Sunday Sampler: River Town by Lynn Hobbs

BookCover_River_Town copy

In our mission to connect readers, writers, and books, Caleb and Linda Pirtle has launched a new series featuring writing samples from some of the best authors in the marketplace today. Sunday Sampler is an excerpt from River Town, a powerful faith and family saga from Lynn Hobbs.

As one reviewer said: This book depicts small town life – from the seedier side. Yet, it has a thread of faith running through it that kept the story from unraveling. It will open your eyes to what teachers face in our public high schools and the reasons things are deteriorating inside the walls.

The Story

In this inspiring, suspenseful, action-packed novel Susan Penleigh relocates to Texas in 2011 during the worst drought in history with terrifying wildfires, a new job at a high school, and many people to challenge her faith.

From troubled teenagers to an arrogant boss, scripture helps a woman’s journey through modern family issues. A compelling page turner that will enthrall teens, men, and women!

Book two of the Running Forward Series.

The Sampler

Lynn Hobbs
Lynn Hobbs

“I smelled a strange order in the air a few times before the explosion. It was like a burst of chemicals appeared in the air and lingered. It didn’t go away quickly, and nearly gagged me. I ran inside the house to breathe.”

“Anyone else notice it?”

“I don’t know…most of my neighbors were at work. Later, I observed two men across the river walking through the woods. When they saw me both men halfway hid themselves behind trees. Strange.”

“I’ll put it in my report, anything else?”

“No. They acted suspicious, really weird with the odd smell, too.”

Deputy Acker wrote Rick’s name, address and phone number. Another vehicle neared the barricade. He and Rick glanced at the slow approach of the car.

“It’s Susan. She’s a neighbor, I can vouch for her,” Rick stammered at the deputy, and they walked to Susan’s Chevy Equinox.

She idled her engine and lowered the window.

“Hey girl, I didn’t mean to scare you when I called this morning. The neighborhood fires are out now.”

“Listen, I appreciate you warning me. Thanks Rick.”

“You can go on back to work, Susan, things are fine.”

“It’s a long story, but I won’t be going back to work. Is it safe to stay at home?”

“Well, yes, for the time being, but what’s going on?” He frowned.

“Later. We will talk later, okay.”

“Okay.”

“Ma’am, it is safe now, but we may have to evacuate at any time.” Deputy Acker hastened to mention.

“Thank you, officer. Ten o’clock news on the radio announced wildfires have just sprung up again in Gregg, Panola, Marion, Harrison, and Cass County. They are scattered all over. It’s frightening.”

“Yes, ma’am. A judge declared this an emergency and officially activated the Emergency Operations Center. We now have state and federal assistance available. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing personnel along with planes and helicopters equipped to scoop water from Cherokee Lake. Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center in Longview is bustling with firefighters coming and going. Get photo albums, deeds, insurance papers, anything valuable or irreplaceable, and lock them in your car. We never know when a fire might break out again, and it’s best to be prepared. A unit from the River Town Fire Department will be stationed here tonight in case hot spots grow out of control. We’ll be patrolling, also. Drive around the side of the barricade, and you can return home.” He tipped his hat at her.

She nodded at both men, put her car in gear, and carefully drove around the barricade.

“I’m heading home myself. It’s too hot to be outside.” Rick returned to the truck and followed Susan for over a mile.

She pulled into her driveway, and Rick kept driving to his own house while he gazed in amazement at the nearby fire damage. Tall burnt trees stood like black silhouettes in a Halloween picture, bleak and ghostly. Many homes were surrounded by black charred lawns that crept too close to their exterior walls. Thank God for all firefighters. The deputy flashed through his mind. And thank God for all law enforcement personnel.

Rick arrived home and parked the vehicle. He opened the truck door and stepped onto the concrete driveway. Lingering smoke remained in the air, similar to extremely low lying clouds. Not a breeze blew, and Rick marveled at the blanket of smoke only a few feet off the ground. A deep cough progressed quickly until he went in the house, where the cough lessened. Inside, everything reeked of the strong smoke smell. Rick shook his head at this discovery. Thank God I still have a house. Wonder what the back yard looks like?

     A brisk walk through the house, and he opened the back door. Deep in thought, he stared straight ahead when a slight movement against the outside wall caught his attention. Rick quickly turned his head towards the sound.

“Daddy.”

Rick blinked at his daughter in disbelief. Soot covered her arms, and her hair was in disarray.

“Tessa.” Shocked, he stood still.

“Oh, Daddy,” she gushed, and embraced him in an instant hug.

“How did you get here?”

“My boyfriend got me out, and…and…I didn’t know it, but he …he is best friends with that dirty ole’ man, Cotton.”

“You don’t need to be involved with thugs. You need to go back to the drug treatment center.”

“I’m scared, Daddy.”

Rick melted as fast as a piece of chocolate in the heat of summer. And she knows it.

     He held her close and slowly patted the top of her head while years of pain returned in full force. He fought back tears while his heart ached.

“Baby girl, I can’t help you. You have to want to help yourself.”

Tessa sobbed and held onto her father.

“I have to ask you something, Tessa, listen to me. Were you across the river from me a few days ago?”

The crying abruptly stopped, and a meek answer is heard by Rick.

“Yes, Daddy.”

“What were you doing there?”

“It was a meth lab. It exploded.”

“You know you have to go back to the center.”

Tessa glared at him. “Like this? You want to drop me off at the center like this?” She spread her filthy arms wide apart.

“Go wash up, and we are going to talk to a new friend of mine. Then, see about getting you some clothes at Walmart.”

Tessa cleaned quickly, and Rick drove her to talk to Deputy Acker, still parked up the road. The boyfriend’s description was given and all other pertinent information. Clothes were bought, fast food was eaten, and arrangements were made for Tessa to return the next day to the drug treatment center a hundred miles away.

Both exhausted, Father and daughter settled in for the night. About four o’clock in the morning, Rick awoke to glass shattering from the double windows in the living room.

Tessa’s boyfriend broke into the home and demanded Tessa leave with him.

Numb with sleep, Rick managed to call 911, and hold a shotgun on the intruder. Deputies arrived and escorted the shouting drug addict out in handcuffs.

Rick drove a sullen Tessa back to the center after breakfast. He silently prayed for her and thought about the break-ins of his house and truck. He tried even harder to forgive what a drug addict will do for drugs.

Rick couldn’t look at her. She sat rigid and angry. He blinked his watery eyes several times and sighed deeply. What is she, twenty-three years old now?

 

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