Sunday, September 22, 2013
An unintentional last minute entry to Denise Covey's Write .. Edit ..Publish event for September 20, 2013. I didn't mean to be late for this posting, but I mis-timed some blogger events. So, this is my entry for the Moving On submission.
Sorry, its over word count, and the linky has closed for submissions. But, I'll post this nonetheless. As always with an original publication, full critique is acceptable. I cut this down from 1500 words to 1300, but my story telling skills didn't allow me to edit to 1000 or less. I'm titling it THE ROAD AHEAD; but I've never been good at titles. Sorry for the slap-shot appearance of this excerpt Denise, bt here it is.
The road illuminated by the headlights was shrouded in mist and dark; the glowing. double yellow line her only guide through the canyon. Occasionally a guard rail or yellow or white road sign marked the boundaries to the left or right. Shari ignored all the signs: steep downgrade ahead, falling rocks, deer crossing, turn out ahead, passing lane in 2 miles, 45 on curve. It was after 11pm and she hadn't seen a car or truck in at least 30 minutes. She stared at the dimly lit road ahead and concentrated only on the final destination.
Besides, she’d been ignoring signs for the last three years, and while she couldn't say the tactic had served her well, it had at least kept her out of jail in the final moments of her marriage.
Shari had met Kurt when her brother Henry had been arrested for drug trafficking. She’d allowed Henry to move in after his release from prison. Not because she had faith he’d been rehabilitated, but because he was her only remaining family, and he promised to keep his illicit life out of her home.
He’d managed for a while; until his parole officer disappeared from their lives, and the old habit had Henry using more of his product than he sold. Detective Kurt Bausser had interrogated them both extensively; and in the end Henry agreed to turn states evidence and accepted Witness Protection. Kurt had believed Shari’s assertion that she knew nothing about the 2 key of coke in the basement, and never asked Henry about the “associates” that visited at odd hours. With no info to trade for her safety, and her refusal to accompany Henry to his new life, Kurt had facilitated her introduction to Victim Witness.
Setting up a new life with a two year old wasn’t easy for Shari. Kurt not only assisted with her move, but he kept in contact over the next year, and as the only person Shari could talk to when the old fears overwhelmed her, the relationship went from occasionally checking in, to dating, and finally marriage when he transferred to her city. She felt safer with Kurt around, and Josh thrived under the attention that only a Daddy could give him.
When Kurt began exhibiting behaviors and eccentric mood changes that resembled her brother’s prior to his arrest, Shari attributed it to his undercover persona. She didn’t question the unusual meetings in the kitchen, or the nights he didn’t come home, or the mornings he did come home and went straight to bed. She tried not to complain about money he spent on trips out of country that the department didn’t reimburse them for, or the times he put packages in her purse and told her to “forget” it somewhere.
She even forgave him for the times he hit her over the last several months when she asked too many questions about the job and why so many activities were conducted from home. But a month ago Josh had found a cellophane wrapped bric of powder in his back pack, and his kindergarten teacher had taken the package to the principal’s office. Police were called first, and child protective services, then his parents.
Shari had denied any knowledge of anything about the bric, and even passed a polygraph test during those first 48 hours of discovery. She’d been allowed to retrieve her son, but her life was so full of social workers and police she had very few moments of peace in her life. Kurt was sleeping on the couch, Shari was sleeping in Josh’s room.
Early this morning officers from IAD had summoned Kurt to another meeting. Shari was sitting in the kitchen with her head in her hands, half a box of used tissue on the table, when the front doorbell rang. She’d opened the door reluctantly, fearing another reporter, cop or social services worker. Josh was down for a nap – he was too upset to go to school this morning – and she hurried to the door before the chime could wake him.
“Got a delivery for Kurt Bausser,” a twitchy looking UPS driver advised.
“Thank you,” Shari said as she signed for the package and quickly closed the door.
She carried the brown wrapped box to the den and set it on Kurt’s desk as she’d done several times in the past. As she crossed the threshold into the living room, an unfamiliar thought hit her: its either drugs or money.
She’d never wondered what was in the infrequent UPS boxes her husband had received over the years; sometimes he’d present her or Josh with gifts after a delivery, or show her something he’d ordered for himself on-line. And sometimes he’d open the boxes without explanation. She assumed these deliveries were work related.
But this morning she hesitated. Her life was a shambles through deliberate ignorance, and she refused to play victim any longer. The box represented freedom of one sort or another. If it was the drugs the DEA was seeking, she could trade her and Josh’s freedom for the stash. If it was money . .
Without further thought to the consequences of her actions, Shari opened the middle desk drawer, rummaged around for a box cutter, and quickly slashed through the tape closing the top of the box.
“Please, please be money,” she prayed, then plunged her hand into the depths.
Her heart raced and her knees nearly collapsed when she closed her fist around a lump, then brought it out of the box. She counted each bill in the stack to $10,000. She counted each bill in the box until the last equaled $75,000. It took Shari all of two minutes to decide to steal the money and run; but it took over three hours to pack her and Josh’s necessities in her car. Every minute she expected Kurt to come home and stop her.
But he didn’t come home as she packed clothes, snacks, and favorite toys and loaded them into her trunk. The last thing she put into the car was the money.
“Not the last thing,” she admitted as Rufus made a snuffling sound in the back seat.
The dog had watched silently from his front porch perch as she’d loaded everything, and strapped Josh into his booster seat. He’d made one longing, goodbye howl as she backed towards the street. Rufus was a complication she didn’t need on the road to where ever they would end up.
She glanced in the mirror and saw Josh’s tear streaked face as he blew a kiss to his favorite companion. It was the only emotion he’d shown through the evacuation. Without another thought Shari got out, opened the back passenger door, and hollered “Rufus; bye bye.”
The dog moved so fast she felt he translocated to the rear seat. She didn't need to see her son’s happiness to put a smile on her own face as she slid into the drivers seat and put the car in reverse.
Rufus snuffled his discontent from the back seat. Shari lowered the rear view mirror until she could see the silhouette of Josh and Rufus. She’d allowed Josh to unbuckle from his booster seat to lay across the back seat to sleep. She’d only allowed one stop since the start of their journey.
“Hold it,” she told Rufus.
The dog woofed his protest, but rearranged himself on the floorboard and closed his eyes.
“Are we there yet?” Josh asked, stretching his legs so they hung over his car seat and readjusting his favorite blanket around his shoulders.
“No,” she answered, returning her gaze to the darkness ahead. She saw a green sign with the miles to cross the state line and felt a little better about their prospects of escape. “I’ll tell you when we get there.”