I can’t quite believe we’ve reached the final part already, and yet, so much has happened to Mitch in just nine short chapters! This final vote was a very interesting one for me, and as ever, I was surprised at the voting. Not necessarily at the result, but at the margins and at the fact that the lead didn’t change hands once.
I want to thank everyone who took the time to read and to vote (or just to vote if you are Mr C). We averaged around 35 votes per section which was more than I could ever have hoped for. Thanks for sticking with it, and I hope the end does the story justice.
Mitch knocked on the slightly ajar door, and pushed it open. Bob was sat at his desk, pecking on his out-of-date keyboard. He paused when he saw Mitch.
“I’ve just come to say goodbye,” Mitch said, taking a deep breath when he saw Bob’s concerned frown. He felt terrible for doing this. “I’m leaving.”
Bob picked up the desk calendar. “Is this some kind of elaborate April fool?” he asked, flipping through the months.
“I’m sorry. I’m going to drive for Mortimer.”
Bob’s face fell. “Oh.”
Mitch felt a sudden desperate need to explain himself. “It’s just, you know, I was talking to Mason in Monaco and he introduced me to his uncle, and it all made sense. They race, they don’t plan. They just…”
Bob held up a hand to silence the driver. “I’ve heard this all before, John.” The emphasis on the forename was cutting. “I thought you were smarter than that. You’ve been in this business five minutes. It’s not a good time to make enemies.” He let his words sink in a moment, and then continued. “If you think it would be different at any other team, you’re mistaken. I wish you’d talked to me about it.”
Mitch dropped his gaze to the floor for a moment, but then looked Bob straight in the eye. “Like I said, I’m sorry. Working with you was the highlight of my time here.”
Bob shrugged. “See you on the other side, then.” He returned to his computer screen and resumed typing.
Contractual obligations meant Mitch missed the next few races. He couldn’t make the move to Mortimer GP until after a certain “notice period” and out of spite, Rex wasn’t about to let him in their car again.
Mitch knew it wasn’t a great start to his career, and the newspapers were enjoying speculation about the rift every day, but he was determined to prove a point.
When he lined up on the grid at Suzuka, with his race suit such a dark blue it looked black, he felt a sudden sense of contentment. Instead of watching the lights and feeling that familiar weight in his chest, Mitch felt in tune with everything. He could almost predict when the lights were going to go out, and when the car pulled away it was so smooth, Mitch thought perhaps he had forgotten to go.
When they reached the first corner, though, reality came flooding back to him. Mitch was following Bruno, who in turn was following Mason. Mitch watched as his current teammate ran wide and his former teammate took the lead. Mason veered back towards the racing line, giving Mitch no choice but to turn sharply. He corrected in time to catch a slide, and the pair of them – two dark blue cars side by side – travelled the short distance to the S Curves.
Mitch had the advantage now, planted firmly on the racing line, and although Mason stuck with it for as long as he could, eventually, Mitch had his car a foot ahead. Then two feet. Then it was his. He dropped his glance to the rear view mirror where Mason was settling in behind him.
“Great job, John,” a French voice crackled over the radio. Mitch hadn’t quite convinced Pierre that he should call him by the nickname yet. “Now catch Shuttleworth, else Bruno is going to win the title.”
Mitch stepped out of the press room, followed by Bruno. He turned to his former colleague and offered up a smile.
“Congratulations,” Mitch said. “You deserve it.”
Bruno tempered the beam on his face, and attempted to be humble. “We made a good team,” he replied. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
“Don’t be sorry. We’ve still got two races left, and I’m going to fight you for those wins, even if you are the champ already.”
“We’ll see about that,” Bruno said, and in a moment, he was surrounded by his mechanics. They hugged him and cheered, and began to guide him away. “Catch you in Brazil,” he called over his shoulder.
The door to the press-con room opened and journalists filed out, most running after the departing Shuttleworth crew. Mitch was secretly quite grateful that the attention was on Bruno. He could do with a bit of peace and quiet.
He turned to head to the Mortimer motorhome and found Melissa from BSN Networks standing right behind him.
“A couple of quick questions?” she asked, her eyebrows rising hopefully.
“Don’t you want to talk to…?” Mitch pointed at Bruno.
“That’s a rugby scrum,” Melissa smiled, her eyes sparkling. “I’d rather get some insight from you. I can talk to Bruno later.”
“Okay,” Mitch nodded.
“How was it out there? Are you settling in at Mortimer now?”
“It was good. The car is very different, but I’m getting there.”
“Well, it hasn’t taken you too long. Third today, ahead of your teammate, that must feel good?”
“Absolutely,” Mitch replied. “It’s nice to be able to really race.”
Melissa knew what he meant immediately, and Mitch enjoyed watching her process the information, watching her prepare the next question.
“Is that something that was missing at Shuttleworth?”
Mitch paused for a long time, so long that Melissa dropped the microphone. “You don’t have to answer,” she said.
“Oh boy,” Mitch finally spoke, placing a hand gently on her arm. “Do I have quite the story for you.”
Melissa looked down at his hand on her arm, and then back up at him. “On or off record?”
Mitch just smiled.