Greenwell - Be a good sport!


The journey south was quiet and uneventful. Costas tried his best to charge the battery of his camcorder but for some reason his charger did not work with the on-board power sockets. So instead of filming the road he was forced to engage in a conversation with his brother, who quickly had the idea to try and guess whether anyone would die at our next stop, and if so, who. Costas bet on Gabrielle against Stavros's pick, Mara. To their good fortune, Mara was not within earshot.

Neither was Gabrielle for that matter, for she was busy taking notes about our experiences in Desert Rock. Philippe was sketching a medieval witch burning pyre beside her. The snoring contest of the Australian cousins behind them did not seem to bother either in their work.

In the back of the bus Carlos and Helga sat holding hands and discussed their favorite movies. An awkward moment of silence was born when Round Table came up, but they quickly steered the conversation in the direction of Rick Jackson movies and all was well in their budding romance once more.

Keiko sat alone by the window and stared quietly at the passing view. I inquired if she was feeling all right. At first she did not respond at all, but just when I was about to return to my seat she turned to me and said:

"Two people are dead, Mister Parker. How do you think I feel?"

Then she turned back to the window and added:

"I just want my Black Lake trout. Is it so much to ask for?"

*

While the western edge of the Con County oak savanna transitions into a lifeless desert, its southern edge turns into a lush green forest that expands for mile upon mile all the way to the southern border of the county. Standing on the edge in between is the town of Greenwell, which was our next destination.

Greenwell was built in 1821 as a vacation resort for the miners of Brickton. Its location offers easy access to various footpaths leading across the forest to the south as well as the hills to the southwest. The latter also house quite a few caves where the intrepid explorer might see some truly stunning stalactites. Over the years Greenwell grew into a profiting touristic town which now boasts a population of seven hundred thousand people, the majority of whom are employed in some aspect of the tourism business.

Similarly to Brickton, Greenwell is not officially a city, yet its people don't care about the legal classification and call it the "Green City". Beyond being a key center of tourism, it is also home to the second biggest and single most prestigious university in the county, Greenwell University. While certainly not as well funded as the University of Con City, the performance of Greenwell University's students and academics surpasses that of their Con City rivals every year.

The only performance statistic in which the University of Con City is ranked higher is the list tracking the yearly number of plagiarism related lawsuits in higher education worldwide. Due to the illustrious number one position that the University of Con City has occupied on this list for decades, Greenwell University is forced to settle for being number two in this category.

*

While Desert Rock is lacking in hotels, Greenwell has an entire district dedicated to accommodating tourists. Reaper Travels booked the group into the Alien's Abode, a highly reputable hotel within walking distance of seventeen other highly reputable hotels. Larry got to park the bus in a secure underground garage which put his mind at ease.

Dinner was served in the Crazy Lobster, a five star restaurant just opposite the street from the Alien's Abode. Keiko's eyes brightened the moment she saw the neon sign atop the restaurant, which displayed a large red neon crab pointing at its head with one of its pincers. She only became happier when she found the Black Lake trout listed in the fish page of the menu.

Her enthusiasm immediately evaporated when the waiter informed her that all of Greenwell had run out of Black Lake trout, and the next shipment was not due until the following week. Keiko silently nodded, stood up, and walked back to the hotel with slumped shoulders. We did not see her again until we departed Greenwell.

The rest of the group found the dinner quite satisfying, and no one was threatened with a meat cleaver, either. Only Gabrielle and Philippe's bowels seem to have suffered some ill effects from their dish, as they both left for the restroom at the end of their meal and neither of them returned for the next half hour. When they finally emerged, they looked very happy, and slightly disheveled.

*

The next day we took a walk in the town center, where one of Greenwell's most famous cultural sights awaited us, the Greenwell Museum. Exhibits cover a broad range of areas such as rare minerals of Con County, full skeletons of local extinct animals, or a historical overview of the county. Yet the museum's biggest draw is the poetry exhibit.

Greenwell is the birthplace of revolutionary 19th century poet C. Thomas Whitaker (born John Brooks), who invented the world famous "one word poems", including classics such as the famous trilogy "Here", "There", and "Everywhere". All his work is on display at the Greenwell Museum in the form of original manuscripts.

