Two racecars heading for the same spot careen into each other spinning at high speed grinding violently into the retaining wall hurling shards of composite material high into the air the crowd leaping back over each other to get away from the crashing screeching things that had a moment before been beautiful glamorous creations, now were nothing but twisted death crates. Fuel was spewing forth from a ruptured fuel cell, spirally slinging gobs of fuel in every direction. The mess grinds to a stop with steam and tire smoke obscuring the scene. Then just as a light breeze clears the air momentarily, a spark ignites the pile of twisted metal into a roaring inferno.
Jake is running towards the crash sight as this happens, he sees what’s left of his car, inverted and smashed into the other car and the wall. The flames engulf both cars puking black smoke high into the air, then out of the flame a hand is reaching out, reaching out to Jake for help, and then it seemingly dissolves as the flames over take it.
Jake awakens with a start; sitting straight up in this strange room, sweat pouring off of him. Where was he? For a brief moment, Jake was disoriented, and then it all came back to him, just as the haunting memories were now returning. He crossed the room and peeked through the slats at too bright a day, it must be near noon.
This was the Sonoma Mission Inn, in Sonoma, California. They were racing this week at Sears Point, now called Infineon Raceway. Why couldn’t they just leave the name alone? Jake went over his schedule, the Madison Avenue group were doing a photo shoot this afternoon with Reese and Joe, that is why they had come out two days early. Jake checked the time and it was just after eleven, so he took a cold shower, then put on his khaki slacks and his black short sleeve sport shirt, provided by Madison Avenue. Steele had brought by his room ten thousand dollars in hundred dollar bills so he put that in his pants pocket.
Steele said that money was to help out on Irving’s lawyer fees. Jake had tried to refuse, but Steele was obstinate. Where did he get all that money? Jake wondered.
Jake just finished his second gin and tonic at the bar when he watched Sandy Jones and Suzanne Clark walk through the lobby entrance.
Seeing Jake they walked over and Suzanne said, “We were just going to have some lunch before going out to the track, Jake won’t you join us?”
Sandy just stared that same stare she had displayed to Jake ever since he met her. Jake withered under her glare and answered back, “I would love to.” Then turning to the bartender he said, “Alex we’re moving to that table over there,” he pointed, “would you have the waitress bring us some menus? Thanks.”
At the table Suzanne ordered a New York strip steak, Jake had a club sandwich, and Sandy ordered a Cobb Salad, which was the only time she spoke. Mostly just spent her time glaring at Jake, while Suzanne talked about how exciting racing was and how Reese and Joe were going to be fashion stars after this photo shoot. After finishing their lunch, the girls left to head to the track.
Jake said, “I’ll just get this,” pointing to the check, “and I’ll be right behind you.”
Jake finished his drink waiting on his receipt, when he saw Sandy walking back towards him. Oh no, he thought, she’s finally going to tell me off for those comments at our first meeting. “Look, I’m sorry about…”
Sandy interrupts Jake; “Jake you are the sexiest man I have ever laid eyes on and you can get behind me anytime you want.” She stares that same look Jake thought was contempt, but now he knew was lust.
Jake responds with silence and then a gulp, as Sandy turns away with a slight grin at her affect on Jake.
Jake watches her leave, walking with that swish that women have when they know they’re being watched.
The waitress brings his receipt and Jake says, “I think I’ll have another gin and tonic…make it a double.”
At the track other teams were beginning to arrive. The hills behind the paddock area were bright green thanks to a wet spring. The Madison Avenue group was tearing down their equipment to move to another location while their wardrobe group was dressing Joe and Reese in some new flashy duds.
Sandy looked over at Jake, staring intently; Jake looked away quickly and headed over to his bus. As he approached the bus door, he heard, “Hey Jake, you tell that driver of yours to stay clear of me or I might not be so forgiving next time.” It was Scott Bennet.
“His brakes failed, Scott,” then Jake turned to go in as Scott added.
“Well, I’ve heard he’s nothing but a bartender.”
