Plugging the Holes

My son likes to watch a YouTube channel called How It Should Have Ended (HISHE). He likes to watch the remakes of his favorite Marvel movies. One of his favorite videos is the remake of Spider-man 3. He loves it when Bernard finally tells Harry that Norman killed himself. Harry fires him for not telling him the truth sooner. Many stories and movies have holes like these. If Bernard had told Harry at the end of the first Spider-man movie that Norman had killed himself, then what would happen in Spider-man 2 and 3? Harry wouldn’t make a deal with Doc Ock to bring him Spider-man and he wouldn’t need to attack Peter in Spider-man 3. Without those holes, the trilogy would become a stand-alone movie. Or would it? Maybe, the writers could have taken the Spider-man series in a totally new direction. Who knows what they would have come up with?

What if writers actually worked harder to plug those holes? Would the stories they came up with be deeper and more satisfying? In the plan of the novel I am currently working on, I decided that one of the main characters would be kidnapped. I didn’t want the protagonist to find this character too quickly, but I also wanted the kidnapper to use the victim’s phone to call the protagonist. In my original plan, it would take the protagonist too long to find the cell phone using cell phone towers. I discovered, however, that the police can find the location of a cell phone pretty quickly. Since the protagonist in my novel was not only the sheriff but also the account holder of the cell phone, she would be able to track the kidnapper even faster. How could I plug this hole? I could have the kidnapper, a devious serial killer, be too dumb to know that the sheriff could track the cell phone in a matter of hours. That led to a new hole. If the kidnapper is also a devious serial killer who has never been caught, how could he not know how long it took for the police to track a cell phone? In the end, I decided to plug this hole by having the kidnapper use the cell phone to lead the Sheriff and her deputies to his latest crime scene. Because the kidnapper no longer had the cell phone, the sheriff could no longer track him and the victim. Her problem became a lot more difficult to solve.

Writers might want to take their work in a particular direction that requires certain plot holes to remain in their stories. They might think that the direction they have chosen is the best way to go, but what if the hole, itself, is a warning that a story needs to change? When I plugged up my plot hole, the danger to my victim ratcheted up a notch and even led him to do something he didn’t think he would ever do. My story took a completely different direction. The plot hole in a story might exist, because the line of the story is flawed. By avoiding the plot hole, the story line can be strengthened.

Prodigal Son: Chapter 1

Elijah sat back and stared at the computer screen. Flexing his aching hands, he read the words he had typed, “extra set of hands for hire.” Three long years it had taken him to get to this point—to be able to read, to be able to write, to be able to use his hands. Madison said he didn’t have to work, but he knew she and Hal were having a hard time making ends meet with all his medical bills and the new baby coming. Whenever Madison convinced Hal to talk to him about working, Hal would pat him on the shoulder. His grey eyes that could be cold like a killer’s would get a warm twinkle, and he’d say, “Just make sure you keep up with your school work, son.”

He had a lot to keep up with. He had never gone to school when he was younger like most kids. He’d never even thought about school until he’d met Madison and Hal. His father had never…

He stopped that thought. He didn’t like to think about his father even though Dr. Ross said he needed to start facing some of the bad memories. She said they would haunt him forever until he learned to face them, until he realized he wasn’t responsible for the things his father had done.

Shaking his head, he focused on his Craigs list ad. He hoped someone would see his ad soon.

A couple of days after posting his ad, someone finally called him. A little old lady who needed some yard work done. He pulled up to the house on Emerson Street. The lady lived a couple of blocks from Washington Park. Unlike a lot of houses in the neighborhood, her house was really run down. The brown paint was peeling on the trim and one of her shutters hung askew. If you asked him, she needed a lot more than yard work. The yard was in pretty bad shape, too. The grass was at least a foot high, and the bushes in the yard were overgrown. Looking at the crumpled piece of paper in his had, he hoped he’d written down the address right. He was picturing a little lawn-mowing or maybe raking the leaves. He hadn’t pictured something like this. Slowly, he climbed out of his car. Madison and Hal had bought it for him when he turned sixteen. That was another reason he wanted to get a job. He wanted to be able to pay for his gas and insurance himself. He walked up the cracked sidewalk to the peeling screen. The mesh of the screen was ripped. Nervously, he knocked on the door. He winced a little at the ache in his knuckles. Little things, like knocking on a door, still hurt sometimes.

