by Grasshopper

Chapter 11

Jase woke covered in sweat, his mind still full of the dreams brought on by all the questions. He woke, frightened and anxious and lay very still until the feelings ebbed away. The dreams had been violent, full of brilliant light and thick gloom. Cody had been calling his name and Davy was caught in web, tangled, covered with fire. He could hear them both but the closer he got, the further they seemed to be.

Pulling himself up out of the damp sheets, he headed for the bathroom and stood, head bowed, under the sharp needles of cold water, his mind waking and his thoughts reaching out to his family.

The house was empty. Walking into the kitchen, a towel hitched low around his lean hips, water dripping from his darkened hair, Jase felt a moment of panic. Glancing at the clock, he saw that he had slept late. Sighing, his shoulders relaxing out of the tight knot of tension, he looked out the kitchen window to see that the truck was gone. Okay....Cody had taken Davy to school. The field trip...........that's right. Sorry that he hadn't been up to see his son off, he hoped Davy hadn't minded.

"Cody, I hope I get to sit with Ty," Davy chattered. "Sometimes, Mrs. Bailey says we need to make new friends and makes us sit with people we don't know too good....like girls."

Cody laughed. "Mrs. Bailey's just trying to widen your horizons, Punkin."


"She wants you to get to know other people so you have new thoughts."

"Oh.........hmmm, I like my old thoughts, Cody," Davy sighed. "Some of them, anyway."

Cody reached over and ruffled Davy's hair. "I hope you get to sit with Ty, but if you have to sit with a 'guurrllll'," Cody made a silly face, crossing his eyes and sticking out his tongue, " Be polite till you get there and then find Ty."


Cody grinned, "Yeah, no farts or burps or yuck jokes. Girls don't like that stuff much."

Davy sighed, "What good are they then?"

Snorting, Cody replied, "We'll sort that one out in about 4 years, Davy Boy. You all checked out with your stuff?"

"Yeah, I got my backpack with my flashlight, water, pocketknife, map, a peanut butter sandwich, matches, and my blue jacket."

"Where's the cell?"

Davy scrambled through his UNM Lobos backpack and found the cell phone that his dad had handed him yesterday. "Here it is."

"Keep hold of it. If anything goes wrong, try to find a signal." Cody watched Davy drop the cell phone into the little side pocket on the leg of his cargo pants.

Cody hadn't wanted to say anything to worry Jase but he had this niggling feeling in the base of his brain about Davy and this field trip. He just didn't want Davy out of his sight right now. He knew he couldn't carry the boy around in his pocket but, with all this ugly business going on, he just wanted to keep them both safe and in his sight.

"Why would anything go wrong?" Davy asked, quick to feel Cody's anxiety, his voice holding a hint of fear.

"Aw, no reason," Cody answered quickly, "You know, if you get attacked by a pack of rabid girls or something."

"CODY!!!!" Davy snickered.

Pulling into the parking lot, Cody grabbed out Davy's mammoth cooler and sat it on the ground. They had written "McBride" on the top last night with a fat black Sharpie and Cody had drawn a silly face with glasses and a cowboy hat.

Hoisting it up, Cody walked with Davy into the school building and down the hall to room 134. Opening the door, he was hit by this total wave of déjà vu. The smells, the sounds...........it was like he had flown back in time to his fourth grade class and he had this ridiculous feeling that he should sit down in one of the small desks and fold his hands.

Except that.............on this morning, the room was in total bedlam. The children were all moving around the room, chattering and comparing lunches and looking at all the stuff they had brought.....cameras, binoculars, canteens, headphones, handheld games, He remembered the feeling. It didn't matter where you were going, just that you were having an adventure.

He looked for Mrs. Bailey but saw a very frazzled young lady at the front of the room. Walking up, he introduced himself.

"Morning. I'm Cody Taylor. I brought Davy in this morning."

"Yes, yes.........," the lady said quickly. "Good."

Cody looked around the room. "Where's Mrs. Bailey?"

"Her daughter had her baby last night. There were complications and she had to drive to Phoenix. I'm Mindy Calihan, the sub."

"Are you still going on the field trip?" Cody asked.

"Yes. Mrs. Harris, the principal says it'll be fine. That the whole trip is set and we'll do just fine." Her eyes darted around the room like a deer caught in the headlights. She couldn't have been more than 20.

"First time substituting?" Cody guessed.

"Yeah," she sighed. "If I don't do good, they won't call me again. I'm not sure what to do to get ready."

Cody shuffled through his thoughts and smiled. "I'll be right back." He walked down to the office and tapped on Mrs. Harris' door. Introducing himself and explaining the situation, he volunteered to go with the class and help.

"You aren't Davy legal parent," Mrs. Harris said gently. "I know Jase. He works on my husband's cattle. Let me give him a call."

"Sure. I'll wait outside."

A few minutes later, she walked out her door and over to Cody, her face relaxed and smiling. "Okay, Mr. Taylor, you've got a job to do today. Are you sure you're up to 27 wiggling 4th graders?"

Cody laughed. "We'll make it fine. I'll drive my truck and follow the bus."

She gave him all the times and the schedule for the tour and walked with him back to the classroom. The children were bouncing off the walls by now but when Mrs. Harris stepped into the room, they all slipped into their seats and sat quietly.

"How do you do that?" Cody laughed.

"It's a gift," she whispered. "It's like the third eye I have in the back of my head."

"You too? My principal had one that saw everything," he laughed.

Bathroomed and name tagged, the kids lined up with their partners (Davy grinned at Cody when he dragged Ty into line) and walked out to the waiting bus.

Cody punched in the house number on his cell. "Hey."

Jase grinned into the receiver, "I'm glad it's you and not me....all those little people at one time."

"Heck, we'll be fine," Cody answered, not admitting that this had worked out perfectly. He had wanted to watch over Davy and now he could. "What did you say to the principal?"

