What in the world?
He rolled over on his side so that he could breathe better. After awhile, he pushed himself to his feet and felt his right ankle spasm badly. Apparently he had sprained it. This time his arm had not been dislocated, it had been broken. He cradled it the best he could while he searched for Julia among the wreckage. Strangely enough, he found her in the exact same location as the last time. Her legs appeared to be unharmed and she was conscious, though one of her arms was pointing out at an odd angle. She moved into a sitting position when she saw him, reaching her good arm out to him as she did so. They smiled, clasped hands and then kissed deeply.
"William," she said, slightly breathless as she caressed his face, "are you all right?"
"Never better," he said and then laughed.
"What are you laughing for? We almost died!"
"Yes, Julia, but that's just it. We didn't. It's quite unbelievable, don't you think?"
"I suppose," she replied, "but we did consume a fair amount of alcohol. It probably helped us survive."
He jumped up and exclaimed, "Or maybe I'm really dead and I'll be forced to re-live this over and over again, for all eternity!" Then he laughed in a delirious manner.
"William," said Julia uncertainly, looking extremely shocked by his lack of control. "You took a nasty blow to the head; I don't think you're thinking too clearly."
"Oh but I am Julia," he said very seriously. "This is the first time I've thought clearly all day! I never thought I'd be stuck in purgatory or that you'd be part of my nightmare, but here we are, once again!"
"You're starting to scare me! I wish you could hear yourself! You sound insane!"
Something in her voice or expression snapped him out of his ramblings. He felt extremely embarrassed for how he had just acted.
"I'm sorry," he said quietly. "I don't know what came over me."
"It's okay, William. We just experienced severe trauma. I wouldn't expect you to be completely fine. You were probably just in shock. Anyways, we should probably get out of here soon before we freeze to death."
Murdoch helped her up and then they began their journey out of the woods, Murdoch leaning on Julia to support his sprained ankle. Soon it became obvious that they'd need to make arm slings as every step sent paroxysms of pain shooting through their damaged limbs. Since Murdoch's suit was in tatters, he didn't mind ripping it apart. In fact, it made it easier to do so. Julia helped him and together they fashioned suitable slings for their broken bones. When they commenced their trek again, Murdoch began silently praying that things would turn out differently this time. But no matter what he did, he couldn't stop himself from dreading what was to come next. And who could blame him?
They made it out of the forest surprisingly quickly, and Murdoch was happy to note, without encountering any unwanted guests. However, when he saw where they had come out, his jaw dropped. It looked eerily similar to the town from last time, and just as unsettling as there appeared to be no one around. He desperately wanted to turn back around or keep on going until their legs gave out. As far as he was concerned, anything would be preferable to staying there.
"Julia, wait," he said barring her way. "Let's try for the next town. This one looks deserted. I don't think we'll be able to get any help here."
"How can you know that, William, unless we look around a bit first?"
"Trust me, Julia. It's a matter of life and death!"
"William," she said, looking anxious, "you're scaring me again. What's all this about?"
Rather than answering her question he said, "Do you love me?"
"Of course I do. Do you even have to ask?"
"Then just trust me and let's get out of here!"
"What's all the hub bub about?" said a man from behind them.
Murdoch turned around and almost punched out whoever it was but Julia stopped him, yelling, "William!"
"Whoa there friend!" he exclaimed, hands waving. "I don't want any trouble, and by the looks of you, I'd say you've experienced your fair share today."
Murdoch came to his senses as he finally realized that this man was not one of the brothers. He didn't resemble them in any way, shape or form. This man looked like a real gentleman.
"I'm sorry, sir. Please forgive my indiscretion. It's been an extremely trying day for me."
"No worries. I'm Fred by the way," he said, reaching out his hand. "Pleased to meet you…"
"Detective William Murdoch," he said, extending his good hand out.
"A detective, eh?" Fred said, looking slightly surprised. "If you don't mind my asking, what happened to you two? And are you okay?"
"Didn't you see?" Fred gave him a non-comprehending look. "We had a mishap with a hot air balloon." Fred's eyes widened but he didn't say anything. "We should be okay though." Then Murdoch changed topics. "So where are we, sir?"
The man appeared confused by the question but answered anyways. "We're in Wexford."
So this time they were only about ten kilometers from their start point, which was a much more manageable distance to traverse. They could almost walk it except for the fact that they were too cold for that and it would be getting dark out in an hour or so.
Murdoch got straight down to business this time. "Do you have a phone I could use?"
"Sure thing, detective. Only problem is it's not working at the moment. Storm knocked out the power I'm afraid."
"Is that so," said Murdoch, trying his best to not attack the man right then and there. "Could you take me to your generator then? I should be able to fix it."
"It'd be my pleasure. Marcus usually likes to fix these sorts of things but, well, he's not here right now."
As they headed towards the generator, (Murdoch making sure to take Julia along as he feared to leave her alone for even one second), he asked an important question. "So, Fred, where exactly is everyone?"
"They're out working." When he didn't elaborate, Murdoch gave him an inquiring glance. "There's a mine not too far away from here. They don't tend to get back until dinner time."
"And what do you do, sir?"
"You sure are an inquisitive fellow, aren't you? I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from a detective, eh?" Murdoch kept staring at him. "Oh right. I'm a ranger."
Of course you are.
"Tell me, Fred, do you by any chance have a daughter?"
"Why, yes I do detective. How did you know?"
