Friday, April 21, 2017

Hit and Run Hallie ~ Exclusive Excerpt

THE LOVE ARC OF HALLIE & GAGE
or the one true love of Granddaughter #1  

“Frank? They should be here any minute.”
“Are you sure?” he called from his upstairs office. “She could have changed her mind.”
“I told you. Hallie’s bringing her friend for my birthday. It’s a surprise.” Patty Mitchum danced behind the vacuum, pushing it over the last few feet of carpet.
What a rare occasion for a family member to come to see them. Their kids had chosen to move from Dallas, which made it hard to see their loved ones. But before anyone could grow used to rare and far-between visits, Frank had purchased a motor home to see his grandbabies. Of course, she hadn’t argued.
The ancient RV was twenty years old now. Lordy, that meant Hallie was twenty-one. Next year, she’d be graduating from college. Where had all the time gone?
Frank was now retired from the police force. They should be able to take trips more often. But with the busy lives their kids and grandkids led, it was almost impossible to coordinate open dates.
Dressed for an eighties workout, including muscle shirt, too-short shorts, sunglasses, and a terrycloth headband circling his balding head, her husband slid across the foyer and then bumped into the hall table as if he were in the dance scene from Risky Business.
“You’re going to break your foolish butt doing stuff like that. There’s no time for kidding around.” Not waiting for an answer, she pointed him in the direction of the stairs. “And where in the world did you find that outfit? You better have real pants on when they come through the front door.”
Frank tugged off the headband and looked at her, squinting his eyes. “You been meditating again, or did Tonya call and tell you Hallie was coming?”
“Tonya. Thank goodness I have a daughter who knows I’d rather have a clean house than a surprise. But don’t forget to act surprised, or we’ll ruin it for Hallie.”
“Wouldn’t I seem more surprised if I was jogging in my sexy shorts and groovy headband?”
That would stir up everyone on the block. Some things make quite a lasting impression, and Frank’s shorts would surely start her phone ringing with calls from concerned neighbors.
 “Not in this life. Now get going, lover!”
He laughed on his way up the stairs, and she looked around the house, ensuring everything was in place before putting the vacuum in a nearby closet. Without warning, the furniture brightened to white, and then everything faded to a blank canvas.
“Patty? You okay, sweetheart?” Frank whispered into her ear, stretching his arms around her waist and securing her next to his body.
When had he crossed the room to get near her? Had she lost a couple of minutes somewhere? That’s just crazy.
“Yes. Don’t I look okay?” She spun in his arms, gave him a quick kiss, and then rested her arms on his shoulders.
“Sure. You just had a funny look on your face, that’s all. Like you’d drifted for a minute. Okay, two or three minutes.”
“I’m good. Now go get changed and stop pretending like you knew nothing about this visit.”
A smile cracked through the stern look she’d given Frank as he hurried off to the bedroom. He’d known his granddaughter was coming and the approximate time it took to drive the distance. He’d been getting the patio area perfect for guests for the past three days, so there was no need to pretend he didn’t know. Dressing in that getup was his fun for the day.
That was their life. A bit of teasing back and forth. A bit of excitement if someone came to visit. And lots of traveling. Maybe we need to start volunteering or something?
A good question for a different time. She scooped up her cell phone from the hall table in case Hallie needed last-minute directions. She’d never driven to their house before. The on-screen time display reminded her of what had just happened.
Where had those two or three minutes gone?
Shortly after she and Frank had married, thoughts would unexpectedly come to her. No amount of rushing would help them come faster. The sensation was like a message had been revealed and needed something or someone relevant to put the reaction into a real language.
Until then, the perception was a raw, coded message lingering in a holding pattern somewhere in her deep subconscious, beyond her reach for so long.
Forty-seven years of marriage, seven children, and twelve grandchildren later, they’d taken up yoga. Somehow, the meditative movement enabled the random feelings she’d always been unable to control to slowly take shape.
“Okay, all dressed.”
