Alone In The Darkness is a novel I wrote in early 2016. I will be releasing a new chapter every Monday and Friday, starting on July 18th 2016. If you enjoy the book and would like to support me please click the link and purchase my book through Amazon. You can also find my book on the mobile reading apps: Wattpad, Jukepop, and Inkitt.

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Chapter Eight

 

The shopping center was empty save a few cars cozied up outside the corner bar. The lights from the bar flooded the parking lot and a soft drum of muffled music could be heard. The car sat idling in a parking space pointed at the bank with the lights off. Inside, two faces focused on the brick facade as the gun pressed into Jennifer’s neck. The blue light of the bank sign fell across her face. Her cheeks were wet with tears, melting mascara, and smeared lipstick. Her chin quivered in fear and her eyes were puffy and red and looked exhausted from the sudden change in her life.

“Reach down and hand me the tip money.” She silently reached down and pulled up the cash between two fingers and passed it over her shoulder. Steven quietly thumbed the money with one hand. It was over one hundred dollars. He added the money to his jacket pocket.

“Listen to me. You’re going to roll up to the drive through ATM.” He pointed over her shoulder. “I need you to take out 600 dollars from the bank.”

“Please no,” she muttered shaking her head.

He continued, “When you’re done, I want you to drive behind the grocery store and park the car.”

She began to cry again and her head was in her hands.

“You and I do not have time for this now. Move now, goddammit!” He pressed the gun into her neck. Jennifer released a short squeal and her hands weakly lifted trying to protect herself.

“I just want to go home. Please just let me go home.”

“Listen to me, if you get me the money, I promise you this is over. You will get to go home and watch your shitty TV with whoever that was.” Jennifer felt violated, a private moment with her grandmother had been spied on by this criminal. She had felt terrified up until now, but this made her angry.

“I think you’re lying.”

“Well you either do it or the lights will turn out forever.” She wanted to get home but there was no easy way. She resigned herself to finishing this last task. She turned on the car lights, shifted into drive and pulled around to the ATM. Steven sunk down into the seat and pulled the gun back from her head.

“Stay calm. We will be in and out,” His voice seemed to come from the bottom of the backseat. She knew that he was hiding from view. Jennifer looked at the machine and stared into the camera pointed directly at her face. She mouthed, Help Me Please. She inserted her card and followed the instructions. Steven could hear the machine come to life as the twenty dollar bills were pushed out. In his mind he knew this was the last of the debt. There was a relief coming over him and for the first moment that night he felt that he may be able to get out of this alive. He felt some remorse about robbing this woman, but he was more concerned about surviving the evening.

Jennifer shifted into drive and drove through the parking lot. She was trying to get herself noticed and was failing to observe any driving lines. She carelessly rolled through stop signs exiting the center. She hoped that there might be some officer sitting quietly ready to make a quick $200 fine. She rounded the corner and parked behind the store.

“Pass the cash back.”

She handed Steven the money. “Please let me go now, you’ve got what you want.”

“I need you a little longer.” He thumbed the money. “Get back onto the road and head north. I’ll tell you when to turn.”

“Please…you promised, you promised you would let me go.” She began to cry.

Steven’s arm moved and the gun fired. The car lit up for that fraction of a second. Two bodies could be seen clearly as Jennifer followed the gunshot with a deafening scream, her hands shaking next to her face. Steven’s ears rang through the screams as smoke rose from the hole in the passenger seat. Steven shook his head and reached around Jennifer’s neck to pull her back. He raised the gun to her temple. She was silent, tears streaming down her face, mouth open to the car roof.

He paused between his words, “Do you think this is a fucking joke?” She could see the whites of his eyes as they looked down on her, the vein pulsing above his eyebrow as he pulled back. She began to cough from the force on her neck. He let loose, “Slide over now.”

