Out of the Darkness
Colton spent the day preparing for his upcoming nocturnal endeavor by napping. At sundown, he rose from his bed and left it unmade, dressed, and had a few drinks. Thirty minutes after the sun had dropped behind the horizon he fed the puppy one last time and stepped outside. He crossed the slime-coated rocks that lead out to the edge of the water and unscrewed the cap, took a few pulls off the bottle while he stared across the moonlit gulf. A noise to his back startled him. Colton spun around. Rocks clattered as a figure wielding a flashlight moved toward him.
As the person drew closer, the dim light from the moon revealed Herbert clattering across the slippery terrain. He looked like a newborn foal trying to gain its footing as he made his way over to Colton wagging the bore end of the shotgun all over the place. In the other hand, he held a flashlight and his catawampus movements sent the beam scattering in every direction.
The first thing that crossed Colton’s mind was the old man had found out about the rendezvous between him and Breanne. The slippery surface combined with the uneven rocks would hinder the footing of any well choreographed escape. He stood helpless as the old man neared.
Herbert stopped and shined the light in Colton’s face.
Colton shielded his eyes with the back of his hand.
“It’s only you.” Herbert heaved a sigh of relief and shifted the beam to the rocky shoal.
Colton lowered his hand. “What’s with that gun?”
“Since the bodies of those two of the boys showed up I thought I’d better keep an eye on things. If something were to happen to my girl…”
Instantly, Colton felt remorse for sleeping with Breanne.
“And to protect everyone on the property. That includes you.” Herbert took a moment. “People around here are saying some unkind things about you, but I don’t believe a word of it. I took a liking to you the minute you walked into my office asking for a room.”
Colton was hit with another pang of guilt then became angry with himself, and felt anxious to depart. “I’d better go.”
“Where’re you heading?”
“I thought I’d take a little ride.”
Herbert got a smug look on his face as he shook his head. “That ain’t happening.”
Colton was about to ask him why, but again Herbert cut him off.
“Grady called a ten o’ clock curfew.” He hoisted his wrist close to his face, and looked at the watch hanging loosely around his bony wrist by a gold flex band. “It’s now ten-fifteen.” He lowered his wrist.
“I’ll risk it.”
“You’re taking a big chance you know. If you happen to cross paths with the wrong person,” He paused, and then said, “I’d hate to hear about something bad happening to you. That’s all.”
“Thanks for the advice.” He turned.
“Wait. There’s something else.
Colton turned and faced Herbert.
“I ain’t nothing personal, it’s just business.” Herbert sighed. “The missus and I have been talking and she think it’s best if you go find someplace else to stay.”
Colton lifted the bottle and drained off the last of the liquor. He tossed it. It clinked against the rocks. “Tell your missus thanks for everything.” Colton returned to the cabins and under the cloak of darkness wheeled his bike up the clamshell drive to the main road. There, he straddled the seat and fired the engine to life with on stroke of the kick-starter. A second later he on a course to Blood Road, traveling the almost deserted beach highway. Even though the ocean at his left was cloaked by the dark, he could smell the heady aroma of the sea, and if it weren’t for the roar of Harley’s engine he could have heard the sound of waves crashing on the shore. A pair of headlights, distant, mysteriously appeared and reflected in the bikes mirror.
Colton kept a vigilant watch, hoping for the possibility that the occupants were two passionate teenagers looking for a secluded spot. He remembered bringing Stormy Morgan to the deserted beach on more than one occasion. Suddenly, the headlights headed toward him at a high rate of speed.
