Dash Monroe parked her dusty 4x4 Toyota truck along the asphalt path that led down to the Capon Bridge. It was the annual Gore Bridge Bungee Jump and she was here to catch all the insane jumpers on film. She had her choice of assignments this time, it was either attend the annual peach harvest in Georgia or come to the Gore Bridge. It was an easy choice; she lived in Washington DC so the drive would be scenic and not take her days to get there. When the photo shoot was finished, she would get back on Rt. 50 and head home for the rest of the day. Being a sort of photo/reporter for one of the prestigious travel magazines, she was always on the road finding new places for people to visit. The only time it really bothered her was when she was gone for weeks at a time. She had only been back three days from a trip to the West Coast where she took pictures of Seattle, Washington and Boulder, Colorado. Nothing like coming back to a small efficiency apartment, and finding it not so efficient with keeping itself clean. Her long time boyfriend had promised that he would stop by, water her plants and make sure that a light was on at night. He did that and then some, he had accomplished in less than a week what she had been trying to do for three years; kill her plants. They were literally floating in small frozen ponds. He had watered them until the water overflowed onto the window's ledge and froze there. The air conditioning was on full blast and reminded her of the time she had been to Alaska to take pictures of the whales. He surprised her every time he did something, she couldn't figure out how a bull in the stock exchange could be so dense at times. After four years you would think she would be used to him but that was a mystery of man that woman would never figure out.
So now, on the West Virginia side, which was named the Capon Bridge, she took the long walk to the center where it became the Gore Bridge of Virginia. As she walked, she looked down and felt dizzy. She had never been very fond of heights, standing on a footstool to get into the kitchen cabinets made her knees shake. Up ahead of her she saw a large group of cheering people of all ages gathered around the four-foot high steel railing. Taking her camera from its bag, she zoomed in on the group and switched from head shoots to the entire group. Off to the side she saw a man dressed in the brown shades of a park ranger. Looping the shoulder strap around her neck, she approached him with a smile on her pink lips.
"Hi I'm Dash Monroe from the Washington Traveler, can I ask you some questions about what goes on here today?"
The park Ranger gave her a small smirk and held out his hand. "Besides a bunch of crazies jumping of a bridge with a rubber band?"
"Well yeah, I mean there's got to be something else that goes on around here."
"Come over here and I'll point something's out for you, now if you look clear across to the north side there, you'll not see a damn thing but there's a place over there called Fort Edwards.
From this fort on April 18, 1756, a group of soldiers of Col. Washington's Virginia Regiment went in pursuit of a few Indians and some of them stumbled into an ambush of over 100 French and Indian raiders. The ambush killed seventeen men and sent chills through the Burgesses in Williamsburg. This battle near Fort Edwards was the largest of the French and Indian War to have occurred in present West Virginia.
He finished his history lesson and took a deep breath. "Sometimes I feel like one of those narrators on the Discovery Channel." He smiled at her and then leaned back against the railing and noticed her shiver. "You alright, you look a little pale."
"It's nothing, I just don't like heights." She took a quick glance over and stepped back a few feet. "It's really beautiful here, so from what I've read, this bridge has been here for 100 years. It's funny because I expected a rickety old thing that wasn't safe to walk on."
"Ohh it's safe alright, unless you're crazy and jump off it. That's a long fall let alone to be yanked back up." He pointed to where two men had crawled over the railing and were standing on the edge. They gave out a yell and fell backwards; Dash felt her heart freeze in her chest and was waiting to keel over. With shaky hands, she raised her camera and took pictures of the people leaning over the railing. Getting up her nerve, she went closer and shot pictures of the men doing aerial acrobatics on the end of the rubber strap.
"If you'll excuse me I have to get back over there and make sure no one goes over without a rubber band."
"Thanks for your help; may I talk to you later?"
"Sure I'll be here until dusk." He walked back over to the crowed and stood guard near the railing. Changing lenses, she shot pictures of the river below and the lush foliage overhanging to dip into the water. Slowly, she brought the camera up the bank and stopped when she caught the flash of movement below. Zooming in, she saw something out in the water swimming towards the other side. Looking back to the Park Ranger, she jogged over to him.
"What kind of animals are down near the river?"
"Ohh I think there's beaver down there, muskrat, deer, raccoon, squirrel. Just the normal things that you find in the woods."
"What would be big enough for me to see swim across the river?"
He scratched his head and blinked his dark brown eyes a few times. "From up here, nothing unless Loch Ness is down there, why?"
"Because I just saw something swimming across the river, and I was just curious."
"Where did you see this?" He asked and started walking towards where she had been. When they got there, she pointed to the north shore.
"Down there, I saw it out in the middle and it was going to the other side."
"Ohh I know what you saw, that's just the Capon Savage. You're lucky, not many people see the Savage at all."
"Capon Savage, what is it, I've never heard of it before?"
"Don't worry, not many people know about our little beastie of the river. In fact no one has actually been close enough to know what it is." He removed his hat and wiped the sweat from his brow. "It has to be three years ago, a couple of rowdy guys thought it would be fun to go down there and poach deer in the off season. You see, once you get away from the river, there's open fields surrounded by trees and small streams that feed into the river. Its prime ground for deer, they get nice and big down there. So these guys went down there one night and found out that the deer are vicious." He grinned at her shocked look.
"The deer are vicious, how is that?"
"When those boys got back to town, they looked like a whole herd of buffalo ran over them and came back for seconds. They said that they had sighted in on a small herd of deer and the next thing they were being attacked by a huge buck."
Her green eyes glowed with laughter, the sides of her nose crinkled up as she chuckled at the image. "Kind of like that video of the man getting humped by a deer while his wife video taped it?"
"That's what two of them said, the third guy told a different story after a bottle of Tequila. He said that some huge creature came out of the trees, it was over six foot tall and had hair all over its body. What ever it was, it beat the shit out of all three of them and threw them back in their boat."
"So that thing that beat them up is the Capon Savage?" She looked back down to the river and an idea came to her. "How do I get down there?"
"Ohh you don't want to go down there, it's steep and dangerous." He knew damn well how to get down there but he didn't want anyone bothering the savage. The tales that were past around, kept people from getting into trouble. It was like an animal sanctuary down there because of the savage, numerous endangered species were making a come back because of it. "We've had people go down there in boats and never be seen again, that water looks calm from up here but it runs rapid and has sink holes beneath the surface."
"Is there anything written about this Capon Savage?"
"Nope, just tales told around town. If you want, there's a bed and breakfast in town owned by Old Hazel, I'm sure she has a room where you can stay. If you talk to her, she'll tell you all she knows about the savage."
"Thanks I appreciate at it." She shook his hand and headed back to her truck. Running her hands through her short blondish hair, she looked at the time on the dash and sighed. "What the Hell do I have to go home to, freeze dried plants and nothing else." She had yet to hear from her boyfriend John since she got back, it was always this way. He came around for one thing, sex. After seven minutes of pure Hell for her, he was in the shower and out the door. Pulling up onto the road, she headed towards Hampshire County to find Old Hazel and more tales of the Capon Savage. She would never write about the savage for publication but for her own curiosity.
The bed and breakfast was a small two-story house on the edge of the small town; she pulled into a spot along the street, got out and went up to the door. Before she could knock, a woman pulled the door open in, she looked to be in her 70's or older.
"Can I help you miss?" She looked through thick glasses that made her pale blue eyes seem fuzzy.
"I spoke to a Park Ranger that said you might have a room for me."
