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Chapter 31

The back shop was filled with twisted metal, Destiny had played out its hand and now she looked terminated.

The crew, however, was determined to save her. So like the old story about the old axe needing only a new handle and head, the crew proceeded to ‘save her’.

Steele walks up looking fresh and chipper, he seemed to be over the loss…victory is much easier to accept.

“Well, tell me Steele…are you always that way when you get your ass kicked?” Jake’s green eyes were grinning at Steele, while his face kept a stern look.

Steele was caught off guard for an instance, and then recovered quickly, “You’re damn right I am!”

Irving and Eddie came up to join in the conversation.

“Jake here was just telling me how much faster our new racecar’s gonna be,” Steele lies with a straight face.

“Oh, Really?” Eddie buys into it and his voice sounds enthused.

“What new innovation are we putting into her this time, Boss?”

Jake looks at each one for a moment, and then goes right into supporting Steele’s lie, “Yeah…well, I’ve got this knew grease you see…”

“Aw shit…” Eddie says with disappointment clearly written on his face. “I thought you really had something.”

They head off back to throw some other ruined parts away.

Steele gives Jake a warm smile and a pat on the shoulder, and then heads off towards the dyno room, which had become his domain.

Jessica called, her feet were bruised and sore, but she would recover fine. Jessica felt bad about the wreck and blamed herself entirely, as she put it, the car was gripping like it was on rails, and then suddenly it broke away and violently careened into the retaining wall.

Jake told Jessica to keep him informed on her injuries, but he had to get their cars ready, so he had to go.

Jake thought about Sandy and how much he wanted to be with her, but he also wanted to do what he wanted, when he wanted and wasn’t sure he would ever change.

Witnessing the sudden break away of Jessica’s car and hearing her description, Jake decided to send the tires and wheels to Goodyear and ask them to evaluate just what had happened to the tires on both of Rhoad/Steele’s machines.

Jake headed over to the ‘Corkscrew’. The restaurant was always a safe haven for him to collect his thoughts.

Walking into this place that he had built, Jake felt suddenly overwhelmed by all that had happened to him and his team. After only seven events! They still had half the season in front of them.

An attractive woman came up to Jake, “I am sorry, but we are not open, yet.”

Jake stopped in his tracks and just stared at her. Who was this woman?

Jake’s face wore a look of frustration and sadness that obviously had an effect on the woman.

“Oh, come on in and we’ll try to whip you up something,” she smiled a big warm inviting welcome, showing beautiful white teeth.

“Oh…I’m sorry…let me introduce myself…I’m Jake Rhoad and I own this place,” Jake felt a little embarrassment at his stunned momentary lapse.

“Oh! Mr. Rhoad, I’m the one who should apologize…I just didn’t recognize you…from TV, I mean,” she reached out her hand and said, “I’m Randy…your new hostess.”

“I didn’t even know I had a hostess,” Jake smiled back thinking what kind of a name is Randy for a girl.

“I know what you’re thinking…Randy is just a nickname for Aranda…I was named after my Grandma and growing up everyone just started referring to me as Randy…so now I’ve got it and I like it.”

Fernandez came walking up, “I see you’ve met, Randy.”

“Yes, I guess I’ve been away too often. How are you doing, Fernandez?”

“Everything’s going great, Jake.”

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Mr. Rhoad,” Randy smiled that warm beautiful smile, and then turned to leave, walking away fast.

“Call me, Jake,” man those jeans were tight.

Randy turned her head back smiling.

The juke box was playing, ‘Every breath you take’, one of Jake’s favorites.

“It’s good having you back, Boss.” Boss was a term of endearment for Fernandez. Jake Rhoad was a man he respected, a man he loved. This man had given him one thing no one else ever had, trust, and along with trust had come a chance to do a job where he could support his family and because of Jake, Fernandez now was proud of who he was…that had not always been the case…and for all that, he was totally dedicated to Jake and the ‘Corkscrew’.

“I’ll put the books on your desk, Jake.”

“Fine,” was Jake’s only response, it felt good to be home. Jake couldn’t understand his own emotions. He wanted to be here and never leave this world that he had created, but then something from that other world had a piece of him and sometimes it pulled on him to follow, to accept the challenge, to test himself again, to prove what and to whom?

Things began to happen at a rapid pace. Goodyear, after extensive evaluation concluded that the tires on Rhoad/Steele’s team cars had been tampered with. Photographs of areas where the tires had been intentionally damaged to affect the tires ability to cope with the temperatures and stress that it must endure.

Since the tires were intentionally ruined and the areas found were all inside the tire and only on Rhoad/Steele’s tires, as Goodyear had inspected the other teams’ tires, it was determined that the culprit had to be on Goodyear’s own track-side crew, as they were the only ones that could know which tires were for Rhoad/Steele.

