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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Page 21 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Dave stood at the edge of the garage. To his left and his right, the place had filled up. He figured at least forty drivers occupied the tarmac, plus whatever crew they carried, whether one guy, like he had with Pegleg, or up to five. Some of these people were serious amateurs. He also spotted a few kids as young as himself. Maybe younger. A few of the old timers worked the AC tune-ups themselves, as both driver and mechanic.

A crowd had come, not massive, but larger than Dave had expected. A few hundred, with more streaming in. These were likely friends, family, and diehard gamblers. The Looky Lous from the theme park didn't get bleacher seats. They got a walk-thru at various points around the track. They'd use either windows, or balcony overlooks, so they could catch a glimpse of the race, maybe feed off its energy and noise, without lingering long enough to see who won or lost.

Among the drivers he had to face, he saw fear. He saw determination. Stubborn determination. He saw hope and frayed nerves. A lot of the other drivers did their best to create eye contact with Dave. It made sense, of course, because they knew he'd set the fastest time. The odds makers favored him. So of course the other drivers had to respect him, but that also meant he had a big target painted on his back.

He wondered who'd be first to try to run him off the track. Did that guy Crank have some ace-in-the-hole driver out there to guarantee the result he wanted?

The thought of a sabotage made him antsy.

"Pegleg," Dave said. "How's it coming?"

"Well, like I said, I got not time for any repairs. Basically, all I can do is make sure they didn't plant a bomb or pull a vital part out."

"Are we okay?"

"So far."

"How much longer?"

"Few minutes," Pegleg said.

"Come here a sec would you? Walk with me."

Pegleg wiped his greasy hands on a rag, dropped it on the concrete, and joined Dave.

"I'd rather not leave him with the vehicle alone," Pegleg said.

Inigo sat in the corner, examining a racing form.

"He'll be fine," Dave said. "I need your opinion."

"On what?"

Dave walked. They lost sight of the P5 and Inigo. Among the other ACs and their crews, they sauntered.

Dave said, "Look at the cars. Tell me what I'm up against. Who do I have to watch out for?"

"They all act like they think they know you."

"They know I'm in pole position. Which of these cars can catch me, and make it a race?"

"You're not worried about the drivers? Just the cars?"

"Don't know the drivers. I won't. Not until we race."

Friday, August 28, 2015

Page 20 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

"What the hell was that?" Pegleg said.

Inigo brushed his clothes, straightening them.

"Dave?" Pegleg said.

"Inigo has a history," Dave said.

Pegleg glared from one to the other, waiting for something from someone. When they returned his gaze with silence, he crossed his arms. "Guys, I'm about to walk."

"Don't," Dave said.

"Why? That guy is a racist and a cutthroat. He might kill us if we don't give him what he wants."

"It's the same if we walk away," Dave said.

"For you yeah. Not for me. I'm sorry Dave. I've already dealt once with a guy like that. I'm not stepping there again."

"Who is he Inigo?" Dave said.

"Used to work for Jabal. Took over," Inigo said.

"You knew about this?" Pegleg said.

"He wasn't such a racist before. He followed orders like anyone else. We were friends."

Pegleg shook his head. "Man, I can't believe this. How do you want to handle this Dave?"

"I want to race."

"You going to throw it?"

"I was once where you are," Inigo said. "They told me my boy had to lose. He was on the rise. I couldn't... I couldn't let him fall prey. I told him to win. He never even knew."

"What happened to you?" Pegleg said.

Inigo shrugged. "They took it out of my hide. Robbed me blind of everything I owned. Beat me to almost my last breath. I fell a long way, and landed hard."

"And you stayed down, didn't you?" Pegleg said.

"Doesn't matter," Dave said. "You're back now. This is just like a dragon you have to slay."

Inigo slumped. He looked quite the opposite of any dragon slayer.

"Do you want them to make you the racist?" Dave said.

"I can't fight them," Inigo said.

"Neither can I," Pegleg said.

"It's on me then," Dave said. "Do me a favor. After the race starts, tell Francy what happened."

"What are you going to do?" Pegleg said.

"I'm going to win a race." He turned on his heel, and strode next door, neither waiting for, nor even allowing either of them to try to talk him out of it. That crackpot Crank said the P5 was parked in the next pit.

As he raised the garage door, and set eyes on his ride, Dave realized something that caused him discomfort. Crank wasn't lying.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Page 19 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

"They put your boss away," Inigo said.

"So?" Crank came closer, inside Inigo's personal space. "What are you saying?"

"Nothing, I just..." Inigo stepped back, which looked like a retreat. "I didn't expect you, or anything like this. Brown Bart, he said..."

Crank, a wiry but strong and well-cut man stepped into a punch and decked Inigo with a four square blow across his chin. Inigo actually spun before his knees caught him on the soft concrete.

"You racist hump of piss, who the hell do you think you're dealing with? I own Brown Bart." Crank took a half step forward.

Dave felt himself, on instinct, come between them to protect Inigo. He looked to Pegleg, who a second later did the same.

Unmoving, unintimidated, and even a little amused, Crank let his eyes run over them as a wide smile cracked his face, making it uglier. "Dave Boarder. You a smart kid Dave?"

"If you hit this man again, you'll answer for it," Dave said.

Crank grinned wider, a gaping maw in his jaw. Some of his teeth seemed sharpened to a point. "Nah. You have to race. You're merchandise." Crank backed off, and sat beside the workbench on the only stool.

"What do you want?" Pegleg said. He kneeled to help Inigo rise, but Inigo brushed him off, and stayed down. Pegleg said to him, "Come on man. I don't know who this guy is, but you have a chance to make him the racist here. Don't miss it."

Inigo said, "You're a good boy," and put out his hand.

Pegleg helped him rise.

"He asked you a question," Dave said.

Crank's fingers found a bolt, somehow left behind from when everything had been cleared out. He tossed it up and down. "You want the car? You want to race? No problem golden boy with the pole position. By the way, how in hell did you set the top time after getting forced off track? That is impressive driving."

Dave blinked. "Tell us what you want."

"The P5 is next door. Keys are here." Crank took them from his pocket, and tossed the bolt aside. He let the keys dangle from his fingers.

"We should walk away Dave," Inigo said. "We can find another race."

"I want to hear his list of demands," Dave said.

"My list? It ain't that complicated kid. Everyone is betting on you to win. Everyone. It's a gimme."

"What's that mean?" Dave said.

"You tell him Rummy," Crank said.

"It means he wants you to lose so he can clean up," Inigo said.

"Lose? You mean on purpose?" Dave said.

"That bites man. No way," Pegleg said.

"It's time to walk away Dave. Keep clear of him while you can," Inigo said.

"No one walks away. You do as you're told. It is a demand, and you will do it." Crank tossed Dave the keys.

Dave caught them.

