Short Fiction: The Cadillac Incident, pt. 1

17

          Thatch had never seen his father so excited about a car. He leaned over the Cadillac with his hands on his knees, as if he were afraid to touch it. His mouth hung open, and his eyes were wide with wonder. He snapped it shut as soon as he realized he was no longer alone. He snapped his fingers for Thatch’s attention.

“Todd,” he called softly, as if the car were a startled animal that could run away at any moment, “tell me what it is.”

“Well, it’s a Cadillac…” When Thatch first started working with his dad, he would have said something along the lines of “It’s old, blue, and cream” or “It’s a car.” He smirked to recall how ignorant he had been of everything outside of being a ranch hand. It was a Cadillac – that much was obvious the instant he laid eyes on it. It was a classic, no wingtips. As he studied the grille and inspected the engine, he became to understand a bit of the awe his father displayed. “Sixty special…” he trailed off as he circled the car, hoping to find some clues from the plates that would lead him to the correct answer and impress his father. “1946?”

“1945.” Chares grinned up at the boy, then straightened up. “This car was introduced the month I came to America.” He was so excited, his Greek accent slipped out. It may have even been intentional; Thatch was learning that his father had a time and a place for it, which was usually the dinner table. “I remember being dumb-founded as a young man, seeing this rolling down the street.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Thatch asked. “Why’d they bring it in? A tune-up?”

Chares frowned and shook his head. “It’s over-heating.”

“Huh…” Thatch reached into the engine compartment, his fingers exploring the radiator hose, then the radiator. “There’s a crack in the radiator,” Thatch announced, pulling his head out from under the hood.

“Ah…” Chares pushed his glasses up on his nose and tilted his head for a better look. “Well, that explains that, then. Should be…” he was distracted by two patrol cars pulling into the parking lot. He watched them park by the entrance, then turned back to the engine. “Should be an easy fix. Two hours.” He began to rub his clean hands with a dirty rag.

Thatch recognized anxiety in his father’s unfocused gaze. “Dad?” he asked, pulling him back to the garage.

“Wren Chares?”

They jerked their heads around to find three police officers standing in the mouth of the garage. They looked Chares over calmly, but were not so much at ease when they studied his six-foot son.

“What can I do for you gentlemen?” Chares asked.

45

          Mr. Cunningham had been fresh out of Yale Law when the Adamses retained him to fight for their youngest daughter’s right to inherit her deceased brother-in-law’s estate. Judy Adam’s case was, in fact, the beginning of a three-year winning streak for the young lawyer, which ended in Colorado Springs v. Wren Chares.

Wasn’t it ironic, Mr. Cunningham mused, now pushing seventy, that his success started with Thaddeus Adams’s mother and ended with his father?

Cunningham smiled, tight-lipped but proud. He had had the unexpected pleasure of watching Thatch grow from a troubled young man, freshly-discharged from the Army, to one of the most successful surgeons in the region. He now watched the man emerge from his house through a door in his garage. He passed a Ducati and a Tesla on his way to where Cunningham stood in his drive-way. Even though the surgeon was not going to the hospital that day, he was dressed in freshly-pressed slacks and a button-up shirt, ready to be called in at any second. He was tall, like the women of his mother’s family, but dark-featured like his Greek father. He had a fine physique, and still carried himself like a military man. Handsome, but he wore a grim expression.

What could he possibly be grim about? Cunningham wondered. He was the very picture of success. Besides, he finally had his long-sought item.

Despite a great deal of bitterness and animosity, when the elder Adamses passed, Thatch had reluctantly agreed to retain the lawyer, but only after he had agreed to assist in having his father disinterred and re-buried beside his mother. It was, unfortunately, the only time he had ever seen them together.

But I had nothing to do with that… unpleasantness, Cunningham assured himself.

Since then, Thatch appeared to entertain himself by assigning Cunningham the most unusual tasks: Setting up and overseeing an anonymous scholarship for a young girl in Detroit, tracking down the family of a disgraced Army captain (KIA), paying an excessive amount for a semi-functioning 1975 Mustang in Atlanta (that has been sitting at Flint Ranch for about two years), not to mention tracking down a variety of questionable characters. Cunningham hoped Thatch was entertained by these tasks, because the lawyer certainly wasn’t entertained fulfilling them.

The latest item had eluded them both for years. It was not until the Cash for Clunkers program were they able to track it down. Cunningham had to admit, he felt a bit like an aging general presenting his young emperor with the spoils of war. He checked his pride, realizing that it had led him to place a hand on the flaking fender.

“You are a very difficult man to please, Dr. Adams,” Cunningham said. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the rust particles from his hand.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say so.” Thatch leaned down, hands on his knees, to peer at the grille. “There are just some things I am not willing to let go.”

“As promised, then.” Cunningham waved a hand over what was left of a 1945 Cadillac. “Your… junk.”

Thatch donned his well-known expression of complete focus as he inspected the vehicle. It was little more than a frame on part of a chassis. Cunningham would not even determine what color it had been, although Thatch assured him it was powder blue and cream. It hadn’t moved in ten years, much less run. Despite this, the car was still recognizable: a 1945 sixty series Cadillac; That much was undeniable.

Sighing, the surgeon straightened up and took the heap of rust and metal in. Usually Cunningham had an easy time reading the younger man, but not today. His expression was bitter and nostalgic. Rolling up his shirt sleeved, he stepped forward and opened the hood. It protested with a rusty groan. Thatch picked up the mummified body of a rodent, and tossed it aside. It fell to pieces at the lawyer’s feet.

“Most of the numbers line up, but not all of them,” Cunningham assured him. “As you can see, it has been refurbished… several times. But the frame and chassis are original, as is most of the engine.”

“Oh, no doubt.” Thatch shot the lawyer a dazzling smile to reassure him that he was satisfied with the lawyer’s find.

It was a crying shame that he was the way he was, Cunningham reflected. A little part of him died each time he considered that Thatch was the last of the Adams’s line. Then again, he was probably very happy with that fact.

“Really, I don’t see why you had to have this one.”

“I wouldn’t expect you to.” Thatch reached into the engine block and felt around. He snorted, straightened up and shook his head.

“I found several others from the same year. Three of them were mint condition.”

“I needed this one.” He turned and went back to the garage.

Cunningham sighed, turning his eyes to the grey sky beseechingly. Thatch was always like this, very particular. It was how he worked. His success at the trauma center was a reflection of how well he could mix his particularity with thinking on his toes. Now if only Cunningham would sway him from critical care to cosmetic surgery! A man of his skill and caliber, a man of his affluence should –

His thoughts were interrupted by an axe flying by his head. He cried out and jumped back. Thatch Adams, stripped to the waist, brought the axe down on the cheap excuse of a windshield. The lawyer clutched his chest, afraid his pounding heart would escape. The Plexiglass pulled away as Thatch drew back the axe. He kicked it off the blade, then went to work shattering the surviving windows.

“Dr. Adams!” Cunningham cried.

Axe over his shoulder, Thatch jerked his head up. His expression was mournful. “Sorry,” he said. He sounded sincere, but he swung the axe nevertheless, shattering the back windshield.

Shocked – and honestly a little afraid – Cunningham backed away. When Thatch started on the body of the car, the lawyer hurried to where he had parked at the front of the house and left without saying good-bye.

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