Sara and The Wolf
Sara meets Dan while searching for a friend who disappeared from Seattle the year before. They develop a relationship and face a challenge.
There are 10 chapters. The whole thing is written and I'll keep posting it... I originally wrote this for my sister. She liked it but said it wasn't as good as the original. I agree, but it sure was fun to do.
10. Chapter 10
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When four in the afternoon, Dr. Cullen’s promised release time, rolled around Sara was determined to leave even if she had to sign herself out against medical advice. There were a few logistical issues she wasn’t sure how to handle, she couldn’t drive, her car was still back at the motel anyway; she didn’t have any clothes, hers had been cut off of her before surgery and Sara had requested the blood stained rags that were all that was left of them be thrown away. Her purse had been brought to the hospital by the police when they found it in Dan’s vehicle so she figured she could call a cab but where would she go? Back to the motel to wait for someone to let her know what was going on? Going out on her own to walk in the woods was an idiotic idea. Maybe she could hire someone to drive her around, maybe…
She was in the middle of making chicken scratch signatures on Dr. Cullen’s promised medical release forms using a pen held in just the tips of the fingers of her right hand when the door to her room opened and the angry man from the night before came into the room. This time he didn’t look angry, just determined.
“Sara,” he said. “My name is Sam, I’m here to take you out to help get Dan back.” He handed her a bag of clothes and a pair of flip flops. “My wife sent these, she thought they would fit.” He was already on his way out of the room again saying, “Get dressed, as soon as you’re ready to go we can get started.”
Man, the guy was cryptic as well as cranky, Sara wouldn’t object as long as he was her ticket out of here. She had to call a nurse to help her into the clothes; a pair of black drawstring pants and a loose fitting gray pullover shirt with sleeves long enough that she didn’t try to get the cuffs up over her wrists, just let them dangle. She felt a little like Dopey the dwarf but she wouldn’t get stopped for indecent exposure. At least the shoes were an easy job. There was a well worn baseball cap with the Seahawks logo on it and Dan’s name written inside the brim in a childish scrawl. The nurse helped Sara get her hair back in a pony tail and put the cap on. Wearing it she felt closer to Dan. She decided that this gesture was evidence that Sam wasn’t as bad as he seemed, or on second thought, maybe his wife was thoughtful as well as being a saint for putting up with the guy. Last in the pile was a mens XL windbreaker, also large enough that the sleeves dangled past her fingertips but it had a full hood.
Sara looked in the mirror before leaving the room. The clothes hid most of her injuries, the shirt was loose enough not to catch on the bandages around her ribs and with the hood of the jacket pulled up under her pony tail and forwards towards her chin the bruises and scratches along her cheeks and jaw were sort of less noticeable. "It’s not a beauty contest." Sara said to herself and steeled her mind to the stares she knew she would be getting on the way out of the hospital.
The nurse wheeled her down the hall in the requisite chair ride out and stopped at a set of sliding glass doors. Sara could see a truck parked in front of the doors. There was a folded wheelchair standing in the bed and Sara grimaced at the thought of being made to ride around under Sam’s direction, she would make it clear as soon as she could that her legs were just fine. She demonstrated this by having the nurse help her to stand as soon as they were out the doors. Sam got out of the truck and came around to the passenger side to meet her. Saving her the difficulty of trying to use her hands to climb up he opened the door and swiftly scooped her up and slid her into the cab.
Sara was surprised to find someone already there. He was an older man but not elderly, he had laugh lines all around his eyes and although his expression was serious he looked at Sara kindly and without giving her any sign that her beat up face bothered him. Sara relaxed a little in relief that there would be a buffer between her and Sam for the drive to wherever they were going. The man introduced himself. Sara decided she should call him Mr. Black out of respect; he had the kind of presence that seemed to deserve it.
“Sara, what do you know about Dan?” Mr. Black’s question was asked with his full attention given to her answer.
Sara told him what she thought he might want to know, what Dan did for work and the places they had gone together. The list was relatively short, Sara was pained to realize that she had only really known Dan for a week, there were so many people that knew him for years and hadn’t been able to locate him. The agitation must have shown on her face because Mr. Black began to tell her a story. His voice was soothing and Sara tried to keep a focus on what he was saying. It was a story her grandmother had told before, about spirit protectors and animal forms taken by people. She knew how the story ended so she let her thoughts wander again, trying to think of other places Dan had mentioned the day he had shown her around the area.
