Currently viewing the tag: "serial fiction story"

written by James Rada, Jr.

A new serial fiction story for your enjoyment

2: Times Past

Thomas Hamilton walked across the Loy’s Station Covered Bridge, ignoring the wooden beams around him. He focused his attention on the other side of the bridge, where the sky was clear and the sun shone. It stood in stark contrast to the thick fog on the side of the bridge he had just left.

He reached the other side and shook his head. It was a cloudless summer day in Rocky Ridge. It wasn’t even overly hot. He looked across Owens Creek and saw that it was now clear. The fog had lifted in the time it took him to walk across the bridge.

He couldn’t see the old man who had encouraged him to cross the bridge and find the love of his life. How could the man have walked away so quickly that he was out of sight? Thomas looked back across the bridge, wondering if the man had followed him, but it was empty.

He shook his head. This was turning out to be an unusual day. First, his girlfriend had broken up with him via a text message. Then, he had met the old man with his message that Thomas would find the love of his life on this side of the bridge. And, finally, Thomas had seen the odd fog that had moved in quickly, stayed on one side of the creek, and disappeared just as quickly.

The woman he had seen walking across the field was closer now. She was an attractive redhead who had her hair tied up in a kerchief. She wore overalls and work boots. He had grown up in the same house his father had grown up in. He thought he knew just about everyone in the area, but he didn’t recognize this woman.

“Where did you come from?” she asked.

Thomas shrugged. “I just walked across the bridge. You had to have seen me. You were looking right at it.”

“I must not have been paying attention. It was clear and then, suddenly, you seemed to be standing in front of it.”

She looked him over and then her nose wrinkled. Thomas realized he must still be sweaty from his run.

“Sorry about that. I was running earlier.”

“Running? From what?”

“For exercise.” She looked at him like he was crazy and stepped back. “I don’t recognize you. Do you live around here?” he asked.

“All my life. You’re the one who’s not from around here.”

“Of course, I am. My name is Thomas Hamilton. I live out on Old Mill Road.”

“I know the Hamilton Farm, but not a Thomas Hamilton.” There was only one Hamilton Farm on Old Mill, and it was his family’s farm. The woman cocked her head to the side. “You don’t look like a farmer. You look like someone dumped a can of fluorescent paint on you.”

He looked down at the reflective vest he was wearing. He didn’t think it looked that unusual, and it helped protect him from getting hit when he ran.

“You should talk. You look like someone trying to imitate Rosie the Riveter.”

“Who?”

“It doesn’t matter. What’s your name?”

She raised her chin and glared at him. “I’m not sure I should say.”

Thomas shrugged.

“Whatever.” He had been crazy to give that old man any credence. This woman was the love of his life? Not likely.

He turned and walked back across the bridge. When he reached the other side, he still didn’t see the old man, but other things were different, too. The road wasn’t paved. It was macadam. And the playground in the park off the right was gone.

“What gives?”

He hadn’t thought things could get weirder. He was wrong.

He jogged back to his house to shower and change. Even the house looked different, particularly when he walked inside. All of his furniture was missing, replaced with the type of stuff he would see in an antique store. Wallpaper, not paint, covered the walls. He smelled ham cooking when he knew he had left nothing in the oven.

A woman screamed, and Thomas spun around. She had walked out of the kitchen, her face red from the heat from the oven and stove.

“What are you doing in my house?” she shouted.

“I–I live here,” Thomas said, even though he wasn’t sure of that any longer.

“You do not! This is my family’s house. Leave this instant before I call the police.”

“But this is the Hamilton Farm. I…” He was about to say “I live here” again, but while the house itself might match his home, these furnishings and the wallpaper all said someone else lived here and had for some time. Certainly, longer than the hour Thomas had been out.

“Can you…?” he started to say.

The woman ran back into the kitchen and came back with a rolling pin covered in flour. She waved it at him.

“Get out now!”

