Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 27
Sam wrestled the massive snake out of some Conan movie, its head so large it couldn’t get back to him as he stabbed a long dagger into it again and again. It did, however, rise up and smash him into the rocky ceiling. He lost his grip on the monster and fell to the ground where a giant iguana tried to swallow him up, but he managed to roll out of the way and throw his dagger into its eye. He ran for a small hole and dove through, but as he entered the hole, spikes came up out of the walls and stuck into his body.
Sam sat up and wanted to puke. Pain pierced his ribcage and breathing was difficult. He got up and stumbled into the bathroom.
He wasn’t fine. His head throbbed and his body ached like never before. He tried to throw up, but only sour bile came up. It was dark outside, so he must not have had anything to eat since that morning.
“Sam, are you sure you’re fine?” Girlfriend asked from the doorway of the bathroom.
“Yeah. I’m good.”
“Then tell me what you were thinking first of all by accusing Doc Brenner of being some mad scientist and then drinking. I’ve never seen you drink before, and I’m glad now that I haven’t. Have you lost your mind?”
Had he? No. He was certain that it was Doc Brenner. It had to be. The man was too secretive. Girlfriend had said something about it possibly being Lin, but Sam had been in her house. She was just a girl who didn’t harbor any secrets. He knew that.
“No, I haven’t lost my mind. What time is it?”
Girlfriend looked back into the bedroom while Sam rinsed his mouth out. He got his toothbrush out and started putting toothpaste on it.
“It’s almost two.”
Sam dropped the toothbrush. “What? Why didn’t you wake me up? We’ve got to get out there.”
“I thought that detective was going to wake you up.”
“That’s not the point. I want to get out there long before this happens. I don’t know if it’s going to happen at the same time each night. We can’t miss this happening. This will tell us for sure if what I’m thinking really happened. Dammit.”
Sam squirmed his way past Girlfriend, kissing her as he did. He dressed as quickly as he could. He wanted to ask how he’d gotten back to the trailer and undressed, but that wasn’t as important as getting his clothes back on and getting out there to the area where Casper had disappeared. As Sam laced up his boots, he noticed that Girlfriend was already dressed.
“Did you sleep like that?”
“Well, you get ready faster than I do.”
“No! I told you you’re not coming with me.”
“Sam, you’re not going to stop me. I’m going to be there. You already told me I could and you’re going to give me a gun.”
He didn’t have time to argue about this again. He pulled his laces taut and tied them. Putting a hand on Girlfriend’s shoulder and spinning her toward the door, Sam marched her outside and to the shed. Blue jumped up and gave a bark when the came outside.
“Stay!” Sam ordered and closed Blue in the patio. She barked her disapproval at being left behind. Sam didn’t want anything to happen to Girlfriend or Blue. At least Blue he could lock up and she couldn’t get herself out. Girlfriend would only follow if he left her behind and he’d rather have her in front of him instead of sneaking around where he couldn’t keep an eye on her.
He went into the shed and pulled out his mag-lights, flares, and loaded his guns into the trailer. Hopefully Detective Schneider wasn’t there yet. Sam wanted to be the one to stake out the spot they would watch from.
He motored around the park, quicker than before as Girlfriend sat behind him and he didn’t have to worry about her and Myra jostling around in the trailer. When he approached the office, he saw two police cruisers and the detective’s car. The trunks were open, so they had to still be unloading gear. Sam drove straight into the woods, turning on the headlight, and went to where the floodlights had been set up in the woods. He didn’t want the lights on. Not until they needed them.
“Turn those off,” Sam yelled as he hit the brakes. He killed the engine and hopped off the quad, trying not to kick Girlfriend as he did.
Detective Schneider held up his hands to stop Sam. “Hold on a minute. What’s the trouble here?”
“We’re trying to be covert here. You’ve got cruisers in front of the Sandy Bar, you’ve got lights on in the woods. Didn’t you listen to a thing I said earlier?”
“Sam, I heard you. This is a police operation. I want you involved as much as possible.”
“Hey!” Sam yelled at one officer standing on the line in the dirt. “Stay away from that line.” He looked back at Detective Schneider, furious. “You really don’t get it, do you?”
The whole world shifted. The woods changed into a jungle and the sounds erupted into a cacophony of insects. Sam heard Girlfriend gasp and the officer that had been so close to the line lost his balance and fell backwards down a short drop-off. Sam and Andy rushed to the edge.
“What do we do?” the detective asked.
“Find something to pull him up. This happened last night and only for a couple minutes. We don’t have much time. I don’t know what’ll happen if we don’t get him back up here and now.”
“Does anyone have a rope or anything?” Detective Andy asked. “Anything?”
The other officers just stood, dumbfounded by the shift. The heavy air made it difficult to breathe. One of the officers passed out. Detective Schneider Schneider inched close to the edge. Sam tried to stop him. Everything happened so fast. They had ruined everything. This wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, and it was far too early for it to happen.
“Get back up here. Hurry.” Detective Schneider held his hand out to help the officer up. Sam grabbed Andrew to pull him back.
But it was too late. The world shifted back. Andrew screamed as his arm disappeared just below the elbow. Blood sprayed out the end of the severed limb. Sam ripped off his shirt. He had to push Andy down onto the ground to get him to stop squirming. He wrapped the end of his shirt around the severed limb and tied it tight. He picked up a branch and inserted it into the knot and twisted. Andrew screamed with each twist, but didn’t fight Sam as he tightened the tourniquet. He dipped his thumb in the blood and wrote “2:30” on the detective’s head.
Sam yelled at the dumbfounded officers. “Get to your car and call an ambulance! Go!”
One found his senses and turned and ran back to his car.
“You’re going to be alright. Just hang tight.”
Sam looked back at the woods. He wondered what would happen to the officer that had fallen. Would they ever see him again? Could they? Sam felt sick again. He could hear Girlfriend sobbing behind him. It had happened earlier this time and for a far shorter time. The culprit wasn’t following the normal pattern. Why didn’t Girlfriend wake him up? He should have been out here long before this. They would just have to try again tomorrow he guessed. Unless…