IN A HOSPITAL? Think, Barbara, think!
What was the last thing she remembered? Driving. She had been driving. At night. Back to Lyndon? Yes, she was headed back to Ray. She had gone home to Greenwood, but she was headed back to pick up Ray and they could both go home tonight. Then what? Then here. Had she fallen asleep at the wheel? That must be it. Not used to driving all those miles, in the darkness and all. She must have. Barbara closed her eyes and heard it all over again- the overwhelming sound of another car landing upside down on hers. The scenery spinning past the headlights, the median and- nothing. She had been in an accident? How? What was that noise she had heard? Had the car broken? The rear axle, maybe? That had to be it. The car had somehow broken, pitching itself across the median. Sure. That's it. Now she was safe in this room. Ray would be here soon. Barbara relaxed and closed her eyes. More images, more sounds: People yelling, metal being sheared away, the roar of an engine- not a car- rotors- a helicopter! Had they flown her here? Where was here? Indianapolis? That seemed the obvious choice. And a campfire. A campfire? Some kind of fire in the distance below the window. Something burning brightly in the night. Why did they have a campfire? Had it been that cold? No, it was summer. It had been a warm night. That campfire made no sense at all. Maybe she imagined that part. Too much to think about. Sleep.
By noon Ray was getting worried. He had tried to call the house- no answer. Had he been able to, he would have paced the floor. She should be here. Even if she spent the night at home. What is it- a three hour drive? Four tops. She should be here by now. What could he do? Who could he call? He stared at the computer long and hard. there must be some way to put that thing to good use. Ray logged back on to the Internet. What to do? He started with an e-mail letter to Barbara- sent to the computer in his home in Greenwood. Maybe if Barbara was upstairs, she'd hear the computer mail audio prompt. Maybe. Either way, he left a message. He was mentally pacing, if nothing else. He could call Jake. That sounded like a good idea at the time, and was sounding better by the minute. Ray headed (slowly) for the phone. The number came to him just as fast. After some delay in switching and routing, Ray could hear a phone ring on the other end. Hope it was the right one.
"Jake! It's Ray."
"Ray? Ray! How are you? WHERE are you?"
Ray Meadows suddenly felt like a complete fool, taken in by all that had happened around him. Now here he was stuck in a strange little town, miles from home, no transportation, barely able to walk and missing his wife.
"Jake, you won't believe it. I'm in a town called Lyndon."
"Never heard of it. What's it near?"
"It's near nothing, as far as I can tell. I'm somewhere in southern Illinois."
"Geez, Ray, what are you doing over there?"
"Long story. A long stupid story. But I've got bigger problems."
"I can't find Barbara. She was supposed to be here last night. We were supposed to come home late yesterday. You haven't seen her, have you Jake?"
There was a long pause on the line. Ray could hear Jake breathing, so he knew they weren't disconnected. What was going on up there? Was Barbara there?
"Uh, Ray? Uh, yeah- Carol went over this morning to your house- to see if you two were ok and all."
"And Barbara's over there?"
"Well, no. She- Carol- came back with this card. She said it was wedged in the screen door."
"A card? Like a note or something?"
"No. Like a business card."
"It might be. It's from Sergeant Anthony R. Montez, Indiana State Police."
Now it was Ray's turn for a long pause and Jake's turn to worry.
ORIGINAL FICTION: "Climbers" (Chapter Twenty-Four)
IN A HOSPITAL? Think, Barbara, think!