They All Seem Fine Now
Disclaimer: Speed Racer and Angel are the property of their respective copyright holders, not me. Chapter 10: They All Seem Fine Now by Raven Dhancer
We left the truck at Rex's and Lorne drove me down to see Speed, giving me the complete rundown of what had happened last night as he drove.
I was silent for most of the trip, still trying to puzzle through the events and facts and theories. I was still nowhere. Lorne dropped me at the track and headed out. I had asked him to see if he could get the rest of the files about the case from the office. Inspector Detector was probably watching, but I figured, I hoped, we might get lucky.
I found Speed in the stands, watching. He seemed completely distracted, worried, unable to concentrate on me. I wasn't able to get much out of him. He gave me a brief account of what had happened at the Hospital. I thought about asking him if he knew the penalties for computer tampering, but then again nobody could look at that open face and think he was capable of a crime, especially one that might require more brains than what God gave a stump.
Lorne picked me up a bit later. He had a bit of luck and had rounded up the files without trouble. We switched over and got the truck. I drove and we headed out of Tulsa, following the route in the GPS that Trixie had laid down last night. The town fell away, then the suburbs, then we were out in farmland and dry scrub heading north east. We went from three lanes to two lanes to single lane divided highway.
"OK, Lindsey," said Lorne "what the hell are we doing? Last I heard, we were hired to find out why Trixie dumped Speed. Seems like she dumped Speed because she met Rex."
"Oh yeah" I replied "she's so happy too. And Rex? Rex is a barrel of laughs, so happy you want to slap him. And so loving!" There was silence. "She ran away; she wasn't running to anybody."
"OK" said Lorne, "away from what?"
"Who's Chum's dad?" I countered.
"Not Rex." he said, "and not Speed." Lorne hesitated. "He's not human. Not completely. I dunno, I think I'm losing my touch. I can't read him. Not well. Nothing makes much sense."
"When we started this case" I said a bit abstractly "I thought this was a bride with cold feet, or some love triangle, but then you found that address. It's a company Wolfram and Hart used. Maybe they were looking for work, now that W&H is off its stride, but more likely they were still under contract. That made me think money was what was moving things."
I paused and started again. "I had followed the Go Team from way back, and I never liked the way Fontaine died."
"So you looked into it? What did W&H know?" Lorne asked.
"It wasn't anything to do with us. I checked. I couldn't believe it, it stank of our kind of thing, but we weren't in it. And then this case and Trixie turns up with W&H changing the oil on her helicopter. So I figured maybe she was getting a bit of help. And maybe she was running from an attempt to kill her? Then why? I figured money. I always assumed money."
"And then you asked around and got rudely interrupted." Lorne said.
"Yeah, and then we find somebody is setting up to fix the race. Unless they just really really want a zombie race team. Zombie races" I stopped, trying to wipe the image from my mind. "We have to stop this, or we are going to have a race nobody will forget in a century."
An excerpt from Speed's Diary
Great news! I am so happy. Just a little while ago I thought I would not be able to race, but everything has worked out so I can. Although I'm very sorry for the other racers. Felicia "filled me in" on what happened. First, a french team had a terrible accident. Somebody spilled gasoline over all the cars and then somebody else dropped their cigarette and a whole bunch of lit matches. And it all happened when nobody was around, so the fire got way out of control. Then two teams got eliminated for not having the correct exhaust equipment. Apparently, one team tried to enter without any, and then another team tried to enter with extra equipment installed backwards! That's the sort of thing you have to be very careful about! Lots of people get in trouble over that - I'm really glad I have Pops and Sparky around to take care of that stuff for me. You have to get it exactly right, or you can get into big trouble. Anyway, now I can redo the time trials. Felicia says she's sure I'll do just great! I'm sure I'll do great too. I mean I'm sure that I'll do great and Felicia thinks I'll do great as well as I think. Though not as well as she did.
A lot of people have been shot, but they all seem fine now.
"So you said 'screw the case' and decided to charge off after the honor of who exactly?" asked Lorne. "The Tulsa Grand Prix Racing establishment? Which until recently consisted of two go-cart tracks and a mini-putt course?"
