What is the Danger Project?
Well, it’s a round robin novel that I’ll be writing with several other authors. One of us will begin writing, and then pass it along. The next author will continue with the same story. What makes it fun is that there is no pre-planning, no pre-plotting, no pre-character sketches. This is not easy considering we’re all different. We’ve all got different voices. We’ve all got different writing styles, and of course, none of us really write even the same genre. Suspense, traditional, erotic, inspirational… you see, we’re all different. It’s going to take talent to make this a smooth project, but it’s also going to be a whole lot of fun! Tune in every Tuesday for your weekly posting of Danger Comes Close!
This week, segment 6 is by yours truly!
Jayde knew something about fear. Fear was why she’d picked up her life and left New Jersey for the refuge of the Catskill Mountains to live in a one bedroom cabin that until she’d asked, had only served to store her uncle’s old furniture. Three months ago, this very cabin had become her full-time home. It had taken all of that time for her to transform it into the semblance of a home. The quaint cabin had been simplistic in design, and once Jayde had scrubbed years of dirt and muck from it, that became its beauty. The cabin hadn’t been used in years and even then, it was only for the occasional hunting or fishing weekend. While the Forest Preserve managed a lot of the mountain range, her uncle’s cabin was located outside of the tourist attractions, surrounded by nearly 3 acres of wilderness that gave one the impression of being all alone.
She spruced up the odds and end furniture with pillows and vibrant coverings that she’d crocheted, to cover the wear of the arms and backs of the chairs. After purchasing a new bed, she celebrated by hanging Japanese lanterns from the rafters with ribbon. Every morning when she opened her eyes and saw the hanging orbs, she smiled before turning over to one of the most spectacular views of trees now covered in ice crystals.
Now what had become her solace, her place of peace, was now a place of fear. The very thing she had run from had somehow sought her out and found her in the middle of a snowstorm no less. Just not in the form she’d expected.
When she left with the clothes on her back in the middle of one frigid November night, she hadn’t known what life would present. She just knew she no longer wanted to be her husband’s punching bag. For nearly two years, she’d kept secret the marks and bruises he was always careful to inflict in places no one would see. In all that time, she’d let her mother and sister believe she was living a fairytale with a man, that on the surface, seemed he was what dreams were made of.
She met him when she was a flight attendant and he’d been the lone person in first class. She had to train herself to not be intimidated by the persons that sat in her section. It took a while but she soon came to learn she performed a service they needed—she served to make sure they were comfortable during their flight. She loved her job, she loved the idea she could please someone. Jayde, for the most part, instinctively knew what the person wanted. If they wanted conversation to ease their fears, if they wanted to be served and left alone—it began to be second nature to her. Although at the end of a twelve-hour day, she thought the bronze complexioned man with the short wavy curls would have been satisfied with his whiskey drink and meal. He didn’t appear mean but rather as a person that enjoyed his solitude. She would have welcomed that because this man had intimidated her. She could sense he was a man with immense power and prestige. While she’d learned to overcome her fear of people who were used to so much more than she ever had in her life, she hadn’t been able to shake that with him. He’d request something; she’d deliver it and run. But after things quieted down in Coach, he’d called to her and began making small talk. Slowly, like a flower unfurling he got her to open up, smile and laugh with him.
At the end of the flight he’d asked her was she free for dinner, but she’d declined, though obviously flattered. He reached into the pocket of his gray suit that set off his green eyes and pulled out a business card. He told her he would be in town for a week and invited her to call him if she had a free evening.
Jayde actually had the entire week off but she didn’t tell him that. He was so smooth, she imagined he did that wherever he went. So despite his smile, that was quite persuasive in and of itself, Jayde decided to let the invitation fall to the side like so many others she received.
Two evenings later, Jayde was curled up on her sofa painting her fingernails, when her doorbell rang. She opened the door surprised at the huge arrangement of flowers that was before her, so huge the delivery person was all but hidden from her. The voice from behind the arrangement asked if Jayde Jenkins resided there. In shock, she confirmed and allowed the delivery person inside her home to place the arrangement on her coffee table. She knew she couldn’t carry it. She signed for the arrangement and offered to tip him. He smiled, declined and left. Excited, Jayde rushed back over to the arrangement and pulled out the card. She saw the name, Carlos Renada with a short silly message attached. She of course was obligated to call and thank him.
“How did you get my address?” She asked.
