Cars were far easier to understand than most people . . .
Titus Rickmeyer has a servant’s heart. Mechanic and tow-truck driver he’s used to coming to the aid of damsels in distress, especially serving as part of Orchard Hill’s Garage Ministry in his spare time. So why is he suddenly suspicious of the young man fixing cars and bringing donuts to the repair shop?
Bethany Joelle Hanson has been on her own for too long. Orphaned and dumped into foster care at a young age she bounced around the system until declaring her independence at sixteen. She holds her secrets close. She wonders if God has abandoned her too. Working as an assistant baker at a local grocery store, she becomes B.J. in her off hours to work on cars at the Garage Ministry where all the guys there think she’s one of them. But something about Titus threatens her long-honed desire to hide her femininity.
The twists and turn in their relationship lead to detours on the way to the sweet taste of love.
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There was something comforting about the clanking of tools on metal as the men worked. Titus strode to where legs appeared from under a car. He pulled the boots and a young man’s face appeared before him, smears of oil marring his features. The stubborn baseball cap remained firmly on the boy’s head as always.
Brown eyes stared up at him and he frowned. “You almost done with that oil change?”
“Yeah, just tightened the last bolt.” B.J. rose to his feet and placed the wrench on the table.
“Come here. I’ve got your next job for you.” Titus waited for a second and headed for the other end of the garage.
“OK.” The young man followed him. B.J. never shared anything, like why he came to help, but Titus understood the peace of working on cars. The boy carried his weight in his willingness to do whatever Titus asked as long as it was in his skill-set.
“Someone donated this vehicle. I’d like to find out how well you do running the computer codes in assessing what we need to do to make it ready.”
The young man stood there, staring at the sedan. His head tilted. “Do you hear something?”
Music blared through the garage speakers. Titus frowned and stared at the boy. “Like what?”
“I’m not sure. Shhhh.” The boy crept closer to the vehicle, slow and intent. He got to the rear and put his ear to the metal. “Can you pop the trunk?”
Titus pulled the lever from inside the car. The lid opened, and he moved around to join the kid.
“Crap. Who would do such a thing?” B.J. reached in to pull out a black plastic bag that wiggled. He set it on the concrete floor and ripped through the plastic.
Titus gagged. The furry animal before them was covered in blood, urine and feces, and its mouth was taped shut.
Sad brown eyes searched Titus’s—and they weren’t the dog’s.
The dog whimpered.
“Will, come here. Bring your phone. We need some pictures.”
Another mechanic rushed over, snapped photos of the bag, the dog, and B.J. trying to free him.
B.J. pulled out a jackknife and slowly worked through the edge of the tape on both sides allowing the animal to open his jaws. “Do you think soap will help remove the tape?” He mused aloud but shook his head, frowning.
B.J. picked the dog up, hauled him to the industrial size sink, turned the taps to warm water, and proceeded to bathe the animal.
Titus disposed of the plastic coffin behind the garage. He returned to watch the process as the boy scrubbed the dog clean with dish soap.
The other men joined him.
“What will you do with him or her?”
“Him.” The young man shrugged. A tear dragged a path through the dirt on the kid’s face. “We should call the shelter. Or the police. It’s a crime to abuse an animal like this. He needs to get checked out by a vet.”
“I’ll call the police.” Titus pulled out his phone.
A towel soon swaddled the dog as B.J. sat on the floor hugging it tight.
Titus stood by the donated vehicle. It would take a lot of work to clean the smell out of that trunk. Why would someone use this shop as a dumping ground for a dog? The ugliness people were capable of astounded him.
“Ty, can you come here and hold his face still? He’ll fight me on this, but I’d rather not hurt him more while I cut this tape off. The hair is quite long and matted but if I’m careful I think I can slice it off.”
Titus knelt across from the boy who held the weak and shivering dog close.
B.J. softly crooned words of comfort while using a box cutter to slice under the tape, slowly working it off.
It took all of Ty’s will to hold the squirming dog steady as it fought the process. The police arrived as the last of the tape pulled free. Ty let the dog loose and it jumped into B.J.’s lap giving the kid licks on his face.
“Stop, you silly dog. My face is filthy.” The boy ruffled the dog’s matted hair. Obviously, the affection went both ways.
Titus grinned at the enthusiasm of the pup who still whimpered and shivered in spite of the young man who provided such tender care for it.
Animal control arrived and took the dog away in a carrier, so it could be assessed and cared for.
B.J. fingered the card. She’d check up on the pup in a few days. If it was well enough it might be adoptable. B.J. prayed that it would. She glanced at the clock on the wall and headed over to Titus.
B.J. was really Bethany Joelle, but Ty and the rest of the men at The Garage didn’t realize she was female. She dressed as a boy when she came there to work, and they accepted her as such. She’d been doing it for over a year now.
Titus, whom the men all called Ty, had only recently taken over the management of the ministry at The Garage.
She sighed. “I need to leave. I’ll stop back Monday afternoon and promise to take care of that car.”
“Thanks, kid. I appreciate it. I’m glad you found the dog in time,” Ty said.
“Yeah, me too.” B.J. walked away longing for her bath and bed.
“Hey!” Titus called after her.
“What?” She turned, fingering her key.
“Do you ever attend church?”
She shrugged. “Rarely, gotta job.”
“I’m sorry. I’ll pray that something will open up in your work schedule to allow you to join in worship.”
B.J. frowned. “A few more Sundays off would be welcome. Thanks.” She turned and headed to her scooter. She might need to work more if she were to support a dog. Could she handle it? Or would the dog be alone too much? She’d ask her landlady. Maybe between the two of them the dog would find a home and love. Something she’d never experienced much of herself.
Once home, she let her strawberry-blonde hair fall down her back. She rarely let anyone see it. As Bethany Joelle, she kept it up or in a braid at work for sanitary purposes. No one wanted to find hair in their donuts. Maybe it would be better if she cut it off. But it was one of the things she remembered of her mother—her long, red hair. If Bethany cut it off that one last tenuous link to happier days would be thrown away.
As the mechanic, B.J., she kept it hidden at the shop to avoid them realizing she was a woman. At twenty-four, petite and with a slim build, she wore boy’s jeans when she worked at the shop.
She showered, made a quick sandwich, and climbed into her bed. Alone. Just like every other night. And that’s the way it would be until God took her home. Life was safer that way. If she kept busy enough she didn’t think about how lonely she really was.