He could hear someone talking inside, then footsteps, as someone approached the door. The door opened and a beautiful girl looked through the screen at him. She had long dark hair like Madison’s and sparkling brown eyes. He swallowed. He kept his distance from girls. He didn’t know if he could trust himself around them, so he decided it was safer that way. That was another thing that Dr. Ross wanted him to work on. She kept trying to tell him that he wasn’t like his father, but he wasn’t sure he believed her. The girl frowned at him, and he realized that he was staring at her. He cleared his throat.

“I’m looking for Mrs. Roberts. I’m here about the yard work.”

“Grandma, the guy you hired to work in the yard is here.”

She opened the screen and let him in. He frowned. She just let him in without even checking to see who he was. He could be anyone, a psychopath with a razor sharp knife in his back pocket that he would…

He stepped into the house.

Prodigal Son: Prologue

Dear Drake,

I am in school now. I am learning to read and write. I don’t go to a real school. My teacher comes to our house. She gave me this cool computer, so I can write things down now. It’s hard. I’d rather play my 3DS games, but Madison said it was important to study. She made a deal with me. If I get all my work done, then I can play with my DS for an hour. Madison doesn’t know that I am writing to you. She told me that you didn’t want to hear from us, but I didn’t believe her. Hal told me he could get your address for me, and that he would mail the letter for me. You just can’t tell Madison. I think she would get mad that Hal and I have a secret that she doesn’t know.

I won’t be writing to you for a while. I’m having my first surgery in a couple of days. The doctor says that I’ll be able to use my hands once they get fixed. I’ll write to you again when I can.

Love,

Elijah

Deletion


Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

After writing 50,000 words in a month, I’ve taken a little break from my novel. I thought that, on December 1, I would sit down and start revising, but I realized I needed a little break. I needed some distance from the piece. As a writer, it’s easy for me to become wedded to a concept–to believe that it is written in cement, unchangeable.

To produce my best work, however, I must commit myself to the idea that my novel can be erased with the click of the delete button. With one swipe, I can turn my world upside down. Right can become left. Left can become right. My main character can change gender, turn evil. I must warp my perspective.

My first consideration is changing my point of view. I tend to write in the limited third-person. I am most comfortable with this point of view because it distances me from the character and the action. I never have to come too close to the character, but what if I leaped into the character’s head? What if I became the character? What would he say if I allowed him to speak for himself?

Another consideration is removing an entire character–really using that delete key. What if I removed one of the main characters? Who would come forward that has been hiding? Would my story flip upside down?

When Picasso wanted to capture the essence of the bull, he did not layer paint on the page like Bob Ross. Rather, he stripped the unnecessary elements away until he laid bare the bones of the bull. With each rendering, he gutted his image until all that was left was the spirit of the bull.

How far am I willing to go to allow my creation to emerge? How much will I strip from my work?

Warm up the delete key–here I come.

Sins of the Father: Epilogue

He had ditched the Jeep a couple of cities back. The Greyhound bus he rode in was almost empty. His pack sat in the seat next to him where the boy should be sitting. He still couldn’t believe the boy had betrayed him. The boy had screamed like he was some kind of monster. He didn’t have time to reason with him. He could’ve picked him up and carried him, but he knew the Sheriff wasn’t the only one in the woods. He couldn’t risk getting captured, and he couldn’t protect the boy if they started shooting at him, so he had left him there. He wondered where the boy was now. Probably in some shitty foster home. He’d been in a foster home once when his dad had gone to jail. He’d taken off as soon as he got the chance. It was better to be on your own than live like that. The people had actually locked their food up, so the kids in the house couldn’t eat very much. He clenched his fists. If his boy was in a house like that, he’d kill them. He forced himself to relax. He couldn’t worry about the boy now. His boy had made his choice. He’d have to live with the consequences. When things cooled down, he’d come back to Colorado. He’d find his boy again and that bitch of a Sheriff would pay.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 27

After Drake’s sentencing, Madison met with the mayor and the investigator from CBI. She wanted to be done with this whole ordeal. She hoped that with a few days of quiet, the mayor would finally accept her letter of resignation. After giving an account of the events leading up to that night in the clearing, Madison offered her resignation. The CBI investigator agreed with her that it was the best way to end the affair quietly. Since the mayor had hired her, he was also facing some flak for his decision. He accepted her resignation and a signed statement taking full responsibility for her actions as well as for the deployment of Hal during the exchange. 

