BRYAN & SARA'S CABIN
RURAL FALCON RIDGE, COLORADO
April 17, Tuesday
CHARLIE LITTLEWOLF REGARDED BRYAN'S timbered A-frame through narrowed eyes. Something wasn't right. A few hours earlier a dark, heavy void had crumpled his chest in a suffocating wave. His white brother's truck was still gone. No one answered the door or their phones. He and Sara were supposed to be there all week for spring break. Bryan was the most dependable person he'd ever known—always where he said, when he said. Charlie was the one who operated on "Indian Time."
Where was he?
He never left without saying goodbye. Or more accurately, Ne' Stae va' hose vooma'tse. Cheyenne for "I will see you again."
Never the finality of "Goodbye."
The rearview mirror of his old pickup framed the sun as it sank toward the Rockies, slivered moon in close pursuit. Maybe something came up back in Denver and they had to leave.
No—he would have called. At least texted.
A week before when Bryan messaged they were coming up, he mentioned he and Sara were going skiing. If so, they should be back by now.
He stiffened. Maybe one of them got hurt. Perhaps they were at the hospital.
He turned the key in the ignition and the old engine sputtered to life. Rear tires spun in slushy spring snow as the truck swung around, then squawked through bumps and washouts troubling the unpaved road. He continued past the turnoff to his own cabin, then turned left at the two-lane highway to Belton.
When he got to Belton Regional he drove around back to the emergency room entrance, then cruised the parking lot, looking for Bryan's Silverado.
Nonetheless the sick feeling in his gut persisted.
He parked and got out. His worn flannel shirt failed to shield him from the chill as twilight conceded to night. The ER's double doors loomed ahead. The smell of antiseptics, disinfectants, and alcohol wipes assaulted him as he went inside. To his left, a local policeman conversed with two ambulance attendants.
"Bad situation all around," the cop was saying. "Think she'll make it?"
"Hard to say," one of the EMTs replied, expression grim. "We had to resuscitate her twice. She's in pretty bad shape."
Charlie swallowed hard, their words impaling his heart like daggers. Heavy feet headed in their direction. The conversation halted.
"Excuse me, officer. Was there an accident?"
The cop's expression clouded as wary eyes met his own. "Yeah. Wreck out one of the canyons. Truck went over the side."
His heart hammered like a ceremonial drum. "Can you tell me who it was?" The cops brows lowered, expression conflicted. "Was their name Reynolds?"
The policeman worked his jaw, then nodded. "Yes, actually, it was. Who are you?"
He introduced himself and the two men shook hands. "Are you a friend of theirs?"
Charlie's eyes closed involuntarily. "Y-Yes."
The man's look softened. "I'm sorry."
Charlie blinked and glanced away, mustering control. "Where?"
"That big canyon out Highway 17. A few miles north of Falcon Ridge. One of those blind turns."
The familiar location appeared in his mind. "Are they both..."
The man hesitated. "No. The woman's alive. So far. Her injuries are extensive, though."
"But her husband's—gone?"
"I'm afraid so. I hate to ask, but do you suppose—"
Intuition's stealthy whisper finished the sentence. Charlie turned and strode away without looking back. He pushed his way through the door, then held it open for a distraught couple carrying a toddler to rush inside. Back in his truck, he clenched the top of the steering wheel and rested his head on his fists, breathing hard.
Which was more cowardly? Refuse to identify the body? Or cry? He sniffed hard to restrain the tears, forbidding their bid for freedom.
He didn't remember driving home. Only that his heart was an icy stone, like those tossed aside by the snowplow's unfeeling blade.
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