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Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 25

Updated on November 27, 2012

The Just War, Ch. 25

Note: We have reached chapter 25 in my novel, "The Just War." I'm writing this for the NaNoWriMo challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days. This is the rough draft, meant (hopefully) to inspire those who aspire to write novels that, if I can do it, so can they! But since it is a rough draft, there will be continuity, syntax and yes, spelling errors. I hope they don't detract too much. Enjoy!

Victor Lawless woke up in a great deal of pain. Of course there was the physical pain, the arm that had been hurt and his ribs that had been cracked by that vicious kick. They gave him pain killers and sedatives for those. But those things couldn’t deaden his emotional pain. Jan was right, Jen had been taken on his watch and then he’d only made things worse. He hadn’t wanted to, he wasn’t even sure why he did what he did. He was no macho man of action, no physical movie star who beat people up and never lost a kid. He was in decent shape and he was trim, but he was still a suburban husband and father, he jockeyed a desk all day at work.

He had failed his daughter.

He spent time just staring out the window, thinking about her. Even the sheets laying on his body hurt him. The light was off, the room was dark, an attempt to let him sleep. The rain was coming down in sheets. He would sometimes see lightning in the distance, but he hadn’t heard any thunder yet. He stared at the rain, the gray clouds outside. It was all menacing, sinister somehow, almost like out of some German Expressionist movie. Vic had never liked rainy days, but before it had been for practical reasons. He did most of the driving, he drove when the family went out and he drove when he was taking one or both of the kids. Jan was perfectly capable of driving but she wanted the man to do most of the driving, so he did. And he hated dark and he hated wet and he hated snow.

He flipped on the flat screen television that sat on the dresser. Black frame on dark wood. Jan preferred dark cherry wood in the bedroom instead of the lighter stuff that her friend Sue liked. He and Jan had debated about getting the tv in their room. She had wanted it so she could chill with the Cooking Channel while he was reading reports before going to sleep. He had not wanted it because the noise was distracting. So while she watched Guy Fieri, he sat in the kitchen reading. It hadn’t killed their intimacy any more than the reports had, but it hadn’t helped matters either.

The tube (why did he still call it “the tube” when there were no tubes in it any more?) was showing a football game. Vic loved the Colts and had taken Barry to a few games. Barry was not as into it as he was but still got excited. He’d thought about taking Jen, but he knew that the crowds and the noise, even for a bad game, would be more than she could handle. He’d taken her to see the Barbie exhibit at the Children’s Museum instead, which had still not gone well. The crowds were all right, he supposed, but Jen still wanted to play with children, and when she saw children running she always wanted to join in. She had scared a small child who was running, against her parents wishes, down the spiraling walkway. Jen had wanted to run with the girl, to play, but the little girl wondered why this towering teenager was running after her. Vic had tried to explain to the parents about Jen, and the dad seemed okay but the mother had reported them to a security guard. After a ten minute conversation with someone from administration ironed almost everything out, with a warning to watch her and not let her too close to smaller kids, but the damage was done. Being forced to stay in one place for so long had caused Jen to have a meltdown, she dropped to the floor on her back, screaming and slapping her head. Vic tried to calmly get her up and hustle her out, but she was too upset and frustrated. He’d had to carry her out fireman style, over his shoulder, which had been a spectacle. He was glad that they hadn’t appeared on the evening news that night.

The evening news. He flipped the channels to see what the news was saying. CNN was running headline news, and while the talking heads yammered something about unrest in the Middle East, the banner underneath read that nothing new was known about the abduction of Jennifer Lawless, a 14 year old autistic girl from Fishers, IN.

Vic tried to get out of bed but the combination of the pain and whatever sedative was still flowing through his blood kept him down. He flipped the channel back to the football game. How often had his cousin Paddy sneered at his “American Football,” putting a space between the words foot and ball? Vic watched the world cup, if it was on, but he couldn’t get into following Arsenal or United. Half the time he couldn’t even remember who they were.

He watched the game for a minute. Who was playing? Seattle and Detroit? Perhaps, but it didn’t matter. He couldn’t concentrate on the game. There was a knock on the door, and Tommy stuck his head in. “Are you taking visitors?” he asked.

