America, 1591. With her colony destroyed by an enemy sworn to revenge, Eleanor Dare must take a bold leap of faith to save her people, even if it means she will be lost to England, forever.
Upcoming novel based on the true events as recorded by John White and Eleanor Dare.
Adapted from my first script, Dare to Follow, a 2015 Final Draft Big Break Quarterfinalist.
A dark, new stretch of hardtop splits the North Carolina coastal forest like the cry of a bald eagle soaring above pierces the afternoon's thick heat. Beside her husband in the Ford Model-A delivery van, Thelma Hammond works her fan with desperation.
"Oh, Lou. Can't we just head back home now? You're driving so slow, s'hardly any air comin' in!"
Lou Hammond waves his hand out over the dash. "Look, darling, at this nice, smooth piece a road. U-S-17. Takes us right through shagbark hickory country. And you know what them nuts is worth in California."
"We came out here for the wedding, not to work, you said so yourself."
Lou sighs, almost defeated. Then he spots a grove of hickory trees trailing the edge of a creek into the forest. He pulls the van off the road, and jumps out in his suit and wingtip shoes. Going around to the back, past the sign that reads, "Hammond's Produce. Always Fresh.," he opens the doors and retrieves two buckets.
At the passenger window, he pauses. "One last time, I promise. And if I don't find nothin', I'll be back directly." On impulse, he gives Thelma a little kiss on the cheek.
"Oh, you -- you hurry up," she demurs. Lou steps over the ditch and scurries up the grassy bank. "And watch for snakes!" Thelma calls after him.
Diving under the shade of the trees, Lou follows the creek, gingerly scuffing his gleaming wingtips through the leaf litter. He picks a few hickory nuts, drops them in the bucket, and moves on. A few more feet, more clangs in the bucket. The brown gold lies in seemingly endless trail deep into the woods. Soon, he fills the first bucket.
Before he starts the second, he remember: grocer's rule. Always check the merchandise. On the creek bank, he finds a suitable rock: round and small enough to fit in his hand. Now, he just needs another. But bigger rocks are nowhere to be seen.
Lou scans the ground, but leaves cover everything in a coat of many colors. And Thelma will be waiting, door open, her blue-flowered hat on, the little brown canteen in hand. California is at least two weeks away where he left the store in the charge of that Garcia boy. Better hurry, like she said. As he swings his foot across, his toe hits hard on something hidden in the leaves.
He bends down to check the damage to his shoe. The point of a deeply weathered stone barely projects above the leaf litter.
"Ah, here we go." He selects one nut, places the shell atop the stone, and whacks it with his simple hammer. The shell cracks wide apart, and the fruit falls out. Lou reaches down to pick up the fruit, placing one half in his mouth before his eyes have fully adjusted to the darkness among the leaves. Then he sees it.
On the stone, near the top, is the faint trace of a crudely etched cross.
Chewing slowly, he brushes the leaves aside. His finger follows down the vertical of the mark until it reaches another -- a letter "D" carved in a line of text.
"What the . . . ."
Hands shaking, he rubs the dirt and moss off the stone to reveal a name, "ANANIAS DARE," and underneath, moving right, he reads aloud the next words, "VIRGINIA WENT HENCE . . . ." The rest is buried in the soil.
Lou rushes for the car.
The Model-A, sun flashing off its chromed bumper and radiator, jolts to a stop at the edge of a steep, sandy bank. Below, the Chowan
River laps languidly beneath the shade of fire-orange cypress trees, their trunks rising steep and silent from the water. Lou swings to the rear of the van and jerks open the doors. On the boards, between baskets of hickory nuts and crates of watermelons, lies the stone. He tucks it under one arm, feeling again its weight, and begins to clamber down the bank.
From the car window, Thelma calls helplessly, "Be careful! You twist your ankle or something, who's gonna drive us home?"
Lou ignores her and, shaking with eagerness, pushes through the undergrowth in a narrow depression that leads directly down to the waterside. Once on the strip of clear sand, he begins to vigorously scrub the moss-encrusted rock. Turning it over, he calls out, "Got a lot more writing here! C'mon, darling, and have a look!"
Thelma steps gingerly out of the car and picks her way to the edge of the bank. From her vantage point, she can see the wide Albemarle Sound stretching far away to the east, rimmed with more flaming cypress.
"I ain't climbing down there dressed like this. Tell me what you see."
Lou squints at the odd assemblage of letters trailing across the reverse. He has the sudden, strange feeling of being watched. Glancing up at the bank, dark shadows gather into inscrutable thickets. In the water next to him, the ancient cypress seem to whisper as their needles flutter in the breeze.
"Well, I dunno. It ain't clear, the letters look different. Might be a tombstone or something. Probably oughta put it back. Bad luck an' all.
But unperturbed, Thelma continues. "That name you read, Virginia . . . wasn't that the name of the girl? In the play, I mean. The one they were opening on Roanoke. We read about it in the paper at the hotel, remember? Virginia . . . Virginia Dare."
Lou stops, his heart racing. He flips the stone over again. Free from ages of dirt, he has only to sprinkle a little sand across its face to clearly read the names -- Ananias, Virginia -- and the astounding date.
"My God, Thelma, it says '1591'! I can see it plain as day! It's just . . . just . . . impossible. What're we gonna do? Nobody's gonna believe it."
"Well, bring it back up here, for starters. Then you gotta call somebody, somebody that can sort this out. We can't go hauling this rock around with us. Whether they believe it or not, ain't none of our business. But whatever it is, the right thing to do is have it looked at in North Carolina, where it belongs, not in California, and not just dump it back in the woods, neither. No one's ever gonna figure it out, if we don't do something."
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