This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any actual resemblance to persons or historical persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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© Copyright: 2001-2004. Lisa Philbrick
Late spring, 1979....
Thirty-four year old Leeah Fredricks sat in a brown 1966 Pontiac Bonneville waiting for the director to shout out his command for cameras to roll. She tugged at her driving gloves, her foot rythmically pushing down on the accelerator, revving the big 389 engine in anticipation of the upcoming stunt. When it came to cars, she wasn’t novice, and even though she had only been doing driving stunts for Hollywood for just over two years, she was good at her craft, and she knew cars like she knew her own mind. After 12 years on the NASCAR racing circuit, she had learned the language of an autombile’s engine. When it was ready, it told you. When it was sick, it told you that too. The Bonneville was definately ready.
“Okay everybody, clear off the street please!” the director yelled through his bullhorn. “Clear off the street!”
Leeah put both of her hands on the steering wheel, still revving the engine. The Pontiac was getting impatient, as was she, but both car and driver knew that stunts couldn’t be rushed. Patience was a virtue in this business.
A few feet away from where the director stood, David Peters was waiting with anticipation. As a producer, David was selective in what projects he took part in and who worked on the picture. In six years of producing movies, he had had a fair amount of success with the formula, including two movies that received academy award nominations. David didn’t mind so much that the two movies hadn’t won. Besides, once you win, where do you go from there?
Not known for action-adventure movies or even pictures with a high amount of stunt work, David had agreed to produce an upcoming project only because he liked the storyline. A woman stunt driver becomes a competitor on the Grand National level of the NASCAR racing circuit. Little did David know, the stunt woman he was about to watch had lived his picture’s leading lady’s life, somewhat in reverse. What David did know was that Leeah Fredricks was rumored to be the best female stunt driver in Hollywood today. So he took it upon himself to check her out for himself.
“Alright everybody! Quiet on the set....will somebody get that damn truck out of the way?!?!”
David watched as some one of the crew ran out to move the Chevy Cheyenne pick up truck to the spot where it was supposed to be. As soon as the crewman was back behind the camara line, the director yelled for action.
The Bonneville roared and the tires made a brief squeal as Leeah began the sequence.
David never took his eyes off the old car. He watched Leeah negotiate the turns through the city set, increasing her speed. She wound the Pontiac around the dumpster and then suddenly she had a bus infront of her path. Leeah cut the wheel to the left, sending the Bonneville bouncing onto the sidewalk, taking out the mailbox and then fish tailing back on to the pavement.
Cop cars started coming out of the side streets. Leeah weaved around the nose of one, collided with the corner nose of another and then barrelled straight towards the third. The cop car slid around broadside, blocking the Bonneville’s escape. Or so it seemed. Leeah aimed for the sidewalk again, where a small ramp was hidden from view of the camera catching the angle of the car going up on two wheels. The big Pontiac squeezed by the front of the cop car and stayed up on two wheels for a moment more. Leeah lightly hit the break and turned the wheel, bringing the car back down on all fours. She then punched the accelerator and made her escape.
“CUT!! Print! Hooboy, no matter how many times I’ve seen it done I still get chills watching it.”
Crew applauded and laughed at the director’s comment. It was true though. The stunt driving Leeah did for this particular scene was nothing that had never been done before, but the sight of a big old car like the Bonneville going up on two wheels and looking graceful....well, everyone knew that only Leeah could do that.
David was nodding to himself. He smiled, agreeing with the director’s comment. He had liked what he saw, and decided that he had to have Leeah do the stunts on his picture. Still smiling, he quietly made his departure from the set.
* * *
Gwen Doyle was picking up another Coors can off the coffee table when the telephone rang. She quickly tossed the cream colored can into the waste basket and then picked up the phone, flipping her long dark hair out of the way of her ear.
“Hello? Yes, just a moment.” She placed the reciever down and walked over to the door that led to small gym her boyfriend, Sonny Hooper, had set up. It had been just over a year since he had last done an actual stunt in a movie, but Sonny still kept in shape. Which Gwen certainly appreciated.
Gwen heard the clang of the bench press weights being put back on their rest and then after a moment the door opened.
“Thank you, darlin’,” Sonny said with a smile and gave Gwen a peck on the cheek. He walked over to the phone, wiping the sweat off the side of his face with the corner shoulder of his sleeveless Florida State University sweatshirt. He picked up the receiver.
“Hello, Sonny. This is David Peters. Are you busy?”
Sonny looked to Gwen. Hmm.... Sonny knew David Peters didn’t really do films with a heavy amount of stunts, so he found it interesting to be getting a call from the man.
“Not at all. What can I do for you, David?”
“I want you to coordinate the stunts on the new project I’m about to start. It’s going be a driving movie. It’s about a woman stunt driver who goes on to win on the Grand National racing circuit.”
“Really?” Sonny was immediately interested. “Well, now we haven’t had a good racing flick for a few years.”
“I saw the work you did in The Spy Who Laughed at Danger. The picture itself was pretty weak. The stunts were the only thing that carried it.”
Sonny chuckled. Touche’. Roger Deal, boy wonder director learned what it means to be humble with that film. “Well, thank you David. You don’t know what a pleasure it is to hear a comment like that.”
David smiled. “I think I know who we can try to get for our lady stunt driver. Ever heard of Leeah Fredricks?”
Sonny thought for a moment. Leeah Fredricks? The name seemed vaguely familar...but he wasn’t sure he was familar with her work.
“Can’t say that I have,” Sonny replied. “She any good?”
“She’s fantastic. I found out she’s going to be taking part in that auto thrill show on Sunday. From what I saw...the lady’s a thrill.”
Sonny grinned. “Well I’ll check that out. I’ll let ya know afterwards my decision to work on your picture.”
“Fair enough. Hope to hear from you soon, Hooper.”
* * *
“Welcome to the 14th annual Hollywood Auto Thrill Show and Showcase Exibition. We have a special treat for you today, folks! Leeah Fredricks, an up and coming stunt driver in Hollywood, will be performing what is known as “Leeah’s Leap” first seen in the film Twenty Days from Atlanta. So sit tight everyone and hang on!”
Sonny snapped his fingers. “That’s where I’ve seen her name before!” He, Gwen and his best friend, Cully Dawson were sitting in the grand stand, three rows up watching as various brightly colored and customized muscle cars were being driven around the track.
Cully turned to Sonny. “Isn’t that where she jumped from the roof of the car to a truck?”
“Right. Tough stunt, ‘cuz their ain’t nobody else driving the car. She has to drive the car then crawl out and across the roof of the car and jump into a truck coming the other way, all before the car crashes into a wall.” Sonny shook his head. “Man...if that’s her signature stunt, workin’ on that picture that David wants us for could be a real barn burner.”
“Ooh, look at that Mustang,” Gwen said and pointed to the dark blue ‘67 Fastback. A “Dixie” horn sounded off on the other side of the track and Sonny pointed to the brand new 1979 triple black Chevrolet El Camino.
