Orphan Ch. 05byVjax©
Just a quick thank you for all the comments on this story, I'm very pleased that everyone is enjoying it. I really appreciate the support. V
The storm broke loose at midnight.
The sound of hard heavy rain on the metal roof of the house roused Alexander from a dead sleep. The week in the mountains had been good but tiring. After getting home from the yard and taking a quick shower he had fallen almost instantly asleep. Now the pounding rain beating out a cadence on the roof had him staring at the offending ceiling.
Thunder boomed, echoing off the mountains and shaking the house to its foundations. Alexander felt his pulse increase. It had always been this way. He loved the fury and power of such storms, the unassailable nature of their force. Alexander took comfort from such things, feeling that it provided a stark reminder that there were things in the world that could not be controlled, that were far stronger than anything wrought by man.
He remembered many a night spent on the orphanage roof when he would stand in the face of a Nor'easter. The biting wind and icy rain wrapped his body in its power. Much to the chagrin of the nuns when they inevitably found him in the morning.
Alexander arose, the darkened room momentarily illuminated by a flash of lightning arcing down from the heavens to strike nearby, the sonic crash came almost immediately after. Alexander smiled in the darkness as his eyes tried to readjust following the blinding flash.
"Mother nature's putting on a good show tonight."
As he stepped out onto the porch his words were drowned out by another wave of sound from thunder further up in the mountains.
The trees swayed violently in the coursing wind that came with the storm. The night was pure dark, whitecaps roiled in the lake like specters when the lightning illuminated their ivory dance. Alexander was soaking wet in an instant. He didn't care; he reveled in being so close to so much primal power. It made his blood pulse faster through his veins, his muscles flex involuntarily as the cool hard rain ricocheted off his taut body.
He stood there for a long time, eyes closed, arms out as Mother Nature proved once again what true power and fury were. Alexander felt a part of her, seemed to pull power and purpose from standing within the whirlwind of her display.
With a smile Alexander gave the storm a brief nod of appreciation, a small thank you for allowing him to be a spectator at her dance. Turning to the door he paused when, between the thunder and rain and wind, another sound found its way to his ear.
Alexander's body tensed as he turned back to face the storm. Senses heightened he closed his eyes knowing that they would do him no good searching for the sound he heard. Seconds ticked by in time with his heartbeat as his ears strained to cut through the noises of the storm...
The creak of the ancient trees as they bent against the winds fury.
Rain pounding against the earth in a background roar.
Thunder bellowing through the mountains, seeming to gain tenor and pitch as its vibrations jarred his bones.
Alexander became calmer, tuned out more and more of the tumult.
And then it was there, a small sound amongst giants, a plaintive whimper behind the whirling fury of the storm. Alexander's eyes snapped open as he streaked into the storms gaping maw intent on finding the source of the whimper.
Jenabel rose so quickly from her bed that she fell right off with a hard drop to the floor.
"God damn it!" She cried rubbing her aching hip. The earth-shattering crash that roused her sounded as though a train had decided to make a run through her house.
She looked around dazed for a moment, her place on the floor skewing her perspective for a moment before full consciousness found her. A storm raged outside her window but that was not what had pulled her from sleeps sweet embrace. She was born and raised in these mountains, had long ago tuned out their various rumblings. No, the unnatural sound of something way too large meeting the earth was what roused her from sleep and dreams of Alexander.
The name slipped past her lips in whisper. It did not bring the longing ache that it usually did when she indulged herself to hear her voice give name to that which should be hers. This time it brought comfort, in the way a favorite blanket does in the deep end of night when the monsters of our imagination crawl forth from our psyche.
Pulling on her robe Jenabel hurried to the door. Opening it the rain slashed in and she was surprised when Brad bolted through it. She slammed it after him, cutting off the downpour and the howl of the gale.
"What is it?" Jenabel's voice was tense, thick with emotion. She knew something must be wrong if Brad was already darkening her door at this hour - in this storm. She glanced over him quickly and her apprehension only grew. He was dirty, in the minute or so he had run between his home and Jenabel's, mud had caked his jeans and rain slicker. Jenabel noted the high intensity flash lights they used at the mine in his hand.
