"Fiona, Are you there," Chance said, walking across the tarmac to his plane, "I'm getting the plane ready to leave to come find you."
Silence answered him and he wondered if she were still there or even if he had imagined the phone call. Finally he heard her voice.
"Is that really…you?"
Relief filled him.
"Yes, where are you," he said, "Everyone's out looking for you."
"Houston…I'm not sure where I am," she said, looking around her from her ledge.
"What happened," he asked.
"I…don't know…we crashed the car on the way back to the ranch last night."
"That was hours ago," he said, "What have you been doing since?"
"I got out…I'm trying to climb up the gorge…Jason and Maggie are both hurt in the car."
"Where do you think you might be," he said.
"I think we were just about to reach the Jamboree Road turnoff when…"
" I'm not sure…," she said, "It's cold."
"Are you hurt?"
"I…I don't know," she said, "I ache all over but I think I'm okay."
"Listen, you sit tight," he said, "I'm going to call the state police and tell them where to start looking," he said, "They're already on their way to Silver Lode."
"I'll stay here," she said, holding the phone.
"I'm leaving now too," he said, "It'll be a few hours but I'll be there as soon as I can."
Brody came up to him.
"How in the hell did she call you," Brody said.
"I don't know," Chance said, "But we got to call the state police and tell them where to start looking."
"I'll do that," Brody said, "You'd better just go."
Chance walked towards his plane and up the steps, pulling the door closed behind him. He went up to the cockpit and did the final preparations to ready his plane to taxi down the runway.
Fiona sat on the ledge, trying to curl her legs under her and to flatten herself against the wall away from the rain. She didn't know how much time had passed since she had left the car and had inadvertently called Chance but it felt like hours. Her phone had died soon after she made that call so she never was able to call 911. Then again, she wondered if the local police would send a search party for them even if one of them had been able to call for help. She struggled to remember what happened in the time before she had woken up inside the crashed vehicle but all she remembered was a flash of bright light.
"So how long will you be in L.A. this time," Chance said, as he and Fiona walked across the sand towards his house. They held hands and carried their shoes as they made their way up to the boardwalk where some businesses housed in shacks which catered to fishermen had closed for the night.
"I have to go back to Houston tomorrow night," she said, "I have some meetings with some lawyers the following day."
"You've been really busy lately."
"So have you," she said, "I hope you're taking care of yourself. It's not been long since you were sick."
"What has my uncle been telling you?"
She stopped and looked at him.
"Not much just that you've been working nonstop since before the doctor had cleared you for going back to work."
"It was just a little pneumonia," he said. He tilted her chin up with his finger and saw tears in the corners of her eyes.
"It scared me seeing you so sick," she said, "Three days in intensive care before the doctors knew for sure you'd pull through."
"Well I did Fiona, and I'm doing just fine," he said.
"Just take time for yourself okay," she said, "I worry about you."
"Are you taking your own advice," he said.
She relented with a smile and they continued walking.
"I'm pulling in some long days…and nights," she said, "But in several months, I'll be going to Colorado to help on that development case that Alice's been telling me about."
"It's nice of you to help them," he said.
"They did so much for me last year," Fiona said, "and they're like family now."
"I miss you," he said, "I wish we could see more of each other."
"I do too," she said, "But we both have our lives to get back on track."
He paused and in response, she stopped and turned to look at him before they stepped onto the board walk.
"I've got something I need to say…"
Fiona opened her eyes and saw that some sunlight had poked through the clouds that filled the sky and warmth had touched her face. From above, she heard someone shouting. She tried to stand up, but couldn't so she tried waving her arms instead.
Chance landed at the small airport after maneuvering through the approach path which resembled an intricately designed trail between different peaks of the Rockies and required his close attention. The sight which greeted him took his breath away for reasons that didn't just have to do with its beauty. Still, he hit the runway just right, didn't get buffeted by cross winds and brought the plane to a stop at the slot which had been assigned to him at the small airport. He said a silent prayer as he always did when he landed there.
He took care of his plane and then rented a car to drive the short distance into town. He picked up his cell phone to call Alice.
"Hi, it's Chance," he said, "Any news?"
"Yeah, they found the car," she said, "Thanks to the location you passed along."
"How are they," Chance asked.
"They're not sure," she said, "They found Fiona on a ledge but she's suffering from dehydration and mild hypothermia so she didn't make a lot of sense. She did give them the general direction of the car and they sent a team down there but they had to use special equipment to excavate the other two."
"Where is Fiona now?"
"I don't know, last I heard they were still trying to evacuate her."
"I'm on my way there to the Jamboree road turnoff," he said, "Do they have any idea what happened last night?"
"None," Alice said, "They just know the car veered off the road. No sign of the driver tried to stop to avoid an animal or another car. Maybe the driver fell asleep."
