This book is dedicated to my family: my husband and two children. You have been nothing but supportive of me while I accomplished this endeavor. You are my life; I love you all.
A special thanks to Tina Lipford and Brittany Clark for reading this book one chapter at a time. Sometimes waiting weeks for the next chapter, and being honest and supportive.
"BEEP BEEP BEEP" Jackie rolled over and smacked the button on her alarm clock to stop the horrible, screeching noise echoing through her bedroom.
Why get up so early?
She thought to herself,
when all you have to do is start the coffee maker, and contemplate what you're going to do with the rest of your life.
Three months ago after her grandmothers passing, she was willed this small, two bedroom, two-bath ranch style house sitting on twenty-five acres in the middle of the Colorado Mountains. An orphan, and an only child, she figured what the hell, she could use the change of scenery. Nothing left for her anyway in Cheyenne after losing her job at a not so prestigious Ad company, then, her apartment. She was down to her last twenty bucks when the phone rang with a Colorado caller ID.
"Ms. Brooks? This is Jerry Rollings, your grandmother's attorney? Sorry to call with such horrible news but..."
That was the worst day of her life. Hearing that her beloved grandmother who had raised her from ten months old, after her parents had died in a helicopter crash while taking a tour of the Rockies for their fifth wedding anniversary, had passed from what the lawyer told her, was a stroke.
The lawyer had told her about the house, acreage, and savings that her grandmother had left for her in her will. He sent her a plane ticket and the next thing she knew, she was sitting in his office in Black Creek, signing papers and being handed keys to a house and a Subaru.
Twenty miles outside of town she drove up to her new home, maybe her new life.
"BEEP BEEP BEEP" Jackie reached over and slapped the button on her alarm clock for the second time. She threw off the covers and sat up, wiping the sleep from her eyes as she got out of bed and slowly shuffled her way to the kitchen.
She started the coffee maker and looked out the kitchen window. It was still dark, and would be for at least another half hour.
What the hell is the point?
hy am I getting up so early when I don't have to?
Old habits she guessed. Just then there was movement, something dark just beyond the tree line. A shadow moving like dark smoke, weaving through the trees.
As Jackie tried to focus in on it, it faded, and just like that it was gone.
"Maybe I should start sleeping in."
She whispered to herself. "Now I'm seeing shit." She made her way down the short hall toward the bathroom. When she stopped at a photo hanging on the wall; it was of her grandmother and her in front of a huge globe with UNIVERSAL written across it, both of them wearing mouse ears and big goofy grins. "I miss you so much gram, sorry I wasn't here." Then she kissed the glass covering one of the happiest days of her life.
A hot shower and two cups of coffee later, Jackie sat on the front porch in her grandmother's rocking chair and watched the sun finally shine it's golden light over the mountains.
Remington Cross felt like a truck, a really big truck, or maybe a train had hit him. He had just woken up on something hard, cold, and wet? "What the fuck?" he groaned trying to sit up, his head was pounding, and his mouth as dry as a desert. God, it stunk in here. It smelled like sweat, piss, and blood. He couldn't see shit it was so dark, not his hand in front of his face, he thought he may be dead, except for the fact he was in so much pain. He reached his hand up to rub his head and something wasn't right. Where the fuck was his hair? He was as bald as a baby's ass, as he ran his fingers across his head he felt ridges, stitches, he realized.
He slowly tried to stand but before reaching his full height of six foot three inches, a wave of nausea doubled him over dropping him back to his knees, causing him to gag. He really didn't want to add to the putrid smells already surrounding him. After taking a few deep breaths, he was able to stand, but still queasy. He put his hands out in front of him and began to walk forward slowly, looking for the edge of the room, a wall or a door, something to tell him where he was and how to get the hell out.
Jackie stood in the middle of her living room trying to figure out where to start, her grandmother was a very tidy woman, a handyman she was not. This was evident in almost every room, and most of the outside of the house, which needed a paint job. The gutters were overflowing and needed to be cleaned out and the shutters nailed back up.
She walked back outside onto the front porch. "The shutters it is." she said to herself. It was warming up nicely. The weatherman said it could hit eighty today, pretty warm for fall. With no rain in the forecast for the next few days, she figured she would leave the inside repairs for a day less accommodating. It was already early October, who knew how many nice days were left until winter came stomping it's big ol’ feet in. She spent the first few months mourning, laying around, reading, taking walks, and only going to town when she ran out of everything. It was time to get back to life, fix this place up, and try and make it a home, make it hers.
Jackie walked around the back of the house and headed toward her grandmother's tool shed. When she reached the door, and grabbed the knob, she twisted, pulled, and nothing. It was stuck, she tried again pulling with everything she had and the door flew open, flinging her back and off her feet, she landed right on her ass, HARD.