“There ya go, Cully. You want a half truck, half car thing get one of those and get rid of that peice of foreign crap car you got.”
Cully snickered and Gwen laughed.
A 1977 black and gold Pontiac Trans Am followed the Mustang.
“Ahh...ye ol’ Bandit is here no?” Sonny said.
A souped up multi colored ‘77 Plymouth Fury, followed by a dark green1969 Pontiac GTO Judge and a cream colored 1967 Chevy Camaro passed by next. Engines revved, exhaust pipes were unmuffled and loud. Sonny and Cully were loving every minute of it. Gwen was enjoying herself too...but could do with out the assault on her ear drums.
“What made them go with that color?” Sonny asked, pointing to the orange 1969 Dodge Charger that followed next.
“Ain’t that the car from that new show?” Cully wondered. Black and white numbers took up the good portion of the door.
“Yeah. It’s a mid season replacement. We’ll see how long it lasts.”
Cully shrugged. “You never know nowadays, Sonny.”
Six stunt drivers highlighted the show and they all brought up the rear of the parade of cars. The announcer called out their names and each driver waved from the window of their vehicles. A slender hand waved out the window of a snow white 1971 Pontiac Firebird Esprit when the announcer called Leeah’s name.
“That’s the one we wanna keep our eyes on, Cully,” Sonny said.
Each of the six drivers had on a specific colored driving suit. After the parade of cars, they lined up on the infield to wave to the crowd. Leeah was in a blue driving suit and she as the only woman in the line up.
“Well shoot, won’t be hard keepin’ an eye on her,” Cully said.
Sonny grinned. “Yeah, and the fact that she’s the only woman in the line up helps too.”
“That’s what I meant...” Cully looked at his friend. “Oh yeah...that too.” He giggled.
“Now, now fellas,” Gwen said.
The show consisted of various jumps, rolls and spin outs. The crowd applauded, oohed and ahhed every bit of it. The boys paid particular attention to Leeah when she did her first car jump of the show. Almost an Evil Kanevil inspired stunt, the car took off on a ramp that was angled, forcing the car to turn as it went into the air. The trick was getting atleast the bottomside of the car back to facing the ground before the car landed on the other ramp. And Leeah did it.
Both Sonny and Cully hoot and hollared when the early 60’s Dodge landed on it’s wheels after clearing the jump. Gwen had gasped, thinking the car was going to land on it’s roof. When it turned enough to land rough on it’s bottomside, she smiled in relief and applauded with the crowd.
“Damn!” Sonny said. “Did you see that?!?”
“I saw! Holy sh--”
“Cully,” Gwen scolded. She then look towards the kids that were sitting near them and were giggling at Cully’s near slip.
The older stuntman grinned. “I saw it, Sonny. Hot damn, where’d she learn to do that?”
“I dunno, but I’m already looking forward to working on David Peters’ picture let me tell you!”
After the Dodge stumbled to the bottom of the ramp, Leeah climbed out and waved to the crowd, to let them know she was okay. Cheers and whistles replied.
More stunts followed. A Keystone Cop like car chase got all the kids giggling as the old Model A chased after the more modern Mustang. The Model A was packed with stunt people in Keystone Cop uniforms and were hanging on to the side of the car. The Mustang was barely breaking a sweat as it drove around the track and field. The Model A wobbled as it turned and everything came to a stop when the Mustang took a sharp turn, causing the Model A to fall over completely and send all the cops tumbling out of the car.
The kids roared in laughter. The crowd applauded as the cops all got up and waved but then the Mustang came back, swung around in a 180, showering the cops in dirt and dust and took off to the other end of the track and field, with the cops running after it on foot, shaking their fists and billy clubs at it.
Once the Mustang and cops disappeared towards the parking lot, a sleek bright yellow 1979 Trans Am came out onto the track. The moody beginning of “Take the Long Way Home” by SuperTramp came over the loud speaker as the car made it’s way slowly around the track. Every eye in the crowd was on the Trans Am..
“So you think you’re a romeo...playin’ a part in a picture show...take the long way home....take the long way home...” The music looped back to the begining harmonica riff and the Trans Am sped up, zooming around the track. When the car got to the straight away on the far side of the track, it headed straight for the jump ramp. It hit the ramp and lept into the air, leaving a trail of flame behind it on the ramp and in the air. When the car landed, flames shot out to the sides and the yellow car drove on, untouched by the fire.
“Ooh,” Cully said. “That was slick.”
The crowd thought so too.
The announcer spoke while a team cleaned up the track and ramp after the fire strip was doused.
“Alright everyone, hang on to your hats and your seats! In a moment the lovely Miss Leeah will perform the stunt that made her name. This stunt has not been performed before a live audience ever before!”
“Ack,” Gwen said. “What if she wrecks?”
“It’ll be one helluva wreck,” Sonny said.
Cully chuckled. “Gwen, I’m sure she’s practiced it a bazillion times.”
“I hope so.”
The PA system blared out another song, “Let the Good Times Roll” from The Cars, while the stunt was being set up. A grey 1977 Oldsmobile Cutlass began to make it’s way around the track.
“If the illusion is real, let them give you a ride. If they got thunder appeal, let them be on your side. Let them lead you up in the air...let them brush your rock and roll hair, let the good times roll...”
When the song ended, the Cutlass stopped at the top of the track in between turns one and two. The wall that the car was to hit was being quickly constructed infront of the crowd, at the bottom of the track, on the front straight away, the same side of the track the boys and Gwen were on. Both Cully and Sonny eyed the wall and then looked at the Cutlass sitting at the top of the track, patiently waiting.
“Do they have to make us wait?” Gwen asked.
“It’s all part of the suspense,” Cully said.
“That’s nice. But they don’t have to make us wait!”
As if the Olds heard Gwen’s request, the Cutlass started to make it’s run around the track. The men finished the wall and quickly ran to the infield while a pick up truck got into position at the beginning of turn one, facing turn four.
There wasn’t a sound from the crowd as the Cultass sped down the back straight away and cruised through turns three and four. Everyone watched, spellbound, as the driver climbed out the window and sat on the door still steering the car. Leeah’s brown hair blew in the wind and she carefully moved from the door to the roof of the car, still guiding the steering wheel. The Cutlass was dead on to the wall and if something went wrong, Leeah didn’t have much of a way out, other than to jump off the car towards the infield grass.
Leeah was crouched on the roof, on her knees with her arm down in the window. She eyed the pick up truck that started to move.
Gwen clutched Sonny’s arm. The Cutlass was moving a lot faster than she would have liked.
Leeah let go of the steering wheel and shifted her weight. She planted her feet on the roof and aimed her body to the coming truck. She leaped into the air, a moments grace found in the fast moving stunt and she landed on the padding in the bed of the pick up truck. The Oldsmobile crashed into the wall, with enough force to cause the back wheels to leave the ground briefly. The trunk popped open and the car turned into a ball of flames.