He replied, “I did not get to be a successful business man without learning to go after what I want. I wanted to know where you lived and so I proceeded to take the necessary measures to find out.”
That seemed so romantic at the time, nothing hinting at the dark compulsive obsession that ruled him. She wished she really listened to what he told her that fateful night, because that phone call was only the beginning in a slow dance to win her heart—and then break her mentally, physically and emotionally. In the end the very smile that seduced her evoked only feelings of repulsion. Still Jayde loved him. That was the sickness of it she supposed. That love made her believe he would somehow miraculously change for the better. It was just about that time Jayde realized she had to leave. She accepted he wouldn’t be better for her. But in the time she lived with him as his wife, she learned how to truly listen to her instincts. Right now, her instincts told her she was in the worse kind of danger —-again. This time, there wasn’t a chance of survival if she stood idle and waited. No, she had to act.
The wounded man near her had confided he was actually an undercover cop. For now, she would have to go with that until he could get her away from this. She turned her head slightly to the left and was shocked to see him looking at her. He shook his head so slight she nearly didn’t trust what she saw. But his expression was solid. This wasn’t the time to try to discuss a plan. He reached his hand to the sugar bowl and tipped it. Cussing aloud for show, he looked around to see if anyone was near. He pushed his finger in the sugar and formed the word later, before he straightened his hand and swiped the spilled sugar into the palm of his hand using his hand like a spout to drizzle the sugar back into the bowl.
Jayde almost retched thinking about the sugar in his greasy hand and made a mental note to refill the bowl with some fresh sugar from the canister. For now, she was going to have to sit and wait and bide her time.
Danger Comes Close-Segment 1~by Nikki Walker
Jayde stood looking through the window as the white snow seemed to fall like sifted flour over the mountain contours surrounding her log cottage. The snow started with gentle flakes the morning before, continued non-stop and overnight had become a wintry mix, now taking on blizzard like conditions.
The ranger—the attractive six-foot bronze complexioned ranger-she corrected mentally, had come by the day before to persuade her to come down off the mountain and take a hotel room in town. She declined. That had been hard because his voice was like velvet over rocks; gritty in just the right places, doing things to her insides she hadn’t felt in years. Staring in his clear cognac colored eyes nearly had her mesmerized. But none of that changed the inside of her wallet. She didn’t want to tell him her money was extremely limited and what she had left for the month wasn’t enough to be caught down the mountain with an obligation to pay for an unknown number of nights in a hotel room. His main concern was there weren’t many cottages in walking distance and of those that were, they’d been boarded up for the season. The majority of owners only used the cottages as seasonal homes. To him this meant there would be no one around to help her. It concerned her as well. However, the best she could do was go down the mountain behind him and pick up some items from the grocery store.
Besides, her uncle always kept the cottage well stocked with emergency supplies. She had more than enough battery operated lanterns and she’d ordered some extra loads of wood should her electricity go out. The funny thing was, now that her choice to engage with others seemed taken from her, she found cabin fever beginning to set in. She’d been content in her solitude for weeks, but the idea of being stranded made her begin to feel slightly desperate. And she couldn’t help but wonder if the ranger had left the mountain or if he’d stayed. Suddenly that thought began to take on some significance in her comfort level.
Jason Carter had been tracking the four men for hours. He’d gotten a B.O.L.O. on four escaped convicts that might be hiding in the area of the Catskills he patrolled. The weather was a blessing. The few out of season visitors heeded his door-to-door warning and had promptly packed up and left. There was only one straggler, the woman in Mr. Jenkin’s cottage–the beautiful 5 inch something caramel package with wavy brown hair and green eyes to be exact. Because of her, he started tracking in her area. It unnerved him to see evidence of several footprints within a 5 mile radius of her cottage. Coming across some blood not long after heightened his senses. One of them was wounded. That meant they would seek shelter. Pivoting, he moved quickly in the direction of her cottage. He only hoped he got to her before they did.
“I told you to stop!” Manny, the tall, husky man wheezed while bearing the weight of his brother, Kyle.
“How was I to know it was a bear trap?” The younger man whined.
“All you had to do was stop when I said stop. Now I have to drag your sorry behind all over God’s wilderness—in a snow storm no less.”
“At least I’m thin.”
“You think that matters after a couple of hours when it’s nearly dead weight!”
“Well leave me then! I’d rather that than to hear you continue to complain.”
Manny used his arm that supported him around his waist to squeeze him tighter. He whispered gruffly, “You’re my brother. I would never leave you—do you understand?”
