Melinda Schweitzer was studying the photographs through magnifying lenses when Bob came into the lab. She looked up at him and smiled.
“Evening Bob,” she said. She liked the young custodian and enjoyed interacting with him on nights when she worked over. He was a curious and gentle soul.
“Oh, good evening Dr. Schweitzer,” he said. “You’re late tonight.”
“Yes, I am Bob. You might actually be interested in this. Let me show you. I have HST images of the Eagle Nebula that I am comparing and overlaying with X-Ray images we took using our own telescope here. The results are pretty amazing. Would you like to see?”
“Oh, I know what they look like Doctor. My dad had one.”
“Had one what, Bob?”
“An Eagle Nebula,” he gave a low whistle and shook his head. “I think he loved that Eagle more than he loved my momma. He had a picture of that car tattooed on his arm, right here.” Bob pointed to his right bicep. “It was inside a heart and said, ‘My Love’ underneath.”
“I don’t understand.”
“The Eagle,” he said. “His car – American Motors made them from ’79 to ’87. They were really the first crossover SUV’s. They featured full time four wheel drive and got phenomenal gas mileage, for the time.” He picked up a trash can and emptied it into the bag on his cart.
Melinda knew not to pull that thread. She knew that AMC had never made a car called the Nebula but elected to roll with Bob’s line of thought. “What color was it?” she asked.
“Red,” Bob replied. “She had a custom metal flake paint job, with a black interior and fifteen inch wheels. She was a beauty.”
“Does he still have it?” she asked.
“Nah, he died in her though – hit the side of the mountain in ’96 out on highway 17, before they put the center barriers in. Witnesses said it was spectacular, a real fireball. They said he was probably going over a hundred miles an hour when it happened.” He picked up another trash can and emptied it. Put in a fresh liner and set it back under the desk.
“The next day Momma got the letter from his doctor. It was addressed to Dad but Momma opened it on account of him being killed the day before. The letter was to confirm his cancer and to set up an appointment to discuss treatment options.
“Do you think he knew, Dr. Schweitzer? Do you think he knew?”