Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Author's Note: In this story I took some events from "Who's the Kid?" by Linda. My thanks to Helen for proof reading this for me.
I love my truck, I know that sounds shallow, but I do. She - some people will tell you trucks are not female, but mine is, I call her the Lady - she's my friend. Not a best friend, if I had to choose a life - any life - over her, there would be no choice, but, I would mourn her passing. When I found her she was a lady in distress, abandoned, neglected, unloved - no lady should be treated like that. So I rescued her, what else could a gentleman do? Me a gentleman? Hah! Now there is a concept, Ezra would just about die laughing at that one. I ain't got the breeding or the manners to be called a gentleman, but that don't mean I don't know how to treat a lady.
When I first got her, Sarah and Adam were still alive. Adam loved the Lady, he used to come out and watch me work - Chris let me keep her in the old barn, you see. He used to hand me the tools when I called for them, for a little guy he was real quick to learn what was what. I can hear him now.
"Uncle Buck?" he'd start.
"Why don't you get a proper car?" he used to ask, especially if I was cursing her at the time.
"Character, a man's car has to have character," I'd said.
"Because when people see your car they make assumptions about you - especially the ladies."
"So why don't you get a new car, that way people will think you're rich," Adam would reasoned.
"I'm not rich, don't want to give the impression I am."
"'Cause it would be like lying?" Smart boy, that Adam.
"Yup, but I want them to know I'm not just like everyone else, I got character."
I used to let him help me do the panel beating, he liked that best. God I miss that boy, he lit up my life like nothing else ever has. I know I was no blood relative of his, but I was as close to him as any real uncle, maybe closer. When they were killed, him and his mom, I was devastated, grief stricken, I wanted to crawl away and die in a deep black hole - but I couldn't because as much as I was hurting, Chris was hurting worse.
I had to be there for him, I had to stand tall, I had to bear the load. I arranged the funeral - once the coroner finally released the bodies, I dealt with the DPD family liaison officer, I dealt with the reporters, I bought the head stones. All that time Chris was drinking himself into oblivion. Not that I blame him, how could I? It was his family that were killed - not mine. I used to have nightmares that I would arrive at the ranch one day and find him dead - I didn't think he would kill himself - but I was worried he'd pass out some place and choke on his own vomit or something equally dumb. That's where the Lady came in, he didn't want me around, and he made it very clear, but I still came out there to work on her. It was also a way to work out my own grief, I put all my anger, my own black sorrow into rubbing down every inch of the bodywork by hand. After that I went to work on the engine, you can lose yourself in an engine, you never run out of things to do, there is always something you can fix, polish, tune, or grease. Hours I'd spend lost in internal combustion oblivion, I could forget the ugly world out side, not just Sarah and Adam, not just watching my best friend slowly dying from the inside out, but the everyday ugliness a cop sees every day of his life.
I think the first passenger I ever had, once she was road worthy, was a semi comatose - dead drunk Larabee. We had some times, me and Chris, but in the end he stood on his own two feet, he didn't need me anymore, left the DPD and joined the ATF. I kind of thought that was the end of our friendship, that we were to become just people who used to be close but were now just acquaintances. Then out of the blue he calls me and asks if I want to join him as a fed. Now I understood why he joined the feds, he needed a clean break, a fresh start, but you gotta understand cops and feds, we don't get on. Cops think feds are tight-assed, narrow-minded, pencil-necks and feds think cops are all dim-witted hicks. But it was Chris asking so I went along - just to see.
He told me his boss - Travis - had asked him to form his own team I mean, damn! He'd only been there two years. He was convincing and the ATF, well that was better then the feebs! So I said yes, after all who else was gonna watch out for his sorry hide? It turned out I was the first person he asked, I didn't know how to take that - still don't. I mean was it because he really wanted me with him, because he felt guilty about how he treated me or just because he wanted a familiar face about the place, someone he knew he could trust to watch his back? Guess I'll never know now - don't think it's important anymore because we've moved on. He already had Nathan and Josiah in mind and we recruited them together.
I don't remember how I came to be driving Nate the first time in her, but I sure remember him going on about how many safety features she didn't have and how all these terrible injuries had been caused in the past when trucks like mine were wrecked. But, when we were all out at the ranch the first time, I caught him running his hand over her chrome and smiling - she can melt the steeliest, most logical heart.
Josiah loves her, but he wouldn't have one of his own, Lord knows why, but he loves that unreliable rust trap he drives - and yes Nate gives him grief about it too. He remembers trucks like the Lady when they were new - says he was only a baby at the time! His dad had one, used to tote Josiah all over the country to these tent revival meetings, real brimstone and the fires of hell stuff. I get the feeling he doesnt have too many good many memories of those summers, but he likes the Lady, so maybe she brings back a few good memories - I hope so.
