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Demon Hunters Pt3 Chp 38

First chapter of Part 3 of Demon Hunters.

Part 3

 Chapter 38

 

I walked into the building that housed my office on Sunset Boulevard on an unseasonably cool June morning. It had been almost three months since my office was rebuilt after nearly being brought down by a monstrous zombie. The whole building still smelled new as I walked through the doors. The scent of fresh paint and cut wood lingered in the air like a faint ghost and the walls and floors gleamed with sharp brilliance. It was like stepping into a brand new world.

Since all the madness with the Morgan Sanguine case, my life had settled back into normal mode. Of course, normal for me was still more chaotic than most other peoples’ lives. My caseload remained steady, but despite that, and an unpleasant encounter with a rare Were-tiger, I felt rather good about my life.

My demon was still rattling around in my head and I was still a lightning rod for all manner of horror and atrocity you could think of. The one thing that made me happy above all that mess was the fact that Gwen had sold her home in Blue Haven and moved to Los Angeles to live, which put an automatic spring in all my steps.

She found a nice condo in Studio City, which was actually quite nice. I helped her get used to the area. Showed her all the points of interest, for both the tourist and native. I showed her where to get the best produce and the best places to go for a late night fast food binge. We were inseparable for weeks, but I couldn’t play momma bird forever. I had to get back to work and Gwen was set to find a career of her own. Due to the conflicting schedules of both goals, we found we had less face time to enjoy, but we did enjoy what time we had. She had said she was close to finally landing a job but she didn’t go into much more detail than that.

As I walked up the stairs to my office, I was quite impressed with the work done on the building. My landlord wasn’t burdened with a reputation for being very generous and I was sure he was going to lowball the whole job, but it looked as though he had spent real money. He not only had my office rebuilt but he gave the whole dump a makeover, inside and out. There was new molding along the walls along with brand new paint. I walked up the stairs to my office and noticed the fresh new carpeting he had installed. I also noticed how quiet it was. I felt like I was the only one in, but as I stepped inside, I saw Ivar at his desk poring over a pile of books.

“Morning.” Ivar looked up.

“Good Morning, Jake. You’re in early.”

“Yeah, I tried to sleep in, but I just couldn’t do it.”

“That is a sign of a healthy sleep pattern.”

“If you say so.”

“How is Gwen? I haven’t seen her in a while.”

“We’re good. She’s been busy looking for a new job.”

“She’s having trouble?”

“It’s tough going from a small fish bowl like Blue Haven and into an ocean like L.A.”

“I’m sure she’ll find something. She seems very bright.”

“She is. What are you up to?”

“Nothing. Just my usual referencing exercises. We had a couple of visitors.”

“Already? What did they want?”

“One wanted to hire you for a background check. It didn’t seem he understood the nature of our business. The other wanted you to gather evidence for some lawsuit he’s preparing. They both left numbers.” I walked over to my desk. It was oddly clear of clutter and papers. Gwen had taken to stopping by periodically and straightening up for me. I looked over at my phone and saw a slip of paper with two numbers and two names. One name had background check next to it and the other one had lawsuit. I picked the phone up and started dialing the background check number first.

“You’re actually calling?” Ivar asked with some level of surprise.

“We gotta pay the bills somehow. The little demons and imps of the city have been annoyingly quiet lately. I can do a quick background check. Pick up an extra check. It might just cover the electric bill this month.”

I sat down with the phone to my ear. A voice came on suddenly. It was thick and low.

“Hello?”

“Hi. Jake Corba here. Is this William Bertram?

“Yes. Thank you for getting back to me.”

“My pleasure. You came by my office this morning?”

“Yes. I spoke with your assistant. I need you to run a background check on someone I’m thinking about hiring.”

“Are we looking for anything in particular?”

“Just a general check. Prison record, whatnot.”

“Okay. I can do that. Would you be able to come in and sign some papers?”

“Of course. I could come by this afternoon.”

“Great. Any time after two will be fine.”

“I will see you then.” It sounded like he was about to hang up, and a curiosity came over me.

“Mr. Bertram? Before you go, I’d like to ask you something.”

“What?”

“Why me? There are lots of companies that do this kind of work. I’m just some no-name private investigator. How did you even find me?”

“It’s actually the oddest thing. I told the applicant I needed to run a background check, and they actually referred me to you.”

“They did? Who is this applicant?”

“Gwen Thorne. Do you know her?” I smiled a little to myself.

“The name sounds familiar. I’ll have to check. Come by around two and we’ll get you taken care of.”

“Okay. Thank you.” He said and hung up. I leaned back in my chair and just as I was about to open my mouth, the door swung open and Gwen came in.

“Good morning you two.” She softly patted Ivar’s shoulder as she made her way over to me. She was wearing a blue dress that danced gracefully with every step she took. I could sense the faint aroma of perfumed flowers in the air as she got closer. I got up quickly and wrapped her up in my arms and hugged her tightly.

“Morning.”

“Jake. I have a favor to ask.”

“I already talked to him.”

“Him? Who him?”

“William Bertram. About your background check.”

“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Don’t act so innocent.”

“Fine. I might have encouraged him to call you.”

“It’s fine, really. I just don’t get why.”

“I was hoping you might be able to creatively edit some of the things you find in my background check.”

“Like what? What could you have done that would raise any red flags? A nice girl from Blue Haven, like yourself.” Gwen turned away from me slowly.

“There’s a lot about me you don’t know. Not that any of it is relevant now. I was a different person then.” My interest was rising.

“Okay. You’re scaring me now. What am I going to find?”

“Nothing. Some youthful transgressions. A few black marks. A little federal conviction.”

“Excuse me?”

“It was nothing. In college, I got kind of swept up in activism and some friends and I went out on a boat and intercepted some fishing boats that were known to kill dolphins.”

“And?”

“We kind of hijacked it.”

“You hijacked a boat?”

“And then ran it aground,” Gwen looked up and caught me staring at her. “It was a small one. No one told me it was a felony. I got a year of probation. I didn’t serve hard time, but it’s still on my record.”

“That doesn’t sound, too bad.” I said with some reservation.

“I know that, but it doesn’t look so sterling to prospective employers,” Gwen said. “I just need you to kind of water it down a little.”

“Water down. As in erase?”

“If you could?”

“Gwen. That’s illegal. Incredibly illegal,” Gwen looked down darkly. I quickly put my finger to her chin and lifted her head back up. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks,” Gwen said with a broad smile. “Will you stop looking at me like that?”

