Authors Note: Yet again, I must apologise for the delay with this, but the final chapter is here at last! A few things to say first though; Firstly and foremostly a huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time to let me know their thoughts on this piece of writing in one way or another. Some of you will know, as writers, how important feed back is to those of us who want to improve our skills and learn our strengths and our weaknesses. I truly appreciate the time everyone took to contact me – thank you. And whilst we're on the subject of thanking people, I must also thank Tikatu for her advice with regard to my abysmal American! And Amanda for her beta reading skills.
As some of you know, this story is based on a real life experience that could have ended very differently. Luckily for us, our ending was a happy one. I hope this ending is everything it should be and lives up to expectations.
Happy New Year, everyone and thanks once again for all the support,
Chapter 23 – Facing the Consequences
"You going to drink that?" Virgil gestured to the coffee that Alan continued to swill round in his hands. It was only when the repetitive movement stopped, that his hands began trembling again. Virgil watched the cup nervously, half expecting the cold, brown liquid to slop out. He glanced up to Alan's face; his younger brother appeared to be watching the plastic cup attentively. However, the vacant expression in his eyes told Virgil he was actually far too deep in thought. "Al?" When his brother didn't look up Virgil reached a hand out to his arm. "Alan?"
"Hmm?" Fearful blue eyes asked inanely.
"What are you thinking?" Virgil gave the young man his full attention as he moved from his position to sit alongside him. He glanced around the small cafeteria as he did; they'd been waiting here for over twenty minutes. After the coroner's and the field marshal's reports, the Chairman had decided a break was in order and they'd ventured out to the cafeteria. No one had eaten anything despite their father's insistence that they should, and the tense atmosphere that seemed to have settled around them, remained.
Alan looked up to him quizzically, his expression still vacant. Virgil wasn't sure if he was even listening to what he was saying, or if his brother just had a sudden desire to speak. "I never meant to hurt you."
Virgil sighed, just when he thought he managed to convince Alan he was okay; their father had inadvertently dropped a bombshell. "Al, we've had this conversation already, I thought we'd talked about it. I know you'd never hurt me. I told you, what happened on that track wasn't your fault." Alan opened his mouth to speak, but Virgil didn't give him the chance. "And the reason I passed out, was my own pig ignorance to accept the fact that I was sick."
"But I'm the reason you were sick in the first place." Alan's eyes took on a steely look of determination. Sad determination. "I was the one that asked you to come out with me." He stated emphatically.
Virgil frowned. "No you didn't, I offered to go with you."
"Yeah but I couldn't have dropped any bigger hints, could I?" Alan's eyes flickered up to his brother once again, portraying the anxiousness and guilt he felt. Virgil was beginning to feel like nothing could break down the sheer size of the wall of guilt Alan had placed round himself.
"Al, I'm a grown man." Virgil shook his head. "I could have said no. It was my decision to get in the car, no-one else's."
Alan seemed to accept the solemnly spoken words and swallowed, looking across the room with glazed eyes. "It's kind of ironic you know." He said softly. "Scott's spent the whole of this weekend trying to be there for me but I just kept pushing him away." He bit his bottom lip as he face crumbled. "I didn't think I needed him, I'm an adult now. I thought I could do this, but who am I kidding?" He laughed hollowly. "I do need him." He admitted sadly. "There's nothing I wouldn't give to have him here now, to wrap his arms around me and tell me it'll be okay." He bowed his head, the tension threatening to get too much. "He's right; I am still just a kid."
Virgil placed an arm around his brother's shoulder, to the protest of his ribs. Secretly, he wished Scott was there too; somehow his older brother always knew what to say or do to make things seem that little bit more hopeful. He sighed. "Al, you're growing up. The way you've dealt with all this," He waved his hands, gesturing around them. "That just shows how mature you've become. Everyone needs a little reassurance once in a while. If I'm really honest I kind of wish Scott was here too, I need that reassurance as much as you do." He admitted.
"Really?" Alan asked, looking up with shocked eyes.
"Sure." Virgil was nodding. "I wish they were all here, especially Scott." He reiterated with ease. "And not just because I want to have a word with him after what he said to you." Alan frowned and Virgil expanded on that comment. "I don't need looking after."
"Yeah, you and me both!" Alan nudged him, regretting it when he saw the change in Virgil's eyes. The pain elicited from his still healing ribs was obvious. "Leave it Virg." He shrugged, his eyes apologising for him. "He meant well. He's had a tough weekend; Gordon told me he'd had a real go at him the night all this happened." The younger man smiled askew sympathetically. "The last thing he needs is you on his back too. You said yourself; it's Scott." He shrugged again. "Y'know?"
Virgil processed Alan's words slowly. "Yeah, you're right." He agreed shakily. Thank goodness Alan didn't know they'd already had words, he contemplated in silence.
Alan didn't seem to notice his brother's suddenly pensive expression and carried on obliviously. "It all makes sense now." He was saying. "Why Scott was so touchy about not going out, why he was so insistent this morning. I knew there was something else, something you guys weren't telling me." He sighed and looked up at his older brother. "You should have told me y'know? Secrets like that aren't healthy."
Virgil's heart pounded at the comments; he couldn't bear for Alan to know the real 'truth'. For him to know exactly what happened in that car; it'd be torture for both of them. Maybe in time, he could build up the courage to tell him but right now, Alan didn't need the extra strain and neither did he. If Alan was satisfied that he'd discovered the reasons behinds Scott's behaviour, Virgil wasn't about to put him straight.
Virgil was about to comment again, when a deep voice from behind him spoke up. "Ms Dews has come in; I think they'll be reading their report soon." Virgil turned to their father, feeling slightly relieved at the intervention. He forced himself to his feet as he looked back at his brother. "You ready?" Alan looked to Virgil nervously; his eyes wide and his hands still trembling. His older brother merely wrapped an arm around him, once more. "We're ready." Virgil confirmed, when it became obvious Alan was struggling to reply.
Jeff stepped forward, placing a hand on both of their shoulders. "Right, come on then." He smiled as hopefully as he could, as he led them back into the room.
Alan glanced around as they sat down alongside Sam. The three suit glad individuals who were presiding over the hearing sat at the front of the room behind a long, dark mahogany table. Alan had been watching them whilst the other reports had been delivered; making notes with shiny, heavy silver pens and stroking their chins pensively. Sometimes they frowned and nodded, other times they looked at each other disapprovingly. He longed to hear Gordon's voice beside him, telling him they were probably playing noughts and crosses under the desk. His vision lingered on the committee before he looked to the row of people sat opposite them. Amongst them sat Ms Dews, and other people who had delivered reports already. He recognised one as the Chief Marshal and another, his father had told him, was the coroner. He glanced across at the pair of tables in front of the committee's big mahogany desk. Bare for now, they silently mocked him in the knowledge that Ms Dews would stand their soon and deliver his fate.
