By John Strickland
Zac wrenched ineffectually in his straitjacket. His skills as an escape artist would do him no good in that maximum security prison restraint.
He didn’t know whether to find help or to hide. He just stood there bewildered for a while, his bare feet cold on the damp sidewalk.
A car went by. It didn’t even slow down. No-one in that car had noticed his plight.
There was a jogger coming down the hill towards him. The guy didn’t immediately take him in, busy with his music, delivered loudly over his earphones from his iPod.
He dug his heels in and braked hard as he saw the figure stepping out in front of him.
He tugged the little earplugs out of his ears.
“Shit guy!” he said, quickly assessing Zac from head to toe. “What the fuck’s happened to you?”
Zac grunted. The muzzle didn’t allow much more communication. He raised one elbow as much as he could and turned slightly, indicating to the young guy he should unstrap the straitjacket.
“You escaped from somewhere?” he asked as if he would get a reply. “You shouldn’t be here, buddy,” he said. “You look kinda dangerous!”
Zac stepped towards him.
The jogger stepped back.
“Don’t get too near me, dude!” he said. “I’ll get you help.”
He dialled 911 on his cell phone.
Stefan was watching all this from behind his tree. The jogger was hot, about their age and with a nice body. Stefan decided he’d let Zac get the best of the guy before he stepped in to rescue him. Stefan had decided this was not such an awesome joke after all. He had decided to put an end to Zac’s ordeal.
The guy was making a call.
“Stefan!” a loud whisper called. “Stefan! We’re over here!”
Stefan turned round. Chris, Kyle, Mark and Brad were in the bushes just behind him. They had parked the car somewhere.
Stefan glanced at Zac on the other side of the road. He was still trying to somehow convey the idea to the runner that he should unbuckle him. He had his back turned. Stefan shot the few steps backwards and disappeared into the undergrowth with the four guys.
When he looked back, Zac had been joined by yet another runner out for his early exercise.
The two sportsmen were obviously discussing the situation. The new guy wasn’t so afraid of the trussed-up madman, and he actually put his hand on Zac’s shoulder, turning him around to examine the straitjacket’s strapping.
Just as Stefan thought he was actually going to free Zac, suddenly the two guys took off. They just jogged off together, leaving Zac standing there alone again, helplessly bound up, unable to tell anyone what had happened.
How could they have done that?
Stefan’s heart went out to his boyfriend.
“I’m gonna get him!” said Stefan. “This ain’t funny no more!”
“Leave him just a while,” said Brad smiling. “Zac’s always playing tricks on us guys. Let him be on the receiving end for a change.”
The other guys laughed quietly.
“OK,” said Stefan, trying to sound confident. “Let’s see what happens.”
He had only met Zac’s friends the day before. He had spent a couple of hours teaching the guys how to overpower and straitjacket Zac. He couldn’t back down now, – not this quickly.
But there was Zac over there, – needing him.
Two guys came up the path this time, out for their morning stroll. One was wearing shorts and a black leather jacket, the other faded and torn jeans and a hoody.
Stefan thought Zac would run off, but he stood his ground.
“Oh, YEAH!” said the guy in the leather jacket. “Awesome!”
The other guy said something, but Stefan didn’t catch it from their hiding place on the other side of the street.
“That jacket is AWESOME!” said the guy again, obviously very impressed by Zac’s restraint.
“He’s probably one of those escape artists from the pier!” said the other.
“You think so?” said the leather-jacketed guy. “Looks a bit too much like the real thing, if you ask me!”
Stefan lost track of the conversation when a car drove by between them.
“….. How’d he get out all tied up like that, then?” the one said.
“Perhaps he fell out of an ambulance or a police transporter or something! How should I know?” the other said.
Zac was turning around, showing them the straps, his eyes imploring them to unstrap him.
“He wants the jacket off!” said the guy in the hoody.
“Well that’s not surprising!” said the guy in the black jacket. “Who wouldn’t?” He actually went to grasp a strap.
“Are you crazy!” said the other, pulling his friend away. “He’s in a fucking straitjacket, for heaven’s sake. They don’t put people in them things for nothing!” he said.
He tried to pull his friend away further.
“He doesn’t look dangerous,” said the guy. “Look at him! He’s a real good-looking dude. He’s scared!”
“You find every dude good-looking!” said the guy in jeans. “Let’s get out of here. Don’t let’s get involved.”
Reluctantly the guy in the leather jacket followed his friend away from Zac who was trying to explain to them, to tell them he was just a student. …… and it was his friends who had …., – and it was his 21st birthday.
“Sorry dude!” said the guy as they headed off. “Awesome jacket, though!” he added.
Zac was standing there alone again.
The sun was coming through.
Zac nearly jumped out of his straitjacket when a huge Doberman dog barked at him from behind. The owner had the lead wrapped round his hands and was holding the dog back with all his strength.
