Here's the scoop: Several Avalon Authors have come together to write a novel for fun. Every author contributes one chapter. There is no pre-arranged plot; there are no rules except that we follow Avalon's guidelines of writing family-friendly material. If you missed the first eight chapters or if you would like to refresh your memory, please click on "Avaloner Online Novel" in the column to the right.
by Susan Ralph
I took the Team Stan T-shirt from Antonio and held it up in front of me.
The width between the two armhole seams would measure at least six inches more than my normal-size shirts.
I checked the tag sewn into the neckline. Men’s XX.
The sharpened fingernails on Mrs. Robillio’s right hand tapped the table. A vulture’s talon came to mind. Her eyes narrowed. “Black’s a good color on you,” she said.
“Thanks, and thanks for making me part of Stan’s team.” I rolled my lips together and blinked my eyelids several times like one would when trying to hold back tears of joy. But the quiver in my stomach wasn’t happening because I’d just gobbled down one of Mrs. Robillio’s rich cannolis. Mrs. Robillio’s story didn’t ring true.
If Stan really is participating in a reality TV show scavenger hunt and wants to drop out, why hadn’t he just said so? Instead, he’d let me think Mel was in danger. And Mel had said things to me during this trip—the most wretched hours I’d spent in my entire life—except for the brief time when Stan was kissing me—which made me consider, I might be the final object of whatever the game was and whoever brought me in—dead or alive—would win the prize.
I slipped the huge Team Stan T-shirt over my head and then thrust my arms through the arm holes. I smiled at Mrs. Robillio. “Are we meeting up with Stan somewhere?”
Her dark brooding eyes glared at me. A sinister looking smile twitched at the corners of her lips. “Only if he survives the Underground,” she said and then gave a wicked sounding laugh.
Stan’s two cousins snorted.
A premonition, as clear as any of the voodoo feelings Mel had shared with me over the years, hit me broadside. “Get out.”
I covered an exaggerated yawn. “Keeping up with Stan has been exhausting. If there’s someplace I can lie down, I think a short nap would revive me.”
Mrs. Robillio’s cold eyes warmed. She pushed herself up from the table. “Follow me,” she said.
She led me up the stairs to the second floor and then opened one of two closed doors. She motioned for me to go in.
Thick fabric curtains covered a window. An unlit lamp stood on a night table next to a double bed. The dim bedroom had the air of not having been used for a long time.
I turned to Mrs. Robillio. “Such a lovely room.” I said and then beamed my best travel agent smile at her.
She nodded. “Mr. Robillio’s mother died in here. He wouldn’t let me change a thing.” She appeared mournful for a second or two and then cheered up. “Have a nice nap and don’t worry.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Robillio. Wake me if Stan shows up.”
“I’m sure he’ll insist.” She gave a low chuckle and then stepped out of the room and closed the door.
Exhausted wasn’t the half of it. My hands shook. My nerves pinged with discordant impulses.
I parted the window curtain and stared at the rain and the fenced back yard. A dog barked. Even if I could get out through this second story window and down to the ground without serious injury, the backyard could be my undoing.
I turned the lamp switch. Nothing. Rising up on tiptoe, I peered down the opening at the top of the lampshade. The bulb socket was empty.
I plopped down on Mrs. Robillio’s mother-in-law’s death bed, hitched my purse off my shoulder, and then and pulled out my cell phone and punched in Mel’s number. Mel should know the Robillio’s address. If she didn’t, she could look it up. And when I knew what it was, I’d call 911, inform them I was being held captive at this address, and then when the police showed up, I’d yell for help.
Mel, you’re all I’ve got left. Don’t fail me now.
The phone rang and rang. Even Mel’s voice mail didn’t pick up. Thinking that in my current agitated state, I’d punched in a wrong number, I redialed. And got the same result.
An image of Mel in sunny Santa Barbara, sharing amusing anecdotes with other travel agents over cocktails flashed before my eyes.
As soon as I got home, I’d give Mel notice, and look for another job.
Murmurs of a hushed conversation outside my door sent me into survival mode. I stuffed my phone under the pillow and lay down.
The door creaked. A sliver of light from the landing spilled in.
I tightened down my eyelids and made soft snoring sounds.
The door clicked shut.
If they’d be checking on me, my getting out of here on my own would be next to impossible. My mind whirled with foreboding outcomes to the mess Mel had put me in.
Sleep would be a blessing. I shut my eyes and began chanting my “go to sleep” mantra. It never failed me.
* * *Something brushed my shoulder.
“Sonya, wake up.” The hushed voice was indistinguishable.
I slit my eyes.
And then I bolted upright. “Stan, where--”
A thumb and forefinger clamped my lips together.
Stan’s face began descending toward mine. He freed my lips, and then he kissed me with a good amount of passion.
My fingers tangled his hair.
My heart raced. My body melted into some kind of liquid goop.
Several lip gyrations later, he broke off our kiss and then gazed down at me.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that,” he said taking my hands and pulling me to my feet.
My heart sank. “Stan, just to--”
A strong finger pressed against my lips.
“Sonya, there isn’t time to go all “well maybe or maybe not” with me.”
I stiffened into a defiant posture and removed his finger. “After all I’ve been through since you nose-dived into your caffé latte; I think you owe me the truth."
Stan frowned and then began tugging me in the direction of the door.
“The truth is, my cousins drove off a couple of minutes ago. My mother’s—ah—shall we say—out-of-it, and if you’re smart, you’ll get out of here while you can.”
TO BE CONTINUED - look for chapter 10 on June 4