The crowd gasped and then broke into thunderous applause. The pick up truck stopped a safe distance from the crashed car and Leeah got to her knees and waved to the crowd.
Gwen smiled and applauded along with Sonny and Cully.
“She’s good eh, Cully? She musta studied the Dawson technique of jumping from stage coaches!” Sonny said.
Cully grinned and nodded. The lady stunt driver was good. Real good.
* * *
Two days later, Leeah drove her Firebird through the back lot of the studio, looking for Sound Stage 6. When she got the call from David Peters to work on his next movie, she almost couldn’t believe it. She was thrilled and accepted right away, even though she still had two days of shooting left on her current picture.
The chance to work with Sonny Hooper was not an opportunity that came along everyday. Leeah felt honored and a little nervous at the same time. After all, wasn’t Sonny the greatest stuntman alive? She hoped she would cut it for Sonny’s Stunt Studs.
Maybe I can be a ...studette? She chuckled and turned the Firebird around Sound Stage 4 and saw the sign for number six. She saw three men standing just outside the entrance.
“Ahh, here we go,” Sonny said, pointing to the white Firebird as it came to a stop. “Be ready to kneel, Ski, you’re in the presense of greatness.”
When she stepped out of the car, all three stopped to look at her. Cully and Sonny had only seen her from a distance and had been unable to distinguish her features. Now they could admire them.
Leeah smiled as she walked towards them. “Good morning,” she said. “I’m Leeah Fredricks.”
It was a chorus of three that replied, “Hi.”
Leeah grinned and her hazel green eyes held amusement. She stood about five foot five and was often told she was very pretty. She realized that the three stuntmen apparently thought so too.
“Sonny Hooper,” Sonny said, putting his hand out to her.
Leeah shook his hand. “Hi, Sonny.”
“This is Cully Dawson.”
“And Delmore Shidski.”
“Ski,” the kid said and shook Leeah’s hand. “You can just call me Ski.”
“Okay, Ski.” Leeah smiled and looked at Sonny and Cully. “Well, this is gonna be great! I wore out a lot of knees in my jeans and tires on my dad’s car copying you two. Made my uncle proud. Drove my mother nuts.”
Sonny and Cully chuckled as Leeah looked at Ski. “And I’ve heard a lot about you in the past coupla years.”
“We’ve been hearin’ about you as of late too,” Cully said. “They call you ‘Leadfoot Leeah.’”
Leeah nodded and chuckled. “Yup. And they’re right!”
* * *
“What I’m looking for here, is a sense of realism,” David Peters said to the gathered crowd of stunt people. They were at the end of their meeting and everyone was enthusastic about the up coming project. “When these cars get wrecked, whether it be in the stunt show or on the race track, they’re wrecked for good, and we’re going to show that. This isn’t like some movies and tv shows as of late where the car jumps over something and keeps on going. That doesn’t happen in real life. What I’m looking for from you folks is for when people watch this film, they think, ‘was that real? That couldn’t have been a stunt, that was too real!’”
“Well, of course, that’s why you hired me and my crew,” Sonny said with a grin.
The assembled stunt people chuckled and David smiled. “That’s right.”
“That’s why he hired Leeah too,” Cully said. “Ain’t gonna put no wig on The Kid here and tell ‘em to act like a woman stunt driver. Cuz it ain’t like that in real life either!”
The stunt people laughed and somebody nudged Ski in the shoulder.
“I’m very confident about this project,” David continued when the laughter died down, “and I know I’ve got the best damn stunt people in Hollywood working on it. Now you know we start filming bright and early Monday morning, because Leeah has another couple of days left to shoot on her other picture. I won’t be on the set Monday but I will the rest of the week. So I want to wish you all luck, and let’s put together a good show.”
The stunt men and women cheered.
* * *
Most of the first day of filming went by in a blur for Cully, Sonny and Ski. Once Leeah got behind the wheel of one of the silver stunt Trans Ams, there was nothing but smokin’ tires, screaming engines and a days worth of footage that left even the director breathless.
Of course, the boys loved every minute of it. Several times they forgot it was even a woman driving the car, until she climbed out and took her stunt helmet off and shook her long hair out. That in itself, made the experience all that more sweet.
At the end of the day’s shoot, Cully was ready to go to the Palomino. Of course, it seemed he was always ready to go to the Palomino.
“The what?” Leeah said.
“The Palomino Club,” Sonny explained. “All the stunt people hang out there.”
“Oh.” She chuckled. “Guess I ain’t been in town long enough.”
“Ya wanna go?” Cully asked.
“Sure! What the hell?” she smiled.
“You’re gonna have to count me out on this one,” Ski said. “I got other plans. Have a beer for me, k?”
Sonny snorted. “Got a hot date or something?”
Ski grinned. “You better believe it! See ya later!”
Cully laughed as the young stunt man jogged across the infield of the track.
“Don’t laugh, Cully,” Sonny said.
“Yeah,” Leeah said. “Young fella like that, I’d be worried if he didn’t have a hot date!”
Both Sonny and Cully laughed.
* * *
“So, what do you have to do to get one of these patches?” Leeah asked, looking next to her at the red and gold Hollywood Stunt Gladiators patch on Cully’s Levi jacket. She, Cully, Sonny and Gwen were all seated at a booth at the Palomino Club.
“Damn near kill yerself,” Sonny replied.
“Oh. Well shoot, I’ve been doing that for nearly 14 years...well, two years with stunt driving. You think I could apply for one of these?” She grinned.
“Heck, you keep driving like ya did in that stunt show on Sunday, I’ll give you my patch!” Cully exclaimed.
Jason Kerri was riding with two of his buddies when they rolled past the Palomino. Jason past an uninterested glance towards the establishment and wasn’t going to give it another thought until he spotted the 1971 Firebird parked out front.
“Whoa man, stop the car.”
“What? Aw no way man I ain’t goin’ in that place,” Tom, the driver, said. “Them Hollywood stunt people hang out there. Buncha twerps if you ask me.”
“We ain’t goin’ in, I wanna see that Firebird.”
“Firebird’s suck man. If you wanna a real car get a Camaro.”
“Will you shut up and stop the car?!”
“Alright, alright.” Tom pulled his ‘75 Camaro to the side of the road and barely had his hand on the parking break when Jason jumped out of the car. Tom and the man in back watched Jason march over to the Firebird.
“What the hell’s got into him?” the man in back, Carl, asked.
“Damned if I know.” Tom paused, recalling a conversation he and Jason had once. About some girl. Jason was mad--no, furious that she had left him. He spoke maliciously...dangerously suggesting that he would teach the girl a lesson. A permanent one. “I think that chick he’s always talkin’ about drives a car like that. Maybe it’s hers.”
It was. Jason looked inside the car and recognized the interior. Clean as a whistle. He was suddenly annoyed and he swung his black boot into the door, leaving a black dent. He then spun around and headed towards the door of the Palomino.
