The evening air was still warm and very light out so we got a great view of the Bug as we pulled up to the stop light. Brandon and Stacy were behind us in the new Camaro and traffic was very, very light for a Friday evening. Still, I was not about to engage in any ‘speed contest’ - as the local law enforcement people like to write on citations – in this part of town for two reasons.
One, there are too many people who like to walk in this section of town. While I have no problem risking my car and even myself, I am not one to risk innocent pedestrians.
Two, the intersections are monitored with cameras for red light violations AND with radar for speed. Yes, friends – George Orwell was right; Big Brother IS watching. And those darn camera/radar set-ups were a gold mine for the city. Grrrr!!!
The area we were in used to be one of the old industrial blighted areas so common in large cities these days. You’ve seen them on the news – acres of old buildings that had rusty signs hanging on them identifying businesses (some small, some international) that were long since departed… security fencing that was broken down, vines and small trees trying to grown between the wires… a few rusted out hulks of some long-forgotten cars that was a victim of time or arson… trash and junk… despair and hopelessness… and crime.
But no more – this area known as “The Flats” was slowly brought back from the dead by a very wealthy (and now wealthier) group of investors who spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get it where is now stands; tall buildings housing numerous new millennium businesses and expensive apartments, several nice restaurants and pubs with open air, café style seating at most, top-line retail stores of every imaginable product, and even a huge multi-plex cinema with 21 screens. All this, while still maintaining wide streets (using enclosed glass walkways over them between sections of the developments lent an atmosphere of success and growth; a complete 180* turn from where it was only little more than a decade ago.
The criminal element was ran off and/or locked up, progress returned and as it did, so did the people and the people’s confidence in our city.
So, on this warm evening with the slowly dropping sun, Kel and I were sitting at an intersection next to a car that had a BASE PRICE of over $1.5 Million dollars. We were at an intersection that only years before was a site of drug deals, muggings, and even a few car jackings and a murder or two. It used to be an area where no one would have driven any vehicle of value for fear of not only losing it but their own life just as quickly...
But now, it is different… affluence and growth helped everyone and so this evening instead of gun shots and screams we were listening to the melodious sound of an 8.0 liter W-16 engine. A mechanical monster that was growling through an exhaust that to replace would probably cost more than a new Honda Accord. A car that has tires and wheels costing what a 40 acre farm cost back in the ‘80’s (around $70k)… expensive, yes. But to those who love the Veyron (assuming their pockets are deep enough) – worth it. For those fortunate few, it is not about the money. It’s not even about the image.
It’s about the car. Just like it is for those of us who like any brand… it’s the car.
Describing the exhaust note of the Veyron is like trying to hold smoke in your hand… impossible. You just have to hear it. Yes, it’s a turbocharged engine of enormous displacement – 8 liters in a W-16 configuration. And if you can possibly imagine what two Z06’s idling together in perfect mechanical harmony might sound like, you would be close… it’s just magic.
The turbo? Here’s the rub… It’s not one big one. Not even two big turbos. Nope, THIS beast has FOUR turbos, producing nearly 16 psi of boost (15.8 to be exact). This engine is an air pump of incredible efficiency. And those turbos produce a symphony of their own.
Heat? How much heat is this 1000+ horsepower producing in order to shove this 4300 lb car through the air at 252 mph? Enough heat that not only does the engine sit out in the open (no fancy see-through bonnet for THIS mill), it needs three coolant radiators, one heat exchanger for the twin air-to-liquid intercoolers, and two air-conditioning condensers plus others. Actually, if you count the heater core, there are 12 exchangers designed to remove heat
Fuel consumption? Hey, if you can afford a $1.7 Million dollar car, you don’t care about MPG’s. But - if you were to mat the go-pedal in this monster, the 26.4 gallon tank will be dry in around 18-19 minutes! Of course, at 252 mph, you would have travelled around 80 miles in that short time so I guess it’s all relative...
Transmission? To be honest – to call this set of gears a ‘transmission’ seems almost an insult.
How about a 7 speed, paddle-shifted, manumatic that – if you are ham-fisted enough to tear it up - will set you back a paltry $123,000 to replace? That’s right - $123,000 for the freakin’ TRANSMISSION! And at full tilt boogie, the car is programmed to shift itself – you can not keep up and shift it fast enough given the power and rate of acceleration. It can reach 100 mph in 462 feet; 0-60 in less than 2.5 seconds. Quick enough? That is why this is no ordinary transmission.
Well, plus it is from France. But that’s another story…
I have to admit it – I am a huge fan of exotics, no matter the brand. Porsche, Lambo, Ferrari, etc…. I love them all. Excessive? Yes. Over-priced? Yes. Usually owned by guys whose wallets were only matched in size by their inflated egos? Yes. But still – what marvels of mechanical engineering!
