Here is the sixth chapter of The New York Times Bestseller: More Than I Can Chew. I’m not sure if this story will make it to twenty chapters, because I feel like this part has a sort of midpoint feel to it. Perhaps they’ll be only twelve or fourteen chapters in this whole thing. Either way, I hope to finish this before Camp NaNoWriMo starts, which shouldn’t be hard.
To read the last five chapters, click here.
“DO YOU WANT YOUR TWIN BROTHER, OR NOT?” James shouted, cutting me off, rudely.
The reason for my delayed answer was that I’d just noticed Diesel and Connor standing by James’ side, and that stung. They were both my distributors, and were two of my favorite salesmen, so it hurt so much more to see them.
Connor Leung was one of my employees in the junior high, who I picked because according to my cousin in sixth grade, he was “the shit.” Sure, he was useless under pressure, and always wore a dopey red hat, but he was a friendly and loyal guy. Well, at least I thought he was.
Diesel was a different story. We had a met after a hockey game at his school in December of freshman year. I was sitting with the seniors in the back of the bleachers, which was a huge honor. Apparently, I was the only freshman they didn’t hate.
Anyway, the main reason they liked me was because of the chants I came up with. I put a lot of effort into them; I researched the school’s sports teams and statistics, I stalked the players’ twitter accounts, and I found any type of pressure point I could use against them in the game. I also snuck in a loudspeaker, a couple vuvuzelas and those noise sticks you’re supposed to bang against each other, and encouraged others to do the same. This effectively made our student section the most obnoxious group of students in the history of the varsity hockey league.
The other school’s students didn’t like this, and so a couple of them decided to jump me in the parking lot after the game. I lasted about ten seconds before slipping on the ice, but then Diesel, who I could’ve sworn was at least twenty-five years old, swooped in and told them to knock it off. All it took was a threatening glare and they all gave up and walked away.
Despite hating me for my rather immature chants, he intervened because he didn’t think it was right for five people to take on one all at once. He called it cowardly, and I’d have to agree. I almost asked him if he was a teacher here when he told me he was only sixteen, and a freshman (started school late, held back once). He agreed to be a part of my gum business, provided I never attend a hockey game at his school again.
These memories all went through my head in about 1.5 seconds, and then I answered, making sure to sound like I didn’t care about them or Adrien. “Yeah, that was… one of the things I came here for.”
“WELL THEN SHUT UP, AND LISTEN TO ME!” he shouted. The fury in his voice startled me a bit. I noticed Connor was avoiding eye contact with me and was rubbing the back of his neck. Good, at least one of them felt guilty. Diesel’s face, however, showed no signs of whatever was going on inside his head.
As James read out his plans to me, I almost felt like laughing. I would die before I let James take control of my business. Of course I also didn’t want to leave Adrien to whatever they had in store for him. I decided to go with option three.
“I’m calling the cops.”
This whole day was worth it just to see the look on Connor’s face. “Wait, what?” You can’t do that.”
Gum-dealers weren’t much different from drug-dealers, at least in one area. A drug-dealer could do all types of shit to another dealer, and the last thing he’d expect the other guy do in retaliation was to call the cops. By the look on Connor’s face, you could tell he had not even considered the possibility of me pulling this card.
“Why not?” I asked, sharply. “I’ve just been betrayed by my two favorite employees, had my brother kidnapped, and I myself have just been suspended. Not only am I very, very pissed off at all of you, but both my brother and I are completely innocent in this situation, at least in the eyes of the law.”
“Well, we could say we did this all for you,” said Connor, grasping at straws. And to think I was actually planning to leave him in charge when I left for college. “After all, you are technically our boss.”
“I was your boss. And even if they believed you, which isn’t likely, you’re still going to jail.” I took my phone out and started dialing the numbers.
“Oh, come on, Wyatt,” said Diesel, showing some actual emotion for once, “Don’t do this.”
“Shut up, Diesel. I thought you were cool.” I pressed call and put the phone on speaker for everyone to hear.
“This is 911, what is your emergency?”
I put on my best scared voice and answered, “Hi, uh, I’m calling about Adrien Mellonsky, the kid who just went missing today.”
“Do you have any news on his current location?”
“Yeah, he’s been taken to Bedford Park in a black van.” While I was saying this, Connor and James were arguing while Diesel opened the van doors and begrudgingly threw Adrien onto the ground.
“A police dispatch has been sent to your location. Is there any more information? Do you know who the kidnappers are?”
“OKAY, WE’RE GIVING HIM TO YOU!” shouted Connor, almost in tears. And it was true. Adrien had been uncuffed and Diesel had jumped into the back of the van. I covered the phone’s speaker, and told them, “If I were you, I’d get out of here as fast as I could.”
