I had doubts about Mar going out on her own hiking with Charly—I couldn't exactly say why but it was a grim reminder of Regan's fatal end.
Regan's death also occurred in the fall on a hike with Charly.
Maybe I was being superstitious but I couldn't shake the feeling that Mar was in danger
I cut short the horseback ride with the neighbours and hurried home. When I got back it was just after five in the afternoon and there was no sign of Mar.
I decided to ride over to Charly’s and check on the two of them. Her uncle answered the door.
“They’ve been gone for over two hours, Jess—I was kinda worried looking at that sky. I think a storm’s brewing.”
“Did they go to the ruins?”
“As far as I know, but they should have been back by now.”
“I’ll go hunt them down, Mr. Crawford—sort of like rounding up strays. Don’t you worry, now.”
As I rode out of the farmyard I wasn’t as hopeful as I pretended —in fact, I was worried because dusk was falling quickly helped in part by storm clouds overhead.
I headed in the direction of the ruins and then on impulse, changed my mind and spurred my horse toward the ridge.
I tied up my mount at the base of the cliff and began the steep climb to the summit.
The wind picked up and I saw the first red streak of lightning. I pressed on and when I got to about twenty feet from the top I heard a terrified scream. It sounded like Marin.
I scrambled up the loose rock of the path, slipping and falling twice in my haste and made it to the top in time to see the two women struggling in the wind, grappling as if wrestling.
“Mar!” I cried out.
The two women froze and turned toward me. Charly had a wild look on her face as if her features had distorted.
“Help me, Jess,” Mar cried, backing away from the crazed Charly.
‘It’s over now,” Charly shouted against the wind, “you’ve ruined everything.”
She picked up a heavy tree limb that was lying on the ground and came at Mar swinging it like a baseball bat. Mar slipped as she fell backwards just as Charly swung the limb with all her might.
The blow missed Mar but threw Charly off balance. She stumbled forward onto her hands and knees, as I watched in horror, frozen to my spot.
Charly was deranged—blind with anger. She reached for the limb again and stumbled to her feet, but as she righted herself to swing a fatal blow, she lost her balance and stumbled backwards, falling over the edge.
I hear a long wail I thought was from Charly, but realized it was Mar, pitched forward into a crouch as if she had been kicked in the stomach. By the time I got to her she was moaning and incoherent.
I half-carried her back from the verge of the ledge, and tried to calm her, but all she could do was groan and repeat Regan’s name over and over as if she were lost in a nightmare—which no doubt she was.