Last Stop: Sneak Peek!


LAST STOP: Horror on Route Thirteen

Ripped from the minds of thirteen authors and compiled David Green, this shared-world anthology of dread will make you never wanting to leave home again.

Authored by the talented:


Holley Cornetto ~ L. T. Emery ~ Peter J. Foote

J.W. Garrett ~ David Green ~ Stephen Herczeg

Abigail Linhardt ~ Beth W. Patterson ~ Lynne Phillips

Austin Shirey ~ Joshua D Taylor ~ V. A. Vazquez ~ Patrick Winters


Releasing October 30, 2021 - Grab your pre-order now for the special price of only $1.99 mybook.to/LastStop


We are so excited to share this story with you we wanted to give you a little preview of what is to come. We hope you enjoy ...


TW: Violence, death, gore, murderous sacrifice, swearing


PROLOGUE

A PLACE YOU’LL NEVER LEAVE

By David Green


You ever heard of it? Route Thirteen?

No, not the one in North Carolina. The real one.

You won’t find it on no map, won’t come across no tourist guides urging you to travel it. Oh no. Not old Route Thirteen. You dig around though, you unearth secrets best left buried, best left forgotten…

But you’re a curious sort. Can tell by that twinkle in your eye. Well, lemme tell you a little ‘bout what you might find.

Our Route Thirteen runs through Idaho; a winding, forgotten dirt road making its way past a one-horse town called Chevron and a canyon of ill-repute named Devil’s Ladder.

Yeah, you heard me. Devil’s Ladder. County’s that kinda place.

Let’s say some Godforsaken urge takes you, makes you drive that road. You’ll come across a place, eventually—it’ll find you when the time’s right, don’t you worry ‘bout that—name of Whiskey Pete’s. Looks like any old bar and motel stranded alongside a road in the middle of nowhere, till you peer a little closer.

I suggest you do, take a real good look at it, then get back in your vehicle, and keep right on truckin’.

Say you don’t.

Say you’ve taken leave of your senses, and you take a stroll inside. I’d put every goddamn thing I own on you meeting this cast of characters:

Con Muldoon, barkeep and grunter extraordinaire.

Lorne W. Peterson, Canadian shop keep, has a name-tag reading ‘Dale’. No one knows why.

Young Joel Masterson… Inspect that one, all’s not what a first glance might tell ya.

Old Melvin Washington. Some say he knew his more famous namesake, not least hisself.

Last, but not least, Stacey Jenkins. Well, the less said about her, the better.

Now. Let’s say you wandered on in there, laid eyes on the folk I just mentioned. You hightail it out of there, and don’t ever think of coming back; don’t stop till your ride’s running on fumes. That’s my advice, given free. Take it or leave it.

It’s the kinda joint where time don’t run straight. Things, places, names, even the goddamn furniture don’t act the way they’re s’pose to. It changes. Twists, like it’s-a molding itself to whatever’s in your noggin’, fitting into memories best left forgotten.

Just like Whiskey Pete’s.

How’d I know about Whiskey Pete’s on Route Thirteen? Now you’re asking the right questions!

Hmm… It’s not a place the unlucky folk who darken its door often leave, and if you’re fortunate to get out, never make the mistake of thinking you escaped. Their reach is long.

No one ever really leaves Whiskey Pete’s…



NIA AND JAMIE

By Patrick Winters

It was 2:07am, and Jamie was getting jittery as hell.

He twisted his head around, glaring out the back window and scanning the street, looking over all the neighboring house-fronts with a wary eye. Households were quiet all along the block, not a single porch light on and nary a glow in any window, where an insomniac or night-owl could be staring out from, taking note of the young man sitting in his car. But darkness keeps secrets well. Maybe someone was watching him—peeking out through a curtain, hiding away in the dark.

He eased back into his seat, staring up to Nia’s second-floor window, urging it to open and for her to come out.

Come on, baby. He was getting so paranoid, even the thoughts in his head were whispering. Where are you?

