears to be a simulated test, the automobiles are slammed into the concrete piles, which cause the tallest animated bridge to collapse, sending a large volume of computer generated vehicles tumbling to the computer generated ground below.
The screen that is the auto windshield grows black on the unidentifiable car that is concealed in darkness beneath the highway.
On I-95 a large bulbous vehicle navigates through the thick highway traffic. The vehicle's two large round headlights are separated by a big snarling grille, and the word "BUICK" sits above the grille. The vehicle is a four door sedan with four portholes on each side of the front end.
Inside the vehicle an African American family, a father driving the car, the mother on the passenger side, and a young boy and girl in the back seat are singing "99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer."
The singing stops when the boy and girl begin to argue. "Mom, tell Ronnie to stop touching me," the girl cries.
"Mom, Lillian touched me first," says the boy.
The mother's head whips around to the back seat and she gives the children an angry and annoyed scowl. "Ned, turn the car around, and let's take them home, they don't deserve a vacation because they don't know how to behave."
The father smiles and says, "You know Katherine, maybe the kids are tired and hungry, I know I am. Maybe we should stop for dinner?"
Then the father looks into his rear view mirror and a look of trepidation covers his face. In the rear view mirror he sees a tractor trailer rapidly approaching and says to his family, "That tractor trailer truck coming up behind us is moving awfully fast. I'm doing 65, so he must be doing 90 or 100."
The little boy and girl get on their knees in the back seat, and turn backwards to look out of the car's back window. The little boy says with fascination and excitement in his voice, "Dad, there is nobody driving the tractor trailer truck, cool!" Then his excitement turns to alarm as his eyes grow wide with fear, "Dad I think……"
Suddenly like a pile driver, the freight vehicle whose trailer is marked "ESTES" slams into the rear of the family's vehicle. The impact causes the Buick to flip upside down and fly through the air. It crashes into cars that were ahead of it.
Like a runaway steamroller the tractor trailer does not stop, smashing into other vehicles on the interstate knocking some off the highway sending others airborne causing a chain reaction of accidents.
Behind this tractor trailer comes another driverless tractor trailers with the name "THUSTON" marked on its trailer. Like the Estes tractor trailer before it to slams into vehicles knocking them off the interstate. Behind the Thurston tractor trailer comes three more driverless tractor trailers, they are rolling side by side, taking up the entire northbound lanes of I-95. The three massive vehicles look like a giant, roaring tractor trailer tsunami as they barrel down the interstate. Connected to the tractor trailer in the center is a massive water tanker. On this tractor trailer's left is a tractor trailer with hazmat warning sign stenciled on the large tank indicating that it carries the dangerous volatile liquid ammonia. On the tractor trailer to the right of the water tanker the warning labels on the third indicates that it carries chlorine.
The stream rolling Estes tractor trailer never slows down as it pushes several cars that are piled up against its monstrous front end. With blinding speed it jumps off the roadway and into the concrete meridian and slams into one of the bridge ramp support pile that supports the tallest bridge within the Mixing Bowl configuration. The smashed pile begins to buckle and collapses.
At the same time the Thurston tractor trailer smashes into cars knocking them out of its way. Then just like the Estes tractor trailer it too leaves the roadway roars through the meridian and slams into another of the tallest bridge's ramp support piles. This pile too fails and collapses, causing the tallest of the circular bridge ramps filled with automobiles occupied with screaming passengers to spill into the Mixing Bowl's center.
Then from the north a speeding fuel tanker truck painted with the "ESSO" logo is heading towards the destroyed bridge ramp. Simultaneously a fuel tanker tractor trailer representing "PHILLIPS 66" is heading for the same area from the south.
The two trucks speed up even faster as they approach the destroyed ramp. When they reach the edge of the destroyed bridge the tanker trucks take flight, as there is no longer a highway crossing the Mixing Bowl.
The tanker trucks on a collision course with each other twist in mid air and crash head on into one another in the middle of the air.
The colliding fuel carrying tractor trailers create a deafening explosion of raining ignited gasoline, which falls into the mixing bowl.
When the gasoline fire rain and the flaming tractor trailer parts lands in the bottom of the Mixing Bowl it ignites the ammonia, chlorine and water tractor trailers, and the destroyed cars leaking fluids, causing a horrendous thunderous explosion that sends a humongous fireball of fanning flames, mixed with automobile and human body parts, into the air up high above the three tiered Mixing Bowl.
As the human and auto body parts fall to the ground, a large thick ominous cloud of misty soup rises out of the Mixing Bowl. The soft evening breeze pushes the cloud out into the surrounding area.
Off of I-95 sits a large shopping mall. The sign near the roadway reads "SPRINGFIELD MALL." In the background, affixed to the front of a series of big box retail stores, the names "MONTGOMERY WARD," "JC PENNY," "MACY'S," and FIRESTONE" are visible.
In the mall parking lot shoppers oblivious to the carnage happening on the nearby interstate enter and exit their cars and the shopping mall.
In the surrounding neighborhoods around the mall, people are leisurely sitting out on the front porches of their homes enjoying the evening. The eerie cloud rapidly creeps into the mall parking lot and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Suddenly the eyes of men, woman and children in the mall parking lot and at the neighborhood homes begin to water, they begin to gasp for air and clutch at their throats. Their bodies wrench in spasms, and they drop to the ground, dead.
All of the dead bodies fade from view as they are engulfed by the noxious gaseous cloud.
In this area engulfed in chaos a steady rain begins to fall. Beneath the Wilson Bridge the loud "vroom" of a single automobile engine is heard followed by the sound of squealing tires on pavement.
A dark vehicle slips from beneath the remains of the Wilson Bridge and drives onto the roadway marked Virginia US 1.
The north bound lanes of I-95 are filled with stifled cars and are littered with vehicles destroyed when they were plowed by the bulldozing tractor trailers. The highway is also littered with the bodies of those who survived the deadly tractor trailer onslaught and exited their vehicles only to succumb to the poisonous cloud that drifted from the Mixing Bowl where it was created.
By contrast the south bound lanes of I-95 near the mixing bowl are virtually empty because when the Wilson Bridge and the Mixing Bowl were destroyed, traffic could not continue south.
On the empty south bound lanes of I-95, four large vehicles shrouded in darkness shoot from beneath a Mixing Bowl ramp and zoom southward down the interstate.
At the junction where I-95 crosses over US 1, the large mysterious vehicle that was traveling down US 1 merges onto I-95 joining the other four vehicles. Simultaneously their black windshield wipers engage, sweeping the rain from the black tinted windshield glass. The headlights of all five vehicles flash on allowing them to be identified; they are the five stolen SUVs.
The point vehicle is the ominous, glistening, black Cadillac Xcaliber in the center lane. The Cadillac is flanked on its left by the ghostly white Buick Skyscraper in the inside lane, which is flanked on its left by the metallic silver Pontiac Amazon in the left shoulder. On its right the Caddy is flanked by the steel gray Oldsmobile Eternity in the outside lane, which is flanked by silver Chevrolet Valhalla in the right shoulder.
Taking up the entire roadway the SUVs create a "V" formation as if they were a squadron of threateningly dangerous fighter jets.
With their headlights blazing and their windshield wipers beating out a frightening rhythm, their large wide black tires create a loud howling roar like that of jet engines as they hydroplane over the wet highway.
Then like fighter jets the SUVs seem to shift into the speed of sound and scream off down the highway throwing off a misty, watery, vapor trail like wake, as their blazing taillights vanish into the darkness.
© 2010 Rix Roundtree-Harrison