Wearing an I Love Grandpa T-shirt and jeans, the love of her life padded across the front room, dropped his plastic yard shoes to the floor and then himself into his favorite chair. Lifting his feet onto the coffee table, he leaned forward and dug his flip phone from his back pocket before balancing it on the wooden arm. He reached for the remote, but she beat him to it.
“No TV. You know how you are when you get interested in a ballgame.”
“What if they don’t get here for another couple of hours? Are we going to just sit and wait?”
“Well, it wouldn’t hurt you to sit and talk. Or we could work a puzzle together. I’m not really excited to watch football or golf or whatever you’d end up staring at.”
“Hockey. It’s hockey season.” He flipped open the phone, closed it, and set it onto the coffee table. “We could have a serious discussion about your spells. You can’t hide the black outs from me. I’m a retired detective.”
Spells was his code word for whatever happened to her that neither of them completely understood. Frank winked  and patted the cushion, indicating to sit next to him. She did. He pulled her tight to his side for a solid hug, then a kiss.
“They seem to be coming more regularly.”
“I’m fine. Nothing happens.”
“That’s not true. You lose time, have no memory of what happened around you or of what vision is attempting to be seen. I’m not certain how to help you, sweetheart, but right now, it doesn’t seem like much of a family gift.”
The family gift. Passed down for several generations according to her grandmother. A gift because there was no guarantee you’d be blessed with anything special.
If her father had been blessed, he’d certainly kept it to himself. Her grandmother had been quite surprised by one of Patty’s “spells” one holiday. Unfortunately, her grandmother had only mentioned her family’s history once or twice before dying.
“Do you think Hallie’s having problems? That she might have spells like you?” He covered her hands with his. Something he did when he was serious. “Tonya’s went away when she left for college, right? Isn’t our oldest grandchild about the same age as when yours began?”
“Tonya didn’t say anything, and I haven’t spoken to Hallie more than five minutes since we visited in June. She texts most of the time. Surely they would have mentioned it.”
The sound of a car pulling into the driveway filtered through an open window.
“Looks like we’ll have to discuss this later.” She kissed him on his smooth cheek. Even retired, he shaved every morning.
“Maybe it’s time to ask?” Frank stood and looked out the window. “’Cause  they’re here. Hmmm, did Tonya mention we needed separate bedrooms for Hallie and her friend? A guy is driving her car.”
Shaking her head, Patty stifled a giggle at the implications. Frank was very old-fashioned about pre-marital sex, at least where his grandchildren were concerned. He always had been, even growing up with hippy-style parents who drove across the country to attend Woodstock. Yet another discussion for a different time.
“Now, don’t forget to act surprised. And be nice to him, Frank. No interrogations in spite of your excellent detective skills. You’re retired, darling.” She put her hand on the doorknob. He harrumphed loudly as he crossed his arms. “Please, dear? It is my birthday.”
“Oh, all right. But he sleeps in the woodshop.”
“There are two perfectly good bedrooms upstairs.”
“The woodshop or the RV. We were young, and separate bedrooms didn’t stop us. However, an alarm will stop them.”
“Okay, RV. He’ll at least have a bathroom there.” She swung the door open, and genuine excitement surged through her. “Hallie, sweetheart. What a wonderful surprise!”
Hugs and kisses were exchanged as soon as their granddaughter made it through the doorway. Her friend stood on the porch waiting for the introduction.
“Grammy, Papa Frank…this is my friend, Gage Sanders. He’s my study partner in Criminal Psychology. I hope you don’t mind me coming up for the weekend. I was too tired to drive by myself, so he hitched a ride.”
“Oh my goodness, no. This is such a wonderful surprise. You’re staying with us tonight, right?” Patty reached out to guide Gage into the house. Her fingers grazed his shoulder, and the world paused.
She took in a deep breath, not knowing why, and her mind emptied. Then a future seemed to refill her. That description seemed a little hokey, even to her, but that’s exactly what happened. 
Strangely, it was not her future she saw.
