Merrry Christmas Mr. Saunders

       Diane Strong / Thrillers & Crime

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Merrry Christmas Mr. Saunders
ristmas Mr. Saunders
(The Running Suspense Collection)
By Diane Strong
Copyright 2013 Diane Strong
Copyright 2013 by Diane Strong
All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
Title Page
Copyright Page
About Merry Christmas Mr. Saunders
Merry Christmas Mr. Saunders
About the Author
Other Books by the Author
Merry Christmas Mr. Saunders: (This is a 10,000 word short story/ approx. 34 pages) (This is a stand-alone story)
Megan Sweeny is a strong woman raising a teenage daughter alone. When she decides to try out a new road for her run on Christmas Eve, she loses her car keys and is unable to return home to her daughter. In an attempt to find a phone, Megan knocks on the door of a sad little trailer house. An elderly man greets her and welcomes her inside to use the phone. It doesn’t take long for Megan to realize she made a mistake and that in order to use the phone, there will be a price to pay: she will have to listen.
Merry Christmas Mr. Saunders

Megan Sweeny, a petite cocktail waitress in her mid-thirties stood in the hallway of her home wearing black running tights that accentuated her strong, lean legs. Her mind on thoughts of the scheduled day ahead, Megan fumbled as she gathered her keys and cell phone from the oak desk near the front door. “Are you sure I can’t talk you into coming along, Lyndsy?”
“I love running with you, mom, but it’s Christmas Eve. I just want to stay here and read my book. I only have four chapters and I need to finish it so I can start my new book tomorrow.” Lyndsy used her thumb and middle finger to pull a ringlet of her auburn hair away from her porcelain face, then tucked it behind her ear.
“What new book?” Megan cocked her pony-tailed head and squinted her hazel eyes in the direction of her sixteen year-old daughter who lay sprawled out on the couch in the living room. Despite being the mother of a young woman who could pass as a cover model, Megan saw a ten year old child when she looked at her daughter.
“The one you have wrapped for me under the tree, Mom.” Lyndsy gave her mother a loving smile and batted her eyes innocently while twirling a piece of her messy but stylish hair between her fingers.
“Whatever. Look, I’m heading to Aunt Jenny’s house to drop off this bunting pan so she can start on the Turkey for tonight. On the way back I’m going to park and go for a run down that cute little road…Pincherry, or Pokeberry, you know…the one on the left when you leave Jenny’s house. I’ve wanted to run it for years and just never seem to have time to drive out there. I bet it’ll be gorgeous with this fresh snow. I should be back in about two hours. Don’t forget, we have to be at Uncle Doug’s by six tonight, so don’t take-off anywhere.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Have fun, and don’t forget to take your mace.”
“I Love you, honey.” A light gust of cool air invaded the room as Megan exited the house.
“Love you, too.” Lyndsy’s voice hung in the air. Her mother had already left. She rolled onto her back, picked up her cell phone, and started composing a text message.