She moved across to the passenger seat and sat in a fetal position curled towards the door. The intense smell of gun smoke ran up her shirt. Steven kept his hand on her shoulder as he slid into the front seat. His hand wrapped around her shirt and bra strap, stretching both and revealed red scratch marks and the white of her chest. He pulled his feet to the pedals. He put the gun down on to the ground and shifted from the seat back. He turned to Jennifer and pulled the seatbelt across her, shoving her back into the seat and clicking her secure. He reached with his left hand and shifted the car into drive.

He turned the car around and left the shopping center, entering the road and heading north as a light rain fell onto the glass. Jennifer had withdrawn in shock and remained curled up in the seat beside him.

“This is almost over. I’ve got an errand to run and it’s over.”

Jennifer showed no response to Steven. He looked across to her and removed his hand from her shoulder. She pulled it back feeling the release in an effort to distance herself from him.

Steven knew to let the situation calm down. It had gotten out of control and he regretted shooting in the car. He pulled away and drove down the dark highway. He crossed dark nameless hills with distant lights of large homesteads spotting the landscape. Tall evergreens dominated the dark night, wrapping the road, and hiding the evening sky. Steven’s mind drifted as the oncoming cars passed him. Their lights drowning his vision. His mind left the car and focused on his goal, returning the money to Juan.

The side roads passed by as Steven eventually applied the brake illuminating the road behind him in a red glow. The car slowed and turned onto the gravel dirt road. Steven proceeded cautiously avoiding the carefully placed road holes. Each would swallow a car and were filled to the brim with rain water. It was never easy to get there. Steven passed the dummy mailbox and turned down a side easement with a broken wooden gate. He came up to a small speaker box. Steven cranked on the handle lowering the window. He pressed the combination and a beep sounded.

“This is Steven, I need to speak with Juan. He is expecting me.” There was a long pause. Steven took this time to pull the money from his jacket pocket. He collected the money into a single wad and placed the rubber band to form a roll. His eyes moved to the girl. Her only movements were the rhythmic pulse of her chest as she breathed quietly. Steven shifted and pulled his jacket off. He carefully lowered it across the girl leaving only her head exposed. Jennifer pulled back quickly as the jacket rested on her shoulders.

To Steven’s left a light went from red to green. The speaker cracked alive and a man with a thick accent said, “The pool house.”

Steven knew that the pool house was not a luxurious beautiful white building with music, women, and fun. It was the junk area on the property, where junk was burned and the old oil drums would be stacked high. He had been there once before. He remembered being shocked by the scale of the junk site as Juan explained to him its meaning:

“Steven, this is the pool house.” Juan looked at Steven with his arms around his shoulders. Steven held the shoebox full of bagged meth. “Do you see those drums? Those are 55 gallon pools.” Juan smiled at him. Steven just stared forward. “I get them cheap, naturally, food-safe drums, I wouldn’t want any issues with oil or other nasty things. In the long cool winters here in Washington sometimes a nice warm pool is the best. The best way to get them warm is to pull them up against a bonfire. Kind of like a redneck Jacuzzi,” Juan’s eyes remained focused on the barrel and he walked out ahead of Steven pointing to the welder, “It is important to make sure someone who is in the pool is secure. You wouldn’t want an accident to happen so close to the fire.” Juan turned petting the barrel, “To make sure that you get the true spa experience.”

Steven shivered slightly and glanced at the clock, 10:50. He had made it just in time. Steven knew that Jennifer could hear his voice, “Stay still and don’t move. These people won’t help you. They might even make it worse. Just stay down and pretend to be passed out.”

Jennifer’s eyes opened and she peeked over her shoulder. She could see the red glow on the windshield ahead of her. The glow was dancing and she could smell a burning fire.

Steven rolled up to the edge of the pool house. The fire danced between piles of wooden pallets, old cars, and rows of oil drums. There was a metallic smell in the air that burned the nose. Silhouetted against the fire were four men. One man was poking the fire with a long rod and the other three turned to the headlights. Steven could see two shotguns leaned up against the welder. He pulled into a spot. The man with the rod turned and began to walk to the car.

