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Savannah Sweetwater

Mystery Author

Wind

 

Wind

A Micro-fiction Story

By Savannah Sweetwater

 

“You’ll never make it,” Mike slumped against the door. Standing there was his only way of keeping them safe and away from the fate that awaited them both.

 

If he could prevent it, or at least prolong it, he had to. It was all he knew how to do. His wife dropped her head and shrugged. “Tell me another way and I’ll do it. The way it looks, I have no other choice.” She took advantage of the moment and pushed him to the side.

 

She was right, which was often the case. He was the one given to impulsivity. This time, he hated himself for her being right. She made it ten feet from the door when she took the hit. He wasn’t even sure what got her. The whirlwind outside their door stirred everything under the sun into a blur.

 

“Daddy?” A small voice called out from behind him and his heart sank to his stomach.

 

“Yeah, Pumpkin,” he answered, forcing his tears to the back of his throat.

 

“Did Mommy make it?”

 

Mike turned away from the door. He crouched down and held his face close to his daughter’s dirt streaked cheek. “She made it, sweetheart,” he said. “She’s waiting for us.”

 

Tiny arms circled his neck. “Can we go now? The roof is starting to fall down,” she said and pointed up with her small hand. Mike looked above her head. She was right; big pieces of wood splintered away revealing the dimmed daylight.

 

He pulled his daughter close and kissed the top of her head. “We can go now,” he said. He hoisted her up in his arms. “Hide your face,” he commanded and broke into a run. He tucked his coat around his daughter so that she could not see as they ran. 

 

He strained hard to push one leg in front of the other. Four steps out from the door he found his wife, or what remained of her. He held tight to the child in his arms, raised his head, and wailed. His cries were lost in the din of the storm.

 

Ten steps, farther than he thought he would make it. Refuge and safety lay ahead twenty feet. Urgency raced through his veins. He dropped the child down a few inches and circled his arms more securely around her so that he would not jostle her as he broke into a run.

 

The wind whipped behind him. He felt a blow against his back and the sharp sting of something metal hit his legs. He lost his footing, tucked and rolled so that he did not crush his daughter with his weight. Warmth spread down his leg. He was bleeding. He righted his body and put his unhurt knee under him to stand, but fell over again.

 

He sat the child on the ground in front of him pulled the coat off her head. “Run,” he commanded and pushed her into the wind. He covered his eyes and counted the steps until she made it to the twenty feet to safety.

 

She made it, he thought as he rolled over and faced the wind.

Criminal Element

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Criminal Element

A Very Short Story

By Savannah Sweetwater

 

“They’re inside,” Phillip mouthed without a sound, crouched behind the prickly green bush just outside the back door. His wife Tricia nodded and held tight to the side of the house.

 

Phillip pointed toward the half-burned out shed near the back of the property. The front of the structure was blackened and singed, but the sides and the back still stood. He jerked his thumb in the direction of the cornfield and waited. Please read my mind, he thought. He grabbed the small satchel at his feet and readied himself to bolt.

 

Tricia nodded and turned toward the shed. She raised her fingers and began the countdown. Five, four, three, two. On one she bolted, stayed low and headed for the shelter of the shed. Phillip was close on her heels. “Back here,” he whispered. He grasped her hand and pulled her behind the back wall.

 

“We have to get out of here,” Tricia said. Her voice raised only a little.

 

“We can’t go. Not yet,” Phillip rested his against the shed. He breathed hard and scanned the green field in front of them. Purple tassels danced in the wind. Tall stalks would conceal them, at least as far as the dirt road to the right, or the thick woods to the back of the field. Either way, they should be able to make a run for it, to get away unseen.

 

Something held him back. Whether it was instinct or fear, he wasn’t sure. He entertained the thought of undetected eyes on them. The answer came a second later. The engine of a vehicle roared to life, roughly a hundred foot away, best he could tell.

