The world around me spins and spins, the images blurring and rushing past. The rain pelts my skin, my arms stretched out beside me taking the harsh blasts. My lashes are drenched to the point I can barely get them open.
But I love it, this feeling. I wonder if this is what he had felt like.
The sharp blades of grass between my toes, sticking to my soles. The dizzying drop of my stomach as I push myself faster and faster. Always faster. Until my body can no longer handle the movement and crashes me to the ground. My heart beating like a drum in my chest, my lungs gasping for much needed breath. The laughter that is so close to a sob you could never distinguish the difference.
Once I’ve finally got my bearings…that’s when it all comes back. The heavy sadness that fills my days. The crippling pain that takes over my whole being. Now the sobs are real as my heart breaks. I tilt my head up to the sky, leaving my eyes open this time. The water washing away the tears that I can’t stop.
His face comes to mind and I hang my head. His beautiful, smiling face as he ran around this very park, doing the very thing that I was. Only on a bright sunny day, ice cream smears on his cheeks. His cherub curls bouncing wildly around him as he begged me to join him. The feeling of annoyance I got as another text from work came in, distracting me.
The sharp sound of bone crunching against something hard. My utter fear as I looked up from the revolting device in my hand, the scream that ripped from my throat as I realized what had just transpired.
I had failed my little boy, who was now laying in a pool of his own blood, his skull fractured by the rock he had tripped into.
And it was all my fault. I wasn’t paying attention. I was busy, too busy for my own son. Now he was gone.
And all I had left was the spinning. The never ending pirouettes.
I start the cycle over again.
I’m on my way to the Jacob kid’s parents’ house when a voice crackles over the radio.
“Pemberton, do you copy?”
I let out an aggravated groan as I stop at a red light, picking up the radio. “Yes chief, Pemberton here.”
“Get your ass down to Hazel district. Corner of Bartel and 5th.”
“Chief, I’m on my way to question the parents on the Jacob case, can’t—“
“Get down here. A body’s been discovered.”
The light goes green and I stomp down on the gas. “A body? I’ll be there in ten.” With that, I slap a siren on the roof and breeze down to Hazel.
I park my car across from the crime scene. The chief, along with several other officers, and the coroner are convened around a lumpy sheet just shy of the shrubbery beside an apartment building. I jog over to them, slightly out of breath.
“Ah, Pemberton, glad you could join us,” the chief says, turning to me. “I had a feeling you should see this.”
I nod as the coroner bends down to remove the sheet. I’ve see several bodies in my career, but never one as bad as this. The guy looks to be in his late thirties, with straggly brown hair and hollow cheeks. His throat is slit and the blood has dried on his skin and pooled beneath him. There are several other stab wounds to his chest visible through his sweater. The sheer amount of blood makes me want to gag, but I hold it back. I turn away for a moment to take a breath.
“What are you thinking happened?” I ask. “A drug deal gone bad?”
The coroner replaces the sheet and stands. “Normally I would, yes. But this doesn’t seem right. The usual indicators aren’t present.”
I glace at the chief. “So what does that leave?”
The chief scratches his chin. “Judging by the wounds, we’re most likely looking at some sort of specialized knife. Also, the sheer amount of carnage inflicted on this guy tells us the killer really had it out for this guy. Several of these wounds were inflicted post mortem.”
“You called me down here because you think this is connected to my case?”
“Right. Now we’re still running prints on this guy, but chances are he’s going to have some sort of mark on his record. I’d bet my career on it.”
I nod. “Ok, so why was the killer so sloppy this time? He’s been so careful, we haven’t even found any other bodies.”
“Perhaps there was a witness he wasn’t counting on or he was put into a situation where he rushed. There are several possibilities,” the coroner says.
“I see. What’s my next move, chief?”
“Go question the parents. See what you can find out.”
I head back to my car. This guy was spooked. The murder was hasty and careless. I’m still having trouble imagining the Jacob kid being responsible for something that horrific.
A knock on my passenger side window has me looking up. A young guy in a turtle neck blinks at me behind sleek glasses. I roll the window down clear my throat.
“Can I help you?”
He leans into the car, bracing his arms along the bottom of the window opening. “Are you investigating that body over there?”
