Category Archives: Paradise Palms

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 54


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


One Year Later…

Sam

“…wake up, Sam! Wake up!”

Sam opened his eyes and looked into Girlfriend’s beaming face. “They’re here Sam! They’re here!”

Sam rolled out of bed and ran a hand over his smooth scalp. Ever since they’d gotten back, Girlfriend had made sure he’d kept it shaven. He picked up his prosthetic right arm and latched it into place. He had two, one with a claw that he used while working so he could hold things – the claw he could open and close and worked quite well for holding the paint can when he repainted the Paradise Palms sign – and one he used for things such as this; meeting Girlfriend’s parents for the first time.

“Just let me splash a little water on my face. I’ll be just a second.”

“Just hurry up. I can’t wait for you to meet them.”

Girlfriend ran from the room and out the front door. The screen door slammed and Blue barked loudly as the motor of the RV died.

Sam washed his face and took a moment to gargle some mouthwash. The reddish scars on his shoulder and chest still had a lingering pain that reminded Sam every day what he’d been through. Girlfriend had never told her parents what had happened or what they’d all gone through. She talked little of it. In a morphine daze in the hospital when he came around for the first time, he’d asked her to marry him. Apparently he asked her every time he came around. And every time she said yes, but he didn’t remember any of that. He just remembered pain.

They had to take much of his right arm off due to a massive infection he’d gotten, but Doc Brenner and Clive took care of all the bills, and made sure he’d gotten the best treatment and artificial limbs. Sam didn’t know anything about all of that until he was out of the hospital and back home. The first time he woke in his own bed felt like the first time in sixty-five-million years.

Clive had apparently recovered from the madness he suffered. He spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from his time in the past. A combination of isolation and guilt thinking he was responsible for the deaths of the dinosaurs he had been observing. He’d apologized many times for his behavior and for putting them all at risk to come and save him.

Sam pulled on a shirt and a pair of shorts and went outside after Girlfriend. Her parents were both plump, but not fat, and were gray haired. Her father, who had longer hair than her mother, wore a Minnesota Twins ball cap. He smiled and moved toward Sam, hand outstretched.

“Such a pleasure it is to be meeting you.” His thick Russian accent took Sam aback. He had always thought they’d talk the same as Girlfriend. He moved his shoulder for his right hand to extend. Girlfriend’s father took the hand gently and looked at it. “She had tell us you lost arm, but she not tell us why. Perhaps we can get you to tell us story, no?”

“I’m sure we’ll have a lot of time for stories,” Sam said with a smile, wishing he could shake his hand instead of just hold it out.

“Yes. We will have much time to share stories. We even find spot here in park for RV. Only two months to plan a wedding. The girls will be quite busy. Perhaps you can show me fishing?”

“I think that sounds like a great plan.”

“Very good, very good. Come meet missus.”

Sam held out his hand to Girlfriend’s mom only to be pulled in by her massive arms and hugged like never before. “I thank you. My daughter tell me nothing, but she say you save her life. I want look forward you tell me about it. I should hear it all.”

“Mom, you’re making a big deal out of it. Really.”

“He lose arm. How not big deal? If we not get held up in customs going from country to country, I be here sooner.”

“Oh mom, you could’ve taken a flight.”

“And leave your father? No no.”

Girlfriend took her mother’s arm and took her inside. They continued their conversation as they walked.

“She tell us you are good man, Sam. I know my baby girl. I trust her. You must be good man.”

Sam didn’t know what to say, so he just smiled.

“Let us walk for a bit. Such long drive I have need stretch legs.”

They walked through the park in silence. Girlfriend’s father did stretch his legs, his arms, his back. Sam gave a small chuckle.

Lin and Tiger Lily walked up, arm in arm. Lin said, “I thought I heard a different motor.”

“Don’t lie,” Tiger Lily snapped. “You’ve been doing nothing but playing poker and watching the monitors for the past two days.” To Sam she said, “I swear, ever since she found out that Girlfriend’s parents would be in town soon she’s been glued to that chair waiting and watching.”

“Hey, I did win a couple nice tourneys.”

“Yeah, like you really need the money.”

“It’s about the competition.”

Sam laughed. “Girls, meet Mr. Sokolov. Girlfriend’s father. Mr. Sokolov, this is Lin Pza Pza and her partner, Tiger Lily Smith. Girlfriend and her mother are inside if you wanted to go and meet her. I’m sure they’d love more company.”

“My wife, she does love to talk. She can have entire conversation while I drive and I say nothing. Perfect it is. Please, go join them. Pleasure it is meeting you. Girlfriend has told me much about you.”

Both of them gave Mr. Sokolov hugs. Lin said to Sam, “Oh, Julio should be back at any time. If you see him, let him know there’s only one more trip left and that’s everything.”

Sam nodded. “I’ll let him know.”

Lin and Tiger Lily walked off to his trailer. They’d given up the government contract. Well, not given it up completely, just the work involved. Lin had found a sub-contractor to take over the maintenance of the servers. She’d asked Sam if he could redo her basement to make it a normal living space, but he looked at his arm and had told her he’d find someone trustworthy to do the job. He hated to see her pout, but he was no longer in any condition to perform those kinds of jobs.

“…and that is when I tell her ‘I don’t think that’s a bathroom'” Mr. Sokolov laughed heartily and patted Sam on the back. “We have so much fun in country where we speak bad English and so do the rest of the people. It is very funny.”

“I’m sure you must’ve had a great time.”

“Sam! Sam!” Clive Brenner strode up the road. Sam and Mr. Sokolov stopped. Clive held out a hand. “You must be Girlfriend’s father. Pleasure to meet. Truly a pleasure.”

“How are you, Clive?” Sam asked. He liked seeing Clive, but never felt comfortable. He almost felt as if he should be in their debt for all the bills they had to pay for him. Every bill he had was paid and paid in full from his medical bills to his trailer, everything had been taken care of. It was far more than they needed to do. At least Clive no longer appeared stark-raving mad.

“Wonderful, wonderful. I have some great news. Great news indeed. I was poring over my data last night. Fascinating. Truly fascinating. I would have never thought… I’m getting sidetracked. I’m sorry, too much work, not enough sleep, too much coffee. But I decided to take a break, and I found it.”

“Found what?”

“A massive metal signature. I knew it would have been moved, perhaps even several times, but I found it. I’ve got someone digging there now.”

Sam shook his head. What was Clive getting at?

“The loader Sam! The loader! It was parked on top of the T. rex that had eaten Myra. Lin and Tiger Lily told me all about that tragic event, but I thought I could do something. I figured it would take three hundred years or better for the front loader to fully break down, but it would leave a very unique metal signature because the metals it was made out of wouldn’t be present in this area. Given the years and the movement of the land through normal shifts and the Ice Ages…”

“Wait a minute. You mean you found her?”

“I found her, Sam. I found her.”

“Who is it you are finding?”

Sam’s eyes welled up. “An old friend.”

“I will recover everything I can. Sam, by your wedding day, I promise you and I promise Girlfriend, she’ll be put where she belongs. My gift to you and Girlfriend.”

Sam put his left hand on Clive’s shoulder. “Thank you. Girlfriend will be so happy to hear that. I’m sure Lin and Tiger Lily will also be pleased.”

“It’s the least I could do for Myra. I’ve already contacted her old boss and he’s preparing a spot for her in the museum. He’s been most impressed with the quantity of data I’ve been able to produce from the satellite we have back there. I’m not sure I ever want to go back, but we can still collect data. Sending remotes and drones is doing more than enough work for now.”

“I think that’s for the best. Mr. Sokolov…”

“Please, `Dmitri’. You make me feel old you call me mister. You call me Dmitri or you call me Dima. None of this mister.”

“Dmitri, would you like to join Clive and me at the Sandy Bar? While the girls catch up in the trailer, we can all have a seat and a drink.”

“Are they having vodka?”

“They’ve got anything you want.”

“Then I say we go there and be drinking vodka.”

Sam chuckled. He didn’t drink, but with his new father-in-law to be, perhaps he’d have one. Just one.

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Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 53


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Lin

Lin tore off what remained of Sam’s shirt and tore off a long strip. She looped it around Sam’s arm and tied it. Tight. She knotted the strip as best she could and started on another. The car rocked violently and she grabbed on to Sam to keep her from slipping. Unfortunately Sam also started to slide across the roof of the car. Looking around, she was near enough to the open hatch and reached out to grab for it. Sam’s body continued to slip. She gripped his body in a scissor lock and grabbed onto the hatch and pulled.

The car continued to rock violently. Her arms weren’t strong enough to pull both her and Sam up. She was having trouble just hanging on to keep herself from sliding off. She struggled to pull herself up and to the hatch, but she could barely move. The car continued to rock violently.

“Lin! Lin!” Tiger Lily’s face appeared from the tilted side of the car. “Lin! Grab my hand.”

“What’s going on?”

“Just grab my hand.”

“I can’t. If I let go, we’ll lose Sam. I’m not letting go.”

Tiger Lily kicked a leg over the edge and rolled onto her stomach. She lowered down to the hatch and climbed inside.

“Where did you go?”

“Hold on.” Tiger Lily’s voice came from far inside the car. Lin could only hope she would hurry up, whatever she was doing. Lin’s arms had started to burn. She’d never been good at working out and with all the movement from the car she didn’t think she’d be able to hold on much longer. She wanted to yell out for Tiger Lily again, but it was a struggle just to hang on.

Tiger Lily reappeared with a rope in her hands. One end had a loop.

“Don’t move. I’m going to try and loop Sam’s foot.”

The car lurched and they bumped heads. Tiger Lily took a second to rub her head. Lin’s hands slipped.

“No! Hurry!”

Lowering the rope, Tiger Lily watched carefully to make sure she could get Sam’s leg. The strain on Lin’s legs locked around Sam’s body began to hurt and she was certain cramps were to come next if they couldn’t do something. Lin tried to relax slightly, but even the slightest amount and she thought she could feel Sam’s body slipping. She strained to keep a grip on the hatch portal, but her fingers hurt and the struggle to hang on wasn’t one she could be certain she’d win.

“I’ve got him. Get in here.”

Lin didn’t want to let go. “No. We’ll lose him.”

“I need you in here helping me pull him up. I tied off the rope. Give me your hand.”

Inside she wanted to cry. Her body, so tense, refused to let go. She strained to pull herself up without letting Sam go.

“Lin! Let him go. I tied off the rope. Let me pull you in.”

She slowly allowed her legs to relax only to snap them together even tighter as Sam started to slip away. It took several times before she let go. Sam’s body swung down and dangled at the end of the rope. Tiger Lily helped Lin up to the hatch.

