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The Hero Experience - Chapter 19

 
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 27, 2015 12:01 am    Post subject: The Hero Experience - Chapter 19 Reply with quote



____________________________________________

Chapter 19

I had both feet planted on the floorboard of the Jeep, unconsciously pushing down on an imaginary brake pedal. Carl swung over into the oncoming lane and did a tricky little maneuver that took us around an eighteen-wheeler just in time to dodge back before the grill of the Jeep merged forcefully with the large and unyielding front bumper of a garbage truck. I had to hold the police band radio on the dash to prevent it from racing across to Carl’s side.

“This is crazy,” Doug said for the third time from the backseat. “There’s no way this can work.”

“We can change our minds when we get there,” I told him, trying to sound calm and reassuring while I stared wide-eyed out the windshield and watched as we sailed past cars that were going fifty-plus miles per hour. I was beginning to realize that Carl was enjoying himself just a tad too much.

“It’s taking us too long,” Doug said, pleading for sanity in a world gone mad while he was buckled firmly into the backseat of a dark blue bomb being driven by a speed-crazed teen who seemed to think he was going to live forever, no matter what.

Just out of stubbornness, I turned to give Doug some sort of retort, but I shut my mouth the instant I saw that he was putting on his mask. I had to admire the guy. He was certain we were headed for disaster, but he was determined to die with his boots on — metaphorically speaking.

Stan’s commitment was equally obvious, but he was demonstrating it in a less dignified way. He was on his knees, turned backward on the car seat with his backside high in the air as he lay belly-down over the seat back, making sure the bows in the rear compartment were ready for deployment.

Doug held my gaze for a moment, looking less than thrilled about the whole thing, then he said, “What brilliant plan have you got for getting us into the drive-in, Captain?”

If the remark hadn’t been delivered with such sarcasm, I would have enjoyed it immensely. “Getting in will be easy,” I told him. “We just buy tickets. Getting out will be even easier because they let everybody do that for free.”

Carl didn’t take his eyes off the road, but he chuckled and said, “Yeah, but if we stay one minute too long, we’ll be trapped.”

Stan, still showing his blue-jeaned backside, twisted his head around to look at us and say, “Relax, guys. We won’t be trapped.” He finished his arrangement of the bows and then twisted around to sit down on the backseat and face us. “Come on, guys, think about it. If the police arrive before we leave, we just take off our masks, find a parking spot, and watch the movie.” He gave Doug and me his silliest, freckled-faced smile.

I grinned my own approval, but Doug was less impressed. “If we’ve already strutted around the place with our masks and bows in front the people in the theater, they’re not going to suddenly forget about that when we try to hide among them.”

I stopped grinning. He had a good point. Even Stan was stumped and he stared out the right window with his brow furrowed in thought.

The Starlight Twin Drive-In lay just ahead of us on the right. A brilliantly lit marquee displayed the titles of the movies being shown, and a tall tower covered in neon spelled out the name of the theater vertically, luring movie lovers of all ages to the two colossal screens that featured action, adventure, comedy, horror, and romance on a nightly basis.

About twenty minutes ago, someone at the Starlight Twin had called the police. The dispatcher had merely said there was a 10-100 (civil disturbance, mutual aid requested). That didn’t sound too terribly dangerous, so we decided to see if the Bowmen could make a quick appearance and do a little business. Even though it was almost eleven o’clock, the second feature would barely be underway because summer sunsets occurred so late, especially when they were pushed back by the dreaded Daylight Savings Time which forced drive-in's to begin their movies no sooner than nine o'clock. We could just pay our way in and then cruise around until we saw something happening that required the assistance of four brave superheroes.

Since there were just two theaters, we had a fifty-fifty chance of finding the disturbance just by blind luck. Doug had removed his mask, and as we pulled up to the ticket booth we all tried to look like four normal teens who were arriving after the start of the second feature and who just happened to be wearing identical dark blue long-sleeved V-neck shirts. I was pretty sure that stranger things had happened at the Starlight, so nobody would think much of it.

