Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tom's Trippin Fish

This 1970 Plymouth ‘cuda has a story to tell.  A story that goes beyond the incredible build that turned it into the dazzling Super Stock D Automatic that it is now.  It has a family history, and the family has a history within the NHRA world.

For my purpose here, however, I will forgo the depths of the familial story and give you a brief rundown of the two year long build and the Trippin Fish’s first meet.  That’s the story you really want anyway, right? 

Late in 2010, Tom decided to breathe new life into the old muscle car.  It began with a 12-point chromoly roll cage, meticulously installed by the master welder, himself.  (For those who don’t know, Tom is the master welder.)  He took his time with it.  It had to fit in the car so the door handles were accessible, it invaded the dash as little as possible, and it was hidden from the view of admirers and spectators.

In the fall of 2011, Tom began stripping the car to bare metal.  The ‘cuda then went to Hilltop Body & Paint where Mark Dumar gave it the white pearl base.  When it came home, it gleamed in the sun like fresh snow.

Flake & scales, & first time out with the new wheels.
Overhead shot
Lace in red.  Scales in blue
Once it came home, the laying of the lines began.  Tom and I spent countless hours measuring, and pulling and stretching tape to mark the patterns that became the inlay designs that give the ‘cuda its SS/DA look.  Tom then spent more incalculable hours flake bombing silver and gold before breaking out his old air brush.

A close look reveals assorted details hidden within the candy colors covering the flake.  Look closely, and you will see the lace and fish scales beneath the outer candy coats of red and blue.  The color changes are subtle and artistic.

Into the trailer, heading for a front-end set-up
All this time, the hemi block was in Glen Rock, PA where Jim Bowen was putting it together.  It was put on the dyno in September.  When Bowen and Tom were finished pulling the motor, the readings showed a top horsepower of 836 and 730 foot-pounds of torque.  Tom was ecstatic, of course.

Capitol Raceway staging lanes

The build was kept a closely guarded secret until the night of October 26, 2012 when Tom took the ‘cuda out for her maiden quarter-mile pass at Capitol Raceway in Crofton, MD.  But the “big reveal” was for the next day.

MIR staging lanes
Maryland International Raceway, or Bud’s Creek, held an invitational hemi shootout and an exhibition including great racers from when these cars ruled the strip.  Tom’s ‘cuda, still incomplete at the time, was included in the shootout, obliging him to show and run.  

And he made an impression.  Spectators walking through the pit area paused for a walk around and photo op when they came to the Trippin Fish.  In the lanes it drew other racers, and at the line the announcer’s voice exuded excitement over the car.

Two “qualifying” rounds revealed what seemed to be an electrical issue with the motor “breaking up” as it went down the track.  Everyone had an answer to the problem, but few of them agreed with each other.  Being a man who changes one thing at a time in order to figure out the problem, Tom chose to keep the charger on the battery while in the pits.  It helped a little.

In the first round of eliminations, Tom and his Trippin Fish got a by-run, where he ran the quarter-mile by himself with no one in the next lane.  He was automatically advanced to the next round just for reaching the finish line.  

But these hemi guys were bracket racing, and that calls for some serious driving.  Tom won the next couple rounds by using his driving skills, forcing his opponents to “run out,” or run faster than the time they stated, disqualifying them.  Even though he didn’t want to go any further than the second round because of how the ‘cuda was acting, Tom’s proficiency behind the wheel and his desire to make the races close took him to the finals.

The final race was as close as they come.  Tom, being the handicapped car with a dial-in time of 11.20, left first.  The AAR ‘cuda in the other lane had to chase him down to make up for the almost 3 second lead.  In a complex finish, where both cars ran out, Tom came out in second place.  He had made it to the line first, but he ran under his dial-in time by more than his opponent.  

Runner-up in his first meet with his “new” hemi ‘cuda isn’t bad at all.  On the whole, Tom is very happy with the results.  He was even invited to appear at the Legends race on November 10.  

Tom with his runner-up trophy
Please leave comments, either here on the blog or on the Facebook link, to let Tom know what you think of the car and his first time out with it.  He loves to hear what other people think.

Also, I will keep everyone posted if the car gets a feature in a magazine, as we hope.

Hemi Shootout Burno

Friday, October 26, 2012

Chapter 27 (part 3)

We stared into each other’s eyes, each trying to read the other’s deepest thoughts and suspicions.  Dominic’s gaze was guarded, but the hint of hurt flickered in their depths.

“Ella. . .”

