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Topher Lydon

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About Topher Lydon

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    the moon?

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  1. Just wondering if you're still writing.  I do enjoy your stories.

  2. just got caught up... great story mate!

  3. Has it been 365 days already? Happy Birthday my friend!

  4. Topher Lydon

    Chapter 13

    Chapter Thirteen Max’s Dacha the next morning Max was making breakfast, standing at the island that divided the kitchenette from his living room, looking at the high leaded windows that overlooked the wooded stream that flowed past his small cabin. Getting him out of Chungking Mansions had become a priority for Jae after their long afternoon stuffed into the broom cupboard. Max hadn’t complained, just trusted that Jae could negotiate a good price and he’d been moved into the two-story dacha in the space of a week. Ikea had sorted out the rest. He twiddled the fork in the pan, scrambling eggs as he watched the news on a wide-screen television that Jae had brought back from an excursion to an electronics. Something’s didn’t really need explanation, especially when the name under it read SONNY and the instructions were all in Mandarin. It looked set to be a rough day in the Moscow Oblast, they were predicting a snow storm. He was surprised that snowstorms, like typhoons, had their own warning system. But in a city where severe snowstorms could turn streets into arctic tundra, a serious storm was a dangerous event. They were advising that inhabitants of the Moscow Oblast stay inside their homes. Of course, looking outside his window at the dark and threatening clouds he couldn’t quite picture it being that dangerous. The doorbell jangling for attention had Max muttering a curse. Sure enough, people get told to stay inside and then found some excuse to… He juggled the pan, the egg beater and the door handle as he wrestled the heavy iron door open to let a snow covered and damp Jae into the dacha. He came in, all damp and shivering, as soon as Max threw the dead bolt open. “It’s snowing already?” Max asked in surprise. “One side of the road,” Jae replied as he shook himself off and peeled off the heavy woollen coat he was wearing. He tucked his moto helmet onto a shelf and grinned in a lopsided fashion at the eggs in the pan Max was still holding. “Oh you shouldn’t have, honey…” “Shut up,” Max grumbled as he returned to the gas stove, setting about making extra eggs. “What the hell was so important that it couldn’t wait?” Jae put his glasses on and hopped onto the settee, putting his feet up on the faux rattan coffee table he’d helped Max pick out on their Ikea run. “Nothing, just was up here doing some business and heard the red alert. I have a healthy Asian dislike of snow, so thought I would seek shelter at the Angleski embassy.” “Coffee?” Max offered. “Tea,” Jae answered. “I don’t like coffee.” Max fished in the cupboard for the Korean tea he’d picked up in case of Jae’s impromptu visits. “So what, does it really snow that bad?” he asked nodding to the screen. “It can do,” Jae folded his hands behind his head as he relaxed. “Black alerts are the worst ones, though. Back home of course we have the typhoon alerts. One to seven tell us when they are approaching, alerts eight, nine and ten are for intensity once they get here. Now they can be really bad.” Max looked worriedly over to the glass lattice doors to his small roof top garden. It wasn’t actually much of a garden at all, more like a three meter square nook with snow covered potted plants, but Max quite liked it. The door jangled again, and Max again found himself wrestling it open. Pleasantly surprised by Mrs. Cooper standing there with a box of bagels so soaked that her mascara had ran and she dripped on the carpet. “Sanctuary?” she asked from beneath the largest fox fur shapka hat he’d ever seen. Max smiled and gestured for her to come in. Returning to his kitchen and increasing the batch of eggs again. “Jae?” Mrs. Cooper looked surprised to see the Korean sprawled across the settee and very much at home in the cosy wooden dacha with it’s tempting fire crackling in the hearth. “Welcome to the Angeliski embassy,” Jae greeted, flipping the channel on the TV until he found the music channel. “Dry towels, and a good food free for all.” She slipped off her sodden coat, putting it on a coat rack, doing her best to dry out her hair when Max handed her a towel. She gave him the bagels in exchange. “Since it’s breakfast,” she replied. “Though there’s something uniquely thrilling about going to the grocery store in a Lamborghini.” “Show off,” Jae called. “you get it painted yet?” “A nice pink with a pearlescent finish,” Mrs. Cooper confirmed, sitting down at the breakfast bar and pouring herself a cup of coffee. “The body shop guy nearly had a fit when I rolled in and asked for it. What is it with you boys and exotic cars? I don’t know why you think a car like that can’t be pretty in pink.” Max winced, imagining his XKR in a light shade of pink. “It’s just wrong.” He stated. “You’re the one who likes your car boring. Black and Orange… ohhh…. Sony Ericsson special.” Mrs. Cooper smiled. “And don’t even get me started on the red and white pocket-rocket you drive Jae…” “Leave my scooter out of this one,” Jae said firmly. “I get teased enough for driving a girly bike, I don’t need it to be pink as well.” Mrs. Cooper snorted disdainfully at him as she wrapped both hands around her coffee cup, “I still can’t get over Coop just giving me back the car like that…” Jae sat upright, a worried look on his face as he leaned over the back of the settee, “gave it back? I thought you said…” Mrs. Cooper winced a little, “I might have given you the wrong impression on that, sorry Jae.” “Not half as sorry as I am,” Jae muttered. “What does he want in return?” “He says he wants to put things right,” Mrs. Cooper said, her lips pursed as if she was considering how her own words sounded as she said them. “But you know Coop, he’s an asshole…” “Vindictive, manipulative,” Jae shook his head. “He’s after something, you know that.” Max, who’d remained quite up to this point making eggs looked up, “why not just tell him no, and leave it at that?” “You don’t understand,” Mrs. Cooper replied softly. “Historically,” Jae interceded, “She’s never been able to just say no to Coop.” The snow was now hammering against the window, as an uncomfortable moment of silence passed between the three of them. “I can handle him,” Mrs. Cooper insisted. Max sighed as he dished up the eggs, pulling the freshly toasted bagels out of the toaster oven. Sliding a plate across to Mrs. Cooper, he waggled a second at Jae. Jae reluctantly gave up his comfortable sprawl across the settee to join them at the breakfast bar. Sniffing suspiciously at the eggs before liberally adding a copious amount of salt. “I think,” Max said, trying to be diplomatic and aware of Mrs. Cooper’s temper flashes. “What Jae is trying to get at is how do we help?” “You don’t,” Mrs. Cooper said flatly. “You stay out of it. I’m a big girl, I can look after myself.” “And your ten cats?” Jae smirked. “I don’t need barbed comments from you, thank you very much!” Mrs. Cooper threw him a harsh glare. “Look what ever is between me and Coop, that’s between he and I and isn’t anyone’s business.” “Right,” Max said, quickly surrendering to the angry look in Mrs. Cooper’s eyes. “And I have four cats, thank you very much.” Mrs. Cooper tucked into her eggs. She realized the other two were exchanging a look and she hammered her fork down. “Look,” she snapped testily. “I told you both to stay out of it.” “I didn’t say anything,” Max protested. Jae just continued to smirk, “so you know the race schedule for the next few weeks is going to be pretty heavy. Max, I’m going to want you out practicing the grip. Khimki has a number of snowy roads that should give you a bit of play room to test that XKR out on snow racing. I don’t know how that expensive car of yours will do… the weather’s going to get pretty bad for the next few months, and I doubt they have a lot of snow on that wet little island of yours.” “Where’s this big race going to be?” Mrs. Cooper cut in. “Tonight at the MKAD beltway,” Jae replied consulting his PDA. Glancing at Max he set it down, “Ten lane freeway, no traffic lights and runs completely around the city. Though god alone knows how we’re gonna keep the GIBDD Militsiya at bay.” Mrs. Cooper nibbled on her eggs as she looked thoughtful, “they’re the ones with their own cars, right?” Jae shook his head, “yes and no. Some members of the Traffic Militsiya have their own cars but a number of them have private cars… meaning there’s no way to tell what the patrol car’s going to have under its hood. I know there’s a rumour or two floating around of a Porsche Police Interceptor… but I’ve never seen it.” “You’re going to need someone out there watching your back,” Mrs. Cooper said after a hesitant pause. “I could shadow you piggy,” she decided. “Piggy?” Max asked around mouthfuls. “The Lambo,” Mrs. Cooper waved to the window with her fork. “My little piggy, I want to teach the local byk police officers a thing or two about Italian engineering.” “Tuner to Exotic in three point five,” Jae teased. “Three point Seven,” Mrs. Cooper complained. “Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4,” Max grinned. “An 11.2 second quarter mile…” “You know being a know-it-all really isn’t an attractive quality of yours,” Jae gestured with his fork. Max bit his lip, sucking in his breath. “I’m sorry, I don’t notice I’m doing it.” Jae’s eyes sparkled as he leaned forward on the breakfast bar. “Was I interrupting something by just dropping by?” Mrs. Cooper inquired, noting the sudden predatory look in Jae’s eyes. “Do you boys want to be alone to snuggle in from the cold?” Jae barked out a laugh as he straightened up, and Max’s eyes went very wide at her implication. “What about Boomer?” Mrs. Cooper asked. “W-what?” Max spluttered. “For the race,” Jae clarified. “If you touch him for sex, you’re dead meat.” He turned back to Mrs. Cooper. “Dealing with