Another Tricky Day – Chapter One by Ben Fuller

(This is the first chapter to a book that I started to write in 1988. I wrote two chapters, did a full outline, and a complete chapter by chapter breakout. It is basically a YA action/adventure fantasy starring me and my best friends from High School. I was going to start sending it out to agents back then, but got caught up in writing a screenplay that I cannot find now. I don’t think anything was lost in not sending it out – after re-reading it and re-typing it to post here, I don’t think it was written for any audience other than me and my three friends that  it features. I will add Chapter Two, outline and chapter by chapter breakouts in the next month or so.)

Sanders shifted his weight around on the front seat of the big blue Galaxie 500 and wiped some sweat off his brow. He wasn’t running that late. Anyway, Renley should know better than to expect him to be on time by now.

The rain began to pelt lightly against the windshield, where the soot and dirt mixed with it. He fiddled with the switch to the wipers and finally got them to work – streaking mud back and forth in front of him.

Sanders smiled and moved his upper body around in his own little dance of accomplishment. “Good ol’ Corwyn, “ he said as he hit the steering wheel with the palm of his right hand, pleased with himself. The horn blared accidentally at the same time he was passing a gang of leather and denim dressed bikers.

“Ooops.” He tried to sink down into the seat as the light changed from yellow to red in front of him. He slowed Corwyn to a stop at the intersection. “Now, I’ve done it,” Sanders caught a glimpse of the gang as they began pointing at his car. “Now, I’ve really done it.”

A leather clad hand pounded at the passenger window, at the same time a figure obscured his view ahead and started bouncing on Corwyn’s hood.

“Great…” He said under his breath as he gave a short little cough, put on a friendly smile and waved to the person at the window  who was for him to open the door. Sanders shrugged his shoulders apologetically, and shook his head. “I can’t. The lock’s broken. Really sorry.”

He jumped when a tapping at his window caught him by surprise. “Come on, baby, open up. I won’t hurt you, I promise.” The person who had been jumping on the hood had come around to the driver’s side. She was tapping on the window with the diamond studs on her leather wrist band.

Sanders grabbed an old napkin from the seat and started cleaning off the window to get a better view of the speaker. A very pretty girl smiled back in at him, winked and mouthed the word ‘there’, pointed at the hood, winked again and as he started to blush the car behind him honked. The girl disappeared from his window and then he saw her with two others from the gang heading back to the relative safety of the sidewalk.

The light was green.

“Stranger and stranger,” he laughed to himself.

The sun was almost completely set. It was nearing 9:30, and Sanders still had a pizza to pick up or Renley would get very upset. Before he had gone too far, he pulled into a Pizza Go and parked.

He hurried into the restaurant covering his head with his arm to protect his sunglasses that he always wore from being exposed to the elements. The place was only marginally crowded – the hearth in the middle of the dining area had a nice inviting gas generated flame going over some artificial logs, and the music from the jukebox was playing low.

“Can I help you sir?” The girl at the register smiled at him and readied her pencil.

“Why yes, you can,” Sanders deepened his voice a little, gave her his best stud smile, and reached up and took the dirty sunglasses off his head. “I’d like a pizza with pepperoni, mushroom, olives, Canadian bacon…”

“Hey, big guy, “ somebody tapped him on the shoulder and jerked his thumb towards the door. “If that’s your blue car out there, I’d make sure those guys aren’t trying to steal it.”

Sanders turned and peered outside into the wet darkness and saw the same group of bikers as before, trying to get under the hood of his car.

“Hey, you want me to call the police, Mister?”

Sanders almost blushed at being referred to as ‘Mister’. He had just turned 18. “Naw, I’ll handle it,” he said. “Don’t worry, one of them is kind of a friend.” He put the old sunglasses back on the top of his head, and tried to strike a macho pose, his confidence getting the best of him.

He headed back out into the rain to talk to the seven or eight bikers messing with the hood of Corwyn.

———————-

Just past midnight a ringing noise broke the silence of the city as the costumed hero soared through the skies looking for evil doing. Frantically he searched for its source, but failed in vain as the noise died down and then finally disappeared.

The phone rang again. Renley fell of the couch and groped his way out of the family room to the stairwell where the phone was screaming at him, his eyes crusted over with sleep.

“Hello? Hello….” Renley yawned as the phone rang yet again. He stared at it until it completed its full ring and then fumbled for it.

