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This appears to be the end of the first draft of THIS WILL GET DARK.

Leaving Maurene’s house and receiving that tiny bit of praise from Max seems to have quieted Grant’s need to keep moving. 

Thank you for reading and for your constant support. I could not have done it without you.

What will happen with Max, Gary, Grant, Gil and Crystal is as unknown to you as it is to me at this point. It is entirely possible (probable in fact) that in the next draft the course of events here will change towards a greater and more definitive end. 

Gil has vanished and the international machinery of the drug cartel is still in place. 

I can personally think of several loose ends and holes and characters that reappear and disappear without explanation and I imagine that you have found many many more. I hope the revision process will smooth out many of these flaws.

So for now, this page a day experiment is at an end. These 261 days of writing will remain up for a month from today and then I will pull them down as I proceed with outlining and rewriting.

If I can distill this exercise down into a lesson learned it is one that is repeated endlessly and to little effect. Its a platitude that seems meaningless to the person standing at the beginning of their journey but gains significance with every step.

Create. Practice every day. The time you spend on the things you love compounds and returns to you in best possible way.

Thank you for reading.

-TJ Martin

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Maurene walks back into the kitchen and sees the gun. She looks at Max who continues to spin the gun and hands me the keys to her car. “Get out of here and never come back. You should turn yourself in and end all of this before anyone gets hurt.”

“It’s too late for that.” Max says and he stands and takes the keys out of my hand. “Let’s go.” Maurene walks out of the room and I don’t even catch a glimpse of her or Ben until we are driving away. They stand holding each other and watching us from the front door. “You did good. She seems like quite the woman.”

We turn the corner and they disappear from view. The last image I’ll have of that woman will be her standing in the doorway of our house with another man. I lay down in the back seat and watch the indistinct gray clouds through the window. Max turns on the radio and scans until he finds a news station. They are reporting live from the front of my childhood home and interviewing the woman who’s car we stole. She describes Max and Gary and myself and begins to break down in tears. Maurene wouldn’t have started crying and that thought makes me proud. She’ll be okay.

I fall asleep to the sound of a police officer issuing a public statement. “…we are working closely with our counterparts in the federal agencies. No arrests have been made at this time but we are actively investigating several suspects. In a moment DEA special agent Adams will be making a statement so please hold all of your questions.”

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She’s right. “You’re right. You’re right.” It’s all I can think to say.

“If you’re in as much trouble as it looks like. You should turn yourself in and get help.”

“You’re right.” To that she just looks at me.

“Jesus Grant. Stop it. It’s time for you to do something, anything.”

“You’re right.” She leaves. Fuck.

I look outside and see Gary standing in the street. He is hunched over and looking incredibly suspicious. Max comes back in the kitchen. “Grant, let’s go. This is pointless.” I don’t move.

“I’m done Max.” He knows exactly what I mean. He sits down across from and puts Adams’s gun on the table. The spins the gun and it rotates smoothly on the wooden table top. As the gun slows down I can see that there is no magazine in the gun. It comes to rest pointed at Max.

“Yeah, I know that feeling.” He spins the gun again. It comes to rest pointing at him again. He picks the gun up and puts it back in his pocket. “Look, I don’t know what I can say except I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t do much but I really am sorry. I’ve spent most of my life trying to forget about you and Gary and Anna and then you show up out of no where and turn my life into a living hell.

“The Anderson brothers are done. If we can get out here you can start over anywhere you want and if you go far enough you’ll be okay. 

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“Gary, will you go get my shoes? They are upstairs in the bathroom.” I say. “Max, Ben, do you think I could have a second with Maurene?”

Max looks uncertain but he heads out of the kitchen and through the front door. He walks out to the street and turns back to stare at the house. “It’s okay,” Maurene says, “Just give me a second.” Ben is reluctant but he leaves. Gary comes back in and hands me my shoes and socks and the soaking wet clothing that was in the bathroom. “Go wait with Max. I’ll be out in just a minute.”

I sit back down at the kitchen table and ring out my socks before putting them back on. Maurene stands looking at me with her arms folded. “Mau, I am really sorry for all of this. I wouldn’t be here except this really is the end of the line for us.”

“I don’t know what you were expecting Grant. Those people out there are going to get you killed. You don’t even have clothing that fits any more and its freezing outside. You need to get a way from them and get help.”

This is a conversation that we’ve had before and the sense of Deja-vu is overwhelming. “Mau, please just help us get out of here. Help me and you will never hear from me again.”

