It is extremely rare that a man gets to witness the report of his own death, so it would make sense that his reaction to the event might be unpredictable or even out of character.
Tex chose to respond by jumping onto his hospital bed and singing the Foo Fighters’ classic DOA at the top of his lungs.
Never mind, there’s nothing I can do
Bet your life there’s something killing you
It’s a shame we have to die, my dear
No one’s getting out of here alive
What a way to go, but have no fear
No one’s getting out of here alive
Aspen was also on his bed. She jumped up and down on the mattress while somehow managing to dance along with her man’s best Dave Grohl imitation.
Overall, they appeared to be handling the news of Tex’s passing quite well.
Champ, who had also witnessed the report of his own death, was a different story. He chose to react by sitting on his bed with his head bowed while he mumbled to himself and occasionally lashed out with one leg to kick angrily at someone or something that only he could see.
Poor Michelle, who had been left behind to look after the trio while Wally and Ng went to meet Vlak, stared at her phone and did her best to block out the noise. She was not succeeding, however, and was on the verge of storming out of the room to rethink her recent career and relationship choices.
Wally, Ng, and Vlak entered the room just as Tex reached the end of the chorus.
“What the hell is going on?” Ng screamed loud enough to be heard over the chaos.
She produced an impressive amount of noise for such a tiny body, and everyone took notice. Tex stopped singing. Aspen stopped jumping. Champ started philosophizing.
“Champ doesn’t like this one bit. Champ doesn’t always believe in signs, but that dream about being a young boxer again and being told to run to fetch the angels meant something. Now Champ hears on the television that he’s dead. Champ is freaking out. Champ is losing it!”
Agent Vlak slipped into the room and took it all in with a befuddled look. Normally, he’d flex his Federal muscle and seize control of such a situation, but he had already deduced that this case was anything but normal. He was going to patiently wait for the right moment.
Wally walked over to Michelle who hadn’t moved in her seat or looked up from her phone.
“Michelle, what happened?” he asked in concern.
Michelle shrugged. “They saw the news conference on the TV and heard they were dead. One might say they reacted accordingly.”
Champ stood up and put a hand on Wally’s shoulder. “Champ’s not ready for the afterlife, Wally. Champ has way too much unfinished business amongst the living. Plus, Champ’s not sure Heaven is in his future. Champ refuses to go to Hell!”
“At least you two are dead,” Aspen decided to join the fray. “I’m still in serious condition and on the way to some FBI hospital. And the worst part is they said the lone survivor of the crash was thirty years old. Do I look that old? I’m twenty-three!”
Vlak decided this would be the best time to make his presence known. He cleared his throat and then took a step forward.
“Clearly, you are all alive and remain whatever age you actually are. However, there are very dangerous people out there who probably want to kill you, so we’ve taken liberties with the truth in hopes of throwing them off the scent. It was not our intent to upset you or to inspire you to break into song. We merely wanted to keep you alive so that you can assist us in apprehending the parties who have made such a ruse necessary.”
All eyes in the room were now on the FBI agent. Even Michelle had bothered to look up from her phone and rejoin reality so that she could stare at him in confusion and contempt.
“Who the hell is Mr. Positivity over here?” Aspen asked first.
Ng, the self-appointed ring leader of this circus, stepped up to make introductions.
“Agent Bailey Vlak, this is Assistant District Attorney Michelle Ambrose, Aspen Roark, Tex Bourbon, and Champ…you know, I never got your last name,” she said to Champ.
“Just Champ,” he replied. “That’s all you need to put on Champ’s headstone, but I guess you don’t have to chisel that in quite yet because it sounds like Champ is still alive.”
Vlak offered his best smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you all…”
“Don’t waste their time with that scripted anecdote about your name,” Wally advised. “They don’t care, and I don’t want to hear it again.”
“You don’t look like an FBI agent,” Champ challenged. “Champ wants to know how we know this guy isn’t one of the people sent to kill us!”
Champ grabbed a pillow from his bed and held it in front of him like some sort of fluffy shield to protect him from an assassination attempt.
Judging from the way Vlak’s shoulders sagged slightly, Champ’s comment about his looks stung the agent more than Wally’s comment about his name.
“And why do you think anyone wants to kill us?” Aspen demanded as she hopped off Tex’s bed to get a better look at Vlak. “All we did was take a stolen car for a joyride. I hardly think such an action warrants the death penalty.”
Ng walked into the middle of the room and waved her arms above her head like a teacher trying to rein in an unruly class of kindergartners.
