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When self-confident, 19-year-old Ace Parks makes a split-second decision, it changes the trajectory of his life forever and puts a small child's life in the balance.

His compassionate girlfriend, Gabriella Capaldi, is horrified by the sudden events, but cannot envision her future without him.

They flee to France as a shady detective and an old nemesis of Ace's, hired by Gabriella's father, follow their trail. Meanwhile, Ace's lawyer uncle and his best friend also join the chase to bring them home.

Thrust into a foreign culture, things do not go as planned. Sooner than they wish, Ace and Gabriella are not just running from the law--they are scrambling to survive.

Chapter 1

A Routine Day Gone Berserk

Monday, May 19, 2003

Albany, NY

 

If Ace Parks had known what kind of day was ahead of him, he would have stayed in bed. It was a fairly cool day at 59 degrees, but spring had indeed sprung and people were finally getting outside. Driving to work he chuckled to see one guy in shorts and flip flops already barbecuing something in his driveway, completely oblivious to the grey skies overhead. Ace wore his favorite hoodie, a gift his Uncle Jerry had bought him at Niagara Falls a year earlier, to ward off the slight chill in the air. He hummed the classic rock song, “Eye of the Tiger,” as he pushed open the glass door with the word Luigi’s written on it in bold, black italics. The familiar smells of garlic, tomato sauce, and baking pizza greeted  him like old friends.

     Bill Stanley, the manager, was throwing pizza dough in the air at the far wall counter while two girls with phone headsets and red tee shirts with Luigi’s spelled out in white letters across the backs were taking orders and tapping keyboards in front of two flat screen monitors. Three other stations remained empty since it was not quite supper time yet. Valerie, the girl closest to the door smiled when he came in. She mouthed a silent “Hi Ace” and fist bumped him while the other stared straight ahead listening intently.

     “Hi Ace. What’s happening?” Stanley yelled over his shoulder while spreading the tomato sauce evenly on the uncooked pizza with the underside of a ladle. “Pete called in sick, so could you help with some deliveries tonight?”

     “No problem, Bill.”

     Ace walked briskly down the short corridor to his left and grabbed an electric Luigi’s sign from the back room. Piles and piles of empty Luigi pizza boxes stood like white towers against the back wall. Stanley always encouraged the drivers to put together the boxes during slow times so they would be ready when orders started. They came flat and it only took ten seconds to put them into shape. Sometimes the drivers had contests to see who was the fastest. Ace had it down to a science so no one came close, but they tried anyway.

     Ace picked up a spray bottle on the floor and moisturized the suction cups dangling from the thin metal arms on the sign and then went outside. He quickly put the clips from the sign on the passenger door window of his black 2001 Eclipse, threw in the electrical cord, pushed the suction cups against the glass, and then came around to the driver’s door. He leaned in and pulled the lighter out of its place and stuck the plug from the sign in the opening. He also turned on the key, which illuminated the sign, and pushed the button to raise the passenger window to the top to hold the clip fast.

     He walked quickly back inside the store and looked at the computer-generated strip of paper hanging from the top of the aluminum counter. He read the name: Wilson, address: 675 South Lincoln Ave., the price: $7.99, the order: large cheese pizza, and the time the order was given: 4:29 PM. Ace winced involuntarily when he saw the address. He ripped it down quickly and smoothed it to the side of the pizza box until it stuck. He then stuffed the box into a brown vinyl insulated bag that he pulled up from under the counter and closed the flap with the sound of Velcro.

     This wasn’t his favorite area to deliver in. A young black man was killed in a nearby state recently by what some believed was police brutality by white officers. To Ace, this neighborhood was a time bomb waiting to explode. He’d heard of drivers from other pizza places being chased by gangs, or even physically assaulted and robbed. Places like Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Little Caesar’s had stopped delivering there, which meant, of course, more orders for Luigi’s, but he sometimes feared for the drivers. He tried to convince Stanley to stop going there like the other stores, but he could tell his manager liked all the extra orders from the lack of competition. As long as nothing happened to his drivers Ace doubted anything would ever change. Ace was happy Stanley listened to him about only sending guys there, but he was wondering how long the manager would hold out with some of the girls complaining about fewer deliveries and threatening to contact the corporate office about him discriminating against them because of their gender.

     But there was another reason he didn’t want to go to that area, and he wasn’t about to tell Stanley. He hoped another driver would come in so he could hand it off to him, but none appeared and Stanley kept waving at him to get going.

