Quiet Lost is a story of betrayal, murder, love and lost love. It will require several chapters to tell Neil’s story.
Tuesday morning, September 15
Neil threw his boots in the bed of the truck and pushed the clutch in with his bare left foot. He hoped the needle pointing at E was typical fuel-gauge inaccurate; hoped he wouldn’t have to coast down the mountain to a gas station. His wallet held enough cash for fuel and a new set of clothes, but after that he’d have to chance making a withdrawal from the bank to persevere more than a few hours.
His freedom – his very survival would require a well-thought-out scheme carefully executed. He had no doubt of his ability to construct a worthy plan, but unless Lady Luck was rooting for him, his chance of victory was fleeting.
Turning off the dirt road, he headed in the direction his dim memory said he had come from. A sign with the Colorado Flag emblem above the number 7 and the downhill angle of the truck told him immediately where he was: southbound on the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway that starts in Estes Park and continues to I-70.
In Allenspark, he stopped and filled the gas tank amazed he didn’t remember driving through the small village. He washed the bugs off the windshield, checked the oil, walked around the truck looking for any potential problems. His brother, Brad, was a worthless piece of shit who never took care of anything in his life, but his truck was surprisingly well maintained. Neil climbed in and headed southeast toward Boulder.
He welcomed the cold streaming in the window stirring his hair, stinging his eyes. Fir and Aspen trees decorated rugged slopes that reached dramatically for white scattered clouds. The autumn gold of the Quakies seemed too bright. He listened for the friendly flutter of their leaves, but couldn’t hear over the wind noise of the truck.
He forced himself to block out thoughts of Samantha and Cassie. He couldn’t allow his emotions to undermine his momentum and leave him paralyzed in grief.
Over and over he visualized what he needed to accomplish in the next few hours stubbornly coercing his brain to review the tactical steps of the plan he had formulated. It was a method that had helped him through school, meetings with tough negotiators and presentation of long speeches with no cues.
A numb heavy feeling stole over him replacing debilitating pain – he recognized shock and accepted the nothingness.
Skirting his neighborhood in northwest Boulder, he headed to the other side of town and pulled into a Kohl’s parking lot, far from other vehicles. He struggled to pull on his semi-wet boots, buttoned his suit coat hoping to conceal most of the blood on his shirt.
Half an hour later, he donned a fresh change of clothing including a sweatshirt layered over a t-shirt, jeans, a ball cap, sunglasses and running shoes, assuring he looked more like a tourist than a business man.
Money was his next essential need. Would his account be frozen? Would FBI officers be patiently waiting for him, brandishing handcuffs and arrest warrants? He had to have money and reasoned the longer he waited the more likely his fears would come true.
He had considered which branch of Wealth Bank to visit. As president of the northwest branch, his name and face were well-known to those employees. He was supposed to be in his office at that very moment, making important decisions that no longer seemed important.
When he walked into the southeast branch, he was careful to exude an air of casual citizen-tending-daily-errands. He withdrew five thousand dollars from his savings account in one-hundreds and twenties. It seemed too easy. The teller smiled at him with the uncomplicated friendliness he insisted on in his own personnel, “Hello, Mr. Durham, how are you this morning?”
In the same shopping center, he purchased, with cash, a prepaid calling card and two prepaid cell phones that would display a caller ID ending in 9978 – all loaded with many hours of minutes.
He sat in his brother’s truck willing his heart to return to a near-normal rate. His stomach churned. He realized how thirsty and hungry he was and was surprised this could occupy his thoughts during such an anxious moment.
He dreaded his next move – scared of unforeseen repercussions and the pain he knew would result from voicing the horror of last night: he dialed 911.
“I have a… a… crime to report.”
“Yes, sir. What’s happened,” a female voice conjuring visions of calm middle age, of I’ve-seen-and-heard-it-all answered in a tone that beckoned confidences.
“There was a break-in last night at 901 Pikes Peak Way. A woman, Samantha Durham, and her daughter, Cassie,” his voice broke. He caught his breath, “were… they, they were killed.”
“Sir, what’s your name?”
“I just need to make sure that… that someone… that someone cares for them.”
“Sir, that crime was called in last night. Can I have your name?”
“It was reported last night? Who called?” Neil’s voice raised an octave. He was confused. Who would have called? Who would have known? One of the neighbors? Unlikely… three-acre tracts ensured privacy and distance from prying eyes. Did the fucking murderers report it? That didn’t make sense. Who?
“Sir, can I have your name?” Silence. “Do you know the victims? I’m sure the police would like to talk to you.”
He listened in confusion, trying to reason how someone knew to call 911.
“Sir, are you a family member? Is this Mr. Durham?”
“I’m…, I’m a friend worried about them.” He hung up.
Click on Quiet Lost: Chapter 4 to the right.