January 2, 2020
Excerpt from A Dangerous Identity - Winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award for Indie Fiction
By Russell Fee
Jackson finished buttoning his shirt and reached for the Styrofoam cup of coffee on the dresser. He took a sip and walked to the window of his motel room. The coffee, which he made from the two-cup electric brewer in his room, tasted rancid. But he ignored the bitterness as he looked out over the lake. The window spread wide enough to provide him a panoramic view of the water where he watched the morning ferry glide out of the bay and disappear as it turned south toward the mainland. He had been on the island long enough to establish this routine, and he looked forward to it every morning. The lake fascinated him, constantly changing from day to day, even from hour to hour. The water placid one moment and then roiling with whitecaps the next, transmuting from turquoise blue to slate gray almost imperceptibly. He had never seen a lake so massive, and it was difficult not to think of it as the ocean.
The island exerted an unfamiliar pull on him. Every place he’d lived or worked embodied overt or hidden hostility. He learned to be wary and alert for the signals of disguised or blind prejudice and the potential harm to him. But on the island, he was lowering his guard, relaxing his vigilance, experiencing a growing sense of peace. In a certain way, Jackson felt that Callahan had something to do with it. He had viewed himself as the other, the one who would never be fully accepted. But Callahan had trumped that view of himself. Callahan’s hideous and, despite the mask, blatant mutilation appeared not to matter to the islanders. Jackson wondered if perhaps it was because they saw themselves as outsiders and different.
But he had to be careful. Susan had accepted him—totally. Or so he believed. And he had equated that acceptance with honesty. He had trusted everything she had told him; had trusted that she had told him everything. Now that trust had been shaken. She had kept her relationship with the bent man from him. What had she been hiding and why? And what did that mean for him?
* * *
Jackson decided to walk to the station to meet Callahan. Located on the outskirts of town, the station was about a mile and a half from the motel. The walk would do him good and help him think. As he hiked along the sand shoulder of the paved two-lane road, drivers of the oncoming cars waved to him. This island tradition made him feel welcome, and, when another car approached him, he saw the driver lift a hand. It was still raised when the car slowed and rolled toward him. He didn’t see the gun or feel the bullets penetrate his chest and blow the bone and muscle out his back.
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