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Friday, September 18, 2015

Page 36 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.

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The LandBridge had plenty of local jails, one for every cluster of townships. For anyone authorities intended to lock up more than six months or a year, however, they transported each offender away from the LandBridge to a Federal or National prison within their country of origin.

A week after Dave won his first trophy at Ile Malmedy, and had to leave for home without visiting the lustrous theme park, a small prison in Belgium opened its doors to release a criminal on parole.

If they'd convicted him of any one of the many violent crimes he'd committed, they could have kept him forever. As it stood, they had him on illegal gambling and money laundering. Hence his eligibility for parole in a crowded prison system.

So Jabal Coronish walked free.

Once clear of the prison walls, he stood alone in the visitor parking lot carrying a small bag of personal items. He looked around growing more and more pissed off.

No one had bothered to show up for his release. Not even Crank.

***

[This concludes Episode 2 of Dave Adventure. I'm busy writing Episode 3, and will release all 14 episodes whenever they're finished.]

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Page 35 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.

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"It's convenient you brought that," Pegleg said. He pointed to the laser lock-opener.

"Not a coincidence." Ajax nodded at the door. "In case he's packing a gun, I'll push it open. Stay to the side until I indicate otherwise."

Pegleg nodded.

Ajax pushed. The door swung into a dimly lit room. A single fluorescent blub hung from the ceiling. A man sat beneath it in a chair, his head rolled forward, either hurt or unconscious... or acting.

Ajax gathered it all in from his side of the doorway. He listened, then relaxed, and entered while expected a blindside attack. It never came.

"Help him," he said.

Pegleg ran to the man in the chair, Inigo, beaten to a pulp. Three teeth lay scattered on the floor where they'd fallen alongside blood droplets. Pegleg untied the ropes that bound Inigo's hands and legs to the chair.

Meanwhile, Ajax checked the back door, deep in a shadowy corner. Unlocked, it led to a long, empty corridor. He heard and saw no one.

Rather than chase after whoever might have hurt Inigo, probably Crank or one of his thugs, Ajax rejoined Pegleg. Inigo rubbed at sore wrists, and grinned through a cracked and swollen mouth. Gaps had replaced some of his teeth.

"Tell Dave I'm proud of him," Inigo said.

"You're a good man, and you're in our care now," Ajax said.

"Thank you," Inigo said.

"This could have been worse. A whole lot worse without your quick thinking Grant," Ajax said.

"You think he'll leave us alone?" Pegleg said.

"Today he will, yeah. This isn't a display of muscle. It's a man overplaying a weak hand. We'll be okay," Ajax said.

He surveyed the room, for the first time noticing what it contained, stacks of structural items like wood planks, metal pipes, and scaffolding, a worn out chassis in one corner, old aluminum drums, and a pair of cannibalized ACs, one on the floor, the other on a lift. If Crank or his man wanted, they could have hidden somewhere in this room and gone undetected so far.

Pegleg helped Inigo rise to his feet.

"He won't forget," Inigo said. He pointed to his own face. "This wasn't just for today. This was for old times sake. The Welcome Wagon." He laughed, but had to grimace from the pain it caused.

"I'd say it's time we leave this place," Ajax said. "Get everyone home."

They turned off the light as they left, but let the door stay open.

Crank, who had been hiding behind several large concrete pipes, stepped out. Only the bare bulb from the hallway reached his angry eyes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Page 34 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.

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Pegleg watched the end of the race on his phone. "Dave won," he said.

He and Ajax had already found a service staircase, and descended to the first of two lower floors. Ajax opened locked doors with some laser beam gadget that looked illegal. Pegleg didn't ask whether it was or not. They'd searched several offices, a bathroom, a janitorial closet, and come up empty. It was on the way to the bottom floor of the service staircase that Dave crossed the finish line way out in front.

"He thinks we have this handled," Pegleg said.

"It's good of you not to let him throw his first race." Ajax pointed his laser and unlocked the bottom door in the stairwell.

