Monday, July 15, 2013

Shrouded in Mystery by H. D. Thomson: Excerpt



 



 


John Davenport wakes from a car accident with a dead man beside him and a duffle bag in the back seat with over one hundred thousand dollars in cash and a loaded gun.  He has no memory of his past or how he got there.  His only clues are a photo with the address of a shelter and a driver’s license with the name of Clark Kent.  They lead him to Boston, but once there, he’s left with more questions and a sense of eminent danger.

But nothing prepares him for the phenomena he finds within himself.  His hearing’s more acute than any animal, his strength beyond anything human.

Katherine Spalding knows she’s one of the lucky ones.  Born with money and looks, raised and educated among Boston’s elite, she has the respect and admiration of friends and the community.  But her luck’s about to turn to chaos when a tall, gorgeous man with the most incredible gray eyes stumbles into her life.  Katherine doesn’t know what to make of him.  He claims he’s Clark Kent.  But is he saint or sinner, hero or villain or … just plain crazy?  Is she willing to find out, even at the risk of her life?



 



Chapter 1

He came to with a jolt. Wind rushed through the broken windshield and slashed vicious tentacles against his face, while shattered glass and snow lay scattered across the dashboard and his lap. Pain cut into his skull and the back of his neck. With a tentative hand, he touched his brow and came away with damp fingers.

Blood.

He blinked several times, unable to understand why he sat behind the wheel of a car.

Some type of car accident? He couldn’t remember.

The vehicle rested at an odd angle, its nose dipped downward, and the driver’s side tilted toward the pine tops. Waning light turned a cloudless sky to a dirty gray. Dawn or dusk? He didn’t know. He couldn’t think. How had he gotten here?

Lifting his hands, he peered at them. They were large, long fingered, and free of calluses. Fine brown hairs dusted their backs. Stranger’s hands. His hands.

He wrestled for answers—a memory, an image, a clue to his identity—anything.

Nothing but a black, empty slate.

Panic welled in his throat and cut off the air to his lungs. He couldn’t remember anything about himself. He didn’t have a name, a past, a family. He didn’t exist.

Finally, he managed to drag in a lungful of air, but its frigid sting rushed passed his throat and into his lungs too fast. Oxygen flooded his head and white sparks danced across his peripheral vision.

No. He needed to stop. Now. And focus. Think.

He forced himself to relax, to calm the wild thump of his heart. After a moment he managed to breathe in a slow, steady rhythm, and the panic eased. He turned and noticed the passenger to his right. A man sat slumped, silent, his body thrown forward and held in place by his seatbelt.

“Hey, are you okay?”

No answer.

He nudged the man’s shoulder with a hand. “Can you hear me?”

No response.

Something wasn’t right.

He unbuckled his seatbelt and slapped a palm against the dashboard to stop from pitching forward. Awkwardly, he twisted in his seat, eased forward and ducked to get a better look at the person’s face. That’s when he noticed the hole above the passenger’s open and unblinking eye. For several long, heartrending seconds, he stared at how the blood pooled from the wound, and then dripped, again and again, slowly but steadily onto the person’s jean clad leg.

A gunshot wound. Had to be. “Jesus!”

Until now, he hadn’t noticed the pungent odor of death and how it clung to the interior of the car. At the stench, his stomach lurched but kept from heaving its contents.

The passenger wasn’t even a man but a kid in his late teens. A dead one at that. And the boy sure as hell didn’t die from a car accident with a bullet hole in his head.

Repulsed by the idea, but determined to find something of importance, he dug inside both outer pockets of the teenager’s jacket. He needed something to tell him what the hell was going on or at least who sat dead in the car with him. Next, he unzipped the kid’s jacket and felt around. His fingers caught on something jutting from a shirt pocket. He pulled it out and lifted it up to get a better view.

A picture. He managed to make out that it was a photo of the passenger and a woman with her arm draped over his shoulders. They stood in front of a building of some type. He turned the photo over and read:

Me and Katherine at the Morning Dove.

At least it was something. But not nearly enough to tell him who either one of them were.

Had he been the one to kill the kid?

There’d have to be a gun.

