Mile of Cars Murders, First Chapter
Updated: May 20, 2019
"A lot of people didn't make it home after the Oklahoma City bombing, but not all of them went missing because of it" #MileofCarsMurders #JoeHarwell #OklahomaAuthor #Tulsa #HistoricalFiction
Joe Paul (J.P.) Britton and wife, Pat, are taking a much needed day off, going into Oklahoma City without their four boys tagging along. Eighteen year old Joe Paul, Jr. and his younger siblings are in charge of the farm outside Perkins, Oklahoma until their parents return home by eight pm on April 19, 1995.
As news of the Murrah Building bombing breaks, Joe Paul, Jr. is concerned about his parents who don't carry a cell phone or pager. Younger brother Thomas falls and breaks his arm after school, and eight pm comes and goes without J.P. and Pat returning. As weeks and months become years, the Britton boys face an awful truth. A lot of people didn't make it home after the Oklahoma City bombing, but not all of them went missing because of it.
With no leads for two years, the bodies of five people missing since the day of the bombing turn up on hoods of vehicles on the Mile of Cars in 1998. This jump-starts the investigation which comes to a startling conclusion as a deadly F5 tornado rips through Bridge Creek and Moore on May 3, 1999. Mile of Cars Murders is a follow-up to the 2012 novel, Payne County Weekly.
Chapter 1. April 19, 1995 a day like any other
“Hey honey, did you put the ice chest in the truck?” Pat Britton called to her husband J.P. at six fifteen.
“Already done it,” he replied from the bathroom where he was brushing his teeth. “You better check on Henry. He was draggin’ while ago.”
Pat went down the hall to the bedroom of her younger sons, eleven year old Henry and nine year old Thomas. Tom was dressed and watching TV, but Henry was sitting on the top bunk bed and still in his pajamas.
Smiling as she walked into their room Pat said, “Hey guys, you gotta move. You’re riding the bus this morning, remember?”
“Aw, do we have to?” Henry complained.
“Yes, you have to. Dad and I are going to Oklahoma City this morning, so you boys need to get movin’. Your lunch boxes are packed and your breakfast will be on the table in five minutes.”
“I just want cereal and orange juice,” Thomas said, without turning his attention from the TV.
Rubbing his head she replied, “You’re a mind reader. That’s exactly what you’re getting, plus toast with jelly. Now scoot.”
“I don’t want the green jelly,” complained Henry. “It tastes funny ‘cause Dale’s dog pees on the mint plants.”
Pat chuckled and said, “All right, you can have strawberry, but get moving. Your father and I need to be on the road by seven and I don’t want to be late because you’re not ready.”
“What are you bringing me from Oklahoma City?” asked Henry as he climbed off the bunk bed.
“Nothing if you make us late,” she said when he reached the floor.
He hugged her and said, “I’ll miss you.”
Hugging him back she said, “I’ll miss you too. We’ll be home around eight and Dale is getting pizza after school and taking you to church tonight.”
“Pizza,” he said enthusiastically, getting the clothes she hung on the doorknob for him last night.
Pat knew the boys would be all right with their older brothers in charge. She and J.P. hadn’t been on their own for a full day in years. Even though she loved her children more than her own life; Pat was really looking forward to a day away from the ranch with her husband.
Her oldest son, Joe Paul, already had bowls and glasses of juice on the table for him and the other boys when Pat entered the kitchen. “I’ll pick up some bread,” he said while placing four slices in the toaster. Holding up the nearly empty package he continued, “I thought we had another one.”
“Don’t worry about it. Your father and I are picking up groceries in the city before we come home.”
“And bringing it back in a new truck?” asked Dale as he entered the kitchen.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Pat replied. “We’re just looking. Our credit is still tight even after Bo refinanced our note, so a new truck isn’t likely.”
“But a newer one, maybe, please,” Dale said, giving her a pleading look.
Tom burst into the kitchen saying, “New truck, new truck.”
Turning and giving him a stern look Pat said, “Is your brother ready yet?”
“I’ll check on him,” Dale said, sensing his mother’s frustration.
Tom scooted a chair out and sat down as Pat poured cereal, then milk into his bowl. She sat beside him, leaned close and whispered, “Daddy may not get a new truck today, but I’ll bring you and Henry one if you keep it a secret.”
He smiled, reached out his arms to hug her and said, “I won’t tell. I love you.”
Hugging him, she said, “I love you too, now eat. Your toast will be up in a minute.”
He pulled on her blouse and whispered, “The green jelly you made don’t taste funny and it was Henry that peed on the mint plants.”
Laughing she said, “I know.”
Pat & J.P. left their farm outside Perkins, Oklahoma a little before seven and honked when they drove by the home of Bo Stark, a mile up the road, where lights were already on. Wednesday is paper day and Bo would soon be on the road to southern Kansas where Payne County Weekly is printed.
Inspiration to write Mile of Cars Murders. After three successful book signings in Stillwater and Perkins for Payne County Weekly in the fall of 2012, I made the decision to continue the storyline. Specifically, the decision was made on Saturday afternoon on the second floor outdoor balcony at Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater while celebrating an Oklahoma State football victory. Within a month, the outline for Mile of Cars Murders was written. One more novel is planned in the series with the title, Nut Check.