I will leave this here:

Author’s Note: Please understand that this is a rough draft.  There is a lot of work left to be done on this novel, above and beyond actually finishing the writing process.

Because of that, I will admit that I am nervous about posting this.  I hope that you enjoy it all the same.


 

Kristen’s Thriller

Chapter 3, Part 1

Samantha Carter brushed her white-gold hair out of her face and readjusted the car’s main rear view mirror for the millionth time.  This drive always made her restless.  Why did her father have to live so far away from civilization?  Yeah, he claimed that he only lived minutes away from a city, but Sam wouldn’t call that mass of people a city.  For a city, she wanted coffee shops and theaters and a night life.  Dance clubs and—

She sighed.  Not someplace where she was constantly afraid that a strong wind would kill the electricity.  Her father was so backward.  She loved him, but at times like these she couldn’t comprehend what drove him.  Not that she hadn’t tried to get him to move closer to her apartment in Detroit.  There was plenty of open space between there and here, but he always came up with some excuse.  It was still too crowded.  The land was too expensive.  Aliens.  No joke.  He’d used that one on her once.  Granted, he’d had a bit too much to drink that night and he’d said it with a smile, but when she’d pressed, her father had changed the subject.

“What’s up?” said the man who sat in the passenger seat next to her.  Edward Campbell had a full beard naturally streaked with red and matching hair that brushed the tops of his ears.  He wore a tee shirt that parodied Pulp Fiction which hid the extra weight he was carrying.  “That was the third time you’ve adjusted the mirror in ten minutes and the sixth time you’ve sighed in fifteen.”

Damn, did he have a good head for numbers.

“Nothing.”  Sam shrugged.  “Everything.”

Eddy raised an eyebrow.  Sam sighed again.

“It’s this drive.  I hate how long it takes.  The whole thing drives me insane.  Even the scenery doesn’t change.  Boring.”

“That it?”

“And Dad.  That should be no surprise.  I love him—he’s the only family I got—but telling him about this scares me.  I’m not scared of him, just scared to tell him.  I mean, he’s my dad.  They are masters of making you feel inferior and second guessing your life choices.”

“Mine didn’t feel that way.  Even you said that.”

“Yeah, but I’ve met your family before.  You haven’t ever seen him.  What if his backwoods ways changes things?  For all I know, he could be sitting outside cleaning his gun when we pull up.  Dad always loved those clichés.  Made him laugh constantly.”  Sam let out a growl of frustration.  “They drove me insane by the time I was ten.”

“The same clichés that I use?  You know that I’ll be using them when the time comes.  I mean, we’ve discussed kids—they’ll come eventually—and clichés are every father’s prerogative.”

“Yeah, but you’re clichés are about R2D2 while you’re watching Star Trek.”

Eddy shot Sam a look equal parts scandalized and amused.

“I know R2D2 isn’t in Star Trek.  But Dad’s a bit different.  He’s not what you’d call normal.  Sure, he does all the usual stuff, but there’s more.  It’s. . . . Hell, I don’t know.  I can’t say that he’s the stereotypical man’s man—out of touch with his emotions and all that nonsense—but at the same time, he is.  The number of times that I cried on his shoulder growing up is too many to count but—”

Eddy put his hand on her shoulder and squeezed.  “I’m sure that everything will be fine.  Besides, if he throws a fit, will that change your mind?”

“No, but—”

“Then I wouldn’t worry about it.  What I am worried about is your obvious confusion between franchises.  I thought you were beyond a Data and R2D2 switch, Padawan.”

Sam smirked and let Eddy’s conversation drift over her.  She really knew the difference, but occasionally she found it entertaining to push his buttons.  But this whole thing with her father was more complicated than Eddy knew.  Fathers and daughters—especially those raised like she was—had a special bond.  It wasn’t explained easily.  And while what her father said wouldn’t change things, it did matter to her.

The pavement gave way as she took a left turn onto a dirt road just wide enough for two cars to pass.  If they were careful about it.  Of course, the washboard road would make the drive a nightmare for anyone not careful about their driving.  Her Ford sedan wasn’t made for roads like these, but it wouldn’t be much of a problem either.  Not unless they were stuck here after the first snow fell, and that was probably four months away at the earliest.

