BY: ROBERT DOWNS
Elisha Crimson thought her wedding day would be the happiest of her life. But losing her fiancé to two thugs in a dark sedan wasn’t part of the plan. She, along with the rest of the wedding party, can do nothing to stop the abrupt abduction, so she pursues at the first opportunity, navigating the West Virginia interstate in a white wedding dress behind the wheel of a pickup truck. But will she catch the sedan in time to save her one true love?
Ronnie Washington had known his past would catch up with him, eventually, but he hadn’t expected it to happen on his wedding day. He hates enclosed spaces, and now he’s bouncing around in the trunk of a car after being abducted from the ceremony. His only hope is to talk his way out, but the thugs don’t seem inclined to listen. He knows Elisha will come after him, but, even if she catches them, what can she possibly do against men like these?
Can these two unlikely heroes save the day, and the wedding, or is their life together over before it even starts?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In The Bridal Chase by Robert Downs, Elisha Crimson loses her fiancé, Ronnie Washington, at the altar when he is abducted by thugs and shoved into the trunk of a black sedan. Elisha gives chase in her brother’s pickup with her white wedding dress billowing around her, a wad of chewing tobacco in her mouth, and a spit cup by her side. Ronnie’s past has come back to haunt him, but he didn’t expect to have it happen on his wedding day. He knows Elisha will chase the thugs, but he fears that, even if she catches up with them, she can do nothing to save him. Not against men like these.
The story is cute, charming, and a little crazy, with fascinating characters, an intriguing plot, and fast-paced action, along with a number of surprises. I enjoyed it very much.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Bridal Chase by Robert Downs is the story of a man whose past has caught up with him. Ronnie Washington is a loser who just keeps faking it, sure that his luck will change. When it doesn’t, he just gets in deeper. Now he is bouncing around in the trunk of a black sedan, abducted from the altar where he was just about to say his wedding vows, leaving his stunned bride and wedding guests behind. But his bride to be, Elisha Crimson, is not a redneck girl for nothing. She hops into her brother’s pickup and gives chase. But the black sedan is faster, and the men who abducted Ronnie have guns, so what will she do if she actually catches them? Spit chewing tobacco at them? She doesn’t know, but she is determined to try, until tragedy strikes, and the black sedan leaves her far behind. Now it’s a hunt instead of a chase, but is she still in the game?
The Bridal Chase is clever, intriguing, and just a little corny. The characters are both charming and endearing, the action fast paced, the plot full of twists and turns. It will make you smile and chew your nails, all at the same time.
Saturday, 2:45 p.m.:
Her long, white dress billowed around her. Mascara raced down her face, her eyes frazzled, and a tear formed as she took off at a dead run. Her brother tossed her his set of keys. She caught them in midair and didn’t even break stride. She peeled out of the parking lot, as a spray of gravel pinged a Mercedes, two BMWs, and a Lexus. Through the open window, the wind whipped her hair. Her green eyes were fixed at a distant point on the horizon. Her gaze was just a bit above the dashboard, as she slammed the pickup truck into second gear. A string of curse words emitted from her lips and smacked the wheel. The cup holder beside her held a plastic cup filled with spit, and she picked it up now. Tobacco juice flowed from her lips, and into its predetermined location.
Elisha Crimson flipped the air conditioner on high, even though it was only sixty degrees outside. She honked her horn, gestured with her free hand, and merged into the passing lane. A silver car swerved in front of her, and she screamed and pounded the steering wheel in agony. This time, she neglected to salute the idiot behind the wheel with a cell phone pressed to his ear.
Her eyes flipped to her rearview mirror, and the sea of cars behind her in an intricate rainbow of colors. The trail of cars resembled a python, and the road in front of her was a never-ending façade of red taillights. An accident loomed up ahead, so she slowed down. Two cars—neither one moving—in the right-hand lane were both torn to shreds in twisted metal and crumpled bumpers. Her mind raced, and adrenaline shook her right hand.
She grabbed the cup beside her and spit another glob of juice.