“What the fuck are you up to, you pervert!” he screamed at Zac. “What the hell are you wearing?”
Zac ran down the street. He hid between two dumpsters.
“That’s it!” said Stefan. “I’m going to him!”
The other guys were finding this all very funny.
Chris was filming.
“Just keep cool, dude!” said Kyle using the opportunity to put his arm around Stefan’s shoulder as if to hold him back. “He’s OK!”
“He’s not OK!” said Stefan. “Look at him!”
Zac was cowering between the big trash cans, crouching in his white PVC pants. Stefan would have been there in a second if he had been able to see from the distance that Zac’s eyes were filled with tears.
“Let me go!” said Stefan shrugging off Kyle’s hold. “I’m going to him!”
At that moment a police patrol car pulled up with a little whoop, its red and blue lights flashing.
Stefan stopped dead.
“Oh, no!” he gasped.
“Oh YES!” said Mark, thoroughly enjoying the whole scene. “Make sure you get this on film!” he said to Chris unnecessarily.
Two male cops, so young they had to be rookies, stepped out of the patrol vehicle.
“He’s in there!” said a woman pointing. A little crowd of four or five people had gathered.
One of the cops put his hand on his gun and cautiously headed towards the dumpsters.
“It’s OK, guy,” he said seeing Zac. “We’re here to help you. We ain’t gonna do you no harm.” He spoke to Zac as though he were a child.
Zac pulled his knees up and tried to make himself as small as possible. He felt cornered, surrounded by strangers looking down at him with wide eyes.
“He broke out of a mental hospital, – I heard it on the news,” said one guy.
“Yeah, I think I heard that, too,” said another. “He’s real dangerous!”
“Killed five people!” said the woman knowledgably.
“OK, – Just back off guys!” said the second cop. “How ‘bout if you all get back a few yards, OK?” He stretched out his arms and led them back out of the way.
“You gonna come out of there, buddy?” asked the first cop, stretching out his hand.
Zac looked up.
“Come on, – let me help you up,” said the young officer, still cautiously holding his hand out.
“He’s in a straitjacket!” said the other cop, back to help now he had got the spectators out of the way. “He can’t take your hand!”
“Straitjacket?” said the first cop.
“Yeah, you idiot! He’s all tied up! Can’t you see that?” said the second.
“I ain’t never seen no one in a straitjacket, Nick!” said the first cop again. “What’s he got on his head?”
“For Christ’s sake, Riley, let’s get the poor guy out of there. Can’t you see he’s scared out of his wits?”
The cop called Nick put his shoulder to one of the dumpsters and shoved it out of the way, widening the narrow gap Zac had slid in to.
Across the road, hidden by the bushes, the four guys were having a hard job holding Stefan back.
“Let me go!” said Stefan, twisting against their grip. “This ain’t funny no more!”
“He’s OK!” said Brad, laughing. “Zac’s having a real good time! This is AWESOME!” he said.
Several hands were holding Stefan. Suddenly he felt the cold of a steel band being snapped around his right wrist. Before he fully realised it, the guys had his hands firmly cuffed behind his back.
“Though we might need these!” said Mark, laughing. “Zac said you can get kinda protective-like!” he said.
Stefan went to cry out. Zac needed him. Kyle clamped his hand over Stefan’s mouth. He enjoyed doing that. Stefan’s blue eyes were blazing. He was even hotter in real life than on the “Rain” posters.
“Zac’s always playing tricks on us!” said Mark. “He handcuffed me naked to the shower after wrestling!” he said, looking as though he had enjoyed the whole experience.
“Yeah, and he padlocked my leather jacket shut when I fell asleep on the bus back from a wrestling match!” added Brad. “Wouldn’t give me the key! Had to wear it all day in 90-degree heat!”
“How terrible that must’ve been!” thought Stefan, fighting to get away from Kyle’s hand across his mouth. Stefan wore leather and even black PVC in any weather.
“They’re taking him to the patrol car!” said Chris, zooming in with the camera.
Handcuffed and held back by strong hands, Stefan fought to rush over to his boyfriend. Zac looked so dejected. He looked so sad. What had he been thinking, putting him out there all alone, bound up and unable to speak? Things were going very wrong. There wasn’t much left of the exuberant brown-eyed skater boy with the longish wild hair. There was just a defeated barefooted prisoner in shiny white clinical PVC pants, his body strapped up tightly in a straitjacket, a brown harness buckled on his head, the leather pressing hard over his mouth, muzzling him like a mad dog.
-end of excerpt-
You can read even MORE works by John Strickland at the Houdini Connections website. ALSO: you can write to the author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask (politely!) for the entire text of “Zac’s 21st Birthday.” Be sure to mention the Metalbond website in your request to him, and don’t forget to send him feedback.
And … Metal would like to thank is buddy Mark for his assistance in preparing this excerpt for posting here. Thanks, bro!