by Grasshopper

Chapter 20

So on that freezing December night, Cole had thrown some clothes in a duffle, hugged his parents and hit I80 heading for Provo, Utah. All he had were two names: Katherine Violet Lucas and Will Carver. He cursed himself all the way there that he hadn't just gone with Wes in the fall to find the answers that he desperately needed. He knew how much Wes had wanted to go, but Cole had forced him to stay in McLaren. Now it was too late. He just prayed that Wes would still be in Provo and Cole could convince him to come home, but he had this creeping cold feeling that he had held Wes for the last time.

Pulling into Provo as the late afternoon sun was sinking behind the snow-filled clouds, Cole found a Budget Inn and got a room. Sinking onto the bed cover, he pulled the local phonebook out of the drawer where it rested with the Gideon Bible. Thumbing roughly until he got to the Lu-s, he skimmed the page and found Lucas ..... All 73 entries. "Oh, Jesus," Cole swallowed. Grabbing the phone, he punched in 9 and then the first number on the list.

"Hello, I'm looking for the family of Katherine Violet Lucas." He left messages and his room number; he got hung up on; of all the people he did talk to, no one had heard of Wes' mother and as the hour got later, the people got ruder. Finally, at half past eleven, he had dialed the last Lucas in the book. He was exhausted, hungry and had no answers. Falling across the bedspread, Cole slept.

His dream, in black and white, the only color the flashing of the red-tailed hawk as it skimmed the air currents. He was watching Wes swinging on the high swing at school. Yelling for Wes to slow down, to wait for him, Cole watched when Wes laughed as he flew off of the swing seat and took to the air, his arms changing into feathered wings. "You always wanted to fly away," Cole called after him. He began to run, stumbling over roots, his eyes never leaving the beautiful bird that soared and dipped. "Please wait for me!" he called as he ran, suddenly finding himself in the little shed they had built together by the pond in the cottonwoods. The doorway was blocked by a fallen tree and the smell of smoke burned his nostrils. He could hear laughter in the wind.

Callie was standing on the other side of the tree with a baby in her arms. "Come out, Coley. Hurry! I didn't mean for you to get hurt. Here's the baby. Take him, Coley." She held the tiny child out in front of her and the flames licked at his toes. Cole frantically ripped at the vines and branches, trying to get to the child. The sound of wings, the whoosh of wind and Cole stood on the far side of the pond with the baby in his arms watching as the shed burned to the ground and the pond water bubbled. Callie laughed as the flames slashed across her long blonde hair.

"Wes!" Cole called.

"Remember me, Cole. Love him and remember me."

Cole jerked awake, tears flooding his eyes. He lay there panting for breath. Wesley was gone. Flown away. His angel flying too close to the ground. He knew in his heart that if he ever saw Wes again, it would be because Wes came back. It would do no good to search. Wes wasn't in Provo. The emptiness Cole felt all around him screamed that. As he rolled over to sit up, Cole's eyes widened as his hand tremblingly reached out for the red tail feather lying on the stark white of the bed pillow.

The next morning, Cole showered, dressed and grabbed breakfast in the Waffle House next to the motel. Checking out, he drove to the office of the Utah Daily Herald. He had one last avenue to search before he gave up.

Asking to talk to someone about an accident that happened maybe twenty-five or so years ago, brought him to the basement and the cases and cases of old microfiche.

"We didn't change over until the 1990s," Miss Abernathy, the elderly newspaper librarian told him. "I'm afraid all you can do is sit down and try to find what you want. There is one man you might want to talk to if you can't locate the information you need. Mr. Houchin's been around here forever. He might remember."

Cole pulled out a drawer marked 1983 and fed the film into the old dusty machine. As the pages of January, February, March flew by his eyes, he scanned quickly for any mention of a car wreck, a fire, anything that would scar a young man.