"I'll tell you tonight. Carl and Nita Harris are good people. She was just glad you volunteered. Be careful and stay safe. I need my 2 little Indians back home with me tonight," Jase said, his voice light but the meaning clear.

"I'll watch him, Jase. You watch your back."

"Will do. Love you, Cody."

"Right back at ya," Cody smiled, thinking of those honey colored eyes. He left the phone on and stuck it in his pocket.

The huge lunch coolers loaded, the kids loaded, the windows slammed open, hot air pushing its way into and out of the big yellow bus, the trip was a go. Mrs. Harris walked over to Cody.

"Thanks for helping. I knew something good was happening in Davy's life and now I know what it is. Have a good time and try to come back all in one piece," she laughed.

"You're scaring me now," Cody smiled. "We'll be fine. See you at 4:00."

The bus pulled out with a roar and the smell of diesel fuel. Cody swung up into the cab of the big black Ram, glad he'd filled up on the way this morning. He let the bus get out onto the highway and then pulled out behind to pace himself. He laughed to see Davy's freckled face grinning at him from the back window. This was gonna be a good day.

The tan truck let an old red Mustang file in behind Cody's black truck and then it pulled out onto the highway.

"No problem..........no problem.......I can just get rid of the Indian today. I want my son." He'd take great pleasure in slitting that Indian's throat. Just grab his long hair, pull his neck back and slice the jugular. One quick cut and Jase McBride would know grief like he'd never felt before. Oh, yeah, all those tunnels and caves..........all the darkness.....plenty of places to grab the kid..........plenty of holes to throw the Indian in. They'd never even find the body. His eyes glued to the back of that big yellow bus up ahead in the distance, he smiled. Today was going to be a good day.

Jase dressed in black jeans, a long sleeved white fitted shirt, rolled the cuffs back and slid a leather belt through the loops. He reached for his keys and cell and remembered that he'd given his cell to Davy. For the millionth time this morning, he wished he'd been awake to hug his son goodbye. Something didn't feel right. He was glad Cody was gonna be close and he was doubly glad Davy had his cell.

"Turn in on, Davy Boy," he muttered to himself.

Not wanting to be far from home and without his cell, Jase decided to mend the old hav-a-heart animal traps in the barn. With one ear listening for the house phone, Jase pulled out the pile of traps and set to work, hoping the day would go quickly and knowing it wouldn't.

The bus stayed at the speed limit as it roared along SR64. Cody flipped through the music channels and then clicked the radio off. His mind was chewing over all the facts they knew and the huge gaps that they didn't. He had no idea why he was afraid for Davy. It made no sense but then, none of this did.

He pictured Charity, all blonde curls and sparkling blue eyes, loving Jase, then loving Tommy. He'd never really thought about how terrible it would be for a girl, in love with someone who would never, could never love her back. Who had killed her so ruthlessly? Who was the sick fuck who had waited six years? Had she known it would come one day? God, what a way to live. It had to do with Davy. His mind rifled back through the list of dead girls:

Elizabeth, Gale, Catherine, Alicia......and who know how many more. He filed and refilled the information on the printouts in his head. All young, probably pretty, like Charity. All in New Mexico (that he knew about). All what? WHAT?

Wait.................wait............no sexual contact.........no semen. No rape. And the reports all said that none of the girls were virgins. That was no big deal today. Most girls aren't. Why didn't he rape them? The report on Charity had stated that she had been raped before he killed her with that knife. Why rape Charity and not the others? Was Davy Tommy's child?

Cody rubbed his face with his hand. Anyone who could explain was dead. There were no answers. All Cody knew was that there were too many damn blue ribbons in this whole mess. Whoever killed Tommy back in 1994 was teasing Charity with blue ribbons. When they found her body at the bottom of Wild Horse Ravine, she had a blue ribbon laced in her hair. It was all related. If the blue ribbons could just talk.

The bus turned off to the left down a dusty road passing a huge sign marking it as the Entrance to the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Cody flipped his blinker and put on his brakes to let a shiny red Volkswagen Bug by in the opposite lane, then turned in to eat the bus's dust for about eight miles.

The old tan truck pulled off to the side of the highway and the driver climbed out, checking the right rear tire, pausing to watch the black Ram truck till its tailgate disappeared around a curve. Satisfied that no one would notice him, he climbed back in and shot across the highway, down the already dusty road, turning off at the old forestry road he'd found the day before. Bumping along the worn path, he smiled and hummed. So many years he'd waited. It felt good to be reaching the end of his quest. He'd have his son and feel the slice of the knife again. No one could be any happier than he was today.


Jase could hear the phone ringing, dropped the WD40 can and ran for the house. Damn, cell phones had spoiled him. He grabbed for the phone on the 8th ring and said breathlessly, "Cody?"

There was silence at the other end of the line. Jase tried again, "Hello?"

Starting to hang up, He heard a voice. "I'm calling for Dakota Taylor." It was a deep cultured tone.

"Oh," Jase replied, "Sorry. He isn't here right now. Can I give him a message?"

"To whom am I speaking?"

Jase raised one eyebrow. "This is Jase McBride. Who are you?"

"Ah, the local animal doctor. No message. When do you expect Dakota?"

"No message.......No information," Jase rumbled, pissed at the guy's attitude.

After a slight pause, the voice stated in a weary tone, "My name is McKenzie Jeffers. I'm an...............old friend of Dakota's."

Jase felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. This was the guy. He felt it in his bones. Well, he wasn't getting near Cody. Not without Jase in front of him.

"Cody is unavailable at the moment. I'll tell him you called." He hung up before another word slithered along the line.

Sitting down heavily in the kitchen chair, Jase thought for one second about not telling Cody about the call but threw that out. You don't base anything on lies and half truths and an omission is a lie. Besides, the asshole had the number; he'd call again. Jase shook his head thinking that this was the proverbial 'when it rains, it pours' kind of thing. As if they didn't have enough going on right now. Thinking for a second, he lifted the receiver.

"Mrs. Dolinski? Yeah, Jase McBride. How's that new colt? Good, I'll run out and check him over in the next couple of days."