After her meeting, she returned to her house. Drake was playing video games with the sitter that Rosie had recommended. After paying the sitter, Madison returned to packing up the house. She had only had her house on the market for a week before it sold, and now she and Elijah were moving back to Denver. Her former partner in the Homicide Unit had opened up a private security firm, and he had offered her a job despite her record as the Fruita Sheriff. She had filed paperwork to adopt Elijah, and Jack Hammond had transferred Elijah’s case to the CPS department in Denver. The child psychologist had been instrumental in Hammond deciding to let Elijah stay with her. She had endangered him in the debacle with his father, and she had almost lost him. In the end, Elijah had finally talked to the psychologist. Madison didn’t know what he had said, but whatever it was had convinced the psychologist to help Madison fight for him.

She sighed. She hoped that Elijah would speak to her again some day. For now, she spent as much time with him as she could. She hoped she would regain his trust eventually. She had been packing for a couple of hours when the doorbell rang. She was glad for the break. Going through Drake’s things and packing them separately was breaking her heart. She had decided that she would put all his things in storage until he finished his sentence. Even if he didn’t want to be with her any more, she didn’t want him to come out into the world with nothing. She had also arranged to have his commissary funded every month. She hoped he wasn’t too stubborn to use it.

Hal stood at the door with a pizza and a bag of drinks.

“Hal, what are you doing?”

“I figured you could use some dinner.”

“You figured right.”

“Come on in.”

Elijah’s eyes lit up when he saw the pizza. Pausing his video game, he ran into the kitchen. She heard the clatter of plates as he began to set the table. He was always doing things like that—helping her set the table and wash dishes.

“I guess he’s hungry.” Hal said.

Madison took the drinks from him and walked him into the kitchen. Elijah was waiting at the table. When Hal set the box in the middle of the table, Elijah helped himself to a couple of large pizzas. Madison gave Elijah a coke from the bag while Hal opened a couple of beers for them. They ate in silence for a few minutes. Then, Hal took a swig from his beer, and wiped the pizza sauce off his chin.

“When do you leave?”

“The closing’s next week, and then we’ll go.”

Hal said, “You were a good sheriff, Madison.”

“Thanks, Hal. I don’t think the rest of the town shares your opinion. I really screwed this up bad. I should have listened to you.”

“You did what you had to do—what anyone would do in this situation.”

“I guess.” Hal’s words meant a lot to her, but they didn’t make her feel any better. She would probably never work in law enforcement again, but Hal was right. She had done what she had to do.

“I don’t know if you heard. They appointed me the interim Sheriff until they can replace you.”

“I thought they might. They should just hire you.”

“I don’t think I would want the job. Too much paperwork. You know I like to be in the field.”

Madison nodded. That was one thing being the Sheriff. Along with the responsibility came mounds of paper work. She had to admit she hadn’t enjoyed that part of the job, either.

“I know, Hal, but you’re a natural leader. You would be the best man for the job.”

“I don’t know about that. I told Mayor Rodriguez that Randy was the best man for the job.”

“Randy would be good, too, but you would be better.”

“I’m actually considering another job offer.”

“You are? Where?”

“I’ve been talking to the Denver Major Crimes Unit.”

“Are you sure, Hal? I thought you preferred small towns.”

“I thought I did, too, but I think I can make more of a difference in a larger unit. Any way, I want the chance to try.”

She was surprised that Hal was also leaving the Sheriff’s office, but a little pleased as well. She was going to miss him, but, if he were in Denver, they would be able to get together every now and then.

“Besides, I have a close friend who’s moving to Denver.”

“Hal…” Madison didn’t know what to say. She couldn’t deny that she was attracted to Hal. He understood her in ways that Drake hadn’t, but she still loved Drake. She wasn’t ready to move on yet.

“Madison…” he said, mimicking her tone. “I have to get going. I have some paper work to catch up on. I’ll see you in Denver.”

Madison walked him to the door and gave him a quick hug.

“I’ll see you.”

She and Elijah washed up the dishes together. When they were finished, Elijah grabbed her hand between his own and pulled her into the living room. She had more packing to do. She didn’t really have time to play a video game, but one look at Elijah’s wistful face broke her resolve. She had all day tomorrow.

“What’s it going to be, Elijah, MarioKart or Super Smash Bros?”