"Son of a bitch!" she groaned. Slowly getting to her feet, she already had a steady throbbing in her lower back. She half walked half hobbled into the shed. Once through the door, the entire right side was lined with a long workbench. It was piled high with gardening tools, pots, and what looked like fishing tackle boxes with the word "SEEDS" written across them in magic marker. On the back wall hung an eight by eight pegboard with all kinds of tools hanging from it; screw drivers, hammers, axes, a machete, wrenches, they covered the entire wall. On the left side of the room, there were shelves stacked floor to ceiling, the lower ones holding larger tools. There was a chainsaw, circular saw, some gas cans and a generator. She new how wicked the storms could be up here, and how frequently the power could go out, especially in the winter. The middle shelves held boxes of nails, screws, tacks, staples, it looked like a Lowe's Home Improvement store from the early nineteen hundreds. She wondered how her grandmother could have possibly acquired such a collection. Must have taken years. The top shelves held enough canned vegetables to make it through the apocalypse. "Holy shit gram! You know something the rest of us don't?" She said out loud. Jackie found a ladder, grabbed a hammer, a box of nails, and headed back toward the house.
It was almost four in the afternoon by the time Jackie had finished repairing and sanding the old paint off the shutters on one side of the house. She was hot and tired and she needed a break. She figured she would finish the other half tomorrow. Next, they would need to be painted. Knowing she had to go to town to pick up paint and supplies before the hardware store closed, she figured she might as well make a grocery list while she was at it. All she had left in her cabinets were a couple cans of tomato soup and a half eaten bag of potato chips. Her deep freezer wasn't any better; with one freezer burnt package of some mystery meat that's been there for who the hell knows how long. She washed her hands, sat down at the kitchen counter and quickly jotted down her list, then she grabbed the car keys and headed out the door.
About a half hour later, Jackie was pulling up in front of a decrepit old building that was the town’s only hardware store. What should have been a twenty-minute drive turned out to take thirty because of the switchbacks and ankle deep holes in the dirt road she had to take to town. Outside the store hung a big wooden sign, held up by thick chains on each side. "Miller's Hardware" was painted on it in large red letters. Jackie got out of her car and made her way up the short set of stairs leading to the porch attached to the front of the store. The porch was much newer than the actual building, adorned with rocking chairs, and huge planters spilling over with colorful flowers. It looked like something off the cover of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. She opened the door and a bell rang above her head. Before she was able to take another step, a red haired, freckle faced teen boy came out from around the counter and was standing in front of her. "Hello Ma'am, I'm Carl, welcome to Miller's hardware store, can I help you find something?" He was tall, looked to be about sixteen and had big blue eyes and a big fake smile plastered across his red cheeks to match. He didn't want to be there, that was evident. Saying the same line to every person who walked into the store, over and over again, the monotony was slowly sucking away at his young soul, or at least that's how he made it seem.
"Uh...yea, I’m looking for paint and painting supplies." "This way Ma'am."
He led her down a few aisles; going right, left, then right again stopping in front of a row of shelves. The shelves were lined with paint cards, paint cans, rollers, brushes, and everything else she would need for her project.
"Anything else I can help you find Ma'am?"
The kid was getting fidgety, Jackie could tell he really wanted out of there, probably back to his Iphone behind the counter; his only contact with the outside world while being trapped in here leading people up and down the aisles he has no doubt walked for miles.
"Thank you, no. I think I’ve got it from here.”
Carl turned on his heel and was gone around the corner in a flash of red hair. She stared at the paint cards for what felt like forever. The house was white, or would eventually be again after getting it's new coat, so the shudders could be any color she wanted. So why did it feel like some huge decision? No one to disappoint but herself if the color looked like shit, and she could just paint over it again. Was she afraid her dead grandmother wouldn't like the color? Why is this so hard? She knew she was getting herself worked up over nothing. She thought back to her gram's favorite color, yellow. "Yellow it is" she said to herself. Jackie grabbed the paint card and some brushes, and walked back to the front of the store. Carl was sitting behind the counter with his head down, concentrating on something so intently that he didn't hear her approach. Jackie cleared her throat and the kid looked up, "Oh! Sorry, you find everything you need?" Jackie stifled a laugh. "I think so, I need some paint mixed."
"Oh okay, well hold on a sec, I got to get my dad for that, I'm not allowed to mix paint, too young."
"Sure, no problem."
"Daaaaaaaaaaad!" Jackie winced, jesus the kid was loud, who just yells out in the middle of a store?
"Dang it Carl! I told you not to be yelling like that in the store! You need me, excuse yourself and come get me!"
"Sorry dad, this lady needs some paint mixed." Carl's dad turned and looked at Jackie and went white as a sheet. "My god, you look just like Evie Stone."
Remington felt his way around the entire room, which didn't take long. The whole room couldn't have been more than a twelve by twelve square. There were no windows or doors that he could feel, no bars or light switches. He put his ear to the wall but could hear nothing.
"Hey! Is anyone out there? Help!" He put his ear to the wall again and could hear the faintest movement, foot steps? He listened harder and was sure the sound he was hearing was footsteps getting closer. "Hey! In here!" He started banging on the wall till his hands ached. "Help! Please!" Just then a light lit up the small room, so bright it was blinding. Remington quickly covered his face with his hands waiting for his eyes to adjust. Peeking through his fingers he looked around the room and spotted a small monitor hanging high up on the wall, it had to be a good eight feet up making the ceiling a solid ten feet from the floor. It had a camera attached to it. He slowly lowered his hands from his face, squinting his eyes he saw the monitor flashing.