Double Take was my first published short story. Not the most profound or creative tale, but the editors at necrologyshorts.com liked it. I thought about editing it before posting it here but—you have to start somewhere and that’s what this section of my blog is all about.
Dan wanted to get the hell out of here. It was the day before winter break at Findlay University, and everyone was heading home for the holidays. The threat of an ice storm had caused most professors to end their classes early or cancel them all together. But here was Dr. Dick Head Card quoting neurology studies and droning on about God knows what. As expected, Card’s class ran late so it wasn’t until nearly five o’clock that Dan and his classmates were released and began filtering out into to side parking lot.
Dan skidded to his truck and nearly fell across the pavement which resembled an ice rink. Usually anything physical would seem like a breeze for the 220 pound linebacker, yet the ice had taken that sureness away from him. He felt like a eighty-five-year-old man afraid to break a hip as he shuffled towards his SUV.
Dan’s drive to Cincinnati would take over 2 hours and he needed to get his ass on the road before the storm broke. As it stood now he probably would hit rush hour which pissed him off. By the time he slid up to his pickup truck it was already covered in a thin layer of powdery snow. He tried to open his door but it was frozen shut.
“Fucker!” he yelled while yanking the handle, but the door held fast. He was ready to kick the damn door when someone tugged him from behind. He turned around to find one of his classmates staring at him with pleading eyes. She stood about 5 feet tall and couldn’t weigh more than 95 pounds. Dan didn’t know her that well except that she was a weird chick from a rich family.
“What’s up?” he said clearly uninterested.
“It’s me….Sara Messinger, she said while fumbling in her purse before forcing a thin object into Dan’s hands. “Remember? We were in lab together?”
“Oh yeah, right. What’s this?” he asked holding up the object.
“Lighter.” Sara answered. “It’ll help with the door.”
She looked away and brushed her long black hair from her face. Dan tilted his head at the lighter, then shrugged his shoulders. It took him a few tries but once the lighter was lit he melted all the ice from around his door and gave the lighter back.
“Thanks, how did you know about that?” He asked.
“Oh I saw your truck was frozen over when I came out and…”
An awkward silence fell between them lasting longer than Dan could wait. He thanked Sara and began to get into his truck when she spoke up.
“Actually….I could use some help.”
Dan’s truck roared to life causing the girl to jump and look at his tailpipe.
“Loud isn’t it? I love that sound!” He shouted over the engine. “Well let’s hear it, I have to get going!”
Sara began but she wasn’t speaking loud enough. Dan watched amused as she kept talking like a little mouse. Her lips were moving but there wasn’t much else coming out.
“Speak up! You’re going to have to speak up! I gotta go!”
“I need you to follow me!” she screamed looking as though she was having convulsions from the effort.
“What?” Dan said wanting to see how loud she could get.
“I’m afraid of getting stuck! I need someone to follow me!”
Dan had to force down a smirk. This girl was getting way too excited.
“Where do you live?” he asked.
“About an hour north of here in Ashland.”
Dan motioned for her to move back and slammed his door shut. Another day he might sit there and see how long the goofy chick would stand out in the cold. But today he needed to get the hell home. He rolled his window down and hung an elbow out.
“If you’re not heading up 75 then I’m afraid you’re out of luck.”
“My exit is right off the interstate.”
“Alright then. You ready to go?”
“Yes. I’m driving a black Corolla,” she said.
Dan rolled up his window and revved his engine. He looked down through his passenger window at the sad looking girl who reminded him of Olive Oil from the Popeye cartoons. When she didn’t move Dan sighed and rolled his window down again.
“Well come on! Get in your car and lead me to the interstate. I’ll stay behind you for awhile.” Sara’s eyes widened and Dan saw her lips form the words “thank you,” but he couldn’t hear them since his window had already been shut.
Dan was pissed at himself. He should have been out of Findlay three hours ago. But that fucker Card had made them take lab after their exams. All the other professors wanted to get the hell out of Dodge but Card seemed to find a pleasure in drawing out the term. Then little miss pole ass had to ask for help. He should have ignored her but the bitch had almost cornered him with that lighter of hers. Well if she puttered around too much he’d leave her sorry ass behind in the ice. Thank God he was finally getting on the road.
Dan watched as Sara’s Corolla pulled in front of him and made its way toward the interstate. As slow as she was driving, Dan estimated it would be Easter before he made it to Cincy. The main roads were slick but mostly deserted. Seemed all of the smart people either were already home or decided to sit the storm out. Dan turned on some Metallica and thought of what he was going to do when he got back. He had tried to hook up with his pal Cheryl a few days ago calling her to see if she might be interested in getting together….she wasn’t. Then there was Katie who had been his girlfriend through senior year. But as soon as he left for college Katie had gotten cozy with some fag hockey player. Dan didn’t mind since he could get any chick he wanted at Findlay. Actually if Olive Oil would gain a few pounds he wouldn’t mind shanking that. He had never banged a goth chick before but would definitely be open to the experience.
