Morpheus was losing his mind, running from window to window and barking at the intruder. Carefully, I peered through the blinds. The ranger was talking into a walkie-talkie and walking deliberately across the lawn, down towards the dock. “You always get park rangers in your yard?” I asked her.
She shook her head.
I peaked out through the blinds. “I think there’s just one. He’s definitely looking for something. Or someone.”
Together, we scooped up the emeralds and poured them back into the bag. I watched as she stashed it above the fridge in a cupboard. “You stay here,” she said and, before I could respond, she was out the front door leaving Morpheus and me to climb the walls.
At first, I could hear her. “Excuse me!” she said walking down the hill toward the dock where the ranger stood. Then, as she got further away, the voices became muffled and I couldn’t make out the words. He handed her a sheet of paper and they talked about it for five or ten minutes before walking back up the hill. She came inside and shut the door.
“Not a ranger,” she said, “Highway Patrol. He asked about the car.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him the guy who stole it was in my house with a bag of priceless stones that he ripped off. I told him I was going to help you fence it. What do you think I told him?”
“I suppose that was a dumb question.”
“They asked if I had seen you,” she said.
She handed me the paper. My face was printed across the front of it.
“Wanted for Questioning,” was printed above my face and under it, “Josh McCormack.”
My heart hammered in my chest. “Now the cops want me too?”
“He asked if I had seen you and I told him I knew you from high school. He asked when the last time I’d seen you was and I said not for ten years or so. I asked what this was all about but he wouldn’t say. I asked if you were dangerous and he said he didn’t think so. Now I’ve aided and abetted AND lied to police officer,” she said in disbelief. “We need to get you out of here. We need to get those jewels sold and get out of town for a while.”
“Then what?” I said, feeling slightly frantic. “Keep running forever?”
“What about you?” I said. “What about your job? Won’t people start missing you in a day or two?”
She didn’t answer and I paced around the living room. “This is bad. It was bad when the Adams boys wanted me but it’s REALLY bad now that the cops are involved.” I looked at the paper again. It gave my description but no details of why they wanted me. “Brad or Allen must have gone to the cops. Maybe that’s better. It’s probably harder to kill me in prison right?”
She dug around in a kitchen drawer and came up with a pair of sunglasses. “Put these on and pull your hood up. When we get to the shed, you get in the trunk. We’re going to see my uncle. He’ll know what to do.”
I grabbed the bag of emeralds and we ran for the garage. Behind us, Morpheus went berserk climbing the sliding glass door and barking his disapproval.
I was not at all enthusiastic about climbing into the trunk of her sedan. I understood her reasoning, but the notion didn’t sit well with me. Fortunately, when she opened the trunk and we looked in, there really was no way I would fit; I had barely fit in the back seat. Turning to look at her with a scowl, I grabbed the emergency blanket folded neatly in the small compartment and went round her to open the back passenger side door.
“Not a chance, Julie. I’ll lay on the floor and you will simply need to make sure you don’t get stopped. Cover me with this.” I handed her the blanket and crawled in, situating myself in the cramped area behind the front seats that was barely large enough for a school kid. I had a bit of difficulty finding a comfortable position, but she got tired of waiting for me and threw the blanket over me with a mumble that even Morpheus wouldn’t take so long. Growling at her with frustration as the blanket submerged me in thick darkness, I cursed inwardly at the absurdity of it all and leaned back against the door.
The engine revved and we were on our way, although I had no idea where we were going. Something I had neglected to ask in the rush and without being able to see where she was driving, the turns she made soon completely disoriented me. I lay quietly for a while, forcing myself not to pose undue questions; assuming she had a plan. Time stretched out, even if I couldn’t and I grew more and more uncomfortable. I tried to shift, but there was nowhere to move to and my knee repeatedly pressed into the back of her seat as I struggled.
“Will you stop that? We’re almost there.”
“Almost where? You neglected to tell me where you planned to go and I’d appreciate knowing.” She didn’t answer as she made what seemed to be a complete circle and a sound of heavy gravel beneath the tires announced we were now off the main road. We bumped and jostled along for several moments longer, each jolt pushing me further from uncomfortable into downright miserable and just when I was about to throw the cover back with a curse and push myself up regardless of the consequences, the car stopped and she turned off the engine.
Against instinct, I waited. I heard her door open, close, and the sound of her footsteps recede into the distance. Cursing, I fumbled with the blanket, only to hear her returning a moment later and open the rear door.
“All clear.” She said in a low voice as if she were in an espionage movie while she took hold of the blanket and pulled it slowly off me. I looked up at her with an intense combination of indignation and relief, but said nothing as I attempted to push myself up from the cramped position I had slumped into. At 6’2”, trying to squeeze into the limited space behind the seats of a compact sedan had proved difficult enough; trying to extricate myself from that space was practically impossible.
Smiling at my ungainly actions, she giggled quietly and reached for my hand, tugging on me in the same manner she had just the night before, although this time I was not nearly comatose with hypothermia. The sound of her soft giggle captured my attention so completely that when I had righted myself and stood beside her outside the car, I didn’t even look round me, but rather, stood staring down at her with an intense gaze.
She didn’t seem to notice and stepped back to try to close the door. Shaking myself I looked round to see where she had brought us.
Fred Rock of Fred Rock Fiction recently contacted me to discuss a possible, extended collaboration during which time we would write a short story based upon a piece he had begun and then hit a wall. I read the portion he wrote (designated above and throughout these posts in italics ) and was immediately intrigued. Inspiration sparked, we set about sending the piece back and forth between us for several weeks, adding to the tale, discussing possible stumbling blocks, and finally editing the ‘masterpiece’. Our final story is now ready to be shared, which we shall do in increments for your reading ease (and hopefully enjoyment!)