“I’m not going back! You can’t make me go back!” Blood trickled from Clive’s nose where Tiger Lily had punched him. He’d been unconscious, and given a little more time, they would have gotten him tied up and into the car. Unfortunately things had gone wrong.

Clive didn’t have any weapons, but what he did have was higher ground. He swatted and punched at both of them and it was all they could do to fend off his blows. Tiger Lily did most of the defending.

“Just grab his foot and pull!”

“I can’t do that, he’ll fall into the water. One way or another we’re bringing him back. Just get inside, I’ll deal with this.”

“But your shoulder. You’re hurt.” Lin didn’t want Tiger Lily to go after Clive alone.

“No! No. No. No. No. I’m not going!”

Clive stopped his assault and turned away. Tiger Lily reached out and grabbed his foot and pulled. He slammed down against the car. Lin realized that the car had stopped thrashing about.

“Tiger Lily! Where’s Girlfriend?”

“One person at a time.”

Tiger Lily pulled on Clive’s leg and started climbing up. Lin, forgetting her pain, climbed up with her. With all his thrashing about, it was difficult to get him under control, but Tiger Lily had him in a choke hold and quickly his thrashing subsided.

“Let’s get him inside. Then we’ll deal with Sam.”

“What about Girlfriend?”

“Lin! We need to deal with the people we can see first. We’ll find her in just a minute.”

“But what if she’s in danger?”

“We’re all in danger.”

“No, I mean she’s the only person who can drive the car.”

That stopped Tiger Lily cold. They both looked at Sam and Clive.

“Alright then. They’ll keep, but we need to be quick. I don’t want Sam to lose a foot as well.”

“Girlfriend!” Lin yelled and made her way to the edge of the car to look down into the water. She had hoped to find Girlfriend right away, instead she found a lot of empty water sloshing back and forth and quickly turning red. The legs of the tyrannosaur protruded from under the car. At least she knew why the car lay at such a severe tilt, but where was Girlfriend? Had she killed the beast?

Frantically she scanned the bloodied water trying to find a sign of Girlfriend’s survival. They’d lost Myra, Sam’s well-being was in question, they couldn’t lose Girlfriend too. She had to be down there. She just had to.

A splash of water and a gasp of breath caught her attention.

“Girlfriend?” Lin shouted.

Girlfriend swam toward the loader’s platform and started to climb up. Her clothes were soaked with water and blood and mud and unidentifiable grime that hung from her in clumps. Lin, forgetting her pain, jumped across to the platform and helped Girlfriend up. She pulled everything off that didn’t belong stuck to Girlfriend’s body, while holding her up. She even started to use Girlfriend’s trick at getting off leeches, as many had attached to her.

It took a minute, but Girlfriend finally regained her composure and asked, “Where’s Sam?”

Lin looked across to Tiger Lily who gave them a thumbs up. Apparently while Lin had attended to Girlfriend, Tiger Lily had moved Sam inside, as well as Clive. The woman was amazing.

Girlfriend covered her face and cried. After several sobs she sniffled. “He’s alive?” She asked though her hands.

“Let’s get over there and find out.”

Inside the tilted car, Clive had been tied up and secured to one of the beds. Sam’s severed arm was dressed and he was also secured to a bed. The three girls took time to drink some water and gather their wits, and deal with their own wounds.

Lin finally said, “What do we do now? We’re stuck.”

“Well, I guess we need to figure out how to get ourselves off the dinosaur and get back home,” Girlfriend said.

With Sam and Clive both secured, the three of them got back to the top of the car and one by one made their way across to the front loader. Doing a quick survey they found a locker filled with food, more medical supplies, and a large amount of water. As soon as they had the car freed, they agreed they would move as much as they could before leaving.

The driving controls of the front loader looked similar to the car and in no time Girlfriend had the machine under control. The body of the tyrannosaur had stopped both vehicles from continuing forward. As soon as they moved away from the car, the hadrosaurs started in with their honking, but stayed away from them.

“How do we work that bucket?” Lin asked.

“I think these are the controls, but I don’t think we can operate them without getting in Girlfriend’s way.”

Girlfriend steered away from the car and they took time to practice on the controls. It wasn’t easy, but for the most part the controls were all well labeled. After half an hour of practice they decided to give it a try. It would be best to dig under the T. rex body and allow it to fall into the hole, then just drive over it.

They dug in slow increments and each time the car would jostle into position, they would collectively hold their breath. Lin didn’t think she could take much more, but once the car had been lowered nearly to the ground, Girlfriend parked the loader as close as they could get it to the car. Lin and Tiger Lily both helped guide her in.

The food storage had shelving that the girls disassembled and laid across the span between the loader’s platform and the roof of the car. Lin wasn’t sure how long it took them to move everything. They didn’t talk as they completed their tasks. Instead they all moved like zombies, back and forth.

Before they had completed moving the supplies, Lin looked off into the distance. “Tiger Lily, Girlfriend. Look at that!”

Off in the distance and in the light of the setting sun, a small herd of long-necked dinosaurs slowly made their way through the swampy marsh. It wasn’t easy to make them out and Lin was certain they were quite far away, but they looked magnificent. Even the hadrosaurs had stopped and looked off in the distance to watch them pass.

“I think it’s time to go home,” Girlfriend said. She hugged Tiger Lily and pulled Lin into the hug as well.

“Let’s go home,” Tiger Lily said.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 52


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Girlfriend

Girlfriend splashed into the water feet first, despite her mid-air attempt to dive. Her feet plunged to the bottom of the murky water and sank into the thick mud at the bottom. At first she didn’t panic, figuring that Sam would be along to help pull her to safety, but that didn’t make any sense. He’d just sacrificed himself to save her. He might have ended up just like Myra.

She wanted to scream out and cry, but if she did, she’d cause Sam to have died in vain. She steeled herself and held her breath. Slowly, almost too slowly, she fought and worked her feet out of the muck. Both of her shoes came off in the process, but she didn’t care, she needed to reach the surface and gain purchase of the open air. As she struggled, a wave pushed her free from the mud as the front of the car splashed back down into the water.

She drew in a gasping breath as her head broke the surface. She splashed for just a moment, then quieted when she heard voices. Lin, Tiger Lily, and Clive were shouting, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying.

She had to do something. Anything. She swam to the front of the car. If she could make it around to the other side of the car she could climb up the side, but what would she do once she reached the top? She would have enough time to grab the gun and reload it before the thing would be upon her.

The winch caught her attention and an idea formed. It just might work, but it would have to work just right. She grabbed the end of the cable, the winch had automatically turned off once the cable wound all the way in, and unclipped the anchor that had broken free from the top of the car. She started pulling the cable free as quickly as she could.

She pulled until nearly the entire cable had been fed out then worked her way around between the car and the front loader with the cable in tow. As she started to mount the ladder, a shadow passed overhead. Someone yelled from the platform.

“I’ve got him! Get over here before it comes back.”

“Where’s Girlfriend?”

“I’m down here!” Girlfriend shouted.

Lin looked over the edge of the car. “Oh dear,” she said softly.

“Where is it?” Girlfriend asked.

“Hold on!” Lin shouted. “I need to put a tourniquet on his arm.”

Lin disappeared. Was Sam still alive? Had he survived? Perhaps with nothing more than a nasty cut on his arm. Girlfriend started climbing up the ladder. She had to make it to the top. She had to make sure he was alright. She had to.

The howl from the T. rex wasn’t pain, but anger. She could feel the anger in its shout. From the rear of the car and the loader, it saw her climbing and started to force its way between the two, heedless of its own safety. Girlfriend nearly froze in place, but pulled harder on the cable and climbed further up the ladder.

It continued forward and she had to hold on. In its anger, it wasn’t looking for her as much as it was just forcing its way between the two vehicles, causing the car to rock violently. She had to time everything perfectly. For all of them, she needed to do this. She was the only one in any condition to do anything like this. Sam had saved her and it was time for her to return the favor.

As soon as the head slid beneath her, Girlfriend hopped onto the back of the T. rex, making sure the cable slid around the beast’s neck. The thing writhed, trying to work its head around to snap her up, but she pushed off and swam under the water and under the T. rex, trailing the cable as she went.

From under the car, she found the other end of the cable, and clipped it to itself. She pulled the length of cable from the winch side and then swam under the car to the winch. She had to get to it. She had to turn it on. She had to hurry as the car thrashed up and down with each movement of the T. rex. It had continued to force its way to the front of the car and when its head broke the surface it also came out from between the two vehicles. She flipped the switch for the winch, took a deep breath, and swam back underneath the car.

The thing thrashed. It plunged its head under the water and gnashed violently, trying to snag her. It worked its head under the car, tipping it out of the water. She saw the hatch under the car and made her way to it. She pulled and tried to turn the handle, but Sam must’ve locked it from the inside. Instead she swam to the side and tried to get a hold of the ladder, but the monster continued to pursue her underneath the car, causing the car to rise higher out of the water. If it continued, it would flip the car over and they’d all be trapped.

She had to think fast. She had to save their transportation as well as save the rest of them. It was all up to her. Again she plunged under the water. She held her eyes open and they came to lock on the T. rex’s eyes. They blazed with fury. She had never thought she’d see any emotion in a dinosaur’s eyes. She’d seen so many reptiles in the zoo, and none of them had anything relating to emotion. This thing, though, didn’t just want to eat her. No, the look in this thing’s eyes went beyond that. This thing had murder in its eyes as it gnashed its teeth trying to get to her. It wanted tear her apart. Why?

Had this thing seen her kill the other T. rex? Had it been bothered by her when she fired the flare gun at it? Did this thing actually think, and want revenge on her for what she’d done, much in the way she was trying to avenge Myra and Sam?

She tried to shake those thoughts off, but suddenly felt sorry for the creature. It had just been living its life. Perhaps they’d killed its mate and driven it mad by doing so. Now it was acting out, trying to kill them. Trying to avenge the death of its loved one.

Girlfriend swam under the front loader and worked her way through to be underneath. The car and front loader had started to separate. The T. rex continued to thrash and gnash, trying to reach her. Several times it smashed its face against the tire and undercarriage of the loader. Blood started to fill the water, but its attacks started to draw back. The cable pulled it backward to the front of the car.

She swam along and watched as the beast realized it was no longer in control of its actions. Its eyes shifted from enraged to fearful. Its growls of anger became whimpers of fear. Still Girlfriend continued to swim along and watch, horrified at what she’d done.