“I would like to offer some information.”
“What kind of information?”
He looks quickly around before continuing. “I saw what happened last night.”
“What did you see?”
“I couldn’t make out much, it was dark. I was walking home from work and I heard some voices. I couldn’t make out what was being said. There was a car parked half way on the sidewalk. There was a guy attacking this other guy. He used a knife and stabbed the guy over and over.”
“Did you see anyone else with him?”
“When he got back in his car I hid in the bushes. As he drove by I noticed someone in the passenger seat.”
“A man or a woman?”
The guy shakes his head. “It was too dark to tell.”
“Could you identify the killer?”
“Again it was too dark. I just know it was a guy.”
I let out a chuckle. “So what you’re telling me is aside from a possible accomplice, you really aren’t telling me anything I don’t already know.”
The guy starts to sputter some sort of retort but I’ve had enough.
“Save it, pal. Go get your attention from someone else who gives a shit.”
His face goes red as he unhooks himself from my window and steps back. I roll my eyes as I speed off down Bartel.
Merv’s Bowling Alley is the tackiest place in this town, but it’s got the best beer. That’s the only reason the guys and I started meeting here instead of the pub on 7th. It’s busy tonight, glow in the dark bowling is the draw. I’m lousy enough at bowling as it is, if I have to bowl in the dark I might takes someone’s head off with my ball.
I park my crappy station wagon across the street from Merv’s and pull my bowling shoes from the trunk before jay walking. Inside, everything is dark much to my dismay. Everything is glowing, the counters, the balls, the chairs, even my Hawaiian shirt’s flowers glow blue.
“Hey, Paul, over here!”
I squint in the direction of the lanes and I can make out Kev waving. I crack a smile and head over. O’Brian and Stanley are standing together on the lane arguing over which way to through the ball. Those two are a barrel of laughs when they get out from behind their desks.
“Save any beer for me?”
“Course. After the shit the chief’s been putting you through, I’ll buy your first round.”
I sit down beside Kevin and chuck off my street shoes, replacing them with my bowling ones. “I swear, that he’s got another thing coming if he thinks he can reignite a fire that burned out twenty years ago. I’m just working until retirement. Every day is another day closer to the end.”
“Tell me about it,” Kev laughs.
“In ten years I’ll be sipping margaritas on a beach somewhere while a hot islander massages my back.”
“What would your wife think about that?”
“Who said anything about Helen?” We share a dubious look before busting a gut.
O’Brian, finished arguing with Stanley, takes a seat across from us. “Hey Paul, how’s your son?” he asks, scratching his stomach.
“Who knows? He only talks to me when he needs money for school.”
“Same here. My daughter ignores me for months until she needs new textbooks or rent, then it’s all ‘Dad, can I ask you for a favor?’” O’Brian’s mouth puckers in disapproval.
“Hey, you’re up!” Stanley declares, clapping Kevin on the shoulder.
Kevin bowls a perfect strike, knocking the pins down with a professional throw. He likes coming here, not just because of the beer, but because he likes to show off. He always brags about all the trophies he won when he was a teen. Not like I care that much. He was an over achiever, unlike me.
After Kev, it’s my turn. I throw a crappy frame, the ball barrelling straight into the gutter. A burst of laughter erupts behind me.
“Maybe once you get a couple a beers in you, you might actually knock over a pin or two!” Stanley crows.
My cheeks heat a little as I return to my seat. “Well then get me a damn beer.”
An hour later I’ve gotten slightly inebriated, O’Brian chuckles to himself as he chugs his fifth beer, Stanley’s wandered off to get some nachos at the concession stand, and Kevin’s droning on about this moron he busted for parking in a handicap spot.
“He kept saying he was perfectly within his rights to park there, and I’m like dude, being an idiot isn’t a valid handicap,” Kev snorts as he downs the rest of his beer. “How goes it with your case? You’ve been listening to me ramble on all night, but you haven’t had a chance to vent yet.”
“My case?” I say. “It’s gotten only slightly more interesting. I went over to the lead’s house, she gave me a little bit of info to work with, but not much. She was pretty certain her love sick puppy was just sweet and cuddly.”
