Scaggs Newcomb was a drunk who drove a Mercury and who seemed like a loose-limbed good old Howdy Doody boy but was some-thing else and burned for money. His former cellmate Billy Roberts was a Lincoln Continental man.
On New Year’s Eve Billy wrecked the black Lincoln in Charlotte, but the car still drove all right. He and the insurance man didn’t see eye-to-eye on the settlement. Billy threw the first punch. Scaggs posted bail.
Squalling the Mercury’s tires as he pulled onto East Fourth Street from the Mecklenburg County Jail, that Howdy Doody smile all over his face, Scaggs told Billy he had an idea. They would drive the mangled Lincoln to New Orleans where he said they would chill.
The night before Mardi Gras ended, Scaggs, who had been drinking mescal and snorting cocaine for three days, woke Billy at four in the morning. Billy heard the metal motel door open and shut. The room was black. He could smell Scaggs, but he couldn’t see him. The other man was just a smell and a spooky mescal cocaine voice.
“If there’s anything in there you want,” Scaggs whispered from another world, “you better get the fuck up and come get it.” Billy didn’t answer. “Stay put,” Scaggs said.
Roberts closed his eyes. But not for long. Because of the sirens outside and the smell of burning tires that seeped around the motel windows and beneath the door, wafting sinuously through the stench Scaggs had left in the room.
Later that afternoon, the two men boarded a plane with first-class tickets Scaggs had purchased a month before. They ordered a Maker’s Mark before buckling their seatbelts. As the plane lifted off, Scaggs turned to Billy.
“Some people hate that burning smell,” he said with his signature grin. He lifted his glass to Billy. “I don’t happen to be one of ‘em.”
That was in February. Billy’s trial was set for early August. The plastic surgery had helped some, but the insurance guy’s face was still a mess. Stepping out of his lawyer’s office Billy saw the Mercury at the curb.
For the July 4th holiday, the two men left Charlotte for Myrtle Beach where Scaggs said they would chill. But when the Mercury reached Darlington, South Carolina, Scaggs didn’t take the Highway 52 by-pass. Billy asked why. Scaggs looked up at the city limits sign, then over at Billy and smiled.