“No.  You have to hear me out on this,” I interrupted, holding up a hand.  “This has been shady from the beginning.  Look at it from my side.  You appear out of nowhere, intent on winning me over.  You obviously have money, but your ruse as a store manager doesn’t explain the amount of money you have at your disposal.  Then my best friend disappears, only to be found dead, at my house, along with my husband and his nurse.  Michael, who was confined to a wheel chair and couldn’t even take care of himself.”  Tears rolled freely down my face at the thought of Michael.  I fought to remain in control of my emotions.  I couldn’t risk raising my voice in such a public place.  

Taking a fortifying breath, I pressed on.  “Now my ten year old daughter and I are on the run with you.  You seem to be following some sort of set schedule, but I can’t figure out why.  Then we have to ditch the car and steal another.  I get losing the Mustang.  Conspicuous and all.  But my ten year old daughter is riding in a stolen vehicle.”  I gestured behind me to where Allison surely sat watching our little exchange from the relative safety of said stolen vehicle.  

Then something else clicked in my mind.  I stood a bit straighter as the idea formed into a  solid, reasonable thought.  Crossing my arms over my chest, I continued my rant.  “You had me leave you while you acquired another car.  And you were almost twenty minutes late for our rendezvous.  For all I know, your car could’ve been bugged or had a tracking device that you knew about.  You’ve been acting strange ever since we were chased.

“Unless I get some answers, I have a mind to call Officer Brecky to come get me and Allison.  We can wait for her here.”

Emotions warred with each other for placement on Dominic’s face and in his expressive eyes.  He was definitely hiding something, but whether I had called him out on the right subject remained to be seen.

He glanced around.  Indicating a picnic table off to my right, he asked, “Can we sit down?”

My hands fell to my sides as I studied him again.  Then I shrugged and walked to the table, sitting so I could see Allison in the car.  Dominic sat across from me.

He fiddled with his hands nervously, staring at them while he seemed to think through what he would tell me.

I waited as patiently as I could.

Finally, he looked up at me.  “You’re right.  I haven’t been completely honest with you.”  He raised his hands in a defensive gesture.  “That’s not to say that I’ve lied to you.  I just haven’t told you everything.  I can’t do it now.  Not here,” he said looking around the moderately active rest stop.  “You also have to understand that my hands are tied to a certain extent.  This is the FBI’s case.  I merely help them in return for compensation.  There are things I’m not allowed to tell you because, technically, I’m not supposed to know either.”

“Let me clear something up for you, Dominic.”  I leaned forward across the table, my eyes burning into his.  “I don’t give a damn about what the FBI says I can and can’t know.  My little girl is running from a notorious and very powerful drug lord who obviously deals in illegal firearms, as well.  Now, maybe I’m not the perfect innocent virgin here, but I’m tending to blame you for the state of my family right now since we were doing just fine before you came waltzing in.”

A heavy sigh blew through his lips.  “I deserve that.  But you have to agree that this isn’t the best place to talk about this.  Anyone could be listening.  The safest place is in that car.”  He jerked a thumb in the general direction.  “Yes, my car was being tracked.  I found the chip while you were ogling Teddy the cowboy at the bed and breakfast.”

“How do I know that car doesn’t have one?  You had it for almost forty minutes before we met up.  For all I know, you put one on it and met with someone to give them the new tracking information.”  I buried my face in my hands.  “Look, Dominic, I want to trust you.  And deep down I do.  But my first priority is Allison and keeping her safe.”  I lifted my head.  “You need to assure me that she is safe with you around before we go any farther.”

He took my hands in his.  “How can I do that, Ella?”

“I don’t know, but you’ve gotta give me something.”

His eyes lifted to the tree tops as he thought.  Blowing out a breath that feathered the hair draping his forehead he said, “I’m not supposed to tell you this.  At all.  But, the FBI actually used you as bait for Ritter.”  At my questioning look he continued.  “They knew Ritter wanted me, but I was giving them too much valuable information in other areas to use me to draw him out.  So they found you.  With your history--our history--they were confident that leaking your whereabouts would pull him to you.  It worked,” he said with a shrug.  

“They used me as bait.  Without even so much as a courtesy call?”

He gave a you-know-how-it-is look.  “They are the government.  They pretty much do what they want.”

I leaned forward again.  Still holding his hands, I gave a little squeeze.  “My gut trusts you, but I know there’s more to this.  We’ve been here too long, and I’m starting to get itchy, so we’ll go with you.  For now.  But know that I expect more answers at a better time.”

