Chapter 12:

The Ghoul Of Rapidity (Part I)

Black and White

(Scene one: Gambits)

After a couple of minutes, they arrived but they didn’t enter the ranch just yet. Brian and Phantom felt, been left out. Everywhere they looked, there was only Thoroughbred riding jockeys and they even had a separate team, just to look after their horses. Then one rider approached behind and next to Serena. “So, I got the chance again eh?” The guy whispered into Serena’s ear. Serena was startled and moved back with Swifty. She recognized the guy and surprised. “Marc!?” Serena said. “Long time no see Serena.” The guy smiled and said. “Sis, you know him?” Whitney probed. “Oh yeah. I met him two years back. When I came to this very same event.” Serena said. “Marcus Der Vries. Pleasure to meet you.” Marcus introduced himself. He saw the five different horses next to Serena. “Hey what do we have here? A Mustang, Morgan, Lipizzan, Shire and a Palomino? You all competing?” he asked. “Nope, only me and him; the one on the Mustang. The Morgan, Palomino with Akhal-Teke are riding for fun.” Serena said. “Oh. But I don’t see the Akhal-Teke.” He said. “He’s coming late. Here’s my question. Why don’t you look like a racer?” Pete said. “I’ll give you a brief answer. I’ll meet you in your cottage. See ya jockeys.” Marcus said and rode away with his horse. “He’s weird.” “He’s suspicious.” Charlotte and Pete said. “He’s…a…I’ve no word.” James tried to add up another word but he couldn’t. Emily and Harry giggled. “Stop laughing at your brother. I’m gonna pile up your chores.” James yelled to Harry. “Let’s get done with the registrations.” “Yeah” Whitney answered to what Brian suggested.

Later after they entered the ranch, Serena filled out an application form with participants’ names, horses, town, ranch and participating reason. Reason means whether the participant is competing or not. Then a lady gave two red cloths; sort of. They were for the horses. The cloths were unique by the number printed on it. Phantom got number eleven and Serena got number seventeen. “Your cottage number is one-nine-six. Here’s the keys. Thank you for participating.” The lady said. Charlotte thanked her for help and got the key. “Wait. Where is the cottage?” James asked. “Oh, I forgot. You three never been to this town. Well, you have a lot to catch up with. Follow the seniors, rookies.” Charlotte said and led the way.

Few short minutes later, they arrived to their cottage. Surprisingly, Marcus was there before them, with four other riders. All the four horses were grey Thoroughbreds with approximately the same height and probably in age too. “Hey guys! Can we have some tea with you?” Marcus asked while waving. “Since when did beggars become choosers?” Pete said in a low volume. “Ain’t that a bit rude, Pete? You shouldn’t treat guests as beggars.” Charlotte acted wise and nice. “You ain’t the one to say it.” Pete exclaimed. “Oh really? Should I bring up what you done in our first and last tea party?” Charlotte blackmailed Pete. “THAT WAS FOUR YEARS AGO.” “Then it’s fine to say right?” “Please don’t.” Pete said. “I wanna hear it!” James said. “She won’t say it. If she did it, she’s having less chances to blackmail Pete.” Serena said. “Stole the words right from my mouth.” Charlotte said and winked. She dismounted and opened the door of the cottage. Marcus and his friends and Broken Willows’ riders went to the backyard and tied their horses to the fence. There was no space for extra three horses. They entered and removed their winter gear and Serena lit the fire place to make the cottage warmer. There were five bunk beds inside the cottage. Brian, James and Whitney felt like the cottage has not much difference from the one in Iycehaven. Brian went to room and began to unpack his luggage. “Okay. Now you are IN OUR cottage. Who are you? And please don’t repeat the name.” Pete interrogated. Marcus sat on the couch in the living area. Charlotte prepared and served tea for everyone. She placed them on the table in front of the couch. ‘SHE’S FAST!’ James and Whitney in amazement. “Okay. I’m not a racer. Serena already knows who US are. We here to check whether the report sent by your town is true or not.” Marcus said. “Report? About what?” everyone got curious. “About, not sending the true winner. Disqualifying the winner if he or she rides a horse other than a Thoroughbred.” Marcus said and took out a letter from inside of his jacket. “Sent by a person called, Brian T. Bolt from Broken Willows.” He said and looked up at the other riders. They all turned to the room Brian went. “BRIAN! Come here, RIGHT NOW!” Charlotte went uneased. Brian noticed Marcus holding the letter he sent. “Oh, so you guys are the ones I addressed?” Brian asked. Marcus and his team nodded. “I actually didn’t think you’d be here on time. Thank you for supporting.” Brian said. Now, Pete was troubled. “CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN YOURSELF.” He yelled. “Sorry I forgot to mention. We are from National Equine Racing and Athletics Commission. In short NERAAC.” Marcus briefed. Everyone except Brian and Marcus’s team gasped. Brian was confused by their faces. “You. Sent a DIRECT letter…to NERAAC!?” Charlotte and Pete shouted while shaking Brian from shoulders. “Why don’t you have a cup-a-tea?” Serena said while taking her teacup. “This is huge than a cup of tea.” Charlotte said. “Will you give him a break.” James said. He and Whitney pulled Pete and Charlotte. Brian took a deep breath and sighed. “Why is everything so blurry?” Emily said. She was wobbling when she walks and she collapsed. “Emily! You need to sleep.” Brian lifted Emily and carried her to his bunked bed. “By the way, have you looked into my plan?” Brian said while coming out of the room. “I gotta say, that’s a well thought plan. But it’s tough right? Are you sure with your horses’ speed?” Marcus asked. “Nope. Tell me this. What if neither of us win?” Brian asked. “The plan will fail.” Marcus had to say it. “Marcus, will you explain the plan to everyone. I gonna feed Phantom before I sleep.” Brian asked. Marcus nodded. “Make sure us all know the complete plan.” Brian silently whispered to Whitney and James while on his way out.

Brian went into the backyard. Only Marcus’s team’s horses were awake. The rest was sleeping. “You guys must be full of energy for tomorrow. So, take some good rest.” Brian said and filled the trough near the fences with water. When he returned after few minutes, Marcus and his crew were about to leave. “Brian, we’ll be leaving. The others went to sleep, I think. Thank you for sending us information in detail. Otherwise these kinda cases won’t easily be checked. Because some newbies, to the sport. Almost every month we at least get one report about cheaters. I hope you understand. Once again. Thank you.” Marcus said. He and his team left after mounting their Thoroughbreds. ‘Oh, I almost forgot.’ Brian thought and went back to the backyard. He covered the horses with large blankets, covering from neck to tail. He then returned back to the cottage and switched off all lights and went to sleep.

In next day morning, even before the dawn, Charlotte woke up and directly went to the kitchen. Then later Serena and Pete woke up. They went to check their horses. They were glad Brian put the blankets on the horses. Pete and Serena stayed with the horses and made sure they were warm and ready to go full potential in the race. Charlotte went inside the room where Brian and James were sleeping. “WAKE UP!” she yelled. Brian and James frightened and fell off the top bunks of the beds. “Good morning! Here’s a hot coco.” Charlotte offered. Brian and James took it. They didn’t even open their eyes to take it. Like babies. Charlotte tried to do the same with Whitney but, for her luck, Emily and Harry sleeping. Charlotte didn’t want to wake them. So, she shook and wake Whitney in disappointment. And gave her, her hot chocolate. Serena came inside to take Brian. “Hey Brian, good morning! We need to go to…” When she entered Brian’s room, Brian and James were sleeping on the floor, with their mugs. “WAKE UP DUMMIES!” she yelled and fortunately at least Brian woke up. “BRIAN BOLT, we need to go to the race fields right now!” Serena rushed. “Why is that?” He asked drowsily. “If Phantom’s leg didn’t get adapted to the white turf, that’ll be a huge disadvantage to you. Although, that’ll make it easy for me to win.” Serena said the last words with a smirk. Brian’s blood started to flow and he got full of energy in an instant. “I won’t let you. PHANTOM!” Brian said and ran to the backyard. “Looks like that kinda sentences works with Brian eh? He he heee.” Serena said to herself. “Sis…are you talking to yourself?” Whitney asked. “WHAT!? Heavens NO! I was taking to James…apparently he fell back to sleep.” Serena saved herself. Pete knocked Brian and James’s room’s window. Serena lifted the window. “What?” she asked. “Nice save.” Pete complimented with a thumbs-up and a wink. Serena was pissed. She swiftly closed the windows, while Pete’s left elbow is on the window rail. Pete saw what comes and quickly took off his hand. “You almost crushed it!” he exclaimed. “What a pity. I wanted to cut it.” Serena said and left the room. Brian was already mounted and ready to leave. “White turf, here we come!” Brian shouted and Phantom replied with a neigh. “Wait! You don’t know where it is.” Serena stopped them the moment Phantom stepped outside. Brian’s excitement drained to displeasure. He had to wait until Serena come with Swifty.

