Screen Captures Courtesy of Swoopes
For personal use and select distribution only © April 2002 by Amber Stockton
Car Wars - tagalogue
Written by Stephen Hattman & Steve Feke (excerpts from the episode belong to them)
Amanda pulled her station wagon into the yard, then steered it into a parking space, and she and Lee emerged. He looked quickly around, almost as if he expected danger to be found amongst the piles of metal that were once cars and the junked cars in varying stages of wreckage. There were some in fairly good condition, but he still cast a wary eye around the yard, then met Amanda as she climbed out.
"I want to thank you for going with me to pick up the station wagon." Her words were spoken with sincerity.
"No problem," he replied, distracted, as he continued to scan the yard. "No problem." He moved closer to her and faced forward as Gino approached. "Here we go!" When he saw the owner of the yard, he pasted on a bright smile. "Hi, Gino ... uh ... what's going on?" He nervously tapped his hands together.
Gino nodded to Lee, then glanced at Amanda. "Ma'am."
"Hello, Gino!" Her voice was full of cheer.
"Where's the car?" Gino's smile disappeared the moment he faced Lee, and the fixed smile on Lee's face faded as well.
Lee looked at Amanda. "Uh ... oh, the Stratford? Yeah. We ... we, uh, we parked it out front." He smiled nervously. "In fact, one of your boys should be bringing it along anytime now." he informed Gino, turning towards the gate. "As a matter of fact, here it comes now."
They all turned to watch a a fork-lift truck with a skid come through the gate. There, on a wooden pallet, rested a three foot by three foot, twisted metal cube. From the smashed and compacted pieces, there was only one item that was even remotely recognizeable -- the radio antenna.
Gino didn't say a word. He looked like he was practically unable to breathe as horror, dread, anger and pure shock swept across his face. Lee had a look of dread on his face, and his insides were churning faster than the wheels of a speeding locomotive. He exchanged a look with Amanda, then they both stared at Gino. As Lee made a movement towards Gino, Amanda reached across and put her hand against his shoulder, holding him back. Lee turned and saw her head toss back and her eyes widen in a silent warning, communicating to him that now was not the time. Lee just nodded and together, they took a few steps backward.
"Lee!" Gino suddenly bellowed. "You're not going to get away with this! Bruno! Lloyd! I got a job for guys to do!" At that moment, two brawny men stepped out from behind two of the parked cars near where Lee and Amanda were standing and approached Gino, grinding their fists in their hands. By appearances, they looked as if they could take a man like Lee and snap him in half without barely breaking a sweat. Gino turned as Lee and Amanda were sneaking back to her car, and he started to come after Lee.
The three men menacingly approached. By silent and mutual agreement, Amanda headed for the passenger door and Lee headed for the driver's side. They both got into the car and fastened their seatbelts in record time, and just as Lee slammed the door shut and locked it, Gino started banging on the window.
He hollered through the closed window. "Don't think this is over, Lee!" Lee started the car and put it in gear, then backed out of the space with Gino running alongside and continuing to pound and shout. "You'll have to come back here some time, Lee, and I know where to find you!"
Lee knew his face registered his anxiety, and he could feel the lines on his forehead appear. "We're getting out of here, now!" He put the car in drive, then hit the gas. The wagon took off and spun gravel beneath its tires, and they barely missed an oncoming car as they entered the road. The squeal of tires and blare of a horn faded into the distance as Lee expertly manuevered the car into a lane and continued to put more and more distance between himself and Gino's lot.
"Gino is going to kill me," Lee repeated for what felt like the hundredth time. "It's a good thing I've got some leverage with that blackmail story I've got on him and those girls, but that isn't going to last forever."
"Lee, I really am sorry about all of this."
He didn't even want to think about how many times she had said that in the past few days. The only thing on his mind was how he was going to avoid a run-in with Gino. He would just have to make certain that nothing happened to his 'Vette, and if it did, he'd find another place to get a loaner.
After a few minutes of driving in silence, he breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed his tense frame. "Amanda, it's not your fault, any of this, but Gino's sure not going to let me live this down. I'm going to have to do some fancy explaining to get out of this one. You saw what he was like and you know he's Italian. There's a full temper that goes with that nationality, and Gino's got it from both sides of his family!"
Amanda placed a reassuring hand on his arm. "Look, why don't we talk about something other than Gino. There's nothing you can do now, so you'll just have to wait until it all blows over and hope for the best!"
