Back to Square One – Chapter 29: “Is Chad available?”

Thursday – Hendrick Motorsports

The girl in the gift shop looks up and immediately smiles as she sees the familiar face.

“Hello Mr. Toretto,” she greets him. “I will page through to Mr. Johnson and see if he is availa-” Dom immediately shakes his head no as he wasn’t there to see Jimmie today.

“I’m not here to see Jimmie today, actually,” he states, causing a bit of surprise in return. That didn’t faze him one bit, as he was always there to see Jimmie. There was only one other occurrence that he had gone to see Chad. “Is Chad available?”

“I know that Mr. Knaus is in today, but I am unsure of his schedule. let me check and see if he is in his office.” Dom nods his head, accepting. He watches as she dials the extension number, and stands there nervously as the pair talk on the phone for what seemed like forever. She then put the receiver down, eyes focused forward. “I’m sorry, but Mr. Knaus is not availa-”

“Can you call Chad back and tell him it is about Greenlee Smythe, and I have some important information?” He hated to mention Greenlee’s name so casually to the receptionist, as he knew how easily that could get back to her. However, that didn’t matter to him, considering what he had found out in the span of 24 hours. He knew once word began through the pipeline, there was no stopping the disaster to follow anyway. But, he actually welcomed it, as he didn’t want to see any of these people back in those curves again.

“I’m sorry sir, but I have strict instructions to leave Mr. Knaus alone for the rest of the day, and those must be followed. I can pass along to him later on that you had a message regarding her, but other than that, I cannot help you any further. Now, is there anything else that I can do for you, sir?”

“Not at all. Have a nice day.” Dom turns on his heels and walks out, letting out a sigh.

He got into the car, kicking back as he glanced at his watch. It was only a matter of time before he got a call back from Chad, and the conversation he wanted to have commenced.

Five minutes passed, followed by 10, followed by another 10, and slowly he began to lose hope. But at this point, he didn’t care because his eyes had caught the attention of someone else.

He watched the person’s movements, knowing that they had to not be from around her or know anything about the Hendrick Motorsports complex based on upon their actions. If it was in Dom’s mind, they were here to see someone, rather than care about the racecars.

He almost set to ignore the person and focus back on his own duties, when he caught a glimpse of the face. Shaking his head in disbelief, he quickly grabbed a file that he had stashed in the car, flipping through in a fury. He landed on the page in question, before glancing back at the person. He must’ve took five glances back and forth, with disbelief and confusion growing bigger by the second.

“It can’t be,” he says to himself as he throws the file aside. He then climbs out of the car, making his way over slowly, believing that it would solve his questions. Maybe this person just looked the same from a distance, but had different features that would say otherwise up close. However, that wasn’t the case, because the closer he got, the more definite he became on his viewpoint. “Shouldn’t you be dead?”

“I’m sorry, but did you say something?” The man asks as he looks in Dom’s direction. Total confusion was met back in return to Dom as it was certain this guy had no idea who Dom was. However, Dom was beginning to see who exactly this is.

“Shouldn’t you be dead? I thought your wif-”

“Ex-psychopath wife, you mean. I would never stay married to her, no matter what. But wait – how do you know?” Dom knew at this point, it would be best to simply come clean on everything because it was clear why the man was here. But, he wasn’t about to do that as it didn’t seem like a benefit of doubt was warranted.

“Your name is Ryan Lavery, and you’re here from a town known as Pine Valley. You’re thought of to be dead, courtesy of your ex-wife Anne, and mother of your child. You married her after a series of events that involved two other ladies in the town – Greenlee Smythe being one of those. I can only assume that you’re here because you’re looking for Greenlee, and have heard that she works for Hendrick Motorsports.” Ryan slowly nods his head, as the biography was on point. That didn’t mean he was comfortable by any stretch.

“How do you know all this?” Dom crosses his arms, ready to set the floor known. He could easily reveal his police involvement, or Greenlee’s street racing background. However, he wasn’t one to reveal other people’s secrets and he didn’t know what Ryan knew of that time for her. Furthermore, there was certainly more to explored there and Greenlee didn’t deserve the benefit at this point. He actually wondered if his phone had gone off in his car from Chad, yet.

“I work security detail for Mr. Johnson and Mr. Knaus. They had me run her background before being hired.” It wasn’t that far of a stretch, considering all the favors that he continued to pull for them both. But of course, that was all thanks to Candiss.

“So you recognized my face and came over to see me because you couldn’t believe that I was alive based on some story in a fil-”

“I’ve been in your shoes before, actually. Anybody else would’ve brushed it off to de ja vu and not done a single thing about it. However, being there before, I decided to double check things. My wife Letty was believed to have been killed in a car crash. Instead, she had survived – but suffered memory loss, and another group took advantage of that to use her for their evil ways. It took some time, but we were able to find our way back to each other and be together. So finding a random file isn’t new to me.” Ryan was surprised by the story – in some ways. Perhaps Pine Valley wasn’t the only home to craziness in the world. But it also gave him another idea.

“So you understand why I have followed the trail down here, right? I thought I saw her face on television, and talking with Kendal, she confirmed where I could find Greenlee. I came down here in a whim, hoping to find her and see her. She means the world to me, just like I can see Letty means to you. Maybe you can help me out.” Dom immediately felt all of his defenses shatter, knowing exactly how it felt to be standing in those shoes. It was the same feeling in hearing that Letty was gone, then finding out she was alive by a photograph, and ready to do anything to get her back. He remembered the questions and backlash felt from friends in his decisions, but he couldn’t let himself listen to them because of that love.

“I cannot get you access to Greenlee inside of the Hendrick Motorsports headquar-”

“I thought you ran secur-”

“Not for the shop, but rather private work for Mr. Johnson and Mr. Knuas. It doesn’t give me access to pull strings there. I could easily message Mr. Johnson or Mr. Knaus that you are here, but they are busy today and want to be left alone to focus on their job at hand. However, like you said, I can sympathize so I do want to help you.” Dom takes a deep breath, feeling his guard returning as his eyes lock on those of Ryan. “Give me your number and contact information. I will pass it along to the necessary parties and we can go from there. I cannot promise immediate access or meeting, as it may take a couple days. It may even have to wait until next week when we get back from Pennsylvania. But I will do what I can.”

