1. Out Of The Blue

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"Good morning A2B Motors"

I didn't have the heart to complete the slogan 'We don't stop when you do'. What was more depressing was that someone had been paid to come up with it. 

"Uh yeah hi, my car was making weird noises and now I can't get it to start"

"Could you just describe the noise to me Sir?"

I sat back gleefully and mentally prepared the popcorn. Persuading customers to perform the most humiliating impressions of failing car parts was usually the highlight of my otherwise mundane life and I was determined to make the most of it.

"Well it's sort of like...aharrumph aharrrUMPH ahahahahahurrrrrrrrrr"

A strangled spluttering noise came out of the receiver and I could only imagine the fine coating of spit that must now be decorating the handset at the other end of the line.

Resisting the urge to a) laugh or b) ask him to repeat the impressive sounds I paused and thought for a moment.

"Sounds like it could be an alternator problem" I announced confidently, let me take down your details and I'll get one of the boys to bring it in for a look"

"Are you sure it isn't the battery?"

I recognised the tone - it was the same mixture of doubt and superiority that I'd heard over and over again, usually  whenever I offered a diagnosis of my own.

"Yes it could be Sir" I replied through gritted teeth "but battery problems are often caused by the alternator failing to charge them correctly".

"But you will get an ACTUAL mechanic to take a look at it won't you"

"Yes of course Sir, ALL of our staff are highly qualified and extremely knowledgeable."

I took down the details, hung up, and sighed - even in this day and age it was ridiculous how many people couldn't accept that a woman, and a young one at that might possibly know more about cars than they did.

"S'up Linz"

"Hey Luke"

I grinned up at the senior mechanic. Big and solid, Luke had features which had been hewn by the workman's mallet rather than the sculptor's careful chisel, but he was strangely handsome in a rugged sort of a way. At one point I had even considered making a move or two in his direction, but after watching him at work had decided against it. If his moves in the bedroom were anything like his moves in the garage he'd be sure to get my motor running eventually, but only after several distinctly awkward  manoeuvres and a lot of grunting. All in all it just wasn't worth the effort.

"Got a job for you out on City Road - £10 says it's the alternator"

"Oh no, I'm not falling for that one again"

It had taken Luke approximately three days to figure out that his new receptionist wasn't all that she seemed. Three years later and most of the crew had lost too much money to bet against one of my 'little hunches'. Which was a shame I reflected ruefully. Although I was now firmly established as 'one of the boys', it had been a useful source of income for a while, and baiting the occasional new recruit or work experience kid just wasn't the same. Still, as a way of earning the instant respect of my colleagues as well as some cold hard cash it was probably the most successful thing I'd done in the last few years. University DEFINITELY included.

"What's the verdict?" I demanded as Luke returned a while later with the ailing Citroen.

"Alternator" he grinned.

The phone cut off the inevitable 'told you so'

"Good morning A2B Motors, we..."

"Oh good it's you!"

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