Daily Post Prompt: Abandoned – ‘Start Abandoning Things Today’

MAN LEAPING IN AIRAbandon your fears. Abandon your insecurities. Abandon your doubts. Abandon your past failures. Abandon the negative words others have spoken concerning your abilities or your future. Abandon the so-called ‘friends’ who do not help draw you to your best and highest.

Life is too short to live it in fear, doubt, and the faulty judgments of other people. If you’re going to get anything out of this life, you’re going to have to put a lot into it. And you can’t do that if you’re constantly afraid or second-guessing because of past failures or someone else’s opinions.

Stand up and lay hold of this day in faith. God made you, so He loves you. And because He made you, He obviously has a plan for you. So get hold of Him today (you can find Him by calling on Jesus Christ) and find out what His delightful plan is for your life. Then get started carrying it out.

Abandon what is negative, dark, and destructive. Seize what is positive, light, and life-giving. Then go out there and LIVE!

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Daily Post Prompt: Abandoned

 

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Friday Fictioneers 4/29/16 – ‘Sales Appeal’

I haven’t had a chance to participate in Friday Fictioneers in a while, and I’m just getting in under the wire this week. But the picture conjured up this little story, and I couldn’t pass up sharing it. The picture prompt is courtesy of Mary Shipman. My story is below the picture.

PHOTO PROMPT © Mary Shipman

SALES APPEAL

“Pops, when you asked me to come and help with the store, I had no idea you’d been losing money the past ten years. What’s the deal with all these tools and auto parts? And your line of pipe and chewing tobacco is weighing down the shelves.”

“I’m just well-stocked.”

“But your only customers the month I’ve been here are genteel ladies. They don’t buy that stuff.”

“Yeah, the men never shop here.”

“Well, get me the ladder. I’ll fix that.”

(Two hours later)

“Ivan, you can’t hang all those women’s undergarments from the rafters! It will embarrass our customers.”

“Not the customers we’re after. You just wait and see. We’ll have men customers coming out our ears by next week.”

 

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May I Borrow Your Love – Chapter Fourteen

Find Chapter Thirteen here.

 

SAILBOAT - DOCKED, MINE, 300 RES - RED TINTChapter Fourteen

 

The following morning, Slate was up with the sunrise. He hadn’t slept much, and he could feel adrenaline surging, preparing him for another trip to the Crowder place and a thorough search of the area for any clues. But even though he wanted to take off immediately, common sense told him that, at this hour, anyone at the house would still be asleep, and he wouldn’t be able to get a reading on what they were doing there. So he sat on the deck drinking coffee and trying not to think about Vanessa and Link.

But he couldn’t focus. The one thought that kept coming back to his mind was that Vanessa would be leaving soon, and he’d never see her again. That truth caused a raw kind of pain in his gut, but he knew there was something about that sense of loss that was deeper than just losing a woman he wanted. He’d known a lot of women – both good and bad – but he’d never known anyone else like her. He was sexually attracted to – that was a given – but there was a part of him she had touched that had never been touched before. He couldn’t have explained it if his life had depended on it, but, somehow, he knew it was connected with her spirituality. The woman had something – something so strong and powerful and good – that it ruled everything about her, gave her courage, and brought her right about even when she was sorely tempted to take a wrong path.

The truth was that a part of him wanted what she had. He gazed off into the horizon now, trying to recall the trip they’d made to the island and the conversation about God. Her words came back to him clearly, and that surprised him, because he thought he’d taken them with just a grain of salt at the time. He remembered her reading scripture that talked about a man’s sin being forgiven and his being surrounded by mercy. And he remembered her explanation:

“Ultimately, that’s what it’s all about, Slate. That’s all that stands between us and a beautiful relationship with the God who created us and loves us. We need to recognize that we’re sinners worthy of death and separation from God … and that we can’t make ourselves clean enough to live with a holy God. Then we just need to accept that Jesus Christ came to pay for our sin and provide the forgiveness by shedding His blood and dying in our place. When we do that, God can cleanse away our sin with Jesus’ blood and take us back into His own family for eternity.”

“I wonder …” he spoke out loud now, his thoughts absorbed in Vanessa’s words from that day. He closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. Then he looked up into the endless blue of the morning sky and took a chance – probably the biggest chance he remembered taking in his whole life. He cleared his throat. “Uh … God … Jesus … I don’t know anything about religion. Sure, I had those few Sunday school classes back in the day … but … well … You know … I didn’t really pay a lot of attention. I remember some of the stories, but they never seemed like anything more than that. But … now … for the first time in my life I’ve met a real flesh and blood person who says she knows You personally. And I can see that there’s something – something – real about what she has.”

He cleared his throat again. “And she said – and those Bible passages she read said – that if I would just admit that I’m a sinner and can’t make myself good enough to hang out with the likes of You that You could – and would – forgive me and make me different.” He paused for a long moment and then let out another sigh.

“The truth is … I don’t know if I really believe that or not. But … if there’s a chance … just a chance … that I could have what Vanessa has.” He stopped. “Hell … that’s a ridiculous idea. I could never be as good as she is, no matter how hard I tried.” But at those words, he suddenly became aware that something deep inside was pulling on him not to give up, but to go on and try what the verses of scripture had described. So he started again. “Well, God … I mean Jesus … if there’s any chance at all that You’re really who Vanessa says You are and that You’d like to make me one of Your followers … then I guess what I’m saying is … take me. I’m no good as I am, so that must mean I meet the definition of a sinner. So if You can change me and make me something that pleases You … and make something better out of my life … then go ahead and have at it.”

Immediately, Slate felt such a sense of comfort and serenity that it was almost tangible. And within seconds he became aware of a presence right there with him on the deck of his home. He didn’t see anyone or anything out of the ordinary, but he knew with every fiber of his being that someone else – someone beneficent and kind and supportive – was with him. “Wow,” was all he could say. In fact, he didn’t want to say anything at all. He just sat there.

The experience lasted for close to half an hour, and then, gradually, he felt that he was alone again – only not in the since he had been before he’d prayed. There was a strength and a definite serenity that had been missing before. He didn’t know what to think for sure, but he was convinced that something definite was changed in him. Time would tell probably. He hoped it wasn’t his imagination, but he felt confident that the experience had been real. After he got back from Crowder’s place – if he didn’t find anything pressing him into other action – he’d dig out an old Bible he knew was packed away in a closet and read those passages Vanessa had read to him on the picnic.