“I appreciate your generosity, and please, the sooner the better.” Dom nods his head in return as he watches Ryan hand over a card, containing his phone number.

“Now I must ask you to leave the property as being found here by one of their guys may not be a welcome sight.” Ryan easily accepts, walking away. Dom glances back at the number again, before climbing back in his car. He grabs his phone, dialing a familiar number as he stares at the digits before him. “Hey Brian. I need you to look up something for me. It appears that Ryan Lavery is alive. Can you find some information before we move forward?” the request was easily accepted without any hesitation. He then hangs up, seeing a notification from Chad. Dom could only s mile in response as he read the message. “I knew you’d want to talk…”

————————————–

With the sunset in the background, Dom watched as a familiar Chevy Tahoe pulled up alongside his Dodge Charger. He watches in curiosity as the person emerges, not moving a single inch from his place against his car.

“It took you long enou-” Dom starts as Chad shuts the door aggressively.

“I thought I told you that we couldn’t be doing business at work,” he cuts Dom off, as Dom looks at him with surprise. There was no point in time that he had heard those words spoken, and immediately recalled their initial meeting about Greenlee.

“We talked about Greenlee before in your office, Chad.” Chad recalled those initial phone calls, and immediately regretted those. But that’s obviously what fear and panic had done to him.

“We never should’ve done that. I don’t think you, Jimmie, and Ron realize just how much shit we got in because of the street racing before. You have a reputation, and we cannot have any ties back to that again. I cannot be taking chances, and I’m sorry but that includes visits from you.” Dom smiles as he crosses his arms. He knew that it would become all the more interesting when the news was dropped. “Now, you said you had information about Greenlee.”

“It seems we may have a problem on our hands. One of my contacts alerted me that she stopped by Mitchell’s to pick up some parts for a car – performance at that rate. She didn’t say much on the street racing front, but attitude and order seemed right along what Mitchell defines in that category. The parts will be in on Monday most likely.” Chad lets out a sigh, almost wanting to scream in frustration. He immediately wished he never would’ve hired her, and wanted to go strangle everyone involved.

“How certain are you that she is street racin-”

“Everything fits the bill, Chad. That’s all I can say. I can’t tell you 100% because I haven’t seen her or the car there myself, but I can tell you that everything about how that order was placed fits. It also matches the other concerns….” Chad was now a little confused as he crosses his arms.

“What do you mean?” Dom immediately regretted the words, now wondering if Chad had been alerted about Ron’s thoughts. “Are you talking about Ron?” Dom now froze as it was like Chad could read his mind. “Ron told me that he made a trip up to the mountain in the shop last night. He told me he stopped by last week to see if it would help with what he’s feeling from what happened. He said it didn’t pan out as he wanted, though, but also empathized not being involved with anything. I hope that’s the truth, and we aren’t playing cover up for Chad agai-”

“Absolutely not. So far, you know everything that I know – actually more. Jimmie heard from a friend that they spotted Ron there, and was concerned, so Candiss asked me if I knew more. I’m glad that Ron told you about what happened. I know he’s been through a lot, and is still trying to move forward.” Chad glances down, nodding his head, only to come to his own realization.

“Ron mentioned to me in that discussion that Greenlee went out to go somewhere. It just came out randomly because they had a fight due to him not wanting to do the right thing and admit that things aren’t perfect despite her pleas, and then went out. He said he asked her where, but she wouldn’t tell him. Do you really believe she went out that night?” It was as if they had put the biggest jig-saw puzzle together in seconds, as everything was written on the wall with answers filled in. Of course, there was still one twist remaining.

“You asked me to keep an eye out, and I did. It’s up to you who you go see with this information next, and how things shake out. I’m not going to touch it – unless I see reason for danger, and then Greenlee won’t know what hit her.” Chad was accepting of Dom’s rules, but he also knew he wasn’t going to let it get that point again. There was no way they were going to go through that.

“Thank you for coming and telling me.” Dom gives a little smile as it was nice to hear appreciation eventually.

“You should’ve accepted my offer earli-”

“I told you why I didn’t, Dom. You don’t realize the heat that Rick and Marshall put on our asses when everything was revealed.” Dom chuckles as he recalled a couple similar scenarios himself.

“You’ve never dealt with detectives determined to bring down criminals, but hating every aspect of working with one to do so.” Chad wasn’t even going to touch the topic because it was a can of worms he’d rather avoid. “I do have one more thing that I should tell you, before I move forward and tell Jimmie, Ron, and Greenlee. Ryan Lavery is alive and he is in North Carolina looking for her. I saw him at the shop and talked with him for a bit. I took his number so we can get a hold of him when ready.”

“And the hits just keep on coming….” Chad wasn’t sure about this Ryan person, because frankly, he wasn’t even sure about Greenlee anymore. If it was up to him, Greenlee would be out of HMS in a matter of seconds for lying, and she could have her happily ever after with Ryan if she so pleased. “I don’t get involved with personal business because it gets messy, so that will be up to them to deal with.”

Dom was easily willing to accept that, and hoped it went smoother than everything else seemed to be going. He knew another rock in the ocean wasn’t necessary, as Chad was about to drop a boulder for what he could tell.

********************

Greenlee grabs her glass of wine and walks out onto the patio, looking up at the sky with a sigh. Right now, she stood there with as many questions in her life as answers.

She kept glancing back inside wondering if Ron was truly going to be okay. She wondered if he’d find the answers and grace he needed to actually move forward from everything. She wondered what their future held together, and whether they were meant to be – or just forever roommates, or if they could go their separate paths one day.

She also brought herself back to earlier in the week, when her hand was clutching the shifter knob, letting the gears cause a rush through every inch of her skin. She could see why the thrill was worth the reward, but questioned every single minute. What if she got caught? What if things went wrong? What if she ruined everything she built for four seconds of freedom? Should she just go ahead and cancel the order to Mitchell? Or better yet, keep the order but cancel other things that she knew couldn’t be had with it?

There also many questions beyond those, and a glance at her finger, she closed her eyes and thought of one person.

“I wish you were here, Ryan,” she says quietly out loud. “I wish you were here to hold me. I wish you were here to comfort me. I wish you could just cuddle me right now. I wish you could answer every question that I have about life, and help me find my direction. You always knew what to do when we were lost, and always helped me see the light. I don’t know what to do now, but I know you would. I need you, Ryan…”

She reaches up, wiping a stray tear from her eyes, as she takes a deep breath.

