#JusJoJan 01/03/17 – Warning Signs #FlashFiction
I’d passed the sign and saw the warning.
Road out. Detour ahead.
I drove on, past the detour sign and into the murky water that was once my street. I felt sure my Jeep would get me through. I had to get home.
It was slow traveling, even though my house was just a few blocks away. Cars were pulled over to the sides of the road, making it a one-way pass. I saw neighbors sitting inside their vehicles, lights on, some with engines still running. I knew that wouldn’t end well for them. I powered down my window and yelled at one of them with just their lights on.
“Turn off your lights. Reserve your battery.”
He ignored me.
Oh well, you can only tell people something practical. It’s up to them to choose. I didn’t have time to make them listen.
I continued on down the road. I could feel the water sloshing up against the underside of the Jeep. The rain continued to fall and my windshield wipers made a zush, zush, zush sound. It was nearly hypnotic, but I had no time for that.
As I entered my own block, there was an old Ford sideways in the road. I didn’t recognize it, but I had a feeling who it’s owner was. I had to go up onto the sidewalk to get around it. Nothing would prevent me from making it home.
When I finally made it to my driveway, the wife and son’s cars were in the drive. I said a small prayer. I pulled in beside the red Subaru and cut the engine. I sat there for a moment, breathing and trying to calm my nerves. It had been over two hours since my wife called. If it hadn’t been for the storm, I would have made it home in less than twenty minutes. Today, it had taken over an hour.
I climbed out of the car and stepped into the water that filled the driveway and all of the lower lawn. Our house was on a bit of an incline, so I didn’t have to worry about it flooding. I had other things to worry about. The water soaked into my socks and shoes, and half way up my jeans. I dredged on, up the long pathway that led to the house. It was dark. No lights, but then that was to be expected with such a bad storm. The front door was ajar. I called out.
No answer. I slowly walked inside. I saw candlelight coming from the living room and headed in that direction. When I got to the doorway, I stopped. Madge and Tommy sat on chairs from the dinning room, facing one another. Their hands and legs were tied to the chair. Their mouths taped.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and then a hard shove. I stumbled into the living room, nearly crashing to the floor.
“Did you bring it?” a voice said behind me.
I fumbled in my jacket pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. I turned and held it out toward the man in the mask. He wrenched the money from my hands and then waved the gun at me.
“You promised to let them go,” I reminded him.
“Get over there on the couch and sit down while I count the money.”
I did as he demanded. I looked over at Madge. Tears streamed down her cheeks. I mouthed that it would be okay. She nodded her head.
“Give me your car keys.”
I tossed my keys at the man, thankful that my house key wasn’t on the same chain. He snatched the keys out of the air and walked over to me. He tied my hands loosely behind my back.
“That’ll hold you until I get away. I know you will call the cops and I know they will be looking for your Jeep, but if you and your family want to remain alive, give me an hour’s start. Otherwise, some of my buddies will be back to take care of you. Got it?”
I nodded my head.
I’d heard the report on the radio on my way home. An escapee. Stolen car. I knew who he was even though he’d covered his face. He wasn’t a murderer, yet. Just doing time for armed robbery.
He stood there, staring at us, gun in hand. I wondered what he was thinking. Would he change his mind and kill us? He waved the gun back and forth between my wife and son and toward me. I saw the fear in Madge’s eyes, but could only see the back of Tommy’s head. He scratched his head through the material of the mask over his head and then he was gone.
Moments later, I heard the Jeep leave the driveway. I immediately began loosening the rope. When I was free, I untied Madge and Tommy, hugging them both tightly.
“You should call anyway,” Madge said, her voice shaky.
I agreed and dialed 911. When the dispatcher answered, I told her what had happened, the color of my Jeep, and the license plate number.
“He won’t get far,” I told her. “I didn’t get a chance to fill up. It’s running empty.”
I prayed that it’d been only a warning that his buddies would show up, but he knew where I lived. His buddies might know too. I gathered my family, piled into my son’s red Subaru, put it into four wheel drive and fled the house.
I drove slowly past the Ford, noticing bullet holes this time. I cringed, but kept driving. I’d told the dispatcher that we’d come to the police headquarters, that it wasn’t safe to stay home. As I drove past the line of cars parked along the side of the street, I noticed my Jeep. He hadn’t gotten far. I no longer saw the neighbor in his car. The one I had spoken to before. There was shattered glass and the lights had dimmed. Had he tried to get the neighbor’s car? I stopped and got out. Looked inside. The neighbor laid slumped over in the seat, a single bullet to the head.
I looked around, sure that the escapee would still be around somewhere, but he wasn’t. I tried to remember how many cars had been lined up, and if any of them could make it through the flooded streets. A black SUV. It was nowhere in sight. Had anyone been inside? I couldn’t remember. I pulled my cellphone out of my jacket and called the dispatcher back.
“He’s in a black SUV now,” I said after explaining what I’d seen. No, I didn’t know the licence. No, I didn’t know if anyone had been taken hostage. Yes, I was still on my way there.
I got back into the car and drove on. As I turned onto the main road, I saw the warning sign again. If only he had heeded the warning and taken the detour…
©2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved.
for Just Jot It January – Prompt: ‘Warning’ – Hosted by Linda G. Hill
Today’s prompt is brought to you by Dan Antion, of the blog “No Facilities“