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First pages

Chapter One

I tucked the collar of the men’s Carhartt jacket tighter around my neck. The early October days were warm, but the temps dropped fast once the sun started to set. I wanted nothing more than to get home and start a fire to vanquish the chill, and the things that go bump in the night.

To get home, I had two choices: stand here next to this tall and scratchy, yet safe, tree and wait for the dark of night to cover me, or say screw it and run across the road. The first choice assured me I would make it back home with all my belongings, but it would take a few hours. The second choice gave me more variables to work with. I could dart across the road without a soul knowing I'm even out here, or I could saunter into the forest on the other side and be seen, but not raise suspicion. Alternatively, I could get picked up by someone with less than good intentions, or I could get hit by a car in the middle of the road. 

I tapped my fingers on the tree to the rhythm of the latest pop song they played on an endless loop at work. My feet were tired from working ten hours, and all I wanted to do was take off my boots and rub my toes. My shift started at seven this morning and should have ended at noon, but when Marge failed to show, again, I worked her shift, too. I wasn't about to turn down an extra fifty bucks for the day. 

Now the sun was starting to set in the west and my stomach growled with hunger. I was starving and couldn’t wait to eat the fruit and nut mix in my pack, which was heavy with my latest treasures as it rested on my feet. The longer I stood pondering my decision, the longer it would take me to sit down to eat. I pondered a lot of things in life often, and rarely did I come to an acceptable conclusion. When you live as I do, you don't have fast cars, cell phones, or electronic planners to keep you busy and in touch with the world. I have plenty of time to ponder and plan, because in my situation a lapse in judgment could mean the end of the road for me.

I let out an exhausted sigh and picked up my pack, shifting it across both shoulders evenly. I was too tired to wait, but I still had to hustle and not let anything distract me. I edged closer to the road and listened with a practiced ear for the hum of tires on the concrete. A trained ear could hear a vehicle coming more than a mile away. It would take me less than thirty seconds to cross if I sprinted. I listened a full five minutes anyway, chastising myself. If I had left the first minute, I'd be home by now. Just one more minute, I kept telling myself, one more minute to be sure.

I finally willed my feet to step into the open, and I darted across the concrete, heaving a sigh of relief when I made it without a car in sight. Another safe commute to work and back. I laughed aloud at myself. I could say with certainty my commute had a whole different set of frustrations than the usual American’s did. I paused. Were those hooves clomping on the road? I was still exposed as I worked my way down the bank toward the opening in the trees. I wouldn’t be safe until those trees swallowed me for the night.

“Do you need help?” a man’s voice asked.

I gulped as a horse and rider approached me. I didn’t hear the horse until it was too late, which I found odd, considering I hear everything out of place in my forest. I must be completely exhausted to have missed it. Unless the rider kept the horse in the grass on purpose. I glanced around the road and trees while I searched for a way out of this interaction.

“No, no help needed, thanks anyway,” I said, choosing to stroll along the ditch, hoping to get past him and into the forest when he disappeared down the road.

The reins rose in the air and the black as night horse stopped next to me, its rider peering down at me with an intensity I’ve rarely experienced. “You shouldn’t be walking out here at this time of night. It’s dangerous. A car might not see you in the dusky light.”

I nodded as he spoke, knowing if I agreed with him he would go on his way, and so could I. All I had to do was act cool. “Thanks for the advice; I’m heading home now.” It wasn’t a lie. I was heading home.

The intensity of his gaze unnerved me as he sat like a hawk upon the horse. His eyes were dark, and I realized they were the same color as the rich dark chocolate bar Lanny loved to eat at work. His hair, also dark brown, had a swoop which fell across his forehead in a salon cut style. His Columbia parka, well broken-in Levi jeans, and Red Wing boots told me he had money. The expensive saddle he sat in also reinforced his social status. It was handmade and likely set him back a pretty penny. I envied him. Not for the expensive clothes, but for the saddle and the horse. There was nothing as frustrating as knowing you aren’t even scraping by while someone else is living high off the hog, or in this case, horse.

I unwittingly stretched my hand out to the powerful animal and it sniffed my fingers, then allowed me to pet its muzzle. “You have a beautiful horse,” I said, yanking my hand back and forcing it to stay in my pocket. I had to escape this good-looking cowboy before I piqued his interest too much.

He patted the horse on its crest. “Thank you. Matilda loves to meet new people.”

“Matilda, huh? Does she like to waltz?” I asked, trying to keep his interest on the horse and not me.