We handed money to Carl, and he paid for our tickets, then we rolled into the north theater, which Carl chose on the spur of the moment because the second feature was the new James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice. If we didn’t get to be the Bowmen tonight, we could just stay and watch the movie. The first feature had been The Dirty Dozen, a weird movie in which Lee Marvin selected twelve convicted criminals to go on an important WWII mission in which the discipline, courage, and commitment of the soldiers would be crucial.

Did I mention that he chose twelve convicted criminals for this mission?

Because of the lay of the land on which the Starlight Twin Drive-in had been built in 1948, the north theater was on a lower elevation than the south theater, and the road leading down to it from the ticket booth gave us a raised view of the parked cars that faced the huge screen. The screen was ablaze with light, color, and two-fisted action as James Bond swaggered around Japan, beating up droves of bumbling Japanese henchmen whose martial arts skills were inferior to his.

Hollywood. You gotta love it.

“Look there,” said Stan from the backseat. He was pointing at a car in the back row, off to our left. The vehicle’s emergency flashers were on. It was a clever way to signal the police when they arrived to check out the complaint that had been phoned in.

Carl cut the headlights as we rolled into the viewing area midway between the screen on our right and rear of the viewing area on our left. We rolled along the perimeter lane and then turned onto the rear lane, approaching the car with emergency flashers blinking rhythmically. As we did, we all hastily put on our masks and mentally prepared ourselves to act like the daring vigilantes we were supposed to be.

Halfway down the back row we say a thin, hatchet-faced man and a blond teenaged boy standing in front of the car with the emergency lights on, lit strangely by the flashing yellow glow. They were arguing heatedly. A dozen spectators stood nearby. They all turned toward us as we pulled up behind the parked cars and stopped in the rear lane. I opened the car door and stepped out slowly in full Bowmen uniform — mask, billy club, blue shirt, and jeans. The only thing I needed to make the outfit complete was my bow, but that was sitting in the back of the Jeep, waiting patiently for Stan to deliver it to me in some dramatic manner if the situation called for it. Meanwhile, I addressed the crowd with as much casual authority as I could muster as I passed between two cars and joined the crowd. I heard the sound of Doug walking behind me on the gravely ground. Carl dutifully stood by the open door of the Jeep, watching the entrance for any sign of a patrol car. Stan was positioned by the open tailgate, ready to pull the bows out if they were needed — like maybe to defend ourselves against the very people we had come to help.

“Evening, folks. Did somebody here call the police?”

The spectators started grinning and murmuring to each other, and I heard a few chuckles. I knew it was better to look like I was in on the joke rather than being the butt of it, so I smiled and nodded at the crowd. I heard somebody say the word “Bowmen”, and the news trickled outward from its source. Apparently we had a few fans in the crowd.

The only folks who were not enjoying our arrival were the hatchet-faced man and the blond teenager. The older man looked apprehensive at the sight of four masked men in matching dark blue outfits suddenly confronting him. But the teenaged boy answered my question.

“Yeah, he called the cops!” He looked at me with obvious scorn, unimpressed by the outfit. “Who the hell are you supposed to be?”

Okay, so this kid was definitely not a fan. I tried to ignore the remark and focused on the more positive faces of the other people in the crowd. I gave them a suave James Bond smile and said, “We’re the Bowmen. Now, what’s the trouble here, gentlemen?”

The teenager’s expression actually brightened as he realized who we were, but the older man, who looked to be about thirty-five, shouted, “Mind your own business, you jackass! I’m gonna have this punk arrested! And while they’re at it, the cops can arrest you, too!”

I took a stab at playing arbitrator in what was obviously a dispute between the older man and the teenager. In a calm voice I said, “Gentlemen, we’re just here to help. What seems to be the problem?”

“Why should I tell you?” the older man said heatedly.

