**** **** ****


Outside of town, Bill passed the Boar's Nest and about a mile later, realized he had no idea where he was going. Having been so caught up in his pursuit of the hit car, he hadn't paid much attention to the roads once the pavement of the highway eventually gave way to the dirt roads of this place called Hazzard. He slowed and turned the Crown Vic around, going back to the Boar's Nest.


Inside, the woman he had received directions from before, MaryAnne, was picking up beer mugs from an empty table. She looked over as he came in.


"Uh oh,” she said. “Don't tell me I gave you bad directions?"


He smiled. "No, honey, you didn't. The directions were good. In fact, since you gave me such good directions to town, I thought maybe you could give me some good directions back to the interstate so I can get back to Atlanta."


"Oh sure. Um, if you don't mind my askin' tho'..” she chuckled, “how the heck did you find your way here to begin with?"


"I'm not familiar with this territory; I've only been with the Atlanta bureau for about a month. I was in pursuit of a vehicle and not exactly paying attention to landmarks or highway signs, not that there was much around here to pay attention to…"


"Ah, I see. Yeah, hot pursuit, I can understand that..." With her serving tray loaded with empty beer mugs, MaryAnne walked back to the bar. Bill wondered how this barmaid would understand anything about being in pursuit of a vehicle.


“What were you in pursuit of?” she asked, turning back to him again. “Bank robbers?”


“It wasn’t so much the people I was after. It was the car. It was stolen from the FBI.”


“Somebody stole a Crown Vic?”


“No, this was a car we had impounded.”


“Oh. Hm, that’s different.”


Unfortunately, Bill didn’t appreciate how unique the situation was. “Yeah, uh, listen, I have a long drive back to Atlanta and an unfortunate report to have to file when I get there. If you could tell me how to get back to the highway I’d appreciate it.”


"Oh sure…” Despite her curiosity, it was apparent this Fed didn’t want to discuss police business with a waitress. If only he knew…heh. “You must've come in from that direction, originally?” MaryAnne pointed to her right, which would be the left side of the Boar's Nest facing front.


"I did."


She nodded. "Well, I'm not gonna send ya back that way because I'll just get you more lost. Lot of dirt roads out there that lead to nowhere. If you head back to that paved road in the other direction here, like you were going to town, only go the other way when you get to it. That's 36 East, that'll take you right to the interstate and you can get back to Atlanta."


Bill nodded gratefully. "Great. I should find my way easy enough. Thanks."


"Glad to help." She smiled at him. "Oh and good luck in Atlanta."


"Yeah.” Bill’s expression faded a little, thinking of the now lost hit car and how would he ever find it again. “I need all of it I can get." He turned and left the Boar's Nest.


MaryAnne watched him go and felt a pang of sympathy for the agent. He sounded Yankee and was obviously a city boy. She wondered how he had the unfortunate fate of ending up at the Atlanta bureau.


She also wondered what was so important about the car he was after and why the vehicle was in the area. She figured she’d find out soon enough when she finished at the Boar’s Nest and reported for duty later as a deputy at the courthouse.


Meantime, no good-looking man escaped Daisy Duke’s eye. She walked up to MaryAnne having now seen Bill in the Boar’s Nest for the second time that day. “Who was that?”


MaryAnne chuckled. The Federal agent’s appearance had not been lost on her either. “Sharp dressed Fed.”




MaryAnne nodded.


“What’s he doing in Hazzard?”


“Looking for a stolen car. Said he chased it through here. I assume he lost it, that’s why he was asking if we had a police department around here the first time he came in.”


“Well, just as long as it doesn’t involve anything that could get Bo and Luke into trouble, I don’t care what he’s here for. But…” Daisy smiled, “he was kinda cute.”


MaryAnne nodded. “Yeah, he’s one of the better lookinfellas to walk through that door today.”


Daisy laughed.


