"Okay, Speed. One more lap and we can call it a day," Pops stated. "And don't forget, you have a date with your mother as soon as you're done. Make sure you're presentable. Got that? The last thing I want is for your mother to be embarrassed to be seen with you in public."

"Roger that and like I'd ever let that happen," the dark-haired youth replied then put the receiver back. Pressing the accelerator to the floor, Speed whizzed by his father and his best friend, waving to both of them as he went by. With the ease from many years of practice, he went into Turn One of the racetrack and continued on, accelerating where he needed to and taking each turn smooth and gracefully. Five minutes later, the Mach 5 was in park and he was climbing out. Pops handed him a towel as he approached.

"That was a good run," the older man said appraisingly. "Best time yet."

"Thanks," Speed smiled, wiping the sweat from his face. "Car's running a bit loose, though. It was getting harder to turn at the end. I felt it could have done better."

"We'll take a look at it and get it ready for this Sunday's race," came the promise. Pops started to say something else then hesitated. "Speed . . ."

"Yeah?"

"Are you going to be all right?" Pops inquired softly. There was none of the usual bluster or the volcano in his voice that made him Pops. Speed hesitated for a moment as well, knowing to what Pops referred. It had been a few weeks since he had accepted a racing challenge that he had believed had come from the Car Acrobatic team . . . and had learned the true identity of Racer X. It had hurt to have his brother walk away from him for a second time in his short life, like someone taking a knife and stabbing him in the heart. For the second time, he felt abandoned and lost. Then he nodded.

"Yeah. I'll be all right. It isn't like I'm used to having him around anyway . . ."

"Speed . . ."

"I'll be all right," he assured his father. "Really, I am. I'll see you when you get home tonight, okay? I better hurry before Mom thinks I've forgotten all about her. Give Sparky a ride home for me? Please?"

"Sure," Pops nodded then Speed hurried away. He quickly fished an extra set of keys from his pocket and practically ran to his four-door sedan Pops built for him (and the family – it required a key to open the trunk). New rules were in place, both on the track and off. According to the race officials (and Inspector Detector), race cars were no longer allowed to be driven on the streets. It stung, at first, to no longer drive the Mach 5 wherever he wanted, but Speed saw the reason and sense for such rules and laws. Race cars were meant to be driven fast, and a professional driver could forget how quickly his car could travel. A few of the drivers, before the rules and laws were written and announced, had suffered serious injuries from daily driving, even injuring some pedestrians.

Driving a different car also afforded him some anonymity as a celebrity. When he drove the Mach 5 to somewhere as simple as a grocery store, the fans swarmed him, begging for autographs and his attention. While he enjoyed the time with his fans, he felt it should not take him three hours to enter a grocery store. The rules set forth from the race commissioners and the law changed that, and Speed now considered setting up something akin to a meet-and-greet for his fan. The last thing he wanted to do was disappoint them. Their cheers drove him forward, inspired him to be the best driver possible, almost as much as his mother inspired him.

The car Pops built for him was nothing much to gaze upon, a simple four-door sedan silver in colour with a nice beige interior. Despite the fact it offered him anonymity for every day driving, Speed felt more than a little silly for driving it. Sedans were family cars, and not necessarily as stylish in apppearace as a sports car. Still, it was what Pops had built for him, and it kept him out of trouble. Not that he broke the speed limit, but there was always that first time. Upon reaching his new car, he climbed inside and started the engine. As fast as he dared, Speed drove home. Since they really did not live too far from the racetrack (perhaps a mile, maybe a mile and a half) and traffic was nearly non-existent, he reached his home in record time. Once there, he quickly showered and changed into a suit of dark blue. His mother had left him a note, stating her sister had picked her up for some coffee and conversation and that she'd meet him at the restaurant.

Speed had just picked the keys up again when the phone rang. For a second or so, he considered not answering. The last thing he wanted was to be late meeting his mother. A small part of him, though, reasoned it could be important . . . like Spritle giving Uncle Henry one hell of a hard time. With a sigh, he picked it up.

"Hello? Racer residence."

"Hi, Speed!"

"Hi, Trixie," he smiled. "What's up?"

"Oh, not much," came the coy response. "I was thinking that you and I could go out tonight. There's a party over at . . ."

"I can't, Trixie . . . Not tonight." Speed frowned as he spoke. He knew he told Trixie about his plans to have dinner with his mother and when it was going to happen. She had been more than supportive of his decision and even declared he should treat his mother out to dinner more often. What had caused this change?

"And why not?" she demanded, sounding hurt and upset.

"I've already made plans for tonight," he began. "Maybe tomorrow night we could . . ."

"Speed, this party is tonight and tonight only!" Trixie exclaimed. "And it isn't the kind of party you want to pass up, either! There's going to be all sorts of sponsors there and Hollywood producers. This could be huge for the entire team!"

"I'm sorry, Trixie . . . I can't go. I've already made plans . . ."

"Oh. I see." Speed felt the icy chill in her tone, and he frowned even more. What had gotten into Trixie? She never sounded this cold when he told her he could not do something before. Then again, she often remembered when he made plans with other people. So long as it did not include other girls . . . He glanced at his watch.

"Listen, I'll talk to you tomorrow, Trixie. I'm going to be late . . ."

"Of course," she replied stiffly. "Have fun."

Before he could say anything else, she hung up the phone. Speed shook his head then sighed. He wanted to call her back and ask her why she was behaving like a spoiled child, but he decided against it almost immediately. The last thing he wanted was to get into an argument with his girlfriend before meeting his mother for dinner.

