Tucker: Opening Scene (version 1)

Here is the opening scene of the finished draft. I counted 8 other partial drafts, false starts on the road to revising this turkey Tucker.

So without further ado:

“Well, aren’t you just all shiny and new?”

Josh looked up from his iced tea and over his left shoulder, the direction the low smoke scarred voice had come from. It belonged to a heavily made up blonde who wiggled on to the stool next to him. Bottle platinum hair and too tight clothes didn’t effectively disguise the hard edges and tired eyes. Josh thought someone should send a snapshot of this woman to Brittany Spears with the inscription, “Stop now! You still have time!”

“Pardon me?” Josh sat up straight and leaned away. The blonde flashed a toothy smile and simply followed him to close the gap. He could smell cheap perfume layered on top of beer and a predatory instinct. This was so not what he needed at three-thirty on a Tuesday afternoon, and especially not today.

“Ernest? Ernest!”

Another woman, this one to his right, was also trying to get his attention. But this one was behind the bar. He’d actually been watching her in the mirror since he sat down ten minutes ago, appreciating her smooth economical movements as she tended customers at the opposite end of the bar and those few scattered about the tables. She wore her blazing red hair extremely short and battered 501’s like they were Prada. A small black tee shirt proclaimed, “I’d exercise more but I might spill my drink.” Josh figured if those curves were built by beer every woman should be required to consume regularly. Pink – pink! – cowboy boots gave her a few more inches, just barely enough to top your average eighth grader.

Red definitely had his attention. But why was she calling him “Ernest”?

She stood in front of him now, a small mocking smile on her face and a cordless phone to her shoulder. “Ernest? Your mom’s on the phone again.” She thrust the phone at him. He reached to take it and got a tiny zap when his fingers brushed hers. “She wants you to stop on your way home and pick up her meds, maybe splurge on some McDonalds.”

What was she talking about? His mom had passed away years ago and he’d never set foot in this neck of town, let alone this bar before today. Red held his gaze, daring him to call her bluff. Josh thought a man could drown in those huge chocolate pools, but didn’t believe that was necessarily a good thing. Automatically he put the phone to his ear. The blonde was watching the entire exchange with a suspicious twist on her lips.

“Hello…?”

“Hi!” A young female voice chirped at him. “Bear with me and nod a little.” Josh obeyed. “Good! I watched Sheila mark you the minute she walked in. She’s mostly harmless but with your nose in your tea like that I figured you’d need some help.”

Josh’s eyes quickly scanned the bar. He found the video camera tucked up in a corner behind the top shelf liqueurs. In spite of himself, he smiled a little. The voice on the other end of the phone giggled. “You’re quick. Say, ‘Yes, Ma’am’.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

Sheila shot a disgusted look at Red who just shrugged as if to say, “Who can tell anymore?” The blonde rolled her eyes and packed herself off to a back booth near the pool tables.

“There we go. It’s been nice chatting with you, handsome! Now that you’ve found us, don’t be a stranger.” Another giggle and then a click on disconnect.

Josh handed the phone back to Red. She regarded him for a minute then decided to take pity on him. “My assistant is upstairs in the office.” Her voice was smooth and light, with a hint of an accent that was naggingly familiar. “She tends to be more interested in the show playing on the security cameras than in her own work.” Red gave the camera a long measured look. He wondered if her assistant would take the hint or not. She turned back to him, taking in the barely touched ice tea. “You doing ok over here?”

“Actually, I came in to see the owner. A Mr., ah… Smith?”

Red cocked her head to one side and crossed her arms. Josh lost his train of thought as the shirt stretched a little tighter over her chest. Generally he considered himself a man of refined taste and if he had a “type” it would run more to the Carolyn Bessettes of the world. This earthy little pixie was effortlessly blowing that theory right out of the water.

Josh sipped his tea and cleared his throat. “I know I don’t have an appointment…” he glanced around the nearly empty bar, “but I was hoping he would be able to spare a minute for me. I have an urgent message for him.”

Eyes thoughtful, the pixie didn’t say anything for a minute. Then she grinned with a flash of teeth. It hit him in the gut like a shot out of the dark. “Well stranger, I’m your Mr. Smith” Her grin widened as his mouth dropped open. She stuck her hand out. “Tucker Smith, at your service. I own and operate the Last Call.”

Dumbfounded, Josh took her hand. She had a firm grip and he felt that snap of electricity again. He thought back to the package that had arrived in his office late last night and the terse note from his father: Deliver this to Tucker Smith immediately. TIME SENSITIVE. The address of the bar had been below it. No explanation, but that wasn’t unusual. When Joshua Robert Campbell III said jump, you better not pause to look down or there’d be hell to pay. Next time, he thought to himself, a little preparation wouldn’t be out of order.

Tucker released his hand and leaned back against the bar behind her. “You don’t look like you’re about to serve me a summons, so what’ve you got for me, Mr….?”

Josh stood up and reached for his brief case, trying to gain some ground. “Campbell. Josh Campbell.” She narrowed her eyes at his name. He’d never thought himself particularly tall but as Tucker looked up at him he felt like a giant. “I have a package that I’ve been directed to deliver, Ms. Smith.” He pulled a large manila envelope out and handed it across to her.

“You aren’t by any chance from Boston, Mr. Campbell?”

Surprised, Josh nodded in the affirmative. “Originally. I’ve been in Los Angeles about ten years give or take. I thought I’d dropped most of the accent.”

She smiled fleetingly, with none of the warmth her earlier smiles had held. “Most of it,” she agreed. “Are you by any chance related to J.R. Campbell?”

“He’s my father.”

Tucker stood up straight and slapped the envelope on the bar. Any trace of friendliness was gone. A small woman she might be, but Josh was getting a first hand account of a very powerful and cold anger. He took an involuntary step back. His only thought was, Dad what the hell have you done this time?

“If you would be so kind as to relay a message to your father? Tell him to rot in hell and forget again that I exist.” She turned on her heel and strode out from behind the bar. “Tommy!” The college kid who’d served him the iced tea looked up. “I’ll be in the office.” He nodded his shaggy head and looked over at Josh. Clear as day on his face was the same question Josh was asking himself: What the hell just happened?

When I wrote this two years ago, I was sooo impressed with myself. Now, not so much. It makes me cringe like nails on a chalkboard. JB says I’m being overly dramatic, that it isn’t really that bad. She’s my writing partner and I trust her opinion implicitly, but I think her half of the glass is dangerously full in this respect. If I had to pick one thing that is the most “off” about it… I would have to say it all feels forced. The dialogue, the pacing, all of it really.

Also my hero, Josh? Is a WIMP. Don’t worry, I fixed that – scene 8 to be exact. Once I established a Josh that wasn’t a total milquetoast, the rest of the ms was a lot of fun – even though it was still a LOT of work – to finish.

So why am I dragging this relic out after all this time? It’s the first ms I finished, so there’s sentimental attachment. I clearly had no idea what I was doing (and it shows) but in the process I found characters I really loved that I’m not ready to give up on. Hopefully, at this point, I’ve learned enough to do them justice.

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