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Friday, September 18, 2015

Page 36 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

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The LandBridge had plenty of local jails, one for every cluster of townships. For anyone authorities intended to lock up more than six months or a year, however, they transported each offender away from the LandBridge to a Federal or National prison within their country of origin.

A week after Dave won his first trophy at Ile Malmedy, and had to leave for home without visiting the lustrous theme park, a small prison in Belgium opened its doors to release a criminal on parole.

If they'd convicted him of any one of the many violent crimes he'd committed, they could have kept him forever. As it stood, they had him on illegal gambling and money laundering. Hence his eligibility for parole in a crowded prison system.

So Jabal Coronish walked free.

Once clear of the prison walls, he stood alone in the visitor parking lot carrying a small bag of personal items. He looked around growing more and more pissed off.

No one had bothered to show up for his release. Not even Crank.

***

[This concludes Episode 2 of Dave Adventure. I'm busy writing Episode 3, and will release all 14 episodes whenever they're finished.]

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Page 35 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

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"It's convenient you brought that," Pegleg said. He pointed to the laser lock-opener.

"Not a coincidence." Ajax nodded at the door. "In case he's packing a gun, I'll push it open. Stay to the side until I indicate otherwise."

Pegleg nodded.

Ajax pushed. The door swung into a dimly lit room. A single fluorescent blub hung from the ceiling. A man sat beneath it in a chair, his head rolled forward, either hurt or unconscious... or acting.

Ajax gathered it all in from his side of the doorway. He listened, then relaxed, and entered while expected a blindside attack. It never came.

"Help him," he said.

Pegleg ran to the man in the chair, Inigo, beaten to a pulp. Three teeth lay scattered on the floor where they'd fallen alongside blood droplets. Pegleg untied the ropes that bound Inigo's hands and legs to the chair.

Meanwhile, Ajax checked the back door, deep in a shadowy corner. Unlocked, it led to a long, empty corridor. He heard and saw no one.

Rather than chase after whoever might have hurt Inigo, probably Crank or one of his thugs, Ajax rejoined Pegleg. Inigo rubbed at sore wrists, and grinned through a cracked and swollen mouth. Gaps had replaced some of his teeth.

"Tell Dave I'm proud of him," Inigo said.

"You're a good man, and you're in our care now," Ajax said.

"Thank you," Inigo said.

"This could have been worse. A whole lot worse without your quick thinking Grant," Ajax said.

"You think he'll leave us alone?" Pegleg said.

"Today he will, yeah. This isn't a display of muscle. It's a man overplaying a weak hand. We'll be okay," Ajax said.

He surveyed the room, for the first time noticing what it contained, stacks of structural items like wood planks, metal pipes, and scaffolding, a worn out chassis in one corner, old aluminum drums, and a pair of cannibalized ACs, one on the floor, the other on a lift. If Crank or his man wanted, they could have hidden somewhere in this room and gone undetected so far.

Pegleg helped Inigo rise to his feet.

"He won't forget," Inigo said. He pointed to his own face. "This wasn't just for today. This was for old times sake. The Welcome Wagon." He laughed, but had to grimace from the pain it caused.

"I'd say it's time we leave this place," Ajax said. "Get everyone home."

They turned off the light as they left, but let the door stay open.

Crank, who had been hiding behind several large concrete pipes, stepped out. Only the bare bulb from the hallway reached his angry eyes.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Page 34 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

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Pegleg watched the end of the race on his phone. "Dave won," he said.

He and Ajax had already found a service staircase, and descended to the first of two lower floors. Ajax opened locked doors with some laser beam gadget that looked illegal. Pegleg didn't ask whether it was or not. They'd searched several offices, a bathroom, a janitorial closet, and come up empty. It was on the way to the bottom floor of the service staircase that Dave crossed the finish line way out in front.

"He thinks we have this handled," Pegleg said.

"It's good of you not to let him throw his first race." Ajax pointed his laser and unlocked the bottom door in the stairwell.

"It made Inigo the scapegoat."