“Hmm. That’s not much. Is there any other leads you can follow?”
I think about the file on the kid. “His family lives in town, but I don’t know how helpful they’d be.”
“What would it hurt? His family would know him better than anyone. Maybe an interview with them would clear up this case once and for all. The chief might even get off your back.”
“You’re right. I’ll pay them a visit tomorrow.” A face in the crowd catches my attention behind Kevin’s head. In the dark I make out a pale face shrouded by a hood. When I blink though, it’s gone and I chuckle to myself. This case has got me stressed.
Stanley pushes his way through the crowd, a plate of nachos in hand. A giggling teenage girl backs up without seeing him and knocks the plate from his hands. Cheese and crushed chips coat the carpet. Kevin and I burst into hysterics. Stanley looks at the mess with a downtrodden expression before sinking to his knees and scooping a fingers through the cheese.
“I better stop him before he starts eating the carpet,” Kevin smirks, pushing up from his seat and heading over to Stanley.
Here’s another snippet from our current project The Collected. Erika isn’t too impressed with the orderlies.
“Maybe she’s one cranky bitch by now, being stuck here for years,” Jake jokes. I don’t find his joke funny.
“Yeah,” Tulu says. “She’s got to be one crotchety—“
He doesn’t get to finish before my angry boils over. I focus on the pen and it wretches from Jake’s hand and goes skidding down the hall.
Jake’s eyes pop open in shock and Tulu chuckles awkwardly. I circle them, hands on my hips, as I size them up.
“That was weird,” Jake says.
“I think you made the ghost angry,” Tulu grins.
“Got that right,” I snap. “You two idiots are blaming the wrong person. I would never…” I trail off realizing it’s pointless and head down the stairs.
Jake goes to collect his pen and I send it rolling further down the hallway. Asshole.
The lobby is a large cheery looking room with yellow walls and blue furniture. Blue chairs and couches for patients families to wait. A large white receptionist’s desk is set in the middle of the room with Ingle Creek’s name splashed across the front. There are several generic pieces of artwork that hang all over the place, all in muted shades of purple and grey. Those haven’t changed since I got here.
I wait by the front doors, shuffling my feet as I practice my moonwalk. The receptionist stationed at the desk takes two boring calls before I see a delivery man mounting the front steps. Finally.
The man carries a brown package under his arm as he grunts, fumbling with the doors.
“Damn arthritis,” he mumbles as he gets the doors open and shoulders his way through.
I slip through the doorway as soon as he clears it, the old hinges on the door slowing its movement. Outside, the afternoon sun is dipping lower like a sunflower head that’s too heavy. I sit on the steps and pull my knees up to my chin.
Here is a little snippet from our new story The Collected, so you can get to know our antagonist “The body” a bit better.
Dach’s body chuckles, drawing back from Mabel. “Hello little haunter.”
I stare at the body in stunned silence. Had he heard me? How is that possible?
“Leave Mabel alone,” I say, setting my jaw.
“And what if I don’t?” The body turns and watches through its wavy tendrils of hair. Its eyes have the glean of a cat’s, curious and knowing.
“I… I’ll get an orderly’s attention, bring them here. It wouldn’t be hard.”
The body looks to Mabel then stands from the bed, its gown making little crinkling noises. “You’ve made quite the reputation for yourself here, haven’t you?” I don’t say anything. It grins and walks slowly towards me. “Tell me, how does it feel to have been trapped here for over thirty years, to spend your days walking around aimlessly, collecting trinkets? To be here so long you don’t even notice the days pass anymore. To lead a meaningless existence.”
It gets closer still. “What’s it like to be nothing?” It waves its arm, passing it through my midsection. A cold wave ripples through me. “To be a whisper in the wind?”
“I said shut it!” I take a step back, out of its reach, and stare up into its eyes. “I am not nothing. I may be dead, but at least I don’t go around trying to kill other people. That’s something crazy people do, so maybe it makes sense you’re in here.”
“Crazy people,” his lips twist around the word ‘people’ and make it sound like a curse. “You were one of those, weren’t you?” It leans closer as an ugly grin overtakes its face. “Say hello to Dach for me.”