 

Had that bolted for the corn field, they would have been easily discovered. Phillip closed his eyes and listened. When the sound of the motor faded into the distance he pulled Tricia up by the hand. “Now,” he said. Together they covered the twenty feet of yard that lay between the back of the shed and the corn field. Once in they ran, and rand and ran. Somewhere near the middle they stopped.

 

“Out of breath?” Tricia wiped her hand across his face. “You alright?”

 

“Yeah, sure,” Phillip said. His heart raced and sweat poured down his back. He leaned over, hands on his thighs, and gasped for breath. When he recovered he looked up at his wife and smiled. “Been a while since I’ve run so far so fast.”

 

Tricia’s face relaxed. She dropped her shoulders and slid her backpack down her arm and held it to her front and unzipped the top. She fished a metal canteen from the bottom of the bag and unscrewed the lid. “Here,” she said and shoved it at her husband. “Get a drink and let’s get moving.”

 

The rows of corn afforded them a reprieve and cover for the time being, but the danger had not passed. Phillip pulled hard on the canteen. He forced his breathing to slow to a more normal rate. He handed the water back to Tricia and waited while she drank her fill. “Ready whenever,” he smiled.

 

Phillip grabbed her by the hand and led her across a dozen rows, stepping carefully between the corn stalks. After several minutes he turned right and headed down a path between rows. Tricia followed behind him. They walked at a brisk pace, but the heart-thumping need to rush had passed.

 

At the edge of the cornfield Tricia stopped and grabbed him by the arm. “You’re taking us through the woods? Why not the road,” she asked.

 

“Better cover,” he said, out of breath again. “Besides, it’s such a pretty day.” He flashed  a smile at her then smacked her on the rear as he passed.

 

Tricia rewarded him with a smile and stepped into the woods behind him. After several minutes she turned to him and waited, under the cover of the trees. “What happened back there,” she asked at last. “That never happens.”

 

“What never happens? We never find people home?” Phillip leaned against the thick trunk of a tree and dropped the large tote bag at his side on the soft forest ground beneath him. He pulled the shiny black pistol from under his shirt and released the magazine. He kicked at the dirt with his feet until the top of a large box appeared. He knelt and twisted the clasp on the top of the box and pulled the lid open.

 

“What is this? Another one of your hiding places,” Tricia asked, somewhat astonished.

 

Phillip looked up at his wife. “I told you I had plenty of hiding places,” he grinned. “I pick places no one would think to look.” He dropped the gun and the clip inside the box and replaced the lid. He stood and shimmied off his thin denim overalls. Tricia did the same and handed her overalls over to her husband. Phillip wadded the garments up in a ball and stuffed them inside the tote bag. He reached high above his head and pulled a thick rope down from one of the branches. A moment later he fastened the rope to the bag and tossed it back up over the branch.

 

The wail of sirens sounded in the distance. “Right on time,” Tricia smiled and tucked her uniform shirt inside her pants. She straightened her badge and clipped the gun holster on the side of her gun belt. “How far to the cruiser,” she asked.

 

“Parked it just over the hill,” Phillip said and pulled the fake mustache and beard from his face. “I should be second on scene.”

 

Tricia reached up and pulled his hat squarely over his eyebrows. “See you at home, Officer,” she said and walked the opposite way toward her own vehicle.

Ten Good Years

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Ten Good Years

by Savannah Sweetwater

 

“I think it would be fun to go away,” Myra said. Sand blew up around her in circles and stung her face. Jonas blinked at her twice and turned to look at the sea. He stared hard at the waves curling in on themselves, rolling over, then rising up again. The harder he stared the less he focused on the passion that surged in the areas of his body he tried to forget.

 

He didn’t look at her. “But I thought that was against the rules,” he said. It was against the rules. Their rules. Church, home, family, friends. Everyone reminded them of the rules. They were to get married. In the church.

 

But first, she wanted ten good years.