"Rummy'll tell you what happens if you get stupid and decide to win this race." Crank lost every trace of his smile, and then left through the rear door.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Page 18 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

The day of the race they all took the tube together, Ajax, Dave, Francy, Hep, Recant, and Inigo. Ajax had paid a self-driving cab to carry them half a mile to the station, and afterwards they rode the tube to the Belgian section in a private car, then found standing room only on the monorail to Ile Malmedy. The vast majority of riders intended to visit the theme park that day, so when the monorail reached the track Dave and company exited, but nearly all of the others stayed aboard for a subsequent stop, en route to any of a number of hotels, or perhaps the park entrance.

Today, no one needed to climb the long intimidating staircase. A bank of three elevators ran racers, their teams, their friends and family, and even admission-paying race lovers up to the bleachers, and the pits. Every elevator had an operator, a teenager around twelve or thirteen, who knew what to ask, and where to stop to disgorge riders.

The air as he stepped off the elevator felt riven by excitement, like an electric surge of charged ions. Expectant people, whether hopeful drivers, focused competitors, or viewers, or crew, or racetrack staff, all seemed on edge, and ready for something that mattered. Yet, they also felt separated from one another, like east and west, by the role each would be expected to play during the drama of an AC event. All for such a small thing, this simple, possibly petty, merely amateur race. To Dave, the bravado in the various voices, the self-importance on their faces, brought to mind an image of one of his racing idols who might sit in the stands and laugh at how so many could make such a big deal out of such a little thing. Would the hypothetical old pro remember his own humble beginnings, and viscerally recall the charge in the air? Would such a man gaze upon the field from the upper levels with a wistful, nostalgic fondness?

Don't underestimate your enemy, Dave reminded himself, acting the role of his own coach. Lionel Augstrasse once said as much. Dave had read it on a blog. Once you start thinking you can't lose, you sink into a complacency where you can't win.

Hep, Francy, Recant and Ajax went to the stands to find good seats. Today, the tickets were all general admission. They could sit anywhere.

Dave, Inigo, and Pegleg crossed the track to the pits, to the precise spot where they'd last left the P5.

"Grant, do you mind?" Inigo said. Dave noticed his manager preferred Pegleg's formal name.

Pegleg grabbed the strap, and jerked the garage door open, then let it curl up against the ceiling.

Dave and Inigo both stared. Stunned.

The P5 was gone. The garage sat empty, devoid even of tools on the workbench. Instead, a man faced them. He leaned against the empty workbench. The man had his arms crossed and, at the sight of them, grinned like a baboon.

"You boys looking for something?" he said.

"Crank," Inigo said. "Why am I not surprised?"

Dave took an instant dislike to this man, Crank, who had a syrupy smile that dripped disdain. Maybe he'd eaten a small child for breakfast.

Crank uncrossed his arms, stepped away from the workbench, and strutted toward them full of power and cocky overconfidence.

"You want to race with my car, you have to make a deal with me first," Crank said. He stopped near Inigo. "You should have known that Rummy."

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Page 17 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Recant had one of those True-Displays that used multiple layers of lasers stacked into two inches of tiny space, like plywood. It produced visuals that looked more three dimensional that standard TV in the way they moved and shimmered. They seemed real enough to touch, but any effort to do so would disrupt the light layers and destroy the illusion. Some things you just had to marvel at from a distance.

"What did that cost you?" Dave said. He knew they were too pricey for most people, and his estimation of Recant's wealth shot up several notches. Kind of like what had happened regarding Ajax.

"Too much, but a guy has to stay up to date when you do what I do," Recant said.

"What do you do?" Inigo said.

"I'm making you some clothes. Giving you a place to stay," Recant said, then cast his wary eyes on Dave for half a second. "And I'm asking you a few questions."

They'd been looking at a field of grass blowing in the wind, some kind of default imagery. Recant pressed a few buttons on his keyboard and a file opened. A new image popped out, a man with gray stubble, and a sneer, with olive Mediterranean skin, short black curly hair, and brown eyes.

Inigo sat up straighter in his chair, the folding one from the other room. He seemed scared, and surprised.

"Jabal Coronish," Recant said. "Inigo knows him."

"Who is he?" Dave said.

Inigo hesitated, like a clump of soggy paper had lodged in his throat. He tried to swallow it.

"If you don't tell him I will," Recant said.

"He..." Inigo cleared his throat. His voice started weak, but gained strength as he said, "He handles the gambling out of Ile Malmedy and several other racetracks." His eyes darted from one to the other, but he held his tongue, wanting to add nothing to what he already said.

"Is that it?" Recant said. "Cause I think there's more."

Inigo's shoulders sagged. "He is the man who put me where I am." He found something very interesting to look at on the floor.

"You're down and out cause of him?" Dave said.

"Interpol shut him down. Prison. Fixing races. Illegal odds-making. Whatever he was, he's out of your life as long as he stays put away," Recant said. "Don't you think?"

"I hope so." Inigo put out a soft smile, the kind that made a man look helpless, but relieved. "I lost everything because of him."

"What did he do?" Dave said.

"I'd rather not talk about it. If he's in prison, it's a new day for me on top of everything else."

"Boy, we make a ratty bunch don't we?" Dave said, grinning like a cowboy.

"What do you mean?" Inigo said.

"Nothing. It's just a joke," Dave said.

Recant got the joke, Dave could tell, even if Inigo did not. Between his family, and Ajax, plus these two, they all had a sad story to tell, a reason to stay hidden, and a longing for the day that burned away the evils that afflicted them. It was no small irony that Inigo, the homeless rummy, might find his way first.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Page 16 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Recant stood at his open elevator door. Rather than let Dave and Inigo reach his place, he came up to meet them topside, then pulled the red stop button out so the automatic doors would stay open while they talked on the edge of the LandBridge. The wind kicked up along the rim, and it got a little cold.

"My manager here needs some new clothes printed up. He needs a place to stay and a few regular meals too," Dave said.

"Inigo, huh?" Recant said. "Rummy."

"How did you know?" Inigo said.

"Does the name Jabal ring a bell?" Recant said.

Inigo's face turned bright red, and his eyes widened as they stopped blinking so much.

"You'd better come on," Recant said.

He pushed in the stop button, which caused the doors to close. Dave had to stick out his hand so they'd reopen and allow he and Inigo to enter.

On the ride down, Dave said, "Ajax have you look into him?"

"What do you think?" Recant said.

Dave glanced back at Inigo who, like a cornered rabbit, had positioned himself behind them.

"This should be interesting," Dave said.

The elevator doors opened, and they walked across Recant's living space. It had very little furniture, most of it threadbare and without any sense of style for interior d├ęcor. The layout of the floor resembled Dave's family condo, except a giant 3D printer occupied space where the Boarders had put their dining table. Where Ajax kept his inner sanctum, Recant had a workstation, six computer screens, and a stack of storage arrays. The only chair in the room, made of black leather and polished wood, looked more expensive than all the furniture in the rest of the condo combined.

