Missing scene from "She Ain't Deep, But She Sure Runs Fast"

The Crash

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

"JUDGE! Pull her up!" McCormick screamed over the sound of the wind whistling outside the fast-falling single-engine plane, trying to administer CPR from behind to their stricken pilot, Buzz Bird.

It was supposed to be the man's last flight into the wilderness, and it now looked like that was true. While high up in the jury-rigged craft, Bird had an apparent heart attack, leaving Judge Milton C. Hardcastle and Mark McCormick without a competent pilot. The ground was rising up too quickly for them to prepare for the crash. Despite Hardcastle's efforts, the plane dug into the trees of the Northern California wilderness, whipping the plane from side to side.

McCormick, shoved in the back with the luggage, had no seat belt to keep him from bouncing about the tiny tail section. He caught on one of the hooks on the two fishing rods taken for a leisurely vacation that was fast turning into a nightmare. His elbow slammed into the right side of the plane, causing an involuntary gasp. McCormick saw Hardcastle knocked into the right passenger's window, losing consciousness almost immediately. He fling his arms around the Judge, burying his face in the older man's shoulder, and prepared for the sudden stop he knew was coming. Slung sideways, he felt his knee protest at the painful wrenching, then was flung forward when the plane finally hit a stand of trees that wouldn't give. His head bounced off the instrument panel, then he was thrown back to the rear of the plane, this time as unconscious as the Judge.

"McCormick? McCormick, can you hear me?" The voice intruded shakily on his sleep. "Come on, kid, talk to me."

McCormick heard a groan, then realized it was himself making the noise. With considerable effort, he opened his eyes, focusing on a bloody face leaning over him. "Judge? Wha' happened?"

"We crashed. And Buzz is…dead."

"Ohhh…" McCormick struggled to sit up, Hardcastle's helping hand under his arm.

"How are you?"

"Uh, alive…I think." He reached out and touched the cut alongside Hardcastle's right eye, the blood flowing freely. "How about you?"

"Been hurt worse than this and survived. Can you stand?"

"Sure." McCormick jumped to his feet, almost falling flat on his face as his leg twisted under him. Only Hardcastle's quick grab saved him, and he grinned weakly, "Almost sure."

"Take it easy. Is it broken?"

"No, just sprained." Something Hardcastle had said as he came to finally sunk in. "Your friend is dead?"

"Yeah." Hardcastle nodded toward the plane, now split into two pieces. Their late pilot was slumped back in the pilot's seat, his face a pasty white.

"I'm sorry," McCormick muttered uncomfortably, eyes shying away from the sight of the body.

"You think you can walk? Got a lot to do here."

"I'll have to, won't I? What do you want to do first?"

"Bury Buzz. I don't want to leave his body like this. I'll take care of it, you rest."

"Let me do the digging. I don't mind. See if you can find a shovel in the plane while I work the kinks out." McCormick watched with concern as Hardcastle went through the wreckage. The Judge seemed despondent, and was moving as if each step were an effort. Frowning, McCormick tested the strength of his right leg, wincing at the sharp needles that shot up his thigh from his knee each time he put his weight on it. It hurt, but he could walk on it if he took his time. His right elbow hurt as well, not to mention a rib cage that felt as if he had gone ten rounds with Leon Spinks.

He hobbled to where Hardcastle was removing Buzz Bird, having found a field-issue shovel in the back of the plane. "Let me help."

Hardcastle nodded curtly, moving to take Bird under the shoulders while McCormick lifted the legs. They carried the body to a small clearing, laying him down on the dark brown dirt. Hardcastle leaned wearily against a tree trunk, wiping his face. McCormick watched him covertly, as he picked up the shovel and began digging.

Hardcastle watched as McCormick determinedly shoveled dirt from the slowly growing hole. The Judge wouldn't be able to tell the young man how frightened he had been when, coming to and finding McCormick sprawled under their luggage, he couldn't find a pulse because his hands had been shaking so badly.

McCormick was alive, mostly uninjured, but they were miles from civilization and the mountains were cold this time of year. The clouds were the kind that threatened snow and usually delivered on their promise.

Hardcastle shook himself back to the matter at hand as McCormick tossed the shovel to the round and prepared to lift Buzz Bird into the makeshift grave. McCormick was favoring his entire right side, moving stiffly and slowly.

"Go sit over there. I'll fill it up," Hardcastle ordered, tempering his tone with a gentle hand on the other man's shoulder.

"But, Judge…"

"Do it. He's my friend…was my friend. I think I owe him that, at least. After all, if it wasn't for me, Buzz wouldn't have been up there."

"Hardcase, that's not true and you know it. You said yourself that Buzz was making one last trip before he retired, and invited you to come along. He would've been there whether we came or not."

The logic might have been correct, but Hardcastle was finding it hard to be sensible when burying one of his oldest friends and wondering how to save one of his newest from death in the wilderness, all because he had dragged a reluctant McCormick on a vacation he hadn't wanted.

McCormick was fastening a makeshift cross from a couple of broken-off tree limbs while Hardcastle used the shovel's back to pat the dirt down. With an apologetic smile, McCormick handed him the cross, taking the shovel and throwing it into the mess of the wrecked plane.

While Hardcastle had filled the grave in, McCormick had searched through the plane, looking for something that would help them. The radio was wrecked, though McCormick wasn't sure if it had worked before the crash or not. It was supposed to have been a simple camping-fishing trip, so there wasn't much in the way of warm clothing or sleeping equipment. The small pup tent was shredded by the fishing reels, and McCormick's change of clothing was more jeans and t-shirts. There were no provisions or canteens in the wreckage.

Sighing, Hardcastle pushed the cross into the soft dirt while saying a few words for his friend. Buzz was no longer in any danger, warm in his dirt bed. Now, he and McCormick would have to fight for survival while hiking over some of the most rugged country in the state.

At least, Hardcastle thought, there was no one after them with guns, no criminals or crazies in sight, which should make things a little easier. He chuckled grimly. Sure, easier…if they could find food, shelter at night, and make it over two hundred miles before snowfall. Their only enemies were the elements and the land -- which might prove more dangerous than any lawbreaker they had gone after.

He had planned a nice, peaceful vacation. What could go wrong?

Everything…

A/N: Originally printed in Back to Back Supplement 3 in 1986.