The damn fool kid
The damn fool kid. Was the car worth it? Did he really think his father was going to press charges? Or was he
just trying to stick it to the old man, the way, he was so sure, the old man had been sticking it to him the entire 17
years of his angry young life. Maybe he was just being 17.
He’d taken the old man’s Lamborghini. The 1972 Miura with the collector’s plates and the drop-dead price tag.
“It’s a P400 Miura SV,” Lathrop told Sampas, and waited for a reaction. When he got none, he continued. “Only
142 were made. Or 147, depending on who you talk to. Only 21 were approved for import into the United States.”
Sampas had never been wowed by cars, but clearly he was supposed to say something.
“Sounds like a very nice car,” he mustered.
“Ferruccio Lamborghini called it his ideal sports car,” Lathrop explained, his voice a nuanced blend of pride
and condescension. “It’s also been called the most beautiful sports car ever built. Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart, the
Shah of Iran, and the king of Saudi Arabia have all owned one. Yes, I’d say it’s a very nice car.”
“Worth a lot of money?”
“One has been appraised at $350,000.”
“That’s a lot of money,” Sampas conceded.
“Well, mine isn’t worth quite that much.”
“How much is it worth?”
“$200,000. But this isn’t just about that. I... He... I just want the car back.”
“Why don’t you go to the police?”
“Dwayne has two strikes against him. The value of the car makes it a felony. He’ll go away for life.”
Sampas understood. What parent could bring that down on his kid?
“So,” Lathrop continued, “if he sees a police car, he’ll take off. I know he will. And if he does that...there’s no
telling what will happen to the car.”
So much for parental devotion. Sampas was beginning to understand why the kid took the Lamborghini.
“Right now, he’s not... Right now, I have other priorities.”
So much for Dwayne.
“Mr. Sampas, that car can do 180 miles an hour. Get it back undamaged, and I’ll give you a bonus.”
Maybe the old man shouldn’t have been so hard-ass about it all. Odds were, Dwayne would return the car in a
day or so. Lathrop had canceled his credit card. Without gas, where could he go? Or maybe Lathrop was afraid
Dwayne would sell it out from under him. It had taken him years to find this car. Then, weeks of negotiations to buy
it. But in the end he had it. He was mixing with stars. He was a star.
Turned out, Lathrop was right. Sampas knew, five minutes after it all began out on the street, this kid should
never have been allowed within 100 feet of that car.
San Francisco, all 46 square miles of it, isn’t a big city. Traffic aside, you’re always only 20 minutes from
anywhere. Sampas had a feeling that he might be able to stumble across the Lamborghini just by driving around
the streets. It was a dumb idea. But it was a warm August Wednesday, the kind the city doesn’t see often. It’d be
nice to be out there. When he didn’t stumble across Dwayne, he’d come up with something better. What
happened next never should have happened.
Sampas was in the Marina, heading east on Bay under an endless blue sky, when, pulling out of Fort Mason
just ahead of him, was a P400 Miura SV. How many of those could there be in the city? Sampas didn’t know if it
was the most beautiful sports car he’d ever seen, but the Lamborghini had it all over the VW bug he was driving
Lathrop wanted the car, not the kid. Best thing for Sampas to do was just follow Dwayne until he parked. “Take
the car. Leave the kid.” It was almost a line out of The Godfather.
Sampas slipped in a couple of slots behind Dwayne.
Right on Webster, left on Bay. At Franklin, he let someone right-turn in front of him, putting him one car back.
Then it began to go wrong. Dwayne realized he was being followed. Or maybe he thought he was being
followed. Or maybe he was just being 17.
He put on speed, began taking more rights and lefts. Sampas had no choice but to increase his own speed,
making those same rights and lefts. Now Dwayne knew he was being followed. And Dwayne took off.
It didn’t make sense. He was sure to get noticed by the cops. As a two-striker, what was he thinking? Or did he
just want to see if the car could really do 180?
