The Red Dirt Circuit

Brad is dragged along to a convention in Texas by his parents. Left alone in the hotel while they attend the convention dinner, and told not to wait up for them, he decides to hit Sixth Avenue, take in the Austin music scene, and then return to the hotel, before his parents get back. The rewards are fraught with "complications."

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16. The Rumble in the Jungle

 

The door behind the side bar opened into an ally that could have been a narrow street which was eventually closed off to traffic as the hodge-podge of buildings on that street were cobbled together over the years. Trash cans a few feet out from the wall lined the bar side and a pile of broken down cardboard boxes littered the other side. A large, dark green dumpster in the middle of the alley awaited a daily pickup by a truck that backed into the lane far enough to retrieve the trash.

A few guys stood in a group at the back end of the ally. Brad glanced at them briefly and look hurried step towards the alley entrance. He felt uneasy in the semi-darkness, the only light coming from a small window and a ventilation grate on the bar side of the wall.

Then he heard it.—a muffled sound almost a groan. His turn was more a reflex than intention. He could see the group was holding someone they had encircled.

“Hey! What’ya lookin’ at?” a voice from the crowd demanded.

Brad froze in place and didn’t say anything.

The voice came from a member who broke off from the group and started walking towards him.

“I’m talkin’ to you! Yeah, you!”

Brad had no idea what to do. Over the man’s shoulder he thought he saw a squirming motion of someone held by heavy arms.

The menacing voiced-man was almost upon him.

“What’s going on?” was all that croaked out of Brad’s suddenly-gone-dry mouth.

With one hand, the man reached out and put a vice grip on Brad’s shoulder blade right at his neck and, in one quick motion, pulled him, forcing him forward, nearly to the ground. Then, the other hand wrapped around his upper leg, hoisted him over his shoulder and hurled him past the trash cans and at the wall.

Brad hadn’t completely cleared the cans, landing with a metallic clatter on the far side of the alley, scraping off the lids and hitting the base of the wall where the macadam met the cinder blocks. Momentarily stunned, the pain washed over him in a wave,  starting with his collarbone and working down his neck to the base of his spine. Brad felt a sting in his lower back but couldn’t feel anything in his legs. A flush of heat moved up the back of his neck and flooded his head, converging on a spot where his head had bounced off the road.

The man who tossed him like a rag doll kicked the trash cans that separated them away, reached for Brad’s arm, and started dragging him to the center of the alley.

A shrill scream, came from the small huddle of guys, as the young woman managed to wiggle away from the hand covering her mouth. Brad’s attacker glanced momentarily in the direction of the scream but then looked down at the limp figure he was dragging, deciding what to do with him.

The side bar door flung open and light flooded the debris field created by the spilled trash cans.

“Hey! Dirtbag! What the hell’re you doin’?” Jim shouted.

“None of your business, man” Brad's attacker snarled back.

“I’m making it my business.” Jim strode towards him followed closely by Jake.

Brad’s attacker let him go and he dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes. All Brad could do was look up, the pain was searing and his vision was blurry.

Jim’s first punch was swallowed up by the man’s stomach but his bent-over head positioned him perfectly for the uppercut to his chin. Jim followed that with a shove that made the attacker tumble backward over Brad’s crumpled body. By now a couple of men broke off from the group and moved towards Jake who had followed Jim. As they reached Jim, he would have been outnumbered except that a figure came lunging out of the doorway and took out one attacker. It was Skip. The other man was surprised and distracted enough for Jake to level him with one solid punch to the face. Skip had his man straddled on the ground.

A bright flashlight shown on the area and a police officer bellowed out “Freeze!” and everything slowed down. For a moment, everyone had stopped but the surprise wore off quickly and the group threw their captive to the ground and tried to disperse. At the moment, they were cut off by the blind alley. They started for the open side door and to run around the cop. More people piling out of the bar closed off that escape route and the rest group's stragglers came to a halt, their escape cut off by a squad car now entering the alley with bubble lights flashing and sirens blaring.

“Nobody moves!”

“Brad’s hurt,” Jim yelled, and bent over his prone body.

In a few moments, the police had the alley under control. More squad cars sealed off the street and the night was filled with flashing lights. A large crowd gathered just beyond the squad cars and had to be moved aside to allow the ambulance into the alley.

“Anyone know where his parents are?," asked the policemen in charge. "Who can contact them?”

“I can,” said the young woman who had been held by the men. It was Jenn.

“He’s staying at the hotel with me.”

“We’re going to need you at the station to give a statement,” the officer said.

“I’m not leaving him,” Jenn said. “He was trying to help me.”

The officer might have ignored her but Skip chimed in. “Look, officer, he was with me when this happened. You can hold them,” he said, nodding to the attackers, “until after we get to the hospital. You can take statements in the emergency room if you have to.”

The officer turned to his partner and decided who would ride under custody. “You and these two guys will ride with me to the hospital,” the officer nodded to Jim and Jake. “We’ll hold the rest and book ‘em after we take your statements. You can let me know what happened on the way over.”

Sid volunteered to ride in the ambulance with Jenn.

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