At 8:00 – just about the same time Slate was making his first effort at prayer – Vanessa tapped on Lincoln’s door. “Link, are you up? Can I come in?” Link opened the door and stepped back for her to enter.

“Morning, Nessa,” he said. “Sure; come on in.” His hair was still wet from the shower, and he hadn’t put on a shirt yet. Vanessa sucked in her breath at the sight of him, realizing again how easily she responded to him physically, and wondering even more how she could have reacted to Slate the way she had two nights ago. But with Link, what she felt wasn’t merely sexual. As she looked into his eyes this morning, she knew she loved him with every fiber of her being. He was truly her soul mate, and she’d be the biggest fool in the world to ever risk losing him. Before he could turn away from her she moved forward and threw her arms around him.

“I’m so sorry about last night, Link. I can’t explain how much the pressure of this whole experience has taken a toll on my normal thinking and reacting, but there’s one thing I know for sure, and its that I love you with all my heart and soul. And I’m so thankful you’re finally here that I can’t even find words to tell you.”

Lincoln had naturally put his arms around her she spoke, and he searched her eyes earnestly to find what he needed to know. He believed Vanessa meant the words she spoke to him, but he needed to see that love reflected in her eyes the way he had the months before she’d made this trip and gotten connected with Slate.

He breathed a quiet sigh of relief as he realized the love was still shining in her eyes. He closed his own eyes momentarily and then looked into hers again, whispering, “I’m sorry too, Darling. I acted like a jealous fool, but I guess I might as well admit that I am a jealous fool where you’re concerned.”

“Oh, Sweetheart, there’s no need,” she said, wrapping her arms tighter around his neck and reaching up to kiss his lips, her own lips urgent and eager. Link responded immediately, pulling her closer and groaning softly as he deepened the kiss. For several minutes, they were so caught up in the need to express their love for one another that they didn’t even try to talk. Finally, gradually, they pulled apart and Link realized he hadn’t completely finished dressing. He chuckled. “I was just about to pick out a shirt when you knocked, and … well … as you know … I got sidetracked.”

Vanessa grinned and ran her hand over his chest and shoulders, slowly and thoughtfully. “I didn’t mind at all,” she said, and the spark in her eyes told him she felt everything he was feeling physically. He cleared his throat.

“Well, let me find a shirt, and we’ll go eat some breakfast, and you can fill me in on everything you know about Ken.”

“Fine. I’ll step next door and get my purse and be right back.”

Once in Lincoln’s car, Vanessa directed him to the Koffee Korner. As they walked in, Hally gave them a thoughtful look, but didn’t say anything. In a few minutes she came to take their orders. Vanessa could see that she was curious about the new man and what he was doing with the woman who’d been coming in with Slate for over a week. Hally addressed Link first. “Well, you’re new around here. I’d definitely have remembered seeing you before,” she said with a wink. Link was surprised, but being the gentlemen he was, he answered quietly. “Yes, I’ve just arrived. We’d like some coffee please while we’re looking at the menu.”

“Sure thing. Comin’ right up,” she said and gave Vanessa another curious look as she left to get the drinks.

While they ate, Vanessa wanted a report on Margie and the baby before they talked about Ken. Lincoln had been thoughtful enough to snap a few pictures before leaving the hospital, and they did more to help Vanessa to feel normal and on solid ground once again that anything else could have. “She’s such a beautiful baby, and looks perfect even though she is two weeks early,” she said.

“Yes,” Link answered, grinning. “The doctor says she is perfect. It’s an answer to prayer for sure.” He slipped his phone back into his pocket and reached out to put one hand over Vanessa’s where it lay on the table. “Now, tell me every detail of what you know about Ken.

She filled him in on the few facts she’d learned since their last phone conversation, and finished with her decision to bring her trip to a halt and go back home.

“Oh, Honey, that’s what I hoped you say,” Lincoln answered, gripping her hand even tighter. “You know I’m not against your wanting to do all you can to find your brother, but this whole thing sounds serious enough that I think the authorities need to be the ones calling the shots and making all the moves. But I would like to talk to the sheriff and see if he’s considered that fact that maybe he needs to call in some state or even federal help. From what you’ve told me, there could be evidence of a possible kidnapping here, and that should open the door to some federal help with the investigation.”

“Oh, Link, I hope you’re wrong about that, but Slate – ” She stopped and caught her breath, looking at him questioningly.

He sighed. “Go ahead. I know he’s been trying to help, and I know … well … let’s just say that I know you’ve grown close to him.” Vanessa started to shake her head, but he held up his hand to stop her. “Vanessa, I’m not blind. I’m a man in love, and I could tell even on the phone that the two of you were getting close and that you were different somehow.” She started to speak, but he held his hand up again. “I’m not accusing you of anything, Honey. I’m just saying that I do understand how things can develop when two people are working closely on something that has this much emotions involved, and it’s true I’ve been worried that maybe something more was starting to develop beyond trying to find Ken.”

Vanessa looked at him, frustration showing in her lovely, tear-filled eyes. “I don’t know what to say, Link. I guess I have gotten close to Slate, partly because he has tried to help me when no one else would, and partly because I was so alone and scared, and I needed someone I could sort of … well … lean on.”

Lincoln let out another sigh. “And that part is my own fault. I should have been the someone you could lean on. I should have been here for you.”

This time Vanessa reached out and took his free hand. “No, Link. You had obligations to the school – to the students and the faculty. You couldn’t just pick up and leave for an indefinite period of time. I understood that.”

“I know you did, but the fact still remains that, whatever has happened between you and Slate, I’m partly to blame for it.”

“Link, I haven’t been unfaithful to you.”

“I have no doubts about that, Sweetheart. I’m not even talking about acts of unfaithfulness. I’m talking about what’s happened in your heart. I just needed to know that your heart still belonged to me, I guess.”

She squeezed his hands tighter. “My heart belongs to God and you in that order, and nothing or no one will change that, Link.” As she said the words, Vanessa knew that there was a part of her that would always feel an attachment to Slate, but she believed with all her heart that her strongest and truest love would always belong to Lincoln DeWitt. Link knew Vanessa would never deliberately lie to him, but the question he wrestled with was whether she might be saying what she hoped was the truth, rather than what was actual fact.

