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No Return

Family comes first. Until it kills you…

Rusty Caldwell is a lonely victim of tragedy. After losing his wife and kids to a drunk driver, he spends most nights towing drunks to keep them off the streets. His one-track existence takes a turn when he finds out his estranged sister Mandy has committed suicide.

After flying out to offer his support, Rusty learns there’s much more to the story. It turns out his sister had been cheating on her husband Chris with Travis Calloway, the rich CEO of the biggest company in town. Before Mandy died, she claimed that Travis fathered one of her children and demanded that he pay up…

Rusty and Mandy’s neighbor Laura look into Travis, only to receive death threats for their troubles. With Travis and Chris both looking guilty, Rusty better find out the truth before he’s the next one to fall.

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Rusty reached for the doorbell, but stopped when he heard a commotion across the street. He backed up and glanced down a couple houses. A lady stood with her arms folded, staring at two other ladies storming off.

He went to the sidewalk. “Is everything okay?”

The lady turned to him and shook her head. “Never cross the Calloways.”

Rusty tilted his head. “Who?”

She threw her arms in the air. “Be glad you don’t know.” She climbed into a car and sped off, peeling the tires.

“Okay…” Rusty went back to his sister’s door.

Yelling sounded from inside. It sounded like his brother-in-law. Rusty recognized his voice from the phone. His stomach twisted in knots. Maybe this trip was a bad idea. He rang the doorbell, anyway.

“Coming,” called Chris, sounding far less angry than a moment earlier.

The door opened, and a man with short, dark hair and dark eyes answered. He had a five o’clock shadow and dark circles underneath his deep brown eyes. “Rusty?”

He nodded and held out his hand.

Chris shook it. “Come on in. The police want me to come back down to the station. Do you mind staying with the kids?”

“That’s why I’m here.”

“You’re a lifesaver. This last week has been a nightmare.” Chris turned around and led Rusty up the stairs. He went left, and gestured toward a gray sectional couch with stuffing coming out of the armrests.

A girl, about thirteen, with hair as dark as his sat with her eyes closed, dancing in her seat to music only she could hear in the earbuds. A boy, about eleven, with light brown hair hanging over his ears had his full attention on the television. They both had the same dark bands under their eyes as their dad—the very ones Rusty was so familiar with, too.

“That’s Kaylie. And that’s Brady.”

Neither glanced up.


Kaylie pulled her earbuds out and Brady paused the show. They both turned to Chris, their eyes bloodshot.

“This is your Uncle Rusty. He’s going to watch you guys while I’m out.”

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Kaylie said.

“Me, neither,” Brady said.

“I’m not here to babysit,” Rusty assured them. “Just here in case you need something. Lunch, maybe?”

“Grilled cheese,” Brady said and turned his show back on.

“I apologize for their manners.” Chris turned to them. “Kids, be nice.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Kaylie stuck her earbuds back in and closed her eyes.

“Sorry to run,” Chris said. “But make yourself at home. Thanks again.”

“No problem.” Rusty set his suitcase next to the couch on the brown shag carpet.

Chris hurried down the stairs, and neither kid seemed to notice. He stopped near the front door and his phone sounded. Chris’s face clouded over as he glanced at the screen. He swore about a text.

“Is everything all right?” Rusty asked.

“What?” Chris looked at him, his face noticeably paler.

“Are you okay?”

“It’s the CEO of my work. He’s… I need to get the cops off my back so I can get back to work.”

“Doesn’t your boss understand you’ve lost your wife? You need time to recover and—”

“The only thing Travis Calloway cares about is the bottom line.”

Calloway? Wasn’t that the same name the neighbor had said outside?

Chris cracked his knuckles. “What I wouldn’t give for just one drink.”

“You don’t want to do that. You’ve been clean for years, haven’t you?”

His expression pinched. “Yes, I’m the one who helped Mandy get clean. I’m not going to drink. I just want one sometimes, you know? If my idiot boss and the cops would get a clue, I’d be fine.”

Rusty leaned against the cracked banister. “Surely, your boss can understand the need to—”

Chris’s phone rang. He swore and answered it. “I’m doing the best I can, Ricardo. The cops have it out for me. They won’t leave me alone.” He paused. “I can’t tell the police to wait! You’re going to have to tell Travis I’ll work nights or something. My wife just died.”

Rusty turned toward the kids and watched them, trying not to eavesdrop on Chris.

“Look, Ricardo, I can’t afford to lose this job, but I can’t tell the cops to take a hike, either. They want me down at the station now. The longer you keep me on the phone, the longer it’s going to be until I can get back to work… You can’t do that me! I have vacation days.” Chris let loose a string of profanities and put his phone away.

Rusty turned back to him. “Can I help with anything?”

Chris stared at him, his face reddening. “I hate that pompous jerk.” He picked up a potted flower and threw it against the wall. It shattered, sending soil in all directions.

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