So, as I slid up alongside this beautiful red and black Veyron, I knew it was Evil, Wicked, Mean and Nasty. I knew it was worth more than everything I owned all stacked together. And I figured that the guy driving it would look over at my old heap and snicker or maybe even look away quickly enough to ensure that I would not see his eyes be bothered having to look at a car so ‘out of date’. Surely, a 60-something, gold-chain wearing, unbuttoned shirt wearing, sunglasses wearing, Rogaine-using, rich bloke who had money to burn.
But this wasn’t the case at all.
We were to the right of the Bug... I saw the passenger’s side window glide down as smoothly as if it was rolled down by angels’ hands… my window was already down but I wasn’t really looking to see the driver; I was admiring the lines of the car. Honestly, I was. My face was sticking out the window as I looked down at rims that would pay for four years of education at most State colleges… I didn’t particularly care who was driving the thing, I just wanted to soak it all in…
So when I heard the woman’s voice, I was shocked. I looked into the cabin of the car and saw the very feminine face of someone I had not seen – almost forgotten – for many years. A woman from the past who was married to a good friend of mine, a good man who died in the North Tower on a sunny September morning forever immortalized as ‘9-11’.
It was Sally… Harry’s widow. And it had been years…
Harry and Sally had had troubles over the years (remember back then?) but had managed to patch things up. Harry and Sally eventually moved to New York, earned their broker’s license (Harry and Sally both knew how to make money) and after a year or two of very hard work had finally made a fortune on Wall Street.
Life was good for them and to them, at least until that fateful day...
But due to the distance, Kel and I did not get to keep in touch much at all after they moved away. And actually, the last time we saw Sally was at Harry’s funeral… we were all numb back then, just like the rest of the nation.
Due to the restriction in air travel it took us a couple of days to get there once Harry’s remains were identified. Harry had apparently died in the stair well with several of New York’s finest trying to help others escape the building before it collapsed. They just never made it out…
Fortunately, Sally was going to come in to work later that day since she had a meeting at a lawyer’s office with two new investors interested in investing with Harry and Sally’s firm, Helios Dynamics. Had it not been for that meeting that morning, I wouldn’t be looking in her car’s window right now because I know that she would have been in that same stairwell with Harry, helping any and every one that needed a hand. THAT is the kind of people that Harry and Sally are… People that make you better just by your having gotten to know them.
Funny isn’t it, how time goes by… how it slips away? How, for a moment certain things seem really, really important but then, something happens and you realize that what you may have valued before now holds no value at all?
Ironic, isn’t it? How, one minute you can be married and have the world by its tail and all it takes is an airliner piloted by fanatics, fanatics hell-bent on dying and taking innocent lives with them by slamming the plane at several hundred miles per hour into a 110 story building where your spouse works…
Ironic that this is all done – the thousands dead and others forever scarred - all in the name of some religion they perverted?
That all this happens and it just shows us all how little control we really do have?
Back to reality - “Steve? Steve Morton? Is that you? And is that Kelly with you?”
She recognized us… Sally… OUR Sally…
“Yep, it’s us Sally. How are you doing?” A quick glance at the light showed that we were still waiting for it to change.
“Steve – let’s pull over up here. I can’t believe I found you! Pull over there in that parking lot, ok?”
I nodded and as the light changed, I let Sally pull ahead and over into one of the small open-air mall’s parking areas followed by B and Stacy.
She let the Bug idle as the door slid open and she stepped out, looking as gorgeous as always. But her face still showed the scars loneliness and sadness we saw 8 years ago… in spite of her radiant smile…
We hugged and laughed (and even cried) as Sally got us caught up on where life had taken her since Harry’s death. I was listening and at the same time being washed over by a flood of great memories as she spoke, thinking of all the great times we had all had way back when…
“And that’s when I met Nathaniel and Wesley. Actually, I met them through – “
“What?” I was back to the current. “Which Nathaniel and Wesley are you talking about?”
“The Nathaniel and Wesley who I am told you have contracted with for some spectacular event – that is who I’m talking about. You mean – they did not mention me to you because I’ve certainly heard about you guys!”
She tried to act like she was hurt that we did not know how she might have been involved but she couldn’t keep a straight face. But to be honest, you could have knocked us all over with a feather. We would have never dreamed in a million years that we would be standing in front of The Apple Store catching up with Sally who we had just seen driving a Veyron!
It IS a small world after all!
“No, Sally… we really only know Nathaniel and the immediate gang. We’ve met the lawyers and such but that’s pretty much it. They never really mentioned anyone else. How do you know them again?”
