'The Package' (Part One)

'The Package' (Part One)

A Story by Wez Hardyn

A story of Loyalty, Betrayal and Nitromethane

  The smell of nitro filled the early evening air. Cole had laid down a long smokey burn-out and was reversing slowly back to the start line. His hemi sounded strong, cackling loudly on both banks. Gretchen guided him back on the rubber he had laid until she crossed her arms on her chest indicating he should stop. Where was his opponent? Through the clearing smoke he saw the familiar logo on the car - ‘ARMY’ He was in the final against none other than ‘the snake’ himself - Don Prudhomme. No one had given the local boy any chance in the ‘Big Go East’ here in New Jersey. Prudhomme had the most wealthy sponsor on the planet - the US army. Who did Cole have? Vinny; a small time hood from downtown. Anyway, his luck had held during the eliminations and here he was. Cole cleared the engine’s throat and lurched to the starting line - perhaps he could disturb the snake’s concentration. He knew he hadn’t got the brute power of the army car so he would have to get him on a ‘hole shot’ - and that wouldn’t be easy against someone named after the reaction of a striking snake! Stamping on the accelerator again he hopped to the staging beams. The starter gave him a warning look of disapproval - he was disrespecting the champ! He hovered in pre stage, waiting for Prudhomme. The shaking fender of his opponent crossed the beam, and they both sat in pre stage. ‘ I ain’t gonna stage first’ said Cole to himself. The starter urged them both forward, Cole refused to move until Prudhomme was in stage. The engines were straining and heating in the warm summer air. The army car went into stage and Cole followed immediately. The tree went down and the mighty roar of two nitro hemis split the Jersey night. Cole had got him off the lights and thundered down the track just ahead. Suddenly, as the car went into high gear, he felt a cylinder go. The g force relented as the car’s acceleration slowed. The army car stormed past at the finish line - damn it!
  ‘You gonna help me to pack up or just sit there and sulk?’ said Gretchen.
Don Prudhomme’s ‘congratulations for a good race’ still sticking in his craw, Cole was in no mood to do anything much. He had him, bet it was that old magneto caused the cylinder to drop. Goddamn pile of junk! 
‘You sure are one sorry excuse for a good loser Cole’ She scolded.
‘Perhaps I should get myself a new mechanic’ he retorted.
‘Who ever heard of a woman tuner anyway?’
‘Poor Cole, is he throwing his toys outta his pram again?’ Teased Gretchen.
Cole threw an empty plastic cup at her.
‘I need a drink’ he sighed.
‘The sooner we get packed the sooner we’re outta here’
Cole groaned as he got to his feet - this ain’t no way to make a livin’, he mused.
‘Can I have a word Mr. Younger?’
Cole turned to see a heavy set man in dark glasses flanked by another, equally formidable individual.
‘Sure, what can I do for you boys?’
‘Mr Travaconti would like to see you’
Oh, great, just what he needed - a lecture from Vinny.
‘Tell Vinny I’ll be along tomorrow’
‘He said he would like to see you now’ said the gorilla.
‘Look boys I’ve had a hard day and I need a drink so run along and tell Vinny I’ll drop by the Café tomorrow’
‘Are we gonna have to do this the hard way?’ asked the second heavy.
The goon reached inside his pocket. Cole grabbed his arm and spun him backwards into his partner.
‘I like the hard way, especially after the day I’ve had’ said Cole advancing on them.
The other heavy took a swing at Cole who ducked and countered with a vicious uppercut that sent him careering back into a pile of oil cans. Regaining his footing, goon number one threw another punch. Swaying back, Cole aimed a blow at the midriff. The air was expelled painfully as he doubled up. Another punch landed flush on his jaw and sent him to join his partner in a developing puddle of oil. Cole was advancing again when Gretchen pulled him back.
‘I think they’ve had enough Cole - am I right boys?’
They grunted. 
‘Tell Vinny thanks for the invitation - and like I said, I’ll be along tomorrow’

