Chapter 1: Chapter One
Eighteen year old Murdock sat at the corner booth of the cafe sipping on a coffee. He carefully watched the girl behind the counter hand the only other customer, asides himself, their change and some form of sandwich. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail, she was wearing faded jeans and an off white shirt. Suitable dress seeing as her job was one that entailed becoming covered in grease stains during the course of the day. But what ever she wore Murdock thought she looked beautiful.
She was just so pretty, he thought. He'd had a crush on her ever since she'd moved into town three years ago. Three long years and he still hadn't found the courage to ask her out. Lately seeing her around school just wasn't enough for him so Murdock had resorted to spending every Saturday morning sitting in the cafe owned by her parents, drinking a coffee whilst trying to work out more about her. Sandwich customer took a seat at the other end side of the cafe leaving Louise free at the counter. She looked over at Murdock and smiled, he was pretty much sure he'd been caught staring but gave her a nervous smile back none the less before quickly averting his gaze to his coffee cup.
He mentally gave himself a pep talk, the one that he gave himself every week. The one that encouraged him that now was his chance to speak to her and ask her on date. The same one that he was sure he'd be giving himself next week as he couldn't bring himself to do it today.
Running his hand through his floppy brown hair he gave a defeated sigh, this was useless, he couldn't even find the courage to simply ask her on a date, and even if he could he doubted she'd say yes. Louise was extremely popular, especially between the 'cooler' guys around town and school and he was just Murdock, that crazy kid who always seemed to be in his own little world.
Just then, as if on cue, two of said 'cooler' guys entered the cafe.
"Great..." Murdock mumbled as he laid eyes on them. It was Steve Briggs, captain of the soccer team and top of the student body food chain, followed by his team mate Butch.
"You got a problem, Murdock?"
Murdock suddenly realised he was staring at the two teenagers and quickly shook his head. "Sorry," he murmured, not wanting any trouble and luckily Steve resumed making his way to the counter. Murdock continued watching them.
"Hi Louise," he greeted tilting the brim of the black Stetson he was wearing.
"Hey Steve, what can I get for you?"
"Well it's a mighty fine day today and I was just wondering if you wanted to come and hang with a few of us down at the lake later?"
"I'm sorry, Steve, I'm stuck here until 3, then I've got to run some errands for my mom and there's that book report due in I want to get started on."
"C'mon babe, it's Saturday, no one does homework on a Saturday!"
"Sorry, Steve, maybe next week."
"But it'll be more fun if you come! Me and some of the guys are probably going to play shirt vs. skins soccer. I can make sure I'm on skins if you want." He raised his eyebrows suggestively but Louise just chuckled, but she wasn't the only one.
The customer who had ordered the sandwich had joined Steve and his mates at the counter; Murdock didn't recognise him from around town or from school. He looked about his age or a few years younger. He had dirty blonde hair which was combed perfectly into place and his piercing blue eyes were complimented by the fitted baby blue t-shirt he was wearing. He had a lean frame and looked fit enough, was that enough to take on Steve and co though? Doubtful.
Though Murdock couldn't help but note that this stranger was very handsome and from the air of confidence he gave off the stranger knew it too.
Butch folded his arms and looked down at the sandwich eating customer, "What's so funny kid?"
"Oh nothing really," he replied, "it just amuses me to see your friend try it on with this lovely young lady here." He nodded towards Louise "Despite her obviously having no interest towards him."
Steve growled, which Murdock knew meant trouble. "And what would you know?”
"A lot more than you, Steve, that's your name right?"
"Look kid," the football captain cracked his knuckles, "I'm in a good mood today so if you apologise and leave now I won't damage that pretty face of yours."
"But I don't want to leave; in fact I wanted to ask the lovely young lady here if she'd show me around town tonight." The stranger gave Louise a charming smile. "What do you say?"
Murdock couldn't believe what he was hearing, this kid was crazy and Steve looked like he was about to go crazy.
Without another warning Steve shoved the kid against the wall, "I warned you pretty boy!" he yelled.
"Steve, leave him alone!" Shouted Louise, but she went ignored.
Steve landed a punch in the kid's face. The kid quickly shook it off and returned it with an uppercut to the stomach, just making Steve angrier.
"You son of a bitch!" Steve shoved the kid again sending him on to the floor hitting his head against one of the tables as he went down and when he got up again, dazed from the knock on the head, Butch punched him in the stomach.
The kid felt his head where he'd hit it and when he removed his hand it was covered in blood, "Great, I’ve only just washed my hair." He seemed genuinely annoyed by this, he then wiped some blood away from his mouth. "Two against one now really, that's not fair."
Steve smirked. "Life's not fair you brat."
"Please stop!" Louise cried. "You're going to kill him, don't make me call the police!"
Steve shook his head, a dangerous look in his eye. "The cocky idiot has to learn, he can't just disrespect me and expect to get away with it!"
Murdock couldn't just sit and watch anymore. He jumped out of his seat. "You heard Louise, stop it."
