Chapter 6

When Speed left the house to attend the banquet in his honor, Mom and Pops sat down for a long conversation about Rayce. Pops was still furious that Rayce had rewired the house. "We didn't give him permission to do anything with our home. He's rewired it and goodness knows what else he's done. I think we should throw him out of the house." Pops voice was rolling with angry. Mom was a bit more understanding. "Pops, in his occupation, he probably needs all of the help he can get. I suggest we talk to him a bit more before we ask him to vacate the premises."

Pops was considering Mom's advice when she suggested, "It's a lovely night. Why don't we take Spritle and go for a drive? We could go to the Dairy Queen."

Pops laughed, hugged his wife and replied, "That's your way of giving me something else to think about. All right. Let's do it. Spritle hasn't had the greasiest French fries in the whole world yet."

The Racers enjoyed their time at the Dairy Queen. After they left, Pops suggested that they drive around a little and see all of the sights. Spritle had never seen their old home town and he might enjoy it.

When Speed left the banquet he was completely unaware of the two sets of unfriendly eyes that glared at him from separate hiding holes waiting for their chance to follow him. As soon as Speed cleared the gate, a nondescript car and another dark blue vehicle driven by one of the other thugs involved in the plot, pulled out into the traffic earning the nasty comments they received from the other drivers. Unconcerned, the unknown driver continued to followed Speed exactly two cars behind.

In the kitchen, Rayce was trying to get out of an argument between the waiters and management. Management said there was a glass missing. It was supposed to be the glass that Speed was using. Management wanted the waiters to pay for it. The waiters were upset because, in their opinion, the tip money was not being divided equally and they should not have to pay for a missing glass. Finally, Rayce snapped, "I don't care. Take the money for the glass out of my tips for tonight. I didn't want the money anyway! He marched out of the kitchen leaving behind an astounded group of waiters.

"I should hurry." Rayce thought as he quickly walked toward the parking lot. "I need to escort Speed home." A bemused smile touched his mouth. "Keeping Speed out of trouble is a full time job and he's not even trying to start something. I hope he's driving slowly."

Speed, his mind occupied by random thoughts of robbed graves, recollections of Rex, Trixie, memories of the banquet and simply driving on the curving, badly light roads, was not attentive to the plain car traveling two lengths behind him. He had driven for several miles, occasionally checking his rear-view mirror, before he realized that the plain car never passed him, and never changed position.

Speed began to pay attention to the strange vehicle. "What do you know?" thought Speed. "I think I'm being followed."

His heart began to beat as he did at the start of a race. "Maybe the driver is simply going my way. " Speed thought, "I can test that theory!" Speed began to slow down and speed up. The car stayed put. "Okay" Speed said to himself, "Let's try this. " At the next subdivision, he made a racers turn to the right and kept turning right, thinking he would make a big circle and come back out close to where he wanted to be. The car seemed to be playing follow the leader with him. "This guy doesn't have a sense of direction or any common sense at all." Thought Speed, "If he did, he would understand what I'm doing and would realize that I know I'm being followed. On the other hand, I know this area. "It's like a jigsaw puzzle, and he might not realize what I'm doing. "

Speed slowly down again, "All right! Follow me if you can!"

Jackknifed, frowned as Speed's car took off as fast as it would go. "Speed knows I'm following him, but that old heap isn't a race car. I bet it won't go over one hundred twenty miles per hour. I can still catch up to him.' Grimly, Jackknifed put the pedal to the medal and followed as closely as he could.

Unobserved by either of them, a second car sneaked into position.

In the parking lot, Rayce made a quick decision not to take the time to change clothing. His waiters costume would do and if he got caught breaking the speed limit, he would talk his way out of it. He smiled as the jalopies motor began to sing a powerful song of speed. Rayce drove quickly toward home expecting to overtake Speed on the way. He turned on the radio thinking to get the national and local news and weather as he drove. Instead he got a repeat of the lecture on D.N.A. He began to understand why Speed's glass had been taken and why the grave had been opened. Someone was trying to collect D.N.A.