“You come here and track blood into my house and then ask for help with a lie. I tried to help you Grant. Don’t you remember? The last three years has been me trying to help you.”

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“What happened to you?” Maurene asks. Ben puts a hand on her shoulder and she instinctively moves towards him and puts her arm around his waist. I feel sick.

“I found my father,” I say, “and then Frank and Gil found us. Frank is dead and we are in a lot of trouble.” She looks at Max and Gary. Max shrugs and begins to cough again and Gary looks at the floor.

“Why did you come here?”

“We don’t have anywhere else to go.”

“I can’t help you Grant. I’m sorry.” Ben squeezes her shoulder. “You need to leave.”

“Mau, please.” Gary says. “We need a car or a ride. If we go back out there we’ll get arrested and Grant will freeze to death.” Maurene shakes her head.

“You heard her. Grant, you need to get out of here. I’ll give you ten minutes and then we’re calling the police.” Fuck you Ben.

“We’re not going to call the police.” Maurene says, “But you really do need to go.” Max looks at me and I know what he is thinking. He wants to take that gun out of his pocket and take what we need. I do not want him to do that.

“I understand.” Maurene is done with us. It scares me to see her so calm. To hear her talk to me in that flat even tone as she might talk to a stranger. “I’m sorry.”

I stand and Max stands too. Gary comes over and I can see pity in the curve of his mouth furrowing of his brows. He looks like he might start to cry.

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Ben notices her anger and places a hand on her shoulder. She shrugs it off and walks up to Max. She stands mere inches from his face. They are the same height. Her eyes are clear and they say “Fuck you.”

The muscles in Max’s neck are taught, like ropes straining to hold a sail against the wind. Her eyes search his face for place to land her hatred and then they soften and she back away. Max begins to cough, he places his hand in a fist over his mouth and I can see his skin turning red. He staggers to a chair at the kitchen table and nearly falls into it. We all watch him but not one of us goes to help. He sits at the table coughing and Maurene finally moves to the sink and runs the faucet filling a glass and handing it to him. Max sips and my mouth goes dry. “Maurene,” I say, and the spell is broken. She watches me struggle to hold my weight against the counter and as my feet slide on the vinyl floor. I think for a second that bathtub may still be running or maybe there is a leak somewhere and I am standing in a puddle of water. I look down and everyone looks down with me. My feet are a bloody mess. I’ve tracked footprints through the kitchen and I am skating on dirty brown streaks. “I’m sorry,” I say. I should sit down. “I should sit down.”

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“Fuck Grant, you look awful.” Maurene moves towards Ben who is a well built, healthy looking and young man. He’s got to be a decade younger than Maurene, over six feet, with his head is bald, shaved clean with a razor. “What is going on here?” He asks. He is intimidating. In the few times we’ve met before he’s always been an overpowering presence and our mutual dislike of each other has kept things tense. I move behind my brother and father. Gary is doesn’t seem to notice, he looks like a deer caught int the headlights but Max is not impressed. I imagine he’s dealt with guys like this his entire life. Someone younger, stronger and with an attitude that betrays their ignorance of death.

“Ben, Maurene,” I say from behind my familial barricade, “this is my dad, Max.” The room softens slightly. For a moment Ben is the only stranger here and then the moment is gone.

“Mau,” Ben says, “They need to leave.” Maurene hesitates, she looks Max over and I can see the blood rising in her face. Even as a ghost my father has been a large part of our marriage. She never put it into words but I could tell that when I did something particularly stupid she would blame this man, or her imagined version of him. The path to the end of our marriage was steered in her mind by the issues Max left with me when he disappeared. Frank and Gil were petty criminals in our lives compared to him. And now she stood there looking at him and Max becomes a frail old man and I am ashamed that I am holding him as a shield between us.

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Maurene screams. Shit. I pull on this suit made of sandpaper. It’s light gray and a size too small but its clean. I drop towels in the pooling water on the floor and shut the tub off. “Maurene!” I yell and my voice cracks.

I hobble down the stairs in my bare feet. “Maurene!” I shout. “It’s okay. I’m sorry.” She turns and she looks scared. Really scared and my heart shatters. I’ve done it again. A hand grabs my shoulder and pushes me against the wall with a surprising amount of force. In the moment before I crumple to the floor I notice that the hallway has been repainted very recently. It’s now a light mint green, it’s a color I would never have chosen.