Elijah jumped onto the couch and handed her Drake’s 3DS. Madison settled in next to him as he began to punch the buttons on his game. She felt her heart grow warm. She may have lost the love of her life, but Elijah was helping the hole in her heart heal.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 26

Saturday morning, Madison and Elijah pulled into the front of the Mesa County Jail. Hal had picked up Drake from the hospital and had booked him. Drake had asked that Madison not be there for the booking. At least no reporters were camped out at the jail like they were at the Sheriff’s office. She knew it wouldn’t be long until they found out about Drake and what he had done. She knew that she wouldn’t be able to stay out of the line of sight for much longer. She’d been suspended pending an investigation for misconduct. She had been planning to resign quietly, but the mayor had other ideas. He hadn’t even accepted the statement she had prepared to go along with her resignation. The one good thing about all of this was that Hal was the interim Sheriff. He wasn’t overseeing the investigation of her case. The Mayor had brought in the CBI for that, but he was in charge of Drake’s case and was still leading the investigation into the serial killings. The couple that Drake had killed were the last murders. It seemed that Elijah was right. His father had left town. The State Patrol and her…the Fruita deputies…were patrolling the back roads, but had not spotted the Jeep or the killer. There was a national APB out for the Jeep, but no one had spotted it yet.

“Are you ready?” Madison asked Elijah.

Elijah gave her his customary nod. He hadn’t spoken since that night, but she had made an appointment for him to see the child psychologist Jack Hammond had recommended next week. She had planned on leaving him at home when she went to see Drake. She didn’t want him to spend any more time at the Sheriff’s office, but he had freaked out when she called Rosie to get a recommendation for a babysitter. Together they walked into the front door of the jail. She’d been here many times dropping off someone she had arrested, but she’d never had to visit someone here before.

After going through the security check, she and Elijah were finally directed to the visiting room. The visiting room was full of battered tables and folding chairs. Madison and Elijah chose a table as far away from the other prisoners and their visitors. Finally, Drake was led into the room. She wanted to rush over and hug him, but touching was not allowed in the jail. When he sat down, she held his hand. The bright orange jumpsuit highlighted the purplish bruise on his face. He looked a little better physically, but the sparkle he used to have in his blue eyes was gone. She didn’t ask him how he was. She could tell that he wasn’t doing well. They sat in silence for a little while, but their time was running out.

“Drake, I’m going to call a lawyer for you on Monday. I can’t get a hold of anyone over the weekend.”

“I don’t need a lawyer, Madison.”

“You do need one. What happened wasn’t your fault. You need a lawyer to work out the best plea deal.”

“I’m not taking a plea deal. I’m going to take full responsibility for what happened.”

“Drake, you might spend years in prison.”

“Then, that’s what I’ll do. What about you? You didn’t try to make a deal with the mayor did you? You were going to take full responsibility for your choices.”

“That’s different, Drake. I broke a lot of regulations.”

“I broke the law, Madison.”

“But you were coerced, Drake. Any prosecutor is going to see that. They’ll cut you a deal.”

“No, Madison. I’m going to face this just like you’re facing your consequences. There’s one other thing.”

“Whatever you need, Drake. You know that.”

“I don’t want you and Elijah to come here again.”

“I tried to find a sitter for Elijah, but…”

“No, Madison. I don’t want to see you here again, either. I want you to move on with your life. Do what you have to do to get passed this, and then I want you to leave here. Take Elijah with you.”

“Drake, no, I…”

Drake stood up. “If you come back, I won’t see you. I’m going to face this alone. You need to rebuild your career, and you can’t do that with a convict for a husband.”

Drake turned his back on her and knocked on the door to the visitor’s room. He didn’t even look back when he left the room. Madison sat, stunned by what Drake had said. Elijah put his fist over her hand.

“It’s all right, Elijah. He doesn’t mean it. We’ll let him think for a day or two and come back next week.”

Elijah nodded.

