/Reviews are always welcome. They feed the muse. If you like what you read or even find it slightly entertaining, please leave a comment. I've been working on my writing so not to create 'Mary Sue's' and to keep from putting 'too' much detail into parts of the story that can bore some readers. I hope you like this story. I've had fun writing it. Enjoy/
DISCLAIMER: The original High Mountain Rangers and Jesse Hawkes characters are the property of A. Shane Co. with Sibling Rivalries. They appear in this piece of fiction for entertainment purposes only. All other original characters are intellectual property of Heather B.
No money is made by anyone. We want to thank the writers and actors from bringing these wonderful characters to life and sparking our imaginations to continue to keep them alive.
An old green Chevy pickup, badly rusted around the wheel wells, pulled into the parking lot of the Ranger Station. Behind it was a small two stall horse trailer that had seen better days. One tire looked to be almost bald and the door latch was held closed with what was probably bailing wire. The bed of the truck was tarped over, hiding the contents that made it bulge at odd angles here and there. When the engine shut off, it rattled to a halt and the driver gave a grimace as if afraid it might not start up again.
Robin looked up from her desk and out front window of the station at the noise of the truck. She raised an eyebrow at the sight but said nothing to the others who were scattered around the inside of the station. It was only 8:30 in the morning and everyone was working on their list of tasks that Matt had just handed out to them earlier. Looking back down at her own work she didn't see the short haired woman get out of the truck and glare at it as if it had offended her somehow.
The woman ran a hand through her short hair in frustration, walked around the truck to make her way towards the Ranger Station and up onto the porch. The old broken down cowboy boots she wore thudded heavily onto the wood and she yanked on the handle of the exterior door in front of her. Looking inside the second glass door she saw the interior of the Ranger Station as several white and black clad individuals bustled around with packs, unpacking and checking out their gear. Frowning slightly, she opened the second door and stepped inside.
Robin looked up the woman that had entered, "Hi! Can I help you?" she asked politely.
The woman glanced around as she spoke, though she hadn't looked at Robin yet, "Yeah….Guy down at the store told me I had to check in if I was gonna go up into the mountains." The woman's head swung around then to observe the blonde with blue eyes that looked dull with a hint of frustration behind them.
Robin had recently taken a class offered by the FBI on reading a person by the look of their eyes and their body language. This woman made several of the things she'd learned in class jump to the forefront of her mind. She saw a guarded nature, tense muscles and tight control over facial features that told her the woman was nervous about something. What exactly, Robin didn't know yet. Now would be a good time to try and lead into that with some simple questions.
"Sure. Standard procedure ma'am," Robin said with a calm smile. "We like to know who's going up into the mountains in case we have a storm blow in. We occasionally get earthquakes and if that were to happen, we need to be able to account for people who are up there." Robin kept her tone light and positive, non-threatening.
The woman's eyes swept the place again, noting that several of the other Rangers had glanced up at her and then had gone back to their jobs. "Yeah…kinda figured," was all she said.
Robin raised an eyebrow, "Sooo…can I get your name, where you plan on going and for how long?" She had taken a clipboard out of her desk with a sheet of paper on it that had standard questions for travelers to fill out if they checked into the Ranger Station.
The dull blue eyes looked back at her, "Clara Rodgers. Going up to my great-uncles cabin…." She watched as the blonde scribbled down the information and her muscles tensed a little more.
Matt, who had been working in his office with the door open, had heard the woman's voice as she spoke to Robin. Something about the way she spoke made him take notice and he slowly got up from his chair to go out and investigate. The voice sounded dull, tightly controlled, unemotional and upon stepping into the doorway, he got his first look at the woman. She stood stock still, not moving except her head having turned to observe the room, but never looking at Robin for more than a moment. When she did stop to look at Robin, the woman seemed to go completely still.
She was dressed in a pair of faded blue jeans, broken down cowboy boots, a plaid flannel shirt and a slightly oversized wool lined jean jacket that had seen better days years ago. Her hair was a dark brownish color that he could have sworn was a dye job and it showed signs of having recently been cut and not professionally. She looked well fed but there was a feel to her that made him think of a long caged animal, tense and untrusting and would either cower or react aggressively at the slightest move towards them.
Robin had asked her name and upon hearing it, Matt's attention snapped back to her face. Clara Rodgers? He stepped forward finally, stopping so not to tower over the woman. "Excuse me, Miss? You wouldn't happen to be Jake Rodger's great niece?"
Her eyes flicked towards him then upward slowly. "Yeah," she stated simply, her tone wary.
"I hate to be the bearer of bad news but he passed away about eight years back," stated Matt. "His place has stood empty since then."
Her eyes never left him, "I know. He left it to me in his will." The eyes looked him up then back down again. "I used to come out here in the summers until I was about eight to stay with him." Her entire body was one tight ball of nerves and she seemed almost ready to bolt for the door.
Matt broke into a grin, "Well if you're the Clara I remember, you'll have a half moon scar across the pad of your left thumb…," he stated, wondering if this was really 'the' Clara he remembered.
The woman before him jerked a little in surprise and looked down at her left thumb, rubbing it absently and then rolled it upwards a little, the light of the station catching the tips calloused finger pads. In a faded thin line was the white half moon scar. She looked up at him then frowned slightly. "Thought that was you, Matthew Hawkes. It's your fault I've got that scar. You and your stupid pocket knife," she said flatly.
Matt blinked, "You were the one that insisted that you could cut the fishing line all by yourself. I told you the knife was sharp." He had crossed his arms over his chest and looked down at her a little.
Blue eyes looked back up at him but there seemed to be little emotion in them. "Listen. I have a long drive ahead of me if I remember correctly. Think you can give me directions on how to get up there?" she said in a bit of a clipped tone as she dropped her hand, shoving it into her coat pocket.
Matt seemed wary of her tone and demeanor. "Yeah, sure. I'll warn you though. The cabin's in rough shape. Standing eight years without anyone using it in this climate, it's probably going to have some serious roof or even structural issues." He picked up a map and unfolded it. With a highlighter, he marked out the route she was to take and then highlighted the area that was Rodgers property.
He made a note with a different colored marker, "This is where my dad and brother live and how to get there if you get into trouble or need help. They've also got a radio there if you need to get a hold of anyone," he said trying to take up a professional manner again since it seemed as though Clara was not here for a social visit.
She looked down at the map then reached out and took it, folding it before looking around once more. "Thanks," she said flatly. With that, she walked out of the station, pulled the oversized coat around her a little more tightly and went over to her truck. Climbing in, she managed to get the engine to start after the second try and pulled out of the parking lot.
Robin looked at Matt. "Something's not right with her," she stated with a touch of concern.
Matt frowned, "I knew Clara Rodgers when we were kids. Whatever's happened to her in the last fifteen years to make her like that, I almost don't want to know. Dad used to joke she was nothing but sunshine and daisies …nothing could ever keep her sad or upset for more than five minutes back then."
Robin watched out the window at the now empty parking lot. She looked down at the clipboard then back up at Matt who was shifting a little as he stared at nothing, thinking.
Absently Matt said, "I think I'll radio my dad and give him a little heads up. Maybe he can keep an eye out for her. Something's not right…," he said, echoing Robin's last statement. But he didn't say anything more as he turned and headed over to the radio desk to call up to his dad's.