I thought I was all done with this story, but Dusty made me realize that it was missing something. So here it is, the ending to the story!
When you're a spy and you're on a mission, having your equipment be in good working order is essential. If your gun sticks or misfires, you can get killed. If you car dies in the middle of a chase, you lose your target because they keep driving away. Then all you can do is pray they keep going as you get on the phone to call for backup.
"Fi, it's me."
"Michael, are you okay?"
"Come and meet me in Hialeah. The Charger died and I lost the guy I was tailing."
"Call a tow truck and have it sent over to Evan's Garage."
"Evan's? No, Fi, this is a classic car. I don't want just anybody working on it."
"Evan isn't just anybody, Michael. He specializes in classics, and from what I hear, he's doing a fine job."
"It's not just Sam who says so." She let out a huff. "Just give him a shot, will you?"
"Okay, but if it comes out worse than before..."
"It's not running right now. I don't think it could come out much worse."
She hadn't seen what he'd had to contend with when he inherited the car from his dad. "Well, we'll see. Just come and get me, and I'll have it towed to Evan's Garage." He could have sworn he heard a soft 'Yippee' come over the line.
Before he could ask, she said, "Wait where you are, I'll be there in a few minutes. Call the truck."
Michael called Evan's Garage after he summoned the tow truck. The woman on the line was friendly, but not very helpful with the answer he wanted to hear. "We're really busy right now, Sir, but we should be able to get someone to look at it later this afternoon."
"Alright, I'll be by in about an hour or so with the car."
"Your name, Sir? I'll get the paperwork started."
He didn't expect such efficiency, and he was impressed. By the time Michael finished giving her the information, the tow truck had arrived, and Fiona shortly thereafter. As the front end rose, he caressed the back fender, hoping that he wasn't making a mistake.
"We'll follow and meet you at Evan's," he told the truck operator. He couldn't stand to see his broken but prized possession out of his sight. He was so used to fixing it himself, but these days he was far too busy.
Fiona parked across the street from the garage and she and Michael watched the truck deliver the Charger. A young studly guy met the arrival wiping his hands on a cloth, but it wasn't Evan.
"Fi, come on. Let's see what they're up to." Michael slammed the door and hurried around the vehicle to cross the street to make sure that his baby was still intact. He knew it was. He'd been riding behind it for the past ten miles. But the fact that he was trusting it to Sam's girlfriend's son Evan made him nervous.
The tow truck driver quickly and efficiently parked the car, unhitched it, and drove away. The guy who spoke with him continued to wipe his hands as he squinted at the Charger, a smile on his face that a man got on only a few occasions. One of them involved the sight of a beautiful woman.
"Hey, where's Evan?" Michael startled the man out of his trance.
"Huh? Who are you?" The guy wore coveralls with the name Chad stitched over the left breast pocket.
"I'm Michael Westen, Chad, and this is my car. Where's Evan? If I had to bring it here, I want him to look at it."
Chad raised an eyebrow and looked Michael up and down. "Well, Mr. Westen, he's pretty busy. I think he's up to his elbows in a BMW transmission right now, so if you really wanna wait for him, it could be awhile." He smiled. "Trina's got the paperwork already written up, so if you wanna come into the office and sign it, we can at least get you that far."
"Sure. Why not."
The friendly receptionist offered him and Fiona something to drink and escorted them to a comfortable set of chairs at a table where he could read and sign the papers. Soft pleasant music played in the background as she fielded calls and set up appointments. The waiting area itself was unlike anything he'd ever seen before. It was clean, for one thing. Not a speck of grease or grime could be seen, and Michael knew for a fact that this garage had been around a long time before Evan bought it. The walls were painted a fresh coat of soothing blue that reminded him of the ocean, and the furniture was modern, with thick cushions covered in a sandy colored fabric that complimented the décor. Framed posters on the walls touted tires and auto parts. The end table held a neatly fanned stack of magazines for men and women.
"Nice place," Fiona mumbled as she took in the sight. She picked up a brochure from a stand on the table and leafed through it. "Reasonable prices. I'll have to get my oil changed here."