"OK, maybe nobody's paying us to do anything about it. This is my damn town and I'm damned if I'm gonna sit around and watch it get destroyed." My hands tightened on the wheel. "Fuck this! It's not some damn little game. We're shutting it down at the source. That's plan A and we ain't got a plan B." I paused and tried to calm down.
"Besides, how else do we stop it?" I asked. "We have to find who's behind it. We can't talk, who would believe it? We've got zip evidence. A guy walks into the can, a guy walks out. Plus an electric cord in a trash can. What's all that? Nothing. We got squat is what."
I fell into silence. I looked over at Lorne. He was writing something in a notebook.
"Stop that!" I said.
"Sorry" said Lorne "had to get that down. Anyway this is all the same case. And it isn't about money. What money? I mean, come on, look at the operation. And by that, I mean Sparky. Talk about operations! There's a guy with one huge medical bill and a whole lot of little ones. And these races, they pay by selling endorsements. Mach V is one big nekkid billboard."
"Too true. Just that head on Sparky was a bundle. I've seen that work before, it's from Chin's in Kowloon. They ain't cheap!"
"No money." Lorne said "All I see is rage. Revenge. Something that will crush the Racers and take out god knows who in the process. Grand guignol stuff."
"They say revenge is a dish best served cold."
"Ha!" he said bitterly, "Wish it worked like that. That stuff is radioactive, babe; it never cools down. Maybe the target forgets, but the guy who's behind it? He just gets hotter and hotter. Helicopter crash, OK. Sparky and the diamond edged saws? Youch!"
"OK, fine. And so who?"
"We find out when we get where we're going." Lorne answered, "You know anything about this place?"
"Surely do." I said, "Belongs to a Clarke Spavey. Clarke 'Fishman' Spavey. Interesting choice really. Good guy for zombies, but it's really a sideline. His real interests lie elsewhere."
"And why does he have such a hard-on for the nice people who've hired us?"
"He doesn't of course, he's just hired help. But maybe he'd tell us who hired him if we asked politely."
"And a lawyer never asks a question unless he knows the answer."
"Fat chance. Who's Chum’s dad? Who did Trixie run from? Who's the guy who hates the Racers and the Fontaines so much he’s spending a fortune - cuz W&H doesn’t come cheap - to destroy them? Hates them enough to chop them up alive. And why?"
"He won't talk." Lorne said. "Too much to lose."
"He can talk or not. He's being made unemployed. Then he can talk if he wants to. Then we get Chum's dad."
"Whatever he is...." Lorne said.
There was a long silence. I thought occurred to me.
"Lorne, is there anything like a 27 in Suppe's file" I asked.
There was a pause as Lorne flipped through the onion-skin pages, then he said "Yeah, here's one in, um, looks like 27 centigrade. Body temperature."
It was about one. We drove in silence for a while, then I pulled off the road and stopped on the side a few miles short of the goal. The sky was overcast and there were small scraps of cloud moving quick and low overhead, like they were late to get into position for the rain we had been promised would come later in the day. A bird was making a querying cry, but the wind was making a roar in the trees and the traffic was making a roar on the distant highway, and if he got an answer I didn’t hear it. I like this sort of weather, with the storm building and the sky overcast; God can’t see me and if He can, He’s too busy to care. I reviewed the route on the GPS.
"We park here" I indicated a side road, "and walk in. If we get caught, the truck broke down. We talk our way in, wait till we get a chance, break a lot of stuff and run off."
"The old ‘break stuff and run off’ plan. Angel would approve." said Lorne. He had his seat reclined back and was lying with his eyes closed.
"Screw you." He opened his eyes and looked at me. I started the car and pulled back onto the road.
"So, Dark Avenger, what are we going to break?" Lorne asked.
"Remember how I said Spavey did zombies as a sideline?" I asked rhetorically. "His main line is artificial intelligence. Got a question, he’s got an answer. You’ve got a problem, he‘s got a solution. He claims he has made a breakthrough in neural net technology. He sets up systems to run railways, manage companies. Say you’re a dictator, don’t want to run the country, just get drunk, who do you trust to run the place for you without finding yourself locked in your bedroom one morning? Mr. Fishman. He’s running entire islands in the pacific."