There was a commotion further down the row of seats and Alan craned his neck to see what was going on. As he took in the scene, he wished he hadn't; the Jamison family sat at the far end of the seating area. Looking back at him directly, Jack Jamison turned his nose up and took his place; regarding Alan with nothing less than contempt. Jack sat alongside his mother, who periodically raised a handkerchief to her eyes. His father on the other side of the older woman seemed to just stare ahead blankly. Alan bowed his head repentantly and drew his eyes away. He was relieved when his father reached a hand out to his shoulder, obviously sensing his distress. Alan smiled back as reassuringly as he could; thankful for the comforting contact.
Before he had a chance to actually say anything in reply, the Chairman spoke. He reminded Alan of an old business friend of his fathers. A big, portly man; his glasses were perched on the edge of his nose and his shirt buttons strained to contain his stomach. His dark brown beard had started to turn yellow around his mouth, Alan presumed from smoking too many cigars. He turned his attention back to the room and tried to concentrate on what he was saying. "And finally, we are to hear from the Crash Investigation Team." He turned to the row of exhibitors. "Ms Dews, if you could present your report please." Alan glanced nervously between his father and Virgil, sat either side of him. Ms Dews noisily made her way to where the table stood and scattered her files out.
"I address the Committee, with the following report. An investigation into the death of Mark Peter Jamison, pronounced dead at West Bridge Circuit on the eight of July, of this year 2016. As the coroner has already told us, Mr Jamison's injuries are consistent with a high-speed collision; though death itself was incurred through third degree burns on over eighty percent of his body. The collision itself was potentially the fatal factor and we have considered several other issues as we attempted to determine the cause of the crash itself. The two cars involved were examined, the mechanical reports of both, along with the transcripts of interviews and any other evidence I shall be referring to, can be found in our submission." She paused to ruffle through her notes dramatically, picking up a piece of paper.
"The mechanical report of Mr Jamison's vehicle, a Ferrari GX 10 series, confirms that the car was in good working order. However, the report from the same model of car that Mr Jamison was in collision with, belonging to a Mr Alan Tracy, showed serious errors. If you would turn to page six of our submission, you will see that although the car appeared to be in fourth gear at the gate, the vehicle had selected second gear in the box." She paused for effect. "This was a critical factor in the crash." Alan looked to Virgil who was taking in Sam's pale form. "The selection of a lower gear caused the back wheels to effectively lock in position. This, in turn, caused the car to spin uncontrollably at high speed. The damage to the heart of the engine shows that Mr Tracy and his passenger were extremely lucky. The strain the engine was under could have caused it to explode; Dr Nickel was highly surprised it didn't."
"And how did Mr Tracy's reaction affect the spin, Ms Dews?" One of the committee was asking. Interrupting Ms Dew's smooth and dramatic flow of words.
"Mr Tracy should be commended on the way he dealt with the situation." A loud scoff from Jack turned everyone's head and the Chairman looked down at him with distaste. "The situation could easily have been much worse." Ms Dews continued. "But Mr Tracy kept his wits about him, and reacted accordingly."
"No fuel rush then?" The Chairman was joining in. Ms Dews looked up, clearly not liking all the questions.
"No, there was no fuel rush. Mr Tracy cut the power, having seen the engine revs exceed the danger mark, he didn't try to take control." She paused before almost reluctantly adding. "And rightly so too."
"Mr Tracy didn't attempt to take any sort of control? He didn't apply the brakes, or attempt to slow the vehicle down?" Another member of the committee was questioning her.
"No." Ms Dews repeated, a little heatedly. She was becoming flustered now she couldn't keep to her script. "Mr Tracy made no attempt to control the spin." She repeated clearly and a little patronisingly. "The car never regained sufficient traction; he had no opportunity to apply the brakes. I would repeat; he should be commended on his reaction. He saved his own life and his passengers."
Said so clearly and plainly, it really hit home to Virgil and his father, just how close they had been to not making it through this. They exchanged looks over Alan's head, before Jeff placed an arm around his youngest son's shoulders. Equally proud, Virgil gently squeezed his brother's knee; thankful that Alan's quick thinking had saved his life. Alan jumped when he felt Virgil's leg vibrate against his; he looked up to his brother in disbelief. Virgil just shrugged, mouthing 'Scott'. Alan looked down again, realising it was Virgil's 'phone that was ringing and nodded vacantly.
Ms Dews continued. "If you'd turn to page seven of the provided material." She waited a few minutes for the three committee members to comply. "As the report in front of you explains this was a technical error that maintenance of the car could not have prevented. Conclusions have been drawn that an integral part of the gearbox itself, was faulty. Causing the actual box to fall out of line with the gate." She paused again, clearly enjoying the attention as she sauntered around the table. "It would seem the gearbox had been reconditioned and the original failure had not been attended to correctly. The positioning of the gearbox and the fact that Ferrari gearboxes operate with cable selectors made it unlikely that any warning would have been presented to the driver, until the moment it actually slipped. In addition, it would be unreasonable; I think you'll agree, for the mechanical team to anticipate any problems with the transmission system. As the report notes…" She gestured to the piece of paper in her hands. "Ferrari USA had refitted several new systems not more than two weeks ago. These included the transmission systems, braking, electronic systems, and several new engine components that are outlined on page nine. Though the error in the gearbox could not reasonably have been detected, the report is also quick to point out that a fault on the secondary safety harness of Mr Tracy's vehicle, prevented evacuation of a legal passenger. Causing unnecessary injury through this careless lack of maintenance." She said it with such distaste and disgust, Virgil practically felt Alan's trembling increase.
A member of the board spoke up again. "Err, Ms Dews is this matter to be further dealt with?"
"Yes, a written reprimand from the Federation has already been served, however the Tracy team has an otherwise unblemished safety record. As such, the written reprimand will have little bearing on their future performance." Ms Dews answered the question with a nod of satisfaction before she went back to her report. "Due to the near impossibility of predicting such a mechanical failure, the investigation finds…"
"Ms Dews," The Chairman interrupted, picking up on her use of the near uncertainty. "Near impossibility?" He shook his head. "Well, was it impossible or wasn't it?"
"Well, Mr Chairman, the Tracy team's head mechanic could theoretically have picked up on the fault earlier. However, it's highly unreasonable for us to suggest that he should have done so. Especially after the work had been carried out by such a reputable company." Ms Dews became more defensive with every question that was fired at her.
The chairman nodded but seemed unconvinced. "So, then to clarify, the fault could have been detected earlier?"
"It could, yes." Ms Dews replied curtly, "I find it highly irrational to confer such a responsibility in such a situation. But yes, theoretically the fault could have been detected earlier."
"Well, we'll be the ones allocating responsibility Ms Dews," Again, he nodded in reply. Ms Dews was about to go on, when he spoke again. "Erm," He coughed, "Ms Dews could you address the assumption that this failure, on the mechanical team's part, to note the fault. Is due to the hypothesis that Ferrari USA would fulfil its requirements adequately, and not that the mechanical team were incompetent to fail to detect such a fault."