He tapped the rod on the ground as he walked, “Steven, Steven, Steven.” He glanced at his watch and smiled. “Good boy, just in time.”

Steven reached down, pulled out the roll of money, and put his arm out. The man lifted the red hot rod to Steven’s arm. He could feel the heat and he pulled back slightly.

“Toss it here.” Steven threw the money to the man.

“Juan, it’s all there, man.” The man thumbed the cash and placed it into his pocket.

“And just in time. I was starting to get excited for you.” He looked into the car, past Steven, to the passenger seat. His voice lifted, “Who’s this? You brought a friend?”

Steven looked to the passenger seat and then back to Juan. “Just a girl, man. She is nothing special.”

“Nothing special, you say?” Juan’s eyes ran down Jennifer’s jeans and along her legs. “She looks special.” His hand tugged up on his pants.

Steven tried to defuse the situation, “She’s just wasted from earlier and I’m heading home.” Jennifer’s eyes were very wide as she hid her head beneath the jacket. She could hear the panic in Steven’s voice. What had he gotten her into? Who were these men?

Juan’s head turned smiling to the three men, “Chica del drogadicto.”

Steven pressed, “Juan, I need to go. Am I settled? I paid up and on time”

“Oh yeah, you’re paid up. I can imagine you have a busy evening with your girlfriend.” His tongue flicked his teeth.

“I’ve got to go to a party tonight. Just have to head home first.” The three men started walking towards the car.

“It’s a long way home and there’s a party going on here. You guys can stay.”

Steven lowered his arm to the gear shifter and placed his foot above the brake.

“Steven,” Juan rolled the cash in his hand and presented it back to him, “I’ll give it to you for the girl. I’m sure you have to pay someone back for this.” Steven paused and Jennifer’s heart skipped a beat. Steven considered the wager but knew that Juan would kill him just for knowing he had the girl. This was not a deal he should make. The men were nearing the front of the car. He could see their eyes focused on the girl curled up in the front seat.

The men were too close. He locked the car, shifted into reverse, and he smashed the gas. The wheels began to spin throwing rocks and dirt into the air. The three men ahead of him fell back with their arms protecting their faces from the flying debris. The car gained traction and began to roll backwards away from the fire. He gained speed and flipped the wheel, turning the car as it slid along the gravel. He shifted the car into drive and pounded the gas. The car pulled back onto the easement. Steven’s eyes focused on the road ahead of him as flashes lit up his rear view mirror. The first bullet flew over the roof of the car as the shot echoed through the trees. Jennifer screamed in fear pressing her head deep into the seat.

Steven yelled at her putting his arm on her head forcing it down, “Stay down.” Another shot rang out and he could hear the bullet fly by the open window. He lowered his head and the car fishtailed on the gravel. He hit the gas to put distance between the flashes. Steven stared at the rearview mirror waiting for headlights to follow him down the road. He was breathing heavily and his hands were white from gripping the wheel. He hit the main easement and slid the backend of the car around the turn. The flashes stopped and he didn’t see any lights following him as he sped away to the highway. He pulled onto Highway 9 and continued north.

Jennifer was sitting up now looking at Steven who was glued to the road and nervously gazing at the side mirror. Steven continued down the road for a couple of miles keeping his focus on any approaching lights. There were none. He relaxed and settled back into the seat.

Jennifer said, “Are they coming for us?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“Are you sure? They were shooting at us.”

“No. I think they were just trying to scare us.” Steven knew this was a lie. He had heard the bullet scream by the window just inches from his head. He didn’t want to imagine what would have happened if they were a better shot.

“Where are you taking me?”

“Work.”

“Work?”

“They will know what to do, because I’m fresh out of ideas. My mind is fried and Tyler will know what to do. I trust him.”

Jennifer knew now what she had suspected all night, he was never going to let her go. She began to tear up again, leaning back against the headrest. She knew that she needed to get out of the car. She had to take a chance somewhere. She thought to herself if could she throw herself out of the car. Not as this speed, she would die rolling down the embankment.

