Coyote Trail

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Chapter 16: I’m a Time Traveler

With Ellie’s care and attention, Hank Duggan improved quickly. It wasn’t long before he was on his feet, though still in a lot of pain. At first, he contented himself with sitting on the porch or walking down to sit by the creek. But then, feeling burdensome, he began fretting over not being able to help out around the place.

He tried thinking of small tasks that he could manage and Ellie tried her best to see to it that he didn’t over exert himself. They were spending more time together, feeling relaxed, more at ease, more comfortable with each other.

The relationship grew as the days passed.

She was far different than any woman he had ever known. Hank found himself developing feelings for her that no woman had ever stirred in him before.

Ellie on the other hand, began to feel something awakening within her that she hadn’t felt in a long time, something she had repressed and denied for far too long.

One evening they stood together on the veranda, gazing at the bright, orange clouds that floated across the sunset sky. Sanchez lay curled up and content on the floorboards nearby.

”I’ve never felt this good Ellie.” Hank said. “The sky never looked so pretty, the air never smelled so sweet and I’ve never felt so free.”

Ellie stood with her back to him as she looked out over the land that lay before her, bathed in the orange tint of the sky’s reflected glow.

“I love this land.” she sighed. “After Ben was killed, most everybody figured I’d sell out and move on, but I was too much in love with this place to give it up.”

Duggan placed his hand gently on her shoulder and she turned around to face him. He looked deep into her eyes and smiled.

He felt a peace, a happiness that he had somehow never felt back in his own time. No wonder that he couldn’t find this before, he thought to himself; it was because she wasn’t in his time! She was here, in another world.

There was no resistance when he wrapped his good arm around her. She closed her eyes and parted her lips and they kissed. She wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her body against him. He could feel her heart pounding against his own.

And then she was smiling, looking up at him with her big green eyes. For a moment, she reached up and her fingers gently brushed his cheek, but then she turned her head away from him.

“I want you to understand.” she said softly. “For a long time I put everything I had, put my heart an’ soul into this place. It was my way of being close to Ben, of keepin’ his memory alive. It was my only way of bein’ near him, ’cause he was as much a part of this place as I am.”

She looked into his eyes and her fingers traced his lips.

“But it got so lonely.” she continued. “And when I finally admitted that to myself, it was as if a doorway opened up and then suddenly a mysterious man named Hank Duggan walked into my life!”

How close you are to the truth, thought Hank. It was still something he would have to deal with and something he needed to share with her. He gently kissed her forehead and smiled.

“The first time I saw you, I could tell you were a man out of place.” she said. “I knew you didn’t belong with the Coyote Bandits, but there’s something else about you . . . somethin’ I still can’t quite figure.”

Duggan chuckled. “I hope the Coyotes are OK out there.”

She smiled at him but pushed away. “You’re trying to change the subject.” she teased. “Just where in the world do you come from Mr. Hank Duggan?”

He reached out and took her by the hand.

“Ellie, that’s something I need to talk to you about.”

“Are you an outlaw Mr. Duggan?” she asked feigning distaste. “I wouldn’t want to get myself involved with such a person.”

He reached out and tenderly touched her cheek.

“No, no, it’s nothing like that.” he assured her.

Ellie gave him a puzzled look.

“Then why is it so difficult for you to tell me?”

His mind was suddenly racing, searching for the right words. “There’s so much I need to explain to you, I don’t know where to begin.”

“Are you in some kind of trouble?” she asked.

Duggan knew he had to tell her something, but he didn’t want to tell her anything untrue. She was open, honest and trusting and he wanted so badly to be the same! Yet, how could he tell her the truth in a way that she would understand and not think that he was crazy . . . or worse, a liar?

He held her hands in his and gazed deeply into her eyes.

“You’re right Ellie.” he answered. “About me bein’ a man that’s out of place.”

She looked at him questioningly.

“You see, it’s not a question of where I’m from.” he continued. “It’s more a question of when.”

She looked confused.

“What are you tryin’ to tell me Hank?”

“I really don’t know how to tell you.” Hank replied with hesitation. “I guess I ought to just come right out and say it.”

