Jolie was awakened by her cell phone buzzing. She blinked the sleep from her eyes, searching for the phone among the folds of the blanket that had become twisted around her while she tossed and turned on the bench seat of the truck, trying to hide from the occasional lights that swept across the yard as cars made the curve to the east along the highway.
Her phone fell onto the truck’s floorboards.
“Crap.” Jolie retrieved it, sat back up and pressed answer.
“You foolish girl. I said, say nothing!” Yanna Maria shouted. “What do you think nothing means?”
“Good Morning, Yanna Maria. How are you?” Jolie said with sarcastic politeness. “I’m sorry. I’m still a little groggy. I’m just waking up.” The fortune teller’s blurted accusation gave Jolie no time to wonder how Yanna Maria had found out about yesterday’s conversation with Hoke.
“I don’t care,” Yanna Maria retorted.
“Great, because I don’t either.” Maybe it was being woken up so suddenly and rudely, or maybe after what the demon had said, Jolie found herself less concerned with staying in the woman’s good graces. Either way, she was in no mood to stroke the fortune teller’s ego this morning. “So, since you’ve got your knickers in a twist, let’s go for it. I ran into Hoke yesterday and yes, I spoke to him. He offered me a ride. It would have been weird if I’d accepted the ride and refused to talk to him. I didn’t say anything about what you were planning to do--mostly because I don’t know. You never tell me anything. So, I don’t know what you are so pissed about.”
“You made a promise to me, Jolie Figg. You took a vow--”
“And I kept it.” Jolie felt more secure in her insistence the further Yanna Maria edged toward insanity.
“We are done,” Yanna Maria declared. “Do you hear me? I will not help you anymore.”
“Well, since you haven’t actually done any helping so far, I don’t think I’ll miss it.” Jolie countered. “But you’ll have to find someone else to sweep the dirty little secrets off your floor.” The connection went dead. “There’s nothing like a clean start to a new day,” Jolie said, tucking her phone into her jeans.
It was Friday. The night of the Ridge Walking ceremony. She needed to find a way to get Jessie Lynn and her demon company to go to the mountains with her. Or did she? Jolie examined that assumption. Spirits were not people, they didn’t need rides. Yanna Maria’s credibility was pretty thin right now, but that didn’t mean everything she’d said about the demon was untrue.
Proximity, affinity. When Hoke or Rose sang the Calling Song, the spirits came. Was it only those within hearing range? Jolie threw the assumption out; no. Hoke had cautioned her about trying to apply people rules to the spirit world. Spirits moved within and without space and time. They went where and when they pleased, and they sure as hell didn’t have ears with a hearing range.
“They’re still praying to gods of a dying culture,” Yanna Maria had claimed of Rose and Hoke.
Jolie imagined a bunch of shriveled deaf spirits with horn fashioned hearing aids straining to hear the fading prayers of ancient cultures. It was a very “Hitchhiker’s Guide” sort of picture.
If Hoke called the demon to the mountain, would it be compelled to come to him? Did the Native man need to know the demon’s true name, like in the fairy tale Rumplestiltskin? Could they use Axel’s name?
Jolie ran her hands through her hair, mussing up what was already messy. She shook her head to clear it, then checked her phone to see what time it was. Nine-thirty: still several hours before the school lunch break. Jolie called Remy, knowing the call would go to voice mail.
“Remy, call me when you get this. I’m going with you and Hoke tonight to the Ridge Walking thing. Can you pick me up? Call on a break, or at lunch, or text. I’ll keep checking messages in case I miss you.” She hung up, climbed out of the truck and headed into the house.
There was no answer.
Jolie checked Jessie Lynn’s bedroom, then the bathroom. There was no one in the house, except her. Jolie went back out onto the porch.
“Mom?” she yelled out over the property; still, no answer. Jolie went back inside, looking for clues to Jessie Lynn’s whereabouts. The purse that her mom had stopped using when she got her crutches, was on the floor of the closet. Her wallet was not in it.
Jolie checked the bureau drawers, rifled through the boxes of extra clothes against the wall, and the stash of dirty ones under the bed. Jessie’s favorite jeans and her cowboy boots were gone, along with her black leather jacket. It had been cold when she’d left, and she’d wanted to look good. Jolie vaguely remembered waking up in the middle of the night and seeing headlights flash across the truck’s windshield. She’d thought it was a car on the highway or someone coming out of the Colton’s.
Someone came and picked Mom up, Jolie decided. Probably that friend of Chase Owens.
"Damn.” There was no telling where her mother was by now, drunk or sober, drugged or straight, by the side of the road or sleeping it off on a flea-infested mattress in a desert flop house.
Jolie called her mom’s cell. It rang from the floor under the bureau. She picked it up, sat down on the edge of the bed, and stared at the phone as her call went to voice mail.
“Where the fuck are you, Mom? Where are you? Don’t do this to me, please. Don’t do this to us.” She pushed the phone screen, ending the call. All she could do now was wait for Jessie to come home or call.
Wanting to stay close to the house in case her mom returned, and hoping Jessie or Remy would call, Jolie set her phone’s ringer on high and put it on the seat of the truck. With nothing else to do, she went back to the distraction of cleaning up the property.
Lunch time came and went and still no one called. Trying not to worry, Jolie fixed herself a sandwich, then hurried back outside and ate it, sitting on the pickup’s open tailgate.
As the day warmed, the desert grew still, birds and small creatures were seeking safe shady places for their afternoon siestas. Next door at the Colton’s, screen doors slammed, truck doors clicked, horses nickered; it was a surreal link to the everyday world that was slipping away.
In what reality did waiting for a ride to a ceremony to help lost spirits cross over to the other world qualify as non-fiction? And yet this was becoming her life.
“Mem would be proud,” Jolie thought.