By noon, he was up to July, 1985, his eyes were burning, he felt nauseas and he had a sick headache that was threatening to explode. Standing, stretching, he rolled his neck and listened to the cracking. There was so much dust in this basement that Cole figured this must be where the old newspaper reporters came to die.

"Mr. Hewett? You still here?" Miss Abernathy called from the top of the stairs.

"Yes, Ma'am, I'm only to 1985," he sighed.

"Nothing yet?"


"Well, I found Mr. Houghin if you think he might help."

Cole needed to get away from the basement for a little while, so he asked Mr. Houghin to grab lunch with him. He just might know something.

Settling down across from the older man at the Fisher cafe, Cole looked at him carefully. In his seventies or early eighties, Mr. Houghin had a salt and pepper beard and smiling green eyes. He ran his hand through grey hair and asked how he could help. After they ordered burgers and cokes, Cole tried to explain:

"Mr. Houghin, the story is really complicated. What I need to find is what happened to a boy named Will Carver about twenty-five or so years ago. He died the year I was born and the people who knew him in McLaren said he had bad scars on his face. I need to find his family and the family of a girl he knew named Katherine Violet Lucas."

"Now, I don't recollect any family named Carver having that kind of trouble hereabouts, but there was a really bad church fire down around Thistle. Most of the congregation died or was burned really bad. Big news for a day or two." Wrinkling his brow, he muttered, "Seems there was a mystery involved about how the fire started and why the people in the church building were trapped inside."

Cole felt something click in his mind. "When was that? Can you remember, Mr. Houghin?"

The older man thought, recollecting different events to piece together the time of that fire. "It was the same year my Mama, rest her soul, died of pneumonia, so that would have been the fall of 1985. I don't recollect that they ever solved the case."

"Where is Thistle?" Cole asked pulling his crumpled map of Utah out of his back pocket and spreading it out on the table.

Mr. Houghin put his finger on Provo and traced south down I15 cutting off on SR 6. "It's not too far. I'm not saying this is what you're lookin' for, son, but if it's a fire and a mystery, this is your best bet."

Cole paid for the meal, shook the old man's hand and felt himself being pulled to Thistle, Utah. Wishing that Wes was with him, he climbed into the truck, eased into the right lane traffic of I15 and headed south.

Nightfall found him standing on the blackened weed-covered foundation of the burned out People's Church of the Lord. Going straight to the sheriff's office, he had explained who he was, what he was looking for and after the sheriff made a call to McLaren, a deputy had driven him out to the ruined old building.

"I was just a boy living in Middleton when this happened, but I've heard all the stories," Deputy Grice told him. "Two whole families were wiped out and several other folks. In a town this small, that's a mighty lot of citizens."

"Were all the bodies identified?" Cole asked.

"As far as I remember, but that's where the mystery starts. See, thirteen bodies were found and identified, but fifteen people disappeared that day. It took days to sort everything out what with people being in the hospital and all."

"Do you think there's a list somewhere of the names of the people who died?"

"I can do better than that," the deputy smiled. "Over there yonder, they're all buried in the old cemetery right over there."

Cole grabbed an old school notebook from the truck and they walked through the weeds and brambles. "The townspeople made a special cemetery here for their friends. The town was going to rebuild the church here, but they decided to leave this as a marker." He pulled at Cole's sleeve to stop him as they walked into the peaceful woods lined with three rows of gravestones.

George Allen Lucas - beloved husband and father 1939-1985

Anna Clark Lucas - beloved wife and mother 1942-1985

Harriet Belson Clark - beloved mother and grandmother 1921-1985

Jonah Darrin Lucas - beloved son 1968-1985

Laura Primrose Lucas - beloved daughter 1971-1985

Fredrick Lane Crandall - beloved husband and father 1937-1985

MaryAlice Jeffers Crandall - beloved wife and mother 1936-1985

James Samuel Crandall - beloved son 1969-1985

Jeffers Lane Crandall - beloved son 1969-1985

Bertha Voton Moultin - beloved wife and mother - 1938-1985

Abraham Lincoln Jones - beloved friend 1934-1985

Karen Lynn Hancock - beloved daughter 1979-1985

Frank Robert Finer - beloved son 1981-1985

Cole stood quietly, thinking of the tragedy and the horror that must have been that day in 1985. He copied all the names. Then stood confused at what must have happened. "Do you know how the fire started or who went to the hospital? Was it an accident or arson? Do they know who .........?"