A mix of oaks, maples, and other deciduous trees rose thirty feet or more on either side of the road, with a few ever greens mixed in.  Sam had always thought that they were there more to provide a bit of spice to the landscape than anything else.  Bushes filled in the gaps between tree trunks.  It was an explosion of green and brown broken only by the splash of color of a bird or a break in the foliage that allowed sunlight to peak through.

Eddy continued to chatter on and Sam responded once or twice so that he didn’t think she was ignoring him like she actually was.  The radio had been cutting in and out as they left civilization behind, but it had given out when they’d turned into the woods.  Now, Sam turned it off, the click removing everything from the purr of the engine, the natural sound of the woods, and the tires going down the road.  A feeling of peace settled over her.  This was one of her favorite moments, enjoying the simple pleasures of a good drive.  Even the washboard road had given way to smooth dirt.  Now if she could only convince Eddy to be quiet for a bit and she might be ready to face her father.

“You’re not listening, are you?”  Eddy sounded a bit hurt and more annoyed.

Sam scanned back through her memory of the conversation.  “You were saying why, from a scientific standpoint, that Doctor Who is a horrible example of time travel compared to Back to the Future and Star Trek.  I’m still not sold on the idea of Star Trek as a time travel show—and yes, I remember that they’ve done time travel episodes.”  She took a deep breath.  “But can we have a bit of silence for a little bit.  We’re about ten minutes out and, well, I want to gather my thoughts.”

And enjoy the drive.  Eddy nodded, a bit like the overgrown child that he sometimes acted like, but he fell silent.  Sam rolled down the window—it was still a bit cold out to be doing that, but that wouldn’t stop her—and an unconscious smile rose on her lips.  Waffing smells of pine and wet leaves—and fresh air!—brought memories rushing back.  Sticking a hand out the window, she moved it up and down as if it was a bird’s wing.  More of her attention was on that arm than on the road.  More than once, she had to jerk her attention back to the wheel when a leaf or stick fell onto the road before her.  One or two cars caused her to pull over and slow down, but even those couldn’t dampen her mood.  A few squirrels and other rodents ran out before the car, each turning back or crossing the road before she reached it.  None fell to her tires and that small victory of nature over technology brought a smile to her face.

Maybe that was why she’d chosen to study the natural sciences over business or pre-law.  They might be profitable, but they also seemed cold to her.  Doctors, for all their vaunted bedside manner, felt flat and boring and more interested in their next golf outing with its precisely manicured lawns than anything else.  It was all so impersonal and regulated.  Nature wasn’t meant to be regulated and if you were going to go outside, then damn it, you took the risk of sticks and leaves and dirt and worms and all those things that called it home.  But teaching at a major university in a major metropolitan city limited her chances to be with unvarnished, unrestricted nature.  She had to go where the jobs where, but she’d enjoy every moment she could way from that concrete jungle.

Eddy even seemed to be enjoying it, once he’d turned up the heat and wrapped his arms around himself.  A while ago, he’d pulled out a sweatshirt and now he drew it on over his tee shirt.  Still, and despite shoving his hands deep into the center pocket, he seemed to be enjoying himself.  A slight smile raised the corners of his mouth as his eyes watched the trees flow by.  Maybe he would end up enjoying this trip more than he thought.  Sam’s smile broadened and she turned her eyes back to the road.

Ten minutes later and just over a slight rise in the road, Sam turned onto a small dirt road.  This one wasn’t much more than a trail, with grass and weeds growing between two ruts of dirt that marked the trail of tires before hers.  Here the trees and bushes towered over the car with the occasional branch brushing against the windshield.  Unevenness in the ruts caused the car to bounce and jolt as she crept along at a sedate pace.  She could probably have walked faster than driving this path, but her father insisted on keeping it this way, like it was his design of some sort.  Eddy shot an annoyed glance at her at one particularly hard bounce, but kept his mouth shut.  Even Sam wished for a bit of pavement instead of having her insides thrown about.