"Grab a few seats from outside," Recant said. "I have something to show you."

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Page 15 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Dave and Inigo came in the home front gate on foot. Dave needed to ask Recant a big favor, so he didn't want Ajax picking him up at the tube. Ajax would ask questions, make decisions, and otherwise interfere.

Francy lay on a floating lounger in the pool, while Pegleg stood beside her. He moved his hand from her butt to the small of her back as they both came closer, then withdrew it to the water. At least he had some modesty, some sense of the way a thing might look to others. Dave liked that about him.

He wondered, kind of a stray thought, how long the bionic foot could operate submerged without suffering damage. Maybe forever. Pegleg didn't look worried.

"How'd it go?" Pegleg said.

Dave wanted to make a crack about how Pegleg's parents had forbidden any contact between them, but resisted the urge. "Got a car, and a race," he said.

"Cool."

"It's a Beemer. P5. You know it?"

"More or less. I can bone up."

"Some mechanic," Dave said.

"Hey, I appreciate you letting me do this. I really do."

"Meet Inigo. He's my... manager, I guess."

Pegleg grinned, more of a smirk than anything. He'd no doubt heard derisive tales about the homeless man from Francy. She chose this very moment to turn her head away. Pegleg glanced at her, and grinned wider. Dave knew her. She'd probably rolled her eyes or something.

"Pleased to meet you Inigo," Pegleg said.

"This is Grant. We call him Pegleg," Dave said.

"Like a pirate," Inigo said and flashed a yellow tooth smile.

"If you say so," Pegleg said. He took a breath, and lowered himself into the water, clearly to end the conversation, and maybe to hide the laughter he could no longer suppress.

"Come on," Dave said. "There's someone else you need to meet."

Inigo took one last look at the two teenagers in the pool, both now ignoring him, and trailed Dave. From the corner of his eye, Dave noticed Inigo tripped over himself going from the deck to the grass.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Page 14 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Dave watched Ile Malmedy recede as the monorail carried him and Inigo away.

"You ever been there? The theme park?" Inigo said.

Dave shook his head. Visiting the park had dropped in priority on his list of thoughts.

"If we win, anywhere in the top five really, we can stay a few days in one of those fancy hotels," Inigo said.

"I'll put it on my list," Dave said.

"You did good. You should feel good."

"I tore up the track."

"I know," Inigo said, and the thought seemed to delight him.

"No I mean I literally had to hit the grass cause of an accident, and I ripped it to pieces. When they find out they won't like it."

"Where did this happen?"

"At the river. A couple of drivers skidded and stopped right there in the water."

Inigo stared. His mouth dropped open as he considered Dave's words. "Man," he said.

"They don't respect us, and if I set the fastest time it only means they've got rank amateurs signing up for this thing."

"There's still prize money."

"No one's going to come watch us race."

"It's part of the theme park."

"Looky lous," Dave said. "They don't pay. Not us. I doubt it anyway."

"No, but the gambling keeps them afloat. Every race there has a line. It goes global."

Dave couldn't believe it. He felt stupid. Incredibly, beyond belief stupid. If global odds-makers listed him on their betting slates, then his anonymity had just vanished forever. The careful plans Ajax had made to protect them from whatever horrors lurked in the dark shadows of the world, now gone, burned to nothing, vaporized in an instant.

He had no idea what to do, nor what to say. Ajax would kill him. He'd freak. All trust between them would vanish along with their anonymity.

As the truth of it set in, Dave realized he had to keep this secret. He lacked the courage to tell Ajax, and he had to hope he would never find out, that instead the disaster would come and go, and pass like a warship in the night with its guns unused.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Page 13 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

In the split second he had to see what happened and find a way around it, Dave figured those two cars had collided, maybe even locked bumpers as they each jockeyed for the better position going into the jigger. One spun out, and caused the other to do the same, so now they blocked the entire track as he barreled toward them at 202 MPH. He wouldn't hit 220.

He braked, hard, then did the only possible thing. He left the track, taking the P5 out over the grass.

The AC buffers chopped up the dirt and the greenery pretty bad, like a sausage meat machine from one of those old children's songs. He slowed as if the air around him had turned into soup. He'd have come to a dead stop if his high speed going into the mess hadn't given him enough momentum to ride it out, then steer without much control back onto the track. It wobbled and wavered, but Dave managed the deal, well enough that his machine felt like a friend as he hit the uphill section and continued his flight along the official course.

The rest of the race he had to push it to the edge. A sheer focus of the will, a conscious pumping of the adrenaline to accomplish a two, maybe two and a half minute task, so by the time he crossed the finish line he felt emotionally exhausted, with armpits exuding smelly sweat.

Some test run. He'd be lucky to make the cut. He knew it. After he returned to the pit and got out, the grave face of Inigo, the serious frown of Brown Bart, both told him what he had already concluded. No good. Done. Go home. No AC, no race, no nothing.

"Not bad kid," Brown Bart said. "If this time holds up you'll have pole position."

"What are you talking about? That sucked." Dave had no deference left in him, too much adrenaline racing through his system.

"Dave, you did good," Inigo said.

Then why did Inigo look scared?

"I don't understand. What's going on?" There was, after all, a chance here that Brown Bart wasn't just mocking him.

"You got the best time so far of all the qualifiers kid. You're in," Brown Bart said.

"With this car too?" Dave said. It felt like pressing his luck, but he didn't care. They'd made a deal before the race. Why did Inigo look so worried?

"Course. Unless you get some other option I don't know about," Bart said.

"It's win or retire for me."

"You're too young to retire. Don't ever say that," Bart said.

Dave wanted to say you have no idea, but held his tongue. Instead, he said, "I kind of have to win." He held out the keys for Bart.

"Keep them. For now," Bart said.

As he watched Brown Bart corral Inigo, still calling him Rummy, Dave had a queasy feeling. They went inside. He stayed outside.

Whatever deal Inigo made to get the P5, Dave didn't think he'd like it.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Page 12 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

The sun glared at him through the windshield as he eased forward. A subtle shift occurred from hard asphalt tarmac to soft concrete race course. The machine felt lighter, yet with more traction, more control. It hummed a different tune as if singing to him its gratitude that it could do what it was meant to do after a long dusty detention in the confines of a pit cell.

Dave pressed the pedal to the floor. Might as well open this baby up, and see how much love she had to give.

As he approached the top, he felt heavy inside, like carrying the weight of Brown Bart's gaze, and anyone else trying to judge him, or prejudge him because of Inigo. He kept hard on the pedal, as if he could outrun the feeling. This put him up tight to the curve. He had to brake pretty quick, because as the hill hit top it bent into a full 180 degree turn. He almost skidded off track. Wouldn't want old Brown Bart to see that with his squinty eyes.