From my new perspective I can see Max and Gary in the kitchen trying to look nonthreatening. They have their hands raised trying to calm Mo but it looks like she has them at gun point. She is talking to someone trying to calm herself down but I can hear the nervousness. “Ben, It’s okay, its okay, its my ex-husband and his brother.”

“I don’t care,” Ben says, “I’m calling the police. They can’t just break into your house.

“Maurene, don’t call the police.” I climb back up to my feet, supporting my weight on the wall. “Don’t call the police.” I stumble into the kitchen and before I fall Ben grabs me shoves me into Max who catches me and embraces me. “Don’t call the police.”

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I take my shoes off and then my socks off. They stick to my feet and tear my skin and I pull them away. I peel off the rest of my clothing as the tub fills with water. I have become a patchwork of dirt and bruises. My skin is different shades or red and white all of it streaked with grime.

I can smell Maurene in the towels and in the bathroom rug. The smell is woody and slightly sweet and it completely intoxicating. I lay back on the rug and watch the tendrils of steam curl over the edge of the tub. This is home.

If I listen closely I can hear the television playing cartoons in the kitchen. Maurene is probably watching our son as he eats breakfast. She doesn’t hurry him, she just enjoys his company and listens has he rambles on about his hopes and his thoughts on everything. Soon they’ll bundle up and head off to school and I’ll have the house to myself. I get the whole day before she returns and we start to argue again, before she gets to express her disappointment.

I hear the garage begin its slow clicking. They left the TV on. “Hello?” Maurene’s voice comes through the floor. Fuck, she should be gone. It looks like we get to start the day with disappointment. Time to get up Grant.

My body is stiff and every move is painful. I feel hungover and when I look at the tube I can see water dribbling over the edge and onto the floor. I must fallen asleep on the floor.

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“Was?” Max says as I lead them into the kitchen. I head straight for the fridge and pull out nearly everything. There is beer in the door, Stella. She must have been entertaining someone. I try to pick up a beer but it slips right through my hands. My fingers feel like their burning. I look at them and they are bright red. As painful as that is I think its a good thing. At least they still have feeling. I give up on the beer and head out of the kitchen. “Stay in here. Eat food but don’t make a mess. I need to take a shower.”

Max and Gary don’t seem that interested in the food so they just grab the beer and sit at the kitchen table. Max turns on a small TV that sits on the counter. It’s playing a Batman cartoon as I exit. I head to the master bedroom but hesitate. I know there is still a box of my things here somewhere.

The garage is empty except for a dozen cardboard boxes sagging in the corner. The last of my crap as she like to refer to it. It’s mostly broken electronic devices and computer pieces but one box has a suit I got for a wedding a few years ago as well as a collection of ratty t-shirts that Maurene was going to turn into a quilt at one point.

I grab the suit and head to the main bathroom. You can see our trail through the house as a series of wet footprints, we’ll have to clean that up before we leave.

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Maurene’s house, my old home is too far to walk. Gary arranges for a cab and Max pays for it. The cab driver is experienced and doesn’t ask any questions when he sees our sorry state. He also refuses to wait around when we get there.

The house is dark when we arrive and no one answers the door. “She must be at work.”

“It’s Sunday.” Says Gary.

“Church then.” I say. Max tries the door and its locked. He then begins to walk around the house. “Don’t.” He doesn’t respond.

We follow Max around to the sliding glass doors in the back. He tries one and it slides then stops hitting a wooden post set in the track. I remember cutting that wood and I’m proud that its stopping Max from getting in. He tries to force the door but it won’t open more than a fingers width. “Forget it Max. We’ve got to have another option. This was a bad idea.”

“Who is this Maurene anyways?” Max asks as he pushes his hand through the gap and grips the door. With a grunt he jerks to door upward and pushes in. The door comes off its track and now its just a matter of force to create an opening. Max pushes his way through and then resets the door and removes the blocking pole.

“She was my wife and the mother of my son.” I say. Max is surprised and then sad but the expression is fleeting. I can tell he wants to keep moving. His mind is back with his chosen family.

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The snow is falling in through the tops of my shoes and soaking my socks and feet. The long underwear are getting wet and the feeling of cold has gone from uncomfortable to scary. The fence is a trial. The frozen links dig into my fingers, they are too painful to grip so I throw my arms over the top and fall up and over until I’m laying on my back in the snow on the other side.

