Tory Caldwell released a long breath. Ah, a weekend to do nothing but relax and rest. The best gift I could have right now after the past four months. If only that were possible…
After dropping her ten-year-old son Morgan off to spend the weekend with his best friend, Tory headed down the mountain toward Crystal Creek, a little town nestled at the bottom of a mountain in the Colorado Rockies. Although mid-December, the next few days were supposed to be above freezing with no chance of snow, so Morgan had pleaded with her to let him stay with Josh, who lived at nine thousand feet.
As she navigated the curvy two-lane road, she mentally ticked off her long list of chores and Christmas shopping to be completed before she returned to school on Monday.
Four-thirty Friday afternoon, and it was already starting to get dark. She didn’t like to drive this highway at night. Glancing out her rearview mirror, she glimpsed a black sports car speeding around the curve and coming right toward her, at least fifteen miles over the speed limit. When it was practically on her bumper, she noticed the driver’s irritated face. All of sudden, the young, blond headed man, no more than twenty, gunned his vehicle and passed her at the start of the most twisty part of the highway.
Tory gasped, gripping the steering wheel.
The reckless driver zipped in front of her, nearly clipping her bumper. She’d barely registered the car’s license plate—HOTSHOT—when it disappeared around the bottom of the S-curve. She breathed easier, knowing at least she didn’t have to worry about him riding her tail.
When she hit a straight stretch of the road, she spied the black sports car a hundred yards or so ahead. It was veering toward the drop-off on the right side of the highway. The driver swerved, over-compensated and bounded into the other lane—right toward an older gentleman walking on the shoulder next to the mountain.
The car hit the pedestrian. The man flew into the air.
“No!” Tory screamed.
The older man struck the pavement, his body bouncing.
Stunned, Tory slammed on her brakes and skidded several feet while the driver of the sports car slowed for a few seconds, then revved his engine and sped away.
Tory guided her Jeep to the shoulder, parked, then climbed out, shaking so badly that she held her door until she was steady enough to move. A chilly wind cut through her as she crossed to the man lying face up in a pool of blood. He stared up at her with lifeless eyes.
She knelt, and with a trembling hand, she felt for a pulse at the side of his neck. Nothing. She tried again. Still no pulse. Then she hovered her fingertips over his slightly open mouth. No breath. She wished she knew CPR, but from the looks of him she didn’t think it would have mattered.
She straightened and scanned the area. Deserted. Except for the black sports car, she hadn’t seen any other vehicles since she’d started back to Crystal Creek. Not a lot of people lived on the top of this side of the mountain.
As she took one final sweep of her surroundings, she spied a wallet and set of keys not far from the older gentleman. She picked up the brown billfold and flipped it open to see if there was any identification. A photo of a man who looked like the one on the pavement declared the victim was Charles Nelson, seventy-two years old. The address indicated he lived nearby. He had probably been on his way home. Since this was a crime scene, she returned the wallet to where she found it. She shouldn’t have touched it in the first place, but at least she could tell the 911 operator who the victim was.
Shivering, she dug into her coat pocket and removed her phone, praying she had driven far enough toward the main highway to get cell reception. No bars. Dead as the man at her feet.
She could return to Josh’s house, but she knew a gas station/grocery store was closer down the mountain. If there wasn’t cell reception, the place would have a landline phone she could use. Not wanting to involve her son in this, she chose to continue toward the highway.
Ten minutes later, she sat in the store’s parking lot and punched in 911 on her cell phone. After she reported the hit-and-run, she took a few minutes to compose herself. Her hands were still shaking. She’d never seen a wreck like that. Then she went inside to use the restroom, grab something hot to drink, and then head back up the mountain to wait for the police. When she arrived at the spot of the hit-and-run thirty minutes later, all she found was the blood on the pavement. The body was gone.