She grinned so wide that her dentures almost fell out. "Was he a handsome devil with brown eyes and dimples?"
Dash chuckled and nodded her head. "That would be him; he said your names Hazel."
"I just bet he did, he told you I was Old Hazel. Damn kid; just wait until he comes for supper." She held the door open for Dash and motioned for her to come in.
"You know him well?"
"All his trouble making life, Tommie's my grandson or was. I'm gonna plant my shoe in his ass."
Dash looked down at Hazel's shoes and couldn't help but laugh, she had never seen a woman Hazel's age wear Nike cross trainers. What struck her even more was that Hazel wore an old housedress, T-shirt over it and red striped tube socks.
"He told you to ask me about the savage to huh?" She turned and looked over her shoulder at Dash.
"Yeah he did, by the way my names Dash Monroe." She held out her hand and was surprised by the strength of Hazel's grip.
"Old Hazel Edwards, know it all, done it all and I live to tell it all." She took Dash upstairs to a corner room that looked out over a large garden. The room was medium in size with a double bed covered with a handmade quilt, oak nightstand and dresser and a small color TV sitting on a stand across the room. "There's a small bathroom with a shower through the door there, clean towels and anything else you'll need."
"How much do I owe you for the night?" She reached for her wallet and felt a warm hand stop her.
"If Tommie sent you then you owe me nothing, payment is you listening to an old woman go on for hours about nothing." She smiled and left Dash to settle in.
When Dash went back downstairs, she walked into a bright and cheery kitchen and smelled cinnamon and coffee. It had been a long time since she had eaten a decent meal and was looking forward to the apple dumpling she saw on the table.
"Come on in and help me eat this stuff." Hazel waved to a chair and poured coffee into a large coffee mug with the words Boss in huge red letters.
"Is Tommie the only grandchild you have?"
"Ohh nooo, I have a total of eleven grandkids. Tommie's the only one who stayed around here; the others sought fortunes and fame."
"Any famous grandkids, you know like actors or anyone I may have heard of?"
Hazel grinned at her and snorted. "I've got a granddaughter that's quite famous at the truck stop in Winchester."
"Ohh?OOHH I didn't mean that kind of famous." She blushed and tried to cover it with her coffee cup.
"I have one who used to be an author but she stopped writing and disappeared, haven't heard from her in ten or more years. Last I heard she was in Greece or something."
"Sorry I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
"Ohh you didn't, she's where she wants to be. You know one of those that seek out the truth of ones self. Always was an odd ball if ya ask me, too quiet, always reading about myths and legends. Ain't anything she doesn't know about the ancients, I thought she would go into archeology or something?"
"Tommie mentioned something about Fort Edwards, what can you tell me about it?"
"Well, if ya didn't catch on to my last name I'm one of the descendants of Joseph Edwards.
Sometime around 1727-1742 he came from Pennsylvania through the Shenandoah Valley into the mountains to the west and settled along the Cacapon River. In the late 1740s, George Washington came into the area surveying for Lord Fairfax and laid out several parcels for Joe's family. Later, during the early years of the French and Indian War, Joe's property became the site of one of the many forts guarding the Virginia Frontier from the French and their Indian allies. Col. George Washington's Virginia regiment manned the fort at Edwards's.
From this fort on April 18, 1756, a group of soldiers of Col. Washington's Virginia Regiment went in pursuit of a few Indians and some of them stumbled into an ambush of over 100 French and Indian raiders. The ambush killed seventeen men and sent chills through the Burgesses in Williamsburg. This battle near Fort Edwards was the largest of the French and Indian War to have occurred in present West Virginia.
"Ya know that the fort is still down there, just the foundation is left but they've found bits and pieces of artifacts."
"So how does the Capon Savage fit into all of this? Tommie said that what ever it is, it attacks people who go down there. Have you ever seen the Savage?"
"I really don't know how long it's been down there, but I know some boys learned the hard way about poaching. Every once in a while someone will see it out in the river swimming from one side to the other or going off into the brush. I hear it's big and hairy like Big Foot, might very well be a big foot. Had one of the nearby farmers milk cow come up missing, couple goats and sheep and a half wolf pup that some drifter said was stole out of his truck when it was parked on the bridge. As for me seeing it?" She pulled off her glasses and handed them to Dash. "Take a look through those and tell me what ya see."
Dash tried but her eyes crossed and became blurry. "I gotcha." She handed them back and rubbed her eyes. "I saw the savage today swimming, I couldn't really see it very well through my camera but I know it was going across to the other side. What's over on that side of the river?"
"Just some open fields, streams, probably fruit trees." She took a sip of her coffee and studied Dash. "What do you do for a living?"
"I'm a photo journalist for the Washington Traveler; this is the first time I've been down here."
"Got a husband or boyfriend waiting for you?" She winked at her and saw a light blush cover her face.
"I have a boyfriend in Washington; at least I think I do?" She scratched her jaw and shrugged her shoulders. "I haven't heard from him since he froze my house plants; he's a broker in a firm and gets lost among all the NASDAQ and the DOW Jones ticker tape."
"Ohh the green thumb kind that can kill grass just by stepping on it, my late husband was like that, he could kill fake plants."
They heard the front door open and close with a loud click and then footsteps coming towards the kitchen. "Tommie get in here and help us eat these dumplings!" Dash wondered how she knew it was him since he hadn't come into sight yet. "He tries to tip toe through the house, sounds like he's tap dancing." He stepped into the kitchen, gave his grandma a kiss on her cheek and dropped into a chair. "Any bounce back up and hit the bridge?"
"Nope, but had a couple drunkards thinking they could do it with regular rope."
Dash covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a laugh. "Sorry that's not funny."
"Yeah it is, they tied the rope around the bumper of their truck but before they could do anything, one of them decided they needed more beer. Last I saw them; they were running behind the truck towards Virginia." He took a bite of his dumpling and moaned. "Grandma if I eat all of this I won't have room for supper."
"Bullshit Tommie, you eat like a hog. One of these days I'm just going to put you out back with a slop troth."
"Gee thanks grandma, now Dash thinks I'm a pig."
"She might put me back there with you, I'm known for being barred from all you can eat buffets."
Before supper, Dash went for a walk along the deserted sidewalks and found a small bar on a corner. Going in, she let her eyes adjust to the dimness and saw that just a few old men sitting around the TV hanging from the ceiling. Going up to the bar, she sat down on a stool and waved to the half-asleep bartender.
"Can I have a coke please?"
"Sure thing little lady." He filled a large glass with some ice and placed it in front of her along with a 16oz bottle of Coke. "Anything else I can get you?"
"I have a question; do you know anything about the Capon Savage?"
"The one ya wanna talk to is Old Hazel or that old geezer over there." He pointed to an old man with white fringe around his head.
"Thanks." She took her glass over to the table and asked if she could join the old man, he looked up at her with rheumy blue eyes and nodded.
She sat down and held out her hand to him. "My names Dash, I was talking to Hazel today and she said you might be able to tell me about the Capon Savage."
"The river beastie, damn thing stole one of my cows one night right outta the field. Don't know why, thing was half-dead from a bad infection in its leg. Guess it didn't care if it was hungry."
"You think it stole your cow for food?"
"Sure, what else would it want with it. Too old to have anymore calves, I kept her around to nurse orphan calves."
"No one saw anything, like a neighbor or a cow being led away and how did the savage get it across the river?"