"Whoa, slow down. You need to talk to Wyatt Crandall. He was there. He can tell you what you need to know. He was nineteen when it happened and he has a clear memory of it all."

As they drove along a narrow dirt road, Cole shifted everything he'd learned around in his head. He had found the Lucas family, but not the Carvers. If Katherine was one of the two people who had not died, who was the other?

How did she end up in McLaren and where did she meet Billy Carver?

Pulling up to an old log cabin, smoke chuffing out the chimney, Deputy Grice honked the horn a couple of times and started to step out of the patrol car, calling, "Wyatt Crandall, you around? I got somebody needs to talk to you."

A great black dog came running around the corner of the house, followed by a very tall man dressed in jeans and a padded flannel shirt, a black wool watch cap covering his hair.

"Come on in and have some coffee. It's colder than a witch's ass out here today," Wyatt said, friendliness in his voice. He led the way up the steps and opened the door to a warm, comfortable one room living room/dining room/kitchen with stairs leading up to the second floor. It was definitely a man's house, but it was spotlessly clean and cozy. The walls were hung with drawings and paintings, all in black and white, with just a touch of color hidden somewhere in each. Cole felt icy fingers tapping on his spine; Wes' pictures. Wes' black and white. He could feel Wes in this room as if he'd just been here and had stepped out for a minute. Turning, Cole's mouth dropped open and he felt tears burn his eyelids.

Wes was crossing the room, carrying two cups of steaming coffee. He was older, but he had the same long shiny brown hair that flopped over his eyes, the same lanky way of striding into a room, the same crooked grin.

"Here, son, this'll warm you right up," Wyatt Crandall said softly, watching the shock and tears dance in Cole's eyes. You look like you've seen a ghost.

Sit down, both of you, and tell me what's going on."

Deputy Grice began to explain what Cole had wanted when he drove to Thistle from Provo. "He is trying to find out what happened at the church fire, Wyatt. I told him you'd be the one to see."

"Sure, it was a long time ago now. I can talk about it without ripping my guts out. First off though, son, what do you see when you see me?"

Cole wasn't sure how to answer. Slowly, he murmured, "I see my best friend, Wesley Straihan. I'm trying to find him. I can't help staring. You look so much like him. It's like I'm looking at an older Wes."

"Do you have a picture of Wesley?"

Cole stood and pulled his wallet out of his back pocket. He had Wes' senior year photo right behind his driver's license. He handed it over and watched as Wyatt's eyes misted over. "This could be a picture of me at that age," Wyatt whispered, "Except for the eyes, those strange beautiful silver eyes. They're more like ....... No, that can't be ....... But maybe ....... Son, who is Wes' father?" His voice sounded anxious.

Cole knew he was going to have to explain more deeply. "It's a long story."

"If it's what I think it might be, you have all my time and attention. Deputy, I think we're good here. I'll give Cole a ride back into town. Thanks for bringing him out." Disappointed, the deputy nodded his head and told Cole to check in at the sheriff's office in the morning.

The fire crackled, Cole wanted this to be Wes. He wanted this to all be over, but maybe this would be the beginning of finding him and bringing him home.

"It all started when I met Wes in Kindergarten. We've been best friends for our whole lives...........Cole told Wyatt several stories about Wes and Mercy and how they were always so shy and nervous ........ "His older brother Karl went to prison and when he got out, Wes' father killed him and then the sheriff killed their father and then I think I spoke to Wes' mother in the pit and then they found bones and then more bones in the pit and Callie told us she was pregnant and then Wes just left and I don't know what to do." His voice broke with the last words and he began to sob.

