My mind whirred with what this meant. An extra $500 a month meant I could get a bigger place, move Corabelle in, and she could cut back her work hours if she wanted, or else avoid taking out as many loans. I realized I hadn’t said anything. “Thank you.”
Bud handed me an envelope. “There’s papers with insurance stuff if you want to opt in. Just let me know if that hometown girl decides to traipse you off across the country.”
I shoved the shirts and the forms under my arm and headed to the garage to change and stash my gear.
When I came out, Mario whistled. “Look who’s got some real duds.” He clapped me on the back. “About time you got the chance to screw up something bigger than air filters.”
“I hear the shit floated to the top yourself,” I said.
Mario laughed. “It did indeed.” He unpacked a radiator hose from a box. “Now I get to tell you what the hell to do.”
“And I’ll tell you where to go.” I moved down the row of bays. “Seems quiet for a Monday.”
“Give it time. The cold this morning means everyone was too lazy to come in early. Every clunk from the weekend will be showing up here by lunch.” Mario stepped up to a Pathfinder and leaned over the radiator. “Someone brought in a Suzuki that cuts out at low RPMs. Why don’t you go take a look at it?”
Huh, diagnostic. That was a first. In the few weeks I’d been doing more than tire rotations and oil changes, Bud had mostly handed me jobs that were already set. Motor mounts. Belts. Hoses. Radiator flush. Having to actually figure out a problem was a welcome change to sitting uselessly in those hospital chairs.
I fired up the bike, noticing the difference in vibration and power from my Harley. Sure enough, no more than a few seconds in, it started missing. I revved it up and it smoothed out, but as it eased down, the motor hitched again.
Rob came over, tugging on his cap. “You got a theory?”
I killed the bike and stepped away to shake his hand. “I hear you’re heading out soon.”
Rob shifted a meaty wad of tobacco along his gum. “Yup. The lady is moving up, and I’m going along for the ride.”
“Good for her.” I turned back to the Suzuki. “Well, first I’d increase the idle. Maybe it got bumped. Then I’d say either the carb has crud, the petcock is clogged, or maybe the choke is stuck.”
Rob sniffed. “All good ideas, but extra work. Start easy. Drain the gas and put in a gallon of fresh. I’ll come back around after you do that.”
I shrugged and went to the wall to find a siphon.
The garage was quiet after the roar of the Suzuki. The fuel decanted into a jug, and I searched around for the gas container we kept on hand. It was pretty hilarious how often a car got towed in for repair when all it had was an empty tank, and sometimes, a faulty gas gauge.
I dropped in enough to test it. Sure enough, the idle held for a full thirty seconds. I revved it up and let it fall, still good.
Rob sauntered back up. “Take it for a ride around the block, but I’m betting there was water in the gas tank or some sort of crap additive that impacted performance. When he comes in, ask him if he had the gas cap open for an extended period or if he got gas someplace different than usual.”
I jumped on the bike and took off through the parking lot. The air was cool, the sun completely stifled by cloud cover. I pulled up at the exit and the idle held perfect. A job like this might be blue-collar, but it taught me something every day. Honest work. I was happy to do it for a while, and this promotion meant I could easily find something in a year in some other town if we moved.
The road cleared and I jetted across the lanes, taking the corner hard, then throttling high as I ripped down the straightaway. The motor handled perfectly, and I shook my head that the solution had been so simple. This guy was getting off easy, a cheap diagnostic fee and a little gas. He’d be happy.
I cut through an alley, the vibrations rumbling in my hands from the rough terrain. If anything was in the carb or petcock, I’d force it to move and show itself. But I came out the other side with the same power and precision, and the idling at the end of it was as clean as before.
As I approached the garage from the other side, a pair standing by the street made me slam on the brakes. A woman and a small boy.
It couldn’t be.
I eased forward, staring. Shit. It was.
Rosa. And Manuelito.
How the hell did she find me?
Panic ripped through my chest. If she talked to the crew, if they believed her…
This was way beyond a phone call and texting a picture. She had obviously taken the boy from Letty. Cops might be involved.
My vision flashed black for a moment. Everything that seemed so easy just moments before was suddenly crashing in.
As I approached the entrance to the lot, Rosa spotted me and waved. I had to keep her away from the garage. I pulled up next to her and killed the bike, hoping no one would look out at this moment.
Rosa smiled, her hand gripping Manuelito’s tightly. He had on a heavy brown jacket that made him look small and stout. He held a green sucker in his hand, one of the big round kind that takes hours to eat. His lips were discolored from it.
“What are you doing here?”
She passed me a piece of paper. “I took this. I am sorry. But I knew you might leave. I needed to find you.”
It was a pay stub, probably from my saddlebag. It had the name of the garage and the address right on it.
“You went through my stuff?”