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MIDNIGHT BLUE OVER MEXICO
By D.S. Land
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Discovery has its consequences.
June Rise and Tim Scott believe they've discovered a new cause for global warming. But when they travel to Mexico to confirm their theories, events take a demented turn - and fast. Tim vanishes, and soon June is on the run, framed for murder and the target of a deadly conspiracy. With her life on the line and catastrophic events looming, she is forced to take drastic measures in an attempt to reveal the discovery to the world. But will she succeed? Or will the discovery remain hidden forever - claiming June as a victim in the process?
From Seattle to Mexico, D.C. to Georgia, D.S. Land's debut thriller is a fast-paced, action-packed ride that challenges perceptions of global warming and explores the never-ending depths of greed.
Cords stretched from the electromagnetic spectroscope, to the spectral density analyzer, and back to the computer monitor. Tim chewed on a microwave pizza as he stared at the screen. June, sitting across the room at a desk—her head buried in a stack of papers, scribbled down notes as Tim called out values.
“What was that?” she asked. “Did you say point five?”
“No. I said point nine.”
“Point nine. The value is nine—not five.”
“Not five? Are you sure? That’s bigger than I expected.”
“Me too. But that’s it. It shot right over five. Is that where it stopped last week?”
“Yeah. Point five was the highest one before. So it’s at point nine now?”
“Wait, it’s not stopping there. Give it a second, it’s still going.”
June placed the pencil down and walked over to Tim. Shades of green and yellow covered a map of the Western portion of the United States. The colors grew deeper and more violet and red as they extended to the south. She pointed at a blotch of yellow centered over the border of Arizona, Nevada, and California. “Is that it? Is that where you’re reading point nine?”
“Yeah, but it’s higher now—one point one. The peak is just north of Lake Havasu.” Tim glanced down at the analyzer and back at June. “That’s probably all we’ve got out of this one, but that’s a hell of a lot stronger than last time.”
“You’re not kidding.” She sat back down and wrote the number on her notepad—1.1. Grabbing a calculator, she punched in the calculation, just like before. “What was the model based on?”
“Four weeks. With an elliptical regression of six-squared.”
“So how does that new value meld with the model for the collisions? Are we still on target?”
“It puts us a little ahead of schedule.”
“By how much?”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to do the calculation. But if I’m guessing, I’d say, I don’t know…. maybe twenty years.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t know. I’m exaggerating. But we’ll have to work it out. What’s the value you get?”
“I’m showing about three megajoules.”
“Yep. That’s big.” Tim placed down his pizza and walked over to June. He looked at her sternly, his typical sarcasm strangely absent. “Okay. Probably on to something here, chief. Let’s work it out. But I don’t think we’re gonna like the results.”
June and Tim pulled the spectrograph over to the table and worked the calculations, just like before, the same ones they’d worked tirelessly for the last few months.
After several minutes, they exchanged blank stares. Then, without hesitation, June went to call Dr. Cantappas. There was no time to waste.
June opened her eyes to nothing. Only darkness. Her body ached from the cramped night, and she felt sweat across her brow, even as a breeze entered through a partially opened window of the Land Cruiser.
She’d been asleep for hours, yet couldn’t remember dozing off. She rubbed her temples, attempting to wake her senses, and gazed through a sheet of glass. Outside, pine trees shimmered in the moonlight, the branches seemingly moving in rhythm to a breeze. They reminded her of Kentucky. Or was it Seattle? Both seemed like home now.
Leaning against an armrest, she swiveled to where Tim had been lying. Nothing—a haze of darkness blocked her vision.
She spun around, placed her feet against the floor, and pushed herself up. As her blue jeans and polo-shirt rubbed against the leather seat, a stinging sensation flooded her back.
Pausing to let the ache subside, she turned to the back of the car. The renewed effort prompted yet another pain—this time deep in the side of her neck. Grimacing, she brushed back her brown, shoulder-length hair.
“Tim, are you there?”
There was no reply.
“Tim, are you there?” she repeated, louder than before.
Again, there was no reply.