A door leading to the garage opened and Michael heard metal clanging and hydraulics hissing, but only as long as the door stayed open. The moment it closed, the sounds muffled to the point of being almost silent.
"Hi, Chad," Trina, the receptionist who wore slacks and a tasteful blouse greeted him. "Finished with the Peterson's car?"
"Yeah, you can give them a call. It's ready to be picked up. Where's that paperwork for the Volvo out there?"
"Uh, right here." She leafed through something behind the counter and pulled out the paperwork for him. She took the other sheaf and asked, "Anything I need to tell them?"
"Nope, it was just normal wear and tear. Not much they could have done to prevent it."
"You're welcome, Trina." Chad quickly disappeared into the garage.
She looked toward Michael and Fiona and asked, "How are you doing on that paperwork, Mr. Westen?"
"I'm finished." He got up and gave it to her. "So when's the soonest anyone can look at it?"
Trina smiled at him. "Like I told you on the phone, it'll probably be later this afternoon. Ever since we opened, it's been a virtual zoo in here every day!"
"It's been six months."
She shrugged. "I guess our work speaks for itself. We haven't had to do a lot of advertising." Her phone rang. "Excuse me, Mr. Westen." Into the headset, she said, "Thank you for calling Evan's Garage. This is Trina, how may I help you today?"
"Fi, come on." Michael beckoned her to go with him toward the door that led to the garage itself. Trina was too busy looking up something on her computer to pay attention to them. He and Fiona snuck into the garage area and stopped, impressed by the flurry of activity.
The garage had four bays and a car occupied each one. One mechanic worked on each car, except for the far end, where one worked in a shallow well beneath it draining transmission fluid while another worked up top. From what little he could see of the man, Michael knew it was Evan. He let out a breath. He'd hoped to find him in a better position to talk, wanting to try to get his car bumped up to a more favored position.
"Jerry, can you get me that set of plugs?"
Michael's ears picked up on a familiar voice. He moved toward the back of the garage, scanned the cars and mechanics working on them, and the corner of his mouth tipped up as he approached the one working the second bay. "Sam? What are you doing here?"
Sam pulled out from under the hood of a Mustang and straightened as he gave Michael a big grin. Like the others, he wore a pair of crisp, light gray coveralls with his name embroidered on them. "Hey, Mikey!"
"Nah, just helping out. Hey, I heard the Charger was coming in. What's wrong this time?"
"I don't know. Fi suggested I bring it here, but it seems like Evan's place is pretty busy. I'd like to get it back today if possible."
Sam wiped his hands on a cloth and shook his head. "Sorry, Mike, no can do. Someone will probably get a look at it today, but unless it's something really simple, it'll be tomorrow at the earliest before it can be worked on. If you're desperate for wheels, you can borrow the Caddy."
"Here you go, Mr. Axe."
"Thanks, Jerry." He held out his hand for the box of spark plugs that the teenager brought him. He barely slowed down and continued walking toward the office. "Ever since Evan opened it's been nuts around here, so I volunteered to help him out when I can until things settle down a little and he can hire another man... or woman." His eyes wandered to the car between the Mustang and the one on which Evan worked. All the three could see was a small backside until the head came out from under the hood.
"Hi, Michael!" She waved, pushed a stray lock back into her pony tail, and returned to work.
"Ms. Reynolds works here?"
"Yeah, can you believe it?" Sam chuckled. "I was over at your Ma's a few weeks ago, and she just happened to be visiting. We got to talking, and she said she was looking for some part time work since her Ma died, just a little something to keep her busy. So I said she should apply here. I recommended her, and Evan hired her on the spot."
"Hey, Axe, quit yakking and get your butt in gear," she exclaimed, grinned and winked at him, and snapped her gum.
"Lucky we're on good terms." He chuckled. "So, anyway, tell ya what? I'll see what I can do about getting the Charger in here next, and figure out what's wrong with it. Hopefully it's something easy and I can get it back on the road by closing time."
"That would be great, Sam. Thanks!"
"Any time, Mikey. I'll call you when I find out anything."
An hour later, Sam called. "Mike, you're not gonna like this."
"What? What's wrong, Sam?"
