Chasing the Skip

Chasing the Skip

4.6 3
by Janci Patterson

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Ricki's dad has never been there for her. He's a bounty hunter who spends his time chasing parole evaders--also known as "skips"--all over the country. But now since Ricki's mom ran off, Ricki finds herself an unwilling passenger in a front-row seat to her father's dangerous lifestyle.

Ricki's feelings get even more confused when her dad starts chasing seventeen

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Ricki's dad has never been there for her. He's a bounty hunter who spends his time chasing parole evaders--also known as "skips"--all over the country. But now since Ricki's mom ran off, Ricki finds herself an unwilling passenger in a front-row seat to her father's dangerous lifestyle.

Ricki's feelings get even more confused when her dad starts chasing seventeen-year-old Ian Burnham. She finds herself unavoidably attracted to the dark-eyed felon who seems eager to get acquainted. But Ricki thinks she's ever in control--the perfect manipulator. Little does she know that Ian isn't playing their game by her rules.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Emily Hearn
After her mother takes off again and is gone for longer than usual, Ricki is handed off from her grandmother to her dad, a bounty hunter who skipped out on her before her birth. Ricki is resentful and irritated about being turned over to the father who abandoned her and has had no contact with her over the years. She spends most of her time in the front seat of his truck empathizing with his "skips" instead of trying to connect with him. To retaliate for his distrust of her after she helps with an escape, she assists the most dangerous offender. After all, the criminal has agreed to help return Ricki to her mother; ultimately, her choice endangers both Ricki and her father. Her father has more insight into her mother's behavior than she wants to accept, and her blindness may cause her to miss the chance at the kind of home that can provide security. Patterson's first novel is well-paced, thoughtful, and riveting. Reviewer: Emily Hearn
Kirkus Reviews
"Dad thinks if you have a kid, you should pay child support. Paying for them is the law, but spending time with them isn't." That's what aspiring journalist Ricki writes her first day riding shotgun with her bounty-hunter father. It's the first time in her life she's spent appreciable time with him, so she writes from the heart. They are only together because her feckless mother has taken off--again--and her grandmother got tired of putting her up. She used to tell herself stories of the exciting life her father led, inventing a mythology to explain his absence, but it turns out, he's just been a jerk. Bail-bond enforcement is a lot duller than reality TV suggests, but the adrenaline starts flowing when Ricki strikes up a conversation with "skip" Ian, who has jumped bail on a grand theft auto count. In seemingly no time, the charismatic teen has slipped his cuffs and stolen Ricki's dad's truck. The ensuing caper is a gentle one, a road trip calculated to give Ricki time to get to know her dad and achieve an understanding of herself and her family. She is an appealingly vulnerable character, her anger at both parents and her love for her mother both genuine and leading to completely believable choices, however wrongheaded. A solid cast and heartfelt emotions lift this above its contrivances. (Fiction. 13-15)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Ricki's mom has run off, and the 15-year-old finds herself with her estranged father, who is a bounty hunter. He makes a living chasing parole evaders, also known as "skips," across the United States. Ricki believes he abandoned her as a child, and now she is in for the ride of her life as her father starts chasing an attractive 17-year-old felon who gets away from them several times. As she gets to know Ian, she finds herself attracted to his take-charge attitude. She thinks she can help him escape and that he can help her find her mom and refuses to believe that he is dangerous until it is almost too late. In the end, she learns some enlightening truths about her parents and about herself. Chasing the Skip is really a novel about a father and daughter giving each other a second chance for reconciliation and a new lease on life. Many teens will relate to Ricki's challenge as she tries to figure out where she belongs on the road of life.Shannon Seglin, formerly at Patrick Henry Library, Vienna, VA

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Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
HL620L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 18 Years

