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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 7

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

At dinner, the boys get in an argument, because Corin told on Aiden. When Deirdre asks him questions about the fight, he tells her the other boy slapped him, he didn’t throw the first punch. After they eat, the boys clean up, and she is able to relax a little.

Once they were done, they settled in the living room to watch some television show they were interested in. Their noise faded to a muffled rumble and Deirdre went back to her writing. It wasn’t going well and she couldn’t settle into it. Reading over what she’d already written, it didn’t seem too bad, but she knew she could do better. Unfortunately, she wasn’t sure how.

It was late when Fred got home. Deirdre was already in bed, but not sleeping.

“I’m sorry,” he said when he got into bed. “I shouldn’t have kept it from you.”

“No, you shouldn’t. Don’t ever do it again.”

“I won’t. I promise. Got a goodnight kiss for me?”

She rolled over. The kiss turned into more. Afterward, they cuddled up and fell asleep.

Fred had to catch a mid-morning flight, and was being picked up by a co-worker. Deirdre took the boys to school, in a dense fog. She needed gas in her Jeep, so she stopped at the corner store for a quick fill-up. The air felt thick, mucky and full of rain. The fog turned to a misty precipitation, one that she had no name for. As she pumped the gas, she saw something by the railroad track, on the opposite side of the street. Black wings flapped and she realized it was vultures. They had to have found something fairly large, there were a lot of them. Shuddering, she ignored them as best she could, and finished up.

“Mom, you see the vultures?” Corin asked, pointing.

“Yes.” She gagged a little.

“Can we go look?”

“Why do you want to look? That’s gross,” Aiden said.

“Because, I just do. What do they call a bunch of vultures?” he asked his mother.

“No idea. You have a phone, look it up.”

He did so. “A Kettle, Committee or Wake. It’s a Wake when they’re feeding. Can we please?”

Since it was the road she’d intended to take anyway, she decided to do so. As they got close to the birds, Corin yelled.

“Slow down! Mom! Stop, it’s a person!”

“What?” She slammed on the brakes.

“I swear. I saw a tennis shoe and something bright pink. Like running pants. Mom, it’s a person!”

“Oh, dear God. Do you suppose? They can’t be alive?” She gulped hard, pulling out her phone.

“They sometimes start to feed before something is dead,” Burl remarked in a dark tone.

“Hello, Police?” Deirdre said, averting her eyes. “I think there’s a dead body on the side of the railroad track. It’s the intersection of Thirtieth and Hibiscus. Yes. I can stay.”

Gagging again, she hung up and pulled onto the other side of the road to park. Her next call was to the school, excusing her boys for the day. She didn’t give any reason, merely said it was personal family business. Finally, she tried to call Fred, but he didn’t pick up. He probably wasn’t able to, given the fact he was at the airport by now, and probably just going through security.

Don’t they make you turn off phones these days?

A police car pulled up, cutting off the road behind her. Another cordoned off the crossroad a few blocks up. Deirdre was caught between. Had she been a criminal, this would have upset her. As it was, she had to wonder how she would get out when they let her go. That was a later worry. While she’d been distracted, she saw that her boys had gathered outside the Jeep, watching the police officers in action.

Two blond officers were stringing yellow crime tape. A dark haired woman crouched by the body. Deirdre could see that clearly now. The birds had been driven off, but they kept circling, ever hopeful. Corin snapped a few pictures until Aiden took his phone.

“This is personal,” he said softly. “You can’t share that girl’s pain.”

It was clearly a young woman. She wasn’t very tall, but was voluptuous of build, dressed in a skimpy pair of shorts and a cropped tank top, wearing running shoes. Her clothing was torn and bloody. Her long, blonde hair lay in tangles around her head. Fortunately, the vultures must just have found her, because she wasn’t too badly damaged by the carrion birds. It still turned Deirdre’s stomach and she was glad to be upwind.

A tall, dark haired woman got out of a plain, gray car. Carrying a pad and pen, she walked over to Deirdre’s car. Smiling, hand out, she introduced herself.

“I’m Detective Weinstein. You’re the lady who called this in?”

“Deirdre Partridge. My sons, Aiden, Burl and Corin. Corin spotted the girl’s clothing, so we stopped.”

