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Dimensions in Death. Book 3
By The Brothers Washburn
Jolly Fish PressCopyright © 2016 Andy Washburn and Berk Washburn
All rights reserved.
The bouncing headlights lit up misshapen, ghost-like creatures on both sides of the narrow desert road ahead. Each white shape moved independently of the others, undulating in its own strange dance. Camm slowed the old car to a stop, eyes narrowed, studying this new threat.
Martha gasped and quickly rolled up her window. "What are those things? Is this something else you forgot to tell me about?"
Camm took a deep breath and rolled her window up, too. "No, Martha. I told you everything I knew when we were locked up in the mansion and you were recovering from the car wreck. I'm not going to hide anything from you ever again."
Camm stared at the moving shapes. "With all the weird stuff going on in Trona lately, I thought I'd seen it all, but I've never seen anything like this."
Martha had been stranded in the Mojave Desert all summer, working under tight military supervision as a legal intern for the U.S. Federal Government at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center. Camm was aghast when she discovered Martha had not gotten out to visit any of the local tourist sites, especially the Trona Pinnacles in Searles Valley. Often used as an exotic setting for television commercials and big budget movies, Trona's Pinnacles had to be seen firsthand to be believed, and Camm wanted Martha to see them.
For several weeks, Camm had been hiding with Agent Linda Allen in Ridgecrest, but she was restless and secretly contacted Martha almost daily. Martha was glad for the chance to talk with Camm, but had initially resisted Camm's pressure to take a trip to the Pinnacles, pointing out, "It's not safe there. All of Searles Valley is quarantined because of the giant predators coming over from the alternate world to hunt for prey. The police have set up blockades on all paved roads.
"Besides, Agent Allen says the nationwide manhunt for you has been turned over to the military and you must stay in your safe house. If we go to Trona, we'll either get eaten by a monster or arrested and sent to prison, like Cal. Sneaking into Searles Valley is the dumbest idea ever."
Fortunately, if anyone could talk Martha into doing something dumb, it was Camm. When Camm heard that their common friend, Kissie Justenough, the tomboy daughter of Trona's zealous evangelical preacher, had been talking to Martha about the Pinnacles, Camm would not let it go. "Come on! Besides me, Kissie has been your best friend this summer. And now, even she says you have to see the Pinnacles. I'm sure she wouldn't lead you astray.
"I started babysitting the Justenough kids when I was ten years old. Kissie was sharp as a tack as a kid, and she has only gotten smarter with age. If Kissie told you about a forgotten road that will take us undetected through the empty desert directly to the Pinnacles, we can trust her. She knows this desert like the back of her hand.
"Besides, the police have no reason to be prowling around desolate wastelands. They've got other things to do, like man roadblocks on major roads."
Only after Camm promised to stay clear of paved roads and police barricades did Martha agree to take a quick trip to see the Pinnacles. "Remember, we can't stay long and have to come straight back with no side trips. This is only a sightseeing trip. Right?"
Camm smiled. "If not, I'd tell you. No hidden agendas here."
Because Camm was a fugitive from the law, they arranged to meet secretly after Martha got off work. Camm drove them out into the desert in a beat-up, old car that Martha borrowed from a friend on the base, searching for Kissie's secret way into Searles Valley. Unfortunately, finding the right road was not easy. The desert there was crisscrossed with old dirt roads going in all directions.
For hours, Camm tried one desert road after the other, but all either dead-ended in the mountains west of Searles Valley or turned away without going into the valley. Only after the sun had gone down did she finally find the washed-out excuse for a road, an old trail, really, that seemed to lead them into the southern end of Searles Valley. But by then it was too late.
Camm glanced apologetically over at Martha. "We've run out of time for this trip to the Pinnacles. We may have found the right road, but with no moon I can't tell for sure. I can't see anything past our headlights." She grimaced. "And now, it seems this particular road is guarded by a horde of floating apparitions. What are those things up there? Can you tell?"
Martha groaned. "I don't know why I let you talk me into this trip. We should have headed back as soon as it got dark. You will be the death of me."
Camm slowly let out the clutch and started the car rolling forward again.
Immediately, Martha panicked. "Camelot! Where are you going?"
Frustrated, Camm shook her auburn hair, her green eyes flashing at Martha. "Okay, I admit I was wrong! I don't know where I'm going or how to find Kissie's secret road. But, don't call me Camelot. You know I hate that."
Taking a deep breath, Camm continued, "Believe me, I really am heading home. But first, I've got to find a wide spot in the road where I can turn this car around without getting stuck in the sand. If we don't get back soon, you'll violate curfew and Agent Allen will call out the cavalry on me."
"Why can't we just back up?" Martha glanced quickly back and forth between Camm and the white creatures floating along both sides of the road ahead. "We should stay as far away from those ghost things as possible. Please don't drive any closer!"