Kyle nodded and stifled the sob that gathered in the back of his throat.
“Shut up the both of ya!” Jack, the gray-bearded older man walking beside them snapped. He was cold and hungry and had been listening to them go back and forth for hours. It started as soon as they’d cleared the correctional facility and it made him wish he escaped alone. They got on his nerves but they weren’t the ones that kept him alert. He saved all of that for Norm, the stocky red headed man among them that shot a store clerk in cold blood after the man cooperated. The clerk had agreed to let them take a change of clothes and as much food as they wanted. He’d even volunteered his car keys—anything to get them out of the store as quickly as possible. Just as they were walking through the glass door, Norm turned around and shot the clerk. They hadn’t waited around to see if the man was dead. It was hours later that they heard on the radio they’d snatched, that the man lived and had given a description of each of them. Now the police had a target area to search; something they were hoping to avoid at least for another day.
“We need to find some shelter soon. Between this snow and the waning light, we won’t be able to continue,” Jack finally said beside Norm.
For a minute Jack wasn’t sure if he would respond and after a moment he did in a voice that sounded strained—as if it hurt him to speak.
“Yeah, I know. Even the tents in the backpacks won’t be enough to keep us through the night. I thought I saw fire from a chimney in the distance. Hopefully we will get there within the next thirty minutes.”
Jack tilted his head over his shoulder at the two straggling behind them. “I hope so. I don’t think those two will be able to make it much longer than that.”
Norm’s face remained impassive. “That only means more money for me.”
Jack felt a chill, different from what the cold weather was causing. He had no idea this was a cold-blooded killer and now he was rethinking the idea to follow him in search of the money hidden in some obscure cave nearly ten years ago. For all he knew they’d end up with that cave being their grave. He made a mental note to get a hold of his own gun as soon as possible.
Jayde could feel the chill of the night air as she got closer towards the banging sound on the front door of the cabin. Attempting to shake off overwhelming feelings of isolation and apprehension, she squared her shoulders and asked “Whose there?” flabbergasted that someone was at the door.
The howling wind filled every crevice of the door silencing anyone or anything on the other side.
“Who is it,” she quipped.
The door knob made a creaking noise as it turned first to the left then to the right.
Jayde thought of all the horrible things that could happen to a woman trapped in a blizzard inside a cabin. She had a gnawing sense of uneasiness all day every since Jason left. She wished now that she would have just told him the truth about her finances.
The blustery wind rattled and scratched at the windows and shutters. Her heart began to pump violently as fear began to settle within her. Her pulse raised, her heart thumped, little beads of sweat formed on her upper lip as well as in between her eyebrows.
She began to back away from the door- knowing full well there was little she could do to stop anyone desperate enough to stray out in this weather.
Outside the night air had settled itself around the cabin like an old familiar coat. The surrounding trees groaned and grunted under the increasing weight of the now blistery frozen snow. The sounds of icicles falling hitting the already hardened snow ricochet through the woods like the sounds of fireworks.
Jayde had an eerie feeling of danger, a foreshadowing that something was drawing closer, bearing down on her.
She hastily made her way back into the kitchen to cut off the stove and grabbed a knife ( just in case someone was actually at the door this time) she chuckled within herself. Silly girl no one is at the door, it’s just the wind she reasoned.
She tiptoed over to the front door and pressed an ear against it, straining to hear a sound as the hairs on the back of her neck rose. The whirling sound of the wind deadened the sense of sound to the voices outside of the door. She inhaled a deep breath curtailing her overactive imagination.
“Hurry up,” the heavy masculine voice sounded muffled against the blustery, frozen tundra of the wilderness. Mr. Jenkins stretched his back and stood at full attention listening again for the tell-tale sounds of a novice vacationer crunching down into the now frozen ground.
Silently he prayed she was all right. She did not look well the last time he laid eyes on her. She wore a simple, understated dress as if she was hiding in it. Her long brown wavy hair was twisted in a knot, reminding him of an old school spinster. Hideous black spectacle like glasses hid her beautiful green eyes. She looked thinner, spoke softer and looked as if she had been defeated in battle. He understood everyone had their tests, trials and crosses to bear. But she did not deserve all the things that happened to her. She thought he did not know, except everybody did.
They made their way up and across the mountain. The sound of the tree limbs cracking and popping in the distance did nothing to curtail the deep foreboding of trepidation. The wind was beginning to infiltrate their coats.