She’d nailed second gear within five hundred feet of the parking lot, and third came soon after. Fourth proved a bit more of a challenge, but now that was behind her as well. Her lips moved at a constant, steady pace, and the cup beside her filled quickly as well. The pouch stuffed between the passenger seat and her own was a third gone.
She hadn’t smiled since this morning with her hairdresser and sister in the same room, as her mother waited in the room next to hers. Elisha flipped the radio low and her voice high. A rapper spoke about life in the ghetto.
She held onto the steering wheel until her knuckles turned white, and her joints ached. A song came on the radio that reminded her of him, and she turned up the volume loud enough to rattle the frame. With the windows rolled down, the sound traveled toward the trees on either side of the highway. A motorcycle engine roared behind her, and she pushed the pedal all the way to the floor. She smacked her lips and tapped her forehead. She kept thoughts—of her fiancé, her wedding, and the family she left behind—to herself and slammed down the lid. She discovered a ball cap within arm’s reach and thumped it on her head.
She floored it around an old Porsche and a Mercedes with custom wheels. She held one thought and then another: What would her family think? How could this be happening to her? Was her fiancé okay?— collecting them like stamps and compartmentalizing each one in her mind until such a time when she could gather them whole and shove forward with her life.
She’d known Ronnie’s past would catch up with them one day, but now was not the time for second guesses.
She kept one eye on the horizon and her goal in mind. Her whole world changed when a car pulled out in front of her. She veered to the left, the pickup nearly coming up on two wheels, the center of gravity shifting with brute force. And then she shoved the pickup hard to the right, as the center of gravity changed once again, and the whole cab moved and shook around her. The wind whipped through with blazing speed, and her knuckles locked against the wheel. She pinged to the right and careened to the left like a ping pong ball through a maze.
Steam rose up around her, and she hoped it wasn’t her own. She bit her lip and drew blood, and even managed to swallow a little of the chewing tobacco. Coughing and gagging and sick to her stomach, she had no idea how to continue onward. Only that she had to. If she failed, she couldn’t deal with the consequences.
She had insisted on a big wedding filled with a dessert buffet, two guitars, one ice sculpture, three photographers, and one deejay. Had she scaled back, she might have found herself in a different predicament than the one she currently found herself in the middle of. The voice on the radio called her a liar.
She discovered love at eighteen when it bit her on the ass and decided to hang around. The fucker, Ronnie Washington, had smiled at her, and her knees buckled in the heat and humidity. Unable to string a coherent sentence together for five minutes, she waited for him to walk away. But he didn’t. Ten minutes later, he asked her out, and she said yes before she gathered what remained of her senses. Six years later—the best six years of her life—he still asked her out, the romantic bastard. Sure, the ups and downs sucked, and he charmed her with all five of his senses, but dammit she loved him anyway. She loved him with her entire body, and still that didn’t seem like enough. Now, in her brother’s pickup, with her whole world abandoned at the golf course, and her fiancé kidnapped in a black piece of crap with four wheels, she shed more water beneath her eyelids.
If she failed to push forward with everything she had, she never stood a chance at success. Sure, she had failed at almost every corner and streetlight. Sure, failure pointed the barrel of its gun in her direction. But failure didn’t stand a chance this time. She’d find a way to succeed, even if it meant she exhausted every last possibility. Even if she didn’t have a damn clue how she’d do it.
Saturday, 2:55 p.m.:
Ronnie Washington hated enclosed spaces. Ever since his older brother locked him in the closet for three hours when he was six years old, he developed a trauma-related condition, later identified as claustrophobia. For the next nineteen years of life, he picked up the scattered pieces of his phobia one at a time, until his body met the trunk of an Accord. Sure, it had more room than a Civic, but it wasn’t meant for someone of his size. Crammed in the back with his knees jammed against his face, he scratched his nose with his black tuxedo pants and screamed against the fabric. Not that he wanted to, mind you. What he wanted to do was jump outside the trunk where the air was crisp, and he didn’t feel ready to pass out from confusion and fear. Black spots and dark walls entered his brain, and he screamed again.