"It made Inigo the scapegoat."

"You'll find people do that. All the time," Ajax said.

"What do you think Crank'll do to him?"

"I didn't meet him. What do you think?"

"I don't know."

"Let's find him first," Ajax said, and pushed through the door.

They walked along a wide but dim hallway. It had tire tracks on a concrete floor. Someone still used old technology here, perhaps equipment-moving dollies, or people-moving golf carts. Bare bulbs threw small pools of light down the front of a few doors. Boxes, crates, and AC junk sat stacked in various places. Clearly, facility staff used this area for storage.

Ajax opened the nearest door on his right, then flipped the light switch. When the bare bulb flickered on, he saw a bunch of old race cars, the kind that sat on wheels, ran on gasoline, and polluted the air with carbon monoxide. No sounds rose from within the room, however, no Crank, no Inigo.

They proceeded to the next door. Ajax readied the laser, then paused. He put an ear to the door... then a finger to his lips. Pegleg nodded.

"I hear voices," Ajax whispered, and ever-so-slowly used his laser to unlock the way.

When the bolt clicked open, it felt like a cannon going off.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Page 33 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.

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"I'm here now," Ajax said as he crossed from the pit tarmac into the garage. He stopped to gaze directly into Francy's eyes. "That means you go back."

"I want to help."

"You can, by marching straight back to your seat where you can root for your brother."

"What about Inigo?"

"Grant stays with me, only because he knows the layout of this place. I will take care of this."

"It's not fair," she said on her first step around him as she obeyed his instructions.

"Francy, don't worry. We'll find him." Pegleg sounded conciliatory toward his girlfriend.

"I want to go too, but he won't let me." She didn't even look at her boyfriend.

Pegleg joined Ajax. They watched until she went around the corner.

"She could have put up a bigger fight," Pegleg said. "You're lucky."

"Thank you for not encouraging her to do so," Ajax said.

"Race is almost over."

Ajax turned, and headed for a corner door. "As I understand it, Dave can't win. If he does..."

"He will."

"In that case they will hurt Inigo, in part due to his history with them."

"They may not just stop at Inigo. It probably depends on how much money they lose."

Ajax put a hand on the corner doorknob, but he held it shut. "Where do you think they are?"

"I don't know," Pegleg said.

"What's your best guess?"

"Somewhere in the bowels of these offices. Behind locked doors."

"So we search for locked doors, and we start on stairs that go down," Ajax said.

"Yes."

Ajax turned the handle, and pushed through the corner door.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Page 32 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.

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The eighteenth lap arrived, and Dave had extended his lead to a significant margin. It looked like an easy win for him. The race announcer extolled his virtues as an unknown phenomenon shot from out of the deep blue sea so that when Dave passed the main viewing stands people stood, waved, and whistled with the fervor of new fans.

Dave made the first turn of lap nineteen before the next closest AC, the Porsche, reached the stands. A gripping battle raged for second, third and fourth place with the Series J and a Charioteer.

Once Dave had driven out of sight, Ajax arose and said, "I have to go. You stay here with Recant."

Hep stared up at him, no fool. "Is Inigo going to be okay?"

"That's why I have to go. To make sure he's okay."

"We'll be fine. Someone has to stay and watch Dave win. It's an important job," Recant said.

"Will you be back in time?" Hep said.

Ajax smiled and said, "I'll try. I want to see him win too." He sidled out to the end of the aisle.

As he worked his way up to the promenade, then along its length to another aisle, down a ramp to the tunnel, then to the pits on the other side of the track, Ajax had ample time to think through what he needed to do. He had several options. For one, he could simply search the facility with Pegleg until they found Inigo. He could also phone that gambler with the sailboat, Vitaly Yorga, who had taken his gold and might be bought off with another chunk. Unfortunately, there was no way to tell how much influence Yorga could wield over Crank and his staff, especially when it came to matters of retribution. Any attempt to contact Yorga also opened Inigo up to new and unwanted risks. As another option, Ajax could try to determine whatever losses Crank would suffer if Dave won, a likely event at the moment, and then offer to make good on them. No doubt this would please Crank, but, as he had risked with Vitaly Yorga, the gesture might invite unwanted attention from any number of known or unknown but nefarious characters, not to mention it would provoke earnest questions from Dave, Francy, and Hep.

