SO I entered my first writing contest! The James Patterson Co-author Contest. You had to write a sample chapter out of a potential thriller book in 1000 words or less. I spent over a month struggling to come up with an idea, asking everyone I knew for one until I remembered a terrifying and true story I’d heard as a kid…
I’m fiddling with the radio trying to get a station in when I hear the crack of gunfire. My head jerks up in time to see the hitchhiker fall to his knees, Gerald standing over him. All traces of the affable skinny Santa Clause look alike are gone as he kicks the man over. I jump into the backseat, hands shaking as I desperately try to unbuckle Jack. He’d slept through it his soft baby mouth hanging open, little chest heaving deep gentle breaths even as my own jack hammers with adrenaline.
I hear myself sob as I glance out the tinted window and see Gerald pulling a hunting knife out of his boot, using it to rip open the mans shirt. “Where’s the tattoo?” he demands rolling the man over. “Where the hells your tattoo Indian!?” He yells. I swallow back vomit when he stands back up and shoots the remaining 5 rounds into the mans convulsing body.
Finally freeing Jack, I quietly slip out the door, and run as far and fast as I can before Gerald has a chance to reload. Jack wakes up letting out an angry cry. “Shhhh.” I tell him, “It’s ok, mommy’s here baby, shhh shhhh.” I whisper it over and over in his ear, running crouched over, towards a formation rocks so far away they look like a mirage in the flat desert landscape. I’ll never make it but I still try, using the cactus’ dotting the desert for all the cover they’re worth.
Boom! I freeze. The flowers on the cactus in front of us explode. Holding Jack’s body tight, silent sobs rack my body as Gerald approaches. His leisurely footsteps, barely audible over my ragged breathing, sound like cracks of thunder in the silence of the desert. Tears streak down my face falling onto Jack’s hair as Gerald comes closer and closer. The smell of burnt gunpowder intensifying. I close my eyes and see Jack’s smile when I pulled him out of the crib this morning.
“Back in the car.”
“P-please, my baby.” He puts his gloved hand on my shoulder, gripping it hard and turns me around, pushing me towards the SUV.
“Please, I wont tell anyone.”
“Doesn’t matter if you do. I used your gun and my prints aren’t on it.”
“Please let us go, I didn’t see anything.” I say, stumbling forward.
“You want to live, that’s understandable, but I might need hostages at some point today. As long as you cooperate we’ll get along just fine. Now put him back in the car seat.” He says pressing the gun against my back when we reach the SUV.
After I buckle Jack in, I look at his wide eyed little face and attempt a smile, ducking down to get his bag of snacks that fell to the floor when I find I can’t. I hand it to him and quickly stand up hoping he didn’t see how terrified I am.
“I’ll keep Jack company in the back.” Gerald says walking around to the other side and sliding across the brown leather seat to sit in the middle. “And you’ll drive.” He takes the knife out of his boot and sits back staring at it a moment before looking at me, “Now!” he barks, pulling the keys out of his pocket, leaning over Jack to throw them at me. “I’ve still got a bounty to collect before sundown.”
The keys hit me in the chest and fall onto the asphalt. I pick them up, walk around the SUV, open the door and sit in the drivers seat. Glancing in the rearview mirror I see Gerald, his grandfatherly mask back on as he whispers something in Jacks ear. Jack giggles and pushes him away. Am I really about to drive this monster to kill someone else? To abet in the killing of another human at a miniscule attempt to save Jack? Yes. I’d do anything for him, the rest of the world be damned.
The desert highway stretches in front of me, an eternity of asphalt. An eternity to figure out what to do because with a sickening dread I start to realize my dad, a doppelganger for the dead hitchhiker, might not have been exaggerating when he said he was in trouble.
I hope you guys enjoyed it, I had a blast writing it! I didn’t win, but I was really stoked to have even entered, and hope to try my hand at more contests. Thanks so much to my Mom who helped me see beyond the people this story was based on. Thanks to my Dad for the grammar edit. Lastly huge thank you to my Grandma and Grandpa who are responsible for sending me down my writing/blogging path!!!