James P. Dandy and Dodee Swisher are reunited again on a hiking and whitewater rafting Elderhostel® in North Carolina. Jim's not too crazy about either the hiking in the woods or the whitewater rafting, but Dodee is really up for it, and he is really up for Dodee in their continuing love affair.Chapter One
Plus there's an added bonus.
Considering Dodee's proclivity for turning up bodies and getting in into hassles with the coppers, he welcomes the idea as a respite from past troubles.
After all, how many killers lurk about in the woods for passersby to bump off? And who ever heard of a drive-by shooting from a rubber raft?
But think again, Jim Dandy, and tighten your personal floatation device, for you're in for a wild ride.
It killed Jim Dandy to pass by the Dairy Queen.End of Chapter
Well, kill might not be the word he wanted to use considering the lady in the seat beside him, and the surprising number of people who had died--croaked, expired on the spot, taken the big dirt nap--since he had known her.
Maybe he should get a new girlfriend.
He glanced over at Dodee Swisher, her cornflower eyes closed, head of wheaten curls propped up against the head rest, trim body from teaching aerobics slumped in the passenger seat.
Yeah, buddy, like he could ever replace her.
He was long past the L word.
He shifted in his seat, comfortable in an old pair of jeans that had been washed and faded enough for the threads to relax around the contours of his body, and resettled into the driver's seat of the Avalon.
It was a new car for him, bought nearly-new at CarMax to replace the Lincoln that had almost become their coffin the last time they had gotten together. When they had been poking about in police affairs on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Well, that ain't happening again.
This time he was ordering Dodee to stay out of it.
Oh yeah, like that would make an impact.
He might as well lean out the window and lip-lock a passing eighteen wheeler.
Besides, this time they would be hiking through the woods and rafting down the rivers. How many killers lurked about for passersby in the woods? And how often did you hear of a drive-by shooting from a rubber raft?
He glanced over at Dodee again.
Her chest rose and fell in the even cadence of sleep.
But for that he'd have pulled off into the Dairy Queen.
When had he had last eaten a Blizzard?
He had stopped at a Dairy Queen that morning, a mega-gas station cum Truck Stop-Subway-Dairy Queen where route 207 ran into 95 north of Richmond, but it was still dark and the fast-food sections weren't open. All he could get was a cup of coffee and one day-old packaged Danish, which he ate while watching a two day-old TV news story about a car being blown up on Rock Creek Parkway, tying up the start of Washington's weekend traffic.
Well, actually it did more than tie up traffic as he had found out seven hours later, when he had finally rolled into the airport at Asheville and picked up Dodee.
"I almost didn't make it," she said as he put her luggage in the trunk.
He held the car door for her. "How come?"
"There was a bombing in Washington. You didn't hear about it?"
He shut the door, walked around, and got behind the wheel. "I heard about a car bomb on Friday."
"That's it." She pointed at him in that strange way of hers, with three fingers curled and the thumb and index finger pointed together. "At first they thought it might be a terrorist's bomb and they cancelled flights into Washington."
He shifted into drive and headed back out to Highway 26. "But that was on Friday. Today is Sunday. What's it got to do with you?"
"I told you, sweetheart, they were cancelling the flights into Washington. I had to change planes in Washington."
"To come from Kansas City to Asheville?"
She shrugged. "That's the way they work it nowadays."
"If I had known that, I'd have picked you up in Washington and we could have driven down together."
She shook her head. "Then I would have had to fly in yesterday and it would have been worse. Besides, I had too much stuff to do at the gallery to get away yesterday."
He turned onto Highway 26 and headed northwest, looking for Route 40 west. "How is the art gallery going?"
"Alison--my daughter Alison?"
"She's turning into the boss and I'm turning into the hired help. Not complaining. Leaves me time to work on my own paintings, and to come on trips with a certain dirty old gentleman I know."
"I'm not old."
She leaned across and kissed him on the cheek, then ran a hand through his hair. "You look tired, sweetheart. Want me to drive?"
And that's where he had made his mistake
If he hadn't insisted on being James P. Dandy, Mr. Macho Man, he could be the one snoozing in the passenger seat. On the other hand, maybe she would have fallen asleep at the wheel and they would have ended up in a ditch. On the other, other hand, at least he wouldn't have known it when they passed the Dairy Queen.
He rolled his shoulders and yawned.
So now he plowed down Highway 23, looking for someplace called Dillard, Georgia.
He glanced at the map lying between the seats and back at the road.
Where the hell was Dillard?
He reached for his reading glasses, then let it go
"Dodee, I could use some navigation help.
She popped up with a start.
"Sorry, sweetheart." She blinked a few times and ran her hands over her face. "I didn't mean to nod off. We had a late night hanging artwork for a show tomorrow--today. I guess I was sleepier than I thought." She picked up the map and the attached paper with typed directions. "Where are we?"
"That's what I want to know, lady. Somewhere along Highway 23. We're supposed to be coming into Dillard, but I ain't seen hide nor hair of it."
"We're looking for Route 246 by a Chevron Sta-–stop."
He glanced in his rearview mirror and jammed on his brakes, tires screeching against the pavement.
"We take a left here."
He waited for oncoming traffic to clear and made the turn.
She leaned over in front of him.
"What are you doing?"
"Checking your odometer. It's ten miles to the entrance."
"Thank God, I'm bushed."
He drove up a curvy, two lane road with a middle passing lane on the straightaways. The land fell away on the right, giving them a view of the wooded mountainside, and up ahead white water reflected in the afternoon sun as it plummeted off a rock ledge onto more rocks fifty feet below.
Was it an omen?
They were going whitewater rafting, but he damn sure hoped it wasn't over that.
A red car popped in and out of his rearview mirror as it followed one turn behind, coming out of a curve just as Jim rounded into a new one.
The road veered into the woods with the red car tagging along. Then in one long straight stretch, passing side roads and an occasional house, it closed the gap like a meteor falling from the sky, and he recognized it as a Jaguar. It fell back again as they headed into more winding curves.
He glanced at the map in her lap. "We're out here in the middle of nowhere."
"The town of Highlands is supposed to be a short way down the road from where we turn in." She leaned over and checked the odometer again. "There's supposed to be something up here called–-there it is. Lick Log Mill."
"What about it?"
"We're getting close."
"I've been getting closer since I left Southern Maryland."
He checked his rearview mirror to see the red Jaguar making another charge.
"Stop! Take a right."
He jammed on his brakes and slammed into a right hook around a wood-grained The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center sign as the red Jag zoomed by on his tail. He heard the screech of tires gripping the pavement and waited for the crunch of a crash.
If you'd like, you can [ Purchase Name Games] now. The price for the trade paperback is $12,95 plus postage. If you'd like an autographed copy from me, send a check for $12.95 plus $2.50 postage, to Sidewalk Books, Box 548, Prince Frederick, MD 20678.
By the way, the photo above was taken on the ELDERHOSTEL® on which Names Games is based. If you'd like to view all of the pictures taken on this Elderhostel, please click [right here]. Don't worry, there is a return.
My New Mystery Thrillers
I have some stand-alone new mystery/thrillers available, fast paced, heavy on humor with a sprinkling of romance, that takes place in and around Washington, D.C. One should be published in the next in September of this year 08, and the second in October 08. If you would like check them out on my Sidewalk Books web site, and find out why it's called Sidewalk Books, please click [Right Here]. You will also find a some of my spiritual poems that I output every Monday morning there, as well.
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