Dan had been driving about forty-five minutes when he heard buzzing coming from his book bag. With one hand on the wheel he fumbled through the bag and secured his cell phone. He didn’t recognize the number but answered it anyways.
“This is Dan,” he said.
“Dan?” a voice asked from the other end.
“Yeah it’s Dan. Who’s this?”
“Where are you?” Dan recognized the voice as Sara’s.
“Sara? How did you get my number?”
“On the roster. The lab roster. Remember?”
“Sure, I guess.”
Dan’s heart skipped a beat as his SUV swerved back and forth. The roads were ice with thick clouds of snow falling like feathers.
“What do you want?” he asked
“You passed me and now I can’t see you,” she whimpered.
Dan squinted through his windshield. Olive Oil was right. He had somehow lost her even though she had been right in front of him.
“That’ll teach me to pay more attention,” Dan laughed.
“I fail to see what could be so funny,” she snapped. “It’s getting worse and my car isn’t worth shit in this ice.”
Dan held back a laugh and slowed down.
“Tell you what. I’ll take the next exit and wait for you off the ramp. Where are you at anyways?”
“The mile marker says 120,” she said sounding like a mother looking for her child.
“Okay then, I’ll meet you at exit 125. JeSUS! How did you get so behind?”
Sara hung up without answering him. Dan wondered what she would do if he left the skank behind? He decided that helping her might lead to a piece of ass and pulled off exit 125. The exit wound around until it dumped traffic off onto Pearl Avenue. Dan decided to take a right onto Pearl and pulled onto the gravel shoulder just off the exit. Then he waited.
He spent his time thinking about skinny Sara. Dan tried to recall how they knew each other again but couldn’t place it. Lab was what she had said but he didn’t remember her from there. She looked very familiar but she had one of those faces that a lot of goth chicks have. Pale with long black hair, and looking as though she had missed a weeks worth of meals. If she would gain about 50 pounds, Dan thought he would like very much to bang the shit out of her. He heard she was the daughter of some politician that was big in northern Ohio.
He waited over 20 minutes for her shitty ass Toyota to pull up behind him but there was no sign of her. He sighed then flipped out his phone to find her cell number. He punched it and let it dial. No answer. Where the fuck was she? Dan couldn’t believe he had been talked into this. Suddenly shagging Olive Oil wasn’t looking that promising.
He pulled back onto Pearl avenue and headed towards the interstate. She wanted him to follow her and he had done that for over 40 miles. She only had another 15 or 20 minutes tops until she reached Ashland. Besides he hadn’t signed up to babysit the bitch, especially if she wouldn’t answer her damn cell phone. Dan pulled back onto the highway heading south towards Cincinnati. He figured it would take another ninety minutes before he’d be back home and out of this shitty weather.
He had driven about 5 miles when he glanced down to see a message beaming across his cell phone. He picked it off the passenger seat and flipped the phone open. Sara had called four times over the past hour. Why the hell hadn’t he gotten her calls? Did the snow have anything to do with it? His signal was a bit spotty out here in God’s country but he never had really given it much thought until now.
Dan hit his message folder and listened. There was only one message from Sara sent 30 minutes ago. When he listened Dan didn’t know what to make of it. Sara was screaming while the world seemed to cave in around her. Sounds of smashed glass and crunching metal then silence. After listening several times he gave up trying to make sense of it. This is turning out to be a pretty shitty deal.
Dan hadn’t signed up for any of this. The girl sounded as though she may be hurt but she may just be fucking with him. Dan decided to call 911 and let them deal with her. His shaking thumb hit the digits with a pleasant sounding lady answering immediately.
“911 emergency who am I speaking with?” The dispatcher asked.
“And what emergency are you reporting.”
“I don’t know if it’s an emergency exactly,” he stuttered.
“Well what happened then?” she asked.
“I know this girl, and she may be in trouble.”
“Sir please be specific, we have a lot of calls coming in here.”
“Sure, sorry. My friend, Sara, Sara Messinger might have slid off the road.”
“Where is she at?”
“I’m not sure, but I think around exit 125 off 1-75.”
“Which way was she traveling?”
“South, definitely south.”
“Okay then. Mr. Biller, we are having a lot of road emergency calls tonight so unless you can tell me for sure that your friend is off exit 125, I can’t help you.”
