The Girl of my Dreams by Patricia Abbott

Ralph Packer drove thirty miles to work every day, most of it on a desolate highway with few diversions to pass the time. Radio reception was poor between the mountains so he spent a lot of time evaluating his life: most of his appraisal focused on Jack Sprague, his long-time employer, and Nancy Willis, Sprague’s secretary.       Jack Sprague operated the town’s sole auto repair shop, where he serviced all the city vehicles. Sprague treated Ralph, his bookkeeper, pretty well, knowing he’d never find another sap with a college degree who’d work for less than $50, 000 a year and make the books balance no matter what. Packard stayed on because Sprague made him a partner of sorts, giving him 30% of the business over time.

Ralph was also in love with Nancy Willis, the secretary, but had been too shy to make a move. Leaving Sprague’s outfit would end both his chances with Nancy and his share in the business, Sprague’d written that stipulation into the contract. Ralph was an indentured servant for all purposes.

Nancy Willis bore the brunt of Sprague’s considerable hostility. She wasn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but she worked hard, was honest, and had been prom queen in high school. Sprague never let a day pass when he didn’t find a mistake Nancy’d made. Sometimes it was a typo; other days it was a missed appointment or a late arrival. Along with the scoldings came a constant stream of innuendo and more than the occasional squeeze on her arm, waist or thigh. Somehow Sprague intuited Ralph’s interest in Nancy and liked to brush up against her breast whenever Ralph was watching, breaking into a grin every time.

Nancy never complained, being the sole support of her younger brother and grandmother. She was smart enough to know she was only kept on because of her physical appearance. Petersboro was a small town with few opportunities; it was Sprague’s Auto Repair, the paper mill, or Walmart.

“What brought you here in the first place?” Ralph finally asked Nancy one day. Sprague was out of earshot in the yard, under the town’s ambulance. He liked to do the important jobs himself, even though he was only a so-so mechanic. “You don’t seem suited to the job.” Ralph had never got his nerve up to say this much before and it was coming out all wrong.

“I was hoping for a job as a grease monkey. My older brothers taught me everything they knew about fixing cars. They work in the Army Motor Pool now.”

Ralph’s eyes grew wide. “Did you tell him that? That you can fix cars?” He looked out the window where only Sprague’s legs were visible.

She nodded. “He just laughed and said he never met a woman who could change a light bulb much less a transmission.”

Ralph shook his head. “He could use a good mechanic. Why don’t you remind him?”

“He says he wants me right where I am.”

Ralph couldn’t think of anything to say after that though he wished he could promise Nancy something more. His 30% share didn’t give him any say in hiring decisions. “Don’t worry,” Sprague had told him when he questioned its worth. “If I die, the new owner will have to buy you out or keep you on at 45%. I wrote that into my will.” Then he flexed his muscle. “Though it don’t look like I’m dying anytime soon.”

One day Ralph came into the office and found Nancy crying. “What is it?” he asked, throwing his jacket off. He’d never seen Nancy cry before and was struck by how it made her eyes brighter and put a pink glow on her cheeks. He’d never imagined crying could improve someone’s looks. Still he didn’t like seeing her like this and wanted to put his hand on her shoulder. But something held him back. Maybe it was the stiffness in her back.

“Mr. Sprague sort of raped me last night.” She looked around fearfully as though their boss might have heard.

“Don’t worry. His car’s not in the lot. What do you mean—sort of?”

“I guess he did rape me.” She said it resolutely now. “He pushed me into his office and onto his desk. And then he did it.”

“Did you go to the police?”

“Sheriff Conway’s car’s out in the yard waiting for a lube job right now,” she said, looking out the window. “They play poker every Friday night.” She opened her appointment book. “And Officer Diehl hosted Mr. Sprague’s sixtieth birthday party last month. At the Kiwanis Hall.” She flipped through the pages. “My doctor gets his car serviced for free three times a year. Judge Mercer at the County Courthouse is married to Mr. Sprague’s sister.”

Ralph cleared his throat. “There’s other towns. Other police officers. Judges.” He couldn’t even persuade himself. “It’s not too late.”

Her eyelids fluttered. “Mr. Sprague has a long reach.”

Ralph paused a few seconds. “So you’re pretty good at fixing cars, huh?”