He waited while the local telephone operator went on about the new chestnut colt they had bought for their son, then interrupted to ask, "Mrs. Dolinski? Can you check something for me? I just got a call and I want to know if it was long distance or local? Yeah, it was the last call to this number."

He waited while she checked, listened to the answer, said thank you, hung up, slammed his hand on the table and exclaimed loudly, "Shit!"


The bus gasped to a stop, belching fumes and children. Miss Calihan was doing her level best but they were so excited. Cody sat for a second and then grinning, he stepped into the fray.

"Okay, guys," he said in a tone that made them settle down. "Let's get in a line with our partners. I'm gonna get you to count off and that way we'll see how many people we have and anytime I say line up and count off we'll do it, K?"

Edgar Bumpus whispered, "Who made you boss?"

Davy got in his face, his fist balled tight and growled, "That's Cody. Do what he says or I'll punch you to mush."

Edgar's bottom lip poked out and he jumped behind his partner.

"K, Cody," Davy grinned.

Trying not to laugh, Cody pointed to the first kiddo. "Count off." After three aborted attempts to count off, people forgetting how to count, girls giggling, a squirrel jumping in the line, they finally got it right.

"1, 2, 3, 4, .......................................27."

"Okay, that was cool. We'll do that so I know we're all here cause I don't know everybody's name. Now, basic rules. No one go off alone. No one go in the restrooms without a partner. Don't talk to strangers. Don't eat any berries. Don't climb on the high rocks and above all..................," he watched the kids sighing at all the rules, remembering how it used to make him feel, "Above all else, do NOT think about how dumb I'd look with a pink raccoon sitting on my head."

After a minute of shocked silence, the giggles started and the kids relaxed.

"Have fun and guys....................," he smiled, "Learn something."

The tour guide took over and Miss Calihan sighed, "Thank you SO much. I was totally panicked. They were like wild Indians on the b..............." she trailed off, realizing what she'd just said.

Cody smiled, "That's cool. It's just an expression. No prob."

They set off toward the main Kiva, the kids listening as the guide told of the prayers and the ceremonies that took place in the walled off pit.

Cody looked around at the remains of his ancestry. He always felt as if he was in church when he walked among the ruins of his forefathers. His parents had taken he and Elijah to many of their digs over the years and, as long as they stayed out of the way, they learned about different civilizations, different old cultures. Cody had always found it sad that as much as his parents loved archeology, they never could love their own children. He had always longed to live in the old Indian ways, in a village being raised by the entire tribe. His love for Jase and for Davy was filling the huge hole in his heart left by his Grandpa Edgar and his Grandma Softwind. They had loved him.

The day grew hot and the kids were taking a break from the lectures, sitting around in the shade drinking sodas and gobbling snacks. The walls were low and the boys were climbing to balance, showing off for the girls, who squealed their admiration.

"Watch out," Miss Calihan called but neither she nor Cody thought there was much danger in the three foot walls.

"They're having a good time," she smiled, "Thanks to you."

"Kids bounce. Not much shakes them in the search for fun," Cody laughed.

Trash thrown in containers, restrooms checked and then used, the tour guide was ready to lead them into the tunnels and doorways that made up the inner village. In contrast to the hot glare of the sun, the cool lichen covered walls of rock cast an icy gloom over the class. The kids, who outside had been raucous and full of noise, became quiet and began to whisper. It was as if old ones, ancient ones, were walking these dark hallways with them.

Cody heard a little girl shriek and then fuss, "Harold, I'm gonna tell your mama. You scared me."

"Haha, it was just a stick," Harold snickered.

The kids were like a hive of bees, buzzing through the doorways and up and over the low walls, peering into the sunken broken kivas and clammering into nooks and crannies tucked into the long passageways. Someone discovered that the chambers echoed and soon they were all making noises and having fun.

"Okay, let's all gather here in the main ceremonial room," the guide said patiently, looking at Cody.

"Um, yeah, okay guys..........Line..........Now."

The kids dropped into line, shuffling for their now familiar position.

"Count off."

"1, 2, 3, 4,..............................27."

"Good deal," Cody laughed. "Now, settle down. Let's hear what our guide has to tell us about the old ceremonies."

The hallways felt so cool.......So many little hearts beating in one place. He could almost touch them as they ran by, laughing and running their pretty fingers along the moss covered walls. All he had to do was reach out.........reach out and grab him as he ran by. He wanted to believe that his son would know him......would go with him happily but he had the chloroform just in case. He had the chloroform in one pocket and the sharp knife in the other. He really didn't know which he wanted more at this moment.........to feel his son's hand holding his or to feel the sharp blade of the knife slice through the Indian's flesh, hear his last gasps of breath. See the blast of recognition just before he died. Oh yes, he wanted him to know who had killed him.

Jase paced the floor of the living room. "Call, Cody," he willed. "Call me." He should never have let Davy go on this trip. He should have gone with them. He should ................Damn! Something's wrong. He could feel it. He didn't know whether to jump in the old truck and head for the ruins or sit tight. Everything that was happening was driving him crazy.

"Tommy.............you gotta find some way of helping me here," he said outloud. "You loved me...........find a way. We have to protect your son."

He heard the call of a lone coyote way off in the distance from up on the crags of Wild Horse Canyon. "Yeah, 3 Paws. I hear you."

He walked the house, room after room, seeing nothing, waiting. Davy's room was just as Charity had left it, same bright colorful patchwork quilt on the bed, same oak rocker with the blue cushion where she had rocked her baby late into the night, same old southwest colors in the baskets and trim around the windows, same old stuffed................Jase's eyes widened and he grabbed up the old lop eared bunny. It was the same bunny Davy had always had, the same bunny he had slept with and talked to since he was a baby but there was one big difference.............this bunny, with the crooked smile and the mismatched button eyes had a blue velvet ribbon tied around its neck in a neat little bow.