At the word incompetent, Virgil's attention turned to Sam. His friends face was pale and his eyes were wide and unseeing, he looked to his hands and not out at the display in front of them. Virgil felt the horrible sinking feeling in the bottom of his gut, drop several more feet. "Well, obviously I can't comment on the thought processes of each and every member of the Tracy Mechanical team." Ms Dews was continuing with attitude. "However, I can say that, with regard to a car returning from having such extensive repair work and also, from such a sound company. I would not expect any mechanical team to carry out the detailed checks they normally would, after such an abundance of repair work." She paused but jumped in again before the Chairman could speak. "Of course there is a certain level and indeed duty of care which must be taken in order to maintain safe working standards on the circuit. However, I don't feel and have come across no evidence to prove, that the Tracy mechanical team breached their duty to take reasonable care. Certain standards were maintained more than adequately."
"Except for the safety restraint on the passenger seat." The Chairman mumbled. "I have read your report Ms Dews and I notice that you make specific mention to the fact that the Chief Mechanic in this case; Sam Marshal, has limited experience in leading such a team. In fact, this is the first time, is it not that he's stepped up to take that position?"
"Yes, it is." Ms Dews replied as Virgil studied the mechanic closely. Sam had taken to wringing his hands together in his lap and looked down at them without emotion.
"Did his lack of experience in the department contribute to the crash?" The Chairman paused for breath. "He is, is he not, ultimately responsible for the condition in which the car makes it way to the track?"
"You are correct, of course; he is ultimately responsible for the cars track worthiness and it is possible that a more experienced mechanic may have picked up on the fault sooner. However, with consideration of the fact that the car had only just returned from Ferrari USA, I doubt even a more experienced mechanic would have detected the fault. Mr Marshal and his team took every reasonably precaution and I find it wholly inappropriate and unreasonable to project any blame onto them." Ms Dews was clearly becoming aggravated by the constant questioning and fired her reply back with vigour.
There were a few dreadful seconds were the Chairman was contemplating arguing with her again. However thankfully, he stroked his chin pensively and looked down. "Hmm, again Ms Dews, I'd remind you that we'll be the judge of that." He muttered, "Carry on."
"The Investigation Team suggests to the committee that there was insufficient evidence to indicate any cause for concern should have been detected by the mechanical team. As such, no liability can be attributed to the Tracy team. The study of the crash site concludes that whilst Mr Tracy did everything he could to control the situation that followed, it was impossible for him to regain control. Mr Jamison on the other hand, failed to react accordingly to the incident. He made no attempt to avoid the impact, nor did he cut the power to his engine immediately. He was also, by Federation Standards, travelling at an unsafe distance of immediacy to Mr Tracy." She paused again, evidently surprised that no questions came at that point. "Mr Jamison's late reaction times and the proximity to Mr Tracy's vehicle with which he travelled played large contributions in his death."
She paused again, obviously bringing her report to a close. Another of the board members stopped her. "Ms Dews, if I could ask a few questions; what probable causes are there for the fire?"
"Dr Nickel thinks it highly impossible to pinpoint a cause, although he feels strongly that the most likely scenarios would be sparks from the actual collision igniting a flammable liquid or gas." Ms Dews put forward with a succinct nod.
"So, in relation to Mr Jamison." The board member continued. "If he had severed the power to his vehicle, how would that of affected the fire?"
"As I was about to say," Ms Dews added pointedly. "The fire may have been caused electrically, in which case Mr Jamison's lack of reaction in not severing the power supply would have been fatal." She paused but it seemed the board member was satisfied and so Ms Dews went on yet again. "It is the conclusion of the crash investigation team that due to the factors already outlined in my report, the committee concludes that there is no further case to inquire. We recommend that the coroner record a verdict of death by misadventure. If that's all?"
"So, in brief Ms Dews, your conclusion would be that the accident's primary cause was the unpredictable mechanical failure of Mr Tracy's car. However, Mr Jamison proximity during the lap and therefore his lack of adequate time to react added to the severity of the collision." The Chairman frowned, leaning forward and lowering his glasses to the very edge of his nose.
"That's correct; of course the inefficient reaction time may have been the reason that Mr Jamison didn't cut power to the vehicle." Ms Dews shook her head. "We'll never know indefinitely."
The Chairman nodded. "And the passenger in the Tracy vehicle how did he or she contribute to the incident in question?" He asked, raising an eyebrow and rifling through his papers to consult his notes. "He was of some relation to Alan Tracy, is that not correct?"
"The passenger was Mr Tracy's brother yes, but his primary function in the vehicle was not as a spectator. Alan Tracy had requested some tactical advice on how to utilise the engine to its maximum capacity. Virgil Tracy as a part of the mechanical team offered his advice in the situation." Ms Dews explained. Alan glanced across to where his brother sat at his side, swallowing slightly. Virgil saw the nervous, guilt-ridden action and reached out to where his youngest brother fiddled with his hands in his lap. Taking a clammy hand in his own, he squeezed it reassuringly. Alan sighed but said nothing.
"Considering the vehicle's history of unreliability, a mechanic sitting in on the warm up suggests the mechanical team were experiencing problems. Does it not Ms Dews?" The Chairman was continuing relentlessly.
"In this instance I would disagree, Virgil Tracy's presence in the car was purely for tactical advice." Ms Dews replied adamantly and for once Virgil was pleased she was on their side. He had taken an instant dislike to the woman during his interview, as had Sam. However, now she was in her element and he couldn't help but feel slightly relieved that despite their assumptions about her, she had believed them.
"And was he in a position to provide that advice?" The Chairman asked again.
"He hasn't got any previous racing experience, if that's what your question was. However, he's been a part of his brother's mechanical team since he started racing, and has as much general tactical knowledge as any other team member." She paused for a few seconds as if she was uncertain of whether she should go on. "I see no reason why the fact that one of Mr Tracy's mechanic is also one of his brothers, has any bearing on the incident. As I mentioned in my report he was a legal passenger." Ms Dews was clearly affronted by the insinuation that she hadn't thought to ask that question.
"Did the fact that there were two bodies in Mr Tracy's car, affect its performance at all?" The board were questioning her from all directions now and Alan was feeling the heat. Jeff glanced down to his son, and to where Virgil had a grip on his hand. Casually he draped an arm round his youngest sons shoulders; ready to provide the extra support should it be needed.
Ms Dews looked irritated that the Chairman was prepared to quiz her so thoroughly. "Undoubtedly." She stated clearly. "The extra weight would have slowed the spin considerably quicker than would have happened with only one person."
"Just one further question Ms Dews." The chairperson paused to take in the way the woman in question glared at him, hands on hips leaving no room for interpretation about how she was feeling. "If I'm reading this report correctly, Alan Tracy executed his escape before the impact by jumping. If he had time to do this before the impact, how is it Mr Jamison had inadequate time to react and how is it, he did not escape the wreckage after the impact?"