Quickly, he stuffed the picture inside the pocket of his down jacket and started searching. The fading light forced him to grope around the seat and floor by his feet and that of the dead teenager. He reached for the glove box, the most logical place for a weapon, and kept his gaze away from the body.

He didn’t find a weapon inside but he did find a flashlight, which he flipped on and aimed at the car’s floor. Still no gun. The relief was almost immobilizing. Because if he’d found a gun, he’d have proof that he’d murdered the boy. The idea of sticking the barrel of a gun into that kid’s face—

No. He didn’t want to go there.

He aimed the light in the back of the car where the beam caught on a navy blue duffle bag. Finally something. Not liking the idea of reaching over the back and brushing up against the dead teen, he decided to go outside and around. He opened the door, jumped out, and landed in a foot of snow, which seeped under his pants and bit into his skin.

Suddenly lightheaded, he bent over and rested his hands across his knees. Eyeglasses, he hadn’t noticed until now, slipped from his nose and fell to the ground. He plucked them from a snow as gray and lifeless as the sky. When he rose, a wave of dizziness seized him. He swayed and latched onto the car’s roof with one hand. God, he was weaker than he’d thought.

After he regained his equilibrium, he opened the back door, unzipped the duffle bag and aimed the light inside. And froze. He’d hoped for some clue to his past—anything—but what he discovered was far from what he’d imagined.

Cold, hard cash. The bag was stuffed with bundles of it, all tied by bank straps. With the flashlight trained on the bag’s interior, he lifted one bundle out and fanned the top edges and did it again to insure he wasn’t hallucinating. Hundreds. Every single one of them. The bills trembled against his fingers, while his heart rate kicked into a rapid rhythm. At the very least, there had to be more than a hundred thousand in front of him.

How? Why? What type of person carried this amount of money around with them?

He dropped the bundle back into the bag, opened the sides wider and realized he wasn’t done. Far from it. Something large rested inside. He wrapped his fingers around the handle and pulled the item from the bag. Beneath, the flashlight’s beam, the dark silver gleamed as if recently polished.

A gun.

“Holy Shit.”

Something big had gone down, and he’d been involved. But what?

He hated the feel of the gun beneath his fingers as he shoved it back in the bag. But even though he disliked touching the weapon, he’d obviously found it important enough keep one around.

What the hell type of person was he?

Then he heard something other than the wind through the pines. A cry. It had a distinct rhythm, growing low, then high, increasing in intensity as it approached.

He stilled.

The murdered teen, the cash, the gun. All incriminating, all unexplainable. The police or paramedics would never believe him. He didn’t even believe himself.

Fear shot him into action. He grabbed the bag—he might have lost his mind, but he wasn’t stupid enough to leave something like that behind—pivoted and stumbled away from the car and the dead boy.

He left a visible trail in his wake, but he didn’t see any other option with a deep carpet of snow covering every dip and mound of dirt. Even though it should have impended his movements and momentum, he dodged trees, jumped over snow-crested logs and jogged his way through the thick, white powder with an astonishing speed and agility.

After a good half-hour, he slowed to a walk, surprised at how his lungs and limbs quickly recovered from the demanding pace he’d forced on both.

The siren had long since died, while darkness had descended in its entirety. Surely if he’d been followed, they’d have found him by now. Even though somewhat reassured by the thought, he continued through the forest.

A noise crashed from behind. He jerked around and searched the darkness, moving backward with cautious steps. Another sound. He stopped and listened. He heard the flap of wings and a rustle of leaves.

A bird.

He laughed and turned back around. His feet hit black, wet tarmac. Headlights flashed and blinded him. He stumbled back. A horn blasted. Wind hit him in the face.

A car sped past, feet from where he stood. His heart hammered against his ribs. Two more steps and he’d have been coating the car.

The moon broke through the clouds, illuminating pines and snow on either side of a two-lane highway. He kept to the edge of the road, his rubber-soled boots scraping against small rocks and broken asphalt. Maybe not the smartest move being visible for anyone who drove by, but getting lost in the forest wasn’t any better. If he didn’t find some form of shelter soon, frostbite would be the least of his worries.

