Friday, July 8, 2011

Deleted Chapters #3 (Le Swiss)

Remember the cab driver named Martin? Well, in the original Martin played a much bigger role. And Le Swiss was his nickname. But as you'll see, his role was probably a little too coincidental to be believable (although that could probably be said for many parts of any fictional tale), but he was still a fun character. The first section depicts when Billy first meets him after Dana pulled the gun on him and drove off. 

The pic is of Charlestown Chiefs goalie Denis Lemieux, he of the classic quotes, played by the actor Yvon Barrette. Also a French Canadian goalie, and goes with the Slapshot theme in the book. In retrospect, I wonder if I was subliminally channeling him when creating Le Swiss. But since he ended up on the cutting room floor, I guess it doesn't matter.

As always, the deleted chapters are unedited, and might no longer fit the final version of the story. 

Le Swiss

I have good news and bad news—which would you like to hear first?

A common greeting of the modern day messenger. A saying that most likely began eons ago in an attempt to soften a blow. And the reason there’s a phrase, don’t kill the messenger, was probably because at one time it was a very common practice to kill the messenger. Over time it seeped into the modern vernacular. Billy thought how someone answered that question said a lot about their outlook on the world. Are they optimistic or pessimistic? Are they hopeful, or are they trying to go through life shielding themselves from feeling pain?

Selecting good news first is more logical and fits with the pulse of life. Good news—birth—ends in what most believe is bad news—death.

Billy always chose the bad news first. Not because he was a masochist, but because he was a writer. In a great story, the character will rise from the ashes—overcome odds—endure. A great story always starts with the bad news and rise toward triumph. He hoped this case would be no different.

In his current predicament, the bad news was adding up. Dana had held him at gunpoint, opened up past wounds, accused him of being a kidnapper, and worst of all, drove off with the tracking device in the backseat. She left him standing alone on Union Avenue without even a phone—he was helpless to do anything.

Good news: He found a taxi at a gas station about a half a mile up the street.

Bad news: the cabbie was off duty.

Good news: Billy did have one possession—his wallet, which had the money he took out of the ATM and Gare Centrale train station before their trip. The driver smiled at the $200 “off duty” fare, which meant 100% profit, and said, “Get in—where we headed?”

Bad news: Billy had no idea.

“You know where you going, no?” the driver asked in a heavy French accent.

“Just give me a minute.”

“A lot of money to just sit here, no?”

“Let me think.”

Note: After they returned from the train station in which Dana and Carolyn end up not getting on the train, they meet back in the cab with Martin.

The cab whispered to a stop in front of them. It was Martin, who had been circling around to avoid a parking ticket. As they piled into the backseat, Billy noticed Dana’s BMW being put onto the back of a tow-truck, observed by a couple uniformed police. Dana noticed it too, and looked slightly ill—she loved that car.

“Welcome to Tech Valley Cabs,” Martin said like he was their tour director. “Where to now?”

Billy wasn’t sure—North Carolina?

As he mulled over their limited options, Carolyn pointed at the driver and shouted, “Le Swiss!”

Thinking that the cheese reference was mocking the driver’s smell, also incorporating her new habit of prefacing all verbs with le.

“That’s not nice, Carolyn,” Billy scolded.

“I’m so sorry,” Dana apologized to the driver. “Kids will say some of the darndest things.”

But Carolyn would not be deterred. She pointed again with her non-gunshot arm and shouted even louder, 

“Le Swiss!”

The cabbie hit the brakes and craned his hairy neck back toward her. “Nobody has called me that in years—who are you?”

“I’m Carolyn Whitcomb and you’re Le Swiss!”

“You two know each other?” Dana asked. 

 Could this get stranger?

Martin and Carolyn continued with their own personal conversation. “The only people who would know that name would be in our locker room. You must be Chuck Whitcomb’s little girl.”

“He’s my dad!”

She turned to show him the back of her Albany River Rats jersey with her name on it.

“Your dad tells me you play a little hockey yourself.”

“I had to stop.”

“That’s too bad—heard you were pretty good, no?”

“Don’t worry, Le Swiss—I’m working on it.”

