Category Archives: Paradise Palms

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 44


Paradise Palms

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


Girlfriend

Girlfriend slammed her hand into the glass again and again screaming Sam’s name at the top of her lungs. Why didn’t he move? Why didn’t he get out of there? He had to move. He just had to.

The wounds in his shoulder had reopened, the blood stain testified that. The bandage hung heavy on his arm, soaked with mud and blood. He looked drunk, like his mind had abandoned him to his fate.

The tyrannosaur bellowed deep and loud and charged. The muscles in its massive legs propelled the beast toward Sam at frightening speed. It covered the ground in three strides and lowered its head. Girlfriend’s heart stopped with each pounding footfall.

“No!” Girlfriend screamed. Lin, Tiger Lily, and Myra, all by her side, watched in horror as the beast plunged toward the still figure of Sam.

Sam dropped to the ground, and rolled toward the water at the very last second to avoid being swept up by the beast’s mouth or torn apart by its massive claws. For an instant she lost sight of him, between the tears in her eyes and the dinosaur in her way. She wiped the tears away from her face and tried to find him.

“Where is he?” Myra asked seriously.

“Sam! Sam!” Girlfriend cried loudly as she pounded her fist on the glass. She couldn’t see him anywhere. Had the thing gotten him? Was it eating him right now? That damn monster was going to die for killing her Sam. It was going to die! “Where are the guns?”

“Look!” Lin cried. “In the water. I saw something pop up.”

Girlfriend planted her forehead against the window. “Where?”

The tyrannosaur turned and slowly stalked back to where Sam had been. It sniffed the ground several times and rocked its head from side to side. It gave a cursory glace to the water and sneezed, but didn’t search more for Sam. Instead, it approached the car again.

“There! In the water. Just off that thing’s left leg. See? His nose!” Lin pointed frantically.

Girlfriend did see it. Sam’s nose and mouth poked up out of the water, he took a breath, and disappeared back under the water. Through the murky surface of the water she couldn’t see him, but he must be able to see out. He had successfully hidden from the monster. He’d done it. Sam was alive.

The tyrannosaur headed back toward the car. The girls all moved back away from the window.

Girlfriend said as she scooted back, “Sam’s bleeding. He can’t stay out there long and we don’t know what’s in that water. If something smells his blood, he’s done for. We need to find the guns and a way out of here to get that thing out of his way so he can get back in here.”

“There’s a hatch in the floor at the base of the ladder,” Tiger Lily pointed up to the floor. Girlfriend now saw the tiny ring to the trapdoor that must be hiding the bottom hatch.

“All we need is a gun, flare gun, something to distract it with so we can get Sam back in here. He’s hurt and he won’t last long in that water.”

The car rocked violently and something popped and hissed. The thing must be chewing on another of the tires, Girlfriend thought. If they didn’t do something, and fast, they might be stuck out here forever. The only thing they had going for them was that the sun finally started to come up and they’d have enough light to see if anything else was coming. Perhaps they’d be able to see deeper into the dark woods they were now stranded by.

Girlfriend rubbed her temple. Her head throbbed, but she had to ignore the pain. She didn’t know about the rest, but she needed to know she could count on someone and she couldn’t afford the mental power to think of which. She would have to go with her gut.

“Lin, I think there’s a flare gun in the control box next to the driver’s seat. Do you think you can get to it?”

Lin looked up to the driver’s seat. “Myra, can you kneel down. I think if I stand on your back, I can reach it.”

Without question, Myra got on all fours beneath the driver’s seat. Lin climbed up onto Myra’s back and reached for the console. Her fingers could only touch the handle. She jumped and flipped it open, but when she landed on Myra’s back, Myra screamed and fell to the floor. Lin tumbled down along with all the contents, including the flare gun case.

Girlfriend didn’t waste any time to see if they were alright; Tiger Lily would see to them. Instead she snatched up the case and flipped it open. She loaded the flare gun and stuck a second flare into her pocket. When she put the flare into the gun, she noticed just how badly her hands shook. Sam had to be alright. He had to be. She had to save him. She had to hurry. She didn’t have time for shaky hands. She didn’t.

The rungs to the ladder were rounded and made for easy going, up or down. She placed the gun under her neck and fumbled with the ring of the trapdoor. Once she’d gotten it open, she set to work twisting the ring for the hatch. Her arms ached from holding herself up on the ladder and trying to do everything at the same time. Damn! Why is this taking so long? Girlfriend finally got the hatch undone and pushed. It didn’t open.

She pushed harder and the seal creaked and groaned in protest, but didn’t crack. It was nice they’d made the bottom of the car waterproof, but now wasn’t the time to have to fight with a hatch. Perhaps they thought it’d never be needed and sealed it off completely.

Pulling the gun out from under her neck, Girlfriend stepped up and put her shoulders on the hatch and pushed with her entire body. Everything hurt. Everything ached. Her legs trembled against the strain, but the seal cracked and the hatch snapped open with an audible pop. She found her head sticking up from the hatch and looking into the face of the tyrannosaur.

Just like a puppy, it cocked its head to the side and sniffed her. More curious than deadly. Girlfriend didn’t want to make friends with it and most certainly didn’t want the damn thing as a pet. She raised the flare gun and prepared to fire. She hesitated. The thing leaned in closer and sniffed again. Girlfriend couldn’t move. That massive head staring at her, analyzing her. Why? Was it trying to figure out if she was edible or not?

Sure enough, it opened its mouth and pushed its head closer to her.

“Shoot! Shoot!” Lin shouted from below.

Girlfriend shut her eyes and fired into its mouth. The thing backed up and shook its head violently, howling as it did. It took a small step backward, but that wasn’t far enough. Girlfriend reloaded the flare gun and took aim once again. This time she fired at its face.

Again the beast howled in pain, but this time it moved away from the car. It leaned down and rubbed its face in the mud. Once its head disappeared, Girlfriend climbed up onto the bottom of the car and shouted down at the water.

“Sam! Sam! Come on, Sam!”

Nothing moved. Where was Sam? Why wasn’t he getting up? Girlfriend looked across the water and tried to find Sam, but nothing in the water moved. She couldn’t see below the surface and didn’t know where he lay.

“Sam!” She screamed.

The tyrannosaur continued to rub its head in the mud trying to ease the pain from the flare. Girlfriend took the chance to climb down off the car and look for Sam. He had to be there. Why wasn’t he getting up? She edged nearer the side of the car. A wary glance at the tyrannosaur and she shot down the ladder and ran for the water to where she thought Sam should be. Frantically she tried to part the water with her hands and find him. He had to be there. He had to.

Her foot nudged something thik and heavy. She reached into the water and pulled Sam’s head up. He didn’t move. He didn’t breathe.

“No! Sam!”

She slapped his face. His body was still warm. He couldn’t be dead. He just couldn’t. Girlfriend tucked her hands under his armpits and pulled. Slowly his body moved. She didn’t have the strength to pull him out of the water. She fell backward and landed in the water causing Sam’s head to dip back under the water.

Lin appeared at Girlfriend’s side. “Come on. Let’s get him inside.”

Girlfriend wanted to smile. To say “thank you.” To do anything, but it took all her strength just to get to her feet and pull up Sam by one of his arms. Lin amazed Girlfriend by her strength and obvious fearlessness to come outside with that thing out here. She even had a small bit of blood running down her head where something had hit her.

Sam’s body came out of the water and as soon as he was on dry ground, Girlfriend dropped him to the ground. Lin also let go and his body hit the ground with a wet grunting gurgle. Water dribbled from his mouth.

She tipped his head to the side and ran a finger through his mouth, then checked for a pulse by putting two fingers on his neck.

“What are you doing?”

“There’s no time to pull him inside. We’ve got to revive him here. I’m getting a pulse.”

Lin’s eyes widened. “You’re going to do that here?”

“I have to.”

Girlfriend pulled Sam’s chin open with one hand and put her other hand on his forehead and took a deep breath. She blew as hard as she could into his open mouth.

Lin disappeared. Girlfriend couldn’t worry about that. She had maybe a minute to get Sam moving. If she could just get him revived enough to get onto his feet and moving, she could drag him into the woods and they could hide.

Again she blew.

Sam’s body hadn’t cooled significantly. He had to be alive. He just had to. She couldn’t let him go. Not here. Not like this. They were supposed to travel together, but not die the first time they’d gone somewhere. They were supposed to be happy, not afraid for their lives. She wanted to marry him. Have his children. She sounded so trite. His life was in danger and she could only think about herself and having kids.

Another breath.

“Come on, Sam. We don’t have time for this. You have to get up. We’ve got to get moving.”

Breath.

Sam coughed and rolled onto his side. He was alive! She’d done it. Sam would live. If only she could get him out of there.

“Get up, Sam! We’ve got to get moving.”

“Where? What?”

“Get up!” She yelled again.

Sam struggled to his feet. Then Girlfriend saw where Lin had gone. She’d retrieved the gun from under the car and had the tyrannosaur in her sights. She obviously didn’t know how to fire a gun. If she shot like that, she’d dislocate her shoulder. Girlfriend raised her hand to tell Lin to stop, but it was too late.

The gun shot backward, but the bullet flew true. It crashed into the beast with a spurt of blood; a chunk of flesh dangled from where the bullet had done its damage. It howled in pain again.

Lin had crumpled to the ground, clutching her arm.

“Get into the car. Get into the car,” Sam said with a strained voice. “You two go first.”

“I just saved your ass. Get the fuck in that car and do it now!”

“You need to help Lin. I’m going to take another shot at it.”

Sam half walked, half stumbled over to the gun. Girlfriend wanted to argue. She’d just saved his life. She didn’t want to see him risk it again. He didn’t have to prove anything at this point. They weren’t helpless girls to be saved. What was he thinking?

She strode past him and took up the gun. “I’ll take the shot. You two are in no condition. Get inside.”

Lin lay on the ground crying as she gripped her shoulder, her arm limp. She’d really dislocated it. Sam did the best he could to help Lin to her feet and onto the ladder. He climbed the ladder right behind her to make sure she didn’t fall. Girlfriend was thankful that he wasn’t being pigheaded about the whole situation.

