Working Title

Will Decker

Larry was a good friend, loyal to a fault. He was always up for a challenge and knew instinctively when I came around, so did trouble. This time was no exception. Tethered to a small trailer out behind the local tavern was his personal little two-man helicopter. It had been grounded after discovering a minute amount of oil seepage past the main seals on the turbine housing. In the meantime, because he couldn’t stand being grounded for more than a week, two at the most, he had borrowed mine. They were identical little birds with only the slightest of individual quirks giving them each their own unique personality. But their similarities outweighed their differences, and while his was down, mine suited him just fine. The pub was the only watering hole within many miles, usually a quiet spot far from the hubbub of civilization that generally sported little more than the sound of night birds and frogs during mating season. But tonight was different. A large group of motorcycle banditos-Hell’s Angel wannabes, near as I could tell- had found the place the day before and were creating quite a ruckus. Although a biker myself, I had no idea what had drawn them here, nor did I get the impression that all of them really wanted to be here. My own ride, a stretched out ’58 Beazer Road Rocket from the UK, was parked in its usual place next to a weathered and decrepit line of tinker toy fencing running adjacent to an equally rundown and neglected old shed full of rotting and forgotten firewood.

In a small shoulder holster beneath my left arm, I carried a piece for personal protection, of which I’d had use of on many occasions. However, for safety’s sake, my ammo was buried beneath a change of clothes and a bottle of fine Jamaican rum in the saddlebags strapped to my bike. It meant that I would have to venture through the throng of maddened and drunken bikers without any means of defending myself, short of my own two hands, which gave me no qualms. Yet, I was a stranger amongst them, even though I was on home turf. When I was less than fifty feet from my bike, I heard the familiar whoopwhoop-whoop of a heli-bird coming in low over the trees and realized immediately that my good friend was returning with my own small bird. Though I didn’t begrudge him the use of it, I felt relief at hearing it approach. It would never be as close a friend to me as my Beazer, but it was still a friend that brought me another means of escape, something that I’d been practicing my entire life. Houdini didn’t hold a candle to me when it came to escaping the strangle hold of women, work, and life’s responsibilities as a whole. The sound of the low-flying chopper drew all eyes skyward, toward the inky blackness hovering above our heads. It was the distraction I needed, and I hurriedly pushed forward, taking full advantage of reaching my ride before their attention turned toward me. Upon reaching my bike, I quickly dropped to one knee and reached within the nearest satchel. My groping fingers closed on the rum first and then the box of .357 ammo. As I pulled it out, a seductive young woman with full breasts and a tight, curvaceous ass grabbed my upper arm with a surprisingly strong grip. Spinning to face her, I was immediately taken aback by her eyes; they were of the deepest midnight, and frightened beyond measure. “Help me, please,” she whispered in a tense voice, her lovely features twisted with anxiety and fear. “You have to get me out of here.” Her plea only emphasized my earlier premonition regarding the fact that not all of the bikers wanted to be here. Yet, her plea sounded more desperate than simply a need for a change of scenery. Slipping the box of ammo into my inside vest pocket so that no one including the girl could see what it was, I casually closed the flap on the saddlebag and while still holding the bottle of rum in my right hand, used my left to gently ease her clenched fingers from my upper arm.

