Elkhorn In The Moonlight
Nicole dreaded the meeting she was having with Marcus at noon. She could still feel the sensation of the kiss they shared last night. Her body yearned for more of it all night long. She couldn’t sleep, and felt restless. She heard her brother come home at one in the morning from the saloon. Then about three in the morning, Sierra was yipping, wanting to get out the door. Either she had to go to the bathroom, or she spotted something outside that got her attention. She got up from the bed and shoved her slippers on, and went to the door to let her out. When she opened the door, the April air was cool but felt good on her clammy skin. Sierra bolted out the door, barking as she ran. She walked out toward the picnic table and looked at the moon. She wished she’d gotten her camera. She loved taking pictures of the moon with the mountains. She coined the views as Elkhorn in the Moonlight. It was her favorite part of the day. It was even better when she was on top of the mountain at night. She could almost reach out and touch the moon.
* * * *
Pulling the sheets out of the dryer, she looked up when Debbie enter the laundry room. “Can you believe your brother came home drunk last night?”
“Yes. They were well on their way when I left the saloon.” Nicole wondered if Debbie knew he’d been smoking marijuana too.
“He can’t get his ass out of bed this morning, claiming he’s got a hell of a headache. He’ll really have one if I go in there with a spoon and frying pan and bang it a few times or go in with the vacuum sweeper.”
“You could send Sierra in there, she’d climb onto the bed and lick the heck out of his face.” Nicole laughed.
“Oh yeah, dog breath along with beer breath and marijuana too.”
So she did know.
“It sounded like they had a hell of a time at the mine.”
“Poor Luke, he apparently slipped and went down the side of the hill on his butt. No one rescued him and he had to go to his place and take a shower and get out sand-filled jeans he had on,” Nicole said.
“Knowing Ronnie, he probably had something to do with that too. They were probably stoned when that happened.” Debbie rolled her eyes. “Guys do stupid things. Are you doing anything special today?”
“I have a meeting with Mar….I mean, Mr. Blackhawk at noon today. I remembered where I saw the arrows he’s interested in. I’ll be looking at his maps to show him where they are.”
“I wonder how he plans to get them. He’d have to wait until later this spring or the summer, don’t you think?
“Yes, especially where these arrows are at. There’s still quite a bit of snow up there.”
Nicole finished the laundry and went back to her room. She pulled out the box and went through more pictures to show Marcus about the surrounding area where the cave was at, hoping to be able to provide him with some sort of landmarks. Then maybe he’ll be gone to find the arrows and then gone completely out of her life. Good riddance. I mean, how can a man do that? Be married to a woman and cheat on her by kissing another one? What nerve! The worst part of it is that she not only enjoyed it, she wanted more.
She looked at her clock. Five to twelve. Guess I better head out to the picnic table. The air was a bit chilly, so she threw on her jacket. She and Sierra walked out to the picnic table, and she sat down. She watched the birds twitter and squaked in and around the bird feeder that was off the edge of the deck. Hearing a voice, she looked up and saw Marcus coming through the causeway and Sierra walked up to him. He was on his cellphone, and he stopped and bent down to pet her. He had a mail tube under his arm. He disconnected his cellphone as he approached the picnic table.
“Hello, Nicole.” Marcus looked at her thoughtfully.
“Hi.” She sat with her elbow on the picnic table and her chin in her hand.
“You got some more pictures for me to look at?”
How did he know? She looked at him, and he nodded his head once as if pointing at the pictures she had under her hand. “Oh, yeah. I thought I’d get you some more pictures so that you can maybe have some landmarks. Although it’s been a couple of years and the area may be overgrown by now.” She handed the pictures to him.
He looked at them and appeared to be studying one in particular. It was the picture she took of the entrance to the cave, where the large dead tree had wrapped its roots around it before it died. “This is a good picture.” He commented and then looked closely at the other pictures before he put them down and opened the mailing tube. “So, you think you may remember where these arrows are at?” he asked.
“When did you remember?”
“I actually remembered last Friday, and I lied to you about that because I didn’t want you to start drilling me about their location.”
* * * *
She lied to me? That was one thing that Marcus hated more in anything else in the world, someone lying to him. If she lied about that, what else would she be lying about? Did she decide she would ‘remember’ just to trick him and get money from him? “Why did you lie to me about this?” He asked quietly. He kept his tone even, though he talked through clenched teeth.
“I just told you, I didn’t want to be drilled about it.”
“You could have told me that you remembered, but you just didn’t want to talk about it then. I could have spent the weekend trying to retrieve them.”
“You would have missed out on having your family visit.” She pointed out to him.
“That is true. However, I wouldn’t have invited them out to see me. Are you lying to me about this now?”