She raised the gun and took aim. The thing, just like a dog that’d been stung by a bee, licked and bit at the area where the first bullet had hit it. Where would Sam shoot it? The chest? Hoping for a clean shot to the heart? The head? Blow its brains out? Where?

The scope of the gun only confused where she wanted to shoot. Looking around it, she raised the butt to the crook of her shoulder and raised her elbow to make a tight fit and not allow the gun to jump and hurt her. Sam had spent a little time teaching her to shoot, she just never thought she’d be taking aim at something alive.

She took the first shot at the head, but could see that the bullet only bounced off. She should have known the skull would be too thick. She cocked the bolt and reloaded the chamber and took aim at the body. The beast took notice of her. Not something she wanted.

“Don’t shoot it!” Myra shouted from the top of the car. “Just get inside and leave it be. It’ll go away. I’m certain of it.”

It wasn’t going away. The thing charged at Girlfriend just as it’d charged Sam. Myra had distracted her long enough for the thing to charge. Girlfriend, gun in hand, ran around to the front of the car. If she was lucky, the thing would run by and –

Myra screamed.

Girlfriend put her back to the front of the car and closed her eyes. She didn’t want to see. She didn’t want to know. But deep down, when the scream stopped, she knew what had happened. She knew.

Advertisements

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 43


Paradise Palms

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


Sam

Sam concentrated as hard as he could on the path of the front loader in front of him. The smacking and grunting from the bed near him made him want to turn his head in curiosity, but the girls obviously needed some privacy. He wished Girlfriend would appear and take his mind off those two.

When it finally stopped, it felt like it lasted hours, but was only a few minutes, he heaved a sigh of relief. He didn’t hate gay people. That was their choice, but he’d never experienced it first hand. He might have had a different reaction had it been two men, but two women didn’t seem as bad to him. He couldn’t quite explain why. Having nothing but the rumble of the car to keep him company now, he tried not to dwell on it.

At least Tiger Lily had something, or better yet someone, to keep her mind off of her injury now. He was going to need either Lin or Tiger Lily later. Doc had explained to the two of them how to use all the fancy equipment and satellite uplink and all that, but for now, they needed their time.

Sam rubbed at his own injured shoulder. Damn dinosaurs. Myra had probably been ecstatic to see them in action despite what had happened. She’d even brought one of those damn things into the car. Sam was thankful it was dead. They didn’t survive for a reason and it wasn’t their place to take them back to the future. Why had he stopped? Everything would have gone so much smoother if he’d just kept going instead of letting Myra get a look at that nest.

He wanted to make Girlfriend happy, that’s why. He wanted to show her that he’d given some thought to someone else’s feelings by stopping so Myra could see a nest full of eggs. He hadn’t seen anything nearby that would be a danger, but apparently this place was full of surprises. Sam just hoped that there wouldn’t be any more any time soon.

The path of the front loader, still visible in the shallow water through the trail of broken reeds and swells in the nest hills, was easy enough to follow. He passed several groups of trees and a couple outcroppings of rocks, but for the most part the traveling was clear, albeit wet and muddy. Only once did he fear they were going to be bogged down in the mire, but the large tires and all-wheel drive kept the vehicle moving along. Sam wondered how Clive, in a heavier, slower vehicle, navigated some of the areas. He guessed he could just ask once they found him.

“Here Sam,” Girlfriend said, handing him some pills. He hated taking pills, but knew these would fight off any infection and took them without a word. “What’s up with those two?” Girlfriend pointed to the now sleeping Lin and Tiger Lily in their lover’s embrace.

Sam shrugged. “I guess they’re in love. Maybe it’s a reaction to Tiger Lily’s near death experience. I don’t know.”

“It’s cute. That’s what it is.”

Sam raised his eyebrows. He and Girlfriend had never had a discussion regarding same-sex relationships. “Cute?”

“I figured there was something going on between those two, even if it was something they weren’t admitting to.”

“Cute?” Sam repeated.

Girlfriend playfully slapped Sam’s good shoulder. “You know what I mean. I don’t think Lin has ever had anyone to love. She’s always been shut up in her trailer. Boy, girl, I’m just glad she found somebody. She needed to come out of her shell.”

“I guess I see your point there.” Sam turned to look at the two twisted together in the bed.

“So Sam, what are we going to do with that thing?” Girlfriend pointed her thumb over her shoulder at the dead troodon.”

“Well, I’m in no condition to lift it, I can tell you that.”

“But Sam, it smells.”

What did she expect? It was a dead animal. “What do you want me to do?”

“Well, I’m not sleeping in here with that thing anymore. It’s dead and it smells.”

“Aw, Girlfriend, come on. My arm.”

“I’ll help, but I want it out. I’m sure the others will appreciate it, too.”

Sam looked ahead and saw a small rise out of the water. They’d been driving for a good portion of the night and the moonlight had given him a great view. Not to mention that it was far cooler to drive at night rather than during the hot days. Sam pulled the car up onto the rise.

“We’ll dump it here and stay here for the night. It looks like the path goes off that way,” Sam pointed off to the west. At least he thought it was the west. “We can head out there after I’ve had some rest. Those pills are going to mess with my head, I’m sure.”

“That’s fine. I just want it out. I hope the smell goes with it.”

“I doubt that, but at least it won’t be rotting in here anymore.”

Sam stopped the car close to the thick trees. It was a dense growth and dark. Something about prehistoric and dark didn’t settle his mind. He almost decided to move on, but Girlfriend was already at the hatch and opening it. He turned to tell her to stop, but turning shot pain down his arm and she was outside before he could say anything.

“Sam! Get out here. This is gorgeous!”

Lin and Tiger Lily stirred. They gave each other those lovey-dovey eyes. Sam turned away. He didn’t want them to see him looking.

“Where are we?” Lin asked and yawned.

“We’re just stopping for a little while. I need some rest. And we need to dump this thing. It’s starting to stink up the place.

“Do you need help?”

Sam almost said “no”, but decided that help would be welcome at this point. “Sure. Thank you.”

“I don’t know how much I can help, but I’ll do what I can.”

“Well, I was thinking if we tie some rope around it and …”

Sam stopped talking when he heard the strange crack. Not the soft crack of a twig or anything small like that, but the crack of a tree being bent to the breaking point. A large tree!

“Girlfriend!” Sam yelled, but as he did, he heard her shrill scream.

Something collided into the side of the car and rocked it violently. Sam launched himself at the ladder, but another crash and the car tipped violently. Girlfriend’s shrieks faded and he heard something splash.

“What happened?” Myra shouted from the back.

“What is that?” Tiger Lily asked, hanging onto the bed.

Sam had hit his shoulder into the bulkhead and waves of pain clouded his vision. He could, however, see Lin rushing to and up the ladder. She poked her head outside, screamed, and fell to the floor.

Something, Sam couldn’t see it, covered the hatch, blocking all outside light from the outside. Sam fought to get to his feet. He had to find the gun. Something was attacking them and he had to kill it. He couldn’t just lie there. Whatever it was, it was huge and Girlfriend was out there.

The hatch cleared. Lin scooted away from the open hatch and back toward the bed.

“What is it?”

“It’s big!” was all Lin said, her eyes wide in fear.

Adrenaline cleared Sam’s vision and focused his mind on the problem, not his pain. He retrieved the gun from the locker near the hatch and started up the ladder.

Again the car was rocked, this time it tipped all the way onto its side. Sam had to let go of the ladder and stood on the wall, while Lin and Tiger Lily slid across the floor and crashed into the troodon body.

From where he stood, Sam could look out the hatch. He saw Girlfriend lying in the shallow water. She wasn’t moving. Not at all. Was she dead? Was she unconscious? Was she hurt? Would that thing get her?

“Lin, Tiger Lily, help me!” Sam dropped the gun and with his good arm, started to pick up the troodon. “Maybe with this thing out there, it’ll ignore Girlfriend. Come on! Hurry up!”

The arm of the troodon was limp and Sam feared it would snap off, but Lin and Tiger Lily each took up a leg, and quickly the body was raised to the hatch. They shoved it out, but nothing happened. Sam took up the gun and pointed it out the hatch.

“Where is it? Come on, you bastard. I dare you.”

The car rocked, but differently this time. A hissing noise came from the bottom of the car.

“That damn thing it chewing on the tire!”

Sam climbed up and wiggled into the hatch. He didn’t fall to the ground, but instead stood up on the hatch so he could see what he was dealing with.

The head, with its mottled, green skin and forearm-sized teeth, spoke terror beyond belief. This thing thought it’d killed some prey. Large bite marks showed in the rear of the car. This thing had rammed and bit the car, then turned it on its side. This thing? No. This monster. This T. rex. Now it was chewing on the tires. If it popped more than one, they’d have a real tough time getting back, let alone saving Clive. Hell, they’d have a hard enough time just righting the car.

The T. rex raised its head and looked directly at Sam, but went back to the front tire, digging its massive teeth into it again and again, almost like a dog with a chew toy.

Sam raised the gun. One shot. That was all he’d need, but it would have to be a perfect shot. He’d have to get the eye. The skull would be far too thick and he’d be lucky just to stun the creature. He steadied himself, but as he did, the T. rex pulled on the tire and jerked the car. Sam fell hard onto the ground and bumped his head. He groaned.

“Shhh,” He heard someone shush.

“What?”

“Be quite. It’ll hear you,” Girlfriend said in a hushed, scolding tone.

Sam rolled his head over to look at her. She had moved her head only slightly. Sam pointed at the car’s open hatch. She shook her head, eyes wide.

“We’ll die out here.”

Through the hatch Lin and Tiger Lily motioned for the two of them to return. Sam rolled over and pulled at Girlfriend’s arm. “Go.”

He stood with her, but his thoughts were muddled and he didn’t pick up the gun. Girlfriend walked quickly to the car and reached up into the hatch. Lin and Tiger Lily pulled her in, but only just before the T. rex pulled again on the tire and flipped the car over onto its roof. Sam had to dive out of the way to keep from being crushed.

