Brian and Christine had escaped from the disastrous plane wreck and made it through many days of a painful and exhausting walk in the wilderness until they finally came to Saint Andrew’s Chapel and Father Portera, who took them in.
“You folks probably haven’t eaten anything in quite a while.”
“Chewed a lot of bark. Ate a lot of snow,” said Brian.
“Well, I’m warming up some soup for you. I have only one bowl. You’ll have to share.”
“We’ve been sharing life and death” said Brian. “I think we can. Share a bowl. Thank you.”\
Father Portera walked behind Brian and took a hold of his pack straps. “Let me help you with this.”
Brian felt the pack coming off his back like a ton weight being lifted from him. The warmth from the wood stove was almost making him dizzy. Christy was sitting with her eyes closed, taking it in.
“Father Portera, you are saving our lives.”
“I’m sure the Lord had something to do with it” he replied.
“Well, possibly so,” said Brian.
“Well, at any rate, I’m glad I am here for you.” He brought a simple bowl to the table, went back to the stove, took a pot holder and lifted the pan off the stove. He brought it to the table and dished some tomato soup into the bowl with a large spoon. “Only one spoon too.”
Brian took the spoon and dipped it into the bowl. His hand shook as he brought it to his mouth. He tasted a bit of the soup, then blew on the rest in the spoon, put it into his mouth and swallowed it. He did the same with a second spoonful. Then he passed the bowl over to Christy and handed her the spoon. “Blow on it, Christy. It’s nice and hot.”
Christy took the spoon in her fist and dipped it into the bowl. She blew on the spoon a bit too hard and most of it spilled back into the bowl. She tried again and managed to get some of the soup into her mouth
The soup was massaging the inside of Brian’s stomach like warm fingers.
Then Portera brought a small round metal dish to the table with a roll on it. Brian broke the roll in two and handed the larger part to Christy. When Christy passed the bowl back to him, he used his part of the roll to dip into the soup and pushed the bowl back to her.
“I can also give you a mug of coffee, if you like” said Father Portera.
“Oh, yes, please,” said Brian.
Father Portera went to the stove, took the pot holder and lifted a pitcher from the back of the stove and poured some coffee into a mug, which he brought to the table with a small spoon. “I don’t have any milk, but there’s sugar on the table, if you want it.”
Brian saw a round glass bowl with a metal lid that folded halfway back on itself. He opened it, put two spoonfuls of sugar in the coffee and then closed the lid. He stirred the coffee, then brought it carefully to his lips and took a sip. After a couple of sips he passed the mug over to Christy. “Christy, take a sip of this. You probably won’t like it. But it’s good for you.”
Christy dipped the spoon into the coffee and drank from it. Then she made the same face she had when she tried to smoke one of Brian’s cigarettes. Father Portera smiled.
Christy passed the mug back to Brian, and then the bowl. Brian took three more spoonfuls of soup and passed the bowl back to her. “Finish it Christy” he said. She did.
Father Portera spoke, “You said you were in a plane crash.”
“Yes,” replied Brian.
“Where did it crash?”
“On a mountain top.”
“Where did you come from?”
“New York. La Guardia Airport.”
“Where were you going?”
Father Portera held up his finger and went into another room. He came back a moment later with a newspaper. “It says here the crash occurred on January 24th. This is February 2nd. That was 10 days ago. The paper says ‘Trinat Air, flight 451 took off from La Guardia at 9:12 AM, Eastern Standard Time bound for Los Angeles to arrive at approximately 12:20 PM, Pacific Time. It crashed into Bennet Mountain at around 10 AM. There were 108 people on board, passengers and crew. Investigators say wreckage from the aircraft was spread out over a quarter mile area. There were no survivors. 106 bodies were recovered, many burned beyond recognition, 2 bodies unaccounted for, presumed buried in the snow.’”
Brian and Christy were very quiet, listening, staring at nothing. Brian thought of all those sleepy people he boarded the plane with whose lives were now cut off in a flash.
Finally Father Portera spoke, “That mountain is almost 20 miles from here.”
“We must have averaged almost 2 miles a day, Christy. Think of that.”
“Wow” she said, quietly.
“And we’re the two bodies unaccounted for.”
“We count” she said.
“How did you do it?” asked Portera.
“We stayed together and we kept going” said Brian.
“Well, you folks have been though hell.”
“And I always heard that hell was hot” said Brian.
“Well” the Father chuckled, “I guess it depends on how you get there. Let me call Fred and ask him to come and get you. You need to see the doctor and have Bridget feed you a good meal and put you up.”
Father Portera went into the other room.
“Are you okay?”
“How’s your foot?”
“Hurts. How’s your hip?”
They smiled at each other.
Just at that moment Father Portera emerged from the other room with a cell phone. He pressed a few buttons and after a moment said “Hello Fred,.. It’s Father Portera….I’m okay, thank you. Listen Fred I need you to do something for me...You won’t believe this but you remember that plane crash up in the mountains a week or so ago?...Well two survivors from that awful thing have just staggered in on me...Yes. an older fellow and a young girl. They’ve been walking in the snow and ice for a long time. They’re quite banged up...Yes...The girl hurt her foot and can’t walk…Yes…And the fellow also has some injuries...I don’t know. They need to see the doctor and a place to rest up. Do you think you could come and get them?...Thank you Fred. You might alert the doctor and also Bridget that they’re coming…Oh, no, I’m okay...Okay Fred, we’ll look forward to it...Oh, Fred...I could use a quart of milk, if you don’t mind...Thank you Fred.” He pushed the button to hang up. “Good. Fred will be here in about 5 or 10 minutes to take you into town.” He returned to the room and came out a moment later with another chair. He placed it to the side of the table and sat in it.
“Now” Portera asked, “why were you going to LA?”
“I write film scripts and was bringing one to my producers. Most of it made its way into fires we started or strewn around the wilderness. Christy was going to a home for girls.”
“A home for girls? Why is that?”
“My parents were killed a long time ago. Months ago.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. What’s the name of this home?”
“It’s Saint something. I forget.”
“Father” said Brian, “I’m wondering why this Saint Andrew’s church is so far away from the town.”
“The chapel is here to serve the Navaho Community.”
“Are they Christians?”
“Some of them.”
“Did you convert them?”
“Oh no,” he said meekly. “That was done by Father LeVevre, my predecessor. He was called here many years ago. He was a fine man. Very spiritual. The natives built this chapel for him. When he died the pastorate became available and I applied. I was graciously approved by His Excellency. I’ve been here going on 12 years now. The church is actually on the Navajo Reservation, right on the edge. Out that window is town property, but the front door, where you came in, is Navajo territory.”
“Cool” said Christy.
“Do you fill those pews?” Brian asked.
“No” he said bashfully. “Well, sometimes. Christmas, Easter.”
“And sometimes the local people come.”
“Father LeVevre was also a courageous man. He traveled throughout the territory, at the risk of his life and health, clear down to Rough Rock and Many Farms. He helped to solve the bitter disputes going on between the Navajos and the Hopis. Now they share the lands, uneasily, but peacefully. Chief Running Bear of the local tribe is a good man. He has worked to keep the peace. He’s not a Christian but he has been very supportive of Saint Andrew’s and the work I do here.”
Brian heard the sound of a large vehicle thumping outside. He looked out the window and saw a large pick up truck with a plow on the front. It approached the church, passed it, turned around and came back. It pulled up just outside and stopped, leaving the motor running. Brian was relieved that it wasn’t another hallucination. The driver got out, left the door open and went around to the front of the truck and opened the other door, took a paper bag out from the seat and walked toward the church leaving both doors open and the motor running.
Father Portera opened the back door and a hefty young man came in.
“Here’s you milk, Father.” He handed the paper bag to Portera.
“Thank you Fred. What will that be?”
“Nothin’. So these are the folks from the plane crash.”
Father Portera introduced them, “That’s Brian and this is Christy. This is Fred Walker. He’ll take it from here.”
“Pleased to meetcha” said Fred.
Father Portera went on, “They’re both in pretty bad shape. Christy hurt her foot and can’t walk.”
“Okay, little lady, come for a ride in my truck.” He scooped her up in one swift movement and headed for the door which Father Portera opened for them.
Once they were outside, Brian stood up, picked up his pack, shook hands with the priest and said “Thank you so much Father Portera for taking us in and feeding us. I am forever grateful to you.”
“And I am grateful I was here for you. You both need to go get patched up now. Fred is a good man. He’ll see that you get everything you need.”
“Thank you Father, and bless you.”
Brian walked on painful feet out to the truck where Fred was waiting to help him to step up and on to the seat. Fred had put Christy in the middle of the seat so there was room for Brian to sit, being careful not to disturb her tender foot. Fred closed the door, went around to his side, waved at Father Portera who was watching from the door, put the truck in gear and started off.
“We’ll be in town in about 5 minutes; the Doc is waiting for you.”
“Is he a good doctor?” asked Brian,
“You bet, Doctor Gonzago is the best. We call him Doctor Bite.”
“He’s an authority on frost bite and snake bite.”
“Ew, are there snakes?” asked Christy with alarm.
“Naah. They’re all sleeping it off somewhere. They don’t come out until the warm weather. We rarely meet them in town.”
Brian's thoughts flashed briefly on a snake he almost met.
“What’s the name of the town we’re going to?” he asked.
“Are there buffalo?”
“In the old days, when this was just a trading post, the herds would come through here a couple of times a year. This was Navajo hunting ground. Now the animals are only on ranches. One of them is near here.”
“Can we go see them?” asked Christy. “I’ve never seen a real buffalo.”
“You bet. They’re big, peaceful spirits. They don’t do much but walk around and eat.”
“You look like you could be a Native American yourself” said Brian.
“Half. My father is pure Navajo; my Mother’s family came from Scotland. My Dad’s real name was Lone Walker. We just use Walker, for short.”
“Do you ever get back to the Reservation?”
“You bet. I got relatives there, an uncle, some cousins.”
Brian watched as they came into a small town. There was a main street with shops, two story wooden buildings, telephone poles and cars parked along the well plowed street. Fred pulled up to the curb, stopped and turned off the motor.
“This is the Doc’s place” he said. He got out, walked around and opened the door for Brian to step carefully out. Christy slid over and Brian lifted her from the seat. Fred closed the door and led them to one of the buildings, opened the front door and they stepped into a warm office where they met Doctor Carlos Gonzago, a 50ish Mexican American, with a warm smile.
“Bring her right in here and set her on the table” said Doctor Gonzago as he motioned to the other room. Brian did that and then said “Good luck, Christy.”
Then Brian went back to the waiting room and sat on the sofa. He heard one squeak of pain from Christy and then silence. He opened his pack and took out what was in there: broken glasses, a broken cell phone, a broken watch, his wallet, a few odds and ends and a smashed pack of broken cigarettes. “I wish I had a cigarette” he said.
“What kind do you smoke?” asked Fred. Brian held up is ruined pack of Camels. “I’ll be right back” he said.
He returned a few moments later with a fresh pack and a book of matches. Brian took a five dollar bill out of his wallet to give to him, but Fred held up his hand in refusal. “Thank you” said Brian. “But the Doctor probably doesn’t want me smoking in here.”
“Oh, he don’t mind” said Fred. “He smokes himself.” Indeed Brian noticed a standing ashtray next to the sofa, so he opened the pack putting the wrappings into his pocket, lit a cigarette and leaned back with a sigh.
“Tough time, huh?” said Fred.
“Yes it was. I’m too old for that sort of thing.”
“How old are you?”
“That’s not too old. My grandfather is 72 and he’s a spry old horse. He lives on the Reservation and those Colorado winters are hard.”
“Is that where we are?”
“You’re in Utah. You must have crossed the state line sometime in the last couple of days, ‘cause we’re right on the border.”
“What do you do, Fred?”
“I’m the best mechanic around.”
“Oh. How many are there?”
“Just one.” Fred smiled.
“Are you married, Fred?”
“Yup. Got two kids. Girl eleven, boy nine. The joy of my life.”
“Good for you.”
“How about you, Brian, you got a family?"
“None. Except a strange girl I dug out of the snow.” He nodded toward the other room.
“You’re not related?”
“I thought she was your granddaughter or something.”
“No. We never met before.”
“You seem so close, like a family.”
“Well we went through life and death together, attached and bound together against some cruel elements. That makes a closeness for certain.”
“Yeah. I guess so.”
At that moment the other door opened and Christy came out with a crutch under her arm.
“Look” said Brian “its Tiny Tim.” Christy giggled.
Brian stood up and said ”Why don’t you go with Fred to that place he’s taking us, get something to eat and rest up?”
“Okay“ she said.
Brian went into the examining room and the Doctor closed the door.
“Well” he said “it’s a bad sprain but nothing is broken. I taped it up good and gave her something for the pain. She should be all right in a day or two as long as she keeps her weight off the foot. She’s in remarkably good condition considering what she’s been through.”
“That’s probably because she’s still young” said Brian.
“Probably. Now what’s wrong with you?”
“My feet and legs are hurting me, and I slipped and fell on my right side.”
“Okay. Well let’s have a look at those feet first. Don’t remove your boots. Let me do it.”
“Doctor I’ve been in these clothes for over a week. I’m sure I don’t smell good.”
“That’s all right. I’m used to bad smells.”
Doctor Gonzago unleashed Brian’s right boot all the way down and opened it up as wide as he could. Then he slid his fingers down the back of Brian’s foot carefully until the boot slid easily off. Then he did the same thing with the sock. After inspecting the foot a moment he repeated the action with Brian’s other foot. He then went to the side of the room where he got a large bowl which he filled with water. He took the bowl, a bar of soap and a towel back to the examining table and carefully washed Brian’s feet.
Brian thought of the story where Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. Am I a disciple? he thought. I wonder what Father Portera would say about that.
After the Doctor dried Brian’s feet he took the bowl the soap and the towel back to the side. He came back to Brian and said “I see a severe case of frost bite. Are you experiencing any pain in those feet?”
“That’s good. I’m going to pinch your toes. Tell me if any of them are numb.”
The Doctor pinched Brian’s toes and the sides of his feet and found that several of the toes were numb. In a few he had a sharp pain.
“All right” said Gonzago. “Now if you get the rest of your clothes off I’ll give you a quick exam and have a look at that hip.”
After the exam the Doctor said “I’m going to take a few x-rays just to make sure of things but it looks like you’re suffering from exposure, possibly a bone fracture, hypothermia and exhaustion. What else can you tell me?”
“I was having dizzy spells.”
“Doctor, I had some hallucinations. I heard the sound of birds that weren’t there. And one day I saw a truck approaching that turned out to be just a phantom.”
“How’s your eyesight?”
“I’m myopic. My glasses are broken.”
“Did you two have any food?”
“No. We chewed on bark and ate snow.”
“Hmm. Hunger and exhaustion can account for the dizzy spells and seeing things. If it happens again let me know.”
“I need to ask you about something else. At one point we encountered some wolves. They were real because Christy saw them too. I don’t know why I did this but I sat down and spoke to the leader and they left us alone. I can’t figure it.”
“Nothing surprising. The natives talk to the wolves. There seems to be a rapport between them and the wolves.”
“As the wolf was leaving he urinated on my boot, which accounts for that odor. Why did he do that?”
“I don’t know. But I know someone who probably does. I’ll ask him. Anything else?”
“Okay. I’ll give you something for the feet to help with the frost bite and something for the pain, but only if it gets too severe. Have you had anything at all to eat?”
“Father Portera gave us some soup, bless him.”
“Good. But you get Bridget to give you a solid meal and then you both need plenty of rest. I would also suggest a hot bath, if possible. But I’m going to bandage your feet, so you need to keep them out of the water And I want you both back here tomorrow morning to fill out some forms and let me change the dressings.”
“You’ve had a rough time of it, Mr. Sims. But you’re in excellent shape for a man your age. What did you do for a living?”
“Most of my life I was an actor.”
“Oh, well, that would do it. Are you a smoker?”
“Two or three a day.”
“Oh. Well, don’t worry about that, then. I’m a smoker myself, Cigars mostly.”
The Doctor bandaged Brian’s feet, then told him he could get dressed and reminded him to return in the morning.
When Brian walked out of the examination room he found Christy asleep on the sofa with her head on Brian’s back pack. Fred was sitting in the chair. “I thought she was going with you across the street.”
“She said she wanted to wait for you” said Fred.
“Okay.” Brian leaned over and shook her softly by the shoulder. “Christy? Wake up.”
She stirred, yawned and rubbed her eyes. When she saw Brian she sat up and said “How’s your foot?”
“Getting better. Let’s go.” He handed her the crutch and said “I see you grew a third foot.” She smiled and took the crutch. Fred stood up.
“How far are we going?” asked Brian.
“Just across the street. Do you need me to carry you?” he asked Christy .
“No. The doctor said I should get used to walking with it. He said to stay off my foot for a few days. That’s all.”
So the three of them left the Doctor’s office and proceeded carefully across the street. It was slow going because Christy was having trouble coordinating the crutch with her other foot. She almost slipped a couple of times, but they were on both sides of her to grab her if she started to go down. They finally made it to the other side and Brian looked up to see a store front with a sign in the window that read “B’s Ranch.”
Fred held open the door and they walked into a friendly room with tables and chairs, a couple of booths, a counter with stools and a middle aged woman with a big smile.
“Well, come in, come in. Fred told me about you two. So you’ve been lost in the woods have you? Well, sit down and have some breakfast. I’m known as Bridget. And who might you be?”
Brian felt at home. “I’m known as Brian, as this is Christy.”
“Welcome” said Bridget and held out a chair for Christy. “So you hurt your foot, have you? Aw, sit you down here, lass.” Christy took hold of the chair, leaned the crutch up against the table and plopped down in the chair, holding her foot out. Brian sat across from her as Fred held out a chair for him.
“Now what can I get you folks? Have you had anything to eat, at all?” asked Bridget.
“Father Portera gave us some soup” said Brian.
“He’s a good man. Well then how about some scrambled eggs and bacon, with toast?”
“Sounds good,” said Brian.
“Just what the doctor ordered. Would you be havin’ coffee with that?”
“It won’t keep you awake?”
“Nothing could keep me awake.”
“How about I put a shot in it?”
“I wouldn’t mind that at all.”
“All right. What will you be havin’ to drink, Miss? How about a glass of milk?”
“Do you have any Pepsi?” asked Christy.
“I do. You want some ice in that?”
“No more ice” said Christy.
Bridget chuckled. Then she said ”Fred, will you be staying?”
“No. I hafta be on my way. But I’ll see you folks tomorrow.”
Brian said “Thank you for all your help. I’m very grateful.”
“Nothin’ to it.”
Bridget spoke “Pete said he wants to stop in and introduce himself. If you pass by there you might tell him they’re here.”
“Will do” said Fred and he left.
“All right then. Scrambled eggs and toast. Coffee with a shot. And a nice warm Pepsi coming up.”
As Bridget walked off they looked out the window and saw Fred get into his truck, start the engine and drive off. “He’s very nice” said Christy.
“Yes he is” said Brian.
“So are you” she said and took his arm with both hands. “Brian?”
“Are we gonna make it?”
Brian laughed. “Yes, Christy, we’re gonna make it.”
Brian put his head in his hands. Exhaustion was almost overcoming him. Some time went by and Bridget arrived with a tray of food. A young Hispanic woman was behind her with another tray. “Here you are folks.” She put the plates down in front of them, and stepped aside as the other woman put on the table a mug of coffee, a shot glass of what Brian assumed was Irish whiskey and a big class of Pepsi.
“This is Carla” said Bridget. “She helps out around here. I can’t get by without her. That’s Brian and this is Christy.”
They all greeted each other. Then the two women left. Brian and Christy dug into their breakfast. When Brian was almost finished with his coffee he poured the shot into the cup and sipped it. He saw an ashtray on the table, so he lit up a cigarette.
“Where did you get those?” Christy asked.
“Fred got them for me.”
After a moment a short slender man wearing dungarees, a blue shirt and a brown leather jacket entered the restaurant, came over to them with a smile and said “You must be the guys from the wilderness.”
“We are” said Brian.
“I’m Peter Straw. I own and edit the town paper, The Gap. I’m pleased to meet you.” He stuck out his hand and Brian shook it. Christy watched.
“Your name is Brian? What’s your last name please?”
“Christy, short for Christine.”
“You never told me your last name” said Brian.
“Didn’t tell me yours, either” she said.
“I’d like to do a story about you two. But I know you must be exhausted and ready for a long sleep. So could I possibly come around tomorrow?”
“Well” said Brian “I don’t see why not. Christy, what do you think?”
“We have to go see Doctor Bite tomorrow morning, so what about one o’clock?”
“Great. I’ll be here.”
“You want the scoop.”
Pete laughed, “Yes, I want the scoop.”
“Well then, you shall have it.”
“Thanks. See you then.” And he left.
“What’s a scoop?” asked Christy.
“When a reporter for a paper or TV is the first one to find a story and publish it or put it on the air they say he has the ‘scoop.’”
“Oh. Are we a scoop?”
“Well the story of our survival is. After Mr. Straw prints it other reporters will probably be around asking questions,”
“I don’t know, Maybe. If anyone one believes it. We better be prepared to answer questions.”
Brian looked over his shoulder and saw Carla standing there.
“You done?” she asked.
“Yes, thank you” he said.
“I tell Miss Hennessey. She has a place for you to sleep.” Carla gathered up the dishes onto a tray. Looked at them without smiling and went off to the kitchen.
A moment later Bridget came over and said “I have some rooms for you upstairs. You can sleep as long as you want and you won’t be bothered. Come along then.”
Brian stood and picked up his backpack. Christy took her crutch and got to her feet with difficulty. Brian could see that Christy was moving with agony, but she tucked the crutch under her arm and, with a smile at Bridget, said “Let’s go.”
They walked to a stair case and started up. Christy was having difficulty climbing the stairs with the crutch. Finally she took it in her other hand, held on to the banister and limped up the rest of the way. Brian followed behind to see that she didn’t fall.
At the top of the stairs there was a hall and Bridget led them down to where there were two doors. She opened one on to a small bedroom. “This will do for one of you, the other one can be in this room.” She walked a short distance and opened the other door. “I have a few cabins in the back for guests when it’s warmer, but I keep these rooms for the winter. There are no customers now, so make yourselves at home. You have to share the bathroom. Is that okay?”
Brian said “We’ve been sharing everything for the past two weeks, I think we can do that.”
“I see. All right then. I put some robes on the beds. Leave your clothes outside the door when you go to bed. Carla and I will have them all cleaned for you when you wake up.”
“Bless you Bridget. Thank you” said Brian.
“Well, after what you two have been through you deserve a good long sleep.?
