11:05pm (just after pubs close), a dark street in Gerrardís Cross. Arthur (ďArtĒ, main character) is sitting in his Honda Civic. Scene opens on view from behind the headrest of the driver seat, slightly towards the middle so that the windscreen can be seen properly. Itís raining torrentially, but the windscreen wipers arenít running as the car is parked with engine off. A light is seen to flash in the rear-view mirror. Artís calculating eyes dart up in a split second.
Chris: Youíre awful jumpy, arenít ya?
Art: (smiles) Hmph, whatever you say man. Iím just careful.
Chris: Careful? Careful has a line, man, and youíre playing with it.
Art: The only line Iíll be playing with is the redline on my car if this guys actually decides to show up.
Chris: I thought he said heíd meet us here in a couple of minutes.
Art: Yeah, he did, but Iím sure he meant Ďgive or take a few minutesí. Heís not the kind of person to show up when he says he will.
Chris: (muffled snort)
Chris: what is it that heís doing again?
Art: (dismissive) ah, he said he had to drop off Carolyn. You know, trying to make a good impression with the girlfriendís parentsÖ that kinda crap.
Chris: ah, I seeÖ (looks up through the windscreen) This rainís gonna kill us, man. Should we call it off?
Art: hell no, man. Itís perfect. Johnís got a faster car, ok, we all know this Ďcause his rich dad gives him more money than he knows what to do with, so he had his engine tuned. Iím gonna prove tonight that that doesnít mean jack-shit if you canít control it.
Chris: (laughs) Alright man. This is gonna be awesome.
Art: Sure, provided he actually shows up. (glances towards the mirror) Speak of the devilÖ
A car pulls up on Artís right, the windowís already rolled down. Art rolls down his.
Art: So glad you could join usÖ
John: Sorry man, had to do the girlfriend thing, you know.
Art: ha, yeah I know. Thatís why I donít have one, man. Too demanding.
John: ha, alright man. So you ready to lose or what?
Art: ohoho, be careful man. Donít wanna look like a fool when you have to eat those words later, now do you?
John: whatever you say man. (pats the side of his car through the window) Iím packin a lot of heat under this hood.
Art: (smiles) Weíll see about thatÖ
Chris: Ďey, can we stop yackin and do this please? Some of us need to get up in the morningÖ
John: Good call, man. (turns to Art), Iíll lead. Follow close behind and wait until I make a move. When we get onto the dual carriage-way, Iíll take the right-hand lane, you pull up beside me on the left and stop dead, alright? Chris, youíll count us down to start since youíre not at the wheel. That cool?
Chris: yeah, itís cool man.
John: Good, and donít forget Art, itís not the fastest man across the line that wins. Itís the fastest one to stop dead on the line. Got it?
Art: (smiles) Iím countin on it, man.
John: Aight, letís do thisÖ
Windows up and John pulls away slowly. Both cars are now seen in full view as Honda Civics, the only difference being that Johnís is red and Artís is black. Art follows John for about a minute until John stops at a junction linking the dark minor road with the dual carriage-way. A car flies past at 65pmh, and then John pulls out into the outside lane. Art pulls up beside him in the left-hand lane as agreed. The road is completely empty in both directions. Windows down again. Both drivers are grinning.
John: Alright Nancy, letís go.
Art: As you wish.
Chris: Ready? (both drivers refusing to lift their stares from each othersí glare) 3Ö 2Ö 1Ö GO!
Artís car bucks first as he punches the accelerator leaving John standing for the first couple of seconds. With John temporarily out of view he glances up towards the goal, a road sign indicating left for Gerrardís Cross. His eyes dart to the road and back in calculation. Johnís car gains and strips past him. This doesnít vex him, he only smiles.
Chris: damn, heís got us beat.
Art says nothing, heís concentrating hard. The end is close, and Johnís brakes lights slap on, but Art makes no move to slow down with only a couple dozen meters left. He zooms past Johnís ever braking car. He then pumps the brake with strength and control bringing him to a stopping G-force shown in Chrisís surprised features. The car is seen to come to a total stop on exact par with the road sign goal a good second before Johnís. Art and Chris are slammed back into their seats. John winds down his window looking miffed. Art winds his down.
Art: ready to eat your words, man?
John: shut up, man.
Chris: Damn, dude. We killed you.
John: yeah yeah, whatever. Itís just a race.
Art: (eyebrow raised) You didnít seem to think so before you lost. (smiles, but then something catches his eye and he looks forward quickly. There are two police officers jumping into their car next the roundabout) COPS!
John: FUCK! (Art slams his car into gear and accelerates off to the left-hand exit, whilst John follows swiftly.)
Chis: Dude, I canít get arrested man. Iíve never done a crazy thing in my life.
Art: (calm, determined) Theyíre not gonna catch us. (John pulls out into the on-coming lane and over takes Art). Bastard! (Art sees a road leading off to the left and takes that while John continues on straight. It doesnít go to plan though, as the police car follows Art)
Art: I know. Shut up, I got it coveredÖ (Trees and lampposts are whizzing past at an alarming rate. Speedometer reads 59mph)
Chris: This is crazy! (Art faints left, and then handbrake turns to the right at a junction. The police make the same move but are too late and start lagging behind) Nice one!