 

Ten years to be herself before the demands of motherhood and marriage and cleaning up the kitchen every night. She had asked him for ten years. And now she wanted a weekend away. Alone.

 

“Where would we go,” he heard himself ask. He pictured a cruise aboard an ocean liner. Or log cabin in a verdant mountain valley. All he could see was Myra in her bra and panties hovering over him on a bed. The image filled his mind and his senses.

 

“I was thinking about the lake,” she said and swung her hands at her side as she walked. She looked like a girl when she did that. His heart stirred. “Uncle Trent has a cabin on Lake Canuca. It’s ours for a week if we want it.”

 

He stared up at the white seagulls circling over them in the wide blue sky. She came up beside him, pressed her hand into his and smiled. “Jonas,” she said. “You haven’t answered me.”

 

Electricity coursed through his groin like a shock. He shivered. His hair stood on end.  “But the church,” he said to her. He wasn’t going to say it. Dammit he wanted to forget it and pull her into his arms right there on the beach where they stood. Make love right there in the sand at three in the afternoon.

 

Myra pulled her hand through her hair. He watched it until the last auburn tress fell back to her shoulders. She turned her body to his and pushed into him. This was new. He felt the rise and fall of her breathing. His groin ached from the fullness. “I want it all,” she whispered into his ear. “I want ten good years. I want this weekend. I want you.”

 

“Myra,” he moaned and pushed himself away. “You know we can’t.”

 

She turned her back to him. He read the slump in her shoulders and shoved his hand in his pockets. The moment was gone. They walked, side by side but not together, and he drove her back home.

 

She wrote him the next week. Her letter was postmarked Lake Canuca. The lump in his throat grew when he read her apology. “I never should have brought it up to you,” she wrote. “It wasn’t fair and I’m sorry.”

 

Her letter said nothing about the church or the decisions they had once made. He felt her shame through the words she wrote.  He folded the letter back into the envelope and decided to write to her later.

 

Summer slowed and the beach breezes cooled. In the mainland forest red and gold leaves fluttered in the trees and fell to the ground below. Jonas picked up the phone to call her, but hung it up again. He would do it later. Since their last day on the beach her weekly letters had slowed to once a month. He wrote less.

 

But his body ached for her in the night, more and more until he could barely stand it. Rules were rules, and there was no relief for himself. Not with God watching.

 

He wondered if God watched Myra. He heard from her brother she moved permanently into the uncle’s cabin. School was done and her career blossomed. She wrote in front of the windows in the loft and looked out over the silvery lake. Editors began to seek her out for work and she had more than she could handle.

 

Jonas sat alone in the pew at church. His parents left for Africa to see to the needs of the unsaved and the illiterate. He wanted her next to him, holding his hand while the pastor extolled the virtues of chastity.

 

But she wanted ten good years.

 

Women at church nattered on about the fall picnic and Jonas baked an apple pie alone in his mother’s kitchen. He called Myra to invite her to come with him. But her deadlines kept her at the lake and he sat alone on the beach before he left for the church, thinking about ten good years.

 

Tillie Martin offered him a plate of fried chicken and potato salad and a new place to put his thoughts at the picnic. She sat with him and fawned over his pie, though she told her sister later the pie tasted like wet saltine crackers, not apples.

 

Jonas missed the weekly phone call to his parents and placed Myra’s latest letter on the kitchen table to read later. Two more days passed and the letter still remained, this time joined by a rare extra weekly letter. He ignored both.

 

Saturday night Tillie phoned him up and begged him to come and rescue her from a flat tire. He sprang into action. She hovered close by him as he changed the flat and insisted making him dinner. He sat at the table in her mother’s kitchen as she fussed over stew and biscuits and his noble and chivalrous rescue that evening. She moved clumsily, without the grace he could watch in Myra for hours.

 

Tillie turned around a lot and smiled. Black hair framed her face in wiry curls. Jonas didn’t hold it against her that she wasn’t pretty. He thanked her for the food. He had to give it to her; she could cook and clean like a real wife.

