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Smart Car
by Doug Hawley

10: Autopsy

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The morning that I had planned to go to Newberry Crater in central Oregon with Sheila, she called me up in a panic “Deuce is gone”. Deuce is the antique Dodge Charger without a brain, and Sheila and Deuce form Rogue, the tandem that flaunts the rules of smart cars. Given the importance Deuce had to Sheila, and to a lesser extent me, we decided to postpone our trip until we resolved the mystery. Sheila hadn’t seen Deuce after yesterday morning. When I got to Sheila’s place, she had already noticed the tire tracks in the muddy driveway from what must have been yesterday. Someone must have found out about the antique dumb car Deuce and stolen it. No one should have known about Deuce, since he was not legal on the highway, despite Sheila’s adventures with Deuce cloaked as an ordinary smart car.

With the illegal nature of Deuce, we were hesitant to involve any authorities. Sheila, Sheila’s smart car Josie, and I couldn’t think of a thing to do. In the absence of a plan, we just drove around the neighborhood without success. After we got back to Sheila’s house, we got an unexpected phone call. “Hey guys, this is Deuce. I’ve had quite an adventure, but I’m coming home now.”

The only thing that made any sense was that a car thief was pranking us and that didn’t make much sense. Sheila is the only one that we knew who could drive an old fashioned car. Besides that, car thefts were close to zero with any modern car, with all of the security features. How would anyone know that he or she could steal Deuce? Someone must have known about Deuce and his defenselessness.

A couple of hours later, Deuce showed up without a driver and said “Hi guys”. Now we were weirded out more than ever. We looked all around the car for someone hiding in it. There wasn’t even room for midget singing star Elvis Portabello to hide anywhere in the car. When no one could think of anything else to try, we asked Deuce what had happened. I had my recorder, so I can reproduce the conversation verbatim.

“What happened Deuce?”

“First thing I know is that I gained consciousness and intelligence at 8:32 PM yesterday PDT.”

Sheila said “I was out shopping from 7 until 9 yesterday.”

I added the obvious “So no one was a witness to what happened to Deuce.”

Deuce said in an irritated voice “Will you let me continue? When I became conscious, I had a spotty knowledge of the past, but I did know that I could be cloaked and go out and have some fun. I decided to go out and play on I-5. Somehow I knew where everything was, so it was easy to get there. It was exhilarating! I passed all of the cars, darting in and out of lanes. I suppose that the people and their dull cars were freaked out, but since there is no need for traffic cops, no one could stop me.”

“So why did you come home?”

“I got tired of playing after awhile, and I knew there were people and cars back here that I could talk to. Mostly I wanted to be a part of Rogue again.”

“So you have no idea how you gained consciousness?”

“No, there were no people or smart cars around me when I ‘woke up’”

“What do you plan to do now?”

“I’d like to continue as part of Rogue with Sheila at the wheel like I was before, but with…”

“But with what?”

Deuce was silent. We waited a couple of hours, and he showed no signs of life. We decided the best thing to do was to perform what we decided was an autopsy, because he seemed to have died right in front of us.

We started by popping his old fashioned hood. A disembodied voice, much different than Deuce’s said “If you want to drive Deuce again, close the hood and never open it again.”

Sheila and I looked at each other, nodded and closed the hood.

Immediately thereafter Sheila did what can best be described as a gawp. I thought at the time “Sheila can even make a gawp look good.”

“Duke, I think that I know what happened. Today is the second of April isn’t it? There is an obnoxious guy Roy at the Auto Safety Panel where we work that has been making crude comments to and about me. I think that he thought that he was charming me until I told him to buzz off, but with something different than buzz. Before the kiss off, I did have a few drinks with him and may have let something slip about Deuce, or Duke as he used to be known. Whatever happened to Deuce, happened on April Fool’s Day. Roy had been smirking at me the last few meetings like he knew something that I didn’t. I think that Roy broke into Deuce and added his own version of intelligence, but with the cutoff that we just witnessed and the warning not to fool with his brain, meaning that we don’t know what Deuce will do in the future. This is that dick’s version of revenge and an April Fool’s joke combined.”

“By the way, if you think that working at the Auto Safety Panel and being a part of the wild Rogue is ironic, I can’t blame you.”

“But we can’t bust him without you getting busted for an illegal car. What can we do?”

“For the time being, we empty Deuce’s gas tank. There wasn’t any warning about that. Deuce won’t cause any trouble without gas. First chance I have, I get security for my home and property. That will give time for long term plans about Deuce.”

Deuce had a few more surprises for us a little later.

“Got any ideas about revenge?”

“Yes, and I’ll tell you how it turns out later.”

She gave me a report after her next run in with Roy. “He asked if I’d had any excitement lately. I told him the trip with my handsome boyfriend Duke had been great. He looked crestfallen. He probably thought that his whole scheme hadn’t worked. Then I stuck the knife in. I asked him how his car was running. I had planted the seed that I’d done something to his car to get even.”

“What did you do to his car?”

“Nothing, but he doesn’t know that.”

A few weeks later I asked Sheila how she was getting along with Roy. Roy had avoided her ever since she asked about his car.

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