“I’m sorry. It’s hard to digest. I can’t really picture you taking part in anything illegal.”

“You believe in ghosts, demons, trolls, werewolves, and all other sorts of things that go bump in the night, but me breaking the law is so out of reach?”

“All those other things I’ve seen. I just can’t see you hijacking a boat. It’s kind of bad ass.”

“I have a wild side.”

“That is becoming exceedingly clear.” I pulled Gwen in for a kiss.

“Before I met you I had a very interesting life.

“No doubt. So, what job is so important to get that I’m risking jail time?”

“Real estate agent.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I got my license a long time ago, but I got kind of sidetracked after I got married. I thought I’d pick it back up. I renewed my license last week and interviewed with Mr. Bertram a couple days ago.”

“And this would be a big career move?”

“Big enough. Bertram Real Estate is a huge company, at least from what I’ve learned. The important thing is he’s willing to take a chance on me. That is as long as my background check comes back clean and felony free.”

“Yes, don’t worry. I think it should be easy to bury a boat hijacking. Not much chance of you doing it again, is there?” I thought it came out rather cute, but Gwen’s expression soured and she stepped away.

“It’s not a joke.”

“I didn’t say it was.”

“This is important to me. When I was married, Henry didn’t like me working. He was always so backward about that. I got my real estate license for a reason. What better job is there than to help people find homes to raise their family?”

“Okay. I’m sold. You want this? We’ll make it happen.” Gwen beamed up at me and gently kissed my lips.

“Thank you.”

“Settled? We good?”

“Yes.”

“Great. Now get out of here. I’ve got a business to run.”

“All right. I’ll see you tonight, right? Dinner?” Gwen asked as she headed for the door.

“Absolutely.” She blew me a final kiss and disappeared around the corner. I looked back down at the phone and picked up the little slip of paper next to it. The last number was for a guy named Felix Lesidous. I quickly dialed but instead of ringing, I got an earful of a loud beep and a message stating that the number had been disconnected.

“This guy came in today, right?”

“Correct.”

“That’s gotta be a record. His phone’s been disconnected.” I said. Suddenly the door flew open and a scrawny looking guy stood in the frame. He was wearing a suit of questionable taste. It was poorly cut and seemed to be two sizes too large. His face was angular and pale with dark lines running up around his mouth. His thick brows were furrowed over his angry eyes as he marched up to my desk and pounded his fist down.

“You Jake Corba?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“I’m Felix Lesidous.”

“I was just trying to call you. Your phone’s been cut off. You know about that?”

“That’s not important right now. I need your help.”

“Fine,” I sat down. “I understand you need me to help you with a lawsuit. Is that right?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Now we’re getting somewhere. Have a seat and let’s get to work,” Felix sat down in the chair across from me and settled in. I pulled out a piece of paper and found a pen. It had been a long time since I worked on a, as some would say, normal case, but I remembered getting as much information as was available was a good thing. “So, Mr. Lesidous, what is the nature of your lawsuit? What are we looking for?”

“I am suing on the grounds of wrongful damnation!”

Seems crazy? Well, it makes sense if you read the whole thing. Check it out.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006LBQXKS

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Demon Hunters Chpt 14

Below is the first chapter of the second  part of ‘Demon Hunters’. If you feel you’re missing something, you can always buy the book. Just sayin’.

Chapter 14

 

I looked up at the clock on the wall. It was half past two in the morning. I was sitting at the table in the briefing room. That’s what the arresting officer called it. I had been left there nearly a half hour earlier and still I waited. I looked across the table at the mirror on the wall. I checked my hair. It was a little messy, but I liked it like that. A few scars on my face here and there, but I liked having a face with character. It was hard to stifle a little laugh, though. Did the cops really think that fooled anyone anymore? Anyone who’s seen Law & Order knows the deal.

The door suddenly opened and someone came in. The suit registered as a man, but I looked at the face and saw it was a woman. She had very short, black hair and she sat down across from me and slapped down a large folder onto the table.

”Hello.” She said.

“Hi.”

“I’m Detective Samantha Reynolds. I believe we have things to discuss,” Her demeanor was difficult to read. I knew she wanted to bust my ass, but she seemed to be holding back. Her glare kept on me as if I was a small child and she was a Rottweiler who hadn’t been fed in three weeks. “Well?”

“What?”

“It’s late. I’m tired. I don’t think I have to tell you exactly how much trouble you’re in right now,” I looked down at the stained floor and the events that have transpired recently dashed across my brain.

“You might have to,” I said. “I was already in some before this,” She leaned back in her chair. Her face became easier to read. Angry. Definitely angry. “You mind if I smoke?” I reached into my coat pocket for my last cigarette.

“This is a non-smoking facility. There’s a hundred dollar fine.” I pulled out my wallet along with my cigarette.

“Here,” I dropped the money down. “Two hundred. I had an extra one.” I then proceeded to light up.

“I’m sure you think you’re being very clever and funny, but that is not the case. We have your accomplices. We’ll get the information out of them if we have to.” I let out a breath, unleashing a faint cloud of smoke.

“Your hair is short.”

“I like it short.”

“You a lesbian?”

“That’s none of your business.”

“In other words, yes.”

“No. As a matter of fact, I’m not.” She said and then wiggled her ring finger at me. “Married two years.”

“Great. Congrats.” I took another drag.

“The only time you’re wasting is yours.”

“I beg to differ. I’m sure you have a lot of better things to do than sit here with me.”

“I do, but I’m getting paid for this. Are you going to talk?”

“I really don’t even know what you want to hear.”

“Fine. I’ll talk,” She opened up the envelope and pulled out some papers. She held them up in front of her face and began reading. “Jake Corba. Correct?”

“It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.”

 “Age thirty five. It says here you run a paranormal investigation firm. Interesting work?”

“It can be.”

“Now what leads a man such as yourself to such a unique career path?” I knew the tone. The same pandering attitude I always got from people when I told them what I did for a living. Ninety nine percent of the world seems to refuse to believe in the existence of anything that can’t be found in either the Bible or an encyclopedia.

“I have a demon in me.”

“Do you drink a lot? Take any drugs?” The usual follow up.

“No. Just possessed. It’s been swimming around in my soul since I was born.”

“Could you elaborate on that?” She kept up her game face, but I could see through it as clear as glass.

“I was only a few months old when it happened. My parents took me to church to have me baptized. They brought me up and the pastor said his words and as he dabbed me with holy water, that’s when it happened.”

“When what happened?”

“The creature entered me. My soul was taken over by a demon. The church burst into flames, killing my parents and the rest of the congregation. It was all pretty much downhill from there.”