I stood, and he followed me back to the car.  We had to find a town with a grocery store, then we were heading into the mountains, and hopefully to safety.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chapter 27 (part 2)

After much weaving through back roads, we ended up back on the main road we’d been following before the craziness began.  I drove the forty-miles-an-hour speed limit for a few miles, but we were going too slow.  Something told me we needed to get out of Ohio.  Now.

At the next light we came to I got in the left turn lane.

“What are you doing?” Dominic asked.

“I want to get on the highway,” I said, stepping on the gas when the green arrow lit up.  I straightened the car out onto what proved to be a road the same size as the one we’d just left.  

“Why do you want to get on the highway?”  He pulled out the map as he questioned me.

“I just do.  Do we have to stay in Ohio tonight?  Can we go to the safe house now?”  I looked at him when I said it.  I wanted to see his reaction.  Something was off, and I needed to figure it out as soon as I could.

Looking between the map and the road, he answered, “Yeah, I think that would be a okay.  A day ahead of schedule should be fine.  This road connects to the highway, so we can stay on it,” he said, folding the map and storing it in the glove box.

Once we hit the highway, I kept our speed at seventy-two again.  We rolled north, putting the chaos and insanity behind us, and heading into who knew what.  I was apprehensive.  While I had decided that I trusted Dominic, he was acting strange.  

A day ahead of schedule?  What did that mean?  

I understood ditching the Mustang, and thus stealing another car.  I understood why we hid the Mustang.  Going to a safe house made sense.  Even the round-about way of getting there made sense.

What I didn’t get was why Dominic seemed so set on a schedule.  Yes, he had agreed to skip staying in Ohio for another night and heading straight to the safe house, but still.  We were running from a notorious drug lord.  Why have a schedule?  Wouldn’t it be better to just go on instinct?

I was listening to my inner voice, at least.  It said run.  My intuition was telling me to get out of this state.  It was also questioning Dominic, and that made me nervous.

An hour later we were crossing into Pennsylvania.  According to Dominic, we had between four and five more hours of driving through southern New York and back down into Pennsylvania before we reached the cabin in the mountains that would serve as our safe house.  I hoped that the new car and our speed would leave Ritter’s henchmen behind.

At a highway rest area we made a pit stop.  The thing with Dominic acting strange was nagging at me, so I told Allison to wait in the car while we talked.  

We stood ten paces in front of our newly acquired vehicle under a tall oak bursting with vibrant green shoots.  I wasn’t sure how to approach the subject without sounding like I didn’t trust him, so we stood in silence for a full minute before he leaned on the tree and asked the loaded question.

“What’s up, Ella?”

I studied his face.  The stubble on his jaw was more than just a shadow after at least three days without a shave, but it suited him.  His windblown hair danced around his face in the slight breeze kissing the air.  Then there were those eyes.  Those green pools of endless depth that consistently fell into without hope of surfacing.  

I was falling again, and I gave my head a shake to clear the fog that crowded my thoughts.  I took a deep, bracing breath and looked right into those eyes.  “What’s up with the schedule?” I  asked.  “Why do you seem so set on following a set timeline for this little escapade?”

He broke the eye contact and looked off to his right, back toward the brick building of the restroom area.  “The safe house has a schedule.”  His eyes came back to mine.  “They told me when I could take you there, and I’ve never gone against what they tell me.  I’m not sure what we’ll find when we show up early.  Hopefully it’ll just be empty, and we can move right in.”  He shrugged.  “But I honestly don’t know.

“I’ve had safe houses available to me whenever I’m helping, but I’ve never used one.  I always just kept moving, ya know?”  He reached both hands for me as if to take my arms, but I stepped back.  His eyes questioned me, expressing the hurt my pulling away caused him.

“Dominic. . .”  I paused and dropped my eyes.  “Something’s not right, here.  Something doesn’t feel right.”  I took a breath that raised my shoulders as I shook my head slowly, still trying to sort through everything.

I looked around the rest area.  All around us, people were going on with their everyday lives.  A family on vacation walking their dog.  Two young girls, about college age, on a road trip.  A man on a business trip, his blue button down loosened at the collar but still tucked neatly into his pressed slacks.  

Then there was us.  Dominic, Allison, and I were anything but normal at this point.  Newly reunited ex-lovers, one with a murdered husband and friend, running from a cold-blooded man, with a ten year old girl in tow.  

Looking back at Dominic, I asked, “Who are they?”

“They?” he repeated, sounding confused.

“Yeah.  Who are the people putting us up this safe house?”  I made quotations with my fingers.  

“The FBI.  I told you that,” he said with incredulity and a lift of an eyebrow.  

“Yeah.  Well. . .”