**** **** ****


The nearly two-hour drive back to Atlanta gave Bill plenty of time to work up a good mad. He fumed about the snow job he had received from the local law in Hazzard and had all but convinced himself he’d never find the car again. He figured he would maintain a very low profile at the bureau until he either had the car back in his sights, or had a good solid lead on the men who now had it.


But he had so little to go on. It was after four o’clock when the Atlanta skyline came into view and Bill found his way off the interstate and back to the west side of Atlanta and the body shop. The gate was wide open and he pulled into the empty yard. He left his Crown Vic and went inside the garage.


He did a first run sweep through the building. The men that had used the place had left most everything behind. Tools were on the workbenches, the gray faceplate and the massive plate that had covered the back window of the hit car were in a back corner, cans of black paint and various auto parts were strewn about. In the office, Bill found old repair invoices and paperwork with the Blakefield’s Autobody logo. The car calendar on the wall was from last year. On the desk was an old black rotary phone.


Bill then remembered his phone calls. He turned and left the office going back out through the garage and out to his Crown Vic. He popped the trunk, pulled out his evidence kit and then returned to the office.


Although it was pretty dingy and smudged, Bill managed to lift some prints off the phone. He hoped one of the prints at least would belong to whoever answered the phone the other night.


Back in the garage, he did the same to the two grey plates that had once been on the hit car.


In the dump he found soda and beer cans, Styrofoam coffee cups, crushed cigarette boxes and used paper towels. He dusted the cans for some more prints. He also found receipts from local convenience stores and coffee shops dated within the past few days, but all of them indicated the items purchased were paid for in cash.


“Figures,” Bill muttered. “That’d be too easy if one of these creeps had been dumb enough to use a credit card…”


Truthfully, too easy would have been having Ralph there with the suit and getting some vibes off the place.


The reality hit Bill very suddenly as he stood there alone in the dusty office. Ralph could have gotten some vibes, maybe seen where the men and the car were at that moment, he and Bill could have caught up to them, nailed them and boom. Case closed.


Bill sighed as he gathered up his evidence. Ralph wasn’t there and Bill was going to have to solve this one the old fashioned way. He tried not to feel hopeless but with his lackluster performance so far in Atlanta, he felt the odds were stacked very much against him. He had to track down and find the hit car. Otherwise, LA would never want him back and Atlanta may decide they didn’t want him around either.


Then where would he go?



**** **** ****


While Bill had been tailing the hit car to Hazzard County, Commander Mayson had received a phone call from the Regional Director in Los Angeles, Lester Carlisle. Carlisle wanted to know when to expect the car to be returned to LA.


When Mayson explained that the car wasn’t actually in Atlanta custody yet, the rest of the phone conversation went down hill.


“But I’ve got a report here saying it was found in Atlanta,” Carlisle said. “Why hasn’t it been picked up?”


“Well, we have reason to believe that there may be something more going on with it. I have an agent assigned to the case as we speak. In fact, it’s the same agent that spotted it here in Atlanta.”




“Agent Maxwell.”




“If he hadn’t spotted it when he did I don’t think anybody would’ve even known it was here.”


“Maxwell?! Oh Frank, do yourself a favor and take him off that case. Immediately.”




“He’ll bungle it. He’s too emotionally attached to all that. Diamante tried to kill him with that car. I suppose he’s the one that thinks there’s something more going on with the car being in Atlanta.”


“Well, as a matter of fact…”


“Oh, don’t tell me he sold you on some gut instinct drabble?”


“Now wait a minute, I happen to think he may be on to something. The circumstances surrounding the theft of that car are a little suspect.”


“He’s ruined you already! Well, I shouldn’t say that as I don’t think Maxwell can ruin your bureau anymore than it already is. But if you want to avoid a repeat of that short changed bust you just had with the Wagner jewel heist, you’ll assign Maxwell to something else. Preferably something that doesn’t involve cars, since he wrecks them like a college fraternity…”


Mayson bit his tongue. He didn’t appreciate the “ruined” comment about his bureau and he was annoyed that news of Sam Bardsley’s arrest had reached California, if probably for no other reason than because Bill Maxwell had been a part of it. It seemed LA was keeping a watch just so they could continue to justify having tossed Maxwell out in the first place.