He slid into the water, and watched as the gun was trapped under the car, and the body of the troodon squished. Girlfriend’s face appeared in one of the windows. She pounded on the glass and shouted, but Sam couldn’t hear anything. He struggled to get out of the water. As he did, the T. rex circled the car.

Sam froze.

The thing had looked at him once and done nothing. Sam hoped it would do the same again. It cocked its head to the side and watched. Sam didn’t move. Maybe it would think he was a tree or something. Sam could feel a warm stream wash down his leg. He didn’t know if it was blood or urine. One would be far worse than the other. Blood, this thing would smell as prey, the other just offensive. Or at least that’s what Sam wanted. Just for once in his life let him be offensive. Just once.

The beast howled and charged.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 42


Paradise Palms

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


Lin

“Do you think she’ll be alright?” Lin asked Girlfriend.

Girlfriend stirred the eggs in a large skillet. “I’m sure Tiger Lily will be just fine.”

Lin felt bad. “Gosh, I wasn’t even thinking about Tiger Lily. I know she’ll be okay. I’m worried about Myra. She almost seemed frantic about the dinosaurs and sounded convinced that Clive’s presence, and therefore our presence, was killing the dinosaurs. I think she snapped.”

Girlfriend added a little milk to the skillet of eggs. They both grabbed the counter as the car lurched slightly.

“Sorry!” Sam yelled back. “Having a hard time driving with just one hand.”

“Don’t worry about it!” Girlfriend yelled back. She said quieter to Lin, “I think Myra allowed her emotions to run away from her and she’s also mentally exhausted. Personally, I think we’ll all get to that point. I’m surprised that the rest of us are holding up so well.”

Lin didn’t want to tell Girlfriend about Tiger Lily’s episode the day before when they had first set out. It didn’t feel fair to talk about someone who was presently in no condition to defend herself. “I guess you’re right. This is a little weird.”

“Little? Lin, this is insane. I had to stitch up Sam from dinosaur bites and claw marks, and he’s still driving us deeper and deeper into this nightmare. I don’t want to go further. I want to go home.” Girlfriend spoke in a plain, matter-of-fact tone in which Lin couldn’t detect any fear. She shook her head. “But Doc asked us to save his son, and right now, that’s taking priority over my own fears. I mean, what’s going to happen to us inside this car?”

Lin gave a wry smile. “I guess you’re right.” She held out a plate for Girlfriend to serve the eggs. Once she’d served some eggs, Lin pulled the bacon out of the microwave and a slice of toast from the toaster. “Anything else?”

“Oh, Sam likes Tabasco on his eggs.”

“Okay.” Lin looked in the fridge, but didn’t find any hot sauce of any kind.

“Don’t worry about it. If he’s hungry, he’ll eat. Actually, tell him to eat it anyway because if he doesn’t, those antibiotics will eat into his stomach.”

“What about Tiger Lily?”

Girlfriend thought for a moment. “You might want to go ahead and wake her up. Be careful though. I’m sure that little incident shook her up a bit. She might lash out when she wakes up.”

“I’ll be careful.”

Lin set the eggs down on the console next to Sam. He slowed the car slightly and looked up at Lin. “Thanks.” He nodded.

Lin flushed. Even after all that happened, she still felt embarrassed to have him look at her, even though his eyes never left hers. She had almost suspected that he might look at her breasts as if he could see though her shirt, but he didn’t. She liked that about him.

She asked. “Can I get you anything to drink?”

“No.” Sam looked to where he had a bottle of water. “I’m good. Thanks.”

She smiled at him and turned to wake up Tiger Lily. She had rolled onto her side, her bad arm on top. Lin reached down and stroked her hair.

“Tiger Lily,” Lin whispered. “Tiger Lily.”

She groaned softly. Lin kissed her on the head. “Wake up, sleepy head.”

Tiger Lily bolted upright and screamed. Sam lurched to a stop and grunted in pain. Tiger Lily tried to catch herself on her bad arm and fell back onto the bed.

“What happened?” Girlfriend yelled from the back.

“It’s alright,” Lin shouted back. To Tiger Lily she asked, “Are you alright?”

“I was having a terrible dream. One of those things was chewing on my arm. Killing me. It was so real.”

Tiger Lily looked down at her arm and screamed again. Girlfriend ran into the room and Sam rotated the car’s seat around to see what was happening. Tiger Lily winced when she saw Sam’s bandages and then pulled her legs up onto the bed when she spotted the dead troodon on the floor of the car, lying where Sam had killed it.

“What happened?” she asked, her body shaking and quivering as she pulled her knees into her chest with her good arm.

Lin sat on the bed next to Tiger Lily’s feet. “Everything is going to be just fine.”

“What the hell happened? The last thing I remember, one of those things jumped out of the water and bit me.”

“It’s dead now. Sam shot the one outside. This one got inside and Sam killed it too, but it bit him.”

Tiger Lily looked at Sam’s shoulder and leg and twitched. She twitched again when she looked at her own arm and started to cry. Lin scooted up on the bed and hugged her. It pained her to see Tiger Lily in such mental torture over what happened. She could only imagine what she was going through. Pangs of guilt tore at her very being. She convinced Tiger Lily to come along in the first place, even though Tiger Lily had said it was a bad idea. Suddenly she thought that Tiger Lily may be right.

“It’s going to be alright. It’ll all turn out just fine.”

Tiger Lily tucked her head into Lin’s neck and cried.

Sam’s chair whirred and the car started forward once again. Girlfriend returned to the kitchen. Lin gave Tiger Lily a slight nudge and soon they were both lying together on the bed wrapped in each other’s arms.

“I want to go home,” Tiger Lily burbled.

“I know. I know. We won’t be here much longer. Maybe only a day or two.” Lin tried to keep the quaver out of her voice, but she wanted to cry with Tiger Lily. She wanted to remain calm and try to assure her, but found it difficult. Instead she said the only thing that came to her mind. “I love you.”

Tiger Lily’s sobs softened and stopped. “What?” With her good hand, Tiger Lily wiped her nose and eyes.

Lin froze. She’d said it out loud, hadn’t she? And Tiger Lily had heard her. Had she thought she wouldn’t hear it? Perhaps that her crying would cover up the sound of her voice? Lin wanted to crawl away, but there was nowhere she could hide now. It was out there.

Why had she said that? Why would she say anything like that? She’d only known Tiger Lily for a short time and didn’t even have the slightest inkling if she thought of her in the same way.

Tiger Lily started to pull back to look at Lin, but Lin held her tight. She couldn’t look her in the eye. Not now. What if Tiger Lily didn’t feel the same way? What if Tiger Lily was only friendly in her flirting way? What if she’d totally misunderstood how Tiger Lily felt and acted? Maybe she would only think it was a sisterly type of love. Maybe she would think that Lin said it as a way of reassurance.

Tiger Lily pulled harder and pressed her face into Lin’s. Their lips met with a force that Lin hadn’t expected. She’d never kissed anyone before and hoped that Tiger Lily wouldn’t notice. She hoped that Sam wouldn’t notice. What if he was watching?

She ignored all her fears and gave into the kiss, Tiger Lily’s warm tongue twisting and pressing against hers. Her whole body felt warm and relaxed. She hoped it was doing the same thing for Tiger Lily.

They pulled apart, each gasping for air. Tiger Lily gave Lin a warm smile. “I love you, too,” she said softly.

They lay together, face to face, and just stared into each other’s eyes. They intertwined their hands and legs and just stared. Lin loved the way Tiger Lily’s deep, dark-brown eyes stared back with loving intent that said “If only we were alone.” Parts of Lin’s body — parts she’d never given much thought to – spasmed at the thought.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 41


Paradise Palms

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


Myra

Myra sat in a chair in the back room of the car and stroked the baby hadrosaur’s soft, brown skin. Moonlight glinted off its body and she could just make out tiny, darker markings. She traced these with her finger and waited for the tiny creature to awaken. It would wake up and she’d feed it and love it. This was her child. The one she’d waited for since she was a little girl. The one she’d always wanted to care for and raise.

She’d raised dogs and farm animals growing up, but this was her dream. To see and touch living, breathing dinosaurs. She wanted to raise them and study them and learn all she could. Now she had that chance. She would never be going back to the future. She couldn’t go back. This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and she was going to stay here study each and every dinosaur she could find.

There was no need to worry about what Sam or Girlfriend or Lin or Tiger Lily would think. They were only here to save Clive. But Myra wondered if Clive really needed saving. Perhaps he was on a more noble quest, one they couldn’t possibly understand.

Myra put the baby in her lap, being ever so careful not to disturb its sleep, and slid one of Clive’s many journals in front of her. She longed to just read them all and absorb as much of his experience as she could, but she wanted to gain her own experiences. To make her own observations. She didn’t need Clive’s book.

The journal slid effortlessly across the table and landed on the floor in a paper sprawl like a dead-

A dead what? Myra looked down at the baby hadrosaur in her lap. It had been cold since she’d picked it up, but it was a reptile. It was supposed to be cold, wasn’t it? And hatchling reptiles would have a yolk sac in its stomach so it didn’t need food, right?

That being the case, why had it been so quiet? She placed her hand on its chest. Nothing. It wasn’t breathing. How long had it not been breathing? Had it grown colder and she only now noticed? She sucked in a panicked breath. It had trusted her to save it and she’d allowed it to die. It had suffered the same fate as its brothers and sisters back at the nest. It had died. All she’d done was prolong its death. She brought it up to her breast and rocked back and forth holding it.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” she mumbled quietly as she cried.

She was a killer. She’d probably had some future bacteria on her that killed the poor thing. No, she couldn’t believe that. Clive had been here a long time. But he had also not had contact with them until he’d been here a while.

“Wait a minute,” Myra said quietly to herself. “It must be Clive that’s killed off all the dinosaurs. Just as I’ve killed this baby, it must be him that’s killed off all the rest. His studies have allowed him to spread his germs all across the land.”