Ajax wished he had bodyguards and muscle of his own. As things stood, a few tough guys in his employ could make life flow a whole lot smoother.

He didn't like any of the options that he could come up with, so he decided to pursue the least objectionable, option one. He and Pegleg would search for Inigo.

He just needed a way to keep Francy out of danger while they searched.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Page 31 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.

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Dave passed the Series J on the twelfth lap, on the big downhill. He found the inside of the turn, churned up a touch of grass, though not enough to slow him down, and then rode it out. Series J fought it, which made Dave's job easier, and taught him a lesson in how even supposedly wily veterans can make amateur mistakes. Then again, the Series J wasn't a wily pro. He was a wily amateur.

It worked this way, as Dave held the inside, the vet tried to force him off the track. All the torque on the turn worked against Series J in this vain pursuit. Maybe he thought he could just cut Dave off, but he failed in that too. As a result, Dave increased his own speed coming out of the turn, in part by bouncing off the Series J. As the AC on the outside, and bearing the combined centrifugal force of both vehicles, Series J could brake, hard and fast, or he could lose control and spin onto the wide gravel shoulder.

He spun out.

He spun out so bad, it looked like he'd wind up in third place behind the Porsche.

Dave had gained a gargantuan lead by the end of the twelfth, so if he threw this race people would know. It would look like he threw it, and might even prompt an investigation, or so he told himself.

Once he found himself in first place, however, Dave knew in his heart he couldn't give it up. It wasn't in him to let a driver win when that driver hadn't earned it. The prospect of an invite to a Pro-Am event loomed on the horizon as well, just around the next corner, and it encouraged him to keep going, following his natural impulse to end with a victory.

He phoned Pegleg.

"Find him yet?" Dave said.

"I called Recant. He's telling Ajax."

Dave hated the idea. "Good idea," he said, and knew it was true the moment the thought passed his lips.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Page 30 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.

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Before he went anywhere, or did anything else, Pegleg phoned Dave again. Dave answered using the built in speaker phone.

"Hey," Dave said.

"You going to pass this guy, or what?" Pegleg said. He had the Jumbotron looming above the track where he stood on the tarmac. Dave's front bumper almost kissed the Series J rear.

"I've heard some people have managers that talk them through the race, discussing strategy... or the weather," Dave said.

"Is that what you want from your mechanic?"

"Where's Inigo?"

"We don't know. Hiding, or..."

"You think they have him somewhere?"

"We got some help. A little pushback from a big gambler. Vitaly Yorga."

"Then why is Inigo missing?"

"Don't know. We're flying blind here a little. Like you."

"You telling me it's okay to win this thing, right?"

"It might be."

"Do me a favor man. Find Inigo before this ends. Put him with Ajax and Recant. You guys all stick together."

"What about you?" Pegleg said.

"If I win I'll be in the spotlight for a while. They won't be able to touch me."

"What about after?"

"I don't know," Dave said. "You said you had help. Why don't you see how much help? If the security staff won't let us leave the island, we've got trouble."

"Might be better if you don't win. Just let it go."

"You'll see what I do when I do it. Meantime, find Inigo."

Dave hung up the phone and pondered his situation. He knew he could pass the Series J on this twelfth lap, but the guy might play dirty, and knock him off the track. It wasn't just a question of passing him. He had to do it quick and clean.

Once he knew he had the guy, once he knew he could win, it might be a little easier to let go of the need he felt inside, to fall back again, and come in second. Afterwards, he could claim mechanical failure.

There was only one problem with this strategy. He wouldn't get the win. You had to get the win if you wanted an invitation to a Pro-Am event.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Page 29 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.