Around the bend and free of Bart's gaze, he accelerated down a steep hill into a little left-right jigger at the bottom as he crossed a river of salt water. It turned out the river had a bed just four inches below the surface. They'd painted the soft concrete sea blue to create the illusion of depth. It allowed him to maintain speed. Back up now, the big hill, covered on both sides with a brief lawn and thick stands of pine, which like the river bed he could tell weren't real, just more amusement park fakery.

He made a few turns at the top, then a hairy downhill hard left, much more dangerous than the similar one at Laguna Mojado, into a gentle descent, a turn back, and a long straightaway in the center of the river. A lot of viewing stands lined both sides of this section of track, particularly as it curved into a final uphill climb to the starting line. They liked to see the splashes.

A very sharp double curve, first right, then left, forced him to slow to almost nothing as he took the hill and entered the home stretch. All told, maybe a four mile circuit. He'd topped out at 199, not 220. Either the AC needed tuning, or Brown Bart had lied.

He found them standing right where he left them as he zipped by. Brown Bart held a stopwatch.

Time to prove himself. He slowed into that early 180, a little too much because he knew it mattered more now, then he straightened out for the rapid descent, intending to push it above 200 this time.

Up ahead he saw them. Crap. two more ACs were using the track. How was he supposed to set a trial time with that going on? Nothing like making it easy on him.

Those other two didn't even look like they were racing. At sea level they slowed, a lot. He came up on them fast.

Too fast.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Page 11 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

The P5 had two seats and room for little else. You could barely stuff a hand bag in the space behind each seat, while an overlarge person would get their knees perpetually knocked by the dashboard. Even so, the under- carriage took up more square footage than any jetter.

As he slipped into the cracked leathery seat, he felt like an adult who'd just stepped out of the playpen of childhood. It felt good. It felt right, like an opportunity now within his grasp, that once-in-a-lifetime chance to prove he could rise above the competition, that whatever talent he possessed he also had a will to direct it, channel it, drive it while jockeying for position against fierce competition. The machine beneath him, and around him, he wielded like a tool, hands on the steering wheel, ready to face not only the inert track, but the dangers posed by opponents, imagined for the moment, but real enough soon enough, other drivers who would do him in, sink him like a stone if they could.

And he'd do the same to them.

It felt like power, the kind that all men, all women, chased as if it were the hope of their lives. It felt dangerous, exulting, sinful, and wonderful all at once.

"Hey kid," Brown Bart said, and rapped his knuckles on the window. "You going to roll that thing over or what?"

"Sorry." Dave wanted to lower the window, but he couldn't till he turned the key. The engine clicked, then softly sputtered into a low hum and gentle vibration. It lived. It rose of its own accord off the soft concrete blocks. As it lifted, the hum increased until the power gauge showed a surge and then a steady output.

Dave lowered the window.

"Once around for warmers," Bart said. "Then again, to see if you can qualify."

"Which direction?"

"What do you mean?"

"Around the track." Dave pointed with both hands. "Which way?"

Black Bart grinned, and laughed out loud. It made Dave feel small and stupid.

Bart put an arm on the roof, and leaned closer to Dave. "Listen, son, I'm happy to take your money. More for me. But maybe you're a little past your comfort zone here."

"I'm good."

"You sure? Once he hands me that card, there's no refund. You fail to qualify, I keep the money."

It didn't seem normal, or fair, but Dave held his tongue. Brown Bart and Inigo, Rummy, had a history. His best way to help his friend, and himself, was on the track.

"I came here to race," Dave said.

"Pull her out. You start uphill." Brown Bart tapped the roof.

Dave waited for the man to step off, then he set the P5 in reverse, and backed from the pit to the edge of the track. Empty stands filled his rearview mirror, until he turned the wheel and put them on his left side. The pits lay up and down on the right side of the track. They'd drawn a couple of crews this morning, likely mechanics and their drivers. Tomorrow's competition, he expected. Behind the stands, and all around the edges of the track, stood tall pines, which no doubt required a ton of fresh water every day. If they were real.

Dave took a moment to breath deep, and calm his racing heart.

Here it was. The moment of truth.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Page 10 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

They had a BMW waiting for him, a nice little coupe, low to the ground, with a bulbous backend and retractable metal roof.

"Do I drive with that thing on or off? The roof I mean," Dave said as they approached the pit from the side.

It sat on soft concrete blocks in a garage stall of its own. The place looked unswept, untended, and the AC needed a good wash. He'd have to wipe down that windshield before driving it anywhere.

"It's a P5. GS class. Top speed around 220, so take her careful on the turns."

"Alright."

"Don't crack her up or you're in the deep end of it. You hear me?"

Dave rubbed his fingers along the smooth curves, until he picked up too much dirt and had to stop. On the passenger side a few dents and dings marred the view, the residue of low impact collisions.

"You're a beggar at this table kid. So's Rummy. Take it or leave it."

"When do I race?"

"Let's see if you can qualify first. You get one lap for warm up. You glide through here on a running start, and we clock you the second time around."

"What time do I have to beat?"

"Don't worry about that." Brown Bart turned to Inigo, who'd been standing to one side like the child at the table who shouldn't speak until someone asked him a question. Bart said, "Do you have the entry fee?"

"Yup," Inigo said.

"Let me see it."

"Oh." Inigo reacted like a man rousted from a daydream. He removed a cash card from his pocket.

"Is it all on there?"

"Wouldn't have come otherwise," Inigo said. He looked hurt as he put the card away.

"Key's on the rack," Bart said, and nodded toward the corner.

A single steel key hung from a small silvery hook. Dave approached it as if it marked an epic moment in his life, the stuff of stories you tell your grandchildren. He removed the key, gripped it tight in his hand and tested the door of the P5.

It opened. He only needed the key for the ignition.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Page 9 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

From the look of things, Brown Bart did not enjoy the indoors. A young man in a suit came out to greet them, led them along a hall, and then outside to the pits, where a few car jockeys worked on repairs or fine-tuning, and the occasional racer zipped by on a test run around the track.

He wore a brown Bartholomew hat made of felt, with a brim about half the diameter of a wide Mexican sombrero. Light enough to wear anywhere, it kept the sun from his flinty eyes. Two things Dave noticed at first. Bart had a perpetual squint, and he liked to have a toothpick in his mouth, as if he had grown accustomed to eating up the world, and needed to pick the detritus from his teeth to keep his smile gleamy white. Must be fake teeth.

"Rummy," he said. "You look sober."

"Paid my penance," Inigo said. "Now I'm back on my feet senor. And I bring a gift."

"Is he the gift?" Bart said.

"That depends," Inigo said.

"You're out Inigo. If I bring you back I take a risk. People don't forget. And they don't forgive."

"After all this time?"

"That don't mean squat," Bart said.

"I can make it better, if you give me a chance."

"Promise like that can get you killed."

