WALT

Thunder rumbled long and low from the bruised angry looking clouds building up in the northwest. The storm had been taking its time, brewing for days, and the unseasonal hot humid still air had tempers fraying quickly. Walt thought the storm was likely to break soon, the air tasted metallic and sounds echoed oddly.

They had been called out to a record number of domestic disturbances today and one sad incident of a neighbour shooting a puppy, and the day had really not gone well. It was no surprise at all that Henry had called him to come collect Vic, she had taken the call out for the puppy shooting and had to break the news to the little boy and his family.

She hadn't come back after that call, it was the end of her shift, but Walt wasn't surprised she chose to dull her perceptions with alcohol, it was a tactic that had got him through the painful year after Martha's death. He understood completely.

It was too damn hot for his hat, so he left it in the truck and the rising winds ruffled his hair as he walked across the carpark to the Red Pony. The sky was getting darker and had an ominous purple tone to it, tornadoes were rare in Wyoming, especially from that direction, but it was shaping up to be a spectacular storm. The sky lit with a bright flash of lightning just before he walked into the doorway and the thunder followed close behind.

There was no sign of Vic in the bar and he raised an eyebrow of enquiry to the tall handsome Indian behind the bar who answered "She is in my office. She needed a quiet place"

"Should I wait or is it safe to go in?"

Henry shrugged and replied cryptically "It is always safe for you to go in"

The thunder rumbled again and it sounded closer. Walt cautiously knocked and waited for a moment before opening the office door and slid in, closing the door behind him. Vic greeted him with a wide smile and wobbled to her feet, but he could see evidence of tears in her reddened eyes, and damp marks on her cheeks.

She stood swaying just a little "Hey Cowboy, I sure hope those jeans are velcroed on" and she lost her balance and collapsed onto the sofa behind her with a drunk giggle. The glaze in her eyes was obviously half alcohol, half emotion, and she was going to hide her vulnerability behind the buzz of the booze and some typical Vic sass and attitude.

Walt decided to play along "Well ma'am lets get you home so you can find out" and he held a hand out to pull her up, and the other to catch her as she lurched against his chest, grabbing at his shirt and unsnapping a couple of buttons.

She laughed up at him and made busy with her hands to undo the rest as the thunder rolled, sounding right above them. Walt disentangled her hands, and spun her around so her back was cradled against his chest and he wrapped her in a gentle hug, whispering "Its alright Vic, I understand" and they stood there like that for a long moment til she said in a low harsh voice

"Its been a fucking shitty day, in fact it set the record for shittyness" and he hugged her a bit tighter but the words he spoke were drowned out by a massive roll of thunder and the rain hit, sounding like it was half hailstones from the sudden clamour on the tin roof. They both flinched and Vic turned for a moment and clutched at him, holding her face against his chest before pushing away, wiping the back of her hand across her face

"You better get me home before that storm drops some trees on the road and we all get called out to deal with more shit."

Walt was right about the hail and regretted leaving his hat in the truck as they both dashed through the torrential rain, it was absolutely bucketing down, visibility was terrible especially as it had got very dark with the storm front over top of them. It was past sunset as well and there were going to be a lot of accidents if people weren't careful. The wind had picked up and was blowing gusts of rain across the carpark and the Bronco shuddered under the winds impact.

He sighed as he started up the truck, it was likely to be a long night. If it was raining this hard in the mountains there would be flooding in the rivers and creeks and the lightning that was still lighting the sky in massive fractal patterns could bring down trees, buildings or start fires. They hadn't had a late season storm like this in a long time but Walt had heard the stories. When you lived your life on the high plains you paid attention to the weather or you paid the price.

It was very dark now, and the rain coming down so hard he had the wipers on full and it wasn't helping much. Lights on high beam he headed down the road to Durant with more care than usual, the road was littered with debris from the storm, and the wind hammered into the side of the Bronco with a vengeance, Walt was having to work harder than he liked to keep the heavy truck in a straight line.