He pushed off of the tree.  “You don’t believe me?  What, you think I’m on Ritter’s payroll?”  His tone hardened with the imagined accusation, and he took a step toward me.  “Is that what you think, Ella?”  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Chapter 27 (part 1)

I found a fast food restaurant and pulled through the drive-through, ordering lunch for Allison and myself.  We parked in the back of the lot to eat.  Then I searched the car.

I dug through the trunk looking for hidden weapons or anything that might indicate there was something else going on that I wasn’t aware of.  Under the thin, grey carpet behind the wheel well I found a .22-caliber rifle.  The entire gun was black, like it was for sniping.  Except the caliber wasn’t right for a sniper rifle.  But Dominic had always preferred the chrome barrels to black.  

Allison climbed up front while I checked under the back seat.  I found another pistol under each seat.  One was a .45, the other a .44.  “Allison, do not reach under these seats at all.”  I left no room for questioning.

“Okay, Mommy,” she answered, her voice sounding timid and slightly fearful.

“It’s okay, baby,” I said looking up at her.  “You should know there is a gun under your seat.  So, if you lose something, let me know and I’ll get it for you.  Okay?”


“Climb on back here, so I can check up front.”

I found the Baby Eagle under the driver’s seat.  Apparently, Dominic had known I would want to drive and was prepared to oblige.  I pulled the clip out, checked the chamber, then ran my hand along the barrel.  The black metal was cool under my fingers.  The textured rubber grips rubbed my palm. The weight of the weapon felt good in my hand.  Familiar.  

Sliding the clip back into place, I slid the gun back under the seat.  Turning to Allison, I told her, “Buckle your seat belt, sweetie.  We have to go meet Mr. Dominic.”  I turned back to the front and fastened my own belt before starting the car and pulling out.

I felt better knowing more of what the odds were.  At least I knew what I had at my disposal, and where to find it should I need it.

We reached our rendezvous point before Dominic, so I parked in one of the three lots facing the intersection.  

Five minutes passed, and I began to get antsy.  Dominic wasn’t usually late.  After ten minutes, I started to worry.  What if he got caught?  Or worse, what if he tried to steal the wrong person’s car?  We were in the sticks, after all.  I wouldn’t have surprised if most of the people in the area carried a gun just because.  What if he ditched us?

Seventeen minutes after we were supposed to meet, a dark blue Toyota Camry pulled in next to us.  Dominic was driving.  He signaled for me to follow him, and we headed in the general direction of nowhere.  

I followed him for about thirty minutes before we turned onto a dirt road.  The road wound through a forest.  Several smaller roads, if that were possible, branched off intermittently.  Eventually, Dominic turned down one of these roads, and we drove until we found an out-of-the-way pull-off.  

Dominic had me park the Mustang as deep as I could get it.  When I turned off the motor and climbed out, I couldn’t see the road anymore.  Good.  

I popped the trunk and helped transfer our bags from one car to the other.  I wondered what Dominic would do about the guns since he hadn’t told me about them, but he surprised me.  After Allison was tucked into the back of the Camry, he pulled the weapons from their hiding places.

I stood in silence as I watched each gun come out of hiding and get a once-over before he handed them to me.  When he pulled out the Baby Eagle, he looked me in the eye for the first time since we’d parted ways.  “Here’s your gun,” he said handing the weapon to me and taking the others.  “Go in the woods and shoot a couple rounds to get the feel of it.”

“Do you have more rounds?”  The one thing I hadn’t found was more ammo.  But, if it came to it, we’d need more than what the clips held.

“Of course,” he said with a shake of his head and slight smirk.

I nodded and walked into the trees.  About twenty yards in I stopped and looked around for a good target tree.  I wanted big and not to far.  About fifteen yards to my left was a fat oak trunk.  Perfect.

I clicked the safety off, loaded the chamber, and held the gun in front of me with both hands and arms bent.  Looking through the sights with both eyes, my focus started at the back of the pistol and traveled down the barrel to the target tree trunk.  Blowing my breath out, I squeezed the trigger.


The gun kicked a bit, my wrists and bent elbows taking the shock before settling the sights back where they started.  I squeezed out three more in succession, forgoing the breathing exercise.  After all, in the heat of battle I wouldn’t have time for worrying about my breathing.

Walking the distance to the target tree, I checked out the pattern my shots had laid out.  It was a tight circle the size of a half-dollar.  

Content, I headed back to the cars and found Dominic switching out the license plates.  He put the plate from the Mustang on the Camry and hid the Camry plates in the trunk.  He looked at me with a glowing smile.