Brian nodded. Bridget turned and went back down the stairs. Brian went into one of the rooms and put down his pack. He opened the door to the bathroom and found Christy holding his sweater, the sweater he had given her to wear when they first encountered each other on the side of the mountain. “Can I keep this for a while?” she asked.
“Sure. Christy, do you want to take a shower?”
“Okay, I guess. But the Doctor told me not to get my foot wet.”
“Well, maybe you can put it on the edge of the tub if you’re careful.”
“Okay. I’ll try.”
“Don’t slip. And don’t forget to leave your clothes outside your door.”
Brian left the bathroom and closed the door. He went to the bed and sat down. After a few moments he removed his boots, being careful not to disturb the dressing Doctor Gonzago had done. Then he took off the rest of his clothes and put on the robe that Bridget had left for him. He gathered up his dirty clothes and put then out in the hall in the best order he could. He came back to the bed and heard the water running in the bathroom. Good, he thought, we’re getting clean at last. He wanted very much to lie down on that bed and go to sleep, but he knew he had to wash himself before he would. There were 10 days of hell he wanted to send down the drain. Besides the Doctor had advised a warm bath and Brian was looking forward to it. He heard the water stop and after a few minutes Christy call out “I’m through” and the sound of her door closing.
He went into the bathroom, took off his robe, sat down in the tub with his feet up on the ledge and turned the water on. He had forgotten to turn it to the bath mode so a splash of warm water fell down on his head and face, He changed it to the bath setting, made sure the plug was in and settled back to let the tub fill up and surround him with the blessings of clean, warm water.
The splash in the face brought back the memory of the freezing rain that smacked him while he was carrying Christy to that church. He closed his eyes and all he could see was snow. His mind went over all the events of the past 10 days: the screaming metal and screaming humans as the plane buckled in front of him (a sight he will never forget), being thrown from the plane still in his seat, digging Christy out of the snow, the roll down the mountain, eating the airline food not knowing it would be the last for a long time, the helicopter going over head, the abandoned cart left in the middle of nowhere, the rabbit he almost caught, the frightening wolves, building fires, burning up his script, the lighter that wouldn’t light, the bad slip and fall that injured his hip, Christy lost in the fog, the sleet storm where they had to walk backwards, the giving up and then the not giving up, the frozen lake where she could have drowned, the fenced in forest, the sprained ankle, dragging her up the hill, carrying her through the freezing rain to the church and Father Portera, the hunger, the pain, the exhaustion. But most of all he remembered that moment next to the brook when she looked up at him with tears and trust and said “Brian, please don’t leave me here” and he didn’t. Now she was his whole life.
The warm bath was thawing out and reopening places in joints and muscles he had forgotten about. This old body sure has taken a beating, he said to himself. As tempting as it was, he didn’t want to fall asleep in this beautiful warm, wet womb, so he sat up, cleaned himself off, pulled the plug and got out of the tub. He dried himself off with one of the towels hanging there and went back to his room closing the door behind him. He put on the robe and sat on the bed. He lit one more cigarette, and smiled to himself as he now thought of Father Portera, Fred Walker, Doctor Gonzago, Bridget, Peter Straw and this friendly little Buffalo Gap. He finished the cigarette, pulled down the covers, climbed into the bed, turned off the light on the table next to him and settled back to sleep. To SLEEP! At last, to sleep in a comfortable bed, clean, and with food in him. No snow, no ice, no wind, just a warm bed and a sleep for as long as he wanted to. But not for long.
He awoke a few hours later to hear Christy crying out in fear. Brian quickly got out of bed, pulled his robe around him and tied it. He rushed through the bathroom and opened Christy’s door. By the light of the bathroom he could see her sitting and holding her arms up. He entered her room and turned on the light next to the bed. She was reaching up as if she was trying to grasp something and crying. He sat on the edge of the bed, took ahold of her hands and shook them back and forth.
“Wake up Christy. Wake up. Christy. Wake up” he said.
Finally she opened her eyes and said “Huh.” She had a frightened, bewildered look. But when she saw Brian she pulled her hands away from his, reached over and threw her arms around him in a strong hug. She was crying.
“What happened?” he asked.
Sobbing and sniffling, she said “I was falling. There was a big hole and I fell in it and I was trying to reach you and you were holding out your hands to get me but I couldn’t reach them and I kept falling through the ice and I could see your hands but I couldn’t reach them. I was scared.”
“Well, it didn’t happen, Christy. Here I am. You’re safe now. No more ice. It was just a dream.”
She continued to hold her arms around him pressing her cheek next to his chest. She was shaking. Brian recalled a recent incident on a frozen lake.
There was a knock on the door and behind it Bridget’s voice saying “Is it all right in there?”
“Come in, Bridget” said Brian.
The door opened and Bridget came into the room. Carla was standing in the doorway behind her. “She had a bad dream” said Brian. "That's all."
“Aw! Poor thing. Well. Would you be wanting a cocoa or a mug of warm milk to help you get back to sleep?”
Christy looked over at Bridget and said with a weak voice “No thank you. I’m okay now.”
“I’ll stay with her until she gets back to sleep” said Brian. “Thank you, Bridget.”
“Okay then” said Bridget and gently closed the door.
Brian held Christy close and they rocked back and forth for a while. Then he set her back on the pillow and asked “You think you can sleep now?”
“I hope so.”
“Good. Good night sweetheart.”
Brian went back to his room and lay down again, but a few moments later Christy came into the room and said “Let me be with you, Brian, I’m still scared.”
He shifted over to make room for her. She got up on the bed, snuggled up against him and they were soon asleep.
Brian stirred and woke once thinking there was someone else in the room. He looked around but saw no one. Christy was still sound asleep. Hum, he thought, I guess I’m still hearing things that aren’t there. But he was too tired to think about it any more, so he went back to sleep.
Brian awoke hours later. Christy was not there. He got out of bed with difficulty, his legs were stiff and his feet still hurt. He went into the bathroom and flicked on the light. I thought I left it on, he thought. Well, maybe Christy turned it off. Her door was open and he could see that she wasn’t there. The robe she had been wearing was draped across the bed. Her crutch was not there. He left the bathroom and went to the door, opened it and saw his clothes in neat piles in front of it, all clean and fresh, even his boots. No more urine smell, he said to himself. He looked over at Christy’s door and saw that her clothes weren’t there. He freshened up, got dressed and went downstairs. There were customers at a few of the tables having breakfast. Some looked up at him as he came down the stairs. A couple of them whispered to each other and pointed in his direction. He saw Bridget and went over to her to ask where Christy was. “She’s in the kitchen having breakfast, bless her. Come with me.”
He followed Bridget into the kitchen where he found Christy sitting at a table with a plate in front of her. Carla was seated on a stool near her.
“Hi Brian” she said. “I’m having pancakes.”
‘Have a seat, Brian. And let Carla fix you up with some breakfast. The batter is fresh. It’s a pancake morning out there.” She nodded toward the front.
So Brian and Christy had breakfast together, and when they were finished Brian thanked Carla, who didn’t speak, and then said to Christy “I have to talk with Bridget for a moment and then we have to go see the Doc.”
“Okay” she said. “I’ll go now.”
“All right, but be very careful crossing the street. Don’t step out on it if you see a car coming.”
“Okay. I won’t.”
Brian found Bridget bringing some dirty dishes back to the kitchen. “Bridget, may I talk to you for a moment?”
“Sure. Just let me give these to the dish washer.” She went to another part of the kitchen and then returned wiping her hands on her apron. “Now, sir, what can I do for you?”
“Bridget, you probably don’t know who I am but I’m a successful Hollywood film writer.”
“I’ve had three successful films. They pay me well for my work, so I have quite a bit of money. I have a bank card. I assume there’s a bank here.”
“Yes, right down the street” she pointed.
“So I can get the cash I need to make sure you are compensated for all the wonderful hospitality you’ve shown us. I just didn’t want you to worry about it.”
“Well, I wasn’t worried, but thank you. It’s good to know.”
They smiled. Brian walked toward the door. Just as he was going through it, one of the men who had been whispering and pointing at him stepped out and with a smile said “How’s your girl friend?”
“She’s feeling better, thank you.”
“She’s seeing Doc Bite now?”
“Well, she probably needs to. You going there next?”
“Well, I guess you need to. Tell him to give you some Viagra.”
“Viagra? What for?”
“I can see your limp.”
“Is Viagra good for a limp?”
“Well, that’s what they tell me. Good luck.” He smiled and walked away.
That was a very strange conversation, Brian thought. He crossed the street and entered the Doctor’s office just as Christy was coming out of the examination room.
“The Doctor told me to try walking without the crutch. Isn’t that neat?”
The Doctor was standing in the doorway. “Come in Brian” he said.
“Christy, what are you going to do?”
“I’ll wait.” She sat down.
Brian went into the examining room and the Doctor closed the door. “How’s the hip?” he asked.
“It feels a little better.”
“Good. I was afraid it was a bone spur or a splinter or something else, but the x-ray doesn’t show anything. It’s just a bad bruise, I guess. Now let’s have a look at those feet.” He carefully removed Brian’s boots and set them aside.
“No more urine smell” said Brian.
While the Doctor was examining Brian’s feet he said “I asked my friend about that. He said if the wolf sniffed you first then he probably thought you were stationary and was just marking territory for any other creature that came along.”
“He did sniff us.”
“Oh, well that’s probably the answer then.’ He took his scissors and cut the dressing from Brian’s feet. “Are these toes still numb?”
“How well do you know that young lady?”
“Quite well, considering what we went through together.”
?Are you related?”
“No. We’re friends.”
“When did you first meet her?”
“When I found her on the side of the mountain. Why?”
“Just curious. Didn’t you see her on the plane?”
“No. I was sitting way at the back working on my script. Which reminds me. I have to tell you what I told Bridget. I’m a script writer for the film industry. I make a very good income. When I get to the bank I’ll have enough money to pay whatever you want to charge us for giving us the best treatment you can.”
“That’s good to know. Now, I’m concerned about this left foot. I’m going to write you a prescription. There’s a pharmacy right down the street here. I’m not going to wrap your foot again,. I want you to soak it in hot water for about an hour, once today and again tonight before you go to bed. Come back tomorrow morning.”
“All right Doctor. Is there any Viagra in the prescription?”
“Viagra! No. Why?”
“I’m just joking. I met a fellow on the street on my way over here who said you should give me some Viagra for my limp.”
“No Viagra. It has many uses, but that’s not one of them.”
“See you tomorrow.”
When the Doctor was finished, Brian put his socks and boots back on, went out and saw Christy talking with the next patient who stood up when she saw Brian come out and went in to see the Doctor.
“She’s going to have a baby” said Christy.
“Well, he’s a country doctor. He takes care of everything. Are you sure you can walk all right without the crutch?”
“I think so.”
“Well, the Doc gave me a prescription, so let’s go get it filled and then go back to Bridget’s. It’s almost time for our appointment with Mr. Straw.”
They left the Doctor’s and walked for a while down the street looking at the various shops along the way. Brian was hoping to find a clothing store. He thought he should get some fresh clothes for Christy and himself. But they didn’t pass any. They reached the pharmacy and went in. It looked a lot like an old apothecary shop with a mortar and pestle, bottles of colored liquid and such, but it was definitely a modern day pharmacy with a counter at the back where the druggist was sitting. Brian walked up with the prescription and handed it to the druggist who looked at it and said “This will only take a few minutes.”
“Good. Thank you” said Brian.
They looked around the shop at the decorations, checked out the old photographs on the walls. There were pictures of the town when it was smaller, portraits of Indians and early settlers, even one of a stage coach with horses. A woman behind the counter said proudly “My grandfather took those pictures. He was one of the first settlers here. He helped to build the town.”
“Well, the photos are very good. It must have been a primitive type of camera.”
“I guess so.”
The pharmacist brought the prescription bottle and a piece of paper over to the counter and then turned and went back to his place. Brian looked at the paper and saw the price. He then said to Christy, “See anything you want?”
“Um. A Hershey bar?”
“Okay.” He picked it off the shelf, put it on the counter and opened his wallet. When he saw that he didn’t have enough money to pay for everything, he said “Do you take Visa?”
“Yes we do” said the woman.
Brian handed her his card and she ran it through her machine. Then she frowned. She tried it again and then said ‘Nope. Sorry sir, this card has been canceled.”
“Yes, Sir.” She put the credit card down on the counter.
“That’s strange. I don’t owe them any money and I have a lot of credit.”
“There must be some mistake, then. You better give them a call.”
“Yeah. Where’s the nearest bank?”
“Just across the street,”
“Please hold that for me. I have a bank card, I’ll go and get cash and then come back and pay you for it.”
“All right. We’re open until six.”
“How much for the candy bar?”
Brian pulled a dollar out of his wallet and put it down on the counter, picked up his card, slipped it back and then picked up the Hershey bar and handed it to Christy. “Come on, Christy” he said. “Let’s go to the bank.”
They left the pharmacy, carefully crossed the street and entered the bank. Brian saw no ATM so he went right to the teller’s line. He had to wait for one of the two tellers to be free. He looked down at Christy and said “Why don’t you put that in your pocket so it doesn’t melt in your hands.”
“Okay. When can I have it?”
“When we get back to Bridget’s.”
“Next” a teller called.
Brian stepped forward, Christy followed him.
“Help you?” the teller said.
He explained about the problem with the credit card and asked her to check it out. She did and said that it was indeed canceled. Then he took out his bank card and asked if she could use it to get money from his bank account.
“I’ll need your PIN” she said.
“And an ID.”
He pulled that out of his wallet and handed it to her. She punched the numbers in and waited. “It looks like you have no balance” she said.
“But I do. I have thousands in there.”
She punched in the numbers again and got a paper receipt, which she handed him. It read “Avail bal $ 0.00.”
Brian was feeling dizzy. “What could possibly be wrong?” he asked.
“Well” said the teller “since the account isn’t closed, I would say they have probably frozen you assets for some reason.”
Brian was holding on to the counter now. “Why would they do that?”
“I’m sure I don’t know. Maybe someone was trying to garnish your account. Do you have any outstanding debts?”
“Or maybe there’s an investigation going on in which your account figures. I don’t know.”
Brian was gripping the counter now. “This is awful.”
“I’m sorry sir. I wish there was something I could do.”
“Thank you.” Brian felt as if he was going to faint. He turned and walked unsteadily to the door. Christy followed him. Once outside he stopped and breathed deeply from the cold air.
“What’s wrong, Brian?” asked Christy.
“I don’t know. I don’t have any money.” There was a great sadness in his voice.
“Oh. That’s too bad.”
“Yes. It is.”
“You want some of my candy bar?”
“Oh, no sweetheart. You have it. Thank you, though.”
They walked back down the street to Bridget’s place. When they entered Peter Straw was already there, sitting alone at a table in the back with a camera sitting on the table along with a pad of paper. They went over to the table and Brian said “Sorry we’re late Mr. Straw. I was trying to get some money out of the bank.”
“You’re not late. I’m early. Have a seat.” They sat. Christy tried to open her Hershey bar, the paper tore and part of it broke off and fell on the table. But she picked it up and stuck into her mouth.
“Well” said Peter Straw, “I came to do an interview with you two and I’m going to do it. But there’s a problem.”
“What’s the problem?” asked Brian.
“Right after I left you yesterday I called the airline, Trinat, and told them you were alive, had survived the crash and were living here temporarily. And they said it wasn’t possible.”
“Apparently, a week ago, searchers had uncovered the remaining two bodies.”
“What?” Brian was confused.
“All the passengers and crew have been accounted for” said Pete.
“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. We were on that plane, it crashed and we survived it. Didn’t we?”
“Yup” said Christy.
“They must have miscounted somewhere, somehow.”
“That’s what I said, but they assured me they hadn’t.”
“Both Father Portera and Doctor Gonzago can attest to what kind of condition we were in when we got here.”
“I believe you” said Pete. “But it does present a problem.”
“Yes, a bunch of problems. If we’re officially dead, than we’ve been dead for a week or so. I have to make some phone calls, and so does Christy. I have a phone card but all of my numbers were on my cell phone which was smashed in the escape. I hope Bridget will let us use the phone.”
“I have a better idea. Come down to the paper. I have extensions on my phone. You won’t be bothering any one.”
“Are you sure?”
“No problem. I can do the interview down there. Let’s go.”
They got up from the table. Brian said, “Oh, Let me get my back pack. I might need it.”
Brian carefully ascended the stairs on his painful feet. On the way he was pondering this strange news. He thought, it may explain why my credit card was canceled and maybe even why my bank account is frozen. The authorities must have told the Romeros. What are they thinking? What will they do? They probably told my sister. And maybe the studio now thinks I’m dead. Someone may have told Christy’s aunt and uncle and the orphanage where she’s going. How will I ever straighten out this mess?
When he reached the top of the stairs he went into his room and found that his back pack was not there. The bed was made, but the robe he had worn during the night was gone and so was his pack.
Brian went back downstairs and found Bridget. “Do you know why my pack has been removed from the room upstairs?” he asked her. She motioned him to step back into her office. He did and she closed the door.
“Mr. Sims, this morning Carla told me that she went up early to check on Christy and found that she wasn’t in her bed. The bathroom light was on. When she went in to turn it off she saw that you and Christy were in bed together. Now I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation for that, but Carla is a bit of a blabber mouth. She doesn’t talk much, but she has a few rather unsavory friends that she hangs around with. Brian, I run a respectable place here and I can’t have any rumors going around. I have a reputation to look out for. I’ve moved you to the first cabin out in the back. I’ve had Carla turn on the heat in there and make sure there are clean linens and towels. I’m sure you can understand my position.” She picked up something off of her desk and handed it to him. It was an amber colored oblong plastic thing. On one side it said B’s Ranch, Buffalo Gap, with an address and phone number, on the other side was the number 1. On one end it had a key dangling from it. “Here’s your key. You won’t be disturbed” she said.
Brian was speechless. How will I explain this to Christy? he thought. She won’t understand it. He nodded, put the key in his pocket and left the office.
When he came back to the table where Pete and Christy were waiting Christy asked “Where’s your back pack?”
“I decided not to bring it after all.”
“What did Bridget want?”
“I’ll tell you later.”
Christy was silent. She didn’t like that answer.
Pete said “If you’re ready, let’s go.”
They left Bridget’s place and started walking down the street toward the newspaper office. Brian noticed that the street lights were on and also the headlights of the occasional passing cars. “Why are the lights on so early?” he asked.
“Fog’s coming,” said Pete. “It comes in very thick and lasts a while.”
“Ah. Yes, we experienced some of that fog, didn’t we?”
“Yup” said Christy. “It was awful.”
The headquarters of the paper was a simple square white brick building which looked like a bunker. There was an antenna on the roof, for the police radio Brian guessed. When they entered, Brian saw three desks with phones, filing boxes and computer terminals. Seated at one of them was a genial fellow. Pete introduced him. “This is Mike, my ace reporter, journalist and type setter. We print the paper here.”
“Hi” Mike said with a smile. “You must be the wilderness walkers.”
“Yup” said Christy.
“Well, welcome. That’s quite a tale you two have to tell. I can’t wait to hear it. We’ll be the first to print it. I’d love to be the one to write it, but Pete owns the paper so he gets first grab at it.”
Meanwhile, Pete took a second chair from the side and moved it over to one of the empty desks. “You can set up here” he said.
“I’ll need a piece of paper and a pencil” said Brian.
Pete got him a fresh legal pad and said “There are pencils in that cup there” pointing to the front of the desk. “They have to make some phone calls” he said to Mike.
“Sure” said Mike.
Brian sat at the desk, pulled the phone card out of his wallet.
“You can go on line from here if you need to” said Pete.
“Thank you. That will help.”
Brian dialed a number and after a few moments he said “Hello Mrs. Romero, this is Mr. Sims...Yes...No, I’m not...But...No, I survived...I got out...Yes, now...Mrs. Romero...Mrs. Ro...Listen…Mrs.….M...Mrs.…Who?...They did?...Yes, now…Mrs....Mrs....M…I know...Please, Mrs. Romero...Listen to me...Mrs. Romero, lis...MARIA, calm down!...Yes, I’m really alive...I hope he doesn’t find one because I want you still working for me...She did?...Okay, now Mrs. Romero I want you to do something for me...Go to my desk and get my address book...Yes, it’s in the top drawer on the right side...Yes. Go get it please, and then pick up the phone on my desk. Don’t hang up this phone; just pick up the one on my desk. Okay?” There was a long pause, and then, “Yes…Okay, now open it and look under ‘M’ for the name L. Moran, M O R A N...You got it?...Now read me the number...Thank you...Now, Mrs. Romero, if anyone else calls, please tell them I’m still alive and I will be back there as soon as I can, okay?...Who?...They did?....Good...No, no, don’t let them do that...Under no circumstances...Thank you...I know, but...I’m sorry about that. The bank thinks I’m dead and is holding up my account, but I hope to get it straightened out today...Do you and Juan have enough to get by?...I see. Well, I’ll get you your money as soon as possible...Yes...Thank you, Mrs. Romero...Me too...I’m sure he will...Good bye.” He hung up.
“The Romeros are my housekeepers. Since I’m the only one living there it’s a fairly easy job, but they take good care of me. She just told me that the police came to inform her that I had been killed in the plane crash. Her husband, Juan, is out looking for a job. She said my sister, Louise, and her husband are coming there to take care of my estate. And, get this, a realtor showed up to find out if he could list the house. She turned him away. I’ve set it up so that the Romeros are paid automatically by the bank, and they haven’t received a payment in two weeks. What a mess.”
Brian dialed another number. “Hi Sis, it’s Brian...No, I’m not...Well, I didn’t, I survived it...Two of us...Buffalo Gap...Buffalo Gap...It’s a small town in the west, Utah I think...I know...I know...Listen Sis, I just spoke with Mrs. Romero so now she knows I’m still alive, She told me that you and Jason were planning to go there and deal with things...No you don’t, but I really wish you would. I’m in a big pickle here...The word is out that I’m dead. The bank has frozen my account and my credit card has been canceled. So I have no money. It’s a nice town with nice people, but we’re stuck here...The other survivor. A youngster. Christy...Right now we’re in the newspaper office. We’re gong to be interviewed...Yes...I’m going to try. I have to call my lawyer, and the studio...A money order...That might work. I don’t know. Hold on.” Brian spoke to Pete, “If someone wanted to send me a money order, where would they send it?”
“They could send it to me. Who is it?”
“My sister, Louise.”
“She’s an anthrowpollygist” said Christine.
“Let me talk to her.” Brian handed him the phone.