“Ah hell, I’ll tell you,” said the blond boy. He was looking me up and down with a smile that grew as he surveyed my bizarre appearance. “The Bowmen. We’ll I’ll just be damned. You guys actually look kinda cool.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said, trying to sound older than the boy — which I wasn’t, so all I managed to do was sound like a boy trying to sound older. I pressed on. “So, what’s the problem here?”

The teenager jerked his thumb at the man. “This old fart started screaming at us to turn down our radio — ”

“That’s a lie, you little brat!” the man started shouting.

I held up my hand and spoke in a soothing voice, “Please, gentlemen, let’s not be insulting. Just tell me what happened.”

The teenager made a visible effort to calm himself while the older man continued to fume. “He told us we were playing our radio too loud during intermission, so we turned it down — ”

“You didn’t turn it down a bit!” the man shouted.

“ — so finally I told him he could kiss my rosy red . . . ” He stopped and resisted the urge to quote himself verbatim, but he didn’t spruce it up much. “ . . . we told him to shut the hell up.”

The man leaped in, eager to tell his side of the story. “My wife is pregnant, and the noise was upsetting her! But these disrespectful punks didn’t give a damn about that!”

I glanced over at the man’s car and saw his poor extremely pregnant (and overweight) wife in the front seat, with four kids crowded into the back.

“Then they started insulting us,” the man continued, getting madder by the minute as he relived the moment. “So I went to the snack bar and used the pay phone to call the police!”

“Alex?” the man’s wife called out to him in a timid voice. He ignored her as he continued to glare at the teenager.

Suddenly the boy seemed embarrassed. “Well, maybe we did say some stuff we shouldn’t have,” the teenager replied. “Anyway, when he told us the cops were on the way, we tried to just leave. But he wrote down our license number, so we figured we’d better stay and tell the cops our side of the story so they wouldn’t call our parents.”

I gave the angry man a kindly look of Christian forgiveness and said, “Sir, why not let these nice young people apologize and leave without causing them a lot of trouble.”

“They can leave in a police car!” he shouted angrily.

“Alex?” the man’s wife called out again.

I tried a gentle plea for mercy. “But if they apologized to you — ”

“It’s too late for that!” the man exploded. “And I’m not going to let some jackass in a Halloween costume talk me into — ”

“Alex!” his wife called out louder.

“ — letting these punks get away with — ”

“Alex!” the woman wailed pathetically. “It’s coming!”

“What?” the man said, looking around. “Where?” He was searching for the long-awaited police car.

“Alex, the baby!” she shrieked.

The three of us just froze like a photo of four shocked people. Then the man bolted for the car and yanked open the driver-side door. He leaned in and addressed his wife with all the urgency an expectant father could ever muster.

“Are you sure? Are you really sure?”

The woman was hyperventilating and sweating visibly. “I felt the contractions earlier, but I didn’t want to say anything too soon like I did the last time.”

“Oh, Lord,” he moaned as he jumped into the car, slammed the door shut, and twisted the key with visible savagery. The car’s starter whined sluggishly as the engine turned over a few times like a dying asthmatic. His poor wife addressed her husband with admirable patience.

“Now, Alex, you know how excited you always get when it’s time for the baby to come. Please calm down, dear.”

The battery was obviously low, and the whine of the starter grew slower and deeper. I could hear the man frantically pumping the gas — always a bad idea, but worse than useless in this situation.

The teenager spoke to me in a low voice. “I think he’s been running the car’s fan for his wife without actually cranking the engine. That, and the emergency flashers, must have killed his battery.”

The boy was right. We all heard the depleted battery allow the starter to grind out a few last attempts until the battery died completely, God rest it’s soul. The emergency flashers dimmed and went out.

“Oh, God, Alex!” the woman said in pathetic voice. “What can we do?”

The frantic man wrestled clumsily with the door handle, fighting with it until he shoved the door open and scrambled out. “I’ll go call an ambulance!”

