The cool spring air was whistling through the small crack at the top of the window. It was annoying, but nothing he couldn’t put up with in order to get rid of the stuffiness inside the van. Drake had been with the band for only three weeks, but he was starting to grow tired of their company, and he was sure they were feeling the same way. It wasn't because he disliked them, but it was a fact that the old, blue van was too small for four people with all of their instruments, and he made the total five. Six if they counted Adelaide, though the German Shepard was more than happy to share Drake’s space and made little impact on the band members.
But they had been kind enough to give him a ride after their gig in Salt Lake City, and he was grateful to them. There were limits to kindness though, and it was time for him to leave. He had been talking about leaving for the past two nights, making sure that when he stepped away it would be expected. Jack and Stacey had both made it clear that he was welcome to stay, and Theo had grunted his agreement. Only Brady had been completely honest with him and told him that he’d be missed, but that he also understood why Drake needed to go.
He had felt closest to Brady. Something about drummers had always intrigued him. He had a quiet nature, despite the fact that he was a beast once those sticks were in his hands and he was playing for a crowd of people. It didn’t matter the size of the crowd; whether it was five people in a dive bar in the middle of nowhere or on stage at a large hall playing for a couple of hundred, Brady played like a man possessed by demons. As impressive as he was as a musician, the real magic happened after a performance was over when Brady tucked his sticks away and didn’t say a word until he was back at the van.
Drake had asked him about it after one of the performances when he was finished helping Brady pack the band's equipment into the van. Brady had looked at him funny at first, and then had said something about it being a tradition, and that he always felt the need to let a performance settle so that he didn’t ruin the magic. Drake hadn’t completely understood, but he had fallen for Brady at that moment, and he had almost tried to pursue a relationship with the drummer.
But that would have meant tying Drake down to something, and even though the band was always on the move, he knew that he would have ended up feeling trapped if there were a relationship keeping him there. In the end, his attraction to Brady just made him want to leave the band even more, and to part ways before there were hard feelings between any of them.
With Adelaide practically on top of him he was starting to feel warm, and he considered shrugging out of his thick but worn coat, though one look at the frosty world outside the window told him that he’d be cold again in a few minutes. He decided that it was better to keep the coat on and chose to remove his beanie instead, and he suppressed a sigh of relief as his wild dark brown hair was freed and fell around his ears. The cool air from the window felt great against his sweaty scalp, and he closed his chocolaty brown eyes and inclined his head toward the crack in the window, breathing in the fresher air from outside.
“We’ve got to stop for gas here,” Jack said, reaching out and shaking Stacey awake in the passenger seat. Drake glanced around the van and noticed that he was the only one who was awake other than Jack, but he knew what a rest stop meant. There weren’t many and they had to take advantage of them when they could. Brady's scruffy chin was down against his chest with his arms folded, sound asleep. Drake watched him sleep for a moment, admiring his blonde curls that were hidden partially beneath his plaid flat-cap before nudging him with his elbow. It took two nudges to wake him and then Drake set to work on Theo who was lying with his guitar case on the next row of seats, somehow seeming to be comfortable despite the way he was wrapped around the instrument. His long, dark hair was hanging wildly across his face, and Drake didn’t know how he could stand having his hair so long and in the way, but it worked for Theo.
“Drake, you’re awake?” Jack called out. Since Drake was sitting behind Jack’s seat it was hard for him to see, but Jack started chuckling when Theo bolted upright at Drake’s hand lightly touching his arm, his dark brown eyes startled and wild. “I guess that answers that. Nothing gets Theo up like getting frisked by a gentleman.”
“Drake is no gentleman,” Theo grumbled which quickly became a yawn. “I’ve seen the way the man treats the ladies. Never holds a door for any of ‘em.”
“You’re one to talk, Theodore,” Brady snorted. “The last time you talked to a lady she threw her beer in your face. When was that, Friday? I’d say yesterday but, is it Sunday yet?”
