Esther Velez

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The Watchtower: Episode 6

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EPISODE SIX: Detour

Toby’s car was uncomfortable and it smelled of vanilla. Lincoln sat in the back, fiddling with the seatbelt, trying to lower the window and lock the door at the same time, but nothing was working.

Didn’t this guy make enough money for a decent car? Or is he pooling all his funds for Lyn’s wardrobe?

“Do any of these seat belts work back here?”

Toby turned around. “They should. I’ve never sat back there, so I don’t know.”

Lincoln sighed. “It’s alright. You’re a good driver. I won’t die,” he said, sarcastically. Toby was perfect in everything. The only thing he’d done wrong was marry Lyn.

He leaned forward in his seat as they pulled out of the community. Black jeeps lined the entrance, with bright lights set up all around them. Dozens of suited men with dark shades and earpieces paced the sidewalks.

This is serious.

Toby brought his car to a stop at the entrance of the neighborhood. A man stepped up and motioned for him to lower his window.

“Good evening, sir. You’ve heard of the quarantine?”

“Yes, sir,” Toby said, nodding. “We’re heading down to Homestead to find my sister-in-law, but we’ll be back in less than an hour.”

“Okay,” the man replied. “You’ve got five hours to make it back. We’ll be doing medical checks on anyone trying to get inside again. If one of you is sick, we won’t let you back in.”

“We’re all fine, sir,” Lyn said, leaning forward. “None of us are sick.”

The man frowned. “We’ll let our medical team make the call when you get back. For now, I suggest you move as quickly as possible.”

“Thank you, sir, and we will.” Toby lowered his window. The man he’d been talking to motioned for an opening and they drove out of the community.

“They’ve got a medical team? This is really serious.”

“I’d say so. Now, Lincoln,” Toby said, glancing at him in the rear view mirror. “How do we get to Homestead?”

“It’ll take us a few minutes to get to the highway from here. You’ve just to keep going straight.”

Toby’s face turned green. Lyn turned around in her seat.

“We can’t take the highway,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Toby won’t be able to drive on it.”

Lincoln swallowed a laugh. Mr. Perfect can’t drive on the highway? What kind of nonsense is this?

“Why can’t you drive on the highway, Toby?”

“I can drive on it,” he replied, “but I don’t prefer it.”

“Well, I don’t prefer taking the long way to find my missing sister.”

“Lincoln, stop being silly,” Lyn said. “We’ve got five hours to find her. If we take the US-1, we’ll get there in less than half an hour.”

“Or you can let me drive and we’ll get there sooner.”

“Show me where the US-1 is, Lincoln,” Toby said, raising his voice. “Let’s not waste any more time on this argument.”

“You’re crazy, Toby, do you know that?” He pointed out the window. “We have to make a left.”

*****

Jamison stood in his driveway, arms crossed. His children hadn’t listened to him and had driven off. Nothing he could do about it now. Rosemarie would come back home on her own, and they’d figure it out after wasting five hours searching for her. Jamison knew his daughter would come back home. That’s what she had always done. She was still the same little girl he’d watched run away from home year after year, only to return home by the end of the day.

He sighed.

I should probably find out who is in charge here.

He didn’t want to leave his fate to a man in a blue suit who didn’t really care about this community. While Jamison didn’t know everyone here, he’d lived here long enough to care for a few of them.

Emmy was inside, making a checklist of all the supplies they had and what they still needed. He hated the thought of leaving her, but she would be safe. He’d told her to lock the door and not open it for anyone. He had his own set of keys, and there was a hidden one for the kids if they needed it.

With his hands in his pockets and his head up high, Jamison walked to the Main Office of the community. He had been living in Goulds Point for over twenty five years. He smiled as he remembered the first time he set foot in the door of his new home. The house smelled of eggs because the pipes still weren’t used to running water through them. Emmy had been with him then, and he held her hand as he led her through the rest of the house.

This is the garage, for your car and mine. If they both don’t fit, I can always park in the driveway.

This is the huge kitchen so you have enough space for when you cook.

These are the four rooms, so each kid can have their own room. I think Lincoln would like this room over here. You know how he likes to watch the street.

This room back here is ours. It’s got its own bathroom and a walk-in closet.

I’m telling you, Emmy, this place is amazing.

They had such dreams for the house. Their kids were going to have friends over all the time. They could invite all their extended family now that they didn’t live in a tiny little apartment. Emmy wanted to host a Bible Study on Tuesdays after the kids left for school. He was going to teach Lincoln how to throw a football, now that they had a huge backyard to play in. It was going to be great. But the future came too soon and swallowed up their hopes and dreams, leaving behind the bones of chaos and destruction. He’d vainly hoped for something different, but if today’s events were anything at all, they were a reminder that things couldn’t be fixed over a birthday dinner or a going away party.

Changing the heart requires time and dedication, and it’s something you can’t do on your own.