As Dave watched the back and forth between them, he had second thoughts about taking this step with Inigo. These people had a deep history. If he entered their world he was their pawn. He would be someone for them to use and toss away unless he could prove himself worthy of better treatment.

Bart glanced at Dave. "What have you brought me?" He came closer, looking Dave up and down like a rug on sale at the market. The toothpick shifted from one side of his mouth to the other.

"My friend. David Boarder. He has more natural talent than anyone here today, I'll wager."

"That's not saying a lot," Bart said.

"I want to race and I need an AC. You give me that, and we can make a deal," Dave said.

"Why should I give you a car?"

"We want a loaner, not a gift," Inigo said, as he tried to move himself in front of Brown Bart. Dave made room for him.

"Let him talk," Bart said.

"I'm here to race," Dave said. "If I'm any good you'll want a piece of me, and the car won't matter much. You'll be glad I put it to good use."

"Hmm. I like him," Bart said. He stepped back, and raised the brim of his hat to let in the sun, which came across as a sign of surrender. Bart put hands on his hips and said, "Okay. Once around the track." He lowered the brim again. Surrender ended. "Try not to crash it."

"What am I driving?" Dave said.

"I'll show you."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Page 8 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Everywhere the LandBridge had a protective platform beneath the surrounding watery areas. It worked like the bottom of a swimming pool, except it also kept out deep sea predators and helped alleviate massive ocean swells, which could damage small boats and toss people around like ants. Generally about six feet thick, and situated from thirty to seventy yards below the waves, it helped people feel they had some measure of safety from the horrors that nature could unleash out in the middle of the ocean.

Even the monorail they'd rode this morning had a floating platform, ninety percent submerged.

As they waited for someone to answer the doorbell that Inigo had pressed, Dave wondered about Ile Malmedy. The track ran across or along the water in a wet valley between two high hills. Had they spent the money to protect the drivers, or did the deep sea offer up its own dangers in the midst of any given race?

Dave realized that, of course, they must protect the track, and the drivers, from bloody spectacle. Even if the chance remained remote, it would harm their reputation to allow shark attacks in front of thousands of fans.

He was just feeling anxious. He wanted that door to open already.

A buzzing noise prompted Inigo to turn the handle and push in. A cool blast of air conditioning hit them. Dave had not been aware of the heat and humidity until he left it behind.

"Boy, that feels good," Dave said as they approached a reception desk. Behind it hung a logo made of the words 'Ile Malmedy', with a mountain for the accent above the letter I, and a river that flowed between the two words, followed by another, larger mountain, above the letter M.

"Stay sharp. Let me do the talking unless they ask you a direct question," Inigo said, and put his hands on the counter in front of the receptionist. "We're here to see Brown Bart."

"Is he expecting you?" she said.

"For a long time. Tell him Inigo Despero is back."

Inigo either had a burst of confidence, trying to appear bigger and better then he'd felt on the ride over, or, maybe back in the day he really had cut an imposing figure as a man others respected, or feared, and now it was coming back to him. Dave hoped the latter came closer to the truth.

The receptionist made her call, repeating the phrase 'Inigo Despero is back' as requested. A moment later, she hung up, smiled, and said, "He'll be out in a moment. You can wait over there."

She indicated a small pair of blue divans under a painting of a desert with a red and orange and pink motif.

Dave could have sworn he heard a tone of mockery in her voice, and that her smile suppressed an urge to laugh out loud.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Page 7 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

As they left the tube, and transferred to a monorail that shot out over the ocean, on a direct line to Ile Malmedy, a thousand thoughts raced through Dave's mind. Inigo had given him one more mystery, one more villain, or at least a man who did something bad, and one more man either held down, or dropped down, or too wounded to rise on his own.

When they'd settled in their seats, and the monorail flew forward, Dave said, "I thought the booze ruined your life."

"The booze came after, because I couldn't handle what he did to me."

"What did he do?"

"I don't want to dwell on it Dave. I'm looking for a fresh start here. I just hope he won't hold one of those forever grudges."

"You did something to him."

"I made a mistake. What are mistakes if we can't learn from them?"

Dave let it go out of respect for his friend. Either that old mistake meant a whole lot, enough to keep them from racing, or it meant nothing, just one memory for a middle-ager, without consequence, like a gust of gale force wind now gone.

They had to climb a ton of steps at Ile Malmedy to reach the administrative offices at the top of the lower of the two hills. Dave lost track in the hundreds, and stopped counting them. At least three hundred feet, he'd wager. Maybe more.

By the time they reached the top, Inigo huffed and puffed like he might drop dead from a heart attack or heat stroke at any moment. The humidity didn't help. Dave felt sweat pouring through his shirt. Like Inigo, he wouldn't cut an impressive figure either.

"We should rest a bit, don't you think?" Dave said. "Before we go in?"

Inigo nodded. He couldn't talk, not till he caught his breath, and calmed his racing heart.

On the landing at the top of the stairs, a large patio had several empty tables bolted to the floor, where employees probably ate their lunch, or took coffee breaks. Not a soul soiled the sight. The steps discouraged looky lous. An elevator at the far end told him not everyone had to climb the steps, but it required a key to operate. Dave could see the monorail below them, and the LandBridge five miles away, but besides that beheld nothing but ocean. The magnificent theme park occupied the far side of the second and higher hill. He'd have to wait if he wanted to see it, and he might not get a chance. They weren't here for that.

Discipline, Dave reminded himself. He'd have to chuck some of life's frivolities if he intended to race for real, against legitimate pros, as a pro himself. He could reward himself with a theme park visit only after he won the race. It seemed a correct ordering of his priorities, like a man, not a child.

The front door awaited them, almost non-descript, made of opaque lavender glass, without even a sign on the door or above it. Was this it then? His first step into manhood?

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Page 6 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.
---

It took two hours going east to reach the Belgian section and Ile Malmedy. They used the tube. After he got tired of looking out the windows, which appeared at rhythmic intervals to reveal the unchanging vast expanse of blue, Dave passed time by reviewing a promotional piece on his tablet.

Ile Malmedy had a huge racing circuit that went up and down two mountainous hills separated by a valley of sea water. The AC track, however, made up only a small part of the vast resort.

They'd built it to stay in one place so, like most of the LandBridge, deep underwater cables made of hybrid steel, laced with synthetic obtainium metal, moored it to the ocean floor. They'd picked a shallow spot where the seabed, and thus the expense of affixing the moors, favored their bottom line. Underwater turbines harnessed the power of deep currents to provide energy, in addition to the usual nuclear generators. Desalinization plants gave them unlimited fresh water.