“Are you ready to go?” She hears, interrupting her thoughts as she looks back towards the house. For a split second, she wanted to believe it was Ryan and life was in order. However, a glance at the little blond tips and she knew that wasn’t the case. Instead, she was stuck with her questions and a lovely man before her. “Well, a wine glass in hand doesn’t signify ready to get on a plane.”

“Everything is packed and ready to go by the door,” she reminds Ron, who then looks back to the front door to see that she is speaking the truth. “I came out here to clear my head since we aren’t leaving for another half hour anyway. I figured I’d have a little drink. Is that a crime?”

“Absolutely not.” He then slips the door closed, walking over to where she stood by the ledge. “But why would you need to clear your head? I thought everything was talked ove-”

“It is, and trust me, we’re fine as ever. That whole discussion is forgotten about as I know you’ll do the right thing for you as you feel comfortable and able to do so.” She at least hoped that was the case, but had her doubts some days. “Actually, my mind was thinking about Ryan and how much I miss him. I was even picturing what my life would like if he was here today with me.”

“I imagine you wouldn’t be working for a race team right now.” She chuckles, shaking her head no, as she looks at her fingernails. It was odd seeing grease beneath them after years of having them perfect for all the meetings.

“I’d probably still be in Pine Valley, running the cosmetic company side-by-side with Kendall. We’d probably still be getting into some usual chaos as that town is never without drama, but answers were always easily found – yes, even for Erica despite her lacking of better terms at times. Ryan and I would be enjoying whatever time we could get alone together, and I may even have a kid by now – which is even more strange to say out loud.” Ron closed his eyes, picturing it together, before looking at her directly. It was almost like her vision was a 180 degree version of what was happening.

“Do you regret anything? I mean, I know you wish more than anything Ryan was here, but do you regret everything else being different?” Swirling the liquid in the glass, she downs it in a mouthful as she tries to wash away the sadness that had formed in the air.

“Absolutely not. It allowed me to see you and Mitchell again. It allowed me to reconnect with that lost side of myself. It allowed me to find ways to move forward from the pain, and regain my life and control. It allowed me to put drama in the rearview and actually start fresh for once. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now than standing right here with you.” Ron smiles as those words were just steps short of where he always wondered if they could reach, rather than just that being part of his dreams. Though focused on each other now, he couldn’t find the words to take the next step. maybe it was because of her history and this discussion, or maybe it was because of himself – but those words never came.

“I’m glad that you’re here with me. We may fight and argue, but your support and understanding for what I’m dealing with is second to none, and I appreciate it. I know some days if I didn’t have you here, I wouldn’t be able to take the steps I’m trying to take.” He then glances out over the railing, with a sigh of his own. “I just wish I could forget the fear. I wish I could stop having the nightmares. I wish I could stop feeling as though I’m not in control. I wish I could stop worrying that time would run out.” He then looks back towards her. “I also wish I could stop wondering if another chapter is just over the horizon.”

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Back to Square One – Chapter 28: “Can you help me?”

Thursday

Even though she knew it was wrong, and wanted to head the other direction, she just couldn’t bring herself to do that. Like everything in life, she took it head on and was set to do it to her fullest potential before walking away.

That’s why after completing the hours she needed to at the shop and before heading to the house to pack for Pocono, she knew she had to make a stop on the way home.

Glancing at the sign outside, it seemed like the perfect shop that would carry the parts that she needed. Parking in front, she headed inside with her details set to get this done quickly as possible.

“May I help you?” Mitchell says, eyes focused on her. He recognized her immediately, but wasn’t going to tell her that. The longer she didn’t know, the more information he could gather for Jimmie.

“I’m looking for some parts for a Pontiac GTO,” she tells him as she pulls out a piece of paper. “I just moved to town recently, finally got my car back up and running, and now I’m set to continue improving on it.” He could only think of one reason why she wanted to do that, knowing her background.

“What type of improvements?” She smiles immediately. It was obvious by the name of the place.

“I want more horsepower, speed, torque – better performance overall. Can you help me?” He wasn’t about to turn away new business, or seeing her again so he could keep tabs on her for Jimmie.

“Absolutely. Can you tell me the specifications so I know where you stand and what we can possibly do?” She slides the paper across the counter, as he looks it over. “Not bad, but I got some ideas. I can have the parts in for you by Monday.” She smiles as that’d work out perfectly.

“That’s fine by me. Just let me know what I owe you.”

************

“You seem quiet today…” Chad comments as he finishes packing up what he needs in the shop for the weekend. “And I mean quieter than normal…” Ron could only let out a sigh as he double checked that he had the weekend checklists in order.

“I’d just rather not talk about it, okay?” Ron says and Chad nods his head, having grown to expect that answer. It didn’t mean that he was willing to just move forward this time.

“You know, you’re going to eventually have to talk about what happe-”

“This isn’t about that!” Chad freezes upon the outburst, watching his friend closely as Ron looks up to meet his gaze. Ron hadn’t meant to snap, but it was too late now as the eyes locked on him weren’t about to leave. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to sna-”

“You need to change your attitude and fast, Ron. I am not going to deal with someone snapping their ass off at me and being a jackass for long. This team is about commitment, family, and being focused – not being on different pages and annoyance. I don’t have time for shit like that.” Ron knew that, and could feel the ice beneath him beginning to crack with each passing second.

“That’s what she said, too….” His voice trials off, causing the focused eyes to not leave him or flinch. “I snapped at Greenlee the other night when she accused me of staying too late and working too hard to divert my thoug-”

“She’s not lying, Ron. I’ve seen your hours.” Ron rolls his eyes, knowing that he was probably going to get approached about it sooner than later by either Chad or Rick.

“I know, and I don’t deny it. I didn’t deny it to her, either. She went out late last night to go somewhere, and I asked her where she was going. She wouldn’t give me a straight answer – still probably upset about what happened. She got home late and I apologized immediately, feeling terrible still. She told me that I needed to look at myself in the mirror, address my issues, and do something before I pushed everybody away. Basically, take what happened by the horns…” Chad felt his wall of anger break immediately in hearing his friend breakdown what happened, feeling absolutely terrible in that moment. How could he treat Ron that way when his crush had just broken him further?