Weinstein nodded, scribbling notes. “Do you know the woman?”

“I can’t really see her,” Deirdre said. “And unless you want your crime scene puked on, I’ll stay here. If you have a picture?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 6

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

After finding out that Aiden had been fighting in school, Deirdre explains to Corin why she hates it so much. Her father was abusive, and she grew up watching him hit her mother and brothers. She also tells him she’s decided to write a book. He tells her she should write about her life in an abusive home.

“The system fails a lot. You should write about that.” He nodded sharply, emphasizing his words.

“I just might. Meanwhile, will you help me get a salad together? I need to start the bread and pasta.”

“Sure.” Corin hopped up, giving her a hand. “It’s gonna be okay, Mom. Dad’s got another setup?”

“In Minnesota. Leaves tomorrow. We thought it was next week.”

“Oh, well.” He shrugged.

“I’ll be glad when you three can get yourselves up and out the door without me.”

“We could, we’re just lazy.”

“Really?” Raising a sarcastic eyebrow, she led him to the kitchen.

“Yeah, we’d be late, and probably kill each other, but we could.”

“Good to know.”

They got dinner finished and called the other two to the table. The older two boys wouldn’t talk to each other. Deirdre got the impression they’d gotten into a text war. They did that, when confined to their rooms. Fortunately, the silence wasn’t too uncomfortable. She and Corin had an interesting conversation, at least to them, about the invasion of the water hyacinth. He was already interested in ecology and marine biology, but wasn’t sure which to focus his attention on. This invasive plant had decidedly caught his interest.

“I have to do a science experiment,” he told his mother. “I want to do it on the water hyacinth. I talked to Mr. Moody about it. He said he has the equipment and can get other stuff that I need. I can set it up there, and monitor it daily after school.”

“What about golf?” Aiden snarled.

“This won’t be until after golf season. I won’t miss.”

“Too bad,” his eldest brother muttered.

“What was that?” Deirdre cupped her ear. “Did I hear you say something nasty about your little brother?”

“He’s the one who told!” Aiden jabbed a finger at Corin. “Worm! Twat! Traitor!”

“Enough!” Deirdre bellowed. “I won’t have this kind of anger in my home. You knew better than to fight. You knew better than to cover it up. You can be sure that your father and I are going to talk more about this. I’m furious! I won’t have you hitting people for no reason.”

“He came at me, Mom,” Aiden said. “And he said all kinds of things. Bad things. I was defending myself.”

“What did he say?”

“He called me a faggot. And said I f**ked boys. I’m not gay!” he yelled. “I don’t do any of that.”

“He said that to get a rise out of you. Did you throw the first punch?”

“He slapped me, Mom. Slapped me! Who the hell does that? So I slugged him in the nuts.”

Deirdre could understand his anger and retaliation, but she’d taken a stand on no fighting. She wouldn’t back down. But being slapped was horribly insulting. Her father used to slap her mother and call her a whore and a slut. She hadn’t know the words, as a child, but knew they were bad.

“Those are words,” she said calmly. “Words can’t hurt you. The slap…I concede the slap. That’s terrible. But son—a nut punch? Risky. Better to hit the solar plexus and hit him on the back of the head when he’s going down. Maybe slam his face into your knee.” She picked up dishes, carrying them to the sink.

“What—did you just…. What?”

“I didn’t stutter. I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend yourself. Sometimes, you have to. But don’t you dare initiate it, or I’ll beat you down myself.”

Aiden snorted. Deirdre grabbed her son, nearly a foot taller than she, and pulled his hand behind his back, pushing his upper body down.

“Tell me you don’t think I can, and I’ll prove it to you.”

“Mom! Shit!” He patted her calf, surrendering.

Deirdre let him up. “I know how to protect myself. I had to learn. But you don’t use your skills in anger. In self-defense, or when protecting someone else, violence is understandable. Never, ever use your skills to bully someone else.”

“No, ma’am,” he responded automatically. “Never.”

“Good. Then I taught you something.”

Aiden hugged her. “You taught me a lot, Mom. Why don’t you go watch Netflix. We’ll clean up.”

“Corin helped prepare.”

“Then Burl and I will.”

