Published: January 5th, 2019
Massachusetts State Trooper Ross Huber is giving one last sweep of the roads before heading in for the night. The nor’easter hitting the Boston area is worse than expected by an order of magnitude, and the governor has just issued a travel ban. He finds a wrecked car half buried in a snowbank and rescues its human and canine occupants from carbon monoxide poisoning, but is forced to take shelter with them in a vacant or abandoned house when the roads are blocked.
When he gets the victims indoors, he thinks the human looks uncomfortably familiar…
Ash Machado has been through a lot in his career as a war correspondent. Sidelined by an injury, he’s returned to Boston to take up a job as a news anchor. After he loses control of his car on an icy road, he wakes up in an unfamiliar home, looking into the face of the guy who broke his heart in college.
Neither Ross nor Ash are the same guys they were in college, but they’re trapped in the abandoned house with no place to go. Can they get past old hurts long enough to get through the storm, or will the same misunderstandings that drove them apart years ago make this confinement unbearable?
Ross fought to keep his SUV on the road. Another massive gust of wind rocked in from the north, threatening to knock him over. Ice caked the roads, hidden by blowing snow, and they were going to stay that way until the storm wound itself out. According to Weather Center Power Five or whatever they were calling themselves these days, that could be two days fromnow. The emergency arteries would probably get cleared at
some point, but even clearing that much would be a fight for plows. With any luck, news about the travel ban would have spread and people would have engaged their common sense. No one needed to be out on the roads at a time like this.
He grabbed his radio. “Huber to base, checking in from Route 27 near the Maynard-Sudbury Line. No stragglers that I can see. Over.”
The dispatcher’s voice crackled back to him right away. “Bring it on home, Huber. No need to risk getting stuck out there.”
Ross hated to admit it, but he relaxed a little in his seat. He had no problem doing the job in front of him. He’d give his life to protect the people of Massachusetts if he had to, just like he’d sworn in his oath when he took the job. He just didn’t see a point in making that kind of sacrifice without good cause. It was muchbetter to head back to the State Police barracks in Framingham.
At this rate of speed, with this kind of visibility, it would take him about two hours at best to get back to base, and the storm was only going to get worse between now and then. He’d be sleeping at headquarters, but he could live with that. They’d all prepared for it anyway, having known about the storm days in advance. They had food, they had coffee and hot chocolate. They had plenty of cots and blankets and whatnot. They’d be fine, and he’d rather it be him than some of the guyswho had young kids or aged parents at home.
He inched his way along, eyes as alert as they could be for any sign of people or animals in distress. As he drove, visibility steadily got worse. The snow was bad enough, but the wind blew it around so much it was impossible to see. He could only hope he made it back to State Police headquarters at this rate. Between the wind, snow, and ice, he couldn’t be a hundred percent sure he’d make it.
Some guys farther west didn’t make it back to their barracks. Ross heard it on the radio, every time they checked in. Most of them called it quits when they got to someplace relatively safe to hole up until things died down. A couple of them decided to bunk down in a grocery store with stranded workers. Another took shelter in a Dunkin Donuts, living the stereotype but at least finding safety (and donuts.) One just parked his cruiser under the shelter of a self-serve car wash and hoped for the best. Ross didn’t envy him at all.
If the stranded car hadn’t had its flashers on, and its wipers, Ross would never have seen it. He threw his lights and blinkers on and pulled in behind it. It was entirely possible that whoever had left the car there had already been picked up and rescued, but Ross couldn’t take the chance of leaving someone in the vehicle. Not when he could see that the tailpipe had already been covered.
He picked up his radio again. “Base, this is Huber, still on Route Twenty-Seven, probably somewhere in Sudbury. I’ve come upon a stranded vehicle, tailpipe buried, lights flashing. Intend to check for passengers. Over.”
“Roger that, Huber.” Dispatch always sounded calm and collected. “Be advised your road has not been cleared and ambulances cannot pass. Over.” “Roger that. Making contact now.” Ross didn’t need someone sitting pretty in their socks in Framingham to tell him the miserable road he was driving on hadn’t been plowed. He knew it was just for the recording, in case someone tried to sue later or something, but it still rankled. Or maybe he was just cranky because of the weather.