“Did she say anything else?” Ron shakes his head.

“She just went to her room. It was like I do something, or I begin to lose her, forever. I want to do something as I want to begin the process and move on. I just don’t know how…” Chad’s wall broke even further in hearing the confession. How could he be mad when Ron wanted to do something?

“You could try by talking to me about what happened, and your feelings. You could also try confessing to Greenlee, Jimmie, somebody. You just need to start talking.” Ron knew that, but where would he ever begin?

“I went back to the stree-”

“Ron Male-”

“I didn’t go street racing or stay long, Chad. I just went and looked one night. I thought if maybe I brought back the feelings of being there, reasons for going, seeing how it all began, I could begin to find the answers and clarity that I wanted.” Chad could understand his position – having heard of people doing that before. That didn’t mean he was pleased with the approach, though.

“Did it help?” Ron shakes his head no. “I don’t know what to say or tell you, except she is right. You need to do something as this is eating at you and I don’t want it to come to the point where I have to draw a line. I told you if you needed time off, I could give that to you. Just please, figure out what you need to do and know my door is always open, okay?” Ron nods his head, accepting. “And maybe if you apologize to her again, she’ll understand. She knows how it feels to be in your shoes.”

Back to Square One – Chapter 27: Sneaking Out

“What time are you getting back tonight?” Ron questions as Greenlee throws him a glance.

“Why does it matter to you?” She shoots back, still upset about his comments in the shop.

“I was just curious, that’s all. And where are you going anyway?” She then looks at him with a bit of surprise. It almost seemed opposite to what happened earlier.

“So I can’t ask you questions, but you can ask me? That seems fai-”

“You’re staying in my house, so I have a right to know.” She could almost laugh in his face right now. Of course, he’d throw it back in her face.

“Maybe I’ll just find myself a new apartment or something so we don’t have to deal with this….” She then grabs her purse, heading out of the house with the door slammed shut behind her.

Slipping behind the wheel, cruising off into the night sky, she couldn’t tell him where she was going. There was no way that he’d understand her intensions, or allow her to go. She might as well kiss the life she was building goodbye.

But, for some reason, she couldn’t let go of the past.

She makes her way to the spot that she was told about previously, pulling up to the mountain as she glances around. A small smile immediately crept onto her face, and it felt like home immediately.

She was one of the best street racers back when she was running the streets, impressing the hell out of every guy that she came across. However, when she moved to Pine Valley, she fell out of that world. There was nowhere to do that there, and she wasn’t able to travel hours for a simple thrill. Instead, her joys and adrenaline came in another form of a twisted life full of ups and downs. While she was enjoying a restart, she missed some of those times there….

Part of her continued to wonder what would’ve happened if she wouldn’t have moved. She wondered whether she would’ve stayed involved in the street racing, where it would’ve taken her, and whether she could’ve made the cut as one of the best.

Taking a deep breath, it never hurt to test the waters a little.

“Well, well, there’s a fine lady if I would say so myself….” A voice catches her attention as she glances to her right. She knew the streets well,  and could tell by the guy’s swagger that he was good at setting things up. Time to play the cards… “What brings you out here, good looking?”

“What other reason would I be out here than to kick some tail?” She questions back in response, catching him off-guard.

“No need to get all hasty, sweetheart. I just wanted to know your intentions.” She watches him as the guy overlooks her car, taking in a surprised glance with a swing around the backend. “Not a bad ride…”

“I don’t play games.” She didn’t know if she could still get it done like before, but he didn’t need to know that.

“Well I would hope not if you’re here. Now if you’re ready to ready to play, I got somebody that’s up for a challenge from a rookie.” She laughs as she was nowhere near a rookie, but perhaps being a little rusty may make it look that way so no need to brag about her record.

“I’m ready for anybody….” She watches a flick of his fingers, and then the roar of a motor fills her thoughts as she could only smile. Anybody could tell that was a mustang from a mile away. She was certainly ready for this fun tonight.

“I hope you’re not just talking the talk because this guy isn’t someone to mess with.” She then laughs back in return as her hands land on the steering wheel.

“Neither am I, hot shot.”  He then smiles as he glances in the car, eyes focused on hers.

“Be at the starting line in 10.” She watches as he walks away, taking a deep breath. She could already feel the adrenaline pumping through her veins, itching to her hand shift through the gears and feel the rumble of the horsepower.

Why hadn’t she done this sooner?

**********

She climbs out of the car, grabbing her purse and heading inside the house. It had been a decent night, as fun was definitely had in revisiting memory lane. But, it hadn’t gone as according to plan as she lost both races she tried, certainly showing the rusty ability that surrounded her. There was also probably the fact that the car needed some TLC, too.

“Hey,” she hears quietly as she walks past the living room, glancing at Ron as he watches the TV.

“Hey,” she replies back as she continues walking through the room without a pause in her step.

“Greenlee, I want to apologize for earlier.” She then stops suddenly, glancing back at him, surprised and taken back by his words. “I shouldn’t have been as rude to you. You’re right about your concerns, and you have every right to care, too. Actually, I like the fact that you care about me so dearly. I shouldn’t had let my mood and everything that’s going on cloud that judgment and take it out on you. It’s just I can’t find the way to tell everybody so I lashed out. I’m sorry…” She nods her head, accepting the apology. If truth be told, she truly cared about him more than she could admit, worried about his condition with everything that he was going through. But, that didn’t mean that he could just escape what he had done. Sorry was just a word in her mind, as actions did the talking.

“Maybe it’s time you take a look at yourself in the mirror, and address those issues, before you push away every damn person that cares about you by treating them like an ass. Life isn’t full of pure happiness, joy and perfection, Ron; we all get dealt tough times – trust me. That doesn’t give us a right to treat everybody like you treated me. Maybe it’s time you open your eyes and realize what myself, Jimmie, and Chad have been saying to you all along.”

She then keeps walking, closing the bedsroom door behind her, leaning against it, hot tears forming and rolling down her cheeks as she slid down to her knees.

She loved him so much. She wanted to reach out, accept the apology, and just move on like nothing happened. She wanted to feel his arms around her, speak with him more. But, she couldn’t do that. If she had done that, then they’d just probably repeat the cycle over and over as he continued to fight the demons he was facing.

If there was any chance of moving forward and letting him find his true self, she needed to do this.