“Damn it, where is he?” She reached for the door of the Land Cruiser. As her fingers clasped the metal handle, a cold sensation developed along her neck. Another muscle spasm, she thought.
“Don’t move,” growled a voice from behind. “You shouldn’t be here. You need to go home.”
June tried to decipher the man’s voice. It wasn’t Tim’s. “What are you talking about?” she stammered.
“What the hell’s wrong with you? Do you think I’m stupid? I’ve been following you since you left Seattle. You need to turn around and go home.”
Despite waking up in a haze, June was now alert, and the sensation along her neck gained definition. Something was pressed against her skin—something cold and hard. She focused and traced a circular ridge defining the tip of a pistol. It nudged against her neck sharply. Her muscles tightened as a shiver of fear shook her body.
“This is not a game. Do you understand? Tim is a liar, and you are a fool for following him.”
Tim. Where the hell was Tim? Her face felt hot, her arms shook uncontrollably. “I - I’m sorry. I don't understand?”
“Are you blind? Do you not get it? Do you even know why you’re going to Mexico?”
“Y-yes. We have to confirm the—”
“Shut up! You know nothing.” The pistol rocked furiously. “Tim’s a liar. Do you understand? He’ll lead you astray.”
“What do you—?” But before she could finish the question, the pistol peeled away.
She swiveled to face the person. At the same time a hand clad in black leather covered her mouth with a damp cloth. The hand pulled forcefully, twisting her head and pinning it against the headrest. She tried to wrestle free, but the grasp was too strong. With every movement she inhaled the vile-smelling gas. Its bitter aroma was suffocating, and it stung as it entered her lungs.
Losing consciousness, her body turned limp and she slumped down in the seat. Lying there—much like she had spent the previous night—her eyelids closed. For a moment, just a split second, she thought she saw the gloved-hand retreat, the trees swaying gently in the breeze, a masked man retreating. She thought she heard the opening of a car door, the rustling of tree limbs, the scampering of feet. And then … nothing. Only darkness. Only silence.
A jolt smacked June’s head against the window of the Land Cruiser. She slowly lifted her eyelids to a view of countryside. Red dirt and mountains seemingly stretched for miles. It looked like Mexico, but she couldn’t be sure.
She closed her eyes again just to place herself. What the hell happened last night, she thought. The image of a gloved-hand flashed. A man’s voice… the man’s voice… echoed. And Tim. Where the hell was Tim? She glanced back out at the passing terrain. And who the hell was driving?
Quickly, she rotated to face the person in the driver’s seat. To her surprise it was Tim. His amber-colored hair waved freely in a stream of air coming from a vent in front of him. He glanced over. “Rise and shine, sunshine.”
“I – I.”
“Cat got your tongue?” One edge of his lip rose higher than the other. “You were sound asleep this morning.” He directed the vent away and straightened his hair.
“I – I.” The words were harder to form than expected. “I – I … I don’t know what happened. I woke up and there was someone in the car with me.”
“You mean me?”
June glared back at him. “No. Someone else.”
“Well… June, that’s strange. I was with somebody else last night too. A really hot blonde. She was about your size, say an inch taller – maybe 5’-8”, really blonde hair, like bleach blonde.”
“Shut up, Tim.”
“I’m just playing with you. But she really was in my dream. Very tall. And very hot. You were gonna’ tell me about yours, so I thought I’d tell you about mine.”
June rubbed her head. It felt like a drum beating. “I’m not kidding, Tim. This is serious. Someone was in the car with me last night.”
He rolled his eyes, seemingly frustrated. “Okay … well, June, there’s only one problem, then … I mean, you know I was with you last night, remember?”
“I know, Tim. But you’re not listening. I woke up, you weren't there, and someone else was. Did you get out of the car?”
He ran his hand through his hair, squinted his eyes, then said, “I did for a while. It was hot, and you were snoring something terrible. And I mean terrible.” He glanced at her, one eyebrow higher than the other, but no smile. “There’s no way someone could’ve gotten in the car without me knowing. And how would someone find us to be begin with?”
She continued to rub her head. The events swirled, yet they didn’t seem like reality—they were disjointed, like a not-so-recent dream.
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