This is a sneak peek at the opening scene of my new novel (it’s still a work in progress), tentatively titled Out of Nowhere. It is a twisty psychological thriller…
The car shot out from nowhere – a black Mercedes SUV that I had to swerve to avoid. I sat on my horn and jerked the car to the right as the driver stared at me, menace in his eyes. I righted myself quickly, cursing under my breath at the terrible drivers on Long Island and thanking the fact that I wasn’t a split second earlier, that I was running a bit late to pick up my eight year old son, Henry, from school for his weekly therapy appointment. Every Wednesday I pick him up twenty minutes early from school, but I was just a minute or two behind. That minute or two probably saved our lives. My Prius would not have stood a chance against that SUV – it had to be doing at least sixty on the quiet residential street.
“Thereby the grace of God go I,” I whispered, just as the driver plowed into an elderly man crossing the street. His face contorted as he flew up onto the hood of the car then bounced back off onto the ground. A scream escaped my lips as I glanced in the rearview mirror at Henry. His eyes were wide and his mouth opened, but no scream came out. “Mom, what’s wrong? Why did you scream?” he asked, panic rising in his voice.
I looked back on the ground as the Mercedes sped away – blood oozed out of the old man’s nose and his eyes were wide open, staring blankly. No movement – not even a twitch. It was clear he was dead, killed on impact. “Why did you stop, Mom?” He couldn’t see the man get hit from the back seat, but just my scream was enough to terrify my son. In the rear view mirror I could see him tapping his booster seat – three taps on the left, four taps on the right, then another three taps on the left and another four on the right. It happened so quickly, that unless you were looking for it, you wouldn’t even see it – the elaborate ritual, one of many that have imprisoned him for the past two years.
“I thought I saw a spider,” I told him brightly. “Nothing to worry about.” I pulled over to the side of the road, all the while watching if the old man moved even a bit. “Here,” I reached over into the back seat and handed Henry the noise canceling headphones I ordered for way too much money. Usually blocking out all stimulation was the one thing that calmed Henry, but sometimes I needed something extra. “Why don’t you watch SpongeBob?” I asked as I slipped a DVD into the player on the back of the headrest. That DVD player was the best $200 I ever spent. Henry hated riding in the car. He hated his booster seat, but at only forty nine pounds he needed to still be in it. Between SpongeBob and the headphones, I could actually get places in peace.
As soon as the headphones were on and I knew Henry couldn’t hear me, I called 911. I frantically whispered to the dispatcher that I had just witnessed a hit and run and that the victim appeared to be dead. “Please hurry,” I urged. “I can’t stay here – I have my son with me. He can’t see the man. He just can’t. He has OCD – Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and this would set him back. Please, just send someone.”
“Did you see the driver of the car, Ma’am?”
“Yes, he was in his fifties probably. Graying hair. Dark eyes. He looked right at me. He was driving a Mercedes SUV. Black. Looked new. Really, the man is just lying there in the street – he’ll get hit again. The street is empty now, but in less than half an hour all the buses start coming around. But, I can’t wait here. I need to leave before my son sees him. Just send someone,” I begged. “My name is Kate Brown. My number is (516) 555-1687. You can call me. I’ll be a witness, but I have to leave here now.” I felt like a ticking time bomb. If Henry saw the dead body, who knows how much progress would be lost. His insomnia was finally getting just a bit better. The nightmares that started after his father killed himself two months earlier were starting to slowly wane. If he saw another dead body, I didn’t know what would happen.
For the millionth time I cursed my husband, Michael. I cursed him for killing himself. I cursed him for killing himself somewhere that he knew my son and I would find him. I cursed him for not seeing a therapist instead of giving up hope. In his suicide letter he said that the thoughts were too much, that he knew he would never act on any of the compulsions that tangled up his brain, but that even the fact that he thought them were too much for his heart to bear. He had had enough. I cursed him for not hiding the fact that it was OCD that drove him to his final act. It seemed incredibly selfish to me that he would set me up for a lifetime of worrying whether or not our son would, god forbid, head down the same path when he couldn’t be here to help me face my fears. He left me with a pile of shit to clean up and at times the anger overtook my grief at losing my husband of twelve years.
I glanced in my rearview mirror at Henry one more time, thankful that he didn’t see anything – only the headphones were off and he was on his knees looking out the back window. “Mommy, why is that man lying there?” he whispered.
“Oh that man? I think he must have slipped. He’ll get up in a minute. Turn around and buckle up, please. We’ll be late for therapy. You know Dr. Klein doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
“We should help him! We can’t leave him! Is he like Daddy? Is he dead? I thought I heard you say, ‘He’s dead’ on the phone.”
“He’s not dead. The police are coming. They’ll help him. We need to go. Put on your seatbelt now!” I said a bit too harshly.
Henry cried softly as he buckled. As soon as I heard the click, I drove away. I did my part, I told myself. I called the police. But, I had to wonder why I didn’t hear sirens when the ambulance dispatch was maybe half a mile away. I had to wonder why when I looked back one last time it seemed to me that the body was gone. I looked again in the rearview mirror as the scene receded and I thought that my mind must be playing tricks on me, because it appeared that nothing had happened. It appeared that there was no body at all.