It Was One of Those Days - Pt XX


Here - watch THIS!
May 24, 2001
Sunday was a fairly quiet day. Kel and I spent most of it just relaxing and finally got around to getting the cars cleaned up. I thought about going out and giving the Charger a good look to see what it was exactly that I had won but for some reason it just didn’t rank high on the priority list. Maybe it was an emotional letdown from the huge high the previous night – it didn’t matter; I never even went out to that garage the entire day.

Monday came around as Mondays always do… too soon. The weekend had come and gone; we had some fun and a lot of excitement, came home from the track with a huge win (and a car for the prize – during a Test and Tune session!) so Monday brought back to the forefront the undeniable truth that we had to get back to normal. Normal meant work, schedules, routine, getting up early, and so forth. Life – as always – moves on…

After work, I had planned to go down to the title department and get the title for the Charger switched over into my name. I got there a little before 4pm with a half hour to spare since they close at 4:30. But, as usually is the case, there were a lot of people waiting. “Take a number” said the little signboard so I did and went to sit down and wait my turn…

I don’t know about you, but I hate waiting at the DMV. I know – the staff there is going as fast as they can. But why is it that it ALWAYS seems that when I go down there, there are only one or two people working behind the counter? On a Monday? And of course there is always someone there to get new plates who doesn’t have the proper paper work… or someone who didn’t bring proof of Identification… or didn’t bring their old driver’s license… or, well, you get the picture. On this day, I waited while one guy had to get two titles transferred plus plates for two pickups and three cars. And of course, he was being served by the nice little old lady who can type at around 3-4 words per minute… Grrrr!

Eventually, hell froze over and my number was called. Mercifully, I was going to be helped by “Sasha”, a chesty brunette with a big smile and an engaging personality.

“How may I help you today, sir?”

“I just need to get this title switched over to my name and get some plates for it.”

We have a “One Stop Does It All” DMV.

“Is the seller here, sir?”

“Uh, no. But his signature has been notarized. It’s there on the back of the title…”

Sasha turned the form over, gave it a good look over and then got a funny look on her face. She then stood up and took the title with her back to another computer and entered some numbers or info and waited. I could not see the screen so I had no idea what she was checking.

She then motioned for the guy who had just come back in and who apparently must also work behind the counter to come over. He walked over and looked at an area of the screen where she was pointing. They murmured something to each other and he then walked back over to the counter. OMG… now I was going to be the clown that holds up the line…

“Sir? Where did you get this title?” Ok, now I was going to have to explain what I was actually trying to avoid.

“Well, to be honest, I won this car Saturday night at Tri-County drag strip – er, I mean Tri-County Raceway Park. Why? Is something wrong?”

“You WON this car, sir? How?” I noted that he did not answer my question…

“In a race. The owner lost, I won the car, he signed the title over, a Notary was there to make it official and so here I am today. Again – is something wrong?”

“Just a minute sir…” He walked back to the computer screen where Sasha still stood. They whispered some more and then he went to the back of the room and picked up a phone and made a call. Meanwhile, Sasha came back up to the counter.

“Sir? Would you step aside for a moment? Todd – who is the registrar here - is checking on something and he’ll be right back with you.”

I know my glare would have wilted her if possible but I had no choice but to ‘step aside’. So, I did… and I waited while Todd made his call. I watched him put the phone down and then come back to the side of the counter where I was standing.

“Mr. Morton, there is a serious problem with this title. Well, to be honest, there are at least TWO serious problems with this title. Let’s go back to my office and I’ll explain, ok?”

I KNEW it… maybe that was why I didn’t get excited yesterday and go running back out to the new garage and take the SRT for a ride. Something just did not feel right and maybe my gut was trying to tell me that in a big way. Since I didn’t pay any attention to what my intuition was telling me, Todd was hopefully now about to make it clear.

He reached down and released the latch to allow me to go ‘back behind the counter at the DMV’; hallowed ground for sure. I followed him on through and around the huge printers and open suspended files to the corner where the door was open into his office.

“Todd Lupener – Registrar” was proclaimed from another of those little plastic signs on his door. I followed him in, noting the smell of paper and old wood, and grabbed a green vinyl seat in front of his desk as he shut the door behind us. With all pomp and circumstance befitting his esteemed office, he walked around behind his big metal desk and sat down in the squeaky desk chair that looked like it was covered with ancient fabric used to make heavy-duty curtains.

He then sat the title aside, leaned up onto his desk, folded his hands and just looked at me – almost in a suspicious way. I felt really uncomfortable – and I had no clue as to why.

“Mr. Morton, we – well, YOU actually – have a problem here with the DMV. It seems that you are presenting a title for replacement to car that is listed as stolen by the DMV and the major law enforcement agencies of this state as well as the NCIC. We’ve run the VIN three times and we are certain that this car is stolen…”

I know the look on my face said something to Todd; I just didn’t know what it was… But I was sure that at least part of that look was one of complete and utter surprise. He continued…

“But Mr. Morton, there is actually a bigger problem. Do you have any idea what that might be?”

