After a surprisingly short search, we discovered that someone driving a red Durango had bought gasoline at a 7-11 less than a half-mile from the Marriott hotel. The clerk on duty said a guy in his early twenties, “a big fella”, casually dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, had stopped in about 3:30 am. “Odd thing was”, the clerk said, “he only bought three gallons. Seemed in a hurry, too.” He also recollected that the vehicle had Ohio tags.
I conferred with Wronwright. “The Durango only gets, what, 15 miles to the gallon on the highway?”
“Yeah, that’s about right.”
“So, the guy was planning on driving it maybe 45 miles, tops; probably a little less.”
We stopped by Wronwright’s hotel and went into the bar for a drink – Wronwright solemnly, if somewhat reluctantly, promising not to ask for Yoo Hoo – and we were discussing our next move, when the local news came on the television mounted over the bar. A car was being hauled out of a ditch, and the reporter was describing some kind of accident.
“Say, barkeep, turn that up, will you?”
The bartender complied, and we learned that a motorist had been driven off the road on I-95 and seriously injured by someone who had cut her off at an exit. Someone in a red Durango.
Wronwright was thinking along the same lines as I was. “Did you get the exit number?”
“Yeah. That’s down in Stafford County. Come on!”
We returned to my office, and I broke out the relevant road maps. Most of the vehicles that had been stolen and vandalized had been found west of I-95, within a radius of five miles from the first vandalized car, off of secondary roads (or even the occasional dirt road) in fields or burned-off sections of forest that were making way for new construction; it was still a pretty big area to whittle down. I notified the Stafford County sheriff’s department of my suspicions, and they promised to look into the matter – probably, if ever, sometime after the next election.
“Wronwright, I’ve got an idea. Whoever’s stealing these vehicles isn’t going to leave them out in the open for any length of time, at least, not until they’re ready to abandon them – or what’s left of them. And whoever made off with Dorothy isn’t likely to keep her in his own garage. Now, along US 1 in Stafford County, there are quite a number of old, abandoned mechanics’ shops and filling stations, and there’s just a chance that the thief is hiding your car out in one of them. It’s not much to go on, but you didn’t spring for Lojack, so we’ve got to hope we get lucky with the trial and error method. What do you say? You want to take a ride?”
Wronwright was game, and Sheila insisted on coming along, so we dropped by Five Guys Burgers and Fries, stoked up on aorta cement, and headed down US 1.
(To be continued...)