“Cute, but no, she prefers galloping. What’s your name, darlin’?”

Darlin’? Who is this guy?

“I’m Sarah,” I said, not proffering my hand. I lied with practiced authority, because there was no way I would give out my real name.

“Nice to meet you, Sarah, I’m Jett,” he said from atop the horse. “I better get back myself before the sun finishes setting. It’s hard to see Matilda in the dark. Do you need a ride?”

I patted the horse one last time. “No, I’m almost home.” Another lie. Chances are good I will go to hell for all the lying I do, but at this point, does it matter? “But thanks for the offer.”

His intense brown eyes took their time raking me from top to bottom before he replied. “Okay, I’ll be on my way then. Nice to meet you, Sarah.”

“You too, Jett,” I answered, tucking my thumbs into the straps of my backpack near my waist. “Have a good night.”

He waved and Matilda clomped off down the shoulder of the road. I marched at a snail’s pace, waiting while they disappeared beyond the horizon before I backtracked into the woods. I didn’t want to stray too far from my entry point or I would be hopelessly lost. As it was, I would have to double back along the tree line once he was gone. Today hadn’t been kind to me and I was glad it was almost over. I slowed my steps further, counting in my head the number of seconds it would take him to disappear completely. I would rather take a few extra steps away from the woods than risk him turning and seeing me entering my secret spot. I focused on the second tally in my head, each step slow, but forward, fifty-one, fifty-two, fifty-three. Only seven more seconds and I should be in the clear. I held my breath, wanting nothing more than to run into the woods now, but it would serve me no purpose.

When my counting hit sixty seconds, I swiveled, barely flicking my head backward as I flipped my hair in a typical girly pose, only mine was practiced, and fruitful. As predicted, he had disappeared down the long curving road which leads to Zansaville, Minnesota. Zansaville is nothing more than a pit stop on the highway of life. It’s filled with truck stops, old bars, cheap hotels, and on the hill, some of the most expensive homes in the state. The owners believe they’re safe living in the middle of nowhere, but I know the truth––no one is safe, ever. The thought spurred me into getting off the damn road and into the woods instantly.

I spun on my heel and sprinted back the way I came, diving into the forest and plastering myself against a tree as the telltale sound of an 18-wheeler barreled toward me. I barely breathed as I curled around the tree to avoid detection by the bright lights of the growling metal behemoth roaring down the road. I let out a breath when the truck passed, then started down the path to home. I had it memorized, and I jumped from tree to tree in a zigzag pattern I would repeat in reverse on the way out tomorrow morning. Leaving a well-worn path would only serve to draw the curiosity of the occasional geo-catching group or hunter trying to bag a deer. I didn’t want anyone stumbling upon my home unannounced, even though few people would be out here in the middle of nowhere.

I gripped my bear spray tightly in my hand, my only protection from an animal who would eat me as a snack and pick his teeth with my bones. The sound of the small stream bubbling told me I was near my humble abode and I sighed with relief. I jumped across the rocks which appeared as if they were randomly placed there by Mother Nature during the ice age. The truth is, I’ve put them there slowly over the past nine months. Why? Because as soon as my foot touched those rocks, I no longer left a path for anyone to follow.

Every time I came and went from the forest, I wondered what would happen when the first snow fell. I would have to devise a way to cover my footprints through the snow. I’d been scouring the thrift shop for a pair of used snowshoes, but so far, no luck. Maybe the canopy from the trees prevented snow from falling deeply in this part of the forest. I didn’t know, because this would be the first winter I lived here. One thing was certain, if I didn’t have all my ducks in a row, it would also be my last. It seemed a pair of snowshoes would be imperative to me getting in and out of this place alive every day. Not just alive, but undamaged with nothing broken.

I jumped off the last rock and landed squarely in the leaves which had built up on the forest floor. It was too dark to see, and I had to turn my small flashlight on. I prayed no one could see it bobbing through the trees, but falling and breaking a limb would be a disaster. Using the light was worth the risk because I would have warning of any danger waiting for me. Once home, I could get my pack off my back, my boots off my feet, and a fire in the pit.

I didn’t mind living a simple life. I suppose because I witnessed firsthand the pitfalls of a complicated life. All I need to do is watch the people coming in and out of the Rest & Ride truck stop, where I work, to know they’re stressed out, keyed up, and in debt. I may not have a lot, but what I have, I own.

My camper came into sight, the metal of the roof reflecting the light of the flashlight in my hand. I breathed a sigh of relief. Another safe passage through the woods. I’d worked too hard, and too long, to make this a safe place to live. I wasn’t about to do something stupid and lose it. I always had to be calculated and stay in control.