Boomer is always a puzzle, it can be tricky, frustrating and you are never sure what the right answer is supposed to be… he’s just won a big race, so he’s going to be riding a high, but I don’t know if that’s going to make him smart or stupid.” “Race high making him too cocky,” Max said. “It could be dangerous in the snow,” Jae scooped up his plate and began to. “That’s why they call it Grip racing,” Mrs. Cooper dangled her fork before abandoning the last of her eggs. “And he’s going to have to learn how to drive on it, how many months out of the year are we buried under the stuff?” “So he’s in then?” Jae looked back over his shoulder. Mrs. Cooper shook her head, “let him sit this one out, we can give him a chance to prove himself where it counts. Besides he should watch up the Grip Master…” Max winced at the pretentious nickname. “Great, but I don’t need babysitting. I need to race this one on my own, guys.” “Suit yourself,” Mrs. Cooper said with a shrug. Jae’s glasses flashed in the light as he ran the water for the dishes, accepting the ones Max passed to him, looking lost in his own private thoughts. * * * Later that Evening Mrs. Cooper fished through her handbag looking for her keys as she worked her way through the Moscow City parking lot heading for her Pajero. She’d had another long day, this time wrestling with the wondrous verb ‘to be’ which always seemed to cause ESL students so many problems. They hadn’t bothered to study or do the homework she’d assigned them, and naturally blamed her because they didn’t understand. She’d told them to quit their bitching and proceeded to treat the thirty something office workers like the six year olds they insisted they were. Irritated and tired, she didn’t expect the black car to be sitting across the rear end of her Pajero, neatly blocking her in. “Great,” she intoned, feeling her hackles rise as she stalked towards the new model Mercedes, intent of giving the driver a piece of her mind about being so inconsiderate. She drew pause when a middle aged Russian man slipped out of the back of the car wearing a cream coloured wool coat and smoking a noxious Russian cigarette that he flipped away as she approached. “Good evening Mrs. Cooper,” the man said in a thick accent. “Your documents, if you please.” He extended his hand. It was common for foreigners to have to present their passport and residence card to bored Militsiya looking to make a few extra roubles out of harassing foreigners in metro stations, but there was something startling and dangerous about the man before her. FSB. “What is this about?” she asked, not really expecting an answer as she pulled her passport out of the pocket of her bag, making sure the residence card was in place with it. If there was anything amiss with her documents she’d have to spend an uncomfortable amount of time in a cold police station while it was sorted out. The man accepted her passport into his hands, immediately pocketing it. “You can’t…” she began, realizing that to challenge the man was probably a mistake. “Where is your husband Mrs. Cooper?” the man asked. Mrs. Cooper felt that old chill snake its way down her spine, and she looked about her at the deserted parking lot, her hand flexing on her keys knowing there was no where to run to. She didn’t bother to play innocent, the FSB wouldn’t be speaking to her if they didn’t know something. “I am not sure,” she replied truthfully. The truth was, really, her only recourse. “What did he do now?” “Your husband’s location please, Mrs. Cooper,” the FSB officer demanded, his voice grated like gravel. “He’s in Moscow, somewhere,” Mrs. Cooper said. “The FSB knows all about my history with him… you know I have no reason to protect him. You want him? The moment I see him, he’s all yours.” The man reached into his car and produced a file, passing the manila folder across to her. “Please take a look at our, how do you Americans call it… insurance policy.” She twitched at being called an American, but bit down her scathing reply as she opened the folder, staring at the photographs of Max, Jae and Boomer, paperwork and reports written in long Russian hand that detailed a damning list of criminal offences. A turn of the page and she was looking at Max’s sizable Interpol report. Enough evidence to extradite him, and Jae along with him. Boomer was probably looking at time in a gulag… Mrs. Cooper swallowed. “What exactly do you want?” She asked, looking up. “Your husband,” the FSB agent replied. “All you have to do to avoid any of this… unpleasantness happening to your friends is to give us the man that betrayed you, stole from you, and left you in our care so many years ago.” “And this goes away?” She asked lifting the file. “A clean slate in the Russian Federation,” the FSB agent promised. “Just so long as we recover Mister Cooper and what he stole from us.” That jarred her. Mister Cooper had stolen from the FSB? How stupid was he? The first rule of living in Russia was ‘don’t poke the bear’ and what had he done? Walked up to it with a red hot poker and stabbed it in the butt. “And in case you think of warning your friends,” the FSB agent replied handing her his card. “We will be alerting the borders to keep an eye out for them, they won’t be permitted exit if they try to run.” He climbed back into his car, leaving the file in her hands as the Mercedes growled to life, and accelerated away, leaving her to stand in silence in the lot. * * * Tsvetnoy Bul’var Jae met her in the diner at the end of Tsvetnoy Bul’var like she’d asked. He sat in a quiet red vinyl booth, a greasy kebab untouched on a plate before him, a Militsiya patrolman hiding out of the cold a few booths away, oblivious to the conversation the two foreigners were having. Jae had been torn away from Max’s settee by Mrs. Cooper’s frantic call, braving the cold and snow after Max had dropped him off at the nearest metro station. He’d borrowed one of Max’s warm coats and the distinctive Faux-fur hat to keep himself warm. “So why the rush?” he asked in Korean, “and why no Max?” Mrs. Cooper curled two hands around her coffee mug as she looked at her friend, before glancing out at her Pajero steadily being buried beneath the drifting snow that thickly coated the grey city outside. “We’re in trouble,” she said, her own Korean thick and awkward. She’d only spent a few years there when she’d first started teaching, and her skill with the language was rusty. Jae accepted her difficulty with the language and kept to simple words. “What is wrong?” “Max is in trouble,” she said, handing the file across the table. Jae adjusted his glasses as he looked over the file, carefully turning through the photographs and looking up. “I don’t read Russian.” He said pushing it back. “Can you give me a summary?” She looked at him blankly. “Summarize it?” Jae asked switching back to English. “In brief?” Mrs. Cooper said, keeping her voice down. “Max’s past has caught up to him, and the FSB are willing to extradite him if I don’t give them Coop.” “So give him to them,” Jae said, turning over pictures of himself and Max. He felt cold. “What are they planning with these?” Mrs. Cooper looked at the series of pictures that compromised both Jae and Max, looking up at Jae’s furrowed brow. “I think they intend to release those to your family…” Jae lowered the pictures back to the file, neatly straightening them out as he closed it. “So they’re blackmailing me as well.” “They’re want him really badly if they’ve gone to this much trouble,” Mrs. Cooper took a long drink from her cup. “My family can’t sustain another scandal surrounding me,” Jae said evenly. “My mother was shamed enough the last time, that could be excused as misspent youth, but I’m no longer a youth… and there would be no coming back from this…” he tapped the file with his finger. “Is there something to this?” she asked carefully. “It doesn’t matter if there is or not,” Jae said. “All that matters is that it appears to be true. I came to Moscow to allow my parent’s a chance to rebuild their reputations, and now I have compromised that again through carelessness.” He dipped his head a fraction as he, too, watched the snow for awhile. “Coop’s a rat bastard,” Mrs. Cooper broke the silence after a few minutes. “We give him to them and they promised that all of this would go away…” “Things like this don’t go away,” Jae replied. “Leverage is something that, once applied, will always remain there. We don’t matter to the FSB, once they have what they want they will simply do as they please. And turning Max over to Interpol would be quite a feather in the cap of a Militsiya chief. Boomer would still wind up in a gulag and I’ll still have to go home in shame.” “What do we do?” Mrs. Cooper asked. Jae chewed on his lip, “I don’t know… yet. But I think we’re going to have to figure it out for tomorrow night.” “Why that soon?” Mrs. Cooper asked. “Because, unless Max is willing to get out of the MKAD race, he is going to bring down the whole GIBDD on top of him. And that is going to be one hell of a mess.” Mrs. Cooper looked worried, “he can’t back out of that race.” “So,” Jae said at length. “As you can see, we’re stuck. They have a hold of us, and we’re running out of time.” * * * Across the Road “They’re going to run,” the driver commented to his passenger as they sat in the shadows of the overpass watching Mrs. Cooper and Jae talking through the snowy window of the little Lebanese diner. “Of course they are Sasha,” the FSB colonel replied chain smoking again. “The point is not to catch them as they are small fish. We have a much larger fish to catch, and they are just the bait for it.” “Should we not alert the Militsiya to have them picked up?” the driver inquired. “I do not care about a Korean goluboy and his pet car thief, nor this dinamiskta Mrs. Cooper, I have orders Sasha, and we must follow our orders.” “I understand Colonel,” the driver stated. “Good, then I want you to send them a message, Sasha. Make sure that they do not forget who it is they are dealing with. Then we shall see what the morning brings to our baited lines.”
  5. Thanks guys, for the support. My health has not been the strongest of late, and I am happy for all the support.
  6. Topher Lydon

