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The bright sunny almost cloudless, warm day was just made for cruising in a Corvette; especially in a T-Top with the rear window removed. Rollie Chambers smiled as he felt the car's raw power, and fought the temptation to exceed the 65 MPH speed limit. The Corvette's engine growled its impatience running at the relatively slow speed and it ate up the miles as the Stingray roared south on Route 100 on the east side of the Missouri River, south toward Alton, Illinois.
As he drove, Rollie thought, I'm glad now that I bought the car and had it restored. He turned and smiled at his passenger, Jessica Talbert. Jessica, or Jess as he called her, was Rollie's roommate, lady, and best friend. Although not married, Rollie and Jessica were committed to each other and to having a life together.
They had been on a picnic at Pier Marquette State Park, enjoying the scenery and the beautiful spring weather. It was late May and in a month or two the hot humid summer weather would invade the St. Louis area making it far less comfortable, but for now it was almost perfect.
Jessica returned the smile and laughed. He looks like a little boy on Christmas morning after opening his presents.
The car in question was a 69 Corvette T-Top. Rollie had found the vehicle languishing in a garage at one of the older large homes around Lafayette Park. A few weeks after Rollie's wife, Susan, died, he'd been just cruising around one day and saw the "For Sale" sign on the car. The garage doors were open but Rollie didn't think many people would have noticed the car parked in the shadows. He stopped and rang the door bell which was answered by an older, grandmotherly type woman.
"Howdy ma'am," Rollie greeted the lady. "I'm Rollie Chambers and I'd like to talk to you about the car you have for sale."
"I'm Abigail Simpson." She picked up the keys from a side table and tossed them to him. "Bring them back when you're done looking at the car young man. I had a new battery put in so the car would start," Mrs. Simpson said as she closed the door.
She shouldn't be so trusting, Rollie thought as he walked around the side of the house to the garage. The Corvette was Burgundy Metallic, had what was known as a 'shaker hood', a raised cowling with metal letters along the sides that said '427'.
Rollie sat in the driver's seat, inserted the key and turned it to start the vehicle. The starter groaned, turned over a couple of times and the engine roared to life. The factory side pipes caused sound waves to bounce off the walls of the garage and Rollie could feel the vibrations. The engine smoothed out and Rollie drove the car out of the garage into the sunlight so he could get a better look at it. Then he put the car in neutral and let it run while he walked around giving it a closer inspection. Rollie found that the car was basically in good shape cosmetically and from the sounds of the engine there was nothing major wrong in that department. The sound of the side pipes, the feeling of power as he sat back in the driver's seat cause Rollie to fall in love with the beast right then.
He looked in the driver's door pocket and found a large manila business size envelope. It contained the owner's manual, an illustrated brochure on where and how to store the removable rear window and another one to show where to fasten down the smoked glass T-Tops. The envelope also contained the original window sticker for the car.
The sticker said the car was a 1969 Corvette Stingray. Some of the options listed were the T-Tops and the removable rear window. The engine was listed as the L68 option; a 427 Tri Power with triple 2 barrel Holly carburetors. The transmission was the M22 option. The car also had Positraction and G70 tires and wheels. The price was listed at $5832.
While the car idled, Rollie used his smart phone to go on line and research the Corvette. He found that the engine produced 400 HP and the heavy duty, close ratio, 4 speed gear shift box was called the Rock Crusher. The cars he could find advertized ran from 30 thousand dollars up to 75 thousand for low mileage ones. He looked at the odometer and saw it read 8354 miles. Hope Mrs. Simpson doesn't want that much for the car. I love the beast but I don't want to spend that kind of money for a week end type vehicle.
Rollie shut off the engine, returned the envelope in the door pocket and walked back to Mrs. Simpson's, once again ringing the bell. He handed her the keys when she answered the door.
"You don't like the car then?" Mrs. Simpson asked.
"No ma'am, I mean yes ma'am. I really like it. Is it your car ma'am?"
"The car belonged to my son Teddy. He bought it new in '69 but joined the Army shortly afterwards and didn't get a chance to drive it much." Rollie could see the pain in the old lady's eyes as she added, "Teddy was killed in Viet Nam in '73. The car has been sitting in the garage ever since, except for me starting it and driving it around the block every week. That's what my Teddy asked me to do; I've been doing it for almost 40 years now."