His pastor had told him that during a counseling session one Sunday evening. The pastor had been talking about Emmy’s heart, but Jamison knew it applied to his own heart and his children’s hearts as well. It’d taken him almost five years to forgive her, and he knew she was still dealing with some of the guilt. It hadn’t been easy choosing to stay, but he was ready to make good on his promise to take her for better or worse. And things would only get worse. But he’d made it. He may have lost his children for the moment, but he wasn’t finished with them.

*****

“So what do you want to do with your life?” Toby asked Lincoln, looking at him in the rear view mirror.

Lincoln frowned. “I don’t know,” he replied, turning to the window. “Is this really the time for a conversation about my future?”

“I think now is as good a time as any. We’ve still got a ways to go.”

“Well, I love eating food and hanging out at the gym, if that means anything.”

“No, no,” Toby said, shaking his head. “I mean, what are your dreams for yourself? Is there anything you love doing and if you could just do it for the rest of your life, you’d be content?”

Lincoln laughed. “You married a dreamer, didn’t you, Lyn?”

“I married a man with direction and purpose, which is more than can be said of you.”

Lincoln laughed again. “Toby, I don’t know. I’m still a young lad. I have enough time to figure that out, don’t I?”

“You’re twenty years old, Lincoln. You’ve got to man up and do something with your life.”

“Whatever, Toby,” Lincoln said, suddenly feeling defensive. Who was this guy to tell him that he needed to do something with his life? They never even talked! Who did he think he was?

“Listen, Lincoln, I’m sorry if I came off a little harsh,” Toby said after a moment of silence. “It’s just that you remind me of myself when I was younger. Talking to Misty put things in perspective for me.”

“Oh, so you were a player?” Lincoln leaned forward. “Lyn, you’d better cover your ears. Wouldn’t want you to ruin your image of your perfect man.”

“Lincoln, you are so immature.”

“I wasn’t exactly like you, Lincoln,” Toby continued, “but I recognize some of your attitudes and ideas as my own. And all I can say is that I needed to leave those behind if I was to grow up.”

“I don’t care, Toby,” Lincoln said. This man had no right telling him anything. Lincoln knew he wouldn’t listen to anything Toby said, so it was useless to continue.

The car grew silent.

Lyn turned on the radio.

“We have confirmed that this infection is spreading rapidly throughout the state of Florida. It is uncertain if it has its origins there. Regardless, it is doing its damage. The death toll is already in the hundreds.”

“That’s pretty crazy,” Lincoln said. “Hundreds of people dead? Isn’t that what happened with the whole bird flu nonsense? Or the e coli thing?”

“Well, this is obviously more serious than those outbreaks,” Toby replied. “They’ve got the government working to preserve uninfected areas. That goes to show how bad it really is.”

“I just don’t understand why we are only now hearing about this,” Lyn said, shaking her head. “Why hasn’t something this big been on the news before now?”

“Uh, because it’s a government conspiracy,” Lincoln said matter-of-factly. Lyn nodded and switched off the radio, leaving the car in silence once again.

Blue and red lights ahead caught his attention.

“Hey, what’s that up there?”

Toby leaned forward against the wheel. “The police,” he said. “It looks like they’ve set up some sort of roadblock.”

“This is just great,” Lincoln mumbled. “We should’ve taken the highway. And you could’ve let me drive,” he said in response to what he knew Lyn was about to say. She was that predictable.

“Well, it looks like we’re going to have to find a new way to get to Homestead,” Toby said as they came to a stop. Lincoln could see the roadblock clearly now. There would be no getting down south using the US-1.

“Do you know any alternate routes?” Lyn asked, turning in her seat. She had never spent any of her time in Homestead. She had always told him that Homestead was too low class for her, whatever that meant, and she spent most of her free time downtown. Lincoln liked the idea of having more knowledge than her.

He looked around. “We can make a right at the next light. That’ll take us down 248, which we can use to make our way further south.”

“Okay,” Toby said, pushing the gas when the light turned green. “I hope that roadblock isn’t part of a quarantine.”

“And if it is?” Lincoln asked.

Toby turned around in his seat to look him in the eye. “We’ll find your sister, Lincoln. It doesn’t matter if we have to go right in the middle of a quarantine or an infected area. We will find Rosemarie.”

Lincoln raised an eyebrow when his brother-in-law returned his attention to the road.

He was impressed.

 *****

When she opened her eyes, she could only see three things: her hands, her fingers, and the rope tied around her wrist. Wherever she was, thin beams of light trained on her arms but illuminated nothing else. She tried to move her body but couldn’t.

Am I sitting down? Or am I standing up?

She couldn’t tell. The small beam of light flickered in and out of view. She felt her chest constricting as panic set in. She didn’t know where she was, or how she had gotten here. She couldn’t even remember who she was.

No, no, that wasn’t true. She knew who she was, at least, she knew her name.

Rosemarie, she thought. My name is Rosemarie.

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1 Comment

  1. What!? Was Rosemarie Kidnapped! This is getting intense. I have this tension building because of the mysterious air surrounding this virus which has been reported to have killed hundreds of people in Florida alone. I’m really enjoying this series! Keep’em coming!

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