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 Category:  Family Fiction
  Posted: August 18, 2021      Views: 75
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I've had some interesting years on this big blue dot in the solar system. Syracuse area for the past twenty years. Twelve years in Texas. Married for twenty six years. Five children and two grandchildren.

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Chapter 6 of the book Leave of Absence
Officer Cole tries to hide from the world
"The Fugitive" by forestport12

In one day, officer Luke Cole was served divorce papers and then given, "A leave of Absence," from his job. Since then his life has been spiraling out of control to the point where he's crossed some l

Jousted about on the old logging road in his Jeep Wrangler, Luke eyed his rearview mirror. He refused to breathe a sigh, even though the forest was about to swallow him whole. The canopy of trees above blotted most of the sun and the rutted dead-end road had been nearly reclaimed by the forest floor.

Pulling up to an A-frame cabin, he expected the silence to be broken when he turned off the ignition. He listened for the sounds of sirens, maybe the whir of a helicopter, but there was nothing, nothing but the faint caws of hawks circling the edge of the pond from high above the trees.

The cabin was on a steep hill overlooking the nose of a lake. The deep green shingles had weathered into an olive color while the metal roof showed signs of rust around the edges. But it blended in with the forest. No one ever came into the dense Adirondack wilderness unless it was a lost poacher. It was easy to get lost without the lake to give you a landmark. Luke reckoned he fit right in with the scene, a lost fugitive, waiting for his world to end. He looked down at his cellphone which he had disabled, leaving out the batteries and the sims card.

As Luke opened the door to his jeep, he breathed in the fresh air and finally breathed a sigh. He then realized how only himself and his wife would know of this place. She held the key to giving away his location. The cabin was inherited by her parents. Her brother died in a car wreck years ago. Only her, himself, and their daughter Taylor used the place. if they authorities came to take him down, it would mean his wife cooperated with the police.

One thing was for sure, when Luke found the key with his fingers from above the screen door, his wife wasn't here, like he thought or hoped. Then again, why wouldn't she stay at a hotel with a sauna. She had the money and the time. She was never one to want to rough it. Most times she'd come out because Taylor begged her. She was a Daddy's girl all the way to the end.

When Luke pried open the door to the place, it held the stifling heat, baked air inside, as if yearning to escape. He opened the jarred windows in the loft where a fresh breeze swept through him. As he breathed the fresh air, a familiar scent of pines from the bluff lifted his nose. He plopped down on the dusty mattress, looked up at the swirling mites in the beams of sunlight. He closed his eyes, not wanting to wake up and face the world alone. He was bone-tired and before he knew it, sleep took him down like a heavy curtain.

At first Cole slept away the hours, days bleeding into nights. The evenings were summer cool in the mountains, from his mattress in the loft he could open his eyes and see the cold stars like ice trinkets. Lonely places miles away. Uninhabited. He laid there until he pretended he lived on one of them.

A few days later, he suspected no one looked for him. Since his wife would have been the only one who could give his location away, he wondered if her mercy from the other day extended to the cabin. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine her pleading with Hodges not to press charges-maybe. Knowing Hodges, he's probably made life uncomfortable for her next door.

As Luke rolled off the mattress, he caught a glimpse of himself in the milky mirror from an old dresser in the loft. His two-day beard and his mousy, matted hair, he looked more and more like a homeless person should. He stumbled down the stairs from the loft with hunger pains and a weird sense of guilt over his freedom.

He fired up the wood stove, looked up over the mantel of the fireplace where there was a picture of Taylor as a five-year old with her surviving grandparent, the patriarch, the one who left Bible messages for him to find all over the cabin when he was in his right mind, before dementia took his deep thoughts. Under the front door was a plaque that read, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Over the mantel of the fireplace was a plaque that read, Jeremiah 29:23 "Is not my Word like fire, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?"

Luke wished he could talk to his father in-law, maybe he'd talk some sense into his wife. He imagined him now sitting alone in a chair with a big picture window of the world in a room where he was lost too, but lost in his mind, unable to remember his own daughter, let alone the scriptures he placed in the cabin.

Luke realized then, after all the years on the state police force, he didn't have one close friend. It suddenly occurred to him that he'd buried himself in his work to the point where he didn't cultivate relationships. It made him wish his wife didn't take his dog, Bugsy, his best friend, his only friend. But in some weird way, he hoped it meant his wife wanted companionship and that it meant she'd be lonely without him.

Luke stumbled around in the starlight until he found a headlamp. He went outside on the ridge behind the cabin and fired up the generator. The lights blinked on. He used to tell Sharon how he liked the cabin, because it was private. He used to tell her the only things he could run into half human would be bigfoot.

Luke went inside to the mantel of the fireplace where the ponytailed picture of his daughter wearing her soccer uniform reminded him how she was stuck at seven. He decided to put his cellphone card back inside, including the batteries before he pulled it again. There was enough life left in his phone to check for messages. There were none. Nothing from his former wife or the police.

Luke managed to find an old can of beans and heated up a pan from a propane stove. He found some bottled water and drank it down in one gulp.

When Luke walked back outside, he watched the fireflies of July light up the sky. He heard the crackle of 4th of July fireworks over the whir of the generator. Life was down the canyon along the lake camps. He walked over to the bluff, shuffled his way down the wooden steps of the steep hill toward his dock. The smell of burning campfires rifled through his nose, reminding him that his solitary world was not so isolated.

With Luke's headlamp on, he drew mosquitos, swatting them as his feet tested the flimsy, weathered plankboards spanning the water. It was peaceful, the lapping water against the dingy was soothing. He didn't mind the fireworks either, or the sound of kids whooping it up in the distance. He sat on a log on the end of the dock where he could smell the fishy water and breath in the cool sweet air. Fireworks lit the sky, a rainbow of colors accenting the tree lines and the mountain ridges above the water reflecting the glow of colors.

Luke wanted to figure a way out of his mess, since he had nothing but time to think about how screwed up things got. The thought of serving time for a moment of indiscretion drove him to the brink. He couldn't imagine how as decorated police officer he could be incarcerated. Crazy. Maybe he should see the psych, and she'd confirm his temporary insanity as a defense. Still, no one looked for him.

For now, he was willing to be alone, and let his beard grow, let the forest grow around him, creating a mask of indifference, until some supernatural event helped him decide if life was worth living.

He climbed into the small boat. It shifted below his feet, sending him tumbling inside with an oar. He let the boat slip away with the rope inside. He swatted a mosquito buzzing in his ear. Slapped himself good. He drifted. Eyes closed. He allowed himself slide over the glassy water beneath the crackling fireworks over his head, to slip away from reality until it caught up to him.

The book continues with Letters and Lies. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.
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