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.”


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


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 16: The Answers

Chad retreats back to his office, surprised when he sees a bald individual sitting at the desk.

“Who let you in my office?” He questions as he walks into the room.

“Why I let myself in,” Chad hears in response, watching the chair spin around and the person face him. Chad immediately shakes his head as he realizes it’s Dom.

“Why is it whenever you come around, you can’t just do things like everybody else?”  Dom shrugs his shoulders as Chad walks over, and sits behind his desk. “I hope the hell you have answers for me.”

“Why are you so desperate?”  Chad really didn’t have time to answer questions. He had a small crisis on his hands with Ron right now, and didn’t need Greenlee becoming an added distraction.

“Why does that matter?” Dom sits back in the chair, leaving the files tucked in the bag beside him.

“Everybody has a reason for what they want. Everybody has a price they will pay, and a code to follow. What is your reason, Mr. Knaus?” Chad knew from previous dealings with Dom that he wasn’t going to get anywhere without answering the question.

“I have my doubts about Ms. Smythe, and her connection to Ron. There’s also the factor that Ron is still dealing with some effects from what happened.” Dom lets out a sigh, having expected that to possibly be the case.

“You do realize that you forced a lot down his throat at that time, right? Torture, combined with what he loves being ripped away is a lethal combination. I don’t know what I’d do if someone took away my ability to drag race.” Chad had heard how it was a drug, addition, and a way of life. However, he didn’t mean he was set to support illegal activities.

“What about doing it legally?” Dom shakes his head no, having tried that previously and it failing miserably.

“It’s not the same as the bare open road, and that perfect grudge match. It’s a scene that you don’t understand unless you’ve been there and felt that rush.” Chad rolls his eyes, wishing to have avoided this discussion all together. He didn’t want to discuss the thought of street racing ever again, considering the annoyance he felt before in its regard.

“Can we just get to the information, please?” Dom reaches into the bag, pulling out the folder and flipping it open. Chad found himself trying to peer over the desk into the contents upon his friend’s hands.

“She has a past, but nothing that’s been convicted of criminally. Needless to say, everything in my hands had to be found through other means.” Chad rolls his eyes, only fearing what could come. Why couldn’t things be simple in their lives? “She spent her childhood growing up in Pine Valley, before moving to California – which obviously is how she met Ron and Jimmie, and yes, she street raced with them during her time there.”

“Ron admitted that to me on the day of the interview. She hasn’t supposedly touched the streets since then, but has a bit of a shady past in Pine Valley that she wants to leave in the rearview.” Dom shakes his head, understanding, having heard about the past through some people.

“Yeah, you could say that again as this isn’t no tales of roses. Shortly after moving back, she did connect with the police – helping an individual named Ryan Lavery steal money, cover for him, but  had a change of conscious and turned him into the police.” Chad looks on surprised, as it gave the explanation of a clear conscious – not what he had expected.

“If that’s all she has for a shady past, then I’m wil-”

“I didn’t say I was done yet, did I?” Chad lets out a sigh and shakes his head no. “Her name comes up once again later on in regards to a murder investigation. A lady by the name of Vanessa kidnapped her, with her husband at the time Leo de Pris set to save her, however that didn’t go as planned for Leo.”  Chad could sense the direction that Dom was going, in figuring what had happened to Leo. Greenlee had a past, but  that of a sad one – being a widow. He could understand how she could help Ron as she knew what was it was it like to be kidnapped, with sadness. It was why she had noticed the signs immediately. Perhaps this was a match made in heaven and he had nothing to worry about.

“Damn. Was that long ago?” Dom shakes his head yes.

“I still have more as that’s not probably why she ran away recently.” Chad felt a breath hiccup at that thought, wondering if the presumed assumptions that things would be alright were wrong. “She owns a cosmetic company with some other ladies named Simone, Kendall, Liza and Mia.  Currently, Kendall and Mia are handling daily duties with her just having a stake in the company.”  Chad shakes his head, approving, feeling the confidence returning.

“Business owner. Impressive.” Dom could only shake his head in agreement, but worried about what was on page two.

“Remember Ryan Lavery as previously mentioned? She ended up marrying him.” Chad could only wonder what that would entail, considering the money scheming. “Ryan actually turned out to be quite a wonderful guy in town there, according to many of the locals. One of the sweetest guys, great business leader, basically left his shady past in the rearview.”

“Are  you sure he’s not  keeping it tucked under a rug or something?” Dom shakes his head no, knowing once he got to the truth of Ryan that the questions from Chad would seem pointless. “That’s intriguing.”

“His brother is another story, though. She spent time in the hospital going through a pretty psychotic deal after he poisoned her. Ryan ended up shooting his own brother at that time, but got off with no conviction due to self defense. It resulted in a whole sale of events that saw him go a little nuts, make it look like he committed suicide but go take care of his brother who survived with his sister, followed by coming back and Grenlee being pissed off and divorcing him.” Chad could only shake his head in disbelief as he heard the tale.

“Do you blame her? I mean, that’s ridiculous!” Dom glanced away, remembering a time he betrayed his own family.