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By the start of the eleventh lap, it had turned into a two car race. The Porsche had tried to recover from its off-track incident, but only fell further and further behind. Meantime, Dave trailed the Series J by twenty to thirty yards and had just rounded the first bend at the kind of clip that could close the gap. The crowd enjoyed this head-to-head matchup on the Jumbotrons, as it gave every appearance of turning into a photofinish nailbiter.

Recant and Hep had rejoined Ajax in the bleachers, and all three licked tall ice cream cones to feed their enthusiasm. Lemonade cups sat empty on the concrete beneath their feet.

Pegleg had already spoken to Dave, given him the lowdown, and put the decision to win or lose in his hands where it belonged. With the thin hope that one of the thugs, Vitaly Yorga, might get Crank to leave them alone, Dave probably had an easy decision. Of course he would try to win.

Francy had joined Pegleg in the pit garage, but Inigo had disappeared.

"I'm worried," Francy said.

"He tried to sabotage the car. Dave has to fire him anyway," Pegleg said. "What do you care?"

"It's not right what they did to him. We can't let them do it again."

"These people aren't High School bullies Fran." He pulled her closer to where he stood beside the workbench until she leaned into his body, then he kissed her forehead.

She pressed into him, letting him hug her closer. "It's not right. He's a good man."

"I thought you hated him," Pegleg said.

She sniffled. He lifted her chin with his hand and saw tears.

"He's trying so hard," she said. "People keep putting him down."

"It's what people do. Believe me, he'd have caused Dave to lose that race to save his own skin."

"That's only because he has no friends. He doesn't have anyone."

"What do you want me to do?" Pegleg said. "Say I lied about him sabotaging the AC?"

"No." She looked at his chest and fiddled with his shirt.

"Then what?"

"Can you talk to Dave?"

"You mean so he won't get rid of him?"

Francy nodded, then looked into his eyes, in case words failed to convince him.

"Okay, but that'll have to wait. If Dave wins, we still have to leave here in one piece."

"With Inigo," she said.

"With Inigo. If we can find him."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Page 28 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.

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Pegleg waited for the face to show full in the frame of his phone.

"Hello sir, Mister Yorga. Do you remember me?"

"You like to play with sharks, kid? Is that it?"

"Sir, I'm just trying to avoid another mishap that might cost you money. I'd rather you think of me as once bitten, twice shy."

"You got my ears. Keep talking," Vitaly Yorga said.

"If you bet on the races today at Ile Malmedy there's a good chance you'll lose. Big time."

"Go on."

Pegleg felt a sudden wash of relief. If Vitaly Yorga hadn't bet on Ile Malmedy, he would've said so and ended the conversation.

"They're trying to rig the race. The favorite has been threatened. He's a heavy favorite, and they want him to lose."

"Who wants him to lose?"

"Some guy named Crank."

"Hold on."

Vitaly Yorga walked away from the screen. Pegleg saw boats, and water, and a stretch of the LandBridge. He'd reached the guy on his sailboat, probably on the embedded screen near the steering wheel.

It took a few minutes. Francy cupped his face in her hands, raised it to her mouth, and kissed him on the lips. He appreciated the gesture, but it felt like a desperate hope motivated her, and her knuckles reminded him of prayer beads.

A blur crossed the screen, then Yorga reappeared, his face much closer than the first time.

"Grant, is this kid Dave Boarder a friend of yours?"

"I'm his mechanic."

"If he loses you'll all wish you were dead."

"Sir, if I tell him he's dead if he loses, when he's already been told he's dead if he wins, how does he process that?"

"I don't care. You make him win. Or else."

"I don't know how. That's why I called you."

Yorga's eyes went a little bloodshot angry. He turned away, exhaled, and sat back. After a moment, he came close to the screen again.

"Alright. I'll deal with this guy Crank. I'll handle him. But if your boy don't win, you're back in the bog, the same one you tried to buy your way out of. You hear me?"

