The large, wet snowflakes fell silently. The heavens had opened up and draped the homestead in a quiet blanket so pure and white that Jack almost teared up at the beauty of it. Ryan was also awake and watching the snowfall from his bedroom window. The two, in their own rooms were so very similar in thought.
‘Libby would be totally captivated by the sheer beauty of this,” Jack thought. “I wish she could have been here to share this with me.’ He had always loved watching his wife watch the snow fall, she was so awed by it, it was like a little child seeing snow for the first time. His memories weren’t so different from Ryan’s as he remembered how she would spot a real big fluffy flake and together they would watch it fall to the ground or onto a window. With a heavy sigh, Ryan lay back down onto his pillow and pulled the covers to his chin. He put his hands behind his head and closed his eyes. Though no sound was heard, his lips moved as he prayed for a miracle, one he knew would never happen.
“Lord,” Jack began, “Again, I need your strength and wisdom. It’s been two months since Libby joined you, I am unsure how to handle this feeling I have for…”
“Momma! Momma!” The yell from BJ had Jack running to the bedroom. Jack stopped as he witnessed his elder son consoling his youngest.
“It’s okay BJ. Mommy doesn’t hurt anymore, she is with God now. He called her home remember? We are at the house in Montana, look, see? The snow is falling.” BJ looked out the window where Ryan was pointing, “I see now. Momma is making snowflakes to cover us all.”.
“Yes, she is. She is looking down on us right now and seeing that we aren’t asleep. Lay back down BJ, do you want me to lay with you tonight?”
“No, I’m okay now that I remember Momma is near. Goo’night Ry.”
“Good night BJ.” Ryan tucked BJ into his bed, put an additional cover on him and went back to his own bed. Jack quietly closed the door on his boys, pausing a moment to reflect on how blessed he is with his children he closed his eyes.
“Well, Lord. I am truly amazed. I will have to say that I thought things were a little more stressed than they are. Ryan seems to have his head and his heart in the right place. Thanks for showing me what I was beginning to doubt.”
The next couple of days were spent doing the day to day, in other words, all were busy, in their own little world doing what needed to be done around the beautiful property. Even though it has been in their possession for a decade, Jack still has a difficult time believing it belongs to them.
“Yes, Emily?” He stood and wiped the sweat off of his forehead. It may be cold and white all around him, but he was still working up a sweat repairing a hole that appeared in the shed in a very inconspicuous corner since the first snowfall. It wasn’t this large when Jack first noticed it, but it was at least a foot tall and at a very odd angle – tricky to fix.
“Yes?” He stopped working for a moment to look at his daughter, seeing concern on the child’s face, he put down his tools and said, “Come here, Em.” Jack knelt down on one knee on the cold dirt floor and placed his daughter on the other knee. “What’s bothering you, Emily?”
“Well, are we gonna go back to school soon?”
“I’m not sure Emily, why? Do you miss your friends and teachers?”
“Sort of, but I really miss my books.” Jack pulled Emily to him and hugged her close. “Do you want to go back?” Jack asked again, tentatively.
“I don’t think so, not yet anyway. I still have to get used to Mom being gone.” This said so matter-of-factly surprised Jack. Emily, the child who would cry watching a commercial on television about a cat who was hungry – because Emily wasn’t sure the owner knew how hungry the cat was.
“Well how about we go into town and we’ll pick up a book or two for you to read. Would that do for now?”
“I like that Daddy. When can we go?”
“Why don’t you tell everyone we are going right now. I’ll just clean up these tools, — I really didn’t want to fix this today anyway.”
The hug and smile Jack received urged him to clean-up quickly because now one of the children seemed to be expressing…an interest in …something… he really wanted to take the children to the store now.
The store was a mercantile, it seemed to carry everything. It wasn’t like the power shopping stores of the Chicago area; groceries, furniture and pet supplies all in one stop. Although, it did have all of those things in lesser quantity, but only because it really had to. It was a small town store that had to have a little of everything.