'Calm down, Cole, you're exhausted. I got a little of that, but I still don't see how my brother Billy figures into .............................,"

Cole interrupted, "Billy? Your brother's name is Billy? That's the name on the letters to Kat. The letters Wes and Mercy found hidden in her room."

"Okay, slow down, can you tell me just about Kat and Billy? I want to hear everything, but explain just that part right now."

Cole shuddered out a deep breath. "Kat was Wesley's mother. She died the night Wesley was born. She was a really sad lady and she was married to the man we thought was Wes' father, Karl Straihan."

"She died giving birth to Wesley?"

"No, she was murdered and buried in the pit."

"What is this pit you keep talking about?" Wyatt patted the sofa beside him and Cole walked over to sit closer.

"It was this horrible deep hole in the ground behind the church where Wes' father would throw him when he was bad. But, Wyatt, Wes was never bad. That old man was crazy and mean as a snake."

Wyatt's face held a look of deep sadness for what must have been a nightmare for a small child. "Okay, who murdered Katherine?" He thought back through the years to the happy laughing Kat who had chased he and Billy across the fields in the spring.

"Reverend Straihan killed her. It looks like she had a lover and he caught them or something."

"And the man she loved? What happened to him?" Wyatt held his breath, not wanting to hear the answer.

"Well," Cole said, not realizing that he was about to hurt Wyatt deeply, "There were two sets of bones in the pit and the sheriff said that the Art teacher at the high school, Will Carver, had gone missing at that same time.

He had been rooming with the Harrison's on the property next to Wes' place."

"Will Carver," Wyatt said faintly. "So that's where he went. How did he know where she was? Oh Billy, why didn't you let me help?"

Cole watched as Wyatt stood up and walked to the front door, grabbing his jacket. "I'll be back in a bit," he choked out and slammed the door behind him. Cole could hear him pacing the front porch. What had he said? Wait! Was his brother Billy, Will Carver? How could that be? He scrambled in his pocket for the paper he'd written all the names on today at the cemetery. There was no Billy or William Crandall listed among the dead. So, Billy must have survived. That would have given him the scars. Oh God, I just told Wyatt that his brother was murdered. He laid his head back against the sofa cushion and closed his eyes. Wes! Where are you?

He was startled out of a disturbing sleep when the door closed and Wyatt tromped across the floor to warm up by the fireplace. "Sorry, Cole, I just needed a few minutes to myself."

"I'm so sorry I told you like that. I think I figured out who Billy is and I am so sorry."

"I'm okay now, just numb inside. I've been waiting for so long for my brother to contact me and let me know where he is. I didn't know why he was staying away so long, but I didn't figure on this. He said he would find Kat and I see he did. I don't guess we'll ever know how, but I wish he hadn't. You said that the man who killed them is dead?"

"Yes, the man who called himself Wesley's father was shot by the sheriff when he almost killed Mercy, Wes' sister."

"I don't know about you, but I can't talk about this too much more tonight. I need to settle it all in my head for a little while. It's too late for you to find a motel room out on the Interstate. Just stay here tonight and we'll talk more in the morning."

"I do have a question," Cole asked, hesitant to upset Wyatt again.


"All these drawings and paintings; are they yours?"

"Nah," Wyatt smiled, "I can't draw a lick. These are all Billy's. He never knew how good he was. There's one you need to see. One day, I hope you can show it to Wes." He walked over and opened a door into a small room with a skylight. "This was Billy's room. I keep this one in here. It always seemed so kinda private to me. He was painting Kat through eyes that loved her so much."

The painting hung above a bed made of hewn logs covered with a handmade log cabin quilt. It was a young girl of about sixteen laughing as the wind tugged at her long black hair, tearing a violet ribbon loose to fly across the fields. Her hands were reaching for someone and Cole knew that someone was Billy. Wes would dearly love this painting.