This is ridiculous, he chided himself. She is a grown woman. She makes her own choices and her own decisions. The last thing she needs is someone keeping a check on her to be sure she is all right. He took a deep breath inhaling pieces of the small slivers of ice nested in his moustache. He pushed his close to frozen hands deeper down into his pocket as he turned to look at the person beside him. “You all right he asked?”
“Yes, babe, just keep going”, the soft melodic sounds of an angel filled the night time sky. He could not see it, but he knew she was smiling at him. The brightness of her eyes gave it away. Why they were up there was sort of a mystery to him. It was her. She pushed, begged and pleaded until he finally got off of the couch and made preparations to bring her here. Her sister had been lost years ago in a storm like this. She knew how dangerous it was to be in a storm of this magnitude. Her brother Jason was out and about somewhere tracking down the four escaped convicts in the area. From all reports they were dangerous. He kept the cabin stocked with not only food but with plenty of weapons too. His papa didn’t raise “no” fool. He knew how to defend his territory, his woman and his niece if the need should arise. He placed his hand on the gun in his coat as he went over thoroughly the last time he broke it down, cleaned it and put fresh bullets in it.
The sounds of rapidly crunching snow raised his heckles just a bit as a deer shot off in the clearing of the woods near the edge of his property. Umm that’s strange he thought to himself. It wasn’t the fact the deer was running that unnerved him. It was the fact the deer was running like something had put the fear of God in it. Mr. Jenkins and his guest quickly closed the distance to the front door of the house. They made it to the front door earlier knocked on it, Then leaving once they realized he was keyless. realizing he was keyless. They then walked over to the storage building at the other end of the property to retrieve an additional set he kept for safe keeping. He helped his friend up the steps and recognized the small drops of blood on the front porch.
Jayde leaned closer into the door trying to separate out what would be noises from the crackling snow, the whirling wind and the blustery conditions outside her cabin. The knife trembled in her pale hand. She hoped it was nothing but the hairs standing on the back of her neck told her otherwise despite her minds feeble attempts at dismissal. Were those muffled voices she heard? Jayde strained, closing her eyes attempting to focus.
The force of the door swinging in on Jayde knocked her off her feet. She fell clumsily to the ground hitting her head against the thick wooden base of the dining table. The knife dropped from her hand landing inches out of her reach. The tea kettle screamed loudly in the background.
“What the hell you’d go and do that for?” Jack yelled, seeing the young woman splayed across the floor.
“Would you rather I knock?” Norman called back stepping over the seemingly unconscious woman with blatant disregard. Kicking in the door was the right thing to do. It’s not like I had a key, he thought to himself. He proceeded to scope out the cabin as Kyle and Manny hobbled their way in.
“Anyone within eye shot will see the door damn near dangling off its hinges numb nuts,” Jack gruffed pushing pass the hobbling Kyle and attending to the door. Working quickly against the cold of the outside Jack righted the door. Fortunately the door knob and jam were still in tact. It would just have to do considering. Jack didn’t see the crimson red leavings from Kyle’s injured leg that dotted the porch.
Manny dumped Kyle onto the worn plaid couch and flopped down next to him. Kyle screamed in pain trying his best to adjust his leg to the most comfortable position. Exhausted and breathing heavy, Manny allowed his head to fall back on the couch; the sweat on his brow quickly warming under the heat from the cozy cabin. Norman investigated the cabin. The whine from the teakettle irritated him. He knocked it back from the eye and turned the fire down. Reaching into a drawer, Norman found a knife and cut a huge chunk from the still warm meatloaf on top of the stove, his hunger getting the best of him. He continued to check out the other drawers while eating the glazed beef concoction with his bare hand.
Scant movement from the floor got Jack’s attention. The girl looked to be coming to. He had to think fast. What a surprise she was in for with four strange runaway cons making themselves comfortable in her place. Jack bent down next to her. The young woman’s breathing was shallow, her eyes still closed, although there was movement within them.
“Norm,” Jack called out. There was no response. “Norm! See if you can find me some rope or something.”
Norm heard the old geezer. Finishing up the meatloaf and wiping his stained hands on his shirt, Norm rutted around in a few more drawers. He found some twine and tossed it in Jack’s direction. At the very back of the drawer, Norm wrapped his hands around the butt of a gun.