"Not a peep outta anyone and ya can get down to where everyone sees the savage by cutting across my cow pasture. There's an old tree logging road that's all grown over, been 50 60 years since it's been used." A huge grin covered her face, she knew there had to be a way of getting down there and now she had her answer.
"Thank you for talking to me, can I buy you a drink as a way of thanks?"
"I never turn down a free drink little lady, sure I'll take another milk." She nodded her head and gave him a smile.
On her way out of the bar, she looked to the direction she had come into town, she would go out the next day and scout around for the old man's farm and see if she could find this road he spoke of.
It was eight o'clock when Dash's cell phone rang and woke her from a deep sleep, she searched the nightstand and flipped open to see John's number across the small screen. With a hoarse voice, she answered.
"John it's early."
"I know sweetness but I miss you and I want to know if I can come over for an hour."
She covered her eyes and held back a sigh. "I'm not at home John; I'm on assignment down near the Capon Bridge." She knew she would hate herself for what she was about to do. "Why don't you take a day off and drive down here, it's beautiful."
"I can't do that sweetness, I have an important brokerage meeting today, how about this weekend, will you still be there or back up here. I really hate to drive all the way down there, I just had my BMW detailed and those roads are terrible."
She hated how she always played second fiddle to his job, car, friends and anything else that just happened to pop up. The time was coming fast for her to tell him to take a flying leap off a bridge. "It's only two hour's tops, I'm on vacation and I won't be back for two weeks."
"Why didn't you call and tell me you were on vacation, we could have made plans or something."
"It was a spontaneous decision; we never did anything on my vacations before so I didn't think about it. Will you come down this weekend?"
"I'll check and see if anything big is going on; if not then I'll be down. Where are you staying?"
"There's a bed and breakfast outside of town called Hazels. That's where I'll be."
"I have to go sweetness, I'll call you later."
"OK, bye." She closed her phone and dropped it on the bed. "I'll see or I'll call. Bullshit John, you've been saying that for years and I hate being called sweetness!" She rolled over and was about to go back to sleep when it hit her that she would have to call her boss and tell him she was taking a much needed vacation. She promised to have her pictures and a brief article sent to him so that it could be put in the next publication of the magazine. After the call, she decided to just get up and do some exploring. After eating too much food and still drooling over the fresh churned butter that Hazel had, she went out the door and headed to the small store she had seen the day before. Buying bottles of water and snack food, she packed her backpack and started walking towards the bridge and hopefully the old man's farm. An hour later and exhausted, she sat down on a large rock and rested. She had walked through every field and still not found any sign of a road. She was about to give up and head back when she saw a deer off in the distance walk out from between two trees that were twisted from six foot off the ground to their very tops. She pulled her camera out and took a couple of pictures of the strange tree. The more she looked at it the more she felt something inside her twitch.
"You're just tired Dash, no way can a tree make you feel strange." She got up to get a closer inspection and felt the feeling getting stronger. "You will not freak out and run across the field screaming like a loon." She took a deep breath, looked up at the tangled branches and felt the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. "Dash you're losing your mind!" She reached out, laid a hand on the rough bark of one of the trees and swore that it felt warm beneath her hand. "You're a fruit loop Dash." Looking around her to see if anyone saw her talking to herself, she noticed a thin trail through the brush. Walking forward, she found that it went deeper into the trees. An hour later, she had the feeling that she had been walking in circles when she heard the river off to her right. Following the sound, she came across a stream and knew that it wasn't the river she had heard.
"Just great Dash dummy, you're probably lost out in the middle of the woods and the savage will get you and have you for a snack. What's even better is you didn't tell anyone where you were going." She smacked her forehead and dropped down to sit in the soft grass. Leaning back in the grass, she looked up at the blue sky and saw a bluebird in the branches above her. Pulling her camera out, she took a few pictures of the bird and then scanned the trees above her looking for more wild life. That's when she heard the cow off in the distance, and then rifle shots. She got up, took off running towards the noise and came upon four men shooting at a crippled cow. Not thinking, she started yelling at them.
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?" She froze when the rifles swung in her direction. "Ohh shit Dash you've done it now!" She said to herself before she took off running the way she had come. Glancing back over her shoulder, she saw the men giving chase. Gripping her camera in one hand, she used the other to push back branches and guard her face from their whip like lashings. Shots came from behind her hitting the trees to either side; she ducked, slipped and fell. Getting back on her feet, she took off again at an angle. She felt a burning in her left leg and went down to the ground. Reaching back, her hand came away bloody. Seeing a large long (log) ahead of her, she crawled over it and hid.
"She's here somewhere find her!" One of the men yelled and started beating the thick brush back with the butt of his rifle. The other three split up in different directions, when she heard one of them getting closer, she squeezed under the log but not soon enough.
"I got the bitch! She's over here!" He grabbed her by her leg and pulled her out of her hiding spot. "This is much more fun than poaching or shooting cows." He grabbed her by the back of her shirt and dragged her to her feet.
"Just let me go and you won't get in trouble."
"Like we'll believe that!" Another man said when he stepped in front of her; he pulled back with his fist and punched her in the jaw. Her head rolled to the side and she spit out blood.
"What a man you are, you like beating up woman?" When he came closer, she brought up her foot and kicked him in the groin. "Feel good asshole?" She felt a punch to her lower back and gasped from the pain.
"Bitch you'll pay for that!" The three men took turns punching and kicking her until she was dropped to the ground unconscious. "Cut her clothes off and let's have some fun!" One man pulled a long knife from his belt and started slitting her pant leg open. "When I get done I'm first 'cuz I found her." He ripped her pants off of her and started to unbuckle his belt when a dark shadow came over him. "What are you??" A large filthy hand grabbed his throat and lifted him up off the ground. His body was thrown into the two of the other men while the fur-covered beast pummeled the fourth. In minutes, all four men were lying in a heap on the ground. Using their belts and strips of their clothes, they were bound to a tree and left. Dirt covered muscular arms lifted Dash up from the ground and carried her off through the trees.
A large gray timber wolf crossbred sat near his mistress's feet and watched her pen a short note. He tilted his head at the sound of her deep rough voice and barked once. Tucking the note in a leather bag on his collar, she told him to go to Tommie. He turned and bolted off through the trees and was out of sight in seconds.
Dash lay on a handmade table in the center of the log cabins large kitchen, her clothes torn and bloody. Long gashes peppered her body from the men and the trees that she had run through. Her one eye was completely swollen closed and her jaw was a deep purple. A large hand tilted her face to the side and pried open her mouth. A molar was pulled out by large fingers and tossed into a trashcan near the table. Deft hands striped her of her clothes and threw those out as well.
"Sure are a mess, lucky I heard them." She whispered to Dash. Pulling a large first aid kit from a shelf, she then got a small tub of warm water and washed the dirt and blood from Dash's body before she sutured the gashes and bound her bruised ribs. When she was done, she carefully carried Dash to her bed and laid her down. Covering her with a sheet, she sat in a chair next to the bed and opened the book she had been reading.
Hazel heard the barking at the back door to the kitchen, she opened it and the wolf trotted in and sat at her feet. "What's the matter Jed?" The wolf raised a paw, shook it at her and barked again. "OK, let me see what ya got for me." She opened the leather bag, took out the note and read it.
4 poachers ¼ mile from Dan's pasture, tied to tree. They beat a small blonde, she's with me. Need more medicine and bandages.