“Miss,” I said in a slow drawl, determined to make a clean getaway without injuring her pride too deeply. “You made your choice when you joined up with this bunch, now you have to live with it. I’m sorry, but you’re asking the wrong man.” “But I didn’t!” she quickly stammered, her eyes darting nervously about. “This was never my choice. They kidnapped me almost two months ago. It isn’t my fault that I’m here. You have to help me get out of here. They won’t let me go.” She sobbed for a moment, catching her breath in a gasp. “Please, you have to take me home. I don’t know how much longer I can take this.” Her voice was rising with hysterics, and I knew in that defining moment that I believed her, and my opinion of this bunch of ruffian lowlifes went from low to lower. Unfortunately, though genuinely distressed by her situation, her hysterics were going to draw unwanted attention to us and I needed to calm her down quickly. Using the only resource at my disposal, I put a steadying hand on her shoulder and handed her my prized bottle of rum. “Here, take a swig, it’ll do you good.” Her hysterics came to an abrupt end only to be replaced with immediate hostility as she angrily retorted, “I don’t need booze! I need you to help me get away from here!” And then, in a calmer, almost seductive voice, she added, “I’m afraid they’re going to kill me.” Since she wasn’t interested in the rum, I decided it was prudent of me not to waste any on her. Instead, though I sensed immediately that I was going to regret it, I simply said, “Come with me.” Rising, the bottle of rum still held securely in my left hand, I kept a grip on her with my right firmly clamped on her upper left arm. If it was a trick, I wanted her close at hand. She moved stiffly, yet willingly, as if suffering from severe soreness in her joints. Sensing that we were being watched, she threw an arm around my waist, and fell into step, making it easier to move quickly among the drunken and disorderly crowd of bikers. Glancing at her from the corner of my eye, I was again taken aback by her lovely features, and I knew that I was her slave from that moment forward. My hand relaxed its grip on her upper arm and slid down around her waist, noting the smooth firmness of the flesh beneath the thin-worn fabric of her blouse. Her hair, a rich darkness hinting at Native American or maybe even

Latino, was braided loosely, the braids hanging almost to her waist. Her face, although naturally olive complected was further enhanced with a deep tan, and not just from recent exposure to the sun and wind. Her breasts rode firm and high, the nipples pressing hard for escape against the thin material of her blouse while her stomach was hard and flat. As I continued studying her surreptitiously from the corner of my eye, I felt a growing desire within my loins. If we didn’t reach the darkness soon, others would see my desire also. But then, it was possible that we weren’t being questioned or challenged simply because it was assumed that I was a paying customer of hers. After all, it seemed the logical conclusion that if they had indeed kidnapped her it was to sell her into slavery or prostitution, both of which meant that someone was watching us and would be waiting to be paid either before we consummated our deal or soon there afterwards. Although I expected the challenge at any moment, I didn’t give up hope that it was coming later rather than sooner, because our deal, if there was one, wasn’t about to be consummated anywhere within the vicinity of this crowd. Moving beyond the reach of the parking lot sodium bulbs, we drew into the softer light emanating from the wall mounted fluorescent bulbs along the outside of the pub just as the chopper dipped into view over the asphalt strip. It was the only place within miles that was open enough to safely set down a small helicopter, and my friend and I used it regularly, often storing our birds in the small backyard behind the tavern. Under normal circumstances, Larry would have settled the bird down on the asphalt and met me at the bar within minutes. But tonight wasn’t normal, and when he saw the bikes and bikers strewn all over our miniature helipad, he quickly pulled up and disappeared into the darkness beyond the reach of the parking lot lights. Someone, clearly not using all of his mental resources, fired a shot into the air. This set off a chorus of hooting and yelling. To my relief, the small bird didn’t waver, the shot having gone wide and afar. “Hurry,” I said, gripping her arm once more and guiding her swiftly along the length of whitewashed wall before pushing her through the side door of the tavern.

The tableau before us caught me completely off guard. The place was a mess. Tables and chairs lay strewn and busted about the floor. Broken glass intermixed with booze, blood, and beer. Meanwhile, Jake, the owner, was nowhere to be seen, probably having taken shelter in the basement beneath the heavy wooden trapdoor located in the floor behind the bar. He would be safe down there until the party left or the law officers from up north finally found him. We were regular business partners, Jake and I, but we weren’t really friends, and I didn’t worry about him as such; he could take care of himself. At the moment, it was the girl and myself that I was more concerned with. The sound of the chopper grew louder, and I realized that Larry must have seen me duck into the side door with the girl. From his vantage point in the sky, the lot and the surrounding ground would have appeared well lit and visible. The chopper was now directly overhead the tavern. There was the sudden crunch of breaking wood, and I knew he was attempting to set the little bird down on the roof, probably planning on getting me out of here. No sooner had the engine started winding down, then a chorus of gunfire erupted. Almost immediately, the turbine wound back up and lifted off, disappearing once again into the inky blackness above. From the sound of the engine, I knew he hadn’t been hit, thanks in great part to the inebriation of the bikers. “Come,” I instructed the girl, having drawn the conclusion that there wasn’t any refuge to be found in or on the tavern. “Wait!” she cried, unwilling to move, her eyes fastened on the naked body of a young woman straddling a pool table. There was a puddle of blood soaking into the felt and dripping onto the floor. The woman had apparently been raped and beaten. Whether she was dead or simply unconscious, I was unable to tell from this distance, and I wasn’t about to venture closer to find out, as our entrance was beginning to draw unwanted attention. The men in the bar had heard the gunshots and were looking to join in the fun. My unfamiliar face meant I was open game, and I could very well be their next target. Sensing our imminent danger, she didn’t need to be told a second time. Dodging the rubble strewn across the floor, I guided her down a narrow hallway that led to the rear exit. It was rarely used, even by Jake. The trash