His middle brother had already started putting the leftovers away. Working as a team, they took care of things while she went to her computer. Corin pitched in and helped his brothers. She could hear them talking and laughing over the sound of running water and clattering dishes.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 5

sidetracked resizedOnce they get home, Deirdre finds out why Burl and Aiden are mad at each other. Corin spills the beans. It involves two women and a car. She also finds out that Aiden had gotten in trouble for fighting at school, and Fred had purposely kept it from her. Angry, she sends them to their rooms. She’s not happy when Fred calls a little while later, and gives him hell. When he tells her that he has to leave the following day, instead of next week, she’s extremely irritated.

“How long will you be gone?”

“About a week?”

“You don’t know, or you’re scared to tell me?”

“Kinda scared, Dee. You sound pissed.”

“Aiden got in a fight, and you didn’t tell me?”

He sighed. “Who ratted?”

“Corin. You can’t keep things like that from me. That’s serious!”

“It’s a guy thing.”

“Oh, bullshit! Don’t give me that line. You and the boys claim that every time something comes up—”

“I need to go, honey.”

“Don’t you honey me, Fredrick! You know how I feel about fighting!”

“I really do….”

“You hang up on me, it will be worse when you get home.”

He sighed again. “Yes, ma’am,” he said in a patient tone.

“Don’t pull that shit, either.”

“I’m not saying anything.”

“How can you trot out the words that are most likely to put me in orbit? I’m furious, and you aren’t taking me seriously.”

“Kinda hard to take you seriously when you get that tone, Dee.”

“This tone?” she screeched. “You mean the tone where I scream at you, and your boys, for being completely brainless, Neanderthals?”

“That’s the one, my luscious harpy.”

“F**k off, Freddy.” She hung up. He hated being called Freddy, his nickname since childhood.

Forgetting her book, she put her head down on her arms, sobbing. A warm hand touched her shoulder and she looked up to see Corin. He squeezed her arm, smiling.

“It’s okay, Mom. We’re all a bunch of brainless zombies.”

She chuckled a little, wiping her eyes. “Are you too old to hug your mournful mom?”

He stepped closer and she buried her face in his belly, hugging tightly. He hugged her, less tightly, but he was a comfort.

“I’m sorry I said anything.”

“I’m glad you did,” she sniffled, looking up at him. “You know how I feel about fighting.”

He nodded. “I remember. But I don’t really know why.” He sat on the floor at her feet.

“When I was a girl, my father used to hit my mom.”

“Grandpa?” His eyes got wide with disbelief.

“Oh, no. The man you know as Grandpa is my stepfather. My biological father was a mean man, a drunk and a drug addict. He used to beat me and my brothers, too. Never had a good word to say, always reacted with violence. It made my brothers so mean, they would pick fights with other kids, and bully them. They were big, too. Especially Uncle Doc. He almost killed another boy, because they were fighting over something stupid. He was your age, and Aiden’s size. He broke the boy’s jaw, knocked out some teeth, and damaged his eye. The boy lost his sight.”

“Oh, f**k!”

Deirdre frowned and he apologized.

“So, what happened to your dad?”

“He left. When I was sixteen, he got into a fight with Uncle Doc. He was nearly twenty at the time, and at his full size. My dad wasn’t much taller than you, and flabby. I thought he was going to kill Daddy with his fists.” She covered her face, shuddering. “It was horrible. Our father grabbed his keys and left. He never came back.”

“I didn’t know, Mom. I don’t remember you ever telling me that before.”

“I probably didn’t. It’s not a happy memory.”

“I don’t suppose it is.” He glanced at the computer. “What are you writing?”

“I decided to write a book.”

“No kidding? What about?” He squatted next to the desk, reading. “This isn’t half bad, Mom.”

“Didn’t think your mother could write, huh?”

“Didn’t figure you for the literary type. What kind of book is it?”

“I thought I’d write about something important, dealing with social issues.”

“You should write about your life, your family. I know lots of kids whose parents are divorced, or never married. I know a couple from abusive homes, too.”

“That’s terrible. You’d think the state could do something.”

“The system fails a lot. You should write about that.” He nodded sharply, emphasizing his words.