(Scene two: Aptitude)

Swifty and Phantom came to the race course grounds. Brian felt an excited anxiousness. “Hold the feeling Brian. It means more when you remember.” Serena said. “A message to competitors. A message to competitors.” A female announcer said and continued. “You have one hour to get your horses adjusted to this white turf. Then after, the opening ceremony will be held, followed by the race. To qualify for the Inter-state tournament or December derby, finish the twelve-furlong race in least time. Only the first placed player will be eligible for the derby. Best of luck to all competitors.” The announcer finished her words. ‘I thought this gonna be a straight track’ Brian sounds unamused and disappointed. The racers formed a line so they all can adapt their horses to the tracks. “Three…two…one…GO!” a rider said and all except Brian whooshed. Serena didn’t want to, because Swifty was confident with the track. Before even Brian realized, the practising round turned to a competition on its own. “Don’t get dragged to their pace just yet mate. I need you in full energy to the real game.” Brian said to Phantom. It was the only horse from the entire set of competitors that walked on the turf made for run. 

After that one hour, the opening ceremony began. James and Whitney came and joined the audience with Emily and Harry just in time. Charlotte and Pete came with their horses to the third track of the race course after the ceremony started. It’s smaller than the main track. They arrived a bit late, because they received a letter from Gold-key ranch. The letter says that Jane, Jessica, Natasha and Marshall got piled up with chores and won’t make it to the event. And it also mentioned that Oliver’s situation is much serious than they thought and Gerald will be staying with him. But, thanks to the NERAAC’s assistance, absence of their friends, won’t bother the accomplishment of the plan.

Then after five minutes, a male announcer took the seat. And he was literally crazy. His voice had ups and downs, technically like a wave form. “Now all the jockeys are getting ready at THEIR STATIONS, for the grand intertown, STATE QUALIFIERS!” and he said it in one breath. ‘this guy is inhuman.’. That’s what Brian thought about the announcer. There were twenty participants including Phantom and only a handful were nonThoroughbreds. The jockeys entered the starting gate. A starting gate, was actually a portable gate like machine, pulled by a tractor (or vehicle capable of moving it), to ensure to give a fair start to the race. 

Moments later, snow started to fall slowly. But the organizers weren’t planning to postponed the event. Luckily all racers and crew were informed to wear winter gear. Racers are wearing thick (light as normal) jackets and wearing winter goggles. ‘I hope Phantom is all right behind the gates.’ Serena thought. But Phantom refused to go inside the starting gate. Inside the starting gate was the exact opposite of spacious. Phantom felt he was restricted to move so it went uneasy to control. Brian pulled back Phantom. “FIVE minutes left folk!” the announcer said. “Excuse me miss, can I join the race belated?” Brian asked from a starting gate crew member. “Are you insane!? You won’t have time to catch up. If you wanna try, there’s no rule saying you can’t.” She replied. Brian nodded and dismounted. Brian went inside the gate and signalled Phantom to trust him and come inside the gate. “When they allowed to run, I’ll go ahead. Catch up to me and run. Okay boy?” Brian said to Phantom to calm it down. “The race is about to commence. Three, two, one…” Announcer said. And that last second, all the two feet wide gates opened at the same time. All the racers rocketed with their horses but, Brian started the race. The audience laughed when the announcer mocked him at the beginning. But a second later, Brian waved Phantom to run, the black Mustang rushed and approached Brian swiftly. Brian mounted on the moment Phantom went parallel to him. The audience gasped and the announcer praised that all-new action. But that was just the beginning. Phantom started to pass one after the other. Phantom was more eye-catching to the occasion because of its pitch-black colour with the snowing time on the white turf.

“Number nine is taking the lead and followed by number seventeen, WITHOUT A GAP. Wait a minute. WHAT AM I SEEING HERE FOLKS? Number eleven is CATCHING UP. Oooo. Number three, Silverwhite and number four, Firesnow collapsed. Already half the way there to the finish line folks. More than FIVE FURLONGS covered at the moment…” the announcer said without a break and still continues. 