The vision of its founder and principal architect, Jean-Luc Bellesier, made it a unique global attraction. He'd stolen a page from Walt Disney, and constructed a park filled with thrilling or amusing rides. If one walked through the various themed areas in correct order, each offered an historical narrative. Taken altogether, the sections led the visitor through the story of civilization. It started with the Egyptians, then quickly graduated to Cretans, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, on and on, up through the Ages to Medieval times, and into Modern and Recent times. One could ride a death-defying roller coaster, enjoy a slow water cruise past an ancient sea battle, or discuss philosophy with an animatronic Aristotle.

The place drew millions of visitors every year. The racetrack was just a sideshow in comparison, although they let theme park attendees walk through a viewing area during live events, whether featuring pro drivers, or amateur talent showcases such as the Super Skirmish.

Alas, Dave closed his tablet. He had no money for frivolities, no matter how cool, and had crucial business to conduct.

He felt the tube slow before the actual island came into view on the horizon. It didn't look as big as he'd pictured it. Not in the distance.

Then again, Inigo sitting across from him didn't cut an imposing figure either. His suit hung from his bones, two sizes too large for him. He seemed tired, nervous, and maybe frightened by the stakes and what he had to accomplish to get his own life back on the path.

"How well do you know these guys?" Dave said.

"If he'll see me, we have to meet a man named Brown Bart."

"If he'll see you?"

"I hope he remembers."

"What?"

"He's the one who runs the track."

"And?"

"He's the one who ruined my life."


Monday, August 10, 2015

Page 5 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Pegleg lived in Goddard, a neighboring town in the local USA section of the LandBridge. One would have to hop over either Mexico, or Russia to find America again.

The residents of Goddard had more money than the residents of Aldrin. Not a lot more, but enough so that many homes had private topside lawns protected by walls. They had no need to share space with anyone.

From the sidewalk, Dave and Francy could see through the grill at the front gate. Pegleg lived in a home with one such private lawn. Rather than a series of small buildings attached to shared elevators, his parents had a mansion to themselves. A driveway led to a soft concrete circle with a fountain in the center, and marble steps rose to the large front door of a two-story home overgrown with ivy, surrounded by stately elms and oaks. Off to one side, he saw an aircar port with six high-end vehicles. A Porsche. A BMW. A Lexus. Not the richest of the rich, by any stretch, but well off compared to the rest of the world.

Rather than buzz them in, Pegleg rode out in a small AC, the kind that old men liked to putter around in on golf courses. It had four seats, but no doors, and an awning for a roof.

"Aren't we coming in?" Francy said.

Dave figured she knew him pretty well if she knew he wasn't letting them in.

Pegleg stopped sideways to the gate. The AC could turn on a dime.

"I caught the crap for everything. Rents don't want me going near my jetter, or anywhere near you." He looked at Dave first, then Francy. "He can't come in."

"Sorry," she said.

"It's fine." Dave shrugged.

Pegleg had a plastic card in his shirt pocket. He handed it through the bars. "That's the money you need," he said, then pulled it back a little. "I have one condition."

"No problem."

"I want free reign at the place, Ile Malmedy. I go in as your mechanic."

"Okay."

Dave reached out, and Pegleg gave him the money card.

"Obviously it's a secret. We have to keep it that way," Pegleg said.

"Are you a mechanic?" Dave said.

"Good enough I suppose, but it's a hobby. It'll never be my profession."

"Why do you want free reign?"

Pegleg gave Dave a look, like an assessment of the situation, and a consideration of what he wanted to say, or reveal. He turned to Francy. "I can let you in but not him, okay?"

"That's fine. He just wants the money."

Pegleg backed the glorified go-cart a few inches closer to Dave, then said, "I've never been there. Don't know when I'll get back again."

"It's a long way. Won't be easy keeping it a secret," Dave said.

"Just don't talk. And don't come here any more."

Pegleg pressed a button which opened the gate. Francy squeezed inside. She looked excited, filled with a sense of wonder, and adventure, to have entered Pegleg's secluded home. Dave liked seeing her happy like this. She'd done him a solid.

As the gate closed, and sealed shut at the magnetic locks, Dave reminded himself how glad he was that he got on well with his sister.

"I'll call you," Pegleg said.

Francy climbed in the passenger seat. The couple rode to the big house, and Dave turned away. He wondered how things had gone with Inigo. They needed that racer.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Page 4 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Dave hovered at the edge of the inner sanctum. Ajax had left the door open, and had a fan running. The room had no window, otherwise he'd have a nice cross-breeze going.

He leaned on the door jamb and said, "Do you have anyone teaching people how to race an AC?"

"Not yet." Ajax turned his nose to his numbers, counting income from his subscribers, and expenses, then making sure everything balanced.

"So you run a popular education service. Lots of subscribers. Paying customers. How do you stay anonymous?"

"It's a private education service, and I know how to keep us out of it."

"Teach me," Dave said.

"I thought you don't want to remain anonymous. You can't stay hidden if people see your face."

"Can't drive in a mask. That's true. It's just for summer anyway." Dave checked his fingernails for dirt, and to see if they'd overgrown.

"What is it Dave?" Ajax closed his touch-pad ledger on the desk.

"I need money. For the race."

"How much?"

"Entrance fee. Five hundred."

"Your friend Pegleg owes you. Get it from him."

Dave frowned. "You're right." He wished he'd thought of it.

"I know you're thinking about making this a career Dave. Skipping out on college. Going for the big time. Chasing a dream. That's all okay, but you need to learn about the risk of loss. Of failure. And you need to see how hard you'll have to work just to scrape out a living while everyone else has their hand out demanding more from you."

"I know. And I'm not asking you for money."

"You were."

"I don't want your money. I'll find a way."

Dave did want the last word however, so he left, and found Francy on the phone with one of her friends. She sat at the dining room table doing her nails at the same time, so he'd have to wait, maybe pantomime that he needed to talk to her, and hope she didn't make it a long one.

"What?" she said, "Not you. It's my brother."

"I need your help. I need to talk to Pegleg."

"Got to go," she said into the phone, and hung up half a second after her friend Suzie started to ask why.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Page 3 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

On a small service road under the clear blue sky, a place bordered by high walls that protected the privacy of neighborhood inhabitants, Inigo stood at an iron rail, weeds around his feet, overlooking the Pacific from the upper rim of the LandBridge. The day had brought with it heat and humidity. His clothes felt damp and sticky. He needed another shower, and felt self-conscious about it for the first time since he could remember. A good thing, maybe, he thought.

He turned away from the view and found, embedded in one of the walls, the side entrance to the property shared by the Boarders and their neighbors. A long list of names greeted him on the placard beside the door. He pressed the appropriate button, and waited.

He'd hoped they'd buzz him in. Instead, a few minutes later the door opened, and Dave stepped out.

"Are we still on?" Inigo said.

"Yes. I want to give this a try. Just don't want to antagonize Ajax."

"He doesn't want me in the house, does he?"

"He's an old guy. You know."

Dave made sure the door clicked shut, and then walked away from it with Inigo. "So how does this work?" he said.

