Adrift: The Complete Novel

BOOK: Adrift: The Complete Novel
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“Adrift”

(The Complete Novel)

Copyright © 2014 Corps Justice. All Rights Reserved

Author: C. G. Cooper

Editor: Karen Rought

(
http://www.CorpsJustice.com
)

 

This is a work of fiction. Characters, names, locations and events are all products of the author’s imagination. Any similarities to actual events or real persons are completely coincidental.

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.

 

Warning:
This story is intended for mature audiences and contains profanity and violence.

 

Dedications

To our amazing troops serving all over the world, thank you for your bravery and service.

Semper Fidelis

 

- Table of Contents -

 

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

 

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

 

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

 

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 1

 

Your fault
. The accusation floated along the edges of my subconscious, teasing me, blaming me, haunting me. I moved to swat the thought away, but my hand smacked into something hard. Wincing, I tried to open my eyes. They felt caked closed, rebelling from the night before.

The smell of must and dirt made their way into my muted senses. Finally cracking my lids open, I saw that I was lying on my side, facing a hay bale. I tried to rise, my stomach lurching at the movement. I closed my eyes again, willing the nausea to subside even as the spike headache stabbed painfully. Where was I?

After a few deep breaths, I eased to my feet, clutching a moldy wood railing for support. Tongue scraping along my parched lips, I looked around, squinting at the bright rays of sunshine streaming in through a crack near the door.

“He’s around here somewhere,” came the shout from the sunlit morning.

“Let’s check in the barn.”

I ducked behind two stacked hay bales just as three figures stepped into the barn, cautiously peering into the relative darkness. As my vision adjusted, I saw that one of the guys, a hulking figure in overalls, had a bandage covering his nose, the next one, almost a twin to his buddy, had his arm wrapped in a sling. The others looking healthy, one sporting a baseball bat, the other a long crowbar. By their appearance, they looked like brothers, or at least cousins.

“You two look behind the hay, I’ll take a look up in the loft,” Mr. Busted Nose whispered harshly.

They’d find me in a second, and I didn’t want to hide.

“You guys looking for me?” I asked innocently, standing up, stretching with a yawn.

Their eyes whipped around at the sound of my voice. “You’ve got some payback coming, boy,” said the leader.

“I’m sure we can talk about this, fellas. Why don’t…” I started as the farmboys cut off my lanes of retreat.

“Ain’t gonna be that easy. You broke my nose and busted Honey’s shoulder. There’s…”

“Wait, his name is
Honey
?”

Honey’s face turned beet red. “Let me take him, Johnny. I swear he’s…”

“I told you he’s mine,” said Johnny, slowly pulling an old revolver out of his pocket. “Now, it’s up to you whether you just lose your pecker or I fucking kill you.”

I raised my hands, not wanting a fight, wondering if my weakened body would respond to commands. “I don’t want any trouble, why don’t I just walk away before we do something stupid.”

“You shoulda thought of that last night, faggot. Tell you what, I’ll give you a chance. You take my cousins and win, then
maybe
I’ll let you walk away.”

I looked over at his cousins, noticing the bulbous nose of one and the cauliflower ears of the other. They were fighters. “Let me guess, boxer and wrestler?”

The cousins both smiled wickedly, showing off their yellowed teeth. Surprising they still had them all.

“Doesn’t seem fair to me,” I said. “I’d be happy to pay for…”

Without warning, the boxer cousin charged, swinging his baseball bat, aimed straight at my pounding head. Click.

My mind switched and reflexes took over. Crouching under the lumbering swing, my fist smashed into his groin, his momentum taking him over my right shoulder.
One down
.

Cousin #2 roared, but came on more tentatively, sobered by the easy takedown of #1.
Thwap. Thunk, thwap
, came the swings, hitting the elevated hay bales and railing, narrowly missing my dodging body. He was methodical, slowly corralling me into a corner.

The chop came, and I stepped into it, catching his hands overhead, a dribble of tobacco juice seeping out of his grimacing mouth. We struggled there for a moment, knowing that in a straight up strength contest, #2 would win. Not a possibility. I stepped wide with my left foot, swung my right leg behind him, and kicked back, pulled forward with my arms, flipping him over my right hip.

He landed with a thud, barely stunned, but I was on top.
Take out the threat
, came the order. #2 looked up, eyes wide, seeing the demon in my eyes, hand cocked, ready to deliver the death blow.

“I think that’s enough,” came a deep voice, followed by the rack of a shotgun shell.

I didn’t lift my eyes, still poised to strike, seething.

“Let him go, son,” came the order from whoever had entered the fray.

It took an extended moment. Inside, I uncoiled, easing off my opponent.

“Now look here, Mr. Herndon, this guy attacked us…”

“Let me guess. This happened at Pappy’s last night?”

“Yes, sir. Sent me to the hospital with a broken nose, and Honey with a bum shoulder.”