 

Ten good years. He had ten years to wait for Myra.

 

Jonas steered Tillie along the beach in the same place he walked with Myra on weekends when she made it back home. Tillie wanted everything right now, not years from now after her life had a chance to reach its full potential. Jonas thought about her in the kitchen. But he couldn’t think about her in the bedroom.

 

He stopped answering the letters from the lake. Tillie met him in the front of the church a month later with small white flowers woven through her wiry curls. When he took her hand that night nothing swelled in his soul or in his groin. He closed his eyes and pictured Myra in her bathing suit then turned over on his new wife.

 

From her desk in the attic Myra watched the waves roll in when spring came and thawed the lake. She sat with her coffee and her computer and smiled despite the news that for Jonas ten years had already begun. Tillie was due before the harvest moon.

 

She saw him next at the beach with his wife. His young daughter toddled after his older son. Myra smiled and thought of the past four years and the novels she had penned from the cabin which was now her own. The gentle sea breeze moved her hair around her shoulders as it had done when they were still kids. Jonas caught her eyes and held them for a moment. Tillie touched his hand and he broke his gaze. Myra looked past him and then walked away.

 

Four more years came and Myra was in New York to accept an honor for her words she had written. Jonas stood alone in the mornings and watched the sun rise over the water without her. Tillie swelled with two more children and the house was filled with the sounds of fussing babies and debt and loneliness. His back turned to it and he worked more. Wasted more. Soon his parents returned and the house overflowed with people.

 

Ten years after they walked together on the beach Myra stood at the entrance of her house on the lake dressed in antique ivory and held the hand of a man she met a year before. Her heart moved when she saw the books on the shelf and the letters on the wall with her name embossed in fancy script. He twirled her around and scooped her up in his arms.

 

She closed her eyes and dreamed of small feet and sand castles on the beach. She made their home light and happy, and he doted on her when she strained to raise her swollen belly off of the couch. The house hummed with joy and she thought about the letters she sent to Jonas, and closed her eyes grateful she stayed true to herself.

 

Ten good years was all she had ever needed for the lifetime ahead.

 

The Wallet

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The Wallet

A Short Story

By Savannah Sweetwater

 

 

 

“Shit, Grover. You didn’t have to stick me with that blade,” Marco look dead-on at me and cried. “I woulda given you the wallet back. God, man, you done killed me.”

 

I didn’t kill him. Not then. But I stuck him with the knife right in the upper bicep on his left arm. His no-good friends cut and ran the second the streetlight glinted off that blade. I was glad they left him behind. We’d played together since we was kids. His momma and my momma was cousins; they even put us to sleep in the same crib to sleep when we were babies.

 

But tonight Marco and his thug pals cornered me in the alley behind the filling station where I work. He shoved me into the corner between the masonry block walls. One of them, a big guy with a bald head, drove his fist up my gut and I lost my dinner all over the ground and my own boots. Marco just laughed. It was the same look in his eyes our grandfather would get when he was about to beat one of us at checkers after Sunday dinner.

 

But it didn’t matter much that I could see family in his eyes. One more hard left hook to my chin was all it took to erase any hope he might spare me beings we are family.

 

The other guys, they laughed hard when the bald guy picked me back up just to upper cut me again in the abdomen. Marco let it go for a few more minutes and then waved the bastard off. I thought maybe  he was starting to feel a little bit bad for what he was doing to his own flesh and blood. But he just wanted me still standing so he could rob me and the filling station.

 

“Where is it, Grover,” he asked after I spit out blood from where he knocked out one of my teeth.

 

“What? What you looking for,” I asked him. He dropped his head and shook it side to side, slow and deliberate like I had just recited the alphabet out of order and he was real disappointed in me for it.

 

“Grover, why you got to make this harder on yourself,” he asked. “You know damn good and well what I‘m asking you for. Don’t make me hurt you more, cousin.”