I emerge onto the residential street and see Max and Gary running at full speed towards me. Gary looks like he’s on the verge of having a heart attack but he is keeping up with Max. They run up to me and stop. Gary collapses on to his knees.

“Cops are at Gary’s house already.” Max says. “Where are your clothes?”

“Back at the car.” The vibration of my voice is startling. My whole body is shaking.

“Where else can we go?” Max asks. Gary stands up, he looks like he is going to be sick.

“Where is Gil going to go?” Gary asks.

“He’s going to come looking for us when he realizes his brother is dead.” Max says.

“I’ve got an idea.” I say and I know deep down that this is a horrible idea but sometimes family is your only option. “I need a jacket or something. Please.”

Max takes off his coat and wraps it around me. The warmth is wonderful but fleeting. “Maurene will help me if I ask.”

Gary looks surprised. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah but I’ll have to see her alone.”

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I leave the keys under the front seat and lock the doors. There is blood on the door handle. I try to wipe it off with my jacket sleeve but this leaves even more. The jacket is saturated and I need to get out of it. An intense claustrophobia overcomes me as I try to escape its binds. I get the thing off and throw it to the ground. It lands lamely, its retained heat melting the snow and mixing with the blood sending pink tendrils out in all directions. I pull my pants off and throw them down next to the coat. My legs are instantly cold but nothing is getting me to put those bloody pelts back on.

I begin an awkward jog down the street towards Gary’s house. The exertion is torture. The wind is beginning to sting and the long underwear rubbing on my thighs only serves to irritate things. I bury my hands into my armpits and hunch my body as much as I can but its a pitiful effect.

At the intersection ahead two police cars are routing traffic down to a single lane. They’ve got the street to my old neighborhood blocked completely off. They haven’t seen me yet so I duck into the parking lot of a two story strip mall. I follow a driveway around to the back where there are dumpsters and a loading dock. A middle aged woman stands in a doorway leaning her body out to take drags off a cigarette. She shudders each time she pulls her body back inside. She watches me as I make my way along the fence lining the back of the store’s lot. There is a gap that leads to a small wooded strip. It’s maybe ten feet of trees and there is trash everywhere. After the strip is a chain-link fence and then someone’s backyard.

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The smell that follows is unpleasant and when I pull myself up and look in the mirror I don’t recognize myself. My face is dark with dried blood. It looks like makeup its so thick. My clothes are streaked with the grime. This is a stranger standing here in this destroyed, graffiti covered bathroom. I recognize the eyes. I see myself in those eyes but the gore draped horror in the mirror is another character. I laugh at the man in the mirror and I scrub at his face and hands but the trickle of cold water I get from pressing the blood covered chrome button is not enough to undo any of this.

Sirens zip by outside. Not here. I don’t want to end it here. I pat at my jacket and pants, the keys are in the car. Max would not wait for me. I wouldn’t wait for me. I run out into parking lot and the car is still there. Parked between a minivan and a city tow truck. Max and Gary are gone. I look down the street and I see them a few blocks away running. Another police car zips by. I think it must be after them but it doesn’t slow down. I walk back to the car but I can’t get into it. The groceries in the back are infuriating but I can’t bring myself to disturb them. I think of that family that moments ago was about to take these into their warm home and I know that if I touch this food I will be defiling something perfect.

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“Look, Gary!” A distraction from my body. He’s hurrying along the plowed sidewalk. He must have sensed our stares because he looks up at us and immediately falls on his ass. Gary looks to be in relatively good shape. He looks like your average fat man out in cold. If he was in the least bit jolly you might call this Christmas. I pull into a fast food parking lot across the street and wait for Gary to get in. He walks right by us. He even picks up the pace. “Gary!”

Max gets out and pursues him. I pull into a parking space and get out and run into the restaurant. “Bathroom!” I shout without slowing down. The teenage girl jumps at my voice but recovers quickly. She must have experience with this situation.

“Key!” She shouts and then launches a soup ladle at me. Her aim is perfect and it lands in my arms. She points in the direction I’m heading and then returns to her business.

The bathroom is disgusting and for that I am grateful. I do not make it to the toilet. The door doesn’t even have time to close behind me. I drop my pants and pivot, my wet shoes and the tile floor turn this into a move of Olympic ice-skating complexity. I am now moving laterally and turning and bending and spraying.

The aim was true. But I have momentum. So my aim changes as I slide along the floor and eventually fall.