The connection broke with a shock wave that sent the boys flying around the room. The force was like a hand grenade that burst out of the huge picture window in the hotel, shattering the glass in the television and sent the mirror into reflective shrapnel. Every car alarm in the parking lot went off and the hotel sprinkler system came on in all the rooms.
Buddha’s ears rang like a marching band full of dinner bells and he was completely disoriented. He could hear the other boys’ scrambling around him, but the shock of the explosion wasn’t letting his brain register an appropriate response.
Tex added Buddha’s backpack to his already burdened back as George yelled, “Spider, take point!” Tex then helped Buddha up as his head started to clear enough for him to robotically climb onto his bike and peddle after Spider who was flying out of the parking lot. If Buddha’s hearing had returned, he would have heard a host of sirens calling from every police car in Sparta.
Spider, Tex, and Buddha exited the parking lot and crossed the highway, jumped a ditch, and were barreling through an empty cotton field. Before George could make it, the Sheriff skidded to a stop in front of him. George’s bike had so much momentum it looked like it could fly as the King bunny hopped it on the hood, denting it in, then escaped off into the cotton field after the others.
The five police cruisers couldn’t cross the ditch, so with tires skidding and sirens wailing, they raced down a quarter mile to cross the ditch and resume the chase.
Spider, Tex, and Buddha were riding hell-bent for leather when Buddha finally snapped out of his haze and realized they were riding towards a train bridge. George was a ways back and riding in their dust trail. “Where are we going?” Buddha yelled.
“Across that bridge is Tennessee,” Tex yelled.
“What happened back there?”
“We got caught.”
“What do you mean?”
“Mr. Curtis caught us, so he gave us a little smack to teach us a lesson.”
Spider piped up, “What fun is that? We lived through it.”
“Barely!” yelled Buddha.
The train bridge wasn’t like a car bridge. The entire thing pivoted in the middle to let boats pass. The riverbank was built up on both sides to raise the bridge to a dangerous fifty feet above the water. The boys rode towards it pumped up on adrenaline like the James gang outrunning the Pinkertons. Red lights began to flash on the bridge and a siren went off alerting them that the bridge was about to move for incoming boat traffic. In the distance, the boys could see a tugboat pushing a line of barges down the river. The boys did not stop, riding their brakes down an embankment before riding up an earthen ramp to get on the bridge. Once on it, the bridge was scary, made up of railroad ties with gaps between. The river raged fifty feet below them. The trio’s triumph was cut short when they realized there was no George. The dust cloud behind them was still pouring over the embankment and the only thing visible in the plume was what looked like an army of red and blue lights growing larger and closer across the field. They scanned the field for any signs of George.
“He’s gonna make it,” Tex encouraged.
“Well, he better hurry, or this was a short adventure,” Spider quipped.
“I don’t see him anywhere. Just cops.” Buddha replied.
As the sirens had prophesied, the bridge lurched and began to move. The boys squinted into the dark dust clouds thinking if they just looked hard enough George would be granted some last-minute reprieve. When the bridge was ten feet from the bank they saw King George peddling like the devil was on his heels, flying down the embankment. He must have been going 40 miles an hour up the earthen ramp and took flight. He went into a spin.
Then he overshot.
Halfway through George’s flight, Spider jumped on the far rail and screamed, “Catch my feet!”
“What?” Buddha and Tex said in stereo.
“CATCH ‘EM!” Spider leaped off the bridge to what appeared to be sudden death. Buddha and Tex lunged and grabbed the little guy’s feet. Half hanging off the bridge, Spidey caught George’s arm in one hand and the handlebars of the bike in the other. He and George slapped into the side of the bridge. “Pull me up before I drop him!” Spider screamed.
The boys heaved and tugged until Spider and George could reach the edge of the bridge and pull themselves up. Miguel’s shoulder was heavily scraped and quite stiff. Despite a nasty gash on his forehead that could probably have used a couple stitches, George was smiling from ear to ear. The four boys collapsed on the railroad ties, sitting with their legs dangling between them as the bridge continued to move. They had just about caught their breath when the bullhorn from a cop car announced, “When the bridge stops moving, you better be on this side because we have already notified the Tennessee State Police and they’ll be waiting on you.”
George pulled off his shirt, jumped up on the tall side rail of the bridge, and spread his arms wide displaying his angel wing tattoos. “Well, they better have wings, because we can fly!”
POW. POW. POW.
Bullets ricocheted off the bridge and the boys dove for cover.
“Hold your fire, you dumb idiots!” the Sheriff yelled through the bullhorn.
“These inbred rednecks are shooting at us!” Spider exclaimed.
“Luckily, they can’t aim,” Tex said.
The boys sat on the edge of the bridge with their feet hanging while the bridge stopped to let what looked like miles of barges pass under.
The Sparta police finally turned around and went back to their lives. There must have been some explanation about the blast at the hotel and the broken glass that made them less convinced the boys had anything to do with it. They did not mention this to the boys, however. It also looked like the Tennessee police weren’t coming either. They each breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed into the sounds of the passing boats.
“Hey, Tex, what’s up with that guy who Mr. Curtis shot?” Buddha asked, “How did he come back to life?”
“Well, I’m not sure, but I think he was an oathbreaker.”
“I’m not too clear on where they came from, but I read in an old book in the shop that was just a list of names, birth records, and death dates that Mrs. Muriel wouldn’t talk about, but I noticed that they all died at 128 years after their birth. What I gathered from Mrs. Muriel skimming over the topic was that they are nearly impossible to kill. They are also called ‘The Fallen’.”
“Like fallen angels?”
“Maybe. But for some reason, Mrs. Muriel doesn’t like the word angel, so I’m not sure.”
“So, you think maybe the Prince is one of these oathbreakers?” George stared at Tex.
“No. I think he’s something older.”
“Older than 128 years??” Spider asked incredulously.
“Yes, and let me tell you why. George, remember when he told us that story about that prince breaking his father’s horse because of a deal he made with the Prince?”
“Yeah, that day with the mirror.”
“Ok, so, I knew I had heard that story before. I looked it up. The boy was Alexander the Great and the horse was Bucephalus. Just like he said, the boy became King and died at age 36. That happened 2300 years ago.”
“Wait, so he is over 2000 years old? What is he, a vampire?” Spider was reaching a point where he could no longer process things.
“Impossible. Vampires drink blood, not tea. I even saw him drinking a large milkshake,” Buddha calmed him.
“Maybe he was lying!” Spider hedged.
Buddha got very serious and looked right into Spider’s eyes. “Remember what he said when we first talked to him? ‘Ask dem monsters. Dey know where liars go.’ I don’t think he’s the lying type.”
“No,” Spider shook his head. “ I don’t think so either.”
George patted him on the back. “You saved my life.”
Spider came back to himself. “I couldn’t let you die! You owe me ten ‘you daddies’!”
The boys laughed. Then he continued, “Now that I think about it, Buddha, why did you look so scared back at summer camp?”
“When?” Buddha’s mind raced back to the events that seemed so long ago. “While you were fighting Malik?”
“I thought he was gonna kill you! That dude’s a monster!”
“You idiot! I should bet you ten more ‘you daddies’. The fight was rigged!”
“Show him the video, Tex.”
Tex pulled out his phone from his pack and showed Buddha several video clips of Malik boxing.
“Tex and I went down to the gym at Akini and videoed him.”
“He only has two moves. The overhand right and the uppercut. He does them every time. Spidey’s been practicing dodging them for a week.”
“What if he would have used a hook shot?!”
“He would have killed me,” Spider surmised casually. They all laughed.