So, as previously mentioned Collins and I have started a new piece of writing and we are pretty excited about it. After much thought and debate we’ve decided and finally figured out where our niche is, what genre works best for us. Now, this story is in the very early stages, but we’ve begun writing the first workings of it so I have decided to share a little piece with you today. Now, I’m not going to give any of the plot away, because this one is a doozy and I can’t wait for it to finally come to life.
I grew weak in my grief, my forehead hitting the same window that gave me the last glimpse of her. My eyes, heavy and closing of their own accord. I hadn’t cried in years, I had toughened myself to this life. But nothing could hold the single tear that fell down my stubbled cheek back. It fell, long and wet down my face. I would have wiped it away, had I had the use of my hands. I had to stay strong, not just to get through this trial, through jail, but to get back to my Penny. My sweet little girl who didn’t deserve this. The guilt started to eat me, more than it ever had before. I had always justified my decisions.
It was what was best for my family, to provide for them.
I would never let them be involved.
I was strong and could handle myself.
I wasn’t qualified to do anything else.
I was invinsible.
The guys would help me, protect me.
In the end, none of those reasons worked. I wasn’t indestructible. I wasn’t a good father. I wasn’t a good person.
And Penelope had paid the ultimate cost.
Turner and I have been piloting our blog for long enough that we have finally reached our 200th post. That’s insane. We are very grateful and humbled by the amount of people who can relate to us and what we have to say. Honestly, we never thought many people would appreciate what we create. It’s been really a wonderful experience to step out of our comfort zones and post our writing and poetry for other people to enjoy. Our followers have given us so much confidence in our work and the courage to take our work to the next level.
To thank all you wonderful people, we wanted to share a sneak peek at our current novel venture entitled “Riptide.” (the photo above gives you an idea of what the story will involve.)
The bus station is large, with pale green linoleum flooring that clicks as you walk on it. The big windows let it light from the street lamps outside. It’s basically deserted, apart from a middle-aged man curled on a bench sleeping and a couple checking their watches and chatting quietly. The last time I was here, I went with my parents to pick up my aunt Millie. It was the middle of the day and bustling with bright cheery people. This is a stark contrast to then.
Hesitantly I approach the ticket counter where a bald man with red cheeks and a tight shirt counts ticket stubs. He eyes me dully.
“What can I do ya for, kid?” he drawls.
“I’d like one bus ticket please,” I say.
He rolls his eyes and taps the board behind him which indicates the places the buses go. “Where to?”
Good question. I hadn’t though that far. I check down the list. Houston, Detroit, San Diego, New York. None of the choices appeal to me until I see one that reminds me of the money in my pocket.
“Can I get a one way ticket to Santa Cruz please?” I pull a few bills from my purse and place them on the counter.
The man sits up a little straighter in his grubby chair and slides the money off the counter, counting it quickly. “One way or round trip?”
He nods to himself and taps some buttons on his register. A receipt prints out and he hands me my change and a pale pink ticket. “Bus leaves in fifteen.”
I catch sight of my reflection in the glass of the door before I push it open. My blonde hair is messy and sticks up in places. There are bags under my tired blue eyes. No one waiting for the bus pays me any attention though. When it arrives, everyone piles on, sliding their luggage into the storage compartment on the side of the bus. I settle into a seat at the back as the bus pulls away from the curb and idles at a stop sign. Closing my eyes, I nod off, clutching my purse and thinking about all the things I’ll be able to do, just because I can.
I wonder if my parents have reported me missing yet. I wonder if Tanner is crying over me. The idea of either possibility screws my mouth into a grin. I guess Stella isn’t as perfect as you thought she would be. Ha.
I stroll down the boardwalk, lugging my suitcase along. The station the bus had stopped at was only a mile from the beach, so that’s where I headed. Spying a hotdog stand, I head over and order a deluxe with everything. My stomach grumbles as I speak, my mouth salivating at the thought of relish and mustard and onions slathered over a steaming dog.
“That’ll be $2.00,” the server says as he squirts the toppings onto the hotdog and sets it on the counter.
“Sure thing,” I smile, reaching into my purse to pull out a five, furrowing my brow when I can’t find a bill. I open the purse and turn it upside down. A mint and a dime clink onto the counter. You’ve got to be kidding me. “I swear I had money in here. I took a bus here and someone must have stolen from me while I was sleeping.”