"You'll find people do that. All the time," Ajax said.

"What do you think Crank'll do to him?"

"I didn't meet him. What do you think?"

"I don't know."

"Let's find him first," Ajax said, and pushed through the door.

They walked along a wide but dim hallway. It had tire tracks on a concrete floor. Someone still used old technology here, perhaps equipment-moving dollies, or people-moving golf carts. Bare bulbs threw small pools of light down the front of a few doors. Boxes, crates, and AC junk sat stacked in various places. Clearly, facility staff used this area for storage.

Ajax opened the nearest door on his right, then flipped the light switch. When the bare bulb flickered on, he saw a bunch of old race cars, the kind that sat on wheels, ran on gasoline, and polluted the air with carbon monoxide. No sounds rose from within the room, however, no Crank, no Inigo.

They proceeded to the next door. Ajax readied the laser, then paused. He put an ear to the door... then a finger to his lips. Pegleg nodded.

"I hear voices," Ajax whispered, and ever-so-slowly used his laser to unlock the way.

When the bolt clicked open, it felt like a cannon going off.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Page 33 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

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"I'm here now," Ajax said as he crossed from the pit tarmac into the garage. He stopped to gaze directly into Francy's eyes. "That means you go back."

"I want to help."

"You can, by marching straight back to your seat where you can root for your brother."

"What about Inigo?"

"Grant stays with me, only because he knows the layout of this place. I will take care of this."

"It's not fair," she said on her first step around him as she obeyed his instructions.

"Francy, don't worry. We'll find him." Pegleg sounded conciliatory toward his girlfriend.

"I want to go too, but he won't let me." She didn't even look at her boyfriend.

Pegleg joined Ajax. They watched until she went around the corner.

"She could have put up a bigger fight," Pegleg said. "You're lucky."

"Thank you for not encouraging her to do so," Ajax said.

"Race is almost over."

Ajax turned, and headed for a corner door. "As I understand it, Dave can't win. If he does..."

"He will."

"In that case they will hurt Inigo, in part due to his history with them."

"They may not just stop at Inigo. It probably depends on how much money they lose."

Ajax put a hand on the corner doorknob, but he held it shut. "Where do you think they are?"

"I don't know," Pegleg said.

"What's your best guess?"

"Somewhere in the bowels of these offices. Behind locked doors."

"So we search for locked doors, and we start on stairs that go down," Ajax said.

"Yes."

Ajax turned the handle, and pushed through the corner door.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Page 32 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

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The eighteenth lap arrived, and Dave had extended his lead to a significant margin. It looked like an easy win for him. The race announcer extolled his virtues as an unknown phenomenon shot from out of the deep blue sea so that when Dave passed the main viewing stands people stood, waved, and whistled with the fervor of new fans.

Dave made the first turn of lap nineteen before the next closest AC, the Porsche, reached the stands. A gripping battle raged for second, third and fourth place with the Series J and a Charioteer.

Once Dave had driven out of sight, Ajax arose and said, "I have to go. You stay here with Recant."

Hep stared up at him, no fool. "Is Inigo going to be okay?"

"That's why I have to go. To make sure he's okay."

"We'll be fine. Someone has to stay and watch Dave win. It's an important job," Recant said.

"Will you be back in time?" Hep said.

Ajax smiled and said, "I'll try. I want to see him win too." He sidled out to the end of the aisle.

As he worked his way up to the promenade, then along its length to another aisle, down a ramp to the tunnel, then to the pits on the other side of the track, Ajax had ample time to think through what he needed to do. He had several options. For one, he could simply search the facility with Pegleg until they found Inigo. He could also phone that gambler with the sailboat, Vitaly Yorga, who had taken his gold and might be bought off with another chunk. Unfortunately, there was no way to tell how much influence Yorga could wield over Crank and his staff, especially when it came to matters of retribution. Any attempt to contact Yorga also opened Inigo up to new and unwanted risks. As another option, Ajax could try to determine whatever losses Crank would suffer if Dave won, a likely event at the moment, and then offer to make good on them. No doubt this would please Crank, but, as he had risked with Vitaly Yorga, the gesture might invite unwanted attention from any number of known or unknown but nefarious characters, not to mention it would provoke earnest questions from Dave, Francy, and Hep.