Back to Square One – Chapter 26: “You wanted the truth, right?”

Wednesday

Candiss paces back and forth as she glances towards the door. She had done what she told Jimmie she was going to do, and Dom had delivered as promised. Now knowing he was on his way over, she couldn’t help but pace in anticipation of what he had to offer.

She actually wished Jimmie was there to calm her nerves, but he wouldn’t. Being mid afternoon, he was off doing something for some sponsor, as part of his responsibilities. She was actually more nervous about having to pass on the information from Dom to him, in reality.

She hears a knock at the door, causing her breath to hitch in her throat as she walks over, slowly opening the door. Her eyes immediately lock with Dom’s, as if she could read the depth of the truth right there.

“Hey,” she says as she gives him a hug, before allowing him to enter the house. It was just the third time Dom had made his way to her place, usually off somewhere busy with his usual business. However, when she called, he just about dropped everything and began his search.

“Hey,” he replies as he follows her to the living room, with both taking a respective seat. “How have you been keeping?”

“Good, actually. Things are good between Jimmie and I, and he actually had a good weekend for once.” Dom nods his head, having heard through the grapevine that this year had been a bit of a struggle so far for Jimmie. Since their meeting last year, he had kept tabs on their progress. “What about you?”

“Everything is good with Letty and I, better than good sometimes.” She smiles as it was nice to hear a positive update. It was great to actually see Dom’s life somewhat calming down for once. “So you called me asking about Ron Malec and Greenlee Smythe….”

“It really caught both Jimmie and I off-guard when we heard from Mitchell that he was back there again. I figured you’d get my answers.” Dom nods his head as she had the right assumption. Needless to say, she wasn’t the only surprised party involved either.

“It’s interesting how you’re the second person to ask me about Greenlee.” She then looks on confused. “Chad called me out of the blue and asked if I’d dig up anything I could on her. I gave him the complete life story.”

“Anything that I should be concerned with?” Dom shakes his head, still believing the same thing that he told Chad in that she was harmless. “So, what did you find?”

“No matter which contact I spoke to, no matter who I connected with, none of them had seen nor heard of a connection for Ron to that scene. So that means he was there just spying from the hilltop, or very quietly involved.” Candiss rolls her eyes, knowing that was getting them nowhere.

“I thought you had something I didn’t know….” Dom puts his hand up, as he wasn’t done yet.

“Greenlee hasn’t been there, either, but they did recognize the name. She has quite the reputation…” She then lets out a sigh as she flops back on the couch.

“That doesn’t surprise me, Dom. I knew she had a reputation. Jimmie told me about that as he and Ron met her back in the California days with Mitchell. It’s just that she moved away to Pine Valley and that ended the ties.” She then sits up, facing him straight up. “This doesn’t get me anywhere!”

“You wanted the truth, right? This is the truth that I can find.” Dom then glances away, thinking it over. “When Letty got back, she was quiet and reserved. She found herself at spots that she almost felt like were familiar, trying to reflect back, trying to see if she could discover something about herself. Ron is confused, feeling whatever from what happened. Could he have snuck there, spied, to try and come to grips with how it happened?”

“I don’t know anymore, Dom…..” Dom reaches out, placing his hand on top of hers.

“The only way to find out the truth is by asking that person. Everything can be seen one way, but be something else totally. You should know that better than anyone.” She looks up into his eyes. “Ask him.”

“Jimmie doesn’t want to. What if it scares him off? What if it breaks what connection there is? What if this is just nothing?”

“What are you getting out of it by doing nothing at all, though?” Candiss glances down, taking a deep breath. Perhaps Dom was right. “I don’t know the guy, or I would say something straight up. Maybe Mitchell just saw someone who looked like him…”

“I’ll talk to Jimmie again and maybe we’ll approach Ron together, okay?” Dom nods his head.

“In the meantime, I will keep an ear out and let you know if I hear something.”

Back to Square One – Chapter 25: “I just care about you….”

Greenlee makes her way down the long, spiraling staircase, making her way into the shop. She gives a quick wave and smile to a couple of guys who were still lingering around, before making her way over to Ron.

“Hey,” she says quietly as she kneels down to see him underneath one of the racecars.

“Hey,” he replies, though remains focused on the task at hand.

“I was wondering when you’d be done for the night.” He slides out from underneath the car, glancing up at her with a shoulder shrug as he grabs a wrench off the ground. “Ron, you need to go eat…”

“I’m fine.” He then crawls back underneath the racecar as she lets out a sigh. She knew exactly what he was doing. She’d done it herself before.

“You’ve been here since the crack of sunrise and it’s like almost 9 o’ clock – that’s 14 hours. You didn’t even bother to take a lunch break. If I was looking at this correctly, I can assume that you’re using this as a way to keep your mind distracted and not thinking about everything going on.” He then looks over at her, anger written across his face. This wasn’t what he signed up for when he did her a favor.

“What are you? My shrink? My bodyguard? You don’t control my life.” She takes a deep breath, knowing that was just him lashing out because he hated the accusations.

“I just care about you…” Ron then focuses his eyes back up, letting the comment brush over him quickly. His heart did swell at the thought due to his original crush, but he did not want to hear it right now as he knew her games. “Ron, we both know that you’re carrying a lot of emotional baggage right now. We know that you have a lot going on. That’s not just going to disappear. You’re going to need to do something about it. Continuing to ignore isn’t doing something.”

“I told you before, just like I told Jimmie and Chad – I’ll handle it as I’m ready. I’ll work it out on my own. You don’t see it affecting my daily life, do you?” She lets out a sigh, knowing the signs were there.

“You’re not getting a full nig-”

“I never have.”

“You’re not taking time for yoursel-”

“Welcome to the job. Ask Chad. This is how we live our lives.”

“You’re not taking care of yourself. Damn it, Ron!” Her outburst caught the attention of the few lingering crew members as he simply let out a sigh. He then crawls out from underneath, rising up on his knees so they were seeing straight into each other’s eyes.

