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Authors: J.A. Hornbuckle

Hiding in Plain Sight

BOOK: Hiding in Plain Sight
8.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub







J.A. Hornbuckle




Published by J.A. Hornbuckle





Hiding in Plain Sight

Copyright ©2013 by J.A. Hornbuckle


Edited by:  Laura Kinsley

Cover Design:  Faustino Gaitšn

Book Blurb:  Lori McNeill

License Notes


This eBook is license for your personal enjoyment only.  This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.  If you would like to share this novel with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.  If you're reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please buy an additional copy for each recipient.

Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

This is a work of fiction and is not a reflection or representation of any person living or dead.  Any similarity is of pure coincidence.  Although,  if you recognize yourself in any character represented, maybe we need to talk…






To my kids who have always taught me so much more than they learned from me.


To my girls, Reese and Lori, who always seem to say just the right thing at just the right time to keep me motivated and plugging away on my stories.


To Laura and Faus that helped me step my game up.  Thanks for all your advice, suggestions and hard work!


For those that have been with me on this journey, thanks for the memories!


And to those that are still on their way, where've you been?  My heart's been waiting for you!

Chapter One


The sound of the engine noises changing from the knock-sputter-knock to the cough-shudder-wheeze ripped my mind from my escape plans back to full awareness.   It was either the noise or the shimmy that ran through the car and clear up to my fingertips on the steering wheel that gained my attention.  I straightened in my seat and immediately used both hands to steer the car as my stomach clenched.



I was unsure when the engine had begun to talk in a deeper, wheezier murmur but I had the impression it had been going on for a good while. I must have made the decision to ignore it, in my haze of lack of sleep and having missed more than a couple of meals. 



I could feel the car’s shuddering beneath my fingers choking the steering wheel.  The off and on hesitation of the engine shot darts of ice throughout me as it struggled to remain alive, engaged.

"Please, not now!" I screamed, glancing down at the gauges, which showed me absolutely nothing I could comprehend or make sense of.  'Check Engine' meant shit-all even if it was spelled out in red, much like the other symbols that I didn't know but which either blinked off and on or remained steady on the dashboard.


The knocking continued but pressing on the accelerator did nothing.  Even the wheel beneath my gripping hands felt stiffer, heavier as the car's momentum began to drop.  The hesitations were lasting longer, the shuddering stronger even as the cough-choking noise slowed.

My sweaty hands slipped as I yanked on the stiff plastic steering wheel while I tried to maneuver the rusted beast to the side of the road.  I tried to apply the brakes but found they, too, were rigid and unresponsive until I used both feet to stomp on them.  The little whippy car had suddenly turned into a tank I could barely control. 

There wasn't much space on the side of the blacktop to maneuver.  Maybe twelve to eighteen inches, which dipped sharply into some sort of canal.  In my mind, I needed to get as much of the '97 VW Golf off the narrow road as possible to avoid one of the wide vehicles this portion of farmland USA offered as they whizzed along the blacktop. 

And do it without sliding into the deep, overgrown ditch that started maybe a foot off the road.

Feeling the sharp ping of sweat from my armpits, I pressed firmly on the clutch and put the car into neutral.  I had a momentary sense of satisfaction when there was none of the grinding as I changed gears.  Finally, I was getting the hang of driving a manual gear shift.  Which hadn't been the case when I'd first pulled out of the used car place where I'd bought it. 

My arms shook with exertion as I steered the heavy vehicle onto that little strip of grass and felt the pull of gravity as I guided the car to a stop on the farthest side of the road. 

No, no and

I stomped on both the clutch and the brake before turning the key again.

The engine ground as a horrible wet corrosive smell came through the vents when it turned over but never fired up.

Twisting the key, I tried again.

Grind-grind-grind.  But the engine never caught, never sparked and the grinding got slower decreasing until there was nothing but a series of clicks.


I set the emergency brake following the directions I'd received at the dealership when I'd purchased the new-to-me car and opened the old rusted door, it's creaking adding to the cuss words streaming through my head.

White clouds of steam shot out from underneath the hood now that the metal beast was still which even I knew was a bad sign.

Without thought or care, I gave into my temper on the tilted side of that no name road.  I did the two-footed stomp ending with a swift kick to the rusted lower portion of the driver door, which did nothing for either the workings of the motor or my anger.

Shit, shit,

I glanced around me, smelling the dirt and grime of the road, hearing the soft shush-shush of the greening fields in the wind with a hand over my eyes as I surveyed my surroundings.

There was no other way to describe it. 

I was fucked.

And at that thought, I had another temper tantrum.  Kicks, yells and fists beating over the rotten, mother-fucking bucket of bolts that comprised the only ride I had, the only escape I'd depended on for so many miles.

Okay, yeah.  The air conditioning had cut out an hour and fifteen minutes after I'd left the lot and the radio another hour after that, so why didn't I take that as a sign that everything else would come apart as well?  I hung my head at the thought and swiped an arm across my face to capture the wetness there.

No.  I would not cry.  I wouldn't get all tearful and shit nor think of Mama as I worked out how to get through this latest set-back.

This was not the end.

Even though it seemed to be.

I was a sitting duck, all alone in the hilly landscape of the unremarkable inland of Kansas.  I shaded my eyes again, glancing up and down the lonely road before I pulled my cheap, pay-as-you-go cellphone out of the pocket of my sundress. 

No bars.  Nothing that even breathed of hope, of a connection that would me allow me to call for help. 


The isolation, shit just the sound of the lonely wind, had me almost petrified in fear.

