CC Fiction: The Insightful Passenger

Author’s Note:  It’s been quite a while since we’ve visited with Louis Broderick, the delightfully shrewd and unpolished driving savant who made an inadvertent splash in the underworld.  While I’ve never been overly explicit about the time period, our visits so far were in the 1990s era.  There’s no need to constrain ourselves, so let’s jump ahead to see what an older Louis is up to.  JS

Louis Broderick was contemplating stabbing himself in the eye with a pencil.  He knew it would be a permanent disability but he also knew it would break him of the tedium that seemed like it would never stop.

Imbedded as the new city manager of Ottumwa, Iowa, Louis was sitting in job interviews for various positions.  It had been protocol for the city manager to be present but it was about to stop.  Despite the embedment he was indeed the city manager and could eliminate such silliness.

Most of the candidates were solid, but that wasn’t always the case.  One of the interviewees had sounded like Junior Sample from The Culhanes, a serial skit on Hee-Haw Louis had watched frequently years ago while driving the RV for the working girls.

Another guy bragged about having followed Pat Benatar on tour all over North America.  When told of job tasks and asked whether he could perform these physically demanding tasks, this iron-pumping young man stood up, took his shirt off and flexed, asking them what they thought.  Louis, unfazed, asked if that meant a yes or a no.

Louis thought this one hell of a way to gather evidence about the city clerk laundering money for ivory merchants and rhinoceros poachers in Congo.  Louis was ready to shoot an elephant himself if it would remove him from this delirium inducing ordeal.  He could take being assaulted by members of the Luxembourg Mafia but not being on an interview panel.

Letting his mind wonder, Louis chuckled silently about whether or not the breathless reports by the media about the impending Y2K doom were valid.  He then delved into thoughts about his honoring Uriah’s deathbed wishes and making the world a better place.  Perhaps what he was doing now fit that criteria but Louis was more interested in getting back to his business venture.

Since Uriah’s death, Louis had maintained his involvement with The Organization but his duties had evolved from people delivery to information gathering.  Perhaps the most pleasant was his time at the television station in Los Angeles where the tall, soft-spoken station manager told him he needed to find a place that made him happy.  The manager had recommended he try Oregon and suggested some town called Eugene.

Louis had wanted to find a place in the middle of nowhere to call home.  Louis was a voracious reader, despite his keeping it a secret.  One place he had read about that really appealed to him was a town called Skidmore as the residents there knew how to take care of problems.

However, The Organization dictated if he was going to be obscure he needed to be obscure somewhere in which his arrival would be obscure.  Louis concluded only a quasi-governmental entity could argue both sides of the same proposition.  In the end, Louis had claimed a stake of sorts near Birmingham, Alabama, as he preferred an occasional hurricane to cold winters.  He had opened a shop converting Ford pickups cursed with the 300 straight six into something with some actual power output.  His most frequent conversion was installation of a Ford 460 V8.

As a Ford 300 six was the source of him becoming involved with The Organization, eliminating as many of them as he could seemed to be his small contribution to making the world a better place.  That he was having the 300s shredded and then selling the material to the W.C. Bradley Company for Zebco’s new environmentally friendly lead-free fishing weights only amplified his feelings of contribution.

With the interviews winding down, Louis went outside for some fresh air.  All the sitting was wearing on him and his joints had gotten stiff.  Telling himself he was in that narrow zone between his mid-30s and his late-30s, Louis could tell his body wasn’t rebounding from most activities as quickly as it used to.  Of course he knew the life he had lived had done absolutely nothing to help the aging process.

Taking a deep breath, Louis’s pager vibrated.  The phone number was a familiar one; it was his contact at The Organization, most likely wanting an update.  Going back inside, Louis called the number.

“Louis,” the raspy voice said.  “You need to find the superintendent for the city street department; your working with him made him comfortable enough to testify. Go south of the state line and meet me at the Knox County Courthouse in Edina.  We’ll take it from there and you can go back to Birmingham.  It’s rural all the way; you’ll like it.”  The phone clicked as Louis looked around.

Grabbing the keys to his assigned Lincoln Town Car, Louis headed out of the building without speaking to anyone.  He drove over to the city yards where the superintendent was walking out the front door of the main building.

Sam threw a stack of file folders in the back seat and got in up front.  He looked at Louis and smiled.  “I suspected you were planted here.  I’ve got everything we need.”

Louis looked at him and smiled faintly.  “Am I that obvious?”

Sam smiled.  “We’ve never had a city manager quite like you.  I figured it was too good to be true.”

As Louis turned south onto US 63, he thought he was getting too old for this shit, thinking all the cat and mouse games were for those still wet behind the ears.  Louis just didn’t realize how effective he was at his job.

Louis and Sam were sharing notes on what they knew.  Sam told Louis what he had learned.

