Copyright 2017 by Christopher Davis
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Disclaimer: The persons, places, things, and otherwise animate or inanimate objects mentioned in this story are figments of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to anything or anyone living (or dead) is unintentional. The author humbly begs your pardon. This is fiction, people.
Seventeen grand in cash should have been the first sign. I don’t know why I didn’t see it. Maybe I just didn’t want to? Maybe it was the desperate need that I had for the money right then with the old lady out of work and all?
These guys weren’t bad guys as far as I could tell. Not the first night anyway, the night that we met in my shop downtown.
The one guy spoke English real well, said that his name was Miguel. He did most of the talking for the both of them, introduced his pal as Jose. This guy Jose, he seemed to be the money man as far as I could tell.
Said they were looking for a hot car and I had a couple of those lying around. I think they had taken a liking to my old Coronet.
“Sorry boys,” I told them, “this ones not for sale.”
I was lying my ass off. With me, everything is for sale if you got enough cold hard cash. It had to be after the phone company let the wife go. I worked dayshift for the airline and had my own place where you could find me at night. I’d always turned wrenches in my spare time for a little money and word started getting around. About ten years ago I outgrew the garage and moved downtown just to have a little room to work. Having my own shop gave a new meaning to working nine to five. Moonlighting I guess they call it?
The money was good though. Brakes and tune ups made up most of my work, just little shit mostly. But it paid the rent and kept the lights on. I must have been the only guy in town who could tune a carburetor anymore? It seemed like I got my hands on every old car in the county.
Every now and then, I’d get some guy asking if I wanted to overhaul a 396 or a small block Ford. That’s what kept me in it really, wrenching up a fire breather for a kid with daddy’s checkbook in his back pocket. That was real money.
I wiped the grease off my hands. I’d been the last couple of nights under the hood of a cherry red Super Sport. Kid had blown it up racing out behind the fairgrounds with no oil in it.
These two had a peek in a ’63 Belvedere I had in the corner. I didn’t figure they were much in the market to build a quarter mile rocket.
“What about this one?” This guy Miguel asked, pointing at a ’66 Lincoln that crowded in next to the old Plymouth at the back of the shop. I hadn’t looked at the old car in a couple of years really. My buddy’s kid had owed me some money and traded it to settle up his debt.
The old car was dumped and had nice wheels, but the body and interior were rough as fuck. Three different colors of primer and two years’ worth of accumulated dust finished it all off in that dark corner.
“Is this one as fast as it looks?” The other guy—Jose—asked. They were both stoked opening and closing the suicide doors and not noticing the cloud of dust they were stirring just then.
I laughed out loud. The kid who had settled his debt was into me for close to a grand. I answered the questions in order.
“Like it sits?” I asked, looking to the guy with a better grasp of English, “I’ll let you have it for two grand, but I can tell you that you don’t want this car, mister.”
“Why is that?” he asked closing one of the back doors.
“Look at it dude,” I said smiling. “The interior is bombed out and the body is rough as fuck, guys.” I thought about what I’d just said. It wasn’t like me to talk a guy out of buying a car, especially one in my shop? “It’s got a big 462,” I added, “but this old gal is heavy. Fuck man, she might even be bullet-proof?”
These two dudes look at each other and smile under a pair of naked fluorescent tubes.
“How much then,” he asked. “To make this one good?”
Man, I just shot from the hip with the first number that came to mind. “Look man,” I said. “If we overhaul the motor and go through the tranny, brakes, tires, interior and paint?” I paused thinking it over, “Thirty grand, maybe a little more?”
These two chat back and forth for a moment. I can’t understand shit that they’re saying, but it sounds kind of heated. I’m glad that I keep a loaded 1911 in the top drawer of my box and I’m kind of backing in that direction.
This guy Jose reaches down deep in his front pocket. I must have swallowed a lump the size of California.
“How long will it take to get this one into running condition?” This guy Miguel asks.
His buddy pulls out a wad of cash that would choke a fucking horse. I’m not shitting you and he starts counting out hundred dollar bills.
“Seventeen thousand should be enough for a deposit, no?” Miguel asks, taking the cash from his partner and handing it to me.
I nodded. Fuck, I couldn’t really speak at just that moment. I’d never seen that much cash in one place and I had surely never taken in that kind of money in my shop.
“How long will it take?” he asks again.
“Look guys,” I say, “I’ve got a day job. This shop is just part time for me. If I take the body off the frame and do it right, this thing could take three months maybe more?”
“We will see you in one month,” he says. “Just to see how you are doing.”
These dudes left and I sat in the office to think things over. I wasn’t going to get any work done with seventeen grand in hundred dollar bills sitting on the desk. I thought that I’d call Julie and let her know about the windfall, but then I thought better of it.
It wasn’t like I could spend the money anyway. I’d need the cash to get the job done for these guys. One fucking thing was for sure. If they were paying in cash, I sure as hell wasn’t going to be making a big deposit at the bank. I might get away in not reporting ten grand in income for the shop this year?
