Curbside Fiction: Without A Passenger


This is a continuing CC serial.  The last installment can be found here.

Louis Broderick pulled up to the curb in front of the Pulaski County Courthouse at 10:30 on a Tuesday morning.

For the last two weeks, Louis had been exiled to the lodge at Joe Wheeler State Park near Rogersville, Alabama.  His recent automotive spectacles in both Kansas City and Branson had gained him unwanted media attention on the national level, with newspapers from as far away as Johannesburg and Helsinki running the newswire story.

Deep down, Louis knew he needed to cool his heels.  He was welcoming this unanticipated change in his life, a life that had so far been filled with support roles in prostitution, videotaping his various alcohol fueled shenanigans, and other rot that was leading to a life squandered.


While the view from his hotel room was fabulous, he had become listless.  Even the newest and highest profile employee at a clandestine quasi-government organization can only relax for so long before needing a change of pace and scenery.


To ensure his ability to react appropriately should trouble arise, Louis had been provided with a non-descript 1979 Dodge half-ton pickup.  It was just the ticket with its only obvious deviation from stock being a five-speed manual transmission.

When given the job on a permanent basis, Louis had been told he would become a combination of The Driver, James Bond, and Hercule Poirot.  Knowing he was best at driving, and having ample experience getting all James Bond with the ladies, Louis figured he was already half-way to being utterly successful.  Now, he just needed to figure out who this Hercule Poirot character was.

Not realizing he was falling into the Poirot mindset, Louis had determined to find out more about himself.  Having grown up in foster care, Louis knew only the date and county of his birth.  That is what led him to making the 200 mile trek from Rogersville to Mound City, Illinois.


The old Dodge’s 318 purred like a satiated kitten.  Louis had driven Ford and Chevrolet pickups of roughly the same vintage but the Dodge was totally different and much more comfortable to drive.  As he tootled along at a comfortable 62 mph, ingesting the beautiful countryside of Route 22 through Tennessee, Louis was able to distract himself from his personal history curiosity by thinking about how this old Dodge was underestimated by so many.

As the Dodge slowly bobbed up and down with the undulations in the highway, Louis thought about how unfortunate it was so many people had overlooked the charms of this era Dodge.  Sure, the build quality of the body wasn’t the most inspiring, but under it all Louis could tell it was well planted to the road, ready to take whatever the driver tossed its way.  Maybe it could be likened to an old big-boned dog whose hide was hanging loosely, but Louis found himself surprised to like it so much.

A few hours later, Louis arrived in Mound City.  An uninspiring town, Louis had trouble comprehending this town was in Illinois instead of in the deep south.  He wondered if someone from Chicago, 375 miles to the north, would even realize it was within the same state.

pulaski county

Walking into the Recorder of Deeds office at the Pulaski County Courthouse, Louis was greeted by a very shapely woman in her late twenties.  If they grow like this around here, I may stay longer Louis thought to himself.  He was hoping to get all James Bond with her.

Putting on his most flirtatious and charming demeanor, Louis soon had the young lady smiling and reciprocating the flirtations.  After a few minutes of happy chat, Louis wormed his needs into the conversation.  The young lady was ever so responsive, snapping her long hair over her shoulder as she walked back to the records room.

She soon reappeared with a hanging folder dated with the year of Louis’s birth.  Smiling while she thumbed through the pages, her face soon dropped.  Inquiring about what she had found, the young lady reluctantly turned the folder around, showing it to Louis.

On the sheet of paper bearing his name and birthdate, it read:

Associated with active criminal case.  For more information, contact Illinois Bureau of Investigation, Springfield, Illinois.

Puzzled and intrigued, Louis knew he would have to forget James Bond for a moment; he quickly wondered if Hercule Poirot may be an investigator of some sort.  What Louis did not suspect was this young lady would make a hurried phone call as soon as Louis walked out the door.


Firing up the Dodge outside the courthouse, Louis opted to take a different route back to Rogersville for some sightseeing since he had a lot of daylight left.

Leaving Mound City on Illinois Route 37, Louis aimed the Dodge toward US 51.  He decided he wanted to see the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers at nearby Cairo then head to Paducah, Kentucky.  It wasn’t too far out of his way.

After the shock of seeing the pitifulness that was Cairo, and looking at the confluence from adjacent Fort Defiance, Louis crossed over into Wickliffe, Kentucky.  Stopping to get a fresh pack of Brougham brand cigarettes, his one true vice in life, Louis began to relax as the nicotine entered his bloodstream.  It also helped him to think and contemplate what he had just discovered in Mound City.

Leaving Wickliffe on US 62, and shifting the Dodge into its overdrive fifth gear, Louis realized he had never made the connection between being born in Illinois and being in foster care in Missouri.  Something had to have happened – but what?


Louis was soon lost in his thoughts and failed to notice the Mercury Grand Marquis that had crept up behind him.  As he entered Paducah, Louis decided to stop at White Haven, the State of Kentucky’s rest area near I-24.  He had seen it advertised, and figured having an antebellum home as a rest area was something unique to see.  Besides, he was realizing he needed a pit stop and the Dodge was needing fuel – again.  He hated how the last half of the tank went so much faster than the first.  Dodge had the same inaccurate fuel gauge that GM installed in their cars.

white haven

Turning right onto Jack Paxton Drive, Louis stopped in the White Haven parking lot and hot-footed it inside.  Taking a few minutes to tour the mansion, Louis learned the house had been built in the 1860s and had once been owned by Alben Barkley, a man who would later become vice-president under Harry Truman.


Coming back out to the Dodge, Louis lit another Brougham cigarette.  He did not realize the Grand Marquis parked two spots away was the same one that had followed him since Wickliffe.  Stopping and bending over to sweep some debris off the floor, Louis heard a gruff voice behind him.  Putting the cigarette in his mouth, Louis carefully picked up the stainless steel fire extinguisher that was mounted between the seat and the door.

“Okay Broderick.  Turn around and don’t pull any shit.”

fire extinguisher

Straightening his back, Louis discreetly pulled the pin from the fire extinguisher while taking a hard pull on his Brougham.

Turning around, Louis knew this might not be pleasant as he could see the knife in the taller man’s hand.  “What do you want?”

“You are poking around way too much.  It’s time for you to be permanently quiet.  Put it down.”

Louis threw the cigarette on the ground.  The shorter man was instantly livid.

“You dumb sumbitch!  You need to learn….”

Louis aimed the fire extinguisher at his still glowing cigarette as the man lunged forward.  Louis forcefully pulled the handle, spraying a heavy trail of moisture from the extinguisher.  Only Louis knew this otherwise ordinary appearing fire extinguisher had a 50/50 mixture of diesel fuel and used motor oil at a pressure of 80 psi.  He had a flame thrower to behold.

Both men were instantly engulfed in flames.  Louis made a hasty retreat in the Dodge, it’s rear wheels squealing from having minimal traction the entire way to I-24.


Louis realized he was better at the James Bond part of his job than he originally thought.  The old Dodge was poised to make it back to the safety of Rogersville in record time.

To be continued…