Sentinels is the title of LAC Book 19, and the author has finished it! It moves on to editing now. She’s doing Camp NaNoWriMo in April, though, so I am not sure if it will be released in April or if we have to wait until May. Your favorite reporter will keep you posted.
In the meantime…
“Ginny, even if you do manage to get us all killed, Holly will go to hell for it, not you.”
Claudia’s words were followed by a tense silence.
Finally, Ginny snorted a laugh. “Very true. She’s an arm-twister to beat all arm-twisters.” She shook her head and said, “And if Laura manages not to get either of them killed, we’ll all be just fine.”
Kris reached from the van’s passenger side, patted Ginny’s leg, and for the fiftieth time commended her driving. Then, Claudia reached to place another bit of donut in front of Ginny’s mouth, and after she accepted it, she eased back into the seat next to me.
Claudia and I, obviously, sat in the bench seat directly behind our competent driver. Laura’s sister, Jaye, sat on the other side of me, immersed in the book Ginny had loaned her many miles back, Dickens’ Great Expectations. Knowing that was hardly a page-turner in good weather, I guessed she tried desperately to keep her mind occupied and her eyes off the road ahead.
Behind us sat Maggie, Susan, Janice, and Alison. They were respectfully quiet, and just how nervous they were, I couldn’t fathom without a gawking about-face that I just couldn’t muster. Unlike Jaye, I needed to keep my eyes on the road—okay, if you really could call it a road. There really wasn’t any road to be seen.
In fact, if you looked out any of the bazillion windows in that van, all you’d see would be solid white. The only difference out the front window, the only thing Ginny had to help her navigate and what I focused on, was a distant pair of taillights, belonging to Denny’s borrowed pickup, being driven by Laura, with Holly riding shotgun. We figured—no, actually we prayed—our situation seemed much worse in the whirring white wake of the pickup, and that Laura probably had better visibility. A couple stop signs proved our theory whacked, but no one had the balls to say it aloud, or maybe even silently.
It neared nine o’clock on this Tuesday, three days before Christmas. We were headed to Crappie Cabin, yet we hadn’t actually planned on even beginning the drive until ten. Each couple, however, had been roused out of bed at four that morning by that arm-twister to beat all arm-twisters. The Winter Weather Advisory for later that day, after we were to be cozy in front of a big fireplace, had not only been upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning, but the damn thing was way ahead of schedule. “It’s now or never,” Holly told Claudia and then pleaded with her to get ready and be prepared to jump into Ginny and Kris’ van that would come down our street in thirty-five to forty minutes. The project manager posed a few practical questions, and with my head affixed to the phone near Claudia’s ear, I heard Holly’s consistent answer, “But this is our Christmas!”
Claudia hung up, and we rushed like crazy to get ready for the premature start of our day. By the time we accomplished that, big-ass snowflakes were already beginning to fall.
Due to where our house staked its claim, we would be the last picked up, and we made sure we were prepared to bolt as soon as we saw headlights down our street. We regretted that plan as soon as we locked ourselves out, only to discover a pickup coming to a halt at our curb. Holly’s head craning out the open passenger-side window and the sudden appearance of the van thankfully told us what we needed to know.
Per Holly’s instructions, I undid the back corner of Denny’s tonneau cover, shoved our duffle bag and sleeping bag inside, and redid the snaps.
Then, we hightailed it to the van, finding the door sliding open and two spots waiting for us.
Greetings were exchanged, and the resounding group consensus came: The Dykes Who Dare could certainly outrun an Alberta Clipper. Something in my gut told me, though, that trying to outrun Alberta Clipper was about as stupid as trying to outsmart Alberta Cojones. But still, this was indeed our Christmas.
The snowfall increased at a rapid pace, and within forty-five minutes, it became evident: Alberta Clipper had the cajones to outrun us, and maybe even worse. Whiteout conditions: the radio confirmed what we frickin’ well knew. Travel should be avoided. No shit, but what were we supposed to do, pull over and let the great Alberta bury us until spring?
We debated traveling onward or heading back home, but it really didn’t matter what our opinion was. Laura drove onward, and there was no cell phone signal to be had for us to talk with her.
Hence, we shut the hell up so Ginny could concentrate and tightly crossed our fingers. Well, except for my favorite project manager, who had tasked herself with keeping Ginny fueled and supporting both her and the fretting psychologist in the passenger seat.