By 9:30, Slate was in his boat, headed back to the inlet that led to the Crowder property. He was hoping he’d find Mitchell’s truck gone, as well as any other vehicles. But, on the other hand, he hoped he could find someone around who could give him clues as to Ken Hayes’ whereabouts. He knew what he was doing was a long shot, but he felt constrained to try everything he could think of to help Vanessa and her brother. And following his experience on the deck earlier, he felt empowered to expect good results from these efforts.

He pulled into the same marshy area to hide the boat and took off again on foot through the ground cover. As he got close enough to see the drive, his heart skipped a beat. Mitchell’s truck was nowhere in sight. Nor were any other vehicles. He’d have to work around the house a little father to check out the pole barn in the back, but from what he remembered of it, the building was leaning so badly that it wouldn’t have held anything but junk anyway.

The layout of the house was similar to scores of others in the area that had all been built in the same decade, and he knew many of those had the living room at the front of the house, with the kitchen and bathroom behind it. As he’d look over the roof line earlier, he’d spotted what had to be the bathroom vent on the east side, so he felt confident that the two rooms on the west had to be bedrooms.

Skirting the actual yard and staying in the tallest grasses and bushes, he made his way far enough along the west side to see the pole barn, and sure enough, it was falling in, so it wasn’t hiding any vehicles either. He got on his hands and knees and made a diagonal approach to the southwest corner of the house, coming up the side where he surmised the bedrooms to be. He didn’t stop because he wanted to check out the living room and kitchen first for inhabitants.

Hugging the ground, he eased his way around the front corner to check out the front porch from close up. No one in sight. He moved closer, staying low, until he was right beside the three steps leading up to the porch. The wooden door was open, and through the closed screen door, Slate heard a sound. He ducked lower and tried to slide partly under the porch where it was raised about a foot off the ground. But as he listened for a couple minutes, he realized that the sound was rhythmic and familiar. Someone was snoring. Good. One room taken care of. Now for the kitchen and bedrooms.

He worked his way around to the east side and finally raised up to press himself flat against the house by the screened window that he thought was the kitchen. He was grateful the windows were all open, so that he could hear what was happening inside. No sounds of any kind coming from there, so he chanced taking a glance inside. Empty. Next he moved on around the corner to the little window that had to be the bathroom, but still no detectable movement or sound. So using his binoculars to take another look at all the surrounding land area within his scope, he then moved quickly across the back of the house, noting that the back door was shut. He moved on up the west side again and listened through the screen at the window of the back bedroom. Nothing there, so he did the same at the front bedroom window, still hearing nothing.

Finally, satisfied that there was no conversation going on anywhere, he slowly raised himself toward the window of the front bedroom and looked in. An old, torn curtain fluttered there, but he could see a good bit of the room, except for the wall where the window was set. No one in that room. So he moved back again to the bedroom window closer to the back of the house.

Again, he could see a good part of the room, and started to assume it was as empty as the other when he spotted two suitcases sitting in a dark corner. His heartbeat quickened. Suitcases might mean nothing, of course, except that whoever Snake had seen here had carried in a suitcase or two as well. But he was almost sure one of them was pink. It was really hard to tell since very little sunlight was getting into the room at this time of day, but any color suitcase at all seemed out of character for the kind of vermin who were likely to inhabit these premises – or who wanted to keep themselves in a low profile status for any reason. He had a flashlight in his belt, so he pulled it out and shined it right on the cases.

Yep, one of them was pink alright. Just then he heard movement and ducked back to the ground, waiting. After a couple moments, he lifted himself closer to the window again and listened. A shuffling sound was all he heard, but then a man’s voice. “Sarah.” The voice came in a loud whisper. “Sarah, did you see that light?”

A female voice answered, also in a loud whisper. “You mean shining on our suitcases?”

“Yes. It had to come from outside.”

“I thought I saw it, but I figured it was my imagination. This whole thing has done strange things to my mind.”

Slate’s heart almost stopped. He held his breath, waiting to see what else the inhabitants of the room would say. He heard the girl’s voice again. “What do you think it means?”

Then he heard the whispered answer: “I think it may mean the Lord is answering our prayers.”

That clinched it. Surely no one except Vanessa’s brother would be talking about God out in this God-forsaken place and in the dangerous situation they were all facing right now. Slate’s heart was beating so hard he found it difficult to hear. He tried to clear his thoughts and figure out what to do next. He heard Sarah’s voice again. “You mean you think someone’s out there trying to signal us?”

Before Ken could answer, Slate decided that Sarah’s words were part of his answer. He lifted himself high enough to flash his light against the suitcases again, only this time he flashed in three longer, rhythmic flashes. Then shut off the light for a few seconds and flashed the same way again. Ken’s voice came again through the open window.

“Whoever you are … we need help.” Slate waited a moment before responding. Surely there was no one in the room except the two hostages, or they wouldn’t have been talking so freely even in whispers. So he took a chance and answered back in as loud a whisper as he dared.

“I’m here to help. How many others are in the house?”

Ken’s voice answered. “Just one. Asleep in front room. But three others will be back soon. And we’re tied with ropes.”

“Understood,” Slate replied. “Hold on. I’m thinking.”

Silence reigned inside the room and out. Slate thought to himself that if he were ever going to pray for help, this would be the perfect time. But he wasn’t sure he knew how. This morning’s venture was his first experiment with prayer of any kind. Finally, he decided that if Ken had been praying, that was enough for now. He stood up and examined the screen. It was nailed against the house, and there was no way he could get it off without making enough noise to wake the person in the living room.

He needed wire cutters. He might have something back in the boat that would work, but it was quite a trek back. He risked more whispering. “I’ll have to cut the screen, and I don’t have tools with me. I can get them. Is Gary Mitchell one of the group that has you prisoner?”

“Yes,” Ken said. “And the group of them are dealing drugs. Getting ready to make their final delivery in a day or two by boat.”

That was what Slate needed to know. “Okay. I have reason to think it will be day after tomorrow. I’ll notify the sheriff and I’ll be back.” At that moment, Slate heard a truck door slam shut. “I’ll have to scat,” he whispered. “I’ll be back. Don’t give up.” With those words, he dropped as low to the ground as possible and scurried diagonally back the way he’d come, making it to the heavy ground cover before anyone spotted him. He ran as fast as his legs would carry him through the swampy area to his boat, his heart pounding both from elation and from fear.

As soon as he’d gotten the boat far enough away from the area to be sure of not being detected, he stopped and called Vanessa. When she answered, his heart was in his throat as he tried to talk. “Vanessa …” He stopped to take a deep breath.