“Sara.” Mr. Black was finished with the story.
“Yes?” Sara gave him her full attention again.
“What do you think of the idea that there is truth behind every legend?” He asked the question in sort of an off hand way that made Sara unsure what she should answer.
“I guess there usually is some truth to the stories, a moral or something to be learned.”
“What about this particular story?”
“I don’t know, my grandmother told me that story pretty often when I was young, I always thought it meant…”
Sam interrupted her, “Your grandmother was Quillute?” He seemed surprised.
“Yeah, my mother was half English so that makes me a quarter right?” Sara didn’t see how this mattered but at least Sam had made an effort at conversation.
Sam gave an angry sounding grunt and said, “Well, that explains a lot. I may have been too hard on Dan.”
“Okay, I’m sorry, I don’t want to be rude here but I’ve got to ask for someone to please just tell me what’s going on. I get that you’re mad at Dan, if it’s some private thing between the two of you well, whatever, but I need an explanation. Mr. Black, I know the story but I’m no anthropologist, besides, I don’t feel up to analyzing anything. Please, what is your point?”
“Dan is the truth of the story, he is one of the protectors of our people.” Mr. Black’s statement was direct.
Sara wasn’t sure what he meant. “Because he’s in the park service…?”
“No, because he has certain gifts and obligations that are unique to the kind of protection he offers to us.” He watched Sara as he spoke, gauging her reaction. “With his unique abilities come aspects that are beyond his control.”
“Sam is responsible, in a sense, for Dan. He is very concerned for him, just like the rest of us, but Dan placed the two of you in this situation by going against Sam’s advice. There’s a great deal of frustration and blame on many parts but it doesn’t help us to point fingers.” He turned and looked at Sam.
Sam grunted and then began to speak, “It didn’t make much sense that Dan had… fallen in love with you as deeply as he seemed to think. Don’t get me wrong,” he glanced at Sara, “You seem very nice, it’s just that you didn’t fit his type and we thought it was a case of wishful thinking or just an infatuation. I discouraged him from seeing you but I didn’t ask him to leave you alone completely. When he continued your relationship, I let it go. Dan has avoided me most of the week. I heard from one of his friends what he planned on Friday at the beach and I had to confront him. His unique qualities aren’t general knowledge and frankly I was unsure if you could be trusted and I had a feeling things would go badly. Dan was stubborn; there are aspects of his abilities that require openness of communication and Dan had some romantic notion of doing things his way between the two of you. He wanted to have a bit of a private life even if it was just for a short time…” Sam trailed off.
Sara sat staring out the window trying to make sense of everything. Dan was in some kind of special organization, and possibly the speed and strength Sara had known were out of the ordinary but assumed were come by through training and discipline were possibly something quite a bit more than that. It all sounded a little far fetched really. She wasn’t getting the whole picture.
“So you’re some kind of elite military unit or something secret like that? Like a now-you’ve-told-me-you’ll-have-to-kill-me organization run by the tribal council?”
Mr. Black laughed, “Something like that.” Then he sobered, “Only, in this case we’re trying to save a life, not take one. You have to understand that Dan hasn’t been himself since your accident. Some of his friends found him after your accident, they were able to convince him that you had made it to the hospital on time and they had been able to bring you back. It was only a short time after that when you went into cardiac arrest while the police officer was there. The officer is a brother to one of Dan’s friends and somehow word got to them of what had happened; only the officer was asked to leave before you were resuscitated. When Dan heard you were gone it was a breaking point for him. We haven’t been able to get through to him again since then.”
Sara interrupted at this point. She could imagine what he was going through, she had lost enough people close to her. She couldn’t bear the thought of Dan having “I can call him, my cell phone is in my purse, let me talk to him.”
“I wish it were that simple Sara. Dan just isn’t reachable right now. He’s running on a sort of instinct and we’re very concerned that his instinct is to do himself some kind of harm. That’s why we’re taking you to where we’re pretty sure he is. We need you to help us prove to him that you’re still with us and that you still need him as much as he still needs you.”
“We’re here.” Sam said tersely.
He pulled over and came around to help first Sara and then Mr. Black down from the truck. Sara was a little surprised to see that the wheelchair was actually for Mr. Black. They waited by the side of the road only a moment before someone emerged from the trees. Sam seemed to get even more tense as the figure approached. Sara recognized the young man from the night before. There was major tension between the two men.