But Mayson had more faith in Bill than that. “Agent Maxwell has not wrecked any cars since he’s been here,” Mayson said. “And I have no intention of removing him from the case of that Diamante car. I’m confident that Agent Maxwell can get the job done. And as far as I’m concerned, Les, you can run your bureau the way you see fit and I’ll run mine as I see fit.”


“It’s your neck. I’m just trying to help you avoid another disaster.”


“I think I can manage.”


With that, the phone call ended. Commander Mayson stewed for a few minutes afterward. He really didn’t like Atlanta being treated like the bastard child of the FBI. And if Lester Carlisle was so concerned about helping Atlanta avoid future disasters why then, if Bill Maxwell was such a liability, was Maxwell sent to Atlanta in the first place?


Mayson didn’t buy into any of that. Maxwell was human and people made mistakes. Mayson had no reason to doubt Maxwell could do the job. He had a proven track record.


Still, for Maxwell’s own sake, Mayson hoped Bill could solve the case. Because despite washing their hands of him, the LA Bureau apparently was still going to be watching him…


**** **** ****



Before leaving the body shop, Bill posted the office door with a sign indicating that the premises were now a Federal crime scene and warned against trespassers. He returned to the bureau with the fingerprints he had gathered and requested a priority return on them. In the meantime, he followed up on the license plate number he had obtained that morning.


The Grand Prix was registered to Carson’s Auto Repair in Atlanta. Bill found the street on a city map then drove through the mess of evening commuter traffic to get to it. By the time he pulled into the garage’s little parking area, it was after 5:30 and the place was closed.


But the very car he had seen parked at Blakefield’s Autobody was now parked along side the building of this repair shop. He snooped around a little, looking in the car, which was clean inside, and then he peeked through the windows of the garage. Nothing looked out of the ordinary but he decided he would stop back in the morning to ask a few questions.


Since he could accomplish nothing more for the day and feeling as if he had accomplished nothing anyway, Bill returned to the bureau to wrap up. Before leaving, he looked at the map of the state of Georgia that was on the wall in the bullpen. He traced his finger along I-75 north, found Route 76 and then found Route 36. There, he found the little town of Hazzard.


With some surprise, he realized he had only been a few miles from the border with Tennessee. From there the city of Chattanooga was maybe ten or fifteen miles from Hazzard. He frowned, figuring if Diamante’s hit car had kept going, that was probably where it ended up. There was no way the thing would have remained in the little jerkwater town of Hazzard for any length of time, certainly not long enough for anyone to spot it.


The car was long gone by now. He’d never find it. 


Bill turned from the map and left the bullpen.


*** *** ***


Later that night, Bill phoned Ralph and heard about Ralph’s meeting with the green guys.


“You…you met with the green guys, Ralph? On board the ship? The whole thing??”


“Yeah. Pam and I both did.”


“Well, what’d they say? Are they taking the suit, they giving you a new partner, what’s going on?”


“No, they’re not taking the suit. No, they’re not giving me a new partner. But they did kind of promote Pam and they gave me another instruction book.”


Another book, Ralph?” Bill snorted. “Terrific. How long do you think you can hang on to it this time?”


“I’m going to try my best, Bill, to hang on to it long enough to read it. I’ve got it in the black box the suit came in so it’s nice and safe.”


Heh heh, yeah. For now. So what’s this about Davidson being promoted?”


“Well, basically to take your place for the time being. See, here’s what happened, Bill. They’re willing to wager that your assignment to Atlanta is temporary. So, like you told me before you left, I should continue to do things with the suit and Pam’s going to help as much as she can. However, they did make it clear. If you’re in Atlanta for good then I have a choice to make. Either join you in Atlanta, or give up the suit.”