My mind flashed on the pair of eyes I encountered on the road. I didn’t notice then, but my mind’s eye homed in on the earring in his left ear. Was it a horseshoe? I forced myself not to roll my eyes as I approached my camper. I stood next to a tree motionless while I listened. I didn’t want to surprise a bear, wolf, or fox. I had my knife at the ready, my fist grasping it tightly, and my spray in the other hand. It would stop a fox, and a wolf if I got the jump on it, but there would be no way to stop a bear.

I stood quietly on the outskirts of the campsite a few minutes longer, then shone the flashlight around. There were no eyes shining in the darkness, so I stepped out and heaved a thankful sigh. Home again, home again, jiggity jog, I said to myself. It was the second memory of my childhood I had today. First, Waltzing Matilda, and now a nursery rhyme. I gave myself a mental shake and reminded my brain those memories don’t come out to play.

I unlocked the door to the camper. The factory lock from 1976 no longer worked, but the heavy-duty padlock I had on it sure did. I didn’t want some hunter coming along and thinking he could take shelter inside my home. The padlock and hasp were free from the truck stop. I replaced the padlock on the garbage bins as instructed, and pocketed this one. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?

The camper was dark when I crawled inside and I started my propane lantern so I could put my things away. I swung my bag off my back and let it fall to the floor, which surprisingly had only rotted out in a few places despite being in the woods all these years. Whoever used the camper had gutted everything but the bunks and the bathroom. There was once a working kitchen, but when I found the poor man’s version of a tiny home there was nothing more than a rotted shell, with the appliances long gone. Maybe the last owner took them out for all I know, but the only thing I found in the empty holes were mice nests, sans mice. It took me all summer, and a lot of elbow grease, but I managed to make the eight-foot by five-foot room into a living space. This spring, summer, and fall, I spent most of my time outside, other than sleeping or working on the interior, but once winter hit, I would need this shelter to stay alive.

When I found discarded metal shelves in the dumpster at work, I carried them home, a few at a time, and used them to cover the holes in the floor. Then I added a few layers of newspapers, a layer of cardboard, and a discarded remnant of carpet from behind the carpet shop. With the floors completely repaired, I focused on to the walls. A few bundles of newspapers, a lot of duct tape, a pack of survival blankets, and a weekend off, was all I needed to insulate the walls. I used my own body heat to keep myself warm for now, but it wouldn’t be enough to keep from freezing during a Minnesota winter.

I bent and unhooked the two straps on my old army surplus pack. It was the first thing I found when I took off in the dark of night last year. I don’t keep it because I have a fond attachment for a bag I stole from someone’s garage. I keep it because it’s solid, performs day-after-day, and can withstand just about anything. Kneeling, I set cans of soup, and juice, along with a roll of toilet paper, on the counter.

Today was shelf rotation day at the shop–– expired items in the bin, new cans in the back, middle to the front, and so it goes, shelves, cooler, and freezers. Everyone turns a blind eye when I stash the outdated food in my locker. No one asks questions, because in a truck stop, you stay in business when you don’t ask questions. I don’t dare take anything but shelf stable food to my home. Anything else could attract bears or wolves and there’s no sense asking for trouble.

I fished out the two pairs of socks, towel, and toiletry kit left in the showers today. My job is to clean the showers after each use, and I find something in just about every one of them. I’ve managed to keep myself in clothes by picking up spare articles from the lost and found in the laundry room. When they aren’t claimed in twenty-four hours, I wash them and slip them out. No harm, no foul. Truckers rarely come back to the same stop twice, and those who do, wouldn’t know where they left a towel. I don’t feel badly about putting lost items to good use. While most people wouldn’t even notice if they lost a piece of clothing, I obsessively count the items in my pack after I’ve done the wash, just to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

I carried my treasures to the back of the camper. The bunks sat on each side of the narrow hallway which ended in a door to the bathroom. It was nothing more than a stool, a microscopic sink, and pathetically tiny shower, but it didn’t matter, it was mine. The sink and shower were useless for washing, but the shower was perfect for storing spare bedding and food. The sewage holding tank had a hole in it when I arrived, but after a bit of grunt work, I managed to get a bucket under the hole. It’s not glamorous, but it’s functional, at least when it’s night and it’s too dangerous to be outside in the dark.