“Yeah, come on in,” Vic responded. He was glad to see Tommy but he was listless at the same time.

“Wow, dude, you got pretty banged up,” Tommy said, looking Vic up and down. The queen sized bed Vic and Jan shared normally didn’t look all that big, but something about it, the white sheets and Vic’s beaten visage made him look to Tommy like a child in a king sized bed. Vic didn’t say anything, just looked at the television. “Hey, is there anything I can do for you?”

Slowly Vic turned his head to look at his friend. He tried to smile but tears were forming. “I’m sorry, Tom. I’m just not very good company right now.”

Tommy’s neat silk shirt was unruffled. “It’s cool, Vic. Do you want to be alone?”

“No, Tom, I’m glad you’re here. I just don’t feel like talking right now.”

“That’s cool. I’ll just sit in the chair over here.” Moving across Vic’s line of vision, Tommy checked out the show. “Seahawks, huh?”

“Yeah,” Vic tried to sound cheerful but it didn’t come out that way.

The two men stayed that way for a while, Tommy sitting in the chair on Jan’s side of the room while Vic lay in bed.

“Hey, do you hear that?” Tommy asked, cocking his head.

“Hear what?” asked Vic, who sometimes could barely hear anything over the rushing of the blood in his head.

“It sounds like a phone ringing. Is your cell in here, Vic?” Tommy got up and walked back over to Vic’s side of the room, trying to follow the sound.

Vic turned the sound of the television down with the remote. “It must be in my bedside table,” he said. “Could you get it for me? It’s a little hard for me to reach right now.”

“Sure thing. Do you always put it in a drawer?”

“I never do. Jan must have done it, I don’t know why.”

“Okay, no problem,” Tommy said, opening the drawer. “I wonder who would be calling you now?”

“Work, maybe?”

“Nah, we all know what’s going on. I’m actually doing all your work right now.”

“Really?” Vic looked a little surprised.

“Sure! Boss is going to give me a raise and a corner office!” Tommy reached into the drawer and pulled out a Barbie, which he showed to Vic with a quizzical look. “Playing with dolls again?”

“Yeah, and sucking my thumb, too,” Vic answered. “Under the circumstances…”

“Yeah,” Tommy responded, suddenly somber. He handed the phone to Vic, who flipped it open. “Hello?”

“Hello, Victor Lawless,” came the distorted voice. “This is Jay MacIlhaney.”

“Who?” Vic and Tommy said together.

There was silence on the other end of the line. “You don’t know my name?” came out at last, cold and pouty.

“Oh, yeah,” Vic said, motioning for Tommy to go get Jan and Smithers. It hurt him a lot to move. Tommy ducked out and ran downstairs. “Sorry,” Vic continued, “I’m on some serious meds.”

“What?” the voice asked. Tommy silently reentered the room, followed by Smithers and Jan.

“I said I’m on pain medication right now,” Vic grimaced. The other three stood around, staring intently at the open phone, straining to hear what the kidnapper had to say.

“Oh,” the voice was distorted but the pleasure in it was unmistakeable. “Did you get hurt last night?”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have gotten tough, Victor.” There was a short pause. “I thought I heard another voice in the room with you earlier. Who else is there?”

Smithers pointed to Jan, who haltingly said, “I’m here. Jennifer’s mother.”

“Really? That’s funny, the other voice sounded masculine.” Another short pause. “All right, I’m ready.”

The four looked at each other. Smithers nodded to Jan and Vic. The rain stopped.

“What are you ready for?” Vic asked slowly, not wanting to really know. “To tell us where to drop the money?”

“No,” the voice said. Then there was nothing.

“I don’t understand,” Jan said. Her tone was slightly frantic as she said, “What are you ready for? What do you want?”

The voice on the phone was smug as he said, “Oh, nothing. I’m just ready to tell you where to pick up the body.”

Thunder cracked so loud it sounded as if the lightning had landed right outside the house. Janet swayed for a moment, then pitched forward, being caught by Detective Smithers.

copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved


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