“Hell of a choice huh kid? Well, I’m glad they recognized Davidson for her work in the team. At least they didn’t partner you up with some greenhorn moron who doesn’t know what he’s doing.” Unlike myself… “Uh, if I’m lucky Ralph, I can get back to LA sooner rather than later. After all, the only reason you’ve even been given the choice is because dumb ol’ Maxwell had to nearly blow his entire career. If I can nail this Diamante hit car case here in Atlanta, I’ll have LA demanding my return.”


“Diamante’s hit car?”


“Yeah. It was stolen out of LA a few weeks ago, Ralph. It’s here in Atlanta and whoever has it I think has plans for it.”


“You’re kidding! Johnny Diamante’s hit car is there in Atlanta? At the same time you are?”


“Yes, Ralph, and I don’t care for the irony of it. If you and the Counselor would like shore up your partnership with the suit and help ol’ Uncle Bill with something, I could use a good detective back there in LA to snoop around for me.”


“Sure, Bill. It was stolen when? About the time you left?”


“Pretty much.”


“You don’t think it was sent after you do you?”


“I don’t know, Ralph, although if it was, it’s a little too far north right now.”


“What do you mean?”


“Long story. Listen, I know what impound lot it was stolen out of. There were four other cars stolen with it. They’ve all been recovered and I believe are back at that impound. If you start there Ralph, maybe you can pick up a piece of something. I know it was several weeks ago now and you may not get much for vibes and all but…I gotta start somewhere.”


“Okay, Bill. Yeah, I’ll get what I can.”


“Whatever information you can get Ralph, follow it through. Get Pam to help you, do whatever. If you come up with names, I might know who they are or I can run them through the computer. Every shred of evidence I can collect, anything at all, Ralph…I need. And I need this one bad…”


“What’s going on?”


“Well, as of this moment, I don’t know where the car is. I was tracking it and…I lost it. I have to find it, Ralph or I’m not going to be welcome on any Federal building’s door step.”



**** **** ****


The next morning, Bill went in a little early to have an APB issued on Diamante’s car and to check on the results of the fingerprints he had collected the day before. Finger print analysis was able to identify several of the prints and match prints from the soda and beer cans, the telephone and the front face plate that had been removed from the hit car. Additional identifications were made from prints off parts from the hit car, which Bill disregarded once he confirmed that those identifications were of a couple of men that had worked on the car for Johnny Diamante and were now in prison. But the other identifications were of men who lived in and around the Atlanta area.


Now Bill felt like he was starting to get on to something. A few minutes after eight, Bill called the Fulton County Assessor’s office to get information on who owned the auto body shop. Armed now with names, addresses and telephone numbers, Bill left the bullpen.


Kenny stopped him in the hall. “Bill, did you see the news this morning?”




“That garage where Diamante’s car was at, it burned down early this morning.”




Completely stunned by this development, Bill left the Federal building and drove over to Blakefield’s Autobody. The street was closed off, so Bill parked his Crown Vic, approached the police officer that was keeping traffic off the street and flashed his badge. He was allowed through.


The street was a chaotic scene of fire trucks, water hoses, police officers and onlookers. The fire was under control but the building was badly burned. Smoke was hanging in the air over the garage and firefighters were aiming their water hoses at different remaining hotspots.


Bill watched in shock. I can’t believe it! Burned to the ground! From his left, suddenly, he heard a woman’s voice.


“That’s him, officer. That’s the man I saw snoopin’ around there yesterday!”


Bill turned to look and the girl that worked the deli counter was pointing at him accusingly while pulling on the arm of a young plain-clothes detective.  The two came over toward Bill.


“This is the man,” the woman continued. “He’s asked questions about the garage and he sat right inside the deli yesterday, watchin’ the place. He even paid me money to ignore him!”


Bill looked at the cop, ready to defend his honor when he recognized the young detective, having crossed paths with him recently with some mutual FBI and city police business. Thankfully, the sandy haired detective, Matt Franklin, recognized Bill


“Ma’am, are you sure this is the man you saw yesterday?” Detective Franklin asked.


“I sure am!”