Sally smiled. “Well, I met them through Deborah a year or so after Harry died. Deborah and I were in the same Pilates class and one day the conversation turned to cars; she’s a fiend and so am I and so we got to talking… Back then, they were just some people who were car enthusiasts but they were determined. And they were good at what they did with their software business. Like we’ve always heard - the rest is history!”
Wow! Talk about going full circle… Who would have thought?
“So… Sally, tell me about the Veyron. What’s the story?”
She grinned, her perfectly perfect white teeth flashing a smile so warm that it would melt steel. A human heart stood no chance…
“You like it? It’s actually a birthday gift from me to me. I did pretty well over the years and with the insurance settlements and what the government paid to settle I had some extra cash. I know – it’s excessively excessive but somehow I felt that if Harry were still alive today, he would have told me to go for it. So, I did… “
“Good for you, Sally. It’s awesome… ever run it?”
“See? I knew you would get around to that! You guys never change, Steve. And Brandon – what’s the deal with the new Camaro? It’s gorgeous!”
Brandon and Stacy filled Sally in on the deal as she looked it over and walked around it. While she did that, Kelly and I looked at the Veyron….
To call this monster ‘Incredible’ was beyond an understatement. It is a car without equal… not even the McLaren F1 was in the same league. It had it all… looks, power, sound, and an evil magnetism that very few cars have ever possessed.
“So, Sally… is this ‘Clash’ the reason you are here?”
“Yes, it is. But I’m not here to race – although it WOULD be interesting to run this thing flat out somewhere, I’m only in town this weekend and headed back to New York Sunday afternoon. I brought over some original documents that Christine wanted – I know I could have faxed them but I’ve been itching to road-trip the Veyron so I told her I would just drive them out. So – here I am! Me and my little ‘bug’ road-trippin’ it to your home town!”
Kelly and I glanced at each other with the same thought – Sally is still Sally after all. There was NO ONE who was more into driving somewhere/ANYwhere than Sally.
“By the way, Steve – you can not imagine the attention this car gets!”
“You’re right, Sally – we can’t!” We all got a good laugh at that one. There was NOTHING subtle about the Veyron!
“People nearly run off the road just to come alongside for a look. When I stop for gas, it takes a lot of effort to finally break free from people to get out of the station! It seems like EVERYone knows what this car is and it just draws them like bees to honey. I love the attention it gets. For some reason, it just reminds me so much of Harry in so many ways.”
For a fleeting moment, a dark cloud passed over Sally’s face as she seemed to be looking at something she did not want to see – but then just as quickly as it came, it left.
She smiled again - “You know, Kel – remember when I always said I wanted to get a bug someday? Remember? I wanted a red one with the flower in the vase on the dash!”
Kelly nodded yes… They had driven many lots back then trying to find the right one but she never did.
“Of course, back then I was talking about a VW Bug not a Bugatti! But regardless, I’ve got my ‘Bug’ now!” More laughter all around…
I was proud of Sally and so glad to have run into her today. Kelly was right – it WAS going to be a fun night!
“Sally – would you be interested in going to dinner with us? We’re heading over to Jed’s Steakhouse and would love for you to join us. What do you say?” Kelly, Brandon, and Stacy were all encouraging her to join us.
“Sure! Sounds fun, guys. I haven’t eaten yet and a steak sounds great. Is it close?”
“Yes, not far from here at all. And one other thing, have you ever raced that thing?”
She laughed and then her eyes locked on mine with that determined ‘I can do anything’ look Sally was known for.
“Steve, you know me probably as good as anyone. Can you imagine me having over a thousand horsepower under my size 7 and NOT use it once in a while? Thank God this car is All Wheel Drive, it NEEDS it! Hey wait – are you challenging me? I think you might be challenging me!”
More of the deadly smile…
“Well, I wouldn’t call it a challenge as much as just some old racing fans having some fun. I know your car is fast, around a 10 second quarter mile, right?”
She grinned and nodded her head. “You got it, Steve. And I do believe those numbers, well - assuming the car can get traction. You have to drive this one time before I go back – you will not believe it. But I digress – do you have someplace around here we can go play after dinner?”
Kelly spoke up, “Oh do we… ha-ha-ha-ha! Let’s go eat! We’ll tell you all about it and its colorful but recent history over dinner!”
“Sounds great, Kel! Let’s go!” We all headed for our cars…
When we got back in the Buick, I looked over at Kelly who was smiling.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Kel?”
“Well, my love – if you’re thinking of Tri-County because tonight is a Test and Tune night, then we’re thinking the same thing!”
See how lucky I am? She’s wonderful… and, she thinks of everything!
But little did we know that this beautiful summer evening – a warm and memorable evening of old friends, fond memories, good food, and wicked-fast cars – would turn out like it did…
To be continued…