To catch up on the last few episodes:
Fiction Relay — Part 28 (by me)
Fiction Relay — Part 29 (by TRG)
Fiction Relay — Part 30 (by Hasty)
Fiction Relay — Part 31 (by Cara)
Fiction Relay — Part 32 (by Delilah)
Fiction Relay — Part 33 (by Ted)
To catch up on the entire story:
Having never before spent time in the American southwest, Sam knew it should have been the up-close, foreign sights that he noticed first. Like the terra cotta blooms on the prickly pears, or the flaming, vermilion buds spiking out of the yucca plants. But those curiosities had barely registered before his attention was drawn and held by the mountain. It was a blue mountain, the tallest peak in the range far to his west. Aside from its unique color, he could feel a force emanating from it, like a magnetic pulse. He couldn’t tear his eyes away. They were at the Bernalillo County sheriff’s office, where Ephraim had gotten in touch with a law-enforcement buddy on the off-chance they could find Meagan through traditional means, and Sam could barely resist the urge to walk out the door, get back in the car, and drive straight west.
Ephraim cleared his throat. “Uh, so I’ll just leave you and the scenery alone, then, while I go look for her….”
“What?” Sam blinked and ripped his gaze away, forcing himself to focus on Ephraim. “When did you finish with your friend? Sorry, I got distracted for a second.”
“A second? I’ve been trying to tell you for the past five minutes that Dave hadn’t heard anything, but he’ll put out a BOLO.”
“BOLO. That’s ‘Be On the Look-Out,’ right?” His gaze started to drift back to the mountain.
“Sorry. Don’t you feel it?”
“The passage of time? Yes, I do. Come on, let’s get moving!” Ephraim yanked open the door and walked out of the station.
“No, the mountain,” Sam clarified, jogging after Ephraim. “Don’t you feel that pull?”
“Pull?” Ephraim paused on his way toward their rental car. “No. Is she there? You don’t sense Meagan there, do you?” He nodded toward the mountain.
“No, the pull isn’t her. It’s not even human, though related to us somehow. It’s some other force, very powerful, and I think very ancient. I think it wants us to go there.”
“It wants? Well, it is also very sunny. I know what I saw, and it was dark.”
Sam knew Ephraim was referring to his cryptic vision of blood and fire, and a death match between Meagan and Raj. Which was impossible, because Raj was already dead, and his body was back in Kentucky.
They’d discussed the vision on the flight to Albuquerque. The blood and fire were pretty self-explanatory, unless they were symbolic of something else, which Ephraim had said sometimes happened with visions. Only he didn’t think this had “felt” like one of those kinds of visions. But if the scene he’d perceived had been literal, then how did they explain Raj’s presence? The only person they knew who could do the resurrection-trick was Melissa, but her talent didn’t extend to anyone beyond herself. At least, not as far as they knew. Besides, she was tied to a chair in an old distillery back in Kentucky, too. By now Samantha’s friends at the Club would have picked her up.
Sam had requested this one favor from the daughter he’d just discovered he had, and to his surprise she’d immediately made the call. Samantha, or Blue, as she preferred to go by, seemed to despise him with the apathy of everything north of the Arctic Circle. Except for those fire-bomb moments where she cut loose to take digs at him. She didn’t quite believe that Sam had never known about her and still held onto the notion that he’d abandoned her and her mother. Not that he could blame her. Even though he really hadn’t known about Blue’s existence, he still felt guilty, as though there was some way he should have known. And he should never have agreed with Meagan’s idea for them all to separate back then, in the first place. Even if it might have been safer. Sam understood how much Blue missed her mother, because he missed her, too. Every. Single. Day. Leaving her was the worst decision he’d ever made, and when he saw her in that coffee shop six months ago, he knew he couldn’t let her walk out of his life again. Even though she didn’t remember him.
And now, even though they still hadn’t figured out the meaning of Ephraim’s vision, the one thing that was clear was that Meagan was in mortal danger.
They reached the car. “So it’s dark in the vision?” Sam asked, pulling open the passenger door. “Maybe it was nighttime?”