Brad took deep breaths, trying to fill his lungs with oxygen and calm his frenetic heartbeat before answering.
"The Halston's house had a tree come down right through the middle of it."
Jenabel nodded as she dashed for her room. Retuning quickly she was dressed much as Brad was.
"Let's go." Jenabel's voice was strong but as they made their way out into the storm she thought of the Halston's and tears flooded her eyes. The Halston's were one of the first families to join the Benton's in the wilderness. Their strength and easy ways would be greatly missed. Jenabel's sorrow turned quickly to fear as her eyes met Brads.
They sprinted across the compound to join the others who had gathered, her father was just about to enter the wreckage when he saw Jenabel and Brad.
"Jenabel, you shouldn't be here."
She knew her father meant well but it did make her weary how often he tried to protect her. Grabbing the light out of Brad's hand she looked at her father for a moment before running into the mangled house.
The roof was completely destroyed. Floor joists from the upstairs hung down at odd angles as Jenabel picked her way through the damage. The Halstons, John and Karen and their three kids, Missy, John Jr. and Amy would most assuredly have been home. Jenabel, seeing the destruction first hand felt hope slipping away.
"I'm sure they are alright Jenabel."
Brad's voice comforted her as they made their way around the ancient oak which had chosen this night to finally give up its long battle with gravity. A low moan could be heard to their right. Jenabel and Brad made there way toward it.
"There!" Jenabel cried as she saw a hand move weakly from under some debris.
Brad moved quickly, clearing away the sodden sheet rock to uncover Karen and John Sr. They were moving, eyes open but they looked to be in shock. Jenabel couldn't blame them. It looked as thought the tree had pushed their bed from the second floor to the first floor, paying little attention to the wood and stone that separated the two.
"Let's get them over to the infirmary."
Carl Benton directed his neighbors to Karen and John as Jenabel moved deeper into the wrecked house. Behind a door knocked off its hinges and around tree branches the size of telephone poles, they made their way further into the house until they finally heard a small cry.
Brad moved a piece of a half fallen wall to find both Missy and John Jr. huddled together.
"It's okay now; we'll get you out of here." The kids nodded and calmed somewhat at seeing Brad and then Jenabel.
"Let me have Missy." Jenabel said as she reached for the girl.
Brad handed her up to Jenabel then grabbed John Jr. Together they made their way out of the ruined husk.
"Where's Amy?" Missy asked Jenabel as they cleared the debris.
"I don't know honey we'll find her. Don't you worry."
Missy tried to be brave but the tears overwhelmed her as Jenabel handed the girl over to one of the others that had come to help.
"Get her over to the infirmary with her folks."
The man wrapped Missy in a blanket and hurried off.
"We have to find Amy!" Jenabel yelled over the storm. She was about to run back into the shattered house but her father grabbed her before she could move.
"She's not in there Jenabel, she must have gotten scared and run away." She knew her father was right, she hadn't sensed anyone else in the home.
Brad and Carl saw the blood drain out of Jenabel's face as the truth of what happened to Amy began to sink in. After a moment her shoulders squared and her eyes took on a steely gleam.
"Well let's go, the middle of this storm is no place for a three year old girl to be alone." Jenabel's words were quick and cutting; Brad and her father understood why.
When Jenabel had been four she got lost in the woods around the compound during a very similar storm. It raged for two days. With all the wind and rain they couldn't track her and had to wait 'til the storm broke. She had spent thirty hours out in the forest alone before her father and brothers finally found her. Brad and Jenabel moved out into the storm, their only thoughts on finding the child, neither very hopeful that it would be an easy task.
The storm fought Alexander every step of the way as he moved with purpose toward the sound. Wind whipped branches left deep, livid scratches against his bare chest and back. The unrelenting rain blurred his vision and burned his eyes. With only brief pauses where he would allow the storm to quiet in his consciousness to ensure his bearing was true, he made his way closer and closer to the sorrowful whimpering that had cut through the storms rage to find his ears.
Alexander came to a halt before a felled tree. It was an old giant that had finally given up its deep hold in the earth. He was surprised that this beast hitting the ground hadn't woken him. Searching through the littered branches and debris the whimpering grew quite loud as whatever it was noted his arrival.
