Near the end of their honeymoon trip across Oregon, Sam Stanley, his new wife Lynn, and her one-year-old son Andy, traverse a steep mountain road in a rented RV. In the middle of a blind curve they run over a long roll of carpeting angled across the road. Sam barely manages to avoid crashing the huge vehicle down the mountainside. When he walks back up the road to move the obstacle—it’s gone. Upon returning home to Austin, Sam learns that the crushed body of a business executive from Boulder, Colorado has been found at the site of their reported accident. There is no roll of carpet.
“Could’ve been, I guess. But the storm clouds are gone. I can see stars now.”
They both watched the tree top and sky for a moment.
“We need to keep moving.”
Lynn nodded and started forward.
They walked on down the trail, passing through alternating patches of moonlight and shadow. The low hum from up ahead was becoming more like a rumble. There was an ominous sense of power in the sound that made Sam’s stomach want to roll.
Then he saw the light.
A large white spot flashed across the brush to his left. He stopped and watched. The light became brighter, more focused. First one tree trunk and then the next lit up briefly as the beam of light swung through the woods.
“He’s back,” Lynn cried out behind him.
The light sank lower on the tree trunks and then vanished completely. The approaching vehicle must have dropped into a dip in the trail behind them. It was hard to guess how far behind.
“How can he be coming from that direction, Sam? From behind us.”
“That fork in the trail, back near the cabin. That must be another way in here.”
Sam bounced Andy higher on his hip to get a better grip and then turned back in the direction they had been going.
“Let’s get around this next curve, find a place to hide.”
He walked fast, with long strides. In spite of her limp Lynn kept up fairly well as they followed the ruts around a gentle curve. After about fifty feet, the trail straightened and started down a slight incline. Sam slowed and squinted into the patchy moonlight, trying to make sense of what he saw ahead of them. The white gravel tire ruts they had been following appeared to go straight for a short distance and then disappear into an expanse of open moonlight. It looked to Sam like the world ended a few yards ahead. The rumbling sound was coming from beyond the edge.
He took a couple more slow steps forward before the white beam of light suddenly reappeared, lighting up the woods to his left. It provided enough diffuse light down the trail for Sam to clearly see what lie ahead. From where he stood, the trail continued for a few feet and then abruptly ended. Or more correctly, he realized, it submerged. A dark churning mass of water flowed across from his right to his left. Sam could feel a cool mist on his face.
They had found the creek Sam remembered crossing on the way to Martin’s cabin. Only it was no longer a wide shallow creek, but a raging torrent. Although the heavy rains had ended, all that accumulated water still had to go somewhere. In this hilly terrain the floodwater sought lower ground with amazing speed and force.
Sam felt Andy’s arm tighten around his neck. Lynn came up beside him and squinted in the low light at a pile of white foam tumbling by a few feet away. All three seemed mesmerized by the surging rise and fall of the water. Then they were suddenly lit up from behind. Their long skinny shadows stretched out across the surface of the water, but never quite found the opposite shore of the swollen creek.
Sam and Lynn turned just as the source of the light came into view. Two incredibly bright headlights topped by small orange running lights. The body of the vehicle was not yet visible, but there was little doubt that it would prove to be the big white van.
Norm Brown was born and raised in Groves, a small town at the very southeastern corner of Texas. He earned a degree in physics from Lamar University, but a science career was not in the cards. Instead Norm got in on the ground floor of the rapid expansion of computers beginning in the 1970′s and has enjoyed a long, successful career in programming and analysis, living and working in Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, Wichita, Boulder, and finally Austin.
As an avid reader of mystery and suspense, however, Norm always had an unexpressed desire to see his own words in print and to entertain people with stories from his imagination. Carpet Ride is his first novel to be published.
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