“Sometimes you got to do what you got to do in order to protect those who you love. He thought he was doing it to protect her from his insane ways, according to Aiden. She ran away from town for a time being, though returned a couple years later – but  found out that Ryan  was remarried, now in love with this person named Annie. You could say that was another tipping point in her life as she kidnapped Spike, which was Kendall and Ryan’s child. She believed in doing so because Kendall betraying her when Kendall was supposed to be a surrogate mother.” Chad could only shake his head as now it was beginning to become clear as to why he was worried.

“So right now Ron is hanging out with a child kidnapper, and maybe crazed woman? That just sounds great considering that what he’s going through and the fact that I hired her.” Dom looks up from the piece of paper, intrigued by the crew chief’s reaction.

“To be honest, I don’t think she’s crazed anymore and the kidnapping thing – Kendall and Ryan never pressed charges. They understood why she did it, from the confused anger and everything that happened. I actually believe, from what I still have left to tell you about her, that she’s moved forward from all of this and no different than you and me. Actually, that’s why she may be best for Ron due to being able to help him move forward with her own experience.” Chad thought about it for a second, wondering if Dom was right in his words. He trusted the man’s judgment, based on everything, so was willing to give the theory a chance.


“Her and Ryan supposedly crossed paths later as she helped him get off attempted murder charges. Aiden said that she took the fall – mostly due to annoyance, with him helping her escape town. However, that resulted in her getting trapped in a bomb shelter with Kendall’s husband Zach. Needless to say, the trail of events led to everybody coming to a truce and realizing that they could be friends, again.” Chad was ready to either sing a tune, or pop a bag of popcorn.

“And they lived happily, ever after….” Dom laughs and shakes his head no. “And damn it, I thought you were telling me a fairy tale.”

“Ryan divorced Annie, and got together with Greenlee as they got engaged.  However, there was no wedding as she fell in creek, with this supposed doctor who can’t keep himself out of medical legal proceedings named David Hayward taking her away to be healed – set to give her a fresh start, per his reasoning. However, that didn’t work as she did marry Ryan.” Chad then looks at Dom in confusion.

“If she’s married to Ryan, why is she down here and he not with her? Furthermore, she’s been flirting with Malec.” Dom smiles as he turns the page once again. “Why did I ask?”

“Because you’re intrigued, like any good mystery novel.” Chad rolls his eyes, wishing this was a novel that would end immediately. “The ex-wife Annie resurfaced into the fold – gone psychotic which I don’t blame considering the way this town flies, and she killed him – five years ago. Aiden said Greenlee has spent time trying to move forward in town, but that wasn’t working so she hit the road with no destination in mind.” Dom then takes the folder and sets it on Chad’s desk. “I take it that North Carolina is where she landed, thanks to finally finding a familiar face that wouldn’t look at all this straight in her eyes.”

“I guess….” Chad’s eyes focused on the yellow folder, letting out a sigh. It certainly a lot to take in and he didn’t know whether he wanted to crucify her, hug her, comfort her, or applaud her.

“Aiden says that she has a good heart, and that she’s a wonderful sweet girl who has been misunderstood by so many people through the years. But given the chance, she can blossom into the right situation.”  Chad then looks up, eyes on Dom as he thinks over those words.

“So you think that things are okay for her down here?” Dom shakes his head yes.

“I think she’ll be the best thing for Ron, ever. Based on her experience, she can help him find the best way to move forward. Plus, he can help her finally feel at ease and give her the second – well, third chance that she rightfully deserves for what she’s been through. In my opinion, by you and Jimmie giving her a chance here, you’re doing the right thing.” Chad glances at the batch of notes that she had printed off for him, seeing how they were solidly done correctly.

“Maybe you’re right…..”

The Street Racing Stig – Chapter 92: Court

It had been five months since the tail of events that resulted in drugs being inserted, pain experienced and lives being on the line. The group had been set to move forward without a second thought, having started to work on rebuilding their lives without that mess in the midst.

But yet, here they were sitting in a court room, reminded of the events.

The court room served a reminder to Jimmie as to what he called the wrong decisions of his life. It had been tough, but he had been able to walk away from the street racing easier than he thought it’d be. Besides, he was focused on his racing career, and continuing to build his relationship with Candiss. The pair had worked at finding other things to do together, rather than causing the havoc that managed to bring them together in the first place.

Ron had managed to move past the trail of events without much thought. He had full healed after a couple of months and watching himself carefully. The doctors had told him that he was back to his perfect happy self, with nothing remaining from what happened. That was a relief for him as he didn’t want any reminders. He was set on moving forward, and having more success with Chad, Jimmie and the guys. As far as away from racing, he was still working on some restoration projects but hadn’t gotten into too much else.

Dom had managed to take a couple steps back in life since the last turn of events, focusing on rekindling the magic that he and Letty had before the series of events that twisted their life’s path. He was still taking part in some street races, but had scaled it back a lot. He was also working at building events for people to race that’d have the feel of a street race, but be safer and legal. Thus far, it was still a tough balance in trying to make that happen.

