SCATTER MY BONES
The only sound I can hear is my own panicked breathing. I'm running flat out through the forest. Then my toe catches a root, and suddenly I'm flying.
Until I'm not. I come down hard. With my hands cuffed in front of me, I can't even really break my fall. Despite the plastic boot on my left leg, I'm up again in a crazy scrambling second, spitting out dirt and pine needles as I start sprinting again.
Running like my life depends on it. Because it does.
Three weeks ago, I was living in Portland. Working in a supermarket deli. Slicing turkey breast and handing out cheese samples on toothpicks.
Now I'm hurtling through the Southern Oregon woods, being chased by a killer. And no one knows I'm here.
Because of the handcuffs, I can't pump my fists. Instead, I have to swing them in tandem. Trying to avoid another fall, I lift my knees higher as the ground rises. I can't hear my pursuer, just my own panting breath.
If I don't come back, will Duncan ever know what happened to me? These woods can hide things for years. Will animals scatter my bones, plants twine around my remains?
When I reach the top of the hill, I don't slow down. Instead, I try to lengthen my stride. It's impossible to maintain a rhythm. I leap over a log, splash through the silver thread of a creek. My mouth is so dry. It tastes of dirt and the bitterness of fear.
A Steller's jay startles up from a branch, squawking. If only I could take wing and fly. But I'm stuck here on earth, legs churning, staggering over this uneven ground.
I can't stop or I'll die.
The reality is that I'm probably going to die anyway. And if that's so, I'm going to go down fighting.
THREE WEEKS EARLIER
THE KALEIDOSCOPE SHIFTS
It begins with a name I haven't heard in years. Except in my dreams.
"Ariel? Ariel Benson?"
Ten seconds ago, someone knocked on my apartment door. Through the peephole, I saw two men, one with a white band for a collar. I didn't feel like talking to missionaries, with their brochures printed on limp paper, so I turned away.
But then they said my name. My old name.
Now I open the door a few inches. They're in their mid-thirties. About the right age to be my dad. A bubble expands in my chest.
"Ariel Benson?" the man in the rumpled suit repeats, his pale eyes locking onto mine. Nothing about him is familiar.
I nod. When I try to swallow, my tongue is a piece of leather.
"I'm Detective Campbell. And this is Chaplain Farben. We're with the Portland police, but we're here on behalf of the Medford police." Medford is more than four hours away. It's where I was born. "Can we come in?"
Cops. The kaleidoscope shifts. Should I be disappointed—or relieved? I step back, feeling embarrassed by the open box of Lucky Charms on the scarred coffee table.
They take the blue futon couch. I sit on the green striped chair I found on the side of the road two months ago. Since they're cops, I know what they must be here to tell me. And it's not that one of them is my father. "So you found my dad?"
All these years, I've imagined where he might have run to. Mexico? Cambodia? Venezuela? Some place where he could forget what he did. But the law must have finally caught up with him.