Jamie forced himself to loosen his death-grip on the steering wheel of his ’77 Aspen. Another minute passed—or several—and he was starting to sweat up a storm.

He ground his teeth and wiped an arm across his forehead. He debated rolling down the window, arguing with himself as to whether the whirring of the glass could wake the neighbors. He finally found the nerve, and put the front windows all the way down. A slight breeze wafted in, cooling and calming him some. Not nearly enough.

They found out. Her folks have got her locked up tight. Daddy probably called his buddies on the force. They’ve got squad cars coming over right now, ready to drag your ass away…

He could hear the echo of their sirens now, ringing through the fear, closing in on him. His hands started wringing the steering wheel again, and that voice in his head grew traitorous. Go. Now. Forget this crazy idea and get the fuck out of Dodge.

Jamie strong-armed that thought away, shaking his head. “Fuck that.”

“Fuck what?”

The whisper from his right sent a chill down his spine, and he whipped his head around to see who had discovered him. His dread washed away when he saw it was Nia, looking in at him with a bemused smile on that gorgeous face.

Jamie gave a nervous laugh. “Jeez, babe. You about scared the shit out of me.”

Nia tossed a bulging duffel bag through the window. It smacked against Jamie, and he set it in the backseat as Nia slipped into the passenger’s side. She was careful to ease the door closed, quiet as possible.

“What took you so lo—?”

Jamie’s concern was cut off as Nia slid up to him and kissed him full on the lips. Her embrace instantly worked its magic on him, as only hers ever could. The tension in his muscles eased, his fears crawled back into their dark hideaways, and any doubts of what they planned to do were cast aside, if only for this one serene moment.

This. This feeling between them. This was what they were fighting to keep alive, what they would ensure was theirs, at the cost they were about to pay. And to preserve that blissful bond, the cost was well worth it.

Jamie pulled Nia in closer, holding the kiss a moment longer. When she pulled away, he was left wanting more.

“Sorry I’m late,” she whispered. “I thought I heard dad down in the kitchen. Didn’t want to risk coming out until he was back in bed.”

Jamie set a hand on her forearm, rubbing at it gently. “For a minute there, I was thinking we were done for.”

“No way.” Nia said, setting her hand on his. Jamie found some extra resolve in how steady and gentle that touch was. “We’re just getting started.”

They shared another quick kiss—a peck of reassurance—before Nia slid back and buckled herself in. Jamie started up the car, jaw rigid with renewed anxiety as the engine grumbled to life. He put the car in gear and slowly pulled it away from the curb, keeping his headlights off until the next block.

“Okay,” Jamie sighed, eyes darting about as he drove. “Here we go.”

Nia gave him a small smile of confidence. But as she left behind the only home she’d ever known, Jamie saw that smile fall away, and she looked out to the dark night with uncertainty on her beautiful face.

#

It was the third morning of the young couple’s great escape. So far, so good.

There was no plan. No predetermined routes or timetables to adhere to. The only concrete destination they’d ever had in mind was ‘away,’ and that suited Jamie and Nia just fine, for the time being. Once they’d left their hometown of Astoria behind, they’d headed southeast, saying farewell to the waters of the Pacific, which they’d known and swam in all their young lives. From there, they’d taken Route 30, which could have delivered them all the way to the other side of the country.

But, once they reached the hustle and bustle of Portland, the allure of major routes and highways faded quickly. With their newfound, flexible lease on life, they could take whatever path they wanted, wherever they wanted to take it.

So it was no big decision when Jamie opted to get off US Route 30 and head on down Route Thirteen, which neither of them had ever heard of before.

The traffic dried up, and it looked like it would give them free rein of more back road options. Nia agreed to try some out-of-the-way areas, which held a certain adventurous—even romantic—charm.