“You’re kidding me? But what is she supposed to do then?”
“Even if she were there it would probably take a cruiser 4 to 8 hours to get to her. We just don’t have enough cars that can handle these weather conditions.”
“What if she’s hurt?” Dan shouted.
“Sir you’re going to have to calm down if we’re going to continue this conversation.”
“What good are you then?” he said throwing his cell against the passenger window breaking it. “Great! Just fucking great!” Dan said clenching his steering wheel and gritting his teeth. He wasn’t sure what had happened to Sara but now with his cell phone gone, he wouldn’t be able to call her. Now the cops had a 911 call from his phone saying something was wrong. If something happened to her, he would have some serious explaining to do.
Dan took the first exit off 75 and then headed back north to exit 125. The only way he could know if the girl was in trouble would be to backtrack the last few exits and try to find her. He decided if there were no sign of her by exit 120 he’d give up, call 911 to report the case again and go home. That should cover his ass for the time being at least. Why did I go to Card’s class?
Exit 125 was 5 miles from where Dan had started but the weather was making it seem like 50 miles. The snow resembled confetti on New Years Eve covering his vision and making it difficult to see in front of him. By the time his truck crawled to the exit, nearly a half hour had elapsed.
Slowly Dan brought his truck to a skidding halt at the end of the exit and onto Pearl Avenue. He headed west hoping to find a sign of Sara’s crappy Corolla. The radio had announced a level 3 snow emergency which meant that he should get his ass off the road.
Dan thought of his rotten luck. Of all the chicks to cross my path, why this goth bimbo who couldn’t find her way out of an open closet? Dan was ready to turn around when he saw Sara’s car parked up ahead in the middle of an overpass. Dan’s heart skipped a beat when his headlights came across the car. It was Sara’s shitty Toyota alright, with one door open and nobody in it. Keeping his truck idling, Dan got out to check the area. Dan pulled up his hood and walked around to the driver’s side where he found the window shattered. A chill ran down Dan’s back as he saw Sara’s keys still in the ignition. Dan tried them and the car turned over easily. Shitty Toyota eh?
If there were tracks from another car, he couldn’t see them in the snow. The only sign of a struggle was the broken window. Sara’s purse and school bag still lay in passenger seat. Did she get in a wreck and leave her car delirious? Was she thrown from her car? The thoughts fell in his stomach like wet sand.
Dan continued sweeping the area for any clues. Sara’s car was parked on the side of an overpass which made it unlikely that she had skid off the road. If that had happened, the passenger side of the car would have been damaged and it wasn’t. Dan was no Einstein but he did watch CSI. To him the scene looked as though Sara had stopped for directions and been attacked. He didn’t think she would have stopped for any other reason. Dan reached for his cell phone blankly then remembered that it lay in pieces. Fuck a duck.
Dan turned towards his truck when he saw headlights speeding towards him. He dove over Sara’s car and watched as his truck sped past fish tailing back and forth across the overpass. He lay between the car and a metal rail with 75 far below him.
He tried to pull himself up to see where his truck had gone but his feet kept sliding from under him. About 50 yards ahead, his SUV sat facing him on the icy roads. It seemed to taunt him. Then the brights flashed in his eyes and wheels spun as it screamed towards him.
Dan thought of running for it but the truck was closing too fast. If he didn’t move he’d be crushed or thrown over the railing. Dan scrambled across the hood and plunged into Sara’s car through the open door. Seconds later he felt the impact knocking him around like a rock in a tin can. Dan lay in a daze across the front seat. Outside he heard the familiar rev of his truck’s engine as it backed away from the wreckage.
The headlights were baring down on him again as he climbed into the driver’s seat. He jabbed for the keys which still sat in the ignition and turned. Sara’s Toyota lurched forward in a shriek of tires with the truck plowing into the guard rail.
The driver’s door had been twisted off while something dragged underneath him like some growling beast yet the car sped on. He had no idea where he was going and glanced in his mirror to see his pickup growing larger by the second. Dan tried to speed up but each time he hit the gas the car would swerve left and right. There was a sharp turn coming up and he prayed that he would reach it before the truck caught him.
Dan screamed as he jerked forward from a rear blow. He tried to keep control but it was as though his body was made of lead and everything was in slow motion. The Toyota bowled through a large snow drift at 40 miles an hour before knocking into several trees sounding like a giant pop can being crushed. Everything stopped and was still for several minutes.