Long after we should have arrived, we were stuck in the middle of the country, on roads that were for the most part abandoned by all other vehicles. The sun had risen, and the light helped very little. The flakes were not as hypnotic as they were in headlights, but still, it was nearly impossible to see a damn thing.
At one point, Kris suggested we take a short break so Ginny could decompress or to let her take over driving for a bit. “We could drive in shifts, Gin.”
Ginny shook her head and assured her she was fine. “Besides,” she said, “we’re following Laura’s lead. She wouldn’t risk our lives, not even for Holly. It’s not as though we can call her anyway.”
That last remark caused Kris to start checking her cell phone for a signal for the hundredth time. Finding none, she told everyone else to try.
“And what are you going to say, Kris?” Ginny wanted to know. “That I need a break when she obviously doesn’t? I’m fine. I’m just fine.”
“Blame it on me,” Susan said. “She wouldn’t deny a pregnant woman a bathroom break.”
That seemed feasible, but the point was moot: No one had a cell phone signal.
Kris then offered to jump out of the van at a stop sign, race to the pickup, and get Laura’s attention by banging on the window.
Ginny roared, “Absolutely not,” and we once more shut the hell up.
After what seemed the passage of a week, Ginny noted that Laura had hit her turn signal, which confused the shit out of Ginny, as there was no need to turn unless she expected us to go cross-country through thick forest. She had just supposed that Laura was simply going to pull over, but then in the snowy haze we saw a green sign that read: Wellington 5 miles. Laura’s turn signal stopped, and we surmised Ginny was soon to get a break.
Except, five miles in a frickin’ blizzard was not the blink of an eye. A good twenty minutes passed before Laura signaled again, this time to turn into a gas station we couldn’t even see until it was right in front of our faces.
Not needing to gas the van, Ginny parked in what was probably a spot in front of the convenience store, and a second later, Laura appeared at the van’s side door. Claudia whipped it open, and Laura instructed us to pee, stretch, and get coffee as quickly as possible.
Immediately, Claudia about-faced and grabbed me. “I’ll get you a coffee, a huge coffee, if you find a tea bag in our duffle bag.”
I wanted to ask why the hell she didn’t have one on her, but instead, I simply nodded.
With hats, hoods, mittens, gloves, and jackets zipped to the very last tooth, we readied ourselves to fly into the blizzard for the necessities of life. Okay, for me, it was Claudia’s necessity, but she was my necessity so it really didn’t matter.
I’d need to pee before we hit the road again so I sped to the pickup to find Earl as quickly as I could. The wind proved downright nasty, and the snow was so thick it oddly made it seem almost hard to breathe.
I had just unsnapped the cover when I heard my name shouted. I turned to see Holly approaching.
“Do me a favor?” she asked, clutching my arm.
“What do you need?” I was figuring coffee for both of them.
“I think Laura would relax more if she’d smoke while she’s driving.” She shook her head. “The truck’s obviously been smoked in, but she won’t with me in there.”
“I was going to ask her to have one with me after I hit the bathroom.” Beg was more like it. I needed one, desperately.
“No, chickie. I mean, go the rest of the way in the pickup with her.”
She’d want me and not Holly? Hardly. “Will she let me?”
“I won’t give her a choice, but I need to know you’ll go.”
I assured her I would, and with a big sigh, she thanked me before zooming off.
A few moments later, I found Earl and dashed to find the restroom. I met Claudia coming out of the joint, and she was none to thrilled about my riding with Laura. Nonetheless, she directed me to the bathroom and said she’d hold my coffee ransom until I gave her a kiss goodbye. I would have, even without such brutality.
If last one to the restroom was a rotten egg, that would have been yours truly, and when I exited the musty room, the entire convenience store was vacant, except for a clerk eying me rather suspiciously. I took my hands out of my pockets and made sure they remained non-shoplifter visible for her.
I headed outside to find half of them inside the toasty van and the others conferring between it and the pickup. Claudia, Ginny, Holly, and Laura were talking about God knows what, or probably why I was such a slowpoke. I’d rightfully blame Earl.
As soon as I neared, Claudia handed me my coffee, and before I could even take a sip, Holly said, “Babe, Kate’s going to ride with you in the pickup.”
“Hol,” Laura’s argument immediately began, but Holly silenced her with a kiss.
“Just get us there safely, please,” she said before kissing her again. “Come on, Ginny,” she ordered, grabbing her. “Homestretch. We’re so close.”
With that, they began marching away.
Claudia made a face at me to indicate we had better get moving. We kissed, and she whispered for me to be careful.
She disappeared, and I glanced to the blindsided pickup driver.