"I have this." Inigo dug around in his breast pocket for a folded, soiled piece of blue paper that he'd taken from a public notice board. He extended it as is, but before Dave could grab it he decided to unfold it first to make a better, more respectable impression.

The flyer, the size of a regular sheet of paper, had gotten wet and frayed a bit at the edges. It promoted something called the "Super Skirmish" and depicted several popular aircar brands racing around a track called Ile Malmedy. It showed water and a very large hill as part of the track. In bold it said, "AMATEUR RACE. CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Have you got the skills?" At the bottom it said, "Betting allowed," in large letters.

"Ile Malmedy pulls in the crowds. They make most of their money on the booze, and the gambling."

"What do you get if you win?"

"They put all the entry fees in a pot. Winner gets half the pot."

"It's five hundred dollars. I don't have that," Dave said.

"You don't have an AC either."

Dave looked Inigo up and down. Underdressed, Inigo felt the need to make up for it with an obsequious manner. Like Dave would only otherwise see the wrong side of him. The weak side. The impression might never change, not unless they won that purse.

"Can't race without an AC. What do we do?" Dave said.

The question itself gave Inigo a little steam. He'd always had a handle on the substance of the business. "I know someone at the track. I'll talk to him."

"Dressed like that?"

"Dave, I've been under the Bridge. I don't have a wardrobe. Maybe you could get me that."

"You're not my size."

Inigo looked himself over. The young man and he probably weighed the same, but Dave had a stockier frame and more muscle. "What about Ajax?" he said.

"It'll hang loose," Dave said. "You're pretty skinny. And he won't let me. No way."

"So don't tell him." He watched Dave blink as discomfort swept in. "Just get me some clothes," Inigo said.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Page 2 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

---

Dave stood in the doorway of the inner sanctum, the room Ajax kept and forbade anyone else from entering without an invite. Actually, two doors with two different locks, one opening inward, the other outward. The outer door was almost always open. Ajax only ever closed it when he traveled.

Though he knew Inigo had been granted an audience, Dave dared not assume he could come in until Ajax gave express permission. It was a rule. No sense antagonizing his guardian.

Ajax sat at his chair in front of his computer, watching Dave at the door, but saying nothing. Gathering his thoughts perhaps.

"Can I come in?" Dave said.

Ajax extended a hand to the empty leather armchair, then swiveled on his rollers so they could talk while facing one another.

Dave sat on the edge of the seat, barely using it at all, and leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. "He thinks I can race," he said.

"I know."

"How does he know enough to know that?"

"He's been following you."

"Yes, but... you know what I mean. How does he know stuff?"

Ajax had a tight smile, with a touch of sadness at the corners. "You want to race more than anything right now."

"My last summer."

"Okay. As long as you understand that, we can proceed."

"Was he some old pro or something? Like a retired racer?"

"I've been verifying what he told me." Ajax swiveled again, and brought up an image on screen of a much younger Inigo, brimming with life, and confidence. He had his arm around a man in a racing suit.

"Wow." Dave rolled his chair closer to see better.

"Meet the real Inigo Despero. Former manager on the pro circuit. He handled a stable of roughly twenty drivers, ushered them through the Amateur and Pro/Am ranks, and then usually took a buyout when they made the big time. It was his job, before he fell from grace to his present stature, to identify up-and-coming amateur talent, drivers like yourself, and nurture them along."

"And he wants me?"

"He was very good at his job. He's credited with discovering some of your favorites. Lionel Augstrasse and Dominic Valjean."

"No shit?... Sorry."

"To answer your question, yes, he wants you."

"What do you say?" Dave pushed his chair back to where it started, and then used more of it this time to sit.

"We both know how this ends up if I let you race for him this summer. Time'll come for you to leave, and he won't want you to go. You might think you don't want to go."

"Shouldn't I try it out, just so I can know for sure what I want?"

"This business of racing isn't all glamour and getting your picture on a poster. It churns people up and tosses them away. He's just one example."

"But I can try. For the summer."

"Yes."

Dave pumped his fist. "Thank you." He rose, shook Ajax's hand, and headed out the door.

"Dave. You'll be eighteen before the summer is out. When the time comes to decide you won't have to ask my permission, but you will have to live with the consequences of any choice you make."

"I know."

"No, you don't. That's part of being young."

Dave remained motionless, just staring, and with no clue what to say.

"It's okay," Ajax said. "Go ahead."

A minute later, Dave draped a green towel over the balcony rail.



Far below, on the beach where they'd met earlier that day, Inigo saw the towel.

He smiled. The wind brought a tear to his eye, and he had to wipe his nose.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Page 1 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.

---

Dave drank the last dregs of the second soda almost as fast as he'd done the first. On the table on the balcony he put it. Two empty tumblers with used ice sat together in the melting warmth of the setting sun.

"I'd need a better jetter. I mean my Freman, it's nice, for tooling around, but I can't believe it would..."

"You're right," Inigo said. "You'd need a proper aircar, for starters. They don't race jetters at Ile Malmedy." He straightened his neck and looked around the patio, then beyond at the neighborhood balconies. "You guys seem to be doing okay."

"No. There's no way. We're not rich. I can't just buy a racer."

"Ajax made that clear, but if you're interested it is possible, sometimes, to either rent a car just for one race, or, to purchase a share in a car."

"You mean share with other drivers?"

"Yes."

"What if they crack it up, or want it the same day I do?"

"Yes. It's always best if you can own your own. Even if it's used that's the best choice. Of course you'd need somewhere to keep it, and you'd need a mechanic, unless you could do it yourself, which I doubt, because you've never even seen the innards of a racer, have you?"

"No."

"I could ask around. Make inquiries."

"Inigo, you're homeless. I mean, I appreciate all this praise, and strategizing and stuff, but what are you doing here? What are you trying to do?"

"I want to help you realize your potential."

"Forget about me for a minute. What about you?"

"Ajax has raised you well. You're a lot like him."

"He's not my father," Dave said.

"No. I understand. He's your guardian."

"So how do you help me in this? I mean after tonight, what are you going to do?"

"If I help you, and you win..." Inigo leaned back. "There's a small prize. A small amount of money."

"You want it."

"A piece. I just want a piece of it."

"There must be easier ways for you to make a living."

"I'm not trying to make a living. I'm trying to make something of myself by helping you make something of yourself."

"How can you do that?"

Inigo blinked, as if Dave had just stabbed him with a knife, and he needed to pull it out before he replied. "Ask Ajax," he said.

"Why don't you tell me?"

"I think you won't believe me."

Inigo put hands on hips, and stood up. Dave had to crane his need to keep eyes on him. It hurt. He stood, to stay even.

"How do I contact you?" Dave said.

"You have to decide first if you want to race, and if you want my help. Those are two different things. I could come by again and ask Ajax, or, you could hang a towel over the edge of the rail at sunset. If it's green, I'll know we're on. Any other color, like red, we're not."