“Manny, give me some help here,” Jack called out, reaching underneath the young woman and lifting her off the floor. Cascading waves of hair fell back as he teetered to his feet. Kyle maneuvered his hands in between Jack’s and lifted the woman from his arms. Jack crossed the room and retrieved an upright chair. It would make for a temporary open-air cage for the nearly conscious woman. After sitting her down, Kyle helped Jack tie down their new prisoners’ hands and feet to the arms and legs of the chair. She whimpered.
Jason pulled his skullcap further down on his ears fighting back the biting cold wind. He didn’t like what he was seeing and knew he needed to quicken the pace in getting to Jayde. The distinctive sound of closing metal jaws jarred his senses. Jason drudged the few hundred yards fully expecting to find the wounded bear. The spent bear trap was the first indication the escaped prisoners were indeed within striking distance. There was blood. Reaching down Jason found the maroon staining to be slightly congealed, almost fresh. He followed the blood trail and overlapping footprints the snow and howling wind tried to conceal. Traversing at a faster clip with the knee high snow attempting to sabotage his every step, Jason moved with intention growing ever closer to the lonesome cabin.
Mr. Jenkins grabbed his female companion by the wrist stopping her forward motion toward the cabin. Something he heard didn’t sit right with him. There shouldn’t be that much activity given Jayde was supposed to be in the cabin alone.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, somewhat oblivious to the noise that startled him. She was too busy trying to stay warm to pay attention to too much else.
“I’m not sure but I don’t like it. Get behind me and stay close.” Mr. Jenkins warned, directing her into his shadow.
“But what is…”
“Shhh, stay quiet and keep your head low,” he warned.
The steps creaked under their combined weight and as he scanned the porch, he noticed red droplets he hadn’t paid attention to before. Heavier voices than any woman’s he’d ever known lay on the other side of the door. Jayde was not alone. Mr. Jenkins tried to determine how many voices there were- one, two…it was hard to tell as they bled indiscriminately into each other. His first inclination was to bust the door open and charge inside. But he was outnumbered; his only companion a beautiful but dainty woman. He could use the key but surely they would hear the clink of the mechanism and pounce before he could get the door opened.
It was time out for thinking. Jayde was in there and given the blood on the stoop, she wasn’t in there alone. Pulling his companion closer to him, Mr. Jenkins slowly pushed the key in the lock. Closing his eyes and whispering a little prayer, he turned they key. Click…
“What the hell?” Mr. Jenkins murmured, when the lock didn’t respond. Taking a breath, he tried to steady his hand to keep the old metal knob from jingling and alerting anyone within of his presence. Using one hand, he held the woman behind him, and with the other he tried the key again, asserting a bit more pressure this time. To no avail.
It was pretty clear that his niece, Jayde, was not inside the cabin alone. In fact, he couldn’t hear her at all, just a muffled male voice, and the soft whimpering sound of jazz being played from the radio. What the hell was going on in there? Why hadn’t his niece let him know she wouldn’t be alone, and where the hell was she? The questions scurried around in his mind, worry and concern clouding his judgment.
“Baby, get back,” he whispered, urging the woman a few steps back. She merely nodded as she stepped away. When she was back a safe distance, he lifted a foot and kicked the door as hard as he could, but it bounced back at him, rattling but remaining on its hinges.
A few seconds later, the door was thrust open, and a gray haired man stood on the threshold, his eyes filled with alarm. “What’s going on out here?” His voice was shrill, jarring!
Mr. Jenkins stared in disbelief. He’d known Fred since he was a boy, and had spent almost every summer in these hills with him, hunting, fishing, and chasing girls down by the river. And then reality came crashing down on him, making it crystal clear what had happened. Where he’d made the mistake.
He’d taken the left path at the big split oak tree, leading to Fred’s cabin and not his own, as so many times he’d done over the years, as if his muscles had had their own memory. “Fred, I’m sorry, man.” He shook his head, then turned to the woman to usher her inside and out of the falling snow. “My niece is at my cabin, and I meant to be checking on her. Ha, somehow I ended up here.”
Fred laughed. “You scared the crap out of me banging on the door like that? Your niece in any danger?”
“Not sure. You heard about those escaped convicts? Jayde is staying in the cabin right now and I just wanted to make sure she was okay.” Both Mr. Jenkins and the woman moved toward the black kettle woodstove, rubbing their hands together as
Fred closed the door behind them. “You’ve got blood up the steps, so I panicked.”