“Pretty good, yes.”

“How ‘bout fixin’ auto lifts?” Nancy shrugged.

The town of Petersboro’s ancient fire engine fell on Jack Sprague on Thursday afternoon. He’d just slid under the truck to take a look at the problem when a loud, shrieking sound brought everyone running.

One of the volunteer fire fighters, idling while Sprague examined his truck, raced over and covered Nancy Willis’s eyes. “You don’t want see something like that.” She turned away as they began the process of extracting Sprague’s body.

Ralph Packer and Nancy Willis married the next spring and renamed the business Packer-Willis Auto Repair. “Too bad Sprague never realized what a jewel he had hiding in his office,” the police chief told the fire chief as they watched Nancy work on the town’s ambulance.

“Bet he thought she was only good for the one thing,” the fire chief told the police chief.”

A First Time for Everything by Christa Miller

I was the first graduate of FIRST. That’s Fairfield Inmate Reentry Shop Training. Me, Ronnie Pitts, the guy everyone said was too slow and stupid and impulsive. Wonder what they’d say now if they knew I had my own shop, all the contracts with the cities and towns. They don’t know how good they got it. My folks, Mrs. Thierry, Mr. Goodloe… they all depend on me and my contracts and I bet they don’t even know it. If it weren’t for me, one of ‘em could have a heart attack or a fight with her husband and no one would respond. I fix those vehicles. Me and no one else.

Okay, not just me. I employ three other guys in my shop. All of ‘em are FIRST graduates, too. They do good work.

All except one. Tommy Butler. Him I don’t like. Haven’t liked him since I set eyes on him, which was just before he graduated. I didn’t want to hire him, but he was the only FIRST graduate this year, would be for the next two years at least. My parole officer, George—he’s not my parole officer anymore, but I still talk to him ’cause he’s a good guy—says I don’t have to keep him on. I just have to watch him, and I can let him go for any reason I want ’cause it’s my business. That’s George’s way of telling me I don’t have to be the man I was when I got into prison. But guys like Tommy, I know it’s not so easy to fire them. They make trouble, you’re not careful. Spill your leftover oil in the backyard, make an anonymous call to the EPA and say you’re not disposing of it properly. Yeah, I know punks like him.

I took George’s advice and started watching Tommy like a hawk after he came to work for me. I watched him change the oil and rotate tires and all that stuff. And I didn’t let him work on the cop cars. I never told him he couldn’t, I just made sure I assigned ‘em to someone else. Tommy had a look in his eye, see. A look that told me he was here for a reason, and not the same reason as me or anyone else.
I don’t care what the FIRST policy is—no inmates with drug histories or a problem with authority—Tommy looked like the kind of person who ould fake out a parole board, work-release board, whoever the fuck he needed to to get what he wanted. Crafty. So it didn’t surprise me none to come in one day from a parts run and see him workin’ on a cop car.

I should’ve told him to find something else to do. But he was up to his elbows in the job, which I found out he’d taken because Louie got sick and went home. What was I going to say? So I just walked by and reminded him. I said, “Anything happens to that car, you know where you’re going.” I knew he heard me. I saw him smirk.

Nothing happened to that cop car. I don’t know if it ever would’ve. But after that I made it a point never to leave before I made sure the men were at work on their assignments. A few weeks later I was closing up when George swung by. “Got
something to tell you ’bout that kid Butler,” he said.

“What?” All my radar went up.

“Well, look. He was in the joint for carjacking. First offense. No resisting arrest, no red flags for the FIRST program. But when he was 15? Busted for assaulting a cop.”

“Fuck me.”

“I talked to the cop. I asked around, Ronnie, because you said you had a gut sense about this kid and I think your gut sense is as good as mine. Well, almost. Anyway, this cop, Fred Brewster, told me this kid was a real piece of work. Said he stabbed him with a knife, kept muttering, ‘Die, pig,’ even after Brewster’s partner disarmed and huffed him. Then he shut up and didn’t say another word.”

“How the fuck he get into the program?”

“Who knows? Bribes, sweet talking, desperation on the part of staff to do something with him. Anyway, Ronnie, I never told you this. If you heard it, it wasn’t from me. Capisce?”