"You told me when you called before that there'd been trouble," Chance said, "What was that about?"
"I think you need to talk to Jed about that," she said, "He received a couple of the phone calls too. He's at the scene."
Chance put his phone away and kept driving down the curvy highway hoping that they had gotten Fiona and the other attorneys out safely but it sounded like a serious accident. Not to mention that all three of them had spent hours out in the elements awaiting rescue. He imagined that even during the summer months, the mountains got chilly at night and the rain hadn't helped matters.
He pulled over when he saw the ambulances and a couple of fire rescue vehicles along with police cars all parked alongside the highway. He got out of his vehicle and walked up to Jed who was standing next to one of the fire trucks.
"You just missed Fiona," Jed said, "They loaded her up in an ambulance and took her to the hospital in town. Bonnie went with her. The doctors will determine if they need to evac her out to the trauma center in Colorado Springs."
"Did they pull out the others?"
"They're still working on it," Jed said, "It doesn't look very good for the other two. They're banged up pretty bad."
"How did Fiona look?"
"She's bruised up a bit and had a few cuts but they're concerned about internal injuries," Jed said, "She was conscious when they found her and fairly lucid."
"I'm going to go to the hospital," Chance said.
"I'll be there pretty soon," he said, then looked gravely at Chance, "There's a lot I need to tell you about what's been going on here the past couple of weeks."
"Then you don't think this is an accident?"
"I doubt this was an accident," Jed said.
Fiona lay back on the examining table in the small ER, while a doctor examined her and a nurse took her blood pressure. After a good amount of poking and prodding and endless questions, he flipped open a folder and jotted down some notes.
"Okay, it looks like we might have to x-ray the ribs and the cheekbone but it looks like the wrist is just sprained and there are no signs of any internal bleeding."
She sat up, and tried to throw her legs over the table to step down, but a wave of dizziness hit her.
"Oh and you might have a mild concussion."
"Where my clothes," she said, looking down at her flimsy outfit. She hated hospital gowns.
"Not until you're checked out and even if your x-rays come back clean, we might want to keep you over night."
She lifted up her hand.
"No, I've got to get out of here," she said, "I've got work to do."
A nurse came in with a wheelchair.
"Not right now, your cab just arrived to take you to x-ray," the doctor wrapping his stethoscope around his neck.
"How are the people I was traveling with," she said, "I've asked since I've been here and no one can tell me anything."
The doctor looked up from her chart.
"The male's very critical and probably going to Mercy's in Denver and the female's fractured several bones. She might be joining him."
Fiona put her hand over her eyes which suddenly stung. She allowed an aide to help assist her into the wheelchair again reminded by the fragility of life. One minute they were talking and enjoying the conclusion to a hard but rewarding day and the next, inside a crushed car which had gone down into a gorge without having a clue about what happened in the split second in between.
Chance walked quickly into the hospital after parking his car. He weaved his way through emergency room personnel and patients until he reached a young woman at what looked like Command Central in the busy room.
"May I help you," the woman said, looking up from her paperwork.
"I'm looking for a Fiona Johnson," he said, "She was just brought in from a car accident on the highway."
"Hmmm, I'll look her up," the woman said, switching her attention to her computer screen and clicking some buttons on her keyboard.
"She came in not too long ago," she said, "She's going to x-ray for some precautionary films."
"How's she doing," he asked.
"You'll have to ask her doctor that," the woman said before returning to her paper work.
He turned around and saw Bonnie walking towards him.
"Jed told me you rode with Fiona to the hospital," Chance said, embracing Bonnie in a hug.
"I think she's going to be okay," she said, "Mostly bruises and some hypothermia."
"I hope you're right," Chance said, as they both sat in chairs near the front desk to wait for any further word.
She patted his hand, after seeing how anxious he looked.
"She's in good hands," Bonnie said, "It's a small town but it's a very efficient, professional hospital."
"I got the news when I was getting the plane ready to fly out here," Chance said.
"That information that you passed along to the state police made all the difference."
"That was FIONA," he said, "I don't know how or why she called me."
"I imagine phone reception is tricky down in that gorge," Bonnie said, "She's lucky she could call anyone at all."
Jed walked up to both of them.
"They finally pulled the other two out of the wreck," he said, "They're going to fly them evac to Denver without bringing them here."
"How are they," Chance asked.
Jed shook his head.
"They don't know if Jason's going to pull through," he said, "He's in critical condition with massive internal bleeding and some possible leg fractures."
"And Maggie," Bonnie asked.
"She's got a couple bones broken in her arm and a concussion," he said, "She also had some bleeding in one of her legs from debris but they were able to stop it."
"Those poor people," Bonnie said, shaking her head, "They were working so hard for the people in this town and very willingly too without complaint."
