Carbon Copy Excerpt
"The Swamp" chase scene
“Let’s go, Gators!” Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap! “Let’s go, Gators!” Clap, clap, clap, clap, clap! Lilly clapped her hands and sang one of the many Florida Gator cheers. She, and seventy-five thousand other Gator fans, packed into The Swamp. Of course, this proved typical for any Florida Gator football game, but especially a game as important as Florida vs. Florida State.
Florida Gator fans nicknamed Florida Field as “The Swamp.” The Swamp could hold over eighty-five thousand people and represented more than just twenty-two players throwing a pigskin ball on a one-hundred yard long grass field. The Swamp represented an experience like none other.
Lilly and Luke usually sat in a block of seats with her sorority sisters in the student section. Even though they graduated two-and-half-years ago, there were always tickets to be found in the student section. If one knew the right people, of course. Students quickly learned the lucrative business of selling their much-desired seats for the best games. The thought of one-hundred dollars or more in quick cash tempted many starving college students. After all, one-hundred dollars lasted forever on a bar tab at the Purple Porpoise.
Luckily, for this game, they acquired four tickets in the Touchdown Terrace located in the north-end zone. Lilly and Luke sat with their twin cousins, Kitty and Pat, who were also Florida Alumni. Although the air-conditioned suite seemed exponentially tamer than the standing room only seats of the student section, the crazy, hyped-up atmosphere of The Swamp still filtered into their pores.
The first half of the football game flew by, along with their buzzes. The foursome tailgated prior to kick-off. Kitty and Lilly sobered up as they watched their beloved Gators stay ahead on the scoreboard. However, Luke and Pat acted drunker and drunker as the game progressed. Lilly first became suspicious of their juvenile behavior as she watched them consume numerous diet cokes. But their mysterious trips to the men’s room confirmed her suspicions. She figured out their scheme. The boys sneaked contraband into the game: Captain Morgan’s spiced rum.
Lilly never desired to sneak booze into The Swamp; drinking both before and after the game seemed more than sufficient. Besides, the thought of Luke and Pat, or anyone else, mixing drinks in the men’s room at The Swamp repulsed her. She prayed the boys were smart enough not to get caught. Lilly didn’t wish to witness Luke and Pat being ejected from the football game.
Assuming security took the intoxicated fans to jail. She’d made up her mind she and Kitty would wait until after the game ended to bail their twin truants out of jail.
It would completely screw up her well-laid itinerary for the late afternoon, though. She didn’t want to miss meeting up at the sorority with her friend, Rachel, after the game.
* * * *
The clock turned zero at halftime, and Lilly hollered with the crowd. The Gators led by a touchdown. The Florida State marching band filed onto the field. Lilly scrunched her nose in distaste and turned to Kitty.
“Hey, I’m going to the student section to see my sorority sisters. Do you want to join me?” Lilly asked Kitty.
Kitty, who was now in her thirties, shook her head. “No, thanks. Each time I return here, the students look younger and younger. It’s depressing.”
“Don’t be silly, you look fantastic. You could pass for my twin,” Lilly gushed.
“Thanks, Lil’.” Kitty smiled.
“Can you tell Luke where I went since we’re both without a cell phone?”
“If he and Pat don’t get kicked out.” Kitty laughed.
Lilly exited the comfort of the Touchdown Terrace in the north-end zone and entered the breezeway to the east-side stands. In the student section, the fans were packed in like a herd of cattle. Not because the seats were any smaller than the rest of the stadium, but because the students tried to squeeze in twice as many bodies into the bleachers.
All of these extra bodies crammed together, combined with the heat and humidity of Florida, made the student section resemble a swamp. And everyone in this area stood the entire game, too, all the way up to the top on row ninety.
Lilly finally made it to one of the gates to enter the student section. She hoped the ticket attendants wouldn’t bother to check her ticket stub since she did not have an assigned seat anywhere near this area.
Through the sea of heads floating in the breezeway, Lilly saw a familiar plaid wool hat. She stopped cold in her tracks. She recognized the same hat from the airport in Miami. Oh shit!
Standing by the gate, she saw the man in the pink baseball cap who’d followed her in New York City. His eyes scanned the crowd. He looked for someone—Lilly. And so did his Irish friend in the wool cap. There were two men after her. Shit, shit, shit!
Lilly froze for several seconds in the crowd of football fans. She needed to do something, anything but stand here like an easy target. She definitely did not want to wind up face-to-face with her stalkers. So she ducked into the nearest safe-haven she could find—the ladies’ room... through the exit door.
This act of rudeness yielded countless dirty looks from all of the other women who waited in the long line to pee. She paused upon the realization of her own faux pas. Unfortunately, her hesitation only gained her several more looks of disdain.
With a strong desire to avoid a revolt from the mob of pissed-off looking women, Lilly wanted to prove to everyone she’d never commit such a heinous crime as cutting line in the ladies room. So she made a beeline to one of the many sinks against the wall.
Lilly splashed cold water on her face and chest in a futile effort to cool off. Scared and trapped, she looked at her flushed complexion in the mirror above the sink. Calm down, Lilly. Think, think, think!
She reached for her cell phone to call Luke, but in the small purse she found nothing but cash, lipstick, a hairbrush and keys. “Shit!” Lilly blurted out her frustration. She forgot Grier carried her BlackBerry. She thought about asking one of these ladies if she could use their cell phone, but she wasn’t yet on speaking terms with anyone in this room.