“Seems like I already heard the story, Johnny. A little bird told me you boys were harassing that pretty little waitress and this kid stepped in. Now, you gonna tell me that didn’t happen?”

Johnny hesitated.

“That’s what I thought. Why don’t you take your cousins on out of here. Enough fun for one day.”

“But Mr….”

“I said, get your tails off my property. I could just as easily call the sheriff for trespassing and assault. Your choice.”

The leader of the redneck band grumbled, but ended up gathering the wounded and headed out the barn door.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

I waited until I heard the rumble of an oversized muffler, and the gravelly spin of large tires on the dirt road to come out from behind the hay bales.

“You okay, son?”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

The old man, sporting a slight potbelly, cradled his shotgun now pointed at the ground. “I don’t mean to sound inhospitable, but I think it’s time for you to hit the road.”

“Yes, sir. I’m sorry for trespassing. Would it be okay if I paid for my stay?” I slid a fifty dollar bill out of the tightly packed wad in my back pocket.

The old man cocked his head, taking me in. “Where are you headed, son?”

I shrugged. “Just passing through. Didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

“Well, you did get into it with the wrong family. Those boys, the Laneys, their grandpa owns half the county. I’ll just say that Johnny and the boys get most what they want. Tell you what, how about you come inside and I’ll get you some coffee and breakfast, maybe even a shower,” he said, pointing at my dirt-stained clothing.

“I don’t want to get you in any trouble, sir. Maybe it’d be best if…”

“Now, I’m not afraid of them boys, but the choice is yours. The road’s that way, and the house is that way. Take your pick. I hope to see you in a minute.”

My unintended host left, and I stood there staring at the open door. I’d hurt so many, I didn’t want to take the chance of this kind old man paying for my sins.

I stepped around the hay bales, grabbed my ruck sack, and headed for the door.

 

+++

 

The smell of bacon and coffee pulled me as I knocked on the wooden frame of the rickety screen door.

“It’s open,” came the call from inside.

I eased the door open with a
screeek
, taking off my well-worn boots and leaving them on the porch. Following the sounds of metal clanking and scraping against metal, I found the old man in front of a gas stove, scrambling eggs while tending to the quarter inch thick bacon in a skillet.

Part of me salivated, but another part churned.

“Hungry?”

“I think I will be, sir.”

He looked up from his cooking, wrinkles squinting appraisingly. “Why don’t you take a quick shower? Bathroom’s just around the corner. I put out some old clothes out for you. You can throw yours in the washer when you’re done.”

I nodded, not knowing what to say. He pointed an impatient finger down the hallway. “I’m not gonna ask again son, you stink. By the time you get done, I’ll have breakfast waiting.”

I smiled, the first I’d allowed myself in days.

 

+++

 

After chugging what felt like a gallon of water out of the faucet, I stepped into the steaming shower, grateful for its soothing caress. Not wanting to keep my host waiting, I washed and rinsed quickly.

The clothes he’d laid out were slightly big for my shrinking frame, but a roll on each sleeve and pant leg made them more than wearable.

By the time I walked back into the kitchen my stomach was grumbling. The old man looked up as I walked in. “Feel better?”

“Yes, sir. Thank you.” I took a seat, my mouth watering at the sight of the greasy plate in front of me.

“You mind if I say Grace?”

I shook my head. The old man bowed his head. “Lord, thank you for this bounty, and thank you for the fellowship of our new friend…”

I squinted through closed eyes. He was waiting. “Daniel, sir. Daniel Briggs.”

He smiled warmly, closing his eyes once more. “Thank you for the fellowship of our new friend Daniel. May this day be filled with joy. In Your Name we pray, Amen.”

“Amen,” I mumbled, more as a thanks to the old man’s kindness, than for any spiritual reverence.

I watched as he made a sandwich between two slices of toasted white bread with his eggs and bacon, focused like a child. He looked up with a mouthful of breakfast sandwich, as if coming to a realization. Swallowing the bite whole, he said, “How rude of me. Hollister Herndon at your service, Mr. Briggs. My friends call me Hollie.”

I nodded, refocusing on my meal. Hollie took the hint and dove into his sandwich, which reminded me of my past. I used to make sandwiches out of everything. Faster to eat that way. Better when you were on the run.

 

+++

 

Hollie gave me a quick tour of the farm before setting out to check the fields. “Damn deer been eating everything this year,” he grumbled. I offered to go along, but he suggested I rest. “You still look a little green.” He was right. My hangover raged into Round 2, so while Hollie rode the fields, I gladly dozed in a leather armchair, grateful for the cold air inside, warding off the stifling summer heat outside.

I was careful not to fall completely asleep. Deep sleep brought thoughts, feelings I didn’t want. So I dozed, occasionally sipping on a large glass of iced water that sat next to me on an antique side table.

BOOK: Adrift: The Complete Novel
4.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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