“Don’t worry. You’re going to be okay. The EMTs are almost here. It’s just important that you stay awake. Got it?” He spoke in fast, clipped words that she struggled to understand.
“How?” she asked, groping for the words that seemed to jumble in her mind.
“We were in a car accident.”
It all came flooding back. The car flipping through the air. The screech of metal on stone. The scent of gas in the air. She drew in a gasp, but was stopped by the pain in her chest.
She tried to sit up, but stopped as Casper shook his head. “Don’t move.”
A thin bead of blood slipped down Casper’s hairline and stopped next to his earlobe. “Are you okay?” she asked.
He nodded, reaching up and wiping the blood away, leaving a streak of red on his cheek. “I’m fine.”
In the group of people beside Casper there was a man staring at her. He wore a black leather vest with the words “Madness and Mayhem.” Just below them was the word “Montana” and then a black patch with red stitching that read “Filthy Few.” On the other side of the man’s vest was a patch that read “one-percenter.” The man had gray hair and even though it was dark, he had on sunglasses.
The man must have noticed her looking at him, as he lifted his chin in acknowledgment. This must have been the man who had been following them, the headlight in the mirror. Yet before she could speak, someone stepped in front of him and the man disappeared, becoming just another face in the growing crowd.
On the rock wall beside them she could see the glow of red and blue lights. Tires crunched on the side of the road as the EMTs pulled to a stop.
“Everyone out of the way!” the paramedic yelled as she pushed her way through people.
The EMTs poked and prodded Alexis, taking her pulse and checking her reflexes with lights. Even without them telling her, she knew everything wasn’t right. She closed her eyes and when she reopened them she was already strapped down to a board, her head and back immobile, and they were loading her into the back of the ambulance.
“Casper...” Alexis whispered as the female EMT stepped up into the back of the ambulance beside her.
“What, honey?” the EMT asked.
Alexis tried to nod, but was stopped by the thick straps on her forehead. “Yes. I want Casper.”
The woman jumped out of the wagon and a moment later, Casper was sitting beside Alexis. He smiled. The blood on his temple had dried. “I’m here.”
There was so much going on. So much she didn’t understand. “Stay with me,” she pleaded, suddenly afraid.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll stay by your side as long as you need.”
* * *
HE’D SEEN MORE people hurt than he could count, but he’d never felt as terrified as when he saw Alexis covered in blood and confused. Hopefully she would be okay. She was so out of it.
She slept as they waited for the doctor to return with the results of her MRI. He hated the monotonous, shrill beeps of the machines that filled the emergency room.
Reaching into the plastic bag at his feet, he pulled out the little sewing kit he’d bought at the hospital’s shop and grabbed her pants from the foot of her bed. He pushed his fingers through the L-shaped hole in her pant leg from where she had caught it on the deadfall. She probably didn’t care about the pants, but he couldn’t sit there with nothing to do but worry.
He pulled out some string, threaded the needle and set to work as he sat in the pink vinyl seat beside her bed. When he’d been younger, his mother had told him that good domestic skills were the mark of a true man.
The stitches were even and as he mended, he kept looking up, hoping Lex would wake and everything would be okay.
He hated this. He hated hospitals—it brought up moments of his past that he never wanted to relive. The sooner they could be out of here, the better.
Every hospital he’d ever been to carried the same overpowering disinfectant smell. They could scrub away the blood and the waste products, but no matter how much they tried to hide it, he could still make out the pungent aroma of panic and fear. Yet as he sat there working, he wondered if the scent was carrying in from the patients or from those waiting for their loved ones to be helped.
He reached over and caressed Lex’s hand. There was no more fear for her, not now, not with the drugs that filtered through her system to numb her pain. Now the fear was solely his.
His phone buzzed. “Hello?”
“Agent Lawrence, this is Ranger Grant with the Glacier National Park Rangers Office. I was one of the responders at the scene of your accident. I believe you left me a message?”
“Thanks for returning my call. I appreciate it,” Casper said. “Did you manage to find the evidence?”
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “We found two large hiking backpacks—which I assumed were yours and Alexis’s—and there was an empty green military-style bag.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You sure there wasn’t anything in the bag?” He pulled a hand over his face, trying to stave off the start of a headache.
“The drugs were packed into bricks. Were there any that had spilled out? Maybe into the truck bed or on scene?” He tried to sound calm as he thought about what it would mean if the drugs were truly missing.
“I didn’t find any bricks of drugs, but your topper took a pretty big hit when you rolled the truck.” The man paused. “When we pulled up, the truck’s topper door was open. I guess it’s possible they fell out and weren’t recovered.”
“Or they were taken...”
His mind raced. Who’d want to take the drugs? Only a few people had even known that they had them and were taking them back to Apgar. Was it possible that the coroner or one of the rangers had said something? Or was it completely a random occurrence that they had been in an accident and the drugs had been stolen?
He didn’t believe in coincidences, but he had a hard time believing that the rangers or the coroner would have any ill-conceived ideas of stealing the drugs. No one had seemed overly preoccupied with them on the scene. If someone had wanted them, Casper would have had some type of clue. He was jumping to conclusions... No doubt the drugs were probably scattered along the roadside near their crash site.
“Can you make a run back up to the site? Take another look around? We can’t have thousands of dollars’ worth of drugs get into the wrong hands.”
“No problem... I’ll call you when I get back into cell service and let you know what I find.”
Casper squeezed Lex’s hand. It had started to chill under the hospital’s air-conditioning and he carefully tucked her arms under the warm blanket.
“Thanks, Grant,” he said. “Appreciate your help.” He moved to hang up.
“Wait, Lawrence,” the man said.
He lifted the phone back to his ear. “Huh?”
“We did find a receipt inside the green bag. It was wadded into a ball and was stuck in the bottom corner.”
A receipt? He thought back to everything he’d dumped out of the bag. He didn’t recall a receipt. Was it possible it had been there the whole time, or had the person who’d stolen the drugs accidentlly, or purposefully, left it behind?
“What about the money?”
“No money. Just the receipt,” Grant said, sounding tired. “I’ll take a picture and send it