“Well?  How’d you like ‘er?” he asked.

“Accurate.  Easy sights.  Not too much kick.  It’s a good gun.”  I began to close the distance to the car, and he stood.  “Thanks,” I added softly.  I leaned in and gave his cheek a tender kiss.  “I feel better with this.”

“Good.”  His arm wrapped around my waist and pulled me close.  His warm breath fanned my ear.  “It’s hot to see you with a gun in your hands again.”

I pushed against him.  “Don’t get used to it.  This is only for necessity.  I don’t want a gun in my house.”  Oh, but it felt so good to hold it, fire it.  I had been raised with guns in the house, taught how to shoot when I was just six, but when I left Dominic and the outlaw life we had lived, I left my love of guns behind, too.  

“We should get going,” I said to change the subject.  “I’ll drive.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Chapter 26 (part 3)

A hulk of a man climbed out of the tractor and walked around to my door.  I wound the window down.

“Can I help ya, miss?”  My eyes tracked up the round flannel-clad belly to a kind face weathered by a lifetime working the land.  Greying hair poked out from under the man’s green John Deere hat.

“Yes, sir.  We’re looking for the interstate.”  I smiled at him, hoping I could keep in here long enough for the sedan to pass us by so we could go back the way we came.

He leaned down and looked at Dominic and Allison before returning his sun-bleached blue eyes to me.  “Yer a long way off, miss.”

“That’s what I was afraid of,” I said in a dejected tone.  “Could you point us to a store where we can get a map?”

“Well, yer best bet is to go back the way ya came.  Go right at the stop sign.  That’ll take ya to the main road.  Goes north and south.  Jus’ head the way ya wanna go.  You’ll find a store either way.”

“Okay.  Thank you very much.”  Inside I heaved a sigh that he was sending us the way I wanted to go.  It had been a gamble.  Through the slats of the barn, I noticed the Chevy going up the road.  The speed of the car indicated they were looking.  But when they sped up just before cresting the hill, I knew they hadn’t seen us.  Still, I had to haul ass to get back before they realized we ditched them.

The tractor rumbled away, and I backed out from our hiding place behind the barn.  I pulled out slowly, hoping that the tires didn’t leave dusty tracks on the asphalt.  Once we were out of sight of the friendly farmer, I pressed the accelerator to speed our progress.  Allison tucked back into her ball without being told.  Good girl.

We whipped around the turns in the opposite direction.  It was good that I was blessed with a sort of photographic-tactile memory when it came to driving.  If I drove a road once, I drove it a hundred times, allowing me to have the confidence of one familiar with the terrain.  I knew where to feather the gas, where to drop gears.  

Then end of the road came into sight, and I scanned for other cars, fully intending to run the stop sign if I could.  Luck was on our side.  I skidded the car around the turn and back toward the larger four-lane road we had been traveling before the drama.  

“Get out the map.  Get us to the interstate so we can put some pavement between us and them,” I told Dominic.

“What if that’s not the only car?”

“We’ll take it as it comes.  Best way.  You know that.”  The main road was looming in front of us.  “Which way?”

Dominic scanned the map.  “Go right.  Then about a mile up, turn left.”  He was good with a map.  Great team we made: me driving, him navigating.  We’d always worked so well together.  I trusted every direction he gave.  He trusted every crazy swing of the wheel I made.

Once we were off of the main road again, I slowed down.  I didn’t want to draw attention to us.  The car stood out well enough without driving like the devil was chasing us.  Even though he was.  Damn those gold stripes on the black paint.  Why couldn’t Dominic have picked a solid color?  Even a less distinguishable stripe pattern?  I squeezed the wheel until my hands ached with the effort, trying to expel my frustration.

Just over thirty minutes later we were merging onto the interstate.  I would put some distance and time between us and our pursuers before getting off and taking a less traveled road.  I pushed the needle to seventy-three miles per hour.  The limit was sixty-five, so I was safe from being pulled over as long as I kept it under ten over.  

At the third exit up from where we go on, I got off.  Dominic checked the map and directed me to a smaller road that paralleled the road we had been on earlier.  It was a two-lane road, and much less traveled than the main route.  

“I think we should go to the safe house now,” I said with a glance in Dominic’s direction.  His face revealed nothing as he stared out the windshield. 

His silence was unbearable.  “Dominic?  Any thoughts on that?”

He looked at me, the green of his eyes swirling with indecision.  He was afraid.  That scared me.  The Dominic I knew never showed fear, even to me.  

I took a deep breath.  “Okay.  Do we have to use that safe house?  Is there another one we can use?”