The cable tightened against the skin of its neck, cutting into it. She wished it would just snap and the thing might run free, but the winch gave no sign of letting up. It continued to cut into the beast. It cocked its head to the side and gave a resigned look at Girlfriend as if pleading with her to make the pain stop. She reached out to it, but as she did, the cable did its work and severed its head.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 51


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Sam

It wasn’t so much a bad feeling as a feeling of complete dread. Doom and gloom never had such a hold on Sam as it did at the moment that Lin and Tiger Lily tried to convince him it was right to go on. Despite all the injuries he’d sustained on the trip, none of them throbbed to the tune of continuing this doomed mission. But Girlfriend had made no argument against continuing, so he had to assume they were all in agreement, and he wouldn’t be the one leaving the car to get Clive. If they’d all chosen to put themselves at risk, he could do nothing to prevent them even if he’d wanted to. So despite his better judgment he allowed the trip to continue.

Lin and Tiger Lily had taken up sides by Girlfriend and kept watch for Clive and his front loader. Sam wished he could do more, but he couldn’t, and he hated that. It should be him driving the car. He should be the one to get Clive and keep the girls safe inside the car. They shouldn’t be putting themselves at risk. He shut his eyes and willed his body to heal faster.

Every bump on their way tortured his body despite the padding of the mattress and pillows. He would need to endure this pain all the way back as well. And none of them had any idea what condition Clive would be in. For all they knew, he could be stark raving mad and try to kill them all. Why hadn’t he thought of that before? They could be walking into the clutches of a mad man waiting to kill them all.

“You’re letting your imagination get away with you,” Sam mumbled to himself.

This would all be over soon enough and they could do as Lin said, get on with their lives. And for Sam, when they got out of this and he felt far better, his getting on with life would include asking Girlfriend to marry him. If Lin and Tiger Lily would leave her side, he could try to approach her and ask her now, but he knew they weren’t going anywhere, and he hadn’t the strength to move, but the first chance he had, he was going to ask her. That much he’d resolved to do. Why wait?

Girlfriend slowed the car and Lin pointed out the front window. “There it is!” she squealed.

Sam struggled to get up, but pain lanced up his side and shoulder and he fell back down. He wanted to see their goal. He wanted to be there with them when they arrived. He gritted his teeth and hauled himself out of the bed. He limped his way up to stand alongside Lin, who put her arm around his waist and steadied him.

“Sam!” Girlfriend snapped. “You shouldn’t be up.”

“Had to,” Sam said and looked out the front window.

Off in the distance standing out like a sore thumb was the big, yellow front loader. It wasn’t small, as Sam had suspected, but much more like one of the larger loaders they use up in the iron range. The upper cabin had been converted to be actually more like a house. It was possible that Clive could have lived in there for quite some time. Perhaps he’d modified it without Doc knowing about it as he planned to head out.

Everywhere around them were herds of hadrosaurs; alive and walking around. Many of them tilted their heads and honked at them as they passed, the sound muffled by the car’s thick walls, but most just scurried out of the way to protect their nests. Sam stared with the rest in awed fascination. They’d seen all the dead herds, but to see so many alive around was overwhelming. He felt bad that Myra would never get to see them.

The front loader puttered along slowly and Sam could see that the entire upper surface of the vehicle was covered in solar panels much like the car. He had just assumed it would be a diesel engine to help it power through the muck, but that was accomplished by the massively wide footprint of the tires, similar to the car but far larger. Each must have been nearly seven feet wide, giving the vehicle ample surface area to keep from sinking too deep in the mire but it obviously slowed it down.

Girlfriend slowed and sided up along the loader. Tiger Lily had opened the hatch and looked around with several bobbing movements. The camera for the back of the car had been crushed when it’d been turned over, so they had no way to know if they were being followed. Sam was thankful she was so careful.

“Are you going up top to greet Clive?” Lin asked.

“I think I’ll try.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Girlfriend countered.

“And I don’t think it’s a good idea the three of you, all women, greeting a man who’s been in the distant past, alone, for as long as he has. I don’t care what shape I’m in, at least the appearance of me with the three of you will give him pause.”

Girlfriend snorted her disapproval at his insinuation that they couldn’t take care of themselves, but didn’t express her displeasure. Instead she took his other arm and she and Lin led him to the ladder. He could just make out Tiger Lily’s voice yelling up to someone.

“…but what are you doing here?” a man’s voice asked. Sam knew that had to be Clive.

He struggled to climb the rungs of the ladder, Lin and Girlfriend pushing him every step of the way. He had to lay on his stomach and wiggle the rest of the way out and finally right himself.

Clive stood on a small platform facing the car. His brown hair had grown overly long and he had a full beard as well. Both in wild disarray. He wore a simple, one piece jump suit, green and brown, possibly for camouflage, as well as heavy, black boots. He shaded his face from the sun with his hand.

“We’re here to get you back,” Tiger Lily said.

“But who said I wanted to go back? I never asked for anyone to take me back. Who told you that I wanted to go back? I’m not going back. I don’t care who sent you.”

“Your father is worried about you. You’ve been gone for a long time. We’re here to bring you back.”

“Again, who said I wanted to go back? I’m nearly where I need to be. It’ll take me another month to get back. I don’t need your help. Just go away.”

Sam stood next to Tiger Lily and Lin, and Girlfriend also stood there. Girlfriend took over the conversation.

“Your father needs to speak with you about what you’re doing. We can drive you back quickly in this car and you can return on your own after that if you need to, but he was pretty insistent.”

Clive’s brow furrowed and he looked off in the distance to where he was headed and shook his head.

“No. I’m not going. You can’t make me leave my research. I _need_ to find out why. Just leave me alone. Go back where you came from. Go! The dinosaurs are dying.” Clive turned around and headed back into his cabin.

Girlfriend looked up at Sam. He shrugged. “I guess we need to go get him and take him home by force.”

“Sam! We’re not going to do that.”

“Then what do you suggest we do? We came all this way, and he doesn’t want to go home, but his father wants his boy to come home. It seems that we’re at an impasse here. I’m in no condition. It’s up to the three of you to go over there and get him so we can take him back and get out of here before anything else goes wrong.”

“And just how do you propose we do that? How do we get over there? It’s not like there’s a catwalk to get there, and it’s too far to just jump over there.”

Sam looked back and forth along the length of the loader. Sure the platform was even enough with the roof of the car that they could just jump across, but if they missed, it was quite a drop down. The front loader still crawled forward at a painfully slow pace. Perhaps if they got in front of it…

“I have an idea. Girlfriend, pull forward and we can get close and Lin and Tiger Lily can jump across and into the bucket. It’ll be a safer jump.”

“And once over there?”

“I don’t have all the answers. We just need to get over there and grab him and get him back over here so we can all go home. I don’t care how it’s done.”

The pain from Sam’s leg and arm, for that matter his entire body, threatened to shut his body down. Just thinking hurt. He had to trust that Girlfriend would be able to follow through or come up with a better plan. He couldn’t keep his footing and sat down.

“Sam, are you alright?” Lin asked.

“I’ll be fine. Girlfriend, you need to steer the car around so Lin and Tiger Lily can jump into the bucket and stop the front loader and get Clive into the car.”

“What?” Lin and Tiger Lily said in unison. Girlfriend just frowned.

“It’s the only way. You two don’t know how to steer the car. We need to get him out of there. I doubt he has any weapons.”

“But you heard him,” Tiger Lily snapped. “He’s fine. He just wants to be left alone.”

“He’s not fine. Something is wrong. And look at the trail of devastation behind him. Myra might have been right that he is the reason the dinosaurs are dying off. Until we know for sure, we need to get him out of here. If I had the strength, I’d just jump across and get him, but I don’t So it’s up to the two of you to do it.”

The car and the front loader both idled along slowly. Perhaps one or two miles per hour, but they still continued forward. Further away from where they needed to be to return home. Sam didn’t want to be stuck here. He wanted to go home. He not only felt weak, he felt hot and sick. Unless he was mistaken, he needed to be in a hospital. But he wasn’t about to admit that to the girls. He needed to help them deal with this situation.

He took the time to scan the horizon. The sun gave everything a reddish hue as it continued to rise into the sky. They’d passed a few groups of trees but for the most part everything was wide open. The hadrosaurs still honked and howled along the path the car had come. Sam squinted his eyes and looked. At first he thought they were baying at the car, but they were facing the wrong direction. They were baying and barking along the path they’d taken at some small mound. A small mound that moved through the water!

“Lin, Tiger Lily, do you think you can jump across and get our friend?”

More than having them get Clive, Sam wanted them on the front loader. It was far bigger than the car and if anything happened, they’d be safe and out of the way.

Lin looked at the distance between the car and the platform and then down at the water below. “I think so. If we miss, it’s all water below. We can just swim to the ladder and climb back up.”

Sam tried to keep his eyes from the moving mass. It was still far enough away. They had time, but little of it. “Go ahead and jump over there. We need to get Clive and get home. I don’t know what his problem is, so be careful. Take him by surprise if you can. And please be careful.”

Lin jumped first. Tiger Lily slipped on the platform, but Lin was able to catch her and pull her on.

“Girlfriend, I need you to go down below and get the rifle. Please load it and bring it back to me.”

“What? Why?”

Sam didn’t say anything. Instead he kept his stare fixed on the moving mass. Girlfriend gasped and hurried down the ladder. She returned a moment later.

“Here!” Girlfriend handed him the gun and tried to catch her breath. “It’s already loaded.”

“Get inside.”

“No, I’m staying with you. If something happens, you’ll need me by your side.”

“Dammit, now isn’t the time to argue with me!”

“Fine, then give me the gun and you get inside. I’m not the one having trouble standing on my feet.”

She had a point, but he wasn’t going to let her take the risk of being up here alone. It was far enough away, that he could get at least two shots out. That should hurt it enough to make it go away. Maybe if he could catch it in the eye…

He raised the gun and took aim. Just having the butt of the gun in the crook of his shoulder hurt. Firing it might cause him enough pain that he’d black out, but he was going to take the first shot.

He pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.

He lowered the weapon and cocked the bolt. No bullet entered the chamber.

“I thought you said it was loaded.”

Girlfriend didn’t hesitate, she scrambled down the ladder.

Now he’d be lucky to get one shot in and he’d have to make that one count. He looked up. The thing sort of swam-walked its way through the muck, like a gigantic alligator with extra long legs. It made steady progress. Frighteningly steady. Its head never wavered from its intended target. The head of the beast stayed looking straight forward. Straight at Sam. He kept his stare on the beast and waited. Sam Stood up.

“Bullets.” Girlfriend was even more out of breath now as she fumbled to open the box of bullets. She finally managed to open it and hand one to Sam. He chambered the round and raised the rifle.

