(Following is a rough draft for chapter one of TAG WARREN AND THE FRAGILE CITY):

Taggart Orlando Warren hadn’t intended to get arrested. Especially not for stealing his mother’s car. He had only meant to borrow it so that he could get downtown. He had planned to return the car well before Mom finished teaching her late afternoon class. And it wouldn’t have mattered if he returned it to a different spot or even a different lot on campus, since she often forgot where she parked. Mom was a brilliant scientist, but her mind had no room for such trivia.

Why did she pick today to leave campus on some mid-day errands? She usually never left the University before dinner time.

He doubted that she would press charges against him, but she wasn’t going to be happy.

Taggart took a moment to, once again, look around the gray room the guard had ushered him into. They had put him in a private cell, probably because he was a minor, and he was glad for that. The yellow jumpsuit he now wore was also meant to identify him as minor to be kept away from the others.

It was kind of scary in here. And cramped. He sat on the hard bed that was pressed against the back wall of the little room. From where he sat, he could almost touch the walls on either side. Through the open bars at the front of the cell, he could hear noises from other parts of the high-rise jail, of prisoners cursing and laughing and talking. A guard would occasionally stride past, but everyone ignored him now that he was in a cell.

He hoped that Mom would get him out of here soon.

Tag had taken his mother’s car because the bus drivers had declared a sudden strike, the jerks, and today was the only day he could spy on the Ruler of Riverside, the man who had been ruling this small land for over a decade. He had been planning this for a couple of years now- ever since he had begun to suspect that the lifelong president might be his father. Taggart wasn’t certain that Ruler Raul Fernandez de Ortega the Third was his dad, but the man’s complexion was tan like his and his hair just as dark. Only the man’s eyes were a different color. Tag had inherited his blue eyes from Mom, while getting everything else from the dad he couldn’t remember.

He had stared at many broadcasts of the ruler’s face and seen a similarity, but hadn’t dared to mention it to his mother. The identity of his father was a forbidden topic in their household. His parents had separated when Taggart was just a toddler- too young for Tag to remember anything- and Mom never talked about him.

There had been other men who Tag had suspected of being his dad, but those had all been wild guesses or hopeful dreams. This one was different. He had carefully considered what kind of a man his mother would have been attracted to. Good-looking, most likely, since Mom was pretty. Assertive, since Mom was usually too distracted to notice others around her, let alone be the initiator of anything. Brilliant, since she so enjoyed stimulating conversation. Powerful, because his mother liked prestige and status.

Ruler Fernandez de Ortega fit that description. In addition, Mom always acted weird whenever Riverside’s ruler was shown on TV. Sometimes she was just stared. Other times, she would pointedly ignore the news clip or change the channel. He was certain that Mom knew the ruler somehow.

So Tag had decided to investigate this man more closely, to see him in-person. But that wasn’t easy to do. For some reason, the Benevolent Leader rarely made a public appearance. The ruler was practically a hermit, keeping to his sprawling Mission Palace that dominated a full city block downtown. Taggart had walked around the building numerous times, hoping to catch a glimpse of the ruler, but he had only seen soldiers and government workers. Never the man who ruled. Maybe the ruler avoided the public because so many of the neighboring countries had lost their rulers to assassination.

Yet Tag had been determined to see him in-person. He had tracked the ruler’s activities and announced schedule, hoping to catch him at some public event. Finally, that day arrived. Today. Ruler Raul was holding an open-air ceremony to welcome the new ambassador from GLARA.

Tag knew that the downtown would be closed to traffic, so he had intended to park at the train station and walk the last few blocks. But he never made it that far. He was arrested only halfway across town, yanked from the car and thrown onto the hot pavement by hyper-vigilant police. They had been on alert for any terrorists and so a stolen car heading toward the welcoming ceremony must have set off all sorts of alarms.

Tag knew he was lucky that they hadn’t shot him.

(TAG WARREN AND THE FRAGILE CITY will be published in 2015 by Reader Hill. Learn more at the website of author Eric Lorenzen.)


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