“I’m going to go through each of these individuals and their respective charges one-by-one,” the judge states as he faces the line of defendents. “The jury will state whether you’re guilty or innocent – nothing less, nothing more.” He then glances down at the stack of paper that rested on his desk. That was a stack of paper that had both Dom and Luke Hobbs pleased, in what they had managed to do in bringing down a group of people. “David Rhodes, we will start with you. On the charge of conspiracy in relation to terrorism and organizational crimes, how does the jury find you?”

“Not guilty,” the head juror stated as Dom glanced over at Luke with a look. Luke gave him as simple nod. There was certainly going to be an appeal, and then some as they had evidence of what David had been planning with his group, outside of the street racing.

“On the charge of threatening Jimmie Johnson, how do you find him?”

“Not guilty.” Jimmie felt confusion in hearing the ruling from the jury. They had demonstrated the acts that David and his crew followed to arrive at the track, and follow both him and Candiss. They had demonstrated how they had kidnapped Ron to threaten Jimmie.

“On the charge of threatening Candiss Vanders, how do you find him?”

“Not guilty.” Candiss’ jaw dropped immediately as she felt a pit form in her stomach. She knew that she’d never be able to move forward in knowing that David was loose.

“Don’t worry – he has a federal court date still, and all of these terrorism charges aren’t going to fly because of the evidence we have,” Dom assures her, with assurance from Luke. Luke had put together a complete investigation for the second court date and knew it’d be a success.

“Thank you,” the judges states, as all eyes fall back on the front. “Mr. Rhodes, you must remain in prison and will be transferred up-state for your second round of court hearings.” The judge then flips the piece of paper, allowing her eyes to fall on the female in the line-up. “Hilary Evans is next. On the charge of threatening Jimmie Johnson, how do you find her?”

“Guilty,” the head juror states as Jimmie lets out a sigh of relief. At least the jury had some smarts.

“On the charge of threatening Candiss Vanders, how do you find her?”

“Guilty.” Candiss couldn’t help but smile in hearing that. It was nice to hear that someone as cruel as Hilary would spend a long time behind bars.

“On the charge of threatening Ron Malec, how do you find her?”

“Guilty.” Ron glanced over at Jimmie with a sly smile. They were getting their justice, finally.

“On the charge of attempted murder and drugging Mr. Malec, how do you find her?” Jimmie swallowed the lump that formed in his throat upon hearing those words. The only image that reminded in his mind was that of Ron lying in bed, tubes and wires, facing the fight straight on.

“Guilty.” Ron could only let out a sigh of relief. It was finally over in knowing full justice was given to the female that had caused the most pain.

The ruling closed the court as the others in the group – Clayton, Jason and William Dumal had both plead guilty on charges, agreeing to testify against Hilary and David. It was nice to hear that Hilary was done for, though they had to admit that they were caught off-guard on David’s innocence.

The group worked at moving forward, not wanting to dwell on the topic any longer. They knew that Luke had a case against David on the other end, and there’d be no worries. The pain was over.

It was now time to focus on the future –themselves, each other, their friendships, racing, and growing as a group.


The End


Keep an eye out for ”Falling Deeper”, which is set to tell the tale of how Jimmie and Candiss continue to fall more for each other. Also, keep an eye out for “Back to Square One”, which is set to follow Ron Malec as he moves forward from the set of events that happened.

That’s right – two sequels.  I couldn’t decide which direction that I wanted to go so I went both routes.

The Street Racing Stig – Chapter 89: The Media


Ron’s POV

Taking one more deep breath, I suck up all the butterflies that my body was trying to muster and continue the walk towards pit road. Just as expected, the swarm of media that had been standing by pit road had noticed and immediately surrounded me without a second to spare.

One second I am in my own world enjoying a day at the track, next second I surrounded by cameras and voice recorders. Oh well, all part of being part of this racing circus.

“Mr. Malec, how are you doing?” That was the first question that I noticed, probably because multiple reporters had repeated it at the same time. Taking a deep breath, I knew how to handle this with ease – be truthful and honest to a certain extent.

“I am feeling alright,” I answer with ease. “I am still pretty sore and feeling the affects from what happened, but I am doing okay. I’m just taking it one day at a time and letting everything heal accordingly. It’ll be awhile yet, but in a couple months it should be like nothing happened.” That was the doctors had told me anyway, and so far I had believed them on the progress thus far.

“Can you talk to us about what happened?” Oh yes, I will be sure to tell you how myself and Jimmie got involved in a street racing circus, pissed off some crazed human being whom figured out Jimmie’s true identity and kidnapped me for the hell of it out of anger. Considering that story, I should make a film out of this and at least profit from everything.

“I cannot speak about the details surrounding about what happened due to the pending court case surrounding those involved. Furthermore, I do not feel comfortable discussing those details with you.” The first part was what I was advised to say via Dom and Hendrick’s PR department as it was a good scape goat, till we showed up in a court room. The second part was the fact that I would never tell them everything as this was meant to be kept a secret.