“Agent Vlak was giving a worst case scenario, and in the future, I’m going to ask everyone to think before they speak.”
Ng’s icy glare unsettled Vlak enough that he nodded and took a step back.
“Yes, we told the press that two of you were dead,” Ng continued. “We also lied about Aspen’s age and purposely did not give your names. That’s because you are now in protective custody, and the less the public knows about the truth, the easier it is for us to protect you.”
“But do we really need protection?” Tex asked.
Aspen nodded to indicate that the exact same question was on her mind.
“Protection isn’t always from bodily harm,” Michelle decided to enter the fray. “Right now, we want to protect you from the prying eyes of the press and the public while we sort out the best way to move forward with our case. That case would be against not only the people who were running that warehouse, but also the parties who were scheduled to accept delivery of the arsenal hidden in the trunk of the car you took on your joyride.”
Michelle shot a look at Aspen when she used that final word. Aspen hung her head as if to accept that the situation was maybe more serious that she had wished to believe.
“We’re also protecting you from other overreaching law enforcement agencies who might want to exploit your situation to help further their investigations,” Wally said as he looked directly over at Vlak.
“The FBI is here only to assist,” Vlak quickly jumped in to try to clear his name. “We are not interested in pressing charges.”
“Not any longer,” Wally corrected.
Michelle reached out to squeeze Wally’s hand in an attempt to get him to settle down. She understood that he had to take on the responsibility of making the outsider’s life miserable in Bruno’s absence, but there was no point in alienating Vlak this early in the case.
“We’re sorry for not giving you a head’s up about the news conference, but we are juggling a lot of balls right now and that was one that got dropped,” Ng apologized.
“I suppose some of this is our fault,” Aspen stated the obvious, but not at all ironically. “We didn’t exactly give you much time to react to our actions.”
Vlak opened his mouth to say something, but one look from Wally was all it took to get him to change his mind about that.
“Playing the blame game isn’t going to make anything easier,” Ng explained. “We are all on the same team, and our focus right now is getting you out of this hospital and to a safe house where we can keep an eye on you and plot out our strategy.”
That earned curious looks from the trio involved in the car chase.
“Champ isn’t sure he likes this safe house idea. That sounds a lot like jail.”
“Yeah,” Aspen said with concern. “I have a business to run. I didn’t sign up for being stowed away in some dingy motel room while you build a case. We have lives.”
Wally nodded in understanding. “We get that. I think you’re going to like the idea Detective Bruno and I came up with. You’ll all still be able to go to work, albeit with an undercover officer close by, and it really won’t be much of a disruption to your everyday lives.”
“You might even think it’s fun,” Michelle volunteered. “More like a sleepover with fun games, lots of take out, and long talks about legal strategy.”
Aspen, Tex, and Champ all eyed Michelle suspiciously. Tex broke the silence by whistling the rest of DOA. This time, though, Aspen did not get up to dance along with the tune.
TO BE CONTINUED…
Haha!! I love how chaotic this has become! Excited for the next part!!
There are a lot of characters I have to keep an eye on this point. It was much easier when it was just Bruno and Wally working the case alone!
You have made it challenging, but I think that’s a good thing. I love this story so much!!
I think this second potential novel in the series has given me an opportunity to grow as a writer. This story is now longer than either of the previous serials, and there are more characters and story lines to follow.
I was able to take advantage of my vacation and really get so much down on paper, which was quite a relief.
And you can never go wrong with a Foo Fighter reference. I just hope the band gives me permission to use their lyrics when this gets published because their songs pop up often in this one…
I think it’s awesome you have noticed growth in your writing. That’s an awesome feeling. I can sense your passion for these serials and the characters! I’m so glad you got so much writing done on your vacation!!
Foo Fighters references are the best! (And Die Hard, and It’s A Wonderful Life)! Who wouldn’t want the next best selling author to include their lyrics in their book?? 😁
There was even a Dracula reference with Agent Vlak. 🙂
First creating, and now expanding the Brunoverse was exactly the jump start I needed for my writing career!
How could I forget Dracula?!?!
The Brunoverse is so fun! I’m so glad you created and expanded it!!
It continues to grow…
More and more interesting, Austin.
Thanks, Mark. I feel like my serial writing ability has definitely improved. This story is already longer than the previous two, and I know this one will take less work to transform into a novel.
It has been a lot of fun expanding the Brunoverse and adding fun, new characters!