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Dooley Downs

By Scott Byorum All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Thriller


Peter Dooley pondered the back yard, certain that its condition was as critical as he and Priscilla’s own. The ground consisted of a cruddy mix of dusty tan soil and grey loose gravel, barely nourishing tufts of scrub. It reminded him of a description his Dad told him of what mange was, like on a dog. His Dad also conferred that other things in life contracted the mange, too, such as people. He sometimes said that, unlike animals, people that got mangy rarely crawled off to die somewhere alone. More often than not, according to Dad, they ended up in well paid government positions and that’s how the mange kept spreading around. Peter quietly questioned the facts behind that assertion, but there seemed little doubt that the back yard looked mangy. It had been that way since Mom died. And now Dad was missing...

Chapter 1


Tim eased the Jalopy into the center marked parking space of the only three available spaces at the Mirror Falls Overlook. A shrill squealing protest issued from the weary brakes. Sarah cringed in the passenger seat and openly gritted her teeth, wincing her eyes. Tim noticed her reaction with a furtive, sidelong glance. As the dilapidated primordial vehicle came to a stop, Tim lifted the emergency brake handle with some effort, switched off the headlights, which could easily be described as headlamps, and turned off the engine. It chugged and clunked a few more times before falling silent completely. Cushion springs creaked as Tim shifted in his seat to face his wife, placing one arm on the large steering wheel and casting a suspicious eyebrow at her.

“It’s not all that bad, is it?” he inquired.

Sarah held her exaggerated cringe a moment longer and then relaxed, putting one hand over her face in an unsuccessful attempt to hide her spreading smile. She parted her forefinger and middle finger slightly to get a glimpse at her husband’s reaction. Finally, her wild giggling gave it all away. Tim stoically held up his façade of wariness.

“I think you’ve had a little too much to drink,” he admonished.

“Oh please,” Sarah feigned incredulity. She continued to giggle. “I only had two glasses of champagne!”

“Yeah, and one of them was mine!”

“Oh, phooey! You’re driving… exactly what you are driving, I’m not entirely certain.”

Tim patted what passed for a dashboard, scuffed and cracked from deep age and sun exposure. “The Jalopy is a masterpiece of modern engineering. It runs like a clock.”

“Yeah, a broken one!”

Tim’s expression changed. He appeared pensive, almost hurt. He looked down, then sat back in his seat and gazed out his side window. Sarah stopped giggling, suddenly caught with the feeling that she had said something that hurt his feelings.

“Tim, I…”

“If you feel like leaving, you know you can go,” Tim intoned seriously, still looking away from her.

“What? Wait, I…”

He turned to her suddenly, slightly teary-eyed. “But why don’t you stay until tomorrow?”

“What are you talking about? I’m not going anywhere…”

Tim’s voice turned more melodic. “If you want to be free, you know, all you got to do is say so.”

“What are you doing, you goon?” She now suspected Tim was playing around with her and her concern lightened as the smile returned to her face. Then Tim poured on the charm and the vocals as he burst into full song.

“And when you feel cold, I’ll warm you…”

“Oh, please, Tim…”

“And when you feel you can’t go on, I’ll come and hold you!”

Really?” she wondered mockingly, nodding her head up and down vigorously.

“It’s you and me forever…” Now Tim was all smiles, leaning in close. They sang the following main chorus line of Hall & Oates 1976 classic “Sara Smile” in unison.

“Sara smile; won’t you smile awhile for me… Sara.”

They stopped, their respective gazes examining each other’s features, measuring the depth of their shared connection.

“You know, that’s not even how my name is spelled,” Sarah said.

“It still reminds me of you. Besides, I got one on you.”

“That you did, honey, in more ways than one.”

They kissed, long and sensual. When they pulled away, Tim’s expression intrigued Sarah.

“What are you thinking about?” she asked.

“Lots of stuff.”

“Yeah, me too.”

He began singing again, softly. “One and one make two…”

She followed suit, knowing the words perfectly. “Two and two make three…”

“…or four…”

“…or love…”

“…the door…”

It was a special song between them, one they had created together. It spoke of many events and loves in their life together, the relationship they shared and the children it had produced. But Sarah was feeling a little giddy, so she took it a bit further.

“Five to one, baby…” Sarah belted out, trying to imitate the late Jim Morrison of The Doors.

“One in five…” Tim mimicked.

“No one here gets out alive…”

“You get yours, baby…”

“I get mine…”

“Gonna make it baby if we try!” They finished in unison again.

Falling suddenly silent, they both turned, looking beyond the windshield. The full moon cast the night in twilight. The glow and sparkle off of the Upper Carp River as it split and spilled over the edge of the cliff to become Mirror Falls was mesmerizing. Without looking, Tim reached over and gently scooped up Sarah’s hand into his own. She squeezed back.


“Yeah, babe?”

“I feel a bit dizzy…” She touched her forehead and closed her eyes. He looked over at her with sudden concern.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, yeah… I just got a little dizzy. It’s kinda stuffy in the old Jalopy, you know? I’m gonna step out for some fresh air.”

“That sounds like a bully idea, babe. It’s a nice night. I’ll get a blanket from the trunk in case a chill picks up or we want to sit down.”

“Good idea, hon.”

The vehicle’s doors groaned as they both exited the Jalopy. The night air was crisp and clean smelling with a slight coolness, appropriate for mid-Autumn. Sarah walked slowly towards the overlook, weaving slightly in step. Tim missed this as he made his way to the back of the Jalopy and opened the curved trunk. Inside, a bald spare tire and an old bent tire iron greeted him.

“Darn, Sarah,” he said with a raised voice so his wife would hear, “I forgot the blanket!”

He didn’t hear any reply, which wasn’t too unusual, considering the noise of the river and falls. He pulled a small penlight from his coat pocket, turned it on, and examined the contents of the Jalopy’s trunk further. No blanket was to be found.

“Hey, Sarah?” he called louder.

No reply.

He closed the trunk, looking for her, smile fading from his features.

His wife was nowhere to be seen.


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