“It was released that the individuals have a background in street racing. Is that how you became associated with them?” Ah of course. Let me tell you how I got involved in street racing, how I pulled out of it but a certain Sprint Cup Series champion continued and then crossed the paths of these lovely individuals.

“Nope. I can tell you that I had no prior associations with the individuals that attacked me.” That was the biggest bluff thus far and I hated lying, but I had to do what I had to protect to my ass and Jimmie’s ass.

“They also are supposedly related to a terrorist ploy. Did you know anything about that?” Ah of course, I did. I had someone run a background check on them once they got suspicious and knew that right away. I can tell you all the details of their little terrorism group.

“I do not know anything about that.” Yeah, yeah, I know I am lying through my teeth with ease. Don’t bug me, okay?

“Given that it has been stated by Jimmie, Hendrick Motorsports and now yourself that nobody had any prior associations or knowledge of them, how does that add up into you being attacked?” Well, let me take you down the road and connect those dots so you understand, while getting myself and Jimmie fired in the process. Sure, we may be able to find another team but do you think someone would want to sponsor us after that?

“According to the police investigation, it was determined to be a random attack in that they were looking attention and opportunity for whatever they had in mind. I want to thank the police and investigators for their due diligence in making sure that I made it out of there, relatively alright, and arresting the individuals before they could do more harm.” I just want to say an extra thank you to Dominic Torretto and Luke Hobbs for working extra hard within the police departments to make sure none of the investigation paperwork leaked out to anybody to figure out the necessary connections that we are hiding. They did a good job working that ‘high profile’ clause in to stop the release.

“Ron, are you ready for qualifying?” I hear over my shoulder and smile in seeing Jimmie standing there with Amanda and Dom. My savors were here to escort me away from the media swarm so I could continue on with my weekend as before.

“Absolutely boss,” I answer with a smile, slowly moving away from the group.

“Jimmie!” The media begins to yell, catching his attention. “How does it feel to have Ron back at the track this weekend?” That’s a reasonable question, I suppose.

“It feels awesome to have him back at the track this weekend,” he shares. “It shows that he’s recovering great and going to be fine. It’s also a great boost to the team to have everybody here and working hard together. Hopefully we can end the weekend with cowboy hats and six-shooters.” I wouldn’t mind that ending to the weekend, either, as translation – that meant victory lane baby.

“Thank you for your patience,” I offer as we leave the swarm behind and head down to his stall, where the crew had already pushed the car and Chad stood atop the pit box waiting.

“Did it go smoothly?” Amanda asks, and I know why she is asking already. She was in charge of the media image for Jimmie and the team. It was apparent that she knew the details.

“I answered each of the questions with enough information to satisfy, but nothing to tip them off. They were all very co-operative and patient, and I don’t think there will be any issues.” That was obviously my non-professional opinion, duh.

“Glad to hear.” She then heads off to do her job of tweeting updates and such, leaving us crew guys and Dom to ourselves.

“Are you alright?” Jimmie questions, catching me off-guard as I glance towards him. “I mean, after everything with the media. I just wanted to make sure that you were alright.” I totally understood the question as he was worried about flashbacks, or whether anything was acting up for me in regards to pain and such. The nap had done me well, in honesty, as I had nothing to complain about.

“I’m fine,” I assure him. “Just focus on doing your job behind the wheel. I can take care of myself.” He shakes his head as he heads off, grabbing his helmet and HANS to get ready to climb in the car.

With the media out of the way, it was time to focus. We had a job at hand this weekend and we planned to finish it out in style.

The Street Racing Stig – Chapter 87: His Return

Ron’s POV

I couldn’t honestly tell you how excited I was right now. I couldn’t tell you how much it meant to be getting onto the plane, sitting down in the seat and looking out, knowing where I was headed. I couldn’t tell you how much it meant to be landing, set for the race weekend ahead of us. This was just a trip to a track, but it meant so much for so many reasons.

Guess what? I finally got to bust out of “recovery jail”. I was allowed by everybody surrounding me who had been dictating my dos and don’ts to attend this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Can you see why I am excited now?

I wasn’t allowed to fully return to my position on the team, but I was allowed to attend the event and hang out with my guys as they tried to shake the recent string of bad luck. Chad had shared without letting the others know that I could help out with a couple of things, but everything was going to be limited. Given my current recovery and how I was doing, I was well enough to attend but not much beyond that. given that there was only three races remaining on the schedule, I was told to focus on recovering and set my full return back to next year.

With each passing day, it was getting easier. The stomach wound from the tube was healing accordingly, and I was able to now walk around with only a touch of pain here and there. The bruises from the belt had healed to where there was only a touch pain here and there, as well, but nothing that I could complain too severely about it.

The drugs were the worst part of the recovery part, though. I still had that nagging chest pain as everything was still working at healing from what had happened. Sometimes it worse than others, but it was enough that I couldn’t do any strenuous activities, which meant no running, working-out or anything that would raise my heartbeat. If I could keep myself calm and collected, it was just a small pain that I could normally erase from my thoughts. However, anymore than that and you might as well say that I was frozen in time.