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I-25 outside Thornton, Colorado.
Days since Mom left: 29.
Distance from Salt Lake City, Utah: 530.67 miles.
I sat in the passenger seat of Dad’s four-door truck, trying to focus on my history assignment and not on the skip sitting behind me. I’d watched Dad cuff her hands—discreetly, so as not to make a scene. He’d chained the cuffs to a bolt in the floor to keep her from reaching up, and then chained her feet as well. I’d never been this close to a fugitive before, and I kept expecting her to break free and jump onto the freeway, even though she hadn’t resisted when Dad chained her in.
The skip’s name was Alison, and I wasn’t supposed to talk to her. Dad said too much talking made him seem soft and the distraction made it easier for skips to escape. But the twenty-minute ride back to Denver was too long for me to keep my mouth shut.
Alison leaned over the back of my seat. She looked four or five years older than me, which would make her nineteen or twenty. If I ran into her on the street, I wouldn’t have thought anything of it. In her cami and tight-tight jeans, she didn’t look like she was running from the law.
Dad had frisked her when he picked her up, and thrown a bag of weed into a Dumpster. Doing her a favor, he called it. She didn’t seem out of it, so she probably wasn’t on anything now.
“How did you find me?” Alison asked.
Dad leaned his head back on his headrest. “I sent you a letter at your last address,” he said.
Alison’s face was only a few inches from mine. Her lips were chapped, like she’d been chewing them.
“I didn’t get any letter,” she said.
Dad smiled. “No, you didn’t. But the post office did. They were kind enough to write your new address on it and send it back to me.”
“Oh,” Alison said.
I opened my notebook on top of my history text. On the first blank page I jotted down the date, Alison’s name, and the name of the freeway. I like to keep track of details like that—things I see, things I do.
“Yeah,” Dad said. “Next time you jump bail, you might try leaving your mail behind.”
I’d made Dad reset the odometer when he picked me up. Dad had driven 745.23 miles since then. I wrote that number down beside Alison’s name.
I tilted the cover of my history book so Dad wouldn’t see what I was writing. Dad found Alison through postal return, I wrote. If you’re running from the law, forget about your mail. That trick seemed pretty clever to me. Dad probably hadn’t thought it up himself. I’d have to write about it in my blog when I could get to a computer. My best friend, Anna, was always thinking up ways to spy on people. She’d love to know how a professional did it.
“I didn’t realize anyone would come after me,” Alison said.
“Most people don’t.”
Alison sat back, chain clinking against the floor bolt. Even though Dad hadn’t said so, I figured the chain on her hands was to keep her from strangling me with the cuffs.
“Besides,” Dad said, “you were staying with your cousin. I’d have gotten around to looking there eventually.”
“I should have thought of that. I guess I didn’t think I was in that kind of trouble.”
“Bail bond enforcement is serious business. If I hadn’t come looking for you, someone else would have.”
“Bail bond enforcement” is the PC term for bounty hunting. I guess the more direct term must freak people out, because Dad told me not to use it except with him.
When I was little, Mom told me that being a bounty hunter meant Dad was out fighting crime. There was so much crime in the world that he just didn’t have time to take me home with him and be a father. When other girls were playing with Barbie dolls, I was wearing a cape and leaping around the house, fighting imaginary crime with my imaginary dad. I used to think I’d grow up and be a hero with him, and then we could be a family.
The first time I remember seeing Dad, I was eight. He came through town looking for a skip and stopped to pick me up. I packed a bag with my binoculars and my jump rope, which I thought we could use to tie the skip up when we found him. Instead, Dad took me to McDonald’s and tried to get me to play on its playground. He didn’t say much—just asked me about school. When he dropped me off, I threw the binoculars out the window of our third-floor apartment. So much for adventure.
When I was ten, I realized that fighting crime was actually pretty dangerous. I used to tell myself that Dad didn’t come by much because he was protecting me. If the people he chased knew he had a daughter, they’d kidnap me and hold me for ransom. And in my daydreams, I’d fight my way out and help Dad catch them. When he saw how useful I could be, he’d want to pick me up and take me along.
Around the time I turned thirteen, I stopped pretending and Mom stopped telling me stories. Dad wasn’t around because he chose not to be. Mom wasn’t stopping him from picking me up for the weekend, but he rarely bothered. They’d separated before I was even born, so we’d never been a family. I got my last name from him, but that’s all I could expect to get. I told myself that was okay. Mom was right: Life gave you what it gave you, and what I got was a Dad who didn’t care. I didn’t need him. But sometimes when I was bored in class I’d think about him. Did the thrill of the hunt make up for the loss of his daughter?
And then, last year, he started calling once a month. Could he drop by to see me? Could he take me for the weekend? He’d really like to talk.
