The Cypress Trap: A Suspense Thriller

BOOK: The Cypress Trap: A Suspense Thriller
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Copyright © 2015 by JC Gatlin

This is a work of
fiction. All the characters, organizations, locations, and events portrayed in
this novel are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

THE CYPRESS TRAP

Copyright © May 2015 by
JC Gatlin

 

Edited by Beth
Mansbridge, Mansbridge Editing & Transcription

 

All rights reserved. The
book author retains sole copyright to his contributions to this book.

 

ISBN-10:0692485155

ISBN-13: 978-0692485156

Cover images from Canstock
Photography, image #csp3054653 and csp5672336

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my extraordinary niece,

Ryleigh Gatlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Grover
Lott hated swimming. What’s more, the very thought of jumping from the side of
a cliff into a deep channel some thirty-odd feet below paralyzed him with fear.
But what choice did he have?

Standing
on the edge of the rocky precipice, he looked down. Four teenage boys, like
fuzzy action figures in the blue water, splashed and whooped and called to him.
Their voices carried on the breeze, and Grover squeezed his eyes shut. He had
tolerated them in gym class, believing he’d never have to lay eyes on those
boys again after graduating from high school last May. Still, for some unknown
reason, their association continued.

Slipping
a hand into a pocket of his cutoff jeans, he pulled out his lucky rabbit’s
foot. It wasn’t any ordinary charm, but the foot of a large Arabian Cape hare.
According to legend, it was a prize won at the 1930 Chicago World’s Fair and
cursed by a shaman. Ordinarily Grover scoffed at the idea of a superstitious
talisman, but this was different somehow. His fingers caressed the soft pink
fur, felt the solid splint of bone inside. He squeezed it into his palm so
tight his knuckles ached. It soothed him, though, and gave him the courage to
open his eyes.

He
looked over at his buddy standing beside him.

Owen
Meeks, his best friend since third grade, challenged him to jump. Six feet tall
but still a couple inches shy of Grover, Owen lowered his voice and placed a
hand on Grover’s shoulder. “Come on! There’s nothing to it.”

Grover
looked past his friend, to the rocky plateau stretching into overgrown
woodlands. At the edge of the tree line, a good twenty feet or so away, another
boy hollered as he pulled a blue-and-white-striped collared shirt over his
head. Grover ignored him and turned to Owen, who was waving his arms at that
boy.

“Groves’
not movin’,” Owen yelled, and nudged Grover a bit harder. “Think he’s chicken’n
out on us or someth’n.”

Grover
relented and took a step back. He squeezed the rabbit’s foot tighter in his
palm. Tall and skinny, barely weighing one sixty, he’d always loomed over his
classmates. When he stood up straight, he was easily six foot three. But he
never stood up straight; his head hung low, chin to chest, especially when he walked
through the crowded campus or in the hallways between classes. His parents
scolded him and told him to stop slouching. You’ll never play basketball. Or
baseball. Or run track, they said. But he didn’t want to do any of those
activities anyway. He only wanted to play the clarinet. That’s where he wished
he were now—locked in his bedroom with his books, playing his clarinet.

Not
outside in the heat. Not here on the cliff edge with a group of juvenile
delinquents he really didn’t know and didn’t care to know. Drinking. Swearing.
Swimming.

Owen
pushed him again. “You’ve seen us do it a thousand times. Hell, you’ve seen us
do it two thousand times before.”

Grover
looked down at his friend. For some reason, he realized long ago, Owen did
care. Owen always wanted to run with this gang. He wanted to belong. And he
wanted acceptance. It puzzled Grover. Even more perplexing was why Owen wanted
Grover to be part of that group as well.

Grover
inched to the brink of the cliff and gazed down. It was a long drop to the
crystal waters below. Now all four boys were grouped together in the channel,
chanting, encouraging him to jump. Grover took a deep gulp of air and two steps
back.

“I
can’t do it. You can’t make me,” he said to Owen, and then spotted their buddy.

Bare
from the waist up, Darryl had gripped his collared shirt in a way that made it
look like a blue-and-white-striped flag. He dropped it, slipped a pair of
wire-rimmed glasses on his nose, and marched over to them. Darryl and Owen
grabbed hold of Grover’s arms and walked him back toward the ledge.

“Come
on, Groves,” Owen said again. “There’s nothing to it.”

“Well,
if you’re not goin’, I’m goin’.” Darryl released his grip, moved a couple of
feet to the side and stepped out of his jeans. He looked back at Grover. “Ya
know what the guys down there are think’n right now?”

