The Jeep was a write-off. Had to be. Lena stood at the road edge with one hand on her hip and the other thumb-dialing the AMA. She held the phone in the palm of her hand like a server’s platter, listening.
“… please hold…”
The windshield and passenger window were destroyed, shattered to an opaque film of clinging fragments. She wondered idly what the laminate backing was made of. Some kind of plastic, surely, though broken this way she could imagine filaments of spider floss connecting each gap. The spider itself would be motionless. Patient. Alert in stillness until a tremor was felt along an anchoring thread, its body compelled by resonance.
“… your call is important to us…”
She shivered and stepped closer. The road felt too open. Her back felt exposed. She braced her feet against flattened brush, angling her soles to the roots and her body to the decline. David’s beautiful white leather seats were waterlogged and grey. Claws had split the driver-side headrests. Barney must have panicked as he was lifted out. The skid along the drop had pulled the rag-top free, shearing the fasteners. There were foot prints approaching the rear flap, and gouges in the soft grass where a person had clearly fallen then scrambled to right himself. Muddy hands smeared the tailgate and spare. Someone had come down here and tried to look inside.
“… you can access our website…”
The frame would be fine. Little could compromise those rugged welds and heavy-duty steel construction. She rolled her eyes at the thought. Pretensions for a man with soft hands and pressed slacks who used gravel roads to get home. The hike up the mountain this morning had been the first time in years the two of them had tied on their boots and headed out, together.
“Argh!” Lena groaned. Fatigue had found her, and impatience. She closed her eyes and saw Barney in the water, the Peterson’s dock party, the storm, the crash, the neverending argument, and needful, seeking bodies. She watched a Cat’s Eye spider repair its web in the lowest crotch of an elm. The birds were silent.
“… please remain on the line…”
A predator was near, and large. She should have noticed sooner. The forest’s held breath made the ocean below immediately, impossibly loud. Atop a near lightpole, a kestrel observed, awaiting the show and its leavings. Oh, God. Her feet carried her backward so quickly their prints were continuous, inverse to the curious samaritan’s skid. If it’s a cat, I’ve been hunted already. If it’s a cat, it’s just waiting to strike. If it’s a cat-
“Hello, this is Annabelle. How can I help you, today?”
“He’s here.” Scanning the shadows. There were three houses along this road, two of them summer cabins sitting vacant this week. So few passed this way.
Annabelle sounded tired. “Excuse me?”
“Uh…. Sorry.” Walk. “This is, um, Selena Christopher. There has been, ah… an accident. My husband’s Jeep.”
“Ma’am, are you okay? Do you need an ambulance?”
“No.” Their driveway was fifty metres off. A sprinter’s distance. “We weren’t injured, but it was… upsetting.” Ten metres. Striding faster, ready to run.
“Yes, of course. What is your location?”