“So what’s the plan?” I question as we reach the track in the rental car. Chad had taken up driving – save me, he was a bit of a crazy driver – with half of the crew piling in with Dom. We were set to meet Jimmie and Candiss at the track after they had stayed in the motorcoach.

“We’re going to head into the garage as normal,” Chad answers, acting as if there was nothing different about this weekend. “We’re going to go about our normal weekend activities. As for you, you can help out a little, but remember what we discussed. If you start to feel tired or such, feel free to take some time to relax in either in the trailer, or back at Jimmie’s coach. Just remember to take care of yourself.” I had to roll my eyes. That seemed to be the normal statement of the day as I heard it at least once every couple of hours from someone. I had a feeling that wouldn’t slow down at all over the weekend. Though, my question didn’t stem around that directly. I had a bigger thought on the mind at the moment.

“What about the media?” I hated to worry myself with them, but I had no choice. The ensuing events had become a big story, with everyone having questions and concerns. I had no doubt in my mind that someone would say something upon seeing my face for the first time since then, probably wanting to know something from me. Given that we worked for Hendrick Motorsports, they always had a plan of attack in situations of this nature. So, what was the plan?

“That’s why I am here,” Dom speaks up, causing me to look at him oddly and curiously. Wasn’t he here for security? What did he know about the media? “I spoke with Amanda this past week. She’s going to handle everything for Jimmie this weekend, while I handle everything for you. Any requests will come through me. You can answer how much you want, with whatever detail that you want. If they start to become too personal or annoying, I will rightfully tell them that we’re done and handle things from there.” Okay, so maybe the guy was good for more than his abilities to handle official guard business. I didn’t mind this guy after all. I just hoped that he could follow his own rules, or else we may run into some problems this weekend.

“Is that okay with you?” Chad double checks and I simply shake my head yes. As long as he did his job and the weekend went smoothly, I didn’t have nay objections. I was just glad to get out of the house, to be honest. It felt nice to be back at the track once again. “Okay. Oh, and Rick says that you better take care of yourself of he’s going to kick your ass himself.”

“I don’t have any doubt about that,” I offer, knowing Rick well enough to know that was the truth.

“He wouldn’t be the only one, though,” Cody shares as I glance towards the youngster. “I’d help him. Just because you’re back doesn’t mean that you can dive in head first. The team is in good hands, and can handle you taking a quiet approach.” I couldn’t help but smile. It was great watching him grow more and more into the role, knowing that he’d be a great crew chief.

Though for now, it was time to focus on this weekend and having some success.

The Street Racing Stig – Chapters 81 Thru 83


Chapter 81: Pain and Panic….

Ron’s POV – Monday – 12pm EST (Remember kidnapping happened Sunday post-race)

Why was it so hard to open my eyes? Why did they feel like they weighed 200 pounds? I could hear the voices around me.

I could hear the tears that my mom was sniffling beside me. I could hear my father talking about Jimmie and everything that he had learned, since Jimmie had so kindly told my parents the entire truth. You could tell that it didn’t go over well with my father, and I could almost guarantee a lecture at some point. But for now, I wanted to open my darn eyes and look at my mom. I wanted to assure her that I’d be okay.

I also wanted to assure Jimmie that I’d be okay. I heard him earlier – you could say an hour ago. He had muttered some words to Candiss about feeling sorry for everything that had happened, the regret that he felt, his response to my father’s obvious anger, and it broke my heart. I just wanted to open my eyes and assure him that it’d be okay.

Why was it so hard to open my eyes?

I remembered all the details of the room. I remembered Hilary grabbing me and stuffing me in her car. I remembered waking up in her torture chamber. I remember the discussions of the injections that she was going to give me. I remember feeling the pain of the leather belt against my body. I remember feeling a needle go in, numbing the pain that I had felt. I remembered the panic and screams that set in with Dom and Jimmie’s entrance in the room. Somehow, I could even picture a second injection, but don’t quote me on that.

Everything brought forth two thoughts – pain and panic. There was pain that I knew I’d be feeling, probably along my legs and waist where I felt the leather smack against the cloth of my uniform. I also knew there’d probably be pain along my wrists and ankles, where she had bound me down to the table. There was panic – panic in whether I’d be okay, panic from my friends and family out of their own worry for me.

Taking a deep breath – or so I thought it felt like one, feeling a bit of confusion in feeling something pressed against my face, I knew that I couldn’t hide within my own world any longer. They deserved to know that I was alright, and I had to face what was out there.

I slowly let my eyes open, taking in the sights that surround me.

I could see Jimmie leaning against the wall with Candiss by his side. I’m thankful that he has Candiss to keep him strong while he worried and went through his emotions. I may have been skeptical bout her at the beginning, but she was earning her chops. I could see my parents sitting beside me out of the corner of my eye, glancing back with shock on their faces, perhaps happy tears, in knowing that their baby was awake and going to be okay.