“And you believe this?”

“I didn’t at first. I knew I had a demon inside of me but a lot of that night was something I didn’t care to remember. I remember the screams. I remember seeing my mother being pinned under a large beam from above. I remember her face. She was so beautiful. Her face was so serene and peaceful, despite the situation. She looked into my eyes and I looked back into hers. That’s the last thing I can recall clearly.”

“Sounds intense.”

“It was.”

“And because you were possessed?”

“It’s as good an explanation as any. I was young. I couldn’t control the thing. Are you trying to pin a thirty five year old arson case on me now?”

“No. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on now and you are not helping me. What about your partner?”

“Ivar? What about him?”

“What do you know about him?”

“Plenty. He’s kind of weird, but he’s a good guy. Smart. He knows just about everything. He’s also very spiritual. I think in some parts of the world, he’s a shaman. He told me that.”

“Does he have an address? A phone number?”

“I don’t know.”

“He works for you.”

“I know, but I’ve never had to call him or mail him anything. He just kind of shows up.”

“Is he a citizen of this country?”

“That, I admit, is embarrassing that I don’t know. It’s never really come up.”

“Tell me about the case you’ve been working on.”

“Is that what you want to know?”

“It would be a start.” I plunged my cigarette into the palm of my hand to put it out. It sizzled upon contact with my skin but I didn’t feel a thing. I could see the look on Reynold’s face. I casually dusted my palms clean and lit my last stick up.

“The last case. Fine. I’ll tell you all about this last case. Get comfy.”

 If you’re enjoying it so far, it only gets better. Get a copy of the book (hardcopy or digital) now!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006LBQXKS

Demon Hunters Chpt 1

I’m changing things up this week. As I said, I would post the first few chapters of the book I offered for free the previous Friday for #freebookfriday but since I’ve offered this book so many times before, I think it may have become over saturated, so what I’m doing this week is putting up the first chapter of each part of the book. Just  trying this out. Enjoy!

Part 1
Chapter 1

 

My name is Jake Corba and I spent my twenty-fifth birthday baking away along Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, California. I wasn’t homeless, as such, but it was a lot more pleasant for me to camp out along the street than be at home, which was nothing more than a glamorized roach motel which enjoyed frequent visits from bill collectors and repo men. My creditors had become aggressive in their attempts to squeeze the last bit of blood from my veins and I didn’t want to make their job easier by being a stationary target.

I sat along the street and begged for change when the mood struck me, but mostly I just sat there and thought. I tried to keep my thoughts away from the past. I realize many people reflect fondly on their histories, but I’ve never found any comfort in mine. I never could see any point in dredging up a painful life in order to figure out exactly where it all went wrong, when I already knew. I could pinpoint my first and biggest mistake to the day I was born.

I didn’t remember much about my parents, as they didn’t last very long. There was a fire in the church on the night of my baptism. A fire, I have come to understand, that I started after I was possessed by some otherworldly force. A demon to be exact.

 A demon had infiltrated my small, fragile body and I was filled with its power. I didn’t know what I was doing and I don’t recall much of the experience, but apparently I caused the death of my parents and nearly every single soul in that church. That’s about all I can remember from my childhood. I have flashes of growing up, being tossed from one foster home to another.  I didn’t have many good memories to hold onto so I never tried.

Over time, I learned to control the demon on my own. It became a part of me and I learned that I was a lot better off on my own than with any family. No one could possibly understand who I was or what I had become. The demon inside me gave me strength. It helped me to survive on the street.

I saw a wealthy looking woman approaching me on her way to one of the boutiques along the boulevard. I looked up and mumbled a request for some spare coins. I expected her to just walk by but to my surprise she stopped and dug out some coins from her purse. She dropped them into my backpack and hurried on her way. When I was sure she was out of earshot, I rifled through my bag and found the money; a couple quarters and a penny. I shoved the coins into my pocket to join the others I had collected that morning. I almost had enough for a small cup of coffee. Happy birthday to me.

The day dragged on. I sat and watched the usual parade of life pass by. I walked along the block and mingled with my fellow street people. Once you get past the crazy, they have some real interesting stories to share. As I was heading back to my usual spot, I stopped in my tracks. I could see him across the street.

There was a very weird looking dude who seemed to have gotten into the habit of stalking me. He was a big guy too. Built like a brick wall. I had seen him staring at me a couple times over the past few months. At first, I just thought he was a local. I’ve seen a lot of people more than once around here. It wasn’t that unusual, but when I realized every time I saw him, he was looking at me, I began to worry. His gaze was penetrating. It was as though he were expecting me to do a trick or something. I turned away from him. When I looked up, he was gone. I was rather surprised by my reaction. I’m not the kind of guy to scare easy. I wasn’t sure why this freak was making me feel so uneasy.

I decided then was as good a time to pack it in. I could feel my skin burning, but I didn’t mind. The demon inside of me helped to keep me healthy and well. Any wounds I suffered, it would heal. Any ailments I had, it would cure. The voices in my head were a small price to pay for that kind of coverage.

I could tell it was getting late. Nearly time to eat but I didn’t have enough to get anything. I went over to a nearby trashcan and did a quick scan of its contents in case someone had tossed some leftovers or a half full soda cup. Nothing, but I had a theory that I did have some stale potato chips in my pantry back at my dump. I grabbed my bag and threw it over my shoulder and headed down the street.

The next day I came out at my usual time and camped out as always. It was a bit cooler and I was able to stake a claim on some sidewalk that had some good shadow coverage. I sat just watching for a few minutes, but I got bored. I went to my bag and pulled out a pen and paper. I started to write. Nothing deep or profound. I would sometimes just write down what came into my head. I wasn’t always sure if it was coming from my head, of course, but that wasn’t the point.  It also helped to have something to focus on other than myself. It really helped pass the time.

I was tearing through the pages for what seemed like only a few minutes, but when I finally came up for air, I saw three hours had passed. I felt my stomach begin to rumble loudly. The potato chips from last night weren’t quite as filling as I had hoped they’d be. I set the paper down and considered my options. It wasn’t even noon yet, and the foot traffic was unbearably light, so I didn’t have much more than the money I had collected yesterday. I double-checked my bag in case I missed something. I then decided to drown my hunger in my writing. I grabbed the paper and went back to my words.