Mom would wave the phone at me whenever he called, talking loudly at me so he’d know I was home. But I always got off the phone as quick as I could. Leave it to my deadbeat Dad to start caring just when I’d decided not to anymore.
And now here I was, living my childhood dream. But the first skip he took me along to find was Alison, a skinny girl almost my age who had failed to pay child support. Some crime-fighting life. Some reason to ditch your daughter.
I glanced back at Alison. She caught me looking at her and half smiled, which made me feel like I should say something.
“It must be humiliating to be chained up like that,” I said.
“Ricki,” Dad said in a warning tone. I pretended I hadn’t heard him.
“Did you really not support your kid?” I asked. She looked too young to have children.
Alison sighed. “It’s complicated.”
Dad shook his head. “You got a child, right?”
“I don’t see what’s so complicated about it, then,” Dad said. “If you’ve got kids, you support them.”
“You living my life?” Alison asked.
“Thankfully, no,” Dad said.
“Then mind your own business.”
Dad watched the road in front of him. “Pretty soon your business will be between you and the judge.”
Alison didn’t respond. I wished she would. It was nice to hear someone besides me arguing with Dad.
I turned back to my list, writing down the reason for Alison’s arrest. Mom said Dad always paid his support right on time, every month. Still, there was more to being a parent than money.
“You studying?” Dad asked me.
“I’m taking notes,” I said. Which was true, they just weren’t the kind he was thinking of.
“Good girl.”
I wanted to write down how condescending Dad was being, but I didn’t. Instead I sat with my pen hovering over the paper, bouncing up and down with the grain of the road. When I made lists, I tried to keep them objective. Ms. Nielson, my journalism teacher, said reporters always write down the facts and details, trying not to make judgments about anything. I liked that idea. I captured the world the way it was. Like a photo. Some of my friends from school wrote angsty lyrics about how miserable their lives were, but what did that get them? Tears, a runny nose, and a reputation for drama.
I pressed the ballpoint to my notepad, deciding on some words. Dad thinks if you have a kid, you should pay child support. Paying for them is the law, but spending time with them isn’t.
*   *   *
When we pulled into the parking lot of the county jail, Dad removed Alison’s chains and let her walk in uncuffed. She hadn’t been any trouble when he picked her up, so I guess he wasn’t worried about her running away. Plus, Dad was a big guy. He could take her down if he had to.
Alison’s shoulders hunched like she’d just gotten home from a very long walk. Dad stood straight and tall. He was dressed in jeans and a blue button-up shirt. His undershirt had this weird swoop neck, so his chest hair poked out right below his collar. He kept his hair cut above his ears—not long or dreadlocked. He didn’t wear chains or leather or have obvious tattoos. But despite his lame clothes, he managed to pull off a commanding presence through posture alone. I couldn’t help but be impressed.
Dad held the door open for Alison, like he was some kind of gentleman instead of her bounty hunter, and they disappeared inside. I wondered if Alison would end up in prison. It didn’t seem right that Dad had ignored me for most of fifteen years and now here he was bringing her in like some kind of hero.
I lifted my pen to the page. Dad walks with his shoulders thrown back, so he swaggers like a sheriff in a western. I smiled. That would have to go in the blog too. My boyfriend, Jamie, would love it. He liked to watch this show on cable called Big Mike: Bounty Hunter. Big Mike was always getting pumped up chasing after murderers and getting in gunfights. Ever since I told Jamie that’s what my father did for a living, he’d been bugging me for details about my TV dad. I hated to disappoint him, but my dad was nothing like Big Mike.
I thumbed through the first pages of my notebook, to the spot where Jamie had stolen it and written in it himself, right below my tally of how many times Mr. Brandt had said “more or less” during our geology lesson. Final tally: thirty-two.
In the margin, Jamie had drawn a picture of Mr. Brandt with his eyes crossed, flipping me off.
Jamie always made fun of me for my lists. I didn’t get what the big deal was. It’s not any weirder than the emo poetry in my school’s lit journal.
I hadn’t gotten to talk to Jamie since Dad picked me up last week. I checked the dash to see if Dad had left his phone behind so I could call Jamie’s cell, but he hadn’t.
When Dad opened the truck door, I jumped. He climbed in and slammed the door.
“So that’s it?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that’s all you have to do? Pack up the skips and take them to a jail?”
“Sounds easier than it is sometimes. I’ve got to get them to a jail in the county where they were arrested. The farther they run, the farther I have to drag them back.”
“Why can’t you just turn them in to the cops?”
“I don’t get paid unless I take them in myself. Sometimes the cops beat me to it, but on the small jobs, usually not.”
I’d seen that on TV. Big Mike got really pissed whenever the cops beat him to an arrest. He always had to psych himself up with an extra-big job to get over it.
“I need to go see Cal,” Dad said. “Just got off the phone with him. He’s got another job for me.”