"Yes sir. Thank you sir."

Yorga scowled, and cut the screen off. Pegleg put the phone in his pocket.

"Do you trust him?" Francy said.

"No."

"So even if Dave wins, we're on our own."

"If he wins. But he might not, and I may have just made things a whole lot worse."

"That guy cares about his money. He has to do something, right?"

"So do I." Pegleg retrieved his phone, and speed dialed someone.

"Who are you calling?" Francy said.

"Your brother. He deserves to know."

Monday, September 7, 2015

Page 27 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.

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At the start of the fourth lap, Dave saw a chance to muscle his way from third into second place. By this time, the top three ACs had the race to themselves. Their nearest competitor trailed by two hundred yards.

Dave chose his moment with a touch of irony, because he saw a way to do to the Porsche what the Porsche had done to him. They came down the long straight to the first jigger over the salty river. Dave pushed into the rear bumper of the Porsche, and accelerated early, before emerging fully from the turn and the water. He kept the pedal to the floor, and stayed pressed into his opponent. When the Porsche driver accelerated, Dave maintained the pressure and literally forced the guy off the track while keeping himself on it.

As far as Dave could tell, there was no defense against the maneuver. Good for him if he could use it to reacquire second place. The Porsche would still probably manage to come in third.

Dave focused forward. The move had cost him about thirty yards on the lead driver of the Series J. He now had three quarters of the race remaining to close the distance on a faster car.

As they reached the top turn, Dave had a screwy idea, one which made him mad, but also filled him with chagrin. What if the Series J driver had deliberately set the second best time in order to influence the international odds makers? An old wily veteran with a superior AC racing against amateurs. Could that guy Crank have planted him in order to control the flow of the dough?

Dave could use it as an excuse to give up and let the world keep on ticking in its own inimitable way, or, he could try and win, in spite of whatever risk.

It went against his nature to give up. He had a need, nay, a compulsion, to prove he could triumph. That was task one. If he knew he could beat the other guy, only then would he consider something so extreme as throwing the race on account of a threat, but he could defer that decision until the last lap.

Dave came down hard into the next turn, and twenty yards closer to the Series J.

He'd make that old trickster fight for every inch.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Page 26 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.

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When he realized something mysterious had happened with Francy and Recant, Hep got jealous. He wanted in on the action, even if it meant nothing more than a free lemonade courtesy of Recant. By comparison, remaining in his seat with older Ajax, well, it meant the others had left Hep behind. He couldn't allow that. They always left him out of stuff, whether Francy or Dave. Not today.

"Can I get a lemonade too?" Hep said.

The cars zipped by at the end of lap two. Dave held third, but trailed the second place Porsche by no more than ten yards. The Series J still had about a fifty yard lead.

"He's gonna pass him," Hep said.

"I believe you're right," Ajax said.

"Dave will win," Hep said with all the faith of his age.

Ajax smiled. "Go on. Don't be too long."

"I won't."

Hep hurried to the end of the row, then ran up, and almost bowled over a top heavy fellow carrying a tray of food and drinks. Without a word of apology, Hep sidestepped the near accident, skirted around a few more adults twice his size and ran toward the lemonade stand on the promenade above the bleachers, all of which had been built into the side of the mountain.

A line of people seven deep waited for their beers and lemonade, pretzels and hotdogs, none of them Francy or Recant. Hep darted this way, then that way, hoping to catch sight of one or both. They were up to something! It had to be.

He spotted them beyond a sea of bodies at the lower part of a ramp to the racetrack level. It went under the bleachers, a tunnel that disgorged customers at both ends. Francy and Recant had their backs to him. Pegleg faced them.

Oh boring. Francy and Pegleg. He should have guessed. He'd have turned around if not for the presence of Recant. He needed Recant to buy him a lemonade to complete his cover story. The thought brought a bit of thirstiness to his scratchy throat. It seemed odd, however, that Recant would involve himself with the two sickening lovebirds.