Now they were tearing up and down the streets of North Beach. It wasn’t 180, and it wasn’t Bullitt, but it was
making Sampas nervous. He didn’t want it to be him the cops pulled over.
Dwayne didn’t seem to care. Maybe he wanted to see what the Lamborghini could do if pushed it hard enough.
Maybe he thought he was Steve McQueen. Maybe he wasn’t thinking at all. Or why would he have shot up
Lombard (not the crookedest-street-in-the-world part - the stretch of Lombard to the east, that runs a straight line
up Telegraph Hill), where the only place to go was Coit Tower?
Behind him (and very aware that he was putting himself at a disadvantage because, unlike Dwayne, he was
stopping - if only for a quick second - at stop signs), Sampas began to think about how this was going to end. At
Coit Tower, there was no place to go. The street ended in a circular parking lot crowded with tourists and tour
buses. On some days you couldn’t even get into the parking lot without waiting in line behind as many as a dozen
cars. And the same road led in and out. If Sampas blocked it with his car, the Lamborghini wasn’t going
anywhere. Dwayne had just sealed himself in.
Turned out, Coit Tower wasn’t the number-one tourist destination that day. The way up was empty as Dwayne
curled the narrow road toward the tower. Watching the Lamborghini snake up Telegraph Hill, Sampas played out
the coming end-game. In two minutes Dwayne would see that he was trapped, gun the engine a few times to
make it look he was going to ram his way out, then jump out of the car and take off. Which was fine with Sampas.
Let Lathrop deal with his moron kid at home.
Up around the almost-final turn they spun, the art-deco apartment building where Bacall gave Bogart refuge in
Dark Passage a block away and down the Filbert Steps, on Montgomery. The stop sign that suddenly appeared
at Filbert never registered on Dwayne.
The entrance to the parking lot (where there’d be no refuge for Dwayne) was just ahead. It’d all be over in a
Sampas couldn’t have been more wrong.
Dwayne shot into the parking lot. At the entrance to the lot, the 210-foot concrete fire-hose tower on his left,
Sampas screeched to a halt, cutting his wheels hard and putting his car on a diagonal across the road, blocking
the lot’s entrance and exit. Other drivers would go ballistic, but it’d be for only a few minutes. There was no way
the Lamborghini was getting out of here.
Sampas got out of his car. The Miura was about 50 feet away, engine purring. Dwayne had made it about half-
way around the oval, which left the car facing the tower and the lot’s exit. Now he was nowhere in sight. With no
way out, he’d booked, as Sampas knew he would.
Sampas approached the Lamborghini and walked around it. Ten feet away loomed a statue of Christopher
Columbus, gazing across San Francisco Bay with a mixture of awe at the very sight of so much beauty, and
determination to find yet more beauty in lands undiscovered. The only discovery Sampas wanted to make was
that the Lamborghini was OK.
He circled the car, looking for dings, dents, anything that might send Lathrop into a tizzy that his precious jewel
was no longer the pristine beauty it had been. The front was fine... The right side was flawless... The rear
gleamed unscathed in the sunlight... Coming back around to the driver’s side, Sampas stopped short. There was
Dwayne, crouched low and breathing hard.
“Easy, son,” Sampas tried to calm him. “You don’t have to do this. You can just walk away.”
Maybe Dwayne didn’t want to walk away. More likely, it was calling him “son” that did it. Dwayne could not have
had positive associations with that particular word. He launched himself at Sampas, a guttural roar spilling from
his throat. Sampas didn’t move until the whirl of furious motion was almost on top of him, then he side-stepped to
his right. As Dwayne sailed past, Sampas pivoted left and his hands shot out, catching Dwayne broadside and
sending him headlong into the nearest parked car. Dwayne went down hard.
“You OK?” Sampas asked. He wasn’t surprised when Dwayne didn’t answer. He was, however, impressed
when Dwayne slowly rose to his knees. He’d expected the kid to be down for the count, and then some.
To his credit, Dwayne was soon standing. Shaky, but upright. He took a weak step in Sampas’s direction, as if
considering a second run.