    Chapter 6

    Chapter Six A few hours later. Mrs. Cooper’s Pajero came to the front of the garage a little bit after lunch. She and Boomer ate a little after she picked him up from the hospital. Aside from the bruise on his arm which he got from hitting it at his own door there was no other injury on him. That was good on two fronts. First, that meant that Boomer was in no critical condition, and second, Mrs. Cooper didn’t have to make up a big excuse for Boomer’s street racing activities. She simply said he got into a bar fight with a drunk. “We’re lucky all you got was that bruise on your arm,” said Mrs. Cooper. “That crash could’ve been a lot worse.” “But it wasn’t and I’m fine. Stop trippin’ already.” “I knew it was a bad idea for you to take a challenge like that.” “I had a flat!” “That’s no excuse. If you were half the driver you were supposed to be back there, you would’ve checked your car after leaving it like that. You’re also lucky that both Max and Jae think that the Peugeot 206 can be saved. You’re not ready for this.” “Yeah, I am. You’ll see in my next race!” “Which will be a long time from now considering the damage to the Peugeot 206. What if Max wasn’t there to do a rematch? That would’ve been a major loss on Jae’s part.” They both got out of the MG and Mrs. Cooper led the way into the garage. Boomer was a little bit upset. He had all the confidence in the world that he was a good racer. To get this from Mrs. Cooper, who he considered a very good friend, was just frustrating. Boomer didn’t even bother considering the fact that Mrs. Cooper had been racing much longer than he had and surely had some time-tested wisdom in her head. He was also pretty upset that Mrs. Cooper brought up Max. Sufficed to say nobody saw him coming. Max had been delivering pizzas for the garage for just under two weeks, sometime more than once a day (Jae really liked those meat lover’s specials), and in that time he has gotten on friendly terms with all of them. Occasionally he would ask for a chance to prove his driving skills. Almost every time he said that they all just pretty much passed it off as a joke. After all, the guy could barely deliver a pizza on time! Where the heck did he learn to drive? Well wherever it was, it taught lessons well. Last night left everyone no less than very impressed at Max’s skill behind the wheel. While Boomer himself was pretty amazed, he wasn’t too keen on finding out he had such competition on his hands. Mrs. Cooper came through the front door where the general store was located. There they sold the usual stuff like motor oil, lubricants, belts, windshield wipers, and a myriad of other car accessories. Behind the cashier’s desk was one of Mrs. Cooper’s girls worked during the day who greeted them as they came in. “Nice to see you back from the hospital Boomer,” said the cashier girl. “Saw you’re nasty crash last night. I’m surprised you can walk.” Boomer sighed exasperatedly. The cashier girl took this as a sign that she should drop the subject for today. A stern look from Mrs. Cooper confirmed that suspicion. “Anyway, the Peugeot 206’s in the back and Jae is already working on it along with that pizza guy.” Both Mrs. Cooper and Boomer looked a little confused. “Max is still here?” asked Mrs. Cooper. “Well, they did go out for a bit, and Pizza-boy did mention today was a day off,” She shrugged. “So I guess he’s been helping Jae since last night. You guys can go see him if you want.” “Sure.” Mrs. Cooper and Boomer exchanged brief looks with each other before heading toward the garage are through a door behind the cashier’s desk labelled “employees only.” The first thing they heard was Jae’s music playing in the background. What they didn’t notice was Max’s presence or anyone else’s for that matter. The garage was empty except for the cars. “He ain’t here,” said Boomer. Mrs. Cooper swivelled her head around the garage’s space. She was inclined to agree with Boomer until her eye caught something and she did a double take. “No he’s here somewhere,” she said. “What makes you say that?” Mrs. Cooper nodded towards a car. “That.” Boomer looked in that direction and found that he was looking at the black and orange Jaguar XKR that was now a bit popular among the race goers last night. The ride that was distinctly Max’s. The XKR’s driver side door was open. Max was probably doing something to clean the interior or something. Both Mrs. Cooper and Boomer moved closer to the car to get a better look at it. Ever since last night Mrs. Cooper has been a bit fascinated by the XKR. She only got a taste of the car when she decided to tag along with Max in that race. She only knew the obvious modifications. She knew the brochure: With the AJ 20 Coupe, Arden contrasted the more delicate appearance of the production Jaguar with a muscular look. At the front, the coupe is given an impressive “face” by fitting the Arden front spoiler featuring large air inlets. New side sills, also incorporating air inlets, continue the front design and create the appearance of the car being lower to the road. Arden swapped the side vents in favour of their own, colour-contrasting versions. The rear end constitutes the logical conclusion defined by the front design. Like the front section, the rear apron also features cooling openings. To effectively reduce the lift and to make it more sure-footed, Arden equipped its AJ 20 with a distinctive rear spoiler, which blended perfectly into the basic design. But she also wanted to look at the suspension, the brakes, and especially… “Pop the hood,” she blurted out like an order. “Who? Me?” responded Boomer. “The door’s open isn’t it? I have to see this.” “You do know this ain’t your car, right?” “That didn’t feel like a normal V8 engine during that race. I have to see what’s under the hood.” Boomer shook his head but eventually went to the driver’s side, leaned into the car and found the lever he was looking for. The hood popped up an inch. Mrs. Cooper quickly stepped forward and opened the hood all the way up then prop it on the stand. It was as she expected and at the same time, as she didn’t expect and this mixture of feelings showed in her face. Boomer walked around to see what she was looking at. He also seemed to be pretty surprised at what he was looking at. Mrs. Cooper was right. The normal 4.2 litre V8 powered Jaguar XKR had clearly undergone an engine swap modification. The displacement increase to 4.5 l was achieved by fitting a crankshaft specially produced for Arden, along with new con rods and pistons. The XKR optimised both lubrication and cooling. No wonder Mrs. Cooper felt something weird about the car. “I thought that engine tone didn’t sound right for a XKR,” said Boomer. “Yeah, it’s an Arden custom job.” The tone in her voice pretty much suggested that she was impressed. “Blisk,” Boomer murmured in awe, “It’s what four hundred and fifty horse power?” “Four eighty,” said a voice from the side. Both Mrs. Cooper and Boomer quickly turned their heads to find Max standing there on the side, leaning against a Honda Civic Type-R. He had an entertained look on his face when they realized that he must’ve been watching them stare in awe at his car for a short while now. “It’s capable of 0 to 100 km/h in 4.1 seconds. And it tops out at about 305 km/h,” said Max. It was a general rule that when out hunting, big cats always maintained good contact with the ground. For this reason, the XKR also had a modified suspension. Max’s car had come with a complete sports suspension with specially produced shock absorbers. The fine tuning was designed to meet the needs of the ambitious driver and offered him the best trade off of comfort against sportiness. The XKR gave him superior handling to match the impressive power package inside. However having a professionally tuned car was one thing, but knowing how his kitty purred, that was something only a true car lover could manage. For Max, he’d spent so long dismantling and reassembling the car, fine tuning each of the parts to match his own personal preferences… he’d wanted a grip car, and had come out with a beast which was pure claws. Everything about the car screamed top performance. The only thing spoiling the theme of performance was the fact that Max refused to go all the way with stripping his car of unnecessary weight. He had already removed the backseat, floor carpets, and spare tire, replaced the two front seats, the steering wheel and some gauges, but other than that he kept the interior stock, refusing to remove the radio and CD player, the speakers, most of the interior trimmings and the air-conditioning system. He figured that since this was the only car he owned at the moment he might as well make some small compromises to performance to make the car easier to live with. Max spent nearly 3 months and a ton of cash rebuilding that car. When he’d first been introduced to the Arden XKR it had belonged to some rich kid too stupid to realize that Grip racing for pink-slips took more than buying a pre-tuned car and hitting the asphalt the first night out. Luck, skill, and determination had won him the car, after the idiot had nearly totalled it. Cast away, like discarded rubbish… Max had found a bond with the car… there was something about two strays suddenly finding themselves stuck with each other… It was just a shame though that the car would not get a chance to achieve its original purpose for which Max intended. But it was a great car and Max loved it nonetheless. Also he had already proved its worth on the regular racing scene back in England, enough for him to finance his cross-continental trip dodging the law and getting to Moscow. Max would tell Mrs. Cooper and Boomer about all of that later. “Nice to see you guys back from the hospital,” said Max. “Nothing serious, right?” “…Yeah, just a bruise on the arm. Nothing else,” replied Mrs. Cooper. “What about you? I’d expected you’d gone home by now.” “Nah I expect to be able to at least replace the radiator by the end of the day. And maybe later get a new intercooler when Jae’s get’s back.” Boomer smirked. “Man, you act like you work here.” “I do now.” Boomer’s smirk faded. “What?” “That’s right,” said Jae’s voice from another direction. The three of them turned to the door leading to the store front. Jae had just came in carrying a cardboard box. Jae turned to Max and tossed him the box. Max was caught a little off guard but managed to grab the box with both arms. He noted that it was a bit heavy. “There’s the new radiator,” said Jae. “I’ll get right on it,” replied Max. With that, Max disappeared into the back where the Peugeot 206 GTi was being fixed. Both Mrs. Cooper and Boomer turned their sights now towards Jae who was fully expecting their looks of curiosity. “You hired him?” asked Mrs. Cooper. “Well, I have been a little understaffed since Artem and Klinkov bailed on the shop last month.” Note to self, thought Jae, stop hiring Caucasus immigrants. They disappear faster than a professional drifter’s tires. “So what, no more pizzas for us?” “Nah, we both agreed this is part-time work. But the thing is I didn’t just hire him for his mechanical skills.” “Then what is he really here for?” asked Boomer. “To teach you how to handle your ride.” Boomer went wide-eyed. “What?! I don’t need him!” “Yes you do, brah.” “No, I don’t!” “Yeah, you do. From what I saw last night you do. Really, Boomer, if not him then I would’ve found somebody else. You really ain’t that ready for the streets yet. You need training.” Boomer let out an exasperated sigh. “I can’t believe you guys!” “We don’t think you suck, Boomer,” said Mrs. Cooper. “We just think you need a little more work.” “Then why can’t I do it on my own? I can just practice on my free time and stuff.” “Boomer, you can’t practice by yourself unless you know the right things to practice. Then you’d be just practicing bad habits and going nowhere. Trust me on this, I’ve been there. Max can’t handle a scooter for shit, but he obviously knows how to handle a car and he could teach you a lot, you know.” “So you really think this is what’s best?” “Boomer…” Jae’s tone was now very serious. “Do I have to remind you why Quai quit racing?” With that Boomer went silent. He knew the story well enough. Quai was once a street racer as well but stuff had happened prying him out from behind the steering wheel. An accident he experience during a race one night forced him to quit the sport. Boomer remembered that from the start, Jae was never really comfortable with his decision to start racing on his own but he eventually convinced Jae to give him a chance. He looked back on his few first victories. They were all against amateur racers like him and most of the time his victories seemed to have simply been due to luck. And in almost all his races he was a little bit reckless. He couldn’t remember just how many times his Peugeot 206 GTi narrowly missed lampposts and fire hydrants on the side walk doing over a hundred miles per hour. “I’m letting you race for me,” continued Jae, “but I’m not letting you make a mistake.” Jae left it at that and walked away. Mrs. Cooper had nothing left to say and Boomer wasn’t about to wait for her to come up with something. Boomer walked away a little dejected. Mrs. Cooper was left standing there with nothing to do. Mrs. Cooper suddenly found herself being drawn to the Jaguar which still had the hood open. She slowly walked closer to it and peered into the engine bay a little deeper. She was quite impressed how the engine seemed to fit so well inside the frame and looked like it truly belonged there. She caught a glimpse of the two large superchargers under the engine block. She’ll find out about those soon enough. All this though, as much as it made her praise the car, made her very curious about Max who up until two weeks ago was a total stranger to her. Now he pops out of nowhere with a car and skills that don’t fail to impress, and for her it’s rare to be impressed. That worried her. The last time she was impressed by a white guy with a cool car and slick driving he had ripped her heart out and left her with nothing but a Phil Collins CD and a cluster of tarnished memories. That guy was lucky to be able to get some redemption and now he was half-way around the world. The last Mrs. Cooper heard about him was that he was somewhere in Europe, still racing. Mrs. Cooper wondered if Max was the kind of guy to keep a few skeletons in his closet. * * * Beyond the Ring. In a barely lit garage somewhere in what was lovingly called ‘the Outer Ring’, Bull and his posse were hard at work. The place they were working in was a fairly large establishment that looked more suited to scrapping cars rather than fixing them up. Everywhere there were pieces of scrap that came from some kind of car. There were a few cars there that have obviously seen better years. Among those examples was the busted Toyota Maserati with a crushed rear end. Bull had since abandoned that car. No matter, it wasn’t his real car anyway. Just something he won off another punk racer on the mainland. It was of little consequence to him. This was not the case with what the crew were building. It wasn’t done yet but one glance and one could tell that when it would be done it would be something to behold. Bull stepped back and looked at the near finished car he and his crew were working on. He couldn’t help but smirk. It was a beautiful sight indeed. “Whoever you are,” he mumbled to himself. “Wherever the hell you came from…This is not over yet. Not by a long shot.” He stared long and hard at his beautiful new 2008 Ford Mustang, tuned to perfection. “See you soon, pizza guy,” he said while letting out a smirk of contentment.
  7. hah, let me finish what I am working on now, and we can see about Carter's next round as for TFB, that is on the agenda as well... let me buy a desk and I can get working...
  8. yes there is. I can't get into specifics right now because I don't want to be tied into anything, but yes.
  9. Topher Lydon