“Aw shit,” Tom said, “he’s going inside. It must be hers. Come on, we gotta stop him before he does something dumb!” Tom and Carl got out of the Camaro and jogged towards the door of the Palomino.
Inside, no one noticed the tall, long haired man in jeans and black leather jacket walk in. Jason stopped and looked around, and spotted Leeah sitting with an older man and another couple at a booth. He flexed his fist and walked over to the booth.
Leeah was too busy laughing at Sonny’s story to notice anyone approaching. She gingerly picked up her beer bottle and was about to take a sip when she suddenly had a vice grip on her arm and she was yanked out of her seat.
The beer bottle went to the floor and Leeah stumbled to get her footing. “What the hell?!?” she exclaimed and looked up at who had pulled her arm.
“Shut up! You thought you could hide from me huh?” Jason said loud enough for only Leeah to hear. “You’re wrong, bitch. I’m gonna teach you a lesson...”
Leeah pushed Jason away from her, but he still held on to her arm. Sonny and Cully were on their feet now.
“Get away from me you turd,” she said. “I don’t need to be learnin’ no lesson for nothing!”
Jason let go of Leeah’s arm when he realized he had Sonny and Cully flanking him. Leeah rubbed her sore arm, trying to keep from crying. His grip hurt like hell and after six months of peace, the nightmare was going to start all over again.
“Yer social manners are seriously lacking, son,” Cully said.
“You know this turkey, Leeah?” Sonny asked.
“Unfortunately. Cully, Sonny, meet the biggest mistake of my life.”
“I wouldn’t be talkin’ like that if I was you, Leeah. I’ll show you---”
“--just how much of a jackass you are,” Sonny interrupted. “I think she knows that, and we ain’t known you two minutes and me and Cully can tell. Listen, the door’s over there, don’t let it hit you on the way out.”
Jason looked at Sonny and then Cully with a sneer. “This yer new boyfriend, Leeah? Goin’ for old timers now huh?”
“Shut up, Jason. Just git outta here will you?” Leeah said.
Jason was still eyeing Cully. “So, you think Leeah can restart your engine for ya?”
Tom and Carl came in in time to see Cully land a hard right cross to Jason’s chin, sending the troublemaker to the floor. Tom rolled his eyes. “Oh boy...”
Jason staggered back to his feet, wiping the beer off his hand onto his jeans. He rubbed his chin and looked at Cully.
Tom and Carl came up beside Jason and each took a hold of one of his arms. “Give it up, man. Come on, let’s get outta here.”
Jason shrugged his two friends off. “Get the hell away from me, I ain’t finished.” Next thing everyone knew, Cully and Jason were going at it. Sonny grabbed a hold of Leeah to get her out of the way of the fight, which had moved away from the booth towards the tables and middle of the floor. The young man was giving all he had against Cully, but the older stunt man wasn’t letting himself get whipped either. He blocked a couple of punches, took the abuse of a few others and held his ground.
Several of the customers who had been sitting at the tables scurried out of the way of the two men. When the other stunt people in the establishment saw Cully was in trouble they decided to join in and help.
Tom and Carl had tried to get out of the way and not get involved but their efforts were futile. The next thing they knew they were being tossed about like empty beer bottles.
It was a free for all now. Even the bouncers who finally decided to break things up, couldn’t keep the pace. Those not fighting were cheering Cully on and Leeah and Gwen watched the whole thing from the booth. Gwen though seemed somewhat disinterested in the whole thing. It wasn’t like she’d never seen a fight before. Leeah was too busy watching Cully...and worried.
Cully landed a couple of good hits at Jason, sending him staggering into Sonny. Sonny spun the young trouble maker around belted him in the stomach and then he and Cully threw him into an empty table.
Beer mugs crashed and wood splintered as Jason hit the floor. His two friends were no better off. Tom was on the floor, flat on his back while Carl was hung over the back of a booth seat.
Cully and Sonny grabbed up Jason and steered him towards the door. His two friends were being escorted by bouncers and they went out the door first. Just before reaching the door, Jason managed to turn around to look at Leeah.
“I’ll get you, Leeah,” he sneered. “I swear it!”
“Oh shut up,” Cully growled and pushed Jason out the door. People cheered and applauded as Sonny and Cully turned around to face everyone. Even the bouncers were smiling. The two stunt men smiled and bowed and then made their way back to the booth.
“Damn, Cully, nice not being thrown out the window huh?”
Cully grinned. “Yeah...” he paused bringing his hand to his jaw. “That kid can hit tho’.”
“Oh Cully,” Leeah said. “I’m so sorry. I can’t believe he showed up here.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Cully said as he massaged the knuckles on his right hand. “Who was that guy anway?”
“My ex-boyfriend,” Leeah sighed. “I broke up with him just over six months ago. Everything’s been so peaceful....aw I can’t believe he found me.”
Cully and Sonny both looked at Leeah in concern.
“Found ya...?” Cully said.
“Leeah, could he be the cause of trouble for you?” Sonny asked.
“No more than he was before...I suppose...”
The boys and Gwen saw Leeah’s clouded expression. If he was trouble, he was gonna be BIG trouble.
“Leeah,” Gwen said quietly. “Did he hit you?”
“He’s just a jerk,” Leeah said quickly. “Once a jerk, always a jerk.” She grabbed Cully’s beer bottle and took a swig, noticing it tasted bitter. Bitter, like the experience she had had being with Jason and it wasn’t something she was particular on sharing with her new friends.
Sonny, Cully and Gwen had detected that the issue of Jason was a topic Leeah was not in the mood to discuss. So it didn’t take long for Sonny to figure a way to get Leeah back in good spirits again. Of course, his having had a few to drink helped.
“A drag race?” Leeah repeated. The foursome were standing near Leeah's Firebird in the parking lot.
“Yeah! Your Firebird against my truck. Or we can use Cully’s foreign car if ya want.”
“Hey,” Cully said. “That’s four wheel drive mister, I can take you on.”
Leeah giggled. “Wait a minute, where are we gonna drag race?”
“There’s an old air strip about ten miles from here. Pavement’s a little rocky on the edges but the interior of it’s still good. Whaddya say huh? I wanna see just how much of a lead foot you really are.”
Leeah leaned towards Sonny. “Yer on.”
Gwen giggled. “I think you’re about to step in it, Sonny...”
“Aw heck. Ain’t never been beaten at a good drag race in my life! I’ll tell ya what tho’, you see that patch there on Cully’s jacket? You beat me, we’ll get ya one of them patches.”
Leeah beamed. “You are ON! Let’s get goin’!”
With the sun just barely over the horizon, the sky was painted in blue and purple as Leeah’s 1971 Firebird Espirt lined up with Sonny’s GMC truck. On the surface the two vehicles had their share of advantages and disadvantages over the other. Sonny’s was more powerful, Leeah’s had better manuverabilty. Both vehicles, however, were standard shifts, making coming off the line the most important part of the race.
