When Jim got home from work, Cathie was sitting curled up on the sofa, sifting through the day’s letters and bills.
‘Anything interesting?’ he asked.
Cathie looked up and smiled. ‘No, not really. Just the usual waste of paper.’ She looked back down at the pile in her lap. ‘Wait, here’s something. A recall notice from the Nissan people.’ She read it through. ‘Looks like some sort of transmission problem they have to fix. They say it’s not urgent, but ought to be done.’
‘Well, you drive the Altima more than I do. Has it been giving you any trouble?’
‘Actually, yeah. In the last two weeks or so it’s been acting really strange. And we’ve only had it a month!’
‘Well, now you know why. At least it’s a recall, so we won’t owe anything. Besides, it wasn’t new when we got it. You gotta figure it wouldn’t be perfect.’
Cathie got up and, laying the recall notice aside, threw the rest of the mail into the wastebasket next to the television. She turned towards Jim. ‘Still, you’d think they’d have said something when we got it. I’d better see if the dealership’s still open and make that call now. Otherwise I’ll forget completely.’ Jim grinned at her as she pulled her telephone out of her pocket.
Adrian looked carefully at the blue Nissan Altima. He checked the vehicle identification number that the woman had given him when she checked the car in. Then he checked the plate number. No doubt about it; it was the same car. It was burned into his memory. Brad came up behind him. ‘You OK, Adrian?’
‘Yeah, fine.’ Adrian shook his head slightly and got up. Brad knew he was lying, but what the hell? Anyone would be messed up after his wife got killed.
‘You sure?’ Brad asked. Then he pointed to the schedule Adrian had been using. ‘I can do that one if you want. You shouldn’t even be in today. I mean, it’s been what, six weeks?’
‘No, I’ll do it.’
Adrian glanced at Brad. ‘Sorry. It’s just – working is better than sitting around. I have to do something.’
‘I get it. You want a break, you let me know.’
Adrian walked out to the reception area. He looked around at the group of people waiting for car service. ‘Cathie Darnell?’
A small woman with medium-length, straight chestnut hair looked up. ‘That’s me,’ she said.
‘Great,’ Adrian smiled. ‘Your car’s in the service bay now. The recall repairs’ll take about an hour. You’re welcome to grab a cup of coffee and stay here, or there’s a taco place across the road.’
It only took Adrian about 40 minutes, but he kept the car the full hour and checked everything twice. When it was ready, he went out to the reception lounge. Cathie was sitting there, reading a book that she must have brought with her. Adrian walked over towards her.
‘Your car’s all ready.’
She put her book down and stood up. She thanked him with a smile and asked, ‘Is there anything else I need to do?’
‘Just check out at the desk and pick up your keys.’
‘Great. Appreciate it.’
Adrian watched as she went up to the desk, signed the forms, and got her keys. Then, he went back to the service bay and looked out the open bay door as Cathie got in her car and drove off.
Jim’s telephone rang just as he was about to leave his office. It was Cathie’s ring.
‘Hi, Hon, how’d it go at the dealership?’
‘Oh, thank God you picked up, Jim. It’s – I don’t know what’s wrong!’
‘What’s the matter.’
‘It’s the car! I went to the dealership, got it fixed, then did a few things. Then it just started acting strange. I mean really strange.’
‘Where are you right now? I can come and get you. We’ll have it towed.’
‘All right. I’m on University Aven – ’
Jim heard a loud explosion. ‘Cathie! Are you OK? Cathie! Cathie!’
The next morning, two police officers stood in the reception area of the dealership, almost exactly where Cathie Darnell had stood the day before.
‘And Ms. Darnell left at what time?’ one of them asked.
‘At, I guess, three-thirty,’ Adrian said. ‘We finished up with her car, she signed for it, and then I didn’t see her again.’
‘Did you find any problems with the car?’
‘No. I mean, we did the recall work, but that wouldn’t have – well – made the car’s engine explode.’
‘Right. Do you keep a log book or anything?’
‘We keep records of what was done to each car. If that could be of help?’
Adrian went to get the records for the Darnell car. Not that it would help the cops much. What he’d done to the car wasn’t written on any official paperwork. But now, that woman’s husband would know what it felt like to lose a wife. He’d been the one who hit Adrian’s car that night, and sent it over an embankment. Adrian had survived, but Vick hadn’t. Now that bastard would know what it was like. He got the information he was looking for, and went back to where the police were waiting.
‘I think this is all we have,’ Adrian said, as he handed over the printouts.
‘Sure, anything I can do to help. Such an awful shame!’
‘Yeah, it was. Turns out she’d only had the car a couple of weeks, too.’
‘A couple of weeks?’
‘Something like that.’ The detective turned to his partner for confirmation.
‘Yeah,’ the other one said. ‘They got it used less than a month ago.’
‘So… they aren’t the original owners?’
‘No, like I said, they just got it. Sir? Are you all right? You don’t look well.’