“Yeah, the sun’s about to come up,” Drake said with a grin, nodding to the back of the van. They were driving west and had been for the last few days, which put them somewhere in Colorado. Jack had said that their next big city gig was in Boise four days away, and he had wanted to get there early, which meant nonstop driving. The others had grumbled about taking their shifts behind the wheel, but Drake had never been put in that position.
He had learned how to drive, but had also left home before he managed to get his license. Over his time away from home he had driven a few times, but only when he had to. The band had found a different use for him; navigator. His years as a boy scout had taught him a lot of skills that the band had fumbled their way through until they met him. He hadn’t just read their maps and given them directions though; he had taught them to do it for themselves so that they could keep it up when he was gone.
“How’d you know that?” Theo asked, glancing behind him and seeing the first few rays of sunlight coming over the horizon. “You didn’t even look.”
“I have an internal clock that resets with the sun,” Drake said, looking back at Theo and grinning broadly. Theo shook his head and rolled his eyes before Drake chuckled and added, “Actually, I read a newspaper in that last town we were in and it had the times for the next few sunrises listed. I memorized them and,” he tapped the watch on his wrist, “I knew we were just about there.”
“I love it when you put Theo in his place,” Stacey mumbled, looking back at Drake and smiling, as much with her bright blue eyes as with her lips. Her blonde hair had a red streak on the left side of her face which gave her an asymmetry that Drake had always found appealing, though he was not attracted to her. Which was for the best considering how jealous Jack could become of people stealing his girlfriend’s attention. “Where are we, Guns?” Stacey asked as she put her hand on Jack’s thick bicep and gave it a squeeze.
“Crow’s Lake, Colorado,” Jack said with an excited whoop. He turned to glance at her, giving Drake a solid view of Jack’s green Mohawk and the three earrings in his right ear. His green eyes were sparkling with excitement as he went on, “Population five thousand or so. I didn’t pay as much attention as Drake would have, but I did read the sign. Certainly not the smallest town we’ve been to, but… We’ve done better too.”
They were coming off the exit then, and were immediately surrounded by trees. It was breathtaking, and Drake loved the sight of the frosty evergreens in the first rays of dawn. It reminded him of the camps he went on through his years of scouting, and he desperately wanted to go out into those woods and explore. He could see houses in the distance, and smoke rising from the chimneys of more than half of them. This was a quiet town without a lot going on and that meant one thing to Drake; it was the perfect place to disappear.
“So we’re not going to try to look for a gig?” Theo asked with another yawn. “What the fuck did you wake me up for then?”
“Of course we aren’t going to look for a gig!” Jack said sternly. “We have to get to Boise as quickly as possible. We’re running out of money and that gig’s going to make us some serious bank. They said that if we make it a day early we might even get to play an extra night!”
Brady snorted and said, “Don’t you think you should have shared that detail with us, Jackie?”
“Don’t be like that, Braids,” Jack threatened. “All right, so I might have forgotten to tell you. I was keeping it for a surprise all right? And as for why I woke you up, Theodore, I don’t want you asking me to stop between towns so you can take a leak, every god damn time I let you sleep…”
Drake stopped listening to the argument and smiled as he turned his attention back to the scenery. Most of the homes seemed to be quaint little cottages, at least on the outskirts of town, but Jack drove further into town until he came to a gas station. There were only four pumps, but in the early morning none of them were in use and Jack turned into the parking lot. The man inside the convenience store looked at them through the large glass window with a bored expression before turning back to the newspaper he was reading.
“Everybody out!” Jack called as he stopped the van next to one of the pumps. As much grumbling as he had done about being woken up Theo was the first one out, scrambling past Brady to get to the door. Brady let him go and then sighed as he followed after him, stretching as he hit the ground and then walking slowly toward the convenience store. Stacey stretched in her seat and then stepped outside to join Jack at the pump, asking him if he wanted anything from the store before she joined Brady and Theo inside.
