The man I burned alive drove a BMW 335d. I’ll never forget his dying words: “thank God I didn’t buy a Jetta.”
When the EPA came to me to enforce emissions standards, I was skeptical at first. It was like hiring a fox to oversee the henhouse, I told them, laughing maniacally, tears in eyes, as they chained my handcuffs to the stainless-steel hook welded to the interrogation table. They weren’t going to stop men like me by sending them after me.
“But there is one thing we can offer you,” said my handler. “Gas tax exemption.” He slid a featureless black rectangle across the table.
Years later, I was in Chicago tracking down the last of the nonconformant turbodiesel commuter cars. I sat in a seedy diner, talking to the waitress casually about my day job.
“Have you ever retired a gas car by mistake?” she asked.
Her question rang in my ears as I gunned my company car around a corner, watching the NOx detector violently oscillate, the sensitive sensor momentarily tricked by city buses and farting pedestrians. They wouldn’t distract me from my goal this time. It wouldn’t be like Seattle. At last my quarry was aligned with my gunsight hood ornament, and I deployed the right foot with extreme prejudice.
My lifted Jaguar XJS slammed into the passenger side door of the 335d, scattering the occupants and their belongings around the interior as the unibody attempted to reshape itself in order to accommodate the desires of the uninvited iron-block V12. The driver was stunned, knocked nearly unconscious by the sound of six liters at 8500 rpm forming an accompaniment to his deploying side-impact airbag system.
I leapt from the car and tore the Velcro patch from my bulletproof vest. The glittering EPA logo across my back screamed out-of-your-jurisdiction to any interfering local law enforcement. I hadn’t had a problem since Philadelphia, when I had to retire that Golf TDI and the entire family of hipsters within. My body worked on autopilot after all these years of chase, and I had the motions down to a perfect dance now, slashing the seatbelt with my wrist-mounted emergency multitool and pulling the driver to the tarmac.
Later, as I drove away from the flames and the screams, I felt momentary regret. Surely the EPA would send a man like me after me one day, to clamp down on my uncatted hoopties. My guilt was interrupted by a phone call from headquarters. I hit the Bluetooth speakerphone’s answer button, rubbing it against the gleaming DOM rollcage it had been crudely ziptied to.
“Get to the airport,” the gum-chewing man said, “There’s been reports of a VW meet spotted in Sacramento.”