Martin started driving again. Billy remained amazed at the coincidence, but then he thought...or was it? Dana must have been thinking the same thing because she subtly placed her hand in her bag that contained her gun.

“So did you hurt yourself playing hockey or are you taking steroids in your shoulder?” Martin asked her, pointing to the big lump under her jersey on her right shoulder.

“No—I got shot,” she said, matter of fact.

Now Martin was the one who looked stunned.

Billy jumped in, “What she means is she fell off her bike and got a shot for the pain, which became infected.”
Carolyn began to argue, but Dana muffled her, placing her hand over her mouth. Then she asked again, “You two know each other?”

Martin tried to explain. “Carolyn’s dad and I came up through junior hockey. We both left home at sixteen. I was from Quebec and didn’t speak much English, and Chuck was from Ottawa and didn’t speak any French.” He then laughed, “Actually he didn’t speak much English either. We finished up together with the River Rats here in Albany. I took a puck off the head that caused vision problems—not a good thing to have when you’re a goaltender.”

Or a cab driver, Billy thought.

“Le Swiss?” Dana inquired.

He laughed. “In the juniors I struggled stopping puck. My teammates started calling me "Swiss Cheese," you know, because it has holes. Since I’m French it became Le Swiss. It just stuck.”

They came to a stoplight. “Any idea where we’re going?” Martin asked.

“I’m working on it,” Billy said.

“So how's your dad doing down, Carolyn? We haven’t talked in many months.”

She got sad. “I don’t know, I haven’t seen him in soooo long.”

The comment seemed to pique Martin's attention.

Dana intervened, “Chuck and Beth went away for their anniversary—so we are bringing Carolyn up to show her where she was born.”

“Their anniversary is in May, no?”

“Well, they actually celebrate their first date and not their wedding. The wedding anniversary is so trendy,” Dana improvised.

“They met during the holidays—I introduce them.”

“I think you’re right—maybe it was a belated Columbus Day thing.”

“Who are you?” he asked suspiciously.

“I am Beth’s sister, Dana, and this is Billy—he is a family friend.”

The suspicion seemed to recede. “I do remember you. The pretty lady who came to a lot of our games, no?”

“You do?”

“My teammates used to talk about how we would like to,” he paused seeking the right term, “There a hockey term about scoring a goal—we say, put the biscuit in the basket.”

“There were a lot of cute guys on that team and I don’t remember anyone offering me a biscuit.”

“We were threatened with out lives if we ever laid eyes on you.”

“By Chuck?”

“No, by Beth—we were afraid of Beth!”

“That’s my mom!” Carolyn blurted. They all laughed.

But Billy volleyed serious looks with Dana that brought them back to reality. A grim reality. Chuck and Beth were missing.

“You in trouble, no?” Le Swiss pointed out the obvious.

Denials filled the cab.

“You in trouble, no?” he asked again.

Billy conceded, “We don’t want to involve you.”

“You come to my house,” he offered.

“We appreciate it, but we couldn’t do that to you.”

“Chuck Whitcomb had my back for many years. I can’t count how many knuckles he broke protecting me. If his family is in trouble, I will be proud to protect them.”

“That’s my dad!” Carolyn said.

Note: In the book they end up staying at a motel near the airport.

Martin Fleury’s house was a one-room apartment by the airport. Every few minutes the house shook when another plane took off. “The damn realtors bring me here when they know no flights take off—bastards.”

Martin might not have made the hockey hall of fame, but he had created his own museum to himself. The main accessories in the living room were plastic hockey trophies. They were on the small rabbit-eared television and modest bookcase. Framed team photos lined the wall going back to when he was about Carolyn’s age.

Carolyn’s eyes moved to a large, framed picture of Martin and Chuck in mid-exhilaration, seemingly after a victory. It was at least a decade old.

“Your dad was a great hockey player, Carolyn,” he read her stare.

“He was a goonie.”

He laughed. “He was a protector. And people forget how good of a skilled player he was when we were young.”

As she continued to stare at the photo, her face scrunched quizzically. “Why's he so fat?”