One shot. That’s all he had. He leaned slightly forward so he wouldn’t lose his balance, took careful aim for the thing’s eye, and pulled the trigger.

His vision blackened for a moment and he lost sight of where he was, but he remained on his feet. A bellow of pain came from the beast, but he didn’t hear it rise out of the water. As his vision cleared, he could see it in the water, laying still and not moving. Blood trickled from a small hole just above its right eye.

Sam dropped the gun and allowed his shoulder to slacken.

“What the hell was that?” Lin yelled.

“Hurry up!” Girlfriend screamed.

Sam had never heard her voice sound so harried. He lowered his head and looked at the cracked solar panels beneath his feet. He felt much like they looked. Hell, he probably felt exactly like they looked.

“What the hell is that?” He heard Tiger Lily yell. Sam looked up and the mass that was the T. rex had disappeared. How much time had passed? Minutes? Seconds? It didn’t matter. His bullet had failed to do its job and therefore Sam had failed to do his job. Before he could lift his gaze, the massive head rose up the back of the car. Girlfriend screamed. Sam tried to remain still.

The back of the car sank into the mud drastically as it stood on the back of the car. Solar panels cracked under its incredible weight. Without a sound, it opened its mouth and lowered its head toward Girlfriend. Sam, standing next to her, did the only thing he could. He pushed her aside, causing her to topple off the car and into the muck below. He tried to shift to the side to keep from getting bitten in half. He got his body out of the way, but looked in horror as the jaws closed on his arm just below the elbow and cleanly severed it.

The pain was far too much for Sam to bear and yet again he found the prehistoric world fading into blackness as he fell down.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 50


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Lin

Lin stared out the window and watched the sunrise. It felt wrong. She’d barely known Myra Tolie, but not having her go with them didn’t feel right. Obviously there was nothing they could do for her now, but it didn’t change the fact that they should do something. Just leaving felt wrong, and left Lin feeling strained.

“Hey, what are you doing?” Tiger Lily asked as she hugged Lin from behind.

They’d long since discussed Lin’s wealth and she’d managed to get Tiger Lily to come to terms with it. Why did relationships have to be so hard? And were she and Tiger Lily really in a relationship?

Tiger Lily kissed the back of Lin’s neck, which sent goosebumps down her body and she shivered. She placed a hand on Tiger Lily’s hand and gave it a squeeze. “I’m just wishing we were done and going back, is all.”

“I know how you feel, but we did agree to do this. We need to see it though. I guess that’s just how I feel. Even though I was a little freaked out earlier, I hate to sign on to do something and then not get it done, you know.”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“Look, I think Sam will be awake soon, and Girlfriend has been driving for a few hours. Why don’t we make some breakfast? Maybe a good hot meal is what we all need to get our spirits up. Something beside just sitting and waiting.”

Lin frowned. “I don’t think food will take my mind off of what happened to Myra.”

Lin started to cry and Tiger Lily turned her around and hugged her tightly. She buried her face into Tiger Lily’s neck and hugged back just as hard. She could feel the repressed twitches in Tiger Lily. She was fighting back her own tears. Lin reached up and stroked Tiger Lily’s hair and they both had a good cry.

When they finally parted, Lin gave a small laugh to break the tension and wiped the tears away from her eyes. “Maybe food will help.”

Tiger Lily also laughed and they both set about preparing cans of beef stew and canned beets.

“I hate beets.”

“They’re a great diuretic though,” Tiger Lily teased.

“Oh, that’s all I need,” Lin said and laughed.

“This is probably the healthiest you’ve eaten in years. I know if I had been on my own as a teenager I’d be having ice cream for dinner every night.”

“Actually, I never really learned how to cook, but I did pick up a couple of my mom’s recipes and can make some wicked dim sum.”

“You can cook?” Tiger Lily looked seriously surprised.

“Of course. I burn a lot of stuff and end up eating junk anyway, but I try. Didn’t you see my kitchen?”

“Yes, but I didn’t think you actually used it. I guess now that I know you’re rich, I figured you wouldn’t care about things like that.”

“No, it’s money I don’t really care about. I mean, I’ve always had it so it’s not like it’s something that controls me. I guess that’s why people who are born into money don’t have trouble with hanging onto it whereas people who win the lottery end up broke before they know it.”

“That kind of makes sense, I guess. I just figured if you’ve got it certain things really don’t seem as important.”

Lin shrugged. “I’m still a person.”

“And a person I love.” Tiger Lily leaned in and kissed Lin.

Lin raised her hands and grabbed Tiger Lily’s head and returned the kiss twofold.

“Wow, where’d that come from?” Tiger Lily asked once they separated.

She felt her cheeks flush. “I guess I just got caught up in the moment. I don’t know. Maybe it’s being closed up in this car for so long.”

“I’m not saying I mind. Not at all.”

Lin suddenly felt like hiding. She knew it wasn’t anything wrong that she’d done, but it was how Tiger Lily had reacted. It was as if suddenly things were moving too fast again. She wanted to get outside and get some fresh air to clear her head. Her emotions were all over the place. She’d never had this happen before and didn’t know how to deal with it. Her stomach twisted and she wanted to be sick.

Tiger Lily put down the spoon she was stirring the stew with and helped Lin to sit down. She was talking, but Lin couldn’t hear anything except her heart pounding in her ears. She tried to say, “I’m fine,” but nothing came out of her mouth.

Tiger Lily disappeared for a second and returned with a cold towel and put it on Lin’s forehead. The relief was instant and Lin’s head cleared.

“Thank you.”

“What happened?”

Lin shook her head. “I don’t know. Everything just…”

“You just sit there and relax for a minute.”

Tiger Lily returned to the stove and removed the stew from the flame and did the same with the beets. Lin watched as she prepared the plastic bowls and served up four servings and prepared to serve a fifth.

“Only four,” Lin said.

“What?” Tiger Lily looked at her confused then it sank in. “Oh, that’s right.” She looked at the other bowls, shook her head, and then served the rest of the stew in the four bowls.

“Should we go up there and eat with them?” Lin asked.

“I think so. We may need to feed Sam.”

“Oh my gosh! He’s still strapped down.”

“I hope he’s not awake yet,” Tiger Lily laughed and they both took up the bowls and rushed to the front of the car, Lin’s head clearing more as the moved.

“Breakfast is served,” Tiger Lily said as they walked into the front cabin.

Sam rolled his head to the side and watched them, but his eyes didn’t look like they were focused on anything. Tiger Lily took a bowl to Girlfriend and Lin took one to Sam. She untied the straps, but he didn’t make any effort to sit up, he just mouthed “Thank you.”

“Let me help you sit up so you can eat.”

Lin put her arm under Sam and pulled hard to get him into a sitting position. It took all the strength in her left arm to do so, but she did manage to get him into a sitting position. Tiger Lily, after leaving a bowl with Girlfriend, started placing the pillows behind Sam so he could sit unassisted.

Girlfriend brought the car to a stop and got up with her bowl and sat at the foot of the bed. “How are you doing?” She rubbed Sam’s leg.

“Everything hurts.”

She stopped rubbing his leg and looked down at her bowl of food.

“We’re almost there, Sam.”

“Almost where?” He asked in a quiet voice.

“Almost to Clive. We should be there in a few hours.”

“What? We’re still going to get him?” he sounded mad, but he could barely get the words out.

Tiger Lily interrupted. “We promised Doc that we’d bring his son home and we’re so close now, we have to get him. After all that’s happened, we need to see this through.”

Sam’s glare was telling. He didn’t want to go on. It was perhaps only Tiger Lily that did want to continue. She had to convince Girlfriend to turn the car around, and Lin really didn’t want to spend any more time here than they absolutely had to; going to retrieve Clive certainly was more time. Tiger Lily must have felt what they were all thinking.

“Look, we’re almost there. We get him, we go back. No more stopping, no more sight-seeing, nothing. We do what we came here to do and it’s done. We all can go back to our normal lives. It’s only a couple more hours. We’ve already been here for days and all of us have suffered to get him. We can’t have gone through all of this for nothing, right?”

Sam sighed his acquiescence. The poor man had been beaten into submission by the situation and couldn’t take any more either. Lin could see that on his face. He looked as if he’d aged twenty years in the past few days. She wasn’t sure he could take any more. Maybe they should have put something in his stew to make sure he’d sleep until they got back. The pain he must be in.

Lin ran a hand over his head and he closed his eyes. “Sam, it’s the right thing to do and it’s almost over. Nothing else is going to happen. I’m sure of it.”

Sam looked up into Lin’s eyes as if he were pleading for her to be right. She hoped she would be proven right.

“Then let’s eat and go.”

They all ate in silence. When they finished, Girlfriend took over the controls of the car once again and they continued on their way.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 49


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Girlfriend

Girlfriend tried desperately to get her breathing under control. Her whole body shivered and she tried to grip herself for comfort, but nothing helped. Lin and Tiger Lily huddled together on the now upright bed; both had their eyes screwed shut tight.

Sam grunted and struggled to pull himself inside the car, carrying Myra’s backpack. Girlfriend reached out to help Sam, but recoiled when he tried to hand her the backpack. She couldn’t bring herself to touch it. He dropped it to the floor and pushed it aside and hefted himself in.

A loud crash from outside forced the car to lurch and Sam slid partially down the hatch. Girlfriend lashed out and took hold of him and started to pull him in. He howled in pain and squished his eyes shut, but she ignored his screams and pulled even harder. They’d just lost Myra, she wasn’t going to lose Sam. No. She wouldn’t lose him.

His body was impossibly heavy. She could barely pull him up, but she had to, needed to. They were getting out of here and getting out now. She shifted her grip and caught Sam under his armpit and his arms limply came up and took hold of her shoulders. With a mighty pull, she tugged Sam into the car and the flopped to the floor, both exhausted from the effort.

Again a crash sent the car lurching sideways. Through a tiny window the body of the T. rex flashed as it walked around the car looking for another victim. It wouldn’t find one. Not another one.

“Sam, we’ve got to get out of here. Sam!”

Sam’s head lolled to the side as he gripped his shoulder. Fresh blood oozed from the wound and stained the t-shirt bandage.

“Can’t. Tired. Need rest.” His words came in desperate gasps as he struggled to remain consciousness.

“Lin. Lin!”

The girl winced as if she’d been hit.

“Lin! I need water for Sam. Hurry. I don’t want him to lose consciousness again. Tiger Lily! Get some of the Motrin to help him with the pain. Something that won’t put him to sleep. Go!”