“Come on, girl,” Drake said, nodding toward the door. Adelaide picked her head up and looked at Drake before leaping through the door to land on the cold pavement. She waited patiently for Drake to stretch and jump out of the van to join her.
Although Adelaide was waiting patiently for him, she had to wait a bit longer as Drake retrieved his backpack from under his seat. Everything he owned was in that pack; he had made sure of it the night before, just in case he found a good place to split with the band and now he was glad he had. Crow’s Lake seemed like just the place, and the sooner he admitted that the better.
He slid the van door closed as he slung the backpack over his shoulder, stepping around the front of the van. Jack glanced up from the pump and immediately saw the backpack, then met Drake’s eyes and nodded slowly. “It’s time, huh?” He said with a half-smile. “You’re gonna hit the road again?”
“Yeah,” Drake said with a grin. “It’s been fun, man. Thanks for the ride. You guys are awesome, and I’m sure you’re going to make it big someday.” He stuck his hand out for Jack to shake, and then Jack surprised him with a hug and pulled him close, holding it for longer than Drake felt comfortable.
“What was that for?” Drake asked when they pulled apart, Jack had a touch of moisture in his eyes, and his smile had only strengthened not diminished.
“You know what, kid?” Jack said as he laid a hand on Drake’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “I admire your spirit, the way you seem to seek after adventures that most people wouldn’t dream of. You’re only sixteen and you’re already on the open road.” He chuckled and then added, “I wish I would have had your drive to explore three years ago when I was your age.”
“Hey, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” Drake said with a grin. “You’ve been out on your own for the last few months, and you know what I’m talking about. You always have to worry about how you’re going to find your next meal…” he trailed off as he looked down at Adelaide who was watching him expectantly. “But it’s been fun, and I can’t wait to hear you guys playing somewhere big.”
“Well if you ever end up with an address, look us up and we’ll make sure you get tickets,” Jack said with a wink. Pulling a piece of paper from his pocket he slid it into Drake’s hand and said, “I knew you’d be leaving soon and I took the time to write down my number for you. Give us a call if you need anything, all right?” Drake nodded and slid the paper into his pocket. He then readjusted his backpack before turning away. “Hey, aren’t you going to wait for the others?”
“Nah . . . I kind of hate long goodbyes,” Drake said as he turned back to face Jack. “Maybe we’ll run into each other again in some small town in the middle of nowhere.”
“Or we can do it here,” Stacey said as she hugged a surprised Drake from the side. Drake wrapped an arm around her awkwardly until she let go and danced around to in front of him with a frown on her face. “You little devil, thinking you were going to run off without saying goodbye to me? How could you, Drake?”
“Sorry, Stacey,” Drake replied with an embarrassed grin. “I thought it would be easier.”
“Like hell you did,” Theo said as he stepped up and punched Drake lightly in the arm. “You just didn’t want me to get all awkward and soft on you. I know I’ve usually been a jerk to you, but you know that’s just how I show love, right?” He pulled Drake into a one-armed hug that lasted only a second and then said, “Good luck out there, Drake. You deserve your fair share. Never got your full story, but . . . I know you’ve been through hell. It’s about time you had something go right for a change.”
“Thanks, Theo,” Drake said with a grin, though he was beginning to feel emotional about leaving the band. They had been like family to him for the few weeks that they had been together, and even Theo had been good to him. But that left one person that still needed to be talked to, and Drake knew exactly where he’d be.
He turned around and saw Brady crouching down and scratching Adelaide behind her ears. She was loving the attention, but as soon as she saw Drake looking at her she left Brady behind and came to stand beside him. “Hey, Brady. You going to hug me too?” Drake said with an awkward laugh.