Though, as predicted, I felt a pain immediately engulf me, feeling pain along my wrists, ankles and legs. Yep, that was obviously going to happen. If you combine that with an odd pain in the side of my stomach from something, I felt the need to scream upon entering the world. Perhaps I should’ve stayed where I was a little longer. I also felt an odd pain in my chest – perhaps being caused by the second injection that I thought I remembered. Something potassium like that was supposed to stop my heart, I think.

“Easy Ron,” my mom states as she grabs my hand, rubbing it. I tried to move, though found that hard to do with all the tubes that I thought I felt around me.

I went to talk, say something in return – ask questions, assure them that I was okay – though found that moving my mouth wasn’t something that I could do. What was going on?

I felt my heartbreak begin to quicken as panic and worry set in with the foreign objects that I felt, and inability to do things. Why couldn’t I move much? Why couldn’t I speak? What was against my face? What was going? I was rescued, right? I’m in the hospital. This looks like a hospital. Oh my….

“Easy Mr. Malec,” I hear a doctor say as he flashes a bright light in my eyes. Too bright, too bright – close immediately. Why did I open my eyes to begin with? “Good reaction time. Now, Mr. Malec, I need you to calm down please…” I wanted to do as he requested, but yet so many questions entered my mind. I needed to know what was going on.

“Easy Ron….” My mother states once again, continuing to rub my hand. I wished that it’d calm me down, but it didn’t seem to be helping.

“You have a tube down your throat helping you breathe. You were injected with potassium chloride. It’s meant to stop your heart, but we were able to counteract before it did damage and you should make it out with issues. The tube is there while your chest and body heals from the injection. I need to remain relaxed. If we see signs of continued improvement, perhaps we can work at removing the tube tomorrow or Wednesday.” That explained why I couldn’t talk. That explained why my chest felt like it was on fire. That explained why there was thing pushing against my face. Reasonably so that was fine as I understood what the doctor was saying. As long as I was going to be okay, that’s what mattered. I just hoped that he continued to assure my parents and Jimmie of that fact.

“See babes, you’re going to be okay…” Okay, so my parents were getting the message. I guess being awake that’d help them feel better too, right? I mean, it’s always nice when you can somewhat communicate.

“Now, I don’t want you moving much as there’s a tube in your stomach. We had to flush out your system due to the amount of drugs and looking to save you. Before we remove the vent, we will be knocking you out and removing that, and stitching as required.” Great. I have a hole in the side of my stomach because of that bitch. Isn’t that pleasant? No wonder I am in pain! Deep breathes, Ron, deep breathes. You’re going to be okay. Just be thankful that you’re going to be okay.

“How long will that take to heal?” I hear Jimmie’s voice, barely. I could tell that he was worried by how quiet he was. I wanted to simply wrap my arms around him and tell him it wasn’t his fault. I wanted to tell my father to lay off of him, too. I just wanted everything perfect, if you will.

“It will take 2-3 weeks for the wound to heal, Mr. Johnson,” the doctor states and I immediately roll my eyes. That meant 2-3 weeks of barely any movement and pain. Excuse me while I scream now. “Also, be careful with your IV as we have fluids working our way through. Given the strain on your face, I’ll increase your dosage of morphine to help you there.” Finally! Thank you! If he hadn’t done that, I was tempted to just fall back into my own world of peace. I almost did – but they stopped me. I couldn’t leave Jimmie and my parents worrying. “I’ll come back to check on you later. For now, focus on resting and getting better….” With that, the doctor left the room.

Okay, what else am I supposed to do? I can’t move off of this bed. I can’t talk due to this stupid tube down my throat. I can’t even try and move because of another stupid tube stuck in the side of my stomach. So answer me – what else am I supposed to do except rest and focus on getting better?

I knew there was one thing that I could do, though. I had to do this as I had to ease some of Jimmie’s worry. I may not be able to ease his heart and worry totally, but I had to give him some comfort. He was my best friend and he didn’t deserve to shoulder the blame.

I lift my free arm – right arm – off of the bed slowly and point his direction, motioning for him to come closer.

“You want to see me?” He asks quietly and I shake my head yes, slowly and not very much obviously. I watch as he slowly walks over, timidly. I swear I could kick his ass right now for how he was acting and feeling.

As soon as he reaches the bed, I wrap my arm around him, pulling him into a hug. I couldn’t say the words. I couldn’t explain my thought. However, I could only hope that hug would be enough of a message for the next 24 hours till I could tell him how I felt.

“I love you too buddy,” he replies as I finally release him from the hug. “Focus on getting better. It’s going to be okay.” I then watch as he slowly returns to his spot. My hug did enough in getting through – for now – as I could see his mood lighten a little. However, certainly more was needed. I also could see the hesitation around my parent, and that was getting cleared up tomorrow as well.

I didn’t care what Jimmie thought. I didn’t care what my parents thought. There was only one thing that mattered, and that was the fact that I was going to be okay and it wasn’t his fault.


Chapter 82: Apologies and Explainations

Jimmie’s POV – Tuesday – 5pm EST

My heart ached. It pained me to see him laying there in pain with tubes here and there and everywhere, doing various things. I swore I was going to cry harder than I ever thought possible when I walked in here and saw him Sunday night, knocked out with tubes everywhere.