'He's been in my house! In my house! He's been in this room!' Jase threw the bunny on the bed and ran out the door. Grabbing the keys, he raced for the old 87 Ford truck backed up to the side of the barn. He had no thought in his head except to get to Davy. That freak had been in Davy's room!

The guide droned on about the kiva and the prayers for corn and the ceremonial costumes and Davy got the wiggles. That last Dr Pepper had gone right through him and had him dancing a jig. Edging over to Cody's side, he said in a whisper, "Cody, I gotta pee bad."

"Can't you hold on for a few more seconds?"

"I don't think so. I can just run there and be right back."

Cody looked behind him at the dark hallways. "Not today, Davy Boy. I'll go with you." He leaned over to Miss Calihan. "Be right back. Gotta use the facilities." She was engrossed in the tale of the two Indian maidens who had fallen into the ceremonial fire and just nodded her head.

"C'mon. Ty, you stay right here with the class." Cody started off down the passageway, Davy right behind him.

They could see the sun at the end of the tunnel, the light almost blinding after the gloom of the cavern-like rooms. Stepping out into the heat, they headed for the restrooms tucked behind the high 12 foot walls of the ancient village.

Cody was laughing as they walked into the rustic public restroom. "You gotta remember, Davy boy. When you drink a whole can of DP , you're gonna have to pee within............................," His voice was cut off as Davy heard the sound like a baseball bat hitting a solid homerun ball. He saw Cody crumble right in front of him and an arm reached out shoving a dirty handkerchief in his face. Davy struggled but he felt his arms and legs go slack and the last thing he remembered was the blood running down Cody's face.

Cody tried to open his eyes; knew he'd been hit from behind. He tried to raise his arm only to have it slammed back down into the cement floor by someone's booted foot. He opened one eyes and saw the dirty floor and red.......his blood.

"Davy?" he said weakly, reaching for the boy.

"He's mine now," a garbled voice said softly, not gently but menacingly. "You've been in my way for so long. You and your...........fag lover. I'm gonna get rid of you both. My son belongs to me."

The voice was familiar...........the tone grated on his memory but he couldn't think.

"I've waited a long time to do this," the voice snarled. Cody saw the flash of a knife and felt his hair being jerked back to give free welcome to his neck by the blade. He was going to die and he couldn't get to Davy. Oh, Jase!

Suddenly, another voice rang in the air from across the yard. "Davy! Cody! I gotta pee too."

Cody felt his head drop forcefully to the floor and he heard scrambling and a dragging sound. "This is far from over," the voice said. "I want you to know who is hurting you, so I'll wait. Here's something to remember me by." Cody felt a sharp pain and tried to keep his mind open. He tried to yell to Ty. He tried to grab for Davy. He felt the numbness as the knife ripped its way into his shoulder.

He heard Ty yell, felt the weight of his body as the boy fell across him and then silence. The silence of Davy gone............the silence of Davy in the hands of a man who has killed 7 people.

Cody could feel Ty breathing. He tried to get up but the knife was pinned under Ty's body and he hurt.............God, it hurt. He tried to reach for his cell .............call Jase. Jase!

Jase hit the gas at 80, the old truck wouldn't hold for anything higher. He made the turnoff and narrowly missed colliding with an old tan pickup that was turning out onto the highway. He came to a dusty halt and jumped out, calming himself so that he didn't look a fool when he found that everything was okay.

Directed into the main ceremonial room by the guides, he looked around at the children, recognizing many as Davy's classmates. He didn't see Mrs. Bailey or Cody or Davy. His breath catching in his throat, he walked up to the only tall person in the room.

"I'm Davy McBride's father. Where is he? Where is Cody Taylor?"

Miss Calihan whispered, "They went to use the restroom," she pointed, "Out that way."

Jase headed quickly down the dark hallways and stepped out into the light. He saw the restroom sign and headed for the door, nearly stepping on Cody as he rounded the corner.

"Oh Dear God!" Jase fell into a crouch, lifting a now wide awake sniffling Ty off Cody's chest and taking in the bump on the head, the blood coating his hair and face and the huge Indian ceremonial knife sticking out of his left shoulder.

"Not me, Jase. Go get Davy. He took Davy!" Cody cried. "Go!"

Jase took one second to push the bloody hair back from Cody's forehead and then sprinted out of the room looking to the left and the right, turning in circles, his frantic eyes seeing nothing. Nothing but forest, and ruins and dust.

"That wasn't what I planned. Haha ! Stupid Jase passed me just now as he came to rescue my son. I wanted to slit that brown throat and watch the blood spurt. I wanted the recognition to flare in those dark eyes. Mine! This is mine!" He patted the unconscious boy stretched out on the seat beside him.

The state trooper's lights flashed and the paramedics argued with Cody trying to get him into the ambulance. No one knew where Davy was and Jase and Cody were terrified.

"Do something!" Jase exploded. "Don't just stand around."

"We're doing all we can, Mr. McBride," the trooper said carefully. What a mess! All those parents, all those wailing children.

"Tell us again what you saw, Mr. Taylor."

"I couldn't see anything. My face was pressed into the floor and there was blood running in my eyes. I tried to open them. I tried to see, Jase, I tried to get up." His voice rose in panic.

"Hush now," Jase soothed. "You did all you could. He whacked you from behind. There was no warning. We'll find Davy." Did he believe his own words?

"We know it's someone who set out to take Davy. We know it's someone you say has killed other people. We know...........," his voice cut off as a black sedan pulled up and two men got out, walking toward the ambulance.

"Agent Crisp and Agent Parsons, FBI." They flashed their badges and Agent Crisp turned to Jase and Cody. "I heard about this and wanted to personally take this case. We've got a kidnap now and the chance it's interrelated to the other cases we spoke of."

"It's totally related," Cody sighed, his voice breaking. "Tell him, Jase."