"Firstly, both drivers are trained to use several varying methods of ejection in exactly these circumstances. Dr Nickel estimates Mr Jamison's speed was in access of one hundred and eighty miles per hour before the application of his brakes. He was travelling at such a speed that any reaction on his part would have been practically subsequent to the impact. Had he not collided with Mr Tracy's vehicle, I seriously doubt how he could have possibly navigated that part of the track at such a speed. In answer to your second question…" She stressed the second part sarcastically, with a raised eyebrow. Virgil chuckled inwardly at her response as she continued. "Mr Jamison was trapped inside the vehicle; the steering column buckled under the pressure of the impact and came down on his legs. He was as incapacitated as Mr Tracy's passenger; both trapped." At those words Alan briefly returned the pressure on his brother's hand. Letting Virgil know he was grateful for the touch and at the same time reminding himself of how thankful he was for this brother's presence at all.
"Thank you Ms Dews." The Chairman coughed uncomfortably. "That will be all."
As Ms Dews gathered her papers together and made her way back to where Dr Nickel had joined the row of other contributors, the three suit clad members that made up the Committee conferred quietly. After a few minutes, the Chairman, sat in the middle, coughed pointedly. Leaning forward, he addressed the room's occupants. By which time, Jeff's arm had made its way round Alan's trembling shoulders.
"Firstly, as Chairman of the Inquiry Committee into this incident I must thank all the individuals present here today and praise the efficiency with which they've compiled their reports. I would also like to take this opportunity to express our sorrow at the loss of a clearly talented, young man. The situation is a very sad one, for all involved; a terrible accident. However, I must conclude that this preliminary hearing concurs with Ms Dews report. After listening to the reports and conducting our own inquiries, we have concluded that there is no further case to answer here. Providing the coroner's court records a verdict of death by misadventure, no inquiry will be required."
Alan let out a breath he didn't even realise he was holding, suddenly struggling to fill his lungs with much needed oxygen. Feeling the relief wash over him, he smiled across at his father as Jeff pulled him into his shoulder. He could Virgil on the other side of him, also holding him. "It's over." Virgil sighed, looking between his younger brother and his father. "It's over." He said it again, as if he hadn't really believed it the first time.
"No!" A shout from the opposite side of the room, grabbed everyone's attention. "No, you're wrong!" Jack Jamison was on his feet. His eyes red and his face angry, he confronted the big mahogany desk despite his mother's protests.
Jeff looked down to where Alan watched him with wide eyes, deciding it was time for them to leave. "Come on son, let's go." Alan looked up at his father blankly as Jeff got to his feet. Alan made no effort to move; not trusting his legs to hold his weight. "Come on Alan, let's move." Jeff was encouraging.
Virgil stood too and turned back with a surprised expression when Alan didn't follow. The younger man's expression appeared blank, and he stared across the room with teary eyes as the confrontation escalated. Suddenly Virgil realised that his younger brother would need a bit more encouragement before he would move.
"Come on Al, it's over now." Virgil leant down, attempting to get his brother to move. He knew if they didn't get out of there soon, they would be next on the receiving end of Jack's temper. His attempts at coaxing his brother away though, were too late. As Jack turned towards them, Jeff pulled a dazed Alan to his feet and thrust him into Virgil's arms.
"Let's go." He said sternly, gesturing to the door. With the help of his father, Virgil practically dragged Alan out into the corridor. Ignoring Jack's shouting as he did.
Alan leant back against the wall, afraid his legs would go from beneath him. Around him, hurried, urgent bursts of conversation erupted. "I can't believe I actually defended that guy to Scott!" Virgil was cursing. "Who the hell does he think he is?"
"Son," Jeff laid a hand on his second eldest's tense form. "Take it easy, don't go upsetting yourself." To anyone else the words seemed comforting but Virgil knew they served as a warning too. The condition he was suffering from with his ribs was aggravated by stress, and he took a few moments to forcefully calm himself down. Jeff sighed loudly as he ran a hand over his worn features, "Well, I'm glad that's over." He said mildly.
"Me too." Virgil nodded. "Thank goodness for that!" He sighed. He almost jumped when his 'phone started vibrating again. Reaching into his pocket, he retrieved the device and held it up. "It's Scott, I'd better go tell him the good news." His smile conveyed all the relief Jeff felt and more. Virgil's thumb hovered over the button that would connect the call, but a small voice stopped him.
"It's over?" Alan's teary blue eyes were staring up expressionlessly across the hallway, not focusing on the people around him.
In a second, Virgil cancelled Scott's call and gave his brother his full attention. Following his father's lead, they stood on either side of the unstable young man, sharing worried glances.
"It's over." Jeff nodded as he pulled Alan into a warm embrace. "It's all over Son, it's okay." He whispered into Alan's hair as he smiled at Virgil.
"I … I was so sure." Alan's voice was muffled by his father's shoulder and as Jeff held him tightly he could have sworn he felt the young man shudder as he stifled a sob.
Suddenly Alan pulled himself away from his father's embrace. Blinking and breathing as steadily as he could he looked around him at the concerned expressions he'd caused. Relief interspersed with disbelief flowed over him in waves and he felt his eyes beginning to mist again. Swallowing in an effort to stop it, he felt the influx of emotions rise up within him and overwhelm him; surprise then relief, liberation and happiness, and slowly the tension and stress he'd felt was lifting. It was as if something above him was so slowly lifting the invisible weight off his shoulders; a weight that he hadn't even really realised just how heavy a burden it was. His whole body trembled, the anxiousness and the fear he'd felt, suddenly making him want to do nothing more than curl up in his father's arms and cry. He felt so exhausted, so tired. His eyes welled with tears he didn't want to fall and he looked to Virgil, attempting to smile. He couldn't though; his lips shuddered and bit them together in order to control them. Virgil's eyes told him that his older brother understood exactly how he was feeling.
"You'd better go and call John and Gordon. I told them you'd call as soon as we knew anything." Virgil smiled, giving Alan the excuse he needed to be left in peace for a few minutes.
Alan nodded, timidly. "Yeah." He tried to say but his trembling lips muffled his words. He just nodded as he turned away. Shuddering hands reached for his 'phone but as soon as he had his back turned to his family, the tears began to fall and his pace increased.
Jeff took a few steps to follow him but Virgil stopped him. "Leave him Dad; he just needs some time to himself. It hasn't really sunk in yet, give him some time to come to terms with it."
Jeff looked anxiously between his chestnut haired son's sound advice and the hasty exit his youngest had made. Eventually he nodded. "I suppose I have got a few calls of my own to make, organising this press release for a start." Virgil nodded too and he placed a hand on his second eldest son's shoulder as he walked away. "You'll call Scott?"
Virgil nodded again. "Yeah," He sighed. "There's something I want to talk to him about anyway." Something in Virgil's tone told Jeff that, the 'something' wasn't particularly appealing to the son who stood before him now. Nevertheless, he nodded and went off to make his calls.
Virgil turned to where Sam was standing, deep in thought. Virgil noted the white envelope in his hands again. "Hey," He idled up to his friend. "You should call Kenny, y'know." Virgil smiled, despite the pensive, sad expression on Sam's face. "He'll be pleased; I know he feels like he should have been here this weekend. Especially now."