The old air field had seen it’s fair share of action, most of it after it was closed to airplane use, some 20 years ago. There were plenty of tire tracks showing evidence of smoking sessions, young kids doing 180’s, drag racing and all around hot rodding. It was the perfect place to practice such manuvers. There was nothing to collide with and the pavement was still in fairly good shape. This evening, they had the airstrip to themselves for the time being.
Cully’s Subaru was left at one end of the field, marking the finish line. Gwen sat in the passenger seat of Sonny’s truck while Cully ventured to ride with Leeah. The truck and Firebird plugged each other while they waited for Gwen to count off. In the split second she yelled “THREE!!” tires spun and smoke emerged from the back of the two vehicles.
Cully was thrown back against the seat as Leeah pushed the Firebird for everything it had. The engine screamed as the car pounced towards the Subaru. Leeah never looked at the truck, which came up, fell back, came up and fell back again in the course of the drag. The length was no more than a fender at a time and when they reached the Subaru, Cully looked to see that the nose of the truck was right in line with the Firebird’s door.
“Kheeeehaaaa!!!” Cully exclaimed. Leeah downshifted as the truck went roaring past. She giggled and brought the car to a stop. She and Cully watched Sonny swing the truck around in a 180 and come back.
Leeah smiled up at Sonny when he brought the truck up next to the Firebird.
“Um...I believe you have stepped in it, son,” Leeah said in a Jerry Reed accent. She chuckled.
Sonny nodded, conceding defeat. “I have, I admit I have.”
“That means we gotta rustle up one of them patches,” Cully said.
“We will. We will, partner, the lightening fast lady deserves one that’s for damn sure!”
Leeah smiled. “Thanks, Sonny.”
“He’s right,” Cully said. Leeah turned to him, flashing an appreciative smile. Cully grinned and for the first time took a real notice at how attractive Leeah was. Even after all these years, Cully still had an appreciation for attractive women. But Leeah....there was something different. Something Cully had surpressed for years. When she looked back at Sonny, Cully dropped his gaze, blaming his thoughts and feelings on the booze.
Yeah, it’s just the booze... He told himself he’d forget it all in the morning.
* * *
Sonny and Cully surveyed the bustle of activity on the track as they strolled in early the next morning. Three silver Trans Ams were being lined up for the day’s stunts and cameramen and sound people were setting up for the day’s shoot.
“Hey Sonny! Cully!” one of the stuntmen greeted with a wave. “Hell of a fight last night!”
The two stuntman chuckled and nodded.
“Speakin’ of Leeah,” Sonny said, “I wonder where she is?”
“Prob’ly gettin’ ready for the stunt.” Cully pointed to the trailer located just beyond the track. Parked near it was the Firebird.
“Ahh. Why don’t you go see if she’s ready?”
“Okay.” Cully walked across the infield of the track and over the straightaway and through the gate. As he got closer to Leeah’s trailer, he could hear music.
“Hey mamma! Look at me! I’m on my way to the promised laaaaand. I’m on the Hiiiiighway to Hell!!”
Cully stopped at the door and listened for a moment at the hard rock blaring from Leeah’s stereo. He chuckled and then rapped on the door.
Cully opened the door and saw Leeah reach to turn the stereo down. She looked at him and smiled.
“Hey, Cully,” she greeted as he stepped inside. “Lovely morning?”
Cully smiled. “Yeah....don’t know about peaceful tho’....” He looked around Leeah’s trailer, spotting a bulliten board covered with pictures. A 5 by 7 of James Garner as Jim Rockford was right in the middle.
Leeah giggled. “Ahh...nothing like some AC/DC to get the adrenline running for kick ass stunt driving!”
Leeah giggled some more and pointed to the stereo. “The group.”
The stunt woman grinned and picked up her driving gloves off a nearby table. “This is to get me physched up. I know, sounds cornball enough but hey, I’m all for all ever since I started doing this.” She pulled the driving gloves over her hands and looked at Cully for a reaction.
“Hey, whatever works.”
“Just so’s ya know, I do listen to some more mellow stuff too. That’s for when I want to relax...although, listening to that,” she gestured to the stereo, “can be relaxing sometimes.”
“Hoo boy, that must be for when you’re really wound tight.”
Leeah nodded. “Yeah, that’s usually it.”
Cully listened to the song end and then looked at Leeah. “I don’t know if I wanna see you that wound tight.”
Leeah laughed and then gave a shrug. “That would probably depend on me being in a good mood or a bad mood at the time.” She picked up her stunt helmet and hit the stop button on the stereo player. “Alright, let’s go beat the hell outta some cars.”
Cully turned and held open the trailer door for Leeah. She politely thanked him and they walked towards the track, where the Trans Ams were lined up and waiting.
“I gotta go see how mah boys are doing.”
“Mah boys.” She giggled. “The cars. Come on, I’ll show ya.” She and Cully walked over to the cars and Leeah placed her helmet inside the car.
“You know that each car is fashioned and customized for whatever stunt it has to perform.”
“Well, I like to do a thorough check of the car before I put myself in it and drive the hell out of it. No matter what I’m doing, whether it be rollin’ it over, driving through fire, jumpin’ something, whatever, I want to make sure this car is going to get through the stunt and that I’m gonna be as safe as possible in it.”
Cully nodded. “You really get into this don’t you? I mean, hell, Sonny and I just get in the car and drive.”
Leeah smiled. “Well, I trust the cars are fine for each stunt, but it’s my own safety thing.”
“I don’t blame ya. Considerin’ some of the stunts I’ve seen you do....”
Leeah grinned. “I may seem to have a reckless disregard but I wouldn’t be so reckless if I didn’t feel safe with what I was doing.”
Cully nodded and then looked at the car. “Can I help ya check?”
Across the infield, Sonny watched as Leeah and Cully went about checking the car. He couldn’t help but be amused by the sight. It seemed Cully was quite taken by the lady....or the lady was a bit smitten by Cully. Sonny grinned, happy for his friend. It was about time Cully didn’t run away from a woman. Sonny, though, was sure Cully didn’t see it quite the same way he did.
A small crowd of hearty Hollywood sightseers had gathered on the hill that over looked the track in hopes of seeing a famous face. Jason stood amongst women gushing over the possibilty of seeing maybe Robert Redford or Warren Beatty and men wondering if they’ll see a pretty face. His eyes were trained on the two looking over the Trans Am. He stood in back of everyone else, so they wouldn’t see the hatred that filled his face and the malice that clouded his eyes.
“Alright,” Leeah said as she brought the Trans Am’s hood down. “We’re ready to roll.” She stepped to the side of the car and got into the driver’s seat.
“Good luck, Leeah,” Cully said.
“Thanks, Cully,” Leeah said and gave him a wink. She then stepped on the accelerator and zipped the Trans Am to the starting point of the stunt. Cully jogged over to where Sonny was standing and they waited for the director to give his cue.
“What’s the matter Ski?” Sonny called, seeing Ski hurrying over to the other identical Trans Am. “Did your hot date keep you up last night?”