dumpsters were in the front parking lot, as well as all deliveries. The door was installed simply as a fire escape to satisfy building codes, and right now, that is exactly what it was being used for now. Reaching the door, I put my shoulder against it and heaved. It flung open with a rusty squeal of hinges and we rushed through. Turning back, I slammed it shut and searched about quickly in the semi-darkness for something to jam against it. To our good luck, my eyes came across an old garden rake. Keeping my back against the door, I hurriedly instructed her to fetch it. She understood immediately and, returning with it, jammed the broken handle under the latch before standing down firmly on the tines to drive them deeply into the soft moist earth. There was a path along the far side of the building leading back to the parking lot. It was well worn and trampled down from use, but I was hoping they wouldn’t find it in the dark. “This way,” I said, leading her by the hand toward the small heli-bird strapped on the two-wheeled trailer. It was Larry’s bird, but we flew each other’s all the time, just as he was flying mine now. Climbing up on the trailer, I unlatched the passenger’s door and reached for her hand, first pulling and then pushing her into the seat. Handing her the bottle of rum, I hastily instructed her to fasten the seat harness before relatching the door. On the ground again, I hurried around the trailer, quickly undoing all the tie downs. It took less than a minute, though it seemed like hours. Out of habit, I instinctively checked the rotor, and then stopped to catch my breath. Larry must have been watching from the darkness above, because he suddenly swooped in low to draw their attention, trying to buy me time to get the little bird airborne. Not understanding why, I pulled out the box of ammo and drew the weapon from the shoulder holster. Wasting precious seconds, I carefully inserted a round into each chamber, and then returned the weapon to its holster and the remaining ammo, less the box, to the inside pocket of my vest while letting the empty box fall to the damp grass below the trailer. The little bird was now unfettered and waiting to be started so that it could shed its heavy burden and take flight. With the ease of repetition, I entered the cockpit and strapped myself in. With practiced precision, I flick off

the safety covers and toggle the switches in their proper order. Our birds are kept in tip-top condition, they are always in a state of readiness, and except for a minor oil leak, now is no exception. Slowly, too slowly, the rotors start to rotate, the whine of the turbine growing steadily louder. The bikers have to hear the noise and realize that there is another bird getting ready to take flight. If they find us before we reach the darkness of the sky, we will have no chance. All it will take is one man hanging on a skid to keep the fragile little bird on the ground. Moreover, these little helicopters were not intended for combat service and thus, they offer no protection from gunfire, to either the engine and controls, or its occupants! The whine of the engine is suddenly extremely loud to my ears, though I know it is not above normal, when I catch movement out of the peripheral of my vision. Without thinking, I throw off the harness and swing out of the cockpit, drawing the gun at the same time. I am both relieved and alarmed by the fact that there is a deputy sheriff standing at the back door, his weapon drawn. He glances back at me, but he seems more preoccupied at the moment with his radio, and the conversation he is having via it. Then his attention abruptly turns to the rear door that we just exited, and even above the growing whine of the engine, I can hear voices coming from the other side. In one fluid movement, I am back in the cockpit, my weapon returned to its holster and my hands on the controls. There isn’t time to wait for proper temperatures and pressures; there may not be time to lift off. To a staccato of gunfire, I push the throttles to their farthest setting and glance skyward, toward our expected destination. To my dismay, I see the barrel of a rifle protruding over the ridgeline of the roof. Someone has no intentions of letting this bird escape. Glancing over at my passenger, I am struck by the chalky grey hue of her face in the green glow of the instrument panel. It suddenly dawns on me that this has to be much bigger than just a biker gang pimping girls. For whatever reason, they can’t afford her escape, and they will stop it at all cost. The little bird is slowly rising, much too slowly. “Open your door!” I yell at her over the roar of the turbine. She looks at me questioningly, almost as if expecting me to throw her out if she does as I ask.

