It was Friday morning, October 20th. Tommy began making calls.
"I'm sorry sir, but we're not running any busses to Indianapolis until the situation stabilizes. Some of the highways have been affected. It's just too dangerous. Check back in a day or two when the emergency repairs are completed."
Next, Tommy called the train station. They had the same problem. "The tracks are too damaged in that area to run anything more than a track-inspection car."
"Is there any way we can borrow one of those?"
"I'm sorry, Sir. That is not an option. Our insurance could never cover us for the liability even if there was one available, which there isn't."
"But, Ma'am, this is an extreme emergency. It's a matter of life and death!"
"I'm sorry, Sir, but the railroad doesn't loan equipment like that out to the general public. You'll have to try somewhere else." She hung up the phone without waiting for a reply.
It was time to try something else. Tommy found me at the Hertz desk. "I need to rent a car please."
"Yes, Sir. And what is your destination?"
"I see. That may be a problem. Let me check with my supervisor." He left the room. About two minutes later, he was back. "Sir, we're not renting cars to that destination without attaching special liability; the earthquake, you know."
"And what does that involve?"
"We require you to post a twenty thousand dollar bond. Plus your own safety is not covered under our insurance. You'll have to sign a waiver."
"And just where am I supposed to get someone to post a twenty thousand dollar bond?"
"Normally that would be your employer. I assume this trip is sanctioned by your employer."
"I'll have to get back to you on that. How far could I get without that bond?"
"I'm afraid you're there, Sir. Anything south of Detroit is considered 'at risk' for the moment."
"Okay. Thank you." I turned to Tommy who was now standing beside me. "I'm afraid it's the same story for all of the rental companies. It looks like we're stuck."
Tommy motioned me over to a quiet corner. When we got there, he looked all around to be sure no one was listening. "It's time to consider what we were talking about earlier. You remember that night in Indianapolis when we were out walking, trying to get a date?"
I thought for a minute before I remembered. "You mean steal a car?"
"Shh! Not so loud."
"It's still just as illegal as it was then. If we get caught, it's grand theft auto."
"And if we do nothing, it's grand destruction everything."
I looked around the airport. "And where are we gonna steal this car from?" I said under my breath. "They watch these parking lots like a hawk."
"We'll get one the same way we did that night. We'll take the next shuttle bus into town. There's gotta be a used car lot downtown. After all, they don't call this the Motor City for nothin'."
I looked all around me again as though I were looking for some magical solution to appear. None did so I turned back to Tommy. "I guess you're right. We don't have much choice."
"We don't have any choice," corrected Tommy. "Now, let's get down to the bus stop. The sooner we get started, the better our chances of getting this problem corrected."
We arrived in downtown Detroit on Woodward Avenue around ten o’clock a.m. It seems that everything in Detroit starts or ends on Woodward Avenue. We then began to search for a used car lot. Tommy spotted one with a big Cadillac parked out front. "Now there's quality transportation," he quipped.
"True enough," I answered, "but it's also too obvious. We need something that blends in with all the other cars on the road, like a Chevy or a Honda."
"Yeah. You're right. But you gotta admit, we'd be traveling in style with the Caddy. How 'bout that Caprice over there?"
"Works for me. Let's see if we can take it for a test drive."
"Sure you don't wanna hot-wire somethin'?"
"Not if we can get it legit. We'll just ask to keep it overnight to test it. By the time they miss it, we'll be in Indy."
“Yes, Gentlemen. May I help you?” It was one of the salesmen.
“Yes, you can,” I answered. “We’d like to see that Cadillac.”
Tommy looked at me strangely. “But I thought you said . . .”
“Yes, I did say your Mother would especially appreciate a quality used car. And this is definitely quality. Isn’t that right Mr. ahh . . .”
“Montgomery. Jason Montgomery. Well, I can tell you’re the discerning type. Would you care to listen to the engine?”
“Yes, Sir. Nothing quite like a Cadillac, is there, Sam?” I was looking directly at Tommy, so he could follow my lead.
“Oh! Right, Henry. Nothing like it.”
Jason went into the office, and quickly retrieved the keys to the Cadillac. When he returned, he started the engine and raised the hood. The vehicle was definitely in great condition and we verbally agreed that it was.
“Would you mind if we take it for a spin? Say around the block?”
“Why, of course not,” he answered. “Here, I’ll go with you.”
Tommy began to look at me as though I was crazy, but he went along just to see where this was heading. After a short spin, we returned to the lot. “Yes, Sam,” I said with a smile. “Your mother will definitely love this. Don’t you agree?”
“Oh! For certain she will. I’ll have to get her down here first thing in the morning.”
“Now as for me, I’d like something a little more simple, say that Chevy over there.” I waved a hand in the direction of our choice. “Would it be possible to drive that one also?”
“I’ll get the keys right away.” He returned before I could explain my strategy to Tommy. “Perhaps you’d like to take it home overnight. Give it the once over. Maybe take it to your own mechanic.”
“Gee, I don’t know. Sam, you think we could get Alphonse to look it over for us in the morning?”
“Well, I think he might be able to run it through it’ paces by noon or so, yes.”
“Okay then, Jason. We’ll just do that. Anything you want us to sign?”
“No, Henry. You look trustworthy. We’ll just shake on it. Here’s the keys. Now you be sure and bring your mother by in the morning, Sam. We’ll make her a deal she can’t refuse.”
We weren’t more than a hundred feet from the lot when Tommy turned to me and said, “How’d you do that? How did you know he was gonna suggest that you take this car home with you overnight?”
“Simple, my friend. Greed. He wants very much to sell that Caddy. And he thinks we’re coming back to buy it tomorrow. He’d have practically given us this old thing just to guarantee the sale. Fact is, he has given it to us. He just doesn’t know it yet.”
“You know what, George? I never would have taken you for a con-man, but that was impressive. But now we’ve got places to go, and in a hurry too.”
“Let’s just say there’s more than one way to steal a car.”
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