    Chapter 3

    Chapter Three At the docks. Boomer was shaking in his seat. His has clamped onto the steering wheel with a vice-like grip. He was breathing a gallon of air a minute and his vision, hearing, and sense of touch were blurry at best. But otherwise he was uninjured considering the spectacular crash he went through. The car was done, however. The radiator was broken and leaking. It was in no shape to continue driving let alone racing. Already a crowd was growing near the Peugeot 206 but first to reach the car were Mrs. Cooper and Max. Mrs. Cooper quickly opened the driver side door to look at Boomer. “Boomer? Are you alright?” Boomer was shaking in his seat, still gripping the wheel. He looked wearily at Mrs. Cooper. “Yeah…I…think I’m fine,” he said in a cropped tone. “Anything broken?” asked Max. “Aside from the car that is.” “No…no, noting. I’m okay.” “You wanna get outta that seat?” “…Sure.” Boomer struggled to unbuckle his harness. Though he was ok physically, he still needed Mrs. Cooper’s help in order to get out of the car. And even then he couldn’t stand up straight just yet. Mrs. Cooper continued to whisper reassuring messages into his ear to help him recover. For his part, Max was glad that Boomer was ok but something was bothering him about the crash. It shouldn’t have happened. He knew the Peugeot 206 GTi and he’s seen a few examples of it in action before. A turn like that at that speed should’ve been no problem for the car and driver. Then there was that understeer and the way the wheel seemed to dig into the ground which caused the car to flip. That wouldn’t happen unless— Max had a feeling. Something wasn’t right. He took one last look at Boomer to make sure he was ok before he headed around the front and towards the left-side front wheel. Meanwhile, Vlad’s purple ‘Cuda pulled up to the scene. Vlad stepped out of the driver’s seat and Jae stepped out from the passenger seat. The crowds made way for them as they went for Boomer. “What happened?!” asked Jae. “Is he hurt?!” “No he’s fine, Jae,” said Mrs. Cooper, “just a little shaken up.” “What happened to the car?” asked Vlad. “Flipped after coming out of the corner.” “How the hell did that happen?” “It doesn’t matter,” said a new but familiar deep voice among the group. Everyone look towards the source. Jae recognized him instantly. It was the driver of the Maserati who was Boomer’s opponent in the race. He came back and he took his posse with him. Jae and the others knew little about him. All they know was that he goes by the alias “Bull.” He recently came to Moscow from New York and he brought quite a reputation with him. He’s been cleaning house at almost every race event he’s been in for the past couple of months. Jae knew it was a mistake allowing Boomer to race this guy in the first place but he never expected things to go this badly. “It doesn’t matter because in the end, he still would’ve lost to me,” said Bull. “Suck-ass drivers like him don’t belong on the tarmac among real racers.” “Hey, man you shut your mouth!” shot back Vlad. “Or what? You can’t argue the fact that the race in mine. You guys got no right to complain. You challenged me, remember?” Vlad was silent, but fuming. Jae and Mrs. Cooper couldn’t do anything. They continued to argue for a bit more with Vlad trying to be the antagonist he was known to be from time to time. While all this was happening, Max was on one knee feeling around the flat left side front tire. He had his hand feeling across the surface of the tire. He knew what he was looking for. This situation wasn’t anything new to him, much to his regret. He saw the signs and he wanted to know for sure. He continued to feel all over the exposed surface of the tire and after a few short moments, he found what he was looking for. And when he did, he got pissed. “I want my money,” said Bull. “What?” replied Jae. “The race was for one-forty-four.” “Hey, man, can’t you just wait a little, I gotta make sure my boy’s alright here.” “Screw that! Just shut up and give me the money that I won!” “Bullshit!” exclaimed Max as he slowly got up from where he knelt near the wheel. Everyone in the crowd turned their attention to him now, Max looked hard at Bull. Fitting name, he thought, too bad it was only half accurate. “What the hell did he just say?” said Bull. “That win was not legit. Neither is your claim on that cash. You didn’t win anything. You don’t deserve the win and Boomer didn’t deserve that crash.” On the other side of the car, Vlad looked at Max curiously then turned to Jae. “Who’s this?” he asked. “The pizza guy,” replied Jae earning him a raised eyebrow from Vlad. Bull seemed to have gotten a little irritated but that show of bravado from Max. “Big words from you there pal. Got anything to back them up?” Max simply smirked. “I know a flat tire when I see one.” Bull was quiet for only a moment before bursting in a fit of giggles. His posse followed suit and so did a few people from the crowd. Mrs. Cooper, Boomer, Jae and Vlad were all looking at Max curiously, as if the young man had gone mental or something. Max took all this in stride. “Yeah, well so do I,” said Bull. “Hell, everyone with an IQ over 10 knows what a flat tire is, jackass!” “Yeah, maybe,” replied Max, “but not everybody knows a knife stab when they find it.” With this the laughter died down. Bull looked a bit surprised by this and so did Mrs. Cooper and the others. Jae was darting his sights between Bull and Max, thinking about the implications of what Max just said. If that was true then Boomer’s crash was… “And you say I’m full of bullshit?” retorted Bull. Max was holding back a grin. He had played this game before and he played it well. By the time he was done this jerk would be walking away with his tail between his legs. It was all about set up. Play the words right and this guy would fall right into it. “You can check it for yourself, if you don’t believe me.” “So, you’re accusing me of cheating?!” Strike one. Max smirked a bit but it was barely noticeable. “Cheating? Who said anything about cheating? Who said anything about you cheating?” Bull was taken aback. He knew he had just fallen for a trap. The worst thing for a guilty party to do is accidental self-implications. Distrust is one of the hardest things to get rid in a person. Jae now narrowed his eyes. Things were getting thicker. Mrs. Cooper, Boomer, and Vlad also seem to be getting the drift of things. “All I’m trying to say is,” continued Max, “that the win was not legit, regardless of who did or if there was any cheating.” “That’s crap! This is the streets! Anything goes on the streets! I don’t care if his tire blew or not, a win is a win and a loss is a loss!” “Whatever, bro. That may be where you come from but they do it a little different here.” Max looked towards Jae. “Right?” Jae looked a little confused for the moment before knowing what he would do. He turned towards Bull. “He’s right! We may be on the streets but even here we have a little something honour, brah. You can’t call that a win, I don’t care who you are. The money’s not yours yet. If you want it that bad, you’re gonna hafta wait till we set this up again. Then we’ll run this with the same rules.” “To hell with that, brah!” retorted Bull. “I haven’t got all night to wait for you boy over there to go find his balls again!” He turned to Max. “Unless this ass-wipe can put his money where his mouth is, our discussion here is done! The only way I’m giving you a chance to get your money back is if punk over here throws down!” Bull pointed to Max during that last sentence. Strike two. “Sure, I can deal with that.” Bull was again taken aback. This time so were Jae and the others. The crowds were giving off a resounding “oooh” at the blatant, if not casual, acceptance of Bull’s challenge to Max. No one seemed to have been expecting that except maybe Max himself. And in truth, it was. Bull was digging himself deeper into the trap and all Max had to do was close and lock the hatch. “On one condition, though,” said Max. “Triple or nothing. Either that or you’re just not worth my time and gas.” The crowds slowly started to cheer. Max was smirking more noticeably now. Jae and the others were getting increasingly concerned about, mostly because they never expected any of this from Max. After all, he was just a pizza boy, right? Mrs. Cooper made sure that Boomer was strong enough to stand on his own then swiftly moved to Max’s side. “Triple or nothing?!” said Mrs. Cooper. “What do you think you’re doing?” Max turned to her, his pale blue eyes sparkling from beneath the brim of his hat and replied: “This guy is not worth racing. However, One-forty-four grand times three is Four-hundred-and-thirty-two thousand. That’s the only way I’ll take this guy on. Relax, Mrs. Cooper, the cash won’t be a problem.” He turns to Bull again. “What do you say, bro?” “You think you can ask for that much money, just like that?!” retorted Bull. “I’m the goddamn Grip-King…” “Self-proclaimed,” Jae stated holding up a finger and interrupting. Strike three. You’re out asshole. “This is the streets. Anything goes on the streets.” Around them the crowds were cheering and screaming for Bull to accept the condition. Bull was silenced. He knew right then and there that he was in a trap he couldn’t get out of. He was played and he dug himself in too deep. Max was now staring him down. He knew that the only way this guy could save face was to throw down the cash and accept the conditions. He had nowhere to go because he knew how much of a punk-ass he will look like if he backed out of his own challenge. All that was left to do was to smoke him on the tarmac. His reputation along with his bank was now on the line, and Bull was silent for a while but eventually said: “Fine…” Max smirked wide. “Ok then. Give me a minute to fetch my car. I’ll see you at the starting line.” Max started to walked towards the warehouse where he parked his car not giving anyone else a second look. Mrs. Cooper followed him in after giving one last glance to her friends then quickly caught up to Max and they walked into the warehouse together. Bull was fuming as he got back into his Maserati and drove back in the direction of the starting line. All the while, Jae, Boomer, and Vlad were standing there confused. “What the hell just happened, man?!” asked Vlad. “Man, I have no clue,” said Jae, “but I got I feelin’ It’s gonna be a long night, brah.” * * * Inside the warehouse. As expected with the atmosphere of the general area, the place was filled with cars, all of them tuned and modified. Many of the tuners inside were have speaker battles instead of races. Speaker battles were all about watts and not horsepower. The majority of the cars had their trunks open showing off their impressive stereo and light systems trying to out-sound the other guys. Max slowed in his walk to appreciate the loud thumping beats that shook the building to its foundation. Mrs. Cooper was right next to him the whole time, only not as calm as he was. “Max do you have any idea what you’re doing?” she asked. “You just challenged a guy for over Four hundred grand.” “Technically, he challenged me.” “You reeled him into that and you know it. And what was all that talk about Boomer’s flat tire. You really think he stabbed it to cheat?” “Maybe after this, I can show you myself where the tire was punctured.” “But how do you know this guy cheated?” “I’ve been through this before. And the signs were all too obvious. The flat was suspicious enough but when he came up to scene like that, demanding the money first in a hurry, it was just too convenient for him. And the way he answered me when I told everyone about the flat…” “Setting all that aside, are you sure you can even take this guy on?” Max stopped in his walk, right in front of a car. Mrs. Cooper didn’t notice this at first but when Max pulled out a key from his pocket, pressed the button on the infrared remote, and made the car beep, she did notice. And the moment she did she was rendered speechless. Sitting right in front of her was the Arden XKR she’d duelled on the expressway. She slowly turned her sights back to Max with a flabbergasted look on her face. Max smiled back at her. “Like I said before. You’ve already seen what I can do, Mrs. Cooper.” She raised an eyebrow. “Don’t give me that look, you started that thing we had on the expressway.” Max moved towards the