The shade I had been luxuriating in for most of the morning was fading and I could feel the heat spreading. My forehead was moist with sweat. As I was starting a new line on the paper, I thought about taking a break to find a new spot when suddenly, the shade returned. I looked up and the brick wall freak was standing right over me. He had never gotten so close before. I could smell something coming off of him. Either his cologne or soap. It was subtle at first but soon it was all I could smell. Some sort of mix of animal musk and Old Spice.

“Hello.” His voice was like thunder. I snagged my bag and tried to slide away as slowly as possible.

“Hi.” I said.

“Jake Corba?” I felt a shock come over me. It had been so long since I had heard someone say my name. It almost seemed like hearing a foreign language. I wasn’t sure how to respond. I had made ducking creditors into an art form, but I wasn’t getting that kind of vibe from the guy.

“Yeah.” I said as I got to my feet. I began inching away, just in case.

“It is you, isn’t it?” He sounded relieved somehow. A smile, or what I thought was a smile, began to form on his lips.

“It’s me all right. Do I know you?”

“My name is Ivar.”

“Ivar? Ivar what?”

“For now, just Ivar. I have come a long way to meet you, sir.”

“Sir?”

“I am what some might call a student of the universe. I have traveled the world studying from the greatest religious and Philosophical minds on Earth. Holy men from every corner of the globe.”

“Okay, that’s great. Your passport’s full. Congrats. Can I go?”

“I’ve come here to study from you.” His tone was so sincere, I nearly believed him.

“From me? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not a holy man. I don’t even go to church.”

“But you are a Corba.”

“Guilty.”

“The day you were to be baptized, you were taken by a demon that still dwells in your soul to this day.”

“How do you know that?”

“I have insight.”

“That’s great,” I had thought he was creepy when he was just looking at me, but hearing what he had to say raised his creep factor by a million. By the look in his eyes, I could tell he really believed it all. I knew I had to get out of there and fast. “This has been interesting, but I think I need to get home now. Bye.” I said and turned away.

I took the long way home but as I was walking, I could sense someone behind me. I turned and saw that Ivar was following me. He wasn’t chasing me, but keeping pace with me. Clearly asking him to leave me alone wasn’t going to work. I turned a corner onto a small street a few blocks from my apartment and spun around to face Ivar as he approached.

“What is your problem, man? I don’t want to talk to you! I don’t know how you know so much about my life, but it doesn’t impress me. Just leave me alone! I’ll go to the cops if I have to.”

“I realize how strange this may seem to you. I have come to learn from you because I feel my teachings have become limited. It doesn’t matter how many religious leaders and figures I speak with. They are just devices chosen to deliver a message, but you are as close to the very essence of the living energy of this universe as any living thing can get. You are not a representative of a higher spirituality. You are a part of it. You have experienced a higher plane of existence and became one with it. You have knowledge that I could never hope to attain. I want to know all I can learn from you. I want to know how you came to be and why and…”

“Hold on there, dude. You want to learn about me from when? When I was born?”

“That’s right.”

“Well, you know about as much as I do. After that church thing, it’s all a blank until my first day at my first foster family.”

“Surely, you have more information than that. Your soul is bonded to a demon. Your family has been hunted and persecuted by demons for centuries. You are a perfect example of the functionally cursed.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Don’t you know about your family?”

“No, I don’t. I never really cared to look into the whole family tree. Being stuck with the demon has been bad enough.”

“You don’t know the story?”

“Don’t know it. Don’t care to.”

“Come with me then. I will share with you what I have learned.”

“Thanks, but no thanks. I never knew my family, and that’s been a fine arrangement so far. They seem to be too much trouble. Especially if they’re cursed. This has been freaky and disturbing and I think you need to go. Now.” I said and turned away from Ivar and continued on my way home.

“Don’t you even want to know why you live under this curse?” He barked at me as I got further from him.

“Not interested!”

“Even if I can help you cure yourself.” I stopped. The world stopped. His words echoed in my head. I had heard the word cure thrown around carelessly. Before I learned to control the demon, I tried to expel it. I talked to everyone I could about it. A few offered hope and promised they could save me, but they were all wrong. I decided it was better to just live with the damn thing and close the door on any hope of being cured. I wanted to turn back to Ivar and agree. I wanted him to show me some miraculous procedure or remedy that all the others had overlooked. The one silver bullet that would finally free me forever, but before I could utter a word, I remembered the disappointment I felt each time one of those saviors had let me down. I couldn’t do it again. I wouldn’t. I braced myself and continued on down the street without a word. I could hear Ivar behind me, begging me to come back, but I kept forward.

HOSL Chapter 4

Chapter 4

 

Carson was awoken by a loud knocking at his door. His eyes opened and he tried to focus. It was still dark. He looked over and saw that it was four in the morning. He struggled out from his sheets and trudged out to the living room and opened the front door. There was a well-dressed young man standing before him with a bright, gleaming smile on his face. His hair was slicked back but way too much hair gel. He was wearing what looked to be a cheap suit as a uniform. A name tag was perched on his lapel that read ‘Chip’.

“Good morning, Mr. Barnes.” Chip said.

“Uh, good morning, Chip.” Carson said as he noticed the tag on the young man’s shirt.

“I’m sorry if I disturbed you. I suppose no one told you I was coming.”

“As a matter of fact, no. Who are you?”

“I’m here to drive you to the airport.”

“Airport?”

“For your flight to Graveston.”

Carson’s face contorted in complete confusion.

“I just talked to Venris last night.” Carson began.

“Right, and he secured your ticket. Your flight leaves in two hours,” Chip said. “Don’t worry, we have time for you to pack if you need to.”

“Hold on.” Carson shut the door and ran back to his room. He searched around and plucked up the letter he received from the lawyers. He scanned the letterhead and found their numbers. He dialed up Archibald Venris. It only rang twice before his warm, accommodating voice came across, much to Carson’s surprise.

“Yes?”

“Uh, Mr. Venris? This is Carson Barnes…”

“Ah! Yes. Mr. Barnes. I trust Chip has arrived.”

“Uh, yes. He’s here. Look, I appreciate all the trouble you went to here, but you could have told me.”

“I believe I did.”

“Not really. You didn’t tell me you were going to be sending anyone to pick me up this fast. I was still kind of thinking about it.”

“What’s to think about? Trust me, Mr. Barnes. You will not be sorry you came.” Archibald said, sounding more persuasive than ever. Carson held the phone to his ear tightly. He could feel the thoughts racing through his mind. He felt as though he were at a crossroad. He was really in no position to take a trip to a town he had never heard of to accept an inheritance from an Uncle he had never heard of either, but he also knew that if any part of this was real, Archibald might be right and this could save him.

