They had adjoining rooms on the second floor in the back of the hotel. They stopped along the way to buy a few sodas from a machine in the hall, and then parted ways at their respective doors.

Once in his room, Don wanted to do nothing more than drop his bags and head immediately to the shower. But first he had to unpack. There was a closet in the room, and a dresser, but Don preferred to just open his suitcase and pick out what he needed for the day.

Yesterday, their last day in Phoenix before boarding the plane that brought them here to North Carolina, Don and Gene had spent their day at a Laundromat, so all his clothes, other than what he was wearing, were clean.

So, after setting aside what he was going to wear tomorrow, he disrobed and headed for the bathroom. There he showered Phoenix off of him so that North Carolina would have a place to latch on.

Shower finished, he pulled on some boxers and his bathrobe, brushed his teeth, and settled into bed — atop the covers — and had a smoke while he flipped channels on the television.

This, like earlier in the truck, he found a familiar comfort in. This is what he did now. At least until he was back home. But for the time being, this was his life: Learning the new channel numbers for all his favorite stations, the smell of freshly laundered bedding, and living on soda and fast food. His favorite part of it all was leaving for the morning with his bed and room in disarray only to return in the evening to find it all put back together again.

Despite the trip and the time, Don found sleep an elusive beast. And, as he’d cycled through the channels for the fifth time and found nothing that piqued his interest, he gave up even trying. His time would be better spent on the room’s balcony with a cigarette. The balcony had a plastic deck chair and as he sat, wrapped up in his robe, he was afforded a splendid view of the back lot and the Burger Boss across the way.

Ignoring the cold like the professional smoker he was, Don lit up and quickly found himself plunged into a pool of serene tranquility. Relaxation took hold like a gentle hug as he let the calming sounds of the nearby traffic settle over him. Soon Don found himself nodding off and shook himself awake. He wanted to find sleep and then take it back to his room, not let it trap him out here on the balcony. He rose, yawned, and stretched.

That’s when he noticed the woman stumbling through the parking lot below.

Don returned to his chair, leaning forward and watching silently as the woman shuffled her way along the pavement below. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of her considering the sparkling evening gown she wore. Her dress and the steady, slow, shuffling steps that took her meandering through the lot had Don wondering if she might be drunk and if he might want to go down and see if she needed any help.

Was she staying at the hotel? Surely she wasn’t looking for a car? He decided that he should go down to her if only to stop her from driving.

But as he watched her, a fear crept into Don. It was little more than a cold lump in the pit of his stomach, a sick and sour sensation, and a chill that clawed its way up his spine. He couldn’t determine where it had come from, not exactly, but there was a part of him that felt its source to be the drunk below. There was just something wrong about the woman. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but something was rubbing him in all the wrong ways.

Yet, regardless of the fear that roiled in his gut, or maybe because of it, Don couldn’t take his eyes off the woman. He sat stock still and slowly followed the drunk’s progress as she shuffled away from the hotel. Something inside him, a feeling deep in his gut, kept him silent and still. It knew, his gut, that if he were to draw attention to himself, if the woman down there was to learn of his presence, something unpleasant would happen. The rationale side of his brain felt the fear unfounded, but his gut shut those thoughts down with a quickness.

Soon she was out of sight, disappearing through a row of hedges that bordered the lot. But still Don did not move. He could do nothing but watch the spot where the woman had disappeared.

He couldn’t be sure how long he sat there. Time became secondary to keeping watch on the hedges. But suddenly, with a will of their own and trembling as if they’d been plunged into a frozen lake, his hands shook a cigarette out of the pack on his lap.

He smoked through that first cigarette and continued on to the next, an automaton, smoking through all seven cigarettes that were left in the pack. Not once taking his eyes of the hedgerow.

He’d finally snapped out of his half-fugue when his hand found an empty box void of cigarettes. He looked down at his watch; he’d been outside for almost two hours. His body was suddenly taken over by a monstrous yawn that took use of every muscle he had within him. He was exhausted. He stood, shaking off the feeling of doom that had overwhelmed him just minutes earlier, laughed it off, and went inside.

And then, just as he was sliding shut the glass door, for a fleeting moment, Don thought he heard a faint scream on the wind. It was distant, and could have been anything from a bird to an ornery cat, but it had come from the same direction in which the woman had disappeared.

Don dismissed it and got into bed.

Three minutes later he was asleep, just two hours away from meeting the good folks at the Winston-Salem, North Carolina branch of Global Computer Systems.

Plenty of time to dream.

Plenty of time for nightmares.

Here ends Chapter Four

So I leave you to your holiday weekend with a completed Chapter Four. That's 11,000 words so far, people. That's about one fifth of what Book One, or maybe Episode One, is planned for.

Due to the holiday and some much deserved vacation time, I'll be taking next week off. So that's it for Endure in 2016.

In 2017 we will meet Rayla. She's freshly graduated from high school and working overnights in one of those big chain pharmacy stores. What she goes through near the end of the shift really begins to set things off.

See you all then.

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