Arne Niemi, auto company security man, must watch Pete Brower who has invented a microcircuit to solve the 1974 energy crisis.
When Pete leaves on a suspicious trip to a remote Michigan town, Arne follows Pete and discovers dismaying news: his friend Margaret’s husband is enmeshed in a shady ski hill scheme. Still, he needs her help, especially when he’s tagged as a thief.
Attacks, kidnappings, burglaries… Trouble builds on trouble until everything comes crashing down at a country mansion.
The bright red Victor GT coupe had pulled up to the pump, and Arne watched Pete Brower get out. Damn it. He must have driven at close to the same speed as Arne. How did he get away with that? Arne left too much money in front of the girl and bolted through the side door to his Jeep before Brower could see him. He watched Brower finish pumping fuel and park the GT under the lights by the street. Soon he was inside the station paying for his gas while studying the coffee-stained menu.
The minute most people arrived up north they got casual, and Arne didn’t think Brower had locked the GT. Even if he had, Jimmy thoughtfully had the fleet office give Arne a key. Inside the building, Brower sat at the counter facing his parked car. When his food came, the girl lingered near him after delivering it. This unfaithful waitress who a few moments ago seemed anxious to bear Arne’s children was apparently now soliciting Brower.
The engineer escaped the girl before she could get her hands in his pants by heading for the rest room. Arne bolted for the GT and opened the passenger door, jamming the door switch with a toothpick so the dome light was on for only a moment. Brower’s briefcase was on the rear floor, and he opened it. A pen light revealed several conventional electronic circuit boards and engineering drawings with the Drucker Motors title block. Who took stuff like that to go skiing? This might be a real assignment. Brower was up to something.
He considered and rejected as dumb taking the briefcase. If Brower was selling the company out, they had to know who the whiz kid planned to peddle his work to. Arne had just replaced the briefcase in the red car and reclaimed his toothpick when he saw Brower come out of the bathroom, look to his car in alarm and rush for the front door. He must have seen the second dome light flash. Arne beat a hasty retreat to his vehicle and torqued the ignition switch.
Brower reached his car and bent into the back seat. Arne watched him look slowly around as he carefully locked the red car. Then he looked over at Arne’s vehicle, paused for a moment, and started toward it, taking large, meaningful strides. Arne hit the gas, released the clutch, and cut the corner too hard, driving over the curb and the lawn, if that dismal bumpy patch of earth could be so dignified. It was the first time he’d taken the Jeep off-road.
He was well away before Brower could see his face. Once out of sight, he circled the block and pulled into the new Ramada Inn parking lot across the street. There, through his binoculars, he watched Brower finish his sandwich alone. The counter girl had abandoned him, also, and was being entertained by a scruffy twenty-something in a tattered varsity jacket. Like water, she had found her own level.