Both of them got up, tears streaming down their faces. Girlfriend wiped away her own tears. Sam had been her rock, and now she, once again, needed to be his. She had a vague idea how to drive the car, but needed him to watch and give her instructions. The last thing they needed was to get into a crash they couldn’t recover from. She needed Sam for that.

The car continued to rotate toward the tree they’d tied the winch’s cable to. Girlfriend wondered what would happen when the car got to the tree. The cable had to have an automatic stop, didn’t it?

Lin and Tiger Lily returned with the water and Motrin. Girlfriend did her best to administer them to Sam. He swallowed water in gulps and in one of the gulps she dropped three of the pills into his mouth and he gulped those down as well.

“Are there any more shirts we can cut up? I need to change this bandage.”

“I-I think so,” Lin said shakily. She turned and ran to the storage room and returned a moment later with a shirt and handed it to Girlfriend.

Girlfriend made short work of getting the old bandage off and applying a new, tighter one. The flow of blood slowed dramatically once the new bandage was in place.

“Sam! Sam, are you alright? Sam? I need you to help me drive the car.”

“Yes, drive. We need to go.” His voice was weak and distant.

“Sam.” Girlfriend put an arm under him and propped him into a sitting position. “Sam, I need you to tell me what to do.

“Can you two hold him up while I get into the seat? Put him closer to the seat and hold him there so he can give me instructions.”

Girlfriend released control of Sam’s body to Lin and Tiger Lily and sat in the car’s control seat. She hit the ignition switch she’d seen Sam use and the motor turned over without incident.

“How’s the battery charge?” Sam asked, his voice strained.

“Where’s that?”

Sam pointed to a gauge. Its needle pointed to just below the mid-way point.

“About halfway. Is that good?”

“That’s fine. It’ll charge faster now that the car it turned back over and the panels…the panels can get more light.” Sam’s head rolled back. Tiger Lily caught it and held his head upright.

“What next? Sam? I’ve got it started.”

The car came to an abrupt halt as it collided with the tree the winch had been pulling them toward. The T. rex howled outside.

“Sam, are we going to be able to move? We’re still tied to the tree.”

“Dunno. We’ll have to try.”

“So what do I do next?” Sam’s eyes had closed. “Sam! What next?”

His head popped up. “Two joysticks. One for each side of the car. Forward or backward. To turn, one goes forward, the other back. Easy.”

She sat back in the seat and looked at the two joysticks. She took one in each hand, but before she could so anything, the sound of groaning metal screamed from the top of the car.

“What’s that?”

A loud pop as something broke free and the sound of something cutting through the air ended in a sick thud followed by a loud screech. The cable had broken free from the top of the car and apparently it’d whipped around and hit the T. rex.

They were free from the tree! Girlfriend wouldn’t get many chances at this.

“Hold on!”

She pulled both joysticks backward hard and the car lurched back and stopped with another thud. They’d hit something. The T. rex? She pulled one back and the other forward and the car turned on the spot. Once she’d pointed them toward the water, she pushed both forward and the car splashed away into the water. She didn’t know if the dinosaur followed or not and didn’t care. They were away. It would tire long before the car would. They drove in the direction of the giant, setting moon; their path well lit. Girlfriend didn’t care where they were going, as long as it was away.

Lin and Tiger Lily, once they’d had time to recover from the initial bouncing and bumping of the ride, both picked up Sam as best they could and placed him into the bed and strapped him down. They’d also secured the floor hatch. Tiger Lily came to Girlfriend’s side as Lin tried to get Sam to take some more water.

“Girlfriend, where are we going?”

“Home.”

Tiger Lily thought for a moment. “We came here to rescue Doc Brenner’s son. Shouldn’t we be going there?” Tiger Lily pointed to a small screen with a dot that was getting father away from the center of the screen. “At best, he’s less than a day’s drive away.” Her voice had regained its cold, calculating composure, but Girlfriend didn’t want to listen to her. She wanted to go back to the camp and wait for Doc Brenner to take them all home. The last thing she wanted was to stay here any longer.

“No. We’re getting out of here. We’re not losing anyone else.”

“We all knew the risk in coming here…”

Girlfriend snapped and cut off Tiger Lily, “Myra didn’t. She was here because of Doc Brenner. She wasn’t here because she chose to be and now she’d dead. She’s dead, Casper is dead, and it’s all Doc Brenner and his son’s fault. Why should we go and save him now?”

Tiger Lily didn’t respond and when she did, her voice had a hint of condescension to it. “Doc sounded as if he truly felt bad for all that happened. We need to bring his son home. Letting another person die isn’t going to bring back Myra, or Casper, or even that officer that got lost here. It’s the right thing to do, and we need to go on.”

Girlfriend had forgotten about the officer. How could she have forgotten about a person who’d died out here? How could she just let another person die? But Clive was here by choice and he had to know what he was doing, didn’t he? He’d chosen to drive out into the prehistoric wilderness on his own; why shouldn’t they leave him to his fate? It was something he deserved. He and his father shouldn’t have been playing with time anyway.

“Ease back, Girlfriend. Slow down.”

Girlfriend eased back on the control joysticks and took several deep breaths. She knew Tiger Lily was right, but had trouble accepting it. Everyone had been beaten. Tiger Lily’s arm needed medical attention, Lin’s shoulder was still healing, and Sam. Sam was a mess. There was only one person who could get them all out of here and she wanted to do that, but after all that’d happened, how could they just give up and go home now?

“You’re right,” Girlfriend conceded. “Let’s go get Clive and then get home.”

“Yes, let’s.”

“Just, check and make sure…” Girlfriend took a deep breath. “Check and make sure we’re not being followed.”

“I’ll do that.”

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 48


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Sam

The parade of tuba players, drummers, and elephants finally stopped causing such a racket inside of Sam’s head. Enough so that he felt comfortable opening his eyes. He was greeted by darkness. At first he thought he might be blind, but in fact he could make out silvery shapes in the indistinct moonlight that filtered through the windows at the bottom of the car. It took Sam a moment to register that the car had been overturned. Not only that, they’d killed a dinosaur. A Tyrannosaurus rex. They’d killed one of Earth’s mightiest hunters.

He gave a small laugh and coughed. He’d paid quite a price to keep everyone safe, and his body reminded him with every tiny movement he tried to make. Every inch of him screamed in pain as he coughed. He could barely lift his arms to his mouth. When he did, he could see blood spray from his lips into his hand. He was in bad shape.

How long had he been out of it? He had vague recollections of Girlfriend giving him medicine, but how much and how often eluded him. Could it only be the night? Perhaps the night after? He couldn’t know. How could he? He put his weight on his right arm, but his shoulder flared in pain so he quickly shifted his weight to his left arm. Once he was sitting, he felt the bandage on his shoulder. It wasn’t so much a bandage as just cloth. It felt like a t-shirt. Had they run out of bandages? Was someone else hurt that they ran out that quickly? Or had he actually been out so long that they’d used all the bandages on him?

He didn’t want to think about that. He needed to think of a way out of this situation. He looked up and saw the hatch of the car was open. No! As fast as his body would allow, he got to his feet and staggered to the ladder. He had to get the hatch closed. The last thing they needed, and likely wouldn’t survive, was to have another troodon get inside.

Sam struggled to get his arms to pull him up the ladder. He’d never felt so weak in all his life. His left leg was all but useless, but he fought to pull himself up. The hatch had to be closed. How could the girls have been so careless to leave the hatch open?

Once his head cleared the top of the hatch, Sam looked out onto the underside of the car. Four of the six tires were still inflated. If they could right the car, they could still make it back with no trouble. He had no intention, at this point, of making any more of an effort to save Clive. He would have to return on his own. They did their best, but Sam wasn’t going to risk anyone’s life to try to keep going.

Something moved and caught Sam’s attention. He suddenly wished he had the gun, but as soon as he saw two human shapes in the moonlight, he relaxed.

“Get-get back inside,” Sam strained to say.

One of the figures disentangled from the other and turned around. “Sam!” Lin said.

Lin rapidly crawled across the car to be near Sam. “You’re awake. How are you? What are you doing up here?”

“I’d ask you the same thing. You two should be inside. It’s not safe.”

“Sam’s right, Lin. Let’s go back inside. I don’t think Myra is coming back.”

“What?” Sam couldn’t believe what he’d just heard. “Where’s Myra?”

Lin put her hand on Sam’s quivering shoulder. The strain of holding himself up was more than he could bear. “Let’s go back inside and we’ll talk about what’s happened.”

“What do you mean?”

“Sam, inside.”

Sam slowly lowered himself into the car.. “How long?”

“Once you’re sitting back down. I don’t want you to fall.”

Sam staggered and tried to keep his footing.

“Sam!” Girlfriend gasped. She put her hands on his hips and steadied him as he finished climbing down the stairs. Her gentle touch hurt, but reassured him at the same time. How could every square inch of his body hurt so badly? As soon as he was at the foot of the stairs he just wanted to lie down again, his head reeling from the effort.

“Just sit down. There’s nothing in the way. We cleaned everything a couple days ago. You’ll be fine.”

“How long, Girlfriend? How long?”

“You’ve been out for about five days.”

“Five days? That can’t be! We need to get back before Doc activates the time thing. He’s going to be expecting us.”

“Sam, I still think we’ll have enough time to get out and find Clive and get back. He was moving very slowly, perhaps a mile or two an hour at best. We’ve covered over half the distance to him. Lin has the GPS locator up and running and linked to the satellite. He’s stopped moving. We just need to get the car turned over.”

Lin and Tiger Lily sat down next to Sam and Girlfriend. “We just need to find Myra.”

“Where is she? Why isn’t she inside the car?” Sam asked harshly.

“It’s been quiet since we killed the T. rex. Very quiet. Myra wanted to go out, I guess. She disappeared two days ago.”

“Outside? What was she thinking?”

“Perhaps she just thought she’d get a sample or something to bring back with her. I mean, that’s what she lives for. I guess I can’t blame her.”

“This is just like at the nest. I let her go out and everyone went with her and look at what happened. It nearly got us all killed.”

Girlfriend put her hand on Sam’s leg. “Sam, it’s okay. I’m sure she’ll be back.”

“After two days outside? Not likely.”

“Well, we’re not going anywhere.”

“Did you fire any flares? Maybe she’s lost and can’t find her way back. A flare would get her attention.”

“I found the flare gun, but I can’t reach the flares. They’re stuck up there next to the driver’s seat. Once we turn the car over, we can do that.”

“Well, the sooner the better. Are you three fit enough to do something? I can direct what to do, but I don’t think I’m in any condition to do the work.”