Alexander moved methodically around the fallen tree, searching every inch of space he could until finally, moving a tangled mat of branches he found the source of the whimpering.
The wolf pup stared up at him in obvious pain and fear, one of the larger branches of the tree had trapped its leg effectively immobilizing it. With a strong jerk accompanied by a loud crack Alexander snapped the large branch from the rest of the tree and threw it into the still howling storm. As soon as it was free of the branch, the pup moved fast, trying to run away. Unfortunately its back leg buckled under the strain and the pup tumbled to the ground with loud yip.
"Easy there little guy, I won't hurt you."
Alexander's words cut through the surrounding din; the young wolf focused on him, its wild fear noticeable for a moment before it gave a small sigh and went limp. Alexander quickly but gently picked the wolf up, shielding it in his arms against the rain he made his way back to the house.
"I'm glad I turned the house lights on little one or neither of us would get dry tonight."
Alexander's words were soothing and he felt the animal push closer to the warmth of his body. This brought a weary grin to his lips as he made his way up on the porch and pushed through his half open door. Placing the soaked little animal on his bed Alexander retrieved two towels and dried himself off. Hooking the towel around his waist he turned his attention to the young wolf. It was looking around but didn't seem nearly as frightened as it had.
"Let's get you dried off, okay? You look like a drowned rat." Alexander said with a smile as he bundled the small wolf into the other large fluffy towel and began to gently dry it. He noted the small yip the wolf made when he dried its back right leg.
"Looks like you got banged up a little there, let's have a peek."
Alexander turned the wolf on its back and looked over what he found to be her back legs. The left one looked fine. The right one however showed a deep gouge that was slowly oozing blood.
"Ouch, that can't feel good, don't worry honey we'll get you fixed up." Alexander crossed the room and retrieved his well equipped first aid kit.
"This is going to sting some." Alexander laughed at himself for talking to the pup as if it were a child. He put a gentle restraining hand on her belly before pouring a good portion of hydrogen peroxide into her wound. He felt bad when she yelped but there was nothing for it.
"Shhh, the worst is over now little one." His words were soft and gentle as he carefully wrapped her leg in gauze. She watched him with curious eyes, her little body still quivering now and again.
"There we go, you should be good as new in a few days."
Alexander gently rubbed her belly with the towel. Finished drying he watched as she curled up into a tight ball and fell asleep. As the storm raged outside Alexander thought she had the right idea. Pulling on a pair of boxers he turned out the lights and slid back into bed, his young charge wrapped in a dry blanket at his side.
"The storms too strong Jenabel, we have to go in, we'll start the search again as soon as the storm clears." Carl yelled.
Carl Benton understood his daughter's single minded focus on finding the lost child but the storm was getting worse, putting her and the rest of the searchers in jeopardy.
"But we can't stop looking." Jenabel yelled over the wind.
"We have no choice. I can't put so many at risk. She probably found a dry spot and curled up there to wait out the storm. Don't worry we'll find her Jenabel, but we have to wait 'til this storm lets up."
Even through the blinding rain Carl could see the tears in his daughter's eyes as she finally nodded her agreement. He wrapped her in a strong hug and led her and the rest of the searchers back to his house. The house was warm as Sophie passed out towels to everyone. They all looked harried after nearly two hours out in the storm searching for Amy.
"Where's Cross? I thought he was coming up yesterday; he's the best tracker we have. He should be out there trying to find her!"
Sophie noted the almost manic tone of Jenabel's voice.
"He called about eight o' clock; he won't be able to come up. He was running out the door to catch a flight to San Diego, something about a new grad student that he had to put in her place."
Sophie knew Jenabel would not appreciate her brother's absence.
"Damn him, everything and everyone is always more important to him than us." Jenabel's words were cold and filled with ire.
"Now Jenabel, Cross lives his own life, makes his own choices. He is the same as you in that."
Carl's words were brusque and Jenabel felt the weight of them. Hugging her father tight her words were a whisper.
"I know Daddy, I'm sorry, it's just I'm so worried."
Carl pulled her tighter against him.
"We all are Jenabel, she'll be alright, you'll see."
She wasn't at all confident in her fathers words as she went to one of the guest rooms to get a few hours sleep before the search resumed.