Jake paused in the bus doorway and looked straight at Scott. “You know Scott, you use to be great, but now, think about it, you’ve been out driven by a bartender.” Jake went on in, leaving the Indy champion to sort out his life.
Inside Joe’s two girls were sitting about the lounge with no tops on. Jake averted his eyes, then looked back at them as they giggled. “Ladies shouldn’t you be getting ready…I mean shouldn’t you be putting some clothes on.”
“Which do you want Jake, us to get ready or for us to put our clothes on?” This answer was from Sheila, the smart one of the two. Wanda then put on a Rhoad/Steele cap.
Jake decided to leave the bus, much to the chagrin of the girls who needed someone to occupy their every moment. Jake made a hasty retreat to the hauler, making a note to talk to Joe about those girls, “What’s he think we’re doing, running a cat house here?”
Eddie was talking to Rich, one of the tire guys, “No, no, Wanda’s are much better, they feel right and I like the way they turn up on the end.” Jake just continues on through, “Yeah, I’ve got to talk to Joe.”
Jake walks through the narrow alleyway created by the haulers parked parallel to one another. As he nears the end, he recognizes his old adversary Hardeman’s voice, “Then they put this nigger in as driver, a former bartender, with no racing experience at all and he sets a track record, this should tell somebody that they are cheating like hell, Jake’s always been a cheating son of a bitch!”
Jake never even checked his walk, he said “Hardeman!” as Hardeman turned, and Jake flattened him with one punch. Glared at the people he was talking to and kept right on walking. “God, that felt good,” Jake muttered to himself as he continued his walk about through the paddock.
“For God’s sake, put some clothes on!” Joe had a look of total disgust on his face as he chastised his two girlfriends, or whatever one chose to call his two constant companions. This opportunity meant a lot to Joe and he didn’t want anything to mess it up for him. “Look, this bus doesn’t belong to me, its purpose is for the team and not for you two to run around naked in. Maybe you should walk around the paddock or go back to the hotel, go see some sights or just go home, but no more of this, PLEASE!” Joe could see the girls weren’t taking his criticism well, but they were a distraction and he was tired of it…tired of them. What was wrong with these two anyway? They had no purpose, no ambition and it was now a turn off for Joe. Funny this never mattered to him when he first met them, but now they were an embarrassment. All the guys envied him, it was just that Steele and Jake didn’t respond like the rest, they never said anything, but Joe could tell they didn’t think much of the girls or Joe’s relationship with two girls at once and for some reason Jake and Steele’s approval was something Joe wanted, something he desperately needed. Like when he played little league ball, just to try and impress his dad. Well, they were out of here and he was going to get back on track with the team and the next girl he took up with was going to have brains. Yes, brains and boobs.
Reese was headed for his rental car, thinking of his good fortune. “I can’t believe I get to keep all these clothes,” Reese catches his reflection in the window of one of the motor homes he is passing as he walks through the paddock. “I wish Grandma could see me now.” Reese was dressed fit to kill in a black silk shirt with gray trousers, with a hounds tooth checkered jacket and a maroon vest, plus he was carrying a complete Madison Avenue wardrobe.
Now wherever he went, he would dress to fit the image his sponsor wanted and that suited Reese, just fine. Growing up he was always dressed and clean, but in jeans and tee shirts. He never even owned a suit or even knew how to tie a tie. They were poor, but thanks to Jake and his own God given ability that was all changing now. He was somebody that was going to accomplish something—something great.
“Well, well, well, lookey here!” The voice startled Reese from his thoughts looking in the direction it came from Reese saw two very large guys standing at the end of a hauler off to the side of this narrow alley created by all the haulers and RVs.
These guys were big and built like wrestlers, “What is it that Obama fellow said?” Smirking the two guys advanced towards Reese cutting off his direction of travel. “Oh, I remember you can’t put lipstick on a pig!” They both laughed and turned to face Reese, now blocking off his path completely, “What about putting a suit on a monkey?” Reese stops, now just staring at them, “Looks like that’s possible, now ain’t it nigger.”