“The moon isn’t as full as it was, but I think we’ll have enough light to work by.”

“Then let’s do this.”

The four of them climbed out of the car. It took Sam far longer than he would have liked, but they’d wasted enough time. Five days. Doc would be summoning for them soon and Girlfriend still wanted to try to rescue Clive. Stupidity, but he didn’t have the strength to argue with her.

“Lin! Go to the winch on the front and pull the cable as far back as you can, then toss it down to Tiger Lily.”

Lin did as instructed.

“Now keep pulling the cable to give them slack. Girlfriend, Tiger Lily, pull the cable around and under the car then over the top, bottom, whatever, you know what I mean. We’re going to have to wrap the cable around the car in order to flip it over.”

Girlfriend caught on quickly to what Sam was directing and Lin kept feeding them slack to bring the cable around and finally over the car twice. She lowered the cable down.

“Now go around the biggest tree that you can and then bring it back and link it to one of the loops on the top of the car. Lin, get down from there.”

Sam looked at the control in his hand. Who’d have thought of creating a remote control for a winch? Didn’t matter, Sam was just thankful for Clive’s or Doc’s foresight. As soon as the three girls were by his side near the water, he activated the winch. It screamed and hollered in protest to the enormous weight, but the car moved. Slowly, but it moved. It started to twist around and they had to step to the side, but the cable tightened and finally started to lift the car’s side. The glass solar panels that had managed to survive the initial flip of the car cracked under the cable’s strain, but still the car lifted.

“No! Stop!” Sam looked to see who said that. It could only be one person, but where was she? Where had Myra come from?

The water near the dead T. rex exploded. Sam dropped the remote and looked in horror as another T. rex that had been hiding rose out of the water and charged.

It didn’t charge at them. Instead it charged toward the woods. Myra ran out as fast as she could to try and get to the safety of Sam and the rest, but he’d forgotten the gun and Myra was lugging a very full backpack. He had no safety to offer. How could he be so stupid to forget the gun? Even if he had it, he couldn’t do anything.

The flare gun! It was the only chance he had at saving Myra. He’d had Girlfriend put Lin on her shoulders and he’d gotten a flare and loaded the gun to signal Myra once the car had been flipped back over. Maybe he could scare the beast, or blind it, if only for a second. He struggled to get the gun out of his pocket and the T. rex gained ground quickly on Myra with each monstrous, pounding step. Had she been waiting, watching it? Why had she given up her cover? Why didn’t she run back into the woods to get away? Why was she bringing the thing to them? What was she thinking?

Girlfriend pushed Sam’s hands away and pulled the flare gun from his pocket. She aimed over Myra’s head and fired.

The flare, bright and brilliant, sailed over the T. rex. It stopped for only a moment to watch as it passed, but that moment was enough. The winch had continued to work and the car flipped back onto its wheels.

“Get under the car!” Sam shouted.

As quickly as he could move, Sam followed the girls under the car. Myra was only a couple steps away. She would make it. She had to make it on her own. There was nothing Sam could do to help her at this point with the T. rex thundering toward them.

Lin and Girlfriend grabbed Sam and pulled him painfully to the ground and under the car. The hatch was still open. They just needed to climb up and in.

The winch, still pulling the car, twisted it so the end closest to Myra moved away from her. Still, she dove with the backpack in front of her and slid under the car and started to wiggle her way under. Sam heard her breathe a sigh of relief as she clawed her way further, but the car continued to rotate. It moved faster than the winch was pulling. Myra’s eyed widened in fear as Sam reached to try and help her get away from the edge of the car. His hands grabbed the strap of the backpack and he tried with all his strength to pull.

“No!” Hel…”

Myra slid quickly out from under the car, her hand slipping off the backpack, leaving Sam staring in the now empty space she’d been in an instant before, holding her backpack. Her screams lasted for only a second and were followed by sick, wet crunching. Girlfriend screamed in horror. Lin and Tiger Lily could only stare where Myra had disappeared.

“We’ve got to get inside. It’s the only place that’s safe.”

Sam had to encourage them to keep moving. He was sickened by Myra’s death too, but he couldn’t let anyone stay outside and be next. They had to get inside and get moving and they had to do it now. Sam would have to get the gun and take some shots at the thing to slow it down. Girlfriend had seen him drive; she’d have to take over that duty while he took shots at the T. rex to deter it from chasing after them.

As soon as Sam got into the car, he found moving difficult. Every muscle was stiff and unresponsive. The girls were all quivering, uncooperative bodies. He couldn’t do it alone. He needed help. He would have to direct them. How was he going to keep the rest of them alive? How?

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 47


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Lin

Tiger Lily pulled her head back and looked into Lin’s eyes. They took a moment to catch their breath. Tiger Lily had an animal need in her eyes. Pure lust. Lin had never seen it, but knew instantly what it meant.

“Please no. I can’t. I’m sorry. Not here. Not now. Not yet.”

Tiger Lily gave a sly smile, kissed Lin again, then lay her head on the shoulder of Lin’s wet t-shirt. It felt great to be clean, but now she wanted dry clothes to put on. It felt strange laying around in just her underwear.

“You’re so beautiful.”

Lin didn’t know how to respond to that. Was there a correct response? Lin’s heart began to pound in her chest. Tiger Lily’s wet and bandaged hand found its way to Lin’s stomach. She shivered from the intimacy.

“I want to go back inside. I don’t feel right being out here like this,” Lin whispered into Tiger Lily’s ear.

“Just a little bit longer,” Tiger Lily purred. “I think I’m going to take a nap.”

“Outside? I mean. . .”

“It stinks in there.”

“Well, now that we’ve all had a bath, we should clean it up in there. I mean, what are we waiting for?” Lin tried not to sound too anxious about going back inside.

Tiger Lily opened her eyes. “I don’t know. I feel like we should start walking back and call this trip a failure.”

“Could we do that?” Lin propped herself up on her elbow causing Tiger Lily to roll onto her back.

“I don’t think so. Those things swim and there’s no telling what else we’d encounter out there. We need Sam. He’ll know what to do about the car and getting it turned over.”

“What? Why do we need Sam for that?”

“He’s got experience with that sort of thing.”

Lin looked at Tiger Lily, shocked. “Are you saying we need a man to figure out how to turn this car over?”

“No, just that Sam would best know how to do it.”

Lin sat up and crossed her arms across her breasts. “I don’t think we need Sam to get us out of this.”

“What’s that?” Girlfriend said as she sat up.

Myra also sat up and looked about. She crawled over and retrieved her clothes and started dressing.

“I was just asking Tiger Lily what we’re waiting for? I mean, I don’t feel comfortable just sitting here and waiting for something to happen. We need to get this car turned back over and get out of here, don’t we?”

“Well, I think Sam knows this car pretty well and he’d be able to figure it all out. He’s really good with things like this.”

Lin stood and pulled her pants back on. Tiger Lily gave a small frown, but sat up and also started putting her clothes on. Girlfriend followed suit.

“Well, I think if we can get him out of the car, we can do something about getting it turned over. I mean we’re all sitting out here in the sun like there’s nothing better to do. Why don’t we do something? Even if we don’t turn over the car, we can at least clean it out so it doesn’t smell. Obviously we can be outside and there’s nothing around. At least not right now. Instead of wasting the day lying about and napping, let’s do something.”

Lin could feel tears start to well up in her eyes. She suddenly longed to be at home in front of her computer with Black Flag cranked up and playing poker online. She wanted to be out of this place. For an instant she didn’t even care if Tiger Lily was there. She felt like Tiger Lily was pushing things too fast. Her head was spinning and she just wanted things to slow down and go back to normal. Being lost in the middle of a prehistoric Earth was about as far from normal as her life could get.

Tiger Lily put her hand on Lin’s leg, but she brushed it away and clapped her hands over her face and shook her head. Couldn’t they just go home? Now?

Girlfriend, Myra, and Tiger Lily all stood around Lin. Girlfriend said, “It’s going to be alright. You’re right. We should do something. Your shoulder seems much better. Tiger Lily’s arm is healing nicely. We can all pitch in and this car will be cleaned up in no time. We’ve gotten ourselves clean, let’s get to work on the rest of it. Including Sam. He needs a bath too. I love the smell of a strong man, but not the strong smell of a man.”

That made them all laugh.

Though it took nearly four hours and the remaining daylight, they cleaned the car. They had to make do with only soap for cleaning, but still the car smelled far better. Girlfriend spent some time giving Sam a sponge bath and changing all his bandages — some of the clothes they’d brought had to be boiled and cut into strips to complete this task. Myra, Lin, and Tiger Lily all kept themselves busy elsewhere while she did.

“I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time cleaning,” Lin remarked.

“Really?” Myra looked puzzled.

“You don’t know, do you?” Lin asked.

“Know what?”

Lin laughed a little. “I’m, um, well. I’ve never had to clean my own house. Let’s just put it that way.”

“You mean your trailer? Why don’t you clean it?”

“Girlfriend cleans it for me. I pay her to. Just like Doc Brenner does.”

“Yes, but Doc Brenner has a lot of money. I mean, I assume he does. He’s got all that equipment. He must have a lot of money. Why does she clean your trailer?”

“I pay her to.”

The second time she said it Tiger Lily almost looked shocked. Lin had told Tiger Lily a lot of things over the years, but nothing about her past business deals or just how much she was worth. Suddenly she didn’t want to tell them.

“Okay, why? Don’t you have anything better to spend your money on?”

“Well, I do. I spend a lot of money. You see. Well, I’m kind of rich.”

“Rich?” Tiger Lily blurted.

“I think you need to explain that one,” Myra said.

Bathing partially nude with these women had been far easier, Lin suddenly realized. She was about to expose a big secret that only she knew.

“Well, I did a lot of work before I got the government contract. Tiger Lily, you work for the government, and I do too, but I’m the one that landed the contract for the equipment and the software. I’m wrote that software.”

Tiger Lily’s jaw dropped. It took her a moment before she said anything. Myra just looked confused.

“I knew you were smart, but you wrote that software and you are responsible for that contract?”

“Pretty much.”

“But how? I mean, you’re so young.”

“Well, I graduated when I was six and had made my first million before I was ten. My parents took most of that and I didn’t start making my own money until I emancipated from them. I guess I got tired of doing other people’s work and had enough money that I thought I could just retire and spend the rest of my life in my trailer.”

“I don’t understand,” Tiger Lily said.

“I managed to make millions of dollars a year until I got the government contract last year. That was a fifty-seven-million dollar contract. That’s just what I made, not how much everything cost, like the equipment. I just added the equipment cost to the contract. And there’s my poker site I run.”

