If Thoughts Could Kill [Tornado Man Series Book Four]
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by Matthew L. Schoonover
Description: Former FBI agent Jack Monosmith survived being sucked into a tornado and thrust into fame. Now Jack has hooked up with Bartholomew, (the butler from A Sense of Endless Woes) to drive long-distance loads in his Peterbilt "Baby." A mysterious load to the palacious home of millionaire Carter Blackwood, leads them to murder and things get more complicated by the minute.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: January 2006
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [224 KB]
Reading time: 157-220 min.
Bright blackness and blinding light.
The road was quickly disappearing in the night's darkness. The dancing demons of snow that pranced around in front of the Peterbilt reflected my headlights back into my eyes. I felt the snow chains slip momentarily on the icy slope as we inched ever so slowly up the mountain road. One wrong turn, one slip too many, and we wouldn't stop until we hit the ground one thousand feet below.
I tried to think of something else, but the only thing that came to mind was trying to figure out the name of the fellow who dropped two different size balls from some tower in Italy to prove that mass had nothing to do with the rate at which two objects--like the Peterbilt and myself--would fall.
From the corner of my eye I saw Bart sitting quietly in the passenger's seat, trying to read a new book in the afterglow of faint light coming from the sleeper compartment. He looked at me, then leaned up and over me to look out my window, shook his head in a sad, disapproving way, sighed, and sat back down.
"You want to tell me again why we're coming up here?" he asked.
"Galileo," I said. My mind was, after all, elsewhere.
"Jack..." He paused to make sure he had my attention. "He's dead."
"Who's dead? Carter Blackwood?"
"What's Galileo got to do with us coming up here to see Carter Blackwood?"
"I don't know. You tell me."
"Nothing," I said. "As long as we don't go over the edge."
Bart sighed deeply. He might as well have said tsk, tsk. "I'll tell you one thing about Carter Blackwood," he said. "If thoughts could kill that guy would've been dead a hundred times over by now."
"You know Carter?"
"I know of him. Never met the man myself."
"Luck of the Irish?"
He shrugged. "You know, back in my truck driving days, I used to drive State Highway 130 all the time, and let me tell you, it was never built with truckers in mind. Potholes and shear drops, no shoulders or road markings to speak of. It's a nightmare to drive on in the best of weather. Right now I wished I was back on 130 instead of this tinker toy truck route Carter calls his entrance road. Carved it out of the bedrock with a kid's beach shovel from the feel of it."
"It's the only road that leads up to his estate."
"Carter's Castle," he said. "Doesn't own a car, does he?" Bart put his book away and turned off the light from the sleeper. That helped my night vision, although not by much.
I said, "He has a helipad at the top of the mountain."
"Doesn't go out much, huh."
"He's a recluse."
"Agoraphobic. He hasn't left his castle since it was built four years ago. Or so I hear."
The heater in the cab was running full blast. Despite that, I was wrapped in a cold blanket of worry and fear that made me shiver with every few feet we moved up the mountain. The first snow of the season had only just begun to fall--it started shortly after we began our ascent--and effectively reduced visibility to minus zero. The air was thinning and rapidly building up force; a force I was even more worried about. A down draft between the mountain and our rig could push us over the edge without our realizing it. I was also worried about rounding a curve and finding it too sharp to navigate with our trailer. Or finding someone driving down the road in front of us. Backing up was impossible.
It would have been much safer to drive the rig over the side and walk the rest of the way in below freezing temperatures on the icy road, slick as a slippy-slide, with no light to see by and no feeling in hand or foot to warn of cliff or curve, crevasse or crag.
Fortunately, we'd changed to No. 1 Diesel before starting, which reduced the chance of the fuel gelling up and causing the engine to die, but we had neglected to zip up the Winterfront before starting our ascent. As slow as we were going it was quite probable that the KT 600 Cummins engine could lock up, or freeze cold enough to prevent the fuel from igniting. I doubted the brakes--our slight forward motion was the only thing giving us any traction--and if we started to slide backward there wasn't any room to maneuver and no way to keep the Peterbilt from slipping over the edge.
I mentioned this to Bart.
"Sure, but look at the bright side," he said.
"The bright side?"
"If we have to jump I've got someplace to jump to." He smiled. "You don't."
"Shut up and grow a brain."
"Don't worry about Baby," he said, referring to the Peterbilt. "She can make it. Besides, you know what they say, it's not the truck that causes accidents, it's the truck driver."
I was about to comment on his ancestry when the road leveled off. We were off the entrance road and entering the walled courtyard of Carter's Castle.
I had to revise my opinion of Carter. They say a man's home is his castle, but Carter's Castle was a small kingdom all its own. It looked more like a palace than a castle. The courtyard faced a three-story high stone mansion with steps and a portico. The mansion had three walls or extensions facing the courtyard, like three sides of a stop sign, two of which, one on the right and one on the left of the main structure, were long, narrow buildings that connected with the central one. The building on the right had a series of fancy barn-like doors, and I guessed it to be a large garage where visitors' cars could be safely tucked away from the damaging elements of cold and wind and snow. The wall on the left didn't match the color or texture of the rest of the building, but was slate gray and smooth and frosted. The buttresses around the outside walls and the parapet circling the second floor gave it an oddly medieval appearance. But the lights coming from the first floor windows, bright yet ghostlike in this weather, broke the spell of Camelot.
There was a no place for us to park our rig. The barn doors weren't large enough nor the building wide enough to accommodate Baby.
I pulled up as close as I could to the wall that best protected it from the wind while still giving myself room to get out. I left the engine idling while Bart went outside and zipped up the Winterfront. This way the engine would retain the heat.
Turning off the engine, I grabbed the flashlight, zipped up my parka, and jumped out. Walking between the wall and the trailer, I moved to the back of the trailer where its doors were swinging and banging in the wind.
A rush of wind and snow came over the wall. It funneled down between the wall and the trailer, got caught in the narrow space and sucked under. I thought I was going to go with it. I was banged against the trailer then buffeted back the other way. I barely managed to keep my feet. With one hand on the wall and one on the trailer I bobbed back and forth down to the end.
Bart was already behind the trailer and helped me close and secure the doors, but not before I took one more look inside.
I couldn't believe how much danger we'd gone through for this load. It didn't seem worth it, and I felt the anger build inside me--a cold, frozen anger to equal the wind and snow.
I ran for the castle. The wind and snow fought for my clothes, even down to my BVDs, but I was able to keep them on. Barely. I reached the semi-protection of the portico. Two mammoth wooden doors assailed me. I looked for but could not find a door bell. There was no knocker. I beat at the door with useless clubs that had been hands only moments before. I'd forgotten to put on my gloves.
Bart sauntered up behind me and waited for the doors to open.
He smiled as I stood shivering in my fur-lined parka. He was wearing a coat that looked like it had been made out of a very thin sheep's hide. The cold didn't bother him as it did most people but he was like that by nature. Nothing seemed to bother him like it did most people. The first time we met I thought he was going to knock my block off because I'd called him Bart instead of Bartholomew. Sometimes he scared the bejesus out of me.
He watched with amusement as I danced about from foot to foot.
"The thicker the blood, the thinner the clothing," he said.
"Nah," I chattered. "Cold blooded people acclimate better in cold weather." And then, just for good measure: "Rat bastard."
As we waited for someone to answer the door, alternating pounding on the doors and cursing the weather--and numbly turning into a block of living ice--I thought again of how this whole damn thing got started. About what had happened at the Little America Truck Stop that had changed both the destination of Baby and Bart, and had altered the course of my fate.