Drama Crime Horror

“We have plenty of time,” Caroline huffed. She gave Theo her infamous side-eye and rolled it for dramatic effect. “Don’t you trust me?”

It was at this point in the road trip that he should’ve put an end to it. Book their last-minute flights and sit through all the boring happenings of his sister's highly organized and meticulous wedding. But his wife was right. Although he wouldn’t admit it, they did have plenty of time, and to be honest – he was on his last strike anyway.

Between late work nights to get these deals straightened out and a terrible time to forget their anniversary, Theo is far too close to a third strike to object. He's certain this is why Caroline has been so distant and disconnected from him. So, road trip it is.

The first six hours of the one-day drive were a breeze. Theo kicked back in the passenger seat, gazing out the window and feeling relaxed. Caroline moved her body along with her favorite songs, coming dangerously close to moving the car to the beat as well. It was nice to see her in a better mood - much more like her old self. Much more like the woman he fell in love with more than a decade ago.

His wife's whine breaks through his thoughts like a shard of glass, and Theo is snapped back into reality.

“Theeoooo, I need to go.” She bounces a little back and forth as she picks apart each exit sign, looking for the right one.

“Just get off the next one. I’m sure there’s a gas station or something.”

“Ew, no. Those are the worst ones.”

“Ro, they’re all pretty gross. Pick your poison.”

She lets out a groan but merges over, nonetheless. “There’s a park off this one. Maybe, we can stretch our legs a bit?” She shoots a wink in his direction and receives a shrug.

“It’s perfect!” Caroline yells when she pulls into the parking spot. “Don't be a Debbie Downer. Just look at how empty it is. It’s kind of romantic!”

“I knew it would be. Happy belated anniversary, my love.” The look she shoots back suggests it’s still too soon to make jokes. “Kidding,” he adds.

An uneasy gut feeling raises in the pit of his stomach as his Nike's hit the gravel and the door squeaks open. Even the breeze feels eery and unsettling, pushing goosebumps up his arms and neck.

Caroline heads to the right of the building, bouncing off her heels and swinging her blonde ponytail in the breeze. “Meet me by the trail!” she calls back.

Again, Theo shrugs and goes along with it, heading to the left side to relieve himself as well. “Oh, sorry, man. Didn’t know anyone else was here,” he responds to a potential collision in the bathroom. The young man didn’t answer, just moved over to get in a stall. Okayy, he mumbles to himself. Already he was ready to drive off, but for Ro's sake, he'll push through it.

“Theo!!” his wife yells just moments later, and his mind immediately goes to the young man he doesn’t see around him anymore. He races out of the building and stops just short of Caroline’s surprised face. “Why do you look like that?”

“I thought you were in trouble. You mean to tell me that yell wasn’t for help?”

“No. Why would I be yelling for help? There was just some kid out here, and he's leaving." She waves her hand in the direction of the parking lot. "You think I’m some sort of damsel in distress?” She rolls her eyes again. “Oh, help me, Mr. Theo, I can’t go pee by myself, and I need a big strong man to protect me.”

“One of these times, you are going to need me, Ro, and I won’t even know it.”

“I don’t need you, Theo," Caroline says sharply, giving him the impression there was more behind those words than what was said. But, then she adds, "I choose to be with you, and only you. Isn’t that better?”

She shuffles off to the nearby trail. “Think you can keep up?”

He starts to jog but is stopped by the vibration of his phone in his pocket. He lags back a bit to peek at it quickly while Ro is ahead. He deletes the kissy faces, and "I miss you" lit up in his messages.

"You coming?" She hollers back.

He jogs until he’s just inches from Caroline’s frame before grabbing her waist, pulling her back, and kissing the nape of her neck gently. “This road trip is already turning out to be pretty nice.”

“I told you, Mr. Madden.” Caroline teases. “Your wife always knows best.”

“Oh, Mrs. Madden. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.”

He pulls her closer and locks her lips into his own, framing her face with his hands. She deepens the kiss and pulls him closer. Almost immediately, he pulls away and looks around.


“How alone do you think we are?”

“Oh, stop it.” She lets out a giggle, slaps his shoulder, and walks away with a very obvious shake of her hips in each step. “There is a beach up here, though. I thought we might take a swim.”

“I didn’t bring trunks.”

“Just get in with your basketball shorts. I’m getting in, in my shorts.”

Keeping her shirt on, her bra straps drop down her shoulders, pull through her sleeves, and fall to her feet. Her toes pull from her sandals, dipped in sunshine yellow polish, and make an indent in the sand with each step forward.

Theo quickly pulls off his shoes and shirt, stumbling towards her less gracefully. If there was a time to spice things up with Ro to make up for the chaos of the last few months – it was now. He tosses his phone and keys and runs over to wrap his arm around her.

“I think there’s a private bend over there. Wanna take a swim and see what happens?” Theo whispers into her ear.

“Are you trying to…?”

“Absolutely.” He pulls her into the water, wraps her legs around him, and starts moving their bodies in the direction of the soft bend of land.

His phone lights up, and the ringer gets louder.