A black truck blasted past him. The engine’s roar filled his ears. A turbulent current of air upset the balance of the bike, but Colton managed to keep it upright. The sting of diesel exhaust stung his nose. In passing, he caught a glimpse of the vehicle. Judging by its size, it was a full one-ton pickup with a homemade front bumper made of welded pipes, a cowcatcher. The driver could have squashed him like a bug on a windshield without making a dent in the truck
Colton glanced in the side view mirror. The truck whipped around and was back on his tail, quickly closing the gap. The bike was at full throttle and it would be mere seconds before the truck was upon him. To his left was a narrow strip of beach between him and the ocean. To his right― cow pasture defined by a barbed-wire fence. Colton leaned into the turn as he made a sharp left, his face almost grazing the pavement. Seconds later, he was on soft sand with the truck on his tail. Ahead, a trough ran from the highway to the water the beach, a deep cut. Colton snuggled down against the gas tank seconds before he made the jump. Instantly, he was airborne, weightless, making a high arc through the air. As he reached the zenith, he prepared for the impact. A moment later the hard landing jarred him around, but the soft sand padded his landing. The bike almost tipped on its side, but again he recovered. His side view reflected the not so successful flight of the one-ton truck.
As it went airborne, the truck listed to one side, the drivers, the center of gravity shifted and the truck came down like the mighty Goliath, skid, plowing up a heap of sand that quickly became a wall that brought the moving mass to a stop.
Still traveling at a high rate of speed, Colton steered the bike back onto the pavement and didn’t stop until he arrived at Ghost Road. Still breathing he twisted around on his seat. A deep stretch of darkness stared back. It took a few minutes to catch his breath. His racing heart slowed, he shivered, but not from fear. A fog had crept in and filled the air with the chilling mist. Feeling the ordeal was now behind him Colton pulled a flashlight from his saddlebag and shined the light out into the growth of trees. The disc reflected on water. Certain that this was the canal; he climbed off his bike and grabbed the folding shovel. He extended the blade and made his way toward the bank with the flashlight revealing the way. Flashing lights and two quick blasts from a siren brought his venture to a halt.
With lights still flashing, the cruiser pulled to the side of the road. The driver’s door popped open and Officer Hammond stepped out. Colton tightened his grip on the shove’s handle the shovel and returned to the side of the road.
The officer’s stride tested the structural integrity of the fabric of his pants that were a tad too tight. He had a handgun strapped to his right hip, and on his left, a nightstick dangled along his thigh. His fingers gripped the handle.
Hammond stopped and placed his hand on his service pistol. “You’d best drop that shovel.”
Colton loosened his grip and it fell to the ground.
In his other hand he ld a flashlight that he shined in Colton’s face. “What are you doing out here?”
Colton squinted. “How about getting that light out of my face.” The light moved to his chest. “I came out to dig some night crawlers.”
“Are you planning on doing a little fishing?”
“Yeah. There’s no law against that, is there?”
Hammond shook his head. “No.” He turned his light on the POSTED sign nailed to a post. “But trespassing is.”
“Sorry officer, I didn’t see it. I’ll move along.”
“Don’t be in such a hurry.”
“Is there a problem?”
“Maybe,” said Hammond. “There was an accident a few miles back involving a black truck. Do you know anything about it?”
Colton shook his head.
“That’s funny,” Hammond replied with a cocky grin. “There were fresh motorcycle tracks in the sand that pointed this direction.”
Hammond shined his light on the Colton’s bike. “Mind if I have a look?”
After a moment of silence, Colton nodded. “Go ahead.”
Hammond grinned big. “You ain’t so dumb after all.”
As he watched Hammond look the Harley over the officer stopped and confirmed what Colton already knew.
“How do you explain the sand up inside the fender well?” He didn’t wait for a response. “Step away from the bike and get down on your knees.”
“Now lock your fingers together behind your head.
Again, Colton obeyed.
Hammond grabbed the cuffs hanging at his side as a female voice blared across the outside speaker calling for an all car response.
Colton’s gaze was drawn to the sky above the treetops. An orange glow lit the horizon. “It looks like the whole town is on fire.” He turned to Hammond. “Aren’t you going to answer the call?”
Hammond gritted his teeth. “After you’re in a cell.”