Chapter 2

  The next day Cole made his way downtown to Vinny’s place, a cafeteria where the local hoods would meet and discuss ‘business’. He had almost recovered from the disappointment of yesterday - but to get so close to winning a national event! Perhaps he’d pack up and try his luck in California. Some chance - where was he going to get the money to finance it? He entered the dimly lit joint. Vinny was holding court as usual at the far table. The two goons from Sunday sat on other tables nursing their injuries. One of them got up upon Cole’s approach.
‘No need to get up Ladies, I ain’t the President’
The heavy advanced menacingly.
‘Sit down Curly’ ordered Vinny.
‘Haven’t you learnt your lesson yet, Cole here is old school like me - he’ll mess you up again’
‘Sit down Cole, it’s been a while’
‘I could’ve done without Hansel and Gretel here trying to strong arm me yesterday’ said Cole.
‘Yeah, sorry about that, you can’t get quality help these days - I warned them not to get physical’
‘You see the race yesterday?’
‘Sure did, on the TV right there’ Vinny said, pointing to the set in the corner.
‘I had that army poster boy until I dropped a cylinder’
‘You’ll get him next time. As it happens, it’s driving I want to talk to you about’
‘More like a cruise - coast to coast’
‘I don’t get it’
Vinny moved closer to Cole and lowered his voice.
‘I need someone I can trust to deliver a package for me’
‘If it’s drugs or guns, count me out Vinny - you know I’m straight now’
‘Nothing like that Cole, it’s kosher, I promise. If you can make it to LA in 8 days its worth 10 large to you’
Cole let out a slow whistle.
‘For that kind of money it must be crooked’
‘Cole, me and you go way back - when I say its straight that’s the way it is, conoscente’
Cole believed him, he may be a hood but he took neighbourhood loyalty seriously - he knew he could trust Cole because he wasn't afraid of Vinny or his mob connections.
‘I’ve been thinking of racing in California’ said Cole
‘There you go - everyone’s happy and now you can buy as much nitro as you want!’ laughed Vinny.
‘When do you want me to start?’
‘Jesus Vinny, this package perishable or something?’
‘Or something’ said Vinny enigmatically.
‘OK, I’ll pick it up here - say 9ish?’
‘Perfect, thanks Cole - I owe you’
‘10 grand’ said Cole getting up. As he got up the goon got up again. 
‘Looks like Curly’s got a real hard on for you, Cole’ said Vinny.
‘I have that effect on the Ladies’
The goon stepped up into Cole’s face: ‘I’m gonna kill you one day’ he snarled.
‘You mean you’re gonna try. Wishin’ and doin’ are two different things, punk’
With that, he head butted his opponent viciously, leaving him holding his face and groaning. He heard the sound of Vinny’s laughter as he closed the door behind him.

Chapter 3

  Cole had arranged for Gretchen and his kid brother Tommy to start heading towards LA with the rig. He would arrange a few match races when he’d delivered the package. He was looking forward to racing those arrogant west coast surfer types in their own back yard! Stepping into the café he was surprised by a blonde sitting at the table nearest the door - it was Heather! 
‘Hi yah’ she said in the southern accent she’d had since she was a kid.
‘Hi yourself - been a long time Heather’
‘You haven’t changed at all, big boy’ she said flirtingly.
‘Neither have you, still a knock out’
‘Why thank you kind sir, sit down and we’ll reminisce’ 
‘Can’t - got to pick up a package for Vinny’
‘Why - I’m the package, silly’
Cole’s jaw dropped.
‘He called me a package did he?’
‘Vinny’s idea of a joke I suppose‘ Said Cole, stony faced.
‘It’ll be fun, you driving me all the way to California’
‘Why don’t you get on a plane like everyone else?’
‘You know I’m scared of flying Cole, or have you forgotten?’
‘I thought you might have grown out of it by now’
‘You don’t grow out of phobias - it takes years of therapy’
‘But why me, and why all the hurry?’
‘I’ll tell you all about it on the way, have a coffee before we start’

Cole and Heather sat in silence as he drove the Dodge south, out of town. He had known her at the same school he and Vinny attended. She was the local beauty who drove the boys wild. It wasn’t a surprise when she hooked up with Vinny - as his mistress (he was already married) - because she liked money and the things it could buy. They had been ‘together’ for some years now and Cole often wondered if she had told him about the little ‘fling’ they had. He had really liked her but he knew she wouldn’t stay with him because he didn’t have the money to keep her. Truth be told, she was a cold hearted gold digger. 
‘So what’s going on?’ he asked her after a few miles. 
‘Vinny’s being investigated by the feds, There’s going to be a hearing soon and he doesn’t want me to be called as a witness’
‘A witness to what?’
‘Let’s just say I was present during a little unpleasantness at a club one night’
‘He killed some one?’
‘Best you don’t know the details Cole, as far as you’re concerned you’re just taking me to visit my parents in LA’
‘But why me?’
‘You’re just about the only person he trusts with me - especially on an 8 day (and night) journey’
Cole laughed: ‘You obviously didn’t tell him about our past’
‘He’s a cold blooded gangster but he’s very naïve when it comes to you - he loves you like a brother you know’
Cole felt a pang of guilt.
‘I kind of suggested you could drive me’
‘You did?’
‘The truth is Cole, I’m carrying his baby and I don’t want the kid to be brought up by a gangster like Vinny!’