He stumbled off toward the distant snack bar, barely staying on his feet as he sprinted across the rolling, gravel-covered terrain. We watched him zig and zag as he tried to avoid the speaker wires between the posts and the cars he passed. He collided several times with wires and dislodged speakers from the car windows. Angry shouts followed the poor man as he raced off into the distance.

The blond boy standing next to me watched the man stumble off into the distance, and his expression changed dramatically. He seemed to age visibly right in front of me, going from a teenaged kid to a concerned adult in seconds flat. It was like watching a caterpillar turn into a butterfly in the palm of my hand.

He turned toward me and said, “I’ve got jumper cables in my trunk. My dad showed me how to use them.” The blond teenager hurried around his car, reached into the open driver-side window, and snatched the car keys from the ignition. He went back to the trunk, yanked it open, and hauled out a set of jumper cables. As he rushed back to the front of his car, he spoke quickly to girl in the front seat.

“Give these guys the flashlight from the glove compartment.”

Carl had come over to the front of the irate father’s car, and he reached under the hood, searching for the release lever. He raised the hood, and Doug held the flashlight the girl handed him while Carl located the battery terminals.

The blond teenager hastily dragged the jumper cables to the front of his own car, threw them on ground, and yanked open his hood. He grabbed one end of the cables and searched for the battery terminals while Doug held the flashlight for him. The teenager jammed the cables onto the connections and then stepped back while he watched Carl and Doug do the same thing with the other end of the cables on the dead battery.

These guys were seconds away from cranking the poor man's car — in spite of the fact that he was rushing down to the snack bar to call an ambulance.

“I’ll go get Daddy.” I turned and bolted toward the snack bar, intent on bringing back the frantic father so he could get his poor wife to the hospital.

“I’ll come, too.” Stan hurried to catch up. A large crowd of people had gathered in the general area by this time, drawn by both the general commotion and the presence of the World Famous Bowmen. Ta-daaaa!

As we hurried to catch up with the panicked father, I noticed that Stan was carrying something. “Why’d you bring your bow?”

“Just for looks.” Stan grinned at me in the dim light from the distant screen. He was even wearing the quiver that contained all his trick arrows. Obviously, he was eager to show off a bit for the crowd. I couldn’t really blame him.

We jogged along, weaving our way through the maze of cars and speakers, pretending not to notice all the attention we were getting from the people we passed. When we entered the snack bar we saw the expectant father chasing a dime as it rolled across the floor. The receiver of the pay phone on the wall swung by its cord like the pendulum of a clock.



“Excuse me, sir," I called out to the panicky man. "We won’t need that ambulance after all. Ca — ummm, Wheels and the teenaged guy are jump-starting your car.”

The man stared at us for a fraction of a second, along with everybody else in the snack bar, then he bolted for the door behind us, knocking us out of the way in his haste to get back to his wife. The dime rolled into a corner, forgotten. Several of the people in the line to pay for their food were smiling and whispering. Apparently some of them realized who we were. But a thin little middle-aged woman behind the cash register caught my eye. She had one hand over her mouth, and her eyes were wide with surprise as she stared at the two masked men who had just entered the snack bar.

“Is this a holdup?” she said with a classic country twang.

I smiled and tried to look friendly, reassuring, and normal in spite of my cat burglar outfit. I didn’t know what to say, but Stan provided the perfect answer, giving the woman a huge, happy grin.

“No, ma’am. It’s a birthday!”

And out we went, hot on the heels of the wild-eyed papa. Halfway to back row we saw Carl and Doug get into the Jeep and shoot forward, spitting gravel behind them from the spinning rear tires.

“The police!” said Stan, pointing at the patrol car coming down the hill, midway along the left side of the viewing area. The officer spotted the crowd that had gathered at the rear of the theater, and he headed along the side lane toward the back row.

The Jeep was rapidly leaving us behind, racing along the rear lane toward the exit at the far right corner of the viewing area. Stan and I just stood there with our mouths open, watching our getaway car take off without us.

