“The Power of 3”
By Kellyanne Lynch
22 April 2003, 12:30 PM – 29 December 2003, 11:30 AM
12 – Revelations
Crickets chirped outside a one-story house in a wood in New Hampshire. Dark, misty clouds brushed the sky, blotting the brilliance of the full moon. A sliver of the sphere’s light slipped through barred window, and illuminated the torso of a red fire suit. Steve rolled over in bed. He draped his right forearm across his stomach, which rose and fell at even intervals. The driver’s mouth hung open, his breath whispering across his lips.
A draft rushed over Steve’s features. It swirled his frame, and plunged to the floor. The breeze swept the figure that lay amidst crumpled sheets. It tickled the side of the man’s face, and Michael flicked a hand across his cheek. Taking in a deep breath, he grunted, and released it with a huff. He tugged at the flannel shirt swathed across his chest, and nestled its collar beneath his chin. The muscles in his face relaxed.
The air wafted off Michael’s feet. It drifted beneath a door, where light spilled into the room. Darkness snuffed out that beam.
THUMP! THUMP! THUMP!
Michael’s eyelids flew open, and Steve bolted upright in bed. The door creaked open. A hefty hand swept the wall beside its frame and, flicking a switch, flooded the room with iridescence. The drivers squinted at the figure.
“It’s time,” rumbled a voice.
Steve swung his legs over the side of the bed, and rubbed his eyes. His sights dropped to his furrow-browed teammate before making contact with his captor’s cadaverous orbs.
The brawny man by the light switch raised his hand, and Steve flinched. Smirking, the captor motioned his hands outside the door. “If you would just follow me this way, gentlemen, we will proceed to settle some business.”
Standing, Steve looked to his friend on the floor. He offered a hand to Michael, who accepted it into his own and pulled himself onto his feet. The drivers trailed the stocky man. Rounding the doorframe, they paced the hallway.
The corridor opened into a living room. A tattered hoary sofa slumped against the wall to the left, perpendicular to two green plastic chairs and a walnut end table littered with papers. The man in blue scrubs leaned against the wall to their right, wiry arms folded over his chest. The husky individual led them across the dingy carpet, and raised a hand to the couch. Steve and Michael lowered themselves onto its taut cushions.
As Steve’s back slapped against the sofa’s backboard, his sights drifted to his feet. Lolling beside the dilapidated furniture was a yellow Labrador.
Steve bowed his chest over his lap, and ran a hand through the dog’s fur. “Harley, buddy,” he whispered. Beneath his owner’s palm, Harley inhaled and exhaled deeply and evenly. Steve’s petting fell into rhythm with the dog’s breath.
Under his feet, the floor rumbled. Steve’s sights jerked to the hallway, and he sat upright. Footsteps fell with increasing force beneath the carpet before a thud resounded throughout the living room. A blonde bodybuilder emerged from the corridor, hauling the arms of his prisoner. Soot smeared their trail as the brute dragged the hostage across the carpet. Steve’s mouth hung open.
The muscular thug threw his captive against the wall. Junior crumpled beside the man in scrubs. Curling into a ball, the driver clenched his eyes shut and shivered. Perspiration and blood peppered his threadbare undershirt and jeans.
From the corner of his eye, Steve caught a blur of blue. He turned, and saw his teammate rush to the fallen.
Michael dropped to his knees. Drawing a hand to the other’s trembling shoulder, he breathed, “Junior?”
“Get back to the couch!” Their heavy-set captor boomed.
“Are you okay?”
The bulky man reached into his pocket and pulled out a handgun. Steve’s stomach lurched as the man pointed it at Michael. “Please be seated, Mr. Waltrip! We are about to discuss business, and we cannot have you distracting!”
Michael’s hands flew into the air. Saucer-eyed, he trembled, and stumbled back to his cushion. The NAPA driver swallowed hard.
The husky individual slid the gun back into his pocket and sat in one of the plastic chairs. The blonde, spiky-haired thug stood beside him, crossing anvil arms across a chest of steel.
Reaching for the end table, the bulky man in the chair retrieved a pile of papers. His eyes scanned the top sheet. Steve observed how the other’s lips moved as he read to himself.
A low moan emitted from the wall. The Pennzoil driver’s sights drifted to the floor space beside the man in scrubs. His teammate’s squinty, gray eyes were staring back at him. Junior arched his bloody brow at Steve. His lower lip wavered, his shoulders quivering. His eyes rolled back in his head, and Junior closed them.
