Blue Smoke and Burnt Rubber: Chapter 14

East Brainerd Speedway

Chris reached the top of the stands, his feet dragging the last few feet. He sank into the nearest seat and stared down on the high banks of the track, but didn’t pay attention to the flurry of activity on the tiny infield.

There were hours before the Friday night series would take to the track, and the GSCA was tucking their cars into the garage for the evening. All three of the Van Lytton teams logged top 10 times in Happy Hour, so for now, Chris was free to find his own entertainment.

His fists beat at the back of the seat in front of him. Cody was supposed to meet him here, and he had called Agent Silverton, hoping the man would be able to find a way through this convoluted mess of deceit.

A single engine fired, its roar rocketing around the empty stadium bowl. A few early fans walked the fence line. They stopped periodically to point at a car, a toolbox or maybe a celebrity. That was racing—a morass of power, competition and publicity underscored by seemingly bottomless bank accounts. It made men think they were gods.

Dark clouds scudded across the sky, the setting sun illuminating their edges.

“Hey.” Cody’s soft voice reached him a moment before she slid into the seat next to him. She removed her sunglasses, looking around for overeager eyes and ears. “You wouldn’t think the stands would be the quietest place, would you?”

Chris glanced at her wary face. “Everybody in our garage is gone for the night, except for the officials and most of the reporters left are the second string. This seemed safer than the hotel where all the teams are eating dinner.”

She nodded and rubbed her hands together. “Did you call that guy?”

“Yeah, he’ll be here soon.” He rocked a bit and thought about all that Cody had told him…and what he had seen in the past month. “Are you sure about all this?”

Cody took a deep breath. “Yeah. I don’t want to spend my life hiding, ya know? It isn’t fair.” She kicked at a soda can. “Besides, don’t you think somebody should pay for Ellis? He didn’t ask to die.”

The entrance to the pedestrian tunnel caught Chris’ eye. The memory of the fight with Randy Ellis washed over him. The anger, disbelief and suspicion reignited. That was the worst part of this.

“When did you first know, you know, that racing was your deal?” He left the question hanging between them.

Her soft snort drew his gaze to her face. “I don’t think there was a time that I wasn’t aware of… all of it. My dad ran a late model at the local track and whether we liked it or not, Mom wouldn’t miss a race. I was helping him do set-ups by the time I was 12. There wasn’t anything I didn’t want to know…” She stared down on the GSCA hauler parked next to the Cup garage. “He always told me that the best races were the ones where you ran door-to-door with the guy who had the best equipment. You didn’t wreck him, he didn’t wreck you… it was just good racing.”

“Your dad raced clean, didn’t he?”

She nodded. “Yeah. He’d try new stuff, but if the cat didn’t pass, he wouldn’t complain. He believed you brought your best and raced hard… the rest was just fun.”

“I guess it’s not just ‘fun’ for everyone, is it?” He stared down and tried to see the joy in the actions of the teams rushing to prepare their cars for the night’s race. Was it there? He couldn’t tell anymore.

“Mr. Weaver, Miss Dunhurst? I’m sorry I’m late.”

Chris jumped to his feet and offered up his hand. “Agent Silverton, thank you for coming and thanks for helping to keep her appearance out of the papers.”

Cody remained seated, her hands clasped between her knees.

Silverton removed his sunglasses. “Miss Dunhurst, it is good to see you in one piece. We’ve been looking for you.”

She refused to look up. “Am I going to be arrested?”

Chris frowned. “Why would you say that?”

“I didn’t tell you everything, Weaver. Only what I needed you to know. Things happened that night at the Double Malt… I know the police would’ve found evidence that would implicate me.”

Silverton interjected, “Well, Miss Dunhurst, I won’t lie. I have back-up and I expect you will have to come with me. But my investigations have led me to believe more is happening here than meets the eyes.” He settled onto a seat, his elbows on his knees and said, “Why don’t you say what you know and we’ll take it from there.”

Her shoulders shrank a bit as she studied the line of lights warming up on the top of the stadium. “Stan warned me not to go to the Double Malt that night. He knew something would happen, but he didn’t tell me who to be afraid of. When the fire alarm went off, somebody grabbed me. You remember Chris, how much smoke there was?”

It didn’t seem real that it had taken so many months for this story to unfold. He nodded, reliving the confused moments.

“I thought it was you that grabbed me and pushed me to the exit. But we didn’t head to the stairs. I tripped. They swore…yes, there were two. That’s when the guy who held me complained for Ellis to watch his step. They took me down to the kitchen.” Her eyes shimmered with tears. “I didn’t realize until we made it outside that it was Chuck Farley who was giving the orders. We got in a car and drove a few blocks. Farley wasn’t making much sense… none of this ever did.”

She stopped and looked up, her arms wrapped around her stomach.

Silverton scribbled on his notepad. “Go on.”

Chris placed an arm around her shoulders. “You need to say it. I know you told me about the others, but you never said anything about the murder. Tell us.”

“Farley was saying something about how he couldn’t trust either of us to keep quiet. Ellis had served his purpose… Farley made us get out… he had a gun.” Her laughter cut through the tense atmosphere. “I don’t know how I did it. He pointed it at Ellis. I, well, it was like… I just went nuts. I made a grab for the gun. We wrestled. Ellis started yelling. I don’t really remember…” She stopped, her body shook with the memory.

“I remember the flash, the sound, the kick of the gun. I held it in my hand, cold metal and hot stink all mixed up. Farley just stared at me, before he pointed at the body and started laughing. ‘You did it, bitch.’ I tried to stop it! But, Ellis was dead and I held the gun, so I guess I did that. I don’t know.”

Chris breathed into the silence. “I’m sorry, Cody. I didn’t know.”

“Farley kept me locked up in some shit hole motel. You see, Stan would blow the whistle in two seconds if he suspected. They couldn’t let me go.”

Silverton sat up. “Fielding isn’t involved in any of this?”

For the first time, Cody looked straight at the agent. “That’s why I work for the man. He truly believes in honesty and fair play. While he understands there will always be cheats in the sport, and he can’t stop all the shenanigans in the garage, he will do everything he can to keep you on the up and up.” She turned to look back at the garages. “He reminds me of my father.”

The agent tapped his notebook. “Well, do you know who gave the orders to Farley? It’s quite clear somebody high up in the GSCA was calling the shots. If they are manipulating the outcome of the races, our investigation is trying to determine who would benefit from the tampering and why.”

Chris and Cody exchanged tight glances.

She sat up a bit straighter. “I know who is involved. I’m just not entirely sure why. I can’t go public without some sort of protection.”

“Of course not.”

Chris stood up, his hand in his pockets. “We’re asking for your assistance, Agent Silverton. Can we count on it?”

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Frontstretch Staff
The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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