The Stranger was the first novella I published on the Amazon Kindle store. It’s currently for sale at a whopping $.99. I’ve decided to post it here, on my blog, in it’s entirety, for free. I am passionate about writing posts that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus and what He’s doing in my life, but I also love writing fiction.
Here’s the plan. For the next ten weeks, I will post a chapter each Friday. Let’s call it Fiction Friday. Feel free to hashtag the crap out of that. I hope you enjoy the story. If you like this one, I have a couple more on Amazon. You can find them here: Author Page
As if joined with Lance in his passing to the afterlife, the moisture laden clouds moved on as sunlight overtook the sky. The remaining drops of rain shimmered like diamonds as they dripped from tree branches. I sat alone on the front porch of the cabin, still in shock over the morning’s events.
For reasons still unknown to me, Jimmy had also shot and killed Eugene Puckett. I watched him give his statement to one of Sam’s deputies. I wasn’t close enough to hear, but the officer nodded and wrote everything down. Since the arrival of the ambulance and the coroner, Jimmy had not said one word to me.
At first, I attributed that to his state of shock after killing Lance, but since he walked back and shot Mr. Puckett, I knew something else was decidedly wrong.
Watching the police as they worked the scene brought back unwanted, and intensely haunting, memories of the night I killed my step dad. I would never forget the way the gun recoiled when I pulled the trigger. I had never fired a weapon before and it nearly leaped from my hand. I could still feel the rain on my face and the smell of burning paper in my nostrils.
Not a day has gone by where I haven’t seen the look of fury, shock, and eventually pain on the man’s face as he fell to the damp earth. I still found myself waking up in the middle of the night calling out my mom’s name. Several weeks after the court appearances, she dropped me off at a friend’s house and drove away.
In the twenty-two years that followed, I saw my mother only once. I received a call that her health had declined so I flew back East where I was told she had relocated. She passed away before my arrival. I had written a list of questions I wanted answers to. I placed it inside the coffin and allowed it to be buried along with the body. I had no reason to search for answers after that.
I looked up to see Jimmy staring at me. “Hey, you okay?”
He nodded. “I was going to ask you the same thing. Who were you talking to?”
I frowned. “What? I wasn’t talking to anyone. I was just wondering if you were going to be alright. This was a lot to take in.”
Jimmy glanced back at the officer who had questioned him and then sat down beside me. “I know you probably have some questions for me. I don’t know what happened earlier. I’ve never felt so angry and scared all at the same time. It was as if I was suspended above my body watching him, well me, do those things. I don’t know how to explain it.”
I rubbed my jaw that continued to throb after getting punched by Lance. “You don’t have to explain anything to me, man. Of all people, I understand what you’re talking about.”
Jimmy opened mouth to speak, stopped, and then tried to start again. “How…what did you feel after you shot him?”
“I don’t think I had any feeling. At first, it was more shock than anything else. I just remember standing there in the rain looking at his dead body. I was numb. I remember being wet, and I remember the smell of burning paper.”
“I can’t feel anything,” Jimmy whispered. “I know I should be either in shock, or at least feel some guilt, but I don’t. I feel distant, like it didn’t actually happen.”
I looked at my friend and slowly nodded. He looked about ready to cry. “I know what you mean, Jimmy. That’s only natural. You’re still in shock over what happened.” I gestured to the officers and EMT’s cleaning up the scene. “Once this is all over, when they’re gone, that’s when it will sink in. That’s when you will need someone to talk to. You won’t be expecting it to hit you hard, but it will.”
“What if I don’t want to feel anything?”
“What do you mean?”
He swallowed emotion that brimmed just below the surface. “It felt right when I pulled that trigger. That’s what I want to remember. Does that make me a bad person?”
I wasn’t sure exactly where the conversation was going, but I began to feel uneasy. The Jimmy that I had known for so long and had become best friends with would never have talked like that. He was fun, adventurous but safe, and had always been there for me. “Well, after all Lance did this morning, it’s only natural to feel angry and want some sort of revenge. I mean-”
Jimmy cut me off. “That’s not what I mean, Dillon. I wasn’t angry at him at all.”
“Then what are we talking about here?”
“I’ve never shot anyone before, but when I killed Lance, there was a familiarity about that I can’t explain. It was as if I had already done that. I made sure he was dead, and I knew there was only one more thing to do. Finish off his father.”
“It’s called deja vu. We all experience that. I have to say I’m a little surprised by what you’re saying. This doesn’t sound like the Jimmy I know.” I smiled to soften my words, but I knew he could see right through it.
He turned to me with the same look I remembered seeing from Lance when we were in the car. Eyes with such vast emptiness staring out, but not truly seeing anything. “Something’s changed, Dillon. I don’t know what happened up here, but I feel different.”
Before I could reply, Deputy Mark Lowell walked up. He nodded and excused himself for interrupting. “Hey, guys. Are you both alright? Dillon, do you need to get looked at?”
I shook my head. “I’m good, Mark. A little sore, but that’s about it. What happens now?”