“No. I-I don’t lie.”
“But you just admitted that you did.”
“Yeah, um, that’s the first time I’ve ever lied to anyone, I’m sorry.”
“I’ve had to say your credibility just took a nosedive.”
She looked at him, her eyes showed alarm. “I-I have never lied before Friday, and I’m not lying now.”
Marcus continued to stare into her eyes and at her face. She seemed genuine, and she didn’t look like a person who would lie, but he’d been fooled before and being a lawyer, well, you always suspect someone is lying to you. But each client he ever had, he made it clear that if the client lied to him in any way, he’d drop them, just like that. He just didn’t tolerate it. The more he thought about it, the angrier he was getting. He pulled the maps out of the tube and laid them on the table.
“Wow, these are quite detailed,” she commented.
“That’s what topographic maps are for.” He knew his voice sounded more sarcastic than he wanted. He had to be careful. He hoped he wasn’t wasting his time with her. “What part of Elkhorn mountains do you think the Sacred Arrows are?” He said with quiet emphasis.
“They are in the southeastern part of the mountains. There is no road to get to that end. You’d have to hike it through the tunnel, and past a gold mine, and over several very steep mountains before you get to it. It’s about a three-day trip just to get there on foot.”
“Three days?” Cripe.
“Yeah. Usually, whenever I go hiking and camping in that direction, I plan to be gone at least a week.”
Marcus couldn’t believe what he was hearing. She had lied to him about remembering where the location was at, he wasted three days, and now she tells him that it’s a three-day hiking trip just to get there, and that means a three-day trip getting back. He’d be lucking to get back to his office in the two weeks timeframe he had planned on. Great. He pulled out the map of the southeast area and showed it to her. She leaned over and found the highway that went to the town that was between Helena and Butte. She found Mason, and then she saw the railroad tunnel. “Okay, here’s the tunnel you’d have to go through. It comes out on this side of the mountain.” She moved her finger to the other side of the mountain. “It comes out here somewhere, probably right here.” She tapped her finger on the spot. “Right here is the old mine shaft where they used to dig for gold.”
“Why isn’t the rails shown.”
“The tracks have been removed, and most of the bridges that held the rail line have been torn down. The only thing that exists to indicate there was even a rail line going through there are the tunnels. There are two tunnels. From here to here.” She pointed at the highway and then to where she had tapped it earlier. “Then from here, to here. If you ever look at the landscape along the highway, you can see the line where the rail tracks once were. The rail line was on the west side of Highway 45 until it got here to Mason, then before Highway 45 was ever built, the rail track came off the mountain onto a bridge that led into the tunnel on the east side of Highway 45. After it got passed the mines in the area, it crossed over to the west side of the highway again.”
Marcus had to admit that she seemed knowledgeable about the area. “How many mines are there in the area?”
“There are three. Winchester mine was one that my dad owned and is down the street. You pass it every time you go into Mason. The other two are on the other side of the overpass. Sandpiper mine, you can see from the highway, but Gulch mine is the one that you’d go through to get to Elkhorn mountains. The mountain ranges there are the highest, and there are a lot of vertical drops so, you’d have to travel where you can walk it. It’s not something where you can just climb it and be there. You have to go in around about way.”
“You have a very clear vision of where this cave is, and how to get to it?”
“Yes. I remember it clear as day, now.”
“How soon can you get yourself ready for the hike?”
“What? I’m not going there. You are. I can’t just take off and leave, I have work to do. Plus, it’s way too cold to go there right now. The mountains in that area still have snow on them.”
“You think I would just know where to go by the information that you just provided?”
“I just gave you very good information.”
“Do you have the coordinates for GPS?”
“No. I don’t.”
“So, you think that I, who have never traveled these mountains before, would just have no problem finding that cave.” Marcus’s eyes narrowed as he regarded her.
“I don’t have any idea how you intend to get there. Personally, I think you should wait until summer to do it. The weather in the mountains is unpredictable.”
Marcus sat thinking about the situation for a second, then he said, “Name your price.”
“I said, name your price. I need you to lead me to that cave, and I got to get it this week.”
“You are not listening to what I say, I can’t take you there. I have work to do here. I can’t just get up and leave to go on a weeklong camping trip.”
“You can for a price,” Marcus said grimly.
“You can’t buy me off to get what you want,” Nicole said defensively.
“Everyone is willing to do certain things for a certain price. Will thirty thousand get you interested and willing to go?”
“I-I, thirty thousand? No, I won’t be brought,” Nicole stammered.
“Look, Nicole. Let’s quit with the games. I’m going to go there to get those Sacred Arrows, and you are the one that is going to take me there and bring me back. I’m offering you thirty thousand for a week…week and a half of work. I think your brother and his wife can handle the motel for that length of time.”