"I found......at my house..........that's why I came...........I found," his voice wavered as he remembered the fear, "In my boy's room. He was in my house. This freak was in my house........" Cody slid his good arm around Jase and whispered softly,

"We can't help Davy if we panic." He turned to the agent. "Jase found a blue ribbon tied around the neck of Davy's favorite stuffed rabbit. It wasn't there yesterday."

"So, it is all coming together. What we have to figure out is how all this relates to your son, Mr. McBride."

"Believe me," Cody said quietly, "We've been going crazy trying to figure it all out."

"I don't think there's anything else we can do here," the troopers said, looking around the park, the shadows lengthening as night sealed in its secrets.

"We can't just go home," Jase resisted as Cody tugged at his arm.

"It won't do any good to stay here. This isn't where Davy is."

"Did you see any one, anything that can help us?" the troopers asked.

Jase pulled himself out of the dark funk and thought. "I did pass a truck that was pulling out onto the highway as I was pulling in. I just remembered. It was an old tan Ford pickup."

"Did you get the license?"

Jase looked at him and sighed. "I was scared to death for my son. I wasn't checking license tags."

"Well, at least we've got a place to start. He may contact you."

"This isn't a ransom thing," Cody said softly. "It's a revenge or a hate thing. I have no idea why but he hates me."

"You?" Jase questioned. "Why would someone who killed Charity and Tommy hate YOU?"

"This is a crazy freakin' fucker," Cody exploded. "I just know what I heard in his voice and in his words. He messed with his voice but it was familiar somehow. I'm mixed up in this somehow, Jase. He was gonna kill me right then but for Ty."

Shaking, Cody slipped off the back of the ambulance and started for the truck. "Whoa now," Jase said, catching his good arm. "You aren't driving home. You're staying very close to me. Not out of my sight again."

"Agent Parsons will follow you home with the truck and I'll be right behind him," Agent Crisp said calmly. "You sure you're okay to drive, Mr. McBride?"

"Yeah, I'm okay."

They walked toward the trucks and Agent parsons opened the door to the big black Ram. "Yo! Hold on! Look what we've got here!" he stepped aside and they looked to see a piece of blue velvet ribbon tied saucily to the top of Cody's steering wheel.

Davy woke up slowly, his eyes and nose burning like when there's too much chlorine in the pool. He didn't open his eyes cause they burned. He remembered going to the restroom with Cody, Cody teasing him about drinking the Dr Pepper. He remembered Cody falling, the sound of his head hitting the floor..........he couldn't remember anything else.

He felt warm and comfy. Maybe it was all a bad dream. Maybe he was home in bed and he hadn't waked up to go on the field trip yet. Maybe..........No! he could smell smoke. There wouldn't be smoke in his room. Not unless the house was on fire. He struggled to open one eye.

It was really dark. He could see shadows dancing on walls. He could hear night critters. He was outside somewhere. Why was he outside? Why was he all warm and cosy if he was outside? Where was Cody? Where was his daddy? He wanted them. He felt tears begin to burn the backs of his already burning eyes. Stop! He thought forcing himself to sniff back the tears. Where am I? He remembered how Cody had looked when he fell. Was Cody dead? Where was he? Where was his daddy?

"Ah........I see you're waking up." Davy looked toward the voice. He saw through the film of heat in his eyes. He didn't know this man.

"Who.............?" He tried to use his voice but he croaked. It hurt to swallow.

"Drink this." The man held his head and offered him some water. Davy turned his head and squeezed his lips shut.

"Drink this!" The voice stronger now.

"No! I want my daddy! I want Cody!"

"I AM your..................," the man trailed off as if deciding that now wasn't the right time. "You will drink this to ease your throat." He held Davy's head and pinched his nose shut. Davy held out but finally gasped for air and felt some cool liquid slide down his parched throat.

"There, isn't that better?"

"Where am I? I want to go home."

"You're with me now. I'll keep you safe."

"I don't want to be with you. I want to go home."

"You'll be happy with me, son. I will make you very happy."

Davy tried to move his arms. They didn't want to work. He looked down at himself and saw that he was zipped tightly into a sleeping bag. "I want to get out of this."

"You can when I can trust you not to run away."

Davy felt his eyes closing and his mind drifting. He didn't want to go to sleep. He didn't trust this crazy man. Why was he so sleepy? He made one last frantic jerk to free himself and then felt his mind closing down.

"My son! How feisty! How brave! I like that. He will be a son to be proud of." He sat by the fire, sharpening his knives humming softly to himself.

Jase finally got Cody into bed, practically tying him down. "I don't need to sleep. I need to be where you are. I need to be by the phone."

"You do need to sleep. You lost a lot of blood. It's either sleep here or at the hospital. I mean it, Cody."

Close to a pout crossed his beautiful worried face. "Okay...........I'll lay here but I won't sleep." Ten minutes later, the medicine the medics had given Jase for pain kicked in and Cody was out. Jase walked into the kitchen where the two agents and Trooper Higgins were sitting at the table playing with cups of coffee.

"We need to catch a break," Agent Crisp said quietly. "If he isn't gonna ask for ransom, we have no leads to follow."

"Tell us again about the blue ribbons and your wife and your ex.......um. boyfriend," Agent Parsons asked.

Jase got out all the print outs and Charity's old diaries. Together, they pored over the old information until dawn began to break.

"I still see no connection between this and Cody. He was just a boy when all this was going down."

"There are connections," Trooper Higgins murmured. "This house. His grandfather. You live in his grandfather's house. Coincidence?"

Jase blinked. "Of course not. How stupid. We never knew each other but he does have connections to me and to Charity and to Davy through his Grandfather Edgar."

"How did you come to live here?"

"Does that matter?"

"I think we all can see there are no coincidences in this tangled mess."

Jase thought back. "I heard about the old vet here dying in a car accident and I asked for the job."

"How did you hear about it?"

"I ..........I got a letter."

"That didn't seem odd to you?"

"I wanted a job so badly, no, it didn't. Just seemed like good luck."