“Well, I need you both to come back to the station for some questions. It’s just a formality, nothing more. I want to make sure we get a full report. I wish we could wait, but things like this are better done as soon as possible, while everything is still fresh.”
“I understand,” I said. “It’s no problem. Are we riding with you or what?”
Mark looked around and spotted the Taurus sitting at the end of the driveway. He pointed. “How about if you guys follow me back in that. We need to get it back to town anyway. We’re still trying to find out who it belongs to. I initiated a nationwide search. No telling where he picked it up from.”
“Okay, that’s fine with me. Jimmy?”
My friend nodded, but remained silent.
“Jimmy, you okay? Mark asked. “A lot happened up here today. I know it can be overwhelming and pretty traumatic.”
“I’m fine,” Jimmy replied. “I’m just worried that I might get in trouble for what I did.”
Mark shifted the hat on his head. “Lance was a maniac who needed to be stopped. You got here in time to help Dillon and took care of business. It will be ruled self-defense. Trust me, you don’t have anything to worry about.”
For a minute, I was afraid Jimmy would start repeating what he told me before Mark walked up. “I think he’s still in shock. I’ll drive us back and let him rest.”
Mark nodded. “Sounds good. If you want, you can head on back to town. I need to finish up a couple things here, and then I’ll meet you at the station.”
“Sounds like a plan.” I stood up and walked down the steps. “Hey, have you heard anything about Sam? Is he okay?”
“Oh yeah, he’s going to be fine. The bullet went right through his shoulder and didn’t hit anything vital. He’s at the hospital getting fixed up and should be home by the time we’re done with our debrief. You can go see him then.”
We said goodbye to Mark and walked back across the clearing to the Taurus. We got in and started back down the mountain. I hoped the car would survive the return trip. The rain had washed out more of what little road we had in the first place.
I reached underneath the driver’s seat and pulled out my cell phone.
“That was a brilliant idea, by the way. I’m not sure we would have ever found you otherwise.”
Earlier, when Lance forced me into the car, I had just enough time to dial Jimmy on my phone and slip it under the seat with my foot. I tried to be as descriptive as I could while talking so they would know where to look for me. I’m surprised I didn’t irritate Lance to the point of shooting me and taking over the wheel.
“I wasn’t sure if it would work or not, but I had to take the chance. No one would have ever known where I was.”
“What was his plan, do you know?”
“I don’t know, man. All he said was he wanted someone to hear the truth and that was the only way. He kept repeating that he didn’t kill anyone and once we got to the cabin, he accused Eugene of doing it.”
“Do you believe him?” Jimmy asked.
“Well, at first I didn’t, especially when he was about to shoot me, but the more he talked, the more nervous his father became. I guess we’ll never know.”
I steered around several holes as we drove down to the main highway. We reached the road in one piece, and I turned back toward Seal Bay. After several miles of complete silence, I started feeling uncomfortable. There had never been a communication problem between the two of us. I had to agree with what he said while sitting on the porch. Something had changed, and I didn’t like it.
“Jimmy, we’ve been friends for a long time now, pretty much brothers. I don’t like feeling this tension. You’ve got to talk to me, dude. Tell me what’s going on inside that head of yours.”
As Jimmy stared out the window, tears started to trickle from his eyes. When he spoke, his voice cracked with emotion. “Dillon, I found out something after you left, something about that night.”
I frowned. “What are you talking about?”
“Dena has never been extremely popular, you know that. When Dad left us, she took it pretty hard. I never told you this, but she tried to commit suicide several times. For some reason, she felt responsible when he left, even though she was still young. We took her to a shrink for help, but that made things worse. She started hanging out with the wrong people at school and stopped doing her home work. It was not good.”
“Oh, man, I didn’t know any of that. I’m so sorry.”
He continued. “She dated Lance for a while, but broke it off after his father started showing up where she worked after hours. One night, he even tried to rape her, but she managed to fight him off.”
I was almost afraid to say anything. Jimmy was dropping one bombshell after another on me. “Why are you telling me all of this?”
“After Lance took you from Mel’s, Dena told me that she was there that night. Lance’s dad wanted to show her what would happen if she ever told anyone what he did to her. Dillon, Eugene Puckett murdered those girls and forced my baby sister to watch. That’s why I wanted to kill them both.”
I opened my mouth to reply, but couldn’t speak. I couldn’t believe Dena had kept that secret buried for eight years. I jumped when my cell phone rang. Called ID showed Dena. “Hello? Dena?”
“Is Jimmy okay? Did he get hurt?”
“He’s fine. Where are you?”
“Did he do it? Did he kill them?”
“They’re dead, yes. Dena, why didn’t you say anything before? We could have helped you.”
“None of that matters now, Dillon. We can’t go back and change what happened. I have one more thing to do, then it’s finished.”
I looked at Jimmy, but he showed no interest in the conversation. “What does that mean? Dena? Where are you? What are doing?”
“Goodbye, Dillon. I have to release the souls of the ones who can’t do it themselves.”
With those cryptic words, Dena ended the call. I pressed down on the accelerator, hoping we could return to Seal Bay in time to stop her from whatever she was about to do.