The words were uttered quietly with a significant degree of malicious intent, included at the point of lowering his tone. These guys looked tough and mean and for some reason they wanted to have some shit with Reese.
Reese now breaks his silence, “Look fellas, y’all must of confused me with someone else. I don’t want any trouble with you.” His efforts to defuse the situation were for naught, as these ruffians had just interpreted his reasoning with them as fear.
“That’s right, we may be confused ‘cause, to us all niggers look alike!” They laughed as they advanced towards Reese, one grabbing for his jacket.
Reese pulls back instinctively when he hears, “Looks like you two assholes have bit off more than you can chew!” Releasing the grip on Reese’s jacket his two attackers turn towards this new voice, standing there was Reese’s new partner Joe.
Joe looked very serious and had taken his hand in a ridiculous confrontation and Reese didn’t want the little guy to get hurt, so he moved to avoid these two when one of them grabbed him, pounding a steel hard fist right into Reese’s face, smashing his lips into his teeth, blood showering out as Reese falls backwards down hard.
What happened next was a blur, as little helper Joe flashed past in a wicked vicious attack. The stiffened end of his hand smashing hard into one of the attackers Adams apple, as Joe continued with a spin and a powerful kick into the other attackers crotch. The big guy folding forward reeling from the pain, then Joe grabs both sides of his head pulling it violently into his up thrusting head, slamming his skull hard into this big guys nose and mouth pulverizing his features, blood spewing everywhere, as the big guy drops to the pavement next to his retching partner. This all happened in a flash.
Joe reaches down to help Reese to his feet, handing him a handkerchief. As Joe pulls Reese up, “Did that guy get any blood on your new outfit?” Joe asks Reese as though nothing much had happened. “Oh, Reese are you alright?” Now thinking again of Reese’s busted lip.
The one guy that was conscious was now retching trying to breathe. His throat was already a mottled blue color.
“Hey, big guy you better get over to the medic. C’mon Reese let’s take this guy over to first aid before he gags to death.”
They helped him up and he jerked away, leaning back against the side of a hauler, still hacking, but obviously going to recover.
“Have it your way fella, c’mon Reese.” Joe and Reese gather Reese’s clothes and head off between the trucks, back the way Joe had come.
“Let’s go to the bus and we’ll get some ice on those lips.” Joe put his arm on his new friend’s shoulder as they headed to their paddock spot.
“Who were those guys?” Joe is now sipping on a whiskey sour, as the two girls are doctoring on Reese.
“I have no idea, Joe, honest.” Reese can’t believe the events that just happened this is modern America we don’t act like Barbarians. Then he recalls the way Joe blazed into action, taking those two huge muscled up men down with such speed that they didn’t know what hit them.
“How did you do that?” Reese asks, and then adds, “I mean, thank you Joe, you saved my butt.”
Joe looked pleased, “Oh, I don’t know about that Reese you look like you could have handled those two.” Pausing to take a sip, then continuing, “I just did it in a little less time, that’s all.”
The girls’ finish up and head to the rear, not talking to Joe, they were mad. “Whoever they were somebody put them up to fucking you up, I was probably next on their list, let’s just call it what it was, poor judgment on their part.”
They both laughed and started talking about the upcoming race. Could they make it three in a row? Later as the booze kicked in, Joe was feeling very grateful at the position Jake and Steele had put him in…the best car…the best crew and two wins in a row to his credit.He looked across to Reese, staring into his soul for a moment and then said, “Reese, I’ve always wanted a chance to prove myself. Those two old men gave me what no one else would and I mean no one. They gave me the opportunity to prove I’m worth a damn, with no strings attached. Just, here Joe, here’s the chance that you’ve dreamed of your whole life. I’ve always wanted this chance, but it’s different, before I wanted it for myself…but now? Now I want it for all of us, I want to win for the guys, for you and me, and most of all for Jake Rhoad and for…Steele.” Joe takes another sip of his drink while Reese digested this statement, then Joe says, “What the hell is Steele’s first name, anyway?”