“Well, Todd…” (Oddly, old Saturday Night Live skits danced through my head…), “actually, no. What is the deal here? I certainly had no idea that the car was stolen. And, I’m sure that the Notary didn’t know that either or she would not have endorsed it, right?”

Todd had an odd frown on his face.

“Mr. Morton, that in itself is also a problem. That person who ‘notarized’ this title is not listed anywhere within our bureau. The seal used to notarize this title was also reported stolen by a valid notary just before the end of last year. And the name used by this supposed ‘notary’? She’s dead, Mr. Morton. She’s been dead for over a year, having retired from public service over two years ago. Do you see where this is going?”

I hate it when I have to defend myself for something I certainly did not do or have any part or knowledge of but that is EXACTLY where I felt I was being led…

“Look here, Todd… here is the deal. I told Sasha how I came about this title and the car and that is the truth. Regarding the notary, the seal, or the legality of the title, I had no way of knowing anything you are telling me nor did I know anything about it until you just now told me. So – where are you going with this?”

Todd leaned back in his green paisley-print curtain chair and folded his arms across his chest. Hmmm… the classic “I think you’re lying to me but I’m going to listen” pose…

“Ok, Mr. Morton. If – and I’m only saying ‘IF’ – what you are telling me is true, how do you explain the last piece of this puzzle?”

“And what would that ‘piece’ be, Todd?” (More SNL skits flashed in my brain, in spite of the serious nature of the conversation…)

“That this ‘William R. Reynolds’ is also dead. The ‘owner’ of this car died over a year ago – so how could he possibly endorse this title, Mr. Morton? Do you see the problem?” I was sure I saw a smirk crawl upon Todd’s pasty face.

“Well, Todd – I don’t think that this is really my problem. I’m going to leave here and call my attorney – who my wife works with by the way – and he will get it all straightened out. I’ll take that title with me so hand it over…”

The look on Todd’s face was now most assuredly a smarmy smirk.

“Not so fast, Mr. Morton. I have one other person for you to talk to before you leave… just a moment, ok?”

Todd reached over and picked up his cream-colored desk phone - one that had what surely was AT LEAST 10 buttons on the body for a variety of lines to somewhere or to somebody more important than he – pressed one of the buttons and waited. He then spoke cryptically…

“Is he here yet? Ok… send him in.”

“Is ‘WHO’ here, Todd?’ He didn’t answer. He got up and walked over to his door, waited for a slight ‘knock-knock’ and opened it.

In walked my old neighbor, Jim Schaffer, the County Sheriff. And this time, the look on his face was even more serious than the last time I saw him.

Meanwhile... out front Sasha had been patiently waiting for Jim to go back into the Registrar's office. As soon as he closed the door behind him she got on her own phone -with an equal number of buttons - hit "9" for an outside line and made a call of her own...

Inside a silver sedan that was just rolling into a large warehouse in downtown Barstow, a cell phone began to ring. The passenger in the back of the car pulled his phone from his jacket's inner pocket and listened to what the female voice was telling him. He did not speak to her only to say, "Good" and then closed up the phone as he placed it back in his pocket...

Back inside Todd's office, Jim sat down in the chair beside me, removed his hat and placed it on Todd’s desk on top of a black leather folder that he had carried into the room. He reached into his breast pocket, took out a note pad and pen, and then turned to look at me squarely. He had yet to even speak to me…

“Steve, I’m going to need to hear your side of the story as to why you are presenting the title to a stolen car to the DMV today. Give it to me straight, ok?” Jim was all business… there was no denying that he was not in the mood to be friendly or jovial.

So, I gave it to him straight and truthful, the only way I know to be anyways. It took about 10 minutes of talking to get him up to speed on the events that had happened since Ned’s death and about the cars that had circled my house a few weeks before with one of them being the SRT-8 Charger that – at this point – was sitting in my garage. Jim didn’t ask any questions; he just wrote down basically everything I said.

When I finished he spoke… “Is this it? You raced this guy for pink slips, you won, you got his car, and now you’re here getting a new title for it, right?”

For the first time since I had walked behind the counter, I was no longer uneasy. I knew the truth would win out, no matter which direction this went.

“Yep, Jim. That is it in a nutshell. That’s the entire story and you can check it out – it’s solid.”

“Steve, if I showed you a picture of William Reynolds, could you identify him?”

“Absolutely. Do you have it with you or do I need to come down to your office?”

He didn’t answer - he just retrieved the folder from beneath his hat, released its bronze clasp and took out a couple of pictures.

“Is this William Reynolds, Steve? Is THIS the William Reynolds who you won this car from?”

I looked at the 5x7 picture Jim held before me.

“Jim, I don’t know who that guy is. But I can tell you who he ISN’T – he is not the guy I won the car from last night…”

“Just as I figured, Steve. So, is THIS the guy who said he was William Reynolds?”

