(Stewart) was stopped at a red light a few blocks from his apartment when he glanced over at a Mercedes S600 waiting next to him at the light. It was black, with dark-tinted windows hiding the occupants. As he watched, the window slid slowly down. It took him a second to recognize Reggie, the petty drug dealer he had manhandled on the street in front of his office the previous day. Wearing the same red bandanna, the thug flashed him a humorless smile, clearly showing the gaudy, gold-capped tooth with a star in the center.
Reggie’s arm rested casually on the door, an expensive diamond Rolex on his wrist. Before Stewart had a chance to wonder where the small-time drug dealer found the money for a Rolex watch he saw the automatic weapon pointed at him. He hit the gas, spinning the tires of his old Buick, and leaving smoking black streaks of rubber on the street. From behind he heard the rapid fire of the automatic weapon and then the clank of the bullets hitting the back door and rear quarter panel of his car. His quick action had given him a slight head start on his pursuer, but he knew it wouldn’t last. He sped down the narrow street to the next intersection, where he swung left onto a four-lane road, running a red light in the process.
The powerful $130,000 Mercedes with twelve cylinders was right behind him. Since he knew he had no chance to outrun the powerful vehicle, when he reached the next intersection, he hit the brakes, turning the steering wheel sharply and throwing the car into a violent left turn. He watched in the mirror as the Mercedes went halfway into the intersection before it turned and headed after him.
With the gas pedal now pressed to the floor, Stewart sped down the street, weaving in and out of traffic at eighty miles an hour. Suddenly, an unsuspecting driver pulled from a parking space, swinging into his lane. Again Stewart turned the wheel violently, forcing his car over the curb and toward a row of trashcans. The now-out-of-control automobile plowed into the cans, causing an explosion of discarded food and debris, splattering a soppy mess onto the windshield.
Barely able to see through the garbage, Stewart swerved to miss what appeared to be a dog as he tried desperately to regain control. The car careened from the sidewalk and flew back into the street, the bottom smashing onto the asphalt and spraying sparks from the undercarriage like a Fourth of July celebration. The thirteen-year-old car’s already-weak suspension groaned under the impact and the left rear leaf spring snapped.
The vehicle swerved several more times, barely missing other cars and panicking pedestrians in the crosswalk, before Stewart finally regained control. Unfortunately, the big Mercedes was still behind him and gaining rapidly. Within seconds it was close enough to pull into the lane beside him.
Stewart hit the brakes hard and swerved, causing the rear of his car to slip sideways into the front fender of the Mercedes. The impact barely made a difference to the much larger vehicle. Again Stewart heard the blast of an automatic weapon as a second gang member leaned out the passenger side and opened up. The bullets strafed the back of the car, breaking the taillights and the rear window.
When all of his evasive maneuvers had failed, Stewart realized his only hope was to attract the attention of a cop. He made a sharp right turn and went the wrong way down a one-way street. Oncoming cars swerved to both sides of the road; drivers reacted by throwing their hands out the window and giving him the finger.
The big Mercedes was still behind him, a half block back, as he sped in and out of traffic, running red lights and stop signs, hoping to be spotted by a patrol car. On one sharp turn, the rear end of the car spun out, smashing into a light pole and bringing it down onto the street with an explosion of metal and glass. The downed pole momentarily blocked the path of the Mercedes, allowing Stewart a slight lead.
Suddenly, with relief, Stewart saw the flashing blue and red lights of a patrol car, stopped at the end of an alleyway to his left. He locked up the brakes and skidded to an abrupt stop. Then he backed up quickly and turned down the alley. An instant later, the Mercedes came to a stop. It started to turn down the alley as well. However, when the would-be assassins saw the flashing lights, they came to a halt and slowly backed up and sped away.
Stewart stopped at the corner. The now totally wrecked car was making strange noises and there was a pungent smell of gasoline in the air. Smoke was coming from underneath, swirling around the vehicle. The left rear bumper had sunken until it was almost touching the asphalt. He shut off the engine and climbed out to assess the damage. The trunk lid was filled with bullet holes, and the back window and rear passenger-side windows were shattered. There was a large dent in the left rear fender, matching the one decorating the front of the beat-up vehicle. A sloppy mess of caramelized food was splattered across the windshield.
On the corner, two officers stood questioning a teenage white boy. One officer had his hand on the boy’s belt in the back and the other officer was in screaming in his face. Both cops paused and turned to look at Stewart. Their eyes opened wide when they saw the bullet holes and the condition of the car. Smoke was now coming from several of the holes and gasoline was dripping under the car.
The cops recognized Stewart. “What the fuck’s going on, Lieutenant?” one of the cops asked.
“Hi, Jackson, Handy,” he said. “You mean the car?”
“Yes,” said the second officer. “If you call that thing a car.”