“I’m sorry.” She stopped for a few seconds. “I won’t be bullied. My answer is no.” She stood up to leave.
“Just think about this. Like I said, thirty thousand for a week and a half of work. Think what you could do with that money. You could go to college to become a professional photographer or anything else you have an interest in. Or, you could invest your money and make more of it. I wouldn’t be too quick to turn it down, Nicole. As for the weather, I know you have lived through worst weather right here in Mason and know what to expect. I would not let you go up there without your GPS, your cellphone, and letting your brother know exactly where you’re at should there ever be an emergency. I’ll give you until tomorrow at noon to tell me your decision, and if I were you, I’d think very seriously about this. I intend to have my way in this,” he said sternly, grabbed his maps and the pictures she gave him, and walked back to the causeway and to his room.
* * * *
Nicole sat speechless. She didn’t recall the last time someone ever spoke to her in such manner. He’s a pompous ass. Here I felt so guilty for lying to him, and finally told him the truth, and tried to show him where the cave was, and he turned around and demanded that I take him to it and on top of that…he..he kissed me! What the hell. She got up and hollered at Sierra, “Come on Sierra, we’re going for a walk.” She stomped her feet into the ground as she walked toward the creek. Sierra trotted alongside her as she walked. Think about it, he says. What could she do with thirty thousand? She stopped suddenly and looked at the water rapids in the creek. Well, if she were to tell the truth, she could really use thirty thousand. She’d definitely be able to go to school and get a degree in photography, something she really loved doing. Her brother could hire someone to work the week to help Debbie. She’d have to dig her camping gear out, no way was she ever going to get into the same tent as him. Her tent was made only for one person. He’d have to bring his own or sleep outside. Wait…what the hell is the matter with me? Why am I even thinking about this outrageous proposition? Thirty thousand, that’s why. That’s the only reason. That IS the only reason. “Right.” The idea of sleeping near him evoke all kinds of sensations and feelings she was not supposed to have. She had to run this whole thing by Debbie and see what she says. She usually has a practical and thoughtful intuition about these things. Still, he seemed to have gotten a bit angry at her when she told him that she lied originally because she didn’t want to be drilled by him. He even said her credibility had dropped in his eyes. She was in a pickle and didn’t know how to get out of it all or know what to do.
After she calmed down, she wandered back to the motel and went into the kitchen where Debbie was, baking some apple pies. She sat down at the kitchen table and watched her.
Debbie looked at her and asked. “Something on your mind?”
“Yeah. Can I run something by you?”
“Sure.” Debbie came and sat down across from Nicole.
“I showed Marcus where the cave was that I found the arrows in. I think he got kind of angry at me because I told him that I lied to him on Friday about remembering where they were at. Anyway, after I explained to him where things were and gave him some pictures that he could use as landmarks, he told me that I was going to go with him and help him to find the arrows. When I said that I would not be going, because I had my job here, and because the weather was unpredictable in that section of mountains, he then said he was prepared to pay me thirty thousand to take him there and bring him back. I hinted that maybe he should wait until summer, but he has his mind made up that we are going, within the next few days, and that after I brought him back from the mountain, he would pay me.”
“Wow. These arrows must be quite valuable.” Debbie fiddled with her earing.
“They are. He says that they are Sacred Arrows, stolen from the Arrow Tipi behind the arrow keeper’s house. They have been missing for some time, and he is very anxious to get them.”
“What are you feeling about it?”
“I don’t know. At first, I was appalled. He demanded that I go with him, and I felt insulted that he said for me to name my price like I was holding out for monetary value. After he stalked off, I was so angry that I went for a walk along the creek, and began to think what I could do with thirty thousand.”
“What would you do with that kind of money?”
“I thought about going back to school and getting a degree in professional photography.”
“Well, now that you’ve cooled down and are thinking about it, I think, you should go for it.”
“Hey, this is an opportunity to make a lump sum of money, and you know around here, no one has that kind of money, and certainly not us. We’re lucky to have him staying here this week, he’s been the only customer this week.”
“The weather had never been a deterrent for you in the past. You know how to survive up in those mountains, he doesn’t, and he’s willing to pay you to keep him alive and get what he wants.”
“He’s in a hurry to do this and wants to leave within the next day. I’d have to dig out my camping stuff.”
“I think you’ll find everything okay.” Debbie had a knowing smile on her face.
“So, you think I should go.” Nicole’s brows snapped together.
“It’s really your decision to make, but it is an opportunity, and you’ll probably not get another like it. You could probably even look at buying yourself a house, you’d have a substantial down payment for one.”