Fred smirked. “Got me a rabbit earlier.” He turned down his small radio, letting the jazz fade away. “Man, do you see this weather. Damned near a blizzard. No way those fools made it all the way up here. More than likely, they got their asses caught up in the storm and are froze to death someplace.” He headed to the small corner of the cabin used as a kitchen. “Coffee?”
“Yes, please,” the woman answered softly.
Fred nodded and began to fill a couple of cups. “Tell you what, stay here tonight. As soon as there’s a break in the weather, I’ll go with you over to your cabin and check things out.”
Mr. Jenkins inhaled, then held the breath in his lungs. His lifelong friend was probably right, and Jayde was perfectly fine. With the snow falling so rapidly, nearly blinding his vision along the trail, it really wasn’t safe for him to be trudging around the forest. He’d be no good to Jayde if he was a popsicle. “Sounds like the only thing we can do. We’ll head over as soon as the weather breaks.”
Kyle let his head fall back against the back of the couch, keeping his eyes closed against the pain in his leg. Small beads of sweat formed on his brow and upper lip. He steadied his breathing, slowing it down as if he’d fallen asleep. Despite the agonizing pain, he had to keep his head about him, had to gather his thoughts and figure out how he could get himself out of this mess.
Lifting his lids to small slits, than scanned the room. Norm and Jack were in the small kitchen area, gobbling down the rest of the meal the woman had prepared, and his brother Manny had moved to a small wooden table and sat with his head hung over a steaming mug of something that smelled like herbal tea.
Careful to keep his motion from being noticed, he turned his gaze toward the woman whose cabin they’d invaded. Those animals had tied her to a chair, as if the little bit of thing would be any danger to them, unconscious and alone. She wouldn’t have stood a chance of fighting back, and there was little chance she’d tried to escape into the snow. Not if she hoped to survive. Hatred churned low in his gut, already seething with anger.
Poor woman. Poor gorgeous woman, he thought, allowing his regard to dance across her features. Her eyes were closed, sending long shadows of her lashes across her cheeks, her skin a luscious mocha color, supple and smooth. Her lips were plump, pink, and turned down into a small frown, as if she could sense her situation from the dark reaches of her mind.
Lower, his gaze moved along the slope of her neck and was relieved to see the steady rhythm of her pulse. Her knitted off white sweater drooped from one shoulder, exposing the creamy skin and a thin lacy bra strap. Damn, if he could, he’d reach over and adjust her clothing so these other fools wouldn’t get a view. Instead, he remained motionless, both in a battle to manage the pain radiating from his ankle and trying to formulate a plan.
With the woman here and in danger, everything had changed now. There was no way he could just remain undercover and go along with whatever these men would do next. Already a store clerk had lost his life for no sensible reason and he just couldn’t imagine living with himself if something equally bad, or disgustingly worse, happened to this woman.
Because of that damned bear trap, he was already compromised, but injured or not, there was no way in hell he’d let anything happen to her. He’d die first. Or better yet, these good for nothing, thieving, murdering thugs would die first. Even his career criminal older brother.
Someone upstairs had been looking out for him when that bear trap had snapped on around his leg. Kyle bit back a growl at the irony, that there could have been anything good about his injury, but it could have been the other leg where he had the Twenty-two caliber pistol was strapped around his ankle. Revelation of that gun would’ve been a game changer. They were supposed to be all escaped convicts, and convicts don’t carry guns into jail.
Now the cold steel pressed against his flesh were so much more important. Now, it wasn’t just for his protection, but for the woman tied to the chair. The woman he silently vowed to lay down his life for.
Segment 5 by Sabrina Scott
Kyle continued to feign sleep for a couple of hours after they’d arrived at the cabin. He’d spent that time listening and waiting for the activity in the cabin to quiet down. He was content for now to keep a covert watch for any stirrings from the beautiful hostage. Earlier, Manny was able to find a first aid kit and helped him clean and wrap his injury from the bear trap. He took a handful of tylenol, the medicine helping to bring his pain level from an 11 to something manageable. Once accomplished, he now could plot with a little more clarity, knew it was imperative that he gain some perspective about how exactly he was going to bring this situation to a close. He watched Norm open the door leading downstairs and heard him tinkering around in the basement, wondering exactly what he was up to. Jack took that opportunity to get up from his chair and announce he was going to check out the rest of the cabin in search of any weapons he could add to their arsenal. Within a few minutes Kyle was a captivated witness to the beautiful woman finally opening her eyes, closing them again and got lost in the myriad of emotions that displayed across her beautiful face. Not wanting to alarm her, he sat quietly observing her from his drooped eyelids. He sat just next to the chair they’d tied her to, and though he knew that by all appearances he appeared to be the scary escaped convict she probably thought he was, he needed to take advantage of her proximity, needed her to know that he wouldn’t hurt her, and though things looked bad, he would do his best to make sure that she’d come out of this situation alive.
