Two Steps Back

Opening scene of an unpublished upmarket novel**.


Dear Mr. Hurly,

I’m sorry I jumped bail and I intend to pay you back every bit of the money. I’ve lied about so many other things, you probably think I’m lying about this too and I can’t blame you, but you will see. I owe you so much more than money. And please, if you believe nothing else, know I would never hurt Chris.

Tell Jake I’m sorry. Tell him he doesn’t need someone like me as his brother. I hope me being gone will set him free.

Thank you for everything you tried to do for me, but nobody can stop an avalanche once it’s started. At least this way, maybe I’ll be the only person buried by the time this is over.


This would be his last email. He clicked send and stepped away.


He hated her—he hated himself more—but the moment she placed her hands on his sides and guided him to take off his clothes, he was able to dance, and that he only knew her name was Samantha didn’t even matter. He drifted into the almost surreal music of Martin Denny, setting the mood with the song, gliding with the piano, keeping syncopated time with the percussions, unaffected by the chauffeur, the motion of the car or anything but the music and the body moving beneath him. Martin Denny hadn’t been popular since long before he was born, but he had danced to this same CD so many times with Hannah, he knew what song came next. He shifted his technique just a bit as the song concluded and guided them into the next one seamlessly.

During the song Caravan, when he was sure he had burned every bit of energy she possessed, the dance was over. He pulled up his pants, scooted back to the far corner where he had begun and kept his eyes straight ahead, relieved he had been able to perform since she mentioned her driver carried a weapon, but then, if they killed him, it would make things easier on a lot of people.

Their bodies had steamed the windows, leaving water trickling down the glass in thin lines. He watched the droplets sparkle against the darkness, as the headlights from the random oncoming cars caught them and turned them into diamonds. The tropical mood, both from the music and the humidity, made him suddenly very tired. Until she picked him up, he had only managed to get one decent ride as far as Indianapolis; the few others had been cold, windy stints in the backs of pickup trucks. He definitely preferred her limo.

His vision started growing dim and he forced his eyelids back open.

“I thought you were going to fall asleep on me.” She had righted her clothes and was leaned back, staring at him as though he was an anatomy study.

His hand came up to his throat.

“Do you have a name?”

He took a deep breath and rubbed the side of his forehead hard, trying to scrub away the fading feeling of Robert’s grip on his neck. He wiped the moisture from the window. The snow came down in sheets. It was late. How late, he didn’t know. It didn’t really matter. The further he went, the more anonymous he became, and it would be better if he was simply a face among other faces. “Am I amusing enough?” He stressed the word she used earlier to describe him.

She cocked one brow. “Oh, I think so.”

“Good.” He said it almost to himself. “I don’t feel like walking anymore.”

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