I slid the file across the glossy table toward the other side. Louie slightly nudged his glasses up his nose and grasped the file folder with both hands. He hunched over with squinting eyes and examined it for further information.
“So what do you think dad?” I said in a higher octave than usual.
“I have to admit; this is quite interesting,” said Louie as he raised his eyebrows. “So this is her description?”
“That’s her; she better be there if we’re gonna drive all the way out there.”
I took a sip of my coffee then placed is carefully on the table. I picked up the faint smell of eggs cooking and watched a waitress pouring coffee for a customer a few booth’s away. I remember when my father would take me to places just like this and I would always order the scrambled eggs and Louie would always get an omelet. We felt so much closer back then; when everything was care free and there wasn’t as much for me to screw up. Life was simple.
The waitress came by and placed the bill on the table. Louie reached for the check but I quickly snatched it before he could get to it. Louie’s eyebrows stiffened and his head tilted.
“Come on I got it,” said Louie as he waved his hand towards himself.
“Dad it’s my treat; I’m making more money now. The business is doing fine and turning a profit.”
“That’s fine and all but how long can this ‘hobby’ really last? You know if you ever wanted to get into the real business world all I have to do is give my friend Patrick a call and…”
“I told you I don’t want to be an accountant,” I said with a quite roar.
My father had been an accomplished accountant working for a large auditing firm and wanted to continue his legacy through me.
“Maybe I should have went to school for an accounting degree; I wonder what my life would be like if I was a pencil pusher like my father?” I thought.
“Okay, okay, I just wanted to let you know about other options out there, that’s all.”
“I appreciate it, but I am happy as a private investigator.”
There was an awkward silence as we got up from the table and exited the diner.
“So why did you really want me to come with you to serve this subpoena?” said Louie.
“Well, I just think we should spend some more time together. Mom says you are just sitting around the house watching NBC and worrying about the stock market.”
“Did your mother put you up to this?” said Louie with worry.
“What? No I just want to, you know, show you what I do.”
We left the diner and started walking towards my white 1995 Honda Accord, which I had bought at the age of fifteen and driven faithful for the past seven years. The doors squeaked, the paint was faded, and the tires nearly bald, but this car meant everything to me. I could have taken my parents charity with a newer car but this Honda was all mine; bought and paid for by my efforts.
“I hate to see you driving this old piece of shit Tony; your mother and I can help you get something newer,” said Louie as he slid his hands into his pockets and shook his head.
“Hey this car has served me good,” I say with a light chuckle, “now get in.”
We entered the car and made our way to the highway. As we approached the on ramp; now it was time to show my dad what this car was made of. I turned right into the twenty five mile an hour curve that led to the highway and noticed a big group of cars approaching on my left quickly. As soon as the curve straightened, I roared the engine and accelerated. I slid violently backwards into my seat as I slammed down on the gas pedal. The whole world seemed to rush by in a blur. I looked over my shoulder and watched the cars behind me trail away. I turned back and looked straight ahead.
“Piece of shit huh?” I said with a smile.
“It does have a pretty good pick up,” said Louie.
With a blank expression I looked through the front window. I gazed at the cars ahead of us; almost in a trance as I thought back to the first time I ever drove on the highway. I was driving my fathers ’66 Mustang; it was an enticing deep blue with metallic flakes in the paint. The sun reflected off the hood in an almost blinding light and yet the white leather seats were as cool as ever. This car was my father’s true baby. I was never able to take it out for a spin when I was younger; the only exception was when he was in the car with me. When Louie went on his business trips he didn’t even trust me to run it around the block every other week to keep the battery running strong; he gave that right to is pal Anthony. I still can’t believe he named me after his best friend; but there was no way I was going to go by the name Anthony. I wanted my own identity away from my father, his friend, and that wonderfully terrible car.
“Alright son, now when you exit the curve then you lay on the gas!” said Louie.
“Ok dad, should I put my blinker on now?” I say in a worried excitement.
“Not yet Tony, wait until you actually get onto the highway.”
I slammed the gas pedal and the car roared louder than anything I have ever heard before. The steering wheel started to shake and I felt like I was losing control. I began to worry but then my father’s hand flashed in and grabbed the steering wheel. I put the blinker on and we turned onto the highway and calm came over the world.
“Wow dad this car is awesome!” I said.
“It does have a pretty good pick up,” said Louie with a smile.
I awoke from my daydream and hung my head low. I let out a small sigh and ran my fingers across the Honda symbol on the steering wheel. My sad expression turned to bliss, this car was reliable and that’s all I really need.
“Business good?” asked Louie.
“Good as can be, I have been getting many requests. In fact I am completely booked for the next two months.” I say in confidence.
“I should warn all the husbands to watch there back,” said Louie with a degrading laugh.
“I will have you know that spying on cheating husbands is only a small part of what I do. I am starting to work more on court cases; that what we are doing here.”
“Well you are obviously are going to need all the help you can get, after what happened the last time you made me come along with you.”
“That asshole should never have seen us. It’s really all your fault because you had to wear that ridiculous brown and yellow suit,” I said in growing anger.
“Don’t blame me for your problems boy, with that attitude you will never be a success in life. Now let’s just get this thing over with and I can get back to your mother.”
There was a dead silence in the car and it seemed to last for hours. We attended our necessary tasks; I drove and my father read the map for directions. We were more coworkers than father and son.
“So how many subpoenas have you served?” said Louie out of the silence.