“We need to ditch this car.”  He was curt.  His way of dealing with the situation, I guessed.  “When we get to a more populated area, drop me off.  I’ll get us another car and meet you at a place we pick.  Then we can drive somewhere out of the way and leave the Mustang there.  Without tags.”

“What about the safe house, Dominic?” I pressed.  “Can we use another one?”

“I don’t know, Ella,” he practically barked at me.

My head snapped to look at him.  Something was off.  And it had warning sirens screaming in my head.  A quick glance at Allison sitting behind him told me she was paying attention, but pretending to be engrossed in her game.  I wouldn’t get into anything in front of her.  She had been through too much already, and I had a feeling it was only going to get worse.

So I drove in silence for another hour when we came to a small town that was much bigger than the towns we’d driven through until then.  

Dominic pointed to a large grocery store with a full lot.  “Pull in there, and make a few passes through the lanes.”

This was heading in a direction I didn’t want to take.  Running was one thing.  Committing a felony was another level entirely.  I didn’t want Allison involved in something like this, but there wasn’t much choice.  Dominic was right.  The Mustang had to go.

We drove up and down the lanes while Dominic cased the vehicles in the lot.  He pointed to the back row.  “Drop me off back there.”  He pulled out the map, and we decided on an intersection to meet at in twenty minutes.  This whole thing rubbed me the wrong way.  I had a bad feeling about it that didn’t have anything to do with stealing a car.  It was more about Dominic and the way he was acting.

Leaning forward, he pulled a thin black leather wallet of some sort from the glove box.  Then he reached under the seat and pulled out a holster, complete with the butt of a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson pistol sticking out.  I knew what it was because it was the same gun he’d had all those years ago, lovingly cared for.

He caught my eye as he slid the holster onto his belt where it would be in plain view of anyone who saw him.  The look he gave me said not to ask questions.  I didn’t.  Just watched as he climbed out and shut the door.  Then I drove away without looking back.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chapter 26 (part 2)

It was nice to be behind the wheel, to be in control.  The Mustang rumbled around me, welcoming my gentle, knowing touch.  It felt right sitting in the driver’s seat.  My flip flops were tucked under my seat, my bare toes caressing the pedals.  I cared nothing for the radio, and let Dominic play with the limited choice of stations.  

Allison sprawled across the back seat, her nose buried in her book.  It amazed me that she could be comfortable like that with the hump of the drive shaft through the middle of the seat, but that was beauty of youth.

Nobody talked.  Each of us isolated within our own little world inside the car.  But, inside my little bubble, I couldn’t help worrying about what waited for us up the road.  The farther north we went, the more constricted I felt.

I followed Dominic’s plan to take seventy-seven up to the lake at first.  But a nervousness came over me on the highway.  I got off in Canton and took a more scenic route.  It was just as straight, but being a smaller road that went through towns it took longer.The timing didn’t matter much since we were staying in Ohio for the night.

“Check your mirror, Ella,” Dominic muttered, almost under his breath.  

A quick glance at him showed his gazed trained on the side-view mirror out his window.  He jaw was clenched.  Not good.  I turned to mirror by my head.  

About a quarter mile behind us was a nondescript, dark blue Chevy sedan.  It could be nothing.  We were on a long, straight road that was a connecting line between several towns.  Still, the fact that Dominic was on edge put me on edge.

“I think you should turn off.  Just to make sure.”  His eyes never left the mirror.

I turned right at the next road that intersected our path.  It was a narrow, two-lane road that wove between freshly plowed fields while bobbing and dipping over gentle hills.  It was a peaceful little road.  A nice family ride in the country type.  Except for the dark blue Chevy that appeared in my rearview as we crested another hill.

Bloody hell.

I found another little road on the left and took it.  One should never jump to conclusions, so I was making sure.  This road made a sharp S-turn about a hundred feet down, cutting off our view of the intersection.  The road was too twisty for me to keep a good watch behind us.  That was Dominic’s job.  He watched the side-view and pulled down the visor to watch the vanity mirror as well.

My nerves were bunched in knots as I waited to know if the car was still behind us.

“Allison, honey.  Make sure your seat belt is tight, please.”  

She sat up straight and cinched the belt tightly over her lap before pulling the shoulder strap as tight as she could get it.  She didn’t even question me.  

The road made another sharp turn then dipped into a deep valley.  We were blind to what might be behind us, but it was a comforting thought to know that they would be slowed down as much as we were by the geography.  More even, considering the difference in the cars.  However, we were also blind to what lay before us since we had never been down these roads before.