“Absolutely positive! Ain’t you gonna arrest him?”


“Well, I suppose I could ma’am but…he’s a Federal agent.”


The woman stared at Franklin. She then looked at Bill.  “He is?”


Bill took out his badge and showed it to her.


“Oh,” she said. “Uh, well…um. Never mind then…” Embarrassed, she turned away and hurried back to the deli.


Franklin watched her go and then turned back to Bill. “Agent Maxwell?”


“Yes. Detective…Franklin is it?”


Matt nodded and he glanced toward the now smoldering ruins of Blakefield’s Autobody. “This part of a case you’re working on?”


“It is. Or it was.”


“Well, I didn’t figure you to be a fire bug. Why don’t you tell me what’s going on? This fire looks kinda suspicious, maybe it has something to do with whatever you’ve got.”


Bill explained about the stolen hit car from California, his observation of the garage while work was being done to the car and then tailing the car nearly to the state line with Tennessee.


“That’s almost a two hour drive,” Franklin said.


“So I discovered. I lost them in some backwoods piece of paradise called Hazzard. Anyway, when I got back here to Atlanta yesterday afternoon, I came straight here and gathered what evidence I could. I posted the door but I’m sure that got burned up in the fire.”


“More than likely. What evidence did you get?”


“Fingerprints. They came back this morning, I have a list of people to track down and question. I also got the name and address of the owner of this property.”


“That puts you a step ahead of us. I hadn’t had a chance to call in for that information yet. Listen, you’re probably gonna go talk to the owner this morning right?”


“I am.”


“Mind if I follow you? Since somebody’s gonna have to break the news about this fire…”


“Sure. Though, I probably should follow you as I’m not exactly sure where this address is located.”


After checking the address Bill had, and knowing where it was located, Detective Franklin coordinated with the officers on the scene, letting them know he was going to talk to the property owner. Bill returned to his Crown Vic and followed Franklin ’s black Buick Grand National.


The property owner’s name was Maury Blakefield and he lived just a couple of miles from his garage in one of Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods, where the houses were within spitting distance of one another and were situated on postage stamp size lots. The little brown bungalow house was old and tired looking, with a well-worn dirt driveway and shrubs that were in desperate need of a trim. An old pop up camper was parked along side the house and a black late model Ford Mustang was parked in the driveway. There was no room for Bill or Detective Franklin to park their cars so they parked on the street.


Bill wasn’t sure he could take any more surprises that morning. Following behind Detective Franklin as they walked across the front lawn, Bill stopped and looked at the Mustang. He checked the front end and found it wore no license plate. Was it possible this was the same Mustang he had seen parked at the body shop for the past several days?


Detective Franklin was on the porch of the bungalow and he turned to see where Bill was at. “Something wrong, Agent Maxwell?”


Bill looked up. “We may find out shortly,” he replied and joined Franklin on the porch.


Maury Blakefield was a stocky built man in his mid-70s, with thin grey hair that looked forever windblown. He looked somewhat annoyed at the two men standing on his porch, wondering who would be bothering him so early in the morning. He looked twice at Bill in his three-piece suit. “Whatever yer sellin’ ‘r preachin’, I ain’t buyin’.”


“Mr. Blakefield, we’re not selling or preaching anything,” Matt replied. He held open his badge. “I’m Detective Matt Franklin of the Atlanta Police Department. This is Agent Bill Maxwell of the FBI. Sir, do you own Blakefield’s Autobody on Simmons Parkway?”


“Why do you ask?”


“Because it burned to the ground this morning,” Bill said, not meaning to be blunt but not really in the mood to play games with the old coot.


Detective Franklin shot a glance at Bill. The blunt delivery, however, got Maury’s attention. He looked at the two lawmen for a shocked moment. “Somebody…burned my garage…?”


“Yes, sir,” Matt said with apology. “This morning. No one was injured but I’m afraid the building is a total loss.”


“Oh Lord…” The old man was visibly upset.  He looked back and forth between the two lawmen wondering if this was all some kind of cruel joke.