“I just might. Meanwhile, will you help me get a salad together? I need to start the bread and pasta.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 4

sidetracked resizedAfter Fred leaves for work, Deirdre settles down to try to write. It doesn’t go awfully well. Waiting in parent pickup after school, she tries again. Once the boys arrives, she senses tension between them.

Deirdre glanced at him in the mirror while she was stopped at the light. “What happened?”

Burl glared at his brother, then turned away to stare out the window.

“Molly Finch,” Corin said, for once, not teasing. “You can tell, or I will,” he said to Burl. “Cause Mom needs to know.”

“Needs to know what? He’s a whiny baby?” Aiden said.

“No. That you’re a supreme dick,” Burl shot back, throwing a punch at his brother from the back seat.

“Enough!” Deirdre yelled. “Shut up! We’ll discuss this when we get home. In the meantime, could you refrain from fratricide until we’re out of the public eye. It’s awfully hard to cover that shit up when you’re driving down the road.”

It seemed to take forever to get home. They hit every red light. The ominous silence resonated in the Jeep, threatening to implode. They pulled up in the garage and Aiden hopped out of the Jeep, heading outside.

“Hold up, boy!” Deirdre called after him. “You and your brother have some explaining to do.”

Rather than argue, he followed them in the house.

“Sit. Talk,” their mother commanded. “Starting with Corin, speak.”

“Aid was nasty as shit to Burl, today at lunch. Molly Finch, she’s the younger sister of Lance’s girlfriend, Allie,” Corin explained. “She’s Burl’s age. She invited him to go with her to lunch, cause Lance said she could invite a friend. But Aiden was going, and didn’t want Burl. He wanted to take some skank.”

“She’s not a skank!” Aiden yelled.

“Some skank,” Corin continued, holding up his hand to shut his brother up. “And Lance hadn’t even said he could. So he got mad and told Burl, no. And he made Molly go without Burl, and took some girl he wants to bang.”

Deirdre blinked, taking a deep breath. There were a lot of things wrong with that, not the least of which was Corin’s language. It also took a second or two to work through his syntax, which was in fifteen-speak.

“You don’t use that word,” she corrected. “Bang is crude. Have sex with….”

“Sounds creepy and adult….” Burl began.

“And more accurate,” she interrupted her middle son. “Let me get this straight. Aiden controlled this decision? Where was Lance, wasn’t it his car?”

“Yeah, but he won’t stand up to Aiden. No one does, cause he can whoop everyone one handed,” Corin sounded awed by his brother’s kick-ass skill.

“Is that true? Are you fighting people, now?”

“No one has challenged him in ages,” Burl said. “Not since what’s his f**k….”

Aiden silenced his brother with a loud, sharp hiss.

“What whose f**k?” Deirdre asked, not unmindful of her own poor syntax.

“Torrance Crawford,” Corin supplied. “He made the mistake of getting up in Aiden’s face last year. Aid flattened him.”

“Why don’t I know this? Doesn’t the school call?”

“They did. Dad took the call,” Corin said.

Aiden punched his brother. “Thanks for that. We invoked the Bro Code on that one, Cor.”

“Burl brought it up.”

“Shut up!” Deirdre yelled. “Enough. Rooms. All of you. Any plans you had, canceled.”

“What did I do?” Burl squeaked.

“I don’t care. I’m furious with all of you. Get out of my sight. Rooms. Now.” Holding her head, she closed her eyes. Think what fun Fred will miss while he’s gone. I wish I could go instead.

With her mind on other matters, she threw together some spaghetti for dinner and got out a loaf of frozen garlic bread. Once it was set on a tray, she went back to her computer. Suddenly, a sentence popped in her mind. She couldn’t wait to write it down. Repeating it over and over, she memorized it so that it would be in her mind when she got her program open.

Busily typing away, she was annoyed when the house phone rang. Glancing at it, she saw it was Fred calling from work. He’d had lunch already, what could he want?

“Yes?”

“Hey, babe.” He sounded tired, not common for him. “Bad news on that setup. I have to go early tomorrow.”

“What? Why?”

“No idea. I think we were given the wrong date. That is, apparently, opening.”

“How long will you be gone?”