Speed was already beyond the first subdivision. The highway between the subdivision and the town proper was dark, curvy and, at that time of night, pretty much deserted.

Speed drove as quickly as he could, but his mother's car was not a race car. The other drivers were catching up. Speed suddenly cut off the car's lights. He knew the turn to the left just after he passed the mileage sign. There was a twisting path of a road that led to a cow pasture. A dead end of a road, but the cow pasture had been the place for Rex to practice driving before he earned his drivers license. Mom and Pops thought he couldn't hurt anything there. Speed grinned in spite of himself. Rex had learned quickly and the poor cows had never been the same.

He stopped the car a mile up the path, unable to remember anymore of the track. He got out of the car and hurried back to the main road where he lay down in the ditch. "Mom is going to kill me when she sees this suit." Speed though. "I hope the other car goes past me. I'll see if I can put the shoe on the other foot and follow him for a chance. Maybe he'll lead me to someone else or I can see who he is."

In a few minutes the plain car drove slowly past him. Unseen, flattened in the ditch, Speed heaved a sight of relief and continued t watch the car. As soon as the car was out of sight, Speed turned, ran back to his car, and hopped in, put the car into gear, and began to drive slowly after the plain car.

He wasn't aware of the second car until he heard the sound of the motor and saw the lights of the rapidly moving car come over the hill and around the curve.

Speed knew he was in the beam of light projected by the cars headlights, but the driver didn't slow down. The rate of acceleration was terrifying. "No!" Speed cried out and slammed his mother's car into a faster speed, but the car was too old, two slow. There was a scream of tires accelerating, the crash of metal ripping into metal, the sound of breaking glass, metal being torn as easily as paper and pain as flying glass cut into his hands, arms and legs. He barely had time to shield his head before he hit the steering wheel.

His car, bent and twisted, rolled back into the ditch. Speed, conscious and trapped in the car, didn't smell the gasoline.

The driver of the other car hopped out quickly. The cigarette it's red tip glowing, loosely stuck in his mouth, wobbled. Unsteadily, the driver tried to hurry toward Speed, but his legs refused to cooperate. He had never meant for this to happen. All he was trying to do was follow the mysterious orders to collect some D.N.A. He had lost control of his car when he came around the curve. He had never wanted to hurt anyone. He and Jacknifed were simply trying to catch Speed between them. What should he do?

Speed moaned and tried to call out to the man. He could see his face clearly. The second man stopped in alarm. Should he help Speed? What would happen to him if he did? He had a record with the law enforcement agencies. He couldn't afford to get involved.

With a snarl, he threw the cigarette on the grown and got back into his car. He would go and catch up to Jacknifed. He would bring him back to the scene of the car wreck. Together they could get Speed out of the car and get the D.N.A. sample at the same time. He would not have to get involved.

As he rapidly drove away, the smoldering cigarette landed in a small pool of gasoline. To Speed's horror, the flames began to spread. Rex had burned to death. Speed began to pound on the door trying to force it open, but the door was twisted and broken. It would not open.

Rayce, driving at speeds legally allowed only in races, arrived second later. He took in the wrecked car, Speed conscious in the front seat, trying to get out and the fire in one glance. In a heartbeat he was out of the car, yanking the twisted car door open, unaware of the broken glass slicing skin and flesh, cutting deep into his hand and his own blood mixing with that of his brother as he yanked Sped from the car and clutching him tightly, ran from the car. The explosion had enough force to throw both of them to the ground.

The Racers, still enjoying their family time, came into view just in time to watch the explosion.

"Stay here." Pops yelled as he jumped from the still moving car and scrambled toward the two young men lying on the ground.

Rayce was deafened. He shook his head but heard only the silence. It had happened before on other assignments. His hearing would return, but it was a massive hindrance He needed to be in top physical shape, especially now.

He was still able to help Pops perform basic first aid, pick Speed up and carry him toward the car. The thug chief had caught up with Jacknifed and sent him back to the wreck. The Racers didn't hear Jacknifed cars approach.

Jacknifed was shocked. This game was not the way he had thought it would be. This was terrible. He didn't mind a little fighting, but trying to kill someone was unacceptable. He jumped out of his car and raced to help.

