The Great Northern had left Grand Forks before the dry, yellow prairie was touched with the sun’s first light. By mid-day, the whistle was crying long and loud as the train chuffed out of the weathered Sioux Falls station, heading southbound towards Wichita across the dismal plain.
“Whatever it is,” Jim says. “It can’t be bad enough for you to want to get it through who knows what the hell past the Black Line.”
It’s true. The strong kid, laser beam girl, iron-skin guy -- they have all been rumors for so long. Took better than a dozen years, but I finally got a source on the inside. No one too high-up, no one special. But I got blurry pictures and some details out of it. Once that was out there, my site blew up. Just a matter of time before there was a knock on the door.
The place, though, isn’t as bad as the noises I can hear on the other side of the wall in the first stall. I wouldn’t admit this to just anyone but it would give me nightmares. If I slept.
She stood there, on the stoop. Her beautiful blue eyes lit up, hopeful, like two perfect oceans of possibility and life. Her eyes had been everything to him. Innocence, love, hope, perfection.
They had tailed Emerson and Gilley from Dr. Carter’s in New York, down to D.C. After that, they had to duck under the cover of a Miami airport newsstand to avoid them. Bought a Post and a magazine. A quick outfit change at a tourist shop next door, then hustled to the other side of the terminal. Booked a charter down to Rio via Havana.
The horses slushed and slopped their way through the washed-out divots of the muddy trail. We were on our way beyond Harper’s Reach, the old, steep stone-faced mountain miles north of Fox Osage. In the distance, towards home, I saw bright lightning crackle to the ground. Still, I jumped at the clap of thunder that followed from the gray sky.
I listened to the sounds of the night. A mockingbird called through the brush, far off, maybe halfway across the lake. The cool wind rustled the tops of the trees and they whispered together. The ker-klack sound of the horses going down the trail past the lake was almost hypnotizing.
Finally, as time begins to catch up with itself, the sound of a wailing siren pierces the distance. Only in that moment might anyone who saw what had happened at the Lucky Dragon Tea & Coffee shop have believed that help was on the way.