From the author: When his reclusive uncle commits suicide in a mansion full of curiosities, Jamie Lawson is left to clean up his dusty estate. As Jamie peels back the layers of his uncle’s life as a semi-famous horror author, he discovers an eerie connection between his uncle’s works and real life tragedies. Now, he must uncover the truth behind his uncle’s books while trying to rebuild his life in a new town. But, the bizarre facts he uncovers may just threaten his new life and everyone in it.
Lilly's car slumped sadly in her mom's driveway. Someone had slashed the tires on the left side as the family celebrated inside. Clearly, whoever had done it had a vested interest in Lilly staying put for a while.
Her mom called the police, but they couldn’t send an officer for a few hours. She watched Buttons pacing on the stone wall in the backyard, sniffing out the chipmunks hidden between the rocks, while Lilly and Jamie sat at the kitchen table with the officer.
“Any idea of who could have done this?” The officer asked. Jamie knew who did it but remained tight-lipped. He had simply planned to take the backroads out of town and avoid the bridge, but T.J. apparently had other ideas in mind. This meant that he must have been in the area or perhaps paid someone to slash Lilly’s tires. Jamie’s plan to send T.J. back must have worked, but Jamie wondered what happened to the subjects of his first two books. Was he able to save them?
“No idea, and no one around here saw anything,” Lilly replied. “I just don't get it.”
“Probably just kids causing trouble,” the officer replied. He finished the report and gave it to Lilly to sign.
She scrawled her name on the signature line.
Then he packed up and headed toward the door. “We'll let you know if we find anything. I wouldn't expect much to come from it, but we'll send you a copy of the report to send to your insurance company.”
“I'm so glad that you're here with me,” Lilly said, wrapping her arms around Jamie.
“Me too,” he said, resting his chin on the top of her head.
“Maybe Mom should get a security system,” she said.
“I'm sure it'll be fine. You heard him. It was probably just a few kids. Maybe your mom just pissed off the wrong ones or something,” he said.
“Well, she did get her house egged after she refused to give a few trick-or-treaters candy last year. Said they were 'too old,’” she replied.
“See, it's probably the same brats. There's nothing to worry about.”
The tow-truck driver loaded the car onto the flatbed, and Lilly spent the afternoon on the phone with the insurance company. The car would be fixed by the end of the day, and they would be able to go home and sleep in their own beds.
Jamie felt a sense of relief wash over him. Lilly was safe, and now he had assurance that she would be nowhere near the bridge during the time of the accident.
Once the car was ready to pick up, Lilly's mom dropped them at the mechanic. Jamie looked at his watch. The repair shop had had a slow day, so they were able to fix the car much more quickly than expected, but the time was already five minutes or so past the accident. It was over, and Lilly was still alive. They would finally be able to put this day behind them once and for all. Jamie was ready to move on.
“Want to drop in and see your uncle on the way back?” she asked.
Jamie thought he’d misheard and gave Lilly a strange look.
“Okay, just a thought,” she said defensively.
As he drove away from the city and toward the bridge out of town, a blaring police siren approached from behind. His eyes flashed down to the speedometer. Thank God.The speed limit was fifty-five, and he was going fifty-seven. He pulled over to the side of the road to let the vehicle pass. It blew by him and was quickly followed by another cruiser.
“What the hell's going on?” Lilly asked.
A moment later, they noticed a fire truck in the rearview and pulled over again—fire truck, police car, police car, ambulance.
As he reached the edge of town, Jamie saw thick black smoke billowing from the bridge. A line of cars extended up the hill, and some had started to turn around. Police barricades blocked the road completely, about a half mile up the road.
He felt a knot forming in the pit of his stomach and pulled the car over into the emergency lane.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Stay here,” he replied as he opened the car door and stepped outside to get a better look.
A helicopter circled overhead, and a dozen or so emergency response vehicles were surrounding the area.
It happened without her.
Jamie sprinted down the road toward the bridge.
“Where the hell are you going?” Lilly yelled after him, but he was already long gone.
Jamie could see the cluster of police cars and fire trucks surrounding the scene of the crash. The entrance to the bridge was barricaded, as was the entrance on the other end.
Bright yellow flames shot up from an overturned tanker in the center of the bridge, and an SUV lay on its side, next to the large truck. The car appeared to have been ripped apart, and shredded metal and debris lay scattered across the pavement.
Jamie was going to be ill. He couldn't breathe and fell to his knees. They’d managed to save Lilly once and for all, but someone else paid the price for it. How could I have been so stupid?
Lilly witnessed Jamie’s breakdown from the car. When he fell to the ground, she turned on the emergency lights and got out to comfort him. The dog barked anxiously as he watched her run toward Jamie.
She bent down to embrace him.
“It’s all my fault,” he said. “I killed them.”
She held Jamie for several minutes but didn’t seem to catch what he'd said. Eventually, she led him back to the car. Lilly assumed driving duties and decided to take the back roads out of town.
Jamie was inconsolable.
“Babe, it’s okay,” she said. “We don’t even know what happened. Maybe they were able to get out. Why are you freaking out so much about this?”
“Because it’s my fault,” he muttered softly under his breath.
“Your fault? What are you talking about?”
“I killed them. They’re dead because of me,” he said.
“You’re not making any sense. You had nothing to do with this. You’re freaking me out a little,” she replied.
Jamie sat in silence, but his mind was hard at work.
How am I going to fix this? Although he didn't have an answer, he knew the truth sat on a desk in Turner House. It still wasn’t over, and he would have to go back one more time. The thought made him want to vomit.
Lilly had driven the back roads several times but never with this level of traffic. Weaving through town and out the other side took her half an hour. Apparently, everyone else had the same plan.
This story originally appeared in The Dreadful Objects.
When his reclusive uncle commits suicide in a mansion full of curiosities, Jamie Lawson is left to clean up his dusty estate. As Jamie peels back the layers of his uncle’s life as a semi-famous horror author, he discovers an eerie connection between his uncle’s works and real life tragedies. Now, he must uncover the truth behind his uncle’s books while trying to rebuild his life in a new town. But, the bizarre facts he uncovers may just threaten his new life and everyone in it.
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