He risked a side glance at Vic who was huddled damply in the corner of her seat, it had been too hot for a jacket before the storm broke and they both got wet in the run across the carpark. He had to yell across the noise of the storm " You OK?" and she nodded and then they were both near blinded by a massive purplewhite flash of lightning right in front of them. Walt slowed the truck, blinking and startled as Vic yelled "STOP, stop the truck!" and he instinctively slammed on the brakes, fighting against the slight skid of the heavy vehicle in the wet. Fortunately he had already slowed down enough so when the headlights outlined the branches of the massive tree down across both lanes of the road, they were still a short distance away from it.

Vic pushed off from the dash that he had braced against, and turned to him, face white in shock "JESUS CHRIST CAN THIS DAY GET ANY WORSE!" Walt yelled back "STAY HERE" and he got his jacket and Maglite out of the back, donning both and clamping his hat down hard before heading out to inspect the road blockage. It was a mature pine that must have been downed by lightning, and it was down across both lanes and taken a couple of fences out as well. There was no way he could tow it out of the way and struggled back against the wind into the truck.

He grabbed the radio and keyed over to the channel that Highway Patrol used, and called in "Highway Patrol this is Sheriff Longmire, are you receiving?" and clicked off the mike and waited before a static sounding response "Sheriff this is Mike Dunbar, HP2, whats your 20?"

"Got a tree down on the way from the Red Pony into Durant, too big for me to move and its closing both lanes"

"Sheriff that's the 4th tree down call so far, plus the French, Rock and Bull Creek bridges are overflowing, we got roads closed everywhere and not enough man power to cover everything. And no sign of the rain letting up, its going to get worse"

Walt flicked Vic a glance before replying "Roger that, I will head back to the Pony and tell them the roads are closed, might be able to get home via the Rez"

"They better be quick cos the rivers are so high, the gullies are starting to fill up, Durant is going to be cut off pretty quickly, and I really don't want to be pulling bodies from downstream in a few days"

"Amen to that, Mike you and the guys take care out there, Out"

"You too Sheriff, stay warm and dry, Out"

Walt started the truck up and they headed back to the Red Pony. Henry shook his head at the sight of them both soaked and bedraggled coming in from the carpark but he sobered at the news of the blocked road.

Vic wiped wet hair out of her face "You could block the road with my truck at this end maybe? I'm in no shape to use it and it sounds like I won't get far anyway". Walt and Henry looked at each other and Henry nodded "Yes Rezdawg and your deputy vehicle will be sufficient deterrent" and he and Walt headed out into the weather to move the vehicles.

It wasn't til they came in dripping from the rain that Vic's alcohol sodden brain finally caught up with the situation "Walt, we can't get into Durant now can we ?" and he shook his head "So where am I going to spend the night?"

His voice was gruff "My place" and she looked at him confused for a moment before saying

"How the hell are we going to get there? Did you miss the big fucking tree right across the road?"

He smiled tightly at her "Know a short cut" and Henry held out a hand "Walt you haven't used that in years, you have no idea what state it is in" and Walt shrugged

"Lets find out then" and they headed off in to the roaring storm, Walt detoured around the vehicle road block and headed at a slow pace down the road, clearly looking for something, til he suddenly turned off and got out to open the gate. The wind was still hammering the vehicle and he was blown of balance a couple of times as he shut the gate behind them.

VIC

What had been a shitty day was turning out to be spectacularly awful and she was feeling crappy because she was in no shape to deal with this storm or even help. As the big truck nosed carefully through the dark and the rain she quietly whispered a prayer for their safe arrival to the cabin and held on as they bounced over the rough ground.

The shortcut was a track that wound around the base of the mountain that separate Walt's cabin from the Red Pony, it was only a couple of miles, but there was at least one stream that would need to be crossed, and they didn't know how deep it might be, or what other hazards were in the way. She hung onto her seatbelt with a white knuckled grip.