Rayce, warned by highly trained senses, whirled as Jackknifed ran toward them, tearing off his jacket. Jacknifed opened the car door for Rayce and Pops, helping place Speed carefully on the back seat. Jacknifed gently placed his jacket over Speed, carefully making sure that it covered some of the bleeding spots.

"How can I help?" Jacknifed asked. Rayce had his back to him watching the fire as it began to spread into the grass. "I said, HOW CAN I HELP?'' Jacknifed yelled. Pops securing Speed, suddenly realized that Rayce couldn't hear him.

Turning to Jackknifed, Pops smoke slowly, as if he were unsure of the words, "Call the fire department. I'll take Speed and Rayce to the hospital."

Jackknifed nodded and watched as the Racers drove away.

He found a place to call for help and followed the Racers to the hospital. He knew that the Racers would take Speed straight to the emergency room.

Speed tried to tell his parents that someone had ran into the car on purpose, before he lost consciousnesses. His blood began to stain the seats. Spritle held Speed's head in his lap, whispering all the prayers he could think. Pops drove like a mad man as Mom held her sons as close as she could.

Rayce held on to the back of the car seat for dear life.

At the hospital, the Racers were separated.

Speed was taken straight to surgery where Jackknife's jacket was taken from Speed.

The aide, thinking it belonged to Rayce, handed it to him. Unthinking, Rayce took the jacket in his wounded hand before he and the Racers had to leave.

Rayce, judged to be not badly injured was taken to a hospital waiting room. Rayce hated waiting rooms. So cold, so impersonal, so full of fear, but he had other things to think about. As part of his training, he had been taught to read lips. He knew what Speed had said. Putting it together with the other incidents, Rayce understood that it was part of a scheme to match the D.N.A. from the corpse with Speed. Rayce knew the two would not match. Inspector Detector has a reason to be concerned. Then the aide came out. New to the ways of the hospital, the aide thinking, that the jacket to Rayce handed it to him. Rayce took it without thinking, draping it over his wounded hand while he waited his turn to see a doctor.

The Racers were taken to the admitting area.

"Sir." The admitting nurse questioned Pops and Mom, "Do you know if Speed and the other man have any insurance?"

"I don't know about Rayce. I'll find out." Mom's voice was shaky. Quickly she went back to the waiting room, where Rayce was standing, staring at the doors to the surgical unit.

"Rayce, do you have insurance?" Mom asked. Then she said, "Please don't worry. Speed will be all right. Thank you for saving my son." Mom wasn't actually giving reassurance as seeking it.

Rayce still deafened, ignored her. Mom wrote the question on a piece of paper and handed it to Rayce who looked at it briefly and nodded. He handed Mom a small card with numbers and letters on it that Mom assumed to be some kind of medical code.

Briefly she wished that Speed had some kind of insurance.

She took the card and left to return to the admitting room. She passed Jacknifed who had arrived at the hospital and tracked Rayce down.

Mom recognized him as helping at the scene of the wreck. "Thank you." She hugged Jackknifed. "Thank you for helping my son." Then Mom hurried down the hall.

Jacknifed had never felt so ashamed of himself in his life. He was one of the creeps trying to collect D.N.A. samples. Yet, Mom, not knowing his role, had thanked him.

Jacknifed found Rayce standing in the hall outside the room standing, staring at the closed door. Standing. Watching. Praying! Rayce still held Jackknife's jacket in his hands.

Gently, Jacknifed pulled it free. Only then did he notice the blood glowing from Rayce's hand. It had dampened the fabric of his jacket.

Jackknifed suddenly smiled to himself. In spite of the odds against it, he had blood from Speed. He knew there must be a way to tell it apart from Rayces. He had the D.N.A. sample required. Money spoke louder than shame.

Now all they had to do was get a sample from Racer X. That might not be as easy.

"I hope Speed is going to be all right." He mouthed to Rayce as he waved goodbye. Rayce nodded and returned to his vigil just as Pops, Mom and Spritle literally ran back into the waiting room.