Ski waved Sonny off and climbed into the car. He took a moment to adjust his harness and seatbelts and then put his stunt helmet on. He waved his hand out the window when he was ready.
At the same time the two Trans Ams started up and the track was alive with the sound of dualing V8 power.
Ski picked up his hand held radio. “I’m ready, Leeah.”
“Alrighty, Ski. Make it count son!”
Ski grinned and put the Trans Am into gear. The two silver cars moved at the same time and joined up with each other as they turned out onto the track. Leeah went one way, Ski the other and the two cars went out to the far ends of the track. They then both turned and drove into the infield to the two ramps that were waiting.
Sonny and Cully watched as each Trans Am aimed for it’s respective ramp. The two cars hit the ramps at the same time and turned up on two wheels. They passed each other, the bottom side of the cars facing one another.
Cully let out a whistle as the cars passed each other. When they cleared, both cars came down and went to the ends of the infield.
“CUT! That’s a print!”
Sonny was nodding his head. “The lady can drive my car anytime.”
The group of people up on the hill applauded. Everyone but Jason...
* * *
Leeah sat at the makeshift card table in the middle of Sonny and Gwen’s living room, holding her poker hand up so know one else could see it.
“I’ll see your ten and raise ya twenty!” Sonny said to Cully, tossing a chip into the middle of the table.
“Ooh heehee, I’m gonna be a rich man tonight,” Cully said. He adjusted his cards, fanning them open again and looked to his left at Gwen. “Whaddya say, Gwen?”
Gwen smiled. “You ain’t got nothing. I’ll see that twenty.” She tossed her chip in.
“I’m in too,” Leeah said and a blue chip jumped onto the pile.
“Oh ya are huh?” Cully leaned to try to sneak a peek at Leeah’s cards.
“Hey!” Leeah giggled. “You just put them cards of yours on the table, hot shot. Let’s see what ya got.”
Cully smiled and spread his hand on the table. “Read ‘em an’ weep.” Two Kings, two Queens and a three.
Sonny groaned and threw his cards on the table. Gwen put her hand down as well.
Cully chuckled and was about to claim the pot when Leeah stopped him.
“Uh-uh, hold on there mister, I ain’t put my cards down yet.” Cully looked at her and waited for the cards to go on the table. When Leeah laid them down face up, Sonny gave a hoot.
“Ha! Straight flush beats two pair!”
Now it was Cully’s turn to groan. “Doh!” He hung his head as Leeah collected the chips.
“I liked to thank my sponsers and most of all I thank God, for making Cully deal me such a great hand.” Leeah laughed and sorted the chips.
“Darn it all, not only does she wreck cars, she just wiped me out of my rent money for the month,” Cully said and frowned.
“Drink one less six pack and you’ll be fine,” Leeah said.
Sonny and Gwen both laughed and even Cully grinned. “Yeah, I suppose I could cut back a little bit.”
“Tell ya what. After we eat, I’ll give ya a chance to win it all back.”
Cully gathered up the playing cards and then looked at Leeah with a side ways glance. “Yer on.”
Leeah smiled and kept her eye on him even after he looked down to shuffle the cards. Gwen noticed the stuntwoman regarding Cully and found it amusing. Gwen then got up to start on dinner.
“Hold on, Gwen, I’ll give ya hand,” Leeah said and followed Gwen to the kitchen.
Gwen smiled appreciatively. “Where’d you learn to play poker like that?”
“Oh I picked it up on the circuit. There’s a lot of down time for drivers, waiting for a car to be fixed or a race to start or whatever. Usually somebody had a deck of cards handy.”
“NASCAR. I was a race car driver before I came out here.”
Gwen smiled and gave Leeah an “atta girl” look. “What made you change to stunt driving?”
Leeah paused in thought. “I don’t think the auto racing world was quite ready for a woman driver like me.”
“Leeah’s quite the woman, eh Cully?” Sonny asked as he handed his friend a beer.
“Yeah,” Cully replied, missing Sonny’s double meaning in the question. “Hell of a stunt driver, and a pretty damn slick poker player too.”
Sonny smiled and sat down across from Cully who was now camped on the couch.
“I meant, she’s a good lookin’ woman.”
“Oh.” Cully looked at Sonny and nodded. “Yeah. She ain’t ugly.”
“So you do find her attractive?”
Cully regarded Sonny a moment. “Yeah....”
“Just checkin’,” Sonny said before Cully could ask. “Jusss’ checkin’..”
Cully had consumed only one beer so far this evening, yet all the feelings he had the night of the drag race, which be blamed on the booze then, came back to him. Despite it being only one beer, he blamed it for his feelings. Feelings which he was not going to admit to Sonny, especially since he had such a hard time admitting them to himself.
“Is Cully married?” Leeah asked cautiously.
Gwen looked at the young stunt woman, surprised by the question. “No. I guess he was a long time ago but it was a real mess. Didn’t last long. I think what happened then scared him off from women and marriage and all that.”
“Oh....” Leeah thought of the relationship she got out of six months ago and sympathized a little with Cully. But...how long do you let it keep scaring you?
“You wanna grab those glasses for me?”
Leeah looked at the drinking glasses, abandoning her thoughts. “Oh sure.” She picked up the glasses and followed Gwen out of the kitchen.
After dinner, and after Leeah allowed Cully to win back some of his rent money, Sonny announced that Leeah was going to watch “a special Hooper cinemas presentation.”
“A lot of this stuff you’ve already seen. Hell, you DO half the stuff we did!” He said as he raised the film reel in his hand to show Leeah. He took a moment to set up the film.
“Is this your reel we showed Ski last year?” Cully asked.
“Nope. This is the reel that Ricky put together.”
“Oh, most of the driving stuff.” Cully nodded and glanced at Leeah. “Appropriate.”
“Okay here we go,” Sonny said and hit the switch. Leeah watched the black and white footage closely. She picked out Cully almost immediately, surprising herself. It’s the eyes, she thought as the young man in the footage turned towards the camera at the end of the stunt. Color footage or black and white, there was no mistaking the eyes. Both Gwen and Sonny noticed how she was watching the reel. Sonny gave Gwen an acknowledging grin and then turned to watch a young Cully brush the dusty dirt out of his dark hair and then flash a grin at the camera. Somebody then walked infront of the camera’s view and the footage cut to the next stunt. Two cowboys were ridng the hell out of their horses.
“That’s Cully on the white horse,” Sonny said. “That’s me on the brown mare. Watch this..”
The camera followed the two cowboys. The white horse was thundering up along side the brown mare. Cully reached out and grabbed Sonny and the two men went falling off the horses that protested the pull on reins and stirrups. The two started in on a fight scene but the footage cut out.
“I hate how we lost the rest of that,” Cully said. “That was good stuff!”
“You’ll like this next one, Leeah,” Sonny said. “Grand Prix with James Garner. Jim’s a great guy to work with. Hell of a wheelman too.”
“Oooh!” Leeah said.
Cully chuckled and looked at Sonny. “Now ya done it. You know she’s got a picture of Jimmy Garner in her trailer?”