I closed the door to the bathroom, and checked my watch. It was after seven and I had better get a fire going if I was going to keep the animals at bay. I picked up my pack of matches and fire starter, lint from the dryers at work, and left the relative safety of my camper, after turning off the propane lantern.

Everything I did was with measured precision. I had a mantra I repeated as I worked around the campsite. Overlook nothing. Fly below the radar. Never let your guard down. Trust your instincts.

Those are the things I learned when I was October Halloran, and how I’ve survived as Sarah Banks.

Chapter Two

If I had to hear one more dirty joke, I was going to scream. Seriously, where do the truckers get these jokes? Maybe they make them up themselves while on the road for hours watching endless miles pass by. I suppose if I didn’t have books to keep me busy at night, I might go a little stir crazy, too. Thankfully, our library has a good selection of everything from the newest releases to the classics. They have limited hours, so I make sure to check out three or four books at one time, just in case. Books, to me, are knowledge I can’t gain anywhere else. When a trucker forgets a novel in the lounge and drives away, I’ll dump it in lost and found. After a few days, it goes into my pack. Once I’ve read it, I give it to the public library. I figure since I use the library all the time, I should help them out when I can. I’m especially interested in survival books as the winter approaches.

I finished sweeping the floor of the truckers’ lounge and leaned the broom against the wall. Since smoking was no longer legal inside any public building in Minnesota, the truckers go outside to smoke. There’s a door to the outside from the lounge. All they need to do is hit the button and we see them on the camera, then we buzz them in and out. Why the camera? Without it, anyone could take off with one of the various expensive do-dads and gadgets we stock in the store. I flicked my hood up over my head, staying clear of the camera when I exited the building, after Lanny buzzed me out. We didn’t have a lot of cameras on the outside of the building, which most would say isn’t very smart, but the opposite is true. Truckers like anonymity. They want to be able to do whatever they want to do, or to let whomever they want to do, into their trucks. We have cameras on the gas pumps, because no trucker pulls off the road and doesn’t put gas in their tank. We always get a license plate at the very least, but usually a face as well. Once they drive their truck behind the building, they’re free to do as they please. I know our privacy first policy is the reason we’re always full of trucks while other stops are empty. Truckers appreciate their privacy. The majority of truckers are also men, which is why I had to come out here twice a day and clean up after them.

I stooped to pick up cigarette butts someone decided shouldn’t go in the cigarette receptacle, and wiped off the plastic tables we leave out for them to sit at. Sometimes a group of guys will get together, smoke cigarettes, drink beer, and play cards. Once they’re drunk and broke, they head back to their cabs to sleep it off. At least I hope they sleep it off and don’t drive a metal death machine drunk. Since I had a pair of gloves on and an empty bucket, I cleaned around the outside of the truck stop picking up crumpled wrappers, empty soda bottles, and condom wrappers. I told you my job is glamorous.

While I wandered about I kept my eyes peeled for anything helpful to me because winter is fast approaching. Sometimes truckers buy new clothes inside the store and leave the old ones in the dumpster. I opened the lid to dump in the trash when I noticed a hooded sweatshirt and jeans lying at the bottom. It must be my lucky day! Even if the jeans were too big I could wear the sweatshirt to stay warm at night. I set the bucket down and glanced around for anyone who might be watching me. I was alone, so I dove in and grabbed the hood, yanking up on it. I expected it to come out easily, but it was caught on something. I bent over the edge of the dumpster as far as I could and used both gloved hands to tug on the shirt. The hood was finally loose, but there was a human head lying in the dumpster, still wearing the sweatshirt and jeans. I let go of the hood and backed up several steps, my heart pounding.

He was dead. How did I know? He was gray and stiff, which meant rigor mortis had set in. Breathe and think, October, I ordered myself, my mind using my real name to shock me back into reality. I couldn’t be the one to find a dead body in the dumpster. Something of this magnitude would open me up to investigation, which can’t happen. What do I do? I can’t dump the trash in there now, they’ll know I saw the body and didn’t report it. They’ll accuse me of killing this guy, and then what? Then I’m in hot water and I can’t afford to defend myself. Then the US Government will find out October Halloran still exists, and then my next address will be in a cell at the Shakopee Correctional Facility. I lowered the lid on the dumpster then picked up my bucket and strode to the loading dock doors to gain entrance without Lanny seeing me.

I marched through the lounge, each step purposeful as if it were any other day. I dumped the bucket of garbage inside the garbage can in the women’s bathroom and tied the bag closed. I lifted it from the waste bin and set it next to the bathroom door. The gloves were stuffed in my pocket because if I threw them away, someone might find them, too. I would burn them later in the fire. Now all I had to do was convince Lanny to take out the trash for me and she would be the one on record to find the body.

