“The Power of 3”
By Kellyanne Lynch
22 April 2003, 12:30 PM – 29 December 2003, 11:30 AM
3 – Musketeers
Steve looked up from the thumbnail he was chewing as his teammate entered the infield care centre. He watched as Michael eased himself into the teal cushion of the chair beside him. The NAPA driver sighed heavily. Crinkling resounded from Michael’s left hand, and the racer stared at it. Steve spotted a crumpled piece of paper in his friend’s palm, and furrowed his eyebrows.
Michael held up the parchment. “I just found this in my car.”
Steve raised a brow. “What is it?”
“It was sitting there in the driver’s seat, when I got ready to drive back to the garage.” Michael turned the paper over in his hands. “I have no idea how it could have gotten there. Gives me the chills.” He shuttered.
“What’s it say?”
Michael unfolded it. Draping his torso over his legs, Steve scanned the note.
“‘Three blind mice’? What’s that even mean?” The Pennzoil driver scratched his head, and leaned back in his chair.
Heaving a sigh, Michael shrugged. “All I could think of is the three of us…”
“The three DEI drivers,” Steve breathed. He held his hand to his head. “And we were all over there too, at Johnny’s wreck.”
Michael furrowed his brow. “Where’s Junior?”
Pointing toward the door to the examination rooms, Steve replied, “He’s getting checked out in there. While he was running, he broke open one of his stitches.”
Michael winced. Steve took the note out of his hands, and stared at the message.
“Whatever it is,” the Pennzoil driver voiced, “it sounds like a threat. But how the heck did someone get it into your car? Do you think it was there before you got in to practice?”
Shrugging, Michael made eye contact with his teammate. “You’d think I would have noticed it though. I saw it right away when I got back to the car to move it.”
“Freaky,” Steve mumbled, wagging his head at the note. “Are you going to tell Helton about it?”
“Yeah, I’m thinking about it, but first I’m telling Teresa. It’s definitely a threat against DEI, so I’m letting her know first thing.”
Steve nodded. “Good plan.”
Nudging his head toward the door, Michael asked, “Is Johnny back there?”
“No,” replied his teammate. “They airlifted him to Laconia General. He’s alert and stable, but they want to run some tests on him and to assess him further. I’m just waiting for Junior.”
Michael pursed his lips, and stared at his feet for a full minute. “You think… you think maybe what happened to Junior is related to this whole note business?”
Steve shuttered. “Sure as heck hope not.”
“I’d better go tell Teresa about this right away.” Michael snatched the note away from his teammate, and strode out the door.
Steve fidgeted in the infield care centre’s waiting room. He drew his right leg under his bottom, and crossed his left one over the other knee. He pulled out the right leg, and sat on the left. He got up and sat back down with crossed legs. He recrossed them. He recrossed them a second time. He uncrossed them, and jiggled his right leg up and down on the ball of his foot. He jiggled it faster. He stuck out his leg, propping it on his heel. He stuck out the other.
Steve jumped to his feet and paced the waiting room. He heaved a sigh, and took in a deep breath. Stale air entered his lungs. Glancing over his shoulder at the door to the examination rooms, Steve walked toward the front door. He threw it open, and inhaled the fresh July breeze. Leaving the infield care centre, he wandered the stretch of pavement in front of it.
Looking left, the Pennzoil driver watched as a horde of reporters and photographers descended upon him. Microphones jutted toward his mouth, and one hit him in the chin. Shutters snapped in all directions.
“Steve, how’s Johnny Sauter?”
Steve stepped back, and bumped into a camera. “I don’t know. I heard he’s gonna be all right. He was airlifted to a local hospital. NASCAR will pass along word when they know something more definite.”
“Is Junior okay?” another reporter shouted. “Can you tell us about what happened this morning?”
“He’s fine,” Steve pursed his lips. “I really can’t say more. I’ll let him explain it later, if he wants.”
The reporters and photographers closed in, pinning Steve’s arms to his side. Grimacing, he looked around for a friendly face. Instead, another microphone swung into his cheek.
“Steve, what’s your reaction to DEI dropping you at the end of the season?”
Steve glared at Jeanne Zelasko, the FOX reporter who had fired the last question. “I’d rather not discuss it at this time,” he spoke through clenched teeth. Turning on his heels, he pushed his way through the media sea, and charged toward the infield care centre.
Growling, Steve slammed the door shut behind him. The buzzing of the fluorescent lights overhead filled his ears. He leaned his back against the door. Closing his eyes, he hissed a sigh.
“The media must be hell right now.”
Opening his eyes, Steve focused his sights on red fire-suited individual slumped in the teal chair by the water fountain. He glanced at the magazine the other held – a copy of Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated, with a full-colour picture of Dale Earnhardt Jr. smirking on the cover. Junior tossed it onto a table covered with magazines, most of which also bore his photo. Rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands, Junior sighed. “Man oh man, what a day!”
Steve dropped himself into a chair across the room from his teammate. “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Junior yawned. He snorted as a grin swept over his lips. “It was actually kind of fun back there. These two nurses were making a big deal of that stitch being out, and you’d better believe those chicks were damn friggin hot.”
Rolling his eyes, Steve jabbed a thumb toward the door. “Are you ready to get out of here?”
Junior shook his head. “Not just yet,” he drawled. “The media’s swarming the place, and Jade ain’t here to clear it. I don’t want to deal with that shit.” He yawned again, and smacked his lips.
Steve stared at his teammate. “So we’re just going to wait it out?”
“You do whatever the hell you want, man,” Junior mumbled. Closing his eyes, he crossed his arms over his chest, and heaved a sigh. A smile crossed his lips.
Steve shrugged. He propped his feet on the chair next to Junior, and lay his head across his knees. Within seconds of closing his eyes, Steve felt himself drifting off to sleep. Minutes later, his eyelids flew open, as the sound of a faulty chainsaw jarred him out of slumber. Frantically, Steve scanned his surroundings. He scowled when he realised the ruckus lined up with Junior’s breathing.
“Hey, Junior!” He called to the other. Junior snorted, before falling back into his regular snoring pattern. “JUNIOR!”
“Huh? Oh. What?” Junior bolted upright. A thin stream of drool glistened down his chin. Looking around, he smacked his lips.
“Junior,” Steve said. His teammate’s droopy eyes met with his. “The reporters are probably gone by now. Let’s go.”
Furrowing his brow, Junior asked, “How long have I been asleep?”
“About an hour,” Steve lied. “Come on! Let’s go!”
The two men slid to their feet. Junior scratched his butt, and then stretched his arms over his head. Steve attenuated his arms in front of himself, cracking his back. He exited the infield care centre first, with his DEI teammate in tow.
The pair had made three steps when reporters rushed for them. “Dale! Dale!”
Junior glared at Steve with glazed eyes. “I’m going to friggin’ kill you, man!”
Steve slipped around the reporters, who surrounded the sleepy Earnhardt. Snickering to himself, he sauntered through the garage area. Steve approached the transporter for his Pennzoil car. He stopped in his tracks when he saw the message scraped across the side of the rig in red paint:
ATHOS, PORTHOS, ARAMIS:
ALL FOR ONE, AND ONE FOR ALL
Please let me know what you think about chapter three! Email me