Copyright© 2013 by Refusenik
The Student Union at NTSU was a good place to sit between classes. The burble from the students passing through was like white noise. Scott concentrated on his computer tablet while sipping coffee from a paper cup. Amanda, the Black Horse waitress, dropped into the seat across from him.
"You're not in any of my business classes," she said.
He put the pad down, "Because I'm not a business major. I'm leaning toward history."
"What's your favorite class so far?"
"A seminar on the Vietnam War," he said. "You?"
"I can tell you it's not Geology," she said, twirling a curl of hair around her finger. "Rocks are boring. What are you studying?"
Scott didn't mind her flirting, it was harmless fun. "Actually, I'm looking for a replacement for my Grand Cherokee, but I'd rather not go all the way to Dallas to find one with the options I want."
"I-20 Dodge and Jeep, in Clyde, east of Abilene," Amanda said. "They'll have what you want or can order it."
"It's just as close as Lubbock or Wichita Falls, and they sell a ton of high-end Jeeps."
"I take it you're from Clyde?"
"Near enough," she answered.
"Why didn't you go to school closer to home? Abilene Christian University has a good rep."
"Because it's closer to home."
"Gotcha," Scott said. He browsed the dealer's website. "They do have a good inventory. Thanks for the tip."
Amanda smiled. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Could I stop you?"
"How come you haven't asked me out?"
Scott took a sip of coffee. "Hypothetically, because it's a bad idea to date an employee."
Amanda leaned over the table, "You want to know what the worst-kept secret at the Black Horse is?"
He knew, but played along. "What's that?"
"Who owns the joint," Amanda stood, "Now if I were that person, I'd ignore the rules," she made air quotes with her fingers, "because 'hypothetically' you're missing a really good time."
"Like I said, I appreciate the tip."
"See you around, boss."
Scott shook his head. That girl was trouble, but it wasn't going to be his.
Scott took the exit off I-20 and slowed the Mustang. For a rental, the pony car wasn't bad, but it was severely underpowered. He turned under the interstate to the frontage road where the dealership was located.
The lot wasn't the biggest within a two-hour drive of Levall, but the crazy waitress was right, they had a great selection of Jeeps.
He parked and didn't make it ten feet before he was joined by a salesman.
"I'm Donny, can I help you?" the man asked.
Scott estimated the man to be in his late-thirties, and while he didn't care for car dealers on the whole, the man didn't come off as a total shark either.
"You might be able to," Scott said. "Until last week, I was the happy owner of a 2013 Grand Cherokee. That is until an eighteen-wheeler turned it into so much recycled scrap metal."
"Good grief," the salesman said. "Anybody injured?"
"Big rig driver died. Everybody else was okay."
The car dealer made a sympathetic noise.
"As you might imagine, I'm getting tired of driving a rental."
"What trim package did your Grand Cherokee have?"
"Summit, 4x4," Scott said, "in 'Winter' something. Anyway, it had most of the upgrades."
Donny smiled. "Winter Chill. You wouldn't believe what they do to come up with those color names."
"Got something I can look at?"
"I've got a very nice Summit in Rugged Brown, and I've got a SRT8 in Deep Cherry Red. Of course, we can order anything you want."
"Brown's not my favorite vehicle color," Scott said, "and the SRT8 doesn't interest me." Another vehicle caught his eye and he stopped walking. "Jeep's making a pickup again?"
Donny's smile grew even larger. "If they did, we'd sell the hell out of them. This is something special. It's a conversion made by American Expedition Vehicles, AEV. They have Chrysler support. Great product."
"Tell me about it."
"The Brute Double Cab," Donny said. "Take a stock Wrangler, stretch it twenty-three inches. Add their custom truck bed and you've got yourself one capable vehicle."
They reached the auto in question and walked around it.
"I don't normally go for a white vehicle," Scott said, "but with those big black fender flairs and heavy-duty bumpers, it's a handsome package."
"This one is special," Donny explained. "It's got the 6.4 liter HEMI upgrade, four and a half inch lift, thirty-seven inch tires, and all the options."
Donny patted the fender, "It's for sale."
"Got keys for it?"
"I'll warn you, it's got a big-league price tag."
Scott peered at the window sticker, "Let's go for a ride."
After a test drive and a little haggling, Scott owned a new Jeep. The dealership arranged to take his rental back and prepped the Jeep for him.
The Brute didn't make a great highway cruiser, especially with big knobby tires, but it was tame enough and had a comfortable interior. The fifteen-thousand acres he owned outside Fort Stockton were in the back of his mind, and justification for going overboard on an off-road capable vehicle.
More than halfway home, Scott stopped in Aspermont, a small thousand-person town like many others found on the back roads of America. He bought gas at a convenience store with the understanding that the Brute was going to burn through a lot of it. Everett Wahl's number popped up on his phone when he climbed back inside the Jeep.
The private banker updated Scott on several investments and the results of his recent New York trip. Scott liked hearing the excitement in the banker's voice. They were very different people, driven by different impulses, but Scott understood the thrill of doing something at a level of excellence that others couldn't touch.
"I heard about your lunch with the group from personal services," Everett said. "That caused a stir."
"Is there a problem?"
"Only jealousy," the banker said. "Most of our clients rarely come through Midland, and they'd never take third-floor staff to lunch."
"It was a good experience, and I enjoyed getting their perspective on the Western Group. I thought you were calling about my latest extravagance."
"What did you buy?" the banker asked.
"A really expensive pickup truck, with lousy gas mileage."
Everett chuckled. "Good thing you invested in the energy sector, you can help drive demand."
"Making puns now?" Scott asked.
"Not intentionally," Everett replied. "Remember what we talked about when we first met?"
"We talked about a lot of things."
"I'm thinking about the hobbies of the wealthy, Scott. You can afford to indulge. If you want a truck for off-road, a Town Car for going to the bank, and Ferrari to drive to the mailbox, then buy them if they make you happy."