“About a week?”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 3

sidetracked resizedDeirdre’s husband gets home from dropping the boys, and gives her bad news. His job is sending him out of town for a couple of weeks. Not happy, but resigned to it, she accepts it.

Fred laughed, giving her a kiss. “I love you, Mrs. Partridge.”

“I love you, Mr. Partridge. Call me when you take lunch.”

“Will do.”

They kissed again, not wanting to let go.

“I’ll miss you,” he whispered. “Shit,” he hissed.

Deirdre laughed at him, she knew what was wrong. “Didn’t we take care of that problem?”

“Apparently not. Dammit, behave!” he addressed his zipper and what was behind it. “Not gonna happen, not with my lovely wife in my arms. Gotta go. Bye!” he kissed her nose and darted out the door.

Once she was alone, Deirdre went back to her computer. She did a few tasks, checked her Facebook page, shared some posts and finally put on some music. With a quick click, she opened a new document and sat there, starting at the blank page. Absolutely nothing came to mind. She tried a few sentences, but after one trite, hokey quote after another, she gave up.

A glass of wine, that was what she needed. Didn’t Hemingway say to write drunk and edit sober? She wouldn’t get drunk. She had to pick up the boys, but maybe one drink would limber her up. When she actually typed, It was a dark and stormy night, she knew she had to stop.

Flipping through the how-to-write books didn’t help. They didn’t give any suggestions on how not to sound like a complete idiot. She would have to figure that out on her own. It was almost time to go get her boys, so she made a pit stop, grabbed her purse and headed to the garage. Her bright red Jeep sat there, looking happy and perky—odd words to describe a Jeep, but it was one of the new ones, which were a long step away from the original. She still wasn’t sure she liked it, preferring her old Bronco, but Fred decided she needed an upgrade from the old standard shift vehicle.

Aiden was driving, Burl had his learner’s permit, and they couldn’t handle standard. Aiden had tried, and nearly stripped the gears. More to the point, she couldn’t handle teaching them how to shift. Since Fred had protested the very idea of teaching their sons to drive, the job fell to her. All those fun jobs fell to her, like talking to them about puberty. By the time she got to Corin, she knew better what to say, but the conversation with Aiden had scarred them both for life.

The drive to school wasn’t too bad. She arrived early enough to get a good spot, right at the curb, and far enough up the line that getting out wouldn’t be too difficult. She sent a text to the boys, telling them where to look for her, and sat back with some Nirvana on her satellite radio. She did appreciate that feature of the car, because she listened to music all the time. A teen of the 90s, she loved bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Metallica.

She’d brought a notebook with her, and scribbled some ideas in it, still at odds with herself. Every helpful book she’d read, told her to outline. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember how. Not only that, she found herself putting in too many details. Outlines were supposed to be hints and suggestions—subject headings to be filled in later. She remembered that much from school. She was spending so much time on the outline, she couldn’t figure out how to write the book itself. By the time the boys hopped in the car, she’d given up and was writing her grocery list.

“How was school?” she asked, when they were settled.

“How is it usually?” Aiden asked, checking the mirrors as if he were the one driving.

True to her word, Deirdre made a hole and cut ahead of a Lexus. That earned her a honk and a finger. She waved her own finger out the window.

“Shit, Mom!” Corin yelped. “You can’t flip off people in the car line!”

“Wanna bet?”

The Lexus rushed up behind her, slamming on his brakes just in time.

“I swear, that asshole is doing it on purpose.” She glared at her mirror.

“If he hits you, it’s his fault,” Burl said. “We learned that in driver’s ed.”

“I’m aware. But your father would have a piglet.”

“He’d have a whole litter,” Corin corrected. “Did you know one collective name for pigs is a drove?”

“Did you know that I don’t care?” Aiden tossed over his shoulder. “I swear, Cor, you know the weirdest shit, that no one else gives a f**k about.”

“At least I know more than you do. Mom, do you know what they call a bunch of crows?”

“Who cares?” Aiden yelled.

“It’s called a Murder,” Deirdre replied. “Aiden, you yell in my car again, and you won’t drive for a month. Also, a shrewdness of apes, a bellowing of bullfinches and a kaleidoscope of butterflies. Collective names are fascinating.”

“Correction, only you, and Mom, care,” Aiden snarled.

