Just because I know how to change a guy's oil doesn't mean I
want to spend the rest of my life on my back, staring up his undercarriage. Been
there, done that. Okay, so my dad owns a garage. And okay, I have a natural
aptitude for rebuilding carburetors. There comes a time in a girl's life when
she needs to trade in her mechanic's overalls for a pair of Manolo Blahnik
stilettos. Not that I can afford a lot of Manolos, but it's a goal, right?
My name is Alexandra Barnaby, and I worked in my dad's garage in
the Canton section of Baltimore all through high school and during summer breaks
when I was in college. It's not a big fancy garage, but it holds its own, and my
dad has a reputation for being an honest mechanic.
When I was twelve my dad taught me how to use an acetylene
torch. After I mastered welding, he gave me some spare parts and our old lawn
mower, and I built myself a go-cart. When I was sixteen, I started rebuilding a
ten-year-old junker Chevy. I turned it into a fast car. And I raced it in the
local stocks for two years.
"And here she comes, folks," the announcer would say.
"Barney Barnaby. Number sixteen, the terror of Baltimore County. She's
coming up on the eight car. She's going to the inside. Wait a minute, I see
flames coming from sixteen. There's a lot of smoke now. Looks like she's blown
another engine. Good thing she works in her dad's garage."
So I could build cars, and I could drive cars. I just never got
the hang of driving them without destroying them.
"Barney," my dad would say. "I swear you blow
those engines just so you can rebuild them."
Maybe on an unconscious level. The brain is a pretty
weird thing. What I knew was that on a conscious level, I hated losing.
And I lost more races than I won. So, I raced two seasons and packed it in.
My younger brother, Wild Bill, drove, too. He never cared if he
won or lost. He just liked to drive fast and scratch his balls with the rest of
the guys. Bill was voted Most Popular of his senior class and also Least Likely
The class's expectation for Bill's success was a reflection of
Bill's philosophy of life. If work was any fun, it would be called play.
I've always been the serious kid, and Bill's always been the kid who knew how to
have a good time. Two years ago, Bill said good-bye Baltimore and hello
Miami. He liked the lazy hot sun, the open water, and the girls in bikinis.
Two days ago, Bill disappeared off the face of the earth. And he
did it while I was talking to him. He woke me up with a phone call in the middle
of the night.
"Barney," Bill yelled over the phone line. "I
have to leave Miami for a while. Tell Mom I'm okay."
I squinted at my bedside clock. Two AM. Not late for Bill who
spent a lot of time in South Beach bars. Real late for me who worked nine to
five and went to bed at ten.
"What's that noise?" I asked him. "I can hardly
"Boat engine. Listen, I don't want you to worry if you
don't hear from me. And if some guys show up looking for me, don't tell them
anything. Unless it's Sam Hooker. Tell Sam Hooker he can kiss my exhaust
"Guys? What guys? And what do you mean, don't tell them
"I have to go. I have to ... oh shit."
I heard a woman scream in the background, and the line went
Baltimore is cold in January. The wind whips in from the harbor and slices up
the side streets, citywide. We get a couple snowstorms each year and some
freezing rain, but mostly we get bone-chilling gray gloom. In the midst of the
gray gloom, pots of chili bubble on stoves, beer flows like water, sausages are
stuffed into hard rolls, and doughnuts are a necessity to survival.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...