Sam turned haunted, hollow eyes on the second eldest of the Tracy sons. Virgil had to stop himself from wincing at the despair they held. "Yeah well." Sam placed a hand on Virgil's shoulder. "Me too; maybe he should have been." The mechanic muttered as he walked away.
Virgil took in a deep breath, wincing and coughing to expel it. He presumed Sam, like Alan, was still trying to comprehend the verdict. And how it had brought blissful conclusion to this awful experience.
Fishing his 'phone back out of his pocket he processed the information on the screen. Fifteen missed calls, he shook his head at Scott's constant worry. He patiently listened to several messages his brother had left, ranging from 'Hi, it's me. I was just calling to see how it was going, let me know as soon as you know anything. Talk to you later, bye.' To 'It's me again, I guess you're not finished yet. Call me.' And then finally, just simply 'Sorry, call me.' With an amused smirk, he dialled Scott's number.
Unsurprisingly, it barely rang more than twice. "How did it go?" Scott bypassed any greeting or acknowledgement he could have offered his brother and cut straight to the chase.
"Can you talk?" Virgil asked, studying the hectic background that his brother's image obscured.
"Yeah. Why, what happened?" Scott asked anxiously, searching Virgil's eyes for the reason behind his almost edgy behaviour. "Oh, hold on a minute," He turned away from the screen and engaged in short but sharp dialogue with someone else.
"Who was that?" Virgil asked curiously.
"Oh no one, just Pete." Scott said offhandedly. "Well?" He raised an eyebrow, eagerly. Uncontained anxiety and worry stared Virgil in the face.
"Well," Virgil sighed. "There's not going to be an inquiry." He smiled; it felt so good to say those words. "It's over." He found himself sighing with relief. "It's really over." He said yet again, realising it would take him a long time to get used to that idea.
Scott sighed loudly. "Thank God for that." He closed his eyes briefly, pausing. "I've been waiting all morning for you to call!" He exclaimed, shaking his head. Still experiencing the light headed feeling of relief.
"Yeah I noticed." Virgil smirked, raising an eyebrow. "Fifteen calls is a bit excessive don't you think?" Scott smiled at the comment apologetically.
"Sorry about that," He said remorsefully. "I just wish I could've been there." He sighed again wistfully, not really wanting to think about how he'd let both his brothers' down. "How's Alan?"
Virgil shrugged in reply. "I'm not really sure. I don't think it's sunk in yet and we've only just come out; he's gone off to call Gordy." Seeing the anxiety begin to cloud Scott's features again, he spoke up. "Don't worry, he'll be fine. I'll make sure of it."
Scott nodded. "I know you will." He said softly. "So what exactly did they say?"
"That there was a fault in the gearbox that Ferrari US fitted. Despite the fact that we told them to fit a new gearbox, it looks like they but a reconditioned one on. It must've slipped out of line as he was driving, probably because the original fault hadn't been cleared properly. So when he put the car in fourth at the gate, it selected second in the actual box." Virgil replied, with a shake of the head. "Y'know I actually feel quite sorry for Ferrari, by the time Dad and the Jamison' have finished with them I doubt there'll be much left." Scott smirked at the comment. "Speaking of which, Jack Jamison didn't react too well when the committee were talking about Mark's contribution to the crash. They said he was travelling too close and too fast, he didn't react very well to the accident." Virgil paused, before smiling again. "Oh and they commended Alan on how well he did handling the car as it spun, they said he saved both of our lives."
"Thank God he did, too." Scott added quietly. "Did the Jamison's say anything?"
Virgil shook his head. "Not really, Jack was making a scene as we left but Dad pulled Alan out before he had a chance."
Scott nodded. "Good." He paused, wanting to know every detail. "Well what else did they say?"
Virgil shrugged. "Not a lot really, just that Al couldn't have done anything else. Oh, they did say that a more experienced Chief Mechanic might have picked up on the fault earlier; I think that's upset Sam a bit. I'm going to go and talk to him in a minute." Scott nodded approvingly. "That Investigator; the woman, she was really good. I couldn't believe my eyes…" He stopped again as Scott turned away from the screen, presumably talking to Pete, a colleague of his. "Was that Pete again?" Virgil asked when Scott eventually turned back to him. Scott nodded passively but Virgil could tell he was annoyed, "What's up?"
"Nothing." Scott shook his head, but even through a video connection Virgil could sense his irritation and Scott knew better than to even attempt to avoid the question. "He's just not very happy. We're supposed to be up in the air. I wasn't satisfied with the pre-flight checks so I redid them and we lost our slot."
Virgil frowned, translating Scott's version of events into the truth. "You mean you didn't want to be up in the air when I called." Scott's shrug told him his assumption had been correct and he shook his head slightly. "I thought you were the one who was really confident about all this. Were you really that worried?"
"Alan called me this morning, he was in a real state and I knew exactly what your thoughts about the inquest equated to." Scott explained with yet another sigh. "Can you blame me for being worried?"
"No, of course not." Virgil smiled. "You wouldn't be you, if you didn't worry Scott." A grunt in reply told Virgil that his older brother wasn't sure if that's was a compliment or not. "Speaking of worrying…" Virgil began cautiously. He swallowed, feeling suddenly apprehensive.
"What? What is it?" Scott asked, suddenly looking up with intense eyes; as if by just staring he could gleam some kind of intelligence. "You have been taking those painkillers haven't you? You haven't passed out again or anything, have you?" He added, fretfully.
Virgil sighed. "No Scott." He paused, smirking slightly at his brother concern. "I'm fine." He hesitated again and watched Scott's concern reach new levels. Biting the bullet, he looked away from the screen before turning back a little hesitantly. "I … I was just wondering if that offer was still open?" Virgil dropped his gaze again. Having declined Scott's offer of assistance, he now felt the need to swallow his pride when admitting he'd reconsidered. He avoided eye contact, uncomfortably.
"Offer? What...?" Scott stopped mid-flow, realising what his brother was talking about. "To come and stay for a while?" He paused before crowing. "Of course." He answered with a grin. "You don't have to ask, you know that."
Scott's apparent enthusiasm lifted Virgil's discomfort slightly. When it became obvious that he was going to skip the lecture about swallowing his pride, Virgil relaxed. "Thanks."
"Do you want me to come and pick you up?" Scott enquired excitedly. "It'll be great to see you." He enthused.
Virgil shrugged. He hadn't really thought about the practicalities, he'd been too engrossed in worrying about the outcome of today. That and trying to figure out how to avoid the impending lecture, whilst working up the courage to admit that maybe he'd been too hasty in declining Scott's support. "Well, we're heading back to the States tonight, but we've got to take the car to Detroit before we can go home. Travelling isn't exactly going to be easy for me, or Al, so we'll probably take our time; might stay over somewhere." He pondered. "Then we've got to take Al and Dad to New York. It'll most likely be Friday by the time we get back to Denver."
"Okay." Scott was nodding, already calculating a plan. "Well, I've got Saturday off so how about I drive across on Friday night?"