“Sure, man.” I knew there was a reason I’d kept in touch with George.

Trouble was, getting rid of Tommy wouldn’t be so easy. It’s a garage, accidents happen all the time, but I’d have to make it look like an accident so no one could ask any questions. I thought about it for geeks. Fucking with the exhaust system for the fire trucks, electrocution, acetylene torch accident. None of ‘em seemed to fit. It
got so I was spending so much time thinking about this problem, I was coming in late, taking longer breaks than I realized.

George noticed. That was why he took care of Tommy for me. I came in one morning to find him standing over Tommy, his gun smoking. Tommy had two neat taps in his chest, a not-so-neat pool of blood spilling all around him. “Found him rousting your petty cash, Pitts. He wouldn’t keep his hands up. So I shot him.” George nodded. “Righteous. Now call 911 and let’s get on with your life.”

He never told me whether it was really righteous or not. I never asked. Doesn’t matter. I owe him. This business is the only thing I’ve ever done right with my life. Nobody fucks with that. Especially not a punk like Tommy Butler.

P71 by Alan Peden

P71   by  Alan Peden

Officially, it was a Crown Victoria P71 Interceptor, but to Jake McCallum, it was a black beauty. The paintwork shone, the dark glass hiding its inner secrets. He imagined the many faces that had been sitting in the back seat, some looking for a way to escape, others resigned to their fate.

‘Move your fuckin’ ass, grease monkey!’

Jake turned at the sound of his boss shouting across the garage ‘I’m goin’, boss!’ he shouted back. Old fuck. He’d wanted to be a cop, but had failed the exams, so now he worked on cars. And as he wasn’t properly trained, he’d ended up in this crap-hole.

The P71 looked even better up close. Get it cleaned up and runnin’ proper his boss had said. Al Capone’s Used Cars couldn’t function without used cars, so get your fuckin’ ass workin’.

Jake worked on cars all day. Al – my real name’s Kowinski, but don’t tell no fucker – Capone’s used car lot did a fair turnaround, but sometimes an old cop car would come in, and get sold online, where they could mask the paint chips and the smoke shooting out the back.

The P71 looked like a mean fucker. Jake turned round to see if the old bastard Kowinski was looking, then opened the driver’s door. Jesus, it even smelled good. Cop sweat, prisoner fear and maybe a hookers last trick. He sat down behind the wheel. It felt solid. Like it would run a tractor-trailer off the road.

This was one serious car. Of course, he’d worked on other Police cars too, but they were usually ones that were dead on their wheels, with only enough work done on them to make them run for a couple of thousand miles until the sucker who bought it got it home.

This one was different. It wasn’t anything Jake could put his finger on, but the car just spoke to him.

‘What? You sittin’ on your fuckin ass again?’

Jake jumped. ‘I’m just checking the car out, Mr. Capone.’

Kowinski walked away, shaking his head. Fuckin’ boy would have him in the gutter, speed he worked.

 

Five days was all it took. P71 looked a million dollars. Of course, he could have had it finished long before now if the old man hadn’t had him working on other cars. The old fuck was busting his balls. Now Jake had decided that enough was enough, and Kow-fuckin-inski could take his job and stick it right up his rectal passage.

Darkness was his friend. He’d heard that line in a rapist movie, but for tonight, it suited Jake down to the ground. The night was clear, no sign of rain. He opened the chain-link gate round the back of the garage. Despite the warning sign, their was no big, fuck-off Doberman to chew his nuts off.

He closed the gate again. Not that there would be much traffic in this part of town. This wasn’t just a one-horse town, it was a fuckin no-horse town. The only time the police acted was when the local donut place didn’t open on time.

P71 was waiting for him. Just like he’d left her. He had the keys in his pocket and sat in the seat, running his hand round the wheel. She sounded good as he revved her hard. With a car like this, he’d be revving Sara Moore hard. The thought made him smile. She thought he was a loser, with no car and no prospects. A boy who lived with his mother. But he’d told her in the diner, I’m 21, and my mother lives with me. Big difference. But she didn’t believe him. Just walked away and served more coffee.

Tuesday night. Nine o’clock. She went to line-dancing over at the Old Time Tavern. Old Time Shithole, more like, but in a town where the only other source of amusement was a game of bingo in the local firehouse, the Tavern was their Manhattan nightclub.