Brady stared at him, giving him that thoughtful half-smile and stepped forward, letting his hand rest softly on Drake’s shoulder as he stared into Drake’s eyes. “Hugging is for saying goodbye, and I think I’d rather hope to see you again, but you know . . . I guess I gotta say goodbye for now,” Brady said and then pulled Drake into the warmest hug of the group. It lasted for longer than Drake wanted it to, but just as long as he needed, and when he pulled away he had to fight back tears stronger than he had felt in years.
“All right,” Drake said as he shifted his backpack and choked back his emotions. He looked down at Adelaide and whistled, and she looked up at him and cocked her head to the side. “You ready to go, Addy?” He asked. She opened her mouth and let her tongue hang out as she barked. Drake laughed and looked back to the others. “I gotta go,” He said before turning around and taking a step toward the sidewalk.
“Wait!” Jack called out, and Drake turned around and looked at Jack with a patient smile. “Hey, you never even told us your first name, kid. I know it’s not Drake.”
Drake nodded slowly. He hadn’t used his first name since he had left home, though it was printed on his Idaho State ID the ID was a forgery. It had been a necessity to allow him entrance into some places that only allowed adults and he kept it with him at all times. It also helped him find work at places that expected teenagers to be in school, and had overall been the best investment he had made in his life of crime.
“Silas,” Drake said with a small smile. He wasn’t even entirely certain why he had told them, though he did know that he trusted the band more than anyone else he had come across in his travels.
“Silas Drake,” Jack echoed, testing the name on his tongue before raising his hand and waving. “You take care of yourself, Silas!” He shouted.
“Yeah! Stay out of trouble, or more importantly, don’t get caught!” Stacey added. “Be good, Silas!”
Theo cheered to add his assent, but Brady just watched him go, smiling in understanding. Silas Drake nodded at him slightly and then waved to the other three before turning back to the sidewalk. They didn’t say anything else as he walked away but he knew that they were watching him go, and for a moment he almost considered turning back to them. But then he looked up and saw the wooded mountainside in the distance, rising up above the quiet town and promising him adventures beyond his comprehension. The woods were asking him to come home to them, and he had already stayed away for too long.
Without a second glance back at his friends, he crossed the street and began his trek toward the edge of town and the wilderness that would be his home until it was time to find another. Adelaide plodded along happily beside him. He looked down at her and grinned, “Do you want to race, girl?” he asked, and she quickly barked her excitement. Silas laughed and started sprinting, smiling wide as Adelaide ran beside him. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The aroma of coffee and pancakes tantalized Silas' nostrils as he walked down the block. There was a strip mall on his right with a number of stores ranging from an auto parts store to a cell phone shop, but the parking lot was shared with a diner, the only one of the businesses that was open that early in the morning. A tractor trailer was parked further down the street, and a man dressed in a flannel shirt, jeans, and a thick denim coat stepped out of the truck and walked toward the diner while Silas stood watching.
It made sense why it was open at the crack of dawn now. Diners didn’t become popular with truck drivers unless they were open at odd hours, but they were popular with Silas for a different reason and this one appeared to be no exception. A 'Help Wanted' sign sat in the window, and he knew that they were more likely to hire a drifter like himself than anyone else in town would. His supply of cash was beginning to dwindle and although he could trap and fish for food if he found an appropriate place to do so he preferred to have a bit of real money for emergencies, and panhandling was out of the question.
He looked both ways before crossing the street, though aside from the tractor-trailer he had seen hardly any vehicles on his way out of town. It was his own fault if he got hit by a car, but more importantly it was his responsibility to make sure that Adelaide wasn’t hit either. She would follow him anywhere, even into the middle of a busy street, and so if he wasn’t careful then she wouldn’t be either.
Once he was on the other side of the street he took a better look at the diner, noting that it had probably been in service for several decades based on the paint job, though the sign was newer. It had a name that would hardly trigger anyone’s curiosity, though it certainly fit the diner image that was portrayed by the white plaster and red roof. No matter how many ‘Mom’s Diner’s he had been to, it was still a stupid name for a place.