“Hello Louise, this is Peter Straw, I’m the owner of the paper here. You’re brother is quite a survivor. It’s going to make a great story….I’ll send you a copy...Now why don’t you send the money order made out to me, that way there won’t be any hassle cashing it....How much are going to send?....Okay.” Peter gave her an address and hands the phone back to Brian.
“Hi....Are you square with this?...Oh, yes. I’m sure I can...How’s Jason...Good. How’s retirement?...Oh?...Well, then go back to work...Let’s talk about it when I see you. I have a lot of other calls to make...Okay. Good...Love you...Bye, bye Sis.” He hung up. “Thank you Pete.”
“No problem” said Pete.
“She wanted to know if I can trust you.”
“Now Christy do you know your aunt and uncle’s phone number?”
“What’s you uncle’s last name?”
“Where do they live?”
“Um, I’m not sure but I think it’s Farmington Street.”
Brian got the number for Collins on Farmington Avenues in Hartford and dialed it. Then he handed the phone to Christy. After a few anxious moments she said “Hi Aunt Lydia, it’s Christy. I’m alive...Well, the plane crashed. It was awful...Yup. I hurt my foot but it’s better now….They did?...Oh, I’m sorry...No...I couldn’t. We had to walk a long way in the snow and ice and everything...Brian...The man who was with me...Yes...He’s very nice...Any way we made it...to this town. The people here are very nice. How’s Uncle Sy?...Why?...Oh, no!...Is he going to be okay?...When can he come home?...What’s that?...They did?...What did she say?...Oh, no...She was?...I know...Hold on.” Christy put the phone aside and said ”That home they are sending me to called and said that since I wasn’t at the airport when they came to get me, they are going to have to pay for the plane ride. They don’t have the money to do that, Aunt Lydia said. But the woman was very nasty to her and threatened her.”
“Let me talk to her.” Christy handed him the phone.
“Hello, Aunt Lydia. Brian Sims is my name. Your niece, Christine and I escaped that terrible tragedy and made it through the wilderness and some severe weather to get here. And now we’re trying to get all the pieces together and get back to our lives...Yes...Now, let me ask you. Christy said that they are trying to get you to pay for the plane ticket?...I see, But you haven’t sent them any money, have you?...Good...Well, don’t worry. I can take care of that...Yes...Do you have an address and phone number for the place?....Okay.” Brian turned to Christy. “She’s looking for the contract. We’ll soon get this straightened out and you’ll be on your way.” Christy was staring down at the desk with a sad look. Brian could see that she was not happy about it. The poor kid, he thought, going off to some strange place, a home that wasn’t home.
Soon Lydia was back on the phone. “Yes.” Brian wrote on the pad. “Yes...And a phone number?....Okay I’ll call them and take care of it, whatever it is...No problem...Let me ask you this, can you make a copy of that contract and send it to me?....Better yet send it to my lawyer?....Okay. Then let me talk to him and see what he has to say. He might want some other information. Then I’ll call you back. Okay?....Good. Now Christy said that the woman who called was not very nice to you...I see…Well, she was probably upset over going to the airport and not finding her...Christy said that she threatened you?....I see...Well, maybe, it all depends on what it says in the contract. That’s why I want my lawyer to have a look at it...Yes...I will...You too...Here’s Christy.”
Brian handed Christy the phone. “Hello Aunt Lydia?....Yes, I will...How’s Flicker?....She is?....Good...She is?...I’m glad...No I’m with Brian,,,Yes, he is. I’ll be all right...Okay, I will...Bye.” She hung up.
“Pete, is there a yellow pages?” Brian asked. “I have to call Doctor Gonzago.”
“Bottom drawer on your left.”
“Thank you. Then I have to go on line.”
“Okay. Meanwhile I’ll interview the lady here. Christy, come with me. I’ll show you where the paper is printed and then we’ll have a chat.”
“Okay,” she said.
After they left Brian took out his wallet and removed his credit card. He made out the tiny numbers on the back, the smallest font size possible, he thought, and dialed. After listening to the menu list he pressed “8” and waited. “Hi Stephanie, I have a problem with my card. It’s been canceled and I don’t know why...Certainly.” He gave her his name and read off the numbers. “Deceased. Well, I’m the owner and I’m not deceased. My I please have it reactivated?...Sims...S I M S, Brian...Okay. Please do that. Thank you.” He was now listening to some inane scratchy disco music which kept repeating itself. Finally after about 7 minutes it stopped and another voice came on the line. “Hello Jake, I hope so. My credit card was canceled. The girl I just spoke to said it was because I’m dead. But I’m not dead yet. The plane I was on crashed in the wilderness. I and another passenger survived. But it took almost two weeks for us to get to this town. I tried to use the card to buy some prescription medicine for myself. That’s when I found out it was canceled. I want to get it reactivated. Can you do that?...Sure.” Brian once again gave his name and read off the numbers...”My favorite restaurant is Arlene’s Diner.” He waited, heard some more disco music, then, “Yes...You’re sure?....I see...” Brian closed his eyes and let out a big sigh of relief. Something inside him relaxed for the first time in a many days, something he wasn’t even aware of. Then he said, “Thank you, Jake, You’ve been very helpful...You have yourself a good rest of the day, you hear?....Thank you...You’re welcome...Bye.” Brian thought, Now I can get that prescription and I can get some cash just in case. Then he said quietly to himself, “Are we gonna make it? We’re gonna make it.”
Mike, who had been watching from his desk, said “You got your credit card reactivated.”
“Yes. Now I feel like I have a little power in my hands again. I can pay Bridget and Doctor Gonzago.”
“Don’t you have health insurance?” asked Mike.
“Sure. And it will take care of a lot of things, but it won’t take care of Christy’s treatments.”
“She’s a sweet child. Where did the two of you meet?”
“On the side of the mountain.”
“Not before then?”
“Amazing. I’m sure Pete’s going to ask you this, but I want to know just out of curiosity. How did you make it?”
“We stuck together and we kept going. That’s the only reason.”
“Did you feel like giving up, quitting?”
“Many times. It was tough.”
“I’ll bet it was.”
Brian activated the computer and got into his web site. He went into his favorites list and began looking up some names, numbers and addresses. He clicked on his bank records and read through the recent activity to see if there was anything unusual. He saw the total left $87,630.42. Available balance $ 0.00. He picked up the phone and dialed the number at the top of the screen. Once again he had to listen to the menu of numbers read out by an electronic voice. Then he pressed “O.” There was no scratchy music this time. He was glad of that. A friendly voice answered. “Hi. My name is Brian Sims and I have an account with your bank. I have the latest statement in front of me and it says that though I have over 80 thousand in my account I have an available balance of zero. What’s the problem?....Thank you….Yes?...” Brian gave his account number and waited...”Yes...Why?...What sort of an investigation?...Why not?....Well, who’s investigating it?....Why not? I don’t understand...Don’t I have a right to know why my account is frozen and who is investigating what?....In due time? What’s the matter with now?...Well, is there an officer at the bank there who can tell me?....NO? Well listen. I am a survivor of a terrible plane crash in the western mountains. I’m in a small town, where I’m a stranger. I don’t have any funds. I need to pay the doctor and others who are taking care of me and I need to get back to my home in LA. I need some of my money. Can you at least forward some to me and then freeze the rest?....No…Well, how long is it going to be frozen?...And when will that be?...You don’t know, Of course you don’t. This is awful. When I came into town yesterday I was a rich man. Now I’m a pauper….Well, thank you, I appreciate your concern. Good bye.”
“80 thousand is a lot of money to be frozen,” said Mike.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a script writer for a major motion picture company in Hollywood.”
“Really? Have I seen any of your films?”
“Trumpets Blare, The Barnaby Story, Miracles.”
“I saw that. You wrote that? I’m impressed.”
“Are you a movie goer? I didn’t notice a movie theatre in town.
“About 2 miles out there’s a drive in.”
“I didn’t know there were any drive ins left in America.”
“It’s mostly for the cowboys and their girls. They come in their pick ups and leave their beer cans behind.”
Brian remembered a bunch of cowboys and their girls in Oklahoma, But that was many years ago. He chuckled. “Well, I hope they liked Miracles too. I’m working on another one. I have to call the studio now.” Brian scrolled down and dialed the private number of Myron Bloom, producer at Silverstone Studios. “Hi. This is Brian Sims, is he there?....A lot of people thought so, but I’m not...Thanks...Hello Myron...Well, I’m not...No, I wasn’t resurrected, I escaped...I escaped from the plane...because we had to walk a long way through the wilderness to get here...Buffalo Gap...Neither did I until yesterday...Yes, it’s on my computer. When I finally get back home I can print it out again. I was doing some revisions on the plane when it want down...Now, am I still good with you?....I don’t know, my bank account is frozen...Some sort of investigation, They wouldn’t tell me...Buffalo Gap...I don’t know, Utah, I think. It’s hard to tell. It’s on the border of Utah, Colorado and some other state.”
“Arizona.” said Mike.
“Arizona...I don’t think so. It’s a small town. Why?....You will...Well, that’s ...I’ll find out...But listen, Myron, there are two of us...A young girl...No, no. She’s 10 years old, I dug her out of the snow...Myron you have a dirty mind...The thing is I feel responsible for her. So I can’t leave her here...You will?...Myron, you’re a rock...A rock with a dirty mind. That’s why you’re so successful...I’ll find out and get back to you.” He hung up and sighed another sigh of relief. “That was Myron Bloom. He’s a producer. He optioned my latest script and still wants to do it. He said he would come and get us if I can find an airport somewhere.”
“There’s a small one down in Sanman, about an hour from here.”
“Great. He said he’d bring Christy also. I’m beginning to feel better. Except for my feet.”
“A giant with feet of clay,” said Mike.
“Yes, something like that.” Brian dialed another number. “Yes, My phone was destroyed in an accident. I’d like to have it replaced...Yes.” Brian went through all the procedures for replacing his phone including giving them the Gap’s address. Then put his head in his hands as he thought about what he had to say to the next and perhaps most important person he was about to call.
Finally he picked up the phone and dialed the number for Thomas Wong, Esquire.
“Hello. This is Brian Sims. I need to talk with Mr. Wong. It’s urgent...Brian Sims...No, it really is. I’m alive...” There was long frustrating pause and then an answer. “Tom, it’s Brian Sims...No, it is. I survived the plane crash...I did...How can I?....What?....Your brother George once stole a magazine from The Ocean Side Bookstore...Because you told me one day...Yes….Well, I’ve got a lot of trouble and I need help...Buffalo Gap...It’s a small town near where the plane crashed...Because we went down in the wilderness and it took almost two weeks to get here...Well, for one thing they’ve frozen my bank account and I don’t know why...I don’t know, all they said was that there’s an investigation, but they wouldn’t tell me anything more...Of course I asked them but they were adamant about not telling me...Yes, it is. Can you look into it?....Okay, good. I need my money…..About the airline. They are saying that there were no survivors. A fellow from here called to let them know there were two survivors, but Trinat is denying that, which sheds some doubt about whether or not we were really on that flight...There was another survivor. A child. A ten year old named Christine Flynn...I called Bloom and he says he wants to go with the film, but I don’t know if my contract is still valid...Thanks. Now about the girl. She was supposed to be going to an orphanage somewhere in LA. Her aunt and uncle back in Connecticut were sending her there because they have a house full of children and can’t afford to keep her...Yes, her parents were killed in an accident...But this is the thing. The orphanage is free and they paid for her flight out there, but she didn’t show up at the airport when she was expected and now they want the family back in Connecticut to reimburse them for the cost of the flight, they can’t afford to do that. But I spoke to the aunt just now and she said that they were very abusive to her on the phone and are going to start some legal action...Well, evidently there’s a contract...Yes...I asked them to make a copy for you to look at. May I do that?...Great. Oh thank you, Tom….No, I wanted to check it out with you first. I’ll call her back. You should get it in a few days...Well, it doesn’t sound good and I know that Christy doesn’t want to go there but she has no other place to go...Because we made this trek through the wilderness together and I feel responsible for her...10...Yes, because I’m going through some treatment for my feet which were injured during the hard drive through the snow and ice...No, he’s good, an authority on frost bite. Frost bite and snake bite, I’m ...Well, I’m calling on the local newspaper’s phone. I’ll give you the number and you can probably leave a message to call you. In a few days I’ll have a new cell phone. The old one was destroyed in the crash. When I get it I’ll call and tell Heidi...Yes...Good. Thank you Tom...I don’t know but Bloom said he could send a plane to pick us up. I just have to get back to him when I’m ready...The name is Collins. It’s coming from Hartford, Connecticut...You will?...Thank you Tom...Yes. A major mess. I just want to be in my pool right now, swimming back and forth like a dolphin, without a care in the world...Thanks Tom...Bye.”
Then Brian dialed the number in Hartford. “Hello Aunt Lydia. It’s Brain Sims again...Remember I spoke to you about making a copy of that contract?....Can you do that?....Good. Here’s the address of my attorney in Los Angeles. He’ll look it over and then we’ll talk...Don’t worry about that, Lydia. Nobody is going to make you do something you can’t do...No, she’s being interviewed by the editor of the paper...I’ll tell her...You’re welcome. I’m glad to do it.” Brian gave Lydia the address of Thomas Bloom on Wilshire Boulevard and then hung up. “Whew!” sighed Brian.
“That Mr. Wong is your lawyer?? asked Mike.
“Sometimes,” said Brian. “He’s very powerful and he’s a millionaire. He represents movie stars, negotiates their contracts and gets them out of trouble. If he doesn’t want to take a case he turns it down flat. I’m surprised and grateful that he’s helping me. He’s probably intrigued by my story. Reading orphanage contracts is not in his line.”
“What was that about his brother and the magazine?”
“Aw, he wanted me to tell him something only Brian Sims would know. He told me that years ago, when he was just starting out. It was his first successful defense.”
“Well, it sounds like you’re getting things straightened out and put back together bit by bit.”
“So it seems. I used to know a guy named Henry Small. He was a violinist with the Dallas Symphony. He was a nice guy, intelligent and friendly, but he was rather arch in his manner. One of his favorite remarks was ‘Yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch, it’s a cinch.’“
Mike chuckled. At that moment the office door opened.
“Thank you, Christy,” said Pete.
“Oh, you’re welcome.” she said.
“Why do you look sad?“ asked Brian.
“Oh, just having to think about all that.”
Then Mike said “Come here and talk to me. I’ll cheer you up.”
“Okay,” she said
Pete held the office door open and said “Brian? Can you talk to me now?”
“Sure,” he said and went into the office.
“That little girl is very bright,” said Pete, closing the door..
“Yes she is.”
“She seems so adult for her age, almost like a teenager.”
“Well, she will be in a few years.”
“So,” said Pete “tell me all about it.”
Brian told the story of how he saw the plane buckle and come apart in front of him, of how he was thrown out of it still in his seat, of how he saw Christy sliding down the slope and get covered with snow, of how he dug her out and how they rolled down the mountain. He told of how they ate the airplane food the first night, how they slept. He told about the helicopter overhead, the abandoned cart, the rabbit, the wolves, the occasional making of fires. He told of the sleet storm, how they walked backwards and how he used the pages of his script to protect Christy from the sleet. He told of slipping, falling and injuring his hip. He spoke of the fog and how they got separated for a while. He told of spotting the church, the frozen lake and how he was so frightened she was going to fall into it. He told of the fence and how they had to go back. He told of the brook and how she sprained her ankle. And he told about carrying her in his arms to the church and of being taken in by Father Portera. He was not going to mention the hallucinations he had. He was embarrassed to do that.
But Pete said, “Christy mentioned that you had a vision of something that wasn’t there.”
“Yes, I saw a truck coming toward us that vanished as it came close. Doctor Gonzago reasoned it was due to exhaustion and hunger. It hasn’t happened again.”
“Well, I won’t write about that then. How did you injure your foot?”
“I started to follow Christy toward the church. We didn’t know it was a frozen lake until my foot went through the ice.”
“I see. Well thank you Brian. We publish on Friday. I’ll see that you both get a copy right away.”
“Thank you. By the way, my lawyer is checking in to this claim by Trinat that we weren’t on the plane.”
“Good. Now before you go I’d like to get a picture.”
They left the office and Brian said “Christy, feeling better?”
“Yup. Mike is very nice.”
“And so are you,” said Mike.
“Okay,” said Pete, “would the two of you stand over there under the light.” They did. “Closer together.” Brian put his arm around her shoulder and she wrapped both of her arms around him and looked sideways at the camera. Pete snapped a few pictures.
“Can you find your way back to Bridget’s place okay?”
“Sure can,” said Christy.
“Okay. Call me and let me know how things are going.”
“And don’t pay attention to any nasty remarks,” added Mike. “We have a bunch of, what I call troll brains, in this town.”
“Thank you,” said Brain.
Good byes were said and the two of them left the newspaper and started down the street. The fog was coming in. Christy took Brian’s arm remembering the heavy fog they went through before. “What did he mean?” asked Christy.
“Mike, about trolls.”
“Christy, I have to talk to you about something.”
“Bridget has moved me to a cabin out behind the restaurant.”
“So we’re staying there now?"
“No, just me. You have your regular room.”
“But I want to be with you.”
“I know sweetheart, but Bridget thinks it would be better if we are separated.”
“Why?” Christy was clearly upset about that.
“Well, it seems that Carla came up early this morning and found us sleeping in the same bed and told Bridget and maybe a few other people. And Bridget feels that it doesn’t look right.”
“Well, people might think theirs is something wrong going on.”
Brian thought, how do I explain the facts of life to a 10 year old girl? “It’s hard to explain Christy, but people might think that I am taking advantage of you in some way.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know, dear. But just trust me. It’s better that way.” Brian’s stomach was twisted up about the whole subject. He didn’t want to say any more. But Christy wouldn’t let up.
“What do they think you’re gonna do to me?”
“I don’t know what they think, or might think, or might say. People gossip, you know.”
Christy was silent for a while, then finally said “I don’t like it.”
“I know, I don’t either but this is the way it should be.”
Please don’t let me get annoyed, Brian said to himself. “Because this is the way Bridget wants it. And we’re her guests for a while.”
“I’m gonna talk to Bridget.”
“Don’t do that.”
“But I wanna be with you.”
“Christy, be a good girl and just put up with it, okay?”
“But when am I goona see you?”
“I’ll be around until bedtime and I’ll get up early and meet you for breakfast.”
The fog was getting thicker.
“Will you be okay in that cabin?”
“I think so,” Brian said reassuring her. “Bridget said that Carla had gone in, turned on the heat, made sure the lights worked and that it had everything I need.”
“I don’t like that Carla,” said Christy.
“Before you came down this morning, she was asking me all kinds of questions about you.”
“What kind of questions?”
“She wanted to know what you were like, and how long we knew each other, and where you came from, and where we met.”
“Yeah. And what we were doing before we got here.”
“What did you say?”
“I told her. But I don’t think she believed me. She acted like she didn’t believe me. It was weird.”
“Well, don’t worry about it. She seems a little strange anyway.” As they were approaching Bridget’s place Brian said, “Why don’t you go in and have something to eat? You must be hungry. You haven’t had anything to eat since that candy bar.”
“I want to stay with you,” she answered.
“Oh, well, all right, if you insist” he said with a warm smile. “Let’s go to the drug store and try and fill my prescription, if my credit card works now.”
“Course it will” she said with conviction.
Brian remembered how she got his lighter to work when he thought it was dead, so maybe her magic still works. “But we have to get across this street. There may be a car coming. It’ll be hard to see in this fog. It will probably have it’s headlights on so keep your eyes open.” They made it safely across the street and entered the drug store. The woman behind the counter remembered him and had the prescription ready. His credit card did indeed work, he was relieved to find.
While he was doing that, Christy was poking around the shop. She came back with a pad of paper and two pencils and said, “Brian, could you buy these for me?”
“Sure” he said, and did. “Are you going to write a great novel?”
The fog was now very thick and the late afternoon darkness was setting in. They made their way slowly and carefully back to Bridget’s clinging to each other and staying close to the fronts of the buildings along the sidewalk. When they finally reached Bridget’s, she greeted them with a big smile and said “Well, hello you two. We’re just now cooking up some ham and potatoes. Will you be havin’ some?”
“Sounds great,” said Brian. Christy nodded but didn’t smile. They settled themselves at a table in the back and waited. After a while Carla brought over some plates with steaming hot potatoes, set them down and a moment later returned with a platter containing a chunk of ham and a sharp knife. No one spoke.
After they had eaten Christy said “I’m going up to the room. I’ll be back.” She left.
Brian knew that she was going upstairs to cry. The poor kid, he thought, hasn’t had a good cry about this whole experience since the plane crash. He thought about her courage and level head through the whole ordeal. How she never whined or seemed to feel sorry for herself. How she was right with him all the time, how she cared for him, how she went back and got his pack when he forgot it, how she gathered wood to make a fire, how, when she was lost in the fog, came back to him because she was scared. He thought about how she encouraged him even when he was in awful pain and didn’t think he could go on, how she sat down with him and confronted the wolves when they seemed so threatening. He remembered seeing her out on the frozen lake and was so frightened that she might fall in. He thought about them crossing the brook and how she sprained her ankle and couldn’t walk, how he carried her that last mile through the blinding rain storm. And he remembered her saying “Brian, please don’t leave me here.” Then she was crying. And how he said “Christy, I will never leave you.” But they’re separated now because of the stupid gossip of some ignorant people, “troll brains” as Mike called them. And soon he would leave her, in the hands of some nuns in an orphanage among people she doesn’t know, And she will probably forget me, he thought, or I will become just a dim memory, someone she once knew, but can’t quite remember his name.
When she came back downstairs, she picked up the two pencils, went to the front desk, sharpened them and came back. She sat down and got busy with the pad of paper.
“Christy,” he said “are you okay?”
“Yup.” After a long moment she said “I miss Flicker.”
“Yes, of course you do. She must be getting bigger.”
“Aunt Lydia said she’s happy, so I guess that’s okay. But I miss her. And I’m going to miss seeing her grow up and everything.”
That last remark grasped Brian’s heart like a cold dark hand. Now I’m going to cry, he thought. And I will miss seeing Christy grow up. How can I lose her? Ever since she emerged from the snow on the side of that vast mountain, like a genie or some angel, she has been the most important person in my life. The only person I really care about. She is the fellow sufferer in that desperate journey through the ice and freezing cold. We survived together. We survived because we were together. We have a bond as close as any two people can have. She is my other self. I owe her my life. Why do I have to lose that? Why can’t I see her grow and discover life and become a young woman? She is the child I never had. She has won my heart, completely. She is everything to me now, everything that the rude, sarcastic, back biting world of Hollywood is not and can never be. What is the point of living without this dear, precious child in my life? Her smile lights up all the dark places in me and chases them away. I love her.