They made stops when they needed to, to stretch their legs or grab a quick bite to eat. Something simple and cheap. They’d enough forethought to bring food along for the trip, but it was mostly snacks and junk food. They’d accepted that true, warm meals would be few and far between, at least until they settled down somewhere. Motel rooms would be just as scarce. They could afford one now and again, if conditions were rough, but they figured it would be best to save their money whenever they could manage. With the pleasant spring weather setting in, their nights and days of travel were more than comfortable, and Jamie’s Aspen was roomy enough for them to sleep in. That’s what they’d done every night thus far, pulling off to the side of the road or into abandoned lots in the many towns they passed, one sprawling out in the backseat and the other in the front to catch a few winks—though there was enough room for two in the backseat, at least on certain occasions. It made for a modest home, to say the very least, but they didn’t mind it.

That home carried them across the Oregon-Idaho state line, and Jamie saw the crossing as a cause for celebration. He cranked up the radio, which happened to be playing Around the World by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Nia knew they were one of Jamie’s favorite bands, but his appreciation didn’t match the performance he gave as he started to sing along to the tune. His memory failed him as he mumbled over the rhythm, and what lyrics he could remember were lost to his own laughter as he gyrated and grooved behind the wheel. Nia cracked up alongside him, tears welling in her eyes as she laughed and laughed.

But, once they turned the radio down low and the conversation ran sparse again, her mind began to wander. No matter how much she believed in what they were doing, no matter how she told herself it could actually work out for them, the rational, fearful part of her had to throw the insanity of it back up in her face. And though her sight was on the road’s edge, her mind’s eye turned back to the past.

She’d first met Jamie at a party, a little over a year ago. A friend of a friend, and when they’d first been introduced, she was smitten, no doubt. Not head over heels for him—that would come later—but his charms, and how he’d made her laugh that night, made her want to see more of him by the party’s end. Plenty more.

He became a permanent fixture in her young mind, And that fixture became a star she’d wished upon, after the hangouts that followed, and the outright dates, where they became so close so quickly. She wished to be with him, totally and truly, as only those old, classic love stories would allow. Living their lives together as they saw fit.

The trouble was, Nia had been a fresh sixteen at the time of the party, and Jamie had already turned twenty. And considering where the relationship had turned in recent months, there was a name for what their case was.

Their families—specifically, the difference in their races—provided a whole other problem. Jamie was from a working-class white family. His mother had died when he was thirteen, leaving him to raise himself, taking up two jobs by the time he’d finished high school to keep himself afloat. His father had been a hard-nosed dockworker since before Jamie was born, and he didn’t much care about Jamie’s school work, or his jobs, or much of anything else regarding his son. When Nia had broken down and asked how his father would react to him being with a black girl, Jamie had averted his eyes and shrugged, simply saying: “He’d take it or leave it.” And she knew well enough to realize what that meant.

Then there was her family, and therein lay the greater fallout. Her family was higher up in the Astoria chain, so much so that a few small businesses had their last name plastered across spots in the city. And her father had ‘connections’, which were occasionally alluded to by friends and family but never given much elaboration for her understanding. Some in the police, some in other places.

It wasn’t snap-your-fingers-get-your-way kind of clout, but it was clout all the same, and her parents held their good name to a high standard. As good-hearted and community-minded as they often were, they had drawn dividing lines in the sand when it came to dealing with ‘the majority’, as Nia had often heard it put through the years. The idea of her even dating a white man would have been met with her parents’ criticism.

And if they’d even suspected, much less known, about Jamie and just how far their relationship had gone…

The connections would have come out, and Jamie and Nia’s time together would’ve been snuffed. They’d end up the whispered subjects of small town gossip, and Jamie would live the next stint of his life behind bars on a statutory rape charge, if her father pulled enough of those strings.

When Jamie first mentioned the idea of their running away, he’d passed it off as a joke. But she hadn’t laughed, because from the first mention, it held a certain temptation. A temptation that went past the youthful angst of wanting to get away from whatever held your wild soul down.

No, this was something stronger. Truer. And for them to be together—with no more facades, or doubts, or waiting—it would be worth it.

