Publish 29 June 2022
EPISODE 1 – HOMEWARD
Traumatic events on a dark road alter the trajectory of Dan’s life. Through careless actions, he struggles to change the course of severe consequences in this novella mystery miniseries.
Dan Wilson is a multitasking pharmaceutical executive VP who is working his way up the corporate ladder. While wining and dining a client at a gentleman’s club, he drinks more than he should.
Distracted from business conversation, the client asks if the ladies are available for hire. Dan assures him that if that is the desire, he will cover the cost. So the client strikes up a conversation with an ornately dressed hostess.
“It must take hours to get dressed up as beautifully as you are.”
“Looks can be deceiving. I can share the trick to make it all disappear in a blink of an eye.”
“It’s getting late. Perhaps on my next visit, you can show me that trick,” says the curious client.
After the establishment stops serving alcohol, Dan heads home along an isolated road. The company he works for has a dictation system on a corporate cloud server. He taps the app on his smartphone to begin dictating his next day’s agenda. For confirmation, he glances down at the phone in the cradle.
When he looks back up through the windshield, he sees two glowing eyes in his headlights. As he veers to the left, the body does also. When switching to the right, the eyes retreat in the same direction.
Dan shouts, “Get out of the way!” while leaning on the car horn.
Reacting to his unsuccessful effort to steer around the animated obstacle, Dan slams on the brakes. After a loud thud, the car comes to a stop on the dark road. Dan sits motionless.
“Did I just hit someone?” he asks in an audible undertone.
For what seems as hours, a beating heart feels like it will rip through his alcohol stained shirt. His entire life passes before him. He sees his career end; his opportunity to raise a family is over; and a long stretch in prison awaits him. In reality it is merely seconds before he wraps his head around what just happened.
Loosening his necktie, he looks through his rearview mirror as his break lights provide dim illumination of the road behind him. Again, he goes into a trance.
‘Why was that person walking across a highway in the darkness? Did I imagine the accident?’
Peering through the side vehicle windows, he does not see any witnesses. Around him is only dense brush and darkness.
Dan exits his car to first examine the front bumper. There is no dent that you might expect from a deer collision. But there is blood. Using the flashlight on his smartphone, he walks behind his car to look for what he hit. For about 100 feet all he sees are skid marks. Then his light falls upon a mangled human body.
He calls out, “Are you all right?” But there is no response, not even a moan.
He walks beyond the body another 200 feet where the swerving skid marks begin. Then he turns and walks back to the body. For three minutes he just stands staring at it. Finally, he bends over to feel what he believes is a pulse, but is actually the reverberation of his own beating heart.
Jumping back up, in a somber audible voice, Dan says, “He’s dead,” before realizing that his phone dictation app is still recording.
This complicates the scenarios racing through his mind. Switching off the dictation, he thinks to himself, ‘I’m a good guy—just a social drinker.’ Obviously, his characterization of the typical drunk driver differs from reality.
Riffling through the victim’s pockets for identification, he finds a driver’s license with the name John Doe.
“Does anyone actually have that name?” he ponders audibly.
So he replaces the wallet and drags the body off the road to prevent someone else from hitting it.
For three beats of his heart, he pauses and thinks, perhaps it would be good for someone else to run over him again. The next driver might take the blame. It is too late. The blood trail already leads into the brush.
Perhaps it’s the alcohol, but Dan is not thinking through consequences rationally enough. Shining his phone light back on the road, he sees the bloody footprints from his designer shoes leading to the brush with the drag marks. He begins wiping his feet on the grass to remove the blood.
‘I should call 911 and explain it was an accident. At least there would be no hit-and-run charge,’ he reasons.
Then he remembers the alcohol on his breath. Watching his steps so as not to track blood back to his car, he stops at his trunk to remove his shoes. After putting them in an old paper bag, he gets back into the driver seat and places a breath mint on his tongue.
Dim headlights behind him are growing in size. His heart rate increases again as the lights of a truck slow while approaching. Someone is stopping to see if he needs assistance. Dan starts his ignition and, with his nervously shaking arm out the side window, waves the driver to pass. The truck toots its horn twice and continues on.
That truck driver may have seen his license plate. He can’t just sit here accumulating witnesses. ‘What about my footprints?’ Dan thinks while getting back out of the car to rummage through his trunk.
He finds some sandals and antifreeze. Wearing the sandals, he goes back to where his footprints are. Then he pours the antifreeze on the highway, hoping to dissolve them. In the darkness, it appears to be working but he can’t tell for sure. It should, at the very least, obscure the pattern of his shoe prints.
“That’s enough. I need to get out of here,” Dan says to himself before heading back to the car and returning the antifreeze bottle to his trunk.
As he begins driving away from the crime scene, drops of water bead on his windshield. Soon, an unseasonable June cloudburst falls. ‘This is good,’ he thinks to himself. ‘It should rinse off my car and the road where the accident occurred.’
After traveling a few miles, the rain stops. Dan finds a dumpster to discard his shoes and the remaining antifreeze. Then he begins looking for a 24-hour self-serve carwash. Starting up the machine, he cleanses the front of the car as much as possible before driving home. A broken headlamp cover requires replacement.
Dan pulls his car into the back of his palatial house in the Palo Hills Estates and enters the back door. Dropping his keys and phone on the table, he pours himself a rum and Coke to calm his nerves. Then he sits down in a comfortable chair.
At 1:20 AM his phone ringing across the room startles him. ‘Could that be the police?’ he ponders as he walks over to the table.
From the caller ID, he sees it is Fred Zimmerman, the client he saw earlier. He wonders if his client discovered the body on his way home. On the fifth ring Dan answers nervously.
“Yes, Fred! What is it?”