"Ohh what have you gotten yourself into Dash?" Hazel patted Jed on his head, gave him a treat and told him to wait. Penning her own note, she wrote that she would have Tommie stop by with more stuff for her. And to take care of Dash. Putting the note in the leather bag, she sent Jed back to his mistress. Once he was gone, she went to the phone and called Tommie at his office.
"What did you say grandma?" Tommie listened closely and knew he had heard her right the first time. "OK, I'll head out there right now with provisions and the sheriff." He paused before he spoke his next words. "Grandma should I bring Dash back with me?"
"Nope, you leave her where she's at. It might be too risky to move her if she's in bad condition."
"OK, I'll let you know all the details when I get back, bye grandma." He hung up the phone and ran from his office, down the street to the Pharmacy and through the doors." Ten minutes later, he came out with his arms full of bags. Turning towards his office, he ran to his truck and was tearing down the road seconds later.
"From what grandma told me they should be around here." Tommie held out his arms and turned in a circle.
"You get lost in your own bedroom so that means they could be anywhere." The sheriff smacked Tommie in his shoulder.
"I learned everything I know from you Uncle Paul, now where the Hell did she put them?"
Paul turned when he heard a moan and looked up into a tree. "I swear I'll kick her ass the next time I see her." He pointed to the four poachers hanging from a tree branch. "I wish I knew how she did things like that."
Tommie helped his uncle get the men down and take them to the blazer parked at the edge of the tree line. When Paul was gone, he took off through the trees to deliver the stuff he had. When he broke through the trees below the log cabin, he saw Jed standing guard at the door.
"Hey big guy, did you see grandma today?" Jed barked and wagged his tail at him. "OK, give me a minute." He pulled a large rawhide chew from his pocket and gave it to the begging wolf. "Happy now, now where's your partner at?"
"In here Tommie." A deep voice called out to him.
"Ohh my God, she looks bad sis." Tommie looked at the badly beaten face of Dash and grimaced. "They would have killed her if you hadn't stopped them." He pressed a hand to Dash's face and felt how warm she was.
"Yeah she's got a slight fever, that's what this is for." She held up a bottle of milky white fluid and a hypodermic needle. "On the table is the bullet I took out of her thigh, Uncle Paul will need it to put those assholes away."
Tommie's brown eyes grew wide at the mention of Dash being shot. "They shot her too, Jesus Christ!" He ran a hand across his jaw and looked over to Dash.
"Tell Uncle Paul to add attempted rape to the charges too, they were tearing her clothes off when I got there." Tommie looked to his sister and gulped at the iciness of her blue eyes. Watching her flip her long dark hair over one shoulder, she pulled the sheet back from Dash's hip and injected her with the penicillin. "I know you're wondering and the answers no, she can't be moved. She has broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder and three broken fingers besides everything else that is obvious." She stood up and towered over her younger brother by a good foot. "Was she staying at grandmas?"
"Yeah, her names Dash Monroe, she's a photo journalist from Washington."
"And you know this how?"
"I met her yesterday at the idiot jumping." He grinned and looked into his sisters ice blue eyes that were so much like their grandmas. "She saw you yesterday swimming in the river; I think she was out here looking for the Capon Savage."
"And I know just how she found me too; Dan must have been running off at the mouth about his cow."
"And her being a reporter type, she followed his yapping mouth. Wait a minute here, how did she find the road? Only a few of us know about it."
Blue eyes drifted down to Dash and a small smile lifted on corner of her mouth. "Some people can't see the forest for the trees."
Tommie's dark brows drew down over his nose. "Huh, what's a quote have to do about her finding you?"
"My trees Tommie, the ones that stand tall and strong through out time."
"What ever you say sis, you're the oracle of strange and mysterious." He shook his head at her and grinned. "Do you want me to bring you anything else?"
"Yeah let me get my list." She went over to her desk and came back with a page from her notebook. Tell grandma to give you the money from my account."
"OK, I'll pick the stuff up and bring it by tomorrow afternoon. If you need anything before then send Jed the messenger mutt."
Picking her book back up, she sat back down in the chair and began reading again. "What are you going to do now Savage?" She said to herself and glanced over to a still unconscious Dash.
The next morning, Hazel packed the waterproof canvas bags that Tommie had brought back with him, stuffing what little clothes Dash had brought with her. The other two bags she put the normal stuff she sent to her eccentric granddaughter. All the newest books from her favorite authors, packages of crackers & Cheese, cans of sardines, oysters, and other staples that she couldn't get where she was. As a treat, she put in a plastic wrapped bundle of blueberry muffins with chocolate chips in them.
"Damn kid and her sweet tooth." She placed a package of Hershey bars in the bag and closed it up. "I know you'll take good care of Dash." She placed the bags near the kitchen door and waited for Tommie to come down from his room.
"Grandma should I take Dash's cell phone with me in case Sis needs to call for medical help?" He sat down at the table and looked up to his grandma with a worried expression on his face.
"How bad is the little one?"
"Grandma, they shot her in her leg and beat her to within an inch of her life. She's all broken up and I can only hope Sis knows what she's doing."
Dash moaned and thrashed in the bed, sweat drenched her hair and ran down her face. Savage picked her up and carried her from the log cabin and into the woods to a clear running creek. Walking out into the water until it came up to her waist, she went in further until only their heads were above (add it). She waited until Dash stopped thrashing and she fell into a deeper sleep, running a hand through the water, she cupped it and poured it over Dash's head until her hair was soaking and cleaner.
"Never thought I'd be a nurse maid." She pushed the wet hair from a bruised face and studied it with scrutiny. The face below the bruises was delicate with finely arched brows, small lines at the corner of Dash's eyes and lips told of her laughter. "You wanted the Capon Savage but I know you didn't want to find me this way." Savage walked from the creek and back up to her cabin. Once she had settled Dash in her bed, she went out to check on her garden and river traps. Off in the distance, she heard her cow making noise and then the old cow came limping towards the garden.
"Don't you dare come in here!" Savage pointed a finger at her. "Your big clumsy feet step on everything." She pulled a tomato off a plant and tossed it to the cow. "That's all you get, you have plenty of grass and apples to eat." Putting a couple butternut squash in a hand woven basket with other vegetables, she went to the small cooking fire she had near the front of the cabin. Digging into the hot coals, she wrapped the butternut squash in wet leaves and then buried them. Taking a thin steel rod from over the fire, she pushed the bell peppers on it and set it high above the flames. Later, they would be cleaned of the blackness, dried and sliced for cooking in the future. Everything she ate came from nature; she trapped rabbits and only killed what she would need. If she killed a deer, it was one that was old and would die during the winter. Remembering her river traps, she went down to where she had the ropes tied to a stake in the ground. Pulling her traps out of the river, she found a couple dozen crawdads and an eel. "Crawdad stew or eel steaks, well big boy looks like you get to live another day." She released the eel back into the river and took the crawdads up to the fire.
"Hey sis what's for supper, I'm starved!" Tommie dropped the heavy bags near a tree stump and sat down next to his sister. "Grandma tried to give me a hernia with your bags; I think she put half the house in them." He pulled Dash's phone from his pocket, handed it to her and saw the look in her eyes. "I know what you're gonna say but give me a chance here. That's Dash's phone, she might need it when she gets better. She has a boyfriend that will be worried about her."
She turned the tiny Nokia cell phone over in her large hand and looked at her brother. "Where's he at and what if this thing rings?"
"Washington DC, grandma told me he's a broker or something." He winked at her and grinned. "You know the kind that's too busy to pay attention to what he's got."
"What are you getting at Tommie?" She turned the peppers and then stirred the stew that was hanging over the fire.
