This is the 13th installment of the book I am currently writing. It is Sci-Fi/Adventure for young adult. It is not part of the Oz Chronicle series. The first draft is completed, and it is currently under review by my agent, so the final version of the book will most likely look a bit different than what you read here, but I thought you might like to see a work in progress. Click on the “Lost Days Book” category on the right to read from the beginning. Or you can click here.
Denise hounded me for information on the walk home. Did I think Joyner really liked me? What was I going to wear to school tomorrow? Did I think one of his friends would be interested in going out with her? Blah, blah, blah. It was annoying as hell, but it was much better than Owen’s reaction to the whole thing. He walked with us in monk-like silence. Normally he’s boring us with some inane video game news, but he was mad. He may be the only guy in the entire county that doesn’t like T.J. Joyner, and I suddenly couldn’t understand why.
We cut through the Burtons’ yard to get to my grandparents’ house. As soon as we rounded the hedges, I gasped at the sight of a police car parked on the street. Granddaddy was talking to a young, lean officer. I wanted to hide. I don’t know why because I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I immediately felt guilty just by the cop’s mere presence.
“Doug?” Owen said.
I turned to him. “You know him?”
“That’s my cousin.”
I looked at the officer and then back at Owen. The conversation we had in his basement played over in my head. “You told him, didn’t you?”
He gave me a look of terror. “I didn’t know it was a secret.”
I set my jaw and seriously thought about punching him. “You idiot,” I groaned.
“I told him I thought you were crazy. I told him that I didn’t think your uncle did it. C’mon… I didn’t know… he didn’t seem to be interested when I told him. I didn’t think it was a big deal.”
“What’s going on?” Denise asked.
“Owen’s an über douche, that’s what’s going on.”
“Hayley,” my grandfather yelled. He was using his calm voice. It was completely contrived and controlled. You could tell that there was a little ball of anger hiding in his tone. He was doing everything he could to hold it back. “Come here, honey.”
Honey? He never called me honey. I walked the green mile with Owen on my left and Denise on my right.
Granddaddy was clenching his jaw so hard I could see his jowls quiver. In a scary, even tone, he asked Owen and Denise to run on home because I was going to be tied up with a few things for the rest of the day. I dreaded to find out what those few things were. Owen and Denise said their goodbyes. When granddaddy and the officer weren’t looking, Denise gestured for me to call her.
Granddaddy spoke. “Do you have something to tell me, Hayley?”
I unveiled my doe-eyed look and said, “No.”
“Nothing about Crew you want to tell me?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know.”
He sighed. “Which is it, no or I don’t know?”
“Sir,” Owen’s cousin said. “May I?”
“Ms. Wilkes, my name is Officer Doogan. I’m Owen’s cousin.”
“I know,” I said.
“Good. Last night Owen confided in me that you had some concerns about your uncle’s activities recently. In particular, two nights ago. Is that correct?”
“What do you mean concerns?” I asked.
He remained patient. “Did you or did you not witness your uncle leaving the premises with a suspicious looking gentleman late in the evening?”
I looked at my granddaddy, but he was so disgusted with me he turned away. “I… It was my uncle and his friend J-Rob.”
The officer pulled out a small pad of paper and pen, and started writing. “And how do you know this J-Rob?”
“I met him yesterday… in granddaddy’s garage.”
The officer peered over at my granddaddy. “Mr. Stanton?”
“Don’t look at me,” my granddaddy said. “I didn’t know J-Rob was in town.”
“But you know him?”
“I do. He and my son were…” Granddaddy hesitated. I could see the wheels in his brain turning. He was looking for the best way to explain Uncle Crew and J-Rob’s relationship. “They were roommates in a mental health facility.”
The officer sounded out mental health as he wrote it down. “Why would these gentlemen need mental health care, sir?”
“They’re good boys, Officer.”
“I have no reason to doubt that, sir. But I would be negligent in my duties to serve and protect if I didn’t ask why your son and his friend needed such intense psychiatric care.”
Granddaddy rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, I’m not a doctor. All I can tell you is that they had some rough times. They were never a danger to others. Just themselves. The facility helped them cope. They both completed the treatment program. I can’t speak for J-Rob, but Crew is on his meds. Never misses a pill.”
“Meds?” The officer asked.
“For depression.” Granddaddy forced a laugh. “Hell, half the county’s on them these days.”
The officer nodded. “And is it unusual for your son to make late night trips like the one your granddaughter observed.”
I wasn’t so sure granddaddy was going to still claim me as his granddaughter after this.
“No,” granddaddy said. “It’s not unusual. He does it quite often.”
“But your granddaughter’s never observed it before.”
“She hasn’t been here long enough.” He scolded me with his eyes. “Crew has an… eccentric hobby.”
“Eccentric? What would that be, sir?”
Granddaddy’s shoulder dropped. His whole body seemed to shrink. “He’s a Bigfoot researcher.”
The officer stopped writing. He eased the tip of the pen off the paper and examined granddaddy’s face. “I’m sorry, sir, but could you repeat that?”
“Crew is a Bigfoot researcher.”
“He hunts Bigfoot?”
“No, he doesn’t hunt Bigfoot…” Granddaddy ran his callused hands through his gray hair and took a deep breath. “I know it sounds strange, but my son studies Bigfoot… only he doesn’t call it Bigfoot.”
“What does he call it?” The officer was fighting a chuckle.
Exasperated granddaddy said, “Don’t know. I’m not the one who researches it.” He took a second to collect himself. “You’re going to have to ask Crew if you really want to know.”
The officer raised an eyebrow as if surprised by the suggestion. “Is he here?”
“He is,” granddaddy said. “In his room.”
The officer looked at me. “Do you have anything to add, Ms. Wilkes?”
I thought about the question. “Just that I’m going to strangle your cousin for opening his big mouth.”
He smiled. “Don’t be too hard on him. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but he did the right thing.”
I thought about screaming my head off about what a disloyal boob Owen was, but I decided against it. It wouldn’t get me anywhere. In fact, as mad as I was, I was sure to lose control and turn it into an all-out hissy fit, a surefire way to wind up in handcuffs in the back of the police cruiser. I smiled much too broadly and walked away while granddaddy and the officer made their way to the backyard.