Just them Christy did something that made him want to weep even more. She carefully tore off the top page of the pad she had been writing on and handed it to him. He looked at it. It was a picture of him, a rude drawing but very well done. It looked like him.
“This is excellent Christy. You flatter me. You make me look handsome.”
“You are handsome.”
“And you are beautiful.”
She smiled that smile that brightens the universe.
He handed the drawing back to her and said, “Sign it.”
“Because someday someone else will admire it and they will want to know who the artist was.”
“Okay.” She signed it.
Just then the front door opened and a familiar face came in. Brian waved. “Look! It’s Fred.”
Fred came over to the table and said “Hi folks, How ya doin?”
“Well, we’re doing a lot better, thank you. Will you have a seat?”
”Sure.” He sat and looked at Christy. “You’re foot all better now?”
“Yup,” she said.
“This fog is supposed to clear soon. I’ll be driving out to the reservation in the next day or two to visit my relatives. I thought maybe the two of you would like to come along and meet them and see the place, if you’re still gonna be in town.”
“Oh yeah!” said Christy.
“We’d love that Fred. Thank you,” said Brian.
“Okay then. I’ll check back with you and let you know when I decide to go.” He stood up.
“Fred, thank you, again, for picking us up and bringing us here. We’re very grateful.”
“Not at all. I’m glad I could do it. Bye.” He left.
Christy gave the signed drawing back to Brian. “I’ll have it framed and put on my wall,” he said.
Christy smiled at that idea and then said “I think I’ll go up to bed now.”
“Okay sweetheart. I’ll see you in the morning for breakfast. Good night.”
Brian had one last cigarette, then picked up the drawing and walked out the front door. He moved carefully around the side of the building, down the narrow road that led to the cabins. There was still dense fog and now it was night so he had to grope his way toward the cabin. All at once he heard a man’s voice, “Hey perv.”
Out of the fog emerged a frightening sight. Then Brian saw it was a man wearing a ski mask that covered his face. The voice said “We hear you like to screw little girls.”
“No!” said Brian.
“Well play with this, scum bag.” He felt a hard punch on his back. The man in front jammed a knee into his groin. He started to double over in pain when someone grabbed the back of his coat and pulled him up. He heard a cracking sound and then a sharp pain in his head. He crumpled up and fell sideways onto the snow. He was unconscious.
When Brian awoke he was lying on the grass. It was warm. There was a bright sun shining. He could see trees, hear birds singing and in the distance there were mountains. Christy was there.
“Hi Brian, how are ya?”
“My head hurts.”
“Here. Put your back pack under your head, you’ll feel better.” He lifted up his head and she slid the pack under it. “I have to go now, Brian.”
“Yup. See the helicopter has come to take me to California.”
“Christy, please don’t leave me here.”
“Aw, you’ll be okay. I gotta go. I’ll see you again someday.”
Brian sat up and yelled, “Nooooo!”
But she was gone.
He lay down again and went back to sleep.
After a while Brian became aware of men’s voices. Alarmed he opened his eyes and found himself on Dr. Gonzago’s examination table. There was a bad pain in his head. The Doctor was talking to a man in a police uniform. When Brian groaned the two men turned around to look at him. The Doctor came over and asked him how he felt.
“Oh, take my head away and I’ll feel great.”
“I’m glad you’re awake. Let me take a look at you.” He leaned over and shined a light in Brian’s eyes, very close and peered through a magnifying glass perched on the end of it. Then he held up a finger and said “Follow my finger” and moved it back and forth.
“Do you feel up to answering some questions? The police?”
“This is Officer Moriah."
Moriah stepped up to the side of the bed. “Howdya do Mr. Sims. Can you tell me anything about who did this to you?”
“There were two of them, at least. I only saw one, but he was wearing a ski mask. I couldn’t see his face.”
“Did they say anything?”
‘One of them called me a perv and a scum bag.”
“That one said something about how I was having sex with young girls, which isn’t true.”
“About what time was this?”
“I’m not sure, it was foggy and dark. We both were heading off to bed.”
“That’s the young girl?”
“And she was with you?”
“No, she had a room upstairs in Bridget’s place.”
“Did you have any identification on you at the time, Mr. Sims?”
“Yes. In my wallet.”
“Couldja describe the wallet.”
“Cause it wasn’t on you when they brought you in. Only a motel key.”
"Oh, no. It’s a brown leather wallet. Ordinary. But it has all my cards in it. My credit card and my bank card and my ID and everything.”
“Was there much money in it?”
“Whew. All right Mr. Sims. We’ll start an investigation and let you know what we find.”
Moriah turned and left.
Gonzago came back over to Brian. “Well, you took a nasty blow on the head and have a mild concussion. You will be dizzy and pass out, now and then, for a while. That’s the good news.”
“Okay,” Brian said ”what’s the bad news?”
“I can save your foot, but you’re going to lose a few toes.”
“Brian, I’m going to send you to the hospital. I want them to look at that concussion and Dr. Wainwright will perform the surgery on your foot. He’s a good man and a friend. If we do this we should do it as soon as possible so that the condition of your toes doesn’t move up into your foot.”
“I’ll call the ambulance right now. It’ll take about 40, 45 minutes to get here.”
“Wait. What can I do about Christy?”
“Why don’t we ask her? She’s waiting outside. You want to get dressed first?”
“Yes.” Brian got up with difficulty and put his clothes on, then went to the door with Doctor Gonzago. When the Doctor opened the door Christy jumped up and ran toward Brian. She threw her arms around him and cried. He moved her over to the sofa and they sat down.
“I was so afraid when I saw you lying there” she said. “Carla went to wake you when you didn’t come in for breakfast. She came back and said you were dead but I knew you weren’t dead. I shouted ‘No, No’ and ran out there. That’s when I saw you lying there. Then I ran back and told Bridget to call the Doctor but she already did that. Then he came over and she got the dishwashing guy to help the Doctor carry you over here and I’ve been waiting ever since.”
Brian asked, “Did you hear anything last night?”
“No. The policeman already asked me that. I heard the dumpster lid crash once, that’s all. Did you slip and hit your head on it?”
“It’s not important.”
“Two guys beat me up.”
“I don’t know.”
There was a pause, during which Christy grew up a little bit.
“Listen Christy” Brian began “I have to go away for a few days, down to the hospital for some treatment, and I don’t know what to do with you while I’m gone.”
“Can’t I go with you?”
“No. That’s not a possibility.”
“I’m sure you can stay with Bridget, but there won’t be anything to do there. You should be someplace where you’ll be safe, where people can look after you and you can have some appropriate activity.” Brian did not want to spell out the dangers of a little girl alone in a town where there are “troll brains.”
After a sudden intake of breath Christy said “What about Fred?”
“Fred” said Brian. “Doctor, what do you think?”
“Sounds good to me. He’s got two kids about her age and he’s got room. You want me to give him a call?”
“Would you please?”
Doctor Gonzago picked up the phone and dialed. “Hello, Nina...It’s Doctor Gonzago, is Fred there?...I need to talk to him for a minute...How’s Naomi?....Great.” There was a pause. “Hello Fred...Brian Sims has got to go down to Sanman, to the hospital, for a few days and he’s concerned about Christy. Do you think you could take her in while he’s gone?...We don’t know yet...Great...Well, I’ll call the ambulance right now if you’re free to come and get her...Great Fred, I’ll tell ‘em” He hung up. “Fred said he can come by and pick her up in about 15 minutes. I’ll call for the ambulance.”
While the Doctor was busy with that Brian spoke to Christy. “Now Christy. I want you to be a good girl and not cause any trouble. Be nice to Fred and his wife and their kids. It’s very nice of them to take you in. So I expect you to be a welcome guest. Okay?”
“I will. What do you think?”
“I think you will. It was just an obligatory speech.”
“What does that mean?”
“Oh. Big. A. Tree.”
“It means something I gotta do, cause I’m the adult.”
Then Brian thought of something. “I wonder what happened to the picture you drew.”
“Carla said it was all torn and wet, so she threw it away.”
“That’s okay. I’ll draw another one.”
When Fred arrived, he came through the door with a big smile.
“Hi folks. So the Doc tells me you gotta go to the hospital for a while.”
“Yes, I do,” said Brian.
“Well, they’ll take good care of you there. What happened to you?”
“Somebody beat him up” said Christy.
“Is that true?”
“Yes” said Gonzago “unfortunately it is. He has an injury to his head and a few other things.” Gonzago thought it best not to mention amputating toes in front of Christy.
“Well” said Fred “good luck. We’re delighted to have Christy with us so don’t worry about her.”
“Well, little lady” he said to her, “you’re walkin' on your own two feet these days?”
“Well, let’s go then. Climb in my truck and come meet my kids.” Fred turned and said “Bye Brian, See ya Doc.” He opened the door and out they went.
So Christine and Brian were embarking on separate adventures for the first time since the plane crash. That made Brian feel sad. Up until now they had faced everything together. He didn’t want to think about it. “I should go over to Bridget’s place and get my back pack. I guess it’s still in the cabin.” He took the key from his pocket.
“I’ll get it” said Gonzago. He took the key from Brian and left. Brian leaned back on the sofa and closed his eyes. He felt very old. When the Doctor returned with the pack, Brian opened it and took out his cigarettes and lit one.
“I’ll join you” said Gonzago. He moved the standing ashtray to in front of the sofa, sat down and lit up his own cigarette. “Did you take that medicine I prescribed for you?” asked the Doctor.
“Yes, last night.”
“Take some more now.” He stood up. Brian could hear the water cooler gulp, and the Doctor returned with a paper cup. Brian took out the orange bottle of pills and opened it. He tossed out a pill but Gonzago said “Take two of them.” So Brian tossed out another one, took the cup of water and swallowed them. “It may make you sleep, but that’s a good thing.”
They sat in silence for a while. Then Gonzago spoke. “Buffalo Gap is still a frontier town in many ways, still the wild west. At least it wasn’t a lynch mob that got you. Thank God those days are over for good. I hope you don’t end up with a bad opinion of us. There are many good people here. I look forward to seeing you and Christine come back to visit us someday.”
“I hope so,” said Brian.
Finally the ambulance arrived. Two men came in with a stretcher. They opened it up and motioned for Brian to lie down on it. He slowly moved from the sofa to the stretcher without standing up. “Thank you, Doctor," said Brian, but looked up at him with the strange feeling that he might never see him again.
“Bring him back alive, boys” said the Doctor.
They lifted the stretcher, went out into the cold air and stuffed Brian into the back of the ambulance as if they were loading a canon. One of the men climbed in after him. The door slammed and soon the ambulance started to move. In a few moments Brian closed his eyes and fell asleep.
When Brian woke up the ambulance was still moving. He looked at the man who was riding with him and said “Hello.”
“Hi” the man answered, “how you feeling?”
“My name is Brian. Who are you?”
“Hi Wallace. They tell me they have to amputate my toes.”
“Is that so.”
“What will they use? Do you know? A meat clever? A chain saw?”
“No. We’re Indians, we use a tomahawk.”
“Oh, well, now that makes sense.” Wallace smiled. Brian fell back to sleep.
The next time he awoke Brian was in a hospital bed. He looked around and there was a nurse standing at a metal table. She had her back turned. Brian said “Hello.”
The nurse turned, came over to him and said “Turn on your side.” He did. She pulled down the sheet, lifted the hospital gown and stuck a needle in his backside. Then she turned, went back to the table and then to a wall phone which she picked up. “Would you tell Dr. Wainwright his patient in 212 is awake?” Then she left the room. A few moments later he could hear Wainwright being paged on the hospital intercom. Brian decided the taciturn nurse was finished with him so he rearranged the gown and drew the sheet back up.
The door opened and a man stepped in wearing a lab coat and a bright blue tie. “Hello Mr. Sims, I’m Doctor Wainwright. How are you feeling?”
“I’m not surprised.”
“I hear you’re going to have to amputate some of my toes.”
“Already been done. And a nice clean job of it if I do say so myself.”
“How many toes did I lose?”
“Two little piggies went to market.”
Brian decided that he was going to like this man. “Why aren’t I feeling any pain there?”
“Oh, you will when the anesthesia wears off, but we’ll give you some pain killer.”
“Doctor, I have insurance that will pay for this but the card is in my wallet which was stolen.”
“Don’t worry. When we get around to it, you just tell us the name of the insurance company and we can take care of it. And by the way, I got a call from Carlos this morning.”
“He’s a good man. We’ve been friends for years. He had some news for you.”
“The two guys who beat you up have been apprehended and are being questioned, and your wallet has been found.”
“Oh, that’s good news.”
“He said that no arrests have been made until they find out which one of them had the club.”
“He also told me that two packages have arrived for you.”
“That will probably be my new cell phone and the money order from my sister. How long must I stay here?”
“I can let you go in a couple of days, but you may need to stay here longer. There’s another issue.”
“I had a visit from the Sanman police this morning. It seems there’s an allegation from some one in Buffalo Gap implicating you in some form of child abuse.”
Brian heaved a dark sigh, “Oh, no, no, no.”
“There’s a young girl involved.”
“No, no, no.”
“Is there any truth to it?”
“No. Not at all. We’re friends. We are survivors of a terrible accident and a desperate trek through the wilderness to safety. We are about as close as two people can be as a result. But we’re just friends. She’s only 10 years old.”
“Well, they want to ask you some questions.”
Poor Christy, Brian thought, if I can’t put an end to this stupid gossip she’s going to be pulled in to something over her head. “I need to have my wallet and my cell phone,” he said.
‘Well,” said Wainwright “I don’t want you moving out of here for another day or two. Let me call Carlos and see what can be done.” He left.
Now Brian was alone and lonely. He wanted to be home, swimming in his pool and working on his script. How far away I am from everything now, he thought. I thought when we reached Buffalo Gap we were safe and secure. The future was certain. And then everything started to fall apart. Now he was in an alien world. Everyone seems to be so nice. Almost everyone. He had enough experience with human skunks to know that you can’t trust everyone to be what they appear to be. But does that mean you can’t trust anyone. Who could be causing this trouble?
He mentally went through all the people he had met since he came out of the wilderness: Father Portera, Fred Walker, Doctor Gonzago, Bridget Hennessey, Carla, Peter Straw, the couple at the pharmacy, the bank teller, Mike at the paper, Wallace in the ambulance, the nurse, Doctor Wainwright. Why would any of them make up this awful lie? Who else was there? I must be leaving someone out. I guess not. But maybe it was Carla; she was the unfriendliest of all. It might be Carla. She was the one who saw us in bed together, or so Bridget told me. But why would she do this?
The door opened and Doctor Wainwright entered. “Well I spoke to Doc Gonzago and he thought maybe he could convince a guy up there to drive down here with your wallet and cell phone and some money that’s owed you.”
“That’ll be the money my sister sent me.”
“He said he might bring the girl also. Is that a smart idea considering?”
“Oh yes. I want to see her and she probably would like to see me also.”
“You, or a nurse, or any other hospital person can be with us the whole time, if you’re worried. When you meet her you’ll see how stupid these rumors are. She’ll charm you.”
“Well, Carlos is getting back to me, so we’ll see. I’ll let you know what he says. In the meantime rest, Mr. Sims, and heal. Did the nurse give you a shot?”
“Good. Well, she’ll be in later to give you something for the pain and tomorrow we’ll change the dressing on your foot and see how you’re doing. How’s your head?”
“Good. Take it easy, Mr. Sims. I’ll see you later.”
The thought of seeing Christy made him happy, for a while. Later his foot began to hurt and he hoped that nurse would come in soon before it got worse. He tried to wiggle the toes that were still on his foot but he couldn’t feel them yet. If Christy came he would have to tell her about the amputation. She would not be pleased. He wondered how she was doing with Fred’s family and if they were getting tired of having her around. He hoped not. Now he didn’t know how things were going to work out getting her to that home. That idea gave him a slight twitch in his stomach. The more he knew her the more he hated to say goodbye to her. A fellow traveler on life’s desperate roads. It’s strange, he thought, His life was good, a nice home, a pool where he swam everyday, a comfortable house, fine art works around, the Romeros to take care of him, a successful career. The only thing missing, the one thing he wanted the most, was someone to love and raise. A child of his own. And there she was, suddenly thrust into his life like a gift. And now he had to let her go. To people who don’t know, don’t love her. And now there are these bad rumors about us. Life is strange, strange and cruel. His foot began to really hurt him badly. He could feel the place where the toes used to be. He hoped that nurse would come soon.
Now Brian thought through who he had to call and what he had to find out. First he would have to get to Tom Wong, tell him about his location in the hospital, find out about his bank account, his contract with Silverstone. He would have to tell him about being beaten up and the rumors being spread about him, his scheduled interview by the local police. He would have to find out if Tom had received that contract from the folks in Connecticut about the orphanage and if he had read it. Then he had to call Myron Bloom at Silverstone to explain his delay in getting back to him. He should also call the Romeros. He couldn’t figure out how to pay them if his bank account was still frozen. Maybe Louise can help out there. I have too much trouble, he thought. I’m sure Christy is in good hands with Fred and his family, but still I worry about her. How tragic that a simple plane ride could turn into so much trouble for everyone. He thought about the other passengers and what their families must be going through, dealing with the sudden loss of important people to them. Everything about life right now was bleak and barren..
And now his foot was raging with pain. Why hasn’t that nurse come back? Here I am at everyone’s mercy. My whole life is in the hands of other people. I feel so completely helpless.
Just then the door opened and the nurse entered without a word. Ah, at last, he thought. But she put something on the table at the side, turned around and left. Brian was beginning to get very angry, but he didn’t want to lash out at the nurse, or anyone else. He just silently raged at the injustice and total unconcern of the universe for human suffering.
Shortly after, the nurse returned went to the table. Brian’s eyes were on her as she came over to the bed, lifted up the sheet and stuck a needle into his ankle. This nurse is not gentle, he thought. A few moments after she left the pain in his foot began to subside, calmness came over him. He began to feel at peace and didn’t care about anything any more. It will all work itself out somehow, he said to himself, and gradually he fell asleep
Brian slept off and on, fitfully, not from pain but from anxiety. He felt so helpless and vulnerable, and so alone. He felt as if things were going on that he should put a stop to and yet here he was confined to a hospital bed, forced to stay until he could walk on his own feet again. He remembered Fred asking Christy if she could walk on her own two feet after she recovered from the sprained ankle. He smiled. I hope she’s okay, he thought. I really need that cell phone, and my wallet. I can’t do anything unless I can call people. He closed his eyes and sighed a great fearful sigh, I have no choice but to wait, he said. I hate it.
When next he woke he was walking in a long precession down the aisle of a huge cathedral. Those in front turned and filled up seats at the side. When he reached the front he turned to follow them, but he was ushered up onto the stage. There were men in academic robes standing there and one of them came over to him and draped a colorful ribbon around his neck with a medallion hanging from the front of it. The man stepped back and everyone began to applaud. Someone motioned him to the lectern. He stepped up to it and looked out upon the huge ovation he was receiving from the audience. He saw Christy sitting in the front row, with a big smile on her face and clapping with the rest. When the ovation finally subsided he spoke.
“Let innocence live in every heart and mind. Trust, compassion, hope.
Those are the keys to our future, or we have no future. Never give them up.” The people cheered. He heard the cheers, but now he was walking on a path outside the building, alone.
He opened his eyes as someone entered the room. It was a young man from the hospital bringing him a breakfast. Brian sat up and accepted the tray. He thanked the man who then left. Brian looked down at a small cardboard container of orange juice with a plastic cover, a dish with a poached egg and a bit of what looked like ham, a roll with a pad of butter on a cardboard dish, and something in a covered plastic cup. He buttered the roll and ate it, drank the orange juice and contemplated eating the egg.
After a while the nurse came back, gave him another shot in his ankle and then took the breakfast tray from his lap, and left with it. It’s a good thing I ate the roll, he thought.
Later, Doctor Wainwright returned, greeted him and then with the nurse's help undid the bandages from Brian’s foot. “Not bad,” he said. “Are you athletically inclined, Mr. Sims?”
“I used to be. I’m an avid swimmer but most of it is in my own pool. When I’m there I swim every day. Why?”
“You’re very healthy. You foot is healing rapidly, but don’t go putting it in water right away.”
Brian smiled, “It was putting it in water that got me into trouble in the first place.”
“It was a frozen lake, only we didn’t know it. Trying to walk on it my foot went through the ice.”
“Ouch. But that shouldn’t be enough to make you lose your toes.”
“Well, that came after 10 days of walking through the icy wilderness. My feet hurt most of the way.”
“Wow. Carlos told me you came in from the mountains but he didn’t tell me it was 10 days. How did you survive?”
“We stayed together and we kept moving.”
“Oh. The girl.”
“Doctor Gonzago said he saved the foot.”
“That he did, that he did. Well, I’m going to check it out once more tomorrow morning, but I think we can let you go then. I’ll let the authorities know.”
Doctor Wainwright and the nurse left the room. Brian was perplexed. What questions were the police going to ask him? he wondered. No doubt it had something to do with Christy, And how does it involve the Sanman police? There are facts and there are rumors. Rumors are based on facts that have been misread. Rumors lead to lies and then the lies are believed. He had seen it so many times with the movie stars he knew. Once the rumors start they have a life of their own. They follow their victims like predatory beasts. Am I sturdy enough to fight these lies and survive them? Is Christy? He dreaded talking to the local police, but then he thought maybe it would be an opportunity to put an end to all suspicion. I hope so, he said.
Later that morning Brian was so distraught over the events that were creeping up on him that he couldn’t stay put. I need to stand up and move around, he thought. He pulled back the bed covers and carefully got to his feet. It felt refreshing to stand up even with an injured foot. While he was standing there the nurse came in with a small white cup.
“How are you?” she asked.
“Okay, thanks. It feels good to stand.”
“The Doctor wants you to take these.”
She handed the cup to Brian and then pulled another cup from the dispenser. She filled it with water from the tap and brought it to him.
“Why didn’t you let me finish my breakfast?” Brian asked.
“Sorry. I thought you were finished.”
Brian tipped the cup of pills into his mouth, held them under his tongue and drank the water. The nurse took the two cups from him, crumpled them, tossed them into the trash container and left. Brian fished the paper cup out of the trash and spit the two pills into it. He didn’t trust her. He got back into the bed hiding the cup of pills under the pillow.
Time went by and Doctor Wainwright returned. “Nurse Moriah told me that you were standing up. How did it feel?”
“It felt good. My legs were stiff.”
“How’s the foot?”
“Much better thanks.”
“Good. I came to tell you that I got a call from Carlos. He told me that someone from The Gap is driving down today with your wallet and other things. He’ll be here this afternoon.”