"Ohh just that it's been quite a while since she's seen him, so he might not call. By the time he does, we may have two Capon Savages to scare people away."
Savage snorted and threw a crawdad shell at him. "I doubt that, the minute she takes one look at me, she'll jump in the river and swim away."
He took in his sister's dark tanned muscular body, her chiseled features and pale blue eyes and snorted. "She's a writer and a photographer, one look at you and she'll think she's in front of one of your 'Greek Goddesses.' " He ducked the large paw that came near his head. "How's she doing today, any change?"
"Nope, she had a fever earlier so I took her in the creek. I hope her fever breaks soon, she still hasn't woke up and I think that's part of the reason."
"Well, now that you have a phone, if she gets worse you can just call me and I'll take her to the hospital."
"You know I hate phones and all the other shit people depend on." She sighed and dropped her dark head. "I'll use it only if it's a dire emergency, but that's it." She pulled the pot off the hanger and set it on a rock to cool. "Go get us some bowls and I'll get the squash ready."
His brown eyes lit up at the mention of squash. "Buried butternut squash with home made butter?"
"What else, now get moving before I feed yours to Jed."
Tommie stopped to look down at a sleeping Dash, she still looked bad but some of the swelling in her face had gone down. He trailed a finger down her bruised cheek and spoke to her in a low whisper. "I wouldn't ignore you for a second; you belong on a pedestal and to be worshiped." He shook his head at his rambling thoughts and went outside carrying the large wooden bowls that Savage had carved herself.
"She looks a little better and she's sleeping deeper than when I saw her yesterday." He said and handed the bowls to Savage. "Grandma packed her clothes in your bags and I know for a fact that she put your weakness in there to (too)." He grinned when Savage' eyes widened and she started searching through the bags. She gave out a loud bark when she found the candy bars.
He grabbed his chest and fell over on the ground. "I hate when you do that."
"Too bad, I'm not changing what I do." She ripped the bag open with her teeth, un-wrapped a Hershey bar and barked again. A bark answered her and then Jed came running up to her, he jumped and spun in circles until she gave him some chocolate.
"What's wrong with calling him and chocolates bad for dogs."
"That would really screw up the Capon Savage mystery and he's a wolf not a dog." She stuck her tongue out at him and finished sharing her candy with Jed.
Tommie wandered back to his truck holding his stuffed stomach, his sister maybe from another century but she could cook up a storm over an open fire. There was six years difference in age between them and for his entire life, she had always been different. When they were younger, he remembered them camping in their grandmother's backyard and how she would point out the constellations. Then tell him the myths behind their names. When other girls her age were playing games together, Savage would be reading or walking along the riverbank. She played around the old Fort and brought home old buttons, buckles and other things from the battle of Capon more than 250 years in the past. They were still in her old bedroom at Grandma's and still protected behind glass in the small showcase she had made years before. Occasionally he would go into the room, look at all her small treasures and remember their childhood.
Savage cradled Dash in her one arm and slipped broth between her lips with a small spoon, she had been giving her broth every half hour to keep her from dehydrating. She stopped when Dash moved her head away and moaned. Her fever was still a problem and a slight infection had started around the entrance wound. Savage had probed the area when she removed the bullet but found no debris inside the wound. Easing out from under Dash, she un-wrapped the bandage from around her thigh and saw the red angry flesh at the exit site.
"Damn, I must have missed something." She ran her hand down over her eyes and stopped to cover her mouth. Thinking of what she would have to do, she shook her head and then went to get her first aid kit.
Dash was back on the makeshift surgery/kitchen table; Savage changed the blade in her scalpel, and then cut into the exit wound. Applying pressure to the surrounding area, she watched as puss and other fluids poured out of the incision. Using surgical sponges, she cleaned the area with betadine and then whistled for Jed.
"Come here boy Dash needs your medical expertise, now be easy on her." She went over to the sink and washed her hands, but watched over her shoulder as Jed licked Dash's hand and then the wound on her leg. All animals had a natural bacterium in their saliva that helped heal wounds, she knew that a doctor would have her put away for what she was letting Jed do but she knew that Jed would never tell anyone and neither would she. Taking a rawhide chew and dried herbs from the cabinet, she handed the rawhide to him and then prepared the herbal paste that she would use once she sutured the wound closed.
"Hope you don't sue me for malpractice, 'cuz I don't have insurance." She re-bandaged Dash's thigh and carefully carried her back to her bed. Pulling the thick fur blankets up to her shoulders, she brushed the back of her fingers across her warm cheek. "Maybe I should have had Tommie take you to the hospital." She sat on the edge of the bed and brushed her fingers through blondish unruly hair. "If you're not better in the morning I'll call him." She took her book from the nightstand and went outside to sit near the fire and read.
Hours later with the sun already set, she closed her book and listened to the night sounds coming from all around her. Tilting her head back, she looked up to the clear sky and studied the stars. "You've not changed in centuries." She said in a soft voice and continued to watch the stars.
Dash could feel the mans body behind her holding her tightly while blows rained down upon her, she heard the crunch of her ribs when the butt of a rifle struck her. She tried to scream and fight back but felt like she was being suffocated. Their taunting voices drove into her ears and echoed in her mind, she took a deep breath and screamed out. Warm hands grabbed her shoulders; she fought against them and cried out when pain shot through her ribcage and chest. A whimper came from her and then sobs when she felt herself being held tightly and a soft voice whispering in her ear.
"I won't hurt you, go to sleep Dash." Savage had heard her cries and rushed back into the dark log cabin to find her thrashing in her sleep. Being as gentle as she could, she tried to hold her down until she became too much. Wrapping her arms around her, she held her close until she quieted. "You're safe here; no one will hurt you anymore."
Dash opened her eyes to mere slits but could only see darkness, moving into the warmth around her made her feel safer. She heard a deep voice speak softly to her and then picked up the scent of a soft musk mixed with an herbal scent and wood smoke. It struck a chord deep inside of her and made her very soul tingle. So familiar but strange at the same time, her hand moved to tangle in long silky hair before she fell into a deep healing sleep.
Savage took a fur blanket from the chair and went outside to lay by the fire, when Jed trotted up to her; she rubbed his ears and sent him in to stay with Dash. She rolled onto her side and watched the flames flicker until she fell asleep to the sounds of crickets and the crackling embers.
It was still dusk outside when Dash woke with the need of a bathroom. Opening her eyes, she looked around and was lost as to where she was. She slowly sat up and felt her ribs scream at her and join the throbbing in her leg, shoulder and fingers. A low moan came from between her dry lips when she swung her legs over the edge of the bed. A low woofing noise alerted her, she looked down to see white eyes looking up at her, and then a large furry head was lying on her leg. The first thought that ran through her head was that the animal was going to tear her into ribbons until a pink tongue licked at her fingers. Jed barked softly once more before he went out the door. Dash stood up and felt a sharp pain radiate through her leg, she reached out and grabbed onto the back of the chair to steady her self before she tried to walk across the dark room. When a deep voice came from behind her, she almost fell to the floor when she turned too fast.
"Let me help you, you shouldn't be up walking around you know." Savage wrapped an arm around Dash's waist to support her. "Where are you going?"
Dash looked up and felt all the air in her lungs disappear. Ice blue eyes glowed in the dim light; she felt her blood run cold and felt herself start to slip downward.