Again, Camm stopped the car. "Martha, really! There are no such things as ghosts. I can't see well enough to back up. I have to go forward to turn this car around, so we might as well get a closer look at these mysterious specters and figure out what we're dealing with — I think this is some kind of debris blowing in the wind. But, to be safe, we'll keep the windows rolled up tight, doors locked, and I'll drive fast if we think we're in danger."
Slowly, Camm started forward again.
"You never listen ..." Martha started to exclaim, but stopped to stare as the car rolled by the first billowy form on her side of the road. "Is that some kind of huge cocoon?"
"No. Worse." Camm squinted at the white shape. "It's a spider web wrapped around a mesquite bush. The giant spiders must have taken over this area. See, lots of bushes here are wrapped up in webbing. Look! That web has something caught inside."
"Yeah, something's still alive. It's moving — trying to get out."
"What kind of animal do you think is in there?"
"It looks like a huge grasshopper ... it's got to be at least four feet long." Martha cringed. "If giant insects are now crossing over into our world, more giant spiders will cross over to feed on them. Oh, Camm! Things just keep getting worse and worse."
"Well, I've seen enough. Let's find a place to turn around and get out of here."
Further on, the headlights revealed a wide junction where several different roads crossed. "Look." Camm pointed. "We can turn around up there."
In the intersection, Camm maneuvered the car back and forth, working to turn the car little by little to face back in the direction they had just come. Because the car was front-wheel drive, she kept both front wheels on the hard-packed dirt road as much as possible.
Her concentration was broken only when Martha screeched, "Look out! Indians!"
Camm jerked the wheel and glanced up to see two shadowy forms disappear out of the headlights into the darkness of the night. While distracted, she inadvertently allowed the car's front end to slip off the edge of the road and out into the desert.
Muttering, Camm shifted into reverse and tried to slowly back up, but the tires only spun in place in the deep sand. "For heaven's sake, Martha! You scared the heck out of me. What were you yelling about?"
"Didn't you see them? Two Indians ran right by us."
"There are no Indians in Trona." Camm opened her door and stood up to look around.
"What are you doing, Camm? Shut the door! There are Indians out there."
Camm cupped her hands around her mouth and yelled, "Help! Who is out there? Can you help us? I think we're stuck in the sand."
No answer. She yelled several more times, but received no response. Finally dropping back down into the car, she turned to Martha. "What exactly did you see?"
"Two small Indians wearing only loin cloths and carrying spears. They were dark skinned with long, black braided hair, and the one closest to me had something painted on his face."
Camm stared incredulously at Martha and said flatly, "There are no Indians in Trona."
Martha slumped back in her seat. "Why can't you believe me? You think I'm crazy? Or lying? I'm sure you saw them yourself before they disappeared into the night. I have always been straight with you, never hidden anything or lied to you. Can you say the same to me?"
Martha turned to stare into Camm's eyes. "In order for a friendship to work, it has to work both ways. You intentionally misled me about the dangers here when you brought me to Trona after school let out, but I have always been up front with you and trusted you completely, so why would you think I'm not telling the truth about what I saw?"
Martha's eyes filled with tears and her next word caught in her throat.
Immediately, Camm reached over and pulled Martha in for a tight hug. "Martha, I am so sorry for bringing you to Trona without telling you all the crazy stuff going on here. It was my fault you missed your chance for a legal internship in Los Angeles. I'm the one who has made mistakes, not you. I appreciate your trust in me. You stuck by me, covered for me with the Feds. I don't doubt your trustworthiness one bit. But, more important than all that, I want you to know your friendship is worth more than all the money in the world to me, and I am so sorry if I don't show it."
Camm let go of Martha to finally pull her car door shut and lock it. "Okay, I know we're at risk here, but I need to clear up any doubts and declare my total loyalty to you, my best female friend forever."
Camm placed her right hand over her heart.
"Whatever happens I will never mislead you again or give you reason to doubt your trust in me. I never had a sister, but from now on I will be your sister, your soul sister, and will stick by you through thick or thin forever."
Martha now hugged Camm. "And, I declare my loyalty to you, my soul sister and best female friend forever. Let nothing ever come between us." She grinned. "Except maybe Cal."
Camm laughed. "Amen to that! Now let us figure out how to get out of this mess I got us into and back home safe and sound. I don't know how there could be Indians in Searles Valley, but I don't doubt you saw what you saw. I did see two human forms disappear into the darkness too.
"We need to get out of here, and not just because of spider-web traps and out-of-place Indians. The scent of rotting flesh or sulfur fumes is growing. Have you noticed?" Camm shuddered. "I don't know if the smell is coming from the chemical plant or the dead prey in the webs or from something much worse, but I feel an urgent need to leave right now."
Martha nodded solemnly. "Me too."