That ache has eased with seeing him awake and seeing truth to the doctor’s words that he would be okay. The breathing tube had been removed, along with the tube that they had inserted in his stomach. They still were giving him oxygen – something about making it easy as possible to breathe while his chest healed – and the IV with pain meds and fluids. But, he was going to be okay and that was the main thing.

It was also hard at times to stand in the room. I had done the honest and what I believed the right thing to do in telling his parents the whole truth. I told them everything from when we started our troubles as teens to now. They deserved to know the truth with having seen Ron’s condition. I apologized numerous times along the way also.

Those apologies had gone unnoticed by his father, though. It still felt like he wanted to strangle me. He kept giving me a death stare, and looked to barely tolerating my appearance in the room. I wasn’t leaving the room, though, as I cared about my best friend and was going to be here for him. I got him stuck in this mess, and I was going to for sure help him.

“How are you feeling?” I finally squeak out. After leaving the room to have the stomach tube removed and stitches put in, he had returned about an hour later. They then waited for him wake up, removing the tube and requesting a period of quiet time. The doctor had just checked in, clearing everything, so he was set to rock ‘n’ roll with talking as normal.

“Sore,” he replies with a glance over my way. It was evident by the look on his face. “My chest feels like its on fire, my side is just unbearable pain it seems, and I can barely move. But – it’s okay. I’m going to be okay and everything will heal. The pain pills will start doing what they need to do. I’m okay, Jimmie. You can stop worrying.” Was it that obvious that I was worried? I didn’t try to make it obvious, standing in the background and allowing his parents to take front stage. I mean, I did cause this mess, right?

“I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry….” I couldn’t hold back apologizing. Candiss, Chad and Dom each have tried to convince me that it wasn’t my fault, however let’s face it – they didn’t know the truth. They didn’t know that Ron had tried to chase me away from these people and I had failed to listen.

“It’s not your faul-” Are we really going to do this?

“It is my fault!” I then take a deep breath, calming myself back down. It wasn’t fair to yell here. “I didn’t listen to you. You warned me that something would happen. You warned me that I would regret it later on. I didn’t listen to you and look where we are.”

“Right, but it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that David, Clayton and Hilary did what they did to me. It’s not your fault that they made those decisions after what happened. Besides, it was both of us who decided to get wrapped up in this in the beginning.” I wanted to believe him. I wanted to let the guilt go, but it was so hard to do that.

“If he would’ve listened, then he never would’ve met this David guy and there never would’ve been any issue,” Ron’s dad then fumes, filling in my exact thoughts.

“But that’s not what happened,” Ron starts as he looks over at his dad. Great – now I’ve started issues with his parents. Kick the guilt meter up another notch, please. “It was his decision. I didn’t get stuck in it due to not listening. I got stuck in it because Hilary wanted to kidnap someone on the team to send a messa-”

“Because he got invov-”

“Dad, it was both our decision to get involved when we were younger! Heck, Jimmie didn’t want to go street racing originally. I was the one that wanted to go, but knew he was the better driver. If you’re going to blame anyone, blame me for getting him involved originally! No – better yet, blame the people who actually did this to me!” I found my guilt disappearing in hearing his explanation as perhaps I was being too hard on myself. Everybody makes their own decisions, and it was Hilary who decided to inject Ron with those needles.

“Ron, you’re not getting what we’re say-”

“I get what you’re saying, Dad!” I watch as Ron places his hand on his chest, taking a deep breath. Maybe this was a bad time for this at all. “About 98% percent of the people that you meet there are good people that are just looking for a fun time. They are just people wanting to test the limits of themselves and their cars and show-off. They’re just general car guys who want to discuss why they love their cars, and enjoy the thrill. Hence why it was a lot of fun back then. Of course, there’s always that small group that ruins it for everybody. Can you honestly put all that blame on Jimmie’s shoulders? No!” He had a point. That was the truth back then and in every group, there’s always someone that ruins it or perhaps causes a problem. Deep breath Jimmie, deep breath. Remember – it wasn’t your fault.

“Ron, I still feel bad though as David was originally after me,” I tell him, which was the truth. Remember –the bounty was on my head. “You weren’t ever supposed to be involved.”

“But I got involved and this happened,” he says. “Can we change that now? No. Can we look back and have regrets? Sure, but that’s both of our fault for doing what we did then. Jimmie, things are not going to change moving forward. You’re still my best friend and I still love you like a brother. We’re still going to be close as ever, working on racecars and muscle cars together.”

“Ron….” I hear his mom and know what she’s thinking already.

“Don’t worry Mrs. Malec, we both promise to behave and stick to racing on the track, right Ronnie?” I question and Ron shakes his head yes with a smile. I couldn’t help but smile in return. It felt nice to hear him say that things wouldn’t change and that he was willing to let this go. With a glance over at his dad, I just hoped that he’d feel the same way at some point.

“I’m glad to hear that Jimmie. Just make sure you take care of my boy.” I smile and shake my head, agreeing. She didn’t have to worry. I’m sure Chad and I will be keeping a close eye on him.