Art: Itís not enoughÖ (After a series of left and right turns, the police car is no where in sight. Art slows the car down to 30mph.) Weíre close enough to your house, you can walk the rest of the way.)
Chris: Are you kidding me? Iíll get soaked!!!
Art: (Glares at him.) Your choice: get soaked or get nicked?! They donít know your face, but they sure as hell know what the car looks like. Iím doing you a favor, man.
Chris: Alright, alright. I was just jokingÖ.
Art: (not convinced, slows to a stop. Chris jumps out. Art yells out) Iíll talk to ya online! (door slams shut. Art pulls away. The police car isnít seen again as Art drives home).
Art pulls up outside his house. He moves to switch his engine off, but then pauses. He looks up, frowns, and then pulls away. Next we see of him, weíre deep in the countryside and heís driving along a deserted narrow road. We then see the road from his perspective. Suddenly, something darts off the road up ahead. Art peers closer as he pulls over. He turns off the engine, gets out and runs off after the movement without locking the car so that he can get away swiftly if he needs to. He sprints across fields of waist-high grass. All in one instant he trips and falls flat on his face while a group of 6 men wearing all black stand up cocking guns and pointing them at his body on the ground.
Marlow: donít move!
Art: can I at least sit up?
Marlow: No. First, you have to answer some questionsÖ One, what are you doing out alone at this hour in the middle of nowhere?
Art: Just getting some fresh air.
Marlow: Donít bullshit me. You saw us, didnít you?
Art: I saw someone run across the road. Thatís it. I didnít see what you were doing or anything, alright? I donít know anything. Just let me go, yeah?
Marlow: Iím sorry, I canít do that.
Art: excuse me?
Marlow: You see, we canít have you reporting to the police that you saw some armed men in the countryside at night.
Art: What? No, I swear I wouldnít d-Ö
Marlow: Shut up! You expect me to trust some punk kid who thinks itíd be a good idea to follow a figure running through the field? You sound pretty unreliable to me. Completely void of common sense. No, I canít trust you or let you go, and although I would love to chat, time is running out. So hereís what weíre going to doÖ You have a choice, of sorts. You either willingly come with us as part of our teamÖ. (long pause) or we kill you.
Art: are you kidding me?
Marlow: Come nowÖ do I sound like Iím kidding to you? For a boy of your skills, you show a serious lack of intelligence.
Art: Ö my skills?
Marlow: stand up! (Art stands up slowly as heís in pain from the fall. He now sees the whole group of men surrounding him, all wearing the exact same gear and wielding the exact same sniper rifles. Marlow notices Art staring at his weapon.) Feeling more comfortable? (Art meets his eyes)
Art: what skills are you talking about?
Marlow: (thoughtfully) determined arenít you? YesÖ very focusedÖ thatís good. (back to reality) Yes, skills! Weíve been watching you for a while now. We happened to be doing a job whilst in a security hut in Gerrardís Cross when we glanced at one of the monitors which was trained on a parking lot. There was a Honda civic doing some very precise handbrake manoeuvres. Even on our jobs we are looking for fresh talent. Much was our surprise when we followed that car homeÖ to your houseÖ and we saw a young man get out, a mere teenager! We were very impressed, but we needed to watch more closely to be sure. Tonight we followed you once more, this time we hit the jackpot! You happened to be racing your car against- one of your mates, I presume? Same cars, but your engines sounded very different. And you beat him. His car outstripped yours for speed and acceleration, but you beat him out of sheer ability. That, my boy, is one of your skills. (pause) The final test we put you through was tonight, when I had one of my men dart across the road. Yes, that was a lure. You see, most people would have ignored it and driven on or turned around and headed homeÖ but not you. You got out to chase the man and see what he was up to. Why did you do this? You did this because you have confidence in your ability to get out of a tight situation. Itís instinct for you. This is exactly what we look for in our recruitsÖ
Art: recruits? What are you guys? Some kind of Government organisation? (the men laugh)
Marlow: Oh noÖ no no, quite the opposite in fact. We are the most elite criminal organisation in the world. Weíre the SAS of the crime. Untraceable. No one knows who we are, all they know is the damage we leave in our wake.
Peter: Boss, we gotta move.
Marlow: (checks his watch). Shit, youíre right. Listen, Art, weíll talk more laterÖ Oh, you have chosen us over death, I assume?
Art: (looks around helplessly, then his eyes narrow with conviction) Yes.
Marlow: (smiles) Good. Follow me. Tonk will drive your car, oh, and you donít have to give him your keys. Heís already got themÖ (Art checks his pockets, and sure enough his keys are gone. He looks up in panic. Heís about to speak but Marlow stops him before he has the chance) I told you weíll talk more later. It will all be explained. For now though, no questions. Stay quiet and do as youíre told. Men, letís move!
The men and Art are seen to jog off silently into the dark foliage of the countryside.