I’m about three posts behind but I’ll get you all caught up. First, another taste of Charlotte II Chapter One after another re-write . The next post will be a review of the screenwriting seminar I attended recently. Enjoy and feel free to comment!
CHAPTER ONE: Charlotte Harding walks into a bar…
If Beth and I can get our hands on Reginald Jackson, all of our money problems will be over. But getting our hands on him has proven difficult. Hell, Reginald Jackson isn’t even his real name. I guess it’s the best he could come up with once he found out there’s a bounty on his head.
Beth and I are sitting in a rented Jeep Cherokee, passing time in what must be the muddiest part of Alaska. We’re keeping an eye on a bar called The Mountain Pass. As a reminder of our past week pursuing Reg, Freddie Fender’s latest hit, Wasted Days and Wasted Nights, keeps us company on the radio. There’s a good chance Reginald will show; we hear he comes by often. From our spot beyond the tree line, we use our binoculars to see the face of every guy that walks in and out. It’s only 9:00 pm so there are a couple of hours of daylight left. There’s plenty of time to wait, but Beth is getting impatient. “One of us should go inside and check the place out.”
I respond while looking through the binoculars. “There’s no need for that. If one of us walks in he may see us before we see him. I don’t want to lose him again like we did in Chicago.”
“He may not even be here. For all we know he’s skipped Alaska, but someone in there might be able to tell us what we want to know.”
We’ve been sitting for three hours with nothing to show for it. I’m starting to get a little impatient myself. “Okay, but I’ll be the one to go in; you create too much of a ruckus.”
“Whatever you say Sugar.”
After a short march through the muck, I’m at the swinging saloon doors of the bar’s front entrance. A hundred years ago it was a trading post but now it’s a place where Alaskan men go to get a burger and a beer. Out in the wilderness, there’s only one kind of burger and one kind of beer, both are cold. In the woods, the man to woman ratio is five to one so I figure I’ll use my female southern charm to get some info out of the bartender. I walk in and notice the lighting is barely enough to make out faces of patrons in the back. From the look and smell of the place, the dim light is probably a blessing when the food comes out. I take a seat on a stool about halfway down the bar. I’m not there two seconds when a bulky and pungent man takes the stool on my left. “Hey babe, you lookin’ for a man?”
I turn to make contact with a pair of beady brown eyes in the middle of a hairy face. “Yeah, but I haven’t seen one yet.” Most of the women that come to the Mountain Pass are “working girls”. I want to make it clear to the guy that I’m not his type, but Mr. Hairy doesn’t take the hint.
“C’mon babe, it’s payday and I’m lookin’ for some fun.”
I try the direct approach. “Get lost.”
“You heard her Harry, get lost.”
What do you know; the hairy guy’s name is Harry. The voice coming from my right belongs to the bartender. He’s on the other side of the bar and walking in my direction. The barkeep makes motions with his hands like he’s shooing away a fly and speaks to Harry again. “Find someone else to pester man. Can’t you see she’s not interested?”
“Okay, okay. I was just playing around.” Harry gets off the stool and blows me a kiss before heading to the back. “See you around girl.”
The bartender is a lean strawberry blonde who has the air of someone in charge of his surroundings. I would guess him to be about my age but I’ve heard the harsh winters up north can add years to a person’s face. As if to satisfy a stereotype, he picks up a bar rag wipes down the area in front of me. “Don’t mind Harry. He’s harmless, but sometimes hard to handle on payday.” He puts the rag away and offers his right hand. “My name’s Jack and this is my place.”
I smile and shake his hand, “Charlotte.”
“What’ll you have Charlotte?”
What’ll you have? I feel like I’m in a movie. Might as well play into the cliché. “Beer and information.”
If the answer surprised him, he didn’t show it. He grabs a glass mug and begins to fill it from the one and only beer tap, “What do you want to know?”