Connor got back into the passenger seat and James got into the driver’s. Before James drove away he gave me a look that told me, It’s not over. I shook it off. For now at least, I had outsmarted them, and they wouldn’t dare do anything for the next few days, what with police supposedly after them and all.
“Nice work, Kathy,” I said into the phone. Kathy had parked the car backwards so they wouldn’t see her in the front seat. “You make a wonderful 911 operator. Hell, that should be your profession.” But by this point Kathy had hung up and ran towards Adrien, who was just standing up, taking his blindfold off.
“Are you okay?” Adrien managed a weak nod. He wouldn’t even look at me.
“Uh, hi, Adrien.”
“Shut up,” he said, walking towards the car. “Let’s go home.” I noticed he was limping.
“What did they do to you?” Kathy asked, horrified.
“Oh, just suffocated me with a bag, beat me up a couple times, nothing major.” He got into the back seat and lied down.
Kathy gave me a worried look. Not only that, but an accusing one as well, like this was all my fault my friends stabbed me in the back. The two of us got in the car.
“I’m taking him to the emergency room,” Kathy said as she started driving out the park entrance.
“No,” I said, “If he goes, Mom and Dad will find out and they’ll have to ask me for questions—”
“OF COURSE they’ll find out!” she shouted. “How could they not? Adrien’s probably all over the news right now, the police are looking all over for him. He can’t just show up to school on Monday after all this and expect no one to ask questions!”
I almost argued, but she was right. One way or another, the police had to know Adrien was found, and not at the bottom of a lake somewhere. “But that doesn’t mean they need to know about us.”
“Oh, so after everything you just put him through you’re still worried about yourself.” It wasn’t a question.
“I’m worried about you, too.” It felt like a lie, coming out of my mouth, and she clearly didn’t believe it.
“Why? I did nothing wrong here.” This was the worst mood I’ve seen her in months. “What do I have to hide?”
“You and I purposely withheld valuable information from the police. If we just drop him off at the emergency room, they are going to ask questions. And I think we both want to avoid any possible blame.”
“Okay, and so the kids who kidnapped and practically tortured Adrien get to walk free with no punishment at all?” I couldn’t answer that.
“They’ll be punished,” said Adrien in the back. He didn’t sound particularly threatening at the moment. “One way or another.”
“Okay, how about this?” I proposed. “We drop Adrien off near the ER and let him walk in by himself, where he claims to have just escaped the van on a street nearby. It’s a fairly simple lie, something not even Adrien could mess up, and everything else he says could be true. Just as long as he doesn’t mention anything that could draw suspicion to us.”
Her brow creased, and I could see her stubbornly trying to see a flaw in my plan. “Fine.”
We dropped Adrien off about fifty yards away from the hospital, made sure he knew exactly what to say, and drove home. “I get that they need to know about what happened to him,” I told her, “but they don’t need to know about the suspension, or my part in Adrien’s kidnapping. No one gains anything from that.”
“Fine,” she said, and neither of us said a word the rest of the ride home.
As I walked through the front door I got a text. From James.
I knew you weren’t actually calling the cops.
I froze, reading the text again, then twice more. But that didn’t make any sense. Why would he just leave if he knew I was playing him? Unless…
I sprinted to the basement, almost knocking Kathy down on my way down. I reached the bottom of the stairs and saw my worst nightmare come true.
The ceiling tiles. Half of them were ripped out and left scattered on the floor. That was where my hiding spot was; inside the basement ceiling where no one would ever think to look.
“Wyatt?” shouted Kathy, from the top of the stairs. “What is it? What’s wrong?”
I didn’t answer. I walked across the room, stepping on broken tiles, grabbed a chair and placed it below the torn-up ceiling. I barely heard Kathy’s gasp as I stood on it and looked through the inside of the ceiling, finding nothing but wood and dust.
“They’ve taken my stuff,” I said, not to anyone in particular. I don’t think I was even aware of what I was saying. “All my notes, my gum, my plans… my money… all gone.”
It was just a distraction. In that one moment of clarity I realized just how obvious it was: they planned to kidnap me and make me give up all the gum, the list of all my distributors, the left-over money, all my future business ideas, and sneak into my house and take them while I was still captive. When they kidnapped the wrong twin, all they did was improvise.
I remembered what Mrs. Romero told us. Three people had dragged Adrien into the van, but that didn’t include the driver. At Bedford park I hadn’t even questioned where the fourth one had gone. I thought I was being clever, but no. I was so, so stupid…
I stepped down, picked up the chair, and swung it against the wall. The front legs shattered. I swung it again. And again, and again. Kathy’s yells must’ve been a mile away. After the fifth time I chucked the legless chair on the floor and kicked it across the room, shattering a glass table and I didn’t even care.
Kathy’s voice seemed closer now. “Just let it go. The gum’s not worth the trouble.”
But it wasn’t just the gum I was mad about.