He held another picture in front of me. I noticed that Todd was leaning over trying to see the pic… curious as a cat…

“No doubt about it, Jim. That’s Bill Reynolds alright – he’s the guy who was driving the SRT-8 and the man who signed off on the title.”

He flipped another picture from beneath the others and handed it to me. It was in black and white and showed three (or maybe four - one looked to be standing behind one of the others but it was hard to be sure) foreign-looking men. Two of them were wearing suits and the one closest to the camera was in a set of coveralls like you see most mechanics wearing in dealerships that sell exotic imports like Ferraris or Porsches. The men were standing together talking, almost as if they were oblivious to having their picture taken, but two of them appeared to be laughing about something. Behind them was what looked to be a large service bay with some low-slung car upon a lift but I couldn’t tell what it was.

“I’ve never seen any of those three guys in my life, Jim. Who are they?”

He didn’t answer. He just pulled up another picture and pushed it in front of me.

“Ok… and is this woman the notary who stamped your title?”

I looked at the last picture Jim held out. It was her, the notary from the track…

“Yep, that’s her. I don’t remember her name but it’s on the title. Why? Is she bogus too?”

Jim didn’t answer. He just took the pictures back and put them in the folder. He then snapped the clasp shut and put it back on the desk beneath his hat and then sat back in his chair.

“Todd? Would you excuse us for a minute? There isn’t any problem here as far as you are concerned. And while you are at, go and get Mr. Morton his new title, ok?”

Now, it was Todd’s turn to look confused.

“But Sheriff – this paper is not legit. It was flagged by the DMV as well as the FBI and that was why I called you in the first place. So surely you know that I can’t do that!”

Jim’s countenance changed again….

“Mr. Lupener, I have in this folder a notarized copy of a court order that I would be happy to give you ordering your office to comply with any of my directives regarding a pending criminal investigation. Would you like to see it? Or, if you like, I would be happy to escort you down to my office to let you see the original document. Either way – you are going to be giving Mr. Morton a new title to his newly acquired Dodge Charger and you are going to explain it to your staff as a computer error regarding the flagging of this vehicle. Am I clear?”

Todd did not answer. He turned a whiter shade of pale, simply got up and was about to leave with the title in hand when Jim spoke once more.

“Oh… and Mr. Lupener?”

“Yes, Sheriff?”

“Knock before you come back in here, ok? What I am about to share with Mr. Morton is highly confidential. And I am sure I can count on you to keep what you have heard here today to yourself, am I not correct? Because if you do not and I find out that you talk about this, I will have you warming one of my cots down at County wearing a nice horizontally striped set of coveralls while you awaiting a hearing – and we know how long that takes, don’t we? And that hearing would be for you being charged with interfering with an investigation. Now… we wouldn’t want that, would we, Todd?”

Todd gulped, meekly gasped a ‘No’ and left, closing the door behind him quietly.

As soon as the door closed, Jim leaned forward and exhaled slowly… he then began to talk.

Twenty minutes later, I was walking back out of the DMV with a new title to a stolen car in my hand as well as a new set of plates that did not cost me a dime. But more importantly, I had a few pieces to a very big puzzle that, without the entire picture, really didn’t add up… and now, I found myself smack dab in the middle of something very, very serious…

A very dangerous puzzle that had the potential to blow up in my face…. And the worst part of all?

I couldn’t tell ANYONE what I had just heard, even though a lot of it did not even make sense. I was instructed in no uncertain terms to not say a word to anyone - not even Kelly.

And because of that simple fact, I felt very, very alone…

To be continued…
man you are popping these chapters out quicker than Britney Spears shoots out babies! Awesome!!!
What a twist!

(I just hope this is the fictional part in the semi-fictional story)
wow..this is gettin unpredictable! these guys are apparently dead...the guy that looked just like Ned...wonder whats next?
wow what a punk. Keep em coming steve! Also, why did you go straight from the parking lot scene with guys with guns to a driving scene? 18-19

wow what a punk. Keep em coming steve! Also, why did you go straight from the parking lot scene with guys with guns to a driving scene? 18-19


The inference is that we were being followed after having left the race track.

Go back and re-read the end of 18 and then jump right to 19 and I think you'll see what I meant.

The bottom line is that the guys in the silver Dodge are not nice guys, that Bill Reynolds is involved with them, and that 'we' didn't even notice them until I noticed that we were being followed (Pt 19).

The only reason the silver 300 pulled into the car lot was because we were all stopped there as well. Remember? The 300 was not parked close to our caravan - but we didn't realize it was there.

Nothing happened in the dealership's lot - that is why the story shifted back to having left the track and we were going to get a bite to eat.
This HAS to be the the manuscript to the best car movie EVER made!!!! Great work and look foward to the next installation. Thanks Jon Hanson
Awesome!!! But Raven you are going to spoil us with all these chapters within 3 days.