He slipped his gloves and hat on, grabbed a window breaker just in case, and headed over to the other car. It was a Volkswagen Golf with summer tires, completely inappropriate for this kind of weather, and the motor was running. Now that Ross was on the ground and closer to the vehicle, he could better guess what had happened. The driver had skidded out and gone halfway into a snowbank, and then he couldn’t get out again.
He used his forearm to brush away snow from the driver’s side window. He hoped he wouldn’t find anyone inside, just some dim bulb who’d left the car running when he jumped into the rescue vehicle of his choice. Once he’d cleared enough snow to see, he knew he wasn’t going to be that lucky. He fumbled for his radio, no easy task with his gloves on. “Dispatch,” he shouted, trying to be heard over the wind. “This is Huber. We have one adult male, unconscious, and one canine, semi-conscious, in the vehicle. Over.”
Dispatch came back to him right away. “Extract from vehicle if you can, but we cannot send a truck. Repeat, no truck is coming. There is a tree down two miles from your location.”
Well, shit. “I’ll deal with that once I extract the victims, over.” He took his window breaker, found an appropriate location, and smashed the driver’s side window.
It shattered under impact, collapsing down as it had been designed to do. By the time someone got to the car to tow it, the thing would be a total loss. At least the owner would be alive to fight with his insurance company. Ross reached into the car and unlocked it.
The dog growled at him when he reached inside, but made no more hostile moves when he reached over to turn the car off. “It’s okay, buddy,” Ross told the dog. “I’m trying to get you out of here.”
The dog probably didn’t have the strength to fight Ross at this point. He wagged his tail on the passenger seat twice and drooled a bit. Ross couldn’t quite tell the breed. He’d guess it was a mutt, with a good amount of German shepherd in him. The dog nosed at its human, trying to get him to wake up.
“He’s not going anywhere on his own, boy.” Ross’ teeth chattered as he slipped his glove back on. “Are you going to bite me if I try to move your friend here?”
The dog growled.
“Well, sorry. I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. I want youto come too, okay?” Ross felt like an ass, talking to a dog. He knew he should grab the dog’s leash, but right now he had to prioritize the human. If he’d already lost consciousness, time was of the essence and it might already be too late.
He put his arms underneath the victim’s shoulders and dragged him out of the car, into the snow. The man was only a little shorter than Ross himself, and he seemed to be made of solid muscle, so all Ross could do was drag him. He’d deal with any other injuries later.
Ross dragged him to the back of his SUV, opened the lift gate, and hoisted the stranger into it. This seemed to be the best way to keep him lying down, although
Ross had to fold him into the coma position to fit him inside.
The dog hadn’t followed, although he’d moved into the first guy’s seat to get more of the fresh air. That was fine. “What’s up, Fido?” Ross let the dog sniff him, and grinned when the dog gave two more wags of his little tail. “Want to go see Daddy?”
The dog barked, twice, and looked into the back of the car. Apparently, whoever the victim was, traveled with a bunch of equipment.
Ross sighed. He hadn’t signed on to play porter for some guy. At the same time, the dog clearly wasn’t going to come willingly unless Ross grabbed the guy’s stuff. He grabbed it, and then he frowned.
The man had a military-style duffel, which seemed light to Ross. He had a bag that, upon further examination, contained a laptop, other electronic equipment Ross couldn’t identify, and an expensive looking camera. Now that, Ross could see not wanting to leave hanging around for the elements to take. There was another little duffel with supplies for the dog, to include a large jar of kibble.
“Don’t want to forget that,” Ross said to the dog, who barked.
About the author:
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J. V. Speyer has lived in upstate New York and rural Catalonia before making the greater Boston, Massachusetts area her permanent home. She has worked in archaeology, security, accountancy, finance, and non-profit management. She currently lives just south of Boston in a house old enough to remember when her town was a tavern community with a farming problem.
J. V. finds most of her inspiration from music. Her tastes run the gamut from traditional to industrial and back again. When not writing she can usually be found enjoying a baseball game or avoiding direct sunlight. She's learning to crochet so she can make blankets to fortify herself against the cold.
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