driver side. He motioned for Mrs. Cooper to take the passenger seat. Mrs. Cooper hesitated a bit before walking around the front and taking the passenger side door and they both climbed in together. Max fell into his seat like he belonged there. Mrs. Cooper had to adjust herself to the seat. She got a chance to explore the interior as well. The front seats were replaced with Recaro racing seats complete with four-point harnesses. The inside was reinforced with a custom roll cage. The back seat was completely removed and the back areas seemed to have been spray painted black to match the rest of the interior. The steering wheel was also made by Recaro with added buttons labelled “N20” with easy thumb reach. Beside that was the notorious paddleshift transmission that enabled the driver to either use it as one would a standard automatic gearbox, or an automatic gearbox featuring faster shifts by using the sport mode. Alternatively, the driver could take full manual control of the gears by means of two paddles situated behind the steering wheel, affording the driver optimum control in fast driving. The stock RPM gauge Speedometer were replaced with professional racing gauges from Auto Meter. Other than that, everything looked stock, although it looked like Max did remove the carpets on the floor to save a little weight. “Let’s go,” said Max as he started the engine which rumbled to life. In neutral, the XKR purred as softly as a kitten. But there was no doubt it was fast when it stretched out its claws. The car expressed its additional power in the form of a deep growl, produced by a sports silencer system with the four chrome-plated tailpipes. Max stepped on the gas, the 21” wheels spinning up as it pounced forward and out of the warehouse. * * * At the starting line. By then, Bull was waiting at the starting line again, digging into his pockets and trying to come up with the agreed upon purse for the race. Jae, Vlad and Boomer were waiting anxiously on the sideline leaning on Vlad’s ‘Cuda. As for Boomer’s Peugeot 206, they managed to push it to the side lines with some help from the crowds. They’ll just pick it up later. One of Bull’s friends was leaning on the hood of Bull’s car, “and he wears a pidorka…” “So when is your boy gonna get here?” asked Bull as he paced to and fro in front of his car. “How do you even know this guy?” “He delivers pizza to us,” answered Jae honestly. “And he thinks he can race!?” “I don’t know. Ask him when he gets here.” “What? Is that all you can say?!” “I barely know the guy! And what does it matter anyways? Your challenge, your race! You worry about who he is, man. I’m just the organizer.” Bull turned away annoyed. Vlad then turned to Jae. “Hey, man, I’m not too comfortable with this cat, Max. I know it’s his race now and all but it ain’t like you to just let somebody from outta nowhere to take the line like that. Can this guy put it down or what?” Jae was about to say something when he heard the sound of engines coming their way. When Jae saw it coming out of the corner of his eye, he just had to smirk. “Somehow, yeah, I think he can put it down.” Vlad, and just about everyone else there, turned towards the end of the straight where the black and orange XKR was driving towards them. The crowds slowly started cheering at the approaching car. When the XKR was about ten yards away, the car did a sudden 180 degree turn and reversed right alongside Bull’s Maserati. The doors of the XKR opened and both Max and Mrs. Cooper stepped out. Max raised his hand and showed that he held an impressively large wad of cash. Jae took this as his cue and walked in between the two cars and their respective drivers. Max handed his cash to Jae for his keeping. Jae then turned to Bull who pulled out his cash from his pocket and handed it down. “Okay then,” said Jae, “do I have to review to you both how this works?” Bull’s response was to get into his car and slam his door shut. Jae took that as a no. He then turned to Max since he knew he never explained the race rules to him yet. But Max waved him off. “Don’t worry man, I got this.” He said as he shucked his overcoat then got back into his own car, tucking the coat into the back. Jae shrugged and went to his position in front of the two cars. As Max was getting himself comfortable in his seat, He was a bit surprised when Mrs. Cooper got back into hers. He looked at her inquisitively as she buckled up again. “You’re the one who said you wanted to show us what you got,” she said. “Well, here’s your chance, pizza boy.” “Well, alright then,” he placed his gloved hands on his steering wheel. “I’m just a little worried about the weight handicap.” Mrs. Cooper smirked and nodded. Then she suddenly realized what the comment implied and instantly frowned. She turned her head towards Max with a look. “Excuse me?!” Max didn’t have time to answer back. At that moment, Jae had already dropped his hands and yelled “GO!” The race was on. The Maserati was off the line first by a few milliseconds. Max was off the line, pressing Mrs. Cooper back down onto her seat. Bull in his Maserati and Max in his XKR were neck and neck throughout the first stretch. It almost seemed like the revs were completely synchronized. The whole stretch Max was looking at Bull through his window, studying his moods. “Um, Max?” said Mrs. Cooper. “The corner?” Max let off the gas and let the Maserati go ahead, long before the corner hit. Max kept his eye on the Maserati as Bull took the corner aggressively going in a wide arc. Max smirked as he gently eased the XKR through the hairpin turn not even attempting to catch up. By the time they came out of the corner, the Maserati was at least four car lengths ahead of the XKR. Max continued to watch the Maserati carefully as it made the next corner into the wide area where Boomer crashed. He was just about getting the gist of Bull’s driving style. Cheat or no cheat, no doubt this guy had some skill worth taking seriously. Max estimated he must’ve been racing for at least a year, maybe went to a school somewhere that gave him a few techniques. As for the car, it was no hack job. It was tuned professionally though he doubted that Bull himself did most of the tuning, considering how he handled that car. Drivers who tuned their own cars usually either adapted their driving style to the car or vice versa. It was painfully obvious that Bull and his machine were not in harmony “Max,” said Mrs. Cooper, “you do know this is a race, right?” “I do.” “Then why don’t you drive like it?” “Don’t worry, I got this. I just want to give this dude something to think about.” Max decided to show off a bit by drifting across the corner in a wide arc, much to the enjoyment of the crowds that were watching. Max was easily able to catch up to the Maserati but still made no attempt to overtake him. Instead he stayed right on his bumper. It was the same story through the next four corners. The XKR matched the Maserati’s every manoeuvre and remained at a modest two car lengths away up to the last, quarter mile straight before the start/finish line. During the straight both cars easily reached a top speed of 160 miles per hour before they both had to brake hard for the last corner. Waiting at the start/finish line, the crowds cheered at the sight of the two cars as they appeared out of the corner. Bull’s Maserati looked to be securely in the lead, much to the chagrin on Jae, Boomer and Vlad. Bull was about to laugh in celebration at the knowledge that the first lap was his when suddenly he heard the rumbling of an engine suddenly pass by him on the left. He looked through his window just in time to see the XKR zoom past him and cross the line before him. Max grinned as he watched the Maserati became smaller in his rear-view mirror. However instead of punching it, Max stepped on the brakes and pulled back. He let Bull pass him and Max stepped on the gas again and manoeuvred himself behind the Maserati’s slipstream. Inside the XKR, Mrs. Cooper looked at Max curiously. Max simply smirked back. “That should be something for him to think about,” he said. Mrs. Cooper slowly curved her lips into an understanding smile. She figured out his game now. There was no doubt that Max was the better driver here and he wasn’t about to let that guy, Bull, forget about it. She tightened her harness and sat back for the ride. In his Maserati, Bull just got a hit of the nerves. In all likelihood, he came to the same conclusion that Mrs. Cooper had a second ago. And it showed. His driving seemed to have gotten a little bit more sluggish now though only the keenest person would see it. Nothing he could do about now but race with all his got and he knew deep in his got it wasn’t that much. He powered on through the first two corners and soon both cars were in the wide open space again. Bull was fully expecting Max to make a move here and Max entertained that notion well. Max made some purposely half-assed attempts to overtake just to see how Bull would react. Predictably enough, the Maserati moved in to block in the attempts. He was getting nervous now, thought Max. He pulled back and let Bull gain a bit of a lead. For the next four corners, the story would be again the same: Bull in the lead and Max on his tail pipe. Finally they came up to the long quarter mile stretch. “Alright, now we end this,” said Max. If Mrs. Cooper wanted to see Max’s skill, she was satiated then and there. Max popped the clutch, slammed the brakes, shifted gears, turned the wheel, and slammed the gas again, and counter-steered in almost one fluid motion putting the car into an inertia drift, manoeuvring the XKR alongside the Maserati. The XKR and the Maserati were now neck and neck going down the stretch, the XKR matching the Maserati’s pace. To say Mrs. Cooper was impressed was an understatement. Bull and Max came face to face through their open windows. From his expression alone, Max could tell that Bull was having a very hard time trying to keep his composure. Max kept a straight face and winked at Bull right pressing a little harder on the gas pedal, blasting through the supercharger and putting the XKR into a lead of two feet. That was all it took for Bull to move desperately, and it was also what Max was counting on. Bull reacted by igniting his nitrous adding about 150 horses to his engine’s power output instantly. The Maserati zoomed forward and regained the lead. Bull looked at his rear-view mirror and watched the XKR grow smaller in the distance. What he didn’t see was Max grinning in satisfaction. Bull was so preoccupied with keeping his lead that he failed to notice that the final turn at the end of the stretch was less than 400 feet away when he shot his nitrous. When he did realize it he tried to stop by applying both the foot brake and the handbrake simultaneously and tried to turn the car sideways. It wasn’t nearly enough. The Maserati went into an uncontrolled spin and ended up hitting the stack of containers which defined the walls of the track at about 60 miles per hour, rear bumper first. The resulting crash completely crumpled the back end of the Maserati just shy of the rear axle. The crowds around the start/finish line watching let out resounding “whoa’s” at the sight of the crash. A second later, the crowds cheered as Max’s XKR came out of the corner at high speed and sprinted towards the line. Max ended the race in some style by sliding the car across the finish line passenger-side first, sending up some smoke from his tires. Almost instantly the crowd converged on his car. Inside the XKR, Max turned towards Mrs. Cooper. “So what do you think?” Mrs. Cooper playfully grinned back. “Well, you got some talent, pizza boy. Where’d you learn to drive like that?” Max kept his smile but turned away from her. “Now that would be a really long story.” “Maybe you can tell it to me sometimes.” Mrs. Cooper then unbuckled herself from the seat and opened the door to let herself out. She dug through the designer leather jacket she wore, producing a cigarette and lighting it with a flourish. Puffing a long drag she sighed as she relaxed back against the car. Max let out a chuckle and soon unbuckled his own harness and got out to a cheering crowd. He looked around and looked at all the applauding people around him. It felt good, he told himself. He had almost forgotten what it felt like to win a race: It felt perfect.
  10. Topher Lydon