     Ace made it to the address in less than ten minutes and turned into the driveway. Immediately he noticed a lively group of disheveled men sitting on the porch of a nearby house holding paper bags with glass bottle necks protruding from the tops. The drivers had mentioned this group before and even nicknamed it the “Ignited Nations,” because of the mixed nationalities present. A fellow driver named Jose Gonzales from Puerto Rico always asked anyone who went down there, “Hey, my man at the meeting? We need some representation you  know,” as a standing joke. A boom box blared out of a window somewhere, oblivious to the possibility of offending anyone’s musical taste or tranquility.

     As soon as Ace stepped out of his car with the pizza, a voice cried out, “Hey, boy, that’s my pizza!” The big, burly black man in the middle just stood up and put out his hand. A smaller white man to his right with a Boston Red Sox baseball cap, then spoke up: “What do you mean by that, Sonny? That’s my pizza.” The tall man just pressed his hand on the other man’s cap pushing it down over his eyes and the man back into his lawn chair. “I got a better idea, Boston. Why don’t you just sit down and shut up!”

     On the other side of the street, little boys and girls were riding bikes and zigzagging up and down driveways with their roller blades. Ace got out of the car, smiled in the direction of his spectators, and ran to the door and rang the doorbell. After a few minutes a forlorn looking woman in a ragged housecoat appeared and gave him the exact change in rolls of quarters, nickels, and pennies. He ran back to his car amidst mild protests from the onlookers next door. He looked in his rear-view mirror and saw nothing. He put the car in reverse and began moving. That’s odd, he thought. That little bump wasn’t there before. He heard a whimper and then silence.

     The big man yelled out from the porch. “He killed little Henrietta! Look! She’s not  moving.”

     Ace felt a cold sweat envelop his body. How had someone gotten behind his car? He could have sworn he had looked carefully. Pandemonium exploded. Mothers were screaming. Children were crying, and those men on the porch were coming at him full speed with the big man out in front. Out of nowhere Ace also saw a band of four gang members with red bandanas and black jackets appear from around the side of the green house across the street. One yelled out, “Hey, that’s his car” and pointed in Ace’s direction. That gang was the chief reason Ace was so nervous about coming to this area. In unison they all began to sprint in his direction. The lead runner looked like he was digging for something in his right pocket.

     Ace put the car in drive as a reflex. The big man was getting closer and he was chanting something like, “I’m gonna take care of this myself right now. Yes, sir. I seen that white boy do that on purpose and…and I’m gonna get ‘im.”

     Before Ace knew it his driver’s door flung open and a hand, the size of a baseball mitt, grabbed his shoulder. Ace didn’t hesitate. He pressed down hard on the accelerator and turned the steering wheel hard to the left. He felt the strong grip on his shoulder release as the car spun into the yard and over the curb to the street. The door clacked shut from the momentum. The arriving gang members jumped out of his way, cursing. A few of them were able to get off some loud punches to the car as a parting gift. Ace glanced into his side view mirror and saw a small girl in roller blades lying on the street and the big man clutching his arm. The man’s eyes were red and menacing and he shot up his middle finger and shouted, “We’re gonna get you, white boy!”

        From Readers

"I had to force myself to put it down. I read it within a week. I loved it !!!!" Sylviane H.  (Albany, NY -native French speaker)

"It is hard to find a great reading fast-paced book that is not morally objectionable. Not the case with Runaways, a book with both great spiritual and moral lessons. The book highlights the consequences of poor choices and the results of correct ones with can't-put-it-down interest..."

Lee Simmons D.Min.

International Director

Missio Global Ministries

"I truly enjoyed the creative writing and interesting journey of the characters from start to finish. Both the personal, relational and spiritual experiences and choices that were made by the various characters was suspenseful and inspiring as they faced adversity and opportunities that were placed before them...Thanks for a great read. I recommend this to all ages and beliefs." Greg C. Chittenango, NY

"...enjoyed it, wishing I had read it sooner. Character development of Ace was particularly believable. As a young man searching for truth and running from God in Albany at the same age as this guy, it was easy to relate to him. I also appreciated the dramatic contrast between counterfeit and genuine faith as portrayed by Rev. Johnston and Elijah Willliams. Finally, the relationship between Gabriella and Ace had the right amount of smooth and bumpy moments to keep it real...So, when is the sequel coming out? " 

Tom A., Albany, NY

 "...for teens and adults, this riveting page turner, filled with drama, action, love, and the power of God to work out what seems to be a bad situation that appears to have no good solution, will have the reader in suspense from the first chapter...Bring on the sequel!" Wayne S. Walker (blogger: https://homeschoolbookreviewblog.wordpress.com/) *

*My novel was selected by this blogger as "The Best Book of the Month" for November!