Ezra was next. Have to say I was against Ezra to begin with. I mean, his record was hardly stellar, but Chris was determined and he's the boss. He went to Atlanta and recruited him so I didn't meet him until he arrived in Denver for his final interview - I was the one who picked him up at the airport. I remember seeing this guy walking out of 'Arrivals'; not too tall, dressed like some Armani add, not a hair out of place, designer luggage. I thought 'damn peacock, glad I don't have 't work with him'. So imagine how overjoyed I was when he spotted the board I was holding and came over to meet me.
"You Standish?" I asked.
"I am Ezra P Standish, if that is what you are enquiring, and to whom do I have the dubious pleasure of addressing?"
It took me a while to work out what he said, then I was kind offended by 'dubious' but the way he was talking I reckoned maybe I didn't understand him right.
I put on my best grin and stuck out my hand. "Buck Wilmington, ATF, glad to meet you."
He point blank refused to put his luggage in the back of the Lady. I told him it was a dry day, the back of the truck was clean, I even had a tarp' he could put over it but, no, it had to fit in with us up front. Mind you at the time I couldn't figure out what he had in it, I mean he was only going to be in Denver for three days - now I know Ez, I know better. To start with he just sat there and took in the scenery, then we got stuck in traffic, and there is only so much scenery you can look at. We talked about Chris, nothing very deep, I sure wasn't gonna tell him stuff Chris hadn't - not if I wanted to live! Then he said.
"I must complement you on your vehicle Mr Wilmington, did you purchase it in this condition?"
So I told him no, and how much work I had done on her, he listened but looked bored, until I told him how much I paid for her.
"Indeed, when will you be selling it?" he asked.
Well I wouldn't, not ever, but I was interested as to why he was asking.
"Well for the profit, surely you don't intend to keep this relic as your primary mode of transport? I mean, it is hardly practical in such a clime and besides, it is too valuable an asset."
Now I knew she had to be worth more now I had restored her, but life had been too complicated to think much about it, and by the time things had settled down I had forgotten about it, it was dumb but I just guessed at a value for the insurance. So I asked him how much he reckoned she was worth.
"Well," he stated, "I am no expert, but I believe prices of between $17,000 and $20,000 are common."
Good job we were crawling in traffic or I would most likely have crashed. I mean shit! I had her insured for $5000!
"You sure?" I asked.
"I believe so, classic vehicles are an increasingly popular investment - if you have the knowledge to restore and maintain the vehicle - as you clearly do, Mr Wilmington."
I had a more sympathetic view of Ezra after that, I mean he didn't know I would never sell, he could have offered me $8,000 and turned a nice profit but he didn't, he was straight with me. Mind you he's still at me to sell her.
Vin loves the Lady, he really does, I reckon if he didn't have that Hog he's trying to restore he would have something like her. He also finds her useful when he wants to move the damn thing - Lord alone knows when he is ever gonna finish it - he doesnt like to put it in the Ram. Now it would fit in the Ram, but Larabee makes such a fuss about his precious interior it really ain't worth the effort - you'd think we was trying to get the damn bike in the back of the Jag! Vin told me once he lived for a while on a reservation, down in Texas, I have to say that little snippet of information sure explains a lot about Junior, but anyway, he said the old guy he was living with had a truck like the Lady. He has real good memories of riding into town for ice cream and candy on the back of the truck.
"It used to be full of straw bales, tack, dogs and feed sacks - but it smelt great," he told me, that boy don't often talk about his past and he smiles when he does even less, but he smiled that day.
The kid was the last one to join the team - if I wasn't too sure about Ez, I was dead against the kid. I mean he was what, 21 and a bit when Chris took him on? He was too young, and that was it and all about it, just too damn young. But he got under my skin. I can't help it, I like the kid. I was all prepared to hate him, but I couldn't. Then he went and saved my sorry hide and got his self shot. There was no way he was gonna go back to that motel he was living in when the hospital released him. I picked him up, wheeled him out to the Lady and tried to help him in.
"Buck, I can do it - you know? I have been released from the hospital," he told me, as he pushed me away.
"Ok, ok," I stood back and let him.
It was so hard to see him wincing and grunting as he pulled himself into the cab. He didn't even notice I had all his stuff in the back. He fell asleep before we were even half way there, slumped down across the bench seat; I could feel his head resting against my thigh. I didn't want to wake him, the poor kid looked done in. So once I had the doors open I opened the cab door and started to lift him out. He's not that big and he'd lost weight in the hospital. I got him in my arms, he didn't wake, but as I stood there his arms went around my neck and he held on. It felt better than I can say, that someone would show me that much trust, the kind of trust Adam used to show me. I carried him into the apartment and put him on the spare bed. I don't know if I decided then that I wanted to offer him the room or during that ride back from the hospital, but he's still here in my home - our home - and I know he is the best thing that has happened to me in a long, long time.
The Lady has looked after me for years, and I will look after her, so today I'm taking her to the ranch so I can give her a new paint job, she's earned it. After all a lady needs to refresh her make up occasionally - doesnt she?
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