Virgil wasn't so sure. "Are you sure? That's a long drive." He frowned, not wanting his brother to go out of his way.
"Yeah." Scott nodded. "We'll stay over at yours on Friday night and drive back Saturday. That okay with you?"
Virgil nodded. "Yeah sure, if it's okay with you." He hesitated, before feeling the need to curve Scott's enthusiasm. "Scott, it won't be for long, just a couple of days. Y'know?"
"However long you need." Scott reassured him, though Virgil noticed he was becoming distracted by something happening above the receiver. "What made you change your mind?"
Virgil sighed pausing thoughtfully. "Let's just say that I realised this morning how much I appreciated your support." He paused, noting again how Scott wasn't really giving him his full attention anymore. "Look Scott, I don't want to get in the way or anything."
"Don't be stupid." Scott laughed turning back to the screen with a grin at his younger brother's words. "You wouldn't be. And I know you think I'm going to fuss but I'm not, I promise." He added, adamantly.
"I appreciate it." Virgil smiled. "Thanks."
"Listen, I've got to go; Pete's getting tetchy." Scott replied as he smirked again. "Tell Alan I'll call him later and I'll call you back tonight." He paused as if he was uncertain of whether to continue. "Hey, and I… I'm really pleased you changed your mind."
Virgil nodded. "Me too." He sighed softly. "Thanks Scott."
Scott smiled a reply. "Talk to you later. Take care." He grinned once more at his brothers image before closing down the 'phone he held in his palm.
Virgil relaxed a little, pleased that he'd finally gained the courage to do that. He smirked again at Scott's enthusiasm as he closed his own 'phone down with a lighter heart. Remembering Alan's reactions earlier, he decided to head out in search of his youngest brother. There were a few things he wanted to talk to him about.
"Yeah, I'm fine John. I promise." Alan was grinning into his 'phone as Sam approached him. "He's fine too." There was a short pause. "Yeah I will." Alan seemed anxious to bring the conversation to a conclusion. "Listen John, I've got to go. I haven't told Gordon yet and he's probably trying to call me." There was another pause as Alan listened to his older brother again. "Yeah well I tried but he couldn't talk so he's calling me back." John seemed to accept the reply. "Yeah sure, talk to you later." Alan nodded. "You too, bye John." Eventually he closed down the 'phone with an aggravated sigh.
"Hey." Sam said flatly as he leant against the wall, alongside where Alan stood. "You alright?"
Alan smiled widely, a little shakily but at the same time happy. "Yeah. Yeah, I think I am." He sighed. "I can't believe it…" He trailed off. "How about you?"
Sam nodded. "Yeah." He said with less conviction. "Listen, I wanted to talk to you." Alan looked at him expectantly and he hesitated. "I … I just wanted to say that the last couple of years, it's been a great opportunity for me." He nudged the slightly shorter blonde man. "Something to tell my kids when you're…" He hesitated again, an awkward grin developing. "Well, I was going to say when you're rich and famous, but when you make it on the track. I know you will, you're good Al and you shouldn't give up because of this. You heard what they said; it wasn't your fault."
Alan nodded absently. "Yeah, I've been thinking about that…" He sighed pensively.
"Look," Sam shrugged uncomfortably. "I'm not good at this kind of stuff." He reached into his jacket pocket. Before pulling Alan into a bear hug, when he released him he smiled down with sad eyes. "This says it all." He handed Alan the crisp white envelope; it was beginning to look a bit tatty where it had been manhandled so much.
Alan frowned down at the object in his hands. "What is it?"
Sam just shrugged. "Read it." He said as he began walking away.
"Sam?" Alan shouted after him but to no avail. "Sam!" He repeated louder. But the mechanic kept on walking and Alan turned to the envelope with a deeper frown. He was still engrossed in its contents a few seconds later when Virgil approached him.
"What was all that about?" Virgil frowned, looking in Sam's direction. "Do you think he's okay?" He paused. "I was going to talk to him, he seemed a bit weird earlier. I thought it was probably just the …" He trailed off as he looked at Alan's expression; miserable and dumbfounded. "What is it?" Virgil asked with a frown.
Alan looked up at his brother with shocked eyes, waving the letter in one hand. "Did you know about this?" He frowned.
Virgil looked at his brother quizzically. "What is it?" He repeated as he peered over Alan's shoulder at the letter, a horrible feeling circling in his gut that he knew what was coming.
Alan simply handed him the white paper, "Here, you'd better read it."
Virgil dutifully took the letter as his eyes scanned the familiar writing. "Dear Al," He read aloud. "I don't really know what to say, I've never done this before. So I'll dive straight in…" Virgil trailed off, "Never done what?" He frowned at his youngest brother but Alan just gestured at him to read it. "The last few years have been amazing; I've enjoyed every second of it – even when we weren't doing so good! Virgil is my best friend but over the time we spent working on the cars, you've become a very close friend too. Thanks for that, and thank you for the opportunities you've given me to be a part of such a great team." Again Virgil stopped. "He's talking like it's over, it doesn't have to be. I mean it's not too late for you to change your mind about the racing." He frowned. Alan didn't comment instead he stared ahead, waiting for Virgil to continue. Virgil went back to reading aloud, the feeling that there was more to come, ever prominent. "I made a decision this morning that if today's hearing suggested in any way there was more I could have done, that I'd do this. For you to be reading this the Committee obviously thought I was responsible. So for your sake and the team's I'm going to resign from my position." Virgil's voice rose as he spoke. "He can't!" He sighed, turning back. "But…" Alan gestured for him to finish reading the note and with wide eyes; he turned back to the crumbled piece of paper. "I'll still come and support you, but only as a friend. I hope you can understand why I feel I need to do this, I'm sure you will after whatever's just happened. At the end of the day, I'm responsible for the condition of the car and I have to face the consequences of that responsibility. I hope I'm doing that. Thanks for everything, your friend always. Sam." Virgil sighed harshly as he leant beside his blonde brother, his hand dropping to his side.
Both of them stood their, side by side, stunned into a pensive silence.
"You think you can talk to him, maybe change his mind?" Alan asked hopefully after a few seconds.
Virgil shrugged. "I don't know Al, he can be really stubborn sometime. Especially if he thinks he's doing the right thing. I'll try but I can't promise anything." Virgil hesitated. "He seems pretty sure; I think his minds made up."
"He's a good mechanic." Alan said softly. "I don't want to lose him." Then he suddenly shook his head, as if experiencing a moment of clarity. "But what does it matter anyway?" He rubbed a hand over his face, looking desolately to the ground.
"Hey." Virgil tried to soothe his brother's tortured expression. "Come on, you know for a man who's just been cleared of any liability in a fatal crash, you don't look so happy."
"Maybe that's because one of my best mechanic's just walked out on me! Not that it matters anymore anyway, my racing careers over now." Alan shrugged. "I don't know." He sniffed, shaking his head again. "I thought I'd feel different."
Virgil nodded, empathising with his youngest brother. "Me too." He sighed. "But I don't and you don't either, do you?"