He wanted to hear their conversation, so he crept down the ramp, staying hidden behind other adults until it became impossible. He couldn't get close enough to make out what they said, not without letting them see him. Hep concluded maybe he wouldn't make such a good spy.

"Hey," he said, and joined them.

"Hep, go back," Francy said.

"I'm thirsty. I want lemonade. What's going on?"

"Just a sec, kiddo. I'll get you one," Recant said. "Okay. Here's the number. Can you handle this?"

Pegleg took the slip of paper Recant held out for him. "I'll call him now." He glanced at Hep, smiled, and walked toward the tarmac, already on the phone ringing someone.

Hep was dying to know, but Recant had him by the arm, and pulled him up the ramp.

"How about a hot dog too?" Recant said.

Hep glanced over his shoulder, but Pegleg had already disappeared around the corner, and Francy with him.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Page 25 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.

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Pegleg ran across the track, knowing full well you weren't supposed to do that. He left Inigo behind, the old man who suffered from too much restraint, and debilitating fear.

The heat beat him with an iron press on his head and shoulders, though the air felt cool when the breeze kicked up now and then. His eyes searched the stands, a quarter mile of bleachers along the crest of the lower of the two hills of Ile Malmedy. Even if the man he wanted to find had come to the park today, a narrow chance it slowly dawned on Pegleg, Vitaly Yorga might have chosen a seat at one of the more remote viewing stands. They had them situated at every major turn along the whole course.

When he did not spot his sailboat-riding nemesis, he felt like the fool who'd ogled the fool's gold. Of course a big time gambler and sitting VP of an international corporation wouldn't actually show up for this low stakes rinky dink race. He probably wouldn't even have placed a bet from the confines of his home in Helena on the LandBridge.

About halfway along the main bleachers, the lead ACs zipped by, finishing their first laps. The Series J held to a tight lead. The Porsche trailed him by about fifty yards, and Dave trailed both in his P5 by another seventy. Pegleg did the math, not on how much ground Dave would need to recover to get a win, but how much time nineteen more laps could buy. It came to thirty eight minutes minimum, but probably closer to forty two or three.

There really was only one option here. He'd concluded as much a moment or two before he realized Francy could help, but not on her own, and not through Ajax. Instead, she could pull in Recant. Recant had come into possession of Vitaly Yorga's phone number while making arrangements for the gold coin payout.

He dialed her.

"Hello?" she said.

"Francy. I need your help. Do you see me?" He raced to a spot where he knew she sat with Hep, Ajax and Recant in the stands above him.

"Yes. You crossed the track."

"Had to. Don't say anything, okay, but Dave's in trouble..."

"We saw."

"No... I mean it's not that. It's a problem in the pits. Can you get away, and bring Recant? Meet me at the stairs."

"What's going on?"

"I'll tell you when you get here."

"I'll try."

"Thank you."

After she hung up, Francy whispered something to Recant. His eyebrows shot up, but then his composure returned. He told Ajax he was going to fetch a beer... and did he want anything? Ajax didn't, but Francy tagged along to get herself a lemonade.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Page 24 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.

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Pegleg and Inigo stood in the pit area a few feet outside the garage, a place where they could watch the leading cars of the race on Jumbotrons set up for the paying customers.

Coming off his disaster at the river, Dave climbed the second hill, the highest one, with reckless abandon. Just below the top, he slowed into another jigger, hard right then hard left. His speed let him pass three competitors, but he had to body slam one at the right turn, and another at the left turn to stay on track. This knocked both off course, and gave the P5 a couple of fierce scrape marks. The third car he wound up passing due to sheer momentum coming out of the turn. When he reached the highest point on the entire course, he rounded the curve in fifth place, and bore down on the guy in fourth.

A few more hairy curves on the inside lanes, and Dave reached third place coming into the long river straightaway.

"He learns fast. Trial by fire," Inigo said.