“Oh, that’s great news.” Brian smiled. “Thank you.”
“I’ll be around when he gets here.”
The Doctor left and Brian settled back on his bed. It’s probably Fred, he thought. I hope Christy is with him. It would be so refreshing to see her again. Brian closed his eyes to nap, when he suddenly opened them and sat up. “The name! The name! What is it about the name?” he said.
Now Brian was up and walking around again. He didn’t care that his foot was sensitive, his mind was spinning. Why is the name familiar to me, he thought? And what connection does it have with Buffalo Gap, if any? It’s a common name, but not that common, where have I heard it before? He mentally ran through all the places he had been since they finally came out of the wilderness. St. Andrew’s and Father Portera, Fred and the trip in to town, the Doctor’s office, B’s Ranch and the two women, Christy’s nightmare, the pharmacist and his wife, the bank teller. Peter Straw and Mike at the newspaper office, all the phone calls he made from there, meeting Fred again at Bridget’s, the attack, the Doctor’s office, the ambulance with Wallace, waking up in the hospital bed where he was now. What am I missing? What am I leaving out?
He kept running through all of the events in his head until, at last, he stopped pacing as the missing piece fell into place. Ah! That could be it, he thought. That could well be it. Why didn’t I think of it right away, first thing? I must talk to Doctor Gonzago, the nurse and maybe even Bridget. Who is innocent and who is not? He lay back down on the bed, the pacing and figuring had worn him out. I think I can sleep now, he said to himself. And he did.
Later that day he woke up and saw on the side table a tray with something wrapped up in paper, a cup with a lid on it and an orange. Lunch, he guessed. He rose, unwrapped a tuna salad sandwich and bit into it. He was hungry. The container turned out to be coffee. “Thank heaven” he said. There were the small containers of milk and sugar on the side. He opened them, dumped some into the cup and sipped it. The coffee went right to his aching head and he remembered the cup Father Portera had made for him so many days, not so many days, ago. He finished the sandwich and the coffee but he removed the orange and put it under his pillow next to the pills. He didn’t want the nurse taking it away.
The door opened, Doctor Wainwright and the nurse stepped in. Wainwright asked, “How are you feeling?”
“Good. You have visitors.” He held the door open and in rushed Christy followed by Fred.
“Brian!” Christy ran over and wrapped her arm over him and put her head on his chest. “Are you okay?”
“How’s your head?”
“How’s your foot?”
“My foot is okay but I have to tell you that they had to amputate two of my toes.”
“You mean they cut them off?” Christy was shocked.
“Aw! Why did they have to do that?”
“It’s okay, Christy, it saved my foot. Better to lose a few toes than a whole foot.”
“I guess so. I’m sorry Brian.”
Then Brian said, “Hello Fred.”
“Hi Brian, good to see you’re doing okay.”
“Thanks. This is Doctor Wainwright. He’s the one who is taking care of me.”
“Are you the one who cut off his toes?” asked Christy.
"Yes, I’m afraid so.”
The nurse started to clear away the lunch tray when Brian stopped her.
“Yes.” She was smiling. She wasn’t her usual cold, abrupt self.
“Did I hear the Doctor say that your last name is Moriah?”
“Are you any relation to Officer Moriah of the Buffalo Gap police department?”
There was silence. The nurse looked at him with suspicion. Now she wasn’t smiling. There was a long pause. But there were three other people in the room waiting for her answer. Finally she spoke.
“He’s my brother.”
“Is that the policeman who asked me a lot of questions?” Christy wondered.
“Probably” said Brian. “Did your brother tell you I was coming down here for surgery?”
“Yes” replied the nurse.
“Did he describe the rumors that have been plaguing me?”
“And did you believe them?”
“Well, yes, I did.”
“And did you inform the Sanman police about them?”
Nurse Moriah didn’t answer but bowed her head and looked down. She didn’t need to deny it. It was obvious to everyone. Finally she uttered “Sorry,” and left the room.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Sims” said Doctor Wainwright. “I will assign a different nurse to you.”
“If you think it’s necessary” said Brian.
“I would prefer it.”
“Well, whatever you say Doctor.”
“Well, I’ll leave you three to catch up on things and be back later.” He left.
“So Fred, how did this all come about?”
“It was Mike, from the paper.”
“MIKE? Mike beat me up?”
“No, no.” Fred laughed. “Mike was walking home late, through the fog, and he heard a conversation between two guys who were coming down the sidewalk the other way. He heard them talking about what they did to you. So he stepped into the street where the fog hid him and listened. One of them called the other by name and Mike recognized him. So he told the police. They took that guy in, who fingered the other one, who told them where the wallet was. It turns out they put it in the dumpster right next to where you fell.
“That was the crash I heard,” said Christy. “And I thought you fell against it and hit your head.”
“So where are those guys now?”
“Oh, they’re both in custody. They’re both booked for theft, since they took your money, but the cops want to know which one used the club. That’s a more severe offense.”
Fred reached into a bag, started removing things from it and handing them to Brian. “By the way, here’s you wallet, and your cell phone, you’ll have to assemble it. I hope there’s a battery in there. Here’s $400 dollars Pete Straw says he got for you.”
“That’s the money from my sister, bless her.”
“And here’s the paper. You’re front page news.”
Brian took the paper and read the headline: TWO BRAVE SURVIVORS COME TO TOWN Underneath it read; Buffalo Gap, February 9. Brian Sims, 70 and Christine Flynn, 10 walked together through 20 miles of fierce freezing icy weather, with no food and with injuries, to make it to safety here in Buffalo Gap, after being thrown from the Trinat Airliner that crashed on January 24th into Bennet Mountain. The story went on to describe the ordeal in just the terms Brian had given him. At the bottom it read: Peter Straw, Editor. “We’re celebrities Christy. Did you read this?”
“Yup. We're a scoop.”
‘So what’s been going on?”
“Guess what” she said.
“They took me to see the buffalo.”
“Oh. Did you like that?”
“Yeah. They’re really cool. They’re kinda scary, cause they’re so big. But they don’t do much. They just walk around and nibble at the ground. One came over to the fence where we were standing.”
“Was that scary?”
“No, he just came to look at us. I touched him on the head.”
“Did he appreciate that?”
“I don’t know” she giggled.
“I’ll bet he did."
“Did you know they’re really called Bison?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Nuts! I thought I was going to tell you something you didn’t know.”
“Oh, Christy there are a lot of things I don’t know. I’m sure you’ll find some. So what else?”
“Then we went to the reservation and met Fred’s cousins.”
“Was that fun?”
“Yup. It was neat. I like the way they live. It’s so interesting. It’s like an old, simple way they live. I liked it. And I met the chief.”
Brian was surprised, “Really! Chief Running Bear? You met him?”
“What was he like?”
“Well, he was a little scary too, but he was very nice. He talked to me. We talked.”
“She charmed the feathers off of him” said Fred.
“I’m sure she did.”
“He said to come back again” said Christy. “He knows all about the plane crash and he knows about you and he said that you should come and visit too.”
“Well, I would like to if I can ever get back there.”
“How long will you have to stay here?” asked Fred.
“I don’t know. It depends on what the Sanman police want with me.”
“When do they want to see you?”
“As soon as I check out of here. But Wainwright said I can stay until I’m ready to see them. First I have to call my lawyer in LA. I want his input before I go see the cops.”
Brian had a thought. “Christy, would you do me a big favor and step out into the hall for just a minute, and close the door?”
“I want to talk with Fred about something for a minute.”
“I’ll tell you later, and you know I will. If you do it I’ll give you a reward.”
“Well, you’ll see when you get back.”
“Okay.” She left the room shaking her head back and forth with an I-don’t-like-this expression.
When she was gone Brian asked, “Fred, tell me honestly. Is she being a pest?”
“No” said Fred, “Absolutely not. She’s a delight to have around.”
“She isn’t a burden on you in terms of space, cost or anything?”
“None at all. We’re happy to have her there. The kids love her, Nina loves her, I love her.
Don’t worry about a thing, Brian. She’s safe with us.”
“Christy!” Brian called.
She came back in. “What’s the big secret?”
“I asked Fred to give me a report on your behavior over there?”
“What did he say?”
“He said you were a terrible brat and he was going to kick you out any minute.” Fred laughed.
“He did not.”
“No, he didn’t. He gave you a good report. Here.” Brian reached under the pillow, took out the orange and handed it to her.
She took it with a big grin, “Thanks.” Christy started to peel the orange, then took it over to the sink to finish.
“Christy, take a paper towel in case you squirt yourself in the face” he said.
While Brian was unwrapping the cell phone and battery and setting it up to operate, Fred was talking. “Well, I hope you can get back soon. Folks there are concerned aboutcha. Doctor Gonzago for one. Pete and Mike at the paper were asking how you were. And I stopped by at Bridget’s place and saw her and Carla.
“Carla, Ew!” said Christy.
“Now don’t be too hard on her. You don’t know her story?”
“No” said Brian.
“Well, she’s an only child. Her mother died giving birth. She was brought up by her father who was abusive to her in every possible way. She left home when she was about 15, knocked around for years and finally ended up in Buffalo Gap where Bridget took her in, gave her a job and a place to live. So, as a result of her childhood, I guess, she has a problem dealing with older men.
“Well” said Brian “that explains a lot of things.”
“But why did she say that Brian was dead?” asked Christy.
“She probably thought he was. I’m sure she’s seen dead people. While I was at Bridget’s Carla seemed to be sorry about what happened to you. I think she is. She doesn’t have many friends. She probably talked to one of ‘em about her suspicions and one thing led to another.”
“Well, I’ll be willing to talk to her if she wants to talk to me.”
“That’s probably a good idea. What do you think, Christy?”
“Probly. I don’t know.”
Brian pushed a button on his cell phone and got a dial tone, so he went to his address menu and clicked on the name of Thomas Wong. “Hello, this is Brain Sims. Is he in?...Would you please tell him I’m on the line and I’m in a lot of trouble?...Hi Tom…I’m in a hospital in Sanman, Arizona. They had to amputate two of my toes...Yes, but I was also beaten up...Someone hit me with a club and knocked me out...Yes...The thing is that the police here want to question me. I don’t know what it’s about but I suspect they want to ask me about what my real relationship here. I think that’s why I got hit in the head. There are rumors being spread about that and about whether or not I was really on the plane that crashed. It seems no one believes me because supposedly all the bodies were recovered...Yes, I think there is...Well, the doctor said I could be released tomorrow...I don’t know, probably...Really?...Wendy Klein...Do I know her?...Oh, yes, I remember that...I don’t know, but, if so, I’ll ask the doctor here. His name is Wainwright...West African what?...The West African Charitable Fund?...Children’s Fund...I don’t know, maybe, I give to a lot of charities if they sound worthy...Oh, no...No, no, no...You can’t trust anybody these day…And what is the result?...Uh huh...Well, that’s a relief...Pulled some strings, did you?...What about Silverstone?...They still love me, do they?...As soon as I get back to my computer...Tom, did you get that contract from Connecticut?...Yes...Saint Jane’s Home For Girls.”
Christy looked up and nodded.
“Yes, that’s the one, she’s nodding...She’s right here...Really...But that doesn’t include me...Well, I’m willing to do that myself, and I told them so. But if I see that she’s delivered there that shouldn’t have to happen, does it?...What is it?...Really?...Do they have a phone number?...Well, you can find it, can’t you?...Well, when you do tell me and I’ll call them and tell them she’s alive and on her way...”
Christy was staring at the floor with a sad look on her face.
“Tom. Please make sure Ms. Klein has my cell phone number. It’s the only way she can reach me...Thanks Tom...Bye.” He hung up. “Well” he said “that’s a lot of information to process.”
“Sounded like it” said Fred.
“Tom got my bank account opened. It seems I gave some money to help starving children in Africa and most of the money was siphoned off to support a guerilla rebel group fighting the government. I don’t know whether their cause is good or bad. It may be a good one but the CIA doesn’t think so. They froze the accounts of everyone who had contributed to the charity. Naturally being in the film business I am very suspect in their eyes. But Tom pulled some strings and got me out of the investigation. What a relief!”
The door opened and a bright, cheerful nurse entered. “Hi. I’m Serena, your new nurse.” She came over to the bed.
“Hi Serena. These are two friends, Fred and Christy. Where’s the other…”
“Hush up” she said and stuck a thermometer in his mouth. Then she took his pulse. Brian thought, not only is she nice, she even seems to care about me. She took the thermometer out, looked at and said “Is there anything I can get you, Mr. Sims?”
“No thanks, Serena, but I would like to see Doctor Wainwright for just a minute.”
“Okay, I’ll tell him. Nice to meet you folks” and she was out the door.
Brian laughed. “Well isn’t she a breath of fresh air?”
“She is,” said Fred.
“Tom said he was sending his Associate to be with me when I see the police, so I have to try to stay in here until she gets to town.”
“What did he say about that home?” asked Christy.
“It’s a bit strange, Christy. Evidently it’s not associated with the Catholic Church or any church. It’s an independent order of nuns dedicated to bringing up girls in a religious life but not a cloistered one. It sounds okay. They don’t have a web site and the phone number usually just takes messages. But I’ll call and leave them a message and leave my number and we’ll see what happens.”
“Do you think they would let me have Flicker?”
“Who’s Flicker?" asked Fred.
“That I can’t tell you, Christy. You’ll probably have to ask them when you get there.”
“Okay” she said sadly.
Then Brian dialed another number. “Hello, it’s Brian Sims, is Myron available?...Hello Myr-...I’m in a hospital, that’s what the hell is going on...They had to amputate some toes...Well, it was either that or lose a foot...I don’t know, I have to see the local police tomorrow...I don’t know what for...Well, there are rumors going around, I guess they need to find out the facts. I was also beaten up by a couple of thugs...Yes, fortunately...Yes, Myron, I know you do...Well, it’s on my computer, I told you...As soon as I get back home...Yes, with the edits...Please be patient Myron. Have I ever let you down? Don’t answer that...Thanks Myron, Tom Wong is sending one of his Associates out here tomorrow to help me...Really? What for?...A SAG Contract?...No kidding...Okay, but just don’t mess around with my union...I will...Very good...Yes, Myron, I will...I promise...Myron...Myron, you’re being a Jewish Mother....Okay!...I will. I promise...Bye.” He hung up.
“What’s a sag contract?” asked Christy.
“SAG stands for the Screen Actors Guild. It’s the actors union”
“Mr. Bloom is negotiating a new contract, representing the producer’s side.”
Brian knew he had to call the Saint Jane’s Home For Girls but he was putting it off. It meant a troublesome change for him and also, he imagined, for Christy.
His phone chimed. “Maybe this is Tom” he said “Hello...Oh hi Sis. Where are you?...How’s Jason?...Good. How are things there?...Are the Romeros still there?...Okay, I finally got my bank account unfrozen so as soon as I get to a bank I can send them a money order for what I owe them plus a little for their patience. Meantime can you take care of anything that comes up?...Right...I’m in the hospital...They had to amputate two of my toes...They had to do that or I would lose a foot...har,-har-very-funny...I don’t know for sure. The police want to talk to me about something...I don’t know yet...No, I haven’t been a bad boy...Stop it...There’s a lawyer coming up here to be with me when I do...No, I’m in a different place, Sanman, it’s not far...Yes I have to get back there before we leave...Christy, the youngster I told you about...My boss said he would send a plane to take us back to LA...Stick around, Sis, enjoy LA. I need to talk with you anyway. I have an idea for a Sci-Fi film about a tribe of prehistoric people...Yes, I figured with your background you might know one or two facts that I might find useful, if you can remember any, of course...Maybe. Besides, I have to tell you all about our trip through the wilderness...Great. Thank you, Sis...So, I hope to see you soon...I love you, Sis...Bye.”
“What was very funny?” Fred wanted to know.
“She said I could afford to lose a foot, I’m too tall already.”
“My sister Louise and I have had a very close but comical relationship ever since I pulled her half dead from a cave full of water.”
“It sounds like you have a talent for saving people in distress” said Fred.
“So it seems. I was married to one of them briefly.”
“Who was that?” asked Christy.
“Her name was Cindy. She was also an orphan.”
“Oh, she decided that she preferred someone else’s company.”
“Aw. I’m sorry.”
“Thank you, Christy. But...”
The door opened and Doctor Wainwright stuck his head in. “You wanted to see me?”
“Yes” said Brian. “It’s just there’s a lawyer coming in from LA to be with me when I talk to the police. But she won’t be here until probably tomorrow afternoon. Is there any chance I could stay here one more night?”
“Well, I’ve already told the authorities that you’d be released tomorrow. But, uh, maybe I can hold them off. But only for one night. There’s a big storm coming and we will probably get some accident victims.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” Wainwright left.
Now Brian made the call he didn’t want to make. He dialed. “Hello. My name is Brian Sims and I’m calling in regard to Christine Flynn who was supposed to come to your home but was detained in a plane crash. She is alive and well and, right now, she’s in a small town in Utah. We will be coming to Los Angeles soon and I will see that she gets there. Please call me back to confirm that you got this message. Thank you.” Brian gave the cell phone number twice then hangs up.
Christy heaved a sigh. She felt she had turned a corner in her life, into a dark place.
Nurse Serena popped her head back in the door and said “Visiting time is over in a minute, folks.”
“Thank you” said Fred.
“Well Fred, thank you for coming down to see me, for bringing my things and the paper. And a double thank you for bringing Christy with you.”
“Do we have to go back now?” asked Christy.
“Yes, you do” said Brian.
“Can’t I stay with you?”
“No Christy, the hospital needs all of its beds. Hopefully I’ll be out of here in a couple of days and I’ll get back to the Gap.”
“Okay” she said, but she wasn’t happy.
Shortly after they left Brian’s cell phone rang. “Hello...Yes...Oh yes, Mother Magda...Yes I did...Well, no she’s not. She’s alive and well and is in a small town in Utah...I know. But it’s not true. She survived the plane crash...Because I was with her at the time...I was also a passenger on that plane. We both survived...Because it took us almost two weeks to get to a phone...Trying to get out of the wilderness and back into civilization...Well, it’s a long story but we had to walk through the snow and ice to get there...Yes we were...No we were the only survivors...NO!...Mother Magda I did NOT kidnap her...Well that’s not the way it was...Trying to get out of here and back to Los Angeles...No...She’s still in Utah...Waiting for me to take her back to LA...I’m in a hospital...I had to have some surgery done, but I should be able to get out of her in a day or two...I know...Why?...I know but if I bring her to you why should they have to pay it?...I understand, but they can’t afford to pay...But if I reimburse you for the flight and the gas that should take care of it, shouldn’t it?...When I bring her there you can tell me how much it is and I’ll write you a check...Why not?...Christine Flynn...Why do you doubt it?” Brian laughed...”Yes, but that was before they found out that she was still alive...It was on the contract...Because her relatives gave it to me...Why?...Why will it cost more?...I thought it was free...What damage?...I haven’t done her any damage...” Brian heard the words “registration fee” and he didn’t like the sound of it. “Mother Magda, why don’t you give me your address and we can discuss that when we get there...Why not?...But how am I supposed to get her there if I don’t know where you are?...All right, I’ll do that.” Mother Magda hung up.
Brian was very irritated over that phone call and the nasty behavior of Mother Magda. If intelligence is divine,‘tis folly to be ignorant, he thought. He got up and paced back and forth until Serena entered with some dinner. She greeted him cheerfully. Brian realized how hungry he was and settled back on the bed to eat.
“Is there anything else I can get you, Mr. Sims?”
“No thank you, Serena, but thank you for asking.”
“Well, I’m going off duty now. I’ll see you tomorrow. Good night.”
When he had finished eating he got up and walked around some more, trying to get used to the feeling of walking without all of his toes. He didn’t know what the cops were going to talk to him about but, as he paced back and forth, he went through all of the past several day’s events that he could remember. He hoped that the lawyer Wong was sending would help him bring a close to whatever it was and allow him to move on with his life. He slept off an on that night.
Before dawn he was awakened by a dream. He was in the pilot’s seat of a small two person aircraft. Christy was sitting in the seat behind him. The plane was moving along the ground, preparing for take off. But Brian was frustrated because he didn’t know how to fly the plane. It kept traveling like a car down the runway and back up again. Brian was looking at the controls of the plane but couldn’t figure it out. Everything was strange to him. He pulled levers and switches. He pushed pedals. He tried everything he could but the plane stayed on the ground. Then he heard Christy say “Brian, when are we going to fly?”
The dream depressed him. He glanced around at the hospital room and felt like he was in a prison. He got up and paced around some more. Then he tried to go back to sleep. It was no use. He lay in bed and stared at the ceiling, his mind turning over all the troubles he had been through. He was looking forward to the day. But the day brought another unpleasant surprise.
Brian waited with great expectation all day for the arrival of the lawyer from Wong’s office. But by the mid-afternoon she had still not come. He thought of calling Wong to find out what had happened but he thought better of it. He didn’t want to be a pest. He knew Tom Wong. If he said she was going to be here than she would be. Still he wondered how he was going to deal with the police by himself. He was prepared to answer any questions he imagined they might ask him, but he also wasn’t sure what they wanted with him. It was a very frustrating experience waiting and not knowing what would happen.
Finally, at about 3:30 his phone rang. It was Wendy Klein, the attorney, explaining that she was still in LA. The plane never took off because of the bad weather. All the flights to the southwest had been postponed. But she would get there as soon as possible. He told her he would be waiting at the Sanman Memorial Hospital. She assured him that she was coming and would deal with whatever it was when she got there.
Now Brian was frightened. He didn’t want to have to deal with the police alone. But that is what he would have to do. The thought of it gave him a terrible pain in his stomach. He reassured himself that he hadn’t done anything wrong and therefore had nothing to fear. But he felt helpless. He wanted to go to sleep and not wake up.
But he did wake up and the next morning he got up and got dressed. Serena brought him a breakfast and said “You’ll be checking out today Mr. Sims?”
“Yes, Serena. I’ve got to go.”
“Well, you take care of yourself, and stay well.”
He ate as much breakfast as he could, gathered up his things and left the hospital room for good. He went to the desk where the head nurse went through the paper work, examined his insurance card and ushered him into a waiting room. Not long after, Doctor Wainwright entered with two policemen.
“How are you feeling Mr. Sims?” asked the Doctor.
“Okay. I guess I’m ready to go.”
“Well, take care.”
“Thank you for everything Doctor.” They shook hands.
“Well, these two men want to talk to you, so I’ll leave you to them. Bye.”
The Doctor left and one of the policemen said “Brian Sims?”
“Come with us please.”
At first Brian was feeling humiliated walking out between two policemen. He didn’t want to be seen going down the halls of a hospital in the charge of cops. But then he changed the scenario and began to think of them as a police escort, as two armed body guards. That made him smile, stand up tall and feel important.