"It's the only painting he ever did in full color. Kat never saw it. She disappeared the night of the fire and Billy was in the hospital with severe burns on his face and chest. He never painted again. He began to sketch a few years after she disappeared, but he never painted again."

"Wes is this good too, Wyatt. He draws and paints only in black and white with one tiny bit of color somewhere in the painting. God, they are so much alike. He needs to hear everything you're telling me. I have to find him. I miss him so much." Wyatt watched the emotions fly across Cole's face and he smiled. In the midst of all that loneliness and confusion, Wesley had been loved.

"If he's anything like his .... his father," Wyatt sighed, "He won't be found unless he wants to be. Come on now, let it go for a little while. In the morning, we'll put our heads together and see if we can come up with anything that can help you."

They ate bowls of steaming hot barley soup in thoughtful quietness, each buried deep in memories of dark-haired boys with strange silver eyes. One long dead, one very much alive, both lost in a world that had hurt them.

Soup bowls washed, fire screen on the hearth for the night, Wyatt asked, "You want to sleep here on the sofa or upstairs?"

Suddenly, Cole realized what an odd situation this was. He was in the home of a man who looked so much like Wes; a man whose brother was Wes' father. It was all he could do not to stare at every move Wyatt made, seeing Wes in every movement. "Uh, down here will be fine."

"Okay, go up and get a blanket and a pillow from the closet. I've got extra bathroom stuff in there too. Help yourself. I'm going to close up the smoke house. I've been having trouble with foxes lately."

Cole climbed the stairs, his hand running along the rough cedar banister. Wyatt's house was simple, but beautiful; every part made with a love of the wood and the outdoors. He walked into the bedroom, the native American blankets and rugs splashing vivid colors across the bed and floor. To the left, a huge slice of glass made a picture window pulling the woods and the night sky in. Turning slowly, afraid to look at it straight-on, Cole faced the solid wall to his right. A canvas, 3ft by 5ft, stretched out across the dark wood. Black and white; the only color, one of the blood red tail feathers of the stark black hawk as it cruised the pure white sky. As Cole stepped closer, his hand out to touch the feather, he saw the eyes of the predator. Silver, the color of the mists, the color of Wes' knife blade, Wes' eyes. Closer still and Cole could just see the image of a girl trapped forever in the deepest pupil set in the center of the titanium eyes.

Wyatt found him there, staring into the silver eyes. "You know about the red tailed hawk?" he asked softly.

"I know," Cole whispered, "That the hawk and Wes are together somehow. I know he's always wanted to fly away like the hawk and now he has. "

"Billy always said the same thing and after Kat disappeared, he became so restless. He drove and drove searching for any sign of her, any clue to where she'd gone. Billy wanted nothing more than to fly so he could search for her from the sky. He never believed the rumor. Never, and neither did I."

"What rumor?" Cole asked, trying to focus on what Wyatt was telling him.

"That she had run off with the visiting preacher; she would never have done that to Billy. He nearly lost his mind trying to find her. He was obsessed with it and then finally, one day, he just never came home again."

"He found her," Cole said softly. "I think he was finally okay, Wyatt. He found Kat and they had moments of happiness. Wes is proof of that. I'm just so sorry that it turned out the way it did. I just need to find Wes now."

"Cole, listen to me. If Wes is as much like his father as we think, he'll find you. He's lost right now. Are you willing to wait?"

Cole laughed sadly, "It's all I've done all my life; wait for Wesley. Worry and wait."

Wyatt pulled a clean sheet and an extra blanket from the closet and picked up a pillow from the bed. "Let's get you sorted out on the sofa. Morning always helps clear the mind and answers seem easier to understand. I want to know why Wes ran away but that can wait til we get some sleep."

