“The Power of 3”
By Kellyanne Lynch
22 April 2003, 12:30 PM – 29 December 2003, 11:30 AM

4 – Now Don’t Be Sad

Michael and Teresa turned as Steve stumbled through the entranceway of the #8 transporter. Leaning over his legs, he panted into his knees.

“Steve,” Michael voiced. “What’s wrong?”

“I found, I found another message,” he gasped. He slid to the floor of the hauler.

Teresa drew a hand to her mouth. “Where? What did it say?”

“Someone wrote it across the transporter,” Steve replied, scratching his goateed chin. “It says… Ay… Aythos, Porthos, Erramiss: All for one, and one for all.”

“That’s about the Three Musketeers,” Michael wagged his head. “Again with the three.”

“I don’t know what kind of game someone’s trying to play,” Teresa rubbed the back of her neck. “I don’t know whether they’re just trying to intimidate DEI, or if…” Her voice trailed off. Closing her eyes, she drew her hands over her face and held her palms to either side of her nose. Teresa took in a deep breath.

“NASCAR needs to know about this,” she continued, crossing her arms. “We’ll get security upped in the garage area, around the motor coaches… everywhere. We’ll make sure that you and your families are safe.”

Michael stiffened, colour fading from his features. “You think that someone might try to go after Buffy and our girls?”

Teresa grimaced. “I don’t know, Mike. I don’t know what these people are after. We should cover all the bases though.”

“I, uh,” Michael swallowed hard. “I have to go.” He rushed out of the Budweiser rig.

Sighing, Teresa turned to Steve. “Is Junior still in the infield care centre?”

“No. I just left there with him a few minutes ago. He got hung up by reporters.”

Teresa nodded. “Can you go rescue him, and meet me back here? I’m going to try to round up all of DEI. If you run into anybody from your team, or Junior’s or Michael’s, could you please send them over here? We all need to talk about this.”

Steve paused long enough to nod, before racing out of the transporter. He clamoured down the steps, rounded the corner, and ran through the garage area.

“Steve! Steve!” reporters called to him. His footsteps pounded against the asphalt as he approached the infield care centre. When it came into view, he screeched to a halt. The Pennzoil driver scanned the scene.

“Steve,” a reporter jogged to his side. “How does getting dumped by DEI affect your racing for the remainder of the season?”

He shook his head. “Did any of you guys see where Junior went?”

A cameraman nodded. “He went back into the infield care centre. Is he okay?”

“Thanks,” Steve replied. He thundered through the doors into the centre, and found a nurse reading the Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated with Junior on the cover. “Hi,” he said to her.

The nurse turned the page. “Hi,” she replied, her eyes trained on the magazine.

“Have you seen Dale Earnhardt Jr.?”

“There’s a good article about him on page 58.”

Steve paced over to the woman. Placing his hand over the article, he shook his head. “No,” he sighed, and she blinked her eyes at him. “Have you seen him here?”

Keeping steady eye contact, she nodded. “But he left here a few minutes ago. He said he was going to go lie down.” A smile crossed her lips.

Steve removed his hand from the magazine, and the nurse dropped her sights into its pages. Turning on his heel, he jogged out of the infield care centre.

“Steve! Steve!”

He crossed through the media bevy, and sprinted into the motor coach area. Drivers and their families stared after him as he passed. Bobby Labonte gave Steve such a funny look that his sights lingered on the Gibbs driver. He slammed into Kevin Harvick.

“Whoa there, Steve-o!” Harvick exclaimed, patting Steve’s shoulder. He gave his fellow driver a toothy grin. “Where are you going in such a hurry?”

“I’m looking for Junior.”

Harvick’s smile faded. “Man, is he all right?” he asked. “I heard something happened to him this morning, and it must be pretty bad if he didn’t practice his car. I haven’t been able to talk to him yet.”

“He got hit in the head with a die-cast at his appearance at the mall,” Steve told him, and Harvick’s jaw dropped.

“Are you serious?!”

Steve closed his eyes. “Kevin, I’m sorry, man, but I really need to find him right now. He’ll probably tell you more about it later.”

Harvick nodded, and stepped out of Steve’s path. The Pennzoil driver ran through the lot. He spotted Junior’s motor coach, and thundered up the steps.

“Junior!” He knocked on the door. Panting, he closed his eyes. “Junior, Teresa’s looking for you.” He knocked again. “Jun…” His voice trailed off when the door slid open. Studying the door frame, Steve observed the busted latch. His breath caught in his throat, and he inched his way into the motor coach.

Junior’s kitchen was the first thing to greet Steve when he stepped inside. Junior had left a bloodied rag on the counter by his sink, next to all his dirty dishes. Steve cringed at the mold. Strewn across the kitchen table were video game manuals, racing magazines, and Playboys. A bitten piece of toast and half-empty glass of orange juice lay upon the only bare table space.

Creeping forward, Steve entered the living room. His eyes widened. Taking a step backward, he tripped over an Xbox. His feet clattered through empty Budweiser cans before he caught his balance.

Steve locked his gaze upon the busted coffee table in the middle of the room. The wooden frame from one of the four sides was cracked in two; the other sides barely held by their nails. Shattered glass covered Junior’s carpet, glass that had once been an elegant tabletop. Inching forward, Steve studied the remains. Blood covered the edges of many of the glass shards. His stomach churned. It lurched when he caught sight of a folded piece of paper, just beneath a piece of broken table frame. He picked it up, and turned it over in his hands. Across the top of the folded sheet, dark block letters spelled: STEVE

Swallowing hard, Steve opened the note, and read it:


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