Alan shrugged his shoulders, shaking his head. "A man still died out there Virg. I guess I thought hearing that it wasn't my fault and that there wasn't anything I could do, would make me feel better. I don't feel any better though." He frowned, looked miserably to his older brother.
"I know how you mean." Virgil sighed again. "I'm pleased the way it turned out and everything don't get me wrong. But it doesn't really change anything does it?" He looked across to Alan, who was pensively studying the floor. "Are you still thinking about selling the car then?"
Alan shrugged. "I don't know." He replied despondently. "I don't know anything anymore." He waved his hands. "This was supposed to make it better!" He exclaimed. "I'm supposed to feel less guilty now; I'm supposed to feel happy. And I'm supposed to know what I'm going to do. But I don't; I don't know what I'm going to do, I don't feel happy and I certainly don't feel blameless."
"I know." Virgil sighed. "I feel the same, today was supposed to provide all the answers. But in some respects, it's just provided more questions to answer." He paused thoughtfully. "We'll get through it though." He said confidently. "There were a few times back there when I doubted that, but after today I know. That's one thing this hearing has done; I know now we can do this."
Alan scoffed. "Good for you, I wish I felt that confident."
Virgil eyed his despondent manner suspiciously. "It's not going to be easy Al, I'm not going to tell you it is but I really don't think you should give up on this. I know your confidence has taken a knock and I can understand why you feel like you do about the racing. But giving up isn't something that this family does very easily." Alan looked across to him with a frown. A familiar frown. A frown that told Virgil the infamous Alan Tracy temperament was heading his way in full swing.
"I don't need a lecture off you in how to continue the good family name." Sure enough, Alan sniped sarcastically. "Besides I'm sure Dad and Scott'll do that, pretty much for all of you. I don't need it, especially from you Virgil!"
"Good, because I'm not going to give you a lecture." Virgil's patient reply came.
Alan seemed to deflate when Virgil didn't rise to his challenge of an argument. "It's not about the family name. It's about me." Alan paused as he replied. "I'm not sure if I can." He admitted softly, glancing down to where he palmed his 'phone from one hand to the other.
"If you can?" Virgil questioned. "If you can what?" He already knew the answer, it was how he felt inside too, but it needed to be said. To hear it out loud was a sort of acceptance.
"That smash really freaked me out Virgil, I'm not sure if I want to get back in the car." Alan admitted. "I thought that if I knew it wasn't my fault I'd feel differently, but I just don't." He shrugged. "The thought of getting back in a car to race, it still terrifies me." He told his brother honestly. "I don't care anymore if that makes me weak or pathetic; I'd rather be weak and pathetic than go back out on the track." He paused again. "That's how much it scares me."
"It doesn't make you weak or pathetic." Virgil placed an arm round him. "It's normal and yeah, it terrifies you." He paused too. "Truth is it terrifies me too." He admitted, sighing shakily.
"Really?" Alan turned to him, his answer came in Virgil's expression. "I was so worried that they were going to take my licence and that my career was over. I didn't really think about what I'd do if it wasn't. I mean, I'm not sure if I can race again anyway."
Virgil swallowed. "Of course you can. You just need to rebuild your confidence that's all." He hesitated, knowing his brother was still fragile and not sure how he would react to this suggestion. "Look, we'll get the car fixed and then take it to a couple of test days; no pressure, you can go at your own speed and take it slowly, until you feel comfortable again."
"I'm not sure I ever will." Alan admitted desolately. "Not after that."
"Neither am I." Virgil sighed again. "But we've both got to get our confidence back somehow. We'll do it together." He rubbed the top of Alan's arm, pulling him into a semi-embrace. "Me and you, what do you say?"
"You'll help me? Do it with me?" Alan asked, surprised yet pleased that Virgil was offering him this lifeline. And it truly was a lifeline to him.
"Of course I will." Virgil nodded, nervous of the implications. He felt exactly the same as Alan did and he was trying his hardest to support them both; he could only hope he was succeeding. The thought of getting back in a racing car not only terrified him but just the words sadistically triggered a replay of his memories of the crash. Yet, he knew he had to be brave for his brother and he also knew deep down, it'd do him good. He needed to do it as much as Alan did, just for entirely different reasons. "Al whatever happens, we're in this together okay?"
Alan nodded, a smile gracing his otherwise forlorn features. "Thanks Virg, I really appreciate it."
"We'd better give Ferrari US a call, tell Simon you've changed your mind about having it repaired to road safety standards." Virgil smiled, truly pleased that he'd got his brother to change his mind. Despite the fact, he couldn't help but feel more than a bit apprehensive about what he'd let himself in for. He decided to focus on the future; something he felt they both needed to.
Alan smiled. "I guess." He was about to say something else when his 'phone rang in his hands. "It's Gordy, he said he'd call me back."
Alan flipped the 'phone open, greeting his brother as Virgil ambled over to where their father had appeared. The sounds of Alan's voice became background noise, as he got closer to the older man. Virgil could see his father had something on his mind before he even got close up.
"Hey!" He greeted with a smile.
It wasn't returned. Jeff looked at him closely. "Virgil son, are you okay? You look a little pale." He paused but not long enough to give Virgil a chance to reply. "I don't want you overdoing it today, you just have to say the word and I'll take you back to the hotel so as you can rest."
"I'm fine Dad." Virgil smiled reassuringly but it would seem his father was unimpressed.
"You need to take it easy." Jeff told him sternly. "Listen, I've been thinking. Alan's going to come and stay with me for a while in New York. Why don't you join us?"
Virgil smiled slyly in admiration. He wasn't sure if it was Scott's work or his father's excessive worrying. But despite his need for independence, Virgil felt a warm satisfaction inside that there would always be his family, there to support him.
"Actually Dad," He smiled back widely. "I'm going to go stay with Scott for a while when we get back. Just until I'm back at work, it's not long term or anything. I just wanted..." He trailed off. "Well actually, it's more to stop Scott worrying."
Jeff nodded, returning the grin as a silent message of understanding passed between them. Jeff understood it was more for Virgil's benefit but he equally knew that Scott wouldn't worry so much about his best friend if he were close by. He caught sight of Alan in the corner of his eye and his smile slowly faded. "How is he?" He gestured to the young blonde man who spoke intently into the palm sized 'phone he held.
Virgil shrugged, turning his vision back to his brother. "Sam's just resigned. I think that's upset him a bit. He's asked me to talk to him but the way the letter read I don't think I'm going to be able to change his mind."
"That's a shame, he was a good mechanic." Jeff's reply gave nothing away, but Virgil studied his father cryptically.
"You're not surprised." Virgil commented. "I was, and he's one of my best friends." He frowned. "I think he feels responsible for the car's condition."
"Well, at the end of the day he was the Chief Mechanic Son." Jeff turned to face his second eldest son's surprised expression. "It's the hallmark of a good man; facing up to your responsibilities."
"But Sam couldn't possibly of…" Virgil went to argue but Jeff continued.