My temper had led me back to the driver's door and I peered into the car, roaming over the trash of the passenger seat, taking in the different wrappers and empty water bottles, which had fed and watered me during this latest leg of my journey.

Bracing my arms on the top of the car, I tried to think of how to get out of this latest predicament.   Eventually my gaze rested on the well-creased map that had guided me to this place.  The road was some sort of red-dashed mark on the worn, multi-folded paper which I'd found in the glove box.  Off the beaten path.

Son of a

As I leaned on the roof of the rusted out, faded, gold '97 Volkswagen Golf, I pondered my dilemma.  My eyes were following the bending of the greening stalks as I tried to think, pushing the sound of the freshening wind away.  But my tired mind didn't want to seem to work even though my heart was exerting itself in overtime mode with its hard, deep thumps.

It didn't take long for the heat of the asphalt to be felt from the black top beneath me.  The trickle of heat-sweat, so different from the sharp panic-sweat of before, was an ever present reminder of the heat and humidity in the land I'd found myself in and drove me freaking batty in the lazy, snaky tracks of its passing.   The gentle rolls of moisture, which wet my underwear, was completely different than the pinches I'd felt earlier when the car had decided to quit.  

And then there was the smells.

I could smell the sharp musky odors of my own body and the aroma of whatever fertilizer the farmer had used on the fields, but it was the road that reeked.  Tar or something like it so sharp and pungent, you couldn't get away from it.  I tried though by working my way around to the other side of the car intent on keeping only one thought in mind.
'How the fuck to I get out of this?'

Who knew the middle of America could be this hot and this barren?  There were no trees, no houses not even a cow to dot the landscape.  I was completely and utterly alone, and I admit that isolation scared the shit out of me.

When was the last time I'd seen somebody else?  My hand again shaded my eyes as I sought out any kind of life beyond the fields as I tried to remember.  That tractor with the thing-a-ma-bob connected, which had taken up the whole of the road before I'd turned onto this one?


There had to be something I could do, anything except stand in the middle of the black, smelly road, which didn't even have the white dashes to identify it, but I sure as hell didn't know what it was. 

I reached back into the car and pulled on the lever that held a description of the hood.  Knowing even as I did so, I wouldn’t have any idea of what I needed to look for.  But isn’t that what you did when your car broke down?  I didn’t exactly know the protocol for these situations.  Actually, I didn’t know much of what was acceptable in many of life’s situations.  I guess someone would say I’d led a pretty constricted life up until two and half weeks ago.  Nineteen short days to learn how to function out in the big wide world, which I discovered could be a lot different than I’d thought it should have been. 

Emphasis on the short.

Or maybe the function, I hadn’t quite made up my mind.

I closed the driver door with a resigned creak and a thunk before stepping to the front of the car, feeling the heat of the engine through the thin cotton of my sundress.  I found the weird latch on the hood and opened it, watching the billowing white steam dissipate into the air as soon as I’d slotted the rod thingie into that hole on the underside of the heavy piece of metal.  My gaze roamed over the rusted and dirty components, which allegedly were the engine of the old car, having no clue what I was seeing as predicted.  All I knew was that my new-to-me automobile had stopped at the worst possible moment and in the worst possible place.

Stooping over to peer inside the car’s motor had put half my body into shade, telling me it was around midday-ish.  The heat of the summer sun seemed to bear down stronger in the flat of this portion of the Midwest.  The humidity of the region was a whole different issue, but seeing how I was born and raised in East Texas, coping with wet heat was the least of my worries.  I walked around the car twice, feeling the gravel of the roadside beneath the weeds, which crunched against the thin soles of my fashionable chucks before they again gripped the graveled asphalt.  Glancing both before and away from my spot on the road, I didn’t see any traffic, any hope of rescue.

Aw, shit. 

I was gonna have to be rescued and the thought of lying again to get out of my situation had me shuddering almost as much as the car had before it'd come to a full stop.

I reviewed what led me to take these stupid, tiny, barely-there-on-a-map back roads and buy such a piece of shit car.  I knew the reasons, all of them.  And I was still kicking myself for each and every one.  I stopped by the front passenger door, leaning against it as I squeezed my lower lip between my forefinger and thumb.


God, how I hated him and at just the thought of the man, I found my knees weakening.  I didn’t fight the fear which cut me off at my knees until my ass was on the ground in the tiny bit of shade of the car, gravel digging deep in the yoga shorts I wore over my underwear.  I’d learned to wear multiple layers underneath my clothes as I’d traveled.  Just as I learned to travel the back roads and keep myself to myself.

But I couldn't help the wave of self-pity that overcame me and the circumstance I was in any more than I could blink back the tears that overflowed out of my eyes.

He’d almost found me.  Well, his goons actually, so many damn times in the few days I’d been gone. 
my heart reminded me,
he hasn’t caught you yet
.  I amended that ‘yet’ to a grateful ‘again’.

Having the local Sheriff, who I knew was on
payroll, stop the Greyhound Bus—attempt number one—and hauling my ass back to my velvet prison, had taught me nothing about fixing cars and everything about avoiding the law.

Nor had jumping out of the cab of a 'Milton's Fine Foods' semi in order to escape the wandering hands of the fat, giggling trucker—escape attempt number two—sure hadn't taught me how to proceed north in my quest to flee my future.  His men had picked up me easily as I'd struggled to pull my over-ladened suitcase behind me, walking the highway with a thumb out, hoping for a ride from someone, anyone, with more morals than what I'd found so far.

BOOK: Hiding in Plain Sight
8.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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