Sonny smiled. “No kiddin’?”
Gwen giggled as Leeah blushed. “Oh come on,” Leeah said. “He’s an absolutely wonderful and talented actor. There ain’t many like him today.” She paused. “Aaaaand...it helps that he’s very nice lookin’.”
The boys laughed as the black and white footage showed the start of one of the race scenes from the movie. Leeah was familar with it but she noticed her heart racing as she watched now.
“That’s Cully in the 45 car. I’m off camera somewhere yappin’ to him on the radio,” Sonny explained.
Leeah never took her eyes off the 45 car until it spun out and hit the wall hard in turn two.
“Hooboy,” Leeah said. “You know, I remember that part of the movie. It was a hard hit to watch then and it still is” She looked at Cully.
“You ain’t kiddin’,” Cully said. “But I was right back doing more of it an hour later.”
The camera caught enough of the crew helping Cully out of the busted race car. He took his race helmet off, his dark hair a messy pile on his head, his angular features reflecting the hair raising crash he had just gone through. Somebody said something to him and he managed a nod and a smile before the footage quit.
Flip, flip, flip...
“Ooops, end of the line,” Sonny announced.
Leeah sighed and looked at her watch. “Oh wow...it’s gettin’ kinda late for me. And I gotta be at the track tomorrow at 7 am.” She finished the last swig of her beer and put it on the coffee table. “I’m gonna git.” She stood up.
“Aw gee,” Cully said. “So soon? Shoot, this is early for me!”
Leeah laughed. “Yeah, I know. But I can’t allow myself to be hungover and half tired tomorrow when I drive that car. Gotta have every reflex workin’.”
“Can’t blame her, Cully,” Sonny said. “She’s gotta flip a couple of those cars over tomorrow.”
“Ohh okaaay,” Cully agreed, much in the way a child would. He smiled up at Leeah. “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
Leeah chuckled. “I won’t.”
“G’nite, Leeah,” Sonny said as Gwen walked with the young stunt woman down the hall to the door.
When Gwen and Leeah reached the door, Leeah turned to her. “Thanks for having me over, Gwen.”
“Oh you’re welcome.” Gwen smiled and glanced back down the hall towards the living room. “And uh...there’s nothing wrong with liking Cully.”
Leeah blushed. “Gwen...”
“I’m serious. He’s a great guy, he’s been a good friend to me and Sonny. It’d be nice to see the two of you together.”
Leeah looked down the hall. “Well...He’s a lot older than I am, Gwen.” She shook her head. She didn’t sound as if that mattered too much. “I dunno...”
Gwen shrugged. “Who the heck cares about that anymore? Cully would never hurt you,” she continued. “Not like Jason did.”
“Yeah, but will Cully ever open his heart again? You said that he had been scared off by what happened to him all those years ago....”
“I know, but no woman has taken to him like you have. Sonny and I can both see it. You like him, plain and simple.” Gwen paused and looked at Leeah sympathetically. “Annnnd, I think he likes you. All I’m saying is be persistent. I think you could be just what Cully needs to help him break down that wall.”
Leeah nodded. “Okay, Gwen.”
Gwen smiled. “You be careful tomorrow.”
Gwen opened the door. Leeah took a step and then looked at Gwen. “Thanks,” she said.
Gwen nodded. “Goodnight, Leeah.”
Leeah drove her Firebird through the streets of LA back towards her apartment. She brought the car to a stop at the red stoplight and squinted at the red circle. Two beers was her limit. She had had four at Gwen and Sonny’s.
Leeah shook her head, trying to clear her brain and vision. I really shouldn’t be driving in this condition. And I’m gonna feel just great tomorrow I know it....
The light turned green and the Firebird moved through the intersection. She glanced in her rearview mirror and noticed the car behind her was following a lot more closely than she would have cared for. She picked up her speed and the car behind her stayed right with her.
“Oh come on...what’s this guy up to?” Leeah shifted gears and got into the other lane. The street was nearly bare at this hour of the night and the other car followed right into the other lane behind her.
“Back off mister!”
The other car’s engine revved and Leeah jumped as the Firebird was rearended.
“Ah! What the hell?!?” She shifted gears again, punched the accelerator and cut the Firebird down a side street. Her persuer followed.
Leeah sobered fast. Her heart was pounding. Who is this person...why are they pickin’ on me?? The Firebird swung out with tires squealing onto a four lane boulevard. She glanced at her side mirror and caught the bold black thick pinstripe on the side of the ‘69 yellow Plymouth Cuda, as the light from the street lamp hit it.
“Oh my god...” Jason.... did he follow me from Sonny’s??? Did he follow me TO Sonny’s?? Oh Lord....
Leeah wasn’t going to give Jason the opportunity to find out where she was living now. In a desperate and dangerous move, she swung the Firebird around 180 to the left doing a U turn and tore off down the boulevard in the opposite direction.
Jason followed, swinging the Cuda around leaving a semi-circle of rubber behind on the pavement. A car blared it’s horn when the Plymouth got infront of it but Jason ignored it. His sights were set on the tail lights of the fastly fading Firebird.
The Plymouth’s highbeams cut through the night and was closing in on the Firebird. Leeah’s grip on the steering wheel was shaky and her stomach seemed to be barely hanging on for the ride. Suddenly the sound of sirens filled her ears and blue and red lights were flashing up ahead of her.
Jason cut out quick. He turned the Plymouth off the road, down a side street and was gone in the night.
Two Plymouth Fury cruisers where coming towards Leeah. Not one to cut and run, she brought the Firebird to a stop by the side of the road. She looked in her mirrors and saw the Cuda was gone, replaced by another patrol car.
Leeah let out a sigh and ran her hand through her brown hair. She was still shaking and she couldn’t help but wonder when Jason had spotted her. Did he follow me from the lot to Sonny’s? If he was following her, it didn’t make her feel particularly good if he knew where Sonny’s place was.
“What’s the emergency ma’am?” the officer asked.
Leeah looked up at him, squinting at the flashlight that shined on her. “I was being chased after by my ex-boyfriend.”
“Really?” He flashed the light around inside the car for a moment and then flashed the light on Leeah’s face. “Can I see you driver’s license please?”
Leeah grabbed her purse and dug out her wallet. She fumbled to get the little card out and then handed it to the officer. He read the name, checked the picture with the woman in the car and then held the license in his hand.
“Well, Leeah, kinda late to be out tearin’ through the streets don’t you think?”
“I told you, my ex-boyfriend was chasing after me.”
The officer could smell the beer. “Could you step out of the car please?” He backed away from the door so Leeah could step out. She stumbled a bit and then leaned against the door. The officer watched her every move and shined the light back on her again.
“How much have you had to drink, Leeah?”
“I...I had a couple...”
“How long ago?”
“I dunno, what time is it?”
“About half an hour ago.”
“At a friend’s house.”
“How much did you have?”