"Virgil, I know he's your friend." Jeff looked across at his chestnut haired son sympathetically. "I know he's a good friend." He amended. "But he's doing what he thinks is the right thing, for everyone."
"So," Virgil frowned at his father. "You think its okay that he's resigning now, because of all this?"
"No I think that it's a shame that you're going to lose such a good mechanic. But I think you have to understand how Sam would feel after hearing that." He gestured down the hallway. "After hearing what the committee said he feels responsible and he's dealing with that the best way he can. Let him accept the consequences with some grace and leave him be. Hmm?"
Virgil slowly processed his father's words. "It wasn't Sam's fault though." His frown persisted.
"Virgil, when Sam accepted the position of Chief Mechanic, he knew what it meant. Sam was responsible for the condition of the car and Sam has to face the consequences." Jeff paused. "I know no one could have possibly foreseen that Ferrari US would make such a fundamental error, you know that and deep down Sam probably know it too. Nevertheless, if he still feels responsible, then maybe resigning is his way of facing the consequences. You need to understand that he feels it's the right thing to do."
"You don't think I should try and talk him out of it, do you?" Virgil studied his father for a reply.
"I think you should try and appreciate how Sam's feeling now." Jeff placed a hand on his shoulder. "You wouldn't be a very good friend if you didn't talk to him about it. Just try to understand that this is something Sam obviously feels he has to do." Virgil realised there was a pressure on his shoulder. "It doesn't make him a bad person Son; in fact it's just the opposite."
"Hmm," Virgil sighed pensively. He could see his father's point and as much as he hated to admit to it, he was right too. "I'll talk to him and see what he says. Thanks Dad."
Jeff nodded; Virgil recognised the approving glint in his eye telling him he thought Sam was doing the right thing. Unfortunately, deep down they both knew they'd already lost a valuable team member. Virgil was deep in thought, slowly processing his father's words, when Jeff spoke again. "How's Alan coping?"
The chestnut haired man shrugged. "Okay, I think. He's talking to Gordy. I think I managed to convince him to race again. He's going to take it slow, nice and easy. He's coping okay Dad." Virgil's attention was drawn to the way Jeff's jaw ground together pensively, Scott did the same thing and it was a sure sign he wanted to say something.
"I…" Jeff coughed. "I've been thinking. Alan was a state this morning, I'm worried about how all this has affected him. I mean, he's still young. So are you." He paused and Virgil experienced one of the few times in his life when he'd seen his father display any kind of uncertainty. "How do you think he'd react if I suggested talking to someone about all this? I mean… someone professional."
"I think he'd hit the roof." Virgil replied seriously. "Dad we both know it's not going to be easy, but we're coping. I promise you. Besides, the circuit offered us a chance to talk to someone and we both said no. We don't need outsiders Dad, we've got each other." He said with sentiment.
Jeff nodded. "I know Son but…"
"Dad," Virgil sighed, speaking over him. "Alan'll be ok and so will I. We need to be looking to the future now, not the past."
Something in Jeff's spine tingled at those words. "The future huh?" He grinned, putting all his faith in Virgil's words. "Well, let's go and talk to Alan. The future sounds good to me Son; I just don't want you to forget that if you need help, it's available."
"We know that Dad." Virgil assured him as he felt Jeff's arm creep round his shoulder.
"Good." Jeff grinned as he led his second eldest son towards his youngest. "Then let's talk about the future."
Not far away, Alan had told his copper haired brother the good news and was awaiting a reaction.
"That's great news! I'm really pleased for you." Gordon was enthusing, smiling widely. It seemed it was infectious as Alan grinned back too. "Listen I'm sorry I couldn't talk earlier."
Alan shook his head. "It's okay. I've just had a talk with Virgil too and I think, well…. I don't think I'm going to sell the car after all."
"Good." The copper haired young man replied with a sincere grin. "Al, you've got talent and you can't give up on that." Gordon was still smiling in reply. "I've been thinking about what you said." Alan looked at him blankly and he explained. "Remember after we'd had that … discussion." Gordon didn't want to say argument, and fight made it sound as if he'd actually hit his brother. "You said you wished there was something you could do that would prove to me how sorry you were. Well there is something I want you to do."
Alan looked directly at his brother in the eye. "Name it."
"I want you to promise me that you'll never give up on this." Gordon told him with a sigh. "Don't give up on racing; I don't care if you come last in every race you're ever in. If it's what you want to do, then we'll be proud of you anyway." He paused, repeating that in his head and deciding it was far too serious; it needed lightening up. "We'll probably tease you like hell but we'll all be proud."
Alan smiled. "Thanks Gordy. I'm so pleased you guys were there when all this happened." There was a commotion on the other end of the line and raised voices followed.
Gordon smiled. "Listen, technically I'm still on duty. I'm sorry I've got to go, I'll call you tonight and we'll talk properly okay." His smile became apologetic as he grimaced. "Hey, has Dad said anything about that big talk I told you about?"
Alan shook his head. "No not yet, but I figured he'd wait until this was all over before he unleashed his plans for world domination on us. Don't worry I'll play dumb." He grinned through the screen at his partner in crime.
Gordon laughed. "I've really got to go. I'll talk to you later." He paused. "And I was joking about the world domination part."
Alan smiled in return. "Talk to you later." He closed down the 'phone with a grin just as Virgil and his father approached.
"You alright Son?" Jeff frowned, studying the young man who had seemed so apprehensive that morning.
"Do you know what Dad?" Alan grinned back, with a contented sigh. "For the first time in a while, I think I am."
The smile spread to his eyes until his face was alight with the cheeky sparkle that normally adorned his young, handsome features. Jeff Tracy smiled back; thoroughly pleased to see this return of the Alan he knew and loved so dearly. The words alone brought their own sense of reassurance to his tired features. He coughed pointedly; bringing the elated conversation back to reality. "Y'know boys, I know we haven't really spent the time together we'd hoped for this weekend. So, I've been thinking, I want to organise for you to all come and stay on the Island for a few weeks. We can spend some time together, all of us and have a talk."
"A talk Father?" Alan played as innocently as he could, something he was well practiced at. "What about?"
"Well," Jeff sighed. "About your future. The future."
"Is everything alright Father?" Alan noticed he was asking all the questions and glanced across to Virgil. His older brother's expression alone told him that Virgil already knew of their fathers intention to have a 'talk' and Alan presumed Scott had informed him. Virgil though, had never been a good liar and sheepishly remained quiet.
"Everything's fine Son." Jeff was assuring his youngest. "I just have some ideas I'd like to run by you, a proposition of sorts."
"A business proposition father?" Alan asked yet again. Drawing upon years of feigned innocence after one of Gordon's failed master plans.
"No, no it's more of a humanitarian effort, something that will benefit everyone in the world." Jeff told them cryptically. Jeff wrapped both arms around his sons' shoulders and began to lead them away, as Alan secretly wondered how far off Gordon's theory of world domination was. "It's just something I've been working on, something I think it's about time we talked about… … …"