THE HUNTING, Kerry Peresta, Pen-L Publishing, $12.57 (paperback) $7.99 (Kindle)
Isabelle Lewis, top advertising salesperson at the Chatbrook Springs Sentinel newspaper, has a habit of falling in and out of marriage. After her last divorce, she shoved the emotional pain into a compartment in her brain to deal with later. With three teenagers to raise, bills to pay, and sales quotas to meet, introspection was a luxury she could not afford. Her mind needed a happy place.
When Isabelle (Izzy) discovered online dating, it immediately became her favorite stress reliever and best friend. Often, she'd steal into the night after her kids were asleep to meet someone new. One fateful evening, the hunt for the perfect guy took a sinister turn when the mystery man she met turned out to be her worst nightmare! Reluctantly pulled into a web of lies, Izzy is forced to confront her demons.
Snarky, suspense-filled, and real, The Hunting is an exquisite entwining of the crippling emotional fallout of divorce with the quest for a healthy, fulfilling relationship.This inspirational story rivets!
I sit in my car a minute, adjusting to the darkness of the garage. My eyes land on the kids' car tucked in already, and I know they are inside the house, either asleep or going that direction, because I'd talked to them on the way home. I shake off the feeling that something is wrong, get out of the car, start up the stairs to the kitchen, reconsider and click on the overhead light in the garage to sniff around.
Brightness illuminates the area. Rakes, loppers, an air pump, and various gadgetry cling to a pegboard nailed to one wall; an aging lawnmower sits in a far corner with its best friend, the gas trimmer. Metal shelving climbs the back wall, loaded with fairly common family paraphernalia. My eyes scan the cement floor and the kids' car, searching for signs of inappropriate activity. I smell old grass, a little oil that has leaked from one of the cars, gas, paint thinner.
My heels striking the cement garage floor in the middle of the night remind me of old Law and Order episodes, where Eames and Goren discover a body in the garage, draped halfway out of a car, drenched in blood. I should stop watching those shows. Then I see it. Not tonight, my mind screams. Tonight? After this horribly long day? My stomach clenches in fear.
A tightly folded, small, white square mocks me from the windshield of my kids' car. What time is it, anyway, I mutter to myself as I cautiously approach the car, lift the windshield wiper, and hold the small square between thumb and forefinger. I grab my phone from my purse with my free hand and click the screen on. Almost midnight.
Despair zips through me. I turn off the garage light and climb the three stairs into the kitchen, firmly locking the door behind me. I fling the note through the air. It lands on the kitchen table.
I scroll quickly through my contacts to find Detective Faraday. His phone rings several times. A groggy voice answers. “Yeah?” Cough. “What?”
"Detective Faraday?” I whisper.
“You got him. What’s up?” I picture him wiping his eyes and focusing on a clock by his bed. Maybe a lovely wife by his side, sleeping. I feel awful for interrupting him at home.
“I got another note,” my voice is hushed. I don’t want to alarm the kids, but stress has rushed to every extremity. I cannot stop shaking.
“Okay. This is Izzy, right?”
I shake my head, realize someone on the other end of a phone call cannot see a head shake.“Yes.”
“All right, I'm going to call and get a patrol car out there immediately. What does the note say? By the way, we have analyzed fingerprints on the other note, and it is definitely the man you indicated.That’s good news. It’s probably just a reaction to personal crisis. Which, unfortunately, you seem to be triggering.”
“So what should I do?” I whisper.
“Read me the note, Izzy,” he says, calmly.
“It was on my kids' car.” I feel tears forming. One trails slowly down my cheek. I slap it away.
“Oh, man,” Detective Faraday whooshes out a long sigh. “You weren’t home, then? But your kids were?”
“Yeah, and I'm pretty sure the garage was locked. They know they are supposed to shut the garage door when they get home, no matter what.”
“Izzy, is there a window in your garage?” I think a minute. Yes! There is one in the small storage room at the back of the garage, one we never use.
“Well, yes, there is one in a storage room, but – ”
“Is it locked?” he barks. I start to cry.
“I don’t know! Why is this happening?”
“Go check, Izzy, right now. Keep me on the phone while you do it. Take a flashlight or a bat or something with you. I'll wait.”
The implication hits me that he wants me to find a weapon before I check the window. Seriously? I quietly enter my sons' room and pluck up the bat that is leaning against their bookshelf. They stir, but do not wake.
“Okay,” I whisper. “Got a bat. Heading for the garage.”
“I'm with you, Izzy. Be careful.”
His voice is reassuring and I am thinking how grateful I am for our police force. Funny. I am grateful now, but just let me get a speeding ticket. I enter the garage, and tiptoe toward the closed storage room door, my heart beating violently. I hold the bat in my right hand and turn the knob slowly with my left. The darkened room emerges bit by bit as the door creaks open. Light from the garage spills into the room, illuminating old cans of paint, a broken lamp, basketballs, a football, boxes. I push the door open further, and see the window, which is located high on the wall, shards of cobwebs hanging from the edges.
I lift the bat in pre-strike position as I push the door all the way open. I hear Detective Faraday’s breathing on the phone.
“What’s happening, Izzy?” he says, causing me to nearly jump out of my skin.
I locate the string that turns on the lone light bulb in the room, and pull. The forty-watt bulb creates an eerie glow. To my utter and profound relief, the room appears empty.
“I am in the storage room. It’s empty.”
I lean the bat against one of the boxes and look around.
“How often are you in that room, Izzy?”
“Rarely. It’s for stuff we don’t have room for. Kind of forget sometimes, that it’s here.”
“Okay,” he says, “go to the window and check the lock.”
My nose wrinkles in disgust. “Okay,” I say and move aside two squashed storage boxes. Looking around, I locate something to stand on, and reach up to check the latch. Push up on the window, which holds. Try again, and it reluctantly slides open. “It’s not locked,” I say, miserably.
“Lock it,” Detective Faraday says. “Don’t worry, Izzy, we'll get him."
The Hunting is available at Amazon.