Chapter 1, page 1
I listened to my phone ring, wishing Matt had waited until after the tournament to call me. But I should have known better. Especially since I had been ducking his calls for the last few days. Taking a deep breath I tried to rationalize ignoring this latest call as well; perhaps he would finally take a hint and stop trying to get hold of me. Unfortunately, I knew better than to really expect that to happen. It’s more likely that the sun will rise blue tomorrow than that Matt would ever stop calling.
Keeping my eyes fixed on the camcorder’s side display, I pulled the phone out of my pocket and greeted my oldest friend. “Hey Matt, how’s it going?”
Fortunately, Matt wasn’t normally one to hold a grudge, he would argue and fight about something for a while but, eventually, he would cool down. In fact, it was entirely possible that he wouldn’t even mention the ignored calls. (Of course this apparent indifference would last just long enough for him to find the most advantageous way to bludgeon me with guilt.) Therefore, it didn’t come as a surprise when I heard him greet me with his typically cheerful tone. “So are you ready for your tournament tomorrow, Marcus?”
That was the question I had been expecting him to ask, but I hadn’t expected it to be his first question. This was just a little too direct for him, which meant he was trying to start out by setting me on edge. And while such direct questions were normally the right way to do this, I had recently been steeling myself against this particular tact. I bit my tongue and sighed just a little, but quickly forced a smile as I answered the question as succinctly as possible. “More or less.”
“More or less?” Matt repeated immediately. What was that tone he used? Was that aggravation or was it anger?
I shrugged my shoulders and offered a token explanation, hoping to deflect him from his goal. “I have my entrance fee.”
Granted, I did feel bad trying to keep him in the dark like this but that was only because I truly treasured our friendship. Even if for no other reason than he had the knack of being able to get me to smile. In fact, he was so skilled at this that I was certain that were I in the middle of my own execution, somehow, he would manage to coax me to smile or laugh. But then again, he also had a tendency to overreact. Hence the need to keep some things, such as the details of this tournament, secret. Before he could reply I tried to lighten the mood just a little. “And that is all that matters.”
Normally this would have drawn a laugh, but instead all that I received was a series of rather blunt questions. All of which were fired off in such rapid succession that I didn’t have a chance to answer even one as they flew from his lips. “You just finished collecting your fee? The
tournament is tomorrow, right? Normally you’re quicker about that sort of thing, is something wrong? Why have you been avoiding my calls? Have you been able to study the location? Where is the tournament taking place?”
“Matt, stop asking me questions.” I commanded in as firm a voice as I could manage without being too insulting. “I can only answer one question at a time.”
“Go ahead and answer then.” Matt replied with just a bit too much forced pleasantness in his tone.
With the other end of the phone now silent, I was able to begin processing his questions as I prepared to answer them in a way that would appease my friend. Though, I really did hope he was just kidding around with this whole interrogation. I answered the first question, which was the only one that I was willing to answer, and made sure to tinge my voice with an ever so slight amount of mock anger, as if I had been offended by his barrage. “Matt give me a little bit more credit than that. I’ve had my fee since before I pulled into the city.”