She laid the baby hadrosaur’s body on the floor and started sifting through Clive’s journals. She had to find the first one. She read through some of his notes and his research, but he had to see this coming. He had to know he was destroying this world. Her world. The one she so desperately cared about and needed to save.

With only the moonlight as her source of light, and fueled by anger, she read through Clive’s notes. How the healthy herds of hadrosaur had gone from numerous and thriving to sickly and dying. How their colors had dulled, and they became more and more listless. They tried to migrate, but had difficultly leaving a grazed area and would die off en masse.

Her rage continued to increase as she read onward through page after page, journal after journal. His notes had gone from startling observation of magnificent beasts, both predator and prey, to a study of what was killing off all the animals he could see. Even the predators were fewer except the number of scavengers that increased. He noted that there must be something he can do, but postulated that he should do nothing for this must be the pre-ordained fate of the dinosaurs and he would do better to go off in search of an explainable source.

Myra knew better. He was only spreading whatever and doing it at a far faster rate. If he wasn’t stopped, he could endanger every species of dinosaur across the globe. She couldn’t let that happen. He had stolen her chance to study these magnificent beasts in their natural environment.

Her eyes started to close as she opened one of the last journals and her head bobbed. She had to finish.

Lin gasped as she came into the back and saw the baby hadrosaur on the floor. “What happened?”

Myra’s head snapped up. “What? I’m fine.”

“Myra, I’m so sorry. What happened to the baby?”

Myra couldn’t answer. She burst into tears of frustration. How could she explain this to Lin? She would never understand that it was a problem far deeper than just one little baby. This was the possible extinction of the entire species. Could it be possible that Clive was the destruction of the dinosaurs?

She couldn’t grasp that. It couldn’t be possible. How could one person from the future kill off nearly every reptile of the past? It had been something quick, but could it be possible? Could a germ from the future propagate in a prehistoric environment and destroy everything?

“No, it’s not possible.”

“What’s that?” Lin put her arm around Myra’s shoulder.

“It can’t be Clive that’s killing the dinosaurs.”

“I don’t understand what you’re saying,” Lin shook her head.

Myra could feel her eyes burning from exhaustion. She needed to rest, but she had to make sure Sam got this car moving again. She knew he’d been injured and the dead troodon in the middle of the narrow passageway was a testament to the battle he’d fought, but that didn’t matter. That was only one dinosaur. By her own calculations, thousands of hadrosaurs were at risk at this moment and they needed to get moving.

“Myra?”

“We’ve got to get Clive and get out of here.”

“I know, that’s what we’re going to do just as soon as we can.”

“No! I mean we’ve got to do it and we’ve got to get out of here now!”

“But Sam isn’t awake yet. Girlfriend has been giving him antibiotics, and Tiger Lily too. They’re both pretty much out of it.”

“Then we need to figure out how to drive this thing and catch up to Clive. I think it’s our presence that’s killing off the dinosaurs.” Myra tried to stand up, but her legs went rubbery and she fell back into her seat.

“Let me get Girlfriend. I think this is something we should talk about first.”

“No! There’s nothing to talk about.”

“What’s going on? Sam and Tiger Lily…”

Myra cut Girlfriend off. “We need to get going. We need to get Clive and get out of here and we need to do it as soon as possible.”

“And we’re going to do that just as soon as Sam can get up and drive.”

“No. We’ve got to do it now. We can’t wait around. Don’t you realize what’s happening?”

Girlfriend shrugged at Lin. “Apparently not. Lin, do you know what’s going on?”

“There’s no time to explain. Just sitting here and talking, dinosaurs are out there dying. I should have seen it before. I’m so stupid. Of course there’s a temporal paradox. It’s killing the dinosaurs.”

“How do you know it’s not just the way they died out?”

“I don’t have time to explain. We’ve got to get going. We’ve got to go.”

Sam struggled to hold himself up in the door way. His arm was now in a sling. Girlfriend gasped and rushed to his side. “I’ve been listening as best I could. This thing is pretty easy to drive. I’ll get us going again.”

“Thank you, Sam.” Myra once again tried to get up, but nearly fell over. Lin supported her.

Lin smiled. “I think you need to get some sleep.”

Myra didn’t fight. Now that she knew Sam was going to get them to Clive, her mind turned off. She barely registered the softness of the bed as Lin lowered her onto it.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 40


Paradise Palms

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


Girlfriend

Girlfriend stood over Sam and tried to think of what to do next. Lin cowered on the bed next to unconscious Tiger Lily, and Myra was in the back rocking back and forth with a baby hadrosaur. With Sam incapacitated, that left only her to take care of the mess.

The medical kit was still out. “Lin, I need your help. Please.”

Lin, wide-eyed and scared, shook her head. Girlfriend wanted to slap her, but held back.

“Lin! I need your help. It took all three of us to stitch up Tiger Lily. I can’t help Sam alone. Please Lin!”

Lin looked up and swallowed hard. She nodded her head and unwound herself from Tiger Lily. “What can I do?”

Girlfriend didn’t answer. She didn’t know what to do first. Sam’s shoulder was bleeding badly, but his leg looked far worse. She ripped off Sam’s shirt and wrapped it around his shoulder as best she could and then pulled off his pants.

The deepest wound was on the outside of his leg. Girlfriend was glad it wasn’t on the inside where he could have bled out in a matter of seconds. They would have time.

“We need to move him. I can’t work on him with this thing underneath him.”

Sam had fallen on top of the troodon he’d killed. Killed with his bare hands. Girlfriend had known Sam to be an animal killer and knew it was all part of nature, but to see a man kill a dinosaur with his bare hands, now that was insane. Pieces of blood and brain still oozed down the wall.

Lin did her best to lift up Sam’s legs while Girlfriend lifted his shoulders. They dragged him to a flat area just under the ladder. Girlfriend looked up at the closed hatch and heard scraping. Another had gotten on top of the car. Why did Sam have to get injured? She just wanted to get out of there. They needed to get moving. What if something bigger came by? What if-

“Stop it,” she told herself.

“What?” Lin looked up, confusion on her face.

“I’m sorry. I’m just creeping myself out. Try and get his legs as straight as possible. We’re going to need to stitch that up. It looks so painful.”

“I don’t think I can do what Sam did with Tiger Lily. I mean, I can hold his leg as best I can, but he’ll hurt me if I can’t hold on.”

“See if you can find some rope. We’ll tie him down if we have to.”

Lin got up and started looking through the cabinets while Girlfriend cleaned Sam’s leg. He didn’t even flinch when she poured in the hydrogen peroxide or when she squeezed the deepest of the cuts together.

“Lin, I don’t think we’ll need it. Just come over here and sit on his legs. He’s out pretty good.”

Lin closed the cabinet she was looking in and returned to sit on Sam’s feet. She put her hands on his knees and leaned down with all her weight. “I hope this works.”

Girlfriend worked quickly to stitch up Sam’s leg. She had to wash out the wound several times as she went to make sure she stitched Sam as neatly as she could. It didn’t matter how careful she did the stitching – and stitching skin made her wince each time the needle went in and came back out – she knew Sam would have a brutal scar.

Once Sam’s leg was stitched and bandaged – he hadn’t moved during the entire process – they set to work on his shoulder. Girlfriend held the wound together and Lin applied butterfly bandages. Sam had started to stir and she didn’t want to risk performing stitches on his shoulder.

She sighed when it was complete. With Lin’s help, they rolled Sam gently into a sleeping bag and zipped him into it. She put a pillow under his head and laid down next to him. Lin curled up next to Tiger Lily and they all fell asleep.

Squawking, much like a bird, awoke Girlfriend. The inside of the car was all dark save the lights from the consoles.

“Is anyone awake?” She asked.

“Yeah, I’m up,” Lin answered. “Myra is sitting on the roof of the car.”

Girlfriend’s mind instantly snapped awake. She stood quickly, steadied herself as the blood drained from her brain, causing her to lose her vision momentarily, and as soon as she was steady enough, she climbed the ladder. Sitting with her feet dangled over the edge of the car, Myra rocked with the baby dinosaur.

“Myra? It’s not safe to be up here.”

“Look at them, Girlfriend.” Myra pointed to the sky. “Pteranodon. Most people call them pterodactyl, but that’s a common mistake. See how they join together in flight, fall, and separate?”

Girlfriend watched them for a minute in the bright moonlight. The moon sat huge in the sky, giving ample light. She didn’t answer Myra.

“I think they’re breeding. It’s so romantic.”

In a weird sort of way, Girlfriend could see where Myra was coming from. She really wanted to give her the chance to watch the dinosaurs she so obviously loved, but safety was the top concern.

“Myra, you need to come inside. You could be in danger.”

“No, I’m not in any danger, I assure you of that. I’ve been up here for over an hour now, I think. I’ve watched as the troodons raided the nests further away. They didn’t stay around long after they couldn’t find another way into the car. They’re very smart, but they’re hungry. I saw a couple of them trying to eat an adult hadrosaur, but the skin was too tough for their small teeth. They needed easier prey. Something like this little guy.”

Myra stroked the head of the baby as it slept in her arms. Girlfriend took a seat next to Myra. The drone of bugs filled the air along with growls, howls, and screeches from the distance.

“Is it everything you expected?” Girlfriend asked, scanning the ground to make sure nothing approached or swam through the water. The last thing they needed was to be surprised.

“No. This is everything I expected times a thousand.” Two pteranodons coupled, spiraled downward, and detached from one another, taking off in different directions with magnificent grace. “Isn’t that incredible? It’s almost as if I found a field research location that shouldn’t exist.”

“It shouldn’t, but it does, well, it did. I don’t know. I have mixed feelings about being here. It just doesn’t feel right, but I’m not about to leave Sam behind.”

“Is that the only reason you came?”

“No. I had to make sure you were alright. I mean, we’d only just met, but I couldn’t abandon you here.”

“I feel bad for Lin and Tiger Lily. Those two are out of their element. At least you’ve been with Sam and you have some idea of what the wilderness holds. Those two really have no idea.”