“You have nothing to worry about ma’am. I just hope that we can square things away.” That last comment was meant for his father as my eyes found his. It seemed that his anger was softening so perhaps we were having an effect.

“Just make sure you win this weekend for me, okay?” I shake my head in agreement. We had to win. We had to win so we could move on to the next round in the championship. It was going to be about putting everything on the line at Talladega this coming weekend.

“Buddy, I’m going to be trying extra hard just for you.” If I ever needed a further push to try harder, the combination of championship dreams and a win for a friend was the perfect ticket to that.

It was time to go win in Talladega.


Chapter 83: Talladega

Jimmie’s POV – Friday

I hated leaving the hospital. I wanted to stay there and be with him and help him through the recovery. However, I couldn’t stay there. I had to go to Talladega and finish what we started this year. I had to win the race and advance us in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and win the championship for Ron. It was simple as that.

There was some ease when I left the hospital.

I had called Rick and gave him a big thank you in allowing me to stay in Kansas with Ron, versus traveling back to North Carolina and doing other commitments that us drivers normally have. I thanked him for his patience, acceptance of everything involved, and clearing my schedule.

I also thanked the crew guys – Chad, Cody, the rest of them – for patience in not seeing me for the week. That apology wasn’t needed as they were more concerned with how Ron was doing.

Ron was also showing signs of improvement. He was breathing more and more on his own with the amount of oxygen they were giving him decreasing each day. He still had some pain, but it was becoming manageable. He was also talking more and starting to even move a bit. They even hinted that they could possibly allow him to head home next week. I told him to take it easy cheering for us this weekend.

Returning to the track, I was set to focus on driving the car – running the pair of Friday practices and getting the car to handle as best as I could in our single car runs. I wanted to make sure that we had the best car possible to win the race and accomplish our goal.

However, in between those practices, there was something else that took my schedule – time with the media. It was supposed to be my time to go discuss our chances, how badly we need to win to move forward and the frustration of the past couple of weeks. Obviously, you could imagine how quickly that went off course because they had something else to talk about.

I answered the questions, easily, explaining that Ron was doing better but had a long road to recovery. They didn’t need specifics – HMS had released that – but it was nice and comforting to hear from my perspective that he would be okay. They asked about his recovery time and how long he wouldn’t be at the track – I told them I wasn’t sure. They asked about his replacement, in which I explained that Cody and the other engineers were stepping up for the time being. Who knew Cody was such a cool dude.

The questions then stemmed back to the racing, in which I answered with ease. What was my strategy? Go out, run up front all day, lead the most laps and win. Was I confident? I believed that we had a good car. How do I feel about Talladega being an elimination race? That wasn’t such a cut clear answer as there’s good and bad to that.

The next 20 minute went by smoothly without any issues. It surprised me, honestly, as I was waiting for someone to bring up Ron’s deal once again. It was going to be just a matter of time before they tried to play connections in how this guy had found us, whether through me or Ron. It was just a matter of time before I put together a series of lies for those questions. However, I never had the opportunity as they kept quiet. Perhaps they’re waiting for Ron’s return – no clue.

With the media availability complete, I returned to the hauler to discuss more with Chad about our plan for the second practice. It was simple – run by ourselves to avoid trouble while working on the handling. The discussion just stemmed around discussing things that we wanted to try.

“Media go smoothly?” Chad asks as I walk into the hauler and take my seat on the couch. I simply shake my head yes.

“They asked a couple questions as to how he was but nothing else,” I answer, knowing what Chad was wondering. He still hadn’t come to accepting my street racing past – I could tell it still stemmed an evil cord with him. However, he was willing to look past it if I didn’t go back down that road.

“Do you do those question sessions every week?” I hear a male voice and glance over to see Dom there. Considering that we were predicting the seas to a little rough, he had come along. Besides, I think he was starting to enjoy being at the track after last weekend.

“Yep. They’re a way for the media to talk to us to get quotes so they can write stories. We help them by answering questions so they help us by promoting the sport.” Hence why I play the part of a media darling, even when I want to kill them.

“Anybody heard from Ron?” Chad then questions and I put my hand up. There was a reason why my phone was glued to my hand. He had been texting me throughout the day already, checking in to see how things were going.

“Is he doing okay?” Candiss asks and I shake my head yes. That had been the least of the discussion as Ron was more concerned about the car, as usual.

“Sore, but pain killers are working,” I answer, remembering his response from earlier. “And Chad, he says he’s watching practice and keeping an eye on you so you better behave.” I watch as the crew chief chuckles with a quick thumbs up as he goes through his notes. “Oh, and he says we should hurry up and win the race quickly to give him a break from his parents.” Let’s just say that they can be over-bearing, concerning at times and turn into being annoying. At least they had stopped giving me the evil eye and agreed to move forward without any regrets. It certainly helped me feel better.

“Tell him it will be worth it once he’s holding the trophy,” Chad offers with a smile as I type that back to Ron in a response.

The more we talked about winning, the more I wanted to win the race and take him back a trophy. But, this is Talladega – and we know anything is possible at Talladega.