Quiet Lost is a story of betrayal, murder, love and lost love. It will require several chapters to tell Neil’s story.
Monday night, September 14
Brad tore out of the driveway in the direction the Escalade had headed. If he was right, good ol’ suave-guy from the bar was driving that SUV. He hammered the steering wheel again and again with the side of his fist, rocking back and forth, slamming his head and back against the seat. He screamed, “I am such a FUCK-UP; WHY, WHY didn’t I come back earlier – just a few minutes?” He let out a large breath and said softly, “I shouldn’t have come to Boulder.”
He’d never felt such hatred in his life, never been this scared. He had no idea what he would do if he saw the vehicle; he had no gun, no weapon of any type; he’d already proven he was no match fist-wise for this guy. He could try to cause the Escalade to crash; at the absolute least get the license plate number and call 911 again.
Where the hell was Neil? He started to call Neil’s cell and remembered it was right beside him. He found “Neil, office” on his contacts list and pressed send, heard the answering machine. Oh no, he must be on his way home. Nothing he could do about it – emergency services would have to handle him.
How he wished he could save his brother from what awaited. For the first time in years, he felt a pang of longing for his older sibling, a compassion awakening. For all he disliked about Neil, the one thing he always admired was his family life. In a dull voice he whispered, “I’m sorry, Neil, this is so fucked up.”
His cell phone rang – Calista’s ring. “Calista,” a tiny hint of relief mingled with his misery.
“Brad, where are you?” she said, a suggestion of accusation in her tone.
“I’m in Boulder. Where are you? I’ve been calling and calling. Why don’t you answer your phone?”
“I had a problem, but I fixed it. I’m here now,” she said in her lilting accent that he loved so much.
“At that bar – Old Boulder Bar. Come here now, meet me here.”
“Calista, terrible things are happening, and I think it’s the Xatala family.”
“You come here, and we will talk. I’m going inside to drink cervesa.”
“Calista…” The line was dead.
He drove into the parking lot and slowly coasted to the back tree line that defined the north boundary of the property, scanning all around for black SUVs. The first available spot was far to the left of the large building.
His mind was alert; his senses heightened – every noise and movement startled him to attention. All the world seemed amiss; everything, everyone a threat. He climbed out of the car and surveyed the parking lot once again before he started walking toward the entrance.
He was only a few feet from the edge of the building when the Escalade sped north up the west end of the parking lot, tires squealing as it turned and headed straight at him. His first thought was to try running back to the BMW but quickly calculated that he wouldn’t make it – the vehicle was approaching too fast. He spun around and ran straight for the tree line.
In a few steps, he was out of the light of the parking lot, surrounded by tall cottonwoods, boxelder and birch trees. He looked back briefly, saw Mr. Suave and another gym-junkie jump out of the SUV haphazardly abandoned between rows of cars. He thought he saw a reflection of light on metal, but had no idea what manner of weapon might be carried and didn’t want to find out.
He had a head start and fell into a steady pace, trying not to wear out so quickly they would catch him. Think, try to think. He knew he was heading north, knew there were residential areas somewhere ahead of him, but no idea how far. Slowing slightly, cocking his head to one side, he listened for his pursuers, heard crashing footsteps and cussing. Renewed determination pushed him forward.
The going was rough; he could feel fatigue seeping into muscles that had forgotten what it was like to work this hard, estimating he had covered a jagged, tangled half mile or better.
He was thankful for his good eyesight – Mom had always said that she and her “baby” could “see in the dark” – one thing he was better at than Neil, with his “can’t find my glasses” near-sightedness. Moonlight filtered faintly through the canopy of not-completely-shed late summer leaves allowing him to pick out larger rocks and roots as he wove his way through undergrowth of junipers and native shrubs, more than once the bitter aroma of crushed skunkbush assaulting his nostrils.
He slowed down again, half turning to listen, heard no feet behind him, only water in front. An exposed root caught the edge of his foot, sent him tumbling. He landed hard on his left shoulder, wind whooshing out of him with an “Uhhh”. Plummeting down a rocky slope, he came to rest a couple feet from the edge of a small stream, water tinkling over round rocks. He had a bizarre wish to be holding a fishing pole, perched on a riverside boulder drowning earthworms, smelling his dad’s cigar smoke drifting above the cold brook. He curled up on his side and wanted nothing more than to just lay there and cry.
The vision of fishing poles morphed to Samantha’s slashed throat. He forced himself upright, listened but heard no human sounds. He crossed the rivulet carefully and climbed the other side, glimpsing street lights ahead of him. Staying in the shadows of the tree line, he followed an alleyway behind a street of modest homes, hoping residential canines were asleep and confined, constantly attentive to any sound from the other side of the creek.
The third house boasted booty: a scooter parked under a carport awning. He carefully took a screwdriver from a tool box and quietly pushed the bike down the drive, following the alley to an open field past all the houses. Using the screwdriver, he pried the plastic wire harness off the back of the ignition housing and stood on the kick start. A second quick thrust and the motor revved to life.
He slowly crossed the field, the quiet moped motor puttering softly, and wound through residential streets gradually heading east onto larger thoroughfares, eyes and ears alert for big black SUVs, hoping he had enough gas to take him across town where he planned to find a safe place for the night.
Click on Quiet Lost: Chapter 13 to the right.