Chapter 4

  They were heading south and just before Washington DC Cole began to get nervous.
‘I think we’re being followed’ 
He was surprised by her panicked reaction.
‘My God, already, are you sure Cole?’
‘Don’t get your panties in a bunch, I’m just seeing the same black Buick too often for my liking’
‘Can you lose him?’
‘Listen baby, this car can lose anything if it wants to - but I’ve got a better idea’
He accelerated, pushing them both back in their seats.
‘I saw a bar and motel in the valley ahead from the rise. I’ll drop you at the bar and then get back on the highway to let them follow me for a few miles. I’ll be back when I’ve found out who they are’
‘How are you going to do that?’
‘I’ll let them catch up and then we’ll have a talk’
‘No violence, I know you Cole - remember I need you to get me to LA’
‘Quit worrying, I’ll be nice’
He flung the challenger into the motel car park, breaking in a cloud of dust and gravel. Heather climbed out as quickly as she could and he roared off again. Slowing after a half mile or so he saw the Buick in his rear view mirror. They were going full out and sped past him at 80 mph. He heard a screeching of breaks and a honking horn - they wanted him to pull over. Cole reached into the glove compartment for the .38. The Buick was slowing and boxing him in so he pulled into a gas station. He got out and walked to the café - better have company if these guys had bad intentions, he thought. Ignoring their shouts of: ’Hey you, stop mister’, he went inside, sat on a counter stool and ordered a coffee. Two men in sharp suits sat next to him, one on either side. 
‘Are you deaf, Mister?’ said one of them.
‘No, just thirsty’ he replied.
‘Why didn’t you stop when we ordered you to?’
‘Don’t take to bein’ ordered much’
‘We’re Federal Agents’
‘Good for you Sonny, I’m all impressed’
‘You’ve got a smart mouth fella - how about I teach you some respect for the Government?’
‘Go ahead, I love politics’ he said, winking at the waitress.
The younger of the two was about to get physical when the other man said: ‘Easy, Jeremiah, let the man drink his coffee. We only have a couple of questions. Are you driving with a Miss Heather Watson?’
Cole took a long sip of his coffee.
‘Was, dropped her off a piece back’
‘How long ago and where?’
‘Oh, maybe 5 clicks, at a bus station’
‘That’s crap and you know it, Vincent Travaconti’s w***e on a bus!’
Cole reminded himself of his promise to stay out of trouble and relaxed his grip on the .38.
‘Let me ask you a question’
‘Go ahead’ said the older Fed.
‘Do you guys practice being arrogant rednecks or does it come natural?’
‘F**k you, let’s arrest this sonofabitch and be done with it’ said Jeremiah.
‘You arresting me for giving a friend a lift to a bus station?’
The older man got to his feet: ‘Tell Ms Watson we know what’s she’s done and it would be better for her to talk to us rather than Vinny. We’ll be seeing you Mr. Younger - very soon’
‘Good luck boys’ shouted Cole as they left.
Cole ordered some pie and settled back for a leisurely supper. The waitress was a friendly, shapely young lady and he chatted with her for an hour or so. In the corner of his eye he could see the Buick parked over the far side of the car park.
‘Hey, Missy, you got any bananas?’ he enquired.
‘Sure, but they’re a bit green lookin’
‘No matter, I’ll have a couple. And take some burgers and cokes to my friends parked in the Buick over there’ he said pointing.
‘It didn’t sound like you were friends’
‘Oh just a little disagreement about politics, you know how it is’
‘OK, I’ll get your bananas and then take a tray out’
As soon as she made her way out he went through the gents and exited a back door. Circling around behind the Buick, he waited until they were distracted by the comely waitress and the food. He then stuffed the tail pipes of the Buick with the bananas. Going back through the café he calmly got into his Dodge and fired it up. Drawing alongside the feds he bade then good evening. Their Buick, naturally, failed to start. 
‘You’ve got some explaining to do Heather’ said Cole, gunning the Challenger.

© 2013 Wez Hardyn

My Review

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Wow, having done a bit of amateur (read: illegal) drag racing in high school and early in college, you nailed the attitude of a speed junkie perfectly. I love Cole's refusal to be the first to stage, speaks volumes about his character in one quick sentence. The dialogue is very nicely done and flows well. Can't wait to read the next few installments!

Posted 7 Years Ago

Wez Hardyn

7 Years Ago

Thanks for the review I.R. Culbertson - it's great fun to write about something you love and then ge.. read more
interesting plot. well rounded characters without saying to much about them. great dialogue, it has a big role in the story. just enough description without going over board, (i can't stand superfluous descriptions.) great job.

Posted 10 Years Ago

I hope you have success with this story, I enjoyed the first chapter.

Posted 10 Years Ago

Interesting story Wez. not to mention an FBI agent named Jeremiah !!

Posted 10 Years Ago

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5 Reviews
Added on June 17, 2013
Last Updated on June 17, 2013
Tags: Gangsters, Crime, Motor Racing


Wez Hardyn
Wez Hardyn

Cambridge, United Kingdom

I've had some success publishing my essays on politics and I want to try my hand at fiction. Having already started my first novel I am very interested in what others are writing - especially novices .. more..