“I gave you a chance. I gave you an opportunity. I did you a favor when you were lost, alone, and needed help. I opened the door for you to have a place to live, and a place to work so you could land your feet after all the crap that you pulled. And this is how you treat me in return? Great friend you are! Do me a favor and move out now if you’re going to be a bitch. Otherwise, let me live my life the way I want.” He then goes to go back under as she grabs hold of hand, firmly. This wasn’t the Ron Malec that she grew up with talking. “Let me go…”

“You’ve never been this spiteful or hateful. Gosh, you were the total sweetheart, and always there to figure crap out for everybody. Heck, you kept me out of trouble. Look at what you’re doing to yourself…” He didn’t see it that way, though. There was a lot of time that had passed in 17 years.

“That was 17 years ago, sweetheart. People change. You’ve changed, too. Now let me go.” She knew that she couldn’t do that as her heart said no in every which way possible.

“Just damn well promise me that you’re going to do something about what’s going on….” He takes a deep breath, glancing away at first, before turning back to her.

“I told you – it’s my life and I will handle it as I see fit.” She reluctantly lets go as he slides back underneath the car to continue what he’s working on.

“I’ll make sure to cover the leftovers and leave a plate for you from dinner.” She then walks out of the shop, quietly.

Lying underneath the car, he takes a deep breath, watching her walk out as a flood of emotions go through his mind. What if she was right? What if he was losing his true self to the demons that flooded his thoughts?

He then takes another deep breath, before focusing on the task at hand, knowing that it had to get done one way or another.

Once he was done what needed to be done, he stands up, wipes his hands off, and walks over to the toolbox. He places the wrench back where it belongs, freezing, taking a deep breath….

Ron glanced around the pit box, making sure that everything was tucked away as needed – once again, satisfied. He then continued his walk towards the garage, when a hand grabbed him and gave him a firm tug, swiping him off of his feet. He immediately goes flying, unable to stop the forward momentum, before crashing into a female.

“Hel-” Ron goes to let out but never manage to finish the words as a cold, metal object is pressed against his forehead.

“Finish those words and draw attention and you’re going to wish that you never said those words,” she tells him as she grabs his hands, pulling them behind his back with a clamp over them.

“You’re not going to get away with this.” She then spins him around, grabbing a handkerchief out of her pocket.

“I already am.” She then ties it around his mouth as the fumes immediately begin to take over. He feels himself getting light on my feet as she pulls him towards a red car. The folder he once held in his hand drops, spreading all over the ground, before she puts him into the red car.

Ron’s eyes flung open, hands gripping the tool box as hard as they could, as his gaze is focused in a forward direction. Everything comes into view and he realizes that he’s not in a car, he’s not in a room – but nope, he is still at Hendrick Motorsports.

Taking a couple calm deep breathes, he reminds himself that he is safe and there is nothing to worry about. He remains like that for a good 10 minutes, before he settles on finding his bearings completely.

“Maybe I do need some sleep,” he lets out as he wipes his hands quickly, throwing the rag in the bucket before heading for the exit.

Back to Square One – Chapter 24: Their Discussion

Candiss kept her eyes focused on Jimmie, knowing that she needed to figure out these answers. She was either going to make him speak, or go strangle Mitchell until he revealed his reason for saying hi.

“Alright,” she starts. “Who or what did he see?” Jimmie takes a deep breath, trying to find the words.

“You need to say who….” Jimmie states and Candiss felt like she was going to scream as the name to her immediately.

“Don’t tell me. Ronnie?” Jimmie nods his head.

“Yeah…” Candiss wanted to run out the door, go down to his house, and strangle him. This was just twisted beyond their control.

“God damn it, Jimmie!” Jimmie takes a deep breath, having felt the same reaction when he learned, too.

“I know…” Candiss knew anger wouldn’t get answers as she focused on gaining whatever knowledge Jimmie knew. If they were heading down this road, she better be educated.

“Did he approach him?” Jimmie shakes his head, remembering Mitchell’s reasoning.

“No, and to his knowledge, Ron wasn’t there with a female nor is there any new female driver sightings.” Candiss knew exactly why Jimmie was stating that with his prior concerns.

“So in other words, we don’t have a Greenlee connection?” Jimmie shakes his head, but didn’t want to rule that out.

“Yeah. But I mean, he promised. Damn it! What bugs me is he made me promise. He was out of it way before me. He was out of it way before I thought of it. He was the one that said all these things that should’ve convinced me and almost had me convinced. But yet, it’s him that’s back in it!” Candiss felt as perplexed as Jimmie as she sat down on the stool in their kitchen.

“I don’t get why he would be there…”

“I don’t either…” Candiss glanced at the counter, knowing there had to be some reason for this.

“Okay. Wait a minute – let’s take a step back. He has a lot going on, Jimmie.” Jimmie nods his head, knowing that’d been a common discussion.

“We’ve been through that….” Candiss takes a deep breath, having a suspicion.

“What if….We know he doesn’t want to talk about it. We’ve seen that with him.” Jimmie nods his head, wishing that wasn’t the case.

“I can’t deny that.” Candiss knew that, too, which brought only one theory to mind.

“What if he is trying to find an escape and he’s toying with the idea of finding that feeling it gave him to escape reality – just like it gave you?” Jimmie shakes his head immediately, not even willing to give that theory one simple thought. There was no way….

“You got to be kidding me….”

“I’m not. I’m serious. What if, Jimmie? Like, it would explain it…”  Jimmie shakes his head, going back to the theory he had from the beginning.

“Or what if Greenlee is involved and he was there, watching, spying on her, knowing? He’s had a crush on her forever so that’d explain why.” Candiss saw the denial in Jimmie and understood it, but still didn’t buy it either.

“That could be, but I don’t see that. I see the other scenario.” Jimmie didn’t care which it was at that moment, to be honest. He just wanted answers, period.

“Well, I need to get to the bottom of this but I don’t want to approach him.” Candiss was surprised as normally, the best friends could talk about anything easily.

“Why not?” Jimmie gave her a ‘really’ glance as he never thought she’d question that motive.

“Do you really think he’s going to come out and tell me?” Candiss sighs, knowing that he was probably right this time.

“You’re right there – and no, you’re not going one night.” Jimmie knew he couldn’t do that no matter how hard he wanted to in this search for answers. There was too much risk involved, and he didn’t want to get back drawn in.

“I wasn’t even thinking of it.” Candiss had another idea, though.

“Maybe I should go….” Jimmie gives her another look, knowing that wasn’t going to fly either.

“No, I don’t want you getting back involved in that. We talked about this…” Candiss glances back towards the counter, wishing things were easier.

