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'55 Ford Chapter 1

The yellow Jeep Wrangler pulled to a stop at what appeared to be an old gas station. A rusted sign proclaiming RJ’s Body Engine was swinging from an overhang that once protected the now missing gas pumps. Through the opened garage doors, the woman in the Jeep could see one vehicle up on a lift, a red Caprice and the back end of what she thought was a pick-up truck. Opening the driver’s door, the woman, clad in jeans and a light blue chambray shirt, let her long legs slide out onto the blacktop. The cool breeze that swirled around her made her shiver and she pulled the collar of her jacket up around her neck. With quick purposeful steps, she moved toward the grungy looking building with her wavy chestnut hair continually kissing her shoulders.

Once she’d walked through an open door into what appeared to be an office, she called out, “Hello, is anyone here?” Not receiving a reply, she increased the volume of her voice and once again said, “Hello,” before adding, “I’m looking for RJ.”

Nothing.

What sounded like a metal object hitting concrete coming from the garage area had her moving in that direction.

The bottom half of a body, clad in what she surmised was a dark blue coverall, was lying on a creeper. The person’s bent knees led to sturdy boots that rested on the garage floor. “Hello, I’m looking for RJ—is he here?”

From under the truck came, “Who wants to know?”

The woman closed her eyes and quietly sighed. “A woman, shit, that’s the last thing I need,” she mumbled. She opened her eyes and said, “I’m looking for RJ.” After a few seconds and no response, she added, “Corky Donovan said he could help me.”

Knees flexed slightly before the booted feet propelled the rest of the body from under the truck. “I said, who wants to know?” the voice asked again as her body moved into a sitting position.

The standing woman growled softly as she gave the woman a frank look. Grease smudged the woman’s cheeks and her hands were even blacker. The word filthy came to mind. “I do,” she said. A blank stare was her reply. “Look, if you could just point me in RJ’s direction, I won’t bother you anymore.”

The woman shivered slightly as the person on the creeper fixed dark eyes on her. “And you are?” she asked.

“Andie—Andrea McBride,” she said. “Listen, Corky said I should talk to RJ. Will you just let me know where I can find him?” The woman’s bland expression had her begrudgingly adding, “Please.”

“What do you want?”

Andie gnashed her teeth. “I’d like to speak with RJ.”

“You are,” the mechanic said and grinned. “What do you want?”

Great. “I have a ’55 F-100 that I’d like to restore. Corky said you were the best there was.”

“Do you want a trailer queen or a daily drive?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The mechanic shook her head. “Are you going to drive it or keep in a garage and admire it?”

“I don’t know. I never really thought about that.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the woman said as she returned to her prone position on the creeper. “I don’t do that anymore,” she said as she began to roll back underneath the truck.

“Wait,” Andie cried. “Corky gave me a note for you.” She reached in her pocket, pulled out an envelope, and held it up. “Can you at least read it?”

Andie watched as the woman’s feet scooted her back to where she was a few seconds before and returned to a sitting position. RJ pulled the do-rag off her head and scowled before shaking her short, jet black hair. When she stood and moved closer, Andie noted that they were about the same height.

Once RJ was within arm’s length, she reached out and pulled Andie’s sunglasses off her face.

“Hey,” Andie said as she grabbed at the woman’s hand.

“If I’m gonna talk to someone, I want to see their eyes,” RJ said staring into the woman’s eyes. She then held out the glasses and furrowed her brow when Andie quickly grabbed them.

Andie watched as RJ wiped her grimy hand on an already greasy coverall leg and took the sealed envelope. As she tore open the envelope and began reading the message, she frowned.

With a mumbled, “Idiot,” she returned her gaze to the other woman. “How do you know Corky?”

“I needed a plumber,” Andie said as she tried to look away from the intense gaze. “Corky was the only plumber I could get to come out to my house.” She shrugged and gave the woman a half-hearted smile.

RJ blew out a breath. “Look, Corky was wrong. I can’t help you, lady. If you need body or engine work, I can help you out. As I said, I don’t do restorations.”

“But what I need does involve body and engine work.”

“A restoration involves more than that. I can’t help you.”

“Corky said—”

“Whatever he told you, lady, no longer applies.” 

“Can’t you make an exception?”

Andie watched and listened as she saw RJ briefly close her eyes before letting out a long, low, exasperated breath. “Exactly what part of I won’t do it don’t you understand?”

“Can you at least look at the pictures I brought? You’ll see that she’s in remarkably good condition. I don’t think it will be all that time intensive,” Andie said as she pulled a small manila envelope out of her pocket.

”It’s a vehicle and nothing more. I suppose you even gave her a name.” RJ rolled her eyes. “How many restorations have you done, lady?” RJ asked before letting out a soft growl.

A look of defiance crossed Andie’s face as she said, “I wouldn’t be here if I did restorations myself, would I?” The woman was beginning to piss Andie off. “It stands to reason that the better the condition of the vehicle, the less time it will take.” Andie took several photographs out of the envelope and extended them toward the mechanic. “Here, see for yourself.”

“I don’t need pictures. I know all about that truck. Wood slats in the bed, right?”

“Yes.”

“The battery is located in the floor on the passenger side.”

“Yes.”

“The gas cap juts out from the left rear fender.”

“Yes.”

“Then I don’t need to look at your pictures.”

Andie took a step closer to the woman and held the pictures up. “Take a look. You never know, you might see something you don’t remember,” she said before she added, “can you at least point me in the direction of someone who can help me?”

RJ grabbed the pictures and glanced at them before flexing her jaw. “I don’t do restorations and I don’t do recommendations—look in the phonebook for someone.” She eyed the woman. “You do know how to use the phonebook, right?”

As the grease covered woman turned away, Andie grabbed her arm and knew instantly that it was a bad move. “Sorry,” she said, refusing to look into the narrowing dark blue eyes. “Can I at least give you my cell number? If you think of anyone who can help me, maybe you’d let me know.”

RJ nodded toward a cluttered bench. “Leave it there,” she said and turned away.

Andie watched the woman reseat herself on the creeper and scoot back under the truck before she took out a business card and scribbled her cell number on the back.

“Thanks.” Not expecting a reply, Andie left the card, along with the pictures, and exited the garage.

* * *

Once she heard an engine start, RJ slid out from under the truck. She had seen the jean clad legs that seemed to go on forever from under the vehicle when the woman exited her Jeep. RJ had looked at them in appreciation. After crawling out from under the truck, she had let her eyes roam up the woman’s body, stopping at the breasts for a moment before resting on a strong featured face. When she saw the woman’s eyes hidden behind sunglasses, she bristled at the sight.After standing up, she walked to the bench and picked up the card, along with the pictures, before going to the open garage door. The yellow Jeep was merging with the traffic and she watched until it was out of sight. She looked at the address on the card and recognized it as one of the pricier areas of the Front Range. “No wonder she couldn’t get anyone but Corky. No one else would be fool enough to drive way out there.”For several more minutes, RJ stood at the garage opening, looking at the pictures of the old truck before reading Corky’s note again.

RJ, this is one hot chick. What she needs is a good restorer. I’ve seen the truck and it’s sweet. Maybe you can help her out and have some fun too.

“Corky was right about one thing; she is hot.” She exhaled and stuffed the pictures and business card through the opening of her overalls into the left front pocket of her jeans. “Yep, there’s no doubt about that,” she muttered before sliding under the truck again.

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