Cigarette smoke filled the air, soon followed by the aroma of reefer as the teens gathered at the small parking area by the river. The celebration was both for a birthday and a beer ritual known as a ‘kegger’.
The party was cool, but all Tom Fink ‘really’ wanted for his 18th Birthday was to get laid. That’s when a pretty 17-year-old blonde named Mary Alright walked over. Tom knew as he watched her golden curls bounce off her unrestrained breasts-the summer of 1977 was about to get hot fast.
“Hey, Tom baby, can I bum a smoke?” Mary asked as she strutted over in her sheer yellow halter top that showed just enough of her perky young breasts to tease any onlookers. The tiny white shorts she wore to showcase her slim brown legs was enough to leave a quivering pornographic image in Tom's imagination forever. He thought sharing his last Marlboro with a far-out chick like Mary was an excellent place to start with his birthday wishes.
Tom brushed his hand through his silky dark hair that hung attractively against his cheek and answered. “Tell you what, sweet baby; I’ll share my last one if you ride ‘around’ with me tonight. After things die down here, I planned to do a little cruising in my Van.”
Mary practically threw herself upon him, not wanting the last match from her matchbook to go out. She lit their mutual cigarette and said, “Damn it! You know what they say about the last match, right?”
Tom thought a moment then said, “Bad luck?”
Luck was on Tom’s mind; as in getting lucky. Several girls were in his fantasies but no one stood out as Mary Alright did. For lucky Tom, Mary was the one-a real trophy; and a horny one.
Tonight was perfect, with everyone sitting around a makeshift campfire by the river. Two kegs of Coors later, the campfire turned into a bonfire. People started telling ghost stories befitting such a place as Riverdale. Couples were coming and going as there were a lot of private areas in case you wanted to go all the way. It was a teenage paradise, and Tom wanted to explore the wonders his newfound love had to offer; however, Mary wanted to hear about the ghosts.
Tom’s older brother Paul sat by the fire, telling a story with the flames casting shadows on his face, “I grew up around here. All my life, people told me both the river and the road were haunted. Not with just one ghost, oh no, there are several.” The circle of teens became quiet to hear more, “See, I spend a lot of time driving the challenging curves of Riverdale road. One night I saw this opaque jogger. It was so fucking weird; I could see right through the dude. I’m sure he was a ghost. I followed him down to what’s left of that old chicken coop, where the Brighton curve is. And he disappeared into the ground.”
Tom stood up and collaborated with his brother’s story. “One night, we saw an old truck driving in circles by the coop. It had no driver. Something was operating it although it had no gas and its tires were shot. Legend says this area is known as the gates of Hell, and if there is such a thing, I think we found it. Think about all the unexplained accidents-more than the entire city of Denver.”
It wasn’t just the Fink brothers that saw the strange undertakings; Paul’s girlfriend Tammy Masconti saw them too, “One night, Paul and I saw this woman in a white dress walking down the yellow line in front of us. Her dress was torn and looked singed like she had been in a fire or something.”
Shaking his head in agreement, Paul chimed in, “that’s when it happened. We stopped to see if we could help and when the woman turned to look at us, she had no face. She flew up on the hood of my Am and disappeared. We both saw her and agree she was a fucking evil ghost.”
Mary stood up and grabbed Tom’s hand. “Let’s go look at your brother’s car, Tom. Let’s see where the ghost stood.”
The Birthday plans tonight were all Paul’s idea. At 20 years old, Paul liked hanging out with his younger brother. Tom’s swagger and boyish good looks always attracted smoking hot women like Mary.
Tammy was not like Mary at all, however she was 21 years old and worth her weight in gold as she could supply an endless amount of alcohol.
Paul, the self-proclaimed bad boy drove his badass 1975 Black and Gold Pontiac Trans-Am. Mary was intrigued as Paul told her, “bought it as a tribute to Smokey and the Bandit.” That was true. That dream car was perfect for road games and ghostly adventures. It had bolt-on flares, spoilers, engine air extractors, shaker hood scoop, and the envious "Screaming Chicken" bird decal.
“This top-of-the-food-chain model added up to a window price tag of $4,740”, Paul said as he used his mechanics cloth to spit polish the chrome bumper.
The news of the party attracted more than a few others. Some neither Tom nor Paul knew. Just as the evening grew older, so did the crowd.