"Sorry for your loss, ma'am." The elderly woman seemed to go back in time thinking about her son. Rollie waited for more than two minutes for her to rejoin the present, and then asked, "How much are you asking for it?"
"My neighbor tells me the car's worth a lot of money; I don't know what those things." Mrs. Simpson stared at Rollie for several seconds. "I'll let you have my son's car for $25,000."
Rollie hesitated for a moment. He liked, hell he loved the car and he knew it was probably worth a lot more on the open market, but 25 Grand was a lot of money.
"The car has extremely low mileage, and I don't believe there's anything major wrong with it." Mrs. Simpson smiled at Rollie. "Most likely all you'll have to do is a tune up, get new tires, and maybe a new paint job to make it brand new again."
"Mrs. Simpson, that's a fair price for the car," Rollie said. "But it's a bit steep for me. I'd like to buy the Corvette for maybe 18 thousand."
"I like your looks young man, you've been raised right and you have good manners. I'll let you have the car for $23,000."
"Thank you ma'am. My folks had a hard task but they did raise me to respect my elders. I'll give you 20 thousand for the Corvette. No financing to arrange, or banks involved; just cash money in any denominations you like."
"I'd like to see the car go to someone that would care as much about it as my Teddy did. Make it 21 cash and we've got a deal." Mrs. Simpson stuck out her right hand and held the keys with her left, jingling them in front of Rollie's eyes. To him, it was like a siren's song.
Rollie had to smile at the old lady. "Ma'am, for someone who claims not to know anything about cars, you sure drive a hard bargain. Guess we've got a deal," he said as he shook her hand. "It'll take me about two hours to get to the bank and get the money. Do you want me to leave a check with you to hold the car until I get back?"
"Your words good enough for me young man," Mrs. Simpson answered.
"Thank you ma'am. I'll go put the car back in the garage and head for my bank. Do you want cash or would you prefer a cashier's check? That's a lot of money to have lying around the house."
"A cashier's check will do fine. Leave the car where it is and I'll see you in a couple of hours." Mrs. Simpson closed the door.
Rollie almost ran to his truck, jumped in the cab, and drove the four miles to his bank that was near his apartment. He ran into the bank and waved at his friend, Dewey Baker, who was the manager of the M & I Bank.
"Dewey, I need a cashier's check made out to Mrs. Abigail Simpson for $21,000 and I need it fast. I just made a deal on a car and I have to get back before someone buys it out from under me."
Baker didn't hesitate; he led Rollie over to a teller and gave her instructions. It took than ten minutes and Rollie was on his was on his way back to Mrs. Simpson's. He waved at Dewey, "I'll call you later and tell you about the car. Thanks for your help."
With the help of some cooperating traffic lights and not many cars on the street, Rollie was able to get back to the Park Avenue house in even less time than it had taken to get to the bank. When he parked in front of the house, he saw a large man at Mrs. Simpson's door. Rollie couldn't hear the man's words as he walked toward the house, but the tone was angry.
"Look lady," Rollie heard as he got closer. "Your neighbor said you wanted 25 for the car, I'm offering you 27."
"I've already told you the car is sold. The young man who bought it will be back in a bit with the money."
"Yeah, maybe. But I'm here now," the man replied.
"So am I," Rollie said stepping onto the porch. He turned and said, "Hi Mrs. Simpson. I've got your check."
The big man turned toward Rollie and said, "Beat it sonny, I'm going to buy the car."
For the first time Rollie really looked at him. He was about an inch taller than Rollie's 6' 2 and probably 30 pounds heavier. He had a big red nose, like a man who was no stranger to strong drink, and his face was red with anger. The suit he wore was of good quality, but he looked uncomfortable wearing it. His big hands hung out of the coat sleeves like hams.
"You're mistaken Mister. I've already made a deal with Mrs. Simpson," Rollie said. He turned and handed the woman an envelope. "This is a cashier's check for the amount we agreed on, Mrs. Simpson."
"Thank you Mr. Chambers."
.... There is more of this story ...