Echo tried not to panic as her head went under the water, but failed as she hit her head on the rocky bottom of Owl Creek. She let out a gasp of pain and ended up swallowing water instead. Trying to roll over to push herself up with her hands, Echo felt herself moving further down the creek instead. Coughing didn't help her situation as her head was still under the water. Right then and there it occurred to Echo that she was drowning. She was cutting off her body of the precious oxygen that she needed. Her body recognized that it was in immediate danger and began to shut down various functions in an attempt to conserve energy. In her brain, this shutdown was going to lead to a loss of consciousness on her part. Trying to stay awake Echo felt something grab her right leg and hold tight.
Knowing that she needed to get to the surface for air before brain damage and irrecoverable death occurred, Echo kicked out at whatever was holding her tight. To her relief it let go as she reached out with her hands to find the bottom of the creek. Her hand found something else, as she flailed around in the water. Something grabbed her hand as she gasped for air, swallowing more water. Echo felt her lungs trying to reject the water that she had just swallowed as she heard a voice call her name. She knew she was dying and wondered if her mother had come to take her home. Whatever had grabbed her hand now reached down for her waist as blackness enveloped her mind. She let what she thought was her mother raise her up from the water's cold grip of death as she fell unconscious.
Daniel had woken up late that morning still recovering from his drench in the creek, courtesy of his horse yesterday. Even Sandy and Harry, who shared the tent with him, had failed to rouse him from his slumber. Peter had told the twins to let Daniel sleep until seven and then if he wasn't awake he would do something about it.
Everyone else was up by five thirty that morning but Daniel had gotten up at six instead. Quickly dressing, he had made his way out of his tent and down to where the group was eating breakfast already. Their camp was in a great spot, open to the canyon on one side and wooded on the other. He was treated to the sounds of an elk bugling as it meandered down the canyon. Walking up to the others Daniel noticed that Egon, Echo, and Ranger Parnell weren't there. He wanted to ask Kane about the gelding from yesterday.
"Peter," Daniel asked, in a thick Scottish accent, as he stretched his arms above his head, "do you know where Ranger Parnell is? I want to ask him about that red roan gelding."
"Oh, I saw him walking down to Owl Creek with Egon early this morning," Peter replied sipping a mug of coffee with both hands.
"They probably went for more water," Dana replied eating French toast from her plate. "I believe Echo went with them. They'll be back soon."
"Well if they don't come back soon there is going to be more breakfast for me," Eduardo replied.
"That's not very nice Honey," Kylie said as she elbowed her husband in the ribs.
"What?" Eduardo retorted. "I'm a growing boy!"
"You stopped growing up years ago. Now you are only growing rounder and you know I don't like that," Kylie replied back.
Daniel smiled at the easy way that Eduardo and Kylie teased each other, just like Echo and her father. He found it hard to tease Echo when he was with her. First off he didn't know how. Growing up his family had always been serious with each other. Daniel wished that he could be more like the people he saw before him now. Realizing that he was wasting time standing around, he walked away from the group towards Owl Creek.
"I'm going down to Owl Creek to try to find Ranger Parnell," Daniel told Peter.
"Good luck," Dana replied.
Egon had finished washing his daughter's pajama bottoms and was walking back with Kane. Coming into camp from the north, Egon could see that the others were up and having breakfast down by where the campfire had been yesterday. He was glad that Kane and him didn't have to pass them to hang Echo's pajama bottoms and sleeping bag up on a makeshift clothes line that Kane hung between two trees behind Egon's tent. As Kane was spreading out the sleeping bag he told Egon to go down and join the others for breakfast.
Egon thanked Kane and proceeded down towards the others. As he did so he caught sight of Daniel walking away from the group. As Egon came to where the group sat, Daniel was disappearing from sight.
"Where is Daniel going?" Egon asked.
Peter turned around to see Daniel's back disappear from view.
"Oh," Peter replied turning around to face Egon, "he went to look for Ranger Parnell."