“Don’t do it,” Sampas warned him. “This time, you won’t get up.”
Dwayne was barely up as it was, but didn’t seem to know it. He swayed, now toward Sampas, now away.
Sampas waited, wondering how badly he’d have to hurt the kid before this was over, hoping Dwayne would just
get the hell out of there.
Then Dwayne lurched into action, turning and scrambling between two cars as he careened in the opposite
direction. It was the smartest thing he’d done all day.
Sampas stood his ground until Dwayne was out of sight, then made one more circuit around the Lamborghini to
make sure he hadn’t missed anything. It was intact, every last dollar’s worth. Lathrop would be glad. And Sampas
would get his bonus.
Now all he had to do was call Lathrop and tell him he’d found the car. He’d offer to drive it over, but knew
Lathrop would insist on coming and getting it himself.
He’d punched only three buttons on his cell phone when Dwayne took him from behind. Sampas never found
out what Dwayne hit him with. But it was hard, Dwayne hit him hard, and he went down harder. Dwayne jumped
back into the Lamborghini. The god-damned kid really wanted that car.
Sampas didn’t want Dwayne. But Dwayne was now in the Lamborghini. And Sampas was pissed. Somehow
he got back on his feet and closed the distance between him and the car. He reached into the driver’s window,
grabbed Dwayne by the shirt, and found himself staring into the endless black hole that led to Dwayne’s soul. At
the bottom of which, was...nothing. Not even pain. Dwayne was so high it was a wonder he could breathe without
an oxygen mask. No wonder he’d been able to get up after hitting the car. He might have been dusted. It might
have been crack. Or crank. Whatever it was had hold of Dwayne, and now it reached out and yanked Sampas in.
As he looked at Dwayne, from small inches away, Sampas knew...he could see it...feel it... Dwayne was seeing
Then came the second-most-chilling moment since this madness started 20 lifetimes ago back on Bay Street.
Dwayne smiled. No - it was more demonic glee. Then he gunned the Lamborghini. The car shot forward.
Sampas should have let go. Instead, he...he didn’t know what, but he wound up on the hood of the car. There
was no letting go now.
The car whipped around the lot, sending screaming tourists helter-skeltering out of the way, all their big-city
nightmares coming true in one crazed instant. Dwayne circled the lot two, three, four times, building speed, all the
while staring at Sampas with that god-damn grin. It was a moment out of Psycho.
The fourth time around, Dwayne jerked the wheel to the right. Now he was headed for the tower. More
accurately, he was headed for the concrete wall that stood between the tower and the parking lot. Was he going
to hop the curb and smash into the wall? Did he hate his father that much?
Inches from the curb, Dwayne stomped on the brake. The Lamborghini reacted as if it were aiming for a dime
on the pavement. Dwayne, who was not wearing a seat belt, took a header through the windshield. Sampas went
into orbit, past the wall, toward the tower. As he sailed over the steps that led up to the tower, he was profoundly
aware of (and strangely calm about) the iron handrails directly below him, waiting to section him like an egg
slicer. This wasn’t going to be pretty.
Dwayne sailed past him, cackling broomstick witch to Sampas’s tornado-driven Dorothy. Sampas had enough
height and momentum to make it past the handrails. But beyond that was the tower itself. And that was what he
hit. Not the actual tower - one of the columns that stood on either side of the entrance.
Dwayne’s attack in the parking lot, and whatever Dwayne hit him with, was a love tap compared to hitting the
column. Whatever Dwayne hit him with was mere wood or flimsy metal. The column was concrete. Just before
impact, he somehow found the presence of mind and coordination to twist around so he hit with his shoulder
blade instead of his face. It still hurt like hell. Sampas landed in a sloppy heap at the foot of the tower.
The last thing Sampas heard was the Telegraph Hill parakeets, screeching a metallic monotone rendition of
what sounded like that music from Psycho. Then, he crumpled into seamless black.