The young man met Sara’s eyes for a moment and his direct gaze made her very nervous. He looked away towards the horizon and spoke quietly, “Dan’s not to far away. I’m here to escort you to a clearing about three hundred yards or so that way.” He pointed off into the trees. “Then I’ll hike in a ways and see if Dan will follow me back to you. That’s the plan anyway.”
Sam and the young man started off into the trees with Sara. The young man stayed close to Sara, keeping a hand under her elbow and guiding her along with a sure grip. His hand felt cold even through Sara’s jacket and shirt. Sam stayed back a few paces but whenever Sara glanced his direction she saw that he was always watching her intently like he was waiting for her to bolt off into the distance. She saw the young man at her side smile an ironic smile as she thought that and wished she knew what he found funny about her stumbling along through the trees in crummy footwear for the task.
“It’s only a little bit farther.” He said reassuringly, no longer smiling. “When we get there Sam and I are going to leave you. Don’t worry, Sam will be close enough to call to, we just don’t want him to scare Dan off before he has a chance to see you. I’ll be gone for a while but if there’s any sign of danger to you I’ll be back.”
They stepped out into a long narrow clearing in the trees. It looked like an area that had been burned a few years prior and only the new growth had been able to take hold.
The young man released Sara’s arm and turned to Sam. “If there’s any chance of harm to her, I’ll be back to make sure nothing happens.”
Sara was surprised to see Sam’s expression turn suddenly very sad but he nodded as if in agreement.
“If it comes to that, please, get her out of here as quickly as you can.”
Again, Sam nodded.
“Stay here Sara, it may take a little while. Trust us.”
The way he said it reminded Sara of Dan’s last words to her. “Trust me.” She wanted to ask what she was supposed to do but both the young man and Sam had strode off into the trees in different directions leaving her standing alone at one end of the clearing. She waited, watching for any sign of movement, for Dan as she pictured him, in his shirt and cut offs, to come striding out of the trees. She wanted so badly to see the confident set of his shoulders, his grin as he spotted her. She stood still willing it to happen.
It had only been twenty minutes or half an hour when Sara thought she saw something move out of the corner of her eye. The movement had been from the direction the young man had gone but when she looked there was nothing there. She watched the spot intently for another minute. Then she did see something move and she took a step forward in anticipation. Something emerged from the tree line at the opposite end of the clearing from Sara. What she saw made her whole body stiffen and her breath quicken.
It looked like the animal; the one from the cliff. It had seen her, she was sure of it but it didn’t come any closer. Instead it turned on shaking legs three times in a circle and collapsed to the ground with an audible exhalation of air that sounded like a deep sigh. It’s eyes closed and it ceased to move.
Sara felt her terror ebb just a bit. This animal looked smaller and much older somehow than the one from the cliff. The way it moved made Sara almost sorry for it. She considered the stories the police officer had mentioned about wolves and wished she knew how to tell the difference between a dog and a wolf. Either way she wasn’t taking a chance by screaming for Sam. She didn’t even know the other man's name. She knew she couldn’t run fast enough to outdistance a hamster -let alone a wolf- in these shoes and barefoot was out of the question. It struck Sara that she didn’t actually know which way to run. The sky was overcast and as far as she could tell, North was completely up for grabs. The men had seemed sure of their route but they hadn’t followed a clear path just gone around the big obstacles in generally the same direction for a while. Sara had been so intent on watching her footing most of the way that she didn’t even think she could come up with landmarks.
Sara’s knees went weak in panic and she sat down to avoid falling. She would just have to wait here.
With the wolf.
More than a half hour passed. Sara’s head began to throb and her side and arms both knotted painfully as her muscles tensed. She hissed through her teeth in pain, biting her lip to keep from moaning. She would have to relax. She had her pain pills in her purse but no way to open the bottle. The irony of it caught her and she was able to shake off some of her fear and take a few deep breaths. She had always believed that if she could laugh at life it would keep her from crying.
“So,” she said softly, “do you come here often?”
The wolf was completely still, not so much as a flick of the ear.
“I’m actually waiting for my boyfriend but if you’re looking for company…” She stopped, too random. The sound of her own voice was somehow settling to her nerves so she changed the subject and kept talking.
“I wish I knew some wolf jokes. It’s always good to start a conversation with something funny… I’m sorry I don’t really know any interesting facts about wolves either. I did hear some things today that were rather negative so you’ll forgive me if I keep my distance. I’ve had something of a phobia about the canine family in general for as long as I can remember…” Again she trailed off, she needed a lighter subject matter.