“Well, we have to get to the bottom of this somehow. We can’t keep playing this game. I mean, now I see why you wanted me to spy on Greenlee. I could see why she’s someone to be concerned about. I get it, but I’m not the best spy. It’s not like that I can sneak up someone and watch closely. That’s not going to work.” Jimmie nods, accepting. But, that wasn’t what she was asking totally.

“But can you at least try to befriend her? Maybe she’ll at least mention something. Maybe she knows your history.” Candiss felt an instant shock hit her by those words.

“She does?” Jimmie was surprised at how many ‘really’ glances he had to play off today.

“Who doesn’t, Candiss?” Candiss lets out a sigh as she wishes that was different.

“That’s a good point. Actually, that’s a really freaking good point. I mean, I could – or I could go to Dom.” Jimmie shakes his head, immediately. He didn’t need anybody else knowing the truth.

“No, please no, no…. You do realize how overprotective he can be of you, right?” Candiss chuckles, nodding her head. He was like a big brother to her no matter what.

“That’s exactly why I would go to him. He would know what to do. He knows the people. He knows the scene. He knows it better than Mitchell. He would know if there was a new female driver. He would know if Greenlee is involved. He would know if Ron is involved. We could get the answers, and then with those answers, you could approach Ron or could approach Greenlee. You could do something. Hell, you could do something before it’s too late.” Jimmie immediately froze as he didn’t want to hear any part of that.

“Don’t say those words.” Candiss knew better as she could see right through those brown eyes before hers.

“You know it’s damn well true on your mind. You’re worried that we’re going to repeat what happened, again. I bet you if people figure out that it’s Ron Malec, someone is bound to take advantage – same way as they took advantage of you immediately.” Jimmie knew that was possible, but didn’t see that happening.

“They didn’t know who I was.” Candiss rolls her eyes, knowing that was just an excuse.

“No, but they took advantage because of you hiding your identity. They see that with Ron if he is hiding and believe it is you, again. They’ll try and take the advantage. Or, if he comes out with who he is, they’ll try and take the advantage. We need to stop something before it happens because you know, we can’t do this again. He cannot have something happen again. We already got enough trouble right now.” Jimmie nods his head, knowing that she was right. There was too many questions already.

“You think Dom would keep it on the downlow if you were to ask him? Like, I don’t want anybody else to find out.” Candiss nods her head, remembering from previous times that their trust knew no boundaries.

“Yeah, pretty sure he would. I mean, he cares about me and in connection, he cares about you. I mean, you saw how much he helped you before.” Jimmie nods his head, remembering.

“Yeah…”

“And I mean, he did convince Chad to lay off of us, so that says something. I just feel he would know.” Jimmie nods his head, once again. Anything was worth a shot, right?

“Give him a call. Go ahead. Do what you can. I told Mitchell to keep me posted if he figures out anything and you give Dom a call and figure if he can figure out anything. In the meantime, I’m going to keep my close eye on Mr. Ron and make sure things are easy, peasy.” There was still someone they hadn’t discussed much, and filled the curiosity for Candiss.

“Alright. What about Greenlee?” Jimmie takes a deep breath, wishing he could just confront her.

“What about her? You said you can’t spy and won’t do it!” Candiss puts her hands up in the air, knowing that wasn’t up for discussion.

“I’m not doing it, but she’s connected, Jimmie. I just think we should keep an eye on both of them.” Jimmie nods his head, already having that in mind.

“I already got my eye on her. I made that clear already.” Candiss nods her head, remembering that discussion clearly.

“Alright. You do that, and I’ll get a hold of Dom. We’ll figure this out. I mean, for all we know, it could be nothing.” Jimmie could never believe that, ever.

“Nothing doesn’t spell Ron being there. He wouldn’t be there for no reason.” Candiss takes a deep breath, knowing that Jimmie was probably right.

“Okay, what I mean is it could be nothing to worry about. He could just be checking in with a friend. Maybe he was taking in the scene, bored that night.” Jimmie knew that possible, but could never believe that ever.

“Alright…maybe…. Just I don’t see that…” Candiss nods her head.

“I know, but you never know. Regardless, we’ll handle this…” She reaches out for his hand, squeezing it, catching his eyes. He could only nod his head in response.

“Alright…”

Back to Square One – Chapter 23: Growing Concerns….

After a busy day, Jimmie makes his way into the house, just wanting to relax. While occupied by team conversations and interviews, his mind had also been going a mile a minute with concerns surrounding the news he learned earlier in the day.

Was he worried over nothing? Should he confront Ron? Should he talk to Greenlee?

He makes his way into the kitchen, grabbing himself a drink, figuring he’d sip on that while watching a bit of television before putting focus towards dinner that night.

“Hey,” Candiss says as she enters the kitchen, having come downstairs once she heard someone. Normally, Jimmie would call out to her.

“Hey,” he replies as he walks over, giving her a quick kiss.

“Are you okay?” He then glances back, caught off-guard by the question. Why was she able to read him so well?

“I’m alright….” She lets out a sigh, knowing that was a big load of crap.

“You don’t look alright.” Jimmie then leans back against the wall, taking a deep breath. He so badly just wanted to spill everything then and there.

“I don’t know. It just seems….” He glances away, only looking back when she grabs his hand to catch his gaze again.

“Talk to me. What’s wrong?” Jimmie looks back down, knowing that it wouldn’t be fair to say something.

“I don’t know….” His voice was so quiet she barely caught a single word.

“What?” He takes another deep breath.

“I don’t even know if I can explain.” She was caught off-guard, as normally they could tell each other anything. Why was now different?

“Something happen at the shop today?” Jimmie knew that wouldn’t work for a cover-up as he couldn’t conceive a good enough story.

“No, it’s nothing like that. I mean, everything is great. We had a good run, everybody is happy, Chad and I are finally back on the same page.” Candiss had to chuckle based on the past couple of weeks.

“That’s a miracle…” Jimmie nods his head in agreement.

“You’re not kidding me. It took awhile for that.” The revelation now made Candiss even more concerned, though. What else could be bugging Jimmie?

“But yet, you’re coming home looking like you’re all upset…” Jimmie wishes he could just hideaway now.

“I just got something on my mind.” Candiss was pretty sure that was established already. Repeating to avoid speaking was not like Jimmie.