“I’ll see you this afternoon.”

The trip to the airport was quiet. Chip wasn’t much of a chatter which suited Carson just fine as he was in no mood to talk. His eyes kept falling but he couldn’t manage to fall asleep, so he spent his time in the car just staring out the window listlessly. The sun was starting to peek out from the early morning clouds. A burst of orange and red was looming on the horizon as they zipped down the empty freeway. Carson was taken by how quiet it all was. He was rarely ever up that early. He had never seen the city so quiet and rested.

“The blue hour.” Chip said suddenly. Carson turned to him.

“What?”

“I’m usually on the road between three and six in the morning every day and this is what I call the Blue Hour. The sun’s not up, but it’s not down and everything is kind of washed in a shade of blue. It’s like the hinge between night and day. One moment of peace before the chaos begins again. Look.” Chip said as he pointed to a swarm of cars loading up onto the freeway beside them. “It’s just about over. People are waking up and getting on with their day. It’s kind of like a flower blooming. Slow at first and then it bursts open, fully exposed to the world. It’s weird how we can’t seem to escape nature isn’t it?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, This is all man made, but it still obeys the basic rules of nature. It’s not alive, but acts like it is. Like it wants to be.”

Carson looked over at Chip.

“You think a lot about this?”

“Not much else to do when you’re chauffeuring people back and forth. People don’t talk and I’m not allowed to play the radio stations I like. They force us to put on this crap,” Chip said, pointing to the radio. Carson suddenly noticed the music playing. It was some kind of new age instrumental dirge. Carson noticed that Chip had the volume down to barely audible. “Not much else to do but think about things like that, but it’s true. It’s amazing how sometimes you can just open your eyes and see something amazing in something that’s been sitting in front of you all along.”

“I guess.” Carson turned back to the window and saw the sun was now more prominent and everything was growing brighter. Suddenly they were driving amongst a large school of cars that seemed to  have come from nowhere. Carson looked forward and could see they were getting closer to the airport. He reached down to the radio and switched the channel to the classic rock station and turned up the volume. It turned on in the middle of ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Carson looked over to Chip who looked back to him and smiled as they cruised the rest of the way to the airport.

When Chip turned into the airport, he took an alternate route away from the main terminal. Carson looked back with bewilderment.

“Uh, Isn’t that the airport back there?”

“Yes, but that’s not where you’re going.” Chip said as he drove on. He began driving down a small route to a small air field down from the main runway. Carson saw a small twin engine plane on the landing.

“What is this?”

“The fastest way to get to Graveston is by private charter.” Chip got out and started unloading Carson’s luggage. Carson opened his door and slowly pulled himself out.

“Where is this place?”

“Over here!” A voice called out. Carson looked over and saw someone who looked like the pilot of the plane. He was a thin, black man with a perfectly shaved head. He jogged out towards Carson. “You Carson Barnes?” He asked trying to be heard over the propellers.

“Yes!”

“Okay, just get in and buckle up. We need to get out of here.” The pilot said and then returned to the plane. Carson saw Chip also running from the plane after he had finished loading the bags.

“Have a safe trip!” Chip called out to Carson.

Carson pulled himself into the plane, nearly knocking his head on the ceiling. He belted himself in and almost immediately after, the plane began to slowly roll forward. Carson began to feel a surge of panic. He looked over and saw the wings wobbling violently and the surge turned into a torrent. He clutched the seat at the sides and gritted his teeth. He could see the pilot’s bald head staring back at him and beyond that, he could see the ground they were driving on, and then suddenly, the ground began to disappear. Carson could feel the pressure on his body. The horizon line began to move before them and Carson’s stomach felt weightless. The whole plane began to shudder and rattle as they climbed further into the sky. Just as Carson was certain the whole vessel was about to explode into a million pieces, everything just stopped and they began to level off. Carson’s hands relaxed. The pilot turned around in his seat to face Carson.

“You okay?” Carson nodded. “Sorry. This sucker gets to a rough start. By the way, I’m Jared Welbourne.” He said as he offered Carson his hand.

“Uh, yeah, nice to meet you, but shouldn’t you be, you know, driving?”

“Oh. It’s cool. We’re level and we’re set in. Sorry for the rush, but they keep us hoppers on a tight schedule.”

“It’s fine. So, how long is this flight?”

“Not long. You ever been to Graveston before?”

“No. You?”

“I live there, my man. Part time anyway. This job kind of forces me to split my time.”

“What’s it like?”

“It’s nice. Quiet. What brings you up this way?”

“Family business.”

“I see. You have family up there?”

“I used to. Collecting an inheritance.”

“Sorry.”

“It’s okay. I didn’t even know the guy.” Suddenly the plane jostled and Carson was taken by a look of panic on Jared’s face. Jared spun around in his seat and consulted the instruments. Carson looked around but couldn’t see that anything was wrong. There was nothing but blue sky from the front and he saw that the wings, while still shaking, were still attached. Soon the plane settled and Jared turned back around with a gleaming smile on his face.

“Nothing to worry about. Just a jet stream.”

Jared kept his mind on his work for the rest of the trip as Carson was plainly in no mood to talk. Carson felt badly about seeming so antisocial, but he had never been a good flyer.

“Hey, bud,” Jared called out. “You may want to look out the window. We’re here.”

Carson peeked out the window slowly and all he could see below them was acres of green tree tops. He scanned around curiously. He suddenly saw a large white steeple. The plane tipped over further and Carson could more clearly see the church located near the center of town. It was large and white, but the paint was worn. He could see smears of dark along the outer walls and the steps looked a bit broken from even their altitude. Carson could see the main road that ran through the entire expanse of Graveston. There were a few shopping centers along either side and then there were pockets of houses here and there. Big, old looking homes that looked a bit weather beaten but sturdy.

“That’s my house!” Jared called as they passed over a few homes. “The one in the middle there!” Jared further pointed out. Carson looked down and saw it. It was the smaller house in the grouping. It looked to be a seafoam green with white trim. Carson was beginning to feel a growing interest in Graveston until the road just ended and disappeared into the thick surrounding forest.

“Where do we land?”

“Further up!” Jared responded as he tipped the nose of the plane down. Carson could soon see a large flat clearing of land. There was a small black car parked off to the side. The plane hit the ground roughly. The whole cabin began to rattle violently and Carson grabbed his belt and clutched it tightly.

“Landings are a little rough!” Carson paid no attention. All he could hear was the rumbling of the wheels. His eyes were shut tight. Suddenly, it all stopped. Carson slowly opened his eyes and to his relief, the plane was stopped and calm. His hands relaxed and Jared turned around, still smiling.