"Slide over here and take the wheel. I've got an idea."
Working together, Camm piled rocks under each tire while Martha carefully guided the car in reverse one inch at a time. All the while, both kept a look out for Indians and giant spiders. Martha spoke up occasionally, warning Camm about huge, dark forms moving around the spider-web traps in the distance, but nothing came near the car.
Once the front end was back on hard-packed dirt, Camm finished turning the car around. The smell of rotting flesh had gradually gotten much stronger. Camm didn't say anything to scare Martha, but she was now sure she was smelling the green rat. Without further delay, Camm started home as fast as she dared go in the dark on the washed-out, narrow desert road.
The moon was just coming up over the eastern mountains when Camm finally drove out onto a paved highway and sped off at full speed. In the clanking, rundown automobile, Camm was forced to drive slower than she would have liked, though it was plenty fast for Martha.
Arriving home before Agent Allen missed Camm and just in time for Martha's navy base curfew, the new soul sisters solemnly agreed that the lessons of the night's outing were intended for them alone and would remain their secret.
* * *
Cal finished a set of push-ups and started another set of sit-ups. In spite of his dreary surroundings, he was pumped. He had never been able to do so many push-ups and sit-ups in his life. With nothing else to do in his sparsely furnished cell, he'd devised a number of workout routines to strengthen all major muscle groups in his body based on what he was taught about physical fitness as a college freshman training with the Florida State football team.
To keep track of the passing days, he scratched marks on the floor in a corner of his cell behind his bed. He had no clock, but judging by the sunlight shining through his high, narrow window, he still had several hours before someone would slide his dinner plate through the slot at the bottom of his cell door. Except on cloudy days, the location of the small spot of sunlight on the wall opposite the window was a dependable indicator of approaching meal times. Food was always a big concern for Cal; in prison it had become a major event.
Cal's new world could be summed up as sleep, eat, work out and repeat. By trial and error, he had learned he would get a fresh plate of food three times a day — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — as long as he pushed his empty plate from the last meal through the slot in the door before his next meal arrived. He wished they served larger portions. Camm had always claimed his stomach was a bottomless pit, but no healthy male could survive on what he was now given to eat. Even scraping up every morsel, he was always hungry.
Cal also hungered for human companionship. He wished he had someone to talk to. Held in solitary confinement, he never saw anyone and no one had visited him in many days. Weren't there laws about this kind of thing? Human rights and all that stuff? He often wondered why his imprisonment was so severe. What harm could he do just talking to someone else?
Occasionally, someone pushed reading material through the slot, old magazines and paperbacks, but he had no television and got no mail from home or from anyone else. He was starved for news — news about the world in general, but especially news from home and news from Camm. His greatest fear was that they had captured Camm too, and she was now locked away in a cell similar to his own.
Cal knew that type of treatment would kill Camm for sure. Camm was so active, so quick to take charge and drag Cal into action, fighting for whatever she believed was right. Since childhood, they had been best friends, a team in whatever devilry they concocted. They were Team One.
For someone like Camm, so alive, intelligent, filled with positive energy, it would be a crime of the grossest sort to confine her, to lock her away and not allow her any contact with the rest of the world. Cal could tolerate this kind of mistreatment for himself, but he would never tolerate anyone treating Camm this way.
For now, Cal would be patient and bide his time. Sooner or later, he was sure he would get his chance at life again. For himself, he had no desire for revenge, but those two old men had better watch out. All Cal's hopes for his future were tied up in Camm. If anything happened to her, Cal would come after those old men like a runaway locomotive.CHAPTER 2
It was hungry! Free from its prison, but hungry — always hungry. For a long time, it had found only feral animals to eat. It was tired of wild meat. It hungered for human. It craved human!
Most humans were gone from its hunting grounds. Only the strange ones were left. The strange ones had chained it and tortured it, had forced it out of its sanctuary and taken over the old mansion. The strange ones stayed together in groups and carried hateful weapons that inflicted deep wounds and long-lasting pain. It hated the strange ones, but it would not be driven away by them.
All its life, it had hunted lone, helpless prey. That was its preferred way. It did not know any other. Its hunting circuit had grown wider as it sought the other humans, the helpless ones, but it could not find them. Where had they gone?
It craved the sweet tender meat of small ones. Green slime dripped from its teeth at the thought. The young offspring were best.
Excerpted from Fatal Green by The Brothers Washburn. Copyright © 2016 Andy Washburn and Berk Washburn. Excerpted by permission of Jolly Fish Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I always get a little scared (no pun intended) reading the last book of the series. You never know what the author is going to do to all those characters you've come to love. Fatal Green did not disappoint. The characters and the story stayed true. The suspense in the last book kept me up all night and I loved the whole series! I would recommend this book to anyone (over the age of 9), especially young adults! A great read from the beginning to the very end!