The Rescue (The Running Suspense Series #4)Diane Strong / Horror / Thrillers & Crime
By Diane Strong
Installment Four of The Running Suspense Series
Copyright Diane Strong 2012
Also available by this author:
Out and Back
The Running Suspense Series:
The Run #1
Falcon Point #2
The Other Way #3
Reservoir Run #5
Merry Christmas Mr. Saunders #6
This story is dedicated to my mother in-law, Kay, who always supports me by buying my books.
‘Sure am going to miss you guys while I’m out exploring the good ol’ U.S. of A on a train over the next 12 days. Don’t work too hard! My vacation starts in 3, 2, 1…’
Luke Randal, a 57 year old engineer sits in his office at the computer. He hits ‘enter’ and his current status becomes visible to all of his co-workers and friends on Facebook. He shuts down his computer, stands up from his desk, and pushes his chair in.
As a shy man, partially balding on the very top of his head, Luke carries his six-foot-two body timidly, making him appear much smaller than he actually is. As he walks down the corridor to the exit, he sees a smiling co-worker walking toward him and worries himself about having to talk to the man.
“Hey, Luke! Off on vacation I hear. What do you need a vacation for anyway, don’t you retire in less than a year?” The co-worker tilts his head with a happy expression on his face.
“A year and three months. I’m counting down the days. Not soon enough though, so I’m gonna use my vacation time.” Luke speaks softly, touching his dainty hands to his ear nervously.
“Lucky bastard. What have you got planned, the beach again?” The man stands holding a stack of papers and speaks quickly as if in a hurry.
Loosening up now, Luke lets the excitement he feels feed his ability to converse. “No, no beach this time. I’m headed on a train. I’ll get on tomorrow and head west. Twelve days total. I’m pretty excited, I‘ve never been on a train.” Luke’s heart jumps a little with the thought of vacation and adventure, then hitches when he remembers he will be alone on the trip.
“That sounds great, Luke. You have a great time. I’ll see you in two weeks.”
He nods and turns, then starts heading back down the hall, relieved that the conversation is over.
Luke gently drives his little car into his garage and pushes a button causing his garage door to roll down. Gathering his lunchbox and mail, he climbs out of his car. After pushing his car door closed, he wipes the fingerprints away with his shirt sleeve.
Inside the tidy kitchen a sleek gray cat jumps from the counter and runs to Luke’s leg as he enters. They both relish the reunion.
“How is my beautiful girl, huh? How is Sheba today?” Quickly putting his things on the counter, he reaches down and scoops into his arms cradling her and pets her purposefully. “You are such a good kitty, Sheba. I bet you want a treat don’t you? Is that the only reason you like me, because I give you treats?” He walks over to the cupboard and pulls out a bag of treats. The cat begins a soft cry mixed with a purr.
The cat is leftover from his 21 year marriage. There is a special bond between him and this animal that also shared his wife. Because of this, he feels a huge responsibility when it comes to caring for it. Losing this cat would mean losing the last piece of her…so Sheba gets the best he is able to give.
Standing at the counter, Luke stares at a piece of paper containing a numbered list of things to do for his trip. He strokes the cat while reading through it.
“We need to find your feeder, Sheba, and your automatic waterer. Let’s see…” Crouching down, still holding the cat, he opens one of his cupboards. “Here they are.” He pulls them out one by one and sets them in the sink. “I need to put you down so I can wash them. I don’t want you eating or drinking out of dirty dishes.” Setting her down gently, he starts running the water.
Luke holds a hose on the side of his house spraying water on his perennials. Another piece of his past. They had planted this part of the garden together the year before the diagnosis. That evening is still so clear in his mind. She was gorgeous the way the light caught her hair and her delicate hands worked the earth. As the sun began to set, pink streaking in the sky, they had drunk wine to celebrate their accomplishment.
A squat older woman wobbles up to him from the neighboring house.
“Those flowers are looking good, Luke. You sure have a green thumb. Are you off on your trip tomorrow?” She wipes her hands on her apron.
“Sure am. I’m about set. You sure you don’t mind throwing some water on my flowers while I’m gone, Doris?” Luke lets up on the sprayer and walks the hose to the spigot.
“Not at all, dear. You go have fun on your train ride. You want me to go in and check on Sheba while you’re gone too?” She scoops up some hose and drags it toward the hanger to help him.
“Naw. She has her feeder and automatic water. She uses her cat door and goes to the bathroom outside. She could take care of herself indefinitely if she had to. Besides, she stresses out when people come into the house. I think she’d be happier left alone. But thanks for offering.”
In preparation for leaving tomorrow, Luke carefully lays out his clothes to make matching outfits on the bed then neatly folds them into tight individual piles. Moving his lips as he goes, he counts out underwear and socks then pulls out a couple pairs of running shorts. There should be plenty of chances to run at the layovers.
This trip is both difficult and easy. The first year he took a trip without her was one of the most difficult things he had ever done. For twenty-one years they had taken a vacation together, never the same place twice. Since they had no children– she was unable – they seemed to have more love available for each other.
He puts all of his things neatly into his suitcase. A toiletries bag sits on the bathroom counter ready to go as soon as he finishes showering in the morning. Before going to bed he pulls out a set of running clothes and sets them on top of his running shoes. He’ll go for a nice long run in the morning before he has to leave for the train at noon.
Luke flicks the lamp on, turns off the overhead light and climbs into bed, just exactly the same way he does every night. A book awaits him on the nightstand. He picks it up and opens it to page two-hundred and three, remembering the many nights he shared with his wife. Reading was such a sweet part of their nightly ritual, their quiet time before bed, a special moment shared after a hectic day.
Sheba comes flitting into the room, hops up on the bed and kneads the blanket that lies over his stomach. She moves in a circle just before laying herself down. Luke picks up his hand and sets it on her back.