“Don’t you dare do it, Theo.” Caroline warns. “You’re on your last strike, buddy.”

Theo looks from her to the phone. “What if it’s Sara? Or my mom checking in on us? They know we’re on the road, Ro. I’d hate for them to send out a search party.”

“Theo, your kidding. We haven't spent any uninterrupted time together for as long as I can remember. I can't even remember the last time we spent any real time together."

“Ro, I need to–” he started, but she waved him off.

“I’m swimming to the bend. You have ten minutes to meet me there, or you lose out." Her serious tone kicks him into gear. With a kiss on the cheek, he runs out and towards his phone. She sucks in a breath of fresh air and sinks under.

The warmth of the water caresses her body with each stroke, and she takes in the much-needed comfort. If Theo doesn't change some things soon… She couldn’t think about it. Lately, the upset has been too overwhelming for words.

Instead, she takes the time to breathe in and out slowly, look up at the birds above her, and float at the bend awaiting her husband’s arrival. After what feels like much more than ten minutes, Caroline lets out a deep sigh and some tears. It wasn’t like she really expected things to change overnight. She was just asking for one uninterrupted, romantic road trip. Why was that so hard?


Reaching his phone, Theo does a quick swoop and catches Sara on the other end.


“I told you I would call you tonight."

“Sorry. You know I just needed to hear your voice. I hate that I can't just talk to you all the time.”

“Later, I promise. It won't be long. I just need time."

"I love you.”

"I love you too, babe. I really do, just give me time, okay?" His phone drops from the palm of his hands and buries itself into the warmth of the sand. A thick substance trails behind it and coats the screen. The name 'Work' still lit up underneath.

Theo's body drops beside it, with one hand struggling to reach his phone before another shot is fired - but less successful.


Caroline spots her husband and is immediately swollen with fear and worry. Noticing that there is no access to their phones for support without being spotted, she makes a swim to land and books it for the car.

Her tears blur her vision, and her chest is heavy with heartbreak. Each bare step is a painful reminder of what just happened, but she uses the image of her husband as motivation to keep going. One leg gives out, and she’s toppling over a log, gasping for air – but she has to keep going.

Her right foot hits another stump in the ground before she goes rolling down a steep hill. She lets out a cry as she tumbles down, bruising parts of her body in the fall.

To her dismay, the man with the gun whips his head around to see her sliding right down to him. A wicked smile crosses his face at the sight of her.

Heading for the safety of her car, she slides her foot sideways to break the fall and get back to her feet. Only this time, she can hear the man behind her pounding the floor faster than she can manage to go.

Attempting to pull at the door, Caroline feels a violent tug at her waist.

“Shoot!” she hears in the distance, but it takes everything in her to keep herself from shaking uncontrollably. She pulls the trigger in the midst of the struggle, and again for safe measure. It all happens in a matter of seconds, and his body is on the ground – her hair is soaked to her face, her body shakes with adrenaline, and her back is slowly moving down the side of the car until her butt is being indented with rocks.

"Why?" he moans before silence steals his words for good. In the shock of the moment, her gaze moves down towards her toes. The sunshine yellow has been soaked in bloody red. She lets out a dry laugh.

Despite how unfunny the situation really is, she’s laughing hysterically. And then crying. Crying out in pain and relief all at once.


"Miss? Can you hear me?" Officer Brody asks. Caroline nods emotionless. "Are you okay?" She nods again.

He walks over to his partner and asks, "What happened, Jack?"

"Looks like the man was shot once by the water, ran in this direction, and was shot two more times."

"Did she kill her husband?" Brody asks.

"There's no evidence to suggest otherwise. They were the only ones in the vicinity."

"You look like there's more to it."

"She says there was another man. I don't know. Something's definitely off here," Jack stammers. "Maybe there was?"

"Whose gun is it?"

"The husbands. The wife says it was in the car. The man must've found it while they were swimming."

"Alright. I'll take her back to the precinct." With a nod, Brody is back and guiding Caroline to his car. She stops at her husband's body and looks back at Brody for permission. He steps back to give her some privacy, and she lays her head down by Theo's.

"Did you really think I didn't know?" Caroline snarls. "Three strikes, and you're out, buddy."

September 07, 2021 23:09

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Michał Przywara
04:41 Mar 16, 2022

I like the opening to this story. I think you really nail that kind of "slasher" tension, where the setup is just two normal people doing normal people things, almost to the point of corny, but then you accent it with Theo's weird feeling in the parking lot, and running into the stranger. So we see something bad is incoming, but the poor players have no clue. Things did get a little chaotic once the shooting started, and I had a bit of difficulty following it all, but I do like the ending. Even though there seems to be some premeditation on...


Brandi Yetzer
18:20 Mar 16, 2022

Thank you! I had this idea of a scorned woman killing her husband. And the 'story' the reader gets is her story to the police -- so there wasn't *really* a stranger there. When she swam around, she didnt actually stop and wait... she looped around, overheard him with the other woman and killed him. I think it ended up being more difficult than I initially intended it to be when it came time to put it into words lol.... Maybe a recap/playback at the end with what really happened would've been more helpful? 🤔


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