All seemed relatively excited about going to the store. Now that he was thinking about it, Jack thought maybe he waited too long to take them from the ranch. They were probably getting a little stir crazy. As they browsed the store, Emily picked out two books, Molly some sort of art kit, BJ, surprisingly didn’t go for candy, which he normally did, but a small item which he kept hidden, and Ryan didn’t pick anything out. As they are paying for it, Jack had a glimpse of what BJ was hiding, it was a figurine, of what he couldn’t tell, he’d have to ask later.
“Ryan are you sure you don’t want anything?
“I can’t buy what I want Dad.” Jack nodded, but picked up a candy bar for his son anyway.
As they were leaving the store the girls were talking animatedly over their purchases and how they would share them, BJ held Ryan’s hand but was clutching his prize tightly so nobody could see. Ryan was walking… Jack felt there is still a lot of anger and loneliness as well as a sense of desertion in his son, maybe even resentment. He made a mental note to talk to him tonight.
“Hey! Hey, Jack.” It was Kate. She was waving and crossing the street and holding a dog on a leash.
“Hi Kate.” said Jack.
“Miss Kate, what a beautiful dog!”
“What’s her name?”
“Can I pet her?”
Katie laughed as they all spoke at once. “Well, I think he’d be happy to let you pet him. His name is Bosco, the sheriff is having me dog-sit, although this guy is so wonderful, I may not give him back.”
The dog, a mix it looked like, of a German Shepherd and a Labrador, had a great disposition. He sat on command and let the children pet and hug and cuddle him. Ryan held back.
“What a great dog. Bosco is his name?” said Emily with a screwed up face.
“Yea, I think, it suits him.”
Jack looked at Kate as the kids were petting and lifted an eyebrow in question. Kate mouthed ‘later’ to him and he nodded in understanding.
“Miss Kate, would you like to come with us? We were going to go have dinner at the restaurant.”
“Well, that would be lovely BJ, but I don’t think Bosco would be welcome.”
“Can we go to your place?”
“Molly,” a warning tone from dad crushed the hopeful expression on Molly’s young face.
“No, Jack, it’s ok. I would love to have you all over for dinner, I just stocked up on food. You could also meet my grandfather, he lives in the flats as well.”
“Well, if you’re sure. You don’t feel pressured do you?” He was referring of course, to his daughter. Molly, though resumed her hopeful look.
“I think it is a wonderful idea! Maybe Gramps can walk you through his workshop and you can see how he creates beautiful artwork out of wood.” The children chorused agreement and excitement at seeing something new, going somewhere different, except Ryan. He was quiet, reserved, but there was something in his eyes as he watched Kate. Herding the children in the direction that Kate and Roscoe led, Jack held back.
“Is everything all right, son?”
“Yea, Dad. I’m ok. Just intrigued, I guess.”
“Intrigued? Now that’s not a word I hear you say.”
“Lay off Dad. I’m just trying to figure something out.”
“Oh, yea? What?”
“Nothing, never mind, it really doesn’t matter.”
That was the furthest thing from the truth. Jack could see emotion passing through Ryan’s eyes. But he decided not to pursue it right now. “Are you ready to go to Miss Kate’s home?” Ryan shrugged his shoulders but followed the rest of the group.
Molly kept Kate busy with her animated chatter, BJ and Emily walked and petted the dog, Ryan, kind-of just walked along, and Jack brought up the rear watching all of them with a sense of serenity. Not sure why it seemed so calm, in reality, he felt Ryan was going to blow up at any moment, and he wasn’t exactly sure what about. There hasn’t been any indication of something building up lately that Jack had noticed. They were however, off of the ranch, away from what has become routine. Why did Ryan look at Kate that way? It wasn’t a romantic look, nor was it one of dislike, maybe … jealousy? That couldn’t be it, could it? Before Jack had time to ponder that thought, they were at Kate’s.