Author Tim Bennett: Reaching Out To Youth Through Fiction

May 2, 2018 The Good News Author Tim Bennett 

 

Interview conducted by Pat Shea

When it comes to writing, Tim Bennett has been successfully honing his craft a long time. “I’ve been writing since I was 12,” stated Bennett in a recent interview, “So that makes 54 years this June.”

Bennett, who grew up in Carmel, New York, now lives in Syracuse with his wife of 33 years, and is a father of three, as well as a grandfather. A jack-of-all trades, Bennett balances writing with driving for Uber, working for a market research company, running a publishing company and maintaining a website which offers movie reviews and commentaries by Bennett.

Publishing and writing though, remain a constant thread in Bennett’s life, and through his self-publishing company, Sel Publications, he has published five books for local authors.

“I originally started Sel Publications to publish my own books, but decided later that I also wanted to help others become authors as well,” explained Bennett. “I provide editing, writing and printing services through my network of contacts in the industry.”

Bennett has published three of his own books, With a Grain of Salt, Salt for the Table, which are collections of Bennett’s articles and essays published in a variety of publications, and most recently, Runaways, a fictional novel. According to Bennett, Runaways, “…presents the gospel in a creative way using some of my own testimony and experiences overseas to primarily reach young people.”

Bennett has always had an interest in working with teens, and for many years worked as missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in France and throughout Europe.

Runaways has been a work in progress, according to Bennett, for approximately 20 years. “Writing a novel is like running a marathon,” stated Bennett. “I was used to doing short sprints as I only wrote personal essays. Often, I would get discouraged and put it aside for long periods of time. Yet, whenever I picked it up again, I truly believed it was a good story with likeable characters, so I finally told myself a few years ago that this was the year to finish it.”

Letting God Take the Lead

Despite the lengthy creative timeframe to form the novel, Bennett admits Runaways also had its challenges. “[The hardest challenge was] probably just getting it done,” stated Bennett. “The next challenge was making sure I was consistent with everything throughout. For example, if Ace was driving a black Eclipse in chapter one I better have the car black in chapter three. One thing I noticed was sometimes I changed a detail, but did not necessarily change it everywhere. Fortunately, there is a feature on the computer where you can replace all the words at the same time.”

Bennet also felt led during the creative process to “do what God wanted me to do” with the story. And according to Bennett, the end result was worth it.

“The most rewarding [joy] is hearing people say, ‘I really loved it,’” explained Bennett. “My goal is not to write solely for my own enjoyment, but for others. My constant prayer is that people will be touched by the Lord in some way through it.”

Runaways centers on a teen, Ace, who runs away to France when encountering a serious situation in his life. Ace not only runs away from his problems, but also from God, a scenario that Bennett understands all too well. In fact, Bennett explained the creation of Ace was loosely based on events within his own life.

“[I probably relate closest to Ace] the main character, since I also ran away from my hometown with my girlfriend and resisted God for many years like he does. I can’t say that I was as smart as [Ace] is, however,” laughed Bennett. “I also relate well [to the character] the reporter, and his struggles to succeed in his field.”

Although Bennett creates his characters from his personal story mixed with imagination, he also uses qualities, traits and memories of others he has known in life to fashion his characters.

“I knew a guy in high school who built computers and was very mature in terms of where he wanted to go. I talked with him recently and discovered he became a millionaire by solving engine problems for Ford Motor Company. I decided to make Ace more like him, rather than like me, since I wanted a semi-intelligent suspense novel, not a nerdy comedy. I also wanted adults to enjoy the book.”

Although Runaways is complete and on sale, Bennett admits he may not be ready to put Ace’s adventures on the shelf just yet.

“I’ve been thinking of another story with Ace where he works for a detective who helps parents find their children who have been kidnapped for human trafficking, but I will have to see how the first one goes. I also want to write my memoir—A Kid from Kelly Ridge and Other Characters. Who knows, maybe a book about being an Uber driver could be fun.”

Bennett encourages others interested in writing and getting published with this advice.

“Write and keep writing. If you are, indeed, a writer, you will always come back to it no matter how discouraged you become, because you are writer–not because you write. It flows from who you are.”

Runaways is available in paperback through Bennett’s site, www.moviesandmemoirs.org.