“Slate! What is it? Are you alright?”

“Yes … yes, I’m fine. I have some news, and I want you to stay calm because I can’t tell you everything right now. I have to get to the sheriff as soon as possible, but I’ve found your brother. He’s alive … and the girl too.”

He heard a sob on the other end of the line, and then Vanessa’s voice thanking the Lord. But her next words were to Slate. “Where is he? Can you take me to him?”

“That’s a problem right now, Vanessa. They’re both being held prisoner by a group of drug dealers, and sure enough, Gary Mitchell’s one of them. But I promised them I’d get back to them and try to get them out. I’m heading for Sheriff Andrews’ office now to let him know so his men can get started on it as well.”

“But where, Slate?”

“Vanessa, I’m not about to try to give you directions to the place because if they caught you trying to get to your brother, they’d kill you and him and the girl all three without batting an eye. Now just sit tight and trust me. Where’s the fiance?”

“Link? He’s gone to the drugstore, but he’ll be right back.”

“All right. Keep him with you, and I’ll get there as soon as I can.”

“But where is Ken?

“I’ve said all I’m going to for now, Vanessa. You’ll have to trust me and do what I say.”

“No, I can’t ̶ ”

“Yes you can! And you’d better! If you want to help save your brother’s life, you’ve got to trust me, no matter how hard that is for you right now. As soon as I’m done with the sheriff, I’ll come by there and talk to you personally. And be sure the fiance’s there with you. It’s past time he did his job riding herd on you and keeping you safe!” He ended the call right then because he knew she wouldn’t be able to stop arguing with him.

His next call was to Sheriff Andrews’ office to make sure he’d be in when Slate got there. Slate sketched in the main facts and left the details for when he was face-to-face with Sheriff Andrews. He didn’t know for sure how the sheriff would handle anything this big. He needed to call in the state police for help, but whether he would or not was still a question. However, Slate didn’t intend to wait to get Vanessa’s brother to safety. He’d have to watch his step and his words with the sheriff.

(To be continued …)

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Daily Post Prompt: Music – ‘Word Music’

Exif JPEG

I’m a musician. I play keyboard instruments mainly. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of using my talents to entertain in various venues, to minister as organist and choir director for two different churches, to help facilitate weddings and funerals for scores  of families, to compose and orchestrate numerous songs, and to teach others to use their gifts and talents to bless the world with music from their own keyboards.

These days I rarely sit down to a musical keyboard. Instead, I’m nearly glued to the kind of keyboard that is attached to a desktop or laptop computer. For,  you see, I’m also a writer. Now, some people feel that I have left music behind as I’ve devoted so much of myself to the writing. But you know what?  I’ve discovered a truth that, ten years ago, I may not have even thought about:

I’ve discovered that music — true music — doesn’t come from a keyboard on a piano, an organ, or an accordion. Nor does it come from a horn, a guitar, a violin, or any other instrument. On the contrary, music comes from the soul. It’s the melody, the harmony, and the rhythm of life that courses through our beings and finds its release through any number of avenues. Frequently, it is released through instruments constructed for that specific purpose, but the music of the soul is also released through words.

I find that I’m releasing the music of my soul constantly as my fingers whisk over the letter keys of my laptop. I’m letting all those melodies, harmonies, and rhythms of life course through me to touch every reader. And when those readers are touched, my words create emotions, thoughts, actions, and reactions as surely as the strains of sound vibrating from a piano or a horn. I’m calling to and capturing the soul of the reader as surely as the chords from a guitar call and capture the soul of the listener.

It is not the instrument that creates the music. In truth, the music is created from the deepest part of our being and simply seeks an avenue — any avenue — of expression. So, personally, I believe I am offering music to the world through the words that flow from my soul onto the page as surely as I have offered it in the past from the keyboard that sent forth vibrations of sound.

So, my fellow writers — let the music play.

~

WordPress Daily Prompt: Music

 

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May I Borrow Your Love – Chapter Thirteen

Find Chapter Twelve here.

 

SAILBOAT - DOCKED, MINE, 300 RES - RED TINTChapter Thirteen

 

Slate and Vanessa finished their breakfast quickly, without much more conversation. But since they’d started so late, the clock had already struck 11:00 by the time they got up from the table. Slate realized Vanessa could hardly stay awake, and as they left the Koffee Korner, he urged her to go back to the motel and sleep. She looked at him just before sliding into her car. “You’re not going back out to those abandoned houses and get into something dangerous, are you, Slate? I don’t want you risking your life trying to help me.”

“I know what I’m doing, Miss Priss,” he said, and saw her lips lift in an unconscious grin. He knew she’d come to accept that title as something of a pet name that bonded them together in an odd way. “I’ve been out into that area any number of times for other reasons. People go fishing and hunting out there every once in a while. There’s lots of little streams that feed into that inlet. So I’m not going to look suspicious, and I’m not about to put myself into harm’s way when I don’t even know if it would help you.”

She was too tired to argue with him, so she finally made her way back to the motel room and fell asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.

Slate took off for home as well, detouring by Snake’s house, to pay him the fifty dollars for his information, and then by a couple stores to pick up some personal items. That done, he headed to his own office to check for phone messages. To his surprise, he had a message from Gary Mitchell, requesting a rental boat for later in the week. He called him back immediately, hoping to get some kind of reading on whether he was still at the Crowder’s place or at home.

Gary answered on the second ring, and Slate said, “Mr. Mitchell, Slate here from Buccaneer. I got your call, and I’ll have a boat available for you if you’re still interested.”

“Yeah, I need to pick it up day after tomorrow and keep it for about forty-eight hours.”

“No problem. What time of day do want to come for it?”

“I’ll be by your place about noon. I’m assuming we’re talking the same price as last time?”

“Sure thing. I’ll look up your account and try to get you the same boat with the same supplies if that’s good for you.”

“Sure. Sounds good. I have to go now, but I’ll be in day after tomorrow.”

“See you then.” Slate hung up with a sigh. He couldn’t find any reason to prolong the conversation, and he couldn’t just come out and ask Mitchell where he’d be between now and the hour he came for the boat.

He wanted to get back out to the Crowder place, and he was just about to pick up his gun when he heard a car drive up. Looking out the window, he could see that a couple were getting out of the car and heading toward the office. Investigations would have to be put on hold again.

“Good afternoon,” the stocky, balding man said as he walked into the office.