Thomas held up his hands and backed toward the door. Once he stepped out onto the porch, the woman slammed the door, and Thomas heard the lock engage.

He sighed and walked back down the driveway to the road. He headed toward MD 77, although he wasn’t sure what he would do when he got there. Something unusual was happening, but he had no idea what it was.

He walked along the road toward Rocky Ridge when a vintage truck pulled up alongside him.

“Need a lift?” the driver asked. “I’m headed to Thurmont.”

Thomas didn’t recognize the man, but he had friends in Thurmont who might help him, or worst-case scenario, that’s where his doctor’s office was located.

Thomas climbed into the truck bed, and the driver started off. A confused Thomas looked over the countryside. He recognized the landscape and many of the buildings, but others were different. It was like he was in Rocky Ridge, but not his Rocky Ridge. It became very obvious as they entered Thurmont. The two elementary schools, police station, and housing development on the east side of town were all missing. The truck pulled over to the side of the road and stopped across from the middle school, which now had a sign that said it was the high school.

The driver hopped out and said, “This is as far as I go. I have to arrange for some lumber.”

Thomas jumped out of the bed to the ground. “Thanks. I appreciate the ride.”

He walked toward the center of town. He grew more nervous with each step. This was all wrong. He stopped when he saw a sign in the window of a clothing store. “New Styles for 1951 Are In!”

Thomas staggered and had to lean against the wall. It couldn’t be, but in the back of his mind, he had been seeing the signs and ignoring them.

He was in 1951…48 years before he was born.

Look for what happens next in our January issue

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

7: The Last Fight

Tim Ross wandered from window to window in the basement of the nurse’s building of the State Tuberculosis Hospital in Sabillasville. The foundation of the building was stone, but except for load-bearing walls, the inner walls in the basement were all frame construction. Most of them were empty, but some had been converted to storage.

Tim looked out the windows, expecting to see Dr. Vallingham or one of his personal orderlies/guards approaching the building. Tim had already been down here overnight, but no one had come into the basement, not even Frank Larkins, the orderly who had hidden him here.

It was probably better that way. If someone saw Frank coming into the basement, it would be suspicious. Tim was getting hungry, though. No one had brought him food, and he hadn’t found anything to eat down here, although he did find a half-filled pint bottle of moonshine. It slaked his thirst and calmed his nerves.

While he hadn’t seen anyone other than nurses approach the building, Tim thought he heard sirens at one point. He also saw more vehicles driving around than he had seen in his short time at the hospital.

“Tim.”

Tim jumped. He spun, holding a fireplace poker he had found in one of the storage rooms. He relaxed when he saw it was Frank.

“Give a guy some warning,” Tim said.

“I did. I said your name and stayed back from you,” Frank told him.

“You didn’t bring me breakfast by chance?”

Frank shook his head. “Sorry.” Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out an apple. He tossed it to Tim. “You can eat that for now. I’ll get you something to eat.”

“Does that mean I have to stay down here?” He bit into the apple. It was sweet and crunchy.

“Not for too much longer, hopefully. Someone saw Vallingham drive away last night. I’m hoping that means he knew the game was up and won’t be coming back.”

“He deserves to be in prison.”

Frank shrugged. “I’m sure they’ll catch up with him eventually. I’m just happy he’s not around here interfering with the bootlegging.”

Frank and some of the other employees at the hospital ran a bootlegging operation from the powerhouse.

“And killing patients,” Tim added.

“That, too.” Frank chuckled to himself. “Boy was Dr. Cullen furious when I told him what was happening. His face turned deep red, and he stomped around the office. He called the police himself; I give him that. He’s a good man, and this hospital is important to him.”

“Surprised he let something like this happen then.”

“Well, there’s a lot going on here nowadays. We’ve got the regular TB patients, the children’s hospital, and the nursing school. One man can’t run it all.”

“I suppose not.”