"I won't hurt you, where were you headed, the bathroom maybe?" She watched a tousled blonde head nod at her. "OK, I'll help you there. Jed get the light for me." Jed trotted across the large room and went through a door at the side, seconds later a dim light showed from the doorway. Helping Dash across the room, Savage knew that the small blonde was in extreme pain just from breathing. With gentle hands, she helped her through the door and let her hold onto the vanity.
"Will you be alright now?" She asked and felt a heat work its way up her face.
"Yeah, I'll be alright." Dash answered with a rough voice. "Could you?" She pointed to the door and was about to finish her sentence when Savage jumped with a start.
"Sure, sorry. Give a yell when you're done and I'll help you back to bed." She closed the door softly and stood outside it with a loss of what to do. "Jed watch her and let me know when she's done." She scratched the top of his head and went back outside to start coffee. The only time she ever used the stove in the cabin was during the winter and it was to cold outside or snowing. She had a collection of small propane tanks in a small shed attached to the cabin that the stove ran off. She preferred to save them for wintertime, just like the batteries that could operate electricity for the cabin. They were charged by the solar panels on the roof and were good for a very long time but she chose to use oil lamps and candles. Most people who knew how she lived thought she was crazy, others said she was eccentric. She didn't care either way, she was happy with the way she lived and wouldn't go back to the so-called civilized world for anything.
Dash looked around the large bathroom and wondered where she was and who the strange woman was that had helped her. What struck her as strange were the modern bathroom fixtures in the rough-hewn bathroom. The walls on one side were logs and the other sides were rough-cut timbers. Flushing the toilet, she stood up and felt the room start to spin. A low moan rumbled in her chest and then barking came from the other side of the door.
Jed was jumping up and down and spinning in circles when Savage came back into the cabin. She patted his head and then knocked on the door. "You OK in there?" She opened the door when she heard Dash moan. Reaching out, she caught her before she crumpled to the floor.
"You should have called me for help." She lifted her easily into her arms and carried her back to the bed. "I made some coffee; I'll be back in a minute." Covering her back up with the furs, she went out the door. Dash could see more of her surroundings with the sun now up. She felt like she was in Grizzly Adams cabin. Everything around her looked handmade and from another time, with the exception of the hardback book on the nightstand. She read the cover and tried to grin but the pain in her face stopped her. Lifting the copy of John Sanford's Mortal Prey up, she saw that her last three fingers were splinted and taped together.
"It's not like his other Prey books, I can't get into it." Savage said with a low voice and handed Dash a coffee cup. "Be careful, your lips split and you're missing a molar on the top left side."
Slowly Dash raised the cup to her lips and took a small sip; she flinched when the hot liquid hit the hole where her tooth used to be.
"Where am I?" She asked after she drank more of the strong brew.
"My cabin, don't worry you're safe here."
"But where, the last I remember I was being attacked?" She stopped and took a better look at her arms and saw the scratches and bruises.
"Right now those guys are getting acquainted to some big bikers in prison."
"I don't understand why I am not in a hospital?"
Savage moved closer to her and sat down in the chair next to the bed, it was the first time that Dash could actually see her without her being blurry. What had her attention was that the strange woman was only dressed in a deerskin breechcloth. No shirt or shoes, just very long dark wavy hair hanging down across her shoulders and chest and dust up to her hairy shins.
"You're naked." Burst from Dash's lips before she could stop herself.
"I am not, at least completely. Anyway, I didn't want to take a chance on waiting for help, so I brought you here."
"How long have I been here and who are you?" She sighed and touched the swollen area above her eye. "Sorry if I'm being a rude, it's not everyday I get shot, beat up and wake up in a log cabin with a wolf and stranger looking at me."
"I understand. It's going on three days now; Tommie and Hazel know you're here." She leaned back in her chair and grinned at Dash. "He told me you were looking for the Capon Savage, what would you do if you found it?"
"I don't know." She leaned back in the soft pillows and closed her eyes. "At first it was exciting, the mystery of it and now all I want is to be able to move and not hurt."
"What if the Capon Savage walked in here right now?"
"I would be its next victim. Is that what got those guys who attacked me, the river beastie ate them?"
"I got a hold of Tommie and he and the sheriff came and got them. Are you hungry, I've been giving you broth but that doesn't really fill you up?"
"I am but with a sore jaw and missing a molar. Do you have a mirror, I want to see what I look like?"
"Sure, I have one, it's just a little one though." She went into a trunk and came back with a small shaving mirror. "I'll warn ya, they did a job on you, I had to suture some places that were pretty deep."
Dash held up the mirror and let out a deep whistling breath, moving the mirror she saw the nasty bruising and the sutures above her eye. "Looks like I'll have some nice scars as a reminder."
"Don't let it bother you, if people judge you by your looks then they're not worth your time. Scars show you've survived, centuries ago if a warrior was scared it was a sign of bravery."
"You're right, they don't bother me but others see it as an imperfection, like I go around saying I'm perfect to begin with."
Dash felt like a stuffed pig after eating butternut squash covered in homemade butter, a tender meat she had no idea what it was and blueberry muffins. What made her feel like that she had not a worry in the world was the sweet brew Savage had given her. When she finished it, she found out it was Honey mead.
"I still don't know your name, what do I call you?"
Savage didn't want her to know who she really was, so she used her late mothers name Victoria or Tori as her grandma used.
"It's Tori, get some sleep and if you need anything just tell Jed and he'll come get me."
Dash looked down into the white eyes of the wolf and scratched his ears. "A strange name for a wolf, why Jed?"
"I named him after Jedidiah Smith, the mountain man who discovered the south pass." Savage went over to the canvas bags and pulled out all the stuff that Grandma had packed. Finding Dash's clothes, she put them in a small pile and then added a Hershey bar and some other junk food for her. "Old Hazel sent your stuff with Tommie; he brought your phone with him to."
"I had a backpack with me and my camera, I think I dropped it when I took off running?those men?they were shooting at a cow."
Savage saw the tears trailing down Dash's face, she didn't know if it was because of losing her personal items or the memories of the attack.
"Can you check on the cow and see if she's alright?"
Savage had her answer; she was so used to seeing people more concerned with themselves. Not how they would destroy nature to build their multi-million dollar houses, and that a family of fox would be pushed out of their den and hunting grounds.
"I'll check on her and I'll look for your stuff while I'm out there." She knelt down and spoke into Jed's ear, heard his tail thump on the floor and a whine come from his throat.
"What did you tell him?"
"If he did good I'd bring him a treat." She went out the door unaware of a pair of blurry green eyes watching her with amazement.
After pulling on a pair of shorts and a huge T-shirt that had to be Tori's she decided to move around a little. "Your friend there is really strange." Dash dropped her good arm over the bed and rubbed Jed's ears. "So what do you two do around here for fun?" She looked around her and noticed that there was no TV, stereo, or any other kind of item that would be from this century. Seeing a hand carved cane sitting next to the nightstand, she took it in her hand and ran her fingers over the detailed dragons head. The craftsmanship was excellent, every little detail down to the claws on the feet gripping the sides of the cane were perfect. "Let's see if I can move around without killing myself." She slowly swung her legs from the bed and used the cane to steady herself. Sweat stood out on her forehead and upper lip from her struggles with pain. After a few minutes, she was able to take slow steps across the room. She stopped in front of a wall that was covered in shelves, the number of books was astonishing to her. What every topic you could think of was somewhere on the shelves, from ancient civilizations to John Patterson and Fitzgerald. "She sure does read a lot, I wonder if she knew Hazel's granddaughter?" She slowly made her way around the large log cabin and was in awe of all the handmade furniture down to the wooden butter churn. She looked down to see Jed beside her. "Why does she live like this boy?" Seeing a large window over the kitchen sink, she limped over and looked out to see a huge garden in its final stages of harvest. The sound of clattering drew her attention to the back kitchen door were a dog door was swinging. She looked around but didn't see anything until she saw a pantry door swing open. "Does Tory have ghosts in this place or what?" She fell back against the counter when a large raccoon closed the door, carried an apple over to a water bowl with Jed's name on it and started washing the apple. "Damn it's like spending a day with Grizzly Adams."
