Winter is definitely upon us. Temperatures have dropped, and while there isn’t much snow where I am, some of you have had quite a bit dumped on you recently. Stay warm, and stay healthy. Shovelling snow can be dangerous and frost bite can have long-lasting painful consequences.
Welcome to this week’s posting of Tuesday Tales. Today we continue with Hello Again, my paranormal suspense romance.
Without further ado,
Bill followed the path of destruction carved through the wheat, flax, corn, and oat fields, astonished by the destructive power of these tornadoes. He’d seen the aftermath of bad storms in the past, but never anything like this. Not even the last tornado magnet, mobile home parks that seemed to attract nature’s beasts and almost always meant at least one dead, had yielded this level of ruin. Barns and houses were reduced to matchsticks, pieces of wood so small it was hard to believe they’d been planks and 2X4’s, cars, tractors, and even 3500 pound combines tossed around and left on their tops or sides like abandoned toys, and whatever trees had been planted were now uprooted or missing, the gaping hole in what remained of the lawn the sole witness to their existence. At each demolished homestead he passed, he got down off the horse and looked around, calling out for survivors, but the only sounds that greeted him were the incessant buzz of blow flies or the call of carrion birds scavenging the bloated bodies of cattle and horses as well as other animals who’d been unable to escape the raging monsters.
He paused beside the carcass of a dog, but what was left of the family pet likely didn’t have an unbroken bone in its body. Thoughts that this could’ve happened to Charley made his stomach roil, and he vomited beside the animal, feeling more wretched by the moment. So far, he hadn’t seen any human bodies, but with this amount of destruction it was impossible to believe the people who’d lived here had escaped unharmed. He prayed they’d been elsewhere when the storm hit.
Here and there, he saw the remnants of the lives of those the tornado had visited, a broken doll, a bicycle wrapped around what was left of a fence post, a child’s mangled wagon. What was even more disturbing were the things left behind unscathed. Mere steps from a ruined field, the oil donkey nodded as if nothing untoward had happened. Next to a destroyed house was an umbrella type clothes line, the sheets, no longer a pristine white, flapping in the breeze. A stand of sunflowers stood sentinel-like along a fence while everything around them was uprooted and dead.
As Bill continued toward Sintaluta, he began to see people cleaning up the yards where the buildings had been spared. He stopped at one house where the only evidence of the storm were broken branches and leaves littering the front yard. A young boy who couldn’t be more than five ran toward the horse.
“Keegan, get back here,” a woman called from the edge of the veranda. “What did I tell you about strangers?”
“It’s okay, ma’am,” Bill said, dismounting and pulling out his identification. He’d thought of putting on his uniform, but not only was the shirt a little ripe, it was filthy. Shirley had offered to wash it for him this morning. “I was at Shirley Smoke’s house when the twister hit. Was anyone injured here?”
“Mavis Rousseau, Sergeant,” she said wiping her hands on her apron and examining the badge and ID Bill held in his left hand. “We got lucky. My mother called and told us it was on its way, so we headed for the storm cellar. If you’ve come from Shirley’s, you’ve seen some of the damage, especially John Francais’s farm. His would’ve been the last one you passed.”
“Yes. Not much left, that’s for sure. There’s a big, black dog in the yard.”
“Not theirs. Not ours.” She indicated the collie standing inside the screen door. “They’ve got a golden lab, but he’s with them. They went down to Standing Rock in South Dakota for his wife’s mother’s birthday. As soon as the lines are up or the cell signal comes back, we’ll call. Hell of a thing to come home to.”
Bill sent up a silent prayer that they’d be able to pick up the pieces and start again. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development would help, but it would take time to build a house and barn and restock the animals, although depending on where they were when the twisters hit, much of the man’s herd might’ve been spared.
“That’s good news. I’m on my way into Sintaluta. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“Yes, if you could let my parents know we’re okay, I’d be much obliged. Luke and Marie Clovier. Emile will know where to find them. My husband, Sam’s out trying to round up the animals, see how much of our crops we’ve lost. He says things look better east of here, but no telling where those other twisters landed.” She pointed to the western sky. “Looks like we’ve got more bad weather on the way.”
“Yeah. Shirley told me to be back by late afternoon.”
Mavis laughed. “Good to know. If Shirley’s giving you that time frame, then that means I’ve got plenty of time to get food and water ready and restock the storm cellar. Come on, Keegan. We’ve got work to do.” She reached for her son’s hand and pulled him toward the house.
Bill mounted the horse.
“Be careful, Sergeant,” she called. “There may be a few bulls on the loose, and they’re likely to be madder than hell, especially if they were breeding. Sam says he saw motorcycle tracks in the dirt. Don’t know anyone nearby who rides a bike, either. Heard some boys gave Shirley a rough time. Hope to hell it’s not them. We’re going to have enough trouble without a gang of bikers hassling us.”
Bill frowned. “I’ll keep my eyes open.”
She crossed the rest of the yard, almost dragging the boy who still stared at the horse.
Bill glanced down at his watch and noted it was after ten. He had at least another hour to Sintaluta. According to Shirley, Emile would expect him by noon. Must be nice to have two-way spirit communication like that. Hopefully Mavis was right and there were no ugly surprises between here and the council building. If those tire tracks belonged to the Madre Diablo gang, angry bulls could easily be the least of his problems. He needed to get back to the farm sooner rather than later.
Staring west, Bill watched the dark clouds on the horizon, torn between his duty as an RCMP officer and his gut feeling as a man. He wanted to go back to Charley right now, but he needed to do what he could to check in and make sure everything and everyone was safe. Duty won. Reluctantly turning east, he urged the horse to a slow gallop.
Well, that’s it for this week. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales.