It’s time, the first chapter of “Sitting Dead Red,” is available for your viewing pleasure. I hope you enjoy it, and I cannot wait to hear your thoughts. I will be getting the rest of the manuscript professionally edited over the next couple months, with hopes of having it published by February 2016.

I will also be sharing the book cover with a select few, if you desire to be on the “board of design,” shoot me an email and I will take your thoughts into consideration. Without further ado, here you go!

1

Riverdale University’s Royce Thorne dug his sharp spikes into the clay, probing for a better grip. He took a glance at the scoreboard as he stepped into the batter’s box. It read three balls and two strikes, with two outs. His team was down by a run with the bases loaded, every ballplayers dream. A chance to be a hero, a stud, and a chance for professional scouts to see just how good Royce Thorne really was.

The Rattler stadium was bursting at the seams, reaching record attendance for this year’s regional championship game. With over 8,000 fans looking on, Royce spun his bat in between his thumb and index finger, waiting, begging, for the final pitch to be thrown.

Cal-State’s Trevor Underhill looked in for the sign. He came set and delivered. Royce recognized the pitch as it left Underhill’s hand. A four seam rotation came hard towards the plate. Underhill hadn’t fooled Royce during his previous at-bat, he crushed a two-run double only two innings prior.

As the ball approached, Royce imagined tomorrow’s newspaper headline: Hometown hero: A game for the ages, it would read.

Royce lifted his leg for timing, the pitch headed middle-in, his favorite spot. He clenched down hard on the unforgiving metal handle of the bat.

Quick bat, quick bat, stay inside the ball, Royce thought. His bat-head exploded through zone. He had what some called an effortless swing.

You’re a cheat Royce, a voice inside his head said breaking his concentration. The split second of diversion caused Royce to swing and miss.

“Strike three!” the umpire said.

A collective gasp was let out by the attending 8,000. Royce dropped his head in humiliation. The loud cries of joy made by the visiting Cal-State Eagles filled Rattler stadium. Jack turned his back to the mound where Trevor Underhill was being mobbed by his teammates. The look of disbelief hung on the awaiting Rattler players as they looked on from the bench at the celebration.

Royce made his way over to his equipment bag that lay underneath the seat. He removed his batting gloves from his back pocket and threw them into his dirty old baseball bag. He reached into his mouth and cleared his lip of tobacco and fired it against the concrete floor. As Royce started to untie his spikes, he couldn’t bring himself to remove them. He couldn’t face it, he couldn’t face the fact that he, Royce Thorne, would be the one to make the last out of the season.

Royce leaned back against the hard cinderblock wall and rested his head, speaking to no one. He imagined what his father would say when he returned home, he no doubt saw, or heard what happened. Perry Thorne, was a hard man, drunk most of the time, and didn’t waste time to blame his son for his own shortcomings. But now was not the time to dwell on what his father might say. The ball game was over, the biggest game of Royce Thorne’s life, had been his biggest failure.

***

Two weeks before

“Royce could you come in here for a moment?” Professor Cutter said.

Royce arose from his seat outside his business professor’s office and strolled in with his chest puffed out.

“What’s up Doc? Why’d you want to see me?”

“Achem,” Professor Cutter said, clearing his throat. “It’s been brought to my attention young man that you’ve been cheating in my classroom. Is that true?”

Royce looked but didn’t speak. How could he know? Truth was, he’d been cheating in all of his classes. He prided himself on never needing to open a book to pass a class. Why would I, when I can just copy off the person next to me? He thought.

“Cheating? Me?” he gave half a laugh. “I don’t think so, sir.”

“Well after I’ve looked into a few things, it does look pretty clear that you’ve been attaining the same test scores as your seat partner, Jenny.”

“What? No? No way, you must be mistaken.”

“I’m afraid not Mr. Thorne. Here, see for yourself.” Professor Cutter said, handing him the grade book.

Royce searched the results, but his eyes couldn’t focus. He knew there was no way out of this predicament.

“Sir…”

“Before you say another word,” his professor cut him off. “I am going to let it slide this time, because I know you’re about to head into conference play, then regionals, but finals are next week. You will be taking the test alone in my office, so you aren’t tempted to cheat off of anyone. Are we understood?” he said looking out of the bottom of his eyes above his wire-rimmed glasses.

“Oh yes sir, thank you sir.”

This wasn’t the first time Royce earned preferential treatment from a professor at the university. About a week before the incident with his business professor, Royce had been caught cheating off a neighbor in his Statistics class. The professor called him into the office and had somewhat of the same type of response. A response that allowed Royce a free pass.

***

One week before

The following week Royce sat alone in Professor Cutter’s office. He searched the clutter trying to come up with answers he knew he did not have. Even though Royce understood he would be taking the test alone, he still neglected to study. There he was, staring at the blank page, when out of the corner of his eye he saw what looked like a collection of papers similar to his own. Royce didn’t waste any time, he lifted the small stack, and to his surprise copies of the test were situated in a pile on the desk.

Royce searched for Jenny’s paper, after all she was the top student in the class. Her test was near the top. Royce set the paper down next to his and copied nearly every answer. He did not want his test score to be identical so he guessed on at least five answers. Even if he got all five wrong, his grade would still be substantial. Just as Royce was perfecting the stack of paper, making sure nothing looked out of the ordinary, his professor burst through the door.

“Is everything alright in here Royce?”

A lump rose in Royce’s throat. How much did he see? Did he see me putting back the other tests?

“Any questions?”

“Oh no sir, I am just finishing up.”

“Well, if you need me, I’ll be right outside.”

Worry filled Royce’s subconscious. You’re a cheat. You deserve to get caught.

Royce stood form his professor’s chair after leaving everything just the way he found it, and made for the door. As he exited Professor Cutter waited for him to pass.

“Go alright in there?”

“Yes sir.”

“Good. Well… at least we’ll know your result was a score you earned,” Professor Cutter winked as he left.

***

Present Day

Royce dropped his equipment bag on the floor as he entered his house and heard the all too familiar cry from the living room.

“How’d the game go? Heard it was a bit of a disappointment,” his father said from his armchair with a beer in hand.

Without a response Royce started to walk toward his bedroom.

“Hey! I’m talking to you boy. When I speak to you, I expect to get an answer,” his father said, trying to rise from his drunken state.

Royce stopped to face his father and said, “You know how it went.”

“I just wanted to hear it from you. I thought you were supposed to be the best player on the team or something, I didn’t expect you to be such a letdown. Next time hit the ball son,” his father finally said under his breath.

Rage began to boil inside of Royce. For ten years he put up with his alcoholic and verbally abusive father. The abuse would stop today:

Royce broke into a dead sprint from the entryway. Just a short twenty feet away sat the back of his father’s recliner. He hit it at full speed ejecting his father from the chair. Perry Thorne landed face first on the natural stone floor. Blood seeped from his receding hairline as he clutched his head when he stood. He staggered toward his son, swaying from side to side. Royce feared his father would attack him, but he did not budge. This fight had been coming for quite some time.

Perry Thorne was inches from his son’s face.

“You ungrateful little bastard,” his father slurred.

Royce’s heart pumped, and adrenaline coursed through his body. He clenched his fists and was ready for anything. But there would be no punches thrown on this night. Instead Perry did something far worse, far more embarrassing. He felt the urge rising from his stomach. Bile inched its way up his esophagus, into his throat. Royce noticed the look of pain on his father’s face. What is wrong with this man, he thought.

Royce would soon find out about his father’s discomfort. He heaved once and Royce could only stand there and receive his father’s unwelcome surprise. Drenched in so much puke Royce left the room while his father stood laughing at his disgruntled son’s expense.

In his room, Royce cleaned himself up. The smell got to him, causing him to gag once before finally reaching the shower. That bastard deserves to die, Royce thought to himself as he soaped. I hate him. I can’t stay here any longer, or I don’t know what I’ll do.

As luck would have it, Royce received a phone call from a number he did not recognize.

“Hello,” he said, trying to dry himself.

“Is this Royce Thorne?” The man said.

“Ah yeah. Who’s this?

“Oh…My name is Ryan O’Sullivan. But please, call me Sully.”

“Okay, Sully.”

“I am the general manager for the Denver Lopers. We are part of a twelve team summer wood bat league, called the Western Mountain League, similar to the Cape Cod and Northwood’s leagues. Have you ever heard of us?”

“Ah no sir, I can’t say that I have.”

“Well, I am not surprised, we’ve only just started the league here in the last two years. We play a sixty game schedule, you know to prepare you for the minor leagues. You’ll also be able to showcase your talents in front of numerous professional scouts. We draw a multitude of them throughout our season…”

Minor leagues…professional Scouts…now we’re talkin’. I can’t wait to leave this hell hole behind and get paid for what I love to do.

“…Anyway, let me get to the point. Our season has just started and we had a couple guys go down with injury, and were looking to sign you and one more player for the rest of the summer, someone you may know actually, Cody Morgan.”

Cody! Sweet! Jack thought, before Sully came back, “Have you signed on yet with another summer team?”

“Ah no…you see my father says I need to stay here in Phoenix and work. I’ve had a couple offers, but haven’t been able to persuade him.”

Why do I need his blessing, I’m the one paying for my schooling, aside from my scholarship.

“Well. Why don’t you talk it over with your father, and get back to me in the next day or so. Sound good?”

“That won’t be necessary Sully. I’m ready now.”

“You’re sure Royce? I know how much school can cost for a family.”

“I’m sure Sully. When do you need me?”

“Oh well…alright then. We’d be happy to have you for our upcoming road trip. We have a home game tomorrow, and then leave for Casper, Wyoming the following day. Could you be here by then?”

“You can count on it.”