“Ren!! Ren!! Renley!! Hello, is anybody there?! Hello!” The hushed and frantic voice on the other end searched for a response.

“Who is this? Sanders?” Renley rubbed the sleep from his eyes and scratched his head. “Do you know what time it is? And where’s the pizza?”

“Renley, I need your help. A bunch of bikers are after me. There’s got to be more than a hundred!”

“Yeah, right, and I suppose they stole the pizza, too.” Renley stretched his body out to its full skinny height of 5 foot 10 inches and smiled a self-righteous smile to himself.

“Forget the pizza! I am about to have the toenails torn from my feet!” Sanders voice rose to a yell.

“What do you mean ‘forget the pizza’! I haven’t eaten a thing all day. Almost.” Renley wandered back into the family room and sat himself on the floor and leaned back against the side of the couch on which he had been sleeping.

“The Hell’s Angels are trying to barbeque me, could you ignore your stomach for a second and listen to…”

“Oh, you should talk…” Renley started for the television to turn it on.

“Shut up and… OH CRAP! Auck… help…” There were some crashes, the sound of glass breaking and then silence. Renley had a deep, sinking feeling flash through his chest and into his growling stomach.

“Hello…? Sanders? C’mon, stop kidding around. This ain’t funny… Sanderson?”

There were some clicks on the other end and then a muffled voice came on: “Don’t try anything stupid, Pig. Or he’s dead meat. Got it?” Then the line went dead.

Renley slowly reached up and put the phone on its rest, rubbed his eyes really hard with the palms of his hands, and then shook his head to try and clear it. “What’s going on here,” he said aloud – more a statement of fact than a question. “It’s got to be a joke.” But somehow deep inside he knew it wasn’t,

Standing up, he stretched backwards until he got some popping noises from his lower back. And then, realization flashing through his still tired brain, he bolted into his bedroom, turning on lights as he went.

“Sanderson is in trouble. I got to help.” He grabbed his towel off the back of the closet door and dashed into the newly finished bathroom his father had installed downstairs. He ruled out telling his parents – they would want to call the police or wait until the morning. That would be like putting a gun up to Sanders’s head. And Sanders’s parents were still out of town at his mom’s brother’s funeral.

He turned on the shower and started pulling off his clothes. “They could already be torturing him. Great. He’ll probably blame whatever happened on me. Just great.”

He tested the water and when he was satisfied with the temperature, slid slowly underneath it.

“I’ve got be crazy. If they’ve already killed him, they are probably going to kill me.” He finished soaping up and started to rinse off. “Crazy, crazy, crazy.” He reached for the shampoo and began to lather.

Fifteen minutes later Renley popped his soft contact lenses into his eye, ran into his room, pulled his pants on, jumped into his sneakers, grabbed his car keys, dashed out of his room, up the stairs, and out the door checking his watch as he went. “So stupid,” he said to himself as he ran to his car. “Why did I take a shower. So much wasted time.”

———————

Renley turned his little lite blue Chevy Luv pickup truck into the parking lot of the Pizza Go. He jumped out and was already running towards the entrance before the door on his vehicle slammed shut.

“Hey you! We’re closing. You can’t go in there!”

Renley turned at the voice and saw someone of about 17 walking towards him, tomato paste splattered across his front like blood. Renley shuddered at the thought.

“Listen, a friend of mine was supposed to pick up a pizza at about nine tonight, and…”

“I’m sorry, but there weren’t any leftovers, and the ovens are clo….”

“I don’t want a pizza!! He’s been kidnapped you schmuck!” Renley threw his hands up into the air and brought them down hard to his side to emphasize ‘schmuck’. “I have to know if anyone here has seen him.”

“Okay, okay, chill out, man. You don’t have to get all hyper. I am just saying the ovens are closed, so, if you did want pizza, it wasn’t gonna happen. We’ll go inside and ask Mary, she’s been running the front all night.” The kid reached for the door and ushered Renley inside.

As he walked in Renley was assaulted by the music – the jukebox was turned up about as high as it could go. A couple of employees were rushing about vacuuming and straightening out tables and chairs as they went. The electric gas hearth had already been doused for the night.

“Yo, Mare, this guy says his pal got kidnapped tonight and wants to know if we saw anything, “ the Pizza-kid hooked a thumb back at Renley. He then leaned in close to the hostess girl and started whispering in her ear.

Renley fidgeted around and stared at the reddish-orange carpet for what seemed like an eternal moment, and then looked up to see the Pizza-kid motioning at him.