"We thought you were with Ranger Parnell and Echo down by the creek getting water," Dana replied.
"No," Egon replied, "I was with Kane. Echo went off by herself to the creek."
"Why?" Eduardo asked.
Egon thought about how best to tell the group what had happened and settled for a half truth.
"She needed to take a bath," Egon told Eduardo, a little concerned that Daniel was going to stumble upon Echo without any clothes on.
"Oh," Eduardo answered, "why?"
Dana and Kylie smiled at each other. They knew what Egon was trying to say without actually saying it. As women they had been down that road before, just as Echo was now.
"If you don't know why," Kylie told her husband, "then we shouldn't be trying for a child."
Eduardo regarded what his wife had told him and then realization dawned on his face.
"OH!" Eduardo said now getting the point that Egon was trying to make, "She NEEDED to take a bath."
"I still don't get what you are talking about," Peter said to Dana.
"I'll explain it later Peter," Dana replied, "I'm sure Egon doesn't want Sandy and Harry to know what is going on."
"You're correct Dana," Egon replied, "Where are those boys anyways?"
"They went to look for the horses," Kylie replied as Ranger Parnell walked up to the group.
"They only have to whistle for Hawkeye," Kane replied stopping next to Egon. "He knows to gather the others and bring them here."
"Did you teach him to do that?" Dana asked as she noticed Egon start to leave the group.
"Yes," Kane replied watching Egon walk away, "Even though the horses have hobbles on they still can get pretty far at night. Hawkeye knows my call for him in the morning on trail rides. His upbringing of being a stallion of a mustang herd helps me. He will gather the other horses together and herd them back to me," Kane said as he broke off talking to Dana.
Kane watched as Egon continued down the hill. "I wonder where Egon is going?" he muttered to himself as he followed Egon down the hill that led to Owl Creek.
Daniel followed the trail from yesterday afternoon that led to the Owl Creek crossing, calling out for Ranger Parnell, Egon, and Echo as he went. He knew that the crossing was a fairly steep drop to creek level with a corresponding climb on the other side. His horse had made it down the steep embankment but had bulked at the water. Spurring his bay horse forward the animal had responded by bucking. Daniel held on and rode through the animal's wild bucking until the horse had slipped on the mossy, rocky bottom and fell sideways into the water. Not wanting to be trapped under the horse, Daniel had released his legs from the stirrups and fell forward. But in doing so Daniel had ended up drenched as his horse got up and made a mad dash for the other end of the creek.
Ranger Parnell had gone after the 'green broke' horse and had left Daniel in Echo's care. After all Echo was a fully-fledged registered paramedic of New York City as well as New Jersey. Echo had declared him fit to ride again after she had examined him. A little too closely for Daniel's taste, but he didn't say anything because there were others around.
For the past year Daniel knew that Echo wanted more from him. She had hinted at such but Daniel's upbringing wouldn't allow it. "Or is it that you don't want to do it with me," Echo had told him one day. Daniel called out Ranger Parnell's name as he thought about the conversation that he had had with Echo.
Daniel had been brought up to 'court' a girl that he wanted to marry. Both of Daniel's older brothers had 'courted' their wives when he was growing up. Daniel was the youngest of nine children that had been born to his parents in Scotland on the Island of Mull. Daniel had six older sisters to whom he looked up to for womanly advice. He had asked for his sister's help after his so-called conversation with Echo that day.
Echo was overworked, stressed, and outright mad that day he remembered. She had come home from the university to find him waiting for her. They had to practice for their upcoming concert at NJPAC (New Jersey Performing Arts Center). Putting on her best face she had practiced with Daniel until she started picking up the tempo in Handel-Halvorsen's Passacaglia duo for violin and cello. It had been towards the end of the piece in measure seventy-seven Daniel remembered. Echo went first with her sixteenth notes and he was to follow suit. When they had practiced together Echo would smile at him and pick up the tempo just a bit on each set of sixteenth notes that she played, until they went into a new tempo in the next movement of the piece. They would then settle into the molto energico tempo which was slower than the previous sixteenth note passage.