“Maybe we could go back to Grandma’s first? To see if Mom’s there?” Grandma lived in Salt Lake, which was an eight-hour drive from Denver, and an hour from Mom’s old place. Jamie didn’t have money for gas, so I hadn’t seen him since the night Mom disappeared and I took the bus up to Grandma’s. At least then we’d been able to talk on my cell phone, before it got shut off.
Mom often left for a week or so without notice, and I’d catch a bus to stay with Grandma until she came back. Grandma always said that Mom shouldn’t be abandoning me just to take trips with her boyfriends. She’d glare and huff when Mom came to pick me up, but we all knew she didn’t want me staying alone, either.
But this time Mom had been gone for a month. Three weeks in, Grandma decided she couldn’t deal with me anymore, so she convinced Dad to come pick me up. A month was a long time to go without school, or seeing Anna or Jamie. Or Mom, for that matter. I should have just crashed with Anna instead of going to Grandma’s. Anna wouldn’t have called my dad. Her parents would have been nosy about it, though.
“I called your grandmother, too,” Dad said. “She still hasn’t heard anything.”
“But maybe Mom will show up while we’re on our way there. She’s never been gone this long before.”
Dad shook his head. “Grandma will call me as soon as she hears from your mom. I’ll drive you back when that happens.”
“Even if you’re in the middle of a job?”
“Even then.”
Dad started up the truck and backed out onto the street. Silence stretched between us, and I tried to think of something else to talk about. On the drive from Salt Lake to Denver I’d thought I’d punish him by not talking at all. Then I realized he actually likes the silence. I guess you’d have to if you were going to drive all over the country by yourself chasing skips—the only company Dad seemed to need were his recorded books. Besides, after three weeks with no one but Grandma to talk to and then a week stuck in Dad’s parked travel trailer, all I wanted to do was talk.
“How old is Alison?” I asked.
“She looks younger than that.”
“Yeah, well, she acts pretty young too.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Dad sighed. “It means she doesn’t take responsibility for her own life. And her own kid. I pick up a lot of people like that.”
“People who don’t pay child support?”
“People who don’t take responsibility for their choices.”
“Being young isn’t the same as being irresponsible.”
“Sometimes it is.”
“I’m younger than her, and I’m responsible.” Mom always told me that. I did most of the cooking, and a lot of the shopping. I’d had a credit card in her name and a fake ID that said I was her since I was thirteen, so I could buy food when she forgot.
Dad looked over at me, but he didn’t respond.
“You don’t think so?”
“You getting that homework done?”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m responsible for things that matter.”
“Homework does matter.”
“It’s not like you’re Mr. Education. You just did bail enforcement training in a couple of states.”
“Maybe I want better for you.”
“Besides, not all education comes from school.” He patted the music player on the dashboard. “I may be on the road, but I’m always learning something. I can download audio versions of your English books, if that’ll make it easier for you. Maybe you’re an auditory learner like me.”
“Maybe not,” I said. “I think I’m more of a hands-on person.”
“Yeah,” Dad said. “Your mom was like that too.”
“See?” I said. “I’m not being irresponsible. I just take after her.”
“I suppose she’s proof of your point. Responsibility doesn’t come with age, after all.”
I gritted my teeth. “Don’t talk about her like that.”
Dad’s chin dropped slightly, and he was quiet for a moment.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re right. I shouldn’t say things like that in front of you.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t say things like that at all.”
“Whatever. Why are you apologizing to me?” Mom never did, so I wasn’t sure how to respond.
“Because I feel bad for what I said. Responsible people apologize when they upset someone.”
“Thank you, Mr. Rogers.”
Dad laughed then, which also wasn’t the response I expected.
What stung was that I knew he was right about Mom. She worked to support us, of course, although she counted on me to do a lot of the responsible stuff other moms did for their kids. But she was a single mom, which was harder. Besides, it wasn’t like I didn’t get anything out of the deal. I never had a curfew. Mom would let me leave whenever I wanted and come home when I pleased. And a couple of times a week she didn’t even come home at night herself. She said that’s why I was more responsible: She didn’t give me anything to rebel against.
I pulled out my notebook again, opening to the page where I left off. Dad and I are headed out to find him another job. Mom still hasn’t called. Maybe if I put that last part in the blog, Mom would see it and call me.
“At least you’re getting some homework done now,” Dad said. “I’m glad I brought you along today.”
I smiled.
“And I don’t think you’re irresponsible. You just need to apply some of that responsibility to your education.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I get it.”
If Mom could run off, leaving her job and our apartment and all her other responsibilities, I didn’t see why I should keep being the responsible one. Look where all that responsibility got me. Stuck on the road with a father who’d never wanted me and a mother who’d disappeared for a month. The way I saw it, life was easier for irresponsible people.

Text copyright © 2012 by Janci Patterson

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