I poured a clean glass full of Makers Mark and penciled out my ideas for the Lincoln. It was already dumped and sat on a set of wide wheels. For this kind of money though, I wanted to do it up right for these guys. I still couldn’t figure their angle, but I’d do my best with this right after I got the El Camino finished and out the shop door.
The motor would have to come out and be sent to the machine shop down the road, the body would come off. I could tackle the transmission and rear end once that was accomplished. This was going to be a bad one, if I had anything to say about it.
The coming Monday was Memorial Day and I’d have three days off over the weekend to get started. I managed to talk the boss into making good on some comp time that I had coming and worked in my shop five days straight.
My place was a mess for the first couple of weeks. It seems that I was constantly sweeping rust and dirt from the middle of the shop floor. After about a month, things were coming around. The frame was painted and back together. I’d overhauled the tranny and the rear end, gone through the brakes, polished up the wheels and mounted new tires.
One night I hear someone knocking on the shop door late. It must have been well past ten and it wasn’t usual to have company at that late hour. I stuffed my Colt down in the back of my pants and covered it with my T-shirt. I’d already invested most of the money in the project, so it wasn’t like I had much to lose in that way, but you just never knew what to expect. Like I’ve said, this was a hobby for me and the only shop space that I could afford was just across the tracks in a seedy part of town.
“Hello my friend,” I hear this voice say from the dark when I cracked the door open. It seemed like I recognized the voice.
“Fuck, Miguel,” I said standing back to let my favorite—cash paying—customers in. “You two just about gave me a heart attack man.”
We all walked into the office and I took the .45 from my waistband. These two noticed and I somehow think that I earned some new respect from the both of them?
Jose sat a bottle of top shelf Scotch on the desk and pointed to the glasses on a shelf behind me. I stood up and retrieved three. This guy—Jose—smiles and poured them full. We all raised a glass. As usual, Miguel did most of the talking, but I somehow figured his partner wasn’t as handicapped as he pretended to be?
“So how is the car?” he asked.
His partner reaches deep in his pocket. I’m looking at the Colt lying there and hoping for the best. This guy Jose comes up with more fucking cocaine than I’d ever seen in one place. He cuts a few lines and passes it over across the desk.
In my younger day, I would have been on that like stink on shit, don’t get me wrong. “Sorry guys,” I said and the voice that I heard coming from my mouth was almost unrecognizable to me, “I work for an airline and they won’t let this one be.”
“No?” Miguel says and hits that tasty white powder just like it was candy. I must have been licking my fucking lips while he did as they were chapped as fuck by the time I got home that night?
“No Miguel,” I explained, “Every once in a while my name comes up for testing and it’s just not worth it man.”
Fuck I hated to have to say that. It felt like I could expect to find my balls hanging on a key chain somewhere in the boss’s office, but the whiskey was good and they had plenty. So I just sat back in my chair and tried to figure the angle of these two.
“So where the fuck are you guys from?” I asked, “Mexico?”
They look at each other and laugh. Jose had put away the dope by now and we were getting along in that bottle. “No, no,” Miguel says, “Guatemala.”
“So I don’t take it that you two are planning to chase pussy in this thing right?” I asked laughing.
They both laughed along. Miguel explained that he spent most of his time in Vegas and that he and his partner wanted a bad ass ride when they rolled the strip.
“This thing will be bitchin,” I said getting up from my desk. “You boys want a look?”
Miguel said something to his partner and they both smiled. “Bitchin,” Jose said in a thick accent getting up.
I nearly fell over laughing.
With these two in tow, I explained what I’d done so far. “Everything is new,” I said giving them the walk around. “This gal was bad ass in her day, front disc brakes and power seats, but she’ll be one old gal that no one will fuck with when I’m through with her.”
These two seemed to be pleased with the progress. Jose peeled off another ten grand and handed it over with a smile. I wasn’t going to argue and slipped that wad down in my front pocket. I was really starting to like these guys. Fuck, I would have liked to have done some more work for them. You know what they say…money talks.
That was it for our second meeting. They both looked on as I explained what was to come and that I expected that I’d need six more weeks and they could drive it home if they wanted to or I was willing to trailer it down for them.
I bid my new friends a good night and locked up behind them with that cash in my pocket. By now I was starting to figure these guys were high rollers from south of the border, way south of the border. They might have made their money selling dope, but I didn’t care. I had agreed to build them a car and I was going to honor my promise.
True to my word, I got the old gal back together in six weeks. With no word from my Guatemalan friends, I drove her to work a couple of times just to see what she’d do out on the highway.
That big Ford under the hood ran like a fucking sewing machine. I’m going to say that it was the best motor I ever built. She was a little heavy but had more than enough muscle to make her feel just right in the hands of a man who could appreciate a full figured gal like her.
I’d owned that old car for two years and never gave her a second look, but now I could see the error of my ways. Hindsight is definitely 20 20 when it comes to cars and women, I guess. There was no way I would ever have the money to have done her up right anyway, so I was OK with someone else driving the Lincoln around. Let somebody get the chance to enjoy her.
Late one night—as expected—I hear someone rapping on the shop door. It was the Guatemalans—Miguel and Jose.