Drake didn’t relent, though. She went back over the next week several times, but he wouldn’t see her. He also refused to see the lawyer she sent over. He couldn’t keep her from attending his preliminary hearing. Since he was pleading guilty, he had waived his right to a trial. He was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison with the opportunity for parole. If he followed the rules and didn’t get into trouble in prison, he could be out in as little as five years. Drake never once looked back at her during his sentencing, nor did he look at her when he was led away in shackles.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 25

Thursday morning, Madison sat by Drake as he picked at his breakfast. Even though he had slept, he was still pale. The bruise on his face was a livid bluish purple against his pale skin. He refused to look at her or at Elijah. Both he and Elijah had retreated back into silence. She held back a sigh. Tomorrow would be a week since Andie was first killed. She could’t believe that only a week had passed. She felt like a different person. She knew she would have to answer for taking Elijah to exchange with the killer and for the killer escaping. She knew Hal would also want to take responsibility for what happened, but she wasn’t going to let him. She had her account of the events ready to go. She just had to convince Hal to go along with it.

The door opened, and Madison turned to see who it was. Hal was standing at the door. Drake sat up a little straighter.

“Hal,” Madison said. “This isn’t a good time. Drake isn’t..”

Drake spoke in a quiet voice.

“I invited him over.”

She turned back to Drake.

“What? When?”

“When you went down to the cafeteria to get Elijah some breakfast. Madison, there’s something I need to tell you. I tried to tell you last night. If I don’t do this right now, I’ll lose my nerve.”

“Okay, Drake, but I don’t understand what Hal is doing here.”

“I need someone who is impartial to hear what I have to say.”

Hal had taken out his little notebook and a pen. Clicking the pen, he began to read Drake his Miranda rights.

“Hal, what are you doing? Drake is not a criminal.”

She noticed Elijah’s eyes darting from Hal to Drake. He looked scared. Drake noticed him, too.

“Elijah,” he said. “Would you do me a favor and go see how the deputy in the hall is doing? He’s probably lonely.”

Elijah frowned and began to shake his head. Drake caught his eye, and suddenly Elijah relented as if Drake and he had shared a silent message that only they could understand. Elijah walked to the door and went into the hallway. After making sure that the deputy would keep an eye on Elijah, Madison shut the door. Hal finished reading Drake his rights.

Keeping his eyes on Hal, Drake began to speak.

“You found that old couple, didn’t you?”

Hal nodded.

“I understand you wish to give a statement. You understand your rights?”

Drake nodded impatiently.

“I waive my rights.”

Madison began to get a horrible feeling.

“Drake, you’re a victim. You can’t be held responsible for…”

Drake cut her off.

“I am responsible, Madison. You need to hear me out.”

Drake began to talk about what had happened yesterday when he went to his meeting. As Madison and Hal had surmised, the meeting was a fake. The suspect had hit Drake in the back of the head and driven off with him in the back of his Pacifica. Drake never even saw him coming. When he’d come to, the man had been pulling up to the old couple’s cabin. Holding a knife on him, the man had forced Drake into the cabin. Madison didn’t want to hear what came next.

“You have to understand what happened. That monster gave me a knife. I knew I had to make a choice. If I wanted to live, I had to kill that couple, so I did it. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I could have turned the knife on myself. If I had done that, then he wouldn’t have been able to bargain for Elijah. I could have turned on him. If he killed me, then, again, he wouldn’t have me as his bargaining chip. I could have tried to kill him, and get away. I have to be honest. It didn’t even occur to me to do any of those things. In my mind, it was the couple or me. I chose me. I wanted to live. I slit that woman’s throat while her husband watched, and then I killed him.”

Hal took a deep breath, and closed his notebook. He looked at Madison.

“You know what I have to do, Madison.”

She started to beg for Drake’s life. She would do anything to keep him safe, and she thought maybe she could convince Hal to keep this between them. Looking into Hal’s steel gray eyes, she realized that he had already crossed the line for her. Drake took her hand and squeezed it.

“I’m sorry, Madison. I wasn’t strong enough when I needed to be. You need to let me do this. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I let you cover this up.”

She kissed Drake’s hand. He wiped a tear that had escaped from her eye and was trickling down her cheek.

“You never cry. Don’t cry for me now.”

She nodded and swiped her eyes with her hands.

“What happens now, Hal?”

“I’ll come get him once he’s released from the hospital. I’ll book him. With a crime like this, I won’t be able to just send him home. Do you understand that, Drake? You’re going to have to sit in jail. Before you can post bail, there will have to be a hearing. You’re going to need a lawyer.”

Drake nodded.

“I want this all done by the book. I don’t want any cover-ups or plea deals.”

Hal raised his hand. 

“We’re not going to cover this up, but you need to consider your options. Consider Madison.”

