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A suspense thriller

By Lillian Francken

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The Author holds exclusive rights to this work. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited.

Other Books by Lillian Francken:


The Twelfth of Never

Omega Factor

Rustic Roads

Till Death Do Us Part

Wednesday’s Child

A Family Christmas Story

The Curiosity Shop


All About Love

We Come in Peace

Visit my website for more information about Lillian Francken


Dedicated to my husband, who

supports me in every way possible


The pristine view of the full moon shined brightly on that cloudless night. Dan Harter never liked the dark but the moon that night made it feel less menacing. He’d known he had a slow leak in his back tire and would be traveling these deserted country roads tonight but money was tight and the part-time job at Mark’s corner grocery store did not leave much after paying for graduation announcements and buying a nice going-away gift for Kay.

Dan kept glancing nervously over his shoulder at the tall pines and the thick underbrush that lined the roadway. He thought he’d heard movement a while back but convinced himself it was his imagination playing tricks on him. Dan quickened his pace nonetheless. As if his prayers had been answered, the headlights that came over the rise in the distance were a welcome sight. There it was again, the noise from earlier, he turned quickly and was sure he saw movement this time.

Quickly Dan ran to the approaching car, waving his arms wildly. There was no way he would let it pass. The screeching of tires filled the night air as the black Shelby Mustang came to a screeching halt. Dan had never really gotten along with Alan Maxwell, but tonight he was a gift from Heaven. Alan was a high school jock. Everyone wanted to be with him. All the girls fought over who would wear his letter jacket except for one, Kay. Dan and Kay had been dating ever since sophomore year and she felt the same way about Alan as Dan did. But Dan was not picky that night and was thankful Alan stopped.

“Harter, you lost,” Alan laughed, hanging his head out the driver’s window.

Buzz Sheffield sat silently in the passenger seat smoking a cigarette. The two had always been joined at the hip and if you wanted to be friends with Alan, you had to get past Buzz. Actually they were known as the Three Musketeers, but the third one was not there that night.

“I got a flat a few miles down the road,” Dan responded quickly.

“I might have known that was your heap back there,” Alan laughed.

“I suppose you were at Kay’s?” Buzz mocked jokingly.

Dan nodded and then glanced over his shoulder at the woods. He turned back to Alan with pleading eyes.

“Can you give me a lift?” Dan asked, but truth be known he was begging that night.

“Just up until the highway. We’re already past curfew. So are you.”

“I turned nineteen last month, so curfew doesn’t apply to me,” Dan mocked but then regretted sounding cocky. He still needed the ride.

Buzz got out and let Dan climb into the backseat. As Dan settled back he sat on something hard. Quickly he felt around until he found what it was. He glanced at the pocketknife, puzzled for a moment, and then set it off to the other side of the seat.

“What are you guys up to?” Dan asked, trying to make conversation. Under normal circumstances Alan and Buzz would not have given him the time of day.

“Just cruz’n,” Alan responded.

Buzz handed Dan the lit cigarette. Dan took it and inhaled even though he had promised Kay he would give up that vulgar habit, but to refuse Buzz’s offer would have insulted the two.

Buzz glanced at Dan with curiosity. “When do you report in for duty?”

Dan exhaled and then responded. “I have to be in Little Rock on Tuesday.”

“I don’t know if I could do it,” Alan said, shaking his head.

Dan leaned up to get a closer look at the two. “I get college paid for when I’m out. Besides, I don’t have an old man to foot the bill for me like you two.”

“My old man offered to help you out,” Alan mocked, flaunting his affluence as he always did.

“I don’t want to be indebted to the Senator,” Dan snapped. Fact was, he was too proud to admit he needed the help. This was his life. He was not going to be indebted to any man. Especially not the Senator.

“Jason took him up on the offer,” Alan added.

“That’s his choice,” Dan argued. “You’re lucky to have such a generous father.”

Alan laughed. “Trust me, being a senator’s son is no picnic.”

Buzz looked back at Dan. “Who’s going to keep Kay warm while you’re gone?”

Dan pointed an accusing finger at Buzz. “You leave her alone. I find either one of you messing with her, and you’ll have to answer to me when I get back.”

Dan glanced around and for the first time was surprised that Alan and Buzz were a Musketeer short. The last two years in school, the three were inseparable.

“I thought Jason was with you guys tonight?”

Buzz responded with a snicker. “He had other things on his mind.”

Alan poked Buzz in the ribs, causing him to double up a moment. It did not go unnoticed by Dan and he wasn’t giving up on his need to know.

“Where is he?” Dan asked, as his curiosity got the better of him given Buzz’s snicker.

“We ain’t his keeper,” Buzz snapped and then turned back to Alan.

“Buzz and I dumped him,” was all Alan said. “Shit,” Alan continued while staring at the gas gauge. “My old man was supposed to fill me up. So much for letting him have my car for an errand.”

“Considering he bought it for you, I wouldn’t complain,” Dan snapped, thinking of all the hours he had to work to buy his ’57 Chevy. But it was his, lock, stock, and barrel. He did not have much, but what he had was all his.

“Screw you,” Alan mocked.

Buzz reached for the cigarette. Dan settled back but glanced out the back window, thankful that the lonely stretch of road was long gone. Dan glanced at the other side of the seat and searched for the pocketknife. When he caught a glimmer of metal in the dark backseat he reached for it and put it in his back pocket.

When the highway finally came into view, Alan pulled over onto the shoulder of the road. Dan got out and no sooner had the car door shut, the tires spun out, kicking gravel at Dan standing there alone. Dan took the pocketknife out of his pocket. He opened it, but the blade tip was missing. Dan was about to throw it into the ditch, but then changed his mind and put it back into his pocket.

Another car came down the highway. Dan held out his thumb. The car stopped and Dan got in.


Twenty years later

The squad car sped down the long dusty road, the Jefferson County Sheriff emblem barely visible through the dust as the lights flashed and sirens blared for all to hear.

Dan Harter had been sheriff of the county going on eight years now. It was an easy job with a low crime rate and only Saturday-night drunks to contend with. That was until this morning, when the call came in about a body being found.

He listened to oldies on the radio as he cruised past old farmhouses. He rolled his eyes when he read Felix Murphy on the mailbox. Felix was one of his most outspoken critic in the county. He had been a major contributor to every opponent who ran against Dan in recent years and for the life of him he could not remember what he’d done to piss Felix off. But Felix never missed an opportunity to put him down or point out how inadequate Dan was in handling the job of sheriff.