I rolled up the door and just watched the look on their faces when they got a look at the dark metallic gray Lincoln in the middle of the floor.
“Oh,” Miguel said. “This is very nice. You do good work my friend.”
“Yes,” Jose said, having a look inside. “Very nice.”
We piled in and took her for a spin to make sure they were OK with what I had done. Most of the conversation was in Spanish of course, but I could tell that these two were pleased with what I offered.
It being Saturday night, all the kids were out showing off for their girls. We’re sitting at a red light and this lad eases up to the line in his daddy’s new Camaro and guns the throttle. I drop the transmission into low and wink over at Miguel sitting next to me in that big front seat. These fucking guys don’t know what to expect.
That light turned green and I dropped the hammer. The ass end of that Lincoln hooks up and we launch down Main like a quarter-miler running A-gas. Looking back in the mirror, I don’t think that kid in the Camaro knew what hit him?
Again there was a lot of chatter in Spanish and we turned back for the shop. There was still the final bill to settle up, but I didn’t figure these guys would be bitching much after what we had just done.
Back at the office I hand Miguel my invoice, a 37 with three zeros after it. These two talk some more and Jose peels off the final ten grand. I hand Miguel four keys and they start bickering some more like a couple of kids arguing over the last piece of candy. Miguel hands his partner the keys to their car and I start to figure I can understand what this is all about.
Jose gets up and storms outside. Miguel shrugs his shoulders and smiles. Before long Jose is back inside and handing me a set of keys.
“What’s this?” I ask.
Miguel explains, “It seems that my friend doesn’t want to drive our car back home tonight?”
“Okay,” I said. “You guys are welcome to leave it here until you can come back for it?”
This guy Jose is already signing his name on the registration using my desk.
“My friend,” Miguel says, “is giving this car to you for all that you have done for us.”
We got up and shook hands all around. I walked out front to see them off. That old Lincoln was a bad ass gal, but there’s no way I would have wanted to ride in it all the way back to Las Vegas. If I was taking her that far, she would have been on the trailer.
“Hey guys,” I said. “There’s one more thing that I want to show you.”
I opened the back door and pushed their luggage aside, pulling up the back seat. Lincoln had built some stash compartments into the car as a safe place to hide valuables for their wealthy buyers back in the day. When I was going through the car I figured what the hell and restored them also.
“This is very nice,” Jose said to his partner—Miguel—in English and maybe for my benefit?
“I’ll keep your car in the shop,” I said. “Until you can come back for it.”
“No my, friend,” Miguel said, opening the passenger side door, “Jose, he is giving this car to you.”
I watched as Jose bumped the starter and the sweet tones of that big 462 rumbled back to the exhaust under the bumper.
They waved one last time and I could see Miguel on my side smiling. I returned the wave as they idled across the lot and out onto the street. Jose got into the throttle hard and just about turned the damned thing around there in the middle of the road. I guess these two weren’t used to that kind of American horsepower?
I stood out front of my shop that night listening to the exhaust tone of that Lincoln as those two made for the highway onramp a mile or so away. I felt like a proud father watching one of his kids leaving for college. Yes, there was a tear in my eye.
After a few minutes, I realized that I had both the key and the pink slip in my hand for a late model 325i, not to mention the remaining ten grand they had paid me for the car. I pulled the import into the shop and locked up for the night. I’d give them a month to come back for it. If not I’d transfer the title and maybe let Julie drive it around, she was always after me to get her something nice. Fuck, if nothing else, I could probably dump it quick for twenty-five grand?
After that night, I never did think much about those two or that old car. I hung a picture of the old gal on the wall of my little office just for the fuck of it, but that was about it.
One night after work, I stopped by the shop to get a little work done. Julie had taken her mom up to San Francisco for the weekend and I didn’t have much reason to get right home.
My phone rings and I pick it up. The caller identifies himself as being with the Clark county Sheriff’s department and explains that they’ve found a car parked in a dry wash outside of town with a couple of dead bodies in the trunk.
“It sounds like a car that I sold sometime last year,” I explained. “To a couple of Mexican guys that stopped in, but I signed it over when they paid me.”
“Well mister,” the detective said. “It doesn’t look as though they ever followed through with registering the vehicle into their name and as far as we’re concerned it still belongs to you.”
“You guys need it for any kind of investigation,” I asked, “as to the bodies or anything?”
“No sir,” he said. “We’ve done looked it over and are ready to release it whenever you’re ready to come after it?”
I thought things over. Julie was out of town for the weekend and I was more than willing to drive all night to get that car back. I could back up to the trailer and be in Vegas before the sun came up tomorrow morning.
“Well then,” I told the detective. “I’ll be there bright and early tomorrow.”
The way them Guatemalans were throwing money around, I fully expected to find several thousand dollars in cash under them back seats and them boys didn’t let me down. No, sir, them good ol boys, from south of the border didn’t let me down. And yes, money does talk.
Other Stories by Christopher Davis
Walking to Babylon
Meet Me in Tulsa
Going Back to Dallas
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