A short curve and they entered a three acre clearing covered in grass that rose two or three feet into the air.  Here and there a small bush or a fallen tree poked up out of the waving stalks of tan and green.  Sam knew the area well and pressed down on the accelerator, a small smile creeping onto her face.  Another small hill, and they would see her father’s cabin.  House.  She shook her head.  It was smaller than her apartment but her father acted like it was Buckingham Palace.  Oh, well.  That was his prerogative.  She’d go for something larger when the time came, but if he liked it, who was she to question his decision?

The Ford rounded the small hill and there it was; her father’s house.  Whitewashed siding glistened in the sun.  No blemish marked its surface.  Her father would never stand for that.  A red brick chimney poked itself from the top of the roof.  Several bushes surrounded the building, adding their own splash of color to the idyllic picture.  Just behind the house, an old oak tree even stood, granting the building a modicum of shade.  Beside it sat the wood shed, its stock of fuel dwindled after the winter.  But a more than a few pieces still sat neatly stacked inside its shelter to help ward of the still cold nights.  Fifteen yards further on was the old barn, the wood of its walls painted a faded red, but whole and sound.  Dad’s Jeep would be inside, along with his workshop, ready to go at a moment’s notice.  The barn’s giant doors were closed, as well as the human sized one that sat in a corner, but Sam knew they were ready to be opened at a moment’s notice thanks to well oiled hinges.

Sam pulled to a stop thirty yards away and shut off the engine.  At any moment, her father would open the door, arms open to welcome her home.  A huge smile would fill his face and light would dance in his eyes.  The only question was whether his plaid shirt would be red or blue today.  Blue. She would go with blue.  And even though she was well into her twenties, she looked forward to seeing him and getting that hug.  It’d been too long.

I’m such a Daddy’s girl, she thought, standing up and stretching after the long drive.

Only the house door didn’t open.  Sam stood for a moment, scratching her head.  He’d never missed her driving up.  Each and every time, he’d known that she was approaching and was at the door before she was.  He knew they were going to be here this morning.  Or afternoon, she thought glancing at the sun.  Maybe he was getting old.  She hated to think of that, but age crept up on everyone.

Sam took a slow step forward and nearly jumped at the sound of crunching gravel behind her.  She spun and saw Eddy slam the car door as he walked up to her.

“This the place?” he asked.  “Now I see why we have to stay in that roadside motel outside of town.  Not enough room for a mouse in there.”

Moe’s Roadside Sleepyhole wasn’t anything great, but she’d known Moe Jefferies her entire life and she wouldn’t sleep anywhere else in town.  It was clean and cheap.  No, it wasn’t a Hilton, but Mrs. Jefferies insisted on cleanliness and avoiding all those stereotypes that plagued roadside motels.  He really had no room to complain.

“Yeah,” she said.  “Dad should have come out by now.  He never misses a chance to. . . .” Her words drifted off as she started toward the house.  There wasn’t any reason to worry.  Everything looked normal.  No windows were broken.  The door wasn’t forced.  Maybe he had forgotten that today was the day she was going to arrive.  He was probably just out to town getting supplies, eggs most like.  A smile appeared as she thought of his daily ritual.  Perhaps some sausage as well.  Yes, that was it.  Nothing amiss.

Only. . . . There was one, no wait, two—three—black SUV’s parked on the side of the barn, just out of sight of the road.  Where had they come from?  And she could see a broken panel of glass in one of the rear windows as the light shone through one of the side windows.  A faint whiff of chemicals filled the air and she stopped dead in her tracks.  Eddy gave her a curious look as he made to pass her on his way to the front door.  Sam’s arm shot out and she grabbed his shoulder as old reflexes, long forgotten, resurfaced.  Something wasn’t right and they had to leave before—

The front door opened and two men in black stepped out holding automatic weapons.  A third rounded the side of the house away from the barn and Sam could see more moving about inside.

Damn it, she hated being right sometimes.

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4 thoughts on “Kristen’s Thriller: The Next Chapter

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