We came to a curve where two other roads joined this one in a mutated Y shape.  Not knowing if the car was still behind us, I took the hard left onto the first road.  I hoped that we would disappear in the bends and valleys before the other car could see us.  If it was even there.

This road, however, curved a bit before straightening out and climbing a hill, placing us in plain view.  A glance in the mirror showed that we were visible even from the road we had just left.  

And there was the dark blue Chevy.  It slowed as it approached the intersection.  Then it stopped.  Reversed.  Turned to follow us.  


Dominic looked at me.  “You know what to do.”  His voice held confidence in my ability to get away.  Then he turned to Allison sitting behind him.  “Keep your seat belt on, but try to stay low.  Your mom is the best driver I know, but these roads are twisty and we’ll be going fast.  If you curl up in a sideways ball, you’ll be fine.”

I heard her shuffling around to do as he said.  “Like this?” came her somewhat squished voice.

“That’s perfect.”  He smiled at her before turning back to the front and tightening his own seat belt.  “Go, Ella.”

I dropped the car from fourth to third gear and pressed the accelerator, launching us forward.  As the gear wound out, I shifted with a sidestep, not lifting my foot from the gas.  The Mustang hunkered down to the road as we approached the top of the hill.  The other side was a gentle slope that curve to the right.  It would have been an easy turn at the speed limit, but as we crested the hill close to sixty miles per hour the car’s wheels left the road for a full second.  A second was eternity in a flying car.  Timing was imperative.  I lifted off the gas slightly, held the wheels straight, and waited for impact.

The jolt from landing barely had time to slam the body to the ground before I yanked the wheel and slid the car around the turn.  The tires squealed like pigs a slaughter as the rear of the car raced the front end around the turn.  I feathered the gas as we slid.  When the road straightened out in front, I pulled the wheel around again, stomping on the accelerator as the car lined up straight.

We were on another long straight stretch, but I wanted off this road.  I stared at the farm up ahead, trying to see if the driveway was paved.  We would leave tracks in gravel, dirt, or grass.  The entry looked to be a dusty gravel, but luck was on our side in the form of a tractor rumbling around and kicking up dust.

I took the chance and pulled in slowly.  As I the car behind the large barn, the tractor gave further aid.  The farmer pulled up behind us, blocking us from any travelers on the road.

“Allison, sit up,” I said, trying not to snap.  She obeyed immediately.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Chapter 26 (part 1)

I woke in the sweet warmth of Dominic’s arms.  He had curled toward me in the night, our arms around each other, my leg nestled between his.  My face was buried in his chest, and his musky scent surrounded me.  I took a deep breath and snuggled closer to him.  He responded with a sleepy moan, his arms pulling me in.

But we couldn’t stay like this.  Allison was sleeping in the other bed, and we needed to get moving.  

I stretched and rolled out of the comfort of Dominic’s strong arms, waking him in the process.  His fingers grazed my cheek in a soft caress.  “Morning, beautiful,” he murmured in a deep voice, thick with sleep.  The smile on his face was catching.

“Morning,” I returned softly.  “We need to get up.  I need coffee.  And food.”

“Ah, yes.  Me too.”  He stretched beside me then rolled to sit at the bed’s edge.  He leaned forward and picked up his jeans from where they pooled on the floor.  

I curled around him as he pulled them on.  “Thank you for last night.”

He turned to fix his eyes on me.  “You don’t have to thank me.  I didn’t do anything.”

“Exactly,” I said.  “Just sleeping next to you, feeling your arms around me, was more than you know.  Michael loved me, but he couldn’t give me even that for over a year.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it.”

He bent down and laid a gentle kiss on my temple.  “I’m glad it made you happy.”  He stood, sliding out of my arms and leaving me feeling empty again.  “I’m going to go shower before we head down to dinner.  Why don’t you work on getting Allison up?  I’ll be back in ten.”

“All right.”  I slid out of bed as he closed the door behind him.  Padding over to the big bed, I laid my hand on Allison’s shoulder.  “Allison.  It’s time to get up, sweetie.”

She moaned, rolled, and stretched, her eyes fluttering open.  “Mom?  What time is it?”

I glanced at the clock on the nightstand.  “It’s almost eight.  Mr. Dominic is in the shower.  When he’s done, I’m going to take one.  Then it’s your turn.  Once we’re all cleaned up, we’ll go down for breakfast.  Okay?”

“Yeah,” she said as she sat up against the headboard, the quilt pooling at her waist.  “I have to go to the bathroom.”

