Down the road, the carload of kids pulled up to the gas station. Jan ran in to use the bathroom. Gwen got out with the guys to stretch her legs. Lana sulked in the backseat. She wondered if her father had remembered to let the horses in.
Brent started pumping the gas.
“So you think McCarthy’s is haunted, do you?” Gwen laughed. She leaned against the hood of the car.
“Oh yeah, of course, Old Man McCarthy was hiding something up there.” Kyle said, “I think he was keeping young girls in his cellar to play with…” Kyle grabbed her and felt up her arms. Gwen giggled and jumped away. “Until he strangled them with his bare hands. They’re probably buried all round his property.”
“No way! That’s not true!” Gwen swatted Kyle away.
“Hey, knock it off with the stories,” Brent said jealously.
“I’m only tellin’ the truth!” Kyle stood his ground, but stopped pursuing Gwen and sat on the hood. Gwen looked over into the shadows of the gas station to notice her father’s truck parked there.
“Hey, I’ll be back,” Gwen told the guys. She trotted around the corner of the building to the truck. The door opened and her dad got out.
“Daddy! Look, I got crowned Homecoming Queen,” she said cheerfully.
Red swayed, “Lemme see,” he slurred as he turned to face her. He rested his hands on her shoulders. The grip made Gwen uncomfortable and her smile faltered. Red breathed heavily, the smell of alcohol wafted in Gwen’s face. His eyes were red and struggling to focus. His right hand moved up her arm and played with her hair. He looked at her tiara and scanned down her.
“That’s good,” he breathed. His left hand started stroking her arm. Gwen became stiff with fear. She wanted to pull away, but when he was drunk Red liked to hit. Gwen didn’t want to cause a scene in front of her friends. She tried to remain calm.
“I should…um…get going,” she said.
“No,” Red replied, his grip on her arm tightened. The hand that was in her hair grabbed her chin. Gwen gasped, her breath quickened. His thumb stroked her cheek and then ran over her lips.
“That’s it, baby doll.”
Gwen grimaced. His left hand moved from her arm to her neck.
“Now, come here,” he growled.
“Red Talbot, you let go of that girl!” Gayle shouted. She had walked out of the gas station after buying a pack of cigarettes and was on her way back to the diner. When Red looked up Gwen took the chance to bolt away from him. He snatched at her and caught hold of her tiara. Gwen ran back to the car and urged her friends to leave.
Red swayed where he stood, “Don’t you tell me what to do, you whore…you MURDERER!” He took a menacing step towards Gayle. She whipped out a snub nose revolver from her purse and he stopped.
“I ain’t no murderer yet, Red. So I insist you not throw that name around, lest I have to start pointing fingers,” Gayle ordered, “Now you better get in that truck and drive away and I best not hear about you laying another hand on that girl.”
Red scoffed, his hands up, one still clutching the crown. He backed away to his truck and got in. Gayle didn’t put her gun away until he had driven off. She looked around the parking lot; no one had noticed the scene. She sighed and started walking back to the diner.
If you enjoyed the excerpt and want to know more about this story, Sky Grew Dark is available in print and digital book HERE