“We’re here.” Jared then got up and opened the door. Carson managed his way out and looked over to where he saw the car. It was still there, then it suddenly came to life and slowly cruised over to them. It stopped and the driver side door opened and a tall, lean, older man with silver hair emerged. He was wearing a dark suit and walked towards him with long, deliberate strides. As he got closer, a smile stretched across his thin lips and he extended his hand. Carson looked at it. The fingers seemed more like claws than fingers. They were skinny and boney. The man got closer and Carson, in order to appear civil, took his hand. The grip was stronger than Carson had anticipated. He nearly yelled out but he caught himself.

“I trust the trip was a good one.” The man said in a familiar voice.

“Mr. Venris?”

“Yes,” He said with an even wider grin, exposing his yellowing teeth. “Welcome to Graveston.”

HOSL Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

Errol dropped Carson off at his building a little past eight. Carson looked up as he pulled his bag out of the backseat. The building hadn’t changed but it looked different to him. He noticed the thinning paint and worn screens on the windows of the front units. The grass on the small patch that passed for a front yard was overgrown and had many brown patches.

“I’ll call you later, Carson.” Errol called as the door closed. Carson nodded in confirmation and began walking home.

He walked up the steps to the security door and unlocked the glass door. A quick gust of air blew past him as he stepped into the courtyard. After the palaces of Vegas, the splendor of Emerald Gardens began to seem a bit small.

He walked down the path to the back where his unit was. He could hear the echoes of the evening news on several televisions coming from the other apartments.

He went to the back and stopped at the last door. Door number 9. He tried the knob, just in case Bean was in. His roommate’s name was actually Ben, but for some reason he liked to be called Bean. Carson gave the knob a quick turn but it stopped short. Locked. Carson breathed a sigh of slight relief. He’d have the place to himself.

He whipped out his keys and opened up the door. It was dark inside. It looked as if no one had been living there for some time. Carson shut the door behind him and locked it tight. He strode back to his room and shut the door behind him. He tossed his bag off to the side onto a pile of old clothes that had been waiting for laundry day. His room was still and untouched, as it should have been. He looked over to his desk and next to his computer which hadn’t been operational for several months was his digital answering machine. It was a small, sleek little thing. Its message light was still and the message count was still at zero. A whole week and not even a wrong number.

Carson turned his head from that and over to his bed which was still in the condition he had left it in. With the sheets and bedspread tossed around and ready to receive his body. It was a small twin bed he had gotten nearly ten years earlier. The mattress was even older. He was slightly embarrassed to be nearly thirty and still sleeping in a twin. It certainly presented a challenge on the rare occasions he had intimate company.

He noticed a small pile of mail on the pillow. He scooped up the envelopes and flopped down on the bed. The springs squealed out as he moved into a comfortable posture. His head sank into the pillows and he held the mail over him. He shuffled through the envelopes. First a credit card application promising he couldn’t be turned down then a few subscription offers for magazines he didn’t even read and a rather thick envelope that piqued his interest until he saw, in small print, ‘sexually oriented material’. He tossed that one aside for later viewing.

Just as he was about to give up hope of anything interesting, he came upon the last envelope. It was white and there were no distinguishing marks. He checked the postage and it wasn’t bulk rate. He turned it over and slid his finger under the glued flap and stripped it open. He pulled out a thickly folded form. It looked more official than anything he had ever seen.

The letter head was from the law house of McKenzie, Sugar, and Venris. Carson scanned the first page and he didn’t see anything about a lawsuit or charges. He began reading through more carefully. The letter had been sent due to the death of Carson’s Uncle Victor. Carson wasn’t even aware he had an uncle at all. Carson took another look at the envelope and noticed the post mark was a week old. It must have arrived the day after he left with Errol. He returned to the letter. It continued on with endless legalese that was beginning to give Carson a headache. Line after line of party of the first part and so on. A sudden inspiration dawned on him and he put the letter down and picked up the phone. He dialed. A few rings it picked up on the other end.

“Hello?” A gentle voice asked.

“Mom, it’s me. Carson.”

“Hello sweety. Did you have a nice trip?”

“Yeah, it was great.”

“Find a job yet?” She asked in a slightly stern tone. Carson knew all too well that was her best attempt at restraining her need to nag.

“No, mom, but I did get something interesting in the mail. Who’s Uncle Victor?” The other side of the line went silent. “Mom? You still there?”

“Yes. Yes, I’m here. I’m just a little surprised. No one’s asked about him in a long time.”

“I just got a letter from some lawyers about him. I think he died.”

“Well, if he did, it’s news to me. Victor never was good at keeping in touch with the family.”

“So, what’s his story? Was he your brother?”

“Actually, he’s your father’s brother. We didn’t talk about him much because he was something of the black sheep. A loner really. He came to visit a few times when you were a baby but I always found him quite unsettling. After a while he stopped coming by and that was fine with your father and I. We figured you were too young to remember him. We thought it was for the best.”

“Well, what was so wrong with him?”

“It was just a feeling I always got from him. His eyes were a bit crazy. It was like he could just see through you sometimes. I remember one time he came over the day after we brought you home from the hospital. We were in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking about this and that. I excused myself to go to the bathroom for a moment and when I came out, your father and Victor had gone to see you. I walked into the nursery and I saw your father standing by your crib and your uncle was holding you up. The sun was shining in from the window so I couldn’t see too clearly, but I saw his eyes. I’ll never forget it. His eyes seemed to be fixed on you, but not like an uncle looking down at his nephew, but like a wolf smelling raw meat. I felt my stomach just churn at the sight. Maternal instinct I suppose. I saw his hands tightening around your little body and I ran up to him and snatched you away and then he looked back at me with some kind of mix of hate and disappointment. Like you were a prize I just stole out from under him. After that I told your father that Victor was to be kept from you at all times. A few months after that, he just disappeared and frankly, I think we’re all better off for it. I’d advise you to just throw whatever that thing is you got into the trash and be done with it.”

“I’ve been reading through it a little and it sounds like a will or something. Was he rich?”

“Not when I knew him. Although, I suppose anything is possible. What he got rich doing, I hesitate to guess.”

“Money is money.”

“Just take my advice and throw that letter away. Trust your mother.”

“I’ll think about it.” Carson held his gaze on the letter. Studying each letter carefully. His imagination had already kicked in and he was seeing the buffet of riches that awaited him from the recluse relative no one knew anything about.

“Anything for an easy buck, right?”