"Why do you think they wound up in that gorge," Jed said, quietly.
"You don't think it was an accident," Bonnie said, "That Jason fell asleep at the wheel?"
Jed shook his head.
"Bonnie, you were the one that answered the phone when that threat came in," he said.
"Tell me more about these threats," Chance said.
"I'll go get us some coffee," Bonnie said.
The men both nodded at her and she left them.
"The lawyers including Fiona, their lives were threatened," Jed said, "And those were the phone calls."
"What do you mean," Chance asked.
"There have also been a couple altercations," Jed said, "One of them took place on federal property. Some of Kilroy's guys were violating the temporary injunction by trespassing and brought shotguns to harass the mustangs running there. "
"So what happened?"
" Fiona wasn't going to back down and met their guns with hers and between the group of us, we outnumbered their fire power so they left."
Chance ran his hand through his hair.
"What the hell," he said, "This battle was supposed to take place inside a courthouse not with guns out on the range."
"That's never how it works though is it, in these kind of battles over land," Jed said, "not as long as this country's been a country."
"I guess not, I mean I'm from Texas," Chance said, " Fiona left some details out of her accounts of what was happening here."
"Don't get mad at her," Jed said, "She didn't want to worry you. The last thing she wanted was for you to get upset and come out here, trying to rescue her."
"She's made that clear," Chance said.
"It's not personal," Jed said, "I think she's still working very hard to find her place in a world that makes sense. You don't go through what she did and stay the same person."
"I know, and I think she's amazing in all that she's done," he said, "But I still worry about her and now this…"
"The worrying goes both ways, Chance."
"Yeah I know that," Chance said, "She told me that she's been worried about how hard I've been working since the pneumonia."
"My advice is that you follow her lead on what to do with her case," Jed said, "That's going to be hard to do when you see her because she's pretty banged up from the accident but she needs to feel that sense of control over her own life and that you trust her to have that control."
"That's good advice," Chance said.
"And now, more of the work's going to be on her shoulders with the other two lawyers out of commission," Jed said.
Bonnie approached with the coffee and handed them each a cup.
"I ran into an orderly friend of mine," she said, "He says that she's still getting x-rayed and demanding to be released so she can go back to work."
"That sounds like the woman I know," he said.
"Do you really think this is Kilroy and his boys?"
"Who's Kilroy," Chance asked, sipping his coffee.
"The developer in charge of the ski resort project," Jed said, "He's got partners who primarily contribute money but he's the main guy."
"Yeah, he and Mayor Parker and the good old boys," Bonnie said.
Chance narrowed his eyes.
"So you've got elected officials shacking up with developers?"
"That's one way to put it," Jed said, "You've come here straight into a hornets' nest."
Fiona finished her x-rays and waited to be taken back to the examination room, feeling totally exposed in her gown. She looked around but couldn't find her clothing anywhere.
"Looks like you're about done," the orderly said, "We're going to take you back to the ER and the doctor can talk to you about the results there."
"I feel fine," Fiona said, "A little sore but I'm ready to leave."
"That will be up to the doctor," the orderly said, "If your ribs are fractured and the doctor doesn't catch it, you could develop a pneumothorax."
"I'm pretty sure that they're fine," she said.
The orderly just nodded and after she stepped back into the wheelchair, took her back to the ER.
Alice came in with a bag to joined the rest of them were sitting. Cassidy trailed behind her listening to her iPod, until she saw Chance. She broke out into a wide smile and walked towards him. He stood up and hugged her tightly and then held her at an arm's distance.
"You've really grown," he said, "You look at least three inches taller."
"They still treat me like a baby," she said, "But Fiona and Alice have been kind of cool."
"How's Fiona," Alice asked.
"The doctor hasn't talked to us yet," Chance said.
"I brought her some fresh clothes in case she is allowed to leave," Alice said.
A doctor walked up to the group.
"Are you relatives of Ms Johnson?"
"We're friends," Alice said, "Chance's the closest to family that she's got."
"I'm Dr. Warner, I'm handling her case."
"How's she doing," Chance asked.
The doctor flipped open a folder.
"She's very lucky to be alive," he said, "Let alone gotten off as lightly as she did."
"Then the news is good…"
Warner looked at Chance.
"She doesn't have any fractured ribs or internal injuries," he said, "She did sprain her wrist and suffer some deep bruising. Her cheekbone might have a hairline fracture but we won't know until we do follow-up x-rays in several weeks."
"So she can be released?"
"I'd like to keep her overnight," he said, "She did bang her head a bit but I don't think she has a concussion. Still, she's going to be very sore for several days but she insists on checking herself out."
"When can I see her," Chance asked.