'I'll call her later to talk to her. Mom's waiting for me,' he thought as he left the house.

pppppppppppppp

Trixie let out a frustrated growl as she slammed the phone down. Of all the times for him to have made plans, it had to be tonight. This party was the chance of a lifetime event and she was certain Speed would have leapt at the opportunity to go. She knew Pops and Mom Racer would want him to leap at the opportunity.

"He isn't going to come with us, is he?" Janine inquired. Trixie shook her head, still angry with her beau for turning her offer down.

"No . . . said he had plans for tonight. You'd have thought he would have rescheduled them for this."

"You'd think," the other girl agreed. "But he didn't. Not much we can do about it except go ourselves and have a good time."

"Yeah . . ."

"Come on," Janine stated, smiling a little. "Let's get ready. It can be a girls' night out thing! Wouldn't that be great?"

"I suppose," Trixie frowned. Then she shook her head and smiled. "What am I saying? Of course, it will be."

"And it'll be Speed's loss for not coming with us," Janine winked.

"Right."

As she got ready, though, Trixie couldn't help but feel that there was something she was forgetting about tonight. Something very important. Then she shrugged it off. If she couldn't remember it, obviously it wasn't that important. Her anger at being brushed off by Speed about tonight slowly began to eat away at her, anger that would permeate the events of the night.

ppppppppp

"Wait right here," Speed told his mother. "I'll go get the car."

It had been a few hours since he'd met her at the restaurant, and it had been one of the best times of his life. They had talked and laughed like they had never done before. It heartened Speed to see his mother laugh and smile and simply enjoy herself. Of course, when he'd informed his parents about Rex, his mother had taken it the hardest. Speed had hated to see the tears on his mother's face, and that's when he'd promised to take her out, just the two of them. He felt compelled to make up for what his brother had done to them, to her. They stayed a little longer than what they should have, but Speed felt that his mother was entitled. She did so much for the family, it bordered on being unbelievable. His mother smiled at him then nodded.

"Okay. Be careful, Speed."

"Mom," he chuckled. "I'm just walking across the street! What could possibly happen?"

"Nothing, if you're careful."

He laughed again and gave her a hug then started to cross the street. Speed dug into his pocket to retrieve his keys, dropping them almost instantly. With a sigh, he knelt down to pick them up. Headlights shining at him and the sound of tires squealing caught his attention, and he looked up just as a car came barreling towards him . . .

ppppppppppp

Trixie let out a small moan then rubbed her forehead. She had all the makings of a killer headache and, for the life of her, she couldn't recall why. Pushing herself up, she ventured a glance around then noted, with a growing alarm, that she was not in her apartment. Instead, she was in a tiny room that suspiciously looked like a jail holding cell. Janine was nowhere in sight.

"Oh my god," she moaned. "What happened?"

She quickly got to her feet and made her way to the door. An officer met her there.

"Excuse me, sir," Trixie began, ignoring the dryness of her mouth and the throbbing in her head. "What's happened? Why am I here?"

"You were brought here for detox," he stated coolly. "Drunk driving. You skid out of control after you hit a pedestrian in the walkway."

"I . . . what?" she gulped, her heart beating faster. That couldn't be right. She knew better than to drive drunk. It had been the one thing Speed had made sure no one in his team did, often designating someone to drive.

"You were driving drunk last night, missy, and the car you were driving skid out of control after you hit a pedestrian in the walkway."

"Oh god," she moaned. "No . . . this can't be happening . . ."

"I'm afraid so, miss. The family of the young man you hit has been notified," the officer told her. "It'll be up to them if they wish to press any further charges against you."

"Charges?" Trixie echoed in disbelief.

"Oh yes," he nodded. "You're already facing drunk driving charges and a fine. After that, it's up to the family if anything else is brought against you."

"Do . . ." she swallowed then took a deep breath, "do you know who I hit?"

"No," the officer shook his head. "Inspector Detector does, though. He'll be here shortly to talk to you. You can ask him then."

"Okay," Trixie whispered, going back to the bench to sit and wait. She had a very bad feeling about this and she wanted nothing more than to just wretch at that moment.

'Speed's going to be so disappointed in me,' she thought to herself as tears trailed down her cheeks. 'I just know it.'

ppppppppp

His chest ached. Something had shoved itself up his nose while another thing had snaked its way down his throat. Speed let out a groan as his eyes started to flutter open. He half-expected to see Trixie standing over him, tears streaming down her cheeks. The fact that he'd been in an accident was not lost on him.

However, when his eyes opened as far as they would go, he could barely make out any shapes. His vision had blurred greatly.

'What's going on? What's happened to me? Why can't I see?'

A cool hand touched his cheek, calming him instantly. He knew that touch. Off to his right, he heard the sound of sobbing. Grateful sobbing.

'Mother . . .'

"I'm so glad to see you open your eyes, baby," she whispered. "So very glad. Don't worry. Everything's going to be okay. I'll take care of you. I promise you."

Someone entered the room at that moment. Who, he couldn't quite identify.

"He's awake, doctor . . ."

"I see. I'll have the nurse come in to check on him. Mrs. Racer, we need to talk. I have some news for you and your family . . ."

"I'm coming, doctor," she managed to croak out. "I'll be right out."

"I'll be in the waiting room with your husband."

"I'll be right back, baby. I'll be right back. I promise."

She moved away from him, leaving him alone in a room filled with shadows.