A Crowdsourced Novel
Read it here – Say what comes next.
The rain stopped when Roya pulled onto the I-55 ramp and the Mustang’s acceleration forced Frank against the back of the passenger seat. “Nice car but it draws too much attention. So does your driving.”
Roya hadn’t said a word since Frank stepped out of that cold shower. Now she stared ahead, eyes narrowed, jaw set, tapping the wheel with a finger. Frank knew an angry woman when he saw one. He figured on waiting her out—she’d talk about it sooner or later. He watched her as she squeezed between cars, braked, shifted gears and jammed her foot on the gas. She yanked the wheel and the g-force pressed Frank against the door.
Finally she spoke. “How could you?”
“How could I what?”
She clucked her tongue. “You know what I mean.” A definite sneer in her tone. She twitched her head. “Don’t say it, Frank.”
Frank just looked at her. He wasn’t about to say anything—didn’t have anything to say.
She jerked the wheel and passed a truck, rounding it on the wrong side, then clear of traffic, picked it up to 85, 90. “Nobody ever turned me down like that.”
Frank ran a hand across his mouth and chin. So that was it.
She squeezed out a tear. “Why Frank?”
What could he say? “Look, they abducted me, right? They tied me up with duct tape. They said I’m somebody I’m not. They were gonna torture me. They stuffed me in a trunk. They murdered a guy. The police want me. The mob wants me” He looked at her again. She looked good. “I know next to nothing about you except for some Russian connection and you’re gunning for a big-time mobster. What do you want with me? I watch you strangle this huge thug with your underwear and I have to kill Luigi so he doesn’t knife you—kill him with my bare hands—you think I do that every day?” Frank looked at his palms, wiped them on his suit pants. “Then I shoot a non-precision approach in a light plane. Right through a thunderstorm. Bust minimums. Find the runway. Get us on the ground like a miracle just so you can steal this hot rod—and you want to play house?”
She didn’t respond immediately. Then, “Don’t you like girls, Frank? Or were you…” She paused. “Were you just too tired after all that…” She glanced him “…exertion?”
Frank closed his eyes, rubbed his temples. He still felt a conscious love for his wife—even after the divorce. When he got back from Iraq, he never saw her—not once. Most of the stuff was gone from the apartment—the rest scattered across the floor. Peggy was gone for good. It felt like she was dead and buried. He grieved as if it were so.
Roya was talking again. “…and Sergey always said the action made him feel more like a man. Do you feel like a man, Frank?”
It was Frank’s turn to be silent. He felt like a murderer even though his logic called it self-defense.
As they cruised toward Chicago, traffic hit the skids. In the sudden stoppage, Roya came to a swerving halt behind the bumper of a minivan. Frank looked back. At the speed she’d been driving, nobody rode their tail, but the other cars soon joined them in the stop-and-go traffic of the rush hour.
What was it the kids called it? When the right word came to mind, he blurted it out. “Straight-edger—that’s what they say. Think of me that way.”
She gave him a quick angry look. “Straight-edger? You’re judging me.”
“It’s not about you, Roya.”
She appeared to think about that a moment. Then, “No sex, no drugs—what do you do?” She repeated the words then broke into unexpected laughter while Frank felt the heat of a deep blush burn his face and ears. “What’s the matter, Frank, afraid of girls? Or maybe I’m not pure enough for a holy man.”
“Shuttup.” The word came loud, savage.
She opened her mouth, then clamped her jaw and turned to the car ahead. The storms moved off in time for the sun to get low as they crawled toward the city at a pace little better than a walk. It seemed like an hour but by his watch only five minutes passed when she spoke. “So if we were married…”
“Yeah. Like that.”
She slowly nodded and moved the car a few feet. “I’ve heard of that but it seems kinda harsh, I mean what’s the point of being so—”
“That’s how it is.” Frank knew there wasn’t any way to explain it to her. Part of him regretted it and he had to fight down that urge. There was plenty to think about and he still didn’t know if he could trust her.
Without warning, Roya pulled off the highway, into the weeds of the center median. The rear of the Mustang slid right and the tires dug in and spit mud as she executed a U-turn and forced her way into the traffic heading back to Joliet. It wasn’t highway speed but at least the traffic moved. Frank held back the urge to ask why she’d reversed her course.
She drove back into town and cruised around, then pulled up to a curb. “Frank, where’s the train from here?”
“What—the Metra? Just four blocks over there.”
“Buy us some tickets, will you? I’ll see you onboard.” She pulled his phone out of the bulging purse and handed it to him. “I’ve got a friend will put us up without questions.”
Frank climbed out. Leaned down to speak. None of it made any sense to him. “Downtown?”
She puckered her lips and kissed the air. He closed the door and she drove off. The throaty exhaust of the Mustang sang around the corner.
HOW TO PLAY–This is an interactive story based on Nate’s game in my novel. You get to say what comes next:
1.) KEEP IT SHORT – It’s easy to play Nate’s game. Just enter your idea as a comment like, “their jeep drives off a cliff.” Don’t worry about form—just suggest the next step in the story. I’ll pick one, write it, and post it as a scene in serial form.
2.) KEEP IT CLEAN – I hold the veto pen. Since this is an experiment, I get to add rules as we go along. In general, if it wouldn’t fly in an old 60′s Bond movie, then it’s out.
3.) SHARE – Your posts are a precious gift to me. Maybe you’ll help write my next novel. If so, I’ll list your name as a contributor. If not, then we’ll just have a great time. I take you at your word that all ideas are your original thoughts. No criticism. No arguments. No lawsuits allowed. Let’s have some fun.