“Poker site? I thought you just like to play.”

“Oh, I love to play, but I wrote my own poker software because I got bored and started to learn how to play poker. I figured I may as well start up my own site. That’s only bringing in twenty or thirty thousand.”

“A year?”

Lin laughed. “No, a week. I figure if something happens, at least I’ll have a steady income.”

Tiger Lily bit her lip and shook her head. “You’ve been keeping all this from me all this time?”

“I hardly knew you. At least not like I know you now. I didn’t want to tell anyone. I guess I feel now is the right time to say something.”

“So you’re pretty much filthy rich,” Myra interjected.

“I guess so. I never really gave money any thought. I’ve always had it so it’s not something that’s important to me. Until all this happened, sitting in my trailer alone was the most important thing to me. I guess I see that I’m missing out on a lot of things locking myself away. I think I want to give up on the government contract and do something else now.”

“Like what?” Myra asked.

Again Lin laughed and took Tiger Lily’s hand. “Like spending some of that money and spending time with someone I care about.”

Tiger Lily pulled her hand back. “What makes you think I want to be some rich girl’s bitch?”

Lin was taken aback. She hadn’t expected Tiger Lily to be angry. Quite the opposite. The way Tiger Lily was all over her when they were outside, and in front of people, she thought she’d be happy about the money. They could spend all their time together without any worries. They could do what they wanted when they wanted and she wanted to share all of it with Tiger Lily.

“I don’t understand,” Lin said.

“No, you’ve got money. I wouldn’t expect you to. I’ve had to work hard for everything I have and now you want me to throw everything away and just rely on you for everything? I think I liked it better when I thought you were more like me.”

Tiger Lily got up and stomped out of the room and went back to the front room of the car. It was Lin’s turn to sit with her jaw agape. She wanted to cry, she wanted to run after her, she wanted to yell, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted. She wanted Tiger Lily to come back and come to her senses. She wasn’t trying to take anything away from her, she was trying to give her everything. Couldn’t she see that?

Lin started to stand up, but Myra grabbed her arm. “Give her a little time. I think she just needs to take this all in. This has been a very trying time for all of us and you just laid a pretty big bombshell on her. I don’t think she was ready for anything like that.”

“Yeah.”

Lin didn’t know what else to say.

“I think,” Myra started and stopped. “Um. I’m going to go make sure we brought everything back inside.”

Lin barely noticed that Myra took up her backpack and headed to the front of the car. As soon as she was alone, Lin put her face in her hands and cried.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 46


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Myra

Time passed by so slowly. Myra just wanted to go outside and look around, but Girlfriend was adamant about no one leaving the car. In between helping Girlfriend prepare scant meals of crackers and uncooked canned goods and tending to Lin’s, Sam’s, and Tiger Lily’s wounds — Lin and Tiger Lily could at least remain conscious — Myra found a little time to stare out of the windows and wish she could be outside and walking around.

“Myra,” Girlfriend said softly. She’d been with Sam during one of his brief moments of being awake, but he’d slipped off again. Lin and Tiger Lily lay curled under a blanket in one corer of the over-turned car.

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry if I’ve been tough to deal with these past few days. It’s just. . .”

Girlfriend didn’t need to finish the sentence. Myra was afraid too. The two of them had spoken about their fears in late night conversations while the rest slept. She’d tried not to speak of it because it only reinforced the negative aspect of their situation and it didn’t do either of them any good to dwell on it.

Myra hugged Girlfriend. For the first time since they’d arrived, Girlfriend cried. In response to Girlfriend’s tears, Myra allowed her own emotions to pour forth and cried along with her. They sat, hugging, quivering, crying, for several long minutes.

When Girlfriend pulled back, she wiped her eyes and nose on her sleeves. Myra did the same.

“Thank you. I just don’t know what we’re going to do.”

“We’re going to get through this,” said Myra, trying to sound as strong as she could.

“But Doc is going to be looking for us soon. What if we don’t get back?”

Myra chuckled. “Well, I can tell you that no one has ever discovered a car tire inside of a T. rex’s stomach before. That’s something.”

Girlfriend laughed softly and smiled.

“You know, I think we need to step outside. Even if just to stretch our legs and breathe some fresh air. At least open the hatch. It’s so stale and smelly in here.”

“Well, after being cooped up, I think you’re right. This place does need to be aired out and we haven’t heard anything else moving around out there.”

Finally, Girlfriend was receptive to Myra’s suggestion. They would get out of this situation. Myra knew that. Sam would get better and drive them all back, with or without Doc Brenner’s son. If only she could get outside and collect some samples to take back with her. And what better time would arise than when they were stopped at one spot for so long. She didn’t need to go far to gather bugs and plants. She’d saved the leeches Girlfriend had pulled off Sam. Those alone wouldn’t be enough to convince anyone she’d been on this excursion. She needed more proof. Leeches hadn’t changed over the millions of years. She needed to bring back something extinct. If only that baby hadrosaur had survived and Sam hadn’t tossed it out.

“Let’s just make sure the others are comfortable. I’ve given them all Tylenol with codeine so they should be sleeping pain-free for a few hours at least.”

Pain-free was the key. Sam had woken many times screaming in agony. Girlfriend’s nerves must have been frayed beyond belief with all the worry and care she’d given him. Myra couldn’t imagine what the woman must be going through. In many ways she felt guilty in tricking Girlfriend into allowing her to go outside, but how else was she going to get there? And there really wasn’t a risk, right?

“I’ll open the hatch and go first. I’ve actually gotten some sleep, so I’ll be a little more aware. Let me look around first and then I’ll let you know if it’s clear.”

“Alright.”

Myra climbed the ladder and unfastened the hatch, aware of just how loud the popping noise sounded in the still cabin of the car. She looked back, but none of the sleeping had moved.

“Sorry,” she mouthed down to Girlfriend, who only shrugged.

The burst of fresh air that flowed into the car was immediately worth any risk. They’d been going to the bathroom in buckets, but had nowhere to empty them. Just to be away from their own smell was a blessing.

Myra pushed open the hatch and scanned about carefully. A light breeze blew across the expanse of water causing tiny ripples to mar the otherwise perfect surface. The drone of bugs still filled the air, Myra didn’t know why she thought they might stop, but it felt closer. Looking around she could see the dead T. rex almost engulfed in flies and crawling insects of every imaginable size, shape and color. The green skin shimmered with movement. She was suddenly glad they were downwind from the carcass.

Nothing else made any noise or movement.

“It looks good. The fresh air is so nice. I wonder if we should wake Lin and Tiger Lily and get them up here too. Maybe the fresh air will do them some good.”

“We can do that later,” Girlfriend replied as she ascended the ladder behind Myra.

Even the sensation of the sun on her skin felt amazing. Myra had spent long hours cleaning and cataloging fossils, but at least once a day she’d be outside and at least she’d be in the direct sunlight. The confined quarters of the car and the windows facing away from the sun had made that all but impossible.

“Oh my gosh, that feels great,” Girlfriend said as she emerged from the car’s hatch. “I didn’t think that’d feel so good.”

“I know. Isn’t it incredible?”

“I’ve got an idea, as long as it looks clear up here. Don’t go anywhere.”

Girlfriend’s mischievous smile made Myra wonder what she was up to, but she knew it had to be a good idea. Myra closed her eyes and turned her face to the sun and let her body soak up its warmth.

“Help me with this,” Girlfriend said from the bottom of the ladder a few moments later.

Myra reached down, not knowing what to expect, and was surprised when she grasped the handle of a bucket. At first she thought it was one of their waste buckets and instinctively wrinkled her nose, but once she pulled it up, saw it was filled with soapy water.

Girlfriend climbed up with clean towels and sponges and a second bucket of fresh water. “Bath time!”

“Um,” Myra didn’t respond right away. It surprised her that Girlfriend unashamedly started stripping. She wasn’t surprised, with Girlfriend’s swimsuit-model figure, that she was wearing a skimpy, black, lace bra and matching thong. She was glad that Girlfriend didn’t strip all the way down before she started scrubbing her body with the soapy water.

“Come on,” She said and splashed a little water at Myra.

Myra blinked several times and shook her head. The water brought her back to reality. She hadn’t been naked with another woman since gym class in high school and those had been embarrassing moments she didn’t want to relive. She wasn’t fat, but her breasts sagged and she didn’t exactly have an hour-glass figure. Girlfriend was a perfect specimen of a woman with her round butt and perky boobs.

“No, I’ll wait.”

Girlfriend stopped, soap running down her naked body. “What? A chance to be clean and you’re going to turn it down? It’s not like Sam will see you. He’s quite out of it, I can assure you of that.”

“It’s not that. It’s just that I…”

Girlfriend dropped the sponge into the water. “I’m not taking no for an answer.”

She pulled Myra to her feet and before she could protest, grabbed her shirt by the hem and pulled it up and over her head.

“Girlfriend!” Myra pulled back and clutched her arms over her breasts. She didn’t wear lacey bras like Girlfriend. She wore a bra for support only. It was plain and huge. It was supposed to be flesh colored, but Myra never let those parts of her body see sunlight and her skin was creamy white.

“Oh, come on Myra. I’m not going to stand here naked all by myself. You’ve got beautiful, smooth skin. There’s no one else in the world. Let’s just get clean and enjoy this moment. It’s just you and me.”

Myra thought about that for a moment. Indeed. Why didn’t she? She’d been so uptight about getting outside, now that she was here, she may as well enjoy it. Girlfriend obviously didn’t care, she just wanted someone to share this time with.

Myra decided that Girlfriend was right and started pulling down her pants. She pulled the top of her high, control-top panties down to her hips and then pulled her pants off. If felt so good to be out of those confining clothes. They’d been in their same clothes all sweaty and smelly.

Girlfriend tossed her a sponge. “Let’s get you clean too.”

The two of them spent what felt like an hour scrubbing their bodies. They even took turns washing each other’s backs. At first Myra didn’t want to, but feeling her back being washed felt great. She’d never had anyone do that for her. For a moment, only a moment, she regretted never marrying. It passed as she just enjoyed this moment.

Once they had finished and rinsed off, Myra wanted to put her clothes back on, but Girlfriend laid out on her towel and spread her hair out. Myra looked at Girlfriend for a moment and decided that it looked like a great idea.

“You know,” Girlfriend said. “I lay out all the time at the park, but it’s never felt this great.”

Myra lay down, but said nothing. She’d never laid out before. She’d never even thought about it. It always seemed like a waste of time. But somehow, lying outside with Girlfriend, it felt right. Just two girls sharing a moment of quiet respite from their situation.