Cole, stripped down to briefs and t-shirt, crawled under the thick blanket and lay on his side, staring into the dying fire. The fire made him remember the dream and the red tail feather on his pillow. He had wrapped in carefully in a motel hand towel and put in in the glove compartment of the truck. The fire, the hawk, Callie holding the baby over the flames .... What did it all mean? He fell into a troubled sleep, Wes' face haunting him.

The weak early morning sun was trying to cut its way through the snow clouds when he opened his eyes to the sounds of Wyatt stoking the fire. "Go on back to sleep, son, it's early."

In response, Cole sat up, stretched and cracked his jaws in a huge yawn. "Nah, I've got a long drive ahead of me today. I've gotta get home to check on Callie and see if anyone's heard from Wes."

"Well, let's get some hot breakfast in you and you can tell me about Wes and Callie and Mercy and all of your family. I'm not letting go of my new nephew's boyfriend now that you've found me."

Cole blushed, "It's that obvious?"

"That you love Wes? It's written all over your face when you talk about him. It's fine by me. I live out here alone so no one can try to live my life for me.

I just want to help find him. I've missed so many years with my brother; I want to know his son."

Cole told Wyatt about Callie and her pregnancy, leaving the rape part out. He told him about the idea he and Wes had come up with for the baby and how his mom was going to take care of the baby. He talked about Mercy, her physical disabilities and her shyness and fear and finally, Cole tried to explain about Wes.

"I don't know what upset him. I had gone back to school on Sunday and he promised me he would watch over Callie until I got back on Friday night. I had a bad feeling all week and by Friday, I was scared. When I got home, he was gone. He left me a letter," Cole sighed, patting his jeans pocket.

"Would you mind if I looked at it?" Wyatt asked.

The paper, crumpled now, said the same words; some things aren't meant to happen ... his name is Luc ... it's better this way .............. Nothing had changed. Wes had left him and he had no idea why.

"Cole, listen to me, son. Wes is hurting. This letter is practically crying. He's handing the responsibility of the child over to you, not because he wants to, but because he feels he must. I gotta say, it feels like something awfully bad was said to him. If you two love each other as much as you say, he was in a lot of pain when he wrote this."

"But, what? He keeps to himself. He only saw Callie and my mom and dad that day. No one knows anything."

Wyatt thought then asked, "He and Callie get along? She wouldn't want to hurt him, would she?"

"No," Cole spluttered, "Callie loves Wesley. She's loved him since she was in kindergarten. She'd never do anything to hurt him this way. I know my sister."

"And your parents are okay with you and Cole being together?"

"Not so much okay, as accepting. They love Wes."

"This is sure one big mystery. I want you to punch my number into your cell phone and call me to say you got home safely. I'm here if you need anything, and I mean anything. If it all gets too much for you, the waiting, come see me. I'll be right here and you've got a sofa ready."

Wyatt drove Cole into Thistle in his big jeep. They stood for a moment outside the sheriff's office, neither wanting to let go of the only connection to Wes. "I'll call, Wyatt. Thanks for helping me. I'll let you know if I hear anything."

"You do that, son. I'll be waiting." Cole looked hesitant, but then pushed himself into Wyatt's strong arms. For just a minute, he could pretend he was in Wes' arms. Climbing into the truck, Cole smiled a small smile, nodded his head and waved as he drove away. Wyatt leaned against the Jeep for awhile, thinking about Billy and Kat and how love just gets away from you sometimes and the far reaching outcomes can be beautiful or terrible. He hoped with all his heart that Cole and Wes found each other. That would have to be the final happy ending. Neither he nor Cole noticed the hawk perched high atop the telephone pole in the shadows of the Utah sky.

Driving the long stretch back into Wyoming, Cole tried to get his thoughts together. He would take Mercy to meet Wyatt as soon as he could. Wyatt wasn't exactly her uncle but he would be more than happy to have her for a niece and Mercy would have family.