But when Carl reached the exit at the corner of the theater, he didn’t turn left into the theater’s exit. He turned right and headed along the edge of the theater back toward the screen.

“He’s coming to the snack bar to get us!” Stan exclaimed.

We spun around and dashed back toward the brightly-lit building, weaving carefully through the maze of cars, speaker posts, and drooping wires. The police car screeched to a halt near the crowd in front of the car containing the expectant mother. It stayed there less than ten seconds while the crowd told the officer that the vehicle racing toward the snack bar contained the Bowmen. The police car took off after the Jeep.

The car bearing the pregnant woman backed out of its parking slot with maniacal haste and raced off toward the exit on its way to the hospital. I pictured the ride that poor woman was in for. Daddy's driving would scare that baby right out of her long before they ever reached the hospital.

Stan and I arrived at the snack bar just as the Jeep was pulling away. Carl had stopped long enough to see that we weren’t there, then the approaching patrol car made it necessary for him to flee. Stan and I skidded to a halt several yards from the rear of the building, just outside the lighted area in front of the snack bar. The patrol car flashed by on the other side, hot on the heels of the Jeep.

Carl and Doug raced around the perimeter of the drive-in and headed back toward the rear where the argument had taken place, hoping to rendezvous with us there. We tried to beat them to the spot, but again we were slowed by the complicated task of navigating the obstacle course. The police car was just a dozen yards behind the Jeep as it rolled by the area, looking for us. They carefully threaded their way through a growing crowd of spectators at the rear of the theater where the Bowmen had made their appearance. When the Jeep and the police car each went cruising slowly through the crowd, the people cheered and hooted in response to the exciting chase. There was no way to tell which side they were cheering for. Chances are, it was a split decision.

Stan and I had stopped thirty feet from the edge of the crowd, panting for breath, watching the Jeep head off on another trip to the snack bar. The police cruiser was not far behind them. Carl and the policeman both held their speed down, watching for pedestrians, making it a very strange chase.

“Hey! Here’s two of them!” shouted a voice from the crowd. Heads turned as we were spotted.

“Grab ‘em!” somebody shouted, but nobody immediately volunteered for the job — least of all the man who shouted the suggestion. I was shocked by the crowd’s sudden change in attitude. A minute ago, we were settling an argument and helping a pregnant woman. Nobody had shouted anything at us then. But now that the police had shown up and wanted to arrest us, the crowd started turning ugly.

And it was growing larger, too. Some of the men were inching toward us, obviously trying to get up the nerve to do something. Stan and I started backing away slowly. Finally, the man closest to us said, “You two just stay right here until those cops come for you. And while you’re waiting, why don’t you take those masks off.” He glanced around and saw several other men moving closer on each side of us. This emboldened his civic-minded mob instincts. He was going to lead the charge and hold these two lawless vigilantes for the authorities to deal with.

Stan stepped in front of me, raised his bow, and hauled back on the string. “Stay back!” he shouted. In the dim light, most of the people didn’t notice the lack of an arrow. Some of the people directly in front of Stan dropped to the ground, some of them turned and started shoving the people behind them out of the way, and one woman in the back of the crowd screamed.

Stan and I turned and ran.

As we sprinted toward the snack bar, we saw the Jeep pass it a second time at a good clip. Behind us, we heard the pounding footsteps of several men. I knew that other police units would be on the way by now. Stan and I had to intercept the Jeep before they arrived. But before we could rendezvous with them, we’d have to lose the bozos who were chasing us.

Stan and I passed the snack bar and headed into the darker region between it and the acre-wide movie screen that loomed before us. Glancing back, I saw that our pursuers where still hot on our tails, but none of use could run in a straight line because of the cars, the speaker posts, and the wires.