“Honestly, I don’t know what to expect out here. Frankly, I don’t think you do either. You may have studied all this, but honestly, how much of this is anything like what you studied?”

“Seriously? It’s only different with the behaviors of the animals. The climate, the dinosaurs, the insects, it’s all just like I imagined. I think the biggest surprise is that the moon is so big and bright. This means there’s a lot more nocturnal activity than I had expected.”

“Really?” Girlfriend hadn’t expected that answer. “So you mean all that study and everything has paid off?”

“Oh, I assure you there’s a lot I hadn’t expected. The abundance of vegetation I should have suspected, being that the hadrosaur are so populous, especially in Minnesota, but these fields of water and grasses go on forever, it looks like. This I hadn’t expected. The troodons swimming was a real surprise, but I guess I should have expected them to do something similar. They really didn’t swim as much as I think they ran across the shallow water with their heads low to avoid detection, much like Clive had noted a tyrannosaurus had done while sneaking up to attack a hadrosaur.”

“What?”

“Oh, we’d hear one approaching. Don’t worry.”

“If one could sneak up on a hadrosaur without it noticing, I don’t think we’d stand much of a chance and I don’t think we need to be risking it by sitting out here. Besides, if that thing wakes up, it’ll make enough noise to attract every predator in the area.”

Myra smiled a weak, tired smile. “You’re right. I really should get some sleep. I’ll feed this little guy and get to bed.”

“You know that Sam isn’t very happy you brought that thing onto the car.”

“Oh, I know, but he’ll warm up to it.”

“Myra, seriously, he still hasn’t warmed up to you. I don’t think he’s going to warm up to that.”

Myra looked offended. “What do you want me to do? Just leave it here?”

Girlfriend shrugged. “I don’t know. I think I’m just tired too. I guess we’ll have to talk about it as a group and decide what to do with it. Let’s just get inside and get some rest. I think Sam will have to teach me how to drive this thing. He’s not going to be in much condition to drive for some time.”

“Maybe we should go back to the camp?”

Girlfriend hadn’t thought of that. They had come here to save Clive, but with two people severely injured, the question became, should they?

“Again, we’ll all have to discuss that as a group.”

Myra nodded and yawned. “It can wait until the morning.”

As Myra climbed down the ladder, Girlfriend looked back to the sky to the mating Pteranodons as they swooped and connected and separated. Such an awe-inspiring sight.

Girlfriend closed and locked the hatch once she was inside. She checked and changed both Sam’s and Tiger Lily’s bandages and massaged disinfectant onto the cuts. They both gave minor protest. They gave slightly more protest as she forced each of them to swallow an antibiotic she found in the case.

She wished she had the strength to lift Sam onto the bed, but she didn’t, and no amount of wishing would allow her to do so. She pulled up another sleeping bag, took up her place at his side, and fell back to sleep.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 39


Paradise Palms

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


Sam

Sam shrugged the gun off his shoulder, letting it clatter to the ground — it was out of ammunition anyway so there was no risk of a misfire — and laid Tiger Lily as gently as he could onto the bed. She grunted a little when he put her down.

“Someone get the medical kit! Doc said it had everything we’d need in there and we need everything!”

No one answered and Sam didn’t want to leave her alone. “You’re going to be alright, Tiger Lily.” He ran a hand over her forehead. She was definitely in shock, and he couldn’t blame her. She was almost dragged off to her death. Hell, he’d probably be in shock if he’d been in that position. He couldn’t blame her for freaking out.

He unwrapped the t-shirt from her arm and looked at the cuts. There were more tears in the skin and a little into the flesh, but with a few stitches and several days, she’d be fine. He’d just need to make sure to disinfect everything. Lizards have nasty mouths and if he didn’t, she could get a terrible infection that could kill her.

“Where are you? I need help here!”

Sam re-wrapped the blood-soaked t-shirt on her arm to try and stem the slow ooze. Girlfriend came down the ladder first, followed by the topless Lin. Sam looked away. He had seen her with her shirt off, but didn’t want to make an issue of it. She was, after all, only a little girl. She was what? Seventeen at the most. He tried to shake the vision out of his mind. There were more important things to think about right now. Like how to field dress a wound.

“I need that med kit. Quickly. I’ve got to stitch her up and while she’s in shock, she might not feel anything.”

“I’m on it, Sam,” Girlfriend answered.

Girlfriend ran to the back of the car. Lin covered her chest with her arms and followed Girlfriend. She looked at the floor the whole way. Sam felt bad for her. Her friend was hurt and she was surely embarrassed. Sam wanted to do something for her, but now wasn’t the time.

Girlfriend screamed from the back and then yelled angrily.

“What’s going on?” Sam yelled.

“Don’t worry about it,” Girlfriend shouted back.

Sam rolled his eyes. He hated it when she did that. If it was nothing, why’d she scream? He looked at Tiger Lily and thought about leaving her to go find out, but Girlfriend arrived with the sizeable medical kit and Lin followed, backing out from the back and shaking her head. She’d put on a white shirt and blood had already stained it.

“What’s going on?”

“You just take care of Tiger Lily. She needs your help right now.”

“Fine. I need you and Lin, Lin come over here. I need you two to hold her down. Cleaning this out is going to hurt like a bitch, but I need to really clean it. Okay?”

They both nodded.

“I suggest you don’t watch if you’ve got a weak stomach.”

Girlfriend held Tiger Lily down by the arms while Lin straddled her hips.

Once he had the hydrogen peroxide, Sam pulled off the soaked t-shirt and poured the solution onto Tiger Lily’s arm. She gnashed her teeth and pulled. Sam held her wrist tight and the struggle stopped quickly. The peroxide bubbled and foamed. He knew it had to hurt.

With his free hand, he took off his belt and handed it to Girlfriend. “Put this in her mouth. If she gnashes her teeth like that again, she could break a tooth. I’m sure she won’t remember any of this because of the shock, so don’t worry about hurting her right now. We need to get this stitched up. Lin, hold her arm while I get the needle and thread ready. Lin? Are you alright?”

Lin sucked in a breath. “I’m fine.”

She wasn’t fine. She was pale and looked sick. Regardless, he let her take Tiger Lily’s arm and got the needle and thread prepared.

Something thudded into the side of the car.

“What was that?” Girlfriend asked.

“Probably one of those things is still hungry. They can’t get up here. That’s not important right now. Hold her down.”

Sam, as neatly as he could, stitched up the four long gashes in Tiger Lily’s arm. Girlfriend held one end of the arm while Sam held the wrist and worked the needle in and out and pulled the cuts closed. When he finished he cleaned everything up with peroxide again and bandaged the wound.

“This is probably going to need to be changed in an hour or two, but I want us to get going again. I’m sorry I stopped. I really thought everything would be alright.”

Sam looked around.

“Where’s Myra?”

Girlfriend frowned.

“What? Where is she?”

“She’s in the back,” Girlfriend said not hiding the tone of disappointment.

“And?”

“Come on.”

She got up and led Sam to the back of the car. What? So Myra was hiding. What was the big deal in that? Again something thudded into the side of the car. Sam flinched as did Girlfriend. They had to get underway. They didn’t have time to deal with this. He didn’t want to get stuck umpty million years in the past. Why had he agreed to allow them all to come? He should have stuck to his guns and gone by himself to find Clive. No sightseeing, just out and back.

Sure he was fascinated with everything around them. It was amazing to see dinosaurs in action, but not when they’re eating the people you’re with.

Girlfriend pointed to Myra, huddled in the corner with something in her arms. She was covered in a bloody, mucousy gore. And in her arms she held one of the babies.

Sam thought his head was going to explode.

“What the hell is that?” He demanded. He couldn’t keep from yelling. “You put Tiger Lily’s life at risk to bring one of those damn things inside? Are you insane? We all risked our lives to save you and this is how you thank us? By putting us at risk like that? What were you thinking?”

Girlfriend put her hand on his arm, but he shrugged her off and stalked around the table in the middle of the room to stand over Myra.

“I’ve got it in my mind to throw you and that damn thing off this car and let you fend for yourself. What’s going to happen the next time we find something cute you want to take home? Are you really going to let someone die? Don’t you understand…”

Girlfriend pulled hard on his arm. He turned and glared at her. “What?”

“Shut up. Can’t you see she’s sorry?”

Sam looked down at her and snarled. She was a crying mess. He didn’t care. Tiger Lily, someone Sam barely knew but Lin cared for her, had almost died because Myra wanted to save one of the stupid dinosaurs. It was going to die anyway. They all died. None of them made it. So what difference did it make to save one? It was downright stupid.

Another thump came, but this one from inside. Lin shrieked. Sam didn’t waste any more time on Myra. She’d have to live with herself and her decision. Without thinking, he pushed Girlfriend out of the way. She clutched onto his shirt to keep her balance.

Sam froze for only an instant. At the base of the ladder into the car stood one of those damn things and it was looking where Lin and Tiger Lily were. Sam screamed and charged it. He wasn’t going to let one of the girls get hurt again and his rage at Myra could be put to good use.

The thing’s head tilted to the side like a curious dog as it looked at Sam. When it saw him running, it crouched and leapt at him. It wasn’t that big, maybe a hundred pounds, but Sam wasn’t able to dodge the claws in time. He caught it in mid-air and the claws raked his leg. As he tried to crush the slippery-skinned devil, Sam felt teeth dig into his shoulder.

“Yee-ow!”

Sam started to lose his balance, but twisted and drove the head of the beast into the bulkhead of the car. It let go, stunned, and Sam took its head in one hand and smashed it again and again into the wall until its blood and brains stained the wall. He let the limp body drop to the ground.

With his adrenaline still pumping through his veins, he tore off his shirt and looked at his shoulder. The bite was about as bad as Tiger Lily’s and damn, it hurt. He didn’t even want to look at his leg.

“Girlfriend,” he said weakly as he fell on top of his attacker.

“Sam! Sam!”