“I have only served one before this, and that was well” A Cadillac in front of us began to swerve; my eyes narrowed in anticipation. “It was a very difficult; the person hid out in the middle of nowhere. Dad are you seeing this?”
“Yeah, you should try to pass him. Here, get in the far left hand lane; come on now hurry up.”
“Yeah I am going to keep my distance.”
Before I could turn, the Cadillac was now directly in front of us. It slowly veered to the left then ripped quickly to the right. White smoke came billowing out from beneath the car as it turned to the side of the road. Almost as if time halted, the Cadillac tipped on the left side and was now on two wheels. My heart raced and palms began to sweat as I witnessed the horror of the car rolling over and over. Small bits of debris cascaded over the highway. Spinning chunks of plastic and metal spewed out of the car as its life came to an end. I could see a man still inside the car tumbling like a shoe in a washing machine.
“Watch out!” yelled Louie.
I slammed on the breaks and the squeaking of the tires ripped through my ears.
Was I going to die? I thought.
I gripped the steering wheel for dear life and my knuckles showed white. I pressed back against the driver’s seat with a great force and waited for the chaos to end. I smelt burning rubber as we slid off the pavement and went onto the gravel. It was over in an unending flash. Once we came to a stop I looked over at my father.
“Dad,” I say breathing hard “are you okay?”
“I’m okay, but Jesus that was close.”
Looking around a few other cars stopped to see what was going on.
We both focused on the flipped over car and saw a man climbing out of the rubble.
“Lord almighty, how is that man still alive?” said Louie pointing his nose at the man.
“Let’s go see if he’s ok,” I say trying to catch my breath.
“Be careful son.”
I open the door and head towards the man. An elderly couple had stopped and stood by their car; waiting anxiously. I could barely walk; I feel one hundred pounds heavier and extremely nauseous. One foot after another I slowly make my way over to the wreckage. There is a suitcase flayed open and empty beer bottles around the outside.
I walked around the side of the car and saw a man lying on his side trying to get up. Blood masked his face.
“Hey just relax; you really shouldn’t move you could be hurt.”
He spit blood and accomplished a full stand then struggled towards the back of his car saying nothing except a few mumbles. He was a heavyset man who wore a beanie and a sweatshirt which was now partially covered in blood. His hair was long and wispy and face unshaved.
“Hey man, are you okay?”
He looked at me with a, ‘what the fuck do you think’ look then knelt down and reached into the backseat of his car.
“Sit tight, I’m calling 911” I said with conviction.
“Is everything okay?” yelled my father as he began to walk towards us.
“Yeah, he’s alive but bleeding pretty bad. I’m calling 911,” I said.
As I pull out my phone I hear a muffled sound from inside his car.
“Don’t call anyone,” said the man, “I’m fine.”
“You’re hurt; you need to see a doctor,” I said as I tilted my head down and began to dial.
“Don’t you fucking do it!” yelled the man in anger.
I raised my head only to find a gun pointing directly at me. I take a second to register what is happening then raise my hands and drop the phone. My knees begin to shake and my stomach sears with pain. My entire body strains as adrenaline rushes through.
“You’re not calling anybody.”
The elderly woman screamed; then her husband held her close.
I try to speak but my body is in shock; it’s taking every ounce of my strength just to keep standing.
“I’m taking your car; give me the keys,” said the man as he stumbled over towards us holding his bloody head. He swayed back and forth. Barely able to walk; he stomped with every step. The man spits blood on the ground next to me. I placed the keys into the man’s hand and backed away.
“Fuck, ahh!” bellowed the man holding his head.
I looked at my father and see the anger in his eyes. I waved my arms to get his attention. The man started towards the car.
“Don’t go for the gun, just let him take the car,” I thought.
The man opened the door and sat in the Honda. Sitting sideways on the seat and still pointing his gun at Louie, he leaned back and turned the key. The engine roared to life.
“Thanks for the ride,” the man yelled with a laugh.
Louie’s eyebrows lowered and lips stiffened as he looked at the man. The rage grew within him.
Louie danced his eyes back and forth between me and the man and then nodded his head trying to signal for attack. I raised my arms slightly and moved them from side to side while shaking my head. I began to whisper.
“No, no, no,” I said under my breath.
“It’s just a car,” I thought.
Louie hunched over and widened his stance; almost as if he was getting ready to sprint. In a flash Louie struck like lightning and grasped the man’s arms.
“Come here you piece of shit,” said Louie as he struggled.
The two swayed left and right pointing the gun away from each other. They banged the gun on the dash and smashed it against the window.
I ran to the front of the car and watched in terror as my father was fighting for his life.
“What the hell should I do? I have to help, but what should I do?” I thought.
Desperately trying to gain control of the gun, Louie slammed his elbow into the man’s forehead. The man screaming out in pain and fell backwards onto the passenger’s seat. With a clinched fist, Louie leaped into the car to deliver the final blow.
BAM! The sound rattled in my brain; then dead silence. I felt numb; my legs gave out and I collapsed to the ground. It felt hard to breath and my hands shook.
The man opened the door and drug Louie’s body out onto the gravel, then hopped back in the car and sped off. Louie screamed out in pain holding his chest.
I crawled toward my father kicking up dust in the process. As I approached him, blood poured from his chest. I immediately pressed my palm to the wound.
“You’re going to be okay; you hear me?” I say with tears running down my face.
The old couple stood behind me and watched in horror.
“Tony; Tony,” said Louie as he began to shake.
I lowered my head and hugged him with one arm.
Louie turned his head and with his dying breath said, “I’ve always been proud of you; never forget that.”
As fast as it came it was over.
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