Billy was now headed back to Atlanta. LA was behind him. Flat arid country interrupted by billboards were on both sides of him. “Atlanta,” he mumbled. “There is something dirty in Atlanta.”
He called Drake and told him of the events since the last time they talked.
“Anything new on you end?” Billy said.
“Dad, please think hard,” Drake said, “and don’t answer if you are not sure or uncomfortable.”
“Sure,” Billy said, “go ahead.”
“Were you and Abernathy doing anything illegal,” Drake said, “or were you aware he was doing something illegal.”
“No,” Billy said. “Ted and I were friends and he was my lawyer. His firm handled nearly everything for me and the dealerships. We had a great personnel and business relationship. I trusted him on every level. Why do you ask?”
“You here things,” Drake said.
“Like what?” Billy said.
“Do you remember anything about sending cars to your dealerships north?” Drake said.
“Normally I could probably answer in a blink of an eye,” Billy said, “but I can’t recover a memory by merely suggestion, something must stimulate it.”
“I’ll give you some time to think about it,” Drake said.
“Wait!” Billy said. “We were always doing that. If a car was needed up north that they didn’t have we’d run it up.”
“Do you know how often?” Drake said.
“I don’t think I handled those details,” Billy said.
“Do you know who might?” Drake said.
“I can’t give you a name,” Billy said, “but I’d say off hand the general manager might take care of that.”
“That would be Ted Abernathy’s brother,” Drake said.
“Is his first name Kirk?” Billy said.
“Yeah,” Drake said.
“I can’t tell you anything more about him,” Billy said, “except he’s a good manager, knows his stuff. I think Ted talked me into hiring him.”
“That’s interesting,” Drake said. “Look, Dad, think some things over for the next day and we’ll talk tomorrow. If something doesn’t seem right to you jot it down and let’s talk about it.”
“I sure wish I knew where this was all leading,” Billy said.
“Me too, Dad,” Drake said.
“How’s your mom and Missy?” Billy said.
“Don’t see much of either,” Drake said. “Missy is completing med school, finals and Mom has been a little more hands-on at the dealership. She says she wants to get things back the way it was when you left.”
“Like what?” Billy said.
“I really don’t know,” Drake said.
“How would you say the business is doing?” Billy said.
“Honestly, Dad,” Drake said. “It’s running off the reputation you built. It seems steady, but it’s not growing. I’ve asked to look at sales figures and there is always an excuse why I can’t see them.”
“Is Amanda Barney still running the accounts department?” Billy said.
“She hasn’t worked there since you left,” Drake said. “Someone said she took a job at a dealership in Nashville.”
“If memory serves me, which it hasn’t for a while, she had her fingers on the pulse of all my dealerships,” Billy said. “She overlooked everything when it came to money and financing. She was one of the few people who could step in and run the whole shebang. I even had discussions with Ted and your Mom that she would be the person to go to in a crises.”
“I think it’s time for you to take over,” Drake said. “I mean clean house.”
“It has to be done gradual,” Billy said. “That’s how my thoughts are coming to me.”
“What if you were to bring back Amanda Barney and let her do it?” Drake said.
“That would be a lot to ask,” Billy said.
“People in that position are bred for this type of thing,” Drake said.
Billy smiled. “Yeah, when I sent her to the dealership in Columbus for three months she took no prisoners.”
“Will you contact her?” Drake said.
“Yeah,” Billy said, “but I must go to Indianapolis for a couple of days. There is some business of a personal nature that has to be taken care of.”
“When can I expect you?” Drake said.
“A week,” Billy said. “I’ll keep you posted.”
“Love you, Dad,” Drake said.
“Love you too, son,” Billy said and they hung up.