“…WHO is this newbie rider? Can he reach the end? Looks to be number nine, Colt-The-Filly winning…OR IS IT number seventeen, Swifty? And here PHANTOM TOOK THE THIRD. Who will win?” announcer said.

Seconds later, announcer again opened his crazy jukebox mouth “I can’t BELIVEN THIS! PHANTOM TOOK THE LEAD! What A manoeuvre there. PHANTOM pushed back, Swifty and Colt-The-Filly. No way they can catch up to this unearthly MUSTANG. Who’s the second? Colt-The-Filly or Swifty.”

Then another couple of seconds later the race came to an end. “AND IT IS DECIDED. Phantom the Mustang in THE FIRST; finishing the race in RECORD BREAKING a hundred and nineteen point eight seconds. Too bad for the last year’s champion. And Second goes to Colt-The-Filly finishing in a hundred and twenty-three point nine seconds and third goes to, Swifty! Finishing in about a second later. A hundred and twenty-five point ZERO seconds. This is the first time in HISTORY, a mustang competed and won the state qualifiers.” The announcer publicly announced in full of excitement. Few horse riders entered out from the middle of the turf and grabbed the reins of Colt-The-Filly’s and Swifty’s to gradually slow them down. “No no NO!” Brian halted the rider tried to approach Phantom. Brian, by himself slowed down Phantom. “Sorry mate. If you tried to stopped him, you’d be in the infirmary.” Brian tried to make sense. “I understand. Thanks for the save…Champ. Congrats.” The rider said and left the tracks.

Serena came close to Brian. She grabbed and hugged Brian. “YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT!” Serena shouted and her eyes were all watery. “First part of the plan is done and dusted. Now’s the hard part.” Brian said. Moments later the female announcer took back the seat. “Jockeys of, number eleven; Phantom, number nine; Colt-The-Filly and number seventeen; Swifty…Please return to the same course after one hour, with your horses, for the awards ceremony. Thank you.” she said.

The second placed rider approached to Brian and Serena after the announcement. He removed his goggles, just to show his eyes. Serena and Brian gasped after recognizing him. “You were with Marcus, right?” Serena asked “You are a lady!?” Brian surprized. Apparently the ‘he’ was a ‘she’. “I am, as part of the team. And I'm also the jockey selected from my home town for this race. But I didn’t want to get defeated by you two. We did our best and that alone isn’t enough to win I guess.” She said while patting her horse’s neck. “I’d say, now we can easily execute our plan. If Brian’s theory is correct, then only you get the correct address.” Serena said to the rider. “Yeah. I forgot. My name is, Gwen Edison and Llongyfarchiadau! To both of you.” Gwen congratulated in Welsh. “What’s the last word?” Serena was troubled. “Thank you, and congratulation to you too.” Brian said. ‘So that means congrats.’ Serena thought. Then he and Serena shook hands with Gwen. They stayed out, off the white turf for the time been.

After the one hour, the award ceremony commenced. Marcus and his other teammates went to the communication room. They showed who there were, by showing their IDs. The announcers and media operators backed down and Marcus’s team took over the communications within the race course. Marcus told the announcers continue their duty normally. “Now we’ll begin the awards ceremony. Third place, goes to, number seventeen. Jockey; Serena Ryte and Thoroughbred; Swifty.” The female announcer said. Serena and Swifty approach the stage. She was given a bouquet of roses in white and yellow colours with a small plaque with a bronze colour horseshoe, by the president of the organizing committee of the event. “Second place, goes to, number nine. Jockey; Gwen Edison and Thoroughbred; Colt-The-Filly.” When Gwen’s name was called out, she approached. She was also given the same as Serena got. The only difference was the horseshoe on her plaque was coloured in silver (not real silver). But also, she was given a small letter like slip of paper. “And now for this year’s victor. FIRST PLACE, goes to, number eleven. Jockey; Brian Bolt and Mustang; PHANTOM!” The audience stood up and cheered. Brian came to the stage on Phantom. Phantom was given a garland of red roses and Brian received a plaque with a golden horseshoe and a bouquet of red roses. Nothing less and nothing more. While Brian receiving all those stuffs, Gwen read the slip she got. It said,

December derby,
Date : 24th December
Venue : Saints’ downs racecourse, Angel garden. 

