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The Deer Crossing
Sam Howell shivered a bit, and rolled up the window in his ’91 Ford truck. He must have gone down this road a million times and never remembered it being this cold on a Maine summer morning. The road seemed darker too, as if the sun were resting behind a cloud. The pine trees around his car seemed to fall in closer than normal, almost touching his Ford when he hugged the corners. The trees felt the cold too; they were shivering and swaying in the light breeze. Sam made an effort to keep an eye in the woods to spot game. The deer season had just started, not that dates mattered much to Sam. In the past few months, Sam shot whatever he saw in the woods, whether in season or not.
Out of the corner of his right eye, he saw movement. He snapped his head over and reached under his seat for his rifle. But he wouldn’t use his rifle today. In the woods was a sight he had seen everyday for the past twenty years, but only in memories in the past year. His mouth opened and his eyes widened as his grip on the wheel loosened, and let his Ford glide straight off the road.
“What’ve you got for me?”
“Nice to see you too Captain… Well, his I.D. says he’s Sam Howell, 57 years old, and an organ donor.”
“I know Sam. He’s been going through a rough patch this year.”
“You knew him?”
“Yeah, a bit. We hunted together a few times during the season. From what I’ve heard old Sam here’s been going into the woods lately shooting whatever he sees. I feel bad for the guy though, lost his job and his wife in the same month.”
The captain looked down at his own hand, noticing the tan line from where his wedding band used to be was starting to fade.
He sighed, and glanced over his shoulder as Howell was carted away on the stretcher.
Suddenly, the captain whirled around to his lieutenant, “What the hell was that?”
The lieutenant, coroner, and the two ambulance drivers looked at the captain and shot each other puzzled looks.
“You guys didn’t hear that? It was like someone calling my name.”
“Captain, why don’t you head back to headquarters, I think we got everything under control here.”
“Yeah…yeah. Clean all this up.”
The captain walked over to his unmarked Ford Crown Vic, opened the door and slumped onto the large vinyl seat. He started the engine and let the V8 roar to life, drowning out his thoughts. He turned off his AC and closed his sunroof. He didn’t remember it being this cold when he came in.
He pulled a quick U-turn and headed back toward the highway. Coming back on the force this early after Sarah died was hard for him, but he knew it would be worse to sit at home and grieve. Last week, he’d even tried old Sam’s solution, and sat in a tree stand and took down a big buck. Sarah used to hate his hunting and he felt worse after he dressed the carcass. Now seeing Sam like that gave him something else to think about.
The captain caught a glimpse of himself in his rear view mirror, taking in the gray in his hair and bags under his eyes that just recently appeared. He put his eyes back on the road, and pushed the accelerator in his Ford, hugging the corners, all eight cylinders propelling him around the curvy, deserted Maine roads. Going forty miles-per-hour over the speed limit, the captain swung through a curve and turned the corner only to see a sight he never thought he’d see again.
Sarah was standing ten feet from the front of his speeding car, her green eyes reflecting the lake behind him.
With quick reflexes he yanked the wheel to the left and drove himself into the woods. The only thing stopping his car was a huge pine tree. It shook with the impact and rained pine needles all over his wrecked Ford. As he lay in his car, windshield shattered and both airbags deployed, he slowly turned his head and looked out his window into the eyes of a large doe, looking straight at him. The doe turned her head to look at the lake, her green eyes reflecting the water and shining brightly. She turned and bounded off into the woods as the captain slowly shut his eyes.