He kicked out with his shoes, and scuffed the black bastards—deposit included—in the process. He had bigger dreams and higher aspirations that dropped to the ground and rolled around, as he bumped the sides with every turn. Dreams disappeared into the black nothingness, and his nose did itch on multiple occasions. Just thinking about it made him want to scratch it, and then scratch it some more.
He hated his predicament. Not the least of which was the current trunk where he slipped in and out of consciousness every few minutes. His world revolved around rumbling, worn brake pads, and the noises of the road.
Ronnie didn’t know how long he could survive in a trunk, because even his evil genius of a brother didn’t resort to such extremes. One three-hour closet experience caused a lifetime of trauma and heated therapy sessions.
One dream after another slipped away from him, but at twenty-five years old, he planned to tame a few more demons before the fiends ate away at his insides. He shuddered at the thought of compassion and hadn’t expected that particular gift to present itself, but it had—and when he last expected it. Elisha chewed tobacco and spewed four-letter words at the breakfast table, but her hair was blonde, and her eyes poked away at his insides.
How long had he been in the trunk? Fuck, he had no idea. It didn’t help that he blacked out for minutes at a time, and he experienced more bumps than a Kennywood coaster. He wore a watch, but the darn thing didn’t glow-in-the-dark.
He had yelled at the beginning, but he realized rather quickly that the sound of the engine muffled his cries. So he kept those thoughts and opinions to himself, until the thoughts and opinions discovered a new voice and a new master. A mountain of thoughts overwhelmed him in the confined space—How long had he been in the trunk? How many times had he passed out? What time was it? Was he going to be okay? What happened to Elisha?—if he screamed like a girl, he couldn’t help himself.
The vehicle clanked, and he bounced around. Either potholes filled the streets, or a shitty driver lingered behind the wheel. Sweat dripped into Ronnie’s eyes, and his throat scratched whenever he opened his mouth. A sound exploded from the back of his throat before he could squelch it, and the thought of freedom died on his open lips. He even shed a few tears amidst the salt-stained sweat and plastered his shoulder against a series of tight turns.
He loved his fiancée more than he loved football and bumper cars. She had smiled—even with her tongue stuck—and looked at him with nothing but affection and warmth the first time he met her years ago on his way to trig class, and now that was gone too.
He hated these bastards, the two who had shown up in the midst of the ceremony and carted him away through the double doors. It depressed him. All of it. Instead of being excited, elated even, genuine fear ruled his eyes and heart, and it threatened to consume him from the inside out. Motivation filled his heart, and he kicked out again. The shoe, or his toe, broke, and he screamed out in pain. Screamed long enough against the wool fabric to finish off his voice while his mind turned blank and pain filled his heart and his head. He succumbed to it: his fate. Even if he failed in one miserable string of obscenities and madness entered his world, he’d charge forward beyond his current destination. Instead of a life filled with happiness and hope, something sinister entered the realm of his universe.
He’d find a way out of the blackness. Or he’d die trying.
The air charged around him. Suffocating him once more, and again he went under. The thought of death entered his mind and strangled him. He couldn’t get rid of death’s selfishness. Sure, he was bastard. Possibly even a genuine one. But he wanted to live, doggone it, and it sure as shit appeared he was headed in the opposite direction. He waved the white flag, and somehow it filled him up. He was in over his head. That much he knew. Probably didn’t know it before, but then the world morphed around him and surprised the crap out of him. Blackness woke him up in the middle of the night.
The car veered and swerved and tossed him around. He jammed his knee against his lip and busted it open. Blood poured out of his mouth and all over his white shirt. The warm stickiness slipped down his chin and stuck to his pants and face. The walls closed in around him and smothered what was left of his spirit. An image formed in his mind—his first day of kindergarten where life was so young and innocent—the one that he had lost over time, and then managed to regain again. Before the men swarmed and pushed and shoved him, he was ready to take control of his life. Life handed him a live grenade and a tight space, and death loomed like the annual office cold. His life filled with hate and missed opportunity, and the one beautiful entity blew away like a kite in an ocean breeze.
Doggone amateurs. That was his last thought before he passed out again.
© 2018 by Robert Downs