“I’m sorry, Mr. Blakefield,” Matt said.


“Forty years of my life. Just…gone.”


“Mr. Blakefield, I’m sorry for what happened,” Bill said. “It’s possible the fire was set intentionally. I’d like to ask you a few questions.”


Maury looked back at Bill. “Huh, you ain’t sorry. Yeah, go on, ask your questions. What, you think I set it to collect insurance money or something? Well I can tell you right now that I don’t have any insurance on the place because I can’t afford it. I ain’t even got my business anymore! I got nothin’!”


“You no longer have your business?”


“That’s what I said. Had to close up three months ago. Couldn’t afford to keep any boys on the payroll and one of them national bondo and paint places moved in a couple blocks away offering bodywork and paint jobs for a few hundred bucks. Nobody gives a damn about quality work no more, they want it all fast an’ cheap. I’m getting too damn old for this.”


“Well, Mr. Blakefield, you probably weren’t aware but somebody was using your garage for the past few days to do work on a car,” Bill continued.


“What? Somebody was using my garage? No, I had no idea.”


Bill glanced toward the Mustang. “Does that car belong to you?”


“No, that’s my nephew’s.”


“Is he here?”


“Not right now. He took my truck to run some errands for me.”


“He live with you?”




“Has he been home much the past few days?”


“He travels a lot to see his buddies and whatnot. I don’t keep tabs on ‘em, he’s a grown man. I only have him tell me when he’s leaving and when he’ll be back.”


“So has he been home much the past few days?”


“Not really.”


Bill nodded but the old man could sense the answers weren’t good. “What’s he done now?”


“I’m not saying he’s done anything. But I’ve been watching your garage for the past few days, Mr. Blakefield, and you nephews’ car has been there day and night.”


“What do you mean, you been watchin’ my garage? What for?”


“Well, some boys, one of whom may or may not be your nephew, were working on a car there. A car that is Federal property that was stolen out of California.”


If the old man was shocked by any of Bill’s accusations, he didn’t show it. He merely gave a grunt and said, “You probably best be talkin’ to Joey when he gets back.”


“That’s probably what I should do. When do you expect Joey back?”


“Not until this afternoon.”


Bill nodded. “I’ll stop back then.”


Detective Franklin had listened to the questioning with interest. When Agent Maxwell appeared to have nothing further to ask, Matt took out a pen and notepad and wrote down his name and phone number. “Mr. Blakefield, if there’s anything you need, just give me a call. I’ll follow up with you in a couple of days, see if there’s anything that can be done about cleaning up your property.” He tore off the paper and handed it Maury.


“You just find out who burned my garage to the ground and let me have one shot at them. That’s all I want…” Maury tucked the paper into his shirt pocket and stepped back into his home, closing the door.


Detective Franklin and Bill walked back to their cars. “I don’t know about you,” Matt said, “but I got the impression that Joey’s been in trouble with the law before.”


“Yeah, I got that impression too,” Bill replied. “I'm not sure the old man’s all that clean either.”


“You really saw that car at the garage the past few days?”


Bill nodded. “I did. And it makes some sense, if Joey’s tied in with these bums that were reconfiguring the car and they needed a temporary garage to work out of, Joey knew of just the place to use.”


“You think Joey figured on his uncle’s garage being burned to the ground because of it?”


“We’re assuming that’s why it was burned. I know you said it looks suspicious and with all that’s gone on lately it could all be related. Maybe I’ll find out more this afternoon when I come back and talk to Joey.”


“Well, if you need anything let me know. The fire marshal should have a report on the cause of the fire within the next couple of days. If you want I’ll send a copy of the report over to you.”


Bill nodded. “Thanks. Oh...” Bill chuckled, “and thanks for not making me a suspect.”


Matt grinned.



**** **** ****


Maury Blakefield was waiting for his nephew when Joey returned home that afternoon. Joey Blakefield was a tall, lanky man in his mid-30s with short black hair and a goatee. He came into the house and found his uncle in the kitchen, sitting at the table. He announced he was back and started to head toward the back of the house.


