16 - That Was Close! 

Damian closed the door behind himself and gave it a quick tug to make sure it was latched as Eileen punched in a code on the keypad to activate the alarm system. “You know, I don’t usually act this impulsively, but when I first met you, I sensed an aura around you that I’ve never seen before,” Eileen said. She threw her arms around Damian, pressed up against him, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. Smirking ever so slightly, Damian replied, “And here I thought it was the uniform…”.   

The couple headed down the short path to the driveway when Damian stopped and turned to Eileen. “Eileen, you need to understand. If I follow through on the information you gave me today, all hell is going to break loose! I mean, you’re going to get dragged into something you may wish you avoided.” “Trust me, Damian, I do understand, but if I didn’t act, I would never hear the end of it from Lizzy. She’s convinced the sheriff has always had it in for Barry. The crash that day was the final episode of that saga.”  

“Well, if all this checks out, the sheriff is in deep trouble. At the very least, he’s got a public relations nightmare on his hands. He may also be facing wrongful death suits from the crash victims,” Damian said. “Lizzy won’t have to get involved, will she, Damian?” “Probably not, but I can’t say for sure. Her being a minor complicates things. Best not to worry about that right now. I need to discuss it with my boss before we go any further.”  

“What about us?” Eileen asks. Damian gathers Eileen’s hands in his. “Oh yeah, that,” Damian says. “Well, it’s best we don’t meet for a while - at least not like we did today. I’ll call you in a few days to give you an update.” “Ok, you be careful, Damian. I hope today doesn’t complicate things for you.” “No way, Eileen. What I do on my own time in nobody’s business.” Damian knows this isn’t true, and the look on Eileen’s face shows she doesn’t buy his statement either, but neither of them wants to worry about that right now. They both drive off from the Jankins lake house just as the sun sets below the Chemehuevi Mountains to the west. 

  

On his way back to Yuma, Damian started to formulate a plan for how he would respond when someone asks him how he obtained the information about the sheriff. He knows they’ll ask about his relationship with the person he got the information from. He’ll figure all that out later. Right now, he just wants to get home and get some rest. He’s been up since 2 a.m. the night before investigating the crash in Salome, and the all-day escapade with Eileen has worn him out. 

Barry looked around the dark expanse. He can’t see well through the dim haze, but he knows it’s a large space. He can hear the din of squeaking and fluttering high above him. ‘Am I in a giant cave?’ he asks himself. Abruptly, his inquisition is interrupted. “Hey, buddi boy! Yo ex been cheatin on you. Wit a copper no less!” Suddenly Barry realizes he’s still in the grip of the evil force that has held him captive for what seems like forever. Though he’s not as terrified by the menacing specter as he once was, he still has no idea how to break free. 

Barry looked down and began to gather thoughts. Then looking up, he realized he’s no longer in the dark cave. He’s sitting shotgun in a big rig. He turned to look through the truck's back window and noticed it’s hauling all sorts of gas cylinders on a flatbed trailer - dozens of cylinders. The driver is an older gentleman. Hispanic, maybe in his early 50s. The man is listening to the radio and singing along to a tune being played. Barry can sense his evil captor is in the cab with him, but he doesn’t know exactly where it is. 

Damian passed under the 1-10 overpass and drove past the Quartzsite RV Show site. This area is hopping during January and February, but this time of year, it’s pretty quiet. He spots an older, heavy-set woman struggling to get a flat tire off her Oldsmobile Astro Van. He pulls up behind her and turns on his flood lamps to provide better lighting than the woman’s Coleman lantern. As he gets out of his patrol cruiser, the woman stops what she’s doing and walks back toward him. “Hi, officer! Do you have a lug wrench I can borrow? I lost my lug wrench back in Arkansas, and all I have is this socket wrench.” “I might have one. Let me check my trunk,” Damian responds. He walks to the back of the cruiser, opens the trunk, and begins searching for the lug wrench. 

The driver turns the dial on the radio when he notices a glow reflecting off the truck’s dashboard. He turned to look back for the interior cab light, thinking he might have turned it on inadvertently when he noticed a glow coming from the passenger seat in the cab. At first, it was just kind of a big blob, but the longer he stared, the more the shape formed into a man. Suddenly, the driver begins to feel a tug on the steering wheel of his big rig. The truck starts drifting off the roadway and onto the shoulder. As hard as the driver tries to steer the truck back onto the highway, the steering wheel just won’t respond. As the driver looks up from the steering wheel, he notices an Arizona Highway Patrol cruiser and a minivan parked on the shoulder. He’s headed straight for them. 

The woman looks beyond the patrol cruiser and notices a big rig rumbling down the shoulder, heading straight for them. “What the hell! Officer, watch out!” she screams. Damian pops his head out of the trunk and looks back quickly, noticing the truck heading directly toward them. He looks back at the woman, who was now standing very erect and frozen with fear. He rushes around his car and heads for the woman to get her out of harm’s way. 

The driver tries turning the wheel with all his might one last time. He’s less than fifty yards from the back of the police cruiser. Just then, the iridescent blob sitting next to him swooshes in front of him and out the side window. Instantly, the man controls the steering wheel again, and he cranks it hard to the right. The sudden movement almost tips the truck and its trailer on its side before it careens off the shoulder, barely missing the parked vehicles. Out of control, the truck slams into a guard shack at the service entrance to the RV Show site and erupts into a massive fireball. 

  

To be continued…

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