Beth jolted out of a restless sleep, reaching for the phone just before it rang. “Ellie, what is it? What’s wrong?” She didn’t need to check caller I.D. to know her identical twin was on the line, and at just after two in the morning it couldn’t be good news.
Ellie showed no surprise at either the quick pick-up or that her sister knew who was calling. She wouldn’t. They’d done this sort of thing all their lives. “It’s Chris. He’s missing.”
This must have been what Beth’s confused, foreboding dreams had been about. “Missing! What happened?”
“He didn’t come in for lunch like he usually does, or for dinner. Ell’s voice trembled. “He’s still not back.”
“Have you called the sheriff?”
Ellie’s laugh held a sharp edge. “Oh yeah. I called. He thinks Chris is just out blowing off some steam.”
“He said that?” Chris and Ellie had just returned from their world-tour honeymoon to their southern Arizona ranch. Beth had met her brother-in-law only a few times, but he didn’t seem like the kind who would step out on his wife seven months after the wedding.
“Not in so many words, but the meaning was clear. He said to call him if Chris doesn’t make it home by morning.”
“What a jerk!”
“I wish he were out with the guys. I felt like a nagging wife, but I even called Jack’s. Nobody at the bar has seen him.”
“What about the foreman? Maybe one of the hands knows something.”
“I phoned Mack before I called the sheriff. He said Chris planned to check fences on the south forty today. No one saw him after that.” Ell drew a shaky breath. “Mack got a couple of the guys and went out looking for him, but it’s a big ranch. We looked until after dark, but then it started to pour so we came in.”
Beth understood what her sister had left unsaid. The summer monsoons could be violent. Visibility dropped to nothing and the normally dry arroyos flooded quickly. Every year someone tried to cross one, and every year someone drowned.
“Chris is smart enough not to drive through a flooded wash, and he wouldn’t stay in his truck if it got stuck in a dry one, either. Not this time of year.”
“I know. But what if he got bitten by a rattler? What if he broke his leg?”
Beth spoke in the voice she used at the Humane Society to sooth the worried owners of lost dogs. It felt weird to be the one reassuring her normally unflappable sister. “Don’t borrow trouble. The sheriff will find him tomorrow. He probably just ran out of gas or something.”
“Then why hasn’t he called?”
“You told me yourself there’s places on the ranch that don’t get a signal. Or maybe his phone is dead.”
“Why don’t I come over and keep you company?”
“It’s a four hour drive, Beth.”
“It’s not that long. Besides, I could use a vacation.”
Ellie paused a moment. When she spoke again her voice caught. “Thank you.”
“Chris will probably show up before I do. We can all go out to breakfast together.”
Beth hoped she was telling the truth.
MORE . . . (18 years old and older only, please)
copyright 2011 by Frances R. Gross
VEILED MIRROR IS NOW AVAILABLE HERE IN PAPER FORMAT! Digital release will be September 21, 2011.