“Good afternoon,” Slate answered. “Can I help you folks?”

“We hope so. I’m Thornton West and this is my wife, Dottie. We’re wanting to charter a cruise around the area for ourselves and two other couples. We’re here to see what you’ve got to offer.”

“Certainly. Have a seat over here where you can be comfortable, and I’ll get my brochures and a notebook so we can talk about the details.”

Two hours later, Slate saw the Wests out of his office with arrangements made for a cruise that weekend. He wasn’t sure how involved he’d end up being in investigating the Crowder place, but if he had to, he knew he could call in his buddy Kurt to handle the cruise in his place.

He walked to the huge sliding glass doors that covered half the wall facing the dock and just stood for a few minutes looking out over the water. He wanted to see Vanessa and make sure she was okay, but he had no excuse for doing so. Besides, he needed to check out Snake’s report.

But before he could get further in his thoughts, another customer drove up. This time a van deposited three people who were looking for a rental boat for the rest of the week.

They were also in need of information concerning other sites worth visiting and the best waterways to use in order to access the ones that had to be reached via the water.

By the time he’d finished with them, he was starting to feel stressed about getting back to Crowder’s, but before he could gather the supplies again and make it to his boat, a delivery truck pulled in with a load of supplies he’d ordered, including two new motors he’d been waiting on for a month because they’d been back ordered. And by the time he’d managed to get everything checked in and verified as the correct items, paid his bill, and stored the supplies where they wouldn’t be in the way, it was so close to evening that he decided he was too short on daylight and needed to put off his search of Crowder’s place until the next day.

So he called Vanessa and asked her to meet him for dinner. He knew she’d be wary of him so he figured the safest place was back to the Koffee Korner. They had decent food, and the atmosphere was always pleasant. He could tell she was a little reluctant on the phone, but he finally talked her into having a meal together.

While they ate, he asked her to tell him more about her brother. She seemed to want to talk about him, and as she shared some of her happier memories, her face lit up, and she began to genuinely relax for the first time since the previous night.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” Slate said suddenly, as he pushed back his empty pie plate. “Let’s go to a movie.”

“What?”

“There’s a funny movie on at our one and only theater tonight, and it’s actually rated PG, so I know it’s okay for you to see,” he added with a grin.

“Slate, I don’t think so.”

“Come on, Miss Priss. You need to relax, and I need to rest my mind so it will be in peak condition tomorrow. And, I’ll tell you what … just so you won’t have any qualms about my intentions, we’ll see if Gracie wants to go along. How’s that?”

“Well … do you think she’d want to go with us?”

“Sure. I’ve taken Gracie to the movies before. We’re old buddies, and even though she’s got about thirty years on me, she understands me.”

Vanessa shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t really want to sit in the motel alone again all evening, and, in fact, that morning she had just about decided that she really was wasting her time and worrying Lincoln for no good reason. She hadn’t made any headway finding Ken, and she had come close to a disaster in her own life. It was probably time to go home. So maybe she did need to get her mind off everything else and just relax for tonight – then see how she felt about going home tomorrow.

Gracie took them up on their invitation, and the three of them laughed through the movie and then ended up back at the Koffee Korner again at almost midnight for a nightcap of ice cream sodas. Vanessa thought to herself that she would never forget these two people and the life she’d lived in this totally different world for the past couple of weeks.

Slate drove them back to the motel and parked at the office entrance. Gracie wished them goodnight and went on into the office while Slate walked Vanessa to her room. He went into the room with her, making sure everything was as it should be. Without thinking, he closed the door behind him and stood there a moment. Vanessa deposited her purse on the dresser and turned to look at him. “Slate, you mentioned needing to have your mind clear and in good condition tomorrow. Are you planning on snooping around some more of those abandoned places where you could get into danger? Because if you are, I think I should tell you ̶ ”

“Before you go further, Miss Priss, I’ll tell you again that I’m not going to do anything that I haven’t done a number of times before. So stop worrying.”

“But I wanted to tell you that I think I’ve decided to go ahead and go back home.”

Slate was shocked. But as he thought about what she’d said, he knew it was the best thing for her to do.

But before he could say so, there was a knock on the door of Vanessa’s room, and Lincoln’s voice called, “Vanessa, Honey… it’s Link. I’m here. I saw your lights still on.”

Vanessa’s heart thudded. She looked at Slate, who looked back with the same shock in his eyes that was registering in hers. Her first thought was how thankful she was Lincoln had come, and her very next thought was what he would surmise seeing Slate in her motel room after midnight.

But she managed to hurry to the door and fling it open. When she saw Lincoln, her whole body went limp. To finally have him there – strong, dependable, quiet, soothing Lincoln DeWitt – was both an answer to prayer and a problem she didn’t need right now. It had been weeks since she’d looked into his eyes and felt his arms around her. She’d longed for his quiet strength, ached for his touch, and now to have him right in front of her in the flesh was almost dizzying. She just stood there for a moment not moving. Finally she whispered his name, “Link,” and stepped toward him at the same time he stepped into the room. His first attention was for Va­nessa, but then he immediately turned his eyes to Slate. As he did so, his look hardened and his mouth thinned. But he looked back at Vanessa and spoke. “I seem to be interrupting something. It never occurred to me you’d be entertaining in your motel room after midnight. Perhaps I shouldn’t have come unannounced after all.”

Vanessa reached out to him then and grasped his hands. “Oh, Lincoln, I’m so glad you’re here, but why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”

He looked back at Slate. “Well, it’s obvious now that I should have done so.”

“Oh no, don’t get the wrong idea, Honey ̶ ” But Slate interrupted.

“Don’t mind me,” he said. “I was just leaving.”

Vanessa hurried to make introductions. “Link, this is Slate. I’ve told you how much he’s helped me with trying to find Ken.”

“Yes. You’ve told me quite a bit about him,” he answered and then spoke directly to Slate. “It appears I owe you a debt of gratitude for helping my fiancee, Slate.”

“No problem. I was glad I could be of help.”

Vanessa realized Lincoln had gotten the wrong idea concerning Slate’s presence in her room, and she hurried to rectify it, at the same time hating the idea of needing to defend herself to her fiance. “Slate and Gracie Miller – the woman who owns this motel – and I all went to a movie together and then to get a bite to eat, and Slate saw Gracie to her door and me to mine.”

Link looked back at Slate and addressed him: “A task I’m sure you’ve taken great pleasure in on any number of occasions if I understand things correctly.”