 

“Marco,” I gasped for air after the thug hit me in the guts again. “I don’t know what you want. Just tell me and I’ll give you anything you want. Just tell me and then get out of here and leave me alone.”

 

He asked me to repeat that last part. I said I wanted him to go away and leave me alone. He got all those guys roaring again with laughter when I said it and he cracked me hard upside my head. I fell and he kicked me when I was down there on the ground crying at their feet and begging them to stop it. Just stop it.

 

“I want the wallet,” he said. I knew what he wanted then at least. He meant to take away my dad’s wallet. Dad had a lot of money in that wallet and he knew it. And he knew why I had it there at the station.

 

My dad was lying in the hospital dying from the cancer spread out like buckshot all over his lungs. But Marco came for it anyway.

 

He helped me back up when I told him I knew where it was. I shuffled back into the garage and went straight back to the old wood workbench where I hid it behind the pegboard and wrenches. I pulled it out so he could see it. He told me that I was a good sport, and now he would just go away and leave me be like it never happened.

 

That’s when I decided to knock over the empty coffee can we kept on the work bench for spare bolts. There was a long blade knife inside it, too. I knew it, but Marco didn’t. The thin blade fit perfectly down my sleeve.

 

I knew what they were gonna say. I took the knife and I meant to use it. But then he told me he wanted my Daddy’s wallet. It wasn’t gonna do him a bit of good now. Last days are like that; you need about as much as you came into the world with when you leave it.

 

I bet Marco wasn’t counting on that being his last day on earth but I planned to make sure that it was. “I ain’t done sticking you,” I told Marco when he tried to get around me. I figured it was going to play with his mind a bit to know he was about to die. Kinda like it did me when my own family showed up to take away something that belonged to my dying dad.

 

“You don’t gotta do this, Grover,” he said. He doubled over and tried to push me back. I picked another place to plunge the knife in deep. I saved the last stick for his soft belly, where he let that big bald beast beat on me.

 

Marco hit his knees and gurgled a bit before he fell on over. His face landed in the meatloaf. I looked at him for an extra long time. Then it occurred to me that I ought to get the hell out of Dodge before the cops got wise to what happened to my cousin and decided to do some CSI science shit and test the puke on his face or something. I’m pretty sure DNA is in your puke.

 

Maybe they didn’t know but the damn nurses looked at me like I as guilty as sin when I walked into the ICU to see Dad again. I had to see him again. I should have just gotten on the road and leave. But I had to tell him bye. I held his hand and looked at him a long time. He didn’t look back at me. His eyes were just half-open most of the time anyway.

 

“Dad, I gotta go,” I whispered. “You ain’t going to see me again.” One of the monitors made a blip noise then and I stopped talking. That’s all I got to tell him. The night nurse came in and started to poke around at him. I took one last look and headed right back out.

 

Two cop cars circled the parking lot and stopped behind my truck when I left the hospital. So I headed out the other way, toward the back of the hospital where they kept the big trash dumpsters. I figured the smelly trash was last place the cops would want to look if they didn’t have to.

 

I walked, through town and back out towards Dad’s place he kept in the country. Figured the cops would come to look for me soon but I should have a minute to get out there and grab a few things. Maybe take the plates off his old Ford pickup and drive it around as far west as I could go. Mountains sounded like the right place to go. I’d hunker down and live off the land a few months, then wait for warmer weather to head on south.

 

 The house was dark when I got there. Then again it was close to midnight when I made my way off of the road and walked through the yard to the front door. Dad kept a spare key in the fake rock under the front window. I jammed it into the lock and turned it slow. It creaked and I stopped to listen. Hoped there wasn’t someone waiting for me inside.