The storm blew itself out just before dawn. In the space of five minutes the wind went from a blowing maelstrom to a gentle breeze. The rain stopped as the clouds slowly began to disperse in the face of the coming dawn. Alexander was awakened by a wet tongue on his forehead. Cracking one eye open, he looked up into the playful eyes of the wolf pup.
"Time to get up is it?" Alexander laughed as he gently pushed the pup away and sat up in bed.
The world was quiet.
"The storm passed eh?" He asked the now tail wagging wolf as he stood up and opened the door.
"What a mess."
Trees and branches littered the yard. The lake was a maze of floating debris.
"Guess I know what I'll be doing this morning." The pup growled good naturedly at him as he turned from the open door to look at her.
"We'll need to figure out what to do with you of course. You must be hungry, Blondie seemed to like the jerky, let's see if you're the same."
Rummaging through his cabinets he found the bag of home made deer jerky he had gotten on his last trip to the store. Tearing a piece into smaller bits he laid them on the bed by the wolf. He watched her as she nosed the pieces for a minute before giving a little bark and digging in.
She was a pretty little thing, dark brown fur the color of chocolate with white socks and belly. One ear drooping while the other stayed up, then they would switch. Alexander laughed as he watched her wrestle with the strips of dried meat.
Not having any better ideas he grabbed his phone and dialed Brad's number. While it rang, it never connected up or went to voice mail. The wolf had finished its breakfast and was limping around in tight circles on the bed giving Alexander a baleful stare.
"Okay, okay, I get it, sorry." Alexander picked the pup up and gently put it on the ground. She made a beeline for the still open door.
"I know how she feels." He said as he stepped into the bathroom to take care of his morning necessities.
Finishing up and dressing in jeans and t-shirt Alexander grabbed himself a piece of the jerky before going out to the porch looking for the young wolf. He found her wrestling a downed branch at the bottom of the stairs.
"Well you seem to be on the mend there Honey. What say you and I go see if Sophie has an idea of what to do with you and how to get you home?"
Alexander stepped back in the house to grab his shoes, not noticing that the little wolf stilled as he mentioned Sophie's name or that its tail began to wag in earnest.
Not for the first time Alexander questioned the viability of only having the Harley for transportation. Grabbing a clean towel he picked up the wolf and wrapped it up. Zipping his jacket half way up he slid the pup inside where she would be relatively safe for the short trip to the Benton's place.
The wolf, tongue lolling happily out of its mouth peaked out of Alexander's jacket as he kick started the bike to life.
"Hold on Honey, it will be a quick ride." His words were lost in the growling howl of the Harley's engine as he pulled away from his house.
"Jenabel, wake up honey, the storms broken."
Jenabel sat up with a start.
Sophie stood over her daughter, a cup of coffee in her hand.
"How long was I asleep?"
Jenabel asked sitting up and taking the coffee from her mother.
"About three hours, the storm let up about twenty minutes ago. It's almost dawn. Your father and Brad are putting together search groups now. We'll be leaving in ten minutes."
Jenabel nodded to her mother as she finished the coffee in three gulps, wincing as the hot liquid landed heavily in her empty stomach.
"I'll be ready in five." Jenabel said as she made her way to the bathroom.
Fifteen people milled about in front of the Benton home. All of them looked tired but had a fire in their eyes. One of their own was missing and they were bound and determined to find her.
Jenabel stepped onto the porch and stretched. Her mind was already whirling trying to think where Amy would have wound up after the accident. She saw the Halston's sitting on the porch. Walking over to them she bent down and gave Karen a gentle hug. Karen's right arm was in a sling; John had a cast on his left leg.
"Don't worry, we'll find her." Jenabel's whispered words elicited a mere nod from Karen, the stress of the previous night still weighed heavily on the frightened mother. Jenabel gave John's shoulder a reassuring squeeze as she turned her attention back to her father.
"You four go with Brad, search to the west toward the mountain. My group will head south. Sophie you go east and check the lake perimeter." Carl paused, seeing Jenabel on the porch he gave her a quick nod before continuing. "The rest of you head north with Jenabel, work from the compound out in a clockwise circle, Amy has to be somewhere, now lets go find her."