Grover
studied him and considered his options. He glanced over the edge of the cliff
once more. If he didn’t jump, he could run into the woods behind them. Or he
could step off the ledge and take the plunge. But it was too high. He knew it.
The drop too far.

Grover
shook his head in protest. “I don’t care what they think.” He took several
steps away from the edge.

Owen
and Darryl approached him again, and he felt their hands on his back. He locked
his legs, scraping his heels across the rock. “No. No. No.”

Darryl
sighed, letting him go.

“Watch
me, okay?” In his underwear now, Darryl removed his glasses and handed them to
Owen. Darryl jogged several feet away from the ledge, turned, and sprinted
forward. Leaping, Darryl sailed off the cliff … free-falling for what seemed to
Grover like minutes before dropping into the water with a splash. It sent
ripples fanning out in wide circles toward the center of the channel and back
against the banks. The boys swimming below cheered.

Grover
heard them and heard Darryl call to him. His voice carried all the way up to
the ridge. Grover listened, but it didn’t ease his fears. He felt Owen’s hand
on his shoulder again.

“You
see, there’s nothing to it,” Owen said.

“I
don’t want to jump.” Grover shrank back, shaking his head and squeezing his
eyes shut. He didn’t even want to look down.

“You’ve
got to, Groves. Else you’ll never live it down.” Owen nudged Grover toward the
ledge.

Grover
opened his eyes. He turned to Owen and said, “Those guys. … They’re not my
friends. I don’t care what they think.”

“Then
care what I think.” Owen wrapped a hand behind Grover’s neck. He tilted
Grover’s head down, closer to his. “I’m your best friend, right?”

Grover
pulled away. “If you were my best friend, you wouldn’t make me do this.”

“I’m
making you do this because I am your friend.” Owen nudged Grover’s shoulder
again. “I don’t like it when people dis you.”

Eyes
tearing up, Grover stared at him. “I don’t care what they think.”

“Do
you care what I think?” Owen walked toward Darryl’s shirt and jeans crumpled in
a pile on a rock. He set the glasses on top of the pile and returned to Grover.
“I’m losing respect for you too.”

The
words stung and Grover averted his eyes. Perched on the edge, looking down at
the water, he felt his heart beat faster. He was sweating and his legs
weakened. Without thinking, he reached in his jeans pocket for the rabbit’s
foot. It wasn’t there. His hand immediately went to the other pocket. He
checked his back pockets.

Panicked,
he moved away from Owen. Grover’s voice went up an octave. “It’s gone.”

“What’s
gone?”

“My
rabbit’s foot. It’s gone.” Grover dropped to his knees and began to search the
rocky plateau. “Where is it?”

Owen
took hold of his left arm and yanked him to his feet. He pushed Grover back to
the ledge.

Grover
pulled his hand away. “No, you don’t understand. I need to find it.”

“Get
over it,” Owen said. “It’s just a stupid toy.”

“It’s
not a toy.” Panic rose in Grover’s voice. “It’s the foot of a
Lepus capensis
,
an Arabian Cape hare.”

“It’s
okay. I get it.” Owen smiled and nodded. His voice fell low, little more than a
whisper. “Don’t worry about it.”

Grover
hesitated, took a breath, and made sure he’d heard correctly. Owen nodded.
Grover forgot about the rabbit’s foot with a rush of relief. He wasn’t going to
have to jump. This calmed him and he stood straighter.

“It’ll
all be okay,” Owen said. There was a glint of excitement in his eyes.

Grover
noticed it just as Owen lunged forward. He grabbed Grover’s outstretched arm
and yanked him hard toward the edge of the cliff.

Grover
stumbled, waving his arms. His body turned as he fought to regain balance. His
breath rushed out of his mouth with one terrified cry for help and he reached
for his friend. Owen pulled away. Rock crumbled beneath Grover’s feet as he
tumbled backward.

He
dropped.

His
brain processed that he was falling and he could feel the wind rush against his
face, screaming in his ears. His arms thrashed wildly, side to side. His hands
grasped for something, anything … then a shoulder slammed against the
cliffside. It knocked the wind out of him, spinning him around in a midair
somersault. He plummeted facedown and saw the water rush up to claim him.

Like
a solid thing.

Like
concrete.

And
he smacked it hard.

He
submerged, deep, fast. The hollow, warbling sound of water overtook him, filled
his ears, his mouth, his lungs. His body cut through the blue expanse until he
smashed into the sandy bedrock.

After
several moments of unnatural silence, Grover’s broken body rose to the surface.

BOOK: The Cypress Trap: A Suspense Thriller
3.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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