Frank left and arranged for a nurse he trusted to bring Tim breakfast, so that he wouldn’t risk being seen coming into the building again. Tim ate the pancakes and sliced apples with cinnamon and then took a nap. He had been up all night worried Vallingham would find him.

Frank came back after lunch. “Things are in an uproar. They are still searching for Vallingham in the woods. We had to break down our still and store the pieces in different locations.”

“Do you think he’s in the woods?” Tim asked.

“I doubt it. Why would he stick around? They’re just being careful, and so are my people.”

“So, is it safe for me to leave?”

“I suppose you can. The police have been asking for you, anyway. I guess they want to talk to you about everything.”

“You didn’t tell them where I was?”

“I do my best to avoid the police. It’s a habit. I don’t want them recognizing me if they spot me at a still.”

Tim followed Frank back outside the nurse’s building. He looked at his watch and saw it was dinnertime. He went to the dining hall and ate while he listened to the surrounding conversations, as people speculated on why the police had been at the hospital all day.

After dinner, he walked through the connecting hallway to the administration building. The police were eager to talk to him. Tim sat through two hours of questions from Dr. Cullen and the Frederick County States Attorney. Tim explained everything that had happened to him, leaving out finding out about Frank and the moonshiners who operated in the powerhouse. By the time he finished, it was dark out.

He walked back to the shack and wondered if the police were still wandering the property trying to find Vallingham, or if they had moved their search away to other locations.

When he walked into the shack, it was dark. He turned on the light in his ward and saw Vallingham standing there with a pistol.

“What did you tell them?” Vallingham asked.

“Everything. At least everything concerning you.”

Vallingham grimaced. “You have ruined everything. I was trying to heal people.”

“So, if you killed some along the way, that’s all right?”

Tim wondered if he could turn off the lights again before Vallingham shot him.

Vallingham jabbed the pistol in his direction. “What would you know? You just stumbled into something that was beyond you. I tried to get my notes from my safe, but the police were all over the building.”

“They will catch you.”

“Doubtful. I have money saved. I can disappear and start my research again elsewhere. I had hoped to get what I had done so far.”

“You don’t think a new doctor studying tuberculosis might give you away? You want attention.”

Vallingham paused and thought for a moment. “I want…”

That’s when Tim turned the lights off and threw himself backwards into the entry area. He heard the shot fired and the impact when it hit the wall. He scrambled out the door on his hands and knees and then ran.

Tim meant to run for the administration building, although he wasn’t sure anyone was still there, but when he came down off the porch, he slipped and tumbled down a hill toward the woods. Then, he heard Vallingham coming after him and another shot fired. Tim took off for the cover of the woods.

The shots would undoubtedly bring the police if they were still around, but Tim couldn’t wait to see if they would show up before Vallingham shot him.

He ran into the trees, feeling like he now knew what Max Wenschof had felt like when he ran into the woods chased by a moonshiner. He slowed as he reached the woods because he didn’t want to trip on a root. He wasn’t thinking about going somewhere in particular, he just pushed further into the woods. He stumbled once but caught himself on a tree. After that, he moved slower and kept his hands out feeling for trees.

He heard Vallingham coming behind him, but he also heard the man yell when he tripped and fell.

After a few minutes, Tim saw a low light in the distance. He headed toward it, thinking it must be one of the hospital buildings. However, as Tim came into a clearing, he saw it was four moonshiners working by lantern light around a still.

They yelled when they saw Tim, but he didn’t stop. He shouted, “Revenuer coming.” Then he ran back into the woods.

Out of breath, Tim dropped behind a fallen tree and tried to find a place where he might hide.

He heard more shouts and gunshots. When the gunshots stopped, Tim heard voices speaking too low to be understood. He heard metal and wood hitting each other. After fifteen minutes, things fell silent.

Tim pushed himself and walked back toward the clearing. The lanterns that had cast the low light were gone. He tripped again, but this time, he hit the ground. As he pushed himself up, he felt something soft and realized it was clothing. He patted it. It was a body. He felt for a pulse. Whoever it was, was dead.