“Hey kid, she’ll talk to you now.”

“I’m not a kid, kid,” Renley said as he approached them. He tried to tower over the Pizza-kid and gave him his best displeased superior look that he could muster at 1:30 in the morning.

Mary looked at  him inquiringly and said, “Your friend was kidnapped? Could you describe him?”

“Uh, yeah,” he replied, slightly taken aback by her almost too sweet attitude. He paused and looked around and saw all of the people in the restaurant gathering over in the kitchen area. “He’s about 6 foot 2 inches tall, big, I mean pretty big. His clothes are always kinda messy. He wears a stupid looking hat most of the time, and an old pair of Blues Brothers sunglasses on his head.”

Renley glanced around his surroundings again, a little bit of panic fluttering around in his gut. He should have looked at the door when he came in to see if they actually stayed open this late. Maybe they closed a long time ago, and all of the real employees went home already. Maybe these were the bikers, though none of them had beards and tattoos. Maybe that really wasn’t tomato paste on the Pizza-kid’s apron…

“Hello?” Mary waved her hands in front of his face to catch his attention. “Did you hear me?”

“Uh, no, I’m sorry, “ he cleared his throat and tried to focus his attention back on her. “I didn’t, what were you saying?”

“Does your friend have brown hair?”

“Yes, he does, why?” Out of the corner of his eye Renley saw the Pizza-kid turn off the jukebox, and in the newly made silence he thought he could hear someone coming up behind him. ‘Brace yourself,’ he thought. ‘Be prepared for anything.’

“Well, I did see him,” Mary smiled at him understandingly. “At about 9:30.”

“What happened?” Renley tensed his body for action. He could sense the person closer behind him.

“Well, he came in and started to order a pizza, when some bikers started messing with his car. I offered to call the police, but he said they were friends and he went outside to…”

“HAHYAH-Ha!!” Renley ducked and spun around, dropping briefly on his right knee, while simultaneously grabbing the Pizza-kid by the wrist. He pivoted around and came to his feet, as he pushed down on the back of Pizza-kid, mashing his face against the table top. “Don’t nobody move, or Pizza-kid here gets it!” He looked at the astonished faces and tried to curl his eyebrows into a threatening snarl to add emphasis to his threat.

“What are you doing?!” Mary pushed back from the table, surprise and distress spreading across her features. The other employees all started to surge forward in uncertain defense.

“I’m warning you!” Renley tried to bar his teeth at them like a wild animal, but only managed to get a fake half-crazed looking smile across – which was probably infinitely more frightening. “What have you done to my friend Sanders?” He looked around at everybody, while a  funny feeling of foolishness started to barnstorm through his insides.

————————–

“Those are some pretty great moves you got there, Mister,” the Pizz-kid said as he opened the front door for Renley and they both walked out into the night air together. “You’re half Chinese, huh? That’s cool. Never would have guessed it. You know, my Dad’s a cop, if you want, I could say something to him. I mean, if you want. I’m sure you could handle these creeps alone and all that, but just in case you wanted, you know what I’m saying?” He jogged up ahead slightly and opened the driver’s door on the Pick-up Truck for him. “Hey, and I’m real sorry if I gave you the wrong idea in there and everything. It’s that I didn’t know, you know? And don’t worry about the others, I’ll take care of that, anything for a friend. So…you know, if you wanted, I’d come along and help. I mean, if you wanted. I don’t want to cramp your style or anything like that.”

“Which way did Mary say they drove off in?” Renley’s back had started hurting a little from puffing his chest out in pride while soaking in all the adulation he could from the Pizza-kid. He slid into the driver’s seat and started rolling the window down while he shut the door. In his mind, he looked just like James Bond. The Roger Moore Bond, not the Connery one.

“That way,” the Pizza-kid motioned north with his head and south with his hand. “You sure you don’t want me to come along? I could be pretty useful in a scrap possibly. I mean I have never been in a real scrap, but I have seen a lot of movies…”

Just then a car bearing a striking resemblance to Corwyn roared by with a machine gun barrel sticking out of the window, peppering all of the cars of the employees as it passed. Renley shoved the Pizza-kid to the ground and ducked below the dash himself, cowering in complete fright.

“Wow, dude!” The Pizza-kid stuck his head in the window enthusiastically, his face was flush.”You saved my life! Anything you ever need,just tell me!”

