Who says the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?
A few years since he tackled the Carr family, Jesse Hardner is still employed in his Romans’ Dairy delivery rounds; a job he loves, thanks to its straightforward nature and the fact that the Romans are practically family. The steady wages mean he can support himself through his studies and the job comes with the bonus of a daily care package courtesy of Mrs. Roman, for Jesse and his mother to enjoy.
Meanwhile, his romantic relationship with Raven has continued to grow and flourish. Jesse’s life has returned to a steady, settled pace, which suits him just fine.
Once more, however, his seemingly straightforward job sees him thrust into the midst of another deranged family’s troubles. This time, he is called upon by six-year-old Haylee, who is afraid for her brother’s life. Is she exaggerating, or could she be telling the truth?
Targeted Age Group:: 12+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Midway through writing the first book of The Milkman series this story popped into my head while I was out walking my dogs and witnessed a man yelling at a kid and throwing his bowling ball out of the trunk.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I knew a family in the 70's with a dynamic that seemed to resemble the antagonist within this book, an abusive step father.
It was late May and the summer fairs and amusement parks were open and in full swing. Temperatures were just right for outdoor activities this time of year in Westminster, Colorado. The early evening air was full of high-pitched screams from the girls and boys on the rides, along with the carnival music playing from speakers throughout the fairgrounds. Kids were running around with their cotton candy sticks in hand, looking for new games and their favorite rides.
To the naked eye, the Walker family looked like a typical young, happy American family. Two attractive parents were holding hands and walking along with their pre-teen son and a younger daughter. Ryder Walker had decided on this family outing to the county fair. They would eat roasted turkey legs and junk food for dinner, and enjoy a couple of rides and a few carnival games.
Ryder Walker was the macho, proud type. He did not like to be seen as weak or lesser in any form. His shoulders were wide, his arms were well muscled, and he had a strong aura of confidence about him. He was attractive to the ladies and liked to keep his brown wavy hair long, and show off his tattoos by wearing sleeveless t-shirts.
Entry into the fairgrounds was free and as they made their way through the open gated entrance, Haylee Walker ran ahead to see what was beyond the gates, as any young excited child would. She was nearing six years of age and almost always wore her long blonde hair pulled back into a ponytail. Ryder and Karen were holding hands and strolling along behind, watching the direction Haylee was heading. She would look back a lot to make sure her parents were following her. Trailing behind Ryder and Karen was their son Gary. He had his hands in his pockets, with his head down, and seemed to not be very interested in attending the fair. Most people just figured he was at that age where he was embarrassed to be with his parents in public. He was a tall, slightly overweight kid, with a lighter complexion than his sister and dark brown hair. His parents did not pay attention to him and his sulking ways; they were there to enjoy the evening.
“Mommy! Daddy! Over here,” yelled Haylee.
They saw her pointing to the left. She had found the smoked and seasoned turkey leg concession stand. As always, the roasted ear of corn stand was right next to it. Ryder lifted his nose and took in the aroma as they filed into line. Karen and Gary took a couple of steps to the right for the roasted corn line. Ryder and Haylee would grab the turkey legs. They met up under a blooming crabapple tree, about thirty yards away from the two stands. The Walkers sat down on the grass under the tree, with a huge supply of napkins, and began the wonderfully delicious messy process of eating the turkey legs, which were so large that when
Haylee would go to take a bite you could not see her face.
There was not much talking while they were working on their carnival feast. As they finished up they each threw their gnawed turkey bone and stripped ear of corn into the trash can and cleaned up with a couple of wet naps. Haylee was anxious to get to the rides. Her favorite was the bumper cars and she knew exactly where that ride was setup.
Haylee grabbed Ryder’s hand, “Come on Daddy, the bumper cars are this way.”
Karen and Gary followed along behind them, through the crowds of people towards the bumper cars, Gary still sulking and bringing up the rear of the family unit.
They all rode the bumper cars for three different sessions. Ryder had slipped the ride operator an extra ten-dollar bill so they could ride continuously without having to exit the ride and stand back in line. Karen actually saw Gary smile a couple of times and that warmed her heart; he had been through a rough few years.