A small bell rang above his head as he pushed through the door and stepped inside. He wiped his boots on the black mat beneath his feet and then walked forward onto the freshly mopped orange and cream tiles. Booths lined the walls and tables and chairs dominated the center of the room. The truck driver whom he had followed in was being seated by a middle-aged woman with light brown hair pulled away from her face, and wearing a light green shirt and a white apron. She was setting a glass of water and a menu down in front of him before saying, “I’ll give you a few minutes to decide.”
Silas stood awkwardly in the doorway as she looked up and met his eyes, smiling pleasantly until she looked down at Adelaide at his feet. Her smile faltered as she walked toward him, stopping by a stack of menus on the way to grab one for him. “Oh, I don’t need a menu,” Silas said with a wave of his hand, and she put the menu down slowly and looked at him with a puzzled expression.
“Then how can we help you today, Hun?” She asked as she took a cautious step toward him.
Silas pointed at the sign in the window and said, “I’m looking for work and I noticed your sign. My family just arrived in town and we’re going to be here for a little while. I was just out walking the dog when I noticed your sign and I thought I’d stop in before I missed my chance.” He smiled a smile that he had practiced and perfected over his year and a half away from home. Any time he had to sell a lie it did the trick, and he hoped that this time would not be any different.
“Oh, I see,” she replied thoughtfully, giving Adelaide another look and smiling broadly. “Well in that case I’ll get the manager in a second. He’s currently serving as the cook as well, so once he’s done with my table’s order I’ll have him come out.” She stuck her hand out for Silas to shake and he took it firmly as she said, “My name is Jenny.”
“Drake,” Silas replied, and she raised an eyebrow and gave him a funny look as she released his hand and stepped away.
“Nice name,” Jenny replied with a touch of awe. She glanced nervously at her table and then asked, “Will you excuse me?” She walked over to her table and pulled out a notepad but the trucker waved her away and said that he still needed a few minutes, and then Jenny made a quick line for the back of the café, stepping through a swinging door and into the kitchen.
Silas looked down at Adelaide and shook his head and shrugged, but then Adelaide began sniffing the air and cocking her head to the side as if she recognized something that she was smelling. “What is it, Addy?” Drake asked as he crouched down and began rubbing her behind the ears. She whined and he looked down at her again curiously before starting to straighten up.
He started to turn as he rose, hearing the door to the kitchen open and close again, and first he saw the black slacks and well-polished black shoes of a man that was standing at the other end of the restaurant, watching him. Silas’ eyes continued upward, seeing the blue apron and the black button up shirt with the top two buttons undone. The man was holding a rag in one hand that dropped to the floor as Silas looked up to his face and met his eyes. Brown eyes that looked almost identical to his own, though the man's hair was a lighter shade of brown. There was no mistake, however, in how similar their two faces were, and how the expression of complete shock in his face matched that of their shared parentage.
“Silas…” The man breathed, and Silas let go of the breath that he hadn’t realized he had been holding. But he was filled with a fear he couldn’t comprehend, a shock to his system that sent his emotions over the edge in ways that he couldn’t handle. Silas straightened the rest of the way and then turned and ran from the diner.
He didn’t bother to look both ways as he crossed the street. Safety didn’t matter anymore. He had to get away.
Author's Note: Thank you for starting Navigator, and I hope you enjoyed chapter one. I'm really excited to give you this novel, as it was a joy to write and I must say that I'm thoroughly in love with some of these characters. They are like my children, and I adore them.
Please let me know what you think by emailing me at Samuel.D.Roe@gmail.com or if you're so inclined feel free to like my page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Samuel.D.Roe.Cynus. Or if you really like my work this is the part where I shamefully ask you to visit my Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/cynus. I'd love to hear from you wherever and whoever you may be.
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Thanks again for reading, and please stay tuned for the next chapter where you'll learn more about Ian and Silas Drake makes a new friend.