“Hey! Who cares if the guy was a little off center? I’m an adult now and I can take care of myself. Contrary to your opinion.”

“I just wish you would get your head out of the clouds and get serious! You dropped out of college and now look at yourself! Unemployed.”

“So what do you propose I do?”

“Our door is always open. You could come back home and give school another try. It’s not too late. A lot of people go back to school later in life.”

“I’m twenty nine!”

“You know what I mean.”

“Look, mom, thank you for the offer, but I’ll be fine. I made a good living at my old job, and once I find more work, I’ll be okay.”

“Your old job. You mean that car thing you were doing? Manual labor.” She said with a twinge of disgust.

“I’m sorry if that’s not up to your standards, but I liked it and I made good money.”

“But you could do so much more with your life. You always had so much potential. You were always so smart. You just never applied yourself.”

“Okay! You said the magic words. This is where our conversation ends. I’ll call you later.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.” Carson said as he hung up the phone. He turned back over and returned to the letter. He poured over it again and again, trying to extract something logical from all the legal double talk. One word ran up to him on the second page though: deceased. It was a will. Carson scanned through the pages. It was like a jigsaw puzzle of words. He just kept looking for a dollar amount or a phone number to call but there was nothing. He flipped to the last page and at the bottom in italic letters there was a friendly little message.

‘If you have any inquiries concerning this communication, please don’t hesitate to call the law offices of McKenzie, Sugar, and Venris. We will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Sincerely, Archibald Venris.’

Carson folded the letter and put it down on the table next to his bed. It then dawned on him that he must have been the only one to receive the letter. His mother had seemed to be totally in the dark about it. It seemed that they had not even been made aware of Uncle Victor’s death at all. Carson looked back down at the letter and below the friendly message was a toll free number. Carson’s mind began to bubble over with trepidation. It all seemed too good to be true. A dead relative just in time to make rent. Carson had learned a long time ago to be wary of such coincidences.

It could be a scam.’ Carson thought. ‘Some sleazy con guy who just did his homework. A simple con. Find an obscure relative no one’s heard from in years, claim he’s died and then for a modest fee they could help secure the inheritance.’

Carson had heard of such things. They mostly operated through email though. Few would go to the trouble of sending first class mail, although there really was an Uncle Victor and if it was a scam, they had somehow gotten to Carson’s mother and gotten her to play along, which she would never do. As weird and unreal as the whole scenario began to feel, it also felt sincere and genuine. Carson began to believe it, despite himself. He turned to the phone and as he was about to pick up the receiver, he stopped himself.

“No,” He said to himself. “I’ll call in the morning. Clear my head.” Just then, the phone began to ring.

“Hello?” Carson asked as he held up the phone.

“Carson Barnes?” An older man’s voice asked.

“Yes.”

“Very good. This is Archibald Venris.”

“As in McKenzie, Sugar, and Venris?”

“The very same. I assume then you received our correspondence?”

“Uh, yeah. I did.”

“Excellent. I’m, of course, sorry for the loss of your dear Uncle Victor.”

“I really didn’t know him.”

“You didn’t? How odd.”

“How is that odd?”

“It just strikes me odd as you were the sole heir in his will.”

“What?”

“You were the only one named. By that, I had thought you were close.”

“Sorry to disappoint you. I never even heard of him until today.”

“Oh, no matter. Must have been something special about you then.”

“I guess. Not to sound too money grubbing, but what exactly did I inherit?”

“Uh, that I am not at liberty to speak of on the phone. We were hoping you would be able to come and see us.”

“Come to you? Where are you?”

“Graveston.”

“Graveston? Never heard of it.”

“Few have. We’re a humble little town. It’s lovely this time of year. There are lush forests and green hills and just about the friendliest people you’ll ever hope to meet. It’s just a slab of heaven on Earth. You’ll love it!”

“Oh, gee. I’d love to do that, but I really just kind of got back from a trip. I can’t really afford..”

“Don’t even think about it! As executor of your Uncle’s will, I am duly obligated to extend this invitation to you at any cost. I will messenger tickets on the earliest possible flight that I can find and reservations will be made at Graveston’s finest hotel all courtesy of McKenzie, Sugar, and Venris.”

“On you?”

“I insist.”

Carson was stumped at Venris’ offer.

“Okay. A free trip’s a free trip, I guess.” Carson said.

“Wonderful! You should receive the ticket tomorrow. I look forward to meeting you, Mr. Barnes, sir.”

“Yeah. It’s going to be fun.” Carson said. He hung up the phone and lied back down on the bed trying to mentally plan what he was going to pack. This trip he felt he needed to pack and then suddenly he looked over to the now silent phone. He began to wonder how exactly Archibald had gotten his phone number.

HOSL Chpt 2

 

Ben Turlok was standing on the edge of the Maple Vine Bridge just outside of the small town of Graveston. He clutched the latest rejection letter he had received in response to the manuscript he had sent out. Ben had spent the past three years fine tuning and composing it. He was finally pleased with it and viewed it as his ultimate life’s work.

He had all his friends and family read it and all reviews were positive. He was so sure someone would be interested in publishing it. He was as sure of that as he had ever been of anything, and for a man like Ben to put that much faith in something speaks volumes in and of itself. He was not a man who often gave into thoughts of fantasy and whimsy, but his devotion to his book was different. He saw it as a part of his soul.

He was able to stomach the first few rejections, but his faith never wavered. It strengthened in fact. He had quit his job at the mill in anticipation of his success. With every rejection he received he was that much more certain the next one would be an acceptance.

He looked down to the letter crumpled in his shaking fist. Tears were streaming down his cheek. He looked down to the river raging below. He could see the white foam on top of the water between his feet.

“I’m ready, God! I’m tired and I’m ready to fall. Just let me fall.” He cried out. There was no traffic along the old road. The sky was patchy above with large puffs of white clouds slowly floating along across the bright sun. Ben’s legs began to shake beneath him. His tears began to rain down feverishly and his thoughts ran back to his wife Audrey and his children, Tracey and Ben Jr. His heart began to ache. He loved them all so much, but he just didn’t have the strength to face any more disappointment. His life insurance would see them through the storm. He reasoned he was far more valuable dead than alive. With a large breath in, he steadied his legs and was ready to leap.

“Hi!” A sweet voice came from behind. Ben caught himself and nearly fell over the wrong way which would have been a disaster. If he fell and just injured himself, the doctor’s bills would surely bankrupt the family. He spun his head around with a fiery glare. He saw a pretty young woman standing not too far from him. She was dressed in a charcoal gray business suit. Her strawberry blonde hair was tied back in a ponytail. She stared up at Ben with a bright, innocent smile. “Now, what are you doing up there, silly?” She asked brightly.