“Joey,” Maury said.


Joey came back to the doorway. “Yeah?”


Maury looked back at his nephew and looked to be debating whether Joey was guilty or not.


The young man sensed this. “What?”


“Somebody burned my garage to the ground this morning.”


Joey’s face registered shock and if he was faking it, Maury couldn’t tell. “Holy #@%! Are you kidding?”


“No. I had a cop and an FBI man here this morning to tell me. The FBI man was asking about you.”


“Me?” Joey came into the kitchen and stood before Maury. The question was urgent. “What do you mean he was asking about me? Why?”


“Said he’d seen your car there the past few days. Some boys were working on a car in the garage. Said the car was stolen from the FBI.”


Joey stared at his uncle and then shook his head. “He’s…he’s crazy. He’s nuts, man, I was down in Macon, I told ya…”


Maury stood up from the chair never taking his eyes of his nephew. “What are you mixed up in Joey?”


“I’m not mixed up in anything—”


“You’re lying to me! Don’t lie to me!”


“I’m not--!”


“They burned the place down, Joey! My garage! They burned my garage and you probably led them right to it!”


“Shut up!” Joey shot back. “Just shut up!”


“How could you do this..? To me?”


“I ain’t done nothing! Just shut up. Just …shut up and leave me alone.” Joey spun around to leave.


“You better have some better answers for that Fed when he shows up!”


Joey stopped at the doorway and looked back at his uncle. “What do you mean?”


“Oh he’s coming back here to ask you some questions. Maybe you’ll give him better answers than you’ve given me.”


Joey didn’t say anything. He turned and left the kitchen.


About an hour later, Joey was outside working on his Mustang when he spotted a gray Crown Vic pull up on the street. He pretended to ignore the Federal agent as the man walked up the dirt drive.


“Joey Blakefield?”


Joey looked across the air filter. “Yeah?”


“Bill Maxwell, FBI.” Bill held up his badge. “I’d like to ask you a few questions.”


Joey stood up from under the hood of the Mustang and wiped his hands on a cloth. He sized up the tall agent with aviator sunglasses and decided it would be wise to play things cool. “About what?”


“Your uncle’s garage burned down this morning.”


“Yeah, he told me.”


“Know anything about it?”


“Like what?”


“Like who may have done it?”


Joey shook his head. “No.”


“No? You sure?”


Joey chuckled. “C’mon man… what, you think I did it or something?”


“I think you may know who might have done it.” Bill looked at the Mustang. “This your car?”




Bill stepped around Joey and walked to the front of the car. He looked down where the front license plate should be. “No plate.”


Joey shrugged. “Don’t need one.”


“So you’ve never put a license plate on the front here?”


“Nope. I used to have a Rebel flag plate on there.”


“What happened to it?”


Joey smirked. “Somebody stole it.”


“I’m sorry to hear that.” Bill looked into the open engine compartment. He flashed a toothy grin, nearly as bright as the chrome headers that covered the cylinder heads. “Boy woulda lookit that…chrome headers, stainless steel fuel lines.” He looked at Joey. “You a mechanic?”


“Yeah, I do a little shade tree kinda work…”


“Uh huh. Didja do all this yourself?”


“Some of it. Look, you here to ask questions about my uncle’s garage burning down or you wanna talk cars?”


“Both, actually. You’re more than a shade tree mechanic. You were one of those ASE certified mechanics once, weren’t you?”


Joey’s posture shifted just a little. Bill just grinned.


“I did my homework before I came over here, Joey. I know everything about you, kid. Where you’ve worked, where you’ve lived. When you’ve been in jail…and when you’ve been out. You can play cool with me if you want, but I’m just going to keep bird-dogging you until you give me what I want. The choice is yours.”


“What exactly is it that you want?”


