“TRAFFIC DETECTED ahead in 1.5 miles. Take suggested alternate route instead.”
Camden Warren cringed at the automated voice coming from his GPS. “God,” he groaned. “Even the disembodied robotic voice in my navigator thinks I need to be directed everywhere.”
He begrudgingly made the necessary adjustments to his route, hoping nothing else deterred his journey home.
One hand on the steering wheel, the other rubbing the tension from his neck, Camden replayed the conversation—or more aptly termed, the civil disagreement—he and his father had engaged in. Two hours spent at his parents’ “Downstate” home in Kings Point, Long Island, playing verbal tennis all to answer one question.
“When are you going to choose a suitable man to settle down with whose pedigree will be an asset to you on the campaign trail? I’ve presented you several suitable candidates over the last five years, Camden. You’ve tossed them all away. You will not ignore this opportunity I’ve cultivated with the senator’s son.”
Michael Warren, chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals, had one goal in mind: for his son, Camden, to blaze across the political arena. It wasn’t a bad dream to have. If Camden were to be honest, the idea of holding office, and having the ability to change the government, was intoxicating. Enticing enough he’d followed every letter of his father’s master plan to political nirvana. Everything except the need for a pretty spouse to smile nicely for the cameras.
“A 97 percent conviction rate. Executive assistant district attorney in less than ten years on the job. All of that, and I’m still not good enough to win an election if I don’t have the right man by my side?”
Halfway through his trip, a blinking light on his dashboard illuminated the car. It was one of those safety features that screamed at you to take care of your vehicle when you’d otherwise ignore it.
A quick glance at the dash showed him it was the low-fuel alarm. His car was doubtful Camden could make it home at his current speed with only a quarter tank of gas in the car.
Camden slammed his hand against the steering wheel. “Apparently, everyone is questioning my judgment tonight.”
He glanced down Conduit Avenue until he saw the familiar sign of a franchise gas station shining in the night. After turning the indicator on, he drove into the station and pulled up to a pump.
He leaned down, trying to spot any attendants who might be around, and prickled in annoyance when he saw the self-service sign. Not that he’d never pumped his own gas before, but after going ten rounds with his dad about settling down with a suitable husband, Camden just wanted to be done with this task as soon as possible.
Taking a deep breath to pull himself together, he turned the car off, exited, and walked to the pump controls. Pulling his credit card out of his wallet, he was about to swipe it when he saw the “Credit cards pay inside” message scrolling across the small screen.
“Shit! Can this get any worse?”
Camden shoved his card back in his pocket and made the trek across all eight pumps before he reached the little market he assumed the “inside” part of the message referred to.
He stepped inside, seeing an empty cashier’s booth in the front of the store. He stood there, tapping his finger against the reinforced plastic cube where someone should’ve been sitting so he could get his gas and get the hell on the road.
When a young man with stringy brown hair came through a door marked Employees Only, he almost threw his credit card at the kid to get his attention.
“Fill it up on pump eight. Premium please.”
“You got ID?”
Camden’s jaw ticked with frustration. The kid was lucky that cube protected him from Camden’s need to wring his scrawny little neck. He pulled his driver’s license from his wallet and threw it into the drawer the boy had pushed open.
“You need a receipt?”
“No,” he growled. “I need you to turn the pump on, so I can get my gas and go home.”
Camden pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head as he mentally chastised himself. He was being an asshole to this kid when his frustration lay solely at his father’s feet, and that was unacceptable. Remorseful, and with a minor attitude adjustment, Camden dropped his hand to his side and stared at the attendant. “I’m sorry. It’s been a rough night.”
The kid shrugged his shoulders, not seeming at all concerned with Camden’s impatience or his apology, and went about the business of scanning the card, having Camden sign for the purchase, and sliding the card back through the push-pull drawer for him to collect.
His card in his wallet, and hopefully a working gas pump waiting for him, Camden left the mini-mart and headed toward his car. He was halfway there when he realized the adolescent behind the window hadn’t given him back his driver’s license.
Camden turned on his heel and headed back. When his hand reached the door, he heard a loud sound that resembled a large vehicle backfiring. A quick glance over his shoulder revealed a strange spark near his muffler.
“What the fuck is that?”
He made one step toward the car as the spark happened again, and a loud boom filled the air. Camden stood disoriented and uncertain of what was occurring, when an unseen force pushed him through the air and back into the swinging doors of the mini-mart.
His surroundings were suddenly quiet and dark. Strangely, it was the silence that panicked him most. Why couldn’t he hear anything? What was that loud boom before everything went so quiet? Since when was he able to fly?
There were a million questions in his mind he wanted to ask. But suddenly, the most pertinent impulse seemed to be his need to close his eyes and succumb to the darkness.