Publisher’s Note: Chapter 31 consists of a prolonged chase sequence which, while several pages in length and filled with a considerable amount of pursuit and an abundance of almost catching, is neither overly humorous nor particularly interesting. As such, the publishers have deleted this chapter in its entirety as a preventive effort to preclude the possibility of the reader losing any further interest in the story and not finishing it at all. Suffice to say that by the end of Chapter 31, all concerned have traversed extended distances, are extremely winded, and have wound up at the entrance to Space Mountain.
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“Did you see what just happened?” I said.
We were all extremely winded and dripping with sweat. Zodar had just disappeared into the darkened entrance of Space Mountain and we were catching our breath before heading in after him. I’m in pretty good shape for someone who smokes two packs a day, routinely skips breakfast & lunch, and doesn’t exercise at all, but I’ll be the first to admit that even I was feeling it. We had traversed quite a bit of distance in the past hour.
“See what?” Simon said.
“Chapter 31,” I said.
“Yeah? What about it?”
“They took it out.”
“What? It’s missing?” Simon exclaimed. “Somebody took it?”
“No,” I replied, “they didn’t take it. They deleted it.”
“Who deleted it?”
“You’re kidding me. What the hell for?”
“Said it wasn’t exciting. Didn’t want to bore anybody.”
“That’s bullshit. You mean I just did all that running around for nothing?”
“We were all running, Simon.”
“Okay, okay. ‘Go team’ and all that. You mean we just did all that running around for nothing?”
“Looks like it.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. Boring? That was boring? That made Steve McQueen’s car chase in Bullitt look like a game of lawn bowling.”
“Yeah,” I said. “It is somewhat of an artistic dissatisfier.”
“Unbelievable is what it is. Absolutely unbelievable. See, this is what I was telling you, Dick. This kind of stuff doesn’t happen in a – ”
“Hey,” Jimmy interrupted, “what happened to the chase scene?”
“Nevermind, Jimmy,” I said. “It doesn’t matter. Come on guys. We still have work to do.”
“Well, I’ll be damned if I’m running my ass off anymore trying to do it, that’s for sure,” Simon said.
I shook my head. “I don’t think we have to. Look.”
A line of crimson dots on the ground, accentuated periodically with a red smear, led a wavy trail into the darkness of Space Mountain. Zodar was bleeding. Somehow, in all the mayhem of the exciting chase that you didn’t get to read about, Zodar had been hurt. If that was true, he wouldn’t be so hard to catch now.
“He won’t be so hard to catch now,” Simon said.
“Nope. Not if he’s hurt,” Jimmy added.
“Hey, are you two eavesdropping on my thoughts again?” I asked sharply.
“What?” Simon said, his eyes opening in alarm. “No way. Not me. Swear to God, I thought that up all by myself. I mean, you’ve got to admit, it’s a pretty obvious statement, right?”
“Yeah,” chimed Jimmy, “pretty obvious.”
I glared at them for a couple seconds, letting them squirm in the silence. Then I just let it go. I didn’t believe them, of course, but I was too tired to make an issue out of it. Besides, I felt we all would need what strength we had left. Because somewhere up the dark corridor in front of us was a wounded animal.
And he was cornered.
The darkness thickened as we proceeded silently up the ramp into the tunnel, but not enough to keep me from noticing that our threesome had lost some weight by the time we were about 100 feet in. To be more exact, Simon wasn’t with us. But I knew where he was.
I turned around and, sure enough, there was his silhouetted frame standing back at the entrance to the tunnel. Either by good vision or better guessing, he knew that I saw him.
“Hey, Dick,” he said, “I better stay back here in case he slips past you and tries to sneak out.”
What a coward. But by this time I was tired of trying to carry him along, and I couldn’t afford to waste any more time. Zodar was injured, and that would slow him down some, but he wasn’t in a coma. If I gave him time to think, he would. And a moose that has time to think is a moose that can figure out a way to escape. I had let him slip past me back at the strip joint and no way was I going to let that happen again.
I suddenly realized that I had forgotten all about Portia and I briefly wondered where the hell she had wound up. Oh well. Not my problem anymore. The world had grown cold again.
“Good idea,” I yelled back to Simon. I turned and started back up the ramp. “Come on, Jimmy. Let’s finish this thing.”
“This moose is so toast,” he said.
I liked the resolve in his voice.
I pulled out my gun and we started walking.
If the publishers thought that our chase of Zodar through Tomorrowland was too long, I wasn’t going to bother them with the details of my and Jimmy’s descent into the bowels of Space Mountain. Holy shit. Every time you thought you were close to the end there was another corner, or a switch-back, or an entry into a whole new room. The chains, turnstiles, and human cattle chutes went on forever. No wonder tourists came down to stay for a whole week. It takes half a day just to walk from the “entrance” of a ride to where the ride actually was. And there wasn’t anybody in front of us either.
Well, that wasn’t entirely true.
The drops of blood on the floor were now barely visible in the darkness, but I could still see enough to tell that Zodar was limping badly from the pattern they made. We had covered a good two, maybe three miles, and I could no longer hear Simon’s brave shouts of encouragement as he boldly guarded the entrance far away from any real danger. But I could hear something else now that I hadn’t been able to hear before over the din of Simon’s prattle: heavy, labored breathing.
“Jimmy,” I whispered, “do you hear that?”
“What?” he replied, in a voice that was probably normal in volume but under the circumstances sounded loud enough to hail a soldier 100 yards away in the midst of a fierce battle.
“Shhhhhh!” I whispered urgently, “you’ll give us away! We’re getting real close now.”
“It’s alright, Dick,” came a weary voice out of the darkness ahead. “I know you’re there.”
“Oh yeah?” replied Jimmy back to the darkness. “Well, we knew that you knew we were here. How about that?” Jimmy then turned to me and, to make sure I was up to date on the conversation, whispered, “I told him that we knew that he knew we were here.”
“Nice job, Jimmy,” I said.
“No problem, dude. I’m here for you.”
Nice to know I had that going for me. I think. I could almost see Jimmy’s conspiratorial wink, and, fearing a surfer hug and the subsequent male bonding that would follow, I did what any red-blooded American male would do. I changed the subject.
“Zodar,” I called out, “it’s over. We know everything. There’s nothing left to keep fighting for. Let’s end this peacefully.”
“Yeah,” said Jimmy, “so put your hooves up and come on out.”
Maybe not the exact choice of words I would have used, but at least he was in the ball park. A little further out in center field than I would have liked, but in the same park no less.
The sound of low laughter. Then, “I’m afraid, gentlemen, that if I put my hooves up, I wouldn’t be able to come out. That would put us in quite the stalemate, would it not?”
“Oh, okay,” said Jimmy. “Just forget that part then. But everything that Dick said still goes.”
“Thanks, Jimmy,” I said. “I’ll take it from here.”