Savage stopped to give her cow Belle some apples and then to re-trace the path Dash had used to get to where she was attacked. She found her backpack behind the log and further up through the trees, she found her Nikon camera. The sound of a tractor took her out of the tree line and into Dan's pasture. Shading her eyes, she saw him dragging a wagon behind with hay on it. He came out once a week and dropped hay off for his cows and the deer. Even though the fields were thick with grass, he made sure that everything had another source of food. During the winter, he dropped salt/mineral blocks in the field for the critters as he called them. When Belle had become too old to be a productive animal, he had asked her if she wanted her for fresh milk because he didn't have the heart to butcher her. The same went for the other livestock that roamed in the fields around her cabin. They were past their prime and the farmers knew that Savage would be glad for the company and the animals would live well for the rest of their lives. Slinging the backpack over her shoulder, she headed back down towards her cabin. Along the way, she picked the last of the blackberries and raided the honeycomb near an old hollowed out tree. Carrying her prizes, she stepped from the trees to see Dash sitting in a chair near the small ring.
"I can build a fire if you want one." She said as she handed Dash her backpack and camera. "I usually make one about now so that it's ready to cook supper over."
Dash ran her hand over her camera and smiled up at Savage. "You found everything, I can't believe it. Thank you." She looked at the cheesecloth bags Savage had in her hands. "What's that something those guys dropped?"
"Nope, I took them with me." She scared the Hell out of Dash when she barked and then grinned down at her. "Sorry, it's habit." Jed came running up and jumped at the bags in her hand. "Hey little man you know what you have to do for this." He jumped and did a back flip and sat at her feet. She pulled a piece of the honeycomb from the bag and gave it to him.
"Can he cook and clean as well?" Dash watched him trot off towards a shady area to eat his treat.
"If I want him to, he'll even wash my clothes." She pulled a piece of the comb off and handed it to Dash. "It's nice and sweet, the bees have an entire clover field to collect from."
"How long have you had Jed?"
"Since he was a pup, he followed me home one day and kept me."
She smiled up at Savage and chuckled. "And the raccoon lets you stay in his cabin?"
Dark brows drew downward over pale blue eyes, a corner of her mouth lifted to resemble a small grin. "So Scoops found my apple stash did she, I'll have to hide them better." She sat down and started adding small twigs to the fire ring along with dried leaves and moss. "It's a game we play, I hide the apples and she comes in and finds them. It took Jed a while to learn to share his water dish though." Taking a leather pouch off a rock, she pulled out a striker and flint and started a small blaze in the twigs. She felt eyes watching her and smirked.
"Ever heard of a lighter or matches?" Dash asked after she licked her fingers clean.
"If you haven't noticed, I'm not a big fan of modern technology."
"Matches aren't exactly modern; they've been around for centuries."
"Guess it's just the Joe Camel thing that gets to me." She said and put the flint and striker bag in the leather pouch.
"Tori, Joe Camel has been over with for years, just how long have you been here?" She waved here good arm around her.
Savage didn't pay any attention until Dash prodded her with the cane. "Huh?ohh ten, eleven years, I've lost count."
"So long that you don't recognize your name as well."
Savage gave her a shrug of her shoulders and got up from the fire. "I'm going to catch supper, any preference on what type of fish?"
"As long as it's cooked I'll eat it, so nope doesn't matter." She tried to smile but stopped with the first twinge of pain. "I was going to change the bandage on my leg but I didn't know?"
"I'll take care of it once I set my traps, be back in a minute." Savage took off at a jog down towards the river and left Dash to wonder what she meant by trapping fish.
"You are a strange one Tori, living where ever here is all alone with only animals for company." Something was eating at her but she just couldn't bring it forward. The memory of the twisted tree nagged at her for some reason. She leaned back in the chair and watched nature move all around her, the sounds were something that she had never paid attention to before, the soft click or a squirrel shelling an acorn, a woodpecker searching for bugs. The soft hum of bees and the sound of heavy footsteps coming up behind her, she raised the cane in her hand and was ready to bust who ever it was in the head.
"I see you're awake." She turned and saw Tommie standing off to her side with his hands in the air.
"Yep, and was I surprised." She pointed to the stump Savage had used. "Have a seat, Tori's trapping fish or something."
Tommie faltered at the sound of his mother's name; he wondered what his sister was up to. "Yep, Tori's a different species. I tell her she was born a couple hundred years too late."
"More like centuries Tommie." She dropped three huge catfish at his feet and handed him a long knife. "Your turn to clean the catch, I did it last time."
"Hey that's not fair; I'm an honored guest Toooori!"
"Shut up Eugene or I'll tell grandma you stole her blackberry pie."
His brown eyes grew wide at her; he looked at his shirtfront and didn't see any evidence of his thievery. "But how did you know?"
"It's your blue lips and chin, you eat like a pig."
"I do not eat like a pig." He picked up the fish and called Jed. "Come on boy us men have to stick together. You remember how to clean these things?" He wiggled the fish in front of the wolf.
"Where's he at! I'm gonna kick his ass!" Hazel yelled from where she was standing near the trees by the cabin. "I know he stole my pie, damn good for nothing kid." She walked forward and placed a hand on Dash's shoulder. "How do you feel, Tommie told me what happened?"
"Fine Hazel, Tori took good care of me." At the mention of her late daughter's name, Hazel gave Savage a raised eyebrow. "Yep, that's my Victoria for ya."
Green eyes swung around to pin Savage where she stood. "Wait a minute here, is Hazel your grandmother?"
"Yep, and Tommie's my little brother."
"Hazel, I thought you said that Tommie was the only grandchild that stayed around here?"
"Ohh Tori doesn't count, now would you claim a kid that ran around naked and talks to animals?" She grinned down at Dash and cast Savage a cross-eyed look.
"Hey Sav?Tori I finished the?ohhh am I in deep shit!" Tommie looked for a place to hide when Hazel raised a finger at him and started to move quicker than any other woman of her age.
"You little boy, are going to get your ass kicked!" She reached out, grabbed him by his ear and dragged him behind her. "You can go out and pick me more blackberries before the birds get them."
With the fish cooked until it was a crispy, sweet potatoes whipped with honey and fresh butter, cob of corn cooked in the embers and tall glasses of fresh milk that came from Belle. The four of them sat around the fire enjoying the feeling of the soft breeze and family. It had been many years since Dash had sat down for a meal with people that showed how much they cared for each other. She usually ate her meals alone or with John when he decided to show up. His idea of diner was a fast take-out order and sex afterwards. He had his moments when he showed her how much he loved her but they were far and few between. She had feelings for him but it was more for a close friend, than husband material. She often asked herself if she dated only him because he was safe and wasn't asking for a more permanent commitment.
"Ohh my Gods I almost forgot!" She raised a hand to her mouth. "What day is it?"
Hazel looked to her watch and answered. "It's Thursday why what's the matter Dash?"