A modest apartment, comfortable and full of nothing more than was necessary. Kate lived above what appeared to be a workshop which they later found to her grandfathers home as well.
“So, how about hamburgers on the barbeque?” Kate asked.
A chorus of “Sounds great!” or, “that would be fine” and cheese on my burger, please” rang among the group. “Kate what can we help you with?”
“Well, Jack, if Molly and Emily would like to get the plates, glasses, and condiments, and while they lay the table, Ryan and BJ can get the lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, buns and potato chips while I get the fire started.” Pointing to the counter, fridge or cabinet depending on where that particular item was.
“Well, what would you like me to do?”
“Why don’t you get the hamburger meat that is defrosting in the fridge, and make some patties?”
“That sounds great to me. Uh, girls? what is so puzzling there?” Molly and Emily stood up while scratching their heads, pointed inside the fridge and said “we can’t find any stones in here.” “Yea,” said Emily, “weren’t the Commandments written on stones?” Jack blinked, he grinned then he began laughing – a good belly laugh. Ryan and BJ stopped what they were doing to look at their father who hadn’t even smiled since their mother died in May.
“Not Commandments, girls, condiments, ketchup, mustard, relish, you know…” The girls looked at each other and started to giggle. Pretty soon, everyone was wiping their eyes from laughing so hard. Ryan, Emily, Molly, BJ, Jack and Kate, everyone was laughing. Then, out of nowhere, it hit him!
Jack looked around the room at each child pink with big smiles and red cheeks. He began to sweat, his throat seemed to close, breathing harder and faster, “Oh no.” Five pairs of startled eyes watched as Jack raced from the apartment. Katie dropped the pan back onto the stove…
“Ryan, can you look after the others.”
“Miss Kate, I think I need to go to him.”
“Please, Ryan.” Ryan wasn’t certain he wanted Miss Kate to go after his dad instead of him but he reluctantly nodded. Katie didn’t wait for a change of mind and ran after Jack.
Jack ran down the stairs and out the door onto the sidewalk. Looking left and right, not really sure where he was going or what he was doing, he needed more than air; he needed to get away. Away from a very familiar scene. One that played in his dreams every night, a dream that haunted him. Jack wasn’t prepared for this, he didn’t know what to do. Running even harder when he heard his name being called.
“Slow down, Jack! Jack! It’s all right… Jack!”
Still he ran. He ran hard and as fast as he could. ‘That’s how it used to be, that’s how it should be,’ he thought, ‘only it shouldn’t be Kate, it should be Libby.’
He ran until his heart was ready to burst. He stopped suddenly; throwing his head back he let out a heart wrenching howl to the cloudless navy blue sky. Looking ahead, he saw a steeple and ran to it. He fell to his knees at the foot of the alter. The tears flowed and he began to sob.
“God! Why? How could you let this happen? Libby was the most …. uuuuuu…” he grunted angrily to the heavens. “Why must You give me such a gift and take her away?” His slumped shoulders shook, his hands trembled – he hadn’t allowed himself to cry, not really. He did once or twice those first nights without her. He had curled up in a ball and cried as quietly as he could into the pillow that still smelled like Libby.
The scream that pierced his self pity was one born of fear and pain. Jack looked up, “Lord, what are you doing to me?”
“Let me go! Get your…oh! Help! Jack! Anyone! God! Someone! Help me…” Her words became muffled and silenced as her mouth was covered.
Jack was down the steps and saw Kate go limp as a cloth was forced over her nose and mouth. Jack was only able to hit the trunk of the car before it sped away. He ran after it knowing he wouldn’t be able to catch it when he spied a rock on the side of the road. He picked up the rock that filled his hand and threw as hard as he could praying that it could at least hit the car.
The rock sailed in the air. As the car began to make a left turn, it shattered the drivers window and the car jerked then began to slow… Jack, in stunned amazement, ran to the car and threw the back door open. Kate lay half on the seat half on the floor, unconscious. With the car still moving slightly, and Kate being in such an awkward position, Jack was having difficulty getting her. He jumped fully into the car and leaned over the drivers seat and shoved the gear into park. He fell forward onto the passengers seat and almost out the open door where one of the kidnappers fled.