Stewart glanced back at his vehicle sadly and then said, “Well, several days ago, I took it to one of those quick oil-change places. You know, in and out in ten minutes or less? Some guy named Bonzo or Bozo worked on it, and it hasn’t been right since. I’m thinking he didn’t know what he was doing.” Then he added with a straight face, “I don’t know much about cars, but do you think he really needed to drill holes in the side to replace the oil?”
The two cops looked at him as if they believed him at first. Then, when they saw him smile, they broke into laughter.
“Actually, I had an altercation with some thugs. They seemed to be carrying some heavy-duty firepower.”
“Why are they after you?” asked Officer Handy.
“I’m not sure, but I’m going to find out. I need a ride if you don’t mind.”
“Sure, where do you want to go?”
“Over near K Street, where my office is located.”
“Okay. But are you sure you’re going to be okay over there? My guess is these punks know where your office is.”
“They do, but I have a few friends on the block. I need to talk to them.”
The cop turned back to the boy in front of him. “Listen, punk, you’re getting off easy tonight. We have other business to take care of. However, if I see you on this street again trying to buy drugs, your ass is going to jail. Got it?”
The boy sneered at the officers.
“Get the hell out of here,” the other cop said and spun the kid around and pushed him. The boy sauntered down the street, smiling back at the two cops.
“Punk is going to be dead in a year from an overdose,” said Jackson.
“Be dead before a year,” responded Handy.
Stewart said, “I’m going to leave the car here, guys. Will you call the city truck to tow it in?”
“To the impound lot or the junkyard?” responded Jackson with a laugh.
“I don’t care anymore. It’s not worth repairing, I’m afraid,” lamented Stewart as he looked at the car as if it was an old friend passing to the next life.
A few minutes later, the cops let Stewart out in front of his office. He thanked them, and they drove off after telling him to be careful. Then he looked down the street and saw Tyrone on the corner with a group of his buddies. He walked to them. “Tyrone,” said Stewart as he drew close.
“Hey, my man, what’s happening?” answered Tyrone. “I saw you pull up with the boys in blue. What happened to your fine ride? Finally fall apart?” Tyrone laughed and held out his fist to Stewart.
Stewart hit it with his clenched fist and answered, “Unfortunately, it has gone to meet its maker. But truthfully, I had a run-in with Reggie.”
“What’d that punk do?” asked Tyrone curiously.
“He and his buddies had automatic weapons, plus a big Mercedes.”
Tyrone showed his surprise. “Where’d that nigger get a Mercedes?” he asked.
“Just what I want to know. He also had on a twenty-thousand-dollar wristwatch. I was wondering if you knew if he scored a big drug deal recently.”
“Shit, that nigger couldn’t score a bag of smack.” Tyrone laughed and held his fist out to his buddies, who responded by tapping it, laughing along with him. “And, if he did, he would use it himself.”
“I figured. I need your help.”
“Sure, anything for my man. Whatcha need?”
“I want you to grab Reggie and find out where he got the ride and the watch.”
A big smiled crossed Tyrone’s face.
“I’d do it myself, but I think you and your friends are better suited for this job. If you know what I mean.” Stewart smiled at Tyrone.
Tyrone knew what he meant. “Gotcha, man.”
“I’ll pay you for your time.”
“Shit, man, I don’t want your money. Besides, I’d like to know where a two-bit junkie like Reggie got a Rolex and a Mercedes.” Tyrone turned to his friends and said, “You guys got any plans tonight?”
“Yeah, man,” one of the guys said, “we all be going down to the White House for a formal dinner with the prez.” Everyone broke into laughter.
“Well, tell the ‘prez’ his niggas are gonna be late.” Tyrone turned to Stewart. “We’ll take care of it right away.”
“Listen, Tyrone, these guys have some serious firepower.”
“And you think we don’t?” said Tyrone with a big smile.
“I don’t want you to kill him, and I don’t want any big gangland-style shootout. I’ve got a better idea. After you find out where he is getting his money, here’s what I want you to do.” Stewart pulled Tyrone to the side and quietly explained his plan.
Tyrone shrugged his shoulders and said, “Okay, whatever you say.”
Tyrone turned to his friends. “You guys want to join me?” he asked. Most of his friends accepted Stewart because Tyrone liked him and they would do anything for Tyrone.
“Yeah, man,” his two friends said.
“Okay, Tony, go find Raeford, James, and Jamal. Tell them to meet us over on Seventeenth Street around 1 a.m. Tell them to bring their weapons.” Another smile crossed Tyrone’s face as he turned back to Stewart.
“Thanks, man,” said Stewart and he held his fist out to Tyrone.
He tapped it and said, “No problem, I owe you. By the way, how are you getting home?”
“I’m not going home. I think I’ll stay in my office tonight. I’m going to call a rental company tomorrow and have them drop off a car.”
“Not the first time you’ve slept there.”
Stewart smiled and said, “Spent a lot of time in my office over the last couple of years. Be careful, Tyrone.”
-from A Cure For All by Russell G. Johnson
Copyright 2006 - 2007 Russell G. Johnson