Maybe she should call security. But without a phone or a friendly face nearby, the option evaporated. The second she left the safety of the ladies’ room she would be captured by two men who were most likely trying to kill her if she were to judge from the earlier incident in the Keys.
To escape them, she needed to disguise her appearance and get the hell away from this part of the stadium. She carefully studied her current appearance in the mirror and tried desperately to figure out how to best blend in with all of the other women here today. She couldn’t risk standing out in the crowd.
Lilly looked down at her clothes. Her Gator-blue tank top and cut-off denim shorts barely covering her ass could blend in with all of the other female students with a little adjusting.
She returned to her reflection and now focused her attention on her most distinguishing feature—her long-blonde hair. Shit! Her beautiful hair! How can she possibly disguise her hair? Although the University of Florida came fully loaded with drop-dead gorgeous blondes, she knew she needed to remove her long, golden locks. Shit! Shit! Shit!
She could cut it, but the thought brought tears to her eyes. How could she possibly cut off her locks without scissors? Besides, she’d rather die a thousand deaths than cut-off all of her hair. There had to be another way.
Her mind struggled to find a practical solution to her dilemma. She looked at the girl standing next to her in front of the mirror. The girl next to her wore a Gator baseball cap. It was the perfect solution, but how to obtain it?
Lilly reached into her pocket and withdrew a wad of twenty-dollar bills. Cash in hand, she turned to look at the girl. “I’ll give you twenty bucks for your baseball cap.”
The girl turned and looked at Lilly. She stared at the wad of cash in Lilly’s hand. “You can have it for forty.”
“Done.” Lilly handed the girl two twenty-dollar bills. She took the baseball cap.
Lilly twirled her hair into a bun and piled the whole thing on top of her head. She placed the newly acquired, albeit expensive, baseball cap on top of her head. Each strand of blonde hair was tucked under the cap, effectively hiding all traces of her natural hair color. Perfect.
Lilly placed the gargantuan Chanel sunglasses over her eyes. The eyewear covered half of her face. She studied herself in the mirror, satisfied with the transformation. Amazingly, no one would know her.
Lilly turned to thank the girl next to her. Without the benefit of a baseball cap to cover her head, the girl since decided to brush out her hair—her long, blonde hair. Another great opportunity presented itself. The tall girl also wore a blue tank-top and short denim shorts.
“Thanks again,” Lilly said to the fellow Gator fan, now forty-dollars richer.
“No problem,” she said without looking away from her own reflection.
“Excuse me, but can I buy another favor?”
“Depends on the favor.”
“You see, I’m in a bit of a bind here. Can you go out of the exit here, turn left, and walk down the ramp in the breezeway?” Lilly asked.
“Why would I want to go left? My seat is to the right,” the girl said cunningly.
“Because I’ll give you one-hundred dollars,” Lilly said flatly. She revealed another fistful of cash without missing a beat.
“I’ll do it for two-hundred.”
“Look, this is all the money I have,” Lilly pleaded as she lied through her pearly-white teeth.
“But why do you need for me do this for you?”
She certainly asked a fair question. And Lilly’s request put the girl at great risk, but the greedy girl didn’t need to know the details. “It’s a long story, but the bottom line is I’m here at the game today with two different boyfriends. And I really don’t want them to find out about each other while I decide which one I like better. One of them may be outside waiting for me, and I don’t want him following me out of the ladies’ room while I go and see the other guy.” Lilly hoped she wouldn’t have to bullshit this story any more than necessary.
“Oh, I see. Say no more.” The girl snatched the money from Lilly’s hand and headed towards the exit of the ladies’ room. “You go, girl!” she said proudly, just before she made her left hand turn out of the bathroom and into the breezeway.
Lilly stayed behind for two minutes, hoping enough time elapsed since her savior’s exit. Keeping her head down, she walked out, turned right, and strode as fast as she could without drawing any undesired attention to herself.
Did the men follow her? Unable to resist any longer, she turned her head around to look back. The infamous plaid, wool hat floated down the breezeway, headed in the opposite direction. Hurrah!
Relieved at the success of her ruse, she traveled quickly through the half-time crowd. With the breezeway heavily packed with fans who tried to purchase their concessions and take their restroom breaks, she blended in with the masses.
Lilly turned the corner, which connected the east-side of the stadium to the new north-end zone. And then she hesitated. Shit! She couldn’t go back to her seat. Her standing next to Luke would certainly make her more noticeable. If one of her stalkers used a pair of binoculars, they’d spot them with a methodical search of the stadium. Besides, she didn’t want to put Kitty, Luke, and Pat at risk. The stalkers wanted her, although she failed to understand why.
Lilly decided to leave the stadium right then while the fans still crowded the area. She could always watch the rest of the game at the sorority house where she could get in touch with Luke. He’d worry about her once she failed to return to his side for the second half of the football game. He might even wonder if the security guards ejected her from the game.
She decided to send him a text message. She reached for her BlackBerry before she remembered its absence. After cursing for leaving her phone on the Create Life jet, she figured she could just call Kitty from the sorority house. So she walked until she exited The Swamp. A crowd of people was already leaving the game. All of them headed to either tailgate or drink at one of the many bars strategically located close to the stadium.
With countless other Gator fans surrounding her and an abundance of big, strong males around, she calmed down a bit. Lilly just kept on walking. She walked all the way to her sorority house and her sisters. She arrived at the house and collapsed on the nearest couch, still terrified. Was she completely paranoid? Or were those two men really looking for her at the game?