The P71 roared up to the gate, and Jake smiled as he left her idling, waiting for him to get his ass in gear and get the fuck out of there. He left the gate open as he drove out of Capone’s parking lot.

Cruising in this car felt natural to him.  Especially when he was packing some ice. Or heat. Or whatever the fuck it was. But daddy’s old .38 tucked into his waistband made him feel good. Now he felt like a cop, like the man he should have been.

How in the name of sweet fuckin Mama could Sara not be attracted to him now? She had been seeing a cop from the next town over, a big bruiser with a square head (and probably a small penis), but the last he’d heard, they had broken up. So now he would cruise and see if Sara would care to step out with him.

He laughed in the darkness of the car. Step out with him. Fuck him raw, more like.

The Tavern was emptying out when he got there. He only just spotted Sara’s car leaving the busy lot. He followed her along Route 15K. He knew where she lived.

Jake had made sure all the lights and electrics were working, and switched them on now. The siren blared, the red-and-blues behind the front grill flashed menacingly.

Sara pulled over. Jake got out, and walked up to the driver’s side. She rolled her window down. He flashed her a smile as he bent down. Saw the bruiser in the passenger seat. The real cop. Fuck.

Jake pulled the .38. Shot the cop in the face before he had a chance to open the door. Jake pulled Sara from the car. Put her in the back of the P71. She screamed in fear, calling for the cops.

Tonight he was a cop. And she was going to show him she loved him. And tomorrow?

There would be no tomorrow.

His Bus by Karyn Powers

It was still raining when he got the call. One of their “buses” had flipped on the high side of I-34 heading north. Patowski was gone. The edge of a forward cabinet caved in his big Pollack head. Nobody knew if he hit it or it hit him. The torque of the spin popped its rivets from the side of the rig like the snaps on a fat boy’s pants. The second ambulance crew found Pat under the cabinet and the front half of the vic’s gurney. The vic was a goner, too.        “Fish-eyed and fucked,” Pat would have called him.

The unlucky shit was a regular rider with what the guys called ‘ticker-flicker,’ tachycardia being too much of a tongue twister after a long night.  No need for an AED to shock his heart back into rhythm.  What with his neck broke and all.

Ricky was alive, but he’d probably never forgive them for saving his busted ass. Prelim from the ER docs said he might get some feeling back from his chest up. They’d know more in six months, maybe a year. No more pedal-to-the-metal for Ricky.

FTSB was already on the horn. Hal said somebody at the capitol, 200 miles away was trying to take over the scene through his Blue Tooth. Mike shook his head at that. Those assholes at State would take anything they could get their hands on…except responsibility. They’d dink around measuring skid marks and talk nice to the press, but they wouldn’t have to look Pat’s Jenny in the eyes. They didn’t know his kids, or see his mom at Mass every Sunday.

Mike wiped his face with a clean rag from the box on the counter in the service bay. Once he’d told them about the crash, his crew cleared out in a heartbeat. Some heading to the hospital, others to the fire house. He walked from one work station to the next straightening wrenches, sliding in metal trays.

He wished to God he’d joined the Marines after high school, like he’d told everybody he was going to. They just laughed at the idea of a grease monkey marching in the sand.  

“You got it made, man.” His buddies told him. “You’re walking into your dad’s shop a full partner, and it will be all yours when he finally stays put up north. Why go some place so strangers can shoot at you?” He’d listened to them and stayed, and now it was too late.

More tears and snot fell on the front of his coveralls. What did he care? It wasn’t blood. No. The blood was out there on the highway. He imagined the rain was pushing it into every groove and crease of the shattered truck’s body. Pat’s blood, Ricky’s blood, the poor, dumb fuck who was just happy to see an ambulance in his driveway. His blood. Now it was all mixing together, the rescued with the rescuers’.

Mike looked down at his stained hands. No blood there. Just a day’s worth of shit like always. Same shit…He couldn’t finish the thought. This wasn’t the same shit. It would never again be the same. The flipped ambulance was his rig. He’d worked on every moving part that didn’t have a red cross stamped on it. He knew every inch of that monster motor, the transmission, axels, wheels, and brakes, all of it.