“For the past few days, before the garage burned down, there were a few cars in the lot, one of which was yours. Now your uncle tells me he went out of business three months ago, so the place has been closed for a while.  What I want to know, Joey, is who hired you to work on that old Dodge Charger, where’d they get it and what are they going to use it for?”


Joey stared at Bill. “I have no idea what you’re talkin’ about.”


Bill studied Joey for a long moment from behind his aviators. “Well, okay then if that’s how you wanna play this, Joey. I think you do know what I’m talking about and you’ve been out in the sun here too long and sucking in the gas fumes. I’ll come back sometime when you’re a little clearer in the head….” Bill stepped away from the Mustang and walked back to his Crown Vic.


Joey watched him go. Once the Ford sedan was a distance down the street, Joey turned back and closed the hood of his Mustang. He got into the car, starting it up and backed out of the driveway. He then headed down the street, opposite the direction the Crown Vic had just gone.


Half a minute later, Bill’s Crown Vic returned and followed the Mustang.


To Bill’s surprise, Joey drove to Carson’s Auto Repair, where the white Grand Prix was still parked next to the garage. After the Mustang pulled into the repair shops’ small parking area Bill passed by and then did an illegal U-turn a block up the street. He drove back down a short distance and then pulled over to the curb, placing himself across the street with a diagonal view of the repair shop.


Inside the shop, Joey walked straight to the small office. He slammed the door shut behind him and walked up to the desk, leaning on it to look at Jeff, the owner. “You wanna tell me who’s bright idea it was to burn down my uncle’s garage?”


Jeff looked up. He was a handsome brown-eyed man with dirty blond hair who showed no surprise and even less sympathy toward Joey. “I’m sorry, Joey. I was given orders to have it burned.”


Joey had all he could do to keep himself from lunging over the desk and strangling Jeff. “So it was you that burned it?!


“I didn’t say that.”


“I suppose you sent the Fed to my door too?!


Now Jeff’s expression changed. “Fed?”


“Yeah, Fed! Came knocking on my uncle’s door this morning, came back this afternoon to ask me some questions. Apparently, he had been watching the garage, he’d seen my car there. Which means he probably saw yours and Ernie’s too. He even knows what make and model car we were working on, man.”


“Why the hell would any of what we were doing have caught the attention of the FBI…”


“Maybe because that car was stolen from the FBI.”


Jeff let out a slow breath and cursed. Now it made sense. When he had gotten the order from his contact to burn the garage, he’d been given no explanation as to why. Only to do so and to do it as soon as possible.


If this Fed was the reason why, it appeared that burning the garage had done no good. In fact, it was only making the situation more difficult.


“Did you tell him anything?” Jeff asked.


“No. But I have the feeling this guy’s good at being a pain in the butt. He’ll be back to see me again.”


“Did he tell you his name?”


“Um, yeah…Maxwell. Bill Maxwell. Yankee soundinfella too.”


Jeff nodded thoughtfully. His mind was quickly processing collateral damage and clean up. Jeff knew the job of working on that old Charger wasn’t completely legit. The car itself led credence to that and the secretive negotiations all but confirmed it. Still, none of them knew what the car was going to be used for and certainly had no idea that it had been stolen from the FBI. They had only been tasked with making some modifications. They were paid very good money for it but Jeff wondered if it was worth the scrutiny from the FBI.


“Well, my best advice for you, Joey, if he comes to see you again is to not tell him anything.”


“Well I kinda figured that. I can handle that much. But how the hell am I supposed to face my uncle? That garage was his whole life. I woulda never agreed to work on that car if it was going to cost him his garage.”


“Your uncle’s an old man who went out of business three months ago, it’s not like he could take the damn thing with him when he dies. I had no way of knowing it was going to come to this.” Jeff stood up from the desk and walked around it to face Joey. “However, all of us knew that this wasn’t a legit deal we were getting into. We got paid big bucks for our work. You should be worried less about facing your uncle and more about what else might be considered expendable because of this deal. The best you can do Joey, is to shut your mouth.”


~Chapter 8~