Drake nodded miserably. “I am considering her. That’s why I needed to get this out in the open.”

“Drake, you don’t need to worry about me. I can take care of myself.”

“You’re already in trouble over this. You don’t think I noticed that you brought Elijah to exchange for me?”

“I wasn’t going to exchange him. It was a trap, Drake.”

“I know that, Madison, but you and I both know that, if I weren’t involved, you never would have even contemplated doing something like that.”

Madison had to agree with Drake. She always ran things by the book. She followed the letter of the law to ensure that the cases she built would be air-tight when they went to court. She realized that she hadn’t been thinking clearly since this whole nightmare began. She shouldn’t have even volunteered to foster Elijah. That was a huge conflict of interest. She had been surprised when CPS had allowed him to stay with her.

Hal stood up.

“I’m going to head into the department and start the paperwork.”

“All right, Hal. Thanks for everything,” Madison said.

Drake laid his head back against his pillow.

“I need to be alone for a while, Madison. Maybe, you should take Elijah home and get some rest.”

Madison wanted to protest, but she could tell that Drake didn’t want her around right now. And he was right. Elijah was probably exhausted. She kissed him softly on the lips.

“I’ll be back in a little while.”

With his eyes closed, Drake nodded. When she left Drake’s room, she noticed that Kurt had just taken over for the morning shift. She didn’t stop to talk to him, but merely nodded and motioned for Elijah to follow her. She assumed that Hal had filled Kurt in on Drake’s new status. Kurt was no longer guarding a victim, but a self-confessed murderer. Kurt nodded back at Madison with courtesy, but his eyes were cold.

When she and Elijah emerged into the harsh morning light, she wondered if she should take the department’s SUV, but realized she was still the Sheriff. She would turn it in when she resigned, but she needed to get home. Elijah climbed into the passenger side while she went around to the driver’s side. Letting the engine idle, she turned to Elijah.

“Do you think he’s gone?”

Elijah nodded solemnly.

“You’re sure?”

Elijah nodded again.

“He won’t come back for you?”

Elijah shook his head.

“Because you refused to go with him.”

Elijah nodded, again.

“Okay. Let’s go home.”

She drove slowly up their long tree-lined driveway. She hadn’t seen a battered Jeep anywhere along their route. She was reluctant to call for a unit to watch her house, but when she pulled up to her house, a deputy was already parked in front. As she pulled up to her garage door, Randy and Larry got out of their SUV and came over to her window.

“Good morning, Sheriff. We’re still looking for the suspect. Hal sent us over to keep an eye on things so you could get some rest.”

“When was the last time you and Larry got some rest, Randy?”

“Oh, we both got a few hours of sleep last night after we finished with the last crime scene. We’re fine.”

“Okay, Randy.”

She started to pull forward but stopped.

“Randy?”

“Yes, Sheriff.”

“Call me Madison.”

He looked a little confused, but nodded. She pulled her SUV into the garage and shut the door. After securing her vehicle, she and Elijah went into the empty house.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 24

Madison raced towards Elijah’s scream. She couldn’t believe that he could scream that loud. She prayed that she would be in time. She didn’t know what that man might do to Elijah. It didn’t matter that he was his father. From the state of Elijah’s hands, he had hurt Elijah before. Ducking branches and jumping over fallen logs, Madison had to stop from time to time to orient herself to Elijah’s screams. She finally called to him. “I’m coming, Elijah! I’m coming!”

Up above her, she heard a car door slam and an engine start. She hoped that the suspect had taken off. She could still hear Elijah screaming up ahead.At last, Elijah’s screams seemed to come from straight ahead, and she could tell she was going in the right direction. She pushed her aching legs and continued to run towards the screams. She burst out of the trees and found Elijah standing on the slope. He was alone. As soon as Elijah saw her, he quit screaming and rushed toward her. Grabbing her hand, he began to pull her back down the slope. Above them, Madison heard someone else scrambling through the trees. She heard Hal shout, “Stop, Sheriff’s Department.” And then a shot rang out.

Ignoring the shot, Elijah continued to pull her back down the slope toward the clearing. When they reached the edge of the trees, Elijah pulled away from her and streaked across the clearing to where Drake was laying in the beams of the headlights. A few moments later, she caught up to Elijah, and they both knelt by Drake. He was still alive, but he looked bad. Blood was seeping around the edges of her jacket that she had pressed against Drake’s wound.

