Novel Sneak Peek: Escape Tacoma

Here’s a sneak peek of a scene from one of my novels Escape Tacoma.  It’s a title I’ve been piecing along for the past few years, where post-apocalyptic themes are fused with modern emotional outbursts.

This is a scene involving one of the main characters at the height of the on-going action, and shifting into “second gear,” so to speak.  And yes, the setting of the entire is on the real streets of Tacoma, Washington.


“Hello?”  James said in his loud baritone.

The bar was quiet, cobwebs all in the same places, glasses still in the washer.

“Ben, you here?  I see your spare car is here!”  James shouted as he walked down the steps into the seating area, then started making his way towards the jukebox.

Hmm, unplugged.  That’s weird.  James found the plug and put it back in the wall socket.  The jukebox powered on and began playing I’ll Take You There from The Staple Singers.

“Good song!”  Ben exclaimed.

“Ben, if you aren’t going to serve me, I’m going to serve myself, hope it’s ok that I go with a triple today.  I earned it.”  James belted out.

He poured three double shots of Knob Creek, and set up a shaker with ice, adding simple syrup, Ben’s sour mix, and an egg white.  He shook the cocktail vigorously and strained it into a pint glass, adding a mint sprig right after slapping it, just as He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by The Hollies came on.

“Whoa, great choice juke!”  James said, waving a finger at the jukebox and walking out from behind the bar with his whiskey sour.

“Ben, the day I had brother!  It is CRAZY out there today!  I mean, Tacoma is always crazy, but it’s a whole other level out there.  I couldn’t even drive today, I had to walk all the way from Fircrest, no Ubers, Lyfts, none of the taxis are answering their phones, and everyone I know is unreachable.”  James continued, as Aiden crept behind the empty kegs, his heart pounding as he made eye contact with Sheila, laying underneath the booth closest to James.

“There was a wreck right in front me at 12th and Orchard, no police or fire truck, I had to get a woman and her children out of her car, then help the guy who caused it out of his rig. He was high, and ran off into the trees.  Strange.  The lady couldn’t get hold of anyone, so I pulled her stuff out, and walked her and her kids to her sister’s house.  The entire time we saw people running and fighting, house fires, power lines coming down. Dude, this town is off its axis today.  I may have to move to Puyallup after today!”  James said laughingly between sips of his sour.

Realizing no one was around, James began to figure out that something was really off.

Where the hell is Ben anyway?  James thought, scanning to his left, towards the office door.

“Ben are you sleeping in there?”  James asked as he began walking toward the door.

The door was cracked open, and James peered in as he approached.  Jordan could hear James approaching, he slowly crouched down to the opposite side of Ben’s desk, hoping not to make a sound, his pulse intensifying, and sweat starting to bead under his clothes.  Aiden and Sheila eyes’ were widening as they realized they had no other choice.

James opened the door.  There was Ben, splayed back in his chair, head angled, exposing the large open wound to his skull, as syrupy blood dripped down his scalp to the floor.

James’ eyes dilated, as fear and sadness consumed him.

“WHAT HAPPENED, BEN?!?  OH MY GOD, MAN, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!”  James shouted as he began stammering in place.

Jordan’s mind raced as he was gripped with shock and sadness overtook him.  He jumped up, talking to James.

“DON’T FREAK OUT.“  He said, as Aiden ran up behind him, swinging the spiked bat.

The sound was as horrifying as it was the first time Aiden used it.  The fluid sound whipping through the air, ending as quickly as it began, as it made contact with James’ head, the spikes entering at an angle.

James was done on his feet, still he fought, getting the bat out of Aiden’s hand, as Sheila punched him in the ribs.  James buried his elbow into Aiden’s neck, cutting off his air supply, as he planted him into the door frame.

“Let him go!”  Sheila shouted frantically, as she continued to punch James, with no effect.

Aiden began blacking out, as he put his hand on James’ neck.

James, now angry and regaining some motor skills, pulled his knife with his left hand, and quickly jabbed it into Aiden’s neck, as he fell down dead.

Sheila grabbed Aiden as he fell.

“NO! NO! NO! NO!”  She screamed, realizing that he was gone.

The blood  gushed out of Aiden as he slid to the ground.  Sheila cried hysterically, as Jordan stood watching in agony.  The smell of iron was consuming the room by the second.  Jordan was hot, so hot.  He needed out of that room.

He ran past Sheila, heading for the front door.


“What?  Bury him?  Where exactly Sheila?  He did this to himself, and to us.  There’s no time, we need to get out of here!”  Jordan said as he turned back and looked.

“I’M NOT LEAVING HIM!”  Sheila shouted.

“You can do what you want, but I’m out of here, none of this was supposed to happen.  I just want to go home!”  Jordan exclaimed.

Sheila clutched Aiden to her chest, crying uncontrollably as Jordan looked on.  Memories flashed through her mind as panic and loss consumed her.

“Are you coming?”  Jordan yelled.

Sheila took one last look at Aiden, his eyes glazed over . He was indeed gone.

She ran toward the door, past Jordan.  The rage that had consumed her started to chill. As she reached the door, she could felt more irrational thoughts take over as her breathing calmed.

Jordan followed behind into the night, not knowing where in Tacoma they would go next.

The song continued, “…while we’re on the way there, why not share…”

James continued circling the drain on the floor, keeping his eyes on Ben, ever the protector, keeping his eyes on those who had it worse than he did.


Published by Matthew Ballantyne

I'm Matthew, and I write. I've worked hard in my career, and it's granted me a lot of access to the true character in people, which I now use to create stories for you.

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