Renley squinted up at him, trying for all he was worth to channel Clint Eastwood in his Dirty Harry prime and still not let on that he was practically peeing his pants and said, “Get inside and call the cops. I’ve got work to do.”

“Awright!!” The Pizza-kid tore off towards the Pizza Go main entrance, while Renley quietly started to hyperventilate.

Slowly he inched his way back up onto the seat and peered over the dashboard out at the now quiet street. “Great, these guys are insane.”

He felt big beads of sweat work their way down his whiskerless face, and felt the weight of his now wet dark black hair plaster itself to the side of his head. With a superhuman effort, he sat all the way back up in his seat and fumbled to get his car key into the ignition, his hands shaking furiously. In the distance he could hear the familiar sounds of police sirens wailing.

The engine turned over on his little blue pick-up truck on the third try, and he slowly backed out of the parking lot and pulled into the street. He came to stop for a second and tried to remember which way Corwyn had sped off in, and then pulled away into the night.

The smell of rain was still in the air, even though it had stopped raining several hours earlier. The only life on the streets were the signal lights, and an occasional wayward car every now and again.

Renley was beginning to feel the exhaustion of the evening’s entertainment, and after the car massacre at the Pizza Go he realized going back to his house was out of the question. He had to find Sanders. If he didn’t, he was afraid no one would.

Renley smiled to himself. They knew he was onto them.No idea how. And why were they so worried? He wasn’t even close to being a major threat. Not even a slight risk for that matter, if he was being objective, which he really wasn’t.

A mental picture of Alfred E. Newman came to mind, “What? Me worry?”

A car behind him flashed its brights, and pulled up unnecessarily close. It then pulled even closer and made a very loud, jolting contact.

Renley shook his head fiercely, fighting off the sleep that had almost overpowered him and tried to concentrate on staying out of the way of the tailgaters behind him.

As he sped up, the car to the rear did, too. Obviously this was no accident. The attacking car dropped back for a moment and then gunned its engine, pulling up beside him.

Renley looked over at the car that was now pacing him to his left, and did a double take when he saw that it was Corwyn. The windows were too dirty to see inside, but he was so tired that he reached up and rubbed his own eyes, hoping that would help clear the grime off.

The rear window started to roll slowly down, and his mouth dropped open as he saw a gun barrel slither slowly out into the cool night air and look him straight in the eyes.

Renley coughed back a choking stab of fear and slammed on the brakes. Corwyn jumped ahead of him, before slamming on its brakes and swerving out of control. Corwyn never took well to hard braking.

Pulling over to the side of the road, Renley hopped out, while Corwyn swerved one last time ran off the road into a ditch. He looked around and saw that he was out of the city into a more rural area of the county. Off to his right there was a biggish grove of trees.

The would-be killers scrambled out of the ditch and then ran off towards the trees. Renley, his exhaustion back to eating away at the edges of his consciousness, picked his way slowly down into the ditch to examine his friend’s car.

“Poor ol’ Corwyn,” he said solemnly to himself as he ran his hand along the bent metal body tenderly. “If you survive this, you really will be a car suit for a superhero.” He wiped a lone tear from his eye and stuck in the back passenger window to see if there was any damage or clues on the inside.

The windows on the passenger’s side were still intact, but the front and rear ones were history.The side mirror was nowhere in sight. The inside was a little bit tidier than normal, so, at least the kidnappers and attempted murderers weren’t total animals.

Strewn across the seat were various kinds of weapons: two M-16s, a high powered rifle with scope, and assorted handguns. He reached in and grabbed one of the handguns that didn’t look too complicated to use, and then snatched up a shoulder holster to go with it.

“I’m sorry fellas,” he apologized to the guns he didn’t choose. “I don’t know how to use you, and there isn’t a lot of time tonight for me to figure it out.”

Yawning loudly he climbed back up out of the ditch to the road and headed for his own dear vehicle, strapping on his new weapon as he went. “I hope Dad doesn’t get too mad about the back bumper.”

“Hey, babe, I’m back.” He patted the steering wheel as he climbed in. Tired, he let his head lean heavily back against the seat and closed his eyes. “We better get out of here before they come back.” Big yawn. “I saw them run off into the woods. There’s a shortcut we can take and not be spotted.” His body jumped involuntarily, and he looked around foolishly, his brain clawing its way back up from the inviting warmth of potential sleep. Best he stop talking to his truck, someone might hear him.

