“How much?” Damon wiped his oily hands on shop coveralls.
“They’re asking fifteen hundred quid,” Andrew answered, looking around for a place to stuff-out his smoke. He’ll have me scrubbing the floor if I put it out under-foot.
Damon shrugged. What’ll I do? I need another transmission. His had locked up during the final lap at Spa. He’d watched a first place in class win wash away in the grey late afternoon rain. Along with that loss went fifty thousand pounds of sponsorship money.
“Maybe more like a thousand?” he said, aware that his foster kid was always looking to make a few quid on the side.
“No . . . really . . . they said fifteen… .” Andrew shuffled his feet.
“That’s too much, Andrew. They took it out of that old Spyder. That Romeo Giulia was raced into the dirt. It would need a complete overhaul.”
Damon’s thoughts slipped away… . I was lucky to find Mara’s ’63 Alpha in ’83. Dear ol’ Cupellini Corrado did an incredible job of preparing it for racing. For a minute he reminisced about campaigning the Alpha through the 80’s in European championships. Well, at least I won an important first in that road stage at the Coppa D’Italia, and against some formidable opposition. Thoughts were tugged back when Andrew spoke.
“Shall I ask again . . . maybe they’ll negotiate?”
“Ask again. I’d be willing to pay a thousand today.”
Damon left Andrew looking petulant, and went back to the bench. By 11:00 that evening he and Enrique had the engine back in the car.
“Nothing else we can do with this motor. We overhauled everything. We completely rebuilt those Webers. Have we overlooked something, Enrique? I’m too tired to think.”
“Nothing I can think of. You’ve got a winner here. That full flow four branch exhaust was a major plus, sir. The engine should breathe like it’s got new lungs.”
“Glad you think so. But I’m not putting another hour into that transmission. Let’s wait until tomorrow and see what Andrew can do.”
“Sir, I know you’re trying to do a good thing by taking that boy in, but do you really trust him? There’s something . . . I don’t know . . . he scares me?”
“Someone has to give these kids a chance or they’ll be stuck in the ghettos for life. What would you have me do? Put him back out on the street?”
Enrique chewed his upper lip, something Damon recognized as ‘lost for an answer’.
“I don’t know, sir. Just be careful where money is concerned.”
“Let’s clean up.” Damon scooped a gob or waterless hand cleaner from its container and scrubbed his fingers, hands and forearms. “Don’t you just love this stuff. It’s friggin’ magic." He paused, then added, "Fifteen hundred quid isn’t bad for a transmission if it’s in better shape than that one.” He nodded toward the corner of the shop. “I priced the gears, bushings and bearings . . . over eighteen hundred quid.”
Damon was drying his hands when Andrew, unexpected, came through the door, eyes suddenly wide, followed by two kids who looked like Mafia candidates.
“Well,” Damon asked, “any luck?”
Andrew glanced at his companions, obviously ill at ease, fussing at his collar as though it was too tight. “I didn’t know you wuz gonna be here this late… .”
“Fuck that,” said the biggest kid, face emotionless as a slab of granite. “You got money.” He stared at Damon without blinking. “We need some money, mate. Let’s have it or your kid’s gonna have another asshole.”
The two kids moved apart, slowly, one had his hand in his coat pocket. Andrew looked terrified.
Damon smiled and shook his head. “I don’t keep money here in the shop… .”
Now next to the workbench, the big kid picked up a large spanner and began tapping into the palm of his hand. “No? Your kid says you got at least a thousand quid . . . that you wuz gonna be buying parts for your motor car there. I could fix that piece of Wop shit so it won’t never run again. Let’s see some money now or you’re gonna be one sorry mate.”
Damon was watching Andrew, who couldn’t look him in the eyes. Enrique hadn’t said a word, but had moved between the big kid and the Alpha.
“Now, be a good lad and think this through,” Enrique said, “before doing something you’ll be sorry for.”
“Ooo Ooooo.” the kid says, making a face and slapping the spanner harder into his palm, “and who an’ the fuck are you? His nanny? Don’t be standing in the way, mate . . . you might get the fuck hurt. Tell your boss there to get smart an’ turn out his pockets . . . we know he’s got money.”
When the kid turned his head to see what effect his words were having on Damon, Enrique moved like a ninja. A high kick to the face sent the kid half way across the shop. The other boy, eyes filled with fright, stood bolted to the floor, mouth open as though he were about to speak when Damon’s right foot caught him midsection and doubled him like a folded pocked knife. Andrew hadn’t moved.
“Be a good boy, Andrew,” Damon said, “don’t just stand there. Pick up the phone . . . call the police.”
Andrew went to the wall phone. “Yes, miss, there’s been a problem . . . a robbery . . . yes . . . here’s the address, miss. Please send an officer.” He hung up.
The biggest kid wasn’t moving. His companion was crying and tossing his guts. Enrique looked at Damon, a small smile at the corner of his lips. “I didn’t know if I could still kick like that. The things we remember from war.” He brushed off the front of his coveralls as though they were dusty.
“Thank you,” Damon said. “Glad you weren’t forced to rebuild the whole car.” He turned to Andrew. “Sit down now, lad. You’ve got some serious explaining to do when the officers arrive.”
* * *