Slate let out a deep sigh. “Well, if you two will excuse me. I’m sure you have a lot of catching up to do, and I need to get on my way. Goodnight.” With those words, he let himself out the door and closed it behind him.

Vanessa stood there looking at Lincoln for another moment without speaking. He did the same. Finally she said, “Link, you sounded very cold and unkind in the way to talked to Slate. He has tried to be a big help to me, even at risk to himself, and it’s not like you to treat someone that way.”

Lincoln bristled. This reunion with his fiance was not at all what he had hoped for or planned on. He’d expected her to throw herself into his arms and proclaim how thrilled she was to have him with her. He didn’t know if he were more hurt at her behavior, angry at Slate’s involvement, or disgusted with his own uncharacteristic behavior. Finally he rubbed his hand across his face and looked back at her. “Vanessa, I’ve been driving for almost fourteen hours, and I’m exhausted. I don’t think I can even have this conversation right now. The proprietress gave me the key to the room next to yours. So I’m going to that room and go to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Oh, Sweetheart,” Vanessa said and hurried to him, putting her arms around his neck. “I didn’t mean to sound so critical. And I am glad you’re here, Link. Very glad. I guess I’m just too exhausted myself with everything that I’ve been through that I honestly don’t know how to react to anything anymore.”

He had put his arms around her when she’d come to him, but he didn’t hold her to him with the warmth she’d been accustomed to. He pulled back and released her, saying, “But evidently that exhaustion didn’t prohibit your going out on the town for the evening.”

“It isn’t what you think, Link.” She stopped, beginning to feel more anger now than shock. “And I don’t intend to stand here and defend myself to you. You show up after midnight without even letting me know you were making the trip down here. I hardly think that’s considerate on your part either, and I don’t intend to try to explain my actions to someone who ought to know me well enough to understand them.”

Lincoln let out a deep sigh. “You’re probably right, Nessa.” He turned toward the door and opened it. “Try to get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll do the same. We’ll talk tomorrow.” And with that admonition, he left the room. Vanessa stood there looking at the door, wondering what had just happened, and why she felt like crying her heart out but couldn’t seem to get up the energy to do so.

(To be continued …)

~~~

Daily Post Prompt: Stairway

STAIRWAY TO NEW LEVEL

When it’s time to make the journey to a new
level in your life, do not look at how steep
the stairway is. Just put your foot on the very
first step, and take one step at a time.
All great journeys in life must begin with the
first step only – or they will not begin at all.

*

Daily Post Prompt

~~~

SoWhat’s the Big Fuss About the Toilets???

TOILET STOOLMy original plan was to stay out of this discussion (except for one tiny cinquain) because I figured it would eventually blow over and settle to virtually nothing concrete happening as a result of our new law. However, I just may have been wrong about it blowing over without causing any actual problems, so maybe it’s time I spoke out loud about where I am on this issue.

A:  I’ve never had a problem with seeing an individual go into a toilet marked for the opposite sex because he/she needed to help a child — or an aging parent — or a person who was handicapped. And, in fact, I’ve had to do so personally when helping handicapped people. That situation does not bother me at all, nor does it bother any other person I’ve ever known in all my 60+ years of using public toilets. And I have no problem with public places even providing an extra “Unisex” toilet for that purpose if they can afford to do so. But we have never needed a law to allow for those situations and circumstances.

B:  What I DO have a problem with is people who deliberately force through laws that require the entire public to allow that access to every person who just WANTS to spend time in the bathroom of the opposite sex in order to ogle the private parts of other individuals, hit on innocent children or teens for sexual purposes, or rape a woman or child alone in a secluded space. (And yes, folks, there are a bunch of people out there who do those things.)

We DO NOT NEED a law to allow for A.
And we need to HANG OUR HEADS IN SHAME for allowing a law that provides for B.

And while I’m sounding off, let me just add that the men are few and far between in this world who bother to make sure they do not drip all over the rim and front of the toilet bowl — causing a particularly unsanitary situation for ladies and little kids who must use that toilet immediately afterwards. Just sayin’ ……