Steve looked round can cocked an eyebrow. "Shut it Murdock, or you're next!"
Murdock silently gulped, but looked at Louise, he couldn't back down in front of her, "I said stop it!"
"Are you mad too?”
"Maybe," Murdock shrugged, "but if he even more so if you think I'm just going to let you muscle heads beat up this boy here."
"You're a dead man Murdock!" Steve just looked at Butch, he didn't need telling, he lunged towards Murdock. Murdock ducked out the way of his fist and punched him in the stomach, Butch doubled over and Murdock took the chance to knee him in the face sending him backwards.
"Don't make me have to beat that idiot up for you!" Steve yelled at his companion, getting angrier.
Butch got back up and took another swing at Murdock who blocked it and punched him again.
"What are you playing at!" Steve spat forgetting about the kid. The kid tapped him on the shoulder and Steve turned around only to be greeted by a chair smashing into him. The wooden chair easily broke and the kid started punching him repeatedly, not give him a chance to reciprocate.
Murdock also seemed to still have the advantage over Butch, who it turned out wasn't a very good fighter.
The brawl went on until the sound of approaching cop cars could be heard. All four boys stopped mid-fight.
Steve looked at Butch. "Man, I can't be in trouble with the cops again." He gave one last look to the kid. "Next time boy I'm gong to end you." He warned before he and Butch fled the cafe.
Murdock went over to the counter where Louise was standing, "Did you call the cops?"
"I'm sorry about what happened." He gestured towards the mess they had made including two broken chairs. "I'll help you to clean it up."
"Thanks, but it's not your fault Murdock, that Steve is a real jerk."
"You're telling me," the kid piped up, he was straightening up his t-shirt, "At least he didn't damage the face."
"W-who are you?" Murdock asked.
The boy picked up Steve's hat which he'd left behind, blowing some dust off he placed it on his own head then held out his hand to Murdock, "I'm Peck, Templeton Peck, it's nice to meet you."
"Erm, ditto," said Murdock, shaking his hand.
Templeton then smiled at Louise. "So dinner tonight?"
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
"Thanks for covering for me with the cops," said Templeton slinging his arm over Murdock's shoulders.
Following their altercation at the cafe they had been questioned by the cops and let off with verbal warnings seeing as they didn't start the fight, Templeton had told them that he was Murdock's eighteen year old visiting cousin which Murdock went along with.
"That's okay." Murdock said as they strolled through town, several people glancing their way probably due to their battered 'fresh from the fight' state. "So why'd you lie any way? Where are you really from?"
Templeton removed his arm from the taller boy and stopped in his tracks, he looked around as if to check no-one was listening in on them, "I'm from L.A and I'm only seventeen I've sort of run away. That’s why I didn’t want the cops to think I was a minor."
"Your parents must be worried."
Templeton frowned, "I don't have parents," he explained. "I ran away from the orphanage." He stuffed his hands in his pockets and started pacing around.
"I'm sorry about that." Murdock sounded sincerely sympathetic, Templeton was used to it. Every time he told someone he was an orphan they apologised as if it was their fault.
"Thanks, but growing up at the orphanage wasn't too bad." Templeton wasn't lying, the sisters had always been very nice to him and he was never short of 'acquaintances' especially the female kind, his favourite type. Although admittedly, it could be lonely at times.
"Then why'd you run away?"
"Because," Templeton decided not to tell him the whole truth about searching for his parents so just went with, "Because, I was bored, it was the same routine day in and day out. I wanted to see the world and what it has to offer." He winked at a group of giggling girls that passed by. "And boy does it have a lot to offer!"
Murdock grinned. "I hear you there buddy!" He threw his arms in the air and spun round. "This world is like one big adventure just waiting for us to tackle it! But unfortunately I have to at least finish my senior year first."
"Well I wanted to get a head start! It's been just over a month since I left L.A and so far it's been pretty easy."
"What do you do for money and board and stuff?"
"Oh, I have my ways," Templeton replied confidently. He chuckled at the random memory of selling tickets for a free concert at a bar making him exactly $224.94 alone in that one day. He was a genius, or so he thought anyway. "Anyway Murdock, enough about me, tell me about yourself. What does the H.M stand for?"
"Why it stands for H.M of course,” Murdock simply replied as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Har-de-har." Templeton patronised. "Steve was right, you are mad."
Murdock grinned. "Howling Mad to be exacts. Maybe that’s what it stands for."
"Howling Mad Murdock!" Templeton thought this was a fitting nickname for the rather 'strange' teenager. "So I take it you live around here then?"
"Yup, me and my grandma."
"Oh," it was Templeton's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Where’s your mother and father if you don't mind me asking?"
"I don't mind." Murdock gave him a weak smile. "My mom died when I was five, she was pretty ill. My father took off shortly after my mom died. So my grandparents took me in." He looked sadly at the ground. "And then two years ago my grandpa died, he was pretty ill too."
Templeton was lost for words, sure he too had grown up without parents, but unlike this other boy he had no idea of what the pain of losing someone close to you felt like. He then found himself doing what people done to him upon sharing his life story.
