Race Weekend Central

Blue Smoke and Burnt Rubber: Chapter 4

“Mr. Van Lytton. It’s good to see you again. Mr. Fielding is waiting for you down the hall.”

Chris stuck to the shadows by the elevator door and checked out Fielding’s coldly smiling assistant, Cody Dunhurst,

She didn’t wait for Brad’s pleasant good morning, but turned abruptly and vanished around the bend in the curving hallway.

With his hands shoved in his pockets, Chris followed in the wake of Brad’s long steps. His ribs still ached from the fight at East Brainerd last week, but the anger swirling through the Van Lytton stables did a lot to suppress the pain. As did the sight of his favorite female friend…

Dressed no differently from him, in a series red polo shirt and khakis, Cody stopped before one of the blank doors to a luxury box and knocked.

“Hey, Cody.”

Her normal shy smile didn’t appear at the greeting. Instead, she pinned Chris with a cold glare.

Ignoring the warning, he asked anyway, “Wanna grab dinner after the meeting?”

She took a deep breath and brushed a wayward lock of light brown hair from her face, her eyes glued to the unresponsive door. She knocked again.

The door opened. Stan Fielding, overweight, short and his clean-shaven face flushed, gestured everyone into the suite. “Van Lytton, right on time. Have a seat.”

The bright sun from the floor to ceiling windows flooded the room. The muffled roar from the secondary series race made the panes shake.

Used to being ignored by the people in charge of the GSCA, Chris wandered to the sliding glass door and idly watched the final laps of the Amarillo Racepark 200. Cody appeared at his side moments later, offering him a cold Jazz Cola.

She popped her own and sucked down half the can. “Be careful what you say.”

Uncertain he heard the whisper right, he looked at her and noted the slashes of high color on her cheeks.

“Weaver! Sit down. I’m sure Fielding wants to hear what Ellis told you in the holding cell last week.”

Cody turned with him and they both moved to sit on the elegant, overstuffed sofa. Chris placed his soda pop on the glass-topped coffee table before crossing one ankle over a knee.

Fielding filled the oversized matching red chair. He tugged at his right ear and frowned at the two representatives from the teams in trouble. “So, Van Lytton, what is it you think I can do for you?”

Brad leaned on the arm of the loveseat he sat in, tapped a finger on lips and waited several moments before responding. “I swear Fielding, sometimes I think you like to let these things just be until somebody gets hurt.”

“Well, it’s not like you’ve suffered any more than any other team, this year. Tires blow, engines fail…do you really think the GSCA can do anything about equipment problems?”

“This is not just my issue, Fielding. Weaver, tell him.”

Chris shifted in his seat, meeting the cold, assessing eyes of the most powerful man in the sport. “Ellis was hired, sir. He was given a hot pass and the stuff to drop in the fuel. And he had instructions for fooling with the Foster-Reynolds’ pit box.”

Brad leaned forward. “A hot pass, Fielding. That means your people had to approve it. I asked to see the application…”

Fielding surged to his feet. “A hot pass? Do you know how many of those are issued each race? And by who? Christ, each track has its own list of VIP’s and those people bring others. You’d be better off talking to East Brainerd, or the other teams. You’ve got a security issue there, Van Lytton.”

“Your office declined my request.”

“Because we are not authorized to share the personal information contained in those applications.

“Bullshit! Who are you protecting?”

The sound of the air-conditioning kicking on dropped into the silence. The dull roar of the crowd cheering a winner tapped at the window.

Chris glanced at Cody, Fielding and finally his boss. The two men stood, fists clenched and chests rising under ragged breaths. Cody studied the pattern of the cross-hatched beige carpeting.

Brad stepped back, cracked his neck then smiled. “I’ve hired Paxton, Smythe and Collins.”

“The P.I. group?” Cody’s breathless question drew Chris’ attention back to her. The normally unshakeable woman sunk her nails into the plush suede of the sofa.

What would she be fearing, Chris wondered.

“The liquid that shithead gummed up Preston’s engine with is being analyzed by a friend in the C.I.A. and I’ve also sicced my attorneys on Ellis, the little swine. Maybe he isn’t the one behind this disaster of a season, but when faced with a massive civil suit, he’ll tell all.”

Fielding coughed before heading to the gleaming wet bar in the corner by the door. He poured himself two fingers of whisky, knocked it back and set the crystal tumbler down without a sound. “Sounds like you’ve got it all under control, Van Lytton. You’ll get your answers.”

Brad stalked over, his six-foot frame dwarfing Fielding’s rotund five foot nothing person. “One cool asshole, that’s what you are, Stan. Anything to keep it interesting, including leaving a probable saboteur on the loose in our garages. How does that benefit the series?”

The director poured himself a second drink, his hand steady. “If you don’t like the management, Brad, you’re always welcome to take your business elsewhere. Those open-wheel European series manage to draw a whole 50,000 for each of their fifteen events.” A cell phone’s shrill beep drew his attention to his pocket. Drawing it out, Fielding popped the screen up and answered. “Yes? The No. 54? Great. I’ll be down in a minute. Just tying up ends. Thanks.”

Chris reached for his soda pop, took a sip and stood, realizing the meeting had come to an end. “Ellis also told me he met the guy who hired him. He said he wouldn’t be out of the hospital for months if he gave the money man up.”

Fielding’s head snapped around at that statement. For the first time, Chris thought he saw something other than the usual superior smirk on the director’s face. Still, Stan managed to suppress the expression by flattening his mouth.

“I am sorry you’ve had this kind of trouble, Brad, but you’ve got to realize these kinds of shenanigans are nothing new to this sport. If you nail the culprit, GSCA will take the appropriate action, but right now we’ve got nothing more than a kid who took money to screw up your race.”

“I’ve got my own security this week in my haulers, RV’s and on pit road. You’ll be so good as to inform the Amarillo track that I expect no interference.” Brad gestured to Chris and headed for the door.

Chris took a last look at Cody. She still hadn’t looked up. As they stepped into the hall and headed for the elevator, Chris spoke up. “Hey, boss.”

“Yeah, Weaver?”

“I think Dunhurst knows something.”

“Who?”

Chris almost plowed into Brad’s back when they stopped to wait for security to summon the elevator. “Fielding’s assistant. She’s something of a friend.”

For the first time this afternoon, Van Lytton pinned Chris with an appraising stare. “So, when will you take her out to dinner?”

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