 

~~~

Post-A-Day: Whisper

FACE OF GOD GRAPHIC
If I could reach the face of God,
I’d plant a tender kiss.

I’d wrap my arms around His neck
In such a warm embrace.

I’d whisper in His ear
The words of love my heart cannot contain —

Oh —

If I could reach
To kiss the face of God.

~

 

To participate in WP Post-a-Day, visit here.

~

May I Borrow Your Love? – Chapter Twelve

Find Chapter Eleven here.

 

SAILBOAT - DOCKED, MINE, 300 RES - RED TINTCHAPTER TWELVE

Slate barreled into Gracie’s office, tension adding a breathlessness to his voice: “Gracie, have you seen Vanessa Hayes this morning?”

She looked up from the newspaper she’d been reading at her desk, her eyes registering the concern she sensed in Slate. “Yeah, I saw her drive out really early – about 5:30 this morning I think. Why?”

“Did she take her suitcases with her?”

Gracie was on her feet by then, her brow wrinkled in concentration. “I don’t know. I didn’t see her get into the car. Just saw her drive out. And she went south, not back towards town.”

“Let me have the extra key to her room. I need to see if she’s packed up and left for good.”

Gracie eyed him suspiciously. “What did you do to her?”

Slate’s agitation was increasing by the second. “Gracie, we don’t have time for that now. Just get me the key.”

“You know I can’t do that, Slate. But I’ll take the key myself and go check her room for you.” She put actions to her words and took a ring of keys from a locked desk drawer.

They hurried over to room twelve, and Gracie knocked twice, calling Vanessa’s name before she put the key into the lock. “For heaven’s sake, Gracie! You know she isn’t there.”

“Well, it’s only right to make sure before I go barging in.”

She opened the door and Slate practically pushed her aside in order to get into the room himself. But when he did and saw that Vanessa’s suitcases were still in the room, he was so relieved that he just sank onto the foot of the bed, dropping his head in his hands. “Thank goodness,” was all he said, and Gracie spoke gruffly to him.

“Slate, what did you do to that girl that makes you so afraid she’d skip out of here without finding her brother?”

He looked up at her from his position on the bed, breathed a heavy sigh, and finally stood up and started for the door. “I didn’t do anything to hurt her, Gracie.” But he knew when he spoke the words that they weren’t true. He’d caused Vanessa Bayer to question her own heart and even her own commitment to her God, and he’d deliberately tempted her to compromise both her heart and her faith. He’d sunk to a new low, even for him.

By that time, he and Gracie had walked back to the motel office. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” Gracie asked.

“I know she was really upset last night, and I wanted to make sure she hadn’t left before I could tell her something,” he said. He could tell Gracie didn’t believe him, but at that point, he didn’t really care. “I’ll check in with you later,” was all he added and headed for his car.

As he pulled out onto the highway, going north, he dialed Vanessa’s phone. The voice mail picked up. “Vanessa, it’s Slate. I know I have to apologize. And I know you probably won’t trust anything I say right now, but I really am sorry that I pushed you so far last night. I also know you’re probably beating yourself up for what happened. That’s your nature. But it wasn’t your fault. Look, I give you my word that I won’t even lay a hand on you – anywhere – if you’ll just meet me at the Koffee Korner and let me talk to you for a few minutes. Please, Vanessa.” As he ended the call, he was surprised to realize how desperate his voice sounded. He’d never wanted to make anything right so badly.

He drove for another hour, hoping he might spot her car stopped at a roadside restaurant or tourist haunt. He finally pulled off the road at a scenic lay-by, and called her number again. Voice mail was the only response, but he left another short plea for Vanessa to return his call and just leaned his head back onto the headrest, closing his eyes and taking several slow, deep breaths. He’d never hated himself so much in his life. He’d done some things in his past that he’d felt bad about afterwards, but nothing like this – and what made it all worse was that he’d been at his basest behavior with the one person who was the most positive thing to come into his life in his entire adulthood.

As his thoughts wondered back over the previous night’s disaster, he started focusing on Snake’s information. If that old geezer was right, Gary Mitchell and at least a couple other guys were holed up out at the old Crowder place, and that had to mean they were up to something they wanted to keep quiet. Maybe while he was waiting for Vanessa to return his call, he’d just head out that way and take a look around. He sat there another twenty minutes going over in his mind the lay of the land on either side of Crowder’s. He knew the place to the west was fenced in, but the fence was so old he could probably work his way through it in places. But the more he thought about the possibilities, he decided his best plan was to take a boat part way up the inlet and beach it in the marshy area far enough away from Crowder’s place to make it hard to see. If he used oars, no one would be aware of his presence, and he’d have less area to cover on foot to get to his destination.

Stirred up now with the thought that at least he could channel his peaked adrenaline into useful activity, he headed back home, strapped on his Beretta, grabbed his binoculars and some bottled water, and boarded his dingiest-looking boat. He knew Sheriff Andrews had gone the extra mile for him where the gun was concerned. He’d never been accused of a felony, and his lock-up time had always been due to getting drunk and too rowdy during some stupid confrontation with another local. But one too many sentences, even in the local jail, could have been enough reason for the sheriff to turn him in as a person of questionable character where carrying a gun was concerned. However, Andrews knew Slate needed the gun to take care of an occasional snake or other wild animals when he captained the chartered cruises throughout the area, and he’d cut him some slack. Since Slate was in the mood to chastise himself about the previous night, he added the fact that he needed to show more appreciation for the sheriff’s benevolence.

Once he was on his way, his nerves began to settle down a little. Focusing on the job ahead of him made him feel at least better than a scumbag. There was very little activity on the water at that hour, and he was thankful for that. He managed to get to the inlet without being noticed by anyone else, and he was glad to see that the area he had hoped to be able to use to hide the boat was exactly as he remembered it.

Beaching the boat, he took time to loop his binoculars around his neck and take a long look through them in every direction. No movement anywhere as far as he could see, so he took a long drink of water and headed out. The marshy area gave him good cover for several hundred feet, and after that a few scraggly trees and bushy ground cover made his progress pretty well secure.

As he approached the Crowder place close enough to see the house and drive clearly, he spotted Mitchell’s beat up Ford truck, but the old carport that was leaning precariously against the house now was empty, and there were no other vehicles in sight. He took a minute to lay out the best line of approach to the house, but before he could move forward, his phone vibrated.

He was torn. He was primed to check out Snake’s information, but he knew the call could be from Vanessa, and he didn’t want to miss that. If he didn’t answer, she might never call back. Finally, he pulled his cell from his belt. Sure enough it was Vanessa. He punched the button but kept his voice low. “Vanessa. Thanks for calling me back. I need to move to a place where I can talk better, so hang on for just a sec, will you?”

“Fine,” was all she said, and he could hear the tension in her voice.

“Thanks. I’ll just be a minute.” He glanced back at the house, still too far away from it to be seen, and staying low, skirted back through the underbrush to his boat. Once there he sat in the boat and put the phone back to his ear.
“You still there?”

“What on earth are you doing? Did I catch you in bed with someone else whose soothing your rejected heart?” The scathing tone didn’t sound like the Vanessa he knew, but then he couldn’t judge her – that was for sure.

“Hey, I know I deserve that, but you’re wrong. I’m totally alone. I was out in an old deserted area where some abandoned houses sometimes get used by druggies and other not-so-nice members of society. I thought I might come across some clues that could help us find your brother. I just thought it would be best to get back to my boat before doing much talking.”

