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The Peaceful Night by Harry F. Smith
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Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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The Peaceful Night by Harry F. Smith
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A category five hurricane smashes into Orlando, Florida and forces the people of an exclusive gated community to fend off starvation, a power hungry ex-mafioso don, alligators, a horny but brain dead mutt named Peepers and a psychotic killer who'll do anything to silence the voices in his head until help arrives.


JAKE HELD THE PLASTIC garbage bag at arm’s length as he moved quickly down the hallway, his slippers making a muted flip-flop noise on the floor. Judging from the acrid smell of chicken bones left over from a dinner enjoyed three nights prior, he knew quite well that the small drops of whatever the hell was leaking from the bag was going to stain the newly installed carpet. Just like the theory that running in the rain gets you less wet than walking, he fervently hoped that his haste would diminish any harm done to the rug.

Opening the door to the large three-car garage, Jake could feel the difference in the temperature even though the space was well insulated. In an effort to keep the cool air inside the house, he quickly closed the door behind him, gratefully leaving behind the irritating thump thump noise his son called music. Even now, the vibrations were emanating from behind a closed bedroom door, the loud bass tones shaking the walls. Throwing the bag into an already full garbage can, he leaned heavily on the lid, letting his weight compact the trash as the plastic lid shut closed with a snap.

He had yelled at Paul to take out the garbage two days ago and then once again this morning, but being the average American teenager, his son’s attention span was severely diminished by an alien disease that made his brain cells unable to communicate with each other properly whenever there was input from a parental figure. The huge amounts of marijuana that he smoked before, during and after his community college classes didn’t help either. At this point in his young life, the only things his neurons could process correctly were the most primitive of basic teen skills such as memorizing the lyrics to every rap song ever produced. Judging from the way that Paul wore his pants sagging over his skinny ass and spoke in the latest gangster ghetto slang, he was one bong hit away from being classified as a drooling idiot.

Jake braced himself as he reached over to the garage door opener. One of the gear teeth in the drive chain had broken off and under the right conditions, the electric motor got stuck, producing a grotesque noise that sounded like two large dinosaurs having sex without the aid of a good lubricant. Since the repairman was booked solid and could not possibly squeeze him in before Labor Day, Jake had learned to stand by the door, ready to assist with a push less his neighbors suffer through another episode of the earsplitting sound indicating that the transport was suffering its mechanical rendition of a stroke.

Fortunately for Jake, the door decided to cooperate tonight. It opened slowly, creaking noisily on bearings that hadn’t been greased in months.

He felt the dampness of the outside air rushing in to greet him as the door reached its full height on the track. Even though it was eight thirty in the evening and the summer sun was just beginning to set, the heat hadn’t yielded its chokehold on the day. The air was so steamy that Jake imagined that he could extend his arms forward and wring the humidity out of the atmosphere like a wet sponge, the water drops hitting the hot concrete garage floor with a loud sizzle. Since he had spent his formative years growing up on a farm in northern Michigan, Jake quickly discovered that he had little tolerance for humid weather. For some strange reason, he thought back to all of the glossy literature he read before making the fateful decision to move to Florida in the summer time. To the best of his recollection, none of the colorful travel brochures mentioned anything about year-round, swamp-like weather conditions.

As he wheeled the garbage can down the driveway to the curb, Jake spotted his neighbor in the distance. Tall and thin, Leo Morgenstern was jumping rope on the grass in his front yard.

Leo stared straight ahead in his own little world as if in a trance, the sweat pouring off his body in buckets. His red and yellow United States Marine Corps tee shirt and matching shorts were thoroughly soaked and hugged his skinny body in an almost obscene manner. Strangely, he didn’t jump like a boxer in training for a title fight would, using the balls of both feet to launch his body just high enough for the rope to pass under. Instead, he skipped school girl-style, one knee comically lifting much higher than necessary, the other leg following suit right after in precise, military precision. He had once explained to Jake, in more detail than Jake cared to know, that he got a better aerobic workout this way. Jake thought that Leo looked like a gangly dork.

Just watching his neighbor exercise in the summer heat made Jake sweat even more. He felt his clothes beginning to cling in places he did not want fabric to stick to as he parked the trash canister by the curb. With task in hand completed, Jake hoped he could turn around and get back inside the house to the sweet cool relief of the air conditioner without having to engage his neighbor in any empty-headed conversation. Unsure if Leo was even aware of him, Jake gave him the obligatory ‘Good evening’ suburban head nod. Firm, short and to the point, the crisp motion seemed to suffice as Leo kept up his perfect, girlie- like cadence. Feeling victory in his grasp, Jake was confident that in a few moments he would be sitting in his recliner, finishing the first of a few beers before bedtime while watching the Minnesota Twins lose to the Yankees once again.

“Jake! Got a minute?”

He flinched as he heard his name being called out. Leo had stopped jumping and was now looking directly at him. He waved his hand, still holding the plastic jump rope handles.