    Prologue

    Prologue 8 Weeks Prior In the dead of night on some abandoned country road built on the Welsh countryside somewhere in the middle of England the quiet of the night was broken by the sounds of engines and sirens. The winding road was unforgiving and it allowed the skills of the four drivers who were on that road to truly shine. The leader of the pack was blur of colour even in the corners and the three behind struggled to catch up to it. It looked like a race but it wasn’t. It was a chase and not that there was anyone around to watch it anyway. The three tailing cars all wore the yellow and blue Battenberg markings distinctive of British Police cars. The Volvo Police Cruisers with their supped-up engines and blue light bar flashing had their sirens blaring from speakers on the roofs as they roared in pursuit of their quarry. Even with those modifications the three black cars could not even get close to the subject of their chase: a silver Jaguar Arden XKR AJ20. Inside, the car had enough modifications to the power and handling to compete with even the most exotic supercar. On the straightaways, the car was great, but on the corners the car was better. The car had amazing grip but if needed the driver of the XKR could demonstrate why he loved this car for drifting. The driver checked his rear view mirrors. The three cars that were chasing were still there, albeit a little further away than the last time he checked. But he knew that if he didn’t lose them soon, he’d regret it later. They couldn’t keep up forever but they could do it just long enough to call for back up, set up a road-block ahead, call in a helicopter. None were good outcomes. He had to get rid of them soon. The driver of the XKR suddenly let off the gas just a touch to allow the Police Cruisers to get a little closer. He anticipated a turn up ahead; the ones behind him didn’t. The leading Police Cruiser was now right up his rear bumper. Just then the turn came. The driver of the XKR quickly did a Scandinavian flick which put the car into a drift around the corner. The Police Cruiser behind couldn’t see past the XKR so when the tuner car went into a perpendicular direction and disappeared the driver of the Police Cruiser couldn’t stop in time and went off the road, sliding down a gravel slope and lightly crashing into some rocks below. The police officers in the crashed Volvo were shaken badly. Their car’s suspension was damaged heavily having saved their lives, but there was no doubt the valiant warrior was out of the chase. One down two to go, the XKR driver mused inwardly. The XKR thundered on. The driver was sure that the other two would get nervous now. He needed to move faster. He looked far ahead and spotted a saving grace. There was a tunnel going into the mountain after a long easy turn which he knew he could easily take at high speed. In that moment of distraction however he felt the second Police Cruiser bump him from behind. He turned his full attention to the second Police Cruiser and watched his driving patterns closely. The Police Cruiser came barrelling at him again. The driver quickly switched lanes and the Police Cruiser overtook him. The Police Cruiser’s driver’s eyes followed the XKR as it dropped back and drove alongside him. The two drivers were met face to face although a lack of internal lighting from either car hid one man’s face from the other. The driver of the XKR suddenly raised a hand and pointed to the road ahead. The Police Cruiser’s driver looked quizzically at him then remembered that all important rule of driving: keep your eyes on the road. The Police Cruiser’s driver looked ahead all too late. The turn had already come up without him noticing and he couldn’t turn the car in time. The second Police Cruiser drove straight up the side of the hill, did a barrel roll in mid air, and somehow landed on its passenger side door. The driver of the Police Cruiser was alive but out of commission. All that left just one chaser in this game of high octane cat and mouse. The Victorian era tunnel appeared ever closer ahead of them, and the driver of the XKR hatched his plan. As soon as both cars entered the darkness of the tunnel, The XKR did another Scandinavian flick that turned the whole car 180 degrees. Simultaneously the driver shifted into reverse gear and switched off all the lights of the car. The driver of the third and last Police Cruiser thought this was strange but did not let up on the throttle and took advantage of the XKR’s drop in speed. That was his mistake and one the driver of the XKR was anticipating. As soon was the Police Cruiser was less than ten feet away from his bumper, the XKR driver suddenly turned on his hi-powered xenon headlights in full blast. The resulting glare from the bright lights blinded the driver of the Police Cruiser and consequently the driver swerved several times before fishtailing and finally rolling once on its side. The Police Cruiser ended up upright again but the engine was dead and one of the wheels had fallen off the axel. The driver suffered no more than a bump on his head that may need some ice later. He looked up with hazy eyes at the XKR that had stopped in the idle of the road inside the tunnel. The driver in the XKR had his feature’s hidden in shadow. The XKR went in reverse then did a J-turn and shot forwards and out of the tunnel into the dead night, leaving behind its would-be captors. The chase was over, there would be nobody following him for the night. In a few more minutes the XKR would reach the Motorway heading for Dover and soon it would be out of country. The driver had some idea of where to go after that but beyond that was a gaping mystery. Fine by him, he was used to playing by ear. It was always take the next step and think about it later on. Right now, he needed to get away from England. Oh, and finish the car’s paint as well
  11. Topher Lydon