In a quiet, soothing whisper, Kyle began talking to her. “Miss, just keep your eyes closed for the next few minutes and listen to me. Nobody should know you’re awake – your safety depends on it. My name is Kyle Harris and I’m an undercover agent. My brother Manny, is here too, he doesn’t know that about me – so I don’t want you to let even him know that you’re awake. I’m going out on a limb here with you, I plan to get us out of here, but I need to know that I can trust you and can count on you to do exactly what I say. If you can hear me and understand, can you whisper your name to me?” Kyle continued to look around, assured that he hadn’t drawn any attention, his breath hitched in anticipation of her response – With a slight nod of her head she whispered “Jayde”.
Kyle weakly called out to Manny “Bro, I haven’t eaten since this morning you think you can heat up some soup or something? I’m starving and I know we both gonna need to build up energy for whatever’s coming”. Manny looked at his little brother and nodded “Fine,” “I’ll rustle up something – let me go see if there is any of that meatloaf leftover.” Manny looked around the room before stooping down on his haunches. His eyes continued to scan the room and then focused his attention on Kyle when he was assured the coast was clear. Looking at his younger brother he half whispered, half hissed “I’ve got a bad feeling about Norm – Lil’ bro do whatever you need to do to regain your strength cause I think he may try to start eliminating us – the less people he has to share that money with, I’m sure the happier he will be.”
Looking over at Jayde she still appeared to be knocked out. Manny walked closer to to the chair he nodded toward her “think she’s hurt bad? We can’t afford to have another body added to the count – has she even moved since they tied her up? Damn Bro! I’m not going back to tha joint with 2 bodies added to my numbers” Kyle detected the beginning of panic in his brother’s voice. Leaning closer toward Manny, he said “Look at me Big Bro” he looked his brother in the eye and said ” You need to take some deep breaths and relax – she’s okay -she still breathing and as long as she doesn’t draw Norm or Jack’s attention, that shouldn’t change. Go on and get that food” Kyle had seen Jayde open her eyes and close them again quickly as soon as she realized how close Manny was to her. “I’m still hungry bro – was there any meatloaf left? – If not, I’ll take whatever you can heat up.” Manny walked to the kitchen and resumed occupying himself with putting together a meal.
Luke Jenkins and Jenny Carter had been friends for years but their romantic relationship had developed as a result of Luke spending time with Jenny when her sister Stella was found dead in her car after missing one of the curves coming down the mountain during a particularly bad storm a couple of years ago. Fred spoke as he filled and passed the steaming cups of to each of his guests and motioned toward the small diner style table. “Please excuse my mess. Cream and sugar is right there.” Fred had been in the process of chopping vegetables before their arrival. “I hope you two aren’t starving yet – I’m making stew with today’s “catch of the day” It should be ready in about an hour or so.” Fred gathered his cutting board and uncovered the pot adding the vegetables and herbs to sautee with the browning pieces of meat that were sizzling in the fragrant garlic rosemary infused oil. He stirred a in heaping spoon of dijon mustard, poured in a little white wine, covered the pot and lowered the heat to simmer. He turned, washed and dried his hands and sat at the table with the couple he’d known for decades. How you been Jenny? Haven’t seen you ’round here since…” his voice faltered a little and continued. “Does Jason know you’re here?” Jenny’s eyes met Fred’s and lowered as she sipped the warming brew. “No, but knowing Jayde was up here in this storm – well, I just felt that Luke and I had no other choice but to come here and make sure that she was safe. She’s had a bad enough time as it is and this storm…Well, it’s too much like when Stella…” Jenny’s voice dropped off as she fought the emotional reaction, she blew out a long cleansing breath to counteract the tears that were trying to make their way to the surface. She was able to stave them off by taking a deep breath and using it to blow her coffee and take a deep swig.