Agent Crisp got on his laptop. "Says here the old vet, Doctor Engles, died when his brakes failed. He was killed head on. Let's see the coroner's report." He typed a code. "He had multiple fractures and a fractured skull. But the wound that killed him was a large puncture wound near the heart. They assumed from broken glass since he went out the windshield."

"Could that have been a knife wound?"

"Coulda, yeah."

Jase's mind was unable to lock itself around this new horror. Someone, correct that, the freaking nutjob, killed the old vet so that he and Charity could come here to live in Drifter, New Mexico. Why?"

"How did you come to live here in this house?"

"Edgar came to the little motel room we were living in one day and propositioned us. He said that if I'd help him on the upkeep of the ranch, he'd let us live with him and run my vet service out of his barn. It seemed like a match made in heaven."

"Did he ever say why he had this grand idea?"

Jase thought back. "No."

"Did he ever mention his family to you?"

"He talked about his grandsons, especially Cody, and how proud he was of them."

"Did he keep any papers? Journals? Anything?"

"I've got no idea. I've never looked."

"He did," a yawning voice spoke from the doorway. Cody stretched and Jase smiled to see him feeling better. "You slipped me a total mickey, huh?"


Cody grabbed a cup and poured some coffee. "The lawyer, Alan Schneider, said that Grandpa kept journals. Asked me where they were. I didn't know. His secretary said to check the attic, that there's a lot of old stuff squirreled away in attics. I never got a chance. Why do we need Grandpa's journals?"

"Seems there's all kinds of connections between you and me that we didn't see," Jase said softly.

"So, this IS about me too?" Cody sighed. "I just can't see it. I was only 18 when Tommy was killed. I was only 10 years old when the first girl was killed."

"Cody! Nobody's saying you have anything to do with what's happening, just that somehow, you're part of the equation."

Davy's eyes blurred open. Drugging him was keeping his mind cloudy. He needed to get his brain in gear, like Cody always told him. He'd watched enough TV to know that he needed to fool this nutcase. He'd been faking sleep for over an hour letting his brain wake up. Peeping out from between his lashes, he could see the man sleeping across the fire. He was locked into this sleeping bag and man, did he need to pee. 'Okay, McBride,' he told himself, 'You're on your own here. What would Daddy do?"

"Hey, Mister," he called as sweetly as possible, "Mister." He watched the man come instantly awake, sitting up so fast he knocked over the cold coffee pot. He stood up and walked over to where Davy was cocooned in the downy bag.

"Hmmmm, what you need, son?"

Davy wished he'd quit calling him that. It gave him the creeps. "I really need to pee, Mister." He worked hard to keep his voice strong and not sound scared. He had the feeling this man wouldn't like him to be scared.

"Okay, but you have to promise not to run."

"I like the woods. I won't run," Davy said softly, knowing the first chance he got, he'd run like a bat outta hell.

The man unlocked the tiny padlock and pulled the heavy zipper down far enough for Davy to wiggle out. He jumped up and stretched loudly, dancing a little to work his circulation in his legs.

"C'mon, I'll take you to the woods."

Davy's eyes darted right and left. They were in a cave, in a forest much like anywhere around Drifter. He had to find out where they were so Daddy and Cody........his mind shut down at how Cody was............could come and get him. He was a kid. He'd just ask.

"Mister? Where are we?"

The man, standing beside him, a stream of pee hitting the forest floor, laughed. "Near enough that they can feel you but they'll never find you."

'Okay', Davy thought. 'Not far from home'.

"Why did you take me? Why did you hurt Cody?"

The man seemed to go off into some other place. Davy watched as he rubbed his chest and hummed softly to himself. Then, the man turned and faced Davy. "You're my son. I'm your father now. I wanted to hurt that Indian. I'll do it again. You be a good son and I won't make you watch."

Davy stood frozen. Shit on a stick.........he felt the tears but pushed them way back. He just wanted to go home. He wanted to scream 'I'm not your son. My daddy is Jase McBride,' but he knew not to. He knew it the same way he knew not to poke a stick at a mountain lion. Mountain lion 1 / Davy zip.

He zipped back up, peeing taking a long time cause he was terrified inside. His hand bumped along the side of his cargoes, just nudging the edge of something hard in the side pocket. Daddy's cell phone!! It was all he could do not to reach down and jerk it out but he just let his hands fall to his sides meekly.

"Mister, I'm kinda hungry," he said carefully, wanting a chance to get to the phone. He knew his daddy and Cody were holding Cody's phone right now.

"You will not call me mister. I told you, I'm your father."

"But.......," Davy trailed off, seeing his mistake as the man's face reddened and he jerked Davy by the wrist.

"You will call me Father. It's my right."

"But............," the hand tightened on Davy's wrist and, as he felt the sharp pain of the man's hand hit his cheek, he bit his lip to keep from crying out.

"Who am I?"

Davy stood, eyes down, not so much in submission but more so the man couldn't see the anger that leaped into them. He would play the game. It was just a game after all. Daddy and Cody would find him and the man would go to jail........all he had to do was play the game.

"Who am I?" the man growled again, twisting Davy's small arm.


"Immediately, the man's manner changed. "There, see? That wasn't so hard. Now, what will we have for breakfast, Son?"

Davy tried to smile, the tip of his little finger pushed hard against the edge of the small cell phone.............his lifeline to Daddy.....to Cody.

Unlocking the attic door, the five men took the steps two at a time. "I wish I had done this back when they told me about the journals," Cody said, blaming himself.

"You didn't know," Jase corrected him, watching Cody for signs that this was too much. Jase would get more medicine in him before he crumbled under the pain from his shoulder. He rubbed Cody's back and felt the smaller man lean into him for strength. "We''ll find him, baby," he whispered.

"I didn't watch him, Jase."

"Shhh, let's find those journals. We need any clues we can get."

They rifled through old trunks and boxes of magazines. Cody saw pieces of his life, old memories of his grandma; his life here when he was happy.......her Helaku...her Sunny Day. 'Grandma, help me please. We have to find Davy. I don't understand how I fit in all this, Grandma'.