“I care,” Burl added, “but you never include me, because I’m invisible.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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Sidetracked by Dellani Oakes Part 2

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Deirdre Partridge is trying to get her husband and three teenage sons out the door, so Fred can take them to high school. They kiss one another goodbye, and their youngest son feels the need to make a comment.

“Get a room, you two,” Corin yelled, laughing hysterically at his supposed joke. Both brothers socked him. “Ouch! Baby Brother abuse!”

“Shut it, Cor,” they said in unison.

Closing the door, Deirdre Partridge leaned against it. Finally, all three boys in high school. Aiden was a senior, Burl a junior and Corin a freshman. Her boys were evenly spaced, almost exactly two years apart, but Aiden had a late September birthday, which held him back a year. No end of bother for him, especially since he and his brothers were avid golfers, and the younger two were also on the team.

“Not even seven o’clock,” Deirdre sighed. “Just once, I’d like them to get out of the house without me.”

She poured another cup of coffee and turned on her computer. The elderly tower warmed to life. It might be old, and a little surly, but she loved it. It had long been a friend and companion to her, keeping the boys entertained, helping with research papers, or providing her with hours of Netflix viewing. She could do that on the TV as well, but no one wanted to watch what she did, and they didn’t respect her right to watch what she wanted. There was always a reason to interrupt, regardless of how much she was enjoying a film.

Keys rattled in the front door and Fred came back in, grumbling. “Let me tell you, those bastards have no respect!”

“The students?” She knew the parking lot was often very chaotic.

“The parents! It took me five minutes to pull away from the curb. I realize they’re in a hurry, but so am I. I sat there like an idiot with my blinker going. Not a soul would let me in. And those teachers have no clue how to direct traffic. Someone in a yellow SUV nearly ran Coach Bullock down. Never saw that asshole move so fast!” He chuckled as he poured himself some coffee. “So, what’s on your docket today?”

“I think I’m going to write a book,” she said, not looking at him.

“That’s fantastic! You need a project to occupy you.”

“Now that they’re all in high school, self-sufficient, I want to do something for me,” she continued. “So, I’m going to write literature. Really serious stuff, dealing with social issues. I want to write the next To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“My wife writing the Great American Novel, huh?” he sounded skeptical.

“What? I know that tone. You don’t think I can.”

“No, it’s not that. Honey, you’ve never written a book, let alone a serious one, in your life.”

“I’ll learn. I’ve been reading books and watching videos. I love to write, I simply never put my mind to it. I just have to try. Harper Lee had very little experience when she wrote that book.”

“I know. I know…. Well, if that’s what you want to do, I support you.” He kissed her forehead. “I don’t have to be at work for three hours.” He raised his eyebrows with an inviting tilt of his head. “House to ourselves. We can make as much noise as we want!”

“Talked me into it.”

“Race you!”

“Let me just turn—”

“Leave it on.” Grabbing her hand, he tugged her to the bedroom.

Later, as they lay side by side, he curled his fingers in her hair. “How is it still so good, even though we’re old folks.”

“We’re not old folks. Well, you are,” she teased. He was two years older than she. “We’ve had a lot of practice.”

“You should write a steamy romance novel. You could use what we just did. Make everyone jealous.”

Deirdre laughed. “I told you, I want to write something serious.”

“A good sex life is very serious.” He gave her a hand up and they went for a shower.

After they bathed, he got dressed for work. He was an assistant manager at a large department store chain. “Before I forget, they’re sending me on another setup next week. I got the call when I was at the school.”

“Really? Another one? Where?”

Fred closed his eyes, thinking. “Somewhere in Minnesota.”

“Thank God it’s mid-August. You’d freeze up there in the winter. Got your lunch?”

“Yeah. You’ll be okay, with the drop off, when I’m gone?”

“I’m up anyway. Doesn’t make any difference. I hate it, but I’m not as polite as you. I don’t wait to be let in, I make a hole.”

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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The Choice is Made! Introducing Sidetracked ~ A Mystery by Dellani Oakes Part 1

I got a bit more feedback this time. Thank you all who helped me out. Two books, Sidetracked and Alton & Velda got an equal number of votes, so I discussed it with my son, and decided to post Sidetracked this time. For those of you who wanted Alton & Velda, I will post it once this novel is done.