The duffle bag against his side felt reassuring yet unsettling, while the gun inside felt a whole hell of a lot more than unsettling. Shivering, he stuffed his hands into his coat pockets and flexed his fingers to try to work the stiffness from their joints. When he brushed something from inside one of them, he pulled out a plastic rectangle, possibly a card of some type.

Even with the moon as a source of light, he couldn’t make it out. He grabbed the flashlight from his back pocket and pointed its beam on the card. After a moment, he realized it was a driver’s license. He didn’t know why the I.D. was in his coat pocket instead of a wallet. He was too damn thankful to have some type of identification.

He glanced at the picture. The person in the photo had gray eyes, short, brown hair, thick-framed glasses and a wide jaw—none of it familiar—which didn’t mean anything. He didn’t think he’d recognize his own reflection if he looked in the mirror. Aloud, he read the first name on the license.

“Clark.”

He repeated it along with the last name, rolled the syllables between his tongue and lips and tried to get a feel for it. There was no dawning realization or understanding, no sudden burst of recognition. The name didn’t mean anything. But there was an address.

“Boston. Finally, I’ve got something!”

Getting there didn’t bother him. He had enough cash to hire a pilot if he needed to. And once in Boston, he should be able to get some answers.

With a sense of purpose now, Clark stuffed the license back in his pocket and searched his other ones for a wallet or any other form of identification. All he found was a package of spearmint gum in his pant’s pocket, and he could barely make that out because his glasses had filmed with moisture. No wonder he’d had such a hard time reading his driver’s license.

With the flashlight cradled beneath an armpit, he used the collar of his flannel shirt to wipe the lenses and the same frames as the ones in the photo. When he put them back on, Clark noticed his vision, even with the aid of the flashlight, hadn’t improved. Puzzled, he took his glasses off again and aimed the flashlight’s beam at the lenses. He scowled. They were nothing but plain glass.

Why was he walking around with nonprescription glasses? Were they a disguise? Even though none of it made sense, there had to be some rational explanation. Well, until he learned the reason, he’d keep wearing them.

A faint rumble disturbed the evening air. The sound grew louder as Clark moved along the road. A car’s engine. He thought of diving back in the woods, but if he didn’t get out of these harsh elements, he was liable to die from exposure. Tense, expecting the worse, he turned and relaxed somewhat. A pickup, not a patrol car, appeared around the bend in the road.

Maybe his luck was turning around. Hell, it couldn’t get much worse.

Hitching up a thumb, he waited and hoped for two things: one, the driver hadn’t witnessed any police or paramedics with sirens, and two, they were kind or naive enough to pick up a hitchhiker.

The pickup rushed past, and then slowed and rolled to a stop a couple hundred feet away. Without giving the driver a chance to change his mind, Clark ran down the road, opened the passenger door and peered inside.

A heavy-set man with a baseball cap, in a desperate need of a shave and shower, sat behind the wheel. He took one look at Clark and whistled. “You okay buddy? Your face looks like it met up with a two-by-four.”

Clark heard the suspicion in the driver’s voice and explained, “More like a steering wheel. I had a tire blow out a couple miles back and hit a ditch.”

The man snapped a piece of gum between his teeth and seemed to hesitate, as if weighing his options. “Hop in. I’m going as far as Pinetop.”

Thank God. Clark slipped inside the interior’s warmth and slammed the door behind him.

“Not the best place to break down.” The driver shifted his rear against the vinyl seat and steered the truck back onto the road. “Since we’re going to be up close and personal for a while—the name’s Stu. And you’re?”
“Clark. Clark Kent.”  



 



H.D. Thomson moved from Ontario, Canada as a teenager to the heat of Arizona where she graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. In Business Administration with a major in accounting. After working in the corporate world as an accountant, H.D. Changed her focus to one of her passions-books. She owned and operated an online bookstore for several years and then started the company, Bella Media Management. The company specializes in web sites, video trailers, Ebook conversion and promotional resources for authors and small businesses. When she is not heading her company, she is following her first love-writing.




 

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4 comments:

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Valerie R

desiree reilly said...

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REBECCA STEPHEN said...

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Jacquie Johnson said...

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