"Here they are," Trooper Higgins called, wiping dust from four old bookkeeping ledgers. "They were stuck in this pile of old books."

Downstairs, at the kitchen table, the men looked at each other. Agent Crisp pushed the books towards Cody. "They belong to you. You'll understand them better than any of us."

Cody looked at the covers dated 1970-1980, 1980-1990, 1990-2000 and 2000-2010. He ran his hand sadly over the newest one. "He never got to finish this one."

Jase watched Cody's eyes. "Let's just skim through the 70-80 one. Let's see how he set these books up."

Cody lifted the oldest book. It was an old fashioned ledger, rectangular, taller than wide, with grey stripes and the word Ledger in an old script in the center of the cover. Thumbing to the first page, he said, "These are mostly money exchanges and notes about the ranch. Cattle bought and sold, fencing replaced or repaired. There aren't entries every day. Wait, here's a personal one." Cody read aloud:

7/13/73 Took Dakota to the doctor in Shiprock again.. $78.00 Charles needs to pay more attention when he carries his son.

Jase looked at Cody but Cody just frowned, "I wasn't but like 1 year old. I don't remember." He kept thumbing through the pages.

5/12/76 Ticket for Allison to go visit her parents $245.17 She needs a break.

"Allison is my mother," Cody said softly. "She was never happy here."

"Did you go?" Agent Crisp asked.

"I don't remember really but I don't think so." Cody stared at the table, his eyes shuttered. I only remember my grandpa and grandma from when I was little. Mainly, my parents were gone. They are archeologists and travel a lot," he said defensively. Jase laced his fingers through Cody's and squeezed.

I don't see any more personal entries in this one." He picked up 80-90. Much the same set up, same masculine hand, same short chopped entries. "Whoa, wait. Look here." In a very shaky hand, Grandpa Edgar had written:

3/25/82 They are gone. Our Helaku and Halona. Our babies are gone. My SoftWind is heartbroken. No reason. He took them all.

"What does that mean?" Agent Parson asked.

Cody sighed. "We moved away. Elijah and I were ten. One day, he just said we were leaving. We didn't even get to take all our things. I didn't want to leave my grandpa and grandma. I remember crying so much all the way to New England."

"Did you ever come back?"

"Only for my grandma's funeral. He knew she was sick but we didn't come until after she was dead." Cody raised haunted eyes to lock onto Jase.

"And when was that?

"Grandma died in 89. Grandpa said she just drifted away after we left and never wanted to really be here anymore."

Jase watched Crisp tap Parsons on the arm and nod his head toward the back screen door. Getting up, they walked out to stand on the back porch, heads together, talking softly.

"Jase, what does all this mean? My grandpa didn't hurt anyone. You knew him. He couldn't have."

Jase reached for Cody to pull him into his arms, when Cody's cell phone in his shirt pocket vibrated. Nearly ripping the cotton, he jerked the phone out and saw that it IDed the call as coming from him.

"It's my cell," he yelled. "Davy's got my cell on."

Davy watched the man ('I am not calling that snotweed my father') cooking eggs in a skillet over the low fire. 'It's like we're camping', Davy thought. 'This guy is way screwed up'.

He inched his hand down and unsnapped the gripper on his pocket, slid his hand in and felt the cell. K, now...........this is Daddy's, so I'm calling Cody. He felt the rows of buttons, picturing the cell in his head.

"Want bacon?"

Davy froze, his fingers on the buttons. "Oh, yeah, yum, thanks," (stupid fart) He felt for the 'call' button and pushed, then hit what he hoped was #1. Pleeeeeeeeease..........Cody. He could hear the faint sound of ringing and sniffed and coughed and wiggled to cover it.

"Mist..........um, I mean Father?"

The man looked up, pleased at how easily his son accepted him.

"Why are we in this cave?" Davy asked loudly.

"I have some unfinished business. Then we can go home."

"Where's home?"

""Far way from here. I never liked it here. I'll take you home with me."

"But my da...........but they will miss me."

"Oh but they won't. You can't miss anyone when you're dead."

Davy pushed back against the wall of the cave. This jerk may think it but he'll never hurt Daddy and Cody again. I'll stop him. His hand hit against a paper. Looking down, he saw a folded map of New Mexico. He leaned over and saw Aztec Ruins Park circled in red, Drifter, Albuquerque, Shiprock, Chaco Canyon and lots of other towns. There was an arrow drawn from Aztec to Chaco Canyon. Davy's eyes widened and he knew where he was.


"Yes," the man beamed.

"I'd really love a coke right now. I love cokes."

"I don't have any. Next time I go to town."

"Okay, but," Davy raised his voice as loud as he could without yelling, "I really wish I had a COKE!"

Jase and Cody and the three law men listened intently, making out some of the words, the voices muffled.

"Why the fuck is Davy calling him father?"

"Who knows......shhh."

"They're in a cave."

"Millions around here."

They heard loud and clear, "I really wish I had a COKE!" Jase and Cody looked at each other. Jase said, "Davy can't drink cokes. Something in them gives him hives."

"Why would he say that?"

Thoughts crashing, tumbling, no answers.............coke??? "He's trying to tell us something. What? Damn it all, what?"

Cody jumped up so fast, the chair fell backwards with a crash. "Chaco Canyon! He's in Chaco Canyon."

"How? Why do you...........?"

"Never mind. Smart kid. Tell you later.............Go!."

Keeping the cell phone open, they raced for their trucks. "I'll lead," Jase yelled. "There's a shortcut through the back pastures over Kachina Creek. We can come in from behind the caves." Cody started to climb in the shotgun door. "You stay here," Jase said loudly.

"I am so not staying here," Cody protested, his face a sickly shade of gray and the shoulder wound oozing blood.

Jase took him by the shoulders. "Cody, you're hurt. You can't help right now. You stay here and wait. We'll be back. I'll bring Davy home. I promise."

Jase grabbed his rifle and slammed it into the gunrack. "There's a pistol under the seat. You keep that with you. That fucker better not have laid a hand on my son."