Ephraim slid behind the wheel and paused, considering. “No… I don’t get that sense. Maybe it’s night, maybe it’s day, but I think what I saw was somewhere inside. Like maybe a room…?” He knit his brows in thought, as though questioning himself, and reached for his sunglasses.
“So what do we do now, just drive around and hope I can get a lock on her, like before?”
“I’ve got nothing better, and it got us this far,” Ephraim shrugged.
Suddenly, two brick walls of men, as tall as Sam, each with tanned skin and shoulder-length brown hair, stood next to the car’s doors. The one on Ephraim’s side knocked on the window. Sam closed his eyes and was alarmed to find that he couldn’t see into the strangers’ minds, not even a little bit. He clenched his fists. Ephraim opened the window an inch.
“Sanderson wants to see you,” the man said.
“He’s the boss.”
“The boss of… oh!” Ephraim glanced at Sam, and his look conveyed that he realized what Sam had just figured out, too. The boss of the Club? Maybe Sanderson could help them. “We’ll follow you.”
They followed the men’s gray sedan for five minutes, through the streets of downtown, until it pulled into the Albuquerque Country Club. Ephraim gave a wry chuckle. Apparently the irony of the Club being located at an actual club wasn’t lost on him, either.
They walked through gleaming interiors, over sandstone tile and polished wood floors, and up a key-locked elevator until they came to a private dining room. An enormous window faced west, giving a perfect view of the blue mountain. But the mountain was not first thing that caught Sam’s eye. It was the woman seated at one end of the long table.
“Sam!” Meagan gasped.
“Meagan!” He started to rush across the room, but was immediately restrained by one of the brick walls who’d brought them. The other man had a grip on Ephraim. Sam suddenly spied the good looking, dark-haired man seated next to Meagan. “You must be Sanderson. What’s going on?”
“No, Sam,” Meagan said, “this is Jose. He’s helping me. I have to find… someone… er….” She glanced at Ephraim.
“He knows about your daughter — his daughter,” Ephraim said. “I told him what you’d told me.”
“Meagan, she’s fine. Samantha was in Kentucky, looking for you!”
Sam filled Meagan in on the details. “And then she took off again, after you, right before we did. We’re assuming she was following you. But you were easier for me to track.” He grinned, and she gasped as he sent her the mental sensation of his tongue circling her breast. She shot him a WTF?-look, but her cheeks went pink and a smile tugged at her lips. Then her smile fell.
“I didn’t want you to follow me. I tried to block you out. I couldn’t risk you getting hurt,” she said softly. Her eyes filled with love for him, and he caught his breath. She was crazy if she didn’t know he’d follow her to the ends of the universe and back. He was crazy for ever having let her go. He wasn’t leaving her, ever again.
Meagan cocked her head to the side and frowned. “But if Samantha was there, where we were, why did I know that I had to come here? What was I tracking?”
“I can help you answer your question.”
A man with a wild, white mane of hair suddenly stood before them. Sam hadn’t seen him enter the room. His tanned, weathered skin made him look old, but his cagey green eyes made him seem fierce and spry. He was ancient, and yet ageless.
Like the mountain.
The words popped into Sam’s head like an echo, as though they hadn’t come from him. But the next thought did: Possibly also dangerous. Next to Meagan, Jose tensed, staring at the man, confirming Sam’s thought.
“What is it, Jose?” Meagan asked in a half-whisper, not taking her eyes off the man, either.
“He is a Navajo witch,” Jose answered. “A skinwalker. He can take the form of any animal he chooses. And he steals the life-essences of those whose forms he takes. He cannot be trusted!” Jose rose from his chair. A third brick wall folded his arms across his massive chest and stood in front of the closed door.
“And yet,” the white-maned man grinned, “you have no choice but to trust me, since I am the one you seek.” He turned toward Meagan. Sam strained to break free.
“Who are you?” she asked. She sounded more curious than scared, which only heightened Sam’s sense of alarm.
“Like you, I have many names.” He winked at her. “But you may call me Sanderson.”
Okay, KC, your turn!