"No thanks to you," Pegleg said, and waited for Inigo to tear eyes away from the Jumbotron and look at him. "Are you going to tell him, or should I?"

Inigo stared at Pegleg as if this conversation augured the end of his life. Across his sad expression flashed panic, resignation, and the wistful irony that comes from acceptance.

"I want nothing but the best for him. You know that," Inigo said.

"It's his choice how to race, and what to do about your old buddy Crank."

"He doesn't know..."

"What he's in for? It's still up to him. It's his race, and he has twenty laps to make up his mind."

"It's a ticking clock. A deathwatch." Inigo had kept the CC plug in his hand. He tossed it away.

It bounced off a metal trash bin and skittered into the garage wall.

In his breast pocket, Pegleg had a picture of a chubby middle-aged man with a big round bald spot and narrow glasses. He showed it to Inigo. "Do you know this guy?"

Inigo shook his head no.

"He likes expensive sailboats, and betting big on AC races."

"So?"

"I'd wager he went in for Dave with a sizable stake."

"Why are you telling me?"

"I've met this guy, and he scares me a hell of a lot more than your boy Crank. If he's here, we may have a way out of this."

"Why would he help us?"

"After the race, even if he wins he won't care about us. But during the race, well, let's just say if he's here, and we can find him, we have twenty laps to convince him to take steps to protect his investment."

"That's a lot of ifs and maybes," Inigo said.

"Then let's start looking. Now."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Page 23 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.

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When the starting lights emerged from a recess within the corner tower, extending out over the track, Dave felt a rush of excitement such as he'd never known. Although he sat at pole position in a dinky little amateur race that mattered to gamblers more than anyone, he'd also taken a first step up a ladder whose top he could neither see, nor fathom. He wanted to do well. He needed to do well, if only to learn where the next step might lead. He couldn't fall off the rungs. He dared not. Nor could he let that evil-ass Crank bust things out from under him. It'd be a hard fall, and he'd rather face whatever this track and its denizen of gamblers might want to dish out after they lost their crooked bundle because they bet the wrong way while trying to cheat people.

He heard a brief horn blast as the first red light blinked on. Again for the second, and then the third light. A long blast launched the drivers as all three lights flipped to green.

Dave pressed the pedal to the carpeted floorboard.

He wanted to clear the first turn while retaining his lead, maybe put some breathing room between himself and the Series J.

Instead of some expert display of wheel handling, he came in a little too fast, and had to skirt the edge of the track on an arc too wide to stay in front. He knew it halfway through the turn. Series J, a better AC for handling, would pass him almost straight off the starting line.

It got worse. The wily amateur, twice his age, slammed sideways into Dave's P5 as they rounded the bend. Not only did this give his competitor the advantage coming out of the turn at a faster speed, but it transferred kinetic energy from one vehicle to the other. The P5 absorbed the blow as the Series J bounced forward, leaving Dave to founder as he slipped off the track and onto the asphalt.

He adjusted as best and fast as he could, while cursing himself for not anticipating one of the oldest tricks in the book.

As he emerged in second, barreling downhill toward the seawater river and the dangerous jigger in the road, he told himself he was lucky to have learned such a lesson so soon. He wouldn't let Series J get away with it again.

Both lead drivers slowed for the river approach. No one wanted to slip off course on the quick left-right jigger, yet they each needed to maintain speed for the long ascent that followed. Dave got so close to the Series J, he almost touched bumpers.

It surprised him, although he knew it shouldn't, when the car behind him, the Porsche 322 Atletico, actually impacted his rear, but Dave had cleared the jigger and felt safe to accelerate.

With a competitor so close at his back, however, it left him vulnerable. He didn't see it coming when the Porsche, with better acceleration, pressed hard against him from behind, and caused him to lose control.

Dave spun out onto the grass, probably the only racer in Ile Malmedy history to go off track in the exact same spot on his first two official races. The only difference, this time he churned up the ground on the left rather than the right side of the road.