“None of your business. Now I’d thank you to just move on and not tell anyone you saw me. For your own good.”

“I know you. I mean, I don’t know know you, but I’ve seen you around town. Don’t I look familiar?” She asked.

“I’m sorry, but no. I’ve been going through some things lately. Don’t take it personally.”

“That’s okay.” She said as she reached into her pocket and produced a small business card. She held it out to him. He bent down and took it slowly. He looked down and read it. He couldn’t help but notice the unique use of flowers and butterflies decorating the borders of the card. Between two small flowered vines, was the only type on the card.

‘Samantha Sugar- attorney at law’.

“A lawyer huh? Shouldn’t you be gearing up to sue someone after I jump?”

“I’m not that kind of lawyer. I usually handle estate planning.”

“Well, I’m afraid I’ve no use for you. Now, I guess you’ll be on your way.”

“Not until you get down from there.” Ben looked down at her and she looked back up at him with just as sweet a smile as ever but now there was a hint of aggressive stubbornness lurking behind her eyes.

“I’m Ben Turlock, by the way. Nice to meet you, Samantha.”

“Likewise, and please, just call me Sam. So, are you coming down or not?”

“Look, the only way I’m getting down from here is by jumping, so you might as well just be on your way. I just want to kill myself.” Ben’s brain kind of buzzed. He never said it out loud before. He hadn’t heard those words come from his mouth. Samantha looked up at Ben with a broken expression. It was almost as if she looked heartbroken. Ben looked back at her with curiosity. He had never seen the girl before but the news of him killing himself seemed to hurt her so much more than it should have.

“Why?” Samantha asked with an uneven voice.

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

“Certainly anything bad enough to kill yourself over should be worth talking about as well.”

Ben looked down to the river and then back to Samantha. He let out an audible breath and pivoted to Samantha. He bent down and handed his letter to her. She took it and read through it.

“Is this it?”

“Is that it? That’s the seventh one I’ve gotten in the last two months.”

“You’re a writer.”

“Not by trade. I just wrote something. I thought it was good, but I guess it just goes to show you what I know.”

“You can’t throw away everything because of this. What about your wife? Your children?”

“They’re better off. My life insurance will pay them more than my old job would have, if I still had it. I gave my soul to this thing and it’s nothing. My whole life is nothing! I’m done! I am just done!”

“What about your faith?”

“Faith in what?”

“In God.”

“God?”

“Yes. I know you believe.”

“Maybe once. I don’t know anymore. Things have just been getting worse. Where has he been?”

“Where have you been?” Samantha returned. Ben looked at her.

“So, that’s how it works? As long as I do what he wants, I get what I want?”

“Well, it’s not quite as black and white as that, but…”

“Look, I’m sorry, but you won’t be convincing anyone about anything today, Sam. Good bye.” Ben closed his eyes, turned away from Samantha and just leapt up over the rail. His eyes were shut tight as he fell over. He could feel the air as he dropped into nothing. He had run the moment over in his head again and again, but it was no preparation for the real sensation. It was as if he were weightless, almost floating through the air. He would have almost sworn he felt happy.

He suddenly felt a tight jerking behind him and his descent came to an abrupt halt. He opened his eyes and saw he was still above the river, but off the bridge, dangling. His shirt was pulled up against his neck. He looked up and saw Samantha leaning over the bridge with her arm outstretched downward. Her fist holding tightly to the back of his shirt, and a few small hairs on the back of his neck. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Samantha was such a small looking woman with thin, narrow arms yet she was holding Ben’s entire weight with little to no strain, or at least so it seemed.

“I know you feel abandoned and alone. We all feel that way sometimes, but think about the people you’re leaving behind. Things have gotten tough for you. I’m sorry for that, but you’re stronger than you think. If you check out now, you can’t change your mind tomorrow. Sometimes the difference between success and failure is simply holding on. Holding on during the tough times and having faith that what you want, will come.” Sam said. She pulled Ben back up to the bridge. As soon as she let go of his shirt, he fell to the ground flat on his ass. He looked up at Samantha, who was still smiling.

“It’s just gotten so bad for me. For everyone! This whole town has just been getting worse and worse. I just don’t know what to do anymore.” Ben said as tears began to pool under his eyes. Samantha placed her delicate hand on his shoulder and he looked up at her.

“I know. It’s been a tough time for Graveston and I’m sorry for that, but we’re all just doing the best we can. We can’t lose hope now. I think things are going to get better real soon.”

“You do?” Ben asked.

“I absolutely do. Do you agree with me?” Ben looked down. He had the appearance of a child lost in the middle of a department store. He looked back up at Sam and nodded. “Now, are you going to be trying that again?” Ben stared up at her blankly and slowly shook his head. “Good. Now, get home to your family and don’t tell them about this. I think we can both agree they’d be better off not knowing, wouldn’t you?”

Ben slowly began to nod his head to her. She gave him a little wink and spun around and began to walk down the road back towards town. He got up and watched as she strutted down the lonely road. It looked as if she were listening to some kind of music in her own head as she sauntered away.

He looked back over the bridge down to the river below. A quick thought to try jumping again danced across his head, but he dismissed it. He did feel happiness during his previous attempt, but he also had felt fear. A disturbing sense that he would miss something important. He looked down at the crumpled up rejection letter laying upon the ground. He bent down to pick it up but stopped himself. He could still make out the printing through the creases and folds. A cold breeze shot out and caught the letter, sending it flying up into the air. It flew up high over his head and swirled in the invisible force. Ben made no attempt to catch it, but instead allowed it to slowly float down to the river. He watched as it landed on the water. It was swept under and disappeared under the foam of the current. He slowly turned away and walked back to his pick-up truck which was parked a few yards back.

He was beginning to feel better about what had happened and was hoping to come upon Samantha on the road back to Graveston, so he could thank her properly or at least offer her a ride into town. He kept an eye out along the side of the road as he drove.

He soon found himself driving past the Red Moon Inn which was the first sign of entering Graveston. He stopped and looked back. He hadn’t seen sign of her as he drove and there was no way she could have gotten back ahead of him if she had been walking. He looked back again but nothing. He shrugged his shoulders and decided that she must have had her car parked out of sight for some reason. He figured he’d just keep an eye out for her around town. The odds were good that they would cross paths again before too long in a town the size of Graveston.