“Close it. Close the hatch,” said Sam through gritted teeth as he passed out.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 38


Paradise Palms

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


Lin

Lin held her breath. She slowly turned her head to look up at Sam. He side-stepped along the top of the car and made his way toward the back, the gun trained on a spot in the water. His aim shifted quickly to another spot, then back to the first. She saw his jaw slacken, then his face firm up.

“Myra, get out of that nest.”

“Not without the babies.”

“I don’t have time to argue. Girlfriend, you’re closest, get to the ladder and get up here. Now!”

Sam’s voice was strong and commanding, but Lin could sense an undertone of fear in what he said. Sam had spent a great deal of time hunting. What could possibly have him spooked?

“Slow down!” Sam snapped at Girlfriend. “Walk slowly. No sudden movements. Myra, get the hell out of that nest and do it now.”

Lin heard something crack from inside the nest. One of the hatchlings must be breaking further out of its shell. Whatever had spooked Sam must be coming to the call of the hatchlings. Sam switched his aim from three or four different points.

“Tiger Lily, start toward the car. Lin, Myra, hold up.”

Myra worked her way out of the nest and stood next to Lin. Something squeaked from inside of Myra’s blouse.

“You didn’t!” Lin said accusingly.

“I couldn’t just leave them all there. They’ll die.”

“Myra, I think something has arrived to eat them. Think! Just like in the wild, animals smell hatchlings and come to feed. With no parents around, these ones are doomed. You’ve got to put that thing back.”

“But I’ve already got its smell on me.”

The things head poked out of Myra’s blouse. Its mess had gotten all over her, as well as the pungent reek. Even if she did put it back, the smell was all over her and anything hunting them would find her.

Girlfriend had made her way to the ladder and slowly climbed up. Tiger Lily tip-toed her way across the short distance from the nest to the car.

“Lin! Move.”

Lin took one small step toward the car, and the world changed. She couldn’t exactly explain it at first, but everything moved in slow motion. The water exploded near Tiger Lily. First a tiny head came out of the water, long and reptilian, followed by a rounded body the size of a large dog, with really long, skinny legs and short arms. It rushed Tiger Lily and grabbed her arm, even before she had a chance to react. Its long teeth drew blood the instant they came in contact with skin, causing her to scream. Loud and piercing. Lin made a lurch to help, but the beady eyes, deep blue in color, stared at her as if to say “you’re next.” Lin couldn’t move.

The thing dragged Tiger Lily toward the water with powerful jerks of its neck. Tiger Lily fell to the ground and tried to pull back, but with each tug, her arm bled more and her screams grew louder.

Sam fired and the beast dropped dead next to Tiger Lily, her arm still in the thing’s mouth. Lin rushed over to help, but a second beast leapt from the water and stood on its fallen comrade, hissing at Lin saying “Keep away from my food.” Lin scanned the ground for anything to use as a weapon, but every last twig was inside the nest. The bare ground provided nothing to use as a weapon.

Lin spun on Myra, the little hadrosaur’s head poking out of her blouse.

“Give it!” Lin demanded and grabbed the baby from Myra’s blouse. Myra fought to keep it, but Lin’s grasp caught her by surprise, and in a moment she had the baby. It made her sick to think about what she was about to do, but it was either a baby dinosaur that was slated to die anyway, or Tiger Lily, who shouldn’t be here in the first place. She put the baby over her head and tossed it at the dinosaur.

It ducked and let the baby fly over its head. The baby landed with a wet thud near the water’s edge. Another long-necked dinosaur grabbed the baby from the shore.

Another gunshot rang out and the second beast fell.

“Gun jammed. Get up here now!”

Girlfriend had climbed back down the ladder and both she and Lin rushed to Tiger Lily’s side.

“Are you alright?” Lin asked, while Girlfriend worked to free Tiger Lily’s arm from the beast’s jaws.

Sam fired into the water and something splashed away. “Myra! Get the hell out of that nest and get up here. Now!”

Lin didn’t look to see what that was all about. Tiger Lily had turned a frightened shade of white and had lost a good deal of blood. The thing had caught her by the forearm, but the lacerations didn’t look deep enough to have done any serious damage. She’d have some wicked scars to talk about, though.

Once her arm was free of the teeth, Lin took off her shirt, a vintage Metallica t-shirt wasn’t as important as Tiger Lily, and wrapped it around Tiger Lily’s arm. Her breathing had gone shallow and her skin felt clammy. She was in shock. They needed to get her inside, and quickly. Maybe Girlfriend could stitch up the worst of the cuts in Tiger Lily’s arm.

Tiger Lily barely helped as Girlfriend and Lin pushed and pulled her up the ladder. As soon as he could reach down, Sam grabbed Tiger Lily’s good arm and pulled her up with one heave.

“I would have come down to help, but I picked off two more. I don’t think they can get up here.”

Lin’s ears barely registered what he said and her mind couldn’t process it. She hadn’t even heard the gun fire after the second shot. How many had there been? And how had they snuck up so quickly? Myra hadn’t mentioned anything like this that she might have read in the notes. Information like that would be vital before being stupid enough to go and look at dinosaurs in their stupid nest.

Lin wanted to give Myra a piece of her mind, but the woman was nowhere to be seen. She hadn’t helped with Tiger Lily. She just ran and hid. Lin wanted to be mad at her, but if it had been Myra who’d been grabbed, she probably would have let them take her. She felt guilty for being mad.

“Let’s get her inside. There’s a first aid kit and we’ve got to get her bandaged up fast,” Sam said.

Lin looked back at the nest. Two more of the beasts were in the nest, making short work of the babies and the rest of the eggs. She wanted to be sick. She’d seen snakes on the Discovery Channel eating eggs, but this was different. It was brutal. The cracking of shells and the sound of helpless squeaks as they ate.

Lin turned away as Sam disappeared with Tiger Lily over his shoulder, her blood dripping from her limp arm wrapped in the shirt and staining his shirt.

“Let’s go,” Girlfriend said. I think there’s a jacket or something you can put on.

Lin looked down at her bare chest, her small breasts covered in Tiger Lily’s blood. She crossed her arms over her chest and suddenly felt embarrassed. Sam had seen her. But had he really? No, she couldn’t think like that. Sam was a good man and they were in a crisis. She felt so stupid.

“Come on,” Girlfriend nudged her. We need to do whatever we can for Tiger Lily. I’m sure I brought an extra shirt too.”

“I brought an extra. I guess I just didn’t think…”

“You don’t need to explain. I was about to do the same thing. Let’s get inside. I don’t think they can get up here, but better not to chance it.”

Lin nodded. She choked back a cry. She’d have time to cry later. For now, there was a situation to deal with.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 37


Paradise Palms

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


Myra

Over the years, Myra had gotten used to reading many a dry thesis paper. Most made some sense, but none had what Clive’s notebooks contained: live observation. She pored through the books reading about migratory patterns, feeding patterns, mating rituals. Even the minor coloring patterns and feeding rituals had Myra fascinated. This was fact; not concocted theory about a long dead animal that no one had ever seen.

The most fascinating portions were about how the hadrosaurs would group together whenever a threat, such as a tyrannosaurus, would appear. They would all face outward and protect as many clutches of eggs and young as they could. Even if it meant that one or two of the young would be eaten by the predator, they’d maintain their circle. A true collective mindset. Concern over the herd, not the individual. Sick and lame would also be excluded from the protection from the circle.

In one note, Clive had mentioned how a large, male tyrannosaur appeared quite suddenly. It had been sliding across the ground on its belly, hidden by the muck and tall reeds, and popped up near a grazing female. It didn’t stand a chance as the beast rose up and rammed the lone hadrosaur. Once it’d been knocked down, the tyrannosaur made short work of dispatching it. The herd saw the event and once the predator was eating, they ignored it, somehow knowing they were safe.

Myra looked up at the portal. Her head swam. She’d been so intent on reading as much as she could she’d made herself carsick. She got out some of the ginger pills she’d given Tiger Lily and took two. Lin also looked a little green around the gills, so she offered two to her.

“Thanks,” Lin said.

Tiger Lily stirred slightly.

“Is she alright?”

“She fell asleep, I think. I slept some last night before we came, but she didn’t. She wanted to make sure everything was ready to go and that all the monitoring we’d put in place was secure. I tried to stay up with her, because I was so excited about coming, but my brain just said sleep.”

“Why did you and Tiger Lily come? I can see why Sam came. This almost seems like his element to be in, and I doubt Girlfriend would leave his side in a situation like this, but you and Tiger Lily, I just can’t make sense out of the two of you being here.”

Lin ran her hands over her hair and tugged at her pony tail. “Well, Doc Brenner talked to us for a long time. Basically he wants us to find his son. That’s simple enough. Sam can follow the GPS device, but that’s not all Doc wants. He also wants us to hook into the front loader that Clive is driving. It has a lot of equipment on it that’s tracking the environment, sun and moon movements, star layout. Things like that. It’s not just a simple front loader, but a solar powered powerhouse of technology. He’s worried that something might be wrong with his son and if Clive can’t operate the equipment on the loader, Doc wants Tiger Lily and I to look things over to see what we can recover from it.

“Actually, the loader was never intended to leave the camp as far as Clive has gone. It has some things for Clive to keep him sustained, but this vehicle,” Lin motioned around them. “Was what Doc and Clive had intended for a long excursion.”

Myra sat with one hand on the open page of the journal. “So, do you think something in Clive has snapped?”

Lin shrugged. “I really don’t know. I’m a little concerned about Tiger Lily. We’ve only been here a short time and I think the gravity of the situation finally hit her. That and pure exhaustion. It is possible that Clive, having been here for some time, finally snapped, but I find that hard to believe. Something bigger must be going on and we’re missing it totally. You know?”

Myra nodded. “I think I do. I mean, I only got to looking around for a little bit before you all showed up. I’ve looked at his notes and saw a little of what was going on, but even reading his journal, I don’t think he lost it in any way. Maybe if I keep reading, I’ll find something. The journals are all dated, do you want to help me read through them? We can just look at the later journals and see what we find.”