They’d hatched their getaway for about a month, getting things ready, trying to plan for the realities that would hit them on the road. Jamie had a decent amount saved from his jobs, and Nia’s token position at McDonald’s added a little to their collective wallet. They would go wherever they felt like going, do whatever they felt like doing, until they found a place they felt was suitable for them. And once there, they’d settle down. Get an apartment or whatever they could afford, take up any jobs that presented themselves, and make a life that was all their own.

It wouldn’t be easy, by any means, but it would be of their own choice, and that was something.

There were plenty of opportunities ahead of them. Plenty of pitfalls, too. And while their journey thus far had shown nothing but opportunity, Nia wondered when the first pitfall would present itself.

“How you doing over there, sweet cakes?”

Nia snapped out of her thoughts and turned to Jamie. She’d been massaging her knuckles across her lips without realizing it. A habit of hers, whenever she was feeling doubtful.

“Doing fine, sugar lips.” She put her hand in her lap, hoping Jamie didn’t pick up on the tell. “Taking in the view.”

He nodded, looking back to the road with a ponderous expression on his face. “Hey. What did the prostitute say to the potato?”

Nia shook her head and held back a grin. “I have no idea.”

“Idaho.”

She couldn’t hold back the snort that came, and as he chuckled at her, she gave him a punch to the arm.

“God, you’re awful!”

“Awful? Hmm… That German for ‘comic genius’ or something?”

“Or something, for sure.”

Jamie gave her a loving grin and a wink. Nia, still shaking her head, looked out the window again, taking in the scenery for real this time. Eventually, she turned her attention to the radio. She started searching for something else to listen to.

When she happened upon a station playing Blinding Lights by The Weekend, she cranked it up, and it was her turn to serenade Jamie. Both would have agreed she did a better job of it.

#

Four hours later, they were still on the road. They’d gone a good distance, zipping on through the Payette National Forest and making a single stop in that time, taking advantage of a rest area to relieve themselves and stretch their legs. The mood had been up. More sing-alongs, more ideas of where they’d go and what they’d do when they got there.

So, when Nia started to groan, bracing her hands against her knees, Jamie knew something was up.

“You okay?” he asked.

Her eyes rolled before she squeezed them shut, breathing quickly in and out through her nose. “No,” she said. Then her cheeks bulged, and her throat gave a lurch. “Pull over, please!”

Jamie made certain there was no one behind them—and there wasn’t, just as there hadn’t been for most of the trip down Route Thirteen—then pulled the Aspen over just as Nia threw off her seatbelt. She had the door open and was out of the car before he could even put it in park. When he cut the engine, her composure broke and she vomited.

Jamie got out and made his way around to her, sparing a glance at the flanks of pine surrounding them on either side of the road. Some bird cawed from atop all the green, and the faint trickle of a nearby stream could just barely be heard beneath that. It would’ve been a pleasant enough scene, under different circumstances.

But as Nia retched again, with force, the tranquility was lost.

Jamie paused a couple steps behind her, wanting to comfort her and give her some space at the same time. His own stomach remained steadfast as he saw the muck that was making its way out of her—the snacks she’d eaten here and there today, or what remained.

“It’s okay, baby,” he cooed. “Just let it out. Take deep breaths when you can.”

She let loose again, then righted herself some, spitting and catching her breath. He eased on up to her and set a hand to her back, ready to hold her up if she started to get lightheaded. After another moment of catching her bearings, Nia turned about, revolving slowly, eyes down. She looked embarrassed, or maybe she was still holding back whatever was wrestling in her stomach.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” she said weakly. “Better, at least.”

“Seemed kind of sudden.”

She shook her head. “Started feeling sick a little bit ago.”

Jamie tried to sound caring, not demeaning. “You should have told me.”

“Sorry.” She reached out a hand to him as they made their way back to the car. “Hoped it would pass.”

“Nothing to be sorry about. Here we go, sweet stuff.”

He helped her ease in before he got back behind the wheel. He shut the door, and they sat there for a m