“Here we are!” a voice boomed. Steve jolted, and turned to the man spilling over the plastic chair. His captor pressed a padded digit into the pages in his hands. Raising his head, his sights met with Steve’s. He passed the top paper to the driver. “If you would, Mr. Park, please read this letter aloud.”
Furrowing his brow, Steve took the page from the man’s grasp. He held it with both hands, and scanned the first line. “Dear Steve Park,” he read, his eyes widening, “We regret to inform you that your services will no longer be required in driving the #1 Pennzoil Chevrolet for Dale…” Shaking his head, Steve lowered the page. “I don’t believe it. Where did you get this?”
The man jabbed a finger toward the crumpled driver on the floor. “Why don’t you ask the one who has usurped DEI’s power?”
“I don’t -” Junior sputtered. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, man.”
Steve’s sights dropped to the bottom of the letter. “Your signature’s on the bottom,” he stated, his jaw hanging with the last syllable. He slid to his feet. “How can you say you don’t know?”
Junior stared at the one in the Budweiser suit. “Well, it wasn’t my decision,” he strained. “That’s what I mean.”
“That’s bull.” Steve wagged his head.
A hand patted Steve’s side. “Steve…” Michael’s voice cracked.
Backing away from the one on the couch, Steve glared at the other. “You knew about this, didn’t you.”
Wide-eyed, Michael shook his head.
Turning, Steve paced the carpet. He pivoted on his heel, and stared at Junior. “You have clout in DEI!” He stabbed his index finger in the direction of the Budweiser driver. “How could you sign this? How come you didn’t stand up for me?”
Junior gulped. “Honestly?” he asked. He coughed into his chest. “I thought you might be unhappy with DEI, and might need a push to try something new.”
“Steve,” rumbled the rich voice behind him. Steve turned to the husky man, who handed him another paper. “He’s lying again.”
Steve accepted the page from the other’s grasp. “This one’s addressed to Richard Childress Racing,” he announced. He paced as he read, “Dear Richard. As you already know, I’m releasing Steve Park from his contract with DEI within the next few days. I heard that you’re planning to hire him to drive the #30 AOL Chevy after you let Jeff Green out of his contract. Don’t.” Steve stopped in his tracks, and shot a sharp glance at Junior. “Contrary to what you may think, Steve never fully recovered from his wreck in Darlington back in 2001. He is difficult to work with,,” Steve shouted, “and top-notch DEI cars can no longer hide his incompetence. As your friend, I advise you to look elsewhere for your replacement driver. Don’t waste your time on a washed-up…” he trailed off. His eyes stung. Narrowing his sights upon Junior, he exclaimed, “Why the hell would you write this?”
Colour drained from Junior’s face. “I didn’t…”
Steve waved the letter in the air. “How can you lie to me, Dale? You signed it!”
Groaning, Junior rolled into a sitting position. He clutched an arm to his stomach. “Uh…,” his mouth hung open.
“You have nothing to say for yourself,” Steve wagged his head. Tears formed in his eyes. “Do you have any idea how much it means to me to be a part of DEI? Dale Earnhardt was my mentor. He was like a father to me, and I’ve worked hard to drive as good as him. It meant the world to me when he said that he wanted me to drive for him. And now he’s gone. All I have left is that I drive for him, on his team and in the car that he put me in. It’s become all that I know. And you’re about to take that away from me?”
“Steve, I swear I didn’t…” Junior stammered. “It’s not my fault, man.”
“Like hell, it isn’t,” boomed the man in the plastic chair. Steve turned to the other, who stood and patted the driver’s shoulder. “Mr. Park, we called this meeting of the DEI drivers, the ones that Dale Earnhardt himself appointed, to discuss the present state of the company. We believe in you, Steve. We know that you belong on Dale’s team. When someone attempts to thwart what the man in black has set in place, that person has to be dealt with.” He narrowed his sights on Junior. “This… person has no respect for Dale Earnhardt and what he was all about.”
“Look,” Junior spat. “I’m his son. Of course I know what he would have wanted. It’s in my blood to know.”
“You’re a spoiled celebrity who has lost touch with his pulse.” The heavy-set man shook his head. “Dale allowed you into DEI only because you were an embarrassment.”
“That’s crap,” Junior snorted. “I’m a great driver. Dad knew...” he hacked into his forearm.
The man reached into his pocket. “Those who stay true to Dale Earnhardt’s memory know the right thing to do with this prodigal,” he hissed. He grabbed Steve’s wrist, and put his gun in the driver’s hand. “Go on, Steve,” the man goaded. “Honour Dale.”
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