“Sure.” Lin started to unbuckle her belt, but as she did the car slowed drastically, tilted to one side, and stopped.

“Myra!” Sam shouted. “I think we need you up here.”

His shout echoed throughout the car and even Tiger Lily picked up her head.

“What’s going on?” she asked sleepily.

Lin put her hand on Tiger Lily’s shoulder. “Something is going on. Sam wants Myra. Let’s go check it out.”

Myra looked at Lin and Tiger Lily as if they could answer her question. She knew they couldn’t. She’d have to go up front and see what it was that Sam wanted. She unbuckled her belt, and went up to the driver’s area.

Sam stood looking out the front window with Girlfriend. They spoke quietly to each other. Myra cleared her throat.

“Oh, Myra. I think we need to stop and look around outside. Are you up for it?” Sam asked.

“Go outside? Here?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I guess we could. All theory suggests that the hadrosaurs are harmless herbivores.”

“Harmless what?”

“They only eat plants. It would be like looking at a bunch of giraffes. They’d be more scared of us.”

“Oh,” Sam shrugged. “Come on, we need to go look outside.”

Sam seemed almost childlike as he excitedly climbed the ladder and opened the top hatch. Myra followed him. The rest made their way to the top of the car as well.

Sam stood at the edge of the car and looked down. “Right there. What do you think?”

Myra put her hand on his shoulder to keep from losing her balance. With the car at an angle, it looked farther to the ground than it really was. The car was parked on a small rise from the shallow water covered with sticks, reeds, and branches. She looked down into a massive clutch of eggs. No, not just eggs, hatching eggs! Several of the eggs twitched and moved.

Myra started for the ladder, but stopped herself. She looked around the area, but didn’t see any hadrosaurs standing. Looking at the ground brought her fears to her. They’d stopped at one of the herds Clive had noted on the window. It was the closest herd, she forgot which number Clive had given to it. All around, in the muck and mire, lay the herd. Dead. All of them were dead. Several other clutches of eggs. She couldn’t tell from this distance if any of them had hatchlings.

A piercing cry caught her attention. A head protruded from an egg shell, its bill raised to the sky, crying. Myra turned around and prepared to go down the ladder.

“What are you doing?” Sam asked.

She looked up at him from her kneeling position. Girlfriend, Lin, and Tiger Lily all looked at her expectantly. “I’m going down to check on them.”

“What?” He looked at her, shocked. “What do you possibly hope to gain by doing that?”

She narrowed her eyes. “Experience. I’ve dreamed of touching a dinosaur. This is something I’m going to do.”

“What if a T. rex or something comes by? And there are those little ones too. I’m sure a couple followed us. Surely they see the easy pickings out here. I can’t just let you go down there.”

“Then get your big gun and protect me if anything comes near. This is a chance I cannot pass up.”

Myra put her feet on the ladder rungs. Sam’s hand shot down and caught her by the wrist. “I can’t let you do that. At least wait until I actually go and get the gun before you go down there.”

Myra conceded and sat on the edge of the car, her stomach a twist of excitement as she watched and listened to the tiny hadrosaur. Lin and Tiger Lily sat by her side and Girlfriend knelt behind her.

Girlfriend broke the silence. “I made Sam stop. I knew you’d want to see this.”

Myra turned around. “Thank you. Thank you so much. I don’t think you can possibly understand what this means to me. I’ve read about dinosaurs since I was eight. I’ve always, and I mean always, dreamed of touching one. When I saw that dead hadrosaur back on the lake, all I could think of was getting to it and touching it, somehow affirming in my mind that it was real.”

Myra reached up and pulled Girlfriend in for a hug.

“Okay, okay. Break it up. We can’t waste much time here. This thing is making great time and we’ll catch up to Clive in no time at all, but I don’t want to dilly dally too long. Whoever is going down there, get going and I’ll keep watch over you.” Sam raised a pair of binoculars to his eyes and scanned the horizon, the gun held in his other hand, ready to fire.

Myra wasted no time at all climbing down the ladder. She half expected the ground to be damp or spongy and was surprised at how firm it felt under her feet. But then having a three ton dinosaur pack the earth down, it only made sense that the ground was firm and it was high enough above the water level to be very dry.

She wanted to rush over to the nest, but her legs felt rubbery the closer she got. By the time she made it to the nest, two more voices had joined the first, their high-pitched squeals music to Myra’s ears.

The edge of the nest rose up nearly four feet. Myra had to pull herself up and into it. She swung her legs around sat on the edge, afraid to go further.

“Go on,” she heard from behind her. She looked back and Girlfriend, Lin, and Tiger Lily all stood behind her. Girlfriend made a ‘go ahead’ motion. Myra smiled and mouthed “Thank you.”

No more of the eggs appeared to be moving. Only the three had hatched and only the heads were visible. The three struggled to escape the shells, each no bigger than a newborn baby, but would grow steadily and significantly over the next few years. The tiny heads had no crest, but those would grow and develop by the time the little ones had reached adolescence.

“Hello there, little ones.” Myra reached out to touch one of the babies. Its slimy head felt smooth under her hand. It stopped its squeaking and moved its mouth toward her hand. It gaped and made a throaty, expectant gurgle. It thought she was going to feed it.

“What have we got in the car? Any fruit or anything? These babies need to eat, and the parents are all dead.”

“What?” Sam shouted down.

“We need to feed these babies. Their parents are all dead.”

Sam shook his head. “I hate to be a party pooper, but there’s no way we’re going to hang around here and feed babies; we need to get Doc’s son and get back. I hate to sound brutal, but this is nature and we’re not getting in the way.”

Myra felt as if Sam had pulled her heart out and threw it to the ground. How could he be so cruel and heartless? So impassionate? If they left the little ones here, they’d bake in the sun and die a horrible death. Myra wanted to pull each out from their shell and hold them near her. To caress them and tell them everything would be alright. She needed to care for them.

“Nobody move!” Sam shouted. “Hold very still.”

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 36


Paradise Palms

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


Lin

Lin held Tiger Lily’s hand. They both gripped tightly as the sounds of Sam shooting something carried on. Lin dreaded her decision to come along. What could she possibly contribute, anyway? It was more out of curiosity that she pressured Sam to allow her and Tiger Lily to come along. Tiger Lily, whom Lin was certain didn’t like Sam for some reason, hadn’t pushed to go or to stay and just followed Lin. Now faced with reality, Lin wanted to be back in her trailer, away from all this.

Five minutes turned into ten before Sam finally emerged from the woods. He only had his rifle with him, but he looked all sweaty and tired. The four of them, Tiger Lily last of course, ran from the door and rushed to Sam.

Girlfriend was the first to reach him and she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him. Lin stopped running as did Myra and Tiger Lily. Best to let those two have their moment. Lin had never seen two people kiss like that. She looked away to the woods.

Once Girlfriend released Sam’s lips, he said. “We need to go and we need to go now. I don’t know what that was I shot, but it was big and it’s likely to be angry. I’m sure it’ll come back and I don’t think we want to be here.”

“I think we need to see if there’s anything else we might need in these other buildings first,” Lin said. She really wanted to see what kind of equipment they might have. Something might prove useful.

“I’m sorry. We can look when we come back. I didn’t find the officer. We need to leave.”

Myra chimed in, “Let me go get some of the books and journals from inside. Maybe there’s something in them that can help us understand what might be happening here.”

“Fine. Get the books and whatever. See if there’s more food. We’ll want all we can get together. I’m going to position myself on the car and if that thing comes back, I’ll have to ram it. Maybe that’ll scare it off. I don’t know.”

Tiger Lily looked like she wanted to make a snide remark, but kept her words to herself. Lin looked longingly at the other buildings and wondered what they might contain. There had to be a satellite link up in there. Doc had said he used her antenna because having his own would attract too much attention to what he was doing. He had said they’d have everything they needed inside the car, but that didn’t keep her curiosity down in the slightest.

The four women moved in and out of the cabin, carrying books and foodstuff as quickly as they could. Sam stood atop the car and watched and listened. Twice he aimed his rifle into the woods, but didn’t shoot. She wondered what he saw or heard. Maybe it was just something he felt.

When she was alone with Myra in the cabin, she asked her, “Do you really think that whatever Sam shot might come back?”

She shrugged. “Everything I’ve ever studied has been based on fossil records. To be perfectly honest, there’s no way to know for sure. We know that many dinosaurs had large, developed brains and must have been at least as smart as many animals today, and they survived for millions of years. Anything is possible. Even a dinosaur holding a grudge I guess. Kind of like if you kick a dog, it’ll avoid you, but if you tease it enough, it’ll eventually bite you.”

“I guess that makes sense. So we really won’t know anything until we know something.”

Myra laughed a nervous laugh. “That sounds about right, Lin. Help me grab these and I think that’s all the books I’ll need.”

“Can I help you look through these once we’re going?”

“Oh, sure. That’d help a lot.”

“I’m sure Girlfriend and Tiger Lily will want to help too.”

“Everyone is welcome to help. There’s a lot of research here. Doc Brenner’s son would have been here for a long time and he made a lot of notes. This might be the best defense we have.”

Lin took up a stack of the journals and followed Myra to the car. Tiger Lily stood at the bottom of the car’s ladder. “Is that the last of it?”

“Yup,” Myra said. She handed a few of the journals to Tiger Lily.

Girlfriend crouched at the top of the car and held her hands down. “Pass up some of those.”

“Thanks.” Lin handed up some of her load, and climbed the ladder after Myra. At the top, Sam stood aiming his rifle into the woods again.

“What is it?” Lin asked.

Sam, without shifting the aim of his rifle, looked down to the ground. “Is everyone up?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I keep seeing these small dinosaurs.”

“Oh?” Myra said. She’d slung the binoculars around her neck and raised them up to where Sam aimed. “My! It’s a troodon! A living species. This is amazing. I never…”

“And we’ll never get underway if we keep gawking. You can set up some arrangement with Doc Brenner when this is all over and spend as much time as you like here. I don’t care. Right now we need to get out of here and find Clive. So if you would be so kind as to get in and buckle up. I’d like to get this over with as quickly as possible.”

