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Hitchhiker

Author(s): Audra Middleton

Former army brat, Ainsley Benton, may have finally found her place in this world, and it’s among the freaks. This small town art teacher has the ability to see, hear, and feel what other people are experiencing, and now the FBI’s freak squad wants to use her “human bug” abilities to catch bad guys. Despite her fear of commitment, failure, and responsibility, Ainsley temporarily agrees to join this team of misfits, and ends up risking her life to investigate a conspiracy that may only be one of her schizophrenic coworker’s paranoid delusions.

Excerpt


“It’s him. Watch Harris for the signal.”
 
Ainsley swallowed her gum and crossed her legs. No pee break for me. Need to invest in some Depends. After five minutes of rocking back and forth in her seat, hands death-gripped to the upholstery, Ainsley heard Claudia announce that Jack had been successful. When Claudia started up the Suburban, Ainsley nearly lost her bladder control battle.
 
“Are you sure? I’m not getting anything. Won’t he notice this monstrosity following him?” she rambled.
 
Artemus placed a giant, reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Claudia knows what she’s doing. Besides, this is Idaho. Anything that gets better than eight miles per gallon would stand out.”
 
They followed Jones to his shop, parking at the bowling alley across the street. Ainsley watched the skinhead leader take a sip of his coffee as he entered his auto-repair shop.
 
“I might pee,” she whimpered, wiggling her feet.
 
“I might punch you.” Claudia’s tone indicated there was no “might” about it.
 
“It’s scary and exciting and I have a bladder the size of a walnut. What do you want from me?” Ainsley sucked in a loud breath and held up her hands before Claudia could respond. “Wait! I’m getting something.”
 
She sat back in her seat, pupils dilated, taking shallow breaths. Prior to joining the DII, most of Ainsley’s hitchhiking experiences were brief, fuzzy, and dreamlike. She found blood-borne hitchhiking much more intense. It felt awkward, a bit like wearing a full-body Halloween costume, only having no control over what she looked at, touched, or tasted while wearing it.
 
Ainsley felt her own senses deaden as the images from Jones began to sharpen into focus. It was dizzying and disorienting being moved around without warning or will. Ainsley deduced that Jones was sitting behind a large metal desk in an office best described as organized chaos. The walls were littered with paper—pricing guides for auto parts, phone lists for parts dealers, employees, and customers, posters of hot rods straddled by trashy women, and maps. His desk held the usual office supplies—stacks of invoices and pink phone messages, as well as a few pieces of Nazi memorabilia.
 
“Well, what do you see?” Artemus asked, his voice distant, like it was coming from the end of a long tunnel.
 
Ainsley swatted at Artemus, shushing. Jones was talking to someone and she was trying to make out what he was saying. She hadn’t done as well with the audio portion of her abilities as she did with the visual; voices tended to sound like the grown-ups on Charlie Brown cartoons, but she was learning to interpret the garbled sounds.
 
Ainsley felt herself lifting out of Jones’ chair, following a scruffy guy built like a fireplug out of the room. The two skinheads headed into the garage area, which was full of cars, parts, and tools, and Ainsley could only hear muffled voices among the buzzing and clinking of metal.
 
“He left his office and went into the garage with someone. I can hardly hear with the background noise. Tinkering and whirring.”
 
“We might get lucky. They talk the incriminating stuff in noisy areas to drown out possible bugs.”
 
Ainsley groaned. “It’s working. I don’t know...they’re talking about the bus station downtown.”
 
Artemus raised his eyebrows. “Why would they blow up a bus station?”
 
“To piss on Rosa Parks’ memory—who the heck knows?” Ainsley rubbed her throbbing temples, trying to put her own senses on the back burner and tune in to Jones in the garage. The smell of exhaust and dirty oil filled her nose.
 
“You took care of the locker rentals, I assume?” Ainsley felt Jones’ gravelly voice rumble in his throat.
 
“Wait—lockers. Sshh! Dammit, why can’t these A-holes enunciate? Sorry—I swear a lot when I’m stressed.”
 
Ainsley stopped rambling and sat frozen, trying to make out the conversation Jones was having with the stocky guy in greasy coveralls who was leaning against a workbench. They were talking in subtleties: special orders, packages, deliverers.
 
“I’m not so sure about Justin. He’s asking a lot of questions,” Coveralls mumbled.
 
“Never a good sign,” Jones said, rubbing his chin. “We got other options? Ricky seems eager to deliver a package.”
 
“Eager an’ dumb as a post. Nah. Justin’ll pull through. He’s a soldier.”
 
Ainsley’s attention to the conversation waned as the large black man in the seat next to her began to fidget nervously.
 
“We’re almost out of time. What do you see? Maps? Calendars? We need dates and places,” Artemus’ voice nagged from the distance.
 
“I’m trying. I didn’t see any pins on his maps and the wall calendar was from 2009. Now shut up, I think I’ve got something here.”
 
Coveralls leaned forward, speaking in a deep whisper that was barely audible. “The packages are almost ready. One for each locker, a locker for each soldier. We’ll get them the keys and tickets to their final destinations the morning of, no sooner.”
 
Ainsley leaned forward, straining to hear, grabbing Artemus by the arm. “Oh-oh-oh! I get it! I think they’re leaving the bombs in the bus lockers. The bombers will pick up their ‘packages’ from the lockers and leave for their targets from there, by bus!”
 
Artemus scribbled frantically. “When? What targets?”
 
Ainsley began hopping up and down in her seat, panicking as the sounds and images began to fade. “I don’t know—shit, shit, shit!” As the image dissolved like chalk in water, Jones reentered his office, and Ainsley caught a glimpse of his desktop. A surge of adrenalin tickled her gut as she strained to read the note scrawled there. “Wait! July fourth.”
 
“July fourth? Are you sure?”
 
Ainsley shielded her eyes from the blinding sunlight and leaned her aching head against the cool window. “No. But his desk calendar had the word ‘boom’ written on July fourth.”
 
Artemus grunted. “Yeah—Nazi wannabe wants to put on his own fireworks display. Too bad he’s gonna lose his independence on Independence Day.”
 
Claudia piped up. “Unless the desk calendar is from 2009, too.”
 
“Stop talking. And breathe quieter. And get me to a bathroom before my bladder explodes.”

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 9781771550192
Genre: Paranormal
Date Published: 11/04/2013
Publisher: BURST

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