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Yes, yes I can write a novel! Pt. 28

Updated on November 29, 2012

The Just War, Ch. 28

Note: We have reached chapter 28 in my novel, "The Just War." I'm writing this for the NaNoWriMo challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days. I have now actually met the word goal, but the story isn't quite finished. I know I said the previous chapter was the penultimate (Latin for "next to last,") chapter, but the story didn't want to end that way. 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!

“Vic?” came the smooth, silky, contemptuous and distorted voice.

“MacIlhaney?” Vic asked the voice on the other end. Tommy ran out to go get Smithers.

“I’m ready now, Vic,” the voice said.

“Ready for what, Jay?” Vic was still sweating, in great pain.

“You’re using my first name, that’s good,” the voice said. “I’m ready for you.” There was an unsettling emphasis on the last word. It made Vic feel like something large, hairy and multi-legged had climbed onto him. He felt slimy and disgusted.

“What do you want, Jay?” Vic asked.

“I want you, Vic,” the man who might be MacIlhaney answered. “I want you to bring the money, and I want you to bring it to where I tell you to.”

Vic remained silent, then he heard Smithers approaching the top of the stairs. “All right,” he said, trying to cover the sound of the police detective approaching. “Tell me what you want.”

“Get in your Explorer and drive into Indianapolis. Take I69 to Binford and ride it downtown. Take the money, and keep this phone with you, because I will call you and let you know what to do next.” Then the line went dead.

Vic closed the phone. Everybody was looking at him. “He wants me to take the money and this phone and drive the Explorer into Indianapolis,” he told them. Looking Jan square in the eye, he moaned out, “By myself.”

“Vic, you can’t,” Jan started.

“I have to,” he croaked out.

Detective Smithers looked at Vic and said, “We are the prisoners of ideas.”

“Emerson, yeah I know,” Vic said. His breathing was ragged and he was afraid. The burning anger that had made him ready to threaten MacIlhaney and even take him on hand to hand was giving way to a dread that his daughter may already be dead and he was walking into a snake pit with eyes wide open, simply for no better reason that because MacIlhaney wanted to prove he was more macho than Vic. “It is easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them,” Vic said.

“Alfred Adler,” Smithers replied. “You’re in no shape to go at all, let alone by yourself, Mr. Lawless.” The look in his eyes betrayed concern and possibly a little fear of his own.

“No,” Vic agreed, “I’m not. But he wants to see this through to the end. He is in control and he won’t let go of it.”

Smithers said, “Mr. Lawless, please let me ride in the back, I will keep my head down.”

“Detective Smithers, I would like nothing more than for you to do the driving, but I don’t know if we can take the chance.”

“Mr. Lawless, we’re working on it. IMPD are working on Kansas Street. Come on, stay here, we’ll get your daughter back.” Smithers tried to push Vic back on the bed, which didn’t take much effort.

The phone rang again. Vic answered, “Hello?”

“You don’t sound too good, Mr. Lawless,” came the distorted voice. “I’m sure driving will be difficult, especially in this rain. You’d better get started.” Then the line went dead again.

“Okay, please help me to the Explorer,” Vic pleaded. Smithers took the phone out of his hand and opened it up to make sure that there was no chance anyone was listening.

“Mr. Lawless, I’m going with you. You’re in no shape to argue,” Smithers said. Handing the phone back to Vic, he lifted him and supported him to the top of the stairs.

“Are you all crazy?” Jan asked, following. “This will kill Vic! I can’t stand to lose them both!”

“Mr. Bowen, could you help me please,” Smithers asked Tommy, who got beneath Vic on the stairs and helped him down. Without looking at Jan because he was concentrating on getting Vic down, Smithers said to her, “We have to try this. MacIlhaney is a brute and a bully, but as long as there’s any chance that your daughter is still alive he has the complete upper hand. We’ve got to play it his way.”

“Do you really think Jennifer is still alive?” Jan asked from the top of the stairs.

“I can feel her,” Vic said. He didn’t know where it came from, but he believed it at that moment.

Jan just stood at the top of the stairs, unable to move or speak. “Do you mean it?”

Vic looked at her, shaking and sweating, and said, “Yes.”

Jan stood at the top of the stairs for a moment longer, then ran into the bedroom and slammed the door. Tommy, Vic and Smithers turned and descended the stairs into the small crowd of friends and church fellows. Everyone wished him good luck, those who hadn’t heard directly got the news from someone else in the crowd.

At the top of the stairs, Barry and Stacey were holding each other and looking down at Barry’s father. Vic looked up at them, they exchanged a look. Then Vic nodded and let Tommy and Smithers walk him out through the kitchen to the garage and the Explorer. Gingerly he got in, and Smithers slid in to the back, sitting on the floor. As Vic opened the garage door with the remote control, Tommy ran out to move his car.

Vic backed the vehicle out and down the driveway, then turned it and put it into drive. At the entrance to his street, he passed several news trucks, many of whom saw him in the drivers’ seat. Before he even made it the entrance to the subdivision several of the news teams were trailing him.

“Trouble,” Vic said to Smithers.

“I’m on it,” the detective replied, speaking into his shoulder radio to get the police to detain the news crews.

“They’ll yell freedom of the press,” Vic said.

“Not as important as freedom for your daughter,” Smithers responded. The grim joke elicited no laughter. Smithers watched from the floor all the stop lights and street lamps go by. “Finley Peter Dunne,” he said from the back.

“I don’t follow,” Vic said.

“Don’t jump on a man unless he is down,” Smithers quoted.

The rain beat down on the vehicle as it made it’s way through the streets. Although it was only a little after five o’clock in the evening, it was almost pitch black. Vic didn’t dare to floor it in the rain, didn’t dare to go quickly at all. If the SUV hydroplaned, he was in no shape to control it.

The phone rang. Smithers killed his radio to avoid any chance of giving himself away. Vic flipped his phone open and said, “Yeah? Is that you, Jay?”

“Yes, Victor, it’s me,” the voice answered. Smithers couldn’t hear it, and there was no way Vic could tell him.

“I’m almost down to I69,” Vic said.

“Victor, Victor, you’re awful slow,” MacIlhaney said. “Is it because you’re hurt?”

“You know I am, you kicked me in the ribs,” Vic said.

“Did I? Dear me, that would be rather rude. But if I did, I’m sure you’re man enough to take it. In any case, Victor, keep the phone open, I want to talk to you as you drive to your rendezvous.” The voice was so unbelievably self-satisfied that Vic wanted to kill him with his bare hands.

“All right, but that will only make me go slower. It is raining heavily,” Vic said.

“Oh, excellent! I like that response, very logical and very diverting,” MacIlhaney retorted. Suddenly there was noise in the background, shouting and banging. Vic could hear MacIlhaney shouting, and then shots were fired.

Vic pulled over into the parking lot of the Speedway convenience store and sat shaking and sobbing as he listened. People were talking and yelling.

Smithers took the phone from Vic and listened for a moment. Then he smiled, a tight smile that Vic understood completely. “She’s safe,” he said, simply and without emphasis.

Vic sat in driver’s seat, behind the steering wheel, looking at the rain. He was shaking from cold, from pain, from fear. He looked out the window and stuck his hands between his knees, the way people sometimes do when trying to warm up. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Smithers but simply asked the question, “Is she?”

copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved


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