Despite the incredible cultural value of the one word poems, the group was none too eager to set foot inside the museum. Carlos in particular urged us to head straight towards the Greenwell All Stars Arena, which he was very eager to see. Larry strongly advised against it, but Carlos's suggestion struck home with the men in the group. Larry pointed us in the right direction, and then went straight back to the hotel.

A couple of streets later the Greenwell All Stars Arena came into view. A massive structure, the arena has a capacity of over fifty thousand people. It is a multipurpose facility where many sporting events are held throughout the year, including the county's most popular sport, baseball. The Con City Bears won several of their cups at this venue. Yet the number one purpose for which the Greenwell All Stars Arena is used is to host bullfighting events.

Bullfighting is Greenwell's top sport, controlled by the GBO, the Greenwell Bullfighting Organization. Every year the GBO hosts multiple events at the Greenwell All Stars Arena and each successive event breaks box office records. It is therefore not at all surprising that we found the arena decorated by giant posters depicting the most famous competitors of the GBO.

What was surprising, however, was the bull that stood in front of the arena. Not a statue, but a real live bull. It was alone, unguarded, unchained, and the moment it noticed us it started running in our direction, horns forwards.

*

Costas had maybe two seconds in which to decide whether he should risk trying to turn on his camcorder and attempt to film the charging bull. He decided that the risk was not worth it so he followed the example set by his brother and ran. Every member of the group did the same thing, and every member of the group ran in a different direction, which was of course the smart thing to do.

The bull surveyed the options and singled out a particular tourist, then sped up the charge. Helga screamed when the bull gored Carlos and hurled the unfortunate amateur soccer player across the street. While Carlos was able to stumble to his feet even with two massive bleeding holes in his abdomen, he stood no chance at avoiding the bull's second charge. His motionless posture after his second fall gave evidence of the fact that he would never join the professional leagues.

Before the bull could pick a new target, a man in a business suit came running with a rifle. He aimed it at the bull and yelled at the animal.

"Enough, Brock! No more booze, and no more killing! Stay down!"

The bull turned and charged towards the newcomer, but the man pulled the trigger and a tranquilizer dart left the barrel of his rifle. The shot hit the bull in the shoulder, and the big beast promptly collapsed.

The man waved to us to join him as he stood over the sleeping bull.

"You can come close now, it's perfectly safe," he said, and kicked the bull to demonstrate his point. "My name is Gerald Embers, and this is my champion fighter Brock the Bull. I'm sorry about this incident, but I'm sure we can come to some sort of understanding."

*

Gerald Embers is the chairman of the Greenwell Bullfighting Organization. Brock the Bull is the most famous competitor in the history of the GBO, and no stranger to controversy. His recent behavior, however, has been characterized by violent outbursts and chronic alcoholism, something the bullfighting community frowns upon. Chairman Embers therefore insisted to keep what happened here between us.

"What happens between bull and matador stays between bull and matador, and of course the audience. In this case, all of you. I know you never picked up your tickets, but that's fine, I have them for you right here," he said, as he opened his wallet and waved a large wad of cash in our direction.

The group immediately agreed that they didn't see anything and that Carlos mysteriously disappeared while wondering the streets of Greenwell. The group also agreed never to tell anyone about Brock's mishap and never to document it anywhere in any form. Chairman Embers was so happy he offered to give Carlos a proper burial, then called for his staff who promptly carried both the unconscious bull and Carlos's body into the All Stars Arena.

As Chairman Embers bade us farewell, the group headed for the far end of the town center where Greenwell's famous Lucky Shovel Casino awaited. Helga found solace in the company of Paul, who was more than happy to try and comfort the newly single sculptress. By the end of our visit to the casino her relationship status was once again back to normal.

*

The morning after, Larry met us in the garage where Keiko was already in her seat on the bus. Larry raised an eyebrow at Carlos's absence but asked no questions. Keiko seemingly took no notice of the Argentinian's absence, but as Larry drove off, her sullen mood made it crystal clear that she knew. But the look in her eyes said something more.

She had come to Con County to sample the world famous Black Lake trout, and so far her journey had been fraught with peril, death, and a serious absence of Black Lake trout. She was tired, hungry, angry, and she knew that our next stop would be the town where the Black Lake trout originated.

The look in her eyes said she would have that trout, and people would die if they tried to stop her.

I decided against sitting beside her on the bus.



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