“Whatever it is, please just tell me!” she pleaded as she drew closer to him.

“What I’m going to tell you may sound strange, but I want you to know that I wouldn’t lie to you Ellie!”

“I’m listenin’.” she said.

Hank felt like a man about to jump off of a cliff and he knew that once he did, there would be no turning back! Still, he had no choice; there was nothing else he could do. He gathered up all of his courage and leapt!

“Ellie, I’m a time traveler . . . I come from the future!” He blurted. “I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I’ve managed to travel backwards in time!”

Duggan searched her face for a reaction, but Ellie remained expressionless, as if she were stunned. She pulled away from him and turned, looking up at the stars that were just beginning to appear in the sky.

“Ellie, I know it’s hard for you to understand, but please try!” he pleaded. “I haven’t had a chance to investigate it or even to think about it much. Ever since I got here, all I’ve been doin’ is running from bounty hunters and dodging bullets!”

She turned and looked at him with tears in her eyes.

“I want to believe you, but, it’s . . . it’s just not possible!”

Well now I’ve done it he thought, I should’ve kept my big mouth shut! I should have left well enough alone. I could have told her I come from St. Louis! At least it wouldn’t have been a lie! Frustration began welling up inside him as he tried desperately to think of some way to convince her of his story.

“Ellie, I was born in 1962. Until a few days ago, it was 2005!” he pleaded. “I don’t even know what year it is now!”

He urgently looked deep into her eyes.

“What year is it Ellie?”

“Why Hank, it’s 1878!” she replied.

“What’s the date? What month is it?”

“It’s June, the seventh of June!”

“What day is it Ellie?”

She shook her head in confusion.

“Oh Hank, how can I believe you? What you’re sayin’ is just simply impossible!”

Suddenly, Duggan thought of his wallet! He quickly reached into the pocket of his jeans and pulled out his wallet.

He handed it to her.

“Look, there’s identification, pictures and money in there!” he said as she took it from him. Spreading it open, it appeared to contain paper money but it had grown too dark for her to see.

“Let’s go inside.” He told her. “Then you can look it over an’ you’ll see that I’m tellin’ you the truth!”

Together, they went inside the house.

Ellie sat down at the table and adjusted the oil lamp. She then began carefully going through the contents of Duggan’s billfold. The first thing she saw was a plastic credit card with the American flag on its face.

“Look at the flag.” Hank pointed out. “There’s 50 stars on it! Have you ever seen an American flag with 50 stars on it?”

“Fifty states?” she asked in wonder.

She began inspecting the picture on his driver’s license. Having never seen a color photograph before, she looked up at him in amazement.

There were other color photographs as well, so bright, colorful, and clear that they seemed like little windows into another tiny world. There was a photo of Hank’s father when he was a young soldier during the Korean War.

“That’s my father in the Army.” Hank pointed out. “Have you ever seen an Army uniform like that before?”

There was another one of Hank as a little boy with his father and mother. Another one showed a much younger Hank standing beside a strange, bright red machine.

“That’s me standin’ next to my first car!” He explained. “It’s like a wagon that moves all by itself. It doesn’t need any horses to pull it!”

The currency fascinated her. She examined each bill closely.

“Look at the dates.” Hank said as he pointed them out. She noted the date on each one . . . 1995, 98, 2000, 2002.

“Have you ever seen money like that? You’re holding in your hand, the only existing examples in the whole world right now! They were printed over a hundred years in the future!”

While Ellie continued examining the evidence he had provided her, Hank stood by in silence, figuring it best to let her think and digest at her own pace. As the moments passed, he prayed it would be enough to convince her that he was telling the truth!

And if not, what then?

Finally, when she had finished, she carefully replaced the wallet’s contents and handed it back to him.

Then she stood and drew near him.

“Tell me about the time you come from.” She said as she wrapped her arms around his waist.

He let out a sigh of relief as he embraced her and looked deep into her eyes.

“I will.” he replied softly. “Later.”

They kissed and their passions rose and without any words, they soon found themselves making love.

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