But Echo had different ideas that night. When she went to pick up the tempo, Echo's smile had been a scowl of disapproval instead of her usual beautiful face that he was used to seeing. During the molto energico part Echo didn't even slow down or settle into the tempo that they had agreed upon. Daniel knew something was wrong when at the end of the piece where the tempo was marked allegro con fuoco; which meant fast, quickly and bright with fire, Echo took the meaning literally. She took the double stop notes slowly at first, as it was written, to gradually increase her speed to well over the time marked on the music. Daniel had tried his best to keep up and had failed as Echo drew her bow across her open D and G strings.
"What's wrong with you!" she spat at Daniel, the notes hardly having time to die out.
"Me?" Daniel replied bringing his violin down from his chin, "You're the one who was racing through that last part," he replied pointing his bow at her.
"Well if you want me to set the tempo you had better keep up!" Echo replied, batting Daniel's bow away with her own, as she stood up from her chair.
Daniel held his tongue, wanting to say something that he would only regret later, as Echo continued on her rampage. Watching her step off of the platform she carried her cello to the door of her father's workroom.
"Look Daniel," Echo spoke loudly to him, "if you don't like playing with me find someone else!"
Daniel watched as Echo opened the door and stormed through it. He followed her to the stairs that led to the first floor of her parent's house.
"Echo wait," Daniel called to her, not wanting this to be the way that she left off practicing with him.
"Wait," she replied stopping and turning around at the bottom of the stairs, "for what?! How long am I supposed to wait for you to make a move?!"
"Echo what are you talking about?"
"What am I talking about?! You are the one who asked me if you could 'court' me remember? And now you don't know what I'm talking about?! Where did you grow up, under a rock?"
Echo sighed and brought her voice down a notch. She knew that her father would have some words with her if she kept up with what she was doing. "Daniel," she said, "we have been together for three years now and you still won't even hold my hand or kiss me for that matter. Isn't that what 'courting' is all about?"
Daniel called out Egon's name as he remembered how he had told Echo all about what courting a woman meant to him. Echo hadn't really appreciated being told that he wasn't going to have any physical intimacy or touching of any kind with her, and she had replied in kind.
"Is that what you truly believe," Echo had told him as she turned away and started up the stairs, "Or is it that you don't want to do it with me?"
Daniel had been taken back by her reply and had talked to his sister that night on the phone about it. Her advice had been to apologize to Echo for making her think that she was going to be having a physical relationship with him and ask for her forgiveness. If Echo wanted more from him than Daniel was willing to give, then there were two things that he could do his sister told him. One: let her go and move on with his life or Two: marry her.
Daniel had apologized to Echo the next day and she had forgiven him. Daniel somehow thought that her forgiving him had something to do with her father but had welcomed the chance to still be in Echo's life. He knew that there was something brewing inside him besides his admiration for her. He just couldn't put his finger on it. That was until he had fallen in the creek and had to sit by the campfire with a wool blanket wrapped around him. Echo had stayed by his side as he sat watching her in the dying light.
Echo was a beautiful woman who had just turned twenty-three years old that last Christmas Eve. Her long, medium brown colored hair hung down to the middle of her back as she stared into the fire. Her fine boned face was slightly turned away from him, as she sat lost in thought.
"Echo," Daniel called out now nearing the creek, wondering where the trio had gone.
Daniel remembered Echo turning towards him, as they sat by the campfire.
"What?" she had asked him.
"Nothing," Daniel had said smiling at her, "it's just that the light from the fire makes you look more beautiful."
And he had been right. Echo was beautiful to him and he believed that he was falling in love.
"Down here in the creek Father," Echo's voice called back to him.