Myra looked shocked that Sam would speak so bluntly to her, but followed his instructions. He motioned for Lin to go down next. She handed down the journals to Myra and climbed down inside.

“Why doesn’t this have doors in the sides?” Tiger Lily asked as she wiped sweat from her brow.

“Doc said it was because Clive didn’t want anything to be able to just walk inside. So the door is up a ladder making it more difficult for anything to get in.” Sam closed the top hatch and locked it. “Now if there are any more questions, please keep them to yourselves until we’re on our way.”

“Sam, did you bring up the GPS tracker? So we know which way to go?” Girlfriend asked.

Sam laughed. “I saw the path he tore into the woods just to the south. It’s pretty obvious he dug through there with the front loader. I’ll be able to get started. You go ahead and get the GPS system up and running and we’ll make sure we’re headed in the right direction.”

Girlfriend buckled up in the passenger seat next to Sam. The rest had to go to the back room and sit at a metal table. They all buckled into the padded seats. As Myra started to stow the journals in a locker, she handed one to Tiger Lily and one to Lin.

“I won’t lie to you two, everything I know about dinosaurs is based on bones. It’s all guesswork. I’m not going to give any credit to anything I know until we’ve read through these. Perhaps they’ll confirm what is thought to be correct, perhaps it’ll just fill in gaps, but then maybe we’ll find something totally unexpected. Don’t discount anything you read. These may save our lives.”

“Myra,” Tiger Lily said. “Do you think this is a safe thing to be doing?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you think we’ll all come back alive?”

“As long as we all stick together and trust one another, yes. I don’t see any reason we shouldn’t. I mean, we just need to go out, pick up Clive, and come back. Right? Isn’t that what we’re doing?”

“Yes, but what if something happens? What if we’re outside this car or something happens like we get stuck and can’t get out and have to walk. What do you think our odds are?” Tiger Lily put her hand on Lin’s knee and squeezed as the car started to roll forward. That’s when Lin knew. Tiger Lily was scared.

“That’s why we’re going to read these. The more we know about the dinosaurs that are in this area, the better off we’ll be. Right? Knowledge is power.”

“But what good will knowledge do against a twenty ton monster charging us at top speed?” Tiger Lily looked away.

Myra put down the journal and grabbed Tiger Lily’s other hand. “It’ll be alright. Let’s not go getting all worked up before we even get going. It might be a couple of days before we even get to where we’re going.”

Nails dug into Lin’s leg. “Ow!” She clutched Tiger Lily’s hand and pried it off her leg. “Tiger Lily, it’s going to be alright.”

“How do you know? How can either of you know that?” Tears streamed down her face.

“Trust. I know because I trust you,” Lin said. She felt strange, like she should be the one scared and crying. Tiger Lily had been so confident, but ever since they got here, she seemed to be falling apart. Now that they were moving-

“I want to go back. I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to go. Get me off this thing.”

She reached for her buckle to free herself of the chair, but both Lin and Myra held her arms as the car bumped and jostled.

Myra said, “Don’t do it, Tiger Lily. You’ll fall and hurt yourself. Just stay seated.”

“Doc Brenner said he wasn’t going to check for us for three or four days anyway. It’s best if we all stay together.”

Tiger Lily struggled weakly, and finally gave up. The bumping lasted only for a short time. Through a small portal, Lin could see the trees clear and give way to the plains they’d seen. Except for an occasional bump or sideways lurch, the ride wasn’t so bad, but she wasn’t about to try standing up or walking around until she was far more certain of her footing.

Myra opened a medicine kit and handed something to Tiger Lily. “Take this. It’ll help you.”

Tiger Lily took the pills Myra had given her without a word and swallowed them. She had a drink from a bottle of water and put her head down on the table, one of her hands finding Lin’s leg once again. Lin scratched Tiger Lily’s back in an attempt to reassure her.

Myra nodded to Lin and smiled. Lin shrugged. Myra opened one of the journals and started reading.

Read Along: Paradise Palms: Chapter 35


Paradise Palms

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


Girlfriend

Girlfriend sat and stared out the window as Sam entered the foliage at the edge of the camp. He stepped slowly with his rifle held out in front of him. She’d seen him go off hunting and fishing before, but never had she even given it a second thought that he might be in danger. Myra sat on the bed while Lin and Tiger Lily sat at the small table. All were quiet and just waited. Girlfriend couldn’t stand the silence. She had to trust that Sam would be fine.

“Myra, are you sure you’re alright? Your car looks to be in really bad shape.”

Myra looked up, surprised that someone had said something. “Yes. Thank you. It wasn’t like I crashed into anything. Just that the front of my car disappeared and I was here, skidding to a stop. I thought I would feel something with time travel.” She laughed. “I’ve read so many books and it always sounded exciting. You know, the pull on your insides, the tingle on your skin. Things like that. It was quite anticlimactic. One moment I’m on a road in Minnesota, the next I’m here.”

Girlfriend sat on the bed next to Myra. “Any idea if that officer might still be out there?”

Myra shrugged. “I don’t know. I heard gunshots and screaming. I just don’t know. Sam’s right to go looking, I guess. I mean how will we know if he’s not still out there if someone doesn’t go and look?”

Lin leaned forward. “Do you think he’ll be alright out there? I mean, no one really knows what to expect.”

Myra smiled, “It’s just like anywhere else in the world. There’s always a chance of encountering something, but it’ll be a slim chance at best. It’s sort of like people who go on a safari to look at lions and elephants in the wild, and have to search for days before they find anything. I suspect this’ll be similar. Even though dinosaurs are bigger than an elephant, that doesn’t mean they’ll just appear when we want them too.”

“But, Girlfriend, do you think Sam can handle something that big?” Tiger Lily asked, her arms crossed over her chest as if she disapproved of the entire discussion. “I mean, sure he’s hunted deer and what not, but we’re talking about dealing with something far larger and more dangerous.”

Girlfriend didn’t want to think about that. She wanted to assume that Sam could handle anything that came his way, but Tiger Lily had a point. Sam had usually hunted something that would flee rather than fight back. Sure he’d gotten a few bear and had his trophies, but a dinosaur would be way out of his league, wouldn’t it? She didn’t want to give in to doubt. “Sam’s a hunter. I have every confidence in him to deal with any situation regarding animals. Size doesn’t matter.”

She laughed. They all laughed.

Tiger Lily said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t say things like that. I’m just nervous and none of us have any idea what to expect in this place. I mean, are we really going to try and find Clive? He could be anywhere.”

“We’ve got the GPS device in the car. Finding him shouldn’t be difficult at all,” said Girlfriend.

“What do you mean, find Clive? Tell me again who Clive is?” Myra asked.

“It’s Doc Brenner’s son.” Girlfriend did her best to sum up their conversation with Doc and the time machine, and that Doc would only send them back if they would search for Clive and find out what’s happened to him. Myra nodded through most of it.

“So we’re going out there?” she asked, sounding a little excited. “I mean, really going out there to the field where the herds of hadrosaurs are?”

“If that’s the direction Clive took, then yes. That’s where we’ll be going.”

Myra got up and strode over to the window facing the plains. She put her hand up next to some of the writing. Girlfriend got up and stood next to her and read the words. “Herd #12: first affected” with an arrow pointing into the distance. She focused her eyes on the distant plains and the black spots out there.

“What is that?”

“As best as I can tell, it’s a herd of hadrosaurs.”

“It doesn’t look like any of them are moving. Kind of like cows that just stand around all day, huh?”

Myra shook her head. “I don’t think so. I think something is happening and that’s why Clive took off. He wanted to see first hand what is going on, or perhaps how far it extends.”

“You think they’re dying?”

“Could be. I hope not, but I think something, a disease perhaps, might be wiping out the herds.” Myra started crying.

Girlfriend put her arm around her. “But, isn’t this what was supposed to have happened to the dinosaurs? They all just died off?”

“Yes, but I had thought that coming back here, I’d be able to see them, close up. Research them. Look at them. Maybe even touch them. I don’t know. It’s like a girlhood dream gone wrong.”

Something crashed in the woods.

“What was that?” Tiger Lily said, and she jumped up and opened the front door.

“Close the door!” Girlfriend yelled. “We can see from the window.”

All four stood and stared out the window and waited. An unnatural stillness came over the woods. The first thing close to silence they’d had since arriving. Girlfriend stared and waited. Whatever had made that crash had to be huge. Was he alright? Was it even near Sam? What was it? Girlfriend rubbed her forehead.

“I guess I was wrong,” Myra said. “I guess there is something nearby. I wonder if this cabin has attracted something. Maybe the sound of that vehicle’s motors brought it here.”

“That’s it! Maybe we can make enough noise, so that whatever it is will ignore Sam. You know, if we bang on the windows or something.”

Girlfriend and Myra banged their hands on the window and shouted. Tiger Lily opened and slammed the door.

Lin paled. “Won’t that make it come up here? I mean, I don’t want whatever that is to go after Sam, but we don’t have any guns. Sam has a gun. At least he can protect himself. What have we got?”

They all froze. Girlfriend hadn’t thought it through that far. Lin was right. They needed to just remain quiet and hope for the best. Girlfriend stared out the window, and waited.

A gunshot rang out followed by a roar. Sam had struck the first blow, but why? Had it seen him? Was it after him? Another shot echoed through the strange wilderness.

Two more shots rang out. Girlfriend reached down and clutched Myra’s hand. She needed some sort of comfort. She might be squeezing the life out of Myra’s hand, but she didn’t care. She needed to know that Sam was alright.

Another shot rang out followed by a horrifying bellow so loud that the windows rattled. Once the roar died down, heavy footsteps stomped off into the distance. The silence didn’t last long and was replaced by the constant drone of bugs.

“What happened?” Lin asked. “Is that a good thing that it ran off? What happened to Sam?”

Tiger Lily shushed Lin. All four stood, staring out the window, and waited.