 

No one was waiting on me inside. I slipped in and kept the lights turned off just in case someone decided to sneak up on me from down the gravel road. The old gun cabinet made a lot of noise when I jimmied the old lock open. I didn’t figure it was stealing from my dad when I was the only one he had to pass the guns down to anyway. God knew Marco wasn’t gonna get them now.

 

The old thirty-thirty and Grandpa’s .410 were still loaded. Dad kept the rest of the ammo under his bed in shoe boxes. I dumped as much as I could fit into a Wal-mart sack from the pantry and headed out to the old building at the back of the property. The old Ford would fire up; that much I knew. When he went into the hospital a month back he made me promise to come out and start it once a week.

 

Cancer took a lot from him including the bulk he’d packed on for years. His closet was filled with cast-off shirts and pants so I grabbed a bunch and headed for the truck. He had a few bills lying around I knew he wouldn’t mind me taking with me. The damn desk thing I did was leave the fucking wallet behind in the filling station where I left Marco’s body.

 

I was right about the truck. It started right off and I made it five miles before I had to turn on the headlights. The dome light came on, too and I saw it for the first time. There in the middle of the seat was a bag. I pulled off the highway to take a better look. Inside there was a change of clothes, cash, granola bars and two cans of Coke. I looked a little deeper and found a map and a pistol. It was Dad’s old .22 revolver.

 

“Who the hell put this here,” I asked the night air but thank God no one answered back. I guess it didn’t matter who out it there. It was there for me when I needed it. I pulled back out on the road and headed for the Interstate.

 

Morning light came and I just had to pull off and get some shut-eye. Couldn’t rest. I just kept seeing Marco’s face when his eyes shut halfway, like Dad’s in the hospital. But this time I saw blood running out of them. Couldn’t sleep after that.

 

Passed three highway patrol cars right after that so I decided to take my chances on a county road. Rust diner I came to I stopped for strong coffee and cold eggs. Paid cash and left as fast as I saw the local sheriff stop in for his morning bacon.

 

Colorado came up pretty quick. Hell I meant to get to Colorado after weed got legal but never did. Maybe I’d find my way to the first pot shop and get high so I could forget the faces of the men dying right in front of me.

 

One I killed with my own hands. The other one. I guess it was the coffee talking but I wondered if I’d killed Dad, too. I ran the filling station on my own. He owned it and told me how bad I was at running it, so I tried it his way but failed at that, too.

 

Noon came and the weather warmed up a bit. Made me tired so I pulled over at a rest stop after I got wise and decided to get back to the Interstate. I pulled in between two big rigs, figured it would get me a bit of cover from the cops.

 

Sleep came at last. I guess that’s what twenty-four hours awake and murder will do to a man. I slept without a single picture in my brain and wondered when I woke up if that’s what Marco saw when I stuck the blade in him the last time. Full dark. No moonlight.

 

God, the mountains. I saw them by the time the dark began to filter down through the trees. My heart beat like I was alive for the first time in forever. Figured it meant I was in the right place. I waited for them to tell me the right place to pull off. The fuel needle edged toward empty and the thought of pulling off again at a gas station made me sick. Last time I watched both directions of the road like a hooker afraid of the cops.

 

Which was a funny way to put it since I was a lot like a murderer on the run scared of the cops.

 

The mountains called when I got close to a fishing stream in northern Utah. I pulled off and left the truck on the road, decided to hoof it the rest of the way. I carried in the guns and the rest of the stuff. I had no idea how long I would be there anyways. Kinda figured I wouldn’t be coming back out.

 

How long should you be allowed to live after killing a man, and then running out on your dying father? I couldn’t pin down a number. But I could close my eyes and see everything when I lay down on the soft grass next to that running stream. Hell, before the sun when down I saw three does and a fawn feeding off the grass across the river.

 

I fell asleep again. This time the dreams and pictures came back. I laid there under the full stars and fingered the trigger on the pistol. For good measure I put it in my mouth and felt the cold steel between my teeth. Took it back out before I pulled the trigger. But I kept it close to my thigh and lay back against a rock and stared up.