"Wolfram and Hart was working on a merger between two mega-corps a while back, but somebody who didn’t want it to happen killed off one of the key executives. Deals off, W&H doesn’t get paid. So we got Clarke to re-animate the guy for a week or so until the deal got closed. Did a nice job."
"I imagine ordering lunch was a bit tricky?"
"Nope. He ate salad. The guy was totally functional, just as brilliant, actually a bit easier to deal with than when he was alive. With a bit of cell phone technology, the guy’s body was being run out of Spavey’s compound. Oh, and he doesn’t like the word ‘zombie’, prefers ‘avatar’ god knows why."
"How was the handshake?"
"A bit clammy. OK, we turn here."
We found a gravel road running alongside a ridge hiding the road from the Spavey compound, and I parked on the far side and started to approach, walking along behind the ridge. We went back toward the main road and when we got to where I figured we were closest to the freezer, I started up. The whole ridge was overgrown with trees, not planted but just growing wild. We pushed through the thicket, coming out the other side and stopping at a wooden rail fence where I could see over the whole compound. I was looking for a large building, probably just a big box, with AC units and power feeds, but there was nothing there that fit that description. There was what looked like the main house, with a few nearby sheds, plus a barn and a cement pad nearby with a dead tractor on it. The place was an old farm, but there weren’t any crops in the field or any animals that I could see. The barn looked like it leaked. There were only two visible additions made since Spavey bought the place. The second newest thing was the miscellaneous collection of stone walls, hurricane fence, and cement slabs that surrounded the place, turning it into a recluse‘s fortress. The newest thing was the small shed with a cell tower sticking out of the roof. Cables led to the main house.
Lorne indicated a small shed near to the house as being the freezer. We started down the ridge and walked over to it, climbing over broken fences, wading through weeds and trying not to step on rakes. The freezer was empty, but there was a fork lift parked on the far side, and a path indicated trips made between the freezer and a metal plate, probably a cellar door, behind the house. We followed the path and stood on the plate and looked at the wall. There was a red button there. I looked at Lorne and he looked at me. I shrugged and pushed the button. The plate descended, lowering us down into the basement.
"I think this is as far as we can push the lost traveler story, don’t you?" I asked Lorne.
"Probably." Lorne agreed, then shouted "IS ANYBODY HERE?"
There was no answer to that shout so we made a bunch more noise and waited to see if anybody would come and see. After a few minutes of total silence, Lorne said "Nobody home." and we started to explore. What we should have done was go back to find the fork lift and knock over the cell tower, but then again, if we had, some things might not have turned out as well as they did, and anyway, we didn’t.
I started to explore the basement while Lorne started up the stairs to explore the upper house. I could hear him wandering from room to room above me as I looked. Nearby was a workbench that occupied the whole end of the cellar nearest the elevator and was made deep enough and strong enough to easily hold a body. Beyond was the usual black altar and a well stocked cabinet of spell ingredients. The containers were large and the levels were low so he must be using the stuff on a regular basis. A bookcase held a few books, and some tools that he really ought to have put away. Possibly he couldn’t find a place for them. Then a window, small and high up on the wall, a water heater, shelves with crap on them, washing machine, dryer, more shelves with the usual crap, paint cans, couple of cases of beer, and the stairs up. Under the stairs, a closet. I opened it.
Lorne came down from upstairs. He had apparently found little beyond the usual. Spavey owned lots of books, mostly reference works on a variety of subjects, on magic, and computers, on business and law and weapons and history and myth. His home computer was password protected and the password wasn’t ‘5p@v3y’ or ‘F1shm@n’.
"Did you try ‘Z0mbi3’?" I asked. He hadn’t.
I showed him the closet.
"You know, " Lorne observed, "one thing you don’t often see in a basement is stairs down." TBC AN:
If you are Speed Racer challenged, there’s a link in my profile for basic character info. 37-40