Summary: "It's a classic, Blair." No beta, but if you see something that needs fixed, let me know.
The truck in question.
"Hello?" The front door of the farmhouse was open a crack, but no one appeared as Jim nudged it back on its creaky hinges.
"Maybe Dorothy and Aunty Em are off looking for Toto." Blair's voice echoed a little as he peered into the dim, cool front hall. It looked like it hadn't changed since Hoover gave radio broadcasts.
"As long as there are no flying monkeys, Chief, I'm good."
Blair snickered. "They scare you too, huh?"
"I'm going to pretend you didn't ask me that." With a last look around the shabby-clean front hall, Jim shrugged. "Doesn't seem to be anything out of place, but I don't like it. Out here, people probably think they can still leave their doors unlocked." He sighed and rubbed at his temple. "One way or the other, Peters isn't home, and we don't have reasonable cause to search the place. Waste of time, dammit."
The late-afternoon sunlight made them squint as they stepped off the front porch. They were a couple steps toward the truck when Jim went still, in that posture that said "listening." He motioned Blair around the other side of the house, then drew his gun and moved through the shaggy grass with practiced silence to a position along the side of a dilapidated machine shed. When Blair signaled from behind the disused outhouse, he stepped around to the shed entrance and leveled his weapon.
The paunchy old man inside stood up slowly, raising his hands over his head. He still held the socket wrench he'd been using under the hood of a satin-shiny deep blue Chevy. "Easy there, young fella. No need to be waving that gun. I'll not give trouble."
"What's your name?"
"Ike Peters. Well, it's Ichabod Peters, but I doubt anybody alive remembers my whole name. If you're trying to rob me, my wallet's in the house."
Jim holstered his gun as Blair trotted up beside him. "Mr. Peters, I'm Detective Jim Ellison and this is my partner, Blair Sandburg. We're with the Cascade Police Department. We'd like to ask you some questions."
The old man reached for a kitchen towel that had seen better days and wiped his hands. "I was wondering when you'd get around to talking to me."
Blair clicked his cell-phone closed with a satisfied smile; Simon was one happy Captain, and the countryside chop-shop was about to make its last parts run. "Mr. Peters, you've been more than helpful." He reached his hand out and got a firm shake from a hand knobbed with arthritis. "Jim, what do you think? Do we…"
Jim was running his hand along the side of the pickup truck, his eyes faintly unfocused. Blair smiled and shook his head. The Sentinel was deeply engaged in his appreciation of the fine finish. "Jim?"
"Oh, ah…" Shoving both hands in his pockets, he stepped over to Blair and Ike. "Yes, Mr. Peters, we really appreciate your talking with us."
Sharp brown eyes looked up over a tight-lipped smile. "Well, I knew there was no point in going to the county about seeing all those fancy cars going, but not coming back. Those young idiots think that when you turn eighty, all your brains fall out. Think I'm good for nothing but sitting on the porch, watching traffic. I do that pretty well, I guess, that and work on these old trucks." He patted the fender with affection.
"You're a damn fine observer, Mr. Peters. It's a good thing for us that you are." Jim turned to the truck again. "1939, right?"
"Indeed it is, Detective. Chevy JC. Sat in my buddy Harlan's barn for 45 years until I bought it at his estate sale. I'd just finished a 1934 Ford, and I was looking for something new to work on. Seemed a good way to remember him." Ike's face was still for a minute; he absently polished the wrench handle with the towel. With a shuffling step, he turned toward the workbench and laid the tool on it. "This one's just about finished now, too. Getting ready to put an ad in the paper for it."
Blair caught the small smile that tugged at the corners of the old man's mouth when he said it. 'That's right, Ike. Bait the hook,' he thought, and turned to look at Jim, feeling pretty sure he knew what was coming.
"You're selling it? No kidding." Jim was peering into the cab, looking at the navy leather tuck-and-roll seat covers with their red piping; certainly not what came standard on that model when it was new.
Casually, Ike reached under the hood and replaced the distributor cap he'd been working on. "Yeah, that's what I do. Buy a truck, make a project of it, sell it, buy another one. Keeps me out of trouble." He leaned in a little. "Now, this one was in pretty good shape when I got it. Original engine."
Jim's head was under the hood in a heartbeat. "Original engine? My god, it is. Look at that."
Blair stifled a guffaw with difficulty and settled back to watch the show. 'Easy, there, Ike. Reel him in gently. He's spookier than he looks.'
"Yep. You'd never believe the mice I chased out of it. Little fuzzy nests all over the place. Now here…"
As they drove home that evening, after supper and deal-making were done, Jim looked sideways at Blair. "You don't mind, do you, Chief?"
"Why should I mind? We've got the money, and it's a great truck. It's such a 'Jim' truck."
"Well, like Ike said, it's like having a kid--it's not the initial cost, it's the upkeep. Antique registration, garage rental, special mechanics, though I'll only take it back to Ike as long as he can work on it."
"And you're only driving it on the weekends, right? No car chases? No squealing tires?"
"You bet. This is an investment."
"An investment which your partner, spouse and Guide gets to drive more than once a year, right?"
Jim glared stonily out the windshield, then broke into a grin when he got a punch in the shoulder. "Of course, Chief. It's a classic. Just like you."
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