"John's supposed to come down this weekend." She looked to Savage. "Tori will I be able to go back to Hazel's by Saturday"
"Sure, I can't see why not." She looked to Tommie and raised an eyebrow. "Can you take her up on Saturday morning?" She felt her heart sink; she had come to like having Dash there even though she had slept almost two of the three days. Then again, she knew that Dash wouldn't be there for ever, she had a life in Washington DC to get back to and a boyfriend. Then again, she had her hopes of Dash staying with her forever. Deep inside she felt a connection to the small blonde, it was something she saw the second she looked into her green eyes.
"Well trouble it's time for you to carry your decrepit old grandmother to her car."
"Right grandma, you're far from decrepit." He gave her a wiggle of his dark brows. "I saw you chasing old Dan across the pasture this afternoon."
"I need to get exercise some how and so does he." She got up from her chair, gave Dash a soft hug and then squeezed the stuffing out of Savage. She placed her lips next to her granddaughter's ear and whispered. "You take care of her Savage, she's special." She pulled back and kissed Savage on her cheek. "Behave yourself and put some damn clothes on or a least some shoes. Come on Jed led us outta here, Tommie gets lost in the bathroom."
Savage cleaned up the remains from their supper by dumping the scraps in a compost pile behind the garden, the dishes were taken into the cabin and placed in the sink and Dash was carried against her will into the cabin. "I could have walked you know."
"Yeah but I have to do a good deed at least once a day to keep from being beaten by grandma." She went across the large room, got a clean breechcloth from a trunk and headed towards the door.
"Where are you going?" Dash asked when she saw Savage take a small leather bag from near the door.
"To the stream, it's that time of the week when I take a bath." She smiled at the look on Dash's face.
"But you have a shower in the bathroom." She pointed across the room and added. "Does it work?"
"Yeah, you can use it if you want, there's towels in the cabinet in there."
"OK, but that doesn't explain you going to the stream."
"What can I say, I'm nature girl. It's actually the little fishes swimming around my body that I like." She went out the door leaving Dash to figure out what she had meant about fish. Taking her time, she made it to the bathroom and flipped on the light. "I wonder how she has electricity without any telephone poles or anything. One of the mysteries of Tori Edwards." When she took the bandage off her leg, it was the first time she had seen the damage done by the bullet. Neat sutures crossed her thigh and she felt the same at the back. It was still a little red and tender to the touch but it wasn't as stiff as before. She felt like the un-wrapping of King Tut once she had all the rib bindings and other bandages off. She tried her best to wash her hair and body with her one hand, her shoulder was sore and stiff yet, not to mention her splinted fingers. Wrapping a towel around her, she stepped out into the room just as Savage came through the door. Her breath caught in her chest and she felt a heat rush through her body. Savage had her hair slicked back from her face, her high cheekbones stood out and sloped down to her strong chin. What made Dash's heart pound uncontrollably were her ice blue eyes that flashed in the dim room. Clutching the towel to her chest, she worked her mouth a few times before words came out.
"I didn't see you, Gods I think you just took a few years off this lifetime." She hobbled over to the bed and sat down.
"Sorry about that, I'm just so used to being here all alone. Let me get the first aid kit and I'll take care of your leg and the other wounds."
Dash watched how Savage moved soundlessly across the room; she was like a large panther. Her muscles bunching and releasing with each movement, she would love to get some pictures of her. Especially her face, she had the most beautiful eyes surrounded by black lashes and perfect brows, that twitched as if they had a life of their own. Savage came back into the room with the first aid kit and an oil lamp. She set the lamp on the nightstand and turned it up so that it glowed brightly.
"You have electricity in the bathroom, why the oil lamp?"
Savage grinned at her. "I'm energy conscious. Lay back and raise you leg up a bit."
"How do you have electricity without power lines?"
"I have solar panels that keep two dozen special batteries charged. They can hold a charge for years, and the water is heated the same way. I have a storage tank in the shed out back that feeds in to the pipes."
"So you're like a survivalist, living off the land, using the technology when needed but basically without all the distracting things like TV."
"Ya have me all figured out, I'm a hermit." She ran her fingers across the flesh around the exit wound and saw the muscles flex in Dash's thigh. "Does it still hurt bad?"
Dash had to replay what she had just said before she could answer; the touch of her warm fingers did something to her that caused her blood to surge southward. "Uhhmm?not as bad, what is that stuff in the little jar?"
"Herbs, they're good for healing and getting rid of infections." There was no way she would tell her that Jed had been licking her leg. She knew that would be enough to send her screaming out into the night.
"Got anything in there that will grow me a new tooth?" She played with the huge hole in her gum line and moaned from the sharp pain. "Can't believe they knocked a tooth out."
"If it'll make you feel better, a couple of them will be eating with straws."
"So you're telling me that you beat the shit out of four men?"
"Yep, they should have known better than to come on my property and poach, let alone try and?"
"What Tori, you're not telling me everything."
Savage finished taping the clean bandage in place, sat back on her haunches and looked into the most expressive green eyes she had ever seen. "They were going to rape you." Dash sunk back into the pillows and closed her eyes tightly, she hadn't even thought of that happening to her. "Dash, they didn't even touch you, I stopped them before they could?"
"You saved more than my life then; I don't know how I'll ever be able to repay you."
"Will you take a picture of Jed for me, I don't own a camera and I?"
"Tori," She cupped the side of Savage's face and lifted her eyes to hers. "The picture is just the beginning." Dash leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. "Thank you for everything."
Savage didn't know what to do; she wasn't expecting Dash to kiss her. Only grandma and Tommie did that and it didn't make her skin tingle afterward. "Damn Savage, you're 32 years old and acting like a schoolgirl."
"I'll leave the others un-bandaged so that the air can get to them. Do you want a shirt to sleep in, I think I have one in my trunk."
"No I'll be fine." She had no idea why she had said that, she didn't even sleep naked when she was at home.
"OK, I'll be outside if you need anything." She picked up the fur blanket and went towards the door.
Dash leaned up in the bed and stopped her with a look. "You're going to sleep outside?"
"Yep, do it every night until it gets too cold. Night Dash."
Savage rolled herself in the fur blanket and watched the flames grow lower until only embers were left. The hoot of an owl in a near by tree joined in with the symphony of other night sounds. If she listened hard enough, she could hear Dash move around in her bed and the soft whimpers coming from Jed as he chased rabbits in his dreams. In just a day and a night, it would be only her and Jed in the cabin. She pictured Dash laughing while they ate around the fire, the way the sides of her nose crinkled and the fine lines deepened at the corners of her eyes. The deepness of her laugh and playful side that came out when she teased Tommie. She hoped that John knew what a special woman Dash was, she knew and she would miss her when she left. Tears formed in her eyes to trail down her cheek and into her blanket.
Dash rolled to her side and pulled Savage's pillow to her chest, she could smell the light musk and the shampoo Savaged used in the pillow and furs. It was a calming scent that made her feel safe. Her body replayed the feel of Savage's hands tending to her injuries. The way Tori looked when she smiled and it reached her pale eyes. Each smiled made her heart pound in her chest. In a day it would all be a memory that she would pull out, savor and remember how she had felt being with the tall woman. Tears flowed down her cheeks from the sadness she felt in her heart, though it was only less than a week. She felt that she belonged here more than anywhere else in the world. She fell asleep with the image of Savage with her hair slicked back from her face and water still tracing its way down her muscular shoulders.
Continued In Part 2