“Elijah, help Drake hold that jacket down.”

Elijah nodded and pressed both his fists against the wound. Drake hissed in pain as Elijah put pressure on his wound, but that did not deter Elijah. Madison pulled Drake’s head onto her lap as she pulled her phone out of her pocket. Luckily, it still had a charge. She dialed 911 and relayed the coordinates to the dispatcher. She hoped they would come on time.

A shadow loomed up behind her and she turned instinctively to protect Drake and Elijah. Hal stood behind her. Carrying his rifle over his shoulder, he was breathing heavily. Cuts and scrapes covered his face. She probably looked the same after running through the dark trees.

“I’m sorry, Madison.” Hal said. “He got away. He had a Jeep sitting on top of the slope. There’s an old access road up there. I couldn’t get to him in time.”

“That’s all right, Hal. Just keep a look out in case he decides to come back.”

Hal nodded and brought his rifle down from his shoulder. Elijah continued to press on Drake’s wound while Madison held onto his head.

“Madison,” Drake whispered. “There’s something I have to tell you.”

“Don’t talk, Drake. You need to save your strength. You’ve lost a lot of blood.”

Smoothing his hair from his forehead, she stared down into his blue eyes. His eyes were dark with fear and anxiety.

“No, you and Hal need to hear…”

A siren and flashing red and blue lights cut him off. Madison swore. She had cut off the only way into the clearing.

“Elijah, I need the keys.”

Elijah removed one hand from Drake’s makeshift dressing and dug the keys out of his pocket. He tossed the keys to Madison as she took off running towards her SUV. An EMT was getting out of the ambulance. She yelled at him and jumped into the SUV. Quickly, she pulled her SUV out of the way so the ambulance could pull nearer to Drake.

She met the EMT’s as they rushed to Drake’s side.

“He has a knife wound on his side. He may have a head injury.”

The EMT’s nodded and set their gear down by Drake. Elijah was reluctant to leave Drake, but Madison grabbed his wrist.

“C’mon, Elijah. You’ve done a good job. The EMT’s are going to take over.”

The EMT next to Elijah gave him a smile.

“Your dad is going to be okay, but let us take care of him now, okay?”

Elijah nodded and let Madison lead him to stand by Hal. She didn’t correct the EMT. She thought that Drake was probably more of a father to Elijah than his own father had been. She heard more sirens as several more SUV’s from her department pulled into the clearing.

“I’m going to go give them the description of the Jeep,” Hal said as he headed to the deputies. She watched him give the deputies directions. He was calm and exuded confidence. With a flash, she realized that he was more suited to be the Sheriff than she was. He handled everyone with a quiet respect and he earned respect in return. In a few minutes, two of the SUV’s raced away.

The EMT’s had stabilized Drake and were loading him into the ambulance when Hal came back to her side.

“I’m going to head out. I want to help catch the motherfucker.”

Before she could thank him or even offer him a ride to his vehicle, he melted into the trees. His dark clothes made the perfect camouflage, so she couldn’t even tell in which direction he had gone.

“We’re taking him to Colorado Canyon. Did you want to say anything to him?”

Before she could say anything, Elijah scrambled into the back of the ambulance with Drake. Drake smiled at him.

“I’m okay, Elijah.” Elijah clasped one of Drake’s hands between his two fists.

Madison looked at Drake.

“I’ll be right behind you. I guess Elijah is going to ride with you. Is that all right?” she asked the EMT’s.

“Well, normally we wouldn’t let a minor ride back here, but I don’t think we can get that little guy out of there without a fight. He’ll be fine.”

Madison followed the ambulance to the main road. With sirens and lights blazing, she tailed the ambulance to the hospital. Her deputies followed closely behind her. Pulling her SUV into the space allotted for the Sheriff’s department, she rushed through the doors of the Emergency Room. Elijah was waiting for her.

Grabbing his hand, she asked, “Where is he?”

Elijah pointed toward two double doors. Flashing her badge, she entered the double doors leading to the examination room. Nurses and doctors were swarming around Drake as they hooked him up to IV’s and checked the wound in his side.

“Sheriff Rhodes,” a doctor looked up at her. “We’ll be with you in a moment. She continued to hold Elijah’s fist in her hand. He didn’t seem to mind as he pushed closer to her side. The doctor finished examining Drake and came to speak to her.

