NO SECRET SO CLOSE excerpt #28, by Claire Dorotik

NO SECRET SO CLOSE is the story of a the most unthinkable betrayal humanly possible — at only 24 years old, Claire Dorotik’s father has been murdered, her mother arrested, and now, in a sinister twist of fate, Claire’s mother points the finger at Claire, accusing her of killing her own father. Battling the feelings of loss, abandonment, terror, and dissociation, and also learning about them, Claire struggles to stay in her master’s program for psychotherapy. However, when Claire’s brothers also betray her and side with her mother, Claire is left all alone to care for the 18 horses she and her mother owned. As the story unfolds, what is revealed is the horses’ amazing capacity for empathy in the face of human trauma, and the almost psychic ability to provide the author with what had been taken from her. Arising from these horrifying circumstances, the most unthinkable heroes — the horses — show Claire that life is still worth living.

Excerpt #28 from NO SECRET SO CLOSE:

In the end, it was she who made the first move. Stepping up to the car, she handed me a piece of paper. “Claire, your dad’s not back from his run,” she said, her voice trembling. “You need to call the police sergeant right away. OK? He wants to know Bob’s running routes.” On the paper, she had scribbled the name, Sergeant Brady, and a phone number.

I had run with my dad enough to know there could only be one reason he hadn’t returned. He’d been hurt. My body went numb with the thought of what, or who, might have overtaken him. I had felt that strangeness in the area any number of times while running, and knew he had too. We’d never exactly spoken about our fears. But we had all kinds of names for the strange types we’d see while running.

It could have been me, was all I could think. Why him and not me? I would have been an easier target, certainly.

The panic suddenly kicked me back to life, and I raced up the stairs and through the house to the kitchen. With one hand on the sliding glass door out to the back deck, I picked up the phone and held the receiver to my ear with my shoulder as I dialed the number.

“This is Sergeant Brady.” A soft voice answered.

“Um, my mom told me to call you?” I said.

“Is this Claire?”

“Yes.” My voice wavered.

“We’re trying to find your father, Claire.” He sounded kinder than I would have imagined a detective to be. I pictured a genteel man in his late forties. “Can you tell me all of the routes he may have run?”

I pulled one of the dining table chairs close and sat down. Carefully, I went through all of the possible routes. “Well, it’s Sunday, so he may have added on the 4.1 down toward the lake, or he could have gone to the other end of Lake Wohlford Drive to add on 2.4.”

“Okay, there are detectives down toward the lake. Would he maybe have gone off the road?” he asked, “You know, onto the trail?”

“No, he didn’t really like to run on the trails. He would have stuck to the road. He might have been feeling good and run a bit past the Café, though. I could see him doing that.”

The 4.1 mile route toward the lake that my father had mapped out went to the 2nd telephone pole past the five-mile marker on the side of the road, and the Lake Wohlford Café that overlooked the lake was 3.2 miles out, creating a round trip of 6.4 miles, just over the distance of a 10k, or 6.2 miles.

“Okay,” he said. “We’ll look that way again, then. Thank you, Claire.”

“Can I go with you?” I asked. There was a pause at the other end of the line. My father and I had run together many times. In fact, we’d just run a marathon together the weekend before, still, it was hard to predict where he might have headed and I somehow felt I might think more clearly, might be able to give Sergeant Brady more direction, if I could see the curves of the road, the trees, the lake, all of the things my dad would have seen while running. Being runners, we had shared the feeling that sometimes the way a place looks would move us to run in a different direction, or farther than we’d thought we could. It was hard to describe; it could be the way the light was falling through the trees, a certain crispness in the air, or just the way the road opened up, and we would find ourselves wanting to press on farther. It was a sense of exploration, that my father and I both shared through our running–a desire to see differently, to experience things differently, to be different.

And we were different, he and I. My dad had been a high school football star in Texas at a time when injuries like dislocated shoulders were not a reason to stop playing. You just get back in the game. Running track in high school, a scratched cornea and a patch over my eye were not reason for me to miss practice either. I had no depth perception and would have to live with the name “Cyclops” that my teammates chided me with for years after, but you just get back in the game.

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