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Authors: Kim Fielding

Rattlesnake

Readers love

K
IM
F
IELDING

Astounding!

 

“I absolutely love it when Kim Fielding decides to go on yet another genre freestyling endeavour. I get chills when she does this.”

—On Top Down Under

 

“I loved this book! It was quirky and the characters were interesting and fun.

—Reviews by Jessewave

 

“…if you are looking for another sweet story from the very talented Kim Fielding, this could be just what you need.”

—My Fiction Nook

 

Grown-up

 

“I
adore
Kim Fielding. Her books are always awesome. Sometimes thought provoking. Terribly sweet and always heart-warming… I highly recommend this book and this author.”

—The Kimi-chan Experience

 

The Pillar

 

“For all that this was only novella length, it packed quite a punch. The love, the hurt, the joy, the regret—it was all felt and felt quite deeply by both them and me.”

—Love Bytes

By
K
IM
F
IELDING

Alaska

Animal Magnetism (Dreamspinner Anthology)

Astounding!

The Border

Brute

Don’t Try This at Home (Dreamspinner Anthology)

A Great Miracle Happened There

Grown-up

Housekeeping

Men of Steel (Dreamspinner Anthology)

Motel. Pool.

Night Shift

Pilgrimage

The Pillar

Phoenix

Rattlesnake

Saint Martin’s Day

Snow on the Roof (Dreamspinner Anthology)

Speechless • The Gig

Steamed Up (Dreamspinner Anthology)

The Tin Box

Venetian Masks

Violet’s Present

B
ONES

Good Bones

Buried Bones

The Gig

Bone Dry

G
OTHIKA

Stitch (Multiple Author Anthology)

Bones (Multiple Author Anthology)

Claw (Multiple Author Anthology)

Published by
D
REAMSPINNER
P
RESS

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

C
OPYRIGHT

Published by

D
REAMSPINNER
P
RESS

5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886  USA

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of author imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Rattlesnake

© 2015 Kim Fielding.

Cover Art

© 2015  L.C. Chase.

http://www.lcchase.com

Cover content is for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted on the cover is a model.

All rights reserved. This book is licensed to the original purchaser only. Duplication or distribution via any means is illegal and a violation of international copyright law, subject to criminal prosecution and upon conviction, fines, and/or imprisonment. Any eBook format cannot be legally loaned or given to others. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact Dreamspinner Press, 5032 Capital Circle SW, Suite 2, PMB# 279, Tallahassee, FL 32305-7886, USA, or http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/.

ISBN: 978-1-63476-476-6

Digital ISBN: 978-1-63476-477-3

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015906570

First Edition August 2015

Printed in the United States of America

This paper meets the requirements of

ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).

A
CKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

 

Many thanks to Karen Witzke and Eli Easton for their invaluable feedback on this story. And gratitude to my husband and daughters for letting me drag them around gold-rush-era cemeteries in the name of research.

C
HAPTER
O
NE

 

 

I
T
BEGAN
with a dead man.

No, that’s not right. It began before that for Jimmy Dorsett, who was very much alive and alone in a wide, empty desert, listening to his Ford clatter and groan and wondering how much farther it would take him. He would rather have listened to the radio, but it was already busted when he bought the car. So was the AC, which was why he was driving at night. One of the reasons, anyway.

He knew if he slowed down, the car might last a few more miles, but he kept his foot heavy on the pedal. He told himself it was because he’d been guzzling coffee to stay awake and now he had to piss. But the fact was, he always drove fast even when he had nowhere to be.

He could have pulled over and watered a Joshua tree but decided to hold it awhile longer. He needed more coffee too, and the gas gauge hovered not far above the red E.

He saw the lights from miles away, and as he drew closer, he realized he was nearing a tiny town. Not much of a place. A few houses, small and close to the highway, but somebody lived in them, and those somebodies had more than he did. A couple of buildings contained businesses of some kind, but Jimmy couldn’t tell in the darkness whether they were closed for the night or closed forever. Two enormous gas stations sat across from one another, each with a convenience store and plenty of room for semis to pull in and turn around. The bright lighting was cold and hard and did nothing to warm the desert night.

Jimmy turned into the station on his right.

He went inside to use the can before he did anything else. The clerk was a big guy with a scruffy beard, and he eyed Jimmy carefully. Jimmy imagined the guy’s hands rested close to a gun, just in case.

The bathroom was dirty, but he’d seen worse. Much worse. At least the sink worked, so he washed his hands and splashed cold water on his face. There was no mirror, which was just as well.

When he was done, he picked up a bag of chips and a king-size Snickers bar and filled their largest paper cup with coffee. He took his purchases to the counter. “And thirty bucks of regular,” he said. Gas prices had gone down lately, allowing him to get a lot farther than he used to, but still his little stash of bills was pitifully thin.

The cashier rang him up, took the money, and handed him change and a receipt. Didn’t say anything, not even
Thanks
or
Have a nice night
. So Jimmy smiled at him and said, “Thank you. Hope you have a good day.”

The man didn’t respond.

Jimmy gassed up the Ford, listening to the fuel line hum, thinking about nothing much. He could do that—shut off his mind and wait for whatever came next.

Then he was back in his car with the motor running and bad coffee burning his tongue. He had a decision to make. The town was at a crossroads, so assuming he didn’t want to retrace his journey, he could travel in any one of three directions. He drove to the edge of the parking lot and idled for a moment. North, west, east. None of them looked any more or less promising than the others. The pavement all looked the same.

And then he noticed the old man.

He stood near the gas station across the street, his back against a thick metal light pole, a backpack lying at his feet. He was bearded, grizzled, and wore a stocking cap pulled low on his head and a jean jacket faded almost to white. The jacket wasn’t heavy enough for a desert night, and the man shivered. He wasn’t looking at Jimmy’s car or the two semis idling nearby. He looked like a man who’d given up on waiting a long time ago.

Jimmy had been that man more than once over the years. No bed, no money, no hope. Hell, once the Ford finally croaked and he ran though the last few dollars in his wallet, Jimmy would be that man again.

But at the moment he had a car that ran, and he had a little food and a little cash. So he drove across the empty highway and stopped in front of the old man. He opened his door slightly—the window was stuck—and asked, “Need a ride?”

The guy didn’t even pause to assess him. He just picked up his pack, which looked heavy, and threw it in the backseat before sitting in the front. He and Jimmy closed their doors.

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