I moseyed up to the front where she ran the cash register and pointed at my watch. “You need a smoke break?” I asked and she held her hands in the prayer pose.

“Please, more than anything in the world.”

I laughed and motioned her out from behind the counter. She grabbed her purse and then stepped aside so I could take her place. “I’ll watch the register for you, but don’t dawdle. I’m not the best at this.”

“I won’t be long, I promise.” She took her pack of cigarettes and a lighter from her purse and handed the rest back to me.

She was a few steps from the counter when I called her name, hoping it sounded relaxed and nonchalant. “Would you grab the bag of garbage by the bathroom on your way out?”

She saluted and weaved her way through the shelves to the back of the store. Once she was out of sight I had to wait until she buzzed the door to see if she had the bag. When the buzz sounded, I jumped, my heart racing. I forced my heart to stop pounding and opened the door. She was carrying the garbage and I let out a sigh of relief. Thank goodness the cameras didn’t film the dumpster, or there was no way I could claim I wasn’t the first person to find the body. A full body shiver skittered up my spine as I waited, knowing she would reappear soon. When she did, she hit the button as if it were any other day, but the way she glanced around her told me she found the body.

I buzzed her in and she was up to the counter in a matter of seconds. Her finger was pointing backward and she could barely form words. “There’s, there’s a dead, dead guy in the dumpster.” The only indication she was freaked out was how she spoke through her teeth with a smile so fake the Joker would be jealous.

I raised my brow, surprised, I hoped. “A dead man? Where?” I asked, adding a tinge of fear into my voice, which wasn’t hard to do.

She leaned in. “Did you open the dumpster today?”

I kept my face neutral. “No, I just cleaned off the tables and around the building.”

“I found him in the dumpster when I went to toss the garbage. Oh my God, we have to call the police,” she said squeezing past me to the phone.

I held my hand over hers to prevent her from picking up the receiver. “You have to let me leave first, Lanny. You know about my deal with the owner. I can work here as long as no one takes any interest in me. I have to go, now.”

She grabbed my hand to stop me from running. “But, Sarah, they’re going to request the surveillance tapes and they’ll know you work here.”

I rubbed my forehead. She was right. I’m screwed. Wait, maybe not. “Erase all the tapes,” I whispered. “All the way back to early this morning before my shift started. They won’t ask for anything more than twenty-four hours ago and I didn’t work yesterday. All you have to do when they ask why the cameras stopped working at six a.m. is to tell them the system must have gone down.”

“I can’t tamper with evidence, Sarah!” she exclaimed, though in a muted fashion. “I could go to jail for messing with the cameras.”

“You won’t. I’ll erase the tapes. All you have to do is give me access to the system.”

Before she spoke she checked the room for any customers. “You don’t know how to run the program. In good conscience, I can’t tamper with evidence.” She tapped her foot nervously. “Did you go anywhere near the pumps when you were out there?”

“Nope, I stayed tight to the building picking up garbage. I stayed behind the building and clear of the cameras the way I always do. When I came in this morning, I used the loading dock doors.”

“You should be okay then. I’ll back up the camera from the register and let it start recording over the last ten minutes. Get out of here now. I’ll give you a ten-minute head start, then I’m calling the cops. As it is, I’ll have to fudge the time stamp, but I’ll do it, for you. Now go, so I can take care of this. Don’t come back until I call your phone and tell you it’s safe. If I were you, I’d grab a sandwich or two from the cooler. It could be a few days until it’s safe to come back.”

I squeezed her hand between mine. “Thank you, Lanny. I’ll take the closest dated sandwiches and head for the hills. Be careful.”

She promised she would be and I got out of dodge, while avoiding the cameras. There were three sandwiches set to expire, and I grabbed them all, stuffed them into my pack with my clean clothes I had washed earlier in my shift, and threw the pack on my back. If there was one thing I knew how to do, it was make like a ghost.

****

I rubbed my hands together over the fire to warm them as the dark descended across the forest. I made a trek to the road each night to see if Lanny had called me, but so far no calls for the past two days. We had a system down pat. I bought a cheap flip phone from the truck stop and air minutes, so they had some way to contact me. I couldn’t afford a contract service, nor would I want one since there’s no coverage out here. When the truck stop wants me to change my schedule or pick up a shift, they leave a message. I agreed to check it at seven p.m. the days I don’t work and return the call if there was a problem, otherwise I just showed up at work. Since she hasn’t called it meant the truck stop was abuzz with police activity. I’m not surprised. Murders aren’t a common occurrence in Zansaville, Minnesota. Sure, you found the occasional frozen body on the lake, heart attack victim in a truck, or hunter fallen from a deer stand, but no dead bodies in dumpsters. I’m relatively certain the guy didn’t climb in there himself.

