The hours following the shooting were a blur. The events that transpired and the actions that Sam took felt disconnected, like ships passing through fog.
She had called for homicide and for an ambulance; at the hospital she had spoken briefly to Detective Gorsky, who had been on duty instead of Barnes.
Her mind kept returning to the fact that Elias was dead. Dead and gone; forever. All because of Kronin. Kronin who was supposed to be dead himself.
It was as if a massive hole had been carved out of her core.
You felt his last heartbeat.
She had barely registered the doctor’s words while he communicated hopefulness that the bullet missed her tendons and that Sam might retain full use of her hand.
Going in for surgery she was an empty shell. When the mask was placed over her face to administer anesthesia her mind clung stubbornly to the notion that no amount of drugs could take away the agonizing pain in her heart.
Some time later, Sam’s consciousness ascended through murky mental waters and arrived at last to the surface.
Kathy was there at her bedside. Sam was still groggy, adrift in her delirium. Kathy’s smiling face blurred as she reached out and said “Doc won’t be in for a while. It’s okay, everything’s okay; go back to sleep if you need to.”
Sam opened her eyes once again.
But this time… everything was all wrong.
Kathy wasn’t here. Not only that, the room didn’t look the same. Sam sat up, gazing out the window across the space… which provided a familiar view:
Stone Crop. The flat-topped mountain. The mesa from Montana, from Sutter Cane Memorial. She was back once again in this all-too familiar nightmare.
Raising her right hand she noted no hole. No scar.
As in her previous dreams, the hospital was deathly still. For long moments no sounds reached her ears but then…
There was the noise of running in the hall. Little feet thumping the floor. Not the sounds of a beast; this was something different. The noise grew nearer. A small shadow crossed the doorway and the footfalls receded.
Sam threw off her sheets, got out of bed, donned her slippers and stepped out into the empty passage.
The lights above droned and flickered as Sam stood, waiting. A faint creaking sound attracted her attention. She shuffled along the tiles to the room at the end of the hall. There were pews in here, and a small stage with a simple wooden cross on the wall. The chapel. A little blonde-haired girl sat in the front pew on the left side.
“Hello?” Sam called to the girl as her feet carried her forward.
The child turned, her face unreadable. “What’s your name?” she asked.
“My name’s Sam,” Sam said as she reached the pew.
The little girl shook her head. “No it’s not.”
Sam frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Look at the bottom of the old Hickory,” the girl said. “You’ll find it there. Buried.”
This girl was making no sense. Her voice dropped a little lower as she said: “You gotta be strong. Stronger than you think you can be…” The little girl’s features remained impassive as she said:
“He’s coming for you.”