When they stepped outside he was hit in the face by a strong wind bringing stabs of freezing rain against his face. That brought back the disturbing memory of carrying Christy through the ice storm on the last day of their fearful journey. So much had happened in the few days since then, most of it unpleasant. Now he was faced with a different picture of the same dilemma.
All he wished was to get back to LA, get Christy settled in her new home, straighten out all the financial matters, see that the Romeros were taken care of, get back to work on his script and go for a swim in his pool. But here he was, still stuck in a strange town and heading for a police car. How can life have dealt such a weird and difficult hand? He felt like shouting out to the sky again: I HAVE TOO MUCH TROUBLE!
He got into the back of the car with one of the two police officers and they turned out into the traffic. Traveling was slow because of the extreme weather. Brian wanted to ease the situation for himself by making small talk.
“You guys aren’t used to this kind of weather usually, are you?”
“Now and then” said the one beside him.
“I live in LA. We never see stuff like this.”
“Is that so.” The cop was not interested in talk.
The police radio squawked now and then with a woman’s voice uttering information in an inscrutable language only the police can understand.
Finally, after an immeasurable amount of time, during which Brian was getting more nervous, they reached the station house. They both got out and ushered Brian in the door and past a front desk. They entered a room with fluorescent lights overhead and people sitting at typewriters and computer screens. He was taken into a bare and private room with a table and some chairs and told to have a seat. Then the cops left and closed the door.
After another long stretch of time a man entered wearing a business suit. “Good morning, Mr. Sims, I’m Detective Ross. How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you. Can you tell me what this is about?”
“Sure. We’re just waiting for an inspector to get here. He’s probably hung up by the weather. Would you like a cup of coffee?”
“I would, yes, thank you. And may I smoke?"
“Sure.” He left.
“A few moments later the door opened, a woman entered bearing a cardboard cup with a lid on it. She placed it on the table and left. Brian eased the lid off. It was black coffee. He didn’t take his coffee black but he wasn’t going to complain. It was very hot. He let it cool, looked around for an ash try. There was none in this spare and empty room, but he lit up anyway using the lid for his ashes.
Brian looked up at the Seth Thomas on the wall. It was now 10:50. He wondered where the attorney was. He wondered where Christy was and what she was doing. He wondered what the police wanted with him. His nervousness was overwhelming him. It was turning into fear. He wanted to put his head down on the table and go to sleep. But he took a sip of the still hot coffee and lit another cigarette.
Another half an hour went by and then the door opened and Detective Ross entered with another man also wearing a suit. They sat down at the table across from Brian.
“Mr. Sims this is Inspector Stanger from the FBI and we’d like to ask you some questions.”
“What brings you to Sanman, Mr. Sims?”
“I came to the hospital here to have some surgery done.”
“What sort of surgery?”
“I had to have some toes amputated.”
“Is that so?”
“What was wrong with the toes that they needed to be amputated?”
“Severe frost bite.”
“Severe frost bite. And how did that happen?”
“It was the result of a long trek through extremely bad weather conditions.”
“Weren’t you wearing boots?”
“Yes, I was, but at one point I accidentally put my foot through a frozen lake and that probably did it for the toes.”
“Why were you out walking in the bad weather, Mr. Sims?”
“I was a survivor of a plane crash and had to walk a long distance to get to civilization.”
“Ah yes.” Detective Ross took a piece of paper from his pocket. “That would be Trinat Air, flight 451 out of New York bound for Los Angeles, which crashed on Bennet Mountain on January 24th of this year. Is that correct?”
“I believe it is, yes.”
“According to Trinat Air there were 108 people aboard that plane, passengers and crew, and 108 bodies were recovered from the wreckage. You weren’t on board that flight, were you Mr. Sims?”
“I can’t account for the tallying of bodies. There must be a miscalculation of some kind. But I was on the plane and I survived the crash.”
“Were you the only survivor, Mr. Sims?
“No there was at least one other.”
“And do you know who that was?”
“Yes. It was a child. A young girl.”
“How did it happen that the two of you survived and no one else did?"
“We were both at the back of the aircraft when it broke up.”
“You were together?”
“Yes.” Brian slipped. “No, we weren’t together. I was sitting at the back of the plane working on some papers and she was in the rest room.”
“How did you know that?”
“That’s what she told me.”
“So the two of you had some communication between you.”
“Yes. After the accident.”
“Where did you meet her?”
“On the side of the mountain. I dug her out of the snow.”
“All right. Now let me get this straight. You claim that you were aboard this flight, even though Trinat says you weren’t. The girl was in the rest room while you were still in the seat and then somehow you were both magically thrust from the plane when it broke apart on the mountain top and that you ‘dug her out of the snow.’ And then what, the two of you walked arm in arm through the wilderness to civilization and on the way you put your foot into some cold water and so you had to have your toes amputated. That’s the story you both agree on, is it?”
Brian was not going to respond to that question.
“All right Mr. Sims, what’s the name of this child?”
“And how old is she?”
Then FBI Inspector Stanger spoke up. “It’s this Christine Flynn that interests me.”
“Probably” said Brian. “She an interesting person.”
Brian wished he hadn’t said that.
Just at that moment the door opened and in walked an attractive woman with shoulder length gray hair wearing a stylish slack suit with a small American flag medal pinned to her lapel. She draped her coat over an empty chair next to Brian, propped her briefcase down on the table and said “Good day gentlemen. I’m Wendy Klein, attorney with the Law firm of Wong and Schaeffer, Los Angeles, California and I’m here to represent Brian Sims.” She pulled out the chair and sat down. She folded her hands on the table in front of her and said “Now. What’s going on?”
Brian was impressed by her demeanor and by how the attitudes of the two men changed after she entered.
“Welcome Councilor. I’m Detective Ross from the Sanman Police and this is Inspector Stanger of the FBI. We are simply investigating a few matters involving your client.”
“What are they?’ she asked.
“Well, first of all, there’s the matter of whether Mr. Sims was aboard a Trinat Jet that crashed in the mountains a few weeks ago. He says he was but the airline says he wasn’t. And then his strange, sudden appearance in Buffalo Gap, a village just north of here, with a young girl who he claims was also on board that flight. We want to know where they came from and what their relationship is. I must tell you that a representative of Trinat Air is expected in town this weekend and a hearing has been scheduled for Monday morning here in Sanman.”
“I see. Do you have any evidence to support the claim that Mr. Sims was not aboard the plane?”
“Yes. We have a sworn statement from Trinat that the bodies of all the passengers and crew on the flight were recovered.”
“May I have a copy of that statement please?”
“I’m sorry but it isn’t presently in our possession. The judge has it.”
“You will please see that I get a copy or there will be no hearing.”
There was silence in the room. After a moment Detective Ross stood and left.
“Now Inspector Stanger” she went on “what is your interest in Mr. Sims.”
“The Bureau is looking into another matter.”
“I’m not at liberty to discuss it.”
“Stanger, I will not abide any obfuscation. One phone call and my boss, Thomas Wong, will go right over your head to find out. Do you understand?”
“It has to do with the relationship between Mr. Sims and a young girl.”
“What sort of relationship?”
Inspector Stanger was squirming. “A sexual relationship.”
“And what’s your evidence for that?”
“Only what we’ve heard. But we are launching a full scale investigation. If there is any evidence we will find it. It may also involve kidnapping and transporting a minor across state lines for immoral purposes. I suggest you just deal with the airline problem and stay out of the rest of it.”
“Oh, you do? Well, Mr. Stanger, we will do our own investigation about those suspicions. And if you get in the way of it you will go to court.”
Just then Detective Ross came back into the room and said “I spoke with the judge’s office. His clerk is making a copy of the airline’s statement and sending it over.”
“Good” she said. “Now where is the court where this hearing will take place?”
“Right next door.”
“At 9 a.m. Monday you said?”
The door opened and a young woman entered with two sheets of paper and handed them to Detective Ross and then left, closing the door. Ross looked over the papers and then handed them to Councilor Klein who glanced at them.
“Thank you” she said. “Now if you have no further questions for my client I suggest you adjourn this meeting and let Mr. Sims and I discuss these issues.”
Ross looked at Stanger who nodded,
“Very well” said Detective Ross. “But I must instruct you not to leave town or a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest.”
“Does not leaving town include going back to Buffalo Gap where I’m staying?”
“No, you may return to Gap just so long as you’re here Monday morning.”
“We’ll be here” said Wendy Klein and she and Brian stood up and left the room.
On the way back to Buffalo Gap Wendy Klein explained how her plane took off shortly after her call to him, how it landed at Flagstaff, how she rented a car and drove all night to the hospital only to find out he was already at the police station. Then she got down to business and asked him how those situations developed. He told her about the plane crash, finding Christy, the long terrible journey through the wilderness, the injuries, Father Portera at Saint Andrew’s, Buffalo Gap, Doctor Gonzago, Bridgett Hennessey and her rooming house, Carla, Fred, Peter Straw and Mike at the paper, the beating, the loss of his toes, Christy and Saint Jane’s Home For Girls. She said that she wanted to talk to all of those people, including Christy.
“I think you’ll like them” said Brian. “They’re all good people.”
Coming into Buffalo Gap, Brian felt glad, almost as if he was home. If it weren’t for the nervousness he had over the pending police investigation he might be happy. He kept telling himself that he knew he was innocent of all wrong doing but he also knew how things could be turned around and made to look differently from what they were. He had written scripts about that very thing.
They went first to Bridgett’s place who welcomed them with a big grin. “Well, Brian, you’re back in town at last. Did you lose something down there?”
“A couple of toes.”
“Well, you’ve still got the rest of you, I see. And who’s this?”
“Meet Wendy Klein, my attorney.”
“Welcome Ms. Klein.”
“Glad to meet you Ms. Hennessey.”
“It’s Bridgett to you, if you don’t mind.”
“And it’s Wendy to you, if YOU don’t mind.”
“Good Wendy. Would you be needing a place to stay?”
“You can have Brian’s room. He’s not in it any more. I had to move himself to a cabin out the back. Is Christy coming back here?”
“I hope so” said Brian.
“Good. Then you’ll have to share the bathroom with her Wendy. She’s the nearest thing to an angel we’ve had around here in a long time.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“And would you be wanting some lunch?”
Bridgett smiled and said “Would you like me to call Fred and see if Christy is about?”
“Oh, yes, please” said Brian.
Bridgett smiled and walked off. A moment later Carla came over with menus. She said “Mr. Sims, I’m sorry for all the trouble I guess I caused you. The last time I saw you I thought you were dead. You looked so bad lying in the snow with blood over you. I’m glad to see you’re okay.”
“Thank you Carla.” Carla nodded and walked away.
“Christy had a nightmare the first night back and so she came to sleep with me. Carla saw us in the bed together and thought I was up to something.”
“Evidently she told someone and I was attacked out in the back, hit over the head and knocked unconscious. She was the first one to find me in the morning.”
“Well, I should talk to her” said Wendy “and a lot of other people. Brian it would be best if I talk to them alone, without you being there. You understand?”
They ordered lunch which quickly came. While they were eating Wendy made notes on her legal pad while Brian ran down a list off all the people he met when they first got to town.
Just as they were finishing the front door opened. Wendy looked up quickly as two people entered. One of them was a young bright faced girl who, when she saw Brian, called out his name and came running over. Brian stood up as the girl gave him a big hug, as big as she could. “Are you okay” she asked.
“Yes’m, I am.”
The girl looked at Wendy and said “Hi.”
“You must be Christy.”
“Yup. Who are you?”
“Hi Wendy.” Christy put out her hand and they shook hands.
‘This is Wendy Klein my attorney.”
“And Wendy this is Fred Walker, a good friend. He’s been taking care of Christy for me.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of drawing.”
“She drew pictures of the kids, of Nina and me, of the house and the trees. She’s got a regular portfolio. We could have an exhibit. Heck, we could open an art shop.”
“That’s great Christy. You been a good girl?”
“Very good” echoed Fred.
“Wendy will ask you both questions about how we got into town. Now might be a good time to do it, Wendy. Do you think so?”
“Might as well. Is there somewhere private I can meet with them?”
Since Brian still had the key in his pack, he unzipped it and offered the key to Wendy. “That’s for the cabin in the back. It’s where I’m staying although I haven’t set foot in it yet. You can use that.”
“That’ll do.” She took the key. “Fred, after you.”
After they left Brian asked Christy “Would you like to come with me to the bank to see if they’ll give me any of my money this time? I need to practice walking.”
On the way there Christy asked “How much longer do we stay here?”
“Well, I don’t know, Christy. I have to go to a hearing on Monday morning. If we get that all straightened out we can leave soon after that. I have some bills to pay and then we need to go around and give some thank yous and say our good byes.”
“Aw. I wish we could stay. I like it here.”
“Me too, except for the troll brains. But we have to be on our way. We both have obligations in California.”
“I know” she said with a sad voice. Then she said “Brian, I feel so bad that you had to go and lose some toes trying to save me from that stupid lake.”
“Aw Christy, don’t feel guilty. It wasn’t your fault. My foot was in very bad shape before I ever stepped through the ice. The doctor said so.”
“Oh, all right. But I’m sorry.”
When they reached the bank Brian stepped up to the same teller he had before.
“Help you?” she said.
This time everything went well. The bank card worked just fine and, after looking at his ID, the teller handed over two thousand dollars in one hundred dollar bills. Brian asked her where the post office was. She pointed “Over to the corner, with the flag in front.”
It was a small store front post office with an American flag over the front door. Brian bought a money order fro four hundred dollars and put it in an envelope addressed to Romero c/o Sims and sent it off.
When they returned to Bridgett’s place she told them that Fred had taken Wendy to see Father Portera. “Then she wants to go see Doctor Bite and then come talk to us and then take a nap because she’s tired.”
“Doesn’t she want to talk to me?” asked Christy.
“Oh, I’m sure she does” said Brian. “She knows what she’s doing. She’s probably retracing our steps.”
“Do I have to come with you to that hearing?” Christy asked.
“I don’t know. It depends on what Wendy says.”
‘Okay. But I hope not. I want to go draw the buffalo. bison.”
Later Wendy and Fred returned and Wendy said “That Father Portera is a kind and gentle fellow. He was very helpful.”
“Good” said Brian.
“Now I’m not sure why but both Fred here and Father Portera think we should go to the Navajo Reservation tomorrow and talk to the chief, and I believe them.”
“Oh good!” said Christy.
“So far everything is turning out to be exactly as you described it, but I have no firm evidence to show the judge at the hearing. Fred says the chief is a wise man and could probably give us some advice. I don’t know, but I’m intrigued. I’ve never met an Indian chief.”
“Nor have I” said Brian.
“Then let’s do it.”
“Yay” said Christy.
“Christy, I need to talk to you next. Where can we go?” asked Wendy.
“There’s my room upstairs if it’s still free. I’ll see.” She jumped up and went off to find Bridget.
“I’d feel encouraged if I were you, Brian” said Wendy. “The airline doesn’t have much of a case against you. There are no holes in the story. I just need one piece of hard evidence to show the judge. I’m sure I’ll find it.”
Christy came back. “Yup. We can go up there.”
“Let’s go.” They went up the stairs, Christy taking them two at a time.
The only other customers paid up and left. Bridget came over to Brian’s table and sat. “How are you Brian?”
“Not bad considering. There’s a lot of unfinished business. I should wrap it up and get back home where I’ve got more unfinished business.”
“Well I’m sure you’ll get it straightened out soon. That Ms. Klein seems to be an eager one. I’m glad you’ve got her on your side. Soon you’ll be on your merry way, sure I am."
“That reminds me Bridget. Would you draw up a tab for what I owe you up to now? I have some filthy lucre in my pocket and I’m itching to get rid of some of it.”
Bridget said “I'll be happy to relieve you of the burden” and went off to the desk.
Brian sat quietly thinking for a few minutes and then said “Fred, do you really think Chief Running Bear can help us?”
“I think so. He’s a very smart man and powerful in his realm.”
“Does he know about the plane crash and the long walk we had to take to get here?”
“Yes, he does. Christy told him all about it.”
“But is that mountain on the reservation?”
“Only the government draws border lines. The Navajo don’t.”
Bridget returned with a tab and handed it to Brian. “There you are, take you time.”
Brian was astonished at the total. “Bridget, are you sure this is correct? I thought it would be more than this.”
“Of course it is. Two rooms, a bunch of meals and some good companionship. It’s all down there.”
“Okay.” Brian took out his wallet, removed some hundreds and put them with the tab. “Please make sure Carla gets a good share of that would you?”
“I will do that very thing.” She went back to the desk.
A few moments later Wendy came back down stairs, tossed her legal pad on the table and sat down. “That is an amazing child. She seems so grown up for her age,”
“She is amazing. Back there in the wilderness I don’t think I could have made it without her. Where is she?”
“She’s powdering her nose.”
“Everything she told me confirms your story. Except...”
“You didn’t tell me about the wolves.”
“Oh, yes. The wolves.”
“She said you talked to them.”
“And they listened.”
“And they went away and left you alone.”
“Except for the one who peed on my boot, they did.”
“I guess so. But we didn’t have much choice. It was either negotiate or become lunch.”
“Well I’ll talk to the wolves in Sanman for you on Monday.”
At that moment Christy came bounding down the stairs. Wendy said “Christy, where do you get all that energy?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well I wish I had some of it” said Wendy. She got up from the table and said “I have to talk to Bridget. See you later.” She went over to the desk, spoke with Bridget and they both went into Bridget’s office.
“Don’t seem like she needs any more energy to me” said Fred.
“Well, I’d better be movin’ along. I got a few things to do yet. You’ll be staying here tonight Christy?”
“I guess so.”
“Okay. I’ll call my uncle and tell him we’re all coming over to the reservation tomorrow afternoon to see the chief.”
“Good” said Brian. “Fred, thank you for all you’re doing for us.”
“Pleasure.” He left.
“Brian, would you buy me another drawing pad?” said Christy.
“Sure. Did you use the other one all up already?”
“No, but I left it at the Walker’s.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
They stepped out into the brisk, chilly afternoon. The air was very clear and they could see the hills around the town and the mountains in the distance. “I sure hope I can come back here some day” said Christy.
“Me too. We’ve been here only a few days and yet we’ve met so many nice people.”
“Except for a few troll brains.”
“Well, the two troll brains I met are now in the clink.”
“What’s the clink?”
“It’s slang for the jail.”
“Oh. The clink. That’s a funny name. Why do they call it the clink?”
“I don’t really know” said Brian, “but I think it refers to the sound the metal cell door makes when it closes.”
They reached the pharmacy where Brian bought another drawing pad, two more pencils, some crayons for Christy and a pack of cigarettes for himself. When they got back to Bridget’s, they went to the table and sat. Then Christy said “Now sit still. I’m going to draw another picture of you.”
While the master portrait artist was doing her thing, Brian was thinking. He hoped that Wendy could stitch together enough of a case to prove they were on the plane and that things happened they way they did. Of course, he realized that it was up to the airline to prove its case and not otherwise. But still it was a curious thing that the figures didn’t seem to match up. There were times out in the desperate trek through the ice that Brian wondered if he was imagining the whole thing, especially when he was hearing birds singing that weren’t there and seeing trucks that vanished. But, no, he knew it happened and here was Christy drawing his picture. She’s really here and was really there. There was no need to doubt himself. He glanced up to see Bridgett coming out of her office and then Carla going in. Wendy was wrapping up her investigations.
Bridgett came over to the table and said “What’s going on?”
“Christy is working on her MFA.” Brian was curious why Christy didn’t ask him what an MFA was. Maybe she already knows, in which case she really is working on it.
Bridgett walked behind Christy and looked down at the pad. She was obviously impressed. “Christy, that’s very, very good” she said.
Without looking up Christy said “Thank you.”
“Do you mind my looking over your shoulder?”
After a while Christy chose a couple of colors from the box of crayons, added one to the drawing and rubbed it with her finger, and repeated that with the other color.
“You’re really making him come alive. If I saw that picture ten years from now I’d say ‘I know him. That’s Brian Sims’.”
Christy chuckled with glee.
Soon Carla came out of the office and went back into the kitchen. When Bridgett saw that she followed her. Then Wendy came out and said “That was very interesting.”
“Are you getting the information we need?” asked Brian.
“Yes, in slightly different versions. It’s like looking at the same statue from all different sides.”
“There” said Christy. “Oops, wait a minute.” She made one more mark on the picture then handed it over.
“Christy, that’s excellent. It looks just like him.”
“Christy, there’s something wrong with this.”
She frowned and looked a little scared. “What?”
He passed it back to her and said “You forgot to sign it.”
“Oh yeah.” She took a pencil and carefully signed her name: Christine Flynn. She handed it back with a smile.
“That’s better. Now the world will know who the artist is. I think I’ll keep this one, if I don’t get attacked again.”
“No more troll brains” said Christy.
Wendy asked “What are troll brains?”
“That’s the name Mike at the paper gives for the less than intelligent members of the community.”
“Good name. Troll brains. I’ll have to remember that. Christy will this home you’re going to provide you with art lessons?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well they should. Show them your drawings when you get there and ask them. If they’re a proper school they should have an art teacher who can guide you.”
“I hope so.”
Brian, Christy and Wendy spent the afternoon talking about themselves. Christy told about Connecticut, what it was like and how she misses it. Brian talked about what life was like in the Hollywood film business. Wendy spoke of law school and how surprised she was to find that the real world of law was so much different from what she had thought it would be. Brian and Wendy agreed that life has changes in it that are not what one expects and how alert one has to be to adapt to them, Christy listened.
The three had dinner together and after it Wendy declared her great desire to get to sleep. So she and Christy went upstairs to bed. Brian stayed for a while. He had a few drinks and a few cigarettes. There was no denying his apprehension about the hearing on Monday but he was certainly glad that Wendy was on the case. She was a refreshing addition to his life, so unlike the women he met in the movie business. He wondered about her.
Later he opened his pack, carefully slid Christy’s picture into it and left. This time he safely made it to the cabin, unlocked the door and went inside. He met no troll brains along the way. The cabin was warm and comfortable. He took a shower and went to bed.
Next morning Brian woke, washed up, dressed and went out into a bright, clear winter day. He went on over to see about breakfast. Christy was sitting at a table very absorbed in a book.
“Good morning Christy.”
“Where’s Wendy, still asleep?”
“Where is she?”
“Talking to the doctor.”
“Watcha got there?”
“Thank you Christy. I can see it’s a book.”
“Bridgett gave it to me. It’s a picture book. Famous artists. See? She said I could keep it.”