At the rear of the theater I saw the Jeep racing along the rear perimeter road, headed toward the exit again, with a police car glued to its rear bumper. However, when the Jeep reached the exit at the corner of the theater this time it did swerve into the road leading to Moreland Avenue, vanishing from sight with the flashing lights of the police unit illuminating the tree-lined road as both vehicles passed from sight.

Stan and I were one our own.

We zigzagged among the maze of cars as we tried to lose our pursuers. Several times we squatted down between the parked cars and duck-walked in various directions to throw them off our trail. The people in the parked cars looked out their open windows nervously as we waddled by.

On the screen ahead of us, James Bond was being pursued by a carload of Oriental henchmen, but a helicopter with a magnet on a long cable came to his rescue by plucking the car from the road and dropping it into Tokyo Bay. Normally I would have thought that was ridiculous, but compared to my present situation it seemed like just another day at the office.



I turned to see where our pursuers were, and I caught site of the ticket booth, located way up the hill above the viewing area of the north theater. The Jeep came zooming in through the main entrance, followed closely by three police cars with lights blazing and sirens wailing. The Jeep took the road leading to the south theater — the one we were not at — and started winding its way along the twisted road that led to the viewing area.

I knew Carl had a plan, but I'll be hanged if I knew what it was.

Stan and I broke cover and raced for the narrow stretch of woods that separated the north theater from the south theater, located on a higher piece of land. The narrow wooded section between the two theaters was steeply inclined. Through the trees ahead of us, I saw the back of the south theater’s movie screen, a dark rectangular mass, reared against the sky, towering over our heads.

We reached the edge of the sloping wooded area with a good lead on our pursuers. Our jogging exercises were really paying off. But when we started up the incline bank, the dry leaves that covered the ground made it hard to keep our footing. We tugged and pushed at each other, clawing our way up as the blood-thirsty mob reached the base of the hill at a dead run. They scrambled after us as we grabbed at saplings and bushes, crawling with desperate haste. When we reached the crest, Stan dashed a few yards out onto the gravel-covered viewing area of the south theater and then turned back to face the trees.

“Help me find it!” he said as he reached back over his shoulder, yanked a handful of arrows from his quiver, and tossed them on the ground.

“Find what?”

“The stink bomb!” He squatted on the ground and pawed through the pile. “Ah! Got it!” he exclaimed. He snatched up one of the arrows and positioned it on his bow. The butane lighter taped to the handle of his bow flashed in the dim light, and the fuse of the stink bomb attached to the arrow flared to life. The arrow thudded into a tree six feet above the head of the first man to peek over the crest of the hill. The stink bomb sputtered to life and belched a torrent of acrid smoke that quickly filled the air.

“Go ahead, Cowboy!” I shouted dramatically. “Use the dynamite arrow if they come over the hill!”

The man was coughing from the horrid-smelling smoke, fanning his hand uselessly in front of his face. Stan hauled back on his arrowless bowstring, flicking the lighter as he did. We saw the man turn and dive back out of sight — right on top of the person below him. We heard a considerable amount of rustling leaves and crashing branches, mixed with some truly horrible language. The stink bomb continued to fill the air with fumes not fit for human inhalation, a cloud of white vapor that was unendurable.

I reached down and scooped up Stan’s arrows, then we both hastily retreated from the smoke, forced further out onto the gravel-covered area in front of the first row of the south theater. We were at the front left corner of the viewing area, as seen by the cars facing the titanic screen that loomed over them.



During all this, the Jeep had been leading its pursuers on a merry chase through the south theater’s maze of cars and speaker posts. Unlike the crowded north theater, the south theater was only about half filled with cars, and the police couldn’t corner the Jeep no matter how hard they tried. When Carl’s way was blocked by a patrol car, he would cut between the speaker posts and take the Jeep on a bucking course across the humps that were designed to tilt the parked cars up toward the movie screen. But Carl hadn’t spotted Stan and me yet.