Tim pulled out his matchbook and lit a match. It cast a small circle of light. He held it toward where the head was. He saw Vallingham’s dead eyes looking back at him.

Tim shook the match out and sighed. Then, he slowly stood and made his way back the way he came, although he came out far from his shack.

Police were walking around with flashlights on. One of them shined a light on Tim. “Who are you?”

“Tim Ross. Dr. Vallingham, the man you’re looking for, is in there.” Tim waved toward the clearing. “He’s dead.”

“Dead? Did you kill him?”

“No, he ran into bootleggers. They shot at each other. He lost.”

By morning, police were swarming over the hospital grounds. In Dr. Cullen’s office, the doctor profusely apologized for what had happened.

“I’m alive, at least,” Tim told him.

“Yes, and like you, I mourn for those other patients who aren’t so lucky. There are doctors from the state right now pouring over hospital records, looking over all patients Dr. Vallingham supervised. Their families deserve to know the truth.”

Tim nodded. Dr. Cullen was right, but Tim had been thinking that he was alive while Dr. Vallingham was dead. This might have been Tim’s last fight, but at least he had won it.

The End

written by James Rada, Jr.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

6: Time To Leave

Tim Ross looked at the body Frank Larkins and the other orderly loaded into the truck bed. It was the same man. Paul Donofrio. He had spoken a few hours earlier about recovering from tuberculosis. He had praised some sort of secret treatment Dr. Vallingham, the assistant director of the Maryland Tuberculosis Hospital in Sabillasville, was giving him.

“That’s him,” Tim said.

“Him who?” Frank asked.

“The man who was getting the secret treatment I told you about.”

Frank turned to stare at the body. “Are you sure?” Tim nodded. “He was a good guy. I liked him, and he seemed to be getting better. I thought they might send him home.”

“Really?”

“I didn’t run any tests on him, but he was looking a lot better than he had been when he first came here last year. He had better color and was gaining weight.”

“Was he getting aspirin?” Tim had discovered that was virtually the only medicine that patients received at the hospital. The main therapy was rest and fresh air.

Frank shook his head. “Not that I know of.”

Paul Donofrio had been getting better and had seemed fine at breakfast. Now, he was suddenly dead. Even if the treatment hadn’t been working, Paul shouldn’t have died so quickly. It didn’t make sense.

“Are they going to autopsy the body?” Tim asked.

“No, we’re going to put the body in a coffin and send it out on the evening train.”

“Is that unusual?”

Frank shook his head. “No. People here die from TB.”

“Does he look like he did?”

“That’s what Dr. Vallingham wrote on the death certificate.”

That was a surprise. “Has he seen the body?” Tim asked.

“I don’t think so.”

Tim sighed and shook his head. “Something’s not right.”

Frank loaded the body and drove away to wherever he needed to go. Tim watched him leave. Then, he turned toward the administration building. He thought he could see Dr. Vallingham standing at the window of his second-floor office, but it could have been his imagination.

So, if Paul had been getting a secret treatment, where would he have been getting it? Dr. Vallingham wouldn’t have wanted to meet with him openly. At that moment, Tim remembered the beds on the second floor of the laboratory.

He headed back across the campus and up the hill to the two-story stone building. When he arrived, he found the door was still unlocked. This still surprised him, having come from Baltimore where people locked their doors out of necessity. Inside, he walked around the tables that were filled with test tubes, bottles, Bunsen burners, and the other things one would expect to see in a place where medicines were prepared. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for. Did he expect to find a bottle labeled “Secret Treatment”?

He walked upstairs to where the beds were. Here, he found a cabinet filled with vials. He picked one up and held it up. The fluid inside was light green. Was this the treatment? He slipped it into his pocket.

A small desk sat in one corner. He walked over and looked through the drawers to see if he could find anything useful, but they were empty. Then, he looked over at the three beds with straps that would restrain whoever lay on the bed. This had to be where Dr. Vallingham administered his treatments, but he didn’t see anything he could definitely point to as being sinister.