Christy held up the book open to a page of pictures of some paintings. He couldn’t make out who the artist was because it was too far from him. He was squinting at the pages and so Christy held it up close to him. He saw two paintings. “Renoir” he said.
“That’s right! How do you know?”
“I’ve seen them before and I recognize the style.”
“Where did you see them?”
“At a museum somewhere. Have you ever been to an art museum?”
“Well, that’s a treat you have in store for you.”
“I’d like that. These are pretty.”
“Yes. He was a great painter.”
“So are you.”
“Aw no. I’m not this good.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, you think so, I guess.”
“And does my opinion matter?”
She looked at him with a smile and said “Course it does. You think I could paint this good?”
“Yup” he said.
Wendy came through the door with her legal pad and sat down with them. “Have you guys had anything to eat?”
“No” said Brian.
“I had some waffles” said Christy.
“Well, Brian, let’s have lunch.”
At lunch Wendy talked about Doctor Gonzago. He had told her all the medical details, what condition Brian and Christy were in when they arrived, about Brian’s feet, his bruise and about Christy’s sprained ankle. He did not tell her about Brian’s hallucinations, which was just as well, Brian thought. He hoped he could deal with that at another time, when this was all over.
After lunch Fred arrived with his two kids. When they saw Christy they were delighted. They met Brian and Wendy and then plunked down to look at Christy’s book.
“How are you all doing today?” asked Fred.
“Okay” said Brian. Wendy nodded.
“All set to go visit?”
“I’m looking forward to it” said Brian.
“You’ll have to follow me over there in your car. There’s not enough room in my truck.”
“That’s fine” said Wendy.
“Then let’s go.”
The road out to the reservation was well plowed, with almost no traffic. The trip was easy. The entrance to the reservation was through a wooden arch with the image of an eagle, its wings spread, and various figures underneath depicting signs of the Navajo nation. Fred drove right up to the front of a house. It was a modest but modern house, a turquoise color with shutters on the windows. As soon as Fred stopped his truck his two kids jumped out. The door of the house opened and an older fellow came out with a big smile as he greeted them. Soon Christy had joined them. When Brian and Wendy got out of the car, Fred came over to them. “Come meet my grandfather” he said. Fred introduced them. “Shy Wolf, this is Brian Sims and Wendy Klein. And that’s Christy.”
“Welcome” said Shy Wolf. “Now come in out of the cold.”
They entered a sparsely but comfortably furnished house. There were native blankets on the walls, a shelf of carved, wooden figures, a TV and a fire place. “So, did you come just to see me?” asked Shy Wolf.
“Of course” said Fred. “But we’d also like to see the chief.”
“Oh, well. He’s around somewhere. Probably at his place. Why do you want to see him?”
“It’s for me” said Brian. He told the story of the plane crash and the walk through the wilderness with Christy and how the airline was claiming that they weren’t on board. Shy Wolf listened intently. Then Fred said that they were hoping to get some advice from Running Bear as to how to proceed defending themselves.
“Talk to Michael if you can” said Shy Wolf. “He needs something to do anyway.”
“Thank you Grandpa. That’s a good idea.”
“Who’s Michael” asked Brian.
“He’s a great seer. He talks with the Spirits” said Shy Wolf. Then, to Fred he said “Go see your Uncle and his family before you go.”
“I will, Anything you need, Grandpa?”
“I’ll see what I can do.” They chuckled.
So they left and drove over to the Chief’s house. On the way Brian noticed trucks with plows, large buildings with signs on them, a teepee and some pens with horses in them.
“A lot of what you see is for the tourists” explained Fred. “They come here in the summer, buy native crafts and see how we used to live. Some of my people are excellent crafters, weavers, painters, carvers and designers. If you shop in Denver you can buy ‘authentic Indian crafts’ made in China. Out here’s the real stuff.”
Fred stopped his truck in front of the Chief’s house. Wendy pulled in behind him and they all got out. The door of the house was opened to them by a middle aged smiling native woman with a long single braid down her back. “Welcome” she said. Then looking at the children she said “Glad to have you here again young ones. Hello Fred. Who are these people?”
“This is Brian Sims, the man I told you about who escaped from the plane crash with Christy, and this is Wendy Klein, his attorney.”
“Happy to have you here. You want to see him, I suppose.”
“If we may” said Fred.
“He’s in his office at the back. Go right in.”
Fred led them through a neat and colorful but simple house to a door at the back, opened it and went in. Everyone followed him. Chief Running Bear was a man of about 50 with a weathered face and sharp features. He was sitting at a desk and talking on the telephone. The desk had papers on it and a computer next to it which was on. He raised his hand in greeting which the others copied. He motioned them all to sit. He continued talking on the phone in a language which probably Fred was the only one who understood, but occasionally an English word would drop into it.
Brian guessed that the life of a Navajo chief in the modern world was one of politics, diplomacy and economics. Perhaps it had always been that way but now the spears, arrows and guns have been replaced by telephones and computers, instead of trading horses he traded stocks.
As Running Bear was finishing the conversation he, surprisingly, said “Okay. Ciao” and hung up. Then he said “Welcome Lone Walker. Who are these people?”
Fred answered “Good health Running Bear. This is Brian Sims, the man I told you of who escaped from the plane crash with the girl. And this is Wendy Klein, his attorney.”
“Hm,” Then he looked down at Christy and said “Welcome back bright one. Good to have your presence here again.”
“Thank you. I’m glad to see you too.” She started to draw.
Running Bear made a face that vaguely resembled a smile then turned to Fred. “What do you bring me?” he said.
Fred then explained the situation with Brian and the airline’s claim that they weren’t on the plane and how that allegation made the FBI suspicious as to where they had been. He explained that they had no definite evidence to prove that they were on the flight. He told him about the hearing in Sanman coming up on Monday and he asked the chief for any advice since he was a wise man. Running Bear occasionally said “Hm” and stared at Brian with deep penetrating eyes. Brian felt as if he was being inspected right to the back of his cranium. When Fred finished there was a long silence.
Finally the Chief picked up the phone and after a moment said “I need you...A man has come who was in that plane crash...Yes...You remember..” Then he spoke in his own language for a while. Then said “I believe him...The Hogan?...When?...” He hung up. Then he said to the group “Do you require refreshment?” When they said they didn’t, he stood up. Chief Running Bear was an imposing man, tall and straight who moved slowly. He went to the door and called “Betty?”
The woman who greeted them came to him “Yes, dear.”
“We have to meet with Mike Star Feather at the Hogan. May you watch these children while we are there?”
“Of course. Come with me.” The children got up and followed her.
“Come” said the Chief. They followed him through the house and out the door. Christy came over to Brian and said “Why can’t I go with you?”
“I guess because children aren’t allowed at this meeting. It’s an adult only thing.”
“But you’ll tell me what happens.”
Christy smiled and turned toward the house.
On the way Fred explained briefly to Brian and Wendy about the Hogan, that it was a hut used for important meetings, constructed first by intertwined branches, then covered with wood and hides and that the entrance was always facing east. He told them that Star Feather had obviously chosen the Hogan as the place to meet. As they approached it Brian saw two other men going into it. Once inside he saw a very old man sitting at the back which he took to be the mystical Michael Star Feather. There was a pit in the center with a small fire glowing in it.
Star Feather had a stern, almost frightening aspect to him. He looked around at the people standing there, and then motioned to Brian to sit next to him, on his left. He then motioned for one of the other men to sit on his right. Chief Running Bear sat opposite him and the others sat wherever there was room, around the fire. Brian was glad Wendy was properly dressed for this occasion, slacks, no skirt.
Star Feather began to chant. His chant was sung on one tone which never changed. His jaw and tongue were moving making words but his mouth didn’t open. He would occasionally stop, reach into a bag in front of him and throw a handful of something on the fire. Smoke would gradually come up from it and fill the hut, then slowly escape from a thin opening at the top. Brian could smell the sweet aroma of tobacco.
Other than Star Feather’s chanting, there was total silence in the Hogan. Eventually he stopped chanting, opened his eyes and touched Brian’s left boot. “You have only three toes on this foot” he said.
He closed his eyes. After a few minutes he looked at Brian and asked “You have a head wound?”
“I did, but it was healed.”
“Hm” said Star Feather and closed his eyes.
His voice changed. It became deeper and seemed even to have an echo in it. “There is a child. A girl. She is injured. There is a lake. He is injured. There is ice. Much ice. There are papers. Wet. Thrown by the wind. There is fog. Much fog. There is a truck. No truck. There are wolves. There is a mule and cart. No mule. There is a flying thing.” He stopped speaking for several minutes. Then suddenly his eyes opened wide and he said “There is a seat. An airline seat. It is there.”
“Where?” asked Running Bear.
“On the side of a mountain.”
“Thank you Star Feather. Will we find it?”
Star Feather reached out to the man next to him to help him stand. The rest all stood up as Star Feather left the Hogan.
The rest were led back by Running Bear to his office. Once there, the woman brought the children back. Christy sat on the floor and started drawing again. Brian was curious about Star Feather. “How old is Star Feather?” he asked.
“I don’t know” answered the Chief. “There may be some on the reservation who know. He is an ancient.”
“Why is he called Star Feather?”
“The lore is that when his mother was ready to birth him, she went out and lay on the grass with the other women. It was a dark moon, at night, in summer. There was a meteor shower and she was delighted. She said it looked like a giant feather. So she named him Star Feather.”
“How long has he been a seer?”
“Since he was a child. There are stories about him, some of them true.”
“Finding lost things. Telling the weather. He can put his hand on a pregnant woman’s stomach and tell her when the birth will occur. He is never wrong. He talks to animals”
“Yes, wolves. Many types of animals.”
Christy looked up at Brian. Just then the woman entered with a cord. She wrapped it around Brian’s head and then left with it.
“Who is she?” asked Wendy.
“That is Laughing Woman, my wife.”
“Does she laugh?”
“Well, she smiles much. She is good woman.”
Brian went on, “Does Star Feather do a lot for the tribe now?”
“He is quite old. He rests. His ways are strange. He stays away from the smoke house. He does things his way. He only comes forth for special tests. He is a spirit man.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means he talks with the Great Spirit. That’s all he wants to do. But he has a young man. You would call him an apprentice. He was with us in the Hogan. His name is Charlie Water. He’s very good also. He has learned well.”
Laughing Woman returned with a leather band. She placed it on Brian’s head. It had one feather sticking out of the top. Then she stepped in front to look at him and smiled.
“Mr. Sims” said Running Bear “for your courage and perseverance saving yourself and this young one we make you an honorary member of this tribe. Your name is...” and the Chief said something in his language.
“What does that mean in my language, please?”
Wendy and Christy looked at Brian with apprehension. But he gradually smiled and said “I like it. Thank you Chief Running Bear. I’m honored.”
“Is there anything more I can do for you?”
“You’ve done more than we hoped for.” said Wendy.
“Well then, will you return to the town or will you stay for a time?”
“We’ll go back to town. Thank you for your hospitality and all your help.” They all stood up. Christy held out her drawing for Brian to see. She had a questioning look on her face. Brian looked at the drawing and nodded. It was an excellent drawing of Chief Running Bear. She even signed it.
Christy said “Chief Bear. Here. I hope you like it” and handed him the drawing.
The Chief looked at it a moment and a big, true, humble smile spread across his face.
“Woman” he said, “put this someplace safe.” Laughing Woman took it carefully, looked at it and smiled.
“Thank you Young One“ he said. “It is good. I will have one of my people make a frame for it and I will put it in here.”
Chief Running Bear along with Laughing Woman escorted them to the front door. “Please return in good times” he said. “You are welcome here.”
After thanking him again they left. On the way back Brian was trying to explain to Christy what had happened in the Hogan with Star Feather. There were things she didn’t understand but Brian had to confess he didn’t understand many things himself. When he got to the part about the seat she said “What seat?” Then Brian remembered that when he saw her on the mountain, he clambered out of his seat and left it behind. She never saw it. He explained.
Christy was very curious about Star Feather and was sorry she didn’t get to meet him. “Maybe next time I come” she said.
When they reached Bridgett’s place, Fred pulled over, got out of his truck and came over to the car. “Would you folks like to come by, meet my wife and kids? Have a little supper?” They agreed.
So Fred led the way to a house away from the main road. There was a wooden fence with the name Lone Walker carved into a sign hanging from it. The driveway was short, leading to a farm house. There was a barn, the doors open and a tractor in front of it. Fred backed up, turned his truck around and parked next to the tractor. Wendy parked in front of the tractor and they all got out.
Nina, Fred’s wife was a pleasant woman with a strong demeanor. She was a strict disciplinarian with her kids but she obviously loved them and they respected her. Her strictness was also tempered by a sense of humor.
Fred asked her “What’s for dinner?”
“Who wants to know?” she said.
“All of us.”
“Well, that changes things. Go out there and get some more potatoes.”
Fred got up and went out the back door returning with a few potatoes.
Fred’s son said “Christy come see the calf.”
Christy jumped up “A calf?” She plopped her picture book and drawing things on Brian’s lap and went with the kids out the back door.
“The calf is just born” said Fred.
“So how was it?” Nina asked.
“We had a session with Star Feather.”
“You did huh? He’s quite a character, that one.”
“He was very helpful” said Brian.
“I’ll bet he was. Do you know he talks to the horses?”
“Yes. That’s what the chief told us.”
Fred said “Christy drew a portrait of the chief.”
“That reminds me” said Nina, “I have some drawings here that she left behind. She’ll probably want them. Bisons and other things.”
“Yes, thank you, she’ll be glad to have them back.”
“I’ll get ‘em.”
After a pleasant afternoon and a great meal, Brian, Wendy and Christine went back to the car. Fred and Nina followed them out and Nina said “Please come back any time and bring this little one before she grows all up.”
Back at Bridgett’s place they told her they had had dinner at Fred’s and weren’t hungry.
“Well,” said Bridgett “maybe you’d like a sit by the fire and have a jar or two.”
“That sounds good” said Wendy. Christy said she was tired and went upstairs to the room. Brian and Wendy had drinks.
“Well” said Wendy, “it’s been some day. I’ve never been on an Indian Reservation before. It’s very interesting.”
“Yup” said Brian.
“You’re beginning to talk like her.”
“I know. All that youthful stuff is infectious.”
“Do you have kids of your own, Brian?”
“Are you married?”
“Was once, A long time ago.”
“She chose a different way of life.” Brian knew it was an evasive answer and he hoped Wendy wouldn’t pursue it, which she didn’t. “How about you, Wendy? Are you married?”
“I’m a widow.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. It happened long ago. It’s ironic, you know. He died in a plane crash.”
“That’s a sad coincidence. Do you think about getting married again?”
“I do, If I could find the right man. Some one, like you, who is intelligent and creative.”
“Well, I’m sure if you keep looking you will find someone who, like me, is available.”
The ball was in play, the game was on and they both knew it.
The weekend passed quietly and uneventfully but not quickly enough for Brian who was still filled with apprehension about the hearing in Sanman on Monday morning. He tried not to think about it but his fear kept company with him everywhere he went and through everything he did. On Saturday morning he called Doctor Gonzago and went over to pay his bill. The Doctor took another look at his foot and said “Wainwright did a good clean job as I expected. By the way, a fellow from the FBI was here asking questions about you and Christy. They were stupid, non-questions and I told him so.”
That news heightened Brian’s fear even more. Sometimes he even doubted himself about things. Was he really on that plane when it crashed, or was it just another hallucination? How much was truth and how much was his imagination, a result of hunger and exhaustion. Those thoughts bothered him more than they should. He was already making up in his mind dire results of the hearing. He needed to come back to reality. To be prepared is one thing but it’s stupid to fear things that might happen.
Wendy was busy consulting her notes and writing. At one point during the morning she called Thom Wong’s office and left him a message explaining her progress so far and outlining her strategy.
For most of the morning Christy had her nose in the book of pictures or else she was drawing. She was nowhere around when lunch time came, so Brian and Wendy met and enjoyed their meal together.
During it Wendy said “That Carla said she wanted to come down to Sanman with us to testify. I talked her out of it. I think she’d be more harm than good if she started talking about you and Christy.”
“I agree. I’m glad you dissuaded her.” Then, after a pause, “How does it look?”
“I’ll know more when we get there. It partly depends on what the airline has as evidence and what the judge is like.”
“Don’t worry so much about it, Brian. First of all, they have to convince the judge that you weren’t on the plane and I have faced hostile judges before. If, in fact, he turns out to be a bastard I know what to do.”
Later Christy came in with a pad full of drawings.“Whatcha been up to?” Brian asked.
Christy showed them her pad full of drawings of buildings, cars and other things. “This” she said.
“You really enjoy doing that don’t you, sweetheart” said Wendy.
“Christy’ said Brian, “when we get back to LA I’m going to get you some new clothes. You’ve been wearing the same duds since you got on board that plane, you should go off to your new home with some decent clothes. And I’ll get you some more art supplies.”
“Okay” she said. “Thank you.” She was sadly drawing aimlessly on the pad, just doodling, when she said “Will you both come and visit me in that place?”
“Of course, sweetheart” said Wendy.
“As often as we can” said Brian.
Christy smiled. She liked the sound of that “we.”
Early Monday morning Brian woke up hearing the phone ring. He reached over and picked it up “Hello.” It was Carla. “Yes?…Oh, thank you...No...Yes...That’s good...I will...Thank you.” He hung up. It was a wake up call. He didn’t think to leave one but Wendy saw to it. In the next moment a fist hit Brian’s stomach as he realized that this was the day he had to appear at the hearing in Sanman and he was nervous about what was going to happen. But he got up, showered, dressed and went over for breakfast where he found Christy and Wendy already sitting at a table.
“Thank you Wendy. I was so nervous I didn’t even think that I had to get up early.”
Carla came over to the table to take his breakfast order. He just ordered coffee. “No” said Wendy. “Eat something. It might be a long day.”
“Scramle egg? Bacon? Toas?” said Carla.
“Okay” said Brian “you talked me into it.”
“You sure you no want me to come?”
“Thank you Carla, we’re sure.” She went to the kitchen.
“Why don’t you want her to come with you?” asked Christy.
“I think she’s just trying to be helpful but there’s no reason for her to be there. I’m sure Bridgett would rather she stay here” said Wendy.
“Can I come?”
“No, Why don’t you stay here too? Ask Bridgett to call Fred. Spend the day with them” said Brian.
“No. I wanna be with you.”
Brian looked at Wendy who nodded and said “Well, you can’t do any drawing in the hearing room. You’ll have to sit quietly and pay attention.”
Christy grinned “Thanks.”
After breakfast they got into Wendy’s car and started on their way.
“Brian” said Christy “You promised to tell me what happened at the reservation.” So Brian was explaining to her about the building they went into, about Star Feather sitting in front of the fire, about the other men, about his chanting, the smoke, how he touched Brian’s foot and said he only had three toes, how he saw many of the things that happened during their trek through the wilderness. He told her how Star Feather had seen that Christy was injured, how he had seen the truck that was no truck, the scattered papers, the wolves, the cart with no horse, only Star Feather said it had been a mule, about the helicopter and about the mountain, the seat and the crash. Christy listened intently.
Then Wendy said “There’s a truck behind us. It’s coming very fast.” Brian and Christy looked out the back window. There was a dark gray pickup truck coming quickly down the road. When the driver caught up with them he didn’t pass them but stayed behind and started blowing the horn.
“He’s tailgating me” said Wendy.
She slowed down to let him pass. But he didn’t. He just kept blowing the horn. She stopped. The truck stopped, the door opened and a man got out. Wendy rolled down the window and Brian could tell from the look on her face that she was about to let loose the fury of hell on this guy. But he came to the window and said “Seat!”
“What?” she said.
He pointed back to the truck and said “Airplane seat. We have it. You want it?”
“We bring it.” Then he went back to the truck, got it and closed the door. Wendy guessed he was going to follow her so she started up again and the truck came along behind, at a respectable distance this time.
When they got to Sanman Wendy pulled the car into a parking space near the police station, the truck parked near her. “Wait here” she said to everyone and went inside. The two men in the truck lifted the seat out and set it on the ground. A few moments later Wendy came out and said “We’re meeting in the building next door. Let’s go.”
On the way into the building Brian turned to one of the Navajo men and said “I recognize you. You were in the Hogan with us. What is your name?”
“You’re Star Feather’s assistant?”
“He is my teacher. I nave learned much from him.”
“Pleased to know you, Mr. Water.”
Inside the building there was a reception desk. Wendy went to it and spoke to the person sitting behind it, then turned to the rest of them and said “Brian, come with me. The rest of you stay out here for a minute.” They entered a room that resembled a court room but there were no clerks or stenographers in it. There were some tables with chairs in the front. Wendy recognized Detective Ross from the Sanman Police and FBI Inspector Stanger. Not knowing the other two men she went over and introduced herself. “I’m Wendy Klein, representing Brian Sims.”
One of the men stood up and said “Pleased to meet you Ms. Klein. I’m Andy Sullivan, attorney for Trinat Air and this is Wallace Throck, Chief of Passenger Relations.”
“Hello” she said.
“Frankly Ms. Klein” Sullivan went on “I’m glad you’re here. Since this situation has already been determined we may be able to proceed quickly to trial.”
“Really?” she said.
“Yes. Well we already have all the evidence.”
“Well, we’ll see.” She put her briefcase down on another table, went to the door, opened it and motioned. The two men entered with the seat and placed it on the floor near her table then went and sat at the back. Christy came in and sat next to them. Wendy saw the two men looking at the seat. Sullivan had a curious look on his face, but Throck was amused.
Wendy carefully examined the seat. Brian watched her with interest and approval. He also had a reaction to seeing the seat, but it wasn’t what he expected. It seems like years ago that he first struggled out of that seat on the mountainside, and yet it was only a little more than two weeks. He thought through some of the events. Since that moment he had trekked painfully through a winter wilderness, been injured, had his bank account frozen, had his credit card canceled, been beaten up and robbed, been questioned by the police, had two toes removed, dealt with a surly nurse and a hard and insulting nun, and now he was here to prove that he didn’t invent the whole story and is not a criminal. But then he began to think about all the people he had met: Father Portera, Bridgett and Carla, Doctor Bite, Fred and his family, Peter Straw and Mike at the paper, Doctor Wainwright who chopped off his toes with ”a tomahawk,”, Chief Running Bear, Star Feather, Wendy Klein. And throughout this whole experience there has always been Christy, who was now sitting quietly with two Navajos waiting to see what would happen. She had become, from the first day, the center of his life.
Thinking and remembering, always the writer, he wondered if he could make a film script out of all of these events. But there was much more to come, as he would discover.