“We need the smoke bomb!” Stan said. He snatched one of the arrows from the bundle in my hands and fitted it onto his bow. Just as he did so, another head popped up above the crest of the hill. I saw the man in the dim light as he squinted through the smoke, holding his nose while he coughed at the smell from the stink bomb imbedded in the tree nearby.

Stan whirled around and pretended to draw the string back as he aimed the arrow at the man and he shouted, “Haaaaa!” The man’s head disappeared magically as he beat a hasty retreat.

Stan turned toward the base of the movie screen, drew back the arrow, lit the fuse on the smoke bomb, and then eased the arrow forward to only a half-draw. He shot it low over the ground, and it skipped across the gravel until it stopped near the center of the screen’s base. The smoke bomb flared to life.

The Jeep was headed for the exit. Carl had decided to look for us again in the north theater. In the rearview mirror, he spotted the smoke bomb billowing up in front of the screen of the south theater and he made a screaming U-turn that barely missed the patrol cars trying to cut him off from the south theater’s exit.

“Give me the other one!” Stan said. I picked out the another smoke bomb and handed it to him. The lighter sparked to life, and Stan held the arrow until the smoke erupted. Then he let it fly in an arc across the face of the movie screen like a comet, landing just at the far edge, where it began to add to the growing cloud of white smoke. The beam from the projection booth made the billowing, expanding cloud glow eerily, the smoke hiding the lower half of the screen.

Suddenly the Jeep emerged from the cloud and skidded to a gravel-churning halt beside us. Stan yanked open the right rear door as Carl spoke in a remarkably calm voice. “Unless you guys want to stay and see the movie, let’s go home.”

Stan dove into the back seat, and I followed so quickly I nearly landed on top of him. A police car plunged through the smoke barrier just as Carl gunned it. The spinning back tires of the Jeep sent a shotgun blast of gravel back at the police car, rattling off its grill, hood, and windshield. The Jeep raced down to the corner of the theater, then Carl startled us all by yanking the wheel to the right when we came to the end of the wooded bank Stan and I had crawled up.

There was bare stretch of red Georgia clay that lead from the south theater to the north theater's entrance road The slope of the wooded stretch had dwindled to practically nothing at this end. Tire tracks in the dirt suggested that Starlight maintenance vehicles used this shortcut to move between the two theaters.

We came out onto the north theater's entrance road just a hundred feet from the theater's perimeter. Carl turned to the left and the Jeep raced up the side lane along the edge of the viewing area, high beams blazing to warn pedestrians of our approach. Horns blared angrily in protest as we passed.

The police cars had to line up to take turns going through the shortcut behind us, but since they all arrived there at the same time, they created bottleneck which held them up for a moment.

We reached the back of the theater and cut right, headed in the direction of the exit at the back corner of the theater. We were just turning into the exit road when the first police car reached the back corner of the theater and raced along the rear lane toward us, his flashing lights reflecting off the cars he passed.

The Jeep’s tires screamed for mercy as Carl stomped the brake and brought us to a halt when we reached the end of the exit road at Moreland Avenue. Moreland was a wide multi-lane thoroughfare, and tonight it was surprisingly heavy with Friday night traffic. Because this section of Moreland Avenue was zoned industrial, many of the vehicles were 12-wheeled, 14-wheeled, and 18-wheeled trucks which would make our beloved blue Jeep look like a stomped beer can if they collided with us.

We were thoroughly blocked in.

Behind us, the police cars came into view. Carl was racing the engine impatiently like Cale Yarborough at the starting line of the Firecracker 400, which he won just a few weeks ago — an ironic coincidence in view of all the explosives we had set off tonight. An omen, perhaps. (Hey, who knows?)

The leading police car was almost on us.

A tiny gap in the traffic came floating by, and Mr. Yarborough would have been proud of Carl when he cremated the radials in a deafening blastoff that shot us through the opening. Amidst a trumpeted fanfare of horns from cars and trucks of all sizes, we crossed the white line and slid sideways into another skimpy hole in the far lane. Carl started weaving his way through the traffic, desperately trying to put some distance between us and our pursuers.