“You do not belong here, Mr. Ross.”

Tim spun around and saw Dr. Vallingham standing at the head of the stairs with his special orderlies. He wore his tweed suit and seemed out of place in the room.

“I’m a curious person.”

“You were told specifically that you were not allowed in this building. It is a reason for dismissal from the hospital, which is what I will do. It is time for you to leave the hospital. You are not a good fit here.”

“Who is a good fit, though, for your special treatment?”

“I told you that there is no special treatment,” Vallingham said.

“That’s not what Paul Donofrio thought.”

“He died from tuberculosis.”

“Did he? You signed the death certificate without examining him.” When the doctor said nothing, Tim said, “Maybe I should leave. I need to get in touch with his family and encourage them to have a doctor autopsy his body. I imagine if it turns out that Paul died from anything other than TB, the authorities will have questions.”

Vallingham took a deep breath and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I am only trying to help people, Mr. Ross, and I have been making progress. If I have a few setbacks along the way, that is the cost of research.”

“Easy for you to say when you aren’t the one paying the cost.”

“I am. My reputation is on the line.”

“But not your life.”

“No, but perhaps yours.” Vallingham stepped back. “Strap him down. We’ll see how the next iteration of the serum works.”

The orderlies stepped forward. Tim backed off, looking for a weapon. He could grab the chair, but he could only hit one orderly before the others swarmed him. Then what would happen? Tim wasn’t sure he wanted Vallingham’s special treatment.

Tim grabbed the wooden chair and swung it back and forth, trying to ward off the orderlies. That was the best he could do. He didn’t have much of his strength anymore. One orderly grabbed the chair and yanked it out of Tim’s hands, tossing it off to the side. The other two closed in on Tim from different sides. Tim punched at them, but his jabs lacked power.

A group of half a dozen men rushed up the stairs with hoods over their heads. Two had bats and three of them had pistols.

“What is this?” Vallingham shouted.

“Let him go,” one hooded man said.

“This man is a patient of mine.”

One man swung his bat at Vallingham’s stomach. It hit him, and he doubled over, falling to the floor. The orderlies moved forward, but the armed men pointed their pistols at them.

“Let him go,” the hooded man repeated.

The orderlies released Tim. One of the men with bats grabbed Tim’s arm and pulled him away. They went down the stairs and out the door. They crowded into a truck Tim recognized.

“Which one of you is Frank?” Tim asked.

Frank took off his hood. He was driving.

“Thanks,” Tim said.

“I saw you heading back here. Then, I saw Vallingham head out with his goons on my way back from the station. I figured that couldn’t be good.”

“He’s using people to test his treatments.”

“Crap! That’s worse than I thought. I figured he was just doing some side work for money.”

Frank stopped the truck in front of the nurse’s building. He climbed out and took Tim’s arm.

“Come with me.” He turned to the other men. “They’ll be looking for the truck. Park it at the administration building and then disappear. Double the guards at the power house for now.”

The truck drove off.

“Bootleggers?” Tim asked.

Frank nodded. He took Tim into the building through the basement door. It was dark and smelled musty.

“We’re not supposed to be here, either, but every once in a while, a nurse and orderly will hit it off.” He nodded toward a bed in one corner. “You can stay here for now. They won’t look for you here.”

“What if one of the nurses reports me?”

“They won’t. They hate the way Vallingham treats them but stay quiet just in case.”

“For how long?”

“We can try to get you out on the train, but Vallingham will probably have the orderlies watching it. I think we should call the police. We’ll have to move the still somewhere off into the woods.”

“Wait, what if you turn Paul’s body over to the police? We can tell them what is happening, and they can have a doctor autopsy the body. It should show that Vallingham was lying about how Paul died. You might not even need to move the still.”

Frank rubbed his chin and then grinned. “I like how you think.”