ADDY FELT LIKE jumping out of her car and doing a quick
happy dance in the middle of stalled traffic. Her excitement
at becoming the newest—and youngest—partner at the
intellectual property law firm of Wyckoff & Schechter was nearly
She grinned at the shadow on the hood of Hindy, her
treasured retrofitted cherry red Shelby Mustang. The shadow
was created by a barrel-sized, hydrogen-filled balloon that
floated above the Mustang’s roof. Gawkers pointed and laughed
as the Shelby eased down El Camino pulling the tethered balloon
as if in a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The balloon—which
on one side sported her law firm’s logo, and on the other Hindy
in giant cursive script—was just an advertising gimmick to show
her passion for alternative energies. It was only strapped to the
roof on calm, sunny days when she was travelling at slow speeds
using routes that avoided overpasses. The retrofitted Mustang
was really powered by four electric motors using electricity
produced by solar panels and a conventional fuel cell.
At first, the Wyckoff partners questioned Addy’s prudence in
strapping a floating balloon to the roof of any vehicle, but they’d
come to admire the effectiveness of her marketing innovations.
They even lifted their champagne glasses at the end of her
mentor’s welcome speech acknowledging that her Shelby was
responsible for bringing in increasing numbers of the “green”
companies sprouting like weeds all over the Silicon Valley—
inventive, entrepreneurial companies in need of legal advice and
support for their patents.
While the traffic inched forward, Addy chuckled with
excitement. “Hindy, ol’ pal,” she said, patting the dashboard,
“you and I are going places now! Next time some overzealous
cops accuse you of being a traffic hazard, I’ll stare them down
and inform them they’re messing with the partner of a highly
prestigious law firm.”
Traffic momentarily loosened and Addy eased Hindy
forward, careful not to snap the lines tethering the egg-shaped
balloon. Addy sang along with Zissy Spaeth, pop rock’s newest
and most flashy star, as Zissy belted out her latest hit, Light in
Your Eyes, over the radio. In the corner of her eye she noticed a
blaze of neon orange.
Her heart stopped. Some kind of bazooka-sized gizmo aimed
at her balloon was projecting from the hand of a man in the car
next to her. She blinked, trying to clear her vision.
A flare shot out, aimed straight at her floating ball of
Even in the late afternoon sunlight, it was impossible to
miss the explosion. The dirigible burst into a giant fireball, then
slowly deflated and floated down toward the Shelby’s crimson
Addy stomped on her brakes, hoping the balloon’s
momentum would shoot the flaming mass forward. The fireball,
safely secured by its fluorescent yellow nylon tethers, crashed
down onto the windshield, blocking Addy’s view. She screeched
to a halt, slammed her shoulder into the door, flung it open,
and darted out, catching the heel of her pump on the doorjamb,
which sent her sprawling headlong onto the pavement.
She heard tires squeal and at least a half dozen blaring
horns. Stinging pain shot up from her elbow and knees. Thank
goodness traffic had been just inching along.
Ignoring the pain, she bolted forward, arms raised, ready
to yank the still-burning fabric off the windshield. Before she
got close enough to grab it, the sweltering heat from the flames
scorched her cheeks, and she shielded her eyes with her forearm.
Just when she reached the hood, a breeze lifted the infernal
blob and propelled it directly at her, the nylon cords now seared
She braced herself for the fireball when she felt arms wrap
around her chest and yank her back, barely in time to avoid
the searing molten mass of goo about to descend on her head,
threatening to fry her face and melt her hair.
“Are you crazy? What in heaven’s name are you thinking?” a
deep voice bellowed in her ear, still holding her tight.
Together they watched what was left of the blimp float like
a falling leaf onto the grassy shoulder, just like the Hindenburg
did almost eighty years ago.
“Someone clearly doesn’t like you, short stuff,” her rescuer
said, now standing next to her stroking his goatee, his face
hidden behind dark sunglasses and a low-riding Dodgers cap.
“More like out to get you. That was some kind of flare the driver
shot at your blimp. I tried to spot his license plate, but it was
covered up. Snapped a picture with my phone, though,” the man
said fishing it from his pocket. “You can kind of see a tattoo on
his forearm. The police will love this.”
Before she could thank him, someone cried out, “Call a fire
truck! The grass!”
Brush fires in California were no joking matter. Addy could
smell the smoldering grasses. A strong breeze fanned the flames,
pushing the fire toward a row of redwood trees.
Then she heard a whiny voice coming from the milling
crowd of stranded passengers who’d gathered to find out what
was holding up their homeward commute. “I’ve seen that blimp
before. I knew it was trouble,” the whiner complained.
“Yeah, but at least she’s part of the solution,” said someone
else. “Her car doesn’t use gasoline. Look at what you’re driving,”
he said, sneering at the whiny woman’s crossover SUV.
Addy’s knees buckled, her head spinning. She plopped down
onto the pavement and hugged her bare legs. This couldn’t be
Why would someone try to destroy her car? Hindy, her
beloved Mustang, was just a marketing ploy, no worse than
a billboard. Hindy’s fuel cell and solar panels were just two
modern technologies that Addy hoped someday would become
mainstream to the automotive industry. And her purpose was
noble. Her “green” car told the world of inventors that she was
one of them, that she would secure their patents and protect
their investments. Now her expensive marketing project was in
Soon, swarms of firefighters were scrambling around dousing
the flames, while police officers attempted to reroute traffic. A
well-built bald man flipped out a paper pad and scribbled a few
notes. After removing his sunglasses, he swapped the pad for
a pocket camera and snapped random shots of the avid crowd.
All four local networks had sent news crews, and Addy knew
two of the reporters. They had already run stories about Hindy,
praising Addy’s creative marketing, which one reporter said
was a refreshing change from the barrage of personal injury
commercials littering daytime television.
As Addy told the reporter during her interview, Silicon
Valley was going to be known, not just for starting the computer
revolution and launching the social networking scene, but now
for making the world green. And Addy was their lawyer.
Reality burst her daydream bubble when she was whisked
aside by a team of Sunnyvale police officers. She told them what
had transpired, hoping it would help them find the sniper. And
she pointed out her rescuer, who was showing another pair of
police officers the photo on his phone.
At the end of the interview, one of the officers handed her
a ticket. “You were carrying a flammable substance without a
permit. You’ll need to make a court appearance.”
Addy gasped. “But they shot at me.”
“And we’re not taking it lightly. There’s been a serious crime
committed here, but that doesn’t mean you can break the law.
If you hadn’t been toting that blimp, none of this would have
Addy’s eyes narrowed. “Am I’m free to go?” she said,
snatching the paperwork and turning toward Hindy.
“Yes,” the officer said, “but we’re going to need to impound
Addy halted. “Hindy? You can’t.”
The other officer beckoned with both hands, big gestures, as
if directing an airplane to the gate. A tow truck wedged its way
through the onlookers and began backing up in front of Hindy.
“But Hindy works perfectly fine,” Addy protested. “The
balloon, that was all for show. The hydrogen for the fuel cell is
where the gas tank used to be.”
The officer shook her head. “We need your car for evidence.
As I said, a serious crime has just been committed, and we need
to take the vehicle to the station for a thorough evaluation.”
“But I need to get home, and get to work tomorrow.”
“There’s always Uber,” said the officer with a shrug.
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