The server snorts and dumps the hotdog into the garbage. “No money, no food. Now get lost.”
I stare at the garbage in distain. “Please, I’m really hungry. I could—“
“I said get lost!”
Hungry and upset, I wander away down the beach, tossing the useless purse in a trash can. This isn’t really turning out how I expected. I’ve got no money, no place to go. The waves rumble as they crash into the shore, young kids shrieking as they try to outrun the water. I set my suitcase down and sit on top of it. Rolling up my jeans, I pull off my shoes and dig my toes into the sand.
I watch as women in bikinis eat popsicles and giggle to one another. A group of boys in trunks run with their brightly colored surfboards slung under their arms toward the water. A young boy builds a sandcastle nearby, placing seashells around the perimeter. Everyone on this beach is having an awesome time, and I’m here alone and totally screwed.
A little ways away, near the lifeguard chair, there’s a hose where people can wash the sand from their legs and I notice some kids drinking from it as well. I walk casually over and take a long sip from the hose. The water is cool and heaven against my dry lips. I drink until I can’t fit anymore in and I can feel it sloshing around in my stomach when I move.
I spend the rest of the day combing the beach, people watching. I check out the shops along the boardwalk. Most of them sell souvenirs, but a few sell bait and tackle as well as surf attire and equipment. Lots of the people working in the shops eye my suitcase like I might steal something. I wouldn’t. I’m not desperate enough to, not yet. I smile at them anyway, and say have a good day as I leave.
When the sun has sunken below the horizon, I head back to the beach. It’s become obvious I’m not going to have a place to sleep tonight, so I look for a reasonable place that provides me a little privacy. I find what I’m looking for a ways down the beach. A small peeling blue bait shack is nestled beside a palm tree, whose fronds droop down, dipping into the sand. I curl up against the shack resting my head against the suitcase. Tomorrow I’ll start figuring out just exactly what I’m going to do.
Turner and I have been diligently writing away on our “Unit 17” novel. We are about 75% done now. It’s interesting to compare this project to our two previous ones. The first novel we started together took nine months, the sequel took seven months. Unit 17 looks like it’s going to be finished in two months. It’s neat to see how you can improve the time it takes to turn something out. The more you write, the more you understand your characters, how pieces fit together, how plots should develop. With each project, you hone your skills. Turner and I are discovering this. We don’t feel like we’re groping in the dark for the light switch to shed light on the next chapter anymore. We know where the light switch is and can easily turn it on if we need the light.
The dream came slowly at first, then faster and faster like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle falling into place. It was a little like looking through a glass bottom boat, only the players in the scene were visible. Sometimes I could see the faint tracery of leaves in the distance, or the glistening sheen of rain, but that was all.
This time it was night, and the boy and girl were silhouetted in the profile, their faces very close together. A lantern sat between their curled bodies and the faint light danced over their murmuring lips. I strained to hear them, that was the hard part, always was. Like trying to listen to a conversation through a wall with a glass.
“We can’t keep doing this,” I heard her say.
I could make out his pained expression, his downturned lips.
“They can’t keep us apart, you know we are meant to be together.”
She stares into his eyes and slowly reaches a pale hand to caress his cheek. She lets her fingers linger for a moment. “Fate, perhaps?”
His teeth glint in the lantern’s light as he smiles wide. “Only fate could conspire to gift me with such beauty and such turmoil.”
“There cannot be light without the dark.”
He leans forward, tilting his head slightly, until his lips meet hers. They stay like that for a moment, until a rustle in the trees rouses their attention.
Her eyes become alert and she pushes him away. “Quick, leave before they catch you.”
His hair falls into his eyes as he backs away, bowing deeply with a flourish, playfully. “Until we meet again.”
She watches him retreat into the woods, hears him laughing lightly, the sound like church bells chiming in the distance.
The scene begins to swirl, shifting and mixing together, like dye into water. And all at once, I’m laying with my check on my desk, where I dozed off earlier. I pull my notebook from my top drawer and flip to the next open page, scrawling down what I just saw before I forget a single detail. The notebook is almost full.