Davy hoped the phone was working. He had practically shouted his clue. It had to work.

The man stood up and walked toward Davy with a roll of silver duct tape. "I have to leave you here, my son. Just for a little while, I promise. Then we'll be on our way. You'll be the son I always wanted. Not a fake son......a real son of my own seed."


"Never mind. All in good time." He reached down and grabbed Davy's hands and taped them together, then his ankles. "I hate to put this on your mouth but I can't have you yelling while I'm gone." He slapped a strip of tape across Davy's mouth and stood, satisfied that his son would be quiet and still.

"I'll be back soon. Just some unfinished business." He walked out, bits of a tune wafting back through the breeze. A song Davy's mom used to hum. A song Davy now knew signaled bad things.

Davy rolled over on his stomach and inched his way to the fire. Dragging his mouth over the edge of the sharp rocks that lined the fireplace, he ignored the pain and scrapped until he felt the duct tape begin to give at one corner of his mouth. Pushing with his tongue, and scrapping, he managed to wet the tape enough to blow it away from his lips.

Tape dangling from one side of his face, he brought his hands to his mouth and chewed at the tape like a squirrel. 'Please.....please..........I gotta hurry. He's gonna hurt my dad....hurt Cody' He kept saying it over and over and the tape grew loser and loser, finally ripping enough to stretch it and yank his hand out.

Grabbing his backpack, he scrambled and found the pocketknife and sliced through the tape around his ankles.

"I'm up! Yes!!" he exclaimed. Reaching in his pants pocket, he pulled out the cell phone. "Daddy!! Cody!!"

Jase nearly ran off the road. "I'm here, Davy Boy. I'm on the way. Where's that guy?"

"He said he's got unfinished business. He left me here. I think he means you, you and Cody, Daddy."

"Don't you worry. We're fine. You get out of there. Take your backpack and get out of there. I'll find you."

"I know, Daddy."

"I'm gonna keep the phone open. Just keep talking, Davy Boy. Daddy's coming." Their boy was gonna be fine. Tears flowed unchecked as he floored it down 666. He wanted to call Cody but he needed to keep Davy talking.

"That bitch, all honey tongued, Allison, the sweet bitch, thought she had me fooled. I knew what she was up to. Not my sons. I just wanted my own son. It took me a long time to find the right one, the chosen one but that silly girl gave me my son. My search is over. Only two more tallies and I am done. My son and I will travel the world. The sights I'll show him."

Trooper Higgins sat in the rocker on the front porch. The two FBI agents had torn out after Jase, hoping to catch the suspect. He had checked on Cody who sat quietly at the kitchen table. He was almost too quiet.

"You okay?"

"Yeah........No...........Not till Davy's home. Not till that fucker's tied up."

"I hear that. I'll be right outside if you need me."

Now, he rocked slowly, waiting to get word from the others. John Higgins had never been involved in murder. He was nervous but the slow steady rocking and the beginning heat of the New Mexico day lulled him. His eyelids fluttered; he jerked awake, then his head lolled to the side as his brain grabbed sleep to make up for last night.

John Higgins was a good man....wife and two kids. Got those monthly payments in on time every month and saved out $25 for the 'Las Vegas' trip he and his wife, Joanne were going to take in the summer of '05. He was a religious man, loved God and prayed every night.

John Higgins just happened to be in the way, like a piece of blown tire tread on the highway. Most people slow down and go around them. Every once in a while, some good Samaritan stops and throws it in the grass but today, on this hot and dusty morning, while John Higgins dreamed of slots and dancing girls with high plumes in their hair, he got in someone's way........and this someone didn't give a shit about John or his family or his plans.

John Higgins never felt the knife or if he did, it was part of a hazy dream. His head was jerked back and his throat slit, noiselessly and without much thought. No more than running over that strip of black tread.

Wiping the blade on the leg of his pants, the man looked in the window and saw the light still burning in the hallway of the old farmhouse. He remembered his father saying, "You left the lights on, again," as he walked from room to room flicking off the switches. "It's useless to keep telling you."

"You're right, old man. It was useless. It was useless to tell me anything. How you doted on those boys, like they were really yours. I knew what she did........sneaking around behind my back. She'll be the last to go. I want to take my son to her and tell her what I've done. First, this one with the long black hair and the dark skin. He was always your favorite.......even more than me. I'll get rid of them both and then she'll know how much I hated them all..........all these years I've waited......searching.

He sliced through the phone line running up the side of the house and moved around the house quietly.

Cody closed the 1990-2000 journal slowly, his mind unable to surround what he had just read:

11/4/94 Charles visited today. Didn't stay long. Said he had a lecture at the school in Portales. Told me about the boy who has taken over for Doc Mullins. He's right. I have plenty of room here. Just rattling around in this big house. Maybe I'll ask .

6/13/96 Charles came today. Spent time with little Davy since Jase and Charity had gone to Gallup for the afternoon. Too bad he missed meeting them.

3/1/2000 Charles came today. He met Jase and brought Davy a little car. He wanted to meet Charity. Maybe next time.

The dates:
'94 ~ the girl in Portales.....Alicia Jase and Charity and Davy moved into Grandpa's house
"96 ~ the girl in the desert outside Albuquerque
2000 ~ Charity Oh, God! Charity!!

Cody rested his aching head on his good arm. He couldn't move, his mind frozen. It couldn't be, but it was. He sat, waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting to know that Davy was all right. He knew who was doing this. At first, it was a horrible unbelievable vile thought, but the more he thought, the more his mind refused to accept it; the more it made sense.

He hadn't seen any realization in Jase's eyes. At least he had that.......for now. Jase would hate him when he knew. Cody wanted to know why this had all happened but he didn't want to hear the answers. The answers would destroy his happiness.

He heard the slow soft grind of the screen door opening, felt a chill run the length of his body. Knowing, without glancing back, he raised his head and said sadly, "Hello, Father."

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