He started the engine and as he began to inch forward away from the curb, he checked the dash clock. It was 3:30 am. He looked into the night and felt a light breeze and the first chill of the early morning crept into his body.

—————————————–

Renley woke with a start.His whole body cried out in pain with every small torturous movie that he made. The sun shone in over the trees in the clearing, and birds were singing everywhere. He dug the sleep out of his bloodshot eyes and looked around bewildered.

It was 7:30 am.

He slowly got out of the truck and ran his hand through his hair. He briefly wished he had brought a comb, and then ran his hand through his hair again. And then, as he started to pull the night before back into the front of his brain, he reached to his side and felt for the gun he found a few minutes ago, the night before.

The first inklings of a very fierce migraine headache began to cut behind his eyes. He shook his head, half laughing to himself, half sobbing. “Fantastic. This couldn’t get any better. This was the topper of all top…”

His ears perked up involuntarily. There had been something.

Silence.

No. Wait. There it was again. Someone was walking in the woods. Quietly. Sneakily. Towards him!

Like a bolt of lightning – a very slow, and sleepy bold of lightning – Renley ducked, then dove for the ground and started rolling for cover. He pulled his gun out of its holster, and put his head between his arms and waited, listening.

Silence, again.

It must have been his imagination. Plus, ducking and rolling. The extent of his action hero training was playing War and Cops & Robbers with Sanders and their friends as kids. Plus, way too many hours talking through multiple versions of Role Playing Games like Beasts & Battlefields, and SuperHero Land, and Micronaughts.

CRACK!

Renley, without any real conscious thought, sat up, aimed his pistol and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. He held it up for examination and saw that he hadn’t taken the safety off. He turned the safety off and flattened himself back on the ground and waited again.

CRACK! CRACK!

Renley sat back up and pulled the trigger twice, quickly in succession, aiming at the trees from where the gunshot sounds came from. There was a flurry of motion and the sound of muffled footsteps running away in the distance.

Renley got to his feet, holstered his gun and smiled a smug smile to himself. “I got this.” He craned his neck hoping to get a pop, and then lit out after the now-fleeing ambusher. Confidence building in him, he dodged and ran around trees, practically bursting with energy – Migraine and aches and pains all forgotten.

A bullet whizzed by his ear. Like really, really close. His confidence faltered momentarily and he tripped over his dodging and running feet. He quickly adjusted his fall into a dive roll, and instinctively pulled his gun from the holster and released a few rounds in different directions.

No one in sight. Slowly he pulled himself up behind a trunk and peeked around it in the direction he had been running.

“You don’t have a chance, you know? I am licensed to kill!” His own voice sounded harsh to himself. Plus, Roger Moore never had to tell anyone he was licensed to kill. Of course, he was licensed to kill and didn’t care if they knew or not. Renley, on the other hand, was faking it, and had no ambitions of ever actually having to kill anyone.

“You might as well just give up! I won’t hurt you! I promise! Honest!” No reply. “I’m half Chinese you know!” Renley immediately started shaking his head. Why did he say that. So stupid. What did they care?

The tree splintered above him as the echoes of the shots still rang out around him, bouncing off the trunks of all the other trees.

Renley brushed the splinters and bark out of his hair. “I’m giving you to the count of six!” Six sounded good, it would give them enough time to throw down their weapons and gather peacefully to await his arrival. “If you haven’t surrendered by then, I’ll be forced to kill all of you! Understand?”

Please understand, please, please, please.

“ONE!”

Silence.

“TWO!”

Nothing.

“THREE!”

There was a flurry of motion and the ground and trees seemed to explode around him. And then silence again.

Renley gulped hard, “FOUR!”

No reply.

“Five, I don’t think you realize quite how serious I am?” Did he just say that like he was asking a question? So stupid. He mentally kicked himself.

A cold sweat broke out on his face, “Five and half… c’mon guys, I’m not kidding here!” His voice echoed lonelyly through the trees.

“Five and three-quarters…”

There was a “Click-click” and the cold barrel of a rather large automatic weapon pressed itself to his face. Renley started to look up and the forest filled with “Click-clicks”. All he could see were the cold barrels of a what looked to him to be a million more automatic weapons.

“Oh, hey fellas, how’s it going…?”

“Gag him and hog-tie him,” came the cool, sinister, sweet, feminine reply. In the background he could hear the titters and the giggles of at least a million other women’s voices, and then the tree came over and hit him just out of spite and everything went black.

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