The driver sat lifeless. Jack leaned over to get a closer look at him. He was neat but lacked a recent shave and had a slight odor like he hadn’t bathed either. Jack felt for a pulse at the man’s wrist and to his great relief felt a very strong heartbeat. Jack, however, was not relieved to see the blood flowing down the left side of his face. His nose was bleeding and it looked as if his ear had been partially torn away from his head.
Pulling the cell phone from his back pocket; (which he now carried with him everywhere), he called the police. It only took a few minutes before the police and ambulance arrived.
The police officer introduced himself: “Hi, am Officer Hatt. Jack took the card that Officer Hatt had given him and put it in the same pocket as the cell phone.
“I was in the church over there when I heard her scream. I knew it was Kate, I should have thought of this possibility when I ran out of the apartment.”
“What apartment, sir?”
“Why did you run? Was there something you forgot at the church?”
“Uh, no….. I have recently lost my wife…”
“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.”
“Thanks. We, my children and I, were invited to Kates apartment for dinner. We were really having a great time when it hit me.”
“Something was thrown at you?”
“Uh, no. The feeling. That I shouldn’t be at the apartment, with my children enjoying myself with someone other than Libby.”
“Was Libby your wife, sir?”
“Yes, for almost fifteen years.”
“Again, I’m sorry for your loss, sir, it must be difficult. So you ran out of the apartment and ran to church?”
“Sort of, I just ran, the church just happened to be where I ended up. I just needed to think.”
“So, it was when I was praying that I heard Kate scream.”
“So you ran out of the church and … what?”
“I ran out of the church and saw two men, there was a third guy in the car, but I didn’t realize that at the time. There were two guys and they were trying to get Kate in the back seat of the car and she was putting up quite a fight. That was when a third guy in the front seat handed them a cloth. There must have been something on it because as soon as her mouth was covered she became limp. Then they threw her in the car and jumped in themselves.”
The policeman was writing all of this down in his little note pad, Jack felt like it wasn’t real, it was a movie or a TV show, this wasn’t happening to him.
“Can you describe these other two men?” A very unconscious Kate was on a gurney and being wheeled to the ambulance as Jack watched.
“Uh, do you mind if I go to the hospital right now?” Jack asked tentatively.
“I will follow you and finish this there, I have to get Miss Hanson’s statement too.” the officer answered. With a moment of relief, Jack was about to return to get the children when a familiar voice called to him.
“Ryan! Is everything ok? Why are you here?”
“We got worried, it’s been a while, we thought… well, that maybe you forgot about us, but when I saw the police cars, we had to make sure you two were all right.” Ryan motioned to BJ in his arms and the other two attached to his legs.
“We’re fine, Ryan. Uh, officer? If Kate wakes before I get there let her know I will be there shortly.”
“Not a problem.”
Jack watched the ambulance drive off and took BJ from Ryan as he said; “Children, I don’t know what is going on with Ms. Kate, there were some men who tried to kidnap her just now. She is going to the hospital.”
“Daddy? Is Ms. Kate going to go away, too? Like Mommy?” This question came from Emily who had tears welling up in her eyes.
“No, sweetie, she isn’t. Ms. Kate is just going to the hospital to get better. Those men weren’t very nice to her.”
“Did they hurt her, Dad?” Ryan asked with vehemence.
“I don’t think so, Ry, they didn’t have time. Maybe we should head back to the ranch.”
“But I thought we were going to the hospital” whined Molly, “I want to be sure that she is fine too Daddy.”
“Do we all want to go to the hospital then? I think that Ms. Kate would really appreciate that.”
“Yeah, Daddy. We need to make sure that she is ok. Because she said that we could have ice cream, and I want to eat it with her.”
“Alright BJ, let’s all go to the hospital.”