“Oh, I know, I heard an old story again today, it was one of my favorites when I was a kid.” Sara told the story the way her grandmother had, with the native animals of the area helping the people and protecting them, warning them of dangers and guiding them to areas of safety and plenty, sometimes even taking human shape. When she finished she sat in silence with the wolf again for a few more minutes. Sam had been gone for more than an hour and she was worried that in another hour or so it would begin to get dark. She wondered if Mr. Black was still sitting alone near the truck in his chair or if Sam had gone back to join him.
It floated up from the back of Sara’s mind that Mr. Black had told the same story, but when he told it the animal was always a wolf. He hadn’t talked about the eagles, the otters, and the great bears, all the helpers and protectors in the story had been wolves… Sara’s head swam at the thought, she heard Mr. Black’s voice again saying “Dan is the truth in the story.” She shook her head to try and get the thought out of her mind, it was too crazy.
“No, no, no.” Tears streamed down her face and he voice choked with emotion. She kept repeating the word over and over again wishing her thoughts weren’t coming back to the same conclusion, wishing it didn’t make sense that Dan had wanted to show her something and then the wolf had been there. Trying to deny what was staring her in the face, she realized literally, as the wolf had opened its eyes. She saw his eyes then, and the pain in them. She remembered those same eyes as the great jaws of the wolf had bitten into her arm, keeping her from falling twenty feet to the rocks and surf below. They had been full of pain then too.
She couldn’t imagine what he had been through; knowing that to save her would mean scarring her for life at least and then thinking she was dead and he had caused it. To have killed one of her family, one of the people she loved… Sara suddenly felt very much like she was going to be ill and she choked and had to swallow convulsively to keep from being sick. As she regained control she realized the wolf, Dan she corrected herself, had stood and was moving away into the trees, he looked so completely dejected, his entire body shaking and his head and tail hanging down.
“No! Dan, no! Please, don’t leave me!” She could hear the edge of hysteria in her own voice. “Dan!” His name came out as a shriek, horrible and high pitched. She couldn’t see him anymore and she had to go after him. Without thinking she put her hands to the ground to push herself to her feet and felt the instant fiery pain travel up both of her arms and drop her to the ground. She let out a harsh cry of pain and desperation. She rolled to her back hugging her arms tightly to her chest, breathless with agony and completely alone.
In the next instant Dan was there. His face was over hers and his arms slid under her cradling her to his chest as tears streamed down his face and he shook with emotion. Sara sobbed with relief onto Dan’s bare shoulder. She wanted to touch his face but her arms still burned with pain.
“Why did you leave?” Sara sounded like a heartbroken child.
Dan’s voice was scratchy and hoarse when he spoke, “I couldn’t leave you here alone but when I saw how horrified you were, when I saw that you knew and it made you sick…”
“No, Dan, no.” Sara’s chin quivered as she spoke through her tears. “I love you. I love you madly. I just thought of how horrible it would be to lose someone I love, my family, or you, that way…, to know what I had done… I couldn’t stand to think that you’ve gone through that over me and…” she broke off sobbing again.
“It hurt so bad I wanted to die.” He leaned his head down with his cheek against the top of her head and the baseball hat that had come askew when she fell.
“I’ve done that enough for the both of us lately.” She hadn’t meant to sound funny but it just slipped out and she had to smile at the absurdity of it. The pain in Sara’s arms had slackened off enough that she reached up to brush the fingertips of her left hand across the tracks of the tears on Dan’s face.
As she reached up, the overlarge sleeves of the jacket and shirt slid back.
“Oh, bother.” Sara could see the dark stain spreading across the bandage on her left arm. Dan saw it too, worry creased his brow.
There was a loud bark from somewhere off in the trees and moments later Sara saw another wolf, this one larger than Dan, emerge from the trees. The wolf shimmered and Sara blinked her eyes to clear her vision. When she looked back Sam was standing where the wolf had been. “Welcome back.” He said to Dan.
Dan stood, lifting Sara in his arms and clutched her possessively to his chest.
“Don’t worry, she’s all yours, I’d say she’s earned you.” It was the first time Sara had seen Sam smile.
Sam turned and Dan followed him into the trees with Sara held closely to his chest. Sara knew that this time when she woke up in the morning, Dan’s face would be the first one she would see.