"I'm sorry Murdock."
Murdock must have realised he was looking upset as he plastered a false smile on his face. "Don't be! It's not your fault!"
"Yeah, but still..."
"But nothing!" Murdock cut him off quickly changing the subject. "So I take it you have nowhere to stay for tonight?"
"Well I wasn't planning on sticking around," said Templeton. "But if you're offering a place to crash, I wouldn’t say no."
Murdock's fake smile turned into a real one. "I'm sure grandma won't mind if you stay the night, she always is encouraging me to bring home real friends."
"As opposed to fake ones?"
Murdock grinned again but didn’t answer the question and gestured for Templeton to follow him. As he done so Templeton took in the little details of the town, the ones that may come in handy to him at a later point, such as the fact there was a bar that held a weekly poker tournament. He may have to take advantage of that next week, that's if he could persuade Murdock to let him stay that long, but it seemed that shouldn't be a problem. The older boy had a kind hearted nature; Templeton knew exactly how to use people of that nature to his advantage.
Murdock led him to a battered old blue pick up truck, "Is this your ride?" Templeton asked despite knowing the answer.
"Yup!" Murdock patted the bonnet proudly. "Grandpa gave it to me just before he died as a present for passing my test."
Templeton climbed into the passenger seat and watched as Murdock started the car, he felt a bit jealous. Before running away he started saving up money for driving lessons, it would be way easier to impress the girls if he could drive, but the lessons never happened.
"Can you drive?" Murdock asked as if reading his mind.
"No, not yet."
The blonde lad felt like he was under interrogation as Murdock drove to his house, the teenager kept coming with question after question, but he couldn't be blamed, Templeton was a stranger he was inviting into his house so he played along trying to be as honest as possible.
"So how did you end up in this town?"
"I hitched a lift in the back of a delivery van." Templeton replied, looking out the window. They were driving down an empty road surrounded by either trees or fields though sometimes they passed the occasional house. It sure was different from L.A and most of the other places he'd been so far.
About fifteen minutes and what seemed like a hundred questions later Murdock finally pulled up in front of a house. "Welcome to casa Murdock!" he said enthusiastically.
Templeton climbed out the truck, the house looked nice. Two floors, moderate size, well kept front garden and a red Chevrolet also in the drive. That car wasn't cheap indicating the owner had money. Templeton decided he already liked staying here.
"That is a sweet ride!" He exclaimed nodding towards the shiny red car.
Murdock nodded in agreement. "I know right, but grandma won't let me drive it though. Doesn't matter, my ride is so much better don't you think?"
"Whatever you say, buddy." Templeton nodded.
While Murdock bounded off towards the front door Templeton dragged himself behind. He was suddenly overcome with feeling pretty faint and tired, he hadn't expected that fight earlier and the blow to the head had knocked him for six. He removed Steve's hat and felt over the bump that was forming, which just made it throb painfully. He wasn't going to go to the hospital though especially for a minor injury, they asked too many questions and for all his charms his visibly teenage age could be somewhat a hindrance when trying to flirt and wrap the pretty nurses around his little finger.
"You okay there pal?"
Templeton blinked several times before being able to focus. "Y-yeah, I'm good,” he lied weakly putting the hat back on. "Just a bit sore."
Murdock wasn't convinced. "You sure you don't wanna get that looked at?"
"Really, it's fine."
"Well at least we can get you cleaned up inside." Murdock started pushing him into the house but by this time Templeton was feeling so dazed he couldn't pay attention properly.
Templeton found himself in a kitchen, there was an old woman wearing a white apron over a pink dress, with her grey hair pulled back into a bun, standing over one of the counters, he couldn't quite make out what food she was preparing.
"Something smells nice grandma,” Murdock said, leaning down to peck the woman on the cheek.
She didn't look up but replied, "I hope you didn't spoil your appetite in town."
"Of course not, I always love fully appreciating your cooking."
"Did you finally ask out that nice girl at the cafe?"
"I told you grandma, Louise is nice but I don't like her like that."
"Now, H.M you can't hide these things from me..." the woman trailed off as she finally stopped the task in hand and looked up at her grandson. "Have you been fighting H.M?"
"I had no choice,” Murdock insisted.
"He's right..." Templeton mumbled grabbing on to the side to try and stop the room from spinning. "My fault, he was helping me..."
The woman looked round at him and smiled before looking back at Murdock, "Who's this handsome young fella?"
"T-Templeton Peck,” Templeton said before Murdock could reply. He stepped forward, one hand still clutching the side to steady himself the other stretched out for her to shake. "Nice t'meet you." The woman took his hand and he shook it weakly before dropping it limply back to his side.
"Are you okay dear?" he heard the woman ask although it was barely audible to him.
"Templeton!" Murdock's voice echoed through his head.
Templeton didn't reply, everything was spinning so fast. He let go of the counter and stumbled back, tripping over his own feet. This was the last thing he remembered before everything went blank.