End of Chapter 2
There was a low hum that was beginning to get louder, the lights behind her eyelids were getting brighter and the fog that was in her brain was clearing. There were voices; little ones, big ones, all quiet. There was a tiny hand in hers, Kate squeezed just a little bit. Then the little voice attached to the little hand spoke her name.
“Miss Kate? Are you in there? Please wake up.” The other voices stopped. She squeezed the hand again but did not open her eyes.
“Daddy, she squoze my hand, I think she’s waking up.” Emily looked to her father with a hopeful expression. “Should I shake her?”
“No, Em. Let her wake on her own. She will let us know when she is ready.”
‘Jack,’ she thought. A sweet man and his children were waiting for her to wake up. Why did they want to wake her up? Why were they in her room?! She tried to piece together her last moments before losing consciousness. She had been running. Running to Jack, no, not to him, after him; why? Because he was running away from something; what? Her? What did she do? No clue. Her head was becoming less dense. She saw him run into the church; why the church? What was there? Pieces… they were making dinner in her flat and he became quiet, then he seemed to panic, or what seemed to be panic, and he ran out the door. He had a shocked look on his face. Kate had to follow him, she had to be sure that he was all right. That’s right, then someone drove up the curb beside her and two men jumped out of the car and tried to get her into it, then… nothing. Now she must be at the hospital, that is why they are all here in my room, my hospital room. ‘Am I o.k?’
“Miss Kate! Look Daddy! She opened one eye!” Emily was as close to Kate as she could get without being in the bed with her. The tiny hand was removed and a large calloused one replaced it and Jack’s face came into view. A big smile on his face. “Welcome back” he said gently.
“What happened to them? Did they get away?” It was difficult to talk and her voice was quite raspy.
“Two of them did. There is a police officer here who wishes to ask you some questions, are you able to speak with her now, or should she wait a little longer?” Kate closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Her head was still a little muddled…
“Not just yet, please.” But the officer came right up to her, “I’m sorry, often memories are best when you just wake up. I will try to keep them to yes, no answers o.k?”
Kate nodded and Jack backed away pulling Emily with him. As he sat watching the exchange, Molly and BJ came and sat next to and on Jack. Jack looked over to Ryan who was staring out the window with a very determined look on his face.
“What are you thinking about Ry?”
He was pulled out of his thought and he looked to his father, blinked, looked at Kate and moved to sit in the chair next to him.
“Dad? Does Kate mean a lot to you? I mean really. You only just met her a few weeks ago. Do you miss mom so much that the first woman you meet you want to get serious with?” Kate couldn’t hear them, she was busy answering questions from the police officer.
Adjusting the children around him, Jack faced Ryan. “I miss your mother very, very much. Actually, I’m… well, lost without her. Your mother is never far from my heart or my mind, she will always be there, she is a part of me. I see her in each of you every day. I will never replace her, that’s just not possible. God matched us perfectly. I don’t understand all that is happening, or why Kate was thrown into our lives, but she is a nice woman who needs us right now…. all of us, not just me. And maybe your mother is sending me a little help because I don’t think I’m doing that great a job with you guys.”
Ryan just nodded and stood to look out the window again.
Kate couldn’t quite grasp what was being told to her, what the police were suggesting.
“So, you’re telling me that all of these attacks to me are because of an old Indian relic that I’m supposed to have? And that my grandfather was tribal leader at the time when it was stolen? Therefore, of course! I must have it! Now it all makes sense!” Kate fell back on her pillows in exasperation. Jack stood up to be by Kate to see if she needed some support.
“Not exactly. You’re right about the relic being the reason for the attacks, but it’s not that your grandfather stole it. He was chief for many years before the disagreement between him and the council. What you may not know is that your grandfather gave the medallion to you for safekeeping. I am sorry for your loss, your grandfather was a great man, especially during the big division of the tribe. It is a loss we will all feel.” The officer felt that that explained everything so he stepped back to let Kate digest it all