Le Swiss laughed a deep belly laugh. “That picture was taken before he met your mom. His diet was, let’s say, not much health. The French players on the team called him Casseau, which is the French word for the square container that McDonald’s fries come in. But then he met your mom who would cook for him—she was the best thing ever happen him.”

She glared at him.

He patted her on the head and corrected, “You and your mom were the best things to ever happen to him—you a package deal.”

Carolyn looked satisfied.

Note: Jumping ahead in the book, Martin leaves them at the Pennington house. But events lead to him growing suspicious of Billy and Dana, causing him to eventually alert the authorities. If you read the book, you know that Martin has a bad ending, but this chapter details how that bad ending occurred.

Martin Fleury was sitting in his cab on Rockwall Avenue waiting for Chuck Whitcomb’s daughter and the two people taking care of her. As minutes passed, Martin became bored. But who was he to argue? The money they were paying him was going to help his new upstart cab business—Tech Valley Cabs. But to pass the time he flipped on the radio. He searched for some sports talk, twisting the knob of the radio, speeding by a lot of static and loud political chatter. But when he passed on all-news station he thought he heard a name he recognized and paused his search.

He wasn’t hearing things. They were talking about Billy Harper and Carolyn. They used the term armed and dangerous to describe Harper. The rest of the facts pounded into Martin’s stomach like nails.

Carolyn Whitcomb was declared missing and presumed kidnapped. Billy Harper was the lead suspect. Her parents had reported her missing and feared dead in a forest fire in Lake George. The report went on to say that Billy Harper had a history of violence. An amber alert had been issued in the greater Albany area. Martin felt sick and confused.

He knew they were in some sort of trouble. But he thought the dangerous part applied to the people after them. And how did Carolyn’s aunt fit in? There was no mention of her in the radio report. He was sure he remembered her with Beth at their hockey games—she was definitely the aunt. And Carolyn didn’t seem upset at all, or even fazed, definitely not acting like someone who was kidnapped.

But what if they were? What if he thought he was helping Chuck, but in the end he was just helping a kidnapper steal his child? It would be the ultimate betrayal.

Unsure what to do, he left them inside and drove back to his apartment in Albany. He needed to clear his head. He tried to contact Chuck and Beth, but got no answer.

He finally gave in and decided to call the police. If it were a mistake, then it would be easily cleared up. But if they were kidnapping Carolyn, then he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he didn’t act. Plus, he would end up in prison himself for aiding and abetting.

So Martin called the police. At first, he was going to remain anonymous. That way they could get Carolyn back, but he wouldn’t be in trouble for helping them. But halfway through the call, Martin decided honesty was the best policy. They would understand that he didn’t know who they were. So he told the dispatcher the whole story from the second he picked up Billy Harper off of Union Avenue at the gas station to when he dropped them at the house on Rockwall Avenue.

Only a couple minutes later the authorities showed up at his apartment. He was surprised how fast they arrived. He was also surprised that it was the FBI and not the local police.

A blister-faced agent named Hasenfus entered with an arrogant limp. He then proceeded to grill him about his connection with Harper and the girl, including the trip to Albany train station, Siena College, and finally dropping him at Steve Pennington Sr.’s house.

He kept grilling—What were they up to? Where were they headed next? What did they tell you?
When the FBI agent finished his inquisition, he said, “I think you might be in big trouble, Mr. Fleury.”
Martin couldn’t believe it—aiding and abetting. He tried to do the right thing and now was going to get screwed.

Please, Agent Hasenfus, I try to do right thing.”

“Do you think its fair that this little girl might never see her mother and father again because of your actions?

“Please—I don’t want to go to jail—I’ll do anything.”

The FBI agent flashed a cocky smile. “Oh, you’re not going to jail.”

Martin was relieved for a second, but then saw the gun pointing at his face.

“Where you are going there is no parole,” the agent stated.

Martin knew he had to react. He turned and grabbed the first thing he could find—a hockey trophy—and whipped it at him.

The FBI agent coolly took a step back away from the flying object and fired two shots.

Martin Fleury finally stopped a shot on goal. Unfortunately it was with his head.

Le Swiss was Le dead.

Next week: Billy & Carolyn's first meeting