And it’s time for another flash fiction inspired by a song. But best of all, it’s another Canadian content! No, not Nickelback. I know, I’m horrendously sad, as well. I should have made all 4 of mine from them. But…trying something new.
This month is Guardian by Alanis Morissette. Now, I’ll be honest. I’m not a huge Alanis fan, but this song. I love this song. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the video. And without further ado, here’s the story inspired by it. It’s actually a bit from a book I’m gong to be writing currently titled ROPE’S END.
“Christ.” Ranger Rylan Jennings brushed the back of his hand across his mouth as he stared at the mangled body splattered across the gray rock. The dim glow of the rising sun glinted off patches of snow and ice, accentuating the vibrancy of the red against the pristine white. “It’s far too early in the morning for…this.”
Sheriff Johnson shrugged. “Falling a few thousand feet does take a toll.” He arched a brow. “Have to admit. My deputy was mighty surprised to see a National Park Service truck pull up at the station. Ask for a ride out here. Thought you Ranger types dealt with poachers and lost hikers?” The man tipped his hat. “No offense intended, Ranger.”
Rylan raked a hand through his hair, surpassing the yawn that threatened to crack his jaw. “None taken. As for my involvement—our friend here died within the North Cascades Park boundary. Means it’s NPS jurisdiction. Not that I don’t appreciate your help.”
Johnson chuckled. “Always happy to help out our federal brothers. So, you draw the short stick this morning?”
“If only. I was passing through when your dispatch called it in. Was traveling back from a rescue mission west of here. Been a long week.”
Johnson nodded. “Well, this looks pretty open and shut. Guy obviously fell while climbing the route to the top of Eldorado Peak. Rope’s still tangled in the rocks. Got a garbled call last night, but with the strong winds—weren’t able to access the body until about an hour ago.”
“Weather tends to be questionable this time of year.” Hell, he’d damn near chucked his coffee on the chopper ride over. Rylan moved closer kneeling beside the body. “Any ID?”
“We found a wallet several meters over there…along with more bone fragments. If the Driver’s License is correct, this here’s ex-Seargent Darren Dyck. I knew the man, not that I can identify him in his current state. But if this is Darren—he was loud, pretty full of himself, a bit of trouble maker. Mostly bar fights, traffic violations. After leaving the service a couple of years back, he joined a local organization called The Watchmen. Did a lot of climbing and hiking around these parts.”
Rylan arched a brow. “The Watchmen?”
Johnson grinned. “Nothing like what you’re probably imagining. Just a small group of people who take it upon themselves to see this area stays safe for all to enjoy. Often avoid us having to call in Search and Rescue simply by being available. Talented lot. Won’t find more skilled climbers or mountaineers around these parts.”
“Yet, here’s one at the bottom of a cliff from an apparent climbing accident.”
The other man shrugged again. “We all have bad days, Ranger. And from the looks of it, his harness gave way. Buckle’s wrenched in half.”
Rylan removed a pen from his jacket, using the tip to lift the item in question. The twisted metal gleamed in the rising sun. “That happen often?”
“Equipment failing? Not that I’ve ever heard of. But I suppose there’s a first time for everything.”
“Right. Because that’s the easy explanation.” Rylan scanned the steep rock face in front of him. “What’s the rating on this climb?”
Johnson flipped through his notes. “I asked that same question. I was told around a five-eight.”
Rylan snorted. “A five-eight? Shit, if this guy’s one of your most skilled climbers, he could do that in his sleep.”
“Was. Haven’t seen him around for nearly a year. Not since they booted him out.”
“They? Who’s they?”
Johnson exhaled, a small misty cloud billowing around his face. “The Watchmen. Revoked his membership. Got themselves a new leader, or so I’ve been told. Dyck, here, had moved on as far as I was concerned.”
“So why is he back and in more than a few pieces?” Rylan stood, tapping his finger on his chin. “He leave on bad terms?”
“Don’t really know. Though getting booted doesn’t suggest it was a mutual decision.” Johnson closed his notebook, tucking it inside his pocket before removing a small card. He handed it to Rylan. “If you’d like to know more about The Watchmen, I suggest you contact them directly.”
Rylan took the card, smiling at the pretty face stamped on the paper. “Who’s this?”
“That’s Bryony Willson. Folks around here call her Brie. Her callsign with the group is Angel.”
“Angel, huh? Is that because she’s pretty?”
“That she is, but it’s because of what she does. Paramedic. Angel’s short for angel of mercy. She’s also a guide. Does trips all over these hills. Girl’s got balls to spare, if you ask me. She and Darren were a thing for a bit. Not sure what she ever saw in the guy. She’s way out of his class, but… Guess there’s always a reason.”
Rylan glanced at the body then back at the sheriff. “She part of the reason he got booted?”
“My gut tells me she was the only reason, but… No one ever confirmed it, and I didn’t ask. Honestly, I was happy to see the guy go. If she’s not out on a trip, she’ll be at that address in town.”
Rylan nodded, tucking the card in his pocket. “I’ll go pay the girl a visit. Can I rely on your team to bag the evidence for me. I’ll swing by your office and gather it.”
“Will do. I’ll have our doctor take a look at the body. See if there’s anything obvious, though with the amount of damage…”
“Appreciate it.” Rylan turned, heading toward the helicopter.
Rylan glanced at the man over his shoulder.
Johnson shoved his hands in his pockets. “The rest of that group—they’re good folk. Hate to see their names dragged through the mud over one lost soul. Especially one that’s as tarnished as Dyck’s was.”
“I’m just after the truth, Sheriff. I’m sure you’re right. Guy probably just fell. Maybe he’d had too much to drink. Didn’t notice his buckle was damaged. Lots of possibilities.”
Johnson nodded, though Rylan could tell it was merely for show. Which meant the good sheriff was hiding something. He gave his pocket a tap. He’d bet a warm shower and an even warmer bed that it had something to do with the angel in his pocket.
And that’s it for me. Just a start, really, but… check out the other two ladies and read their awesome stories.