He walked to the steel cage at the side of the bay. Oversized tires lined up behind the chain-link gaped stupidly at him. His brain caught fire and he grabbed the mesh of the cage door shaking it and screaming at those stupid, stupid tires. His own spit showered the closest one. Black on black oily little bubbles caught in deep treads that had not yet graced a steel rim.

His cries crashed into each other and shattered on the concrete block walls.

“Why? Why? Why?”

 Karyn works, reads, writes short-shorts, long-longs, and spends way too much time on crimespace.ning.com

The Blind Side by Sandra Seamans

THE BLIND SIDE

By Sandra Seamans

It was half past closing time when Sheriff Rachael Gates walked into the Pig in a Poke Bar and Grill.

“Hey, Eddie, you’re open late tonight.” she said. “Waiting on Booney?”

“Why would I be expecting Booney to show up here?”

“Because he was making a run for you tonight, before he got sidetracked by the fire,” said Rachael.

“I ain’t catching your drift, Sheriff,” said Eddie as he set a cup of coffee on the bar for Rachael.

Rachael grinned. Playing ignorant was the first step in tap dancing around the law in these parts, especially if the man being questioned considered the law a dumb broad. How fast Eddie danced would depend on how much he figured she knew about his business.

Adding cream and sugar to her coffee she nodded toward the police scanner setting next to the cash register. “You been listening to the calls tonight?”

“Yeah, heard there was a hell of a fire out on Stumble Creek Road tonight. Booney’s Garage, wasn’t it? How come you ain’t out there doing traffic control?”

“I was, but I had some business here in town that needed taking care of. Besides, with the fire almost out, most of the gee-gawkers had toddled on home.”

“What kinda business are you sticking your nose into this time of night? Everybody’s either tucked up in bed or out at the fire.”

“Everyone but you, Eddie. I’ve been wondering what dirty tricks you’ve got hidden up your sleeve to keep your shine business running, now that Booney’s dead.”

“Booney’s dead?”

“Don’t look so surprised on my account. Wasn’t that the plan when you set the fire tonight?”

“You’re talking in riddles, girl.”

“No riddles, I was just stumped for a reason why you weren’t out at the fire. I found that kind of odd, considering you’re the fire chief.”

“I was holding down the toilet with a case of the shits, if you gotta know. Is that a crime now?”

“No, but you and Booney running moonshine into Piedmont County every time there was a police cruiser or ambulance brought into Booney’s garage for maintenance…that’s a crime.”

“If Booney was running shine, that was his business, not mine.”

“You’d just love for me to think that, wouldn’t you?”

“Lady, you’ve got a bee buzzing around in your bonnet and it’s done stung your brain stupid.”

“You know, I let you and Booney have your little side business cause I didn’t figure it was hurting anybody. Folks like a little jolt of white lightning now again and I’ve got no problem with that. What I do have a problem with, is a fire truck full of shine showing up at a fire and a whole lotta folks getting hurt.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The load of shine Booney was hauling tonight.”

“You’re thinking crazy, lady.”

“Funny thing about tonight. I thought you were getting greedy, trying to slip that much shine under my nose, so I followed Booney. He was just over the county line when the fire call came over the radio. Booney made a U-turn and headed for the fire. And if I were Booney, I’d have probably done the same thing seeing as how you kept repeating that it was Booney’s Garage burning a hole in the dark when you put out the call.”

“You’ve just proved the truck couldn’t have been loaded with shine. Nobody, with half a brain, would charge into a fire carrying shine. Even Booney wasn’t that dumb.”

“That’s what I thought, until the spray from the hose hit the flames. I couldn’t do anything but watch when the fire snaked back along the hose. Damn near barbequed half the folks out there when the truck exploded. Booney didn’t have a chance. He was so focused on saving his garage, he forgot what he was hauling. You were counting on that.”

“The fire company’s been filling up their trucks with water from Stumble Creek for years. Booney’s place has the best access to the creek, so I left the truck there for Booney to fill. Ain’t no call to blame me if he filled it with something other than water.”

Rachael tapped her fingers on the bar. Eddie was tap dancing like Fred Astaire on speed. “So how are you planning on staying in the shine business with Booney gone?”