Sidetracked began as a challenge from author friend, Karen Vaughan. She encouraged me to try a cozy mystery. I didn’t expect it to be particularly easy, because cozy mysteries aren’t supposed to contain sex or bad language. (Well, there went that idea.) She suggested, as an alternative, I should simply write a mystery. I thought I could probably handle that, and I’ve been wanting to try one, so I set out on the first of November with a happy heart. By page 11, it turned a bit downbeat. By page 20, it was dark, then it got rather grim. All that aside, it’s a great book, and I’m very proud of it. ~ Dellani

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Cover image from Free Stock Photos: Railroad Track On A Fall Day by Curtis Dean Wilson

Prologue

Early morning dew speckled the grass and hung heavy in the air. Ready for her run, she stretched all the stubborn muscles that had tightened up overnight. Even though it was early, the sun not even up, there was a muggy heat to the air. Shoes tied just right, light jacket over her crop top and shorts, she headed to the door, keys and cellphone in her pocket. Earbuds plugged into the phone, she was ready to jog. AWOL Nation’s Sail began as she reached the street. Starting at Silver Palm Drive, she headed east toward US-1, about two miles away. She ran twice a day, early mornings and evenings. It helped her focus, ridding her mind of distractions. She was close to her goal now, closer than she’d ever been.

Vulfpeck’s 1612 started as she reached the first cross street. Liking the jazzy tempo, she punched the air, matching her steps to the song’s beat. She didn’t notice the dark van following her, couldn’t hear the noise of the motor over the music. When the van pulled up onto the grassy verge between the bike path and the street, she saw it. Curious, her steps slowed, and that was her undoing. Dark clothed figures jumped out. One grabbed her, another covered her mouth with duct tape. Together, they lifted her struggling body. She was no match for the men, they simply tossed her into the back of the van, slammed the door and took off. More duct tape secured her hands and feet.

No one saw her. No one would notice she was gone. As she bumped along in the van, she knew they’d been sent to silence her. Sobbing with frustration, she sensed that these would be her last moments. Determined to fight them for every victory, she prepared for the ordeal she knew was coming. Hers would not be a quiet, nor an easy, death. But she would confront her end with courage. They wouldn’t make her beg.

The van pulled up behind a low, cinder block house. It looked virtually colorless in the gray light of dawn, but she knew where she was. She didn’t know what was worse, the fact they intended to kill her, or that they would kill her here. The ignominy of her situation, knowing her last breaths would be taken in the one place she despised the most, filled her with regret.

The men carried her inside. The stench met her nose, worse than ever, if such a thing were possible. Throwing her on the kitchen floor, they did unspeakable things, with the television blaring in the front room. When they’d had enough of pleasuring themselves at her expense, the torture began. One of them got off on it so much, he violated her again, choking her. Her last sight was his face blurring above her, cumming as he choked the life from her.

~*~

“Mom! Where are my Vans?”

“Where did you leave them, Aiden?”

“If I could tell you that, I’d know. Oh, shit…. Never mind. Found ’em.”

“Honey, where are my car keys?”

“Check yesterday’s pants.”

“Got ’em!” her husband called. “Boys, move it along!”

“Can I drive, Dad?” Burl asked.

“No, Dad. Please, for the love of God, do not let him,” Corin, the youngest, entreated. “I want to get to school alive.”

“I’m a very good driver!” his older brother fussed.

“Yeah. You and Rain Man. Great in the driveway.”

“Lunches?” Deirdre said over the mayhem.

“Going to McDonald’s,” Aiden said. “Riding with Lance and his girlfriend.”

“Can I go?” Corin asked as they headed out the door.

“Oh, sure. We want the lame ass freshman along.”

“He won’t even let me go,” Burl whined. “Why would he let you?”

“I’m cuter than you.”

“Goodbye!” Deirdre called, blowing kisses.

“Bye, Mom!” the boys chorused.

Her husband, Fred, stopped at the door and gave her a kiss. “Bye, darling. See you in a few.”

“Love you.”

“Love you,” he replied, giving her another kiss.

© 2018 Dellani Oakes

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