It was all I could think of. He'd hurt me...
Finally I got the strength and ran. Under cover of darkness, I rolled through the deserted streets, finally ending up at one of my best friends' houses. If he couldn't help me, I knew he'd find someone who could!
Using some of the last reserves of my strength ---- I screamed.
John's eyes cracked open. ".....go 'way...."
BEEP BEEP BEEP!
The horn blew again. Three short bursts, three long, three short ...
John flew from the bed and opened the window. The horn stopped as he looked down tot he street. "Holy shit..." he raced to the phone. "Roy?.... yeah, I know it's two AM... Roy, just get over here! She's here!... yeah, her!.... I'll meet you out there."
He threw on some clothes and ran down the steps. "Easy, honey....Roy'll be here soon..."
As he stroked me soothingly, I tried to calm down. He'd make everything all right. He'd protect me...
It was another half-hour before Roy arrived. In that time, Johnny's soft words and gentle touch managed to calm me somewhat. He was still whispering to me when Roy's car pulled up.
Roy got out of the car, his eyes huge. "She is here," he breathed. He came over to me and reached for my door.
Johnny stopped him. "Hold on there, Pally, she's skittish."
"Skittish?" Roy gasped. Then he looked at me, at the way I was shaking. He added a gentle hand to my hood, where John was still softly rubbing. "What in the world happened?"
"Looks like she's been through a rough time of it," John said, looking me over. "Roy, maybe we should take her to Charlie and ---"
I couldn't help it. When I heard his name, I started to growl. John and Roy looked at each other, and I saw understanding bloom on their faces.
John looked back at me. "Charlie hurt you, didn't he, sweetheart?"
Beep I replied softly.
"Yes," Roy breathed, carefully touching my handle. I opened the door slightly, giving him permission.
Slowly, he slid into the driver's seat and looked around. "Johnny, her key's gone!"
"What?" John looked so startled I chuckled to myself.
"How in the world did you make it here without a key, sweetheart?" Roy asked rhetorically, running a hand along the steering wheel.
After a moment of fierce concentration, I said softly, "...alive....don't need... key..."
I think I was as startled as they were to hear a soft, feminine voice whisper from the radio!
John leaned into my window. "W....What was that, sweetheart?"
Silence stretched for a few moments, as I was so stunned I literally could not speak. Then I repeated myself. Out of my radio, came a female voice. "I'm alive.... I don't need.... a key...to move."
Roy smiled and ran his hands over my dashboard. John did the same over my door. "You can talk to us," John whispered, awe in his voice.
Softly, haltingly, I was able to tell them what had happened to me. I told how debris had rained down on me during a blowout. I told how I had been sent to Charlie, who had treated me roughly and caused more damage. By the time I was finished, water had formed around my headlights.
John crouched in front of me. "Roy...she's crying..." He wiped the water away.
Roy got out and rubbed my hood. "Okay," he said gently. "We'll see what we can do, sweetheart..."
With a sigh, John stood. "We can't keep calling her sweetheart," he said. "And 51 just seems so... so.."
I chuckled, still startled and now a bit relieved to hear it transmitted through the radio. "If it helps... I've been calling ... myself Vi."
"Vi?" John frowned. "Where'd you get that?"
Roy smiled and touched the embossing on my door. "I see where she got it. 51. 5 and 1 in Roman numerals is V and I. Vi."
I beeped once, happy.
After another moment, John said, "Vi, we'll get you fixed."
Before I could voice my protest, Roy voiced it for me. "Junior, how're we gonna fix her without hurting her like Charlie did?"
"Vi, let me try something," John said. "Open your hood." I did, with a confused sound. "Now," he went on, "I want to see if I can knock you out --- so we can fix you without pain. Is this okay with you?"
BEEP! A pause. BEEP!
They chuckled at my enthusiasm, then Roy asked, "How are we gonna knock her out?"
"Remove her battery cables. Trust me, sweetheart?"
"Always," I whispered.
John smiled, then I felt his hands on my cables. "Right. Here we go, then."
Then I knew no more.
"Vi? Vi, can you hear me?"
As awareness slowly returned, I realised I was no longer in the awful pain I had been in. Rather, I was... sore.
"Vi?" John asked, laying his hands on my engine block. "Come on, sweetheart..."
He smiled and stepped back, looking at Roy before turning back to me. "Yeah, sweetheart, it's John."