“I told you, I ain’t in the shine business, but I might rebuild the garage and hire on a mechanic. I bought the place from Booney’s wife, Sally, earlier tonight. Paid her cash up front so she couldn’t change her mind before we saw the lawyers.”

“His wife sold you the garage? For cash?”

“Not the business, the property. The land was in her name, she inherited the place from her grandpa.”

“I don’t suppose you signed any papers to that effect?”

“We’re friends. We didn’t need any paperwork to seal the deal. Besides, Sally needed the money, she was planning on leaving Booney. I was just helping her out.”

“Out of the goodness of your heart, or were you looking for a little something more?”

“I’m a married man. I don’t go sniffing around another man’s piece of ass.”

Rachael smiled. “Speaking of your wife, she and Sally are friends, aren’t they?”

“They’ve been best friends since their mama’s pissed them into the world.” Eddie’s face twisted with anger as he added money plus dames and realized he’d been screwed, and not in a pleasant way. “That Bitch.”

“Sally played you perfectly. Booney’s dead and your fingerprints are all over his murder. There’s absolutely nothing but your word to point the law in her direction. And I pretty much doubt your wife will be backing up your sitting-on-the-john alibi,” said Rachael as she cuffed Eddie. “You could have saved yourself a lot of grief if you’d, just once, thought of a woman as more than a resting place for your dick.”

Vehicle Maintenance by Patricia J. Hale

If the guys knew, I’d be a dead man.

 

Sure, I can keep up appearances.  I lift weights, fart, belch like a bad-ass and talk a good story when I need to.  I keep a piece in my drawer, loaded.  Don’t need any friends.

 

They don’t know the truth.

 

I started doing it about a year after I started at the garage.

 

I didn’t do it at the other garage I worked at.  But this place is different.  We fix emergency vehicles.  The opportunity just presented itself. 

 

Mitch, one of the other guys who works here almost caught me the other day.  I can’t take chances anymore.  Got to start doing it in the off hours.  Park my car around the back to avoid appearances.

 

I only wish I could stop.  Don’t think I haven’t tried.  It’s costing me money, for Chrissakes!  Wonder what stupid thing in my upbringing or my DNA causes me to act this way.  I’d consider therapy, but it would just make things worse.

 

Someone’s got to have seen it already, but nobody’s confronted me.  They’re probably talking behind my back, setting me up for some kind of hit.

 

I’m growing more paranoid by the day.  This has got to stop.  Now. 

 

Well, after today.  This is the last time.  Fuck, I mean it!

 

I always do it the same way.  First, we fix the vehicle.  I’m the last one to inspect the fix.  Doesn’t matter what we did to it, I’m the last. 

 

The guys go out for smokes, then off to the nearby dive for drinks anticipating the money they’ll overcharge for the fix.

 

The deal is:  I do my inspection and join them later, that way they pressure me to avoid finding any problems that they have to correct.

 

That’s when it happens.

 

So I do my inspection, playing the game of never finding any issues with their feeble fixes.  That’s a given.  No sweat.  No perversion.  Whatever, I don’t care if we see the vehicle again the next day.

 

But at the end of the inspection, I can’t stop myself.  I go over to my locker where I keep the stash.  I reach in and pick out a couple of them.  They go into the back, where the EMTs can’t miss them.  If they get kids in the vehicle, they’re set.  No they don’t have to have it, there’s no real reason for me to do it.  We’ve covered that.

 

Toys.  For the kids.  Distraction when they’re sick or broken.  

 

Yeah, I know.  I’m the one who’s sick.

I write because I can’t stop myself.  My husband can’t stop me either.  Reach me at patriciajhale@aol.com.  Especially with paying gigs.

Third Note – A Challange

Okay, folks, I’ve got a challange for you.

 Everyday I drive by a car repair shop and they always have several police cars, and ambulances in the lot that they are working on. This got me thinking about what kind of person might work at a place like that and what sort of opportunities he might have working on emergency vehicles like that. I’m too lazy to write a story, so I want all of you to.

 In less than 1,000 words, give me a story related to a car repair shop or mechanic who works on emergency vehicles. They don’t have to be crime stories, but they have to be good. I’ll post the ones I like and award arbitrary kudos accordingly.

Deadline is September 1, 2007