Coughing spitting pushing falling.

Josh landed on his side in some field off the road they’d been driving on. He could taste the gritty salt of the nearby ocean in his mouth. The ground was soft—they were close to the shores obviously. Darkness swirled around him as he fought to keep them open, to keep his head from spinning away from him, to keep moving to get away from the car.

In the action thriller, the vehicle he was leaving would blow up behind him, but instead there was just the hum of a late night/early morning breeze.

A few cuts but nothing too bad.

He started to get his wits around him so he started to walk faster. Soon he was jogging, looking behind him. But he doubted either of the guys in the car was going to follow him. He’d heard glass crashing as they tumbled—maybe the driver had gone through the front windshield. The other guy . . .

I’m going to be dreaming about him ‘till the day I die.

Josh managed to get back on the road, some cracked and narrow piece of deserted asphalt that he doubted anybody else would be driving on anytime soon. That’s why they’d come way out there. Somewhere along this road, they were going to dispose of his corpse.

The moon was bright enough to allow him to easily jog and see his surroundings.

For ten—twenty—thirty minutes maybe, Josh kept his pace steady until he saw the figure in front of him standing in the center of the road. A light gray suit seemed to almost sparkle under the cold blue falling down on it. Josh stopped, almost skidding a bit as he reeled a bit from the picture.

Did I get a concussion?

He was seeing things, that was obvious. His grandfather wasn’t standing there in front of him. Obviously. Papa had been dead for over twenty years now. Yet the figure, so tall with that striking white hair, stood in front of him, wearing the same suit he’d been buried in.

When Miami mobsters try to kill you and then you take them out and flip over their car, this is what happens, idiot.

He knelt down and then put his head between his knees. He didn’t just close his eyes. He tried to wring them out like some kind of wet washcloth. When he opened them again, the splintering afterglow lasted a moment before his eyesight went back to normal.

Sure enough, the tall, elderly man in the gray suit was gone.

Josh let out a sigh and then turned around to see


The voice out of nowhere seemed to punch him in the gut. His eyes wandered and then he saw his grandfather, still towering over him even though he was several inches over six feet himself.


It sounded the way he remembered but it also seemed to blare inside and outside of his mind. Josh could see the figure—the ghost or the fantasy or the shock-induced apparition—starting to walk toward him. Not in some kind of threatening way but it didn’t matter.

Josh started to run again. Away. Far away. His legs moved faster and he was sprinting and remembering the days when he used to run track.

He didn’t look back. He didn’t slow down, not for a while.

When he finally couldn’t breathe and couldn’t rush anymore, he continued at a fast walk. He refused to look behind him. He didn’t want to see if his imaginary grandfather had followed him.

If he’s still there, that’s fine. I don’t care. I just gotta find someone and get out of this place.

Not just this city. He was going to leave this state, too.

He needed to go to Asheville, North Carolina. To find Carmella. To make sure she was okay.

To see if she’d take him back.

To see if she was alive to do so.