Daniel quickened his pace. Echo had called him Father. Maybe she didn't hear him and thought she was talking to her father. Daniel knew that Owl Creek could be pretty loud in the middle of it. He had learned that first hand when he had been in the water there. He also knew that the middle of the creek was waist deep, extremely slippery, and swift. Coming over the top of the rise Daniel stopped, shocked at what he saw.
A woman was standing in the water. The lower half of her waist was below water level, so that all he could see was her back. She looked vaguely familiar too, as Daniel stared at her naked upper body as she turned to face him. A couple of things happened to Daniel all at once. The first was that as the woman turned around and squinted her eyes up at him, he knew who she was. He was staring at Echo. She had a beautiful set of breasts with what looked to be a green bird with a long tail that was tattooed to her left breast. The second thing was that Daniel suddenly realized that he wanted her and then scolded himself for such a thought. As he watched Echo, unable to take his eyes from her, he saw her take a step backwards and trip. Daniel demised that she had thought that he was someone else, as he rushed down the steep incline towards the creek.
Daniel's scream was matched by her own, as he watched Echo fall backwards into Owl Creek and her body start to tumble downstream with the current.
"Echo!" Daniel screamed rushing into the creek.
Splashing water as he went, Daniel made a mad dash for her body that was flailing around underwater.
"I did this. I did this," Daniel repeated over and over to himself as he slipped and slid on the rocky, mossy bottom after Echo. Making a grab for her submerged body he missed at first, but he caught a hold of her leg the second time. Echo kicked away from him clearly not knowing that he was trying to help.
"Echo, it's Daniel!" he screamed at her, unaware if she could hear him or not. "Don't fight me!"
Daniel made another grab for her and came up with her right hand. This he held tightly, as he bent down into the water and reached for Echo's waist. She wasn't fighting him as much as he stood waist deep in the water. Holding onto her waist, Daniel lifted her up and out of the water. Raising Echo up and holding her against his chest, he stared at her wet, dripping, matted hair that hung in her face. At that moment Daniel noticed that Echo wasn't breathing, as he held her lifeless body. His heart sank in his chest. He was too late.
"Turn her over!" someone was yelling at him.
Looking towards shore, Daniel saw Ranger Parnell standing on the top of the steep slope with his hands cupped around his mouth. Professor Spengler was splashing his way towards him as Ranger Parnell yelled again at Daniel.
"Turn her over!"
Daniel looked back into Echo's face that was slowly turning blue in color around her lips. Why would they want him to turn her over? She was gone, dead, and it was his fault. Daniel turned and walked slowly back to shore with Echo held tightly in his arms.
Professor Spengler appeared before Daniel and tried to take Echo's lifeless body away from him.
"NO!" he cried, trying to walk around Egon, with Echo clutched tightly against his body. "She's dead and it's my fault Professor."
"Daniel," Egon spoke gently to the grieving man, "she may not be dead. Echo may have swallowed water and we have to get it out of her lungs. Please Daniel," Egon pleaded following him towards the shore, "help me. We need to turn her over."
Now Ranger Parnell stood before Daniel blocking his way. Daniel stopped moving. He had a choice to make. He could believe that Echo was dead and continue to carry her body back towards shore or he could believe Professor Spengler.
Daniel wanted very much for Echo to be alive and silently handed her body off to Ranger Parnell. Daniel watched as Professor Spengler and Ranger Parnell carefully turned Echo's body upside down and hurried towards the shore. Echo's wet, matted hair hung down around her face as Ranger Parnell carried her the last couple of feet towards the bank with Professor Spengler carefully pounding on her back.
Without knowing that he was moving, Daniel's feet carried him forward until he fell onto his knees next to Echo's left side. He watched Ranger Parnell and Professor Spengler give the woman he finally realized that he loved, artificial respiration.
Daniel remembered back to the first time he had seen Echo. He had been asked to be the soloist for the New York Philharmonics Orchestra. Leaving his native Scotland, he had flown overnight to New York City where he had been picked up and placed in a hotel for the week. Finding his way to Central Park the next day had been an adventure. He was twenty-one years old at the time and had never left his native homeland. An extremely handsome man, with pale blue eyes and light brown colored hair that he wore in a mullet style, the women that Daniel met couldn't help but fall in love over him.