An unusual car pulled alongside Tom and Mary. It was a bitchin’ Crimson Red Camaro, with the word ‘Passion’ neatly monogrammed on its driver’s door; and had a body straight as an arrow and looked like a mighty challenger for Paul’s Am.
As if by hypnosis, it attracted Paul-damn near turned him back into a little kid with sweet desire. On bended knees, he checked the glorious automobile out and waited breathlessly for the mysterious driver to exit, “Shit, that’s a smoking hot rebuild, friend,” Paul said as a tall, striking man walked forward.
The Stranger wore silver-toed cowboy boots, which glistened above his tight bootcut black jeans, and a black duster atop a western black button-down that exposed dark curly hair on his chest. His hat was also a black western design that blocked most of his face. The dark sunglasses he wore, even though the sun had set, hid the rest. Paul was awestruck. He merged back alongside his brother.
Paul asked, “do all the work yourself” then, looking in the window said, “Holy shit, it’s a 6-speed T56 with a pullout upgraded clutch rated for 750hp.”
The mysterious stranger didn’t speak just adjusted his shades before walking away.
Tom whispered to his brother, “This guy is freaking me out. Is this some bizarre birthday joke, Paul?”
The Stranger returned to his car as Tammy and Mary clutched their respective boyfriends.
Tammy noted, “Did you see his eyes when he removed his shades? His unnaturally green eyes are deep with some unfathomable emotion. He scares me.”
Mary added, “I think he is a ghost; maybe the phantom of Riverdale Road.” As she hid behind Tom, she said, “Shit, I think I smoked way too much dope.”
The man's unusual good looks didn’t get past Mary. She winked at him and ensured he got a peak of the jailbait she was hiding even though Tom was holding her hand.
Tammy ran to Paul, asking, “Are you racing him, Paul? If so, I call shotgun!”
Mary looked at Paul and grabbed his arm with big blue-eyed excitement.
Drag racing on the anfractuous Riverdale Road was dangerous, and Paul knew it, but something inside him made it so he couldn’t turn down this challenge, “Shit, my beast of an Am will take that, Camaro, without even trying.” He ran to the driver's window and knocked, “How bout we race to the Gates, it’s about a mile.”
The Stranger nodded his head in agreement.
Mary pleaded with Paul to let her and Tom sit in the back. “I can’t race with any additional weight, guys. I’m not even taking Tammy.”
Tammy, insulted, with crossed arms, said out of disappointment, “Fuck You!”
But Paul didn’t want any passengers as he was fairly sure he would not win.
Paul smirked as he thought “Anyone who knows cars knows a Camaro RS/SS is a small, vicious fast beast that eats Stangs and devours Ams.”
The Stranger knew that the Camaro named ‘Passion’ was just as mysterious as himself. One dark and stormy night, someone or something had brought the remains of ‘Passion’ to the old chicken coop. The car was completely restored and ready to drive by the following morning. She had been given all new mounts; new door seals new windows during the mysterious process. Replacing all the weather stripping and freshening the little things like lightbulbs, bolts, and nuts was a thankless task, but they did it anyway—the new chrome, including front and rear bumpers, door handles, and beautiful grill, looked as though they came from 1966. The interior looked original and unscathed. It’s near impossible to put in new door panels, new carpet, and a new headliner without it looking restored. Passion was not a well-worn ten-year-old muscle car. She was brand new, and Hell had given her a new beating heart.
The race started and the bewitching Camaro took the lead, and the weight of the Am couldn’t catch up. Paul lusted for the car the Stranger drove. The RS was just an appearance package but the SS stood for a 396 cu in, V8 engine, and a chassis upgrade that would make any car guy creme his jeans. The enhancements were for better handling and to deal with the additional power. It also had a taste for eating fucking fast Trans-Ams. Paul knew he would be beaten on his home turf.
“He beat me, plain and simple, but then he just took off. He didn’t stop to boast. I’m not sure if he was feeling sorry for me or what. The bastard just vanished.”
After the uneventful race, Paul was having problems with the electrical system and noticed he only had one working headlight. No problem, as it was an easy fix. However, the light rain had plans to become a downpour and put an early end to Tom’s birthday party.
Mary asked, “Why don’t you take us for a ride first and show me where the Gates of Hell are, Paul?” Then with a wink, “Pretty please with a cherry on top!”
