Chapter Two Preview

Pain awakens Hap. Begrudgingly, his swollen throat permits a breath of dank alley air. Attempting to rise, he topples helplessly to his side. Splashing face first into a cold puddle of filth shocks the cobwebs from his head and his eyes regain their focus. Righting himself, he realizes his hands are bound behind his back. Quickly, with a practiced tuck and roll, he brings his bound hands down, around his feet. He can’t help but laugh at the bonds before him. That bastard, he tied me up with my own jacket.
Minutes later a scuffed up, mussed up Hap emerges from the alley. The once bustling boulevard slumbers. His watch tells him he lost half an hour. The show is still going on. Julian and his fancy friends must still be inside. But where is Claude?
I need a drink and a bath. After that, I’m getting the hell out of here.
A small bistro across the street beckons. Small candlelit tables sit along the sidewalk where Hap’s drink waits patiently. Limping to a tiny table facing the theatre, he collapses into the chair beside it.
Turning, Hap is startled by a small elderly gentleman sitting at his table. Shock renews the pain in his head and he winces sharply. Gradually Hap recognizes the fellow. “Charles?”
“Yes, Solomon. I see I am too late.”
“Too late to help me whip that jackass Claude?! Yes.”
Charles smiles thinly before becoming solemn again. “When I overheard Claude changed his plans I came as fast as I could.”
“Well I’ve changed my plans, too. Whatever their game, Claude and Julian can play without me.”
Charles’ gaunt, wrinkled face frowns, panic flashes in his tired eyes. The waiter arrives, cheerfully oblivious until he beholds the battered Hap. Before the waiter can retreat, Hap orders a stiff drink. Charles orders the same. Only the undulating muttering of the patrons mar the quiet scene. The two wait in silence until their drinks arrive. Hap gulps his quickly. Charles attempts the same, choking on the last of it. Hap sucks air through his teeth while the liquor burns its way down his gullet.
Pulling closer, Hap leans in to tell the old man the truth. “I’m not here to talk to Julian about his writing.”
Charles winks mischievously. He pats Hap’s hand. “Yes, I know.”
Anguish darkens Hap’s normally bright face. “No, you don’t. I’m not just here to talk about my writing either.”

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