I’ve spent the last few days getting the camper ready for winter since I’ve had hours of extra time. In the early fall, the camper stayed a snug sixty degrees at night, but the temperature outside didn’t drop below forty, either. If I wanted to be alive this spring, I had to be prepared. All the books I read said it’s not safe to have a propane heater in a camper, or any kind of heater for that matter. They also said wet rocks heated in a fire could explode, which sounded downright deadly. It left me precious few options to keep warm in the winter. I had two sleeping bags, one inside out on the bunk mattress, which was in considerably good shape due to the plastic mattress cover it was in, and my zippered sleeping bag on top of the first bag. Since I filched it off a trucker in the lounge, I figured it was a good one. Filched might be a strong word. He left it there and took off; I just didn’t chase after him with it. I needed a good sleeping bag and didn’t want to spend a full day’s pay on one. The older bag I use for padding is one I found at a thrift shop with a broken zipper. I bought it for a buck, which fit my budget.

I sewed together the last of the bag I was working on, and for added security, wrapped a piece of duct tape around the sewn edges. If I was going to survive, I was going to have to establish a plan to keep the camper warm. I went to the feed store and bought fifteen pounds of millet, and yes, it was heavy to carry home, but it might just keep me alive. The feed mill lady even gave me several cloth bags, usually discarded when they were emptied, to go with the millet. I lugged it all home and cut the bags into small rectangular shapes, filled them with millet, and hand sewed the top closed. I would place the millet bags on top of the fire grate inside a cake pan covered with an old metal lid. Once they were hot I would add one to the bottom of my sleeping bag, and the rest would go in the walkway between the bunks. They wouldn’t blow up or start a fire, so they were the only option I could come up with to heat the camper, and keep me alive.

Yesterday, I tacked a heavy-duty army blanket to the fake wood at the entrance to the bunkroom and rolled it up, securing it with rubber bands. When I drop it at night, after placing the heated bags around the bunk, it should keep it more than toasty enough for me to sleep comfortably for the night. The rescue blankets I used to cover the walls would reflect the heat right back on top of me. Last week I stopped into the thrift shop on Main Street and bought two long narrow cake pans. They would work nicely to hold the bags while they warmed.

I set the last one aside in the pans on the ground and covered them with the lid. Tonight was going to be my trial run. It wasn’t dangerously cold out yet, so I had time to play around with how long it would take to get them warm in the fire, and how long the heat would last in the camper. It was too early yet, but I set them near the fire anyway, letting the metal pans start to warm.

I suppose most people would think I’m loco for even thinking about living in the woods in the middle of a Minnesota winter, but the truth is, I’m not loco. The counselors did thorough tests on me over the years, so I know for sure I’m of sound mind. The other thing I know is our ancestors lived in these conditions for hundreds of years, without the benefit of some modern amenities. At least when I went to work, I had time to warm up, wash my clothes, shower, and get food. Our ancestors didn’t have anything but themselves to rely on. If we were to get a blizzard, I could camp out in the truckers’ lounge and no one would blink an eye. I’ve learned how to become invisible. A hoodie, blanket, and a book were all I needed to fit in.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Katie Mettner writes inspirational and romantic suspense from a little house in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. She and her husband share their lives with their three children, and one very special leopard gecko. When not penning her next novel, Katie has a slight addiction to Twitter, with a lessening aversion to Pinterest since she quit trying to make the things she pinned.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner inspired October Winds. I wanted to create the same kind of survival situation to test October's strength. The story has a few parallels to The Boxcar Children, but there are twists & turns far more dangerous, explosive, and sexy in this grownup version.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
A.
The overarching message is that women don’t need a hero to swoop in & save them. Women can save themselves, save the day, & be stronger than ever imagined in tough situations. They may need emotional support & love from their partner to get there, but they aren’t helpless damsels in distress.
Q. This book is part of a series, tell us about your series.
A.
October Winds is the first in The Raven Ranch Mystery series. Each subsequent book will focus on a deputy from Sheriff Raven’s department. Mysteries, murders, disappearances, and true love abound!

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