But then, hugging the bottle of rum to her chest with her left hand, she opens the door with her right, pushing it all the way ajar. Seeing me draw my weapon, she suddenly flinches, certain that I intend now on shooting her if she doesn’t jump. Seeing the hurt, disappointment, and fear on her face, I draw little pleasure from it. Yet, it makes me glad that she feels something toward me, even if it is only disappointment. “Lean back!” I shout at her. She has no sooner pressed herself into the back of the seat, then I take aim at the tavern roof and let loose five quick shots, spacing them less than a foot below the ridge and in the vicinity of the rifle barrel. Instead of being jerked back, the barrel slowly slides down and out of site, confirming that my bullets found their mark. Slipping the weapon back into its holster, I grab the controls and step on the left rudder, dipping the bird away from the tavern. As if on a slide, she slips down and to the side, quickly approaching the stand of trees surrounding the back yard while gaining in speed. Using the momentum of the downward slide, I pull up and reverse the pendulum, sliding back down and even faster toward the rear of the tavern. When I am barely halfway across the small yard, I jam my right foot down on the rudder control and swing the tail section into alignment behind me, moving nose-first toward the looming backside of the tavern. But my speed is good, and she lifts easily, despite the combined weight of two passengers, carrying us lightly over the rooftop. The parking lot appears panoramic beneath us, the dry dirt glowing a dull greenish brown under the influence of the sodium halogen lights shining down from their poles. The bikers out in the parking lot are looking up into the night sky, trying to pinpoint our location from the whine of our engine while shielding their eyes from the glare of the downward facing lights. Several are armed with handguns, while one or two are waving rifles around; all are searching for a target in the advancing night sky. I am relieved to note that none appear to be brandishing automatic weapons. Depressing the left rudder, I bank away from the danger of their weapons, rising slowly above the advancing silhouette of darker blotches that I know to be the tree line encircling the pub. Larry’s little bird is nowhere to be seen, but I’m not surprised; he would have killed his running lights the minute

he saw the danger below. As soon as we are a safe distance, I’ll raise him on the radio. In the meantime, there is little chance of an air-to-air collision. Circling around the rear of the pub as we gain altitude, I see the deputy still at the back door conversing with the men from inside. His mannerisms put me in mind of someone upset and agitated. Their eyes turn as one toward the night sky and the sound of our engine. Although I am certain that they can’t see beyond the glare of the sodium lights, he appears to be staring directly into the depths of my very being. In that moment, I suddenly realize that I’ve stumbled into something a lot bigger than just a single kidnapping for prostitution. That deputy down there has just realized that his prey is sitting next to me in the little bird. If he had known that while I was still earthbound, my passenger and I would both surely be dead now. As it is, he thought I was just another biker looking for the missing girl. With the realization that the law’s involved, and not in a good way, I take a deep breath and look over at my passenger with new respect and interest. Sitting next to me in the heli-bird, the bottle of rum squeezed tightly between her full breasts as if she is able to draw comfort from the contents contained within it, she makes a very comely sight, and not just because it’s my favorite brand of rum. For obvious reasons, I am overcome with a sudden desire to help her, to literally be her knight in shining armor.

‘WILDNIGHTS’ is the first few pages to a new Action Adventure novel that I’ve just started. If all goes well, it will be available by fall of 2007. You can check out all of my books at: LULU.COM/BOOKWORM
While you’re there, download a free short story for your reading pleasure. Sincerely, Will Decker