Gwen lifted the paper up. The audience was confused. ‘So, Brian was right. Damn he’s too smart.’ Serena thought. Marcus took over the announcing process. “This is president of December derby organising committee from National Equine Racing and Athletics Commission speaking. NERAAC received a complained, saying for the past few years, various competitors were clandestinely disqualified after they became winners. The reason was said to be those players rid nonThoroughbred horses. But according to the official rules, there’s no such reason exist, saying a jockey will be selected for the inter-state derby only if he or she rid a Thoroughbred.” Marcus spoke. Pete and Charlotte, who are running in the third track, stopped and prepared for the plan. The audience was troubled and some derby fans, who came to watch almost all the inter-town derbies, yelled saying the fact is true. “President of state qualifier committee, in this region. You are to be interrogated in the next official meeting. And dear viewers, ones you see raced in the third track are past two consecutive years’ champions.” Marcus informed him and spoke to the audience. Pete and Charlotte showed their plaques. The president of the event’s organizing committee had to walk away in embarrassment after becoming the man behind the crime. “AND…” Marcus continued. “…Brian Bolt, you are, on my behalf, invited to participate in the December derby as the winner of this state.” Marcus finished his lines and went out of the communication room with his teammates. The crowd applaud Brian for his achievement and NERAAC for the actions against the criminals. This made Brian’s name is now most by chance, marked by derby fans and most incredibly by NERAAC; which is one of the rarest things an equestrian can get.

“Finally. The plan is successful.” Brian said after a heavy sigh. He and Serena dismounted from their horses. “BRIAN!” Pete shouted. Pete and Charlotte came rushed toward Brian. “Well, thanks to you, now we can have real races. You must win the December derby Brian. Pob lwc! Hwyliau!” Gwen said and left. This time not even Brian understood the words. “Same to you! BYE! SAFE TRAVELS!” Brian said and waved back at Gwen with Serena; didn’t stop smiling and waving until Gwen exited the grounds. “What are those words even mean?” Serena turned back and asked. “I don’t know. I didn’t understand that language much. But Emily knows.” Brian said. Second later Pete and Charlotte came. They dismounted and ran and hugged Brian. “Thank you so much.” They said. “Okay okay. No probe. Gimme some space please.” Brian said breathlessly. Then Pete and Charlotte un-hugged him.

“We have a huge problem.” Whitney said while dragging James, while pulling from his ear. “Whitney, please stop. It hurts.” James’s eyes are watery because of the pain. Harry was appalled by seeing his brother’s face. “What did he do?” Charlotte asked. “This moron bought ticket on wrong date and time.” Whitney unhanded James’s ear. And his ear was red as an apple. “What is the date anyway?” Pete asked while pinching and rubbing his eyebrows. “The train is at six O’ clock THIS evening.” Whitney said. The riders gasped. “We still have a couple of hours…” James said with cold sweat. “You guys do your things, you planned. I need to buy few souvenirs. I’m heading to find some places to buy them.” Brian said and mounted Emily on Phantom. “Wait I’m coming too. You don’t know the paths.” Serena joined. “Then we’ll all go together.” Charlotte said and they all went out for shopping together.

After few exhausting shopping hours, the riders had bought an overloaded number of souvenirs altogether. They return back to the cottage to pack their bags to leave and go home. James looked at the ticket to remember he’s returning home. But he was stunned. He misread the tickets as the train is at six O’ clock. But actually, the tickets said four O’ clock. The time was in twenty-four-hour format. So, its 1600h, James just didn’t notice the ‘1’. “G…guys…please don’t kill me but…” “But what?” Brian interrupted. “The train is coming at four.” James said. He was metaphorically soaking wet in cold sweat. Serena, Pete, and Charlotte started cracking joints while looking at James. “Uh…staring at him won’t get us to the station. So, we’ll be leaving.” Whitney said. Brian, Emily and Whitney had already packed up and outside, mounted on their horses. “HEY! WAIT!” the rest of the riders rushed. To catch the train, they should reach the station within four minutes. “Seriously James I’m gonna kill you if we miss the train.” Charlotte said. If they missed the train, they couldn’t go back anytime soon, because they spent literally all of their money on the souvenirs. Will the riders reach the station? Fortunately, they did manage to get IN their crate, JUST in the nick of time. James started breathing hard and deep from escaping his death. “Now you know a way to meet the death. Just piss off the elites or make a god forsaken meal.” Brian said with a smirk. “Do you want me to die THAT HORRIFICALLY?” James said. Everybody laughed. Even the horses. The train left the station precisely one minute after they entered.

To be continued