“It’s kind of personal but here goes. I’m looking for my ex-husband. He owes me for years of child support and I got word that he might be in Alaska hiding out. My source said he might be in this area and he can’t go too long without having a drink. He goes by Reg, and he would have gotten here around six or seven months ago. That sound like anyone you know?”
Jack shakes his head, “I’m sorry, but your story’s moose shit.”
I’m stunned. “Excuse me?”
“Oh, don’t mistake me. It’s a pretty good lie. I especially like the child support angle, an effort to gain sympathy right? It might have worked on one of the guys but you don’t tend bar for 35 years without being able to sniff out moose shit.”
I’m not quite ready to concede. “What makes you think I’m lying?”
Jack gives me a studious look. “Well for one thing, only a cop would say something like ‘my source said…’. That sounds more like a cop than a woman chasing her ex. Yeah, you’re definitely some kind of cop; some wear regular clothes like you, and some wear clothes that give themselves away, like those two guys coming in.”
Jack nods his head toward the front, and I quickly turn to see two men in black leather jackets standing just inside the swinging doors. They’re wearing Foster Grants and satisfied grins on their faces. Unfortunately, these are two guys Beth and I have seen before. I don’t know how long they’ve been chasing Reg but Beth and I have been tripping over them since Chicago. The short guy waves at me, “Hi, Charlotte. If you’re here, then Jackson can’t be far away.”
He’s barely gotten the words out of his mouth when he and his partner are shoved forward and dumped onto the floor by someone slamming into the swinging doors behind them. It’s Beth! The two men are in a heap, moaning and groaning as she gives me the rundown, “Let’s go. Reg spotted these clowns and took off. Hurry, before we lose him!”
In a sprint, I run for the door after Beth. I glance back at the bar for a split second and see Jack smiling at me. Without even thinking about seatbelts, we jump in our Jeep. Beth peels out, sending a shower of mud flying behind us. We’re heading to the trees behind The Mountain Pass but I can’t spot Reg’s vehicle.
“Where is he? Where’d he go?”
Beth’s eyesight must be better than mine, “He’s right in front of us, about a hundred yards in. Hold on, this’ll be bumpy.”
In what seems like reckless abandon, Beth heads full-speed past the tree line and into the forest. The chase is taking us down a mountainside, which adds to our speed. The pines seem to be a lot closer together when you shoot past them at sixty miles an hour.
“Don’t hit that tree! You’re going to get us both killed!”
As I bounce around on the passenger-side of the Jeep, my partner has a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel. Local scenery whizzes past us at terrifying speed. Beth has the expression and determination of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco, but the wet ground makes driving tricky at best. Just before we slam into a pine tree, she jerks the wheel to the left enough to avoid collision but not roll the vehicle. Beth spares a few seconds to address my panic-filled statement.
“Don’t complain about my driving! Don’t worry either. We won’t lose him.”
As we’re barreling down the mountainside risking life and limb, I see Reg’s blue Range Rover thirty yards ahead of us. He’s desperate, no match for Beth when it comes to wild driving. We’ve been gaining ground steadily. On an impulse, I look out the rear window and see a familiar black Chevy Blazer on our tail. The Foster Grant twins are giving chase. We have to get to Reg first if we want that bounty, but none of that will matter if we end up a ball of twisted metal in the valley. Beth notices I’m looking behind us. “Are we being followed?”
“About forty yards back.” I can almost see the faces of the guys behind us. They’re in hot pursuit throwing up mud and rock behind them. “Did we lose the guy in front?”
She dodges trees and squints through the windshield at the same time. “I can’t see the car but I can make out his tracks. I think he took a turn. Hang on!”
Like I have a choice, right? We hit a bump and go airborne for a couple of seconds. After we land, Beth makes a hard right onto what almost looks like a road. We’re now heading slightly uphill.
Beth puts on a stern expression that tells me she’s going to take a chance. “We can make up some distance on this trail. I’m gonna punch it!”
Beth floors the gas. When we hit the top of the rise, we immediately notice the trail ends ten yards ahead in the form of a cliff!