"If it's green, tomorrow, I'll want to see you..."

"No problem." Inigo tipped his head with fingers touching an imaginary brim.

As he watched Inigo cross to the balcony door, Dave said, "You know, you're a lot different when you're not... nervous."

The moment after he said it, Dave saw Inigo tense up from behind, as if his other self were a liability and he needed to hide it, but he couldn't.

After Inigo left, Dave stood alone with nothing to ponder but his racing thoughts, and the caw of a distant sea gull. He'd already decided on the color of the towel.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Page 37 of Dave Adventure - Episode 1
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning.

---

"Francy, could you get us some soft drinks?" Dave said as he reached the sliding door. She held ground on the couch.

"No."

"Please?"

She groaned, but rose and trudged to the kitchen.

On the patio they sat, Dave and Inigo. Just about the longest day of the year in June, the sun had another three hours at least before it went to bed. It felt warm. Dave liked it. He craved a soda, something with sugar and caffeine.

"Ajax is very protective of you," Inigo said.

"You think?" Dave grinned.

"It's understandable. People can go anywhere in the world these days. They can cause harm and go anywhere else. Just disappear. It's important to take precautions."

"I'd wager he asked for your family history going back three generations."

"Chiapas State, Mexico. And he did. That was just for starters," Inigo said, laughing.

Dave liked him. In spite of his situation, homeless, and whatever else ailed him, Inigo didn't seem weighed down by anger. He posed no visible threat.

"Okay. You have a proposal?" Dave said.

The door opened. Francy brought two sodas in two glasses with ice. Without a word she set them on the table between Dave and Inigo.

"Thank you," Inigo said.

"Thank Dave," she said, and left.

"My sister," Dave said by way of apology.

Inigo ignored the drink. Dave sipped at his, then gulped it as Inigo spoke.

He said, "I watched you race, twice, against someone who should have kicked your ass both times. The difference between a Freman and a Nooner is like that." Inigo extended his hands out to either side, then lowered them. "It's night and day. You have a talent. A rare talent. I'm here because I think I can help you put it to good use."

Dave finished his drink. He pointed at Inigo's glass. "Are you going to have that?"

"No. It's yours."

Dave grabbed it, and tried to fill his new found insatiable thirst.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Page 36 of Dave Adventure - Episode 1
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning.

---

The way Ajax had said the word "guest" had an undertone of mockery to it, gentle mockery. It bounced around inside Dave's head, and gave him doubts while he waited. The meeting behind closed doors allowed no sound to emerge nor to give him a clue as to the nature of their discussion. For all he knew, the homeless man would excuse himself and leave after his exit from an Ajax interrogation.

"You look worried," Francy said, oblivious as she plopped in front of the TV.

"What did you tell him?"

"Was I supposed to keep something a secret?"

"I'm waiting for the verdict." He pointed at the door to the office, the inner sanctum of Ajax.

"Are they in there?"

"Yes," Dave said. She could be so annoying sometimes.

The door opened, sparing Dave an argument with his sister. The homeless man emerged, though Ajax held the door.

He'd undergone a remarkable transformation since earlier that day, with clean clothes in a pale shade of ivory, fold marks and a few stains here and there, but otherwise unwrinkled. He'd showered, probably by jumping in the ocean and swimming around a bit. His dark Mexican skin looked cleaner, and shinier, without dirt smudges. Also, he'd run a comb through his hair, slicking it back, where it held in position, still wet, possibly aided by a gel.

Ajax wore no smile, but had a respectful tone when he said, "Meet Inigo Despero. He has a proposal for you Dave, and then he will leave. Dave, you will hear his proposal, and then you will let him go without answering. You will inform me of your decision, and I will get word to Inigo. Are we all agreed?"

"Yes sir," Inigo said.

Dave shrugged. "Sure."

"If you want privacy, you can use the patio."

Inigo hesitated to make that first step.

Dave realized he needed to take the lead, so he pointed. "It's this way."

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Page 35 of Dave Adventure - Episode 1
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning.

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Dave had the jetter on the widest section of the dock in the wet garage. He'd opened the doors to let the sun in so he could see better how it looked as he waxed the body. It gave him a deep satisfaction when the double layer of paint started to sparkle. All the elbow grease felt good. So preoccupied did this effort make him, that he did not notice the footsteps at first, nor the man who approached with slow, deliberate steps.

Dave looked up and saw Ajax on his final steps. The sight gave him pause, a brief moment of fear, the kind that lingers in the stomach. He felt as if the man was sizing him up with every stride.

"Hi," Dave said.

Ajax stopped and gave Dave's handiwork a cursory up and down check, then said, "They say a man cares for his ride the way he cares for himself."

"Oh yeah?" Dave rubbed extra hard. It quickened his breath.

"Have you had a sudden jolt of self worth that you should dive right into this project without warning?"

"I just want it to look good." Dave stopped, and peered up at Ajax from bended knee. "Police impound scuffed it up a bit."

"Dave, if there's something going on..."

"I'm fine. I'm just having fun. It's relaxing."

"I paid that man a very large sum. I am now watching you have your fun while you hide things from me."

Dave sat back on his heels. His fear now had a reason. Ajax wanted the truth.

"No one knew you had that much money," Dave said.

Ajax seemed surprised. He took a deep breath and glanced around the room. Was he worried someone might overhear? He said, "The truth is what matters Dave. Now you know the truth about me. Yes I have, had, some money tucked away. For emergencies. I've kept it in gold. It's untraceable. I might add that I have considerably less of that money now that I've had to dip in and waste a considerable portion of it on frivolous games."

Dave cast his eyes on the water, then tossed his rag on the deck.

"Now it's your turn," Ajax said.

"I went to Mexico so I could race Pegleg without any problems. It was a one-time thing and now it's over."

"If you had been arrested in Mexico it could have been a rather difficult problem, I'd say."

"We had permission. It was on private property."

"And now it's over?"

"Yeah."

"Did you win this match, or lose it?"

Dave didn't want to say. The thought of losing the way he had... he wanted nothing more than to blot out that memory with a big victory.

"I see," Ajax said, apparently a mind reader. "So why do you have homeless men bothering you and your sister on the beach? Scaring her quite a bit I might add."

"I don't know."

"You don't know."

"He wouldn't say."

"Is it about racing?"

"Yes."

"When he comes I will have a talk with him. Alone. Is that understood?"

"But I want to hear what he has to say."

"Yes, and you will, but only after I talk to him."

Dave let his shoulders sag. He felt the steam leaving him, along with his desire to finish the wax job. Whatever the homeless man might have to say, and more important whatever Ajax had to say to him, mattered more than anything. The trajectory of his summer, of his passion, might get sent off on a tangent.

"It's almost five," Ajax said, and turned away. "You should get ready to receive your guest."