Everywhere he went, he saw girls following him and it made him feel uncomfortable. That was until he had met Mrs. Dana Barrett-Venkman and her niece, as Dana had introduced Echo to him as. They had been polite and had given him the space that he needed without hanging on his every move, as some of the other women in the orchestra were doing. Daniel had been amazed to find out that Echo was only eighteen at the time, although she looked older and was a graduate of Juilliard to boot.
He immediately liked this young girl and wanted to get to know her better. At the end of practice, Daniel had been at a loss of where to go to find his hotel. Echo had seen this and had come over with her father to help him read the subway map.
Setting him straight Daniel went away happy, but now that same girl lie before him. A beautiful young woman that he had seen grow up before his eyes. Someone who he had started out liking very much, to admiring, and now loving.
Daniel's face fell towards the ground as Ranger Parnell and Professor Spengler continued to labor over Echo's lifeless, naked, beautiful body. He wanted them to leave her alone. She had suffered enough in her lifetime. Her mother taken from her when she was nine. Echo's own death when she was nineteen, only to be revived to live in a coma for a week. Now here she was, dead once again, with two people trying to bring her back yet again. Why? How long would she have to live in a coma for now? A week. Two. Or maybe more.
Daniel felt that Ranger Parnell and Professor Spengler had been working on Echo for hours when in reality it had only been a couple of seconds. Daniel raised his head and reached out to place a hand on Professor Spengler's arm. He wanted Egon to stop what he was doing and let his daughter go peacefully. As Daniel neared Professor Spengler's arm he saw Ranger Parnell roll Echo onto her left side as she spat out water and took a breath.
"Thank the Lord," Ranger Parnell said as Professor Spengler took Echo's wet, matted hair and removed it from her face.
Daniel took his hand back and watched as he saw Ranger Parnell get up and return with a bath towel. Slowly Ranger Parnell started to dry Echo's body off, as Professor Spengler kept watch of her breathing. Every so often Echo would cough up more water but she was alive. His Echo was alive!
Daniel reached out and placed his hand onto the bath towel that Ranger Parnell was using. Kane looked into Daniel's wet eyes.
"It's my fault Ranger Parnell," Daniel said trying to apologize for his actions. "I startled Echo and she fell backwards into the creek Professor Spengler," Daniel said as he turned his face towards Egon.
"Daniel," Professor Spengler said to him, placing his left hand onto Daniel's right shoulder. "Given what we all just went through, I think you can call me Egon from now on."
Daniel nodded his head as he heard Ranger Parnell speak to him.
"You can call me Kane," he told Daniel.
The three men sat silently as Daniel realized that they had now formed a bond over the woman that each man loved in their own special way. A Grandfather's love, a Father's love, and now his newly found love for Echo.
All three men heard Echo's soft croaky voice.
"Just great," she quietly said, "who's idea was it to roll my body in the dirt? Now I need another bath."
Daniel wept openly as he sat on the ground and gathered Echo's wet body into his arms. She weakly wrapped her arms around his neck.
"I love you little lassie," Daniel whispered into her ear.
"About time," Echo replied snuggling her head into his neck to kiss it gently.
Egon removed his hand from Daniel's shoulder and watched the display between the pair and smiled. He watched as Kane placed the bath towel over Echo's naked body and tucked it in around her. As Kane sat back, Egon felt him place a hand on his shoulder and he turned to his right to face him.
Kane smiled at Egon and said, "I'm glad she's alive."
"Me too," replied Egon, "I can't bear to lose another one so soon."
Kane nodded his head as he patted Egon on his back. Kane knew that Egon had just lost his mother a couple of months ago. Echo's death would have been a devastating blow to the man who sat on his knees, dripping wet.
"I know," Kane replied, "Trust me, I know."