 

Morning light would come again. I had no clue where I was going to be for the next mornings of my life. But I knew I was going to be around. Headed south, looking for a new place to start. I laid there wondering who’d put the sack in the middle of the pickup seat. I hadn’t done it. Dad was in the hospital for five full weeks before that and there wasn’t anyone else. No one else who would.

 

They talked a lot about God and Jesus, guessing which new turn of events was a credit to their benevolent love and which was just the way the cracker crumbled. I tended toward the random happenings of life over the presence of some big old granddaddy God running around in his white robes making life or death choices for all of us. Otherwise what was my daddy doing lying in a hospital bed waiting for the end to come.

 

I just couldn’t swallow it.

 

But the bag in the truck seat made me think a little bit different about things this morning. I guess I wouldn’t be putting the barrel of the gun inside my mouth again, just in case Jesus was watching me. Maybe it was one of his angels who put that stuff there for me, knowing that I’d be on the run. I had to stop thinking and rubbed the front of my forehead for a minute. Because if Jesus sent an angel to help me out that had to mean he knew I’d be needing the help.

 

And it might mean he approved somehow. But I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around the idea Jesus would put his stamp on any killing, even one that had to be done to save my own neck. But I couldn’t justify killing Marco that way.

 

Either way the sun came up again over them mountains. God in heaven what I wouldn’t have given then and there for some dirt dark coffee to fill up my gut. Kinda funny, to be hankering so hard for coffee in a state like Utah. But truth probably was a lot different than perception and plenty of them Mormons drank their coffee and even stronger stuff.

 

Guess I would be finding out soon enough. Staying up in the mountains wasn’t gonna work forever. I’d have to get back down to the truck and back to the road soon enough. But maybe the truck would be gone. Maybe the same angel who put the bag in the seat of the truck would make sure someone else would come around and run off with it to balance that shit out. I took a life. How could anybody be out there looking out for me.

 

Angels might be stretching it a bit. Maybe it as a demon helping me along for doing the devil’s work. I could find out when the sun peaked over that east mountain peak. I sat up and stretched my arms up way high over my head. My ribs killed me where Marco and that damn thug gave it to me so bad.

 

I looked around the shore line. Even in the early morning light I could see it; this was no place for a man on the run to hide out. I had to get out. Get back out to the pickup and figure this out. And the faster I got my feet moving the faster I could get to the Mexico border.

 

Didn’t take long to pack it up and shoulder the bag and the guns. I walked back out toward the road but the truck was gone.Just as I’d thought the damn thing had been taken right out of there. I could still see the tire marks where I’d left it so I knew I wasn’t losing my fool mind thinking something had been there that wasn’t.

 

Guess that was the sign I’d needed. Cause right out of the bushes came the barrel of a gun and the shrieking voice of a Utah State Trooper ordering me to lose the guns and lay face down on the ground. I looked to my left and saw another guy with his weapon drawn and pointed right at my head. Same thing to my right. Best I could figure there was about six guns on me total.

 

I considered my choices, considered the bag that someone had to have left in that truck for me. Maybe it meant I was going to be alright. Maybe it meant someone wanted to me to end up in those mountains. If I was gonna count on another miracle I didn’t figure I was going to see it from the inside of a jail cell.

 

So I raised up the end of that thirty-thirty and pointed it at one of those troopers. The sound of the rifles rang through that valley and almost rendered me deaf. A dozen more fists punched through me and I ended up kissing the cold, dewy ground. They got their wish and I dropped the guns after all. Breathing got a little harder but I figured I would just lay there and let them think I was gone, then get my strength back up and sneak back out of there. Might take me a bit longer, but I figured I could still head for the border.

 

Because surely I wouldn’t have gotten this far if I wasn’t meant to keep on going. Then I thought about Dad and Marcia no wondered what they saw right before the lights went out.

 

Full dark. No moonlight.