Dan tried to move his arms and legs amidst the twisted metal and found they obeyed without pain. He rubbed his head and felt the slick sensation of fresh blood. He peered out the rear window and saw his truck about 150 feet behind him on it’s side. Crawling over the bucket seats Dan made his way out through the passenger door. He spilled out onto the snow and pulled himself up until he stood at the rear of the wreckage.
“DAN!” Sara’s voice screamed. “DAN!” “PLEASE!” “PLEASE!” She was being half dragged and carried across the snow banks by a man dressed in a green bubble jacket. He controlled her easily with one arm while they made their way towards a large industrial building.
Dan’s world began to swim and grow dark. He had smashed his head against the steering wheel and was beginning to feel nauseous. He reached for his missing cell phone again then slammed a fist across the crumpled car.
If he went in after her, the guy could have a gun or a bunch of thugs waiting for him. He thought about heading up the road. It was a rural area but there had to be something off a highway exit. He looked over at his pickup. Whoever did that to his truck was gonna pay whether the chick was okay or not.
Then something occurred to him. Sara’s father was rich and well-known throughout Findlay. Saving her would make Dan a famous man. The thought made him swell inside and suddenly, Dan had found his purpose. He went over to his truck and searched the back seat and pulled out a metal baseball bat. He swung it like he had hundreds of times hitting cleanup for Findlay’s ball team and hoped it would come in handy.
Sara had been dragged into an enormous building that resembled an airplane hangar. Luckily he had worked a few summers on an assembly line and knew his way around similar buildings. If Sara was in there, she probably had been taken to one of the storage rooms.
Dan crept through the loading dock area and saw that several windows had been broken out making the building look like a mouth with missing teeth. He spied an open window and pulled himself into the dark building. Rows of long tables ran like a catwalk across the room. Boxes littered the tables where man and machine had once labored looking out of place in this desolate place.
Down the hallway Dan heard screaming voices rattle around like angry cats. Then gunshots thundered through the warehouse like cannons. This isn’t going to have a happy ending. He crawled up through the window from where he had come and was about to split when he heard Sara’s voice screaming. He flinched, his bat slipping from his hand and landing outside with a metallic knock.
She was screaming her head off but nobody was stopping her. Had she been shot? Why didn’t someone stop her? Dan returned to the warehouse floor and made his way toward the screams.
They were getting louder as he glided down a long hallway littered with forklifts and tubes of black rubber. Up ahead he could see something glowing, like the pulsing rhythm of a candle flame. Dan looked ahead to see an open doorway where the glow was coming from. His eyes were so focused on the light that he missed a wood crate that lay in his way and stumbled to the ground.
Immediately the screaming stopped. Dan began to get up when he saw a black ski mask staring at him. Someone was laying prone on the floor right next to him and wasn’t moving. The guy was sickly thin resembling a strung out teenager in his bubble coat that looked three times too big for him. Dan reached down towards the figure to get a closer look when a voice snapped him to his feet.
“Dan?” it whispered.
“Yeah, are you okay?” he answered walking past the dead boy.
“Come here, I need you now.”
“Are you hurt?” he asked while peering through the doorway. There was no answer only a room full of crates and boxes where dozens of lit candles danced in the darkness. “Where the hell are you?”
The room began to swim and darken. His head throbbed almost bringing Dan to his knees. He glanced all over the room not wanting to go any further until he heard a response. At the far end of the room he saw a figure standing. It was covered with a large blanket and seemed to rise out of the ground like a ghost. The shape swayed back and forth as it spoke.
“I’ve been waiting for you. What took you so long?”
“What took me so long? You have to be fucking kidding me? What the hell have you drug me into Sara?”
“Nothing that you didn’t want lover,” she said still swaying under the blanket.
“Lover? You are one screwed up bitch you know that? Who’s the kid in the hallway?”
“You don’t know? Just an unfortunate soul. I told him not to hurt you but he didn’t listen so he had to pay the price,” Sara laughed madly.
Dan stormed over to the blanket and threw it off revealing Sara dressed in a black wedding gown. Her eyes immediately met his and seemed to hold him captive.
“What’s this?” Dan stammered noticing the large gun she held in her hands.
“This is our wedding night lover. Didn’t you know? You always were forgetful.”
“Hey I don’t know what you’re thinking but I never wanted anything from you. I was just trying to help someone out.”
Sara laughed at his remark and walked towards him the gun raised to his face. Dan stared down the barrel and threw his hands in the air.
“Oh put your hands down! What do you think I am? A monster?”
“All I know is that you have a gun and it’s pointed right at me.”
“Oh this?” She laughed while shaking it in her hand. “It’s just for shock value. I may not have to use it.”
“What do you mean?” Dan said trying to stall and watch for an opening.
