Chapter 24:

Impromptu Investigation: Lucas

Insurmountable Odds

“Are we there yet?” Quinn groaned from the seat across from me.

“We haven’t even started moving yet.” Sam replied, mimicking her tone.

“Well maybe it’d be easier for me to tell if someone hadn’t stolen my shotgun!” Quinn glared into the passenger seat at Cole.

“I told you I get carsick easily. Would you rather I throw up all over the back of this van?” Cole replied dryly.

“Please don’t, it’s a rental.” The captain joked, interjecting himself back into the conversation.

I sunk deeper into my half-deflated seat as their bickering continued, preparing myself for the events of the day.

As I was getting settled next to a small box of our gloves, my phone buzzed from within my pocket.

“Your tournament is today, right?” Hazel’s name donned the top of the message bubble.

“Yep, wish me luck!” I replied immediately, unsure of when we’d begin moving and potentially lose signal.

“Where are you competing by the way?” She asked shortly after my reply. “I havent heard of anything nearby”

“Strogun U’s sports hall”

After a few minutes of radio silence, she briefly responded with a “gl” and went offline.

As I turned off my own phone to save battery, the van jittered to life and we were on our way to the tournament.

“If I see any one of you unbuckled, I will turn this car around.” Sam yelled over his shoulder as he pulled out of the parking lot.

“Yes mother” Andrew retorted sarcastically.

“Hey now, as your captain, you should treat me with more respect.” Sam barked back at Alix. “If you’re going to call me anything, call me daddy.”

“Hey, I’m not going to kink shame what you and Quinn get up to in the bedroom but don’t try to drag us into it.” Alix quipped.

As he finished his sentence, he was met with a murderous glare from Quinn.

“Sam, sweetie? Could you help me break every bone in his body real quick?” Quinn asked coldly, not dropping her glare as she spoke.

“Aw, honey, I’m driving right now.” The captain replied, playing into the joke, “Can your bloodlust wait twenty more minutes?”

“I dunno…” Quinn finally blinked only to get a twisted look in her eyes. “His fingernails are looking mighty pluckable right now.”

Before any blood was shed, Madison interjected scoldingly.

“Ladies, you’re both pretty. We have another eighteen minutes ahead of us so if y’all could just calm your tits and get ready for the actual fights ahead of us, that’d be great.”

“Yes Mommy,” Andrew whispered from next to me.

Before I could even blink, the vice-captain had spun 180 degrees and backhanded him with a notebook.

This is going to be a long drive…

Twenty chaotic minutes of being trapped in a cramped van later, we finally reached the tournament venue.

After we all spilled out of the cramped van, we walked together into the venue to be weighed and gear up.

Unbeknownst to me, Cole slowly drifted back through the group to walk by my side.

“You good?” He asked calmly, not looking in my direction.

“Yeah, why?”

“You were just pretty quiet on the ride over here.” He looked at me as he continued. “Just wanted to check in.”

“I guess I am pretty nervous,” I laughed nervously.

“You’ll do great,” he replied confidently, putting a hand awkwardly on my shoulder for emphasis. “Just believe in yourself or trust in your training or something, y’know?”

“Wow, real helpful.” I sarcastically replied.

“Yeah yeah, bite me.” He sped up to regain his place towards the front of the group and began speaking with the captain.

I couldn’t help but smile. Despite the awkwardness of his attempts, he did manage to cheer me up and give me confidence.

“Next!” The volunteer running the scales and check-ins yelled down the line.

In order to ensure the tournament brackets are as fair as possible, competitors are asked to give their weights for bracketing in advance. In order to ensure no funny business occurs, we also have to weigh in before the tournament begins.

Although I can understand why the system works how it does, it is still quite annoying to have to wait in such a long line.

Finally, after getting through all the red tape, we all grouped up in a corner to start preparing. I planned to ask Cole for some last-minute pointers, but he was nowhere to be found.

As a club we did some stretches and warm-ups in preparation for our first tournament together. After a about half an hour, an announcement blared over the speakers informing everyone that the matches will begin shortly.

As the announcement ended, Cole wandered back into our group and began taking people aside one by one.

“What’s up?” I asked him as he dragged me away from the group.

“You see that guy over there?” He asked pointing across the room.

“Yeah, why?”

“He’s your first match. He seems to know Judo but specializes in mostly stand up with lots of general punches and kicks.” He began instructing me on how to handle the fight with tips and tricks.

“How do you know all this?” I asked baffled.

“Since we were early, I went ahead and peaked at the school the person you’re fighting is from and then watched their practice to see who it was.”

“That feels like cheating.”

“Strategy.” He smiled at me before continuing his briefing.

“Wait, did you do this for everyone?”

“Of course, why?”

“You’re insane.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

As suspicious as it was, there were technically no rules against scouting out your potential competitors.

With Cole’s espionage and our team’s rigorous training, I was beginning to feel better and better about this tournament.

I’m ready to win.