I was startled to find it suddenly daylight. "How long..." I was still astonished at the sound of my own voice.
"Six hours. It's nine AM," Roy said, walking to lay a hand on my window. "How do you feel?"
I paused, considering. Then an audible smile crept into my voice. "I feel... much better!"
"Great!" they cheered together. Roy then clapped John on the shoulder. "I'm going to call Joanne, see if she can bring us some breakfast." He went into the house.
John leaned against my door. "And after we eat, we'll see about getting you some breakfast, Vi."
I registered my nearly-empty gas tank. BEEP!
John tapped my door in acknowledgement and stood up, moving back toward his house. His movement halted when Vince's police car came slowly into the driveway, blocking me in.
I felt myself bristle. I hate being blocked in! I'm an official emergency vehicle, I'm not supposed to be blocked in!
Slowly, Vince got out of the car. He removed his sunglasses even more slowly, his eyes wide with what appeared to be shocked surprise as he stared at me. After several aborted attempts, he managed to get out, "....son....of a...."
John walked over, grinning. "Morning, Vince! What can I do for you?"
"Well...." Vince said slowly. "You could start by telling me what that is doing here." He pointed at me.
Roy walked down the ranch house's front steps. "We were fixing her up, Vince. She was... delivered... here around three AM, badly hur---- in need of repair. Why?"
"Who delivered it to you?" Vince asked.
"I didn't see," John said. "I was woke from a sound sleep by her horn around two. I called Roy and we started work on her around three."
"Joanne can verify the call," Roy said. "Why?" he repeated.
Vince sighed. "Charlie reported Squad 51 as stolen. I came to talk to you, since you work tomorrow --- and here it is!"
"Vince!" John gasped. "You don't think we --"
"Johnny, I don't want to believe it --- but the stolen property is right here!" Vince shook his head. "At this moment, I don't know what to think!"
John and Roy looked at each other. I could tell they didn't either. I couldn't let them suffer because of me.
I rolled slightly forward, nudging the policeman's leg gently with my bumper. "What the--" he gasped, turning to look at me, eyes huge.
Now that I had his attention, I said, "I wasn't stolen. Charlie hurt me. I ran away. They helped me."
Vince's eyes got wider and wider. Then they snapped to John and Roy. "How in the world did you do that?!?"
Roy met his eyes and said evenly, "We didn't."
Vince stared at Roy, and the silence stretched for so long that I caught John wiping his palms on his jeans. Finally, Vince said softly, "All right, Roy... you have never lied to me. If you two didn't do it... who did?"
John started to stammer, and I could almost see the wheels working in his head. Roy finally lay a hand on his arm, his eyes never leaving Vince's. "Vince," Roy said calmly, "you're absolutely right. I've never lied to you, and I won't start now."
"Roy!" John gasped, and Roy's eyes swiveled to his.
"Johnny, hush! Vince deserves the truth!" He met Vince's eyes again and I saw him draw a deep breath. "Vince, meet Vi. Vi, this is Vince."
Vince looked around. "Vi? Where is she?"
I nudged his leg again. "Right here."
Vince stared at me, his eyes going wider and wider. I could see him struggling to make some sense out of the evidence we were presenting him. At long last, he said softly, "But... that's a squad."
John and Roy both nodded silently.
"It's a truck."
"Yeah, she's a truck," John said with a grin.
"Then how are you doing this?" Vince demanded. "Radio controls? A woman hidden somewhere with a microphone?"
"No, Vince," Roy said. "Vi is alive. She has been for a few months now."
Vince looked at me. Then he looked at Roy, then back at me.
"My name is Vi," I said, not able to keep the grin out of my voice. Then my voice hardened with anger. "And I do not want that man to ever touch me again!"
"What man?" Vince asked. "Charlie?"
"Yes," I snarled. "He hurt me!"
"Cripes," Vince breathed, leaning against me as his knees were suddenly weak. "It's --- she's --- alive!"
"That's what we've been trying to tell you!" John said. I couldn't help but laugh.
After another few minutes of conversation, Vince left, vowing that he'd tell Charlie I had been delivered to other mechanics because the deliverer, who wished to remain anonymous, knew how busy Charlie was. I couldn't help but cheer when I realised I would never again have to be put through Charlie's torture.
I felt.... free.
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