Placing the box-end wrench onto the stained shop rag, Winter Montgomery finished loosening the drain plug by hand, making sure the catchpan was positioned directly underneath.
It was only seven-thirty and her fingernails already looked like they’d been soaking in a bucket of dirty oil. “Such a glamorous life I lead.”
“Phone call, Winter,” Grady Michaels said.
“I’m a little busy here. Take a message.”
“I’m not your personal assistant.”
“Just take the damn message. I’d do it for you.”
“I’ll take a message,” John Bronson said, hitting the flashing button on the phone inside the shop.
She’d taken messages for the guys whenever they were busy, yet she still had to fight to get them to do the same. Some days she wondered if they’d ever accept a woman as a co-worker.
Watching the oil fill the catchpan, she rolled out on the creeper, grabbing a clean rag from her pocket and wiping off her hands. She headed toward John, reaching for the hand cleaner and another fresh rag.
“What’s up, John?”
“Violet Chandler wants you to come get her car and give it a tune-up.”
“Damn it, Winter, are you still doing that? I told you our insurance doesn’t cover you gallivanting all over town driving customer vehicles,” Charlie Mattson grumbled.
“I only do it for her because she’s seventy-nine years old. Trust me, you don’t want her driving that behemoth she calls a car. She can’t even see over the dashboard.”
“Why does she want it tuned up then?” Grady asked.
“She’s owned that car the better part of the last twenty years. She doesn’t have the money to ever buy another one, so she wants to make sure it stays in good running condition. She gets it tuned up twice a year.”
“You aren’t doing it and that’s final,” Charlie said. Before Winter could protest further, he added, “And I don’t want to hear another word about it. Case closed.” He turned and walked back into his office.
“Wipe that stupid grin off your face. You think it’s good business to deny an older woman good car maintenance? Violet Chandler has friends; friends with money. It’s ridiculous to act like a jerk and turn away customers because of ego.”
“Charlie said it was because of insurance.”
“If he’d been the one to bring in business, you can bet your ass he wouldn’t have such high moral integrity.”
A car pulled into the garage with Autumn Fieldstone behind the wheel. Winter headed over to see what she needed.
“Hi, Autumn. Having car trouble?”
“I’m not sure. The temperature gauge is in the red.”
“Pull into the fourth bay. I’ll take a look.”
“Thanks. Sorry to just drop by.”
“You finished with Mr. Barton’s oil change?”
“What in the hell’s taking you so long? Get on it!”
“Want me to finish it up?” Doyle Murphy asked.
“Do you have time?”
“Yeah. My load’s lighter than yours.”
Doyle had been hired at Charlie’s Garage two weeks ago. So far, he was the only person who seemed to have her back. She was used to it, having grown up with three older brothers. But every once in a while it was nice to have someone around you could count on.
Winter popped Autumn’s hood and began a routine check, starting with the radiator.
Autumn hovered, not knowing a carburetor from a dipstick.
“When’s the last time you put water in your radiator?”
“Am I supposed to do that?”
Winter shook her head. “It’s a wonder you’re not in here every week. It’s bone dry. That’s why your car overheated.”
Winter added water, along with antifreeze.
“What’s that stuff?”
“Keeps the water from freezing during the cold winter months.”
“It can freeze?”
“Yes. When it begins to thaw it can crack your radiator.”
“That sounds bad.”
“It is bad.”
Winter used a hydrometer to test the liquid. “You’re good to twenty below.”
“It won’t freeze unless it’s that cold outside?”
“It never gets that cold here.”
“Then you’re all set.”
“How do you know all this stuff?”
“I took classes, and spent most of my time as a kid in the garage with Pop and my brothers.”
“Thank you for saving me, once again.”
“Will you be at book club tonight?”
“Wouldn’t miss it. Spring’s bringing her famous sweet potato pie in honor of Miss Marsha Billowsky’s engagement to Mr. Alistair Fitzpatrick.”
“We should have chosen something with a Christmas theme to read.”
“Christmas is overrated.”
“Kirk isn’t coming home again this year?”
“None of them are. Jeff’s somewhere in England with another new girlfriend and Scott’s going skiing with a bunch of friends. It’s just going to be me and Pop.”
“Having a quiet Christmas with just the two of you might be a good change.”
“Nice try. I’ve been feeling a bit… I don’t even know how to describe it…”
“I have to get back to work. I’ll see you tonight.”
“I want to talk about this some more.”
“I’m going to hold you to that.”
Doyle was just sliding out from underneath Mr. Barton’s car when Winter passed by.
“You’re all set,” he said.
“Thanks, again. Charlie’s favorite pastime is bellowing at me.”
“His bark is worse than his bite.”
“I don’t think I’d like to test that theory.”
A cherry red convertible pulled into the first bay with a dark-haired man behind the wheel talking on his cell phone.
Winter scowled. What kind of idiot couldn’t hang up there phone when they pulled into a garage?
Charlie nodded in her direction and then at the car, indicating she should go talk with the rude gentleman. Winter approached the car. “What seems to be the problem?”
The man put up a finger in a motion that told her to wait while he finished his call.
“If you want us to look at your car, you’d better hang up. You have until the count of three. One, two, three.” Winter turned her back on the man and went into the office area.
Five minutes later the man followed her steps. “Is someone going to look at my car?”
“Someone was ready and willing to look at your car, but you were too busy talking to be interrupted.”
“The call was important.”
“That was almost an apology for your rude behavior. Care to try it again?”
“Who are you?”
“Winter Montgomery. Who are you?”
“Rory Walters, of the Manchester Walters.”
“Is that supposed to impress me?”
“I suppose it wouldn’t impress someone of your… stature.”
Winter’s back stiffened and she stood taller. She’d give him stature! She opened her mouth to reply when Charlie interceded. “Rory, good to see you. How are Jennifer and Marcus?”
“Good to see you, Charlie. They’re good. Going to Aspen for Christmas.”
“What about you?”
“I’m playing host this year for the Christmas Eve party. Thought I’d hold down the fort for the folks while they’re gone.”
“The ladies in Port Townsend will be glad to hear the news. Celeste Mankin moved back last May.”
Not all of them, Winter thought.
“I see you’ve met Winter. She’ll be working on your convertible. Come on, let’s go outside and take a look under the hood.”