The demon doesn’t want anything bad to happen to mom any more than I do, she reassured herself. It’s in its interest to keep her alive. It’s not going to let her do anything really destructive. She wanted to believe that, but she kept remembering how eager it had been to kill someone after the fight with Rick. The demon needed to keep a grip on Axel if it wanted to survive. Had the demon’s connection to Axel given it the penchant for aggression, or had it come with its own dose?
When Jolie first met the creature, it had been connected to Rory. Its focus had clearly been on power, control, and using others, very much like Rory’s own focus. What had happened to the dark minions the demon had commanded that night? Jolie had seen them in her dreams, but there had been no indication of their presence in the physical world. Had the demon’s connection to them been severed with Rory’s death? Did the demon’s focus change with the person it was connected to or was she just trying to make human logic apply where it had no place?
Jolie hammered nails into the loose siding of the house, then began planting the agave starts and trumpet vine Ward had given her, using them to decorate the porch across the front of the house.
When the phone rang, she ran to the truck. She picked it up, muddy fingers making it impossible to use the swipe action to answer. Mud streaked the glass face but the call didn’t connect.
“Damn it!” Jolie wiped her hands on her pants and the ringer stopped.
Jolie’s consciousness shifted from the desert in Tecopa to a busy street in Las Vegas.
Someone shouted out a warning. Brakes screeched, people screamed, gasping in horror. Like everyone else, Jolie looked out at the street. Remy was lying on the pavement, his beautiful face swelling with bruises. She looked up at the crowd. Yanna Maria stood across the street looking back at her. Jolie saw the truth in the fortune teller’s triumphant eyes; she had caused Remy’s accident.
Why? Jolie wailed. He’s never done anything to you. He’s never hurt anyone. Why would you do this? Jolie let loose her anger like an attacking raptor. The fortune teller looked shocked, then steadied herself, her eyes glittering malevolence.
“This boy’s fate has been written since he was born.” She thrust her chin into the air.
“No one’s fate is written. There is always a choice,” Jolie quoted Faith. ”Don’t try to hide behind that shit, you coward. You made this happen. It did not have to go like this.”
“Oh, but it did.” Yanna Maria faded back into the crowd.
Jolie blinked in the bright sun, back beside the truck in Tecopa, far from Vegas, far from Remy. She pressed Remy’s number on speed dial.
It went to voice mail. “You got my voice mail. Leave a message....”
She left no message. She called again, waiting for the system to take her to voice mail.
“You got my voice mail...”
“Remy, it’s Jo. Pick up. Please pick up.” He didn’t. “Okay, listen. Don’t go anywhere. Wherever you are, just stay put and don’t leave. I mean it. Call me back the minute you get this.”
The phone buzzed as a call came in. It was Remy.
“Oh thank you, thank you,” Jolie muttered, pressing answer.
“Jo? Oh, Jo, he’s dying.” Remy’s voice was thick, marinated in grief.
“Wait, stop, Remy. Who’s dying?”
“Bodhi.” Remy sobbed. “They just took him to the hospital. How could he do this? He knows we love him--that I love him. Why would he throw that away?”
Jolie felt a wave of guilty relief. It wasn’t Remy. It was Bodhi. The vision had been wrong. It had been Bodhi all along. It was Bodhi’s skateboard, Bodhi’s destiny, not Remy’s.
“I need to go. Will you meet me at the hospital?” Remy’s voice cracked. “I need to be there, you know in case....” He stopped himself, unable to say the words. “Just get here as soon as you can, Jo.”
And then Jolie realized that the vision had not been wrong. All the elements had slipped into place. Remy would be driving fast to get to the hospital, distracted by emotion, his eyes blurred with tears, his mind somewhere else.
“Remy, don’t go,” Jolie pleaded. “Wait and have someone drive you, please. You shouldn’t be driving in this state.”
“I have to go,” Remy said as if he hadn’t heard her. The phone went dead.
Jolie stuffed it back in her pocket and ran for the Colton’s.
Racing through the pasture, she ran through the deserted barnyard and up to the house.
“Ward! Mrs. Colton!” she shouted, banging on the door. “It’s Jolie. I need your help. Please.” No one answered the door, and no one came ambling around the side of the barn assuring her that whatever she needed, he’d help her.
Jolie scanned the barnyard. Ward’s big pickup wasn’t there. There was no one on the ranch, except the livestock.
The friendly gelding whinnied at her from the pasture, tossing his mane and pawing the ground.
“This is not a western, and I am not the Lone Ranger, so hi ho some other cowgirl because this one needs another kind of horsepower under her butt.”
Jolie jumped off the porch, ducked through the fence, and jogged back to the Owens’ place.
Slamming the front door open, she grabbed her backpack and emptied the contents onto the bed. It had been packed for school and then for the move up here. She wouldn’t need any of it. She tossed a water bottle back in, a hoody, and a couple of snack bars. Raiding the emergency get away fund in the tin, now stashed under the kitchen sink, she took everything they had left. It wasn’t much. There hadn’t been much time between emergencies lately. Jolie looked down at her muddy jeans, shirt, and shoes, and dismissed clothes as unimportant. In minutes, she was out the door and in the front seat of the old Ford.
“Please, please, please.” She turned the key. The engine started. Pressing her muddy sneaker down on the barefoot pedal, she slowly guided the pick up over the bumpy loose dirt to the driveway, then out onto the highway.
“Just keep going, baby,” she patted the truck’s dashboard, sitting up as tall as she could so that she could see over the truck’s blunt nose. “Just keep going.” The truck’s glass pack muffler sounded like a thunderstorm gargling. “Too bad I didn’t finish Driver’s Ed,” Jolie muttered. Still, the road from Tecopa to Highway 160 was long and straight. By the time she got to Las Vegas, she’d be a pro.