Goodyear had already taken action. An investigator had been appointed and they assured Jake that this would never happen again. The company also wanted to be responsible for all expenses that were a result of this unfortunate event.

Jake was upset obviously, but also felt somewhat relieved that the necessary steps were being taken to end this. Once the culprit was found, then the next to fall would be his employer…and Jake felt sure that he already knew the answer to that one.

When presented with this information Steele was strangely subdued.

Jake watched him expecting outrage, but no emotion was forthcoming.

Goodyear wasn’t responsible for this, but they were taking the steps necessary to prevent this from happening again. They were fantastic and Jake was determined to not let any of this tarnish their reputation.

Jake had seen just about everything in auto racing. Greed and Lust can be powerful controlling forces and they can drive men to do things that normally they would never consider, but Jake had never seen it at the level that Rhoad/Steele had to contend with from almost the very beginning of their efforts.

Reflecting on the racing season one face kept rearing his ugly head in every incident…Johanson!

Swiveling around in his office chair, Jake stared out the window at the point where the tall piney woods met the blue sky.

Well, he had tried it fair and honest…the system had let him down.

Steele had lost an eye…almost his life. Jake’s drivers…his friends, had almost lost their lives. Jake’s competition automobiles had been sabotaged and savaged. They now lay in piles of scrap.

The crew had weathered it better than anyone should ever expect, but now once again trust would be an issue. How many others might be bought off or threatened to bring about what shear performance had been unable to.

Someone wanted to win…Bad! Team Rhoad/Steele was in their way and they would stop at nothing to crush them.

They say turn about is fair play. No, Jake thought, that’s not my style.

What I really want is to beat the shit out of Johanson. Jake reflected on that image for a moment and it brought an almost diabolical glint to his green eyes.

Yes, that would be fun, but it wouldn’t stop this animal. There is only one way to stop a mad dog like this one.

The offices were dark at Johanson Motorsports. All the personnel had left hours ago except for Johanson and his new secretary.

The lavish office was decorated Old English. The walls were almost black mahogany wood, imported from Africa.

Chad’s desk was also mahogany and had been created just for him by the same craftsman that built former President Bush’s oval office desk. It featured a hand tooled leather top, done with lavish engravings around the perimeter.

Johanson sat at his desk, both arms extended feeling the texture of the top, nothing but the best for me; this thought crossed his mind quite often.

That Jake Rhoad had been a tough opponent, but just like all the rest in this business or any other endeavors he decided to pursue, if anyone gets in the way of his goals, he steps on them.

Chad stared into the darkness of his office reflecting on his own power, a force that cannot be stopped!

The only light was a desk lamp that reflected light off the papers before him, lighting his face from below him, creating a bizarre evil looking pallor. Combined with his unhealthy fatty features, the look was shocking.

The door had a quiet knock, then opened, spewing light across the room as his secretary entered, “Mr. Johans…”

“When I said knock before entering, I expected you to wait for my permission to enter.” Johanson’s voice was cold and quiet. His stare was the same.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I just…”

“What do you want?” Johanson dismissed her apology mid sentence.

“If there is nothing else, I was going to leave now,” she walked over and laid some papers in his inbox.

Johanson followed her with his cold gaze…making her very uncomfortable.

A moment passed as Johanson stared seemingly at her breasts…just as she was about to say something Johanson spoke, “No, I don’t require anything else…tonight,” the emphasis placed on the word tonight made her flesh crawl.

“Well…uh, goodnight,” she turned and walked off into her lighted office, Johanson watching her butt, a carnivore stalking his prey.

Not responding to her goodnight as the door closed, Johanson turned to look out his large window to the lights of the city.

Much of what he could see he owned, all a part of his empire. An empire he ruled with a fist of iron. Transgress and he would crush you, many never knowing the source of their misfortune.

Johanson was an expert at dispensing with any opponent and he would use any method called for…yes, any method, Johanson smiled to himself at that thought…any method.

The door opened light reflecting off his window ruining his view. “I dismissed you, but since you chose to stick around…” Johanson swiveled around to find a very large man dressed all in black with a balaclava on his head and a very large knife in his hand standing already on his side of his desk.

Stunned into inaction, Johanson did nothing but hold onto the arms of his custom designed chair.

Before he could recover, the man in black plunged the knife deep into Johanson’s chest. Johanson’s mouth opened in a sharp gasp sucking air in as he died with the last thought of, “You win, you son of a bitch…whoever you are.”

The murderer removed the knife, shifted it to his other hand and wiped it back and forth on Johanson’s tailored suit, until the knife was clean.

Then the man in black looked out the window briefly, turned off the desk light, then turned and walked from the office, closing the door as he left.

Johanson, one of the richest, most powerful men in auto racing, one of the many ruthless elite that routinely ruins the lives of others, sat lifeless in his dark empire…now growing cold.
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