Dave felt despair as he slowed, regained control, and watched one after another AC pass him by on the uphill.

When he finally righted things and rejoined the race, his position had dropped to eighth.

The guy in ninth crashed into him from behind.

It was pure luck that the impact, rather than push Dave off track yet again, actually propelled him forward. It got him up to speed quicker than he would have otherwise, and put him back in the race.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Page 22 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.

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They spotted a diverse mix of vehicles. Nissan Waterlines, and Chevy Tangerines seemed popular, but also destined to lose. An old '47 Rattlesnake convertible gave Dave a smile, but like the others, it would put up no real fight against his P5. A few more muscular ACs filled out the rest of the pack of forty or so racers. Two Dodge Charioteers, and a Dodge Runner, a Porsche 322 Atletico, a Lexus 85X, and a Series J BMW. Among this last crop he would have his hands full, especially the other BMW. From what he knew of the Series J, it had the edge over the P5 in braking power and traction around the turns.

The driver of the Series J had curly brown hair and a deep suntan, like an image-conscious man. He also looked about twice Dave's age. An amateur. A weekend warrior. A guy with a little fiefdom that Dave had invaded. These were all possibilities. They ran through Dave's head just before their eyes met. No smile from the other side. No acknowledgment. The driver looked away to grab his gloves.

Dave sure wanted to meet him, know his name, and hear his story. There might be a lesson in there, and one worth learning.

He wondered if the guy knew Crank well enough to call him friend. Did he expect to win? Was he the guy who won the races that better drivers had to throw? Had he paid his dues by throwing races himself? Was that why, in his mid-thirties, he had never risen above the amateur ranks?

Then again, the guy might be here as a newbie, racing for his first time just like Dave.

Probably not.

"I've seen enough," Dave said.

"Thank you," Pegleg said. "By the way, the only car that can give you trouble here is the other Beemer."

"Depends on the drivers."

"You're the best driver. Now's the time to prove it."

When they reached their pit, an announcer came over the loudspeaker instructing all aircars to proceed to their starting positions.

Dave hopped in, and almost started the engine, but Pegleg prevented him.

"Wait. I've got to check one more thing." He raised the front hood.

Inigo sat in the corner bouncing his knees. "Got to get to the line Grant. They can't wait."

"I'm almost done," Pegleg said.

"What are you doing? You checked all that already," Inigo said.

Dave couldn't see a thing with the hood up. He heard Pegleg dig around in the tool box for something, then do whatever he did under the hood again. He closed it with a definitive thump.

"Okay. All set," Pegleg said.

"What was that?" Dave said.

"New CC plug. A little insurance."

Dave turned the key. He felt the turbine kick in, and the low hum of the power generators.

The announcer said, "Last call for all racers. Proceed to your positions please. This is your last call."

Dave backed the P5 out from the garage, feeling the heat of the sun caress his skin for a moment as it penetrated the window.

He floated forward to the lead spot, the pole position. Right behind him, and to his left, sat the Series J. The driver wore sun goggles, and a deadpan expression with jaw set in stone.

Dave would have to change a few minds about how this race would go. He'd have to hand Crank a major disappointment. He'd have to stay focused on his future, and without fear. He knew it.



In the pit, Pegleg approached Inigo, eyes unwavering. Inigo gave him furtive looks, knees bouncing, a bundle of nervous energy.

Pegleg glared until Inigo stopped his knees long enough to look up, and make eye contact.

"I know what you did," Pegleg said.

"What do you mean?" Inigo said.

Pegleg held something in his hand, small and metallic. He tossed it. Inigo fumbled at first, but held onto it. When he looked at what it was, a CC plug, but an old corroded piece of junk, his face fell to the floor. His shoulders slumped.

"I'm not going to tell him what you did in a moment of weakness, but you need to understand he is racing to win," Pegleg said.

"It may cost my life."

Pegleg kneeled to put his head even with Inigo's, and closer. "I don't know about you, but I'm tired of people threatening me."