“O-kay,” I drew out, pondering where I could take her since Dominic was in the only one I knew of.  “We’ll go downstairs and see if there’s a bathroom down there.”

We were in luck.  There was a powder room at the end of the foyer, under the stairs.  We both made use of it, then climbed the stairs back to our room.  I laid out clothes for each of us while we waited for Dominic to return.

He walked in a few minutes later.  The sight of him made me pause.  His hair was damp and tousled, the results of a good towel-dry.  His skin was glowing from its cleansing, but he had left the stubble on his jaw, giving a rough sexiness to his look.  Snug black cotton hugged his chest and shoulders, falling over the waist of his jeans.  His feet were bare, as I would expect from this former beach bum.  He looked good enough to eat, and if Allison hadn’t been there. . .  Well. . .

To pull myself away, I grabbed my clothes and headed for the shower.  It felt good to have the hot water sluicing down my body.  After I had cleaned up, I turned off the hot and cranked the cold.  The shock of the frigid water, gave me and extra jump start.

There was no hair dryer, and I had left my brush in the room, so I toweled my hair as best I could.  I checked my face in the mirror and was immediately thankful for my natural coloring that denied the need for makeup.  I buttoned up my blue gingham shirt, and slipped my legs into my jeans.  I opted for the bare foot look, as well, but more because I had a desire that would be better fulfilled with bare feet.

Avoiding Dominic’s eyes as I stepped into the room, I shooed Allison down the hall to get cleaned up.  I started digging in my bag for my brush.  

As soon as the bathroom door clicked, Dominic was pressed up behind me, his lips at my ear.  “You are trying to kill me slowly, aren’t you?” he growled.

I froze.  Afraid to move for fear of spiking my already too-keyed-up libido to dangerous levels.  The steady pulse of his shallow breathing was pushing me to the edge, though.  “Dominic,” I said soft enough to keep my chest from expanding too much.  “You need to back up.”


“Because.”  It was all I could offer as a reason.  Weak.  Wanting.  Just like me.  But it worked, and he backed away, allowing me to continue searching for my brush.  

“Okay.  I get that,” he said with resignation.

“Ah-ha!”  I whipped the elusive brush from my bag and went to the vanity mirror to do what I could with my hair.

Allison came back looking refreshed and beautiful.  I had her check to make sure everything was in her bag, and we headed down for some much needed coffee and food.

Mrs. Rose had a true country breakfast waiting for us.  I helped myself to homefries while Mrs. Rose cooked me an omelet with bacon, sausage, and ham, smothered in cheese.  The morning was brisk, but we ate on the porch anyway.

Dominic joined me and Allison, sitting in the chair next to me.  “A bit chilly for flip-flops, isn’t it?”  The question was aimed at me and my mostly bare feet.  It was also edged with something that might sound fatherly to someone else, but I knew it was more of a warning against my thoughts and future actions.

“Yeah, well. . .”  I trailed off, not wanting to state my reason for wearing the scant shoes with Allison right there.  

But just then she said, “Mommy, can I eat inside?  I’m cold.”  

“Of course, honey.  But stay in the parlor until I come back in, okay?”

“Okay.”  She gathered her plate and juice glass and went inside.

Once the door shut behind her, Dominic invaded the quiet.  “So?”

I sighed.  “I wanna drive,” I said without looking at him.

“Well, that’s obvious.  Why else would you wear flip flops in this weather?”  He picked up his coffee and held the steaming cup in front of his face, staring out at the landscape.  I started to wonder if he would say anything else about it when he put the mug down and fixed his eyes on me.  “You can drive.  But we won’t be doing that kind of driving.  There’s no way.”

“I get that, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.  If we’re heading back toward home, the chances of a run-in increase.  No matter what you say, that’s how I perceive it,” I said, holding up a hand in defense.  “I’m a better driver than you, so I’m driving.  And if we run into trouble, I want to be barefoot.  You know that.”

When we were younger, and I drove Dominic’s runs for him, I always drove barefoot.  I felt more in tune with the car that way.  That meant I was more confident without shoes between me and the machine.  I had a natural ability when it came to driving.  An ability that kept me and my cohorts out of jail whenever I drove.

I needed that confidence for the next leg of our trip or I might chicken out and hunker down at the Bubbling Brook Inn indefinitely.

His hand found mine as I reached for my coffee.  “I understand, Ella.  But you being barefoot puts me on edge.  Like you’re expecting trouble.”

We finished our breakfast, said goodbye and thank you to Mrs. Rose and Teddy, and headed back to the state road that would take us home in our roundabout way.