It was a dark and stormy night. NASCAR Chief Inspector Helton put down the note and turned to his computer. He pulled up the FOXSports NASCAR blog pages and scanned them for any information he could find on Kristen and the Maltese Lug Nut. One particular blog entry caught his attention almost immediately. His jaw dropped as he began reading. There in front of him for the entire world to see was all the information concerning Kristen's meeting with her gang: date, time, and place. As he scrolled through the comments, he got even luckier. There was the list of gang members who would be attending the meeting. Helton picked up the phone and started dialing.
"Good morning, gentlemen. We have a crisis on our hands," Helton told the assembly.
"What is it now?" asked one of the men. "Knaus up to something again?"
"I wish it were that simple, Dave," Helton commented to Dave Blaney. "This is much more serious. The Maltese Lug Nut is still missing."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah, and Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead," joked Todd Bodine. The room erupted in laughter.
"Watch it Bodine," Helton told the jokester. "You're on thin ice as it is. Your performance at Martinsville was disappointing at best. Most would call it downright disgraceful." The driver jumped up from his seat ready for a fight.
"Look, Phil thinks this whole idea of using the start and park drivers as garage spies is ridiculous. No one is going to tell us anything," Bodine snapped back.
"Perhaps Phil would like a taste of the Carl Long treatment," Helton threatened. Bodine sat back down. "I didn't think so. If you want to park your car after three laps, then you have to earn that prize money in other ways." Heltom turned his attention back to the entire group. "Now, the Valus gang will be here this weekend. I've learned that they will all have pit passes, so keep your eyes and ears open."
"How are we supposed to know what they look like?" asked Joe Nemechek.
"You won't," Helton admitted as he handed out dossiers on the Valus gang members. "We only have pictures of Kristen."
"So we're supposed to figure out just which fans out of the thousands that will be at the track are Kristen's gang members withour so much as a hint of what they look like?" Bodine asked incredulously. "Man, you've been drinking Jeremy's kool-aid."
"We know when and where they're meeting," Helton informed the group, "and the dossiers should help some. You'll know which drivers to give special attention. I'll leave it to you to work out the details among yourselves." The drivers left the hauler and returned to their garages.
Later that afternoon, as the teams prepared for practice and qualifying, no one noticed the petite brunette slip into the hauler of Roush/Fenway driver David Ragan. She made her way to the back of the hauler and up to the office. Jack Roush was sitting behind the desk waiting for her.
"Hello, Melissa, Did anyone see you?" he asked.
"I don't think so," she replied.
"Good. You know why you're here." Roush said.
"You want me to find out what Kristen did with the Maltese Lug Nut."
"Precisely. Do you think she suspects anything?" he queried.
"No, sir," the girl answered, "but what makes you think she'll tell me anything. Helton had Dale Jr. talk to her and got nothing."
"That's where Helton went wrong," Roush remarked. "She was star struck, and now he thinks his start and park spies are going to be able to find the Lug Nut."
"I'll do my best, sir," she told Roush.
"I know you will," the owner remarked. "Make sure no one sees you when you leave."
"Yes, sir." The young woman slipped out of the hauler as easily as she had gotten in and blended in with the other fans at the track.