Ajax wished he had bodyguards and muscle of his own. As things stood, a few tough guys in his employ could make life flow a whole lot smoother.

He didn't like any of the options that he could come up with, so he decided to pursue the least objectionable, option one. He and Pegleg would search for Inigo.

He just needed a way to keep Francy out of danger while they searched.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Page 31 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

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Dave passed the Series J on the twelfth lap, on the big downhill. He found the inside of the turn, churned up a touch of grass, though not enough to slow him down, and then rode it out. Series J fought it, which made Dave's job easier, and taught him a lesson in how even supposedly wily veterans can make amateur mistakes. Then again, the Series J wasn't a wily pro. He was a wily amateur.

It worked this way, as Dave held the inside, the vet tried to force him off the track. All the torque on the turn worked against Series J in this vain pursuit. Maybe he thought he could just cut Dave off, but he failed in that too. As a result, Dave increased his own speed coming out of the turn, in part by bouncing off the Series J. As the AC on the outside, and bearing the combined centrifugal force of both vehicles, Series J could brake, hard and fast, or he could lose control and spin onto the wide gravel shoulder.

He spun out.

He spun out so bad, it looked like he'd wind up in third place behind the Porsche.

Dave had gained a gargantuan lead by the end of the twelfth, so if he threw this race people would know. It would look like he threw it, and might even prompt an investigation, or so he told himself.

Once he found himself in first place, however, Dave knew in his heart he couldn't give it up. It wasn't in him to let a driver win when that driver hadn't earned it. The prospect of an invite to a Pro-Am event loomed on the horizon as well, just around the next corner, and it encouraged him to keep going, following his natural impulse to end with a victory.

He phoned Pegleg.

"Find him yet?" Dave said.

"I called Recant. He's telling Ajax."

Dave hated the idea. "Good idea," he said, and knew it was true the moment the thought passed his lips.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Page 30 of Dave Adventure - Episode 2
Scroll to Monday, June 8 to read this tale from the beginning of Episode 1.
Scroll to Wednesday, August 5 to pick it up at the start of Episode 2.

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Before he went anywhere, or did anything else, Pegleg phoned Dave again. Dave answered using the built in speaker phone.

"Hey," Dave said.

"You going to pass this guy, or what?" Pegleg said. He had the Jumbotron looming above the track where he stood on the tarmac. Dave's front bumper almost kissed the Series J rear.

"I've heard some people have managers that talk them through the race, discussing strategy... or the weather," Dave said.

"Is that what you want from your mechanic?"

"Where's Inigo?"

"We don't know. Hiding, or..."

"You think they have him somewhere?"

"We got some help. A little pushback from a big gambler. Vitaly Yorga."

"Then why is Inigo missing?"

"Don't know. We're flying blind here a little. Like you."

"You telling me it's okay to win this thing, right?"

"It might be."

"Do me a favor man. Find Inigo before this ends. Put him with Ajax and Recant. You guys all stick together."

"What about you?" Pegleg said.

"If I win I'll be in the spotlight for a while. They won't be able to touch me."

"What about after?"

"I don't know," Dave said. "You said you had help. Why don't you see how much help? If the security staff won't let us leave the island, we've got trouble."

"Might be better if you don't win. Just let it go."

"You'll see what I do when I do it. Meantime, find Inigo."

Dave hung up the phone and pondered his situation. He knew he could pass the Series J on this twelfth lap, but the guy might play dirty, and knock him off the track. It wasn't just a question of passing him. He had to do it quick and clean.

Once he knew he had the guy, once he knew he could win, it might be a little easier to let go of the need he felt inside, to fall back again, and come in second. Afterwards, he could claim mechanical failure.

There was only one problem with this strategy. He wouldn't get the win. You had to get the win if you wanted an invitation to a Pro-Am event.