Sara rolled her eyes playfully licking her black lips. She looked like a demon to him all dressed in black with white makeup, black lipstick and dark eyeshadow. Her hair was no longer pulled back but instead fanned out like the snakes of Medusa. In fact she barely resembled the Sara that he knew. She seemed to hiss as she spoke.
“Well let’s see. If you marry me then I don’t have to kill you. That’s really all there is to it.”
He was a few feet from her holding his ground as she advanced. A few more inches and he would pounce and wipe that freakish smile right off of her face.
“I’ll do anything you want,” he said.
“OOOOhhhhhh! I like a submissive man!” Sara cooed.
“Why are you doing this?” Dan whispered trying to edge closer. All she had to do is raise the gun and Dan would be able to grab her.
“Oh come on now Daniel. Why are you playing so hard to get? I know how you are with the ladies. I know all too well. You remember a girl by the name of Jessica?”
Dan’s mind went racing through lists of girls he had been with these past few months.
“You mean Jessie?” he asked
“YES! Bingo! Good Boy! Jessie was how you knew her but her friends never called her that because it made her sound like some poor little hick girl who she certainly wasn’t.”
Dan wasn’t following Sara. Jessie was a chick he had hooked up with at a party last semester. It turned into a wild one niter but he had been drunk so the details were a bit hazy. Afterwards he had never seen her again which was fine by him.
“What about her? What the fuck does she have to do with all this?” Dan kept inching closer as he spoke.
“She has everything to do with it,” Sara laughed. “To you Jessica was a one night stand, an easy fuck. But what you didn’t realize is that Jessica didn’t want to have sex with you. Everyone knew she was saving herself for the right guy. So when you took her she was devastated.”
“Hey I never forced myself on nobody!” Dan protested. “I admit I was a little drunk that night but I never would—-” the words were stuck in his throat.
“You raped her!” Sara shouted. “You fucking raped her and left her broken like some used rubber.”
“How the fuck do you know? You weren’t there. It’s just her words against mine and I swear to you nothing happened that night. We had a little fun is all.”
Sara only smiled like a china doll and pointed behind her. “I prepared an altar back here,” Sara said backing away and towards a makeshift platform where a series of candles formed a large heart. “Do you like it?”
He was tired of waiting this out and now was the time to act. “Tell me, what does it feel like to be totally fucking insane?”
Sara noticed the change in his tone and began to raise the gun just as Dan dove on top of her. His weight landed full force across her body causing her to groan under him. Dan now held her black hair in his hands and smashed it several times across the floor. Blood smeared her white face and fell upon his digging hands. He grabbed her around the throat and began to squeeze but something struck him from behind knocking him off the bloody girl. He blindly reached behind him and grasped the coat of his assailant pulling the attacker towards him. Dan was preparing to slam the thug when Sara’s gun exploded through the room. The attacker seemed to wither in his hands then collapsed to the floor. He tried to stand but the room began to spin and blank out like an old home movie. Sara’s sobs poured over him as though she were being eaten alive. He tried desperately to stay awake but the shadows kept falling around him.
His last moments came in bits and pieces. Sara’s bloody face……Screams…..The ceiling… ……Moving shadows……..Sara over him with the gun……Sara lying next to him in the bubble coat…….Blackness.
40 hours later……..
Lieutenant Denham arrived at the scene and crossed the yellow tape that was strewn across Dunlap tire factory. His assistant had arrived before him and would fill him in on the general details before he looked everything over.
He heard that three kids had been found dead here. It was an apparent murder suicide but that’s all he knew. Denham walked towards a balding man with a wandering eye and asked for the scoop.
“Found ID on the guy—Dan Biller, student up the road at Findlay. Big sports stud. Was on a partial ride. Was supposed to be home for the holidays but never showed. Parents put out a missing person’s report but thought he was just waiting the storm out somewhere. We also have a 911 call Biller left reporting a friend who had been stranded off this exit.”
Denham acted disinterested and began to walk down the hall towards a body in a green bubble coat.
“What about this one?” He asked.
“No positive ID. Appears to have been shot then crawled out here before bleeding out. Look closely.”
“The first crew missed it but look under her cap.”
“Her?” Denham said and gently removed the cap. Long black hair fell out in folds across the girls face. He knelt down besides the girl and looked up at Crantz clearly disturbed.
“What is it?” Crantz asked.
“Now you tell me. Does the name Messenger mean anything to you?”
“What? Who? Not the Judge?” Crantz knelt and joined Denham at the girls face.
“Don’t tell me there’s another black haired girl in there,” Denham said.
“Because Judge Messenger has twin girls.