Luke interrupted, “Fred, do you think I could use your phone?” Fred pointed toward his office -“Follow the cord Man, cause I’m pretty sure I left it in my office. You know you don’t even have to ask.” Luke walked toward the office and thanked his host, office stopping briefly to add a log and stoke the receding fire to life. ” ‘preciate it” Once in the office, Luke picked up the phone and dialed the landline number for his cabin but only got a recording saying the number wasn’t available. He then dialed 911 – knowing he would reach Nona – the afternoon dispatcher for the mountain. With less than 100 cabins in this area, this close knit area had only 3 dispatchers and 4 Rangers to serve the entire community. Everyone knew everyone on the upper reaches of the mountain because most of the cabins were never sold – the properties were simply passsed from generation to generation. “Nona? Yes, Jenny’s here too” in response to Nona’s query if Jenny had made the trip with him. How’re Max and the girls doin’? Listen I’m up here at Fred Hale’s and I was wondering if you could transfer me to Jason? Sure, I’ll hold.” While waiting for the connection, Luke glanced down at the notebook that was sitting on the table next to Fred’s desk. He picked it up, and absently started reading the names. All of the names looked somewhat familiar but one name in particular gave him pause and made his heart skip a beat: “Crazy Norm” aka Norman Planchon. Nona’s voice came on the line “Luke? I’m connecting your call” Clearing his throat and taking a deep breath his sentence came out in an unintentional rush laced with panic: “Jason, it’s Luke Jenkins, I’m at Fred Hale’s and I need you as fast as you can get here.”
The earlier hard packed snow accumulated from storms of weeks past, now covered with the newer powdery, soft pack. As the non-stop snowfall of this storm combined with the blustery wind, it slowed Jason’s pace considerably. He wasn’t by any means a novice at traversing weather this extreme, but he knew that trying to rush through this ground cover, no matter how desperate he was to reach his destination and despite the niggling, prickling hyper- awareness of danger would only cause stress and the rubbery burning sensation that came with that type of exertion. He needed to make it back to his vehicle as quickly as possible while conserving the energy that he knew would ultimately be an integral part of implementing the plan he’d been formulating with each step. Jason’s entire body on alert, he moved with the singular thought focusing Mr. Jenkins’ cabin. The challenge of getting there without alerting the convicts, should they have made it there -left him in a connundrum. He prayed that he’d arrive at the cabin before the escapees; but knew because of the proximity that the only reasonable conclusion was that they were already there.
He knew with every fiber of his being that he would kill them all should they touch her -that beautiful but stubborn mocha – silk skinned waif of a woman, intent on standing her ground. He remembered liking her even as a young boy, He was saddened when she told him she was never interested in him in that way. Said that she saw him as a “brother”. He remembered this because she said it with the same defiance in her stance and demeanor that she had shown him yesterday when he’d gone to warn her about the storm. Same funky attitude, with the slight upward tilt of her chin when she refused to leave her uncle’s cabin for a hotel room at the base of the mountain … and those eyes…beautiful green eyes – he just -just coudn’t shake the impression she’d left on him. To himself, he reasoned that his reaction from that encounter was “bordering on crazy”. “Get it together Dude!” He knew that Jayde wasn’t just any civillian but the beacon that helped propel his journey, he couldn’t get her out of his mind, still had the same crush he’d had since the day he’d met her as a kid. Regretfully, even as a teenager, she declined his advances and reiterated that she could never see him as anything other than a brotherly figure. She may not want him the way he wanted her, but he was driven with an unexplainable intensity to protect her and hunt for what he now considered his prey – the escaped convicts that were now probably even more dangerous because at least one of them was surely injured. The discovery of the bear trap and subsequent blood trail, were game changers as far as he was concerned and the earlier BOLO notification obviously needed updating.
When Jason finally reached his truck, he started it and while he waited for the engine to warm suffiiciently enough to for the heater to kick in, he poured himself the last cup of coffee from his thermos. He picked up the handset to connect with Nona, the dispatcher to connect him with the one person he was sure was still in the area that would be able to give him more information and perhaps, the advantage of a psychological profile on some – if not all of the escaped convicts. The unassuming gentleman had always claimed to be a government employee, yet was never specific about his actual position. Very few people knew that Fred Hale, was a powerfully connected and brilliant former trainer and later a recruiter for profilers for the FBI. Given his knowledge of this long time friendship with this particular resident of the mountain, he knew without a doubt he’d help not only to work this case, but assure any additional manpower needed to supplement the Rangers would be made available without fail. “Ranger Jason Carter to base” he announced. “Ranger Carter, I have a call for you” Nona replied.