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Nancy Vroom and the Haunted Factory

By J. L. Ender

I revved my motor and slipped out of park, checking the glowing digits of the clock on my nightstand. 2:59 a.m. I’d woken just in time. It’s tough to be a crime-solving teenage car. Sometimes you have to sacrifice a little sleep.

But I had a mystery to solve.

I took off my nightgown and grabbed a brush. Driving up to my vanity, I tamed my Titian hair in front of the mirror, thirty strokes on each side. Once my bob was perfect, I opened one of my doors, then the other. Both shiny. Keen. Putting myself in reverse, I snuck out of the house.

My best friend Bus waited for me outside. The little blue and white bus smiled when she saw me. “Hey, Nancy, where’s Rev?”

“He’ll meet us at the factory.”

My boyfriend, Rev Riverson, was a cute pickup truck. I’d met him when he’d come to my door trying to sell my dad car insurance. The timing had been perfect. Mine had run out, and I couldn’t get past the driveway until I got it renewed.

We motored down quiet streets. No one else drove at this late hour. Finally, our tires came to a stop at the edge of a weed-choked parking lot. The massive sprawl of an immense factory skulked in the nighttime shadows.

The source of a mysterious scream heard every night for the last week.

Headlights burst out of the gloom. Bus screamed, and I gave a start before realizing it was just Rev.

I shook my hood. “What’s the big idea, Revolutions Per Minute Riverson?” I exclaimed.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to spook you girls.”

A wail punched the night. Bus let out a little shriek. “I’m not sure this is a good idea.”

“We’ve got a job to do.” I switched on my headlights and rolled forward. “Let’s do this.”

As we neared the tall, forbidding door of the building, a car squealed across the lot. No need for headlights. The spectral vehicle glowed a bright, sickly green.

Oooooooo. Im a ghoooost,” it wailed as it went by.

Bus threw herself into reverse. Rev froze. I kept rolling forward. The car vanished as soon as it had appeared.

“Yikes.” Rev’s motor thrummed as he hurried to my side.

A steady, distant rumble emanated from the factory. “What’s that sound?”

“I don’t hear anything,” Rev replied.

“Me either,” Bus added. She’d retreated across the lot.

“That’s because you’re too far away,” I muttered.

“I heard that!” She wheeled across the asphalt and joined us by the door.

“We really going inside?” Rev asked.

“Won’t solve this mystery standing around in the dark.” I used two bobby pins to pick the lock on the door, and it swung upward, revealing… a brightly lit interior.

Briefly blinded, I doused my headlights. The factory was running? That made no sense… nobody used factories anymore.

But the assembly line was rumbling and clattering as new cars were born. A small green sedan rolled down a belt. Parts were added by robot arms as it moved down the track. Nobody knew where the factories had come from originally. They’d fallen out of favor after… other methods of car manufacture had been discovered.

“But this factory’s been closed for years!” Rev whispered.

“Someone wants to go back to factory-born cars.” Bus studied the rumbling machinery, eyes wide. “But that’s illegal!”

“Tell that to the criminals.” I rolled closer, wondering if I should call the sheriff with my carphone, or try to get us back to town first.

A minivan with a clipboard drove by. She adjusted cat’s-eye glasses. “You can’t be here! Didn’t the dadgum ghost scare you off?”

I shook my hood. “It was clearly a ruse designed to hide something.”

“Drat. This ruins everything.” She spoke into a mic. “Security, we have another crime-solving teenage sedan on the floor.”

Past time to call the police.

A sporty silver convertible drove up, flanked— and dwarfed— by two burly semitrucks. “What’s all this?”

“Spencer Spyder?” I kicked a nearby oil barrel with one of my tires. Its contents pooled near the open door. “Washington A.C.’s most successful politician? What’re you doing in a factory?”

Spyder frowned at my vandalism. “I’ll tell you my whole scheme, but not until you’ve been booted and had your emergency brakes activated.”

In a flash, the semis did exactly that. Heavy boots were strapped to our front tires, and we were tied in a circle together.

Spyder grinned. “I’m bringing all the factories to life.”

“But you’re the one who made them illegal!” It had happened before I was even a twinkle in my mother’s windshield, but I knew my history.

“Of course I did. How else can I profit from the official shutdowns? When I sell these new luxury models to couples with faulty carburetors, I’ll be rich! Desperation makes adoption a lucrative market, you know.”

“What an evil plan!” Bus cried. “You’ll never get away with it.”

“I already have. No one’s going to miss a few meddling kids.”

I laughed. “Shows what you know.”

The wail of sirens filled the air. Police sirens. A dozen cop cars tore into the factory opposite the door we’d entered.

One of the semis tore off. Two police cars rolled out a tack strip and blew his tires before he’d made it ten feet.

“No!” Spyder tried to drive away but hit the oil slick I’d created and spun out. With a terrible squeal, he slammed into a wall.

As the police placed a boot on his front tire, he screamed and thrashed. His hood now rumpled, he lisped, “I’ll get you, Nancy Vroom! You haven’t heard the last of me!”

Rev honked his horn, and Bus cheered.

I laughed again. “Looks like your big scheme is all out of gas!”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J. L. Ender is the author of the superhero series Steel Fox Investigations, as well as a number of novels and short stories across several genres. Ender has worked as a dishwasher, a beef jerky labeler, a warehouse worker, a shelf stocker, a greeter, a traveling technician, a laser engraver, a package handler, a copywriter, a graphic designer, a librarian, an editor, destroyer of worlds (in an unofficial capacity), a dispatcher, and a phone operator.


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