J.D. Smith crawled out from under the rear of the #64 stock car, and brushed off his clothing. There was no real need to do this, as the floor was clean enough to eat from, but it was a habit that went back to his days of working on his own car in the driveway. He placed the clipboard that had been in his hand onto the rear deck of the car, picked up his ball cap and placed it back on his head, but left the set of headphones and boom microphone around his neck.
Like the shirt that he wore, the sponsor's logo figured prominently on the cap. The shirt bore his surname centered above the large logo on his back, and the initials J.D. appeared on the front, above the shirt pocket, surrounded by smaller logos for suppliers and lesser sponsors.
J.D., with his neatly trimmed brown hair, and dark eyes, looked good in his uniform. It appeared to have been fitted specifically for his 6'1", lean body, as indeed it had been. The sponsors and NASCAR wanted all of the staff to look good when they appeared on television, as occurred often in the days leading up to a race, as well as on race day.
He picked up the clipboard and began checking the figures he had written while under the rear of the car installing a stiffer coil spring on the left side. The figures confirmed the settings of the track bar and wedge adjustment, and the crew chief and head engineer had requested the information. They had to decide which further adjustments to make before final practice and qualifying which were scheduled for the next day. He was concentrating on the figures when he heard the first call.
Something in the back of his busy mind told him the voice was familiar. While John was his name, it had been quite some time since anyone had called him by it. When he arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, and gotten this job with AA Precision Racing, there were already two employees with the name of John, so he had been christened with the new name J.D., which were his initials. He carried on with his work, ignoring the female voice that had called his name.
"John ... John Smith."
This time he was stirred from his concentration, and he looked up and around, to see who was paging him.
He had almost turned fully around when he saw her, standing 30 feet away, and looking as beautiful as she had been the last time he saw her 18 months before. She had a small smile on her face, and it was evident that she was nervous as the smile came and went several times in the 15 or so seconds that he stared at her. Unconsciously he had grasped the spoiler on the rear deck of the car, gripping it tightly to maintain his balance. Seeing her had momentarily taken his breath away, and he felt unsteady on his feet.
"Robin ... where did you come from?" It was the only thing he could think of to say, such was the shock he felt from seeing her there.
Another smile flickered momentarily across her face, and then she spoke. "I just flew in from Indianapolis this afternoon. I took a few days off from work, and I go back on Sunday."
"Why are you here?" His face tightened, and he continued, "Where is Frank?" He looked around, but didn't see Frank Newton's smirking face anywhere in the crowd.
"I came by myself; I wanted to see you." The nervous smile came and went several times after she spoke.
"J.D., do you have the figures?" A burly man dressed in the same uniform as J.D stood near the front of the stock car, looking at him intently as he spoke into his microphone. J.D. could hear him clearly even without having the headset over his ears.
J.D. looked back and forth between Robin and the man who had called, replaced his headset and replied, "Yes, everything is here, Blair." He held up the clipboard and then turned back to Robin and held up the index finger of his free hand to her in the universal sign of 'Just a moment, ' before walking into the shop and conferring with Blair and two other men who also wore the common uniform.
Their conference lasted almost 10 minutes, with frequent references to the clipboard and a nearby computer screen, and during that time J.D. looked up several times to see whether Robin was waiting. Throughout the lengthening discussion he saw that she stayed exactly where she had been when he spoke with her. He was finding it difficult to concentrate as his thoughts returned to Indianapolis, and the life he had once lived there.
Eventually it was decided to add a couple of spring rubbers to the right rear spring, with J.D. assigned to the job. It only took him a couple of minutes to jack up the right side, pull the rear wheel, and insert the two spring rubbers into the coil spring. The car was back on all four wheels in no time at all. When the job was complete J.D. confirmed with the chief engineer that his day was finished and that he could leave. It was fast approaching 6 p.m., and there was really nothing else they could do before the final practice the next day.
As he exited the garage he was watching Robin, and could see that she was quite nervous. She was fidgeting with the purse that hung over her right shoulder, and again her smile flitted nervously across her face. When he approached, she walked forward several steps to meet him.
J.D. stopped about 4 feet from Robin, and looked at her closely, refreshing her image in his memory. At 5'7", she was 6 inches shorter than he was. Her blond hair was a little bit longer he thought; now reaching her shoulders. He had forgotten how beautiful her hazel eyes appeared, and he kept returning to them as his gaze swept back and forth across her face.
"I'm done now, so we can talk if you want." Many times over the last 18 months he had wondered what he would say to her, if he should ever see her again. He had practiced mental speeches covering every conceivable mood and feeling he could imagine having. Seeing her again so unexpectedly he immediately decided he would forgo the harsh and sarcastic comments he had often considered. He would do his best to be pleasant, and would wait to see what she had to say.
She glanced around at the crowd milling around the garages, and said, "Is there anywhere that would be quieter and more private than right here?"
J.D. thought for just a moment, and then said, "Well, there's nowhere good around here. If you'd like, we can go and eat somewhere, and talk then. Where are you staying?"
"Food would be great; I didn't eat on the plane. I'm staying at the motel just down the street from the racetrack." She seemed a little more confident now, and was obviously a bit more relaxed. A slight smile remained on her face when she finished speaking.
"There's a good restaurant right off the lobby of your motel. We can go there. I'm hungry too; it's been a long day." Robin took a couple of steps toward him, and he put out his arms to stop her from getting too close. He lightly held her back by her shoulders as he continued to look at her, and then finally said, "We'll have to walk around back to where my ride is parked." They walked around the end of the building without conversation, as Robin simply followed him, the nervous look back on her face.
The short walk ended at a very shiny black motorcycle. "I hope you don't mind riding on this. It's all I use now when the weather is nice."
"When did you get this? I never knew you rode motorcycles." Robin was looking the bike over with a bit of apprehension.
"I changed a lot of things when I started my new life here. I always wanted a bike, so I got this one a couple of months after I arrived here. There's a spare helmet here you can use." He unstrapped a helmet from the back of the motorcycle and handed it to Robin. When he saw her hesitate, he said, "Just slip it on over your head; it should fit."
After a few instructions, he mounted the bike, waited while Robin got on behind him, and after confirming she was safely settled and holding on tight to him, pulled away slowly. Their route took them back down the wide pavement in front of the garages. J.D. was so intently thinking about the unexpected reappearance of Robin Meadows into his life that he didn't notice the woman who was watching them leave.
Allison Brewer had watched J.D. and the blond woman while they spoke in front of the garage, and had seen them come together in what appeared to be an embrace from her vantage point. The two of them eventually walked out of her sight, only to reappear together on J.D.'s motorcycle. She had watched them until they disappeared as they turned to take the exit tunnel under the track.
Allison was a 5'10" beauty, with black, neatly styled short hair, and dark eyes. Her classic figure was not quite concealed beneath the long sleeved, fully buttoned, pale green shirt that she wore. She was a reporter and interviewer for The Racing Channel, and the shirt bore her name over her right breast and their distinctive logo over the left. The shirt wasn't one that she would normally ever choose for herself, as it was not even remotely stylish or sexy, but because their NASCAR coverage was considered family entertainment The Racing Channel had decided that all of their staff would dress very conservatively.
As she turned to leave, her eyes shone with unshed tears. She carefully transferred the headset and microphone she used for her interviews to her left hand and pulled the battery pack and transmitter assembly from her belt where it had been clipped all day. She would drop them off for recharging at the broadcast trailer before she left for the day.
As she walked away, a careful listener would have heard her say, "Damned men! They're all the same."
.... There is more of this story ...