Leeah sighed. No sense reminding the officer that Jason was chasing her. “I had three...three and half, I guess.”
The officer nodded. “Leeah, I’m going to have to take you in for reckless driving and possible DWI.”
“Yeah, wonderful....” Leeah sighed and the officer escorted her to the back of one of the cruisers.
* * *
Leeah smiled and gave him a wink and then turned and walked across the track to the silver Trans Am. He watched her...all of her. He liked the way her brown hair fell around her face and shoulders, the way her hazel green eyes had reflected in the light at the Palomino. She was pretty. Too pretty to be a stunt driver, she should have been a starlet or something. Her slim hands gently smoothing a leading man’s hair back on the big screen, instead of being covered in grease and oil from checking the engine of a stunt car.
She should be dressed in evening wear or something other than a race car driver’s suit. A red evening dress...low back...high cut on the side... Yeah, he would like to see that....
Cully was shattered out of his dream by the ringing telephone. A hangover headache kicked in right away as the light hit his eyes. The phone rang again and he shook his head, wondering why such an image and thought of Leeah would come to him in his dreams.
Gotta be the booze...
Cully dragged himself off his bed and picked up the telephone on the table across his room.
“You can skip breakfast, partner,” Sonny said. “We gotta go to the police station.”
“What the hell for?”
“Leeah got busted last night for drunk driving or something stupid like that. David called me about half an hour ago, wants us to go get her. Bail’s already been paid, but he wants us to pick her up. Leave your car where it is, I’m comin’ to get ya.”
Cully wiped his eyes. “Drunk driving? Sheeeeit...” He looked at the clock next to the phone. It was quarter to six in the morning.
“Yeah. Grab a cold one buddy, I’m on my way.”
Leeah was sitting in the holding cell waiting. The officer told her that someone was on the way to get her. She thanked him and sat in silence. She had made no effort to get the cops to listen to her story of Jason chasing her. They didn’t believe her now any more than the cops back six months ago had believed her. It was all a wasted effort to even try that was for damn sure.
She was dying for a clean set of clothes, a cup of coffee and a chance to go to the bathroom in private. Jail’s not only stunk in the figurative sense but in the literal sense too. A nice hot shower would be perfect right now.
Fifteen minutes later, the cell block clattered open. Leeah glanced up and saw Sonny and Cully standing on the other side of the bars. What a pleasant sight it was to see Cully. She then thought how she probably didn’t look particularly attractive at the moment. The officer unlocked the cell door.
“You’re free to go, Miss Fredricks.”
“Thank you, Officer,” Leeah said, trying to muster as much politeness as she could.
“David called,” Sonny said. “Your bail’s already been paid. He wants us to get you to the track and ready for 7.”
“What time is it now?”
“Six-thirty,” Cully answered.
“Oh man, there ain’t no way I can be ready to drive in half an hour after the night I’ve had.”
“Well, look we’ll get ya loaded up on coffee and grab something to eat at a McDonald’s or something and you’ll be good as new come seven!” Cully said.
Leeah smiled. “If you say so.”
“Sure,” Sonny said. “And Cully here will pay for it.” He grinned at his friend.
Leeah laughed. “Ooh, well in that case how can I refuse?”
After she picked up her belongings from the booking desk the boys and Leeah went out to the impound yard so she could get her car. The Firebird was parked on the side, near the gate. Leeah gave her impound ticket to the officer and he handed her the keys.
Cully offered to drive Leeah and her Firebird to the track, so she could get her bearings after her night in the pokey. Sonny drove on ahead and Cully stopped at a coffee shop first, letting Leeah get some coffee and a bagel.
“Thanks, Cully,” Leeah said when he returned to the car with two coffees and a bag with her bagel and cream cheese.
“No problem.” He snickered and held up the other coffee. “Got one for me too.”
“Of course!” She then offered to hold onto the cup so he could drive.
“How you gonna eat, holding two cups of coffee?”
“Watch.” She put the two cups on the floor by her feet and then opened the center console. Although not built with a cup holder, Leeah put one of the cups of coffee inside and pushed the cassettes she had against it. “Just don’t drive too fast. I don’t think we want coffee all over us.”
“That’d be kinda uncomfortable huh?”
Leeah laughed. “Yup.”
As Cully drove the Firebird, Leeah spread the cream cheese over her toasted bagel and told him what happened the night before.
“It was Jason,” she said, and licked the excess cheese off her fingers. “He rear-ended me and chased after me and all. When the cops showed up he disappeared down a side street, leaving me to be arrested for drunk driving. God dammit.”
“You sure it was Jason?”
“A yellow 1969 Plymouth Barracuda? Yeah, it was him.” She sighed. “What bothers me more is did he follow me from the track to Sonny’s place last night or did he just happen to find me after I left?”
“The cops didn’t do nothin’?”
“Are you kiddin’? Of course they didn’t. They were happy to nail me with reckless driving and drunk driving. Who gives a shit about some chick being chased after by her big bad ol’ ex-boyfriend?”
“Well, look,” Cully said. “You know what his car looks like, why don’t you file a complaint against him?”
Leeah shook her head. She said nothing more and took another bite of her bagel.
“No?” Cully said.
“It doesn’t work, Cully. I’m not gonna waste my time with that.” Leeah sipped her coffee and spent the rest of the ride staring out the window.
Cully didn’t like her being so quiet. But judging from her silence, he knew better than to push the issue. He drove on and delivered Leeah right to the front door of her on track trailer.
“Thanks, Cully,” Leeah said, sounding more like her old self. “You can leave the car here if ya want. I’ll see ya on the track in a few minutes.”
“Sure.” Cully grabbed his coffee and got out of the car while Leeah went into her trailer.
Once inside, Leeah punched the button on her 8 track player on her way to the bathroom.
“Not gonna let ‘em catch me no...not gonna let ‘em catch the Midnight Rider....”
Cully, meanwhile, found Sonny. Hooper had seen them drive in and he grinned at his friend.
“Bought her coffee didn’t ya?”
Cully looked at Sonny innocently. “Yeah...” So what’s your point?
Sonny only smiled. “Hey, listen, did she say anything about what happened last night?”
“Yeah. You remember that fella we mopped the floor with at the Palomino a couple nights ago?”
“Her ex-boyfriend. Yeah.”
“He was chasin’ after her. Rear-ended her car. She told the cops but they blew it off.”
Sonny’s expression turned serious. “Damn...”
“Yeah. I told her she should go file a complaint or something. She knows what his car looks like an’ all.”
Cully shook his head. “She says she won’t do it. Says it’s a waste of time.” The older stuntman paused, wondering if his friend would know the answer to his next question, which had been plaguing his brain for the past two days. “He beat her didn’t he?” he asked softly.
Sonny paused. They didn’t know for sure, but it seemed like all the signs were there. “Yeah, he probably roughed her up a couple of times.”
“Why would a man do that? And to a woman like that?” Cully shook his head, at a loss for understanding.
“I dunno, partner,” Sonny said with a sigh. “I dunno...”