This time Tammy held her own to sit shotgun while Tom and Mary sat down in the back. They had everything they needed to continue with their private party down at the Gates, a case of Coors in the trunk and enough dope to roll 3 or 4 right size doobies to pass around. The girls brought a bag of wet food they had tried to save and their blanket, which was now sandy and damp. The rain brought on a heavy fog, and with few cars on the road and no one to race, Paul let it rip.
Just as they approached the vacant lot that still had bits and pieces of what was once a chicken coop, a driverless Passion treated the Trans Am passengers to a little demolition derby. It started with gentle taps to the trunk, and then BOOM, The Camaro hit them hard enough for all the beer cans to explode in the back.
The Camaro , Passion, was particularly angry. Hellbent to destroy the Trans Am, her past story was unknown to the living. The Camaro itself was another ghost from hell waiting for her long lost first owner to return. That’s why she could easily bewitch Paul.
Passion’s original owner was an American Soldier. When he returned home from Vietnam, the Soldier used his pay to buy his dream Chevy Camaro. The car would be a short-lived example of what he fought to defend as he met his maker in an unexplained collision with an old Cottonwood tree on one of Riverdale Road’s many deadly curves. The Soldier died instantly, and the Camaro suffered extensive damage.
It was the Stranger that drove the tow truck that night. He cranked the tow rope in honor of the brave American soldier and his once beautiful automobile. He too became possessed by the automobiles magnetism.
“Nobody is driving it!” screamed Mary as BAM, Passion hit them hard from behind.
Mary and Tammy then screamed some more.
With all the panicked touching and teasing that had been going on, the foursome in the Trans-Am were hot. As the windows were fogging up, everyone rolled their windows down. Pauls' hard-on could not be hidden as he shouted out the window at Passion, “Come on you bitch, I’ll take you on! Suck on this!” He turned up the radio as his favorite power ballad, "Beyond the Realms of Death," by his favorite metalheads, was on. The hardcore guitar work made him stroke the steering wheel so hard he nearly lost control, making the girls scream hard. Tammy moved as close to Paul as she could, holding her hand over Paul's on the shift and then moving it to his crotch- in one fast motion.
Blonde Mary Alright's hair was flying sideways. She cried, then laughed, then cried some more as she grabbed Tom around his slim waistline and gave him a whole tongue, spontaneous, luscious kiss. Tom and Paul both knew that tonight was going to be their last.
As Passion passed the infamous Cottonwood tree that still had her old plates embedded in its trunk, the unseen driver firmly clamped down the gas pedal. Passion had cheated death once. This time she wouldn't. Her endless speedometer read 130, 140, then 150 miles per hour.
Paul was afraid to do more with only one working headlight. The fog from the river looked like a terrifying movie set. It would be the perfect backdrop for Passion for accomplishing her goal. With three suicide curves in a row ahead, Passion’s last thoughts were not about crushing the Trans Am. She cared nothing about the occupants either. It was her original owner, her one true love, the ghostly figure still in his Army best who hated all who chose to race her. The soldier waited on the side of the road diligently for Passion.
Paul lost control of the Trans-Am rolling the machine far enough away from the raging river not to go in. But as luck would have it the Am spun around so it was facing head on right in Passions path.
The last collision was fast, grizzly, and fatal. Paul’s severed right hand with his class ring and watch still attached was lying in the road as if it led the way to a mix of black and red metals. The glass of both vehicles was tossed around as decoration for the graphic scene.
Paul and Tammy were instantly decapitated on impact as their heads simultaneously hit the windshield. The not-of-this-world Camero’s windshield flew across and acted as a guillotine blade before shattering into a million blood-tinged pieces. With its gauge hands still in place, the Trans-Am speedometer partly submerged on the side of the road in mud, gas, and blood read they were traveling a gasping 155 miles per hour. It had beaten the Camaro by only 2 miles per hour on impact. The Thornton Colorado Police estimated the Camaro had made it to 153 miles per hour and it's driver had miraculously left the scene.
The backseat passengers did not fare as well as Paul and Tammy did. Their death would not be as clean, or as relatively painless. Tom had bitten Mary's tongue clean off, and her mouth looked as though it was speaking in some devilish language as she choked to death. Her left eye was torn from its socket, and her back was broken in a way that made her look like a folded-up rag doll. Her blonde hair was now blood red. Her parents would have to forgo their prom Queen’s future.
The last words Tom Fink would hear on his 18th Birthday were from Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford belting out...The wind kissed him goodbye.
And then he died...