“I hope Lin and Tiger Lily are alright down there. I feel like they should be up here with us,” Girlfriend said.

“Did I hear my name?”

Myra instinctively flipped over onto her stomach and did her best to cover herself. Lin’s head appeared at the top of the hatch.

“Hey Lin! How do you feel?” Girlfriend asked, obviously happy to see Lin.

Lin climbed out. “I’m doing good. What’s going on up here?”

“Myra and I were just taking a bath to wash off the stink.”

“Did I hear bath?” Tiger Lily called as she popped up.

Myra had never been so embarrassed. Somehow it was different with Girlfriend. She liked men. Lin and Tiger Lily liked each other, but Myra had never been around gay women before. She didn’t want to be seen. She felt so stupid for lying around in her underwear. She reached for her clothes, but they were too far away for her to grab without looking conspicuous. Instead she just lay on her stomach.

Without a thought, Tiger Lily started to disrobe, but Lin stopped her. They exchanged a few words. Myra felt like she was intruding by looking at them. She wrestled with the idea of rolling over so she could look away, and it wasn’t until Tiger Lily started taking off her clothes that she decided it was best to just roll back over.

Lin and Tiger Lily giggled as they bathed. Myra looked back, and the two of them were washing each other and dripping in soap as they played in the water. Girlfriend looked as if she’d fallen asleep, so serene and quiet.

Lin and Tiger Lily eventually calmed down. Tiger Lily went into the car and retrieved two more towels for them to lie out on. They put them close together and spent more time holding each other than just lying quietly. Myra thought she should be embarrassed, but they were just kids having fun. She couldn’t help but sneak a peak now and then just to see what they were up to. They kissed a lot, but never went any further than that. She didn’t know if it was the added company, or if they just hadn’t taken their relationship that far. Myra closed her eyes and just focused on all the other sounds of the wild.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 45


Paradise Palms

Paradise Palms:
A Murder Mystery in a Time-Traveling Trailer Park.


Myra

The mighty, terrible lizard. The king of all dinosaurs. A pure predator that combined all the killing strength and eating power that no other animal had ever possessed, and from this time period, none that ever would. It reigned on high with no predators of its own. It fed on the healthy just as much as it would feed on the weak and the lame.

Never would it wait in line for a meal. Other dinosaurs would make way for the Tyrannosaurus rex. Nothing got in its way. Nothing bothered it. Nothing was its better.

And Myra was standing nose to nose with it. It still twitched from the pain of the gun shots and flares, but Myra didn’t want to see the beast die. She didn’t have a death wish and now wondered what she was doing standing on the bottom of the car keeping Girlfriend from shooting it. What had she been thinking? She’d only gone up there to help Lin and Sam. She hadn’t intended to prevent Girlfriend from killing the monster. She certainly didn’t want to put Girlfriend at risk.

Instead, she’d screamed and put herself at risk. Here the thing stood and watched her with curious intent. Was it going to eat her? Would it pass by and go back to look for Girlfriend? No! It couldn’t go and look for Girlfriend. Myra blamed herself for not letting Girlfriend shoot it and therefore get back into the car and to safety. She certainly couldn’t let the thing go after her.

Did that mean she’d need to sacrifice her life in order that Girlfriend live? Would Girlfriend even survive? She was trapped outside with that thing still walking around. She had a gun though. Perhaps Myra should hide from this thing, and let it go and find Girlfriend and get a bullet in its head.

But its skull had bone nearly two inches think. The bullets couldn’t go through that, could they?

“Kneel down slowly,” Sam said from behind her. “And plug your ears.”

The T. rex shifted its gaze from her to Sam. Its expression changed. It actually had facial expressions. It opened its mouth and bellowed so loud that Myra thought her eardrums would burst. Even with her hands over her ears, the sound was so loud it was painful.

A shot rang out, but not from behind her. From down below. That shot had to have come from Girlfriend. A second shot rang out, this time from behind her. And another, and another, and another. Each time the beast roared and shook its mighty head as if it could just shake off the pain inflicted by the bullets.

Sam’s gun clicked. He was out of ammo, but the beast had stopped roaring. She felt Sam’s hand grip the back of her collar, weakly, but he grabbed her all the same. He pulled softly, and Myra got to her feet.

“You’d better get inside, now. That thing is going to fall.”

“What about Girlfriend?”

“Get inside!”

Myra made no further protests. She scrambled for the open hatch and dropped inside, not bothering with the ladder. She didn’t know if Sam was concerned about her life, mad at her for putting Girlfriend at risk, or just plain mad.

She had watched as Girlfriend gave him mouth-to-mouth and had never actually seen anyone use it before. The fact that it actually worked surprised her, but Sam had to feel like crap. He’d been dead, or as close to dead as a person can get. Now he was up and walking around and shooting a gun.

Tiger Lily did her best to help Myra get to her feet. “Are you alright?”

“I’m okay. A little scared and bruised, but I’ll be fine.”

“What’s going on up there?” Tiger Lily asked as she moved from Myra, who was fine, to Lin, who wasn’t so fine.

“I think they’re trying to kill it, but I’m not sure if they’ll have enough ammunition.”

The beast crashed to the ground with a massive thud that shook the car. Sam must’ve braced himself for the impact, for Myra didn’t hear him fall.

“Girlfriend!” Sam called out. “Girlfriend!” His voice sounded pained and weak.

All Myra could think was that without Sam, they’d all more than likely die. But with the car overturned, they would all die anyway. They had no way to get back. What were they going to do? She didn’t want to die out here. Well, she did, but not until she was old and gray. She didn’t want to die like this. Or be eaten. She wanted to study these creatures, not be killed by them.

She wanted to get up, but found herself hyperventilating. She cupped her hands over her mouth and put her head as far between her knees as she could.

She couldn’t focus on dying. She couldn’t. Everything would work out. They were all still alive. A little bit shaken, and a little injured, but everyone would live. They would all make it out of here. She just knew they would.

Myra closed her eyes and allowed her mind to drift away. A calm river by a cool field of green grass far away from any dinosaurs. Gentle mist cooling her body. Butterflies floating by on a mild breeze.

Myra sat up, her breathing and thoughts back under control. She watched as Tiger Lily, her own arm bandaged, tried to put a sling on Lin’s arm as Lin cried in protest. When Sam and Girlfriend started down the ladder, she stood to help them. Girlfriend didn’t appear to want any help, and Myra couldn’t blame her. She tried to say she was sorry, but now wasn’t the time.

Sam, on the other hand, had some choice words for her. “I should kill you, but that’s not going to help anyone. Get something to help Lin with her shoulder.”

Girlfriend added, “No, get something to help Sam. We’ve got to change his dressings and clean out his wounds. Where’s that medical kit?”

Sam took a deep breath, and fell to the floor. He didn’t pass out, per se, but he looked quite pale. All the action had finally caught up to him.

Myra made herself as useful as she could. She knew a little first aid, but mostly helped Girlfriend by handing her whatever she asked for. Girlfriend washed and restitched Sam’s shoulder and checked his leg. Girlfriend then moved to Lin. She made the girl sit with one shoulder against the wall while she lifted and pushed her arm back into its socket. Myra winced at the popping noise it made and Lin passed out. Tiger Lily hugged the unconscious girl.

“Get blankets for those two. They need to be covered so they don’t go into shock.” Girlfriend’s tone bore a serious and urgent tone. Myra did as she was told and even went as far as to wrap up Sam as much as she could in the blankets. A thought hit her.

“Girlfriend, we might want to check Sam for leeches.”

“What?”

“Well, most insects were fully developed by this time period, but they had an exoskeleton. We don’t know about leeches. They don’t have a skeleton or anything. It’s possible the water out there could contain them.”

Girlfriend looked more annoyed at this announcement, but nonetheless set to work removing the blanket and Sam’s shirt. Sure enough, a large leech clung to the middle of his chest.

“Help me get his pants off. We need to see if there are any more,” Girlfriend ordered.

“His pants?”

“If he’s got leeches on him, we’ve got to get them off of him. Now isn’t the time to be embarrassed.”

Myra, reluctantly, helped Girlfriend pull off Sam’s pants. She did her best to keep her eyes averted, but knew that she’d have to look if they were to find any more leeches.

They found a total of six on his body; only one in his crotch. The rest were easy to get to.

“I’ll get the salt,” Myra said as she started to get up.

“The what?”

“The salt. That’ll make them drop off.”

Girlfriend looked shocked. “Have you ever had a leech?”

“Well.” Myra shrugged. She’d always been afraid of swimming in lakes for just that reason.

“Just get me a jar or something to put them into.”

Myra rummaged around and found a small container with a lid. “Will this do?”

“Yes, fine.”

Girlfriend gripped the first leech by the body and ran her fingernail under the sucker, pulling gently as she did. In no time, the leech detached and she dumped it into the container as Myra watched with her mouth wide open.

“You might want to close that.”

Myra shut her mouth.

“I mean the container. They’ll crawl out of there.”

“Oh.” Myra felt stupid. She closed the lid and watched as Girlfriend removed all the leeches the same way. Sam had several small spots of blood that Girlfriend cleaned and covered with small band-aids.

“Let’s get him wrapped up. He can put on dry clothes when he wakes up.”

Myra helped Girlfriend wrap up Sam, then got him a pillow to put under his head. She was amazed at the beating he’d taken and yet still breathed and lived. That was all well and fine, but would he be able to lead them out of here and back home? Myra didn’t even know where they were or how close they were to rescuing Clive.

She shook her head. She couldn’t start to think about that again. Instead, she sat quietly with her back against the wall. Tiger Lily sat against the opposite wall, hugging Lin. They both slept.

Girlfriend sat down next to Myra. Myra cringed.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

Girlfriend shook her head. “Don’t be. I think I understand why you didn’t want me to shoot it. I’m just glad it didn’t get you.”

“Sam is a great shot. You too. Did he teach you to shoot like that?”

“He did. I don’t like to shoot at anything living, but he’s taught me to shoot a lot of different guns at targets. I figure, if I’m going to be part of his life, I may as well be a part of all aspects of his life, you know?”

Myra nodded, but couldn’t relate. Her life was her work. Always had been. She couldn’t imagine giving up anything just for a man.

“Still, I didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt. I feel like the only reason anyone got hurt was because of me. I think that if Sam hadn’t stopped so I could see those eggs, none of this would have happened. We could have gone and found Clive and gotten back with no issue. This is all my fault. You should have left me at the cabin.”

Myra started crying. Girlfriend, surprisingly, hugged her. Myra hugged back and held Girlfriend tight, crying until she fell asleep.