“He’s going to need stitches, but it’s only a flesh wound. He has a head injury. We are going to do some X-rays. I think we should keep him overnight for observation. We’ll come get you when we’ve got him in his room.”

“Thank you, Doctor.”

“We’ll come get him in a few minutes.”

The doctor and nurses left. Madison and Elijah went to stand by Drake. His eyes opened when he heard them. She wanted to cry and throw herself on him, but she knew she had to stay strong. Drake was obviously traumatized. Stroking his forehead, she bent over and gave him a soft kiss on his cheek.

“They’re going to put some stitches in and give you an X-ray.”

Drake nodded.

“Madison, I need to tell you something.”

“Rest, Drake. Whatever it is you can tell me in the morning.”

“No, I need to tell you…”

The doctor came in with a kit.

“We’re going to put those stitches in, and then we’ll take him to X-ray.”

Madison took Drake’s hand while they cleaned his wound and began to numb it. The doctor worked quickly and efficiently. Then an X-ray technician came to take Drake to X-ray.

“I’ll have the nurse show you to Drake’s room. You can wait in there until he’s finished.”

A nurse led Madison and Elijah to the second floor. Once she was in the room, she called the deputies who had followed her to the hospital. She wanted Drake’s room watched until they caught that madman. With her deputies stationed outside the door, she finally dropped into one of the chairs in Drake’s room. Elijah was slumped in the other chair. A nurse noticed him and brought him and Madison each blankets. Cuddled in the warm blanket, Elijah drifted off to sleep. Madison was too keyed up to sleep. Drake had kept trying to tell her something. She thought he wanted to tell her about the last couple they had found, but he didn’t need to do that. They had collected the evidence and secured the scene. They could wait for his account until tomorrow. He needed to rest.

After an eternity, Drake was finally wheeled into the room. The orderly helped him get into bed. Drake was sleepy from the pain killer they had given him. Carefully, she climbed into bed beside him. He laid his head against her chest, and she wrapped her arms around him until he finally fell asleep.

Sins of the Father: Chapter 23

Elijah clung to his father as he ran through the trees. He wondered if Drake were okay. He couldn’t believe his father had done that. Madison had brought Elijah just as his father had wanted. Why did he have to kill him? He began to struggle. He didn’t want to go with this man any longer. He thought his father had a sense of honor. He didn’t steal unless he could help it, and he always kept his word. He could feel his father’s muscle strain as he tried to keep a hold of Elijah’s squirming body. Finally, he stopped.

“What’s the matter with you, boy? We have to keep moving.”

“No.” The word came out in a harsh whisper.

His father knelt down. Expecting a slap to the side of his head, Elijah flinched a little, but his father just grabbed him by the arms.

“She didn’t come alone, boy. There’s someone else here. Can you hear?”

Elijah cocked his head. He could hear someone running through the trees to the side of them. Elijah tried to step away from his father, but his father’s hands tightened around his arms.

“What are you doing, boy?”

“I’m not going with you.” The sound of the person in the forest was moving away from them. The person was going to miss them in the dark. Elijah realized that he could scream and whoever that was would be back on track, but Elijah wouldn’t betray his father.

“You have to, boy. I’m the only one who can take care of you.”

“No.” Elijah looked back at the clearing. He could see a faint light through the trees, but he couldn’t see Madison or Drake any more.

“You mean him. That pansy? He’s not strong enough, boy. You know what we are. He won’t know how to handle you when you get older. I can keep you safe. I can keep you from becoming what I am.”

“I’m not like you. I’ll never be like you.”

They could hear someone crashing through the woods. They were circling back around. They would be here in a few minutes.

“You need to go. Now.” Elijah raised his voice a little. He pulled back with all his strength and his father finally let him go. Flailing his arms, Elijah sat down hard in the damp pine needles.

“Go, Father. Go now!” Elijah stood and pointed into the trees. The crashing through the brush grew louder, and Elijah knew his father would never let himself be taken alive. He’d rather die than live in a cage. His father ran toward him. Elijah’s heart sank as he realized his father wasn’t going to give him up, but his father didn’t stop to grab him. He kept running past Elijah and up the heavily forested slope. He was quiet. A lot quiet than whoever was scrambling around in the trees below him. When he heard a door slam and an engine start, he knew his father had gotten away. And, then, he screamed.