“Well then let’s talk about it, you know?” Jimmie glances back down, debating once again whether he should say something. It’d give him peace of mind and another view, but did he want her knowing what was going on too? Would it breaking trust?

“I don’t know if I should…” Candiss found herself becoming more puzzled by the minute.

“What do you mean you don’t know if you should? Like, is it some secret?” Jimmie knew it was exactly that, but wasn’t going to come out and say it. It’d just make her suspicious and that could cause more headaches than he needed right now.

“Well, a bit…” Candiss crosses her arms, feeling her intrigue growing.

“Well, you know I’ll never tell your secrets. I never have. Besides, remember when we first met? You could always tell me everything. Like, we sat at the diner and you know we shared the stories of how it was an escape for you, where as you seem like a cool calm guy there’s pressure that bugs you, or eats at you. Remember that?”  Jimmie couldn’t forget those moments as that was when he knew she had to be a part of his life forever.

“Yeah, that’s when you told me your life story.” Candiss nods her head, still surprised at how confessional she had gotten so quickly with him then.

“Exactly. I didn’t tell nobody…” Jimmie nods his head, remembering. He did appreciate her trust during that time.

“I know…” Candiss automatically thought that’d open the flood gates.

“Well? Why don’t you just start talking?” Jimmie takes a deep breath, knowing he couldn’t escape now.

“Promise no matter what I tell you, you’ll keep it between us?” Candiss felt her heart cringe with fear, but knew she had to agree if she was going to get the answers she wanted.

“100% – unless it’s threatening to your life, or I feel you’re in danger, I will not tell a soul. If it comes to the point of telling somebody, I will go to Ron-”

“No, don’t say Ron.” Candiss now felt herself even more perplexed. Ron was always the person to go to.

“Why? Is there some issue between you guys?” Jimmie shakes his head. At least there wasn’t a problem right now, anyway.

“No…Well….No.” Candiss raises her eyebrows, not convinced by his answer.

“Jimmie?”

“No, it’s not between us. I just don’t want you going to him if something is going on because he has enough going on.” Candiss nods her head, remembering the situation that was there.

“Okay, good point.” She quickly ran through a list of names, trying to figure out their best option. “Chad. I’ll go to Chad.”

“Yeah, sure. That’ll go over well…” She knew that’d be his reaction.

“Well, who else would you want me to tell?” Jimmie thought it over, but knew the options were limited. Hopefully they never reached that point.

“There’s nobody else. We’ll just stick with that.” Candiss was glad that they were finally making some progress.

“Alright, fine. So tell me, please. I mean, I want to help you. I’m not trying to be an asshole.” Jimmie knew that and wished he could just spit out the words. Why was this so hard?

“I know…It’s…Fuck! It’s just I’m not supposed to say anything. It’s just a weird coincidence and there’s so many layers to it.” Candiss felt her stomach do the familiar flip flop once again.

“You’re scaring me. Like, this is how the other deal began….” Jimmie knew it sounded like that, and had fears for Ron. But wanted to believe this was nothing like that.

“This is nothing like that. Don’t worry. There’s nobody after me like that.” Candiss felt relieved, but still nervous. Normally by now, they’d be figuring out a solution.

“Then what the hell is going on? Like, there’s got to be something to the point that you’re freaking out on me like this. You don’t just freak out for no reason, you know? That’s not your style. I mean, it’s not like you freaked out the last time something happened. Remember that?” Jimmie nods his head, knowing how he handled the situation. Of course, he had made mistakes and regretted those. What if those were the cause for now?

“Yeah, I do. Of course I do. Do you think I’d ever forget that, ever?” Candiss shakes her head, knowing that was a dumb question.

“Okay, that’s true. But I’m serious Jimmie! Just tell me…” Jimmie takes a deep breath, knowing he couldn’t stammer any longer.

“Okay. Mitchell came to see me.” Candiss immediately walks away, rolling her eyes. She could’ve killed him at that moment.

“Oh great…No no, no no, no no, please tell me you’re not going back, because we damn well talked about this shit.” Jimmie puts his hands up, should’ve knowing that’d be her first reaction.

“No, no. I told you I’d never do that again, and fuck I promised you, promised myself, promised Chad, promised everybody.” Candiss remembered that, but also knew promises were just spoken words. However, she trusted Jimmie’s word.

“Well, that’s a start…” Jimmie grabs her hand, catching her attention.

“I swear I’m not going back to that. That’s not me…anymore.” Candiss nods her head, accepting, as she looks straight into his eyes.

“Well, so why did Mitchell come to see you? I mean, that’s the only time you ever talk to him. It’s not like he’s big at social gatherings. We didn’t get together and sing kum-bye-yah.” Jimmie laughs, remembering a casual memory of drinks one night celebrating.

“At some point we did.” Candiss could only roll her eyes.

“Point proven…..”

“Okay….He came by the shop, though.” Now she wanted to punch him for stammering again. However, a stop by the shop was a little surprising. Normally Mitchell avoided all direct connections.

“You told me he came to see you already. But damn it, spit it out! Will you? I hate when you do this!” Jimmie takes a deep breath, knowing he had to get to the point eventually.

“He had to deliver a part to the spot to somebody – a well-known person that he knows.” A bunch of faces and names immediately flood through Candiss’ brain.

“Do we know this person?”

“I don’t even know! I don’t even know who he delivered to, okay? I just know that he said he had to deliver a part to the hill, and he showed up early. But he stayed around – curiosity, I guess.” Candiss nods her head, accepting. That was true to Mitchell’s character.

“I can’t say I blame him. I mean, it’s good for business in one way.” Jimmie nods his head, remembering what he saw from his time spent there back in the day.

“Yeah, it is good for business. Fuck, I can’t deny that. I mean, I saw the people that go there. You wouldn’t believe who goes there.” Candiss raises her eyes brows, actually curious.

“Oh yeah?” Jimmie nods his head.

“Oh yeah – all the top guys.” Candiss was intrigued, but knew that this was a simple distraction from the truth. They needed to get back on track.

“So, he stuck around?” Jimmie nods his head.

“Yep.”

“And he saw something that made him come see you?” Jimmie nods his head, once again.

“Well….yeah. I mean, he thought maybe I should know.” Candiss crosses her arms, intrigued.

What was important for someone not involved anymore to know?