Helltown

Free Helltown by Jeremy Bates

Book: Helltown by Jeremy Bates Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jeremy Bates
Fuck, shoot the driver, you have to. Just make sure they don’t go nowhere ’till me and Jess arrive.”
    “Yeah, right, okay, don’t you worry, Cleave, you can count on me. But you didn’t tell me, Cleave, these does, they lookers or not—?”
    Cleavon hung up the phone, then returned to the den. The TV picture was still on the fritz. Earl was snoozing in his recliner, snoring and drooling a river. Cleavon clapped his hands loudly, startling Earl awake, and said, “Get up, shithead. And go find your deaf-ass brother. We got business to take care of.”
     

CHAPTER 5
    “Ding dong. You’re dead.”
    House (1986)
     
    The road angled upward. Noah slowed the Jeep to forty miles an hour. Anything faster would be reckless in the fog, which seemed to have become denser and more opaque during the last half hour. As soon as he breasted the summit he started down the other side, which dipped sharply. The slope was so great the bottom dropped out of his stomach. He leaned back against the seat, his arms at right angles to the steering wheel, the way you hold the safety rail while zipping down the big hill of a roller coaster.
    The road finally flattened out and came to an abrupt end—at least, to a crude wooden barricade with a grime-covered, reflective “Road Closed” sign.
    “A dead end!” Noah said, braking.
    “No, it’s okay,” Steve said. “You can go around it. The road still leads out of the park.”
    Noah peered into the gloom. Visibility was nearly zero. “How do you know that?”
    “Jeff told me. He did the research for this trip, so I assume he knows what he’s talking about.”
    Noah contemplated that. “And if we get lost?”
    “We can’t if we stay on the same road. And if worse comes to worse, we’ll backtrack. We passed a few houses before the bridge. We’ll knock on a door, tell whoever answers there’s been an accident, get them to call an ambulance. But going straight ahead is by far the fastest option right now.”
    Accepting that logic, Noah circumnavigated the barricade. The road immediately deteriorated, a victim of the elements and neglect. Weeds overran the shoulders and sprouted up here and there through the blacktop. Low branches bounced off the Jeep’s windshield and slapped the roof, as if to shoo the intruders away. Noah thought briefly of the vehicle’s paintjob, then told himself this was a trivial, selfish concern, given Jeff and Jenny’s conditions.
    And exactly what were their conditions? he wondered with a hollow feeling in the pit of his gut. Was Jeff going to lose his ability to walk? Was Jenny going to live out the rest of her life in a vegetable state until her family decided to pull the plug? Or was his overactive imagination blowing things out of proportion? “They’ll be fine,” he mumbled to himself.
    “What?” Steve said. He had been examining his shattered reading glasses.
    “Nothing,” Noah said, embarrassed he’d spoken his thoughts out loud. “Have you ever had a bad accident before?” he added, to say something.
    “I broke my collarbone skiing in Aspen, if you can call that a bad accident.”
    “Aspen, huh?”
    “My parents were both into skiing. As a kid I probably saw every major ski resort west of the Rockies.”
    “You still ski?”
    “Not for years.”
    Steve tossed the useless eyeglasses onto the Jeep’s dashboard, and a silence fell between them. The trivial talk was awkward given the circumstances.
    Finally Noah said, “How long does it take to recover from a broken back?”
    Steve shrugged. “It depends on the type of fracture.”
    “How bad do you think Jeff’s fracture is?”
    “We don’t know he has a fracture. There’s no way to tell the extent of his injury without an X-ray.”
    “But if it is fractured?”
    “A single fracture, and no associated neurological injury…” He shrugged. “Most tend to heal within a few months.”
    Noah frowned. “Neurological injury? You mean, spinal cord

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