The two laner was a quiet ride after the speed of the Interstate. Cole was taking a curve when a semi coming from the opposite direction took too much of the road and just seemed to meet head on with a large bird, maybe an owl or a buzzard. It didn't faze the trucker, but Cole had to hit the brakes hard to avoid running over the dying bird. As he slowed and passed around the body, he saw a single red tail feather drifting in the cold air. "Jesus,' Cole sighed. He felt a sharp tug in his chest and a feeling of ice clawing at the back of his neck. "Wes," he murmured, "Be safe."

Cole reached home the next day after driving straight through, tired and hungry. His head ached constantly from the strain of trying to come up with answers that didn't exist. He ran his hands through his blond curls, remembering how Wes always loved to play with the curl behind his right ear. It didn't seem to matter what he did, it brought back a memory.

As he pulled up to the back porch, he hoped Wes would come flying out, but only his mother came out to greet him. She read his face and answered his unspoken question, "No, honey, not a word."

Over the next few days, he and Mercy spent a lot of time together trying to think of where Wes would go and, of course, the unanswered question, what made him leave. "The only place he ever talked about was Utah, wanting to go find Mother," mercy sighed.

"Well, he hasn't been there as far as I could tell." Cole had shared everything that the deputy and Wyatt had told him. "It wasn't that hard to find out what happened to Billy, so I know he never went to Thistle. If he just had, he would be with his Uncle Wyatt, safe."

"He was okay Thursday morning, Cole. I know he was cause he was grinning, talking about you coming home. I hate to say this, and I know you don't want to hear it, but the only person he saw that might have said anything was Callie."

"Callie, can we talk for a minute?" Cole asked, poking his head in her bedroom door. The baby was due in two weeks, Callie was as big as a house and meaner than a snake.

"No! I don't want to talk, to you or anybody else who convinced me to do this. Look at me! Just look at me! I look like a whale and I hate this! All I wanted was to go to college and have fun. You be ready, Cole Hewett, as soon as this baby pops out, he's yours. I don't want to be anybody's mother." She sat awkwardly down in the recliner by the window. "Go away!"

"Callie," Cole soothed, "It won't be long now and you can be pretty Callie again."

"Oh, see! You think I'm gross and ugly now too." She burst into tears and held her belly as she moaned.

"No, No, I just meant you .....................," he trailed off and just sat on the floor next to her chair waiting for the crying jag to run down.

"Cal, I really need to talk to you about the last time you saw Wesley," he said quietly.

"Wesley! Wesley! Wesley! That's all you ever talk about. I'm the one having this baby and he ran off like a scared rabbit. He left you to do all the work.

Forget about him. It's me that needs you right now."

Cole waited five heartbeats. "Callie, I won't ask again, I promise, but did you say anything, anything at all, that he might have taken the wrong way or that might have hurt him so badly, he's leave? Callie, please."

"NO! He asked how the baby was, patted me on the belly," she made a face, "And I showed him some photos I had found of you two playing volleyball in the fifth grade."

"That's all?"

"For God's sake, Cole, don't you think I'd tell you if I knew anything else. I don't like seeing you so unhappy. I guess Wesley just wasn't the person we all thought he was. Maybe all those years living with that crazy family of his made him crazy too."

Cole stood slowly, looked sadly down at his sister. 'No, Cal, it made him strong. Sorry I bothered you again about this."

As Cole walked out the door, Callie's face twisted into a victorious grin. 'I win!' she thought gleefully to herself. 'If I can't have him, my brother sure as hell won't.' She had ripped Wesley's heart out with her words, and, as much as she had always thought she loved him, she realized now that she had been walking the fine line between love and hate and had finally fallen off the balancing wire.

It didn't even hurt to see Cole so crushed; look how they had hurt her. All those years wasted, waiting for Wesley to want her. She could have had Craig, but now, somehow that stupid crippled Mercy had gotten her Straihan hooks into him. What is it with these Straihans? All they did was hurt people. Look how Wesley was hurting Coley. "I wish they were ALL dead, just like Karl and the Reverend. Dead as doornails," she mumbled, laughing as she considered exactly how a doornail could be dead or alive. "Dead as this stupid rabbit somebody gave this stupid baby," she giggled as she tore its ears off and then ripped off its head.