Steven’s hair whipped about in the open window as Jennifer’s phone began to ring. He looked down to see Grandma on the screen. Jennifer’s heart raced. This was her opportunity. She quickly moved to the phone and accepted the call. She screamed out, “Help!”

It was all she could muster before Steven took the phone and threw it out the window. It hit the ground along the grassy swale glowing softly as the car sped on.

“Stupid bitch!” Steven was furious and ground his hands into the wheel. He knew they would be looking for her now. This complicated things even more.

“You promised to let me go. Just pull over and I will get out. Just let me go,” Jennifer cried.

Steven didn’t answer. His anger was crowding out any clear judgment. He was focused on getting to work and having Tyler help solve this.

“She wanted to know where I am. I should be home by now.” His face seethed with anger.

He pressed the gas and the car accelerated forward. The car sped on moving through the columns of tall pines. The road was empty as they crested over small hills. Dark driveway entrances dotted the side of the road.

Jennifer knew she needed to find a way to get out of this car. She looked around to see if there was anything that she could use. Steven’s gun was tucked into his lap. Her phone was now miles behind them and there was a water bottle lying on the floor. The water bottle was hardly a weapon and she began regretting keeping her car so clean. Along the horizon she could see the warm lights of Arlington. She knew that there were lights and roundabouts, and that the car may slow down enough for her to jump.

She looked ahead and saw the soft lights accenting the “Welcome to Arlington” sign centered in the middle of the roundabout. The corner coffee hut was closed but the parking lights were still on. She turned her head softly to the right and saw the door lock. She was locked in, but she could quickly grab and unlock the door. She pretended to itch her right shoulder and leaned over to quietly unlock her door. She placed her right hand on her knee and eyed the door handle.

Steven pressed the brake as he entered the edge of the roundabout. There were no cars in the loop as he began to make the turn. They reached the right side of the loop and Jennifer could see the coffee hut. She reached over and pulled the door lever as she unbuckled the seat belt. The force of the turn threw the door open and Jennifer leaned out of the car. Her hands reached out and touched the road. The road scraped by and pulled on her jacket forcing her back to the rear of the car. She had an overwhelming feeling of falling. She tucked her head preparing for the impact on the road.

As she fell out of the car, a hand grasped her pants and held her back. Her legs began to kick wildly in an effort to break free from Steven’s grasp. The force of catching Jennifer caused Steven to be pulled into the center console. His foot hit the gas and his hand locked the wheel as they continued to drive around the loop. They missed their exit as Steven locked his elbow and began to pull back. Jennifer, desperate to escape the vehicle, reached out for anything to grab. The door was completely ajar and began to smack the bushes that edged the roundabout. Jennifer grasped the leaves and branches leaving behind cuts and welts on her hands.

The car cleared the bushes and Jennifer screamed out for help with her last breath, a single hand holding her back from freedom. The car entered the loop again as Steven decelerated. He locked the wheel with his knees and pulled her belt loop with both hands. Jennifer’s face was inches from the ground and began to return to the car door. Steven lunged back and hit his head against the door jam. Jennifer returned to the car. Her arms bleeding from the bushes and road rash.

She turned to Steven and began to strike at his shoulder and head. She connected twice as Steven exited the roundabout. He lifted his arm to block another shot as the door slammed shut. He smashed the brake and the car came to a stop in the gravel edging. Jennifer flew forward and hit her head against the windshield leaving behind a small crack. She fell back into her seat with a small trickle of blood running down her forehead. She laid in a crumpled mess in the seat, unmoving and still.

Steven turned to her in an effort to block more punches, but she didn’t move. He relaxed and focused on her breathing. She was still alive. He quickly looked in his mirrors to see that the entire loop was empty. He was breathing heavily and took a moment to calm down.

Steven was shaking his head slightly as he tried to process what had just taken place. He reached over Jennifer and locked the door. He took the butt of his gun and slashed at the door shearing the lock off. He connected her seatbelt and continued down the road.

 

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