“Yeah, Sheila the city clerk was laundering money in the cattle business by going to the sale barn every Thursday.  She was also embezzling from the city.  I found it digging around in the city’s financial software.  Rumor has it Sheila was getting blackmailed by Bobby Ray, a crew worker in the parks department.  He told her he’d tell her husband about their boink-fests if she didn’t do as told.  It seems Bobby was hiding from some Congo ivory peddlers and some rhinoceros poaching outfit.  Hell of it is he had swiped a few million from them and it seems he’s got some uncut ivory stashed away somewhere.  How the hell he got through Customs with that shit is beyond me; must’ve paid somebody off.”

Louis was impressed.

Breathing a sigh of relief this was nearly over, Louis was glad this appeared to be turning out better than his infiltration of a human trafficking and pornography ring in Salt Lake City two years ago.  That had been ugly.

Looking in the rearview mirror again, Louis reminded himself they weren’t to Edina yet.  Louis liked rural areas as it was easier to know when being stalked; he was now between Bloomfield and the state line and Louis had seen that Lexus trailing him since just south of Ottumwa.

What a damn amateur Louis mused to himself.  Nobody in the Midwest outside of metropolitan areas drives a Lexus.  He’s as obvious as a guy with no pants at a cotillion party.

Turning off US 63 onto US 136 East, Louis figured he’d have a little fun with this guy.  The one thing Louis had learned as he got older was to work smarter, not harder.

As Louis headed east toward Memphis, he set the cruise control of the Lincoln at 54 mph.  He wanted the driver of the Lexus to miscalculate and get too close.  Louis figured the driver would then back off and he could lose him.

It worked well enough.  Louis cruised past Route 15, his route to Edina, and eased on into the little town of Memphis.  Turning into the parking lot for Keith’s Cafe, Louis drove around and parked behind the building.  The Lexus drove through a few minutes later, the driver turning his head frantically looking for Louis.  All the Town Cars in the area were getting the Lexus driver overstimulated.

Forty-five seconds after the Lexus went by, Louis started a jaunt through town to evade the Lexus should he decide to turn around and come back.

Smiling when he saw the auto parts store with a Nash erupting out of the wall, Louis headed back toward Route 15.  Louis was remaining low-key to not arouse Sam’s suspicions.  Sam was no idiot; despite his having said nothing about having a tail, Louis was surprised when Sam asked him if he thought the Lexus would reappear.

Ten miles south of Memphis, Louis noticed the Lexus did reappear in the distance. Looking over at Sam, Louis did something somewhat out of character by announcing “Sam, grab your ass and hang on.  I’m setting the hook on this bastard.”

Louis shoved his foot to the floor, the 4.6 liter V8 in the Lincoln providing a wide-open throttle snarl that Louis thought was one of the most pleasing V8 sounds Ford had ever produced – almost as good as a 427 at full chat.  Picking up speed, Louis was soon blasting south on Route 15 at around 105 mph, the Lincoln handling deceptively well on that gently rolling terrain.

The Lexus was soon catching up.

Louis had no intention of trying to outrun the Lexus as he knew he was outgunned.  But it went back to his newfound desire to work smarter, not harder.  Maintaining his speed, Louis was simply taunting the Lexus into getting overconfident, letting the guy think he was about to capture his prey.  Popping over a hill, Louis found the answer about a mile in front of him, just over a second, smaller hill, lying directly over the north fork of the South Fabius River.  Picking up a little speed, Louis was mentally calculating his distances.

When Louis got to just the right point, and with no traffic approaching on this lightly traveled road, Louis stood on the brakes of his Town Car.  The bouncing of the tires from the anti-lock brakes was making quite the noise.

Sam looked over at Louis quizzically.  Louis said flatly, “we’re going to see how strong his sense of self-preservation is.”

With the Lincoln having slowed to 70 mph, Louis veered toward the right edge of the road just as he crested the second, smaller hill.  Still laying on the brakes, Louis cranked the steering wheel ninety degrees, the Lincoln sliding crossways in the road just before the guardrailed approach to the bridge.  As the Lexus crested the hill, his basic instinct of not wanting to hit the Lincoln blocking the road kicked in.  The Lexus driver cut to the right, hitting the guardrail head-on.  The “fa-wop, fa-wop, fa-wop” of the Lexus annihilating the guardrail posts overpowered the sounds of the wrinkling rail, providing Louis confirmation of his success.

Louis’s success culminated with the Lexus hitting the truss of the bridge and flipping into the South Fabius River.  In a rare event, Louis’s steed, except for its tires, would live to fight another day.

Sam laughed.  “Louis, that was damned impressive.  It reminds me of a story my sister told me where somebody transporting her to trial drove through the entrance to the Kansas City police station.  That was one ballsy guy, just like you are.”

Louis turned his head slowly toward Sam, raising his left eyebrow.

To be continued….

Photos of the Lincoln Town Car by Brendan Saur

All previous installments of “The Passenger” series can be found here.