I climbed into my car, disturbed by what I had seen on the TV. I just could not fathom Ritchie doing something like this. I had known the man too long. I was confused and frightened, but I would soon learn that this was only the beginning of the confusion, the fright.
I came to a red light, and looked across the street; there was the gas station, with police cars marked and unmarked parked aside the front curbs, some in whatever space could be found in the small parking lot. A few bystanders remained, still watching the activity beyond the yellow tape. The light turned green, and I turned through the intersection, parking several houses down from the already packed station. I hoped that the people whose house I had decided to park in front of were understanding, and not one of these families who would decide that towing the car away would be a good lesson for me.
I walked up the street and soon found myself standing at the yellow police tape with those who had stayed. Mike, the station’s owner, was standing near the glass doors of the entrance, surrounded by police drilling him with questions. He looked nervous, edgy, and kept shifting his gaze to the audience on the other side of the tape. Therefore, with Mike occupied, I had to look elsewhere for answers.
The other mechanic was standing in front of one of the open bays smoking a cigarette. I recognized him, but couldn’t for the life of me remember his name. He seemed distant, and his cigarette trembled in his greasy right hand. I did manage to get his attention, however, and I motioned him over. According to the patch sewn onto the left breast of his blue coveralls, his name was Perry. Now I remembered.
“What the hell happened?” I asked. He dropped his smoke and twisted it into the ground with the toe of his boot.
“Ritchie is what happened, dude. He went nuts, just totally nuts. I still can’t believe he did it.” He pulled out another cigarette and lit it with a greasy lighter he produced from the same pocket of his overalls. His hand was still shaking.
“I don’t believe it, either,” I said. “I just can’t comprehend why he would do such a horrible thing. Do you know if he was drinking or maybe doing drugs?” I immediately felt stupid asking, like I was grasping at straws, but I was just trying to make sense of everything.
“He wasn’t doing anything, I would know,” Perry said, blowing smoke into the air. He hesitated. “He was in the office with Mike, and a customer came in for a tune-up. Just some guy, you know. I told him to pull his car into the garage, which he did. See, it’s still over there.” He pointed toward the garage, and there was indeed a blue station wagon parked in the bay closest to the office. “I went and grabbed Ritchie, and he went out and was talking to the guy. Next thing I know, the owner is opening the hood of the car, with Ritchie sitting behind the wheel. Ritchie! I remember thinking how crazy that was because it’s usually the other way around. You know, mechanic under the hood, owner behind the wheel. I heard the engine rev, and then the car just jumped, and I mean jumped! I’m telling you, it happened so fast that my heart almost jumped out of my chest! The car rammed right into the guy, man! Oh my God, I mean, I had to look away because I didn’t think my brain was ready for that shit.”
“What did Ritchie do? It was an accident, right?” I was grasping straws again, wanting to hear the right things.
Perry’s face went pale – I could tell he was reliving something terrible. “No, dude, it was no accident! I ran into the office and yelled at Mike to dial 911, and when I came out, Ritchie was just standing by the front of the car, and he was talking to this guy, and this poor guy was just moving his lips, like, trying to talk. Except blood was coming out of his mouth. Ritchie kept saying, ‘Does it hurt? Huh? It should, cuz your guts are falling out,’ you know, some shit like that. Man, it gives me the creeps.”
“He just freaked out?” I asked. “Just like that?”
“Just like that. And there’s more. This poor guy stops moving, like he’s dead, and he’s just propped up with his mouth hanging open, and Ritchie starts yelling, ‘Wake up! Wake up!’, and then he gets back in the car and starts it again. I couldn’t fucking believe it! He started smashing the guy again! Back and forth, back and forth. And he was still doing it when the cops got here. They yanked him out of that car but good and hauled his ass away! I’ll never forget that look on Ritchie’s face. I swear, he looked like the devil or something.”