After dropping off the bunting pan at her sister’s house, Megan drove cautiously down the winding county road. She exercised caution not out of fear, not in the least. She was a confident driver and a confident woman. But most tasks in her life were well thought out and taken with caution because she knew better than most that anything can happen and she was always prepared.
After all these years, it was days like today that kept Megan running. Nothing excited her more than a quiet morning run down a new road. Most mornings she ran from her house where she had five different routes to choose from. Just when she started to get tired of the same five roads, the weather changed and the leaves turned brilliant colors, or a fresh layer of snow blanketed the banks of the creek. At least a couple times a month, Megan hopped in her car and drove to a new road she’d never run before.
A simple drive to a friend’s house found her scoping out new roads for the following weekend. After living in her little town for nearly five years, Megan had run almost every road in the county. Soon, she feared, she would have to move towns just to have fresh roads to explore.
As she trotted along, Megan imagined the lives of the people residing in the old homes. It felt akin to reading a good novel to her, a welcome distraction to the painful events she had struggled with over the last couple of months.
She loved to make up stories about the families playing in the yards and tending to the gardens. She wondered why they ignored the poor howling canines caged up in the backyards. Quite often her run came to an end and she’d wonder where the time and miles had gone, so lost in her dream world as she ran.
Megan spotted the road she was searching for and slowed her car. She glanced up at the green road sign: Pokeberry. She knew it was something-berry, and assumed it was named after a tree like so many of the desolate roads in this area. Megan’s car crawled along as she explored the road for a place to park out of the way of traffic. This road wasn’t like a state highway with wide shoulders to park on, it was barely wide enough for two cars to pass.
As she rounded a tight bend, she spied two gravel driveways to her left. One led to a grayed tobacco barn and the other to an old abandoned trailer house. The barn driveway appeared as if it had seen recent use. Fresh snow blanketed the large tractor ruts. The trailer house driveway, however, seemed as abandoned as the trailer itself. Branches from a tall walnut tree blocked much of the drive near the trailer. If anyone used the driveway, surely they would have removed the branches. Megan pulled the car in as far as she could so it sat out of the road then killed the engine.
Glancing over at the passenger seat, she quickly checked to ensure she had all the gear she needed. Gloves, hat, neck warmer and her GPS-watch sat neatly on the passenger seat along with her cell phone and mace. Even though it had just snowed, the weather was hardly cold enough for such heavy gear. She would likely only need it for the first mile while she warmed into her run. After that she could start taking it off and shoving it in the waistband of her tights.
She sighed deeply, mentally preparing herself for the chill she would face when she exited the car. She pulled on her neck warmer, headband, and gloves, took one last glance at her cell phone to ensure she hadn’t missed any calls or texts, then opened the door.
The blast of cold air she expected caused her to gasp, but she quickly recovered. After latching her GPS onto her wrist, she shut the door and pressed the lock button on her keychain. Without a second thought, she reached under her car and set her keys on top of the front left wheel. She knew she didn’t need to lock the car. This road didn’t get much traffic, let alone thieves, but her expensive new cell phone was in there and she didn’t want to risk it.
For no other reason except to make her car appear less abandoned, she walked around it brushing the fresh snow from the edges of the windshield, hood, and trunk. Not that anyone would call and have it towed, she thought, surely it would be fine parked here for an hour or so.
Megan walked hesitantly from the car, glancing back one last time, rubbing her hands then stretching from side to side before hitting the start button on her GPS and breaking into a brisk run heading north.

Lyndsy’s delicate right hand pinched the top corner of the page in anticipation of turning it. Surrounded by stuffed animals collected since birth, her room resembled a shrine to the life a spoiled little girl unaware of her womanhood. As she lay on her stomach, her left hand balanced her head in her palm and her bent legs rocked gently back and forth to the rhythm of her lovely story.
Completely entranced by her book, the rush of a snowplow barreling past her house jarred her back to reality. When the noise faded into the distance, only the soft ticking of the Grandfather clock remained and Lindsey fell back into her fantasy world once more.

Pokeberry Road did not disappoint Megan’s expectations. Its narrowness made her feel like she was running down a paved path in a state park. Except for the occasional home or barn, the sides of the road mostly surrounded her with woods and very few signs of human beings.
Eagle Creek ran alongside most of the road winding itself under the roadway several times. She had spotted several white-tailed deer prancing up the steep hills along the west side. When she got to the end of the road, where Pokeberry ran into Porter Lane, she hesitantly turned around, wishing it could go on forever.
Just minutes after turning to run the three miles back to her car, the clouds crowded out the sun and heavy flakes of snow began to fall in slow motion in front of her. It created a hauntingly beautiful image that drew her in and fed her imagination.
Where the road passed over the creek, short bridges greeted her with gorgeous views. So gorgeous, in fact, that Megan did something she seldom every did—she stopped in the middle of her run just to take in her surroundings. A rush of loneliness swept over her as she peered out over the trickling water.
Questions plagued her: where is she now? Can she see me?
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