"I know you did some electrical work on the Charger, but that whole system is like a freakin' nightmare! It's going to require a complete rework, but when it's done, it should run like a champ again."
Michael let out a breath. "Okay, so how long will it take, and how much will it cost?"
"Ev and I will work on it after hours, and we'll do it at cost. Just because you're a friend. We'll try to have it ready to pick up tomorrow."
"Wow, Sam, that's great. Thanks!"
"No problem, Mike. Oh, gotta go. Elsa's here, I've gotta look busy!" He laughed and hung up.
"Sam, how are things going," Elsa asked as she approached the front end of the Charger. "This is Michael's car, isn't it?"
"Yeah, Baby, and it's an electrical mess! It's just about closing time, and after Evan locks up, we're gonna try to get this done for Mikey overnight."
Her brow furrowed as she stared at him. "You mean you're going to work all night?"
"If we have to. Mom, Michael needs his car!" He gave her a kiss on the cheek and kept going to the office.
"I have reservations for LaManga tonight."
Sam's shoulders sagged and he let out a breath. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. Look, I'll call up Mike and tell him it'll take longer, and maybe Evan can try to work on it..."
"No." Elsa held up a hand, and her eyes locked onto his with a seriousness in them. "It's okay, you take care of this. You help your friend." She smiled and caressed his face from his jawline to his chin. He liked to be scruffy and she thought it was sexy, but he shaved on the days he worked at Evan's shop, which had been almost every day since he opened, and that impressed her. Putting on the coveralls and upgrading his appearance spoke volumes about Sam's involvement and interest in Evan's business.
Sam leaned into her hand but restrained himself from touching her with his grease infused hands. "I'm sorry that I haven't been paying a lot of attention to you the last few months."
"It's okay. I'm really amazed at you, how you've taken Evan under your wing, helped him get this business started, and now you're putting almost as much sweat equity into it as he is to keep everything running smoothly."
"Well, he did all the hiring, and he has good people working for him. Along with everything else, I think he's going to make a success of it." Sam smiled. "So, do you still think he would have been better off going to Yale first?"
Elsa laughed and kissed him on the lips. "You just won't let me forget that mistake, will you."
"Just reminding you that sometimes real life is a much better teacher."
"I know that's true. It's taught me a few things." She moved her hand behind his neck and enjoyed the feel of his warm, moist skin. "I learned that I highly underestimated my son, and you."
"What do you mean?"
"When we met, you were like a firecracker, blazing hot and lots of fun. You were a nice distraction from my work and the benefit was that you were almost always available when I wanted you. I took advantage of that, and I'm afraid there were times when I saw you as nothing more than a plaything."
"I know you don't feel that way anymore."
"I surely don't. When I realized I was in love with you, things changed. Before, I would get annoyed when you couldn't be with me because I wanted you there. Well, I still want you, but I'm willing to share now. You're doing something wonderful, helping Evan fix cars, and I'm willing to take the back seat for awhile." She kissed him once again. "I'm so proud of you, Sam."
She sent a shiver down to his toes with that kiss. "Oh Baby, you better stop doing that or I might have to abandon Evan for the afternoon." His expression was enough to make her shudder with desire, and he knew it, but he wouldn't let Evan down. "Well, I better get back to work. This is going to be a challenge. I'll see you when I'm done?"
Elsa nodded, a tender smile on her face. One more touch and kiss, and she said, "Come home when you can, Sammy."
As Sam pulled the Cadillac into the circular drive at Elsa's house, the early morning sun hit the windows facing the bay and glinted off them. It hurt his eyes. He dragged himself out of the car and let himself inside, trudged upstairs to take a shower, and barely kept himself awake to drop into bed beside Elsa.
She woke up when the mattress shifted. Her eyes flew to the clock and widened when she saw the time, and she turned to face him. "Sam? Sam, did you just get home?"
His hair was wet as she ran a hand through it. The action never woke him, and she knew then that he and Evan worked literally all night on Michael's car. Her arm lay across his chest, she squeezed him, and whispered into his ear.
"I love you, Sam. Have I told you lately how good your are? You and Evan, you're both good enough." She placed a feather-light kiss on his cheek. "Sleep well, my love. You earned it."