As I came around the corner, I recognized the kid. Danny Smythe. He had his back turned to me, and didnít realize that I was hearing every word he said. He continued harassing Heather, who told him to shut up. That only encouraged the little punk. As soon as I reached him, I turned him around. For a fleeting moment, an expression of surprise and shock crossed his face. Then I grabbed him by the neck and slammed him against the lockers.
"If you ever talk to Heather again, Iím going to kill you."
His eyes bulged as I squeezed his neck for emphasis. I let him go, and he stumbled off down the hall, choking and sputtering. Danny Smythe never blew Heather any more crap after that. Evidently, I had made my point.
This incident seemed to have made a positive impression on Heather. All of a sudden, despite my tenuous health, she saw me as someone who was capable of being her protector. Before, I had just been the wild element that had been missing from her implacably monotonous routine.
And still, I was providing plenty of thrills for her. One night we were out on the town, coming back from a movie and dinner. We were driving through downtown Everett on Broadway. I was taking it easy and actually obeying the speed limit, because I knew that this was an area that the police liked to work so that they could meet their ticket quotas.
We were stopped at a red light when a 72í Mustang pulled up alongside us. It was a nice car, but the guys inside were jerks. They started flipping us off and calling us names, bragging about how they could kick our butts in a race. To emphasize this, they began burning their tires off, sending up waves of bilious black smoke.
At the next light, I decided to accommodate them. In acceptance to their challenge, I revved my engine as we waited for the light to turn. Heather buckled up her seat belt. Sometimes she gave me crap for racing, but in her heart she enjoyed the thrill, and I knew that she wanted to see these guys get what was coming to them.
Unless they had something special under their hood or behind their wheel, they didnít have much of a chance. The light turned and I smoked them off the line, like they were standing still. At this point I was only doing about forty miles an hour, but they had barely left the starting line. Upshifting, I continued to accelerate. I knew that I would have to time things perfectly. Up ahead, I could see the hulking gray mass of the Jerryís Surplus store. Beyond that was the dead zone.
Just as I reached the store, I downshifted and laid into the brakes. The other carís driver saw us lurch and figured that I was still trying to beat him, so he stepped on it and rocketed by us as I brought my Mustangís speed down to about twenty miles an hour.
Lights flashed and sirens wailed as three cop cars pulled out of the parking lot behind Jerryís Surplus. I hadnít known for sure that they would be there, but I knew that the parking lot was a favorite spot for them to hide in the evenings. Our opponentís had raced by them doing about seventy five miles an hour in a thirty mile per hour zone. Not only did I beat them, but they got a big-ass ticket at the same time. It was a double insult. I donít like people flipping me off and I donít like to lose.
Things continued to go well with Heather and eventually, when I asked, she accepted my invitation to marry me. Things were looking up. I felt like I was on a winning streak that wouldnít, couldnít stop. I began shopping for an engagement ring so we could formalize our engagement. I knew that my life was headed for a drastic change, but the change that came was not the one that I expected.
If my nice car, and my wild streak had anything to do with attracting Heather, then it was also instrumental in bringing my downfall. From the day that I got Mustang it was an instrument of