Her optimistic attitude and practical nature didn't exactly seem like the thing he needed at the moment, but the more he thought about it, the more the realized she was right. Maybe if he stayed away from Gino long enough, the time would lesson Gino's anger at him, and he could safely return.
"That's a good idea, Amanda, and you're right. Let's do something positive and not talk about this anymore."
"Right, so are you interested in getting a bite to eat? I don't know about you, but I'm kind of hungry. I haven't eaten anything since breakfast."
"You know, I still don't understand how you managed to get involved in the very same terrorist group's organization that I was investigating. It's almost like you have a magnet to attract trouble!"
"I thought we weren't going to talk about this," she pointed out.
He sighed. "You're right. We're not." One hand dropped from the wheel to rest on the side of the door. "You have to admit, though, sticky situations seem to be your strong suit," he continued, despite his agreement to not discuss the case.
"All right," she said impatiently. "Before some ugly phrase stereotyping women comes out of your mouth, could we just go get something to eat?"
"How about the Burger Barn?"
A few moments later, he pulled the car into the drive-thru lane, waited for the car ahead of them to finish, then pulled to the window and placed their orders. As they waited, he turned to face her. "I forgot to ask, do you mind eating in the car?"
She grinned. "It's a little late now, don't you think?" He hesitated, and she hurried to assure him. "Lee, as many times as I've stopped at fast food locations, usually with the cub scouts or baseball team inside this very car, I don't think we need to worry about what one more fast food meal will do to it."
He chuckled. "Good point." Their food was handed to them through the window, and Lee reached out to grab the bag and two drinks. "Here we go!" He handed her the bag, passed the drinks to her, then pulled the car forward and maneuvered it back into traffic while she separated their food. "Thank you," he said as he took his unwrapped sandwich with one hand and bit into it.
"So, has there been any resolution to the pressure in your department to cut expenses? The last I heard from some of the office gossip is that LaRue is still out looking for heads."
He chuckled in derision. "Yeah, you're not kidding! LaRue's been on the warpath for weeks, ever since he balanced the budget in our department and realized we ranked at the top in spending. There's just no way we can avoid it. Our field agents get put on the toughest assignments, and those require extensive covers and disguises. Otherwise, we risk blowing our entire operations."
"At least Falcone was caught!"
"Yeah, we do have some leverage with busting up that South American terrorist group's plans, but I'm not sure I want to see what's going to happen at the office when Billy has to lower the boom on us about where the cuts are going to take place." He grimaced then ate the last piece of his sandwich.
"I can see Francine, now." Amanda smiled as she took a drink.
Lee chuckled at the thought. "Yeah! Her habits are certainly going to raise some red flags on the reports, and I think I'm going to make sure I'm not there when she's handed her new list." He paused and laughed as he remembered meeting Amanda at the laundromat with her basket of dry cleaning the other day. "She may even have to wash her own clothes instead of dropping all of them at the cleaners. Perhaps you can give her some pointers."
Amanda paused and chewed a french fry as she appeared to think about that suggestion. "Somehow, teaching Francine how to do laundry doesn't sound all that appealing."
Lee laughed as he pulled up beside his car, then put Amanda's in park and tossed his crumpled sandwich wrapper in the bag. "Yeah, I think you're right. You finished?" He nodded towards her near empty carton of fries and the sandwich wrapper.
She dispensed her trash into the bag. "Yes."
"Well, this is it!" He unfastened his seat belt and got out of the car. Amanda did the same, and he held the door open for her as she took his place behind the wheel.
She nodded at the bag he held. "Thanks for the food!"
"No problem." He started to say something else, but stopped when a grin appeared on her face and she chuckled. "What?"
She looked up at him and shrugged. "I was just thinking about this case and everything that happened. Who would have imagined a simple courier assignment could turn into what it did!" She shook her head and reached for the door.
He thought back to her parting comment a few weeks ago about getting away easily and grinned. "With you, Amanda? Nothing's simple!"
She didn't reply, only grinned at him and put the car in gear, then left. He stood there for several moments and watched as her car moved further and further away until it disappeared from sight. As it had often crept into his thoughts in recent weeks, the enjoyment he found in Amanda's company always seemed to make him feel better once they'd parted.
He couldn't explain it, and he knew he didn't want to dwell on that thought any longer than necessary, but he also thought back to when they had been questioning Mario at the Agency. What he'd told the man was true. Amanda was a very good friend of his. For the first time, he could be honest with himself and say that he didn't mind admitting it. As for when he would admit it to Amanda ... well ... that was a different story.