The door opened and a man came in who introduced himself as Judge Louis Pinto. He was an amiable looking man in his forties who took a seat behind a desk and asked the other participants to introduce themselves, which they did. Then Judge Pinto said “As I understand it, this hearing is to determine if there is a matter of fraud involving Trinat Air and a complainant, a matter with enough substance to set before a grand jury. Am I right?”
“Yes, your honor” said Andrew Sullivan.
“Your honor” spoke Wendy, “my client has no complaint against the airline. The allegation, as I understand it, is that although he was aboard the flight when it crashed, the airline is claiming that he wasn’t, which has led to speculations of some fictional misdemeanors. We are not suing the airline. We are here only to disprove the airline’s allegations.”
“I see” said the judge. “All right Councilor Sullivan, you may proceed.”
“Thank you, Your Honor” said Sullivan. “This is a very simple matter. Brian Sims here has let it be said publicly that he was aboard Trinat Air flight 451 from La Guardia Airport in New York City bound for Los Angeles International Airport on January 24th of this year which crashed on Mount Bennet in Colorado and that somehow he survived the crash with another passenger and walked into Buffalo Gap, Utah where he allowed that story to be printed in the town’s Newspaper, The Gap, a copy of which I would like you to see” he handed the paper to Judge Pinto.
“Now a Brian Sims may have been aboard that flight but it is impossible that he or anyone else survived the crash. There were a total of 108 people, passengers and crew, on board and all of the bodies were recovered. There were no survivors.
Expecting some sort of fraudulent litigation we began an investigation to determine exactly what happened and our investigation turned up the fact that the other so-called survivor was an underage female. That raised our suspicions that maybe there was more to it than just a fabricated nuisance suit, so we contacted the FBI and gave them what information we had. Inspector Stanger here can present whatever information they have as it is outside my interest in this matter. For my part I would like to ask Wallace Throck of Trinat to testify.”
“Certainly. Mr. Throck.”
Wallace Throck got up and took the witness chair. He identified himself as head of passenger relations for Trinat. Then Sullivan asked him if he had seen a copy of the passenger list of that flight. He said he had and that it was accurate. Then Sullivan said “Your Honor, both Mr. Throck and I have read this list and we agree that there are 108 names on it.”
He passed the list to Judge Pinto and then offered one to Wendy who said “I have it, thank you.”
Then Sullivan produced an affidavit from the Colorado authorities stating that 108 bodies had been discovered from the wreckage which he also handed to the judge and to Wendy.
“Now then, Your Honor, as you can see from those two documents that since there were no survivors of the crash we can not accept Mr. Sims’ story and feel no obligation to him whatsoever. We are glad to learn that Mr. Sims has wisely decided not to pursue any litigation with us. It saves us the bother of having to prove him wrong.” He sat down.
Judge Pinto then said “Councilor Klein, you may question Mr. Throck if you wish.”
“Thank you, Your Honor. I do wish, but I ask if I may call him back after I have presented some evidence of my own.”
“Certainly” said the judge.
“I’d like to ask Charlie Water if he would step forward and answer some questions.”
Water got up and came forward he was dressed well, but with a large leather coat that went almost to the floor and had a feather in the breast pocket. “Mr. Water’ said Wendy “have we met before?”
“On the Dine Reservation in Colorado.”
“Under what circumstances?”
“During a seeing session with my teacher Star Feather.”
“And what happened during that seeing session?”
“Star Feather saw the route Three Toes took from the mountain to the town.”
“Who is Three Toes?”
“Was one of the items he saw in the session this seat?” she motioned to it.
“Did he say that he saw where it was?”
“And did you find it there?”
“You did not find it there?”
“No. I did not find it there.”
“Where did you find it?”
“I did not find it. Some of my people found it.”
“And did they find it where Star Feather said he saw it?”
“Did they find anything else?”
“What?” Wendy was more amused at Charlie Water than frustrated.
“They found places where fire had been.”
“Do you mean camp fires or some other type of fires?”
“Camp fires. And the papers.”
“The papers on the trail.”
“Did you bring those papers?”
“May I see them please?”
“Yes.” He reached into the breast pocket of his coat and took out a few crumpled pieces of paper and handed them to Wendy.
Wendy looked at the papers and then said “Your Honor this is the first I’ve seen or heard about these papers but they may be very important. If I may I would like to show them to my client to find out if they are, and if so I would show them to Councilor Sullivan and to you.”
“Go ahead” said the judge.
Brian looked at the pages, then unzipped his back pack and took out a few more pages and showed them to Wendy. Wendy turned to Judge Pinto and said “Your Honor my client, Mr. Sims, is a writer for a major motion picture company in Los Angeles. These papers are from a script he was working on. One can clearly see the editing marks made on them. Other than the condition they’re in, it is clear these pages come from the same script.” She showed the pages to Sullivan and then handed them to the judge who looked them over carefully, then handed them back to Wendy.
“Mr. Water where were these papers found?’ she asked.
“Along the trail” said Charlie.
She showed the group of papers to Charlie and asked “Do you see a resemblance between these pages, the old crushed and beaten up pages and the ones Mr. Sims just handed me?”
“Thank you.” She turned to Sullivan. “Mr. Sullivan?”
“Thank you Ms. Klein.” Sullivan got up and went over to Charlie. “You say your name is Charlie Water?”
“Is that your real name?”
“Well then, can you please tell us your real name?”
“What is it?”
Charlie responded with a word in his native language.
“That’s your real name?”
“Is that your real name in your native tongue?”
“Can you translate that into English?”
“Do so please.”
Sullivan hung his head slightly in embarrassed exasperation. “All right Mr. Water. You say you found these papers on the trail?”
“I beg your pardon. Some of your people found them on the trail. Is that right?”
“Is this the condition they were in when they were found?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why don’t you know?”
“I didn’t find them.”
“Oh yes, I forgot. Can you account for these old pages being in the condition they are in?”
“How do you account for it?”
“You mean because they were left out in the elements.”
“Well then isn’t it possible that you or the people who found them, wherever they came from, could have left them out somewhere and let the weather put them in this condition?”
“They were found yesterday afternoon.”
“I see. Now about this chair. You say it was found on the side of a mountain, is that right?”
“Some of your people found it?”
“How did they know where it was?”
“They were led to it.”
“Ah! And who led them to it?”
“The Great Spirit.”
“Oh, and which great spirit is that?”
“Only one Great Spirit.”
“I’m not sure I understand you.”
“You’re wearing a cross around your neck. You must know about the Sprit.”
“How do you know I’m wearing a cross?”
“Because I can see it. You are aren’t you.”
Once again Sullivan looked down and nodded his head. “Yes.”
Judge Pinto smiled. He was clearly aware of the powers of the Navajo Shaman.
“All right Mr. Water. Let’s agree that the great spirit led your people to the exact place on the mountainside where this chair was located. Do you expect us to believe that they found it and brought it down from the mountain in one day?”
“And how did they get it down?”
There was a pause. Charlie Water looked at Andrew Sullivan as if he must be the stupidest man he ever met.
“How did they get it down Mr. Water?”
“They carried it.”
“And then what happened to it?”
“They put it in the back of my truck.”
“I drove it here.”
“Thank you Mr. Water. I have no more questions for you.” Sullivan went back to his table shaking his head.
“Ms. Klein?” said the judge.
“I have no more questions for Mr. Water. But I’d like to ask Mr. Throck if he would step forward again.” Wallace Throck came back to the chair with an amused smile on his face. Wendy smiled at him warmly and said “Thank you Mr. Throck. I’d like to ask you about this seat the Navajo people found on the side of the mountain.”
“Can you positively identify it as a seat from a Trinat aircraft?”
“The company who builds our planes constructs carriers for many different airlines. It could very well be one of theirs. You see?”
“Yes. I see, Mr. Throck. Well then can you positively identify it as NOT one of Trinat’s seats?”
“Well, no, but...”
“How could we identify where the seat came from and if, in fact, it was aboard Trinat flight 451?”
“You’d have to check the serial number.”
“And where is that serial number?”
“Somewhere on the bottom, I think. I don’t know. Someone would have to look underneath.”
Wendy flipped the seat on its side and then again so that its bottom was showing. “Now Mr. Throck can you see a serial number on here?”
Throck got out of the chair and kneeled down next to the seat. “Yes.”
“Would you read it to us please?”
Throck read off some numbers while Wendy copied them down. Then she checked to see that the numbers were correct.
“Mr. Throck, how can we check to see that this seat was on that Trinat Aircraft that crashed?”
“Well,” he laughed “there is no way except to check it out with the Trinat Air Maintenance.”
“Does Trinat Air Maintenance have a phone number?”
“Yes.” Now he wasn’t smiling.
“Do you have it?”
“No. It’s not my department.”
“Can you get it?”
“Only if I call the main office.”
“Yes. Come with me Mr. Throck, you may use my phone” said the judge.
Throck got up to follow the judge when Wendy said “Mr. Throck? The numbers.” She handed him the piece of paper with the serial number on it. He and the judge left the room.
Judge Pinto and Wallace Throk were gone for about 10 minutes. While they were away Wendy turned over another page on her legal pad and read through her notes. Brian looked at the seat. It was the first time he saw it since that awful day of the plane crash. It brought back memories. He remembered the shock of the impact and being thrown out of the aircraft onto a snow filled mountain side. Then he remembered seeing another figure sliding down the same slope. He remembered seeing that person covered with a snow slide. He remembered desperately struggling out of the seat with a buckle that wouldn’t open so that he could get to that person. He remembered frantically digging in the snow to find her. Christy. These were things he hadn’t thought about much since they reached Buffalo Gap. But the experience was so graphic in his memory, it seemed strange, in fact it seemed ludicrous, that he was in front of a judge under the suspicion that the whole thing never happened. Brian hoped that Wendy didn’t have to call Christy to the chair. Even though she could corroborate the story, he didn’t want her to have to face the nasty Councilor Sullivan.
After a while Throck and the judge came back into the room. Throck took the witness chair. “You may continue, Ms. Klein” said the judge.
“Thank you. Mr. Throck, were you able to get in touch with the appropriate department at Trinat?”
“And what were you able to determine about this seat? Was ii, in fact, a seat from Trinat flight 451?”
“So now we know that this seat was in the plane that crashed, that it was thrust from the plane during the crash carrying one of it’s passengers with it, that it was discovered yesterday on the side of the mountain where the accident happened. Is that correct?”
“Well, no. Not necessarily.”
“Why do you say that, Mr. Throck?”
“Well, I mean, it’s clear that the seat could be thrown from the plane without a passenger in it. Don’t you see?”
“I see something else, Mr. Throck.” Wendy flipped the seat on its side again and then over until it was in an upright position. “I see that the seat belt is fastened. Do you see that, Mr. Throck?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Would there ever be a time when the seat belt was fastened with no passenger in the seat?”
“It’s highly unlikely.”
“In what position would the seat belt be in if there were no passenger in the seat?”
“It would be open and resting on the sides of the seat.”
“Could there be a time when the seat belt was fastened on an empty seat?”
“Well, like I said, it’s very unlikely. But I suppose it’s possible.”
“And, if so, would it be in this open position?”
“No, it would be flush against the back of the seat.”
“So may we conclude that there was a passenger in the seat when it was thrown from the plane?”
“No, not necessarily.”
“Now why do you say that, Mr. Throck?”
“It’s clear that someone could have fastened the seat belt after it left the plane.”
“And who might that be, Mr. Throck.”
“I don’t know. One of your Indian friends I suppose.”
“Well, if that was so then the seat belt could be unbuckled. Isn’t that so?”
“May I respectfully ask you to show us how to unbuckle that seat belt?”
“Of course.” Throck got up from the chair, came over to the seat and attempted to unbuckle the seat belt. He tried several times. He gave it a hard tug and then said “I can’t do it.”
“Why not?” asked the judge.
“Because it’s damaged.”
Councilor Sullivan got up from his chair and came over to give it a try. Wendy joined him. Now there was a crowd around this seat fussing with the seat belt and trying to get it to open. Christy smothered a giggle.
“Mr. Throck” Wendy continued, “how do you suppose the seat belt got damaged?”
“Well, from the looks of it and from the condition of the rest of the seat, I would have to assume it was as a result of being thrown from the plane.”
“Is that your professional opinion, Mr. Throck?”
“Yes. I’d have to say yes it is.”
“Thank you Mr. Throck. Now I’d like to draw your professional attention to this document.” Wendy handed some papers to Throck, to Sullivan and to the judge. “Are you familiar with this document, Mr. Throck?” asked Wendy.
“Yes, I am.”
“It is a list of all the people on board flight 451 that departed from La Guardia Airport in New York City on January 24th, isn’t it?”
“Yes. It is.”
“Now, Mr. Throck, you claim, and according to this document, there were 108 people, passengers and crew, aboard the flight on that day. I received this document from the Sanman Police Department who obtained it from the Sanman Court. I’ve looked it over very carefully and according to my observation I do agree with you that there are, in fact, 108 names on this list.”
“Good. Then we agree.”
“About that, yes. Now, when I turn the document over I see a key on the back. Would you look at that please Your Honor and, would you also, please, Mr. Throck?”
“Okay” said Throck.
“Thank you. Now on the back there are a series of numbers describing the personnel involved in that flight. 1. pilots, 2. flight attendants, 3, first class passengers, 4. tourist class passengers, 5. children, 6. children traveling alone, 7. handicapped, 8. animals. Is that an accurate key, Mr. Throck?”
“Yes, Ms. Klein. Very accurate.”
“Good. These names are in alphabetical order, aren’t they?”
“Now looking at this list do you see the name Brian Sims with a number 4 next to it, a tourist class passenger?”
“And do you see the name Christine Flynn with a number 6 next to it, children traveling alone?”
“Yes I do.”
“Now would you go down that list and point out the pilots’ names, those with a number 1 next to them?”
Councilor Sullivan stood up. “Your honor I don’t see the relevance of this. Is it really necessary?”
“We shall see” said Judge Pinto.
Throck continued to look at the paper. He turned the page. He turned back to the first page and went carefully down the list, then did the same thing with the second page.
“That’s strange” he said. “There must be a misprint here.”
“Why do you say that?” asked Wendy.
“Well, according to this list there were no pilots on the flight.”
“But there must have been two pilots aboard. Isn’t that right, Mr. Throck?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Now look carefully at the list again and tell me if you recognize any of those names as being pilots for Trinat Air, just in case there is a misprint.”
Throck went down the list again. “Well” he said, “we have a pilot named Flynn, but his name is not Christine.”
“Mr. Throck, how can we determine who the pilots were on that flight?”
“I would have to call the office again for that information.”
“Your Honor?” said Wendy.
“Yes, come with me Mr. Throck” grumbled the judge.
This time they were gone for only about 5 minutes. During their absence Brian leaned over and whispered to Wendy “You—Are—Good!”
When Mr. Throck and Judge Pinto returned, Throck sat with a sad expression on his face.
Wendy asked “Well, Mr. Throck, what were you able to determine?
“Well” he sighed “this is your answer. The two pilots who were scheduled to fly that day would have gone beyond their allotted air time, so they were removed from the flight and their names were taken off the flight list. The two pilots who actually flew it were assigned at the last minute, and so” another sigh “there names were never put on the list.”
“So there were, in fact, 110 people on board the plane?”
“And 108 bodies were recovered?”
“You’re sure about that.”
“Making two bodies unaccounted for, presumed dead, but possibly survivors.”
“Yes.” Mr. Throck was obviously stressed.
But Wendy was merciful. “Thank you very much, Mr. Throck. I have no more questions for you.”
Throck started to get up but Councilor Sullivan said “I have a question for Mr. Throck.” Throck sat back down again. “Wally, according to your previous report flight 451 stopped somewhere in the Midwest.”
“Yes. St. Louis.”
“Isn’t it possible that someone could have gotten off the plane there?”
“No. Absolutely not.”
“It was only a service stop, to fix a minor technical problem. It was down there for less than a half an hour. No one got on or off.”
“Does anyone else have anything to ask or say?’ said Judge Pinto.
No one did.
“Is Miss Christine Flynn in the room?” he asked.
Christy stood up and said “Yes Sir.”
“Miss Flynn, is there anything you’ve heard here today that you have a problem accepting or believing?’
“Thank you Miss Flynn.”
“Welcum.” She sat down.
“In light of the evidence, the seat, the papers found on the trail, the incorrect number of names on the flight list and the testimony given I see no reason to doubt that Mr. Sims and Miss Flynn escaped from the fight of Trinat 451 and somehow made it through the severe weather and the hostile environment to Buffalo Gap where they have been residing since. Now Inspector Stanger has the Bureau any interest in entering the case at this time?”
“The matter is still under investigation, Your Honor, but owing to your decision and the strong possibility that their story is as they say, we are not prepared to move forward with any action at this time.”
“Good. In that case this claim is discontinued. But there is still the matter of this seat. You can’t leave it here. Mr. Throck, it belongs to Trinat Air. Will you please take it off our hands?”
“Well, Your Honor, the rest of the plane is trash. We have no need of it. I don’t know what to say.”
“I’ll take it’ came a voice from the back of the room. Everyone turned to see Charlie Water coming down front. He picked up the seat and said “I brought it here. I’ll take it away. Brian Simms can come look at it any time.” He and the other Navajo left with the seat.
Wendy walked over to the other desk “Nice to meet you Mr. Sullivan.”
“The same Ms. Klein.”
“Perhaps we’ll meet again.”
“That would be a pleasure.”
“Mr. Throck.” She turned without waiting for Throck to speak and gathered up her briefcase and papers. She and Brian started up toward the door, Christy joined them and they left the building. Charlie was just pulling out of the parking lot when they came out the door. He waved and drove off. Brian, Wendy and Christy got into the car and sat for a moment in relief.
“I have one question for you, Mr. Three Toes” said Wendy.
“Why were you traveling tourist class?”
“Oh, it’s always busy up front and I wanted to be left alone to work on my script, so I moved to the back, luckily.”
“I see. Well, what should we do now?”
“Let’s go back to Buffalo Gap, have lunch at Bridgett’s, I can pay her what I owe her, then we can spend the afternoon going around and saying good bye to everyone, getting addresses and phone numbers.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Me too” said Christy.
“I’ll call my boss at Silverstone, who offered to fly me back and tell him there’s three of us. I’ll tell him to send the jet to Flagstaff so you can return the car and then we’ll be on our way home.”
“Good” said Wendy.
Christy did not like the sound of the word “home.”
During the ride back Brian spoke to Myron Bloom and told him he was ready to get back there. He also told him the outcome of the hearing, that there were now three passengers and that they should leave from Flagstaff. When they arrived in Buffalo Gap Wendy parked in front of Bridgett’s and they went inside. Bridgett came over to greet them “And how are you folks?”
“We’re all just fine Bridgett, thank you” said Brian.
“All went well down there?”
“Yes” said Wendy “very well. There’s no case. The judge threw it out.”
“Well now isn’t that grand.”
“Bridgett” said Brian “we’ll need to stay here one more night, and then tomorrow, if all goes well, we’ll be heading back to California.”
“Sure. For now will you want some lunch?”
After lunch they drove out to visit Father Portera who was delighted to see them. Even though it was a bright sunny day, the church was cold and the father was dressed up in an overcoat.
“Father Portera” asked Brian “did you run out of wood?”
“Oh no. I’m just saving some for the Sunday Mass. Some children are coming to it and I want to make sure they’re as warm as possible.”
“I see” said Brian.
Brian and Christy sat in the same chairs they had sat in when they first arrived at St. Andrews. Brian smiled at Christy and said “Did we make it?”
Christy said, with a smile “We made it.”
After their visit with Portera they went back to Bridgett’s and saw Fred’s truck parked outside. Oh good, thought Brian, we don’t have to go looking for him. But when they were inside there was no sign of Fred.
“Where’s Fred” he asked.
“Oh, he’s in the kitchen fixing the washing machine” said Bridgett.
“Well, when he’s finished would you please ask him to wait around? I want to talk to him about something.”
They sat down and Brian made a call on his cell phone. “Hello Doctor, it’s Brian Sims. We’re heading out finally…No, tomorrow, if all goes well, but we wanted to come over and say good bye...Great.” He hung up. “Let’s go.”
So the three of them went over to see the Doctor who also had a look at Brian’s foot and decided that the operation was a big success and Brian would have no more trouble with it. Wendy told the Doctor about Brian’s introduction into the tribe and that he was now known as “Three Toes.” The Doctor approved.
When they came back to Bridgett’s, Fred was sitting at a table having a cup of coffee. Brian went over to him and sat.
“Hey Brian, what’s up?“
“We’ll be leaving tomorrow to get back to LA and I wanted to say good bye and to thank you for all your help and interest in Christy and I.”
“It’s been a pleasure.”
“I also wanted to ask you something.”
“We were just over seeing Father Portera. I want to do something nice for him.”
“It’s very cold in that church. He doesn’t have a furnace?”
“If I purchased a furnace for him, and kept him in fuel, could you install and maintain it?”
“You bet. That’s a great idea.”
“I don’t know anything about furnaces. I live in LA. Can you look into it and let me know?”
“You bet. That’s a good deed, for sure. But it‘s going to be costly.”
“I know. Spare no expense.“
“Thank you Fred. And be certain to include your own expenses with the cost.”
“Please give my regards to your family.”
“I will. We all wantcha to come back and visit us, when you can.”
“We will” said Christy.
After Fred left they drove down to visit Pete and Mike at the paper. Pete gave Brian a copy of the latest issue with a follow up item about Brian’s toes. Brian told him about his experience at the Navajo Reservation and how he was now Three Toes. Peter said he would print it and send a copy.
After they got back to Bridgett’s the three of them walked down to the Pharmacy where Brian baught another pack of cigarettes and a candy bar for Christy.
“I didn’t know you smoke” said Wendy.
“Does it bother you?”
Brian’s cell phone rang. It was Silverstone informing him that there would be a flight out of Flagstaff, Arizona at 2:00 p.m. the next day. So they spent the rest of the day resting and preparing to depart. Wendy called her boss to tell him what was happening. Brian invited them to come to his place when they got back to meet his sister and brother in law. “She’s an ant throw poly gist” said Christy.
“And tomorrow we’ll go shopping to buy you some new clothes and some art supplies and whatever else you need.”
The next morning, after breakfast, Brian settled up with Bridgett who then walked them out to the car and wished them great success.
The long trip to Flagstaff was easy, the weather was nice and they talked about all the things that had happened over the past two weeks. Wendy quickly returned the car and they went to the information desk to find out where the plane would be landing. Then, at about 2;15 there was an announcement that a flight from Silverstone was waiting to depart. They boarded it, it took off and Christy was off on an very bad experience that would seriously affect her for the rest of her life.
Of Book Two