    Chapter 1

    Chapter One Present day. Moscow. It was early in the morning, except that there was no such thing as daybreak in Moscow during the winter. It was a perpetual twilight that sucked out the soul and bathed everything in shadows. Street lights were still on and provided most of the illumination on the streets which were mostly empty. The sight of people, much less cars, were a rare sight at that moment as most of them were still in bed, not yet ready to face the new day. It was cold, but then as some wise babushka’s always said, ‘it is always cold in Russia.’ The roads had recently been salted, large trucks rumbling through the city clearing the light dusting of snow away with their ploughs and spreading salt behind them in preparation for the rush hour commute that would start soon. The otherwise quiet morning atmosphere was disturbed by the loud noise of tires squealing on asphalt. In an empty parking lot of somewhere inside the Garden Ring a sole hunter-green MG TF did power slides all over the place trailing smoke and melted rubber. On the sidelines two girls, one armed with a laptop, stood by a tricked-out Mitsubishi Pajero SUV and watched the MG slide around the lot as if it were wet. The MG sped to one end of the parking lot and turned to face the other end. It revved its engine a few times; the spooling of a supercharger whined as she poured the power on. The driver gunned the engine and the car took off like a rocket. When the engine hit the redline she shifted into second gear to gain a bit more speed. Halfway down the lot, she was redlining at second gear but did not shift up. She wanted to test the cornering. She let of the gas and slammed the brakes and turned the wheel to the right. The car sharply changed direction and went in a curved arc. With a little too much oversteer than the driver wanted. Coming out of the turn, she gunned the engine again and was disappointed at the time it took the car to accelerate. She did this drill a few times, throwing into a power slide or a drift every now and then but her complaint remained the same throughout. At one point the MG came to a halt in the middle of the lot. The two girls on the side quickly went over to the car. The driver of the MG, a girl named Mrs. Cooper, wore a mildly frustrated expression on her face. “How was it?” asked the girl over her laptop. “It’s not right for the way I drive,” replied Mrs. Cooper almost immediately. “There’s too much boost in the higher RPMs. I need a bit more low-end torque for better cornering.” “We thought this might be better, you know, for those long sprints.” Mrs. Cooper shook out her dark hair as she spoke, “I have the new headers and pistons for that. Besides, even If I get high top speed the way the car is set up now, the other guy will be at the finish line by the time I go full on the speedo.” The two j-pop girls scratched the backs of their heads. “Well we thought you might like it, though,” said the other one. “When will you two learn it’s not always about power?” Mrs. Cooper replied with a slight smirk, lighting up a slender cigarette. “Let’s go already. Jae owes me a tune up anyway.” The two girls walked back to the Pajero while Mrs. Cooper’s MG peeled into a doughnut and drove of out of the parking lot and onto the main road. Soon the Pajero was already on its way as well. Both cars were on the main roads with a few other cars. Not much traffic yet at this hour, not even on an access road to the MKAD that circled Moscow. * * * Near to the Kremlin He smoked a cigarette from behind the wheel of the non-descript black car as he watched the man descend the steps of the FSB building and climb into a waiting Mercedes. Everything was proceeding according to a clockwork precision schedule that could only be achieved by the former KGB. It was that precision that made them vulnerable, and after careful manipulations, dangerous liaisons and weaselling, he was now sitting in a position to take what he needed. Stubbing out the cigarette he started the Lada, the former driver had objected to the ‘acquisition’ but then the new owner hadn’t given him much of a choice. Laying face down and bleeding into the snowy slush, the former driver had more pressing concerns than the sudden theft of his car. The Mercedes ahead of him pushed on through the darkness, sweeping up and over the bridge as it wound down past the Kremlin and headed towards the expressway. Historic Moscow, seeped in culture fast being buried beneath spiralling capitalism that had plastered billboards and advertising all across the sacred stomping grounds of Lenin and his coterie. Oh how that must have irked the man pickled in his little mausoleum. If he was even still in there, the driver of the Lada wasn’t sure… after Yeltsin everything had changed, and given Putin’s death grip on the reigns of power, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’d opened up the mausoleum and popped in to measure the curtains. Russian politics was, at times, humorous. They hated their leaders, but couldn’t function without a strong hand on the reigns. The Romanov dynasty had given way to Lenin, Lenin had given way to Stalin… and now it was Medvedev, Putin’s puppet on his knee… such was life. The Mercedes was turning, ducking down and into a warren of back streets, seemingly aware that there was a car behind it, but still not wanting to attract too much attention. “Too bad,” the driver mused to himself as he turned on the police siren and flashing lights of his commandeered Police car. There was a moment’s hesitation, both men in their cars waiting to see what the other would do. Debating innumerous possibilities as they continued to trundle forward over the paving stones. Eventually the car in front pulled to a halt. The driver of the Lada smiled as he eased the police issue automatic out of the holster, checking the safety as he watched the FSB agent climb out of his car. Righteous anger on his face, arrogant and superior. He wasn’t going to tolerate a lowly militsiya officer pulling him over, not when he was on state business. The Lada driver smiled as he, too, stepped out of the car, using the door to shield the pistol. “Durak,” the FSB agent called shielding his eyes against the glare of the Lada’s headlights. Jabbering something in Russian to the effect of do you know who I am? “Yes,” the Lada driver replied lifting the pistol and barking out a single shot, striking do the FSB agent. He idly glanced around him at the street, still and silent. Muscovites were remarkably pliant that way, they’d survived the communists and Yeltsin’s mafia wars, a gun shot was just another thing they chose to ignore, staying safely locked behind their double iron doors and barred windows. The Lada driver holstered his gun as he knelt beside the dead FSB agent, rifling through the pockets of his cheap suit looking for his prize, puzzled at first as to where it could be. There was nothing in his pockets beyond a cellular phone, his id and service pistol, and the car was equally as empty. Despair gripped the driver, as he glanced up and down the streets trying to think. Data had innumerous hiding places, and the advances of modern technology had given people the ability to secret gigabytes of files anywhere. The phone. He turned it over, noting that it was a new model, pulling it apart he found the memory card, a tiny black chip about as large as his little finger nail. Everything he needed and more, micronized for convenience courtesy of Putin and his FSB cronies. He returned to the Lada, collecting the uniform cap, tucking it onto his head as he abandoned the two cars and the dead FSB agent. There was a Metro station close at hand, and he’d be able to slip away and into the city easily enough. Once he was safely tucked aboard a train he pulled his PDA from his pocket, using the multi-port card reader to slot it in he examined his booty. Scans of paternity tests, bank records, phone logs, video, audio, and photos… gigabytes of leverage data on some of Europe’s richest and most powerful people. A goldmine for a man like him. Mister Cooper gave a tight grin as he put the PDA away, now all he had to do was keep the data, and himself, safe long enough to find a use for it. * * * The MKAD The two cars reached the expressway some minutes later. Mrs. Cooper and her two friends cruised along at a modest 70 mph though of course she could do more but it was too early in the day to expect any action. There were starting to see a few more cars on the MKAD now. Mainly large delivery trucks that were most likely headed to the numerous Soviet-era industries which populated the South-East side of Moscow and Mrs. Cooper weaved past them with ease with her friends in the Pajero close behind. As they drove along, Mrs. Cooper became aware that there was something out of the ordinary amongst the transports. As she was driving past a couple of articulated trucks she noticed the car that lurked between them. Her first thought was that it was there to take advantage of the truck’s slipstream (and truth be told, it was) to save on a little gas. But she soon noticed it stood out as a finely tuned exotic sports car. “A tuned XKR Jaguar? Never seen one of those around here,” she said to herself. She drove alongside the high gloss black Jaguar and admired the nicely angled orange arrows vinyls on the side that complemented the bright orange hood with its own black arrows, and arched spoiler. She read some of the after-market stickers that were on the car’s door. While doing so, she got a bit too lost in checking out the car to notice that she was being watched as well. The windows were tinted so she couldn’t see clearly inside the car, but she noticed that whoever the driver was he was looking back at her. She wondered if he was admiring her car. How could he not be? Where else can you find anything like Mrs. Cooper’s tricked-out MG? Mrs. Cooper flashed the driver a smile but couldn’t see his reaction to it. She then decided to show-off her car a bit by revving the engine into the redline and shooting off like a rocket at over a 130 mph. She laughed to herself as she passed the first truck and left it behind in her dust along with the XKR. Her two friends in the Pajero caught up a few seconds later. “Still flirting around, Mrs. Cooper?” blared through the hands free kit from her cell. Every now and then, they used the point-to-point like CB radios to coordinate with each other during races. “You know me, girl,” she said with a slight giggle to herself. “Was that for the Jaguar back there?” “Yeah. Plate’s say he is from Britannia… England. Hey, have any of you two seen him before?” “Naw, we were actually about to ask if you know him.” “No, I’ve never seen him before.” As she spoke Mrs. Cooper noticed the movement in her mirror. A small black and orange speck that started to get progressively bigger right behind the Pajero. She recognized it instantly as the XKR she passed a minute ago. “Looks like somebody wants to play,” Mrs. Cooper said with a smirk. “Huh? What do you mean by—Whoa! He’s coming up fast!” Mrs. Cooper tightened the four-point harness that strapped her to her seat. She grabbed her cell phone and said, “See you guys at the garage,” and turned it off without even waiting for a response. She shifted into fifth and gunned the engine of her MG and blasted down the road. For the first time she was actually thankful for that new supercharger. Mrs. Cooper’s two friends in the Mitsubishi Pajero watched as the bright pink car disappeared into the distance and the new, black and orange car suddenly pass them by and gave chase to their friend. Traffic began to build up as more and more cars began to appear on the MKAD. The cars whistled by, and Mrs. Cooper watched them closely as she hammered the MG F into an all out sprint. She easily weaved in and out of traffic between cars and big trucks. She checked her rear-view mirror. The XKR was still there behind her easily keeping pace, almost effortlessly. The traffic around them actually proved to be very interesting obstacles where Mrs. Cooper was able to show-off her MG’s manoeuvrability. Mrs. Cooper came up to a row of five cars idly driving down the road in the same lane of traffic. She got an idea and accelerated ahead. Using the three rolling cars as obstacles, she performed a slalom through all three at high speed. As she passed each car, her front bumper nearly grazed the rear fender of the car in front of her. As she passed them all, one or two of the drivers honked their horn in protest at her stunt. She checked her rear-view to see of her pursuer. The XKR charged and performed a slalom on the three cars as well, matching Mrs. Cooper’s run turn per turn. This driver had skill, Mrs. Cooper thought to herself. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. “Ok, boy, let’s see if you can keep up,” she said to herself. She shifted up to sixth gear and brought the car near its top speed. The XKR responded by also shifting up and going all out. The two cars weaved in and around traffic like the other cars were standing still. Cars were easy enough to go around but the trucks proved problematic at times. Mrs. Cooper charged down the road and went to the right to pass a slow-moving Camry with a surprised old lady in the driver’s seat. The XKR sped past that same Camry on the left. Mrs. Cooper checked her rear-view again. He was still there. She grinned. She looked up ahead and saw a new obstacle. Two large trucks were occupying the middle of the road while the rest of the lanes on either side were occupied by cars blocking the way. There was a gap between the trucks as one truck was behind the other and the one behind was speeding up to overtake. Mrs. Cooper wore an excited smile on her face as they came up to the two large trailer trucks. The truck that was a little behind was moving to pass the slower-moving truck ahead of it and that’s when Mrs. Cooper saw an opportunity there and gunned her engine. She passed the first truck, squeezed through the gap just in time and went on ahead; convinced the XKR couldn’t follow her anymore. She was wrong. Behind the two trucks the driver of the XKR gunned his own engines and drove right along side the speeding rig. Before he lost his chance, the XKR slipped right under the large trailer of the truck and drove under it; the car’s roof less than an inch from the bottom of the trailer. When the truck and its trailer were past the truck that was ahead of it, the XKR manoeuvred out from under the trailer and back into the light of day. Mrs. Cooper was surprised at the apparent brazenness of the driver for pulling that kind of stunt. She couldn’t react in time when the XKR came up to her and drove alongside her MG. The two cars were now side-by-side driving down the expressway at over 150 mph. Mrs. Cooper looked into the side windows of the XKR and though she couldn’t identify the driver though the tint of the windows, she could see him smile at her. The XKR revved up and exceeded the MG’s speed. Who ever it was driving had sharpened the claws of his big cat. It translated into a simple matter of logistics, and the MG just wasn’t a match for the thunderous 480 horsepower of the little Jaguar. Mrs. Cooper realized it and she let off the gas and watched in amazement as the XKR disappeared into the distance. * * * A few hours later, Jae’s Garage. Mrs. Cooper pulled into the front area of the garage where a bunch of other tuner cars were already parked. She spotted Vasili’ SAAB and Ilya’s Maserati up front. She also saw the Mitsubishi Pajero belonging to her two friends who had helped her that morning. Mrs. Cooper parked in a spot ahead of those three cars and hopped out. She stretched her limbs as she walked towards the back where the water’s edge was located. When she got there, there were tons of people kicking it up in the morning. Somewhere in the background some light hip-hop was playing in a relatively low volume so as not to annoy the neighbours. The mood was already pretty hype as some people whooped and cheered on the concrete riverside. Mrs. Cooper browsed around to check the faces of the people present. She saw her crew to one side, some of whom were in two piece swimsuits underneath big fur coats, the bizarre combination that was uniquely crazy and uniquely Russian. She saw Ilya on a barbeque cooking some pork on long skewers for breakfast with his girlfriend standing by his side preparing the drinks; lemonade, because it was too early to get wasted. Jae was to one side talking with a bunch of people; no doubt he were talking about the events going on that night. It wasn’t even nine in the morning and already we have a party happenin’, thought Mrs. Cooper who ultimately decided to simply head for Ilya and get herself some meat to eat. “Well, well, well,” she heard a rich voice say from behind her. “I was wondering when you would show that sweet skirt in here.” Mrs. Cooper didn’t need to turn around to know Vasili’s hands were moving towards her with a life of their own. “Touch my ass, Vasili,” she said with a stern voice, “and you’ll find out how hard it is to drive with a couple of broken thumbs.” Vasili withdrew his hand. He smirked and said something in Armenian which Mrs. Cooper didn’t get. Vasili walked past her and stood in front of Ilya’s grill. “Hey, man,” said Ilya looking up from the food. “It’s too early in the morning to be doing that.” “Aww, C’mon man, Just tryin’ to say hey-lo.” He said as he grabbed a couple of paper plates with skewered pork and a pair of cheap plastic forks and passed one to Mrs. Cooper who took it with a slight ‘hmph’ “Try and say hey-lo to me and I swear I’ll make you eat your own exhaust,” bit-out Mrs. Cooper. “Hey, if that’s the only way I can get you to talk to me,” said Vasili as he took a piece of pork with his hand and tore a chunk off. Ilya just rolled his eyes and continued on cooking. Mrs. Cooper treated herself to some of that food on her plate and made to turn away. She stopped and turned back when a thought came to her head. “Actually, there is something I want talk to you about,” she said. “You too Ilya.” They all paid attention to her now. “What’s up, then, Mrs. Cooper?” asked Ilya. “You guys know anybody around here who drives a right-hand drive Jag?” Ilya and Vasili looked towards each other for a moment then back at Mrs. Cooper. “I think there’s this cat, Carl, up in near Kitay Gorod who owns one.” “What’s the model and colour?” “’97 model. Blue.” Mrs. Cooper sighed in slight frustration. That was not who she was looking for. “How about a ’08 model, black and orange, graphics on the side. Know anyone with that?” Both Ilya and Vasili shook their heads. “Fine, I’ll just go talk to Jae.” Mrs. Cooper walked away and left the three at the barbeque a little confused. She wanted to go over where Jae was, however he seemed busy with business and she was loathe to disturb him just then. She decided to head inside the garage. Inside the garage was an array of exotic tuner cars and a few muscle cars scattered about. There was even an Aston Martin on one of the lifts getting a tune up. The music from outside was dampened by the sound of power tools. Most of Jae’s staff were actually outside enjoying the morning and there was only one other person other than Mrs. Cooper in the garage. “Boomer? Is that you?” she asked. Boomer popped his oil stained face from under the hood of his car. He looked up and saw Mrs. Cooper there holding a plate of food and chewing on a hunk of pork. “Yo, Mrs. Cooper, what’s happening?” he greeted her in his uniquely rich Cossack accent. “Whatever it is, you’re missing it,” she said. “First thing in the morning and your working on your car?” “Waddaya mean first thing? I never crashed last night.” Mrs. Cooper was a bit surprised but not all that much. It was as if she was expecting this on some level. Boomer had changed so much in such a short time, racking it up to new experiences and the kid’s coming of age rituals. She would catch up with him, eventually, when his life settled down a little. His life had become so different after he got a car of his own. Three weeks of a first car: A Peugeot Peugeot 206 Mk V GTi. He was more than eager to take it out on a spin. Mrs. Cooper remembered that night well. She was riding along with him while testing out her friend’s 350Z. They came to a stoplight then somehow, by complete coincidence, ended up side-by-side with some punk rich boy and his prissy girlfriend in a Ferrari F355 F1 Spyder. A sleazy remark must’ve been said somewhere as suddenly Boomer was revving the heck out of his engine. Mrs. Cooper saw what was coming up next. As soon as the light turned green the Peugeot 206 GTi and the F355 went flying off the line leaving Mrs. Cooper in the dust. She quickly launched after them but didn’t make an attempt to overtake either one. She was just thankful there was no traffic at that road. For the most part, the F355 was steadily gaining a lead. Mrs. Cooper wasn’t surprised, but Boomer grew frustrated behind the wheel. Suddenly, the guy in the F355 got too cocky and made the mistake of miss-shifting. The F355 lost precious speed and allowed Boomer’s Peugeot 206 to blaze into the lead and level the guy in the dust. Ever since then, Boomer caught the racing bug. Every opportunity he got, he entered into a race or started one himself. He got lucky in all of them and built a small reputation for himself. Jae, his mentor, was none too excited about the idea but didn’t disagree to it. He helped Boomer along watched the kid’s back. He spent almost all his free time (including most of his sleep time) tuning his car and in the span of three weeks since his first race the Peugeot 206 received a Rieger body kit complete with front and rear fenders, side skirts, and a low spoiler, black finished 18” Ace rims wrapped in Yokohama racing tires, a short shift package, spark plugs, cold air intake, a sports camshaft, and a tuned engine management system from Neuspeed, coil over suspension and roll bars from Intrax, Brembo brakes, a stage 1 supercharger kit from VF-Engineering, custom gauge packages on the dash, Sparco seats, a MOMO steering wheel, and the ever popular nitrous kit provided by NOS. Boomer also had his car painted in a metallic black coat and spiced it up with digital-style graphics on the sides and on the hood. Overall the car was a beast of a hot hatch pulling about 350 horses under the hood. Building the car was one thing. Driving it was another venture. Boomer had some talent, they all could see that. But in truth the kid was far from being a professional. And that worried them all. “With this baby,” continued Boomer, “I’m gonna dominate tonight’s races.” “You’re participating tonight?” “Yeah. Ain’t nobody gonna beat me in this thing.” “You shouldn’t be so confident, Boomer. It pays to be a little nervous every now and then.” “What for?” “That way you’re more open to mistakes, more adaptable. You can’t just assume everything will go your way, Boomer, even if you had the best car out there.” Boomer simply grinned back at that remark. “C’mon, Mrs. Cooper. Who’s out there that you think can beat me?” Mrs. Cooper smirked. She could think of one guy. Just then Vasili and Ilya came into the garage. Mrs. Cooper and Boomer turned their heads towards them as they came in. “What’s up?” asked Boomer. “This Byk ran out of pork,” said Vasili pointing towards Ilya. “Hey man, it ain’t my fault porky can’t keep his fat ass in check,” said Ilya, “Anyway we need more food.” “Well you’re not gonna find any here,” said Boomer. “I didn’t get any groceries yet. Too busy working on my car.” “Yeah about that. You really thinkin’ of racing tonight with that? I mean it’s a sweet ride and all, Boomer, but you’re no racer.” “I can handle myself, Ilya.” Boomer said that with a serious tone and Mrs. Cooper noticed. He really wanted this but there was the possibility he might regret it. But she knew she couldn’t stop him now. She decided to change the subject of the conversation. “Well, anyway, if it’s food you want, let’s just call for some pizza again like we usually do,” said Mrs. Cooper as she walked to a phone on the wall. She dialled a number without thinking much about it. It was a number she’s been getting used to for the past couple weeks. * * * Somewhere on the other side of the city. At a little establishment that read Patrelli’s Pizzas the morning was kicking off as it usually did. The few tables that were in the small restaurant were quickly being filled with hungry breakfast goers who were looking for cheap Italian cuisine. In the kitchen, the small labour force of three chefs, including the owner of the restaurant (a Mr. Enrique Patrelli) were all cooking up a storm. Mr. Patrelli came out of the kitchen just as the front door opened to let in a young man. “You’re late!” Mr. Patrelli said almost automatically with a heavy Columbian accent. The young man in question looked to be in his early twenties. He was about five-and-a-half feet tall with an average build. His light skin complexion didn’t specify any nationality but something in it said that he was half American. The other half was up for debate. He had straight, black hair under his red cap which bore the name of the restaurant. He wore a red polo shirt that also bore the name of the restaurant along with a phone number written in the back. Below that was a plain old pair of blue jeans and sneakers. Pinned to his shirt was a nametag that read: Max. “You say that every time, sir,” he said right back to his boss. “That’s because every time it’s true!” “Hey I always deliver the pies you give me on time, don’t I? 30 minutes or less right? Otherwise it’s free.” “Yes, sure, you haven’t been late yet but your last delivery was almost late by one minute. The guy himself called me back and told me so.” “Ok, who the hell complains that their pizza was almost late by one minute?” “People who want it for free…which is everybody in this country,” said Mr. Patrelli as he picked up half-a-dozen large pizza boxes on and placed them on the counter top. “Here, your next delivery.” “Already? I just got back here!” “Don’t complain. You should count yourself lucky that the people in this country are too lazy and too fat to make their own food. That’s why you still have a job and I have a business.” He wrote an address on a notepad on the counter, ripped of the paper and put it on top of the stack of pizza boxes then pointed out the door. “Twenty-eight minutes left, boy. You better move.” With a frustrated sigh, Max grabbed the stack. “Who ever heard of a Columbian guy running a pizza place anyway?” Mr. Patrelli gave him a stern look and Max simply smirked in response then headed out of the restaurant with the stack of pizza in hand. Outside, Max made a beeline for the scooter parking area. He walked over to his scooter, a Daelim painted in the restaurant’s colours, stuffed the stack of pizza boxes into the large, insulated box for pizzas stuck to the back, grabbed that little piece of paper with the address on it, hopped on, and started the vehicle, all in less than seven seconds. He read the address on the paper. The name of the place was “Jae’s Garage.” It was then that he hesitated a bit as he read the name of the place again. He couldn’t help but smile. He was going to that place again. He propped up the kick stand and turned the throttle hitting the road at a respectable 30 mph.
  12. Life has seen fit to give me a year from hell. A rather bitter break up, job loss... a rather trying time in China... and, not to forget, a person using my books as a way to steal personal information from me. I've been through the wringer a bit lately. Finding the time to write when I was going through what I was going through wasn't easy. Putting a roof over my head, keeping food on the table, and trying my best to manage took priority. I have not abandoned the series, I had to look at what was good for my immediate needs. I apologize that there is a delay, but my real life concerns took over.
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