“Slate, are you taking risks that make it dangerous if someone even sees you?” At those words, Slate’s heart totally melted. In spite of everything he’d done to her, Vanessa still cared enough to be worried about his safety. He breathed a huge sigh of relief for the first time since she’d walked out the door the previous night. Before he could think beyond that point, though, Vanessa spoke again.

“You called me Vanessa.”

“What?”

“Last night – and again today – you called me by my real name.”

He chuckled. “That’s what you noticed? … Out of all the things I said, that’s the only thing you’re responding to?” She was silent on the other end of the line, so he continued. “Look, Miss Priss, I know I’ve been a scumbag, and I could never even begin to apologize enough to make up for it, but I really do need to talk to you – just talk – I promise. Will you come on back and meet me at the Koffee Korner?”

She sighed, but finally answered. “I’m on my way back into town now. I’ll meet you there in about an hour.”

Slate let out a sigh of his own. “Thanks. I try to get our regular booth – well – you know what I mean.”

“I’ll see you there,” was all she said and then ended the call.

An hour later, Slate was watching the door of the Koffee Korner like a hawk, and when he finally saw Vanessa enter, he jumped up and gave her a little wave. As she made her way back to the booth, he could see the signs on her face of tears and lack of sleep. She sat down opposite him, and he poured coffee into her waiting cup. “Where did you take off to at 5:30 this morning?” he asked as she sipped the coffee gratefully.

She looked at him with a question in her eyes momentarily and then grinned. “Boy, that Gracie doesn’t miss much at all, does she?”

Slated grinned in return. “Well, she did see you drive off, but she couldn’t tell me if you’d taken your bags or not. I was worried that I’d forced you to run away for good.”

“Slate –”

“No,” he interrupted, holding up his hand to stop her response. “Don’t say anything yet. I need to apologize. You told me from the first day we met that your heart was devoted to your God and the way of life laid out in the Bible. I’ve seen how devoted you are to your faith – and to be honest – it’s part of what makes you so special, Vanessa.”

“You did it again.”

“Huh?’

“You called me by my real name.”

He leaned back against the seat and looked right into her eyes. “Well, I guess that’s part of what I’m trying to say. I finally let my own guard down long enough to see you for who you really are, and you got to me.”

“Slate, it wasn’t all you.” His eyes sparked at her words, and she ducked her head a little to get away from that look. “It wasn’t all one-sided – as I’m sure your own experience was able to tell you.” Slate held his breath and waited. He knew he couldn’t keep what had developed between the two of them, but he at least wanted to hear her say that she cared, even a little. She finally looked back up and into his eyes.

“I do feel something for you, and I’m not trying to deny that. But what I have with the Lord is much too important to compromise it for a temporary earthly relationship. I admit that I almost lost sight of that last night, and –” She stopped with a shaky laugh. “And I’ll also admit that I never dreamed I’d come so close to actually doing it. … But … after a whole night of soul-searching, I know now that I can’t turn away from what I know the Lord wants from me and my life – no matter how tempting the alternative.” Her eyes begged him to understand, and somewhat to his own surprise, he did.

He smiled faintly. “I do understand … now. It’s true that I didn’t have a clue in the beginning, but it didn’t take me long to realize that you were different where your commitment to your faith was concerned. I guess I – ” He stopped and looked away a moment, trying to collect his thoughts, but finally continued. “I guess I wanted to experience that kind of love and commitment for myself – even though I knew I didn’t deserve it – ”

“Slate that isn’t true,” she interrupted.

“No, let me finished. I really don’t deserve it, Vanessa, because I’ve never been a man who was willing to give that kind of love and commitment – maybe I couldn’t give it – I don’t know. But I wanted to experience what I saw and felt was in you … and I wanted it to be for me. I guess, even though I knew it couldn’t be for me, I was, somehow, trying to borrow your love for myself for a while. Does that make any sense to you at all?”

Tears were pooled in Vanessa’s eyes, and she reached out her hand to touch Slates. “It makes sense, Slate.” She smiled at him. “It makes a world of sense. I don’t think it would have if I hadn’t come here and met you. If someone back in Missouri had just told me people could feel what you’re describing, I don’t know if I would have believed it. But I do now. And, in one way, I truly am sorry that there can’t be more between us.”

He nodded. “But last night … when I realized that I was responsible for pushing you into a corner that caused you to doubt your own commitment – to even consider the possibility of betraying what you had with your Lord … I detested myself. I’ve never sunk that low before, and I finally managed to face myself for what I had become in my own egotistical, self-satisfied life.”

“Slate – ”

He interrupted her with his hand to her lips briefly. “No … don’t try to soft-peddle this, Vanessa. I’m not saying I’m turning over a new leaf, and heaven knows I’m not about to get religious on you … but I do have to face myself … and live with myself. I faced the fact last night that I’ve been a beast where you’re concerned, and, suddenly, I knew that I cared too much about you … genuinely cared too much for you … to hurt you in that way.”

He continued to let their hands cling together as he added, “But I give you my word – and you know I always keep it – from this moment right now, I won’t try to make our relationship anything beyond a friendship for the purpose of finding your brother and getting him home to his family safely.”

“Slate,” she whispered, tears clogging her throat. She squeezed his hand more firmly.

But at that moment, the waitress walked up to the table, and their hands silently slid apart. The young girl looked at Slate, her pad and pen ready. “You said to give you about thirty minutes before coming for your order. Is this a good time?

“Sure,” Slate said, with a quiet sigh, but his signature sexy smile was back in place. “I’ll have a couple eggs, over-easy, with bacon, and my guess is the lady here would like your French toast,” he added with a questioning look at Vanessa. Her eyes lit up at how well he had guessed her thoughts.

She smiled at the waitress. “French toast sounds good,” she said. “And another carafe of coffee please.”

At almost the same moment, back in Missouri, Lincoln and Gail were sitting at the hospital restaurant ordering their own breakfast. Margie had undergone a C-Section during the night, and this morning she and little Angelina Rose were both resting well. “I just can’t tell you how much your being here has meant to Margie and me both, Link,” Gail said as the waitress walked away to get their food.

“I’m genuinely glad I could be here,” he said and meant it. His mind, though, was still on the phone call to Vanessa he’d made at 4:00 this morning to let her know that all was well with Margie and the baby. “He could tell she wasn’t her normal self, and he was determined to get on the road to Florida before much more time elapsed. “I do think I need to go ahead and take off for Florida a little later this morning, though.”

“Of course,” Gail said, and reached out her hand to pat his kindly. “You’re worried about Vanessa and I think it’s right for you to go. Margie’s going to be fine now, and so is Angelina. And if – when – you locate Ken, you’ll be able to give him the good news that he’s already a daddy. But shouldn’t you get some sleep first?”

Lincoln thought about her words. He knew the reasonable thing to do was to try to sleep a while before he got on the road. But his adrenaline was surging, and his thoughts were running wild. He wouldn’t sleep even if he lay down, so why waste that time.

“I’ll do better if I get on the road, and then if I start to get too sleepy to drive safely, I’ll stop for a few hours. I won’t take a chance driving if I’m too sleepy. It’s a risk for other people’s lives as much as mine, and, hopefully, I’m not that irresponsible.”

“Well, you do what you feel you need to do, Link. Margie and I are with you all the way, and we’ll be praying for a safe trip.”

They finished their meal and then went back to Margie’s room to check on her and her daughter once more. Lincoln hugged his soon-to-be sister-in-law and promised to call her as soon as he was connected with Vanessa. He left the hospital shortly after, made a beeline for his house to pick up his still-packed suitcase, and headed his car toward Florida.

(To be continued …)

~~~