Twenty-year-old Gage Sanders stood next to her. She could feel his sun-warmed shirt under her fingertips. But an older version of him, dressed in a suit with a crisply starched shirt filled her mind. His gold badge identified him as a Federal agent. He was crossing a busy street, admiring the woman on the other side of the thoroughfare.
No, more than admiration. Love, and Patty felt all of it. Every agonizing indecision and the exact thought of, “I can’t fight it anymore.”
 Oh wow! she shouted beside him in her vision without disrupting anything. She seemed to be right there in the middle of everything, but she wasn’t. The amount of emotion streaming through her filled her eyes with tears. Like when I’d fallen for Frank.
Powerful. Strong. No doubts. Young. Love.
The woman Gage watched in Patty’s vision had a knee in a man’s back, cuffing him as he lay face down on the sidewalk. Gage clapped his hands as he stepped into the street and dodged an on-coming van. Patty walked with him, connected somehow. Not seeing things through his eyes, but feeling his pride and respect. 
“Way to go, Happy Feet.”
The woman looked over her shoulder. Hallie!
Her granddaughter had wanted to go into law enforcement since the first time she’d played with Frank’s badge, an old utility belt, and a wooden pop gun. How exciting to know they’d fall in love as FBI partners. Patty couldn’t wait to tell Frank.
Surely talking about it with him wouldn’t change anything, right?
The scene on the busy sidewalk began to superimpose with the real one at her home.
“Good to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Mitchum.” Gage held a hand out to Frank, who took it. “Hallie’s told me a lot about you.”
Patty balanced herself by backing the front door closed. She needed just a second to orient herself. Frank had one arm around Hallie and led the way into the living room. No one seemed to have noticed anything strange. Good.
“Are you two hungry? Did you stop to eat?” she asked.
“We were starved by the time we got to Waco, but we didn’t fill up, hoping you’d have cake.” Hallie sat close to Frank, while Gage stretched a little next to the window. 
“Cake? Now why would we have cake? Patty’s birthday treat is s’mores, her favorite. The fire pit’s all set and ready to go.”
Oh dear. Holding her breath, Patty tossed Frank a look, hoping he wouldn’t divulge their daughter’s secret.
“I’m never telling Mom a secret again. When did she warn you that we were coming?” Hallie didn’t miss a beat. She shrugged and looked toward Gage. “I told you I thought they knew.”
“Shoot. I guessed you were coming to Dallas, Hals. Anybody could have. You should skip ahead in psychology and read the chapter on what people do when they lie.” Gage sat in the chair across from Hallie instead of next to her on the couch.
“Then he’d never catch any of the clues I lob in his direction.” Hallie winked at her grandparents.
Patty tried not to stare at the brilliant color exchange above the kids’ heads that only she could see. When she’d first tried describing it to Frank–shortly after they’d married–he’d dubbed it a Love Arc. The colors varied from a brilliant lightning blue to a blazing-hot red.
Red was right in line with Valentine’s hearts, and blue meant a couple was cooling. That’s putting it mildly. And, if an arc was fizzling out, she couldn’t do anything to change it.
A car horn echoed throughout the house.
“Sorry I can’t hang around for the campfire, but I think my ride’s here.” Pushing out of the chair, Gage headed toward the door. “I’ll bring your keys back after I grab my stuff from your car, unless you want to go ahead and meet Cindy.”
Hallie jumped up. “I’ll go with you. I need to grab my bags, too. Of–of course I want to meet her.”
Patty and Frank must have looked confused, because Hallie and Gage both launched into explanations, talking over each other. From what Patty could decipher, Gage’s girlfriend had pulled up outside. He wasn’t staying with them. He and Hallie were just friends. They’d simply taken the opportunity to share a ride and had studied for an exam. They’d be heading back to school tomorrow evening.
Finally, both kids pointed outside, sort of shrugged, and then ran out the door.
“Guess I don’t have to get the RV ready,” Frank mumbled, scratching the top of his head.
 ~ ~ ~
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