In his eagerness to stay on our tail, the leading policeman tried to slip through the same gap in the heavy traffic. The gap, however, was too small, and the policeman changed his mind quickly and hit the brakes. But the police car behind him, fooled by the false start, couldn’t stop before he collided with the patrol car in front of him.

The confused drivers on Moreland started slowing down, like all responsible citizens should, when they saw the flashing lights of the police cars sitting at the theater’s exit. Their intentions were good, but the results simply caused the cars going past the Starlight's exit to group closer together because the faster cars behind them quickly caught up. All gaps disappeared and the slow flow of traffic became as solid as the Berlin Wall. As we lost sight of the trapped police cars at the Starlight’s exit, the mess was getting worse.

A mile down the road, Carl throttled back and blended in with the flow of Friday night motorists while the rest of us gazed out the rear window and prayed that no police cars suddenly appeared. Carl turned off Moreland Avenue and started following small roads that took us in the general direction of home.

Minutes passed with no one breathing. Finally, we started looking at each other with big, stupid grins and loud sighs of relief. Stan looked around at the rest of us with a slaphappy smile and said, “Hey, can we come back tomorrow night and watch the movies?”

He got three loud answers in perfect unison.

“NO!”


____________________________________________

The article in the Constitution the next afternoon was on page two again, but still in the lower right-hand corner, with the bulk of the write-up on page six. Matt Daniels had chuckled and chuckled while I related the details through a phone conversation we had the next afternoon shortly after he arrived at work.

He was grateful I hadn't given the story to one of the reporters who came in earlier, because then somebody else would have written it and put it in the morning Journal. I assured him that doing this would have been like Superman giving a story to a reporter other than Lois Lane. Never mind the fact that The Daily Planet seemed to only have two reports, Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Obviously Clark couldn't write them because everybody would suddenly realize he was Superman . . . in spite of those amazing horn-rimmed glasses which somehow fooled the whole world.

Right?

Anyway, here's the first part of the article.

_________________Bowmen Play Tag With Police at Drive-in.

_________________________by Matt Daniels

The Starlight Twin Drive-In on Moreland Avenue was the setting last night for a bizarre chase between three DeKalb County police units and the Bowmen, Atlanta’s vigilante crime fighters. Police received a call from a drive-in patron at 10:45 to report that he and his family were being threatened by a group of teenagers.


The article went on to describe the argument between the teens and the husband of the pregnant woman. It insinuated that the police were slow to respond to the call, and it suggested that the Bowmen’s diplomatic intervention had averted a conflict. It also mentioned that the Bowmen had helped the man get his car started so he could take his wife to the hospital when she had gone into labor. Daniels explained that the Bowmen had defended themselves from a hostile group of theater patrons by pretending to threaten them with their bows — even though no arrows were actually aimed at the angry men who chased them across the grounds of the drive-in theatre. It had all been a series of harmless bluffs.

But he did describe how the two Bowmen being chased had used a stink bomb to hold back the mob, and two smoke bombs to mark their location so they could be picked up by the other two team members.

Man oh man, talk about your favorable press.

Matt Daniels had himself a high old time criticizing the ungrateful theater patrons who chased us after we had been so unselfish in our efforts to help. After painting such a glowing picture of the heroic Bowmen, he stated that the DeKalb County Police had filed charges against the Bowmen for reckless driving, resisting arrest, possession of illegal explosives, and endangering public safety by discharging said explosives.

To counter the damage done to our noble reputations by the incident, Daniels gave his article the happiest ending possible.

Critics of the Bowmen should note that Mrs. Beth Worcersky gave birth to an eight-and-a-half-pound baby girl at Clayton General Hospital about four hours after leaving the drive-in. Mr. Alex Worcersky, proud father of the baby girl, rear-ended a parked ambulance when he arrived at the hospital, but no one was injured.





___________________________________________


_________________
____________
Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
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