What were the chances?
"Lucky guess," he muttered.
Fred stared at him strangely for a few seconds and then said, "Well, here we are. The tools are right there. Hopefully you can make more sense of it than I can."
The lid had already been removed. After taking it apart and studying it for awhile, he determined what was wrong with it. Something was wedged between the rotor and stator. It was preventing the rotor from spinning around properly and producing the necessary charge. All he had to do was dislodge it and then the generator would work fine. He half thought someone had placed the thing there. Because of this thought, he kept checking over his shoulder to see that Fred wasn't up to anything as he tried to remove it with some pliers. It was stuck quite thoroughly though. He'd need to loosen it up a bit first.
"Do you have any spare oil, Fred?"
"I think so. Let me go check."
"Wait," said Murdoch. "I'll come with you."
"That's fine by me."
Before they went on their way, he grabbed Julia's hand and pulled her along.
"William?" she said but didn't try to fight him.
They came to a shed and then routed around for a bit until they found what they were looking for. Once back by the generator, it was a simple matter to grease it up and then dislodge the piece of material. He really couldn't make it out now because it was covered in oil. For some reason he felt compelled to hold on to it.
Murdoch put the generator back together and then turned it on. He was pleased to hear the familiar hum of the motor.
"Hey, you did it!" exclaimed Fred, patting him on the back. "Good job!"
"Yes, very well done, William," beamed Julia.
"And now your phone, sir?"
"It's straight on and to the left. Here, I'll show you."
"Really, William," Julia said, exasperatedly. "Is it absolutely necessary to drag me with you?"
"Yes," he said solemnly looking straight into her eyes and she didn't argue further.
If the house was set up at all like the previous time then they it would be in the kitchen. And sure enough when he followed Fred inside, he ended up there.
It was about to get spookier.
"Hey dad, oh, hello," said a young woman, eyes widening at the sight of them. "Are you okay? I could take a look at your injuries for you if you'd like."
"How ni-" began Julia.
"No thank you," blurted out Murdoch. "I'm sure we'll be fine once we get back home."
"All right, whatever you say. Anyways, I'm Linda, and who might you be?"
"This is detective Murdoch and…" said her father.
"Julia Ogden," said Julia.
"Charmed, I'm sure," said Linda, getting up to greet them. "My goodness, you're freezing!" Then she turned on her father and said scoldingly, "Dad, why didn't you get them a change of clothes? Or at least some towels?"
"I don't know," he said rubbing his neck and grinning sheepishly. "It didn't cross my mind at all."
"Men," Linda said, sharing a look with Julia, who smirked at that comment. Then she rushed out of the room and came back shortly with two fluffy towels. Murdoch felt like he was being hugged by a polar bear. He instantly felt loads better.
Now he was finally free to make a phone call. He was ecstatic when he heard dial tone.
"Hello, how can I help you today?" asked a pleasant female voice.
"Operator, I'd like to make a long distance call to Toronto, Ontario, to station house number four."
"One moment please."
He could hear the others in conversation nearby. He figured they retired to the living room so as not to distract him. Julia laughed once, so he knew all was okay though it made him uneasy not to be able to see her.
"Station house number four, what seems to be the problem?"
"Get me Inspector Brackenreid, Higgins."
"Sir? Is that really you? We were all worried sick when the storm hit. Never seen anything like it before."
"Yes, it was quite unexpected. Anyways, can you do what I asked you now?"
"Right away, sir."
There was a few seconds of silence and then, "Bloody hell, Murdoch! Are you and the doctor okay?"
"We're quite all right considering the circumstances."
"Glad to hear it, me old mucker! I knew you'd be okay! You're made of tough stuff, Murdoch!"
"If you say so, sir."
"So where the bloody hell are you?"
"In Wexford, sir. In the biggest house."
"What? All the way out there? Bloody hell! No wonder the search team couldn't find you! I'll send a carriage right away Murdoch!"
"Thank you, sir, it's greatly appreciated."
"You'll tell me the whole story when you get back, right Murdoch?"
"Of course, sir." Though he would leave out certain details when he did so.
"All right then, see you soon."
Murdoch headed towards the merry voices. When Julia saw him she made room for him on the couch and then rested her head on his shoulder. They four of them conversed about all manner of things until they heard the carriage arrive. He felt foolish about thinking them suspicious. After all, the last time had been a dream, or more correctly, a nightmare.
Crabtree got down from the carriage to greet them.
"Sir!" he said cheerfully.
"George," they responded almost simultaneously.
Then he got a closer look and his expression changed to one of worry. "Wow, you two have sure been through the mill! What happened? Did you fall out of the sky?" Crabtree said the last in a joking manner.
"Why, yes, George," said Murdoch, "that's exactly what happened."
"What? You mean-"
"If you don't mind, George, we're both very tired and would like to go home now."
"Of course, sir!"
Without further ado, he helped them into the carriage and they were on their way. Fred and Linda waving as they departed.
After his bones had been set in a cast and he was free to leave the hospital, he picked up the remnants of his suit, having previously changed into a fresh one. Something fell out of the pocket. It was the piece that had been stuck in the generator. He took it over to the wash basin and cleaned it off. On top of the oil, it had been covered in dirt. Once both layers had been washed away, he could see that the colour was a startling white. If he wasn't much mistaken, it looked like a bone fragment, possibly even a human one.
It couldn't be, could it?