"In a few minutes," Warner said, "I just have to finish some paperwork if she's going to be released."
Alice reached into her bag.
"Can you take her this change of clothes," she said.
Warner examined it dubiously but finally nodded and took them.
"Thank God," Alice said, "She's going to be all right."
"I didn't know if she would be," Chance said.
A nurse walked out and motioned for Chance to follow her into an examination area surrounded by a curtain. FIONA sat on the table, dressed in sweat pants and a tee-shirt and wearing sneakers. Her wrist was wrapped and as she looked up at him, he saw the bruises and cuts on her face which had been Cassidy stitched.
She smiled, gamely.
"More scars for the collection," she said.
"I still got you beat," he said.
He walked over to where she sat and embraced her tightly without saying anything else. She tucked her face in his shirt and wrapped her arms around him.
"Ouch…my cheek," she said, pulling away. He examined it, gently touching it with his fingers.
"It looks pretty bad," he said.
"It doesn't feel too bad," she said, thinking that while he touched it, it didn't hurt much at all.
"I'm so glad you're all right," he said.
Her eyes threatened a couple of tears.
"But they're not," she said, "I heard the news about Jason and Maggie's not so good."
"They're going to a trauma center in Denver," Chance said, "They've got top doctors there who will help ensure they have the best fighting chance."
"I'm going back to the ranch," Fiona said, and was about to get off the table when Mayor Parker walked in the room with Sheriff Daniels.
"What are you doing here," Fiona said, warily.
Chance looked at the men and then back at Fiona.
"We rushed here as soon as we found out about the accident," Parker said.
"It was the State Police who found us not your deputies."
"We are in charge of the investigation," Daniels said, and Parker nodded.
"What investigation," Fiona said, "It's an accident…right?"
" Fiona, maybe we should let him finish," Chance said.
"You can listen to him," she said, "I'm getting out of here."
"The doctor said he advised you to stay overnight," Daniels said.
Fiona got on her feet, a bit unsteady then stepped backward away from the two men.
"Like I said, I'm leaving."
She walked out on the two men while Chance gave them one last look before joining her.
" Fiona, what was that all about?"
She kept walking.
"I'm not talking to those men," she said.
"Jed and Bonnie told me what's been happening."
"Then you know why I don't want or need what they call 'help,'" she said, "I just want to get out of here."
A nurse followed her with a wheelchair, telling her she had to sit in it but she ignored her.
They encountered the others in the lobby and they gathered around Fiona relieved to find out she was okay and being released from the hospital.
"I'll take you back to where you're staying," Chance said.
"My car," Fiona said, "It's back at the diner but it wouldn't start."
"I'll have Joe take a look at it," Jed said.
"I've got to get my thumb drive," she said, looking around.
"Here's some of your things that were on you," Bonnie said, handing them to her.
"Good, here it is," she said, "I've got my laptop back in the cabin so I can continue working."
Chance looked at Bonnie.
"Don't you think that you should rest for a couple days," Bonnie said.
Fiona looked at the both of them and shook her head.
"No, I've got a ton of work to do and not too long to do it," she said walking out in the parking lot.
" Fiona," Chance said, following her, "You just were involved in a car accident that you're lucky to walk around you. The others weren't quite so fortunate."
She turned around to face him.
"That's why I've got so much work to do," she said, "I'm by myself now and it's on my shoulders to prepare this case to bring to Denver next week."
"We could get you some more help," he said.
"I don't need help," she said.
"Is she always this stubborn," Bonnie asked.
"No, usually she's really stubborn," Chance said.
Still he couldn't fault her for it. There were times enough when she was following him to a parked car telling him to take it easy.
"And it wasn't an accident," she said, "Something happened on that road."
"Do you remember anything," Chance asked.
"No...Yes, I think I remember at some point seeing a bright light."
Chance and Jed looked at each other.
"Do you know when they're going to pull the car out and take a look at it?"
"Maybe tomorrow, day after," he said, "It's pretty far down. But they didn't say anything about running forensic tests. To them, it's an accident."
"Maybe we could check it out ourselves and see if we find anything suspicious."
"We could get a couple of guys to help us."
"I want to get her back to the ranch and settled first," Chance said.
Fiona placed herself between them.
"Don't talk about me like I'm not here," she said, "I'll be waiting for you in the car.'
" Fiona, I rented one," he said, "You don't know which one it is in the lot."
"Good point," she said.
The group broke up and headed to their respective vehicles to go back to the ranch. Fiona and Chance walked towards his car. From a distance, two men watched them.
"Damn, we came so close," one of them said.
"We got two of them out of the way," the other said, "They're not dead but they're out of commission for a while."
The first man nodded.
"Two down," he said, "One left to go."
© Copyright 2017 Marzy Dotes. All rights reserved.
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