The baby was born on Christmas Eve. The snow had been falling heavily all day, dark clouds scudding across the sky. The temperature had dropped to 23 degrees by 4:00 and the power kept browning out.

"We better take Callie to the hospital, just in case," Sarah spoke softly in the warm fireplace heated kitchen. "The baby has dropped and I don't want to be stuck out here if her water breaks during the storm."

"Good plan," Albert agreed, "But getting her to go won't be that easy. She's been cranky all morning"

"Cole's been with her the whole time. Go tell Cole to get her overnight bag and let's go before the snow gets any deeper." Sarah walked down the hall and into Callie's room. "Callie, we're going to take you to the hospital just in case the baby decides to say hello tonight. I want to be on the safe side."

"NO! I don't want to go to the damn hospital! I want to stay right here and I want Cole."

"Callie," Cole brushed her hair back out of her eyes, knowing the one thing that would get her to the hospital, "Think, Cal, if Luc decides to come tonight, we don't have any meds for pain. You'll have to do it all by yourself, Cal." He looked over her shoulder to see his mother smile.

"Okay, yeah, you're right," Callie muttered. "I want to be sound asleep when this happens." They got her dressed in her warmest clothes and Albert pulled the Volvo around. "No truck tonight," he commented, crossing his fingers they'd make it into town.

Lucas William Hewett-Straihan was born at 11:37 P.M. Christmas Eve. It was an easy birth and mother and child were both fine. The nurses took the baby away to get him sorted out and Callie, still under heavy drugs, slept through the night.

Cole convinced his mom and dad to go home and he sat down in a hospital chair by Callie's bed. Looking at her, he saw her beautiful gold hair flared out on the pillow framing her sweet face, all the pain gone. He'd been wrong to lose his temper with her. It wasn't her fault Wes had gone away.

Tears ran freely down his cheeks as he wished so much that Wes had been here to see their son come into this world. 'Where are you? Luc is beautiful; ten fingers, ten toes. He has Straihan brown hair and Hewett blue eyes. What a combination. Come home so you can hold him. Just come home."

The nurse came into the dimly lit room holding the baby wrapped in a soft blue blanket. "It's time for this young man to get his first feeding," she whispered. "Would you like to hold him while I help your sister get ready?"

Cole held out his arms and Luc just nestled down against his chest. As Cole held the baby, he felt Wes all around him.

"I won't!" he heard Callie shriek. "Let Cole do it. I had the baby, now it's up to Cole."

"Callie," the nurse soothed, "You need to feed the baby. He's hungry and he needs you to feed him so he can get all those good nutrients to make him healthy and strong."

"I said No! Cole, come do something."

Holding the baby snugly, Cole tried to reason with Callie. "Cal, he's hungry. You're his mom."


"Well, at least let him have the milk. Let the nurse take it and I'll feed him. He needs it, Callie."

And so it went .......... Cole fed Luc until they took him home from the hospital. Callie wanted nothing to do with the baby, so Sarah bought a supply of formula. Cole never complained. This was his child.

Three weeks after Luc was born, Callie burst into the kitchen waving her cell phone. "Guess what? Lily just phoned from Belize. She's down at her daddy's big casa and wants me to come visit."

"What about Luc?" Albert asked. "You can't just up and .....................,"

"Oh, yes I can. You said when the baby was born I was done with it. You're gonna go back on me now? I told you I would help Cole but now I want to be eighteen again and have fun."

Sarah felt tears burn her lids. This was her daughter, her own flesh and blood. How could she just walk away from her own child?

Cole felt another piece of his heart freeze over. This was his sister, his twin, his other half, saying she didn't want this beautiful child. He had always believed that she would change her mind and they could raise Luc together, the three of them. Now, it would be just him.

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