After the bumper cars they made their way around the rest of the rides, choosing only a couple more to try out as it was getting late. Karen knew that Gary always loved the Zipper ride so she bought him and Haylee a ticket to go ride it. The parents sat this one out and took a seat on a bench. Ryder lit a cigarette. The kids had come back to them already dizzy but Ryder insisted on buying them all tickets for the Spinning Teacup ride. He grabbed the center console and started spinning them relentlessly. Karen and Haylee almost got sick. Gary just sat there with that dull, blank look on his face, all the while they were spinning. Afterwards, Karen told Ryder she would never step foot on that ride with him again.
After they finished with the rides, they had to pass through the carnival gaming area on their way to the parking lot. Haylee noticed a huge stuffed pink elephant hanging off the ceiling of one of the games. This stuffed animal was every bit as big as her.
“Daddy can I have that?” Haylee grabbed his hand and was jumping up and down while pointing at the elephant. Ryder loved his little girl and would do just about anything for her. He looked down at the game and noticed it was the milk bottle toss. The three milk bottles were stacked in a pyramid, with one balanced on top of the two on the bottom. There were three baseballs sitting on a felt counter, about ten feet away from the milk bottles. Ryder stepped up and purchased one game which meant he got the three balls.
The carnival game operator told him, “You have to knock all three bottles down for that big elephant.”
Ryder picked one up and reared his arm back, throwing the ball incredibly hard. It hit just to the left of the lower bottles. He threw the second one and knew he had over-compensated the second he released it. This one hit to the right of the lower bottles. His last ball went low and hit the table in front of the milk bottles. They visibly shook but none of them fell down. He was now determined and checked his wallet; he had enough cash for three more games. The second game, all three of his throws went wide right. He seemed to be getting worse. The third game, he was throwing high, and by the time he had spent the rest of his cash his throws were noticeably softer. Not one time did he even graze a single milk bottle with a baseball.
The game operator lightly lofted one of the baseballs to Gary and said, “Come on kid, give it a try. This one is on me.”
Ryder looked at Gary with his sideways glare. Gary did not notice the look and he stepped up to the felt table. He pulled back and threw the ball as hard as he could at the milk bottles, hitting directly in the middle of the lower two bottles. All three bottles exploded and fell to the table.
Haylee let out a yelp and jumped for glee, “All right, Gary! Nice throw!”
She ran over to the table while the game operator was pulling out a small step ladder and reaching up to release the ties on the large stuffed pink elephant.
Haylee gave her brother a big hug, “Thank you.” She was ecstatic with her new stuffed animal. Showing it off and hugging it. She kept talking about it as they were all walking back to the car to go home. Ryder had said it was time to go; he was out of money.
They got out to the gravel parking lot and as the lights from the fairgrounds did not extend this far, it was dark. Ryder had to stop for a second to let his eyes adjust so he could find their dark grey Nissan Altima. He finally spotted it and his family followed him over to the car.
Ryder said softly to Gary, “Wait right there.”
He pulled out the keys and opened the car for Karen and Haylee. He started the car and put on some music then stepped back out of the car. Gary was standing in place with his head down. He knew what was about to happen. Ryder pointed to the back of the car and Gary turned and started slowly walking around to the back of the Altima.
Before he rounded the rear fender by the trunk, he felt a foot smash into the middle of his back and he went flying forward, into a patch of tall grass. As he was lying face-down in the grass he felt two more hard slugs, one into each side of his ribs. They were painful, but not the worst he had ever received from Ryder.
Ryder said, “What did I tell you about making a fool out of me?”
Gary grunted, “Sorry.” Because he knew from experience that it was better to answer him than to remain silent.
“Get your ass up, boy.”
Gary feebly rose up to his knees then proceeded to slowly stand while grimacing and holding his right side. Ryder had popped the trunk when he unlocked the doors to the car for the women. He walked over and lifted the trunk hood up.
“You know the drill.”
Gary shuffled over to the trunk opening and was starting to crawl in when Ryder pushed him, “Hurry up, you retard!” Once he landed in the trunk with a hard thud and banged his elbow on the tire iron, Gary turned to look at Ryder, who was shaking his head and smiling. Then Ryder grabbed the top of the trunk lid, slammed it shut, nonchalantly walked around the car to the driver’s side door, got in and drove off.
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