Montana Homecoming


A sharp prickling sensation pinched at the base of Cord’s neck as he watched the paramedic on the other side of the road. The man had stepped back, away from the SUV. His expression didn’t seem right. It was blank.

Strangely so.

And he was doing nothing to help Cord’s mother get out of her vehicle.

Cord blinked, but the scene remained the same. His confusion grew. Then he lowered his gaze to the now-totaled sedan he’d hurried to check on and took in the pregnant woman sitting inside. She remained behind the steering wheel, but her seat belt had been removed, and the small scratch above her eyebrow continued to dribble out a slow trickle of blood. She also had a bruise fanning out from the base of her thumb. The airbag had caught her as it burst outward.

“Is she going to be okay?” Cord asked of the woman, but no one answered.

The paramedic at the woman’s side continued checking her vitals, while his partner made her way back from the ambulance with a stretcher. At the sight of the stretcher, Cord’s heart rate increased. The woman had to be okay. Hurting her hadn’t been his mother’s intention.

He looked back to the other side of the road. His mother still wasn’t out of the SUV.

And there was still no one helping her.

“Mom?” The single word was a surprise to hear, and even more of a shock to realize that he’d spoken it.

The pregnant woman looked up—she’d said her name was Bailey. She followed Cord’s gaze to the other side of the road. “Is your mom okay?”

Cord nodded. Of course she was. She was always okay. But no words came.

Instead, he went back to watching. The blank-faced paramedic, who remained a short distance from the SUV, lifted a hand to the radio clipped to his shirt. He dipped his chin as if to speak.

Cord swallowed.

“Go.” Bailey whispered the word, and though spoken softly, there was insistence behind it.

Cord looked at her again.

“I’m fine.” She assured him with a nod, and as the paramedic stepped back, a faint smile touched her lips. She laid a hand over her belly. “We’re both fine. Go check on your mom.”

His mother was fine, too, he wanted to tell her. She’d been complaining about not being able to get the seat belt to unlock before he’d left her side. She’d yelled at him because he wouldn’t get her purse off the passenger side floor so she could “fix herself.”

The airbag had deployed when her car had careened into the tree, and not only had it left her covered with a fine layer of dust, but it had given her a bloody nose, as well. He’d come upon the wreck only moments after it happened.

“Go,” the woman said again.

“She’s fine,” Cord managed, but without realizing he intended to, his feet started moving toward the asphalt. The responding police officers had stopped traffic on the two-lane road—just a mile from the Wilde family home—and Cord turned his head as he reached the double yellow lines painted down the middle. A tow truck rolled slowly toward him, the driver having shifted the rig to the opposite side of the road in order to get around the line of stopped cars. The sheriff’s vehicle, blue lights silently flashing, passed the truck on the shoulder. Cord’s feet kept moving.

Neither the paramedic that had first attended to his mother nor the man’s partner looked his way as he neared. Nor did they look at his mother.

“Mom.” He said the word again, and this time when he spoke, the deputy who’d been first on scene stepped toward him.

The deputy held out a hand as if to ward off Cord’s forward movement. “You’re one of Mrs. Wilde’s sons, right? Cord, is it?”

Birch Bay was a small town, and everyone knew of his family. “Yes.”


Cord held up his own hand, stopping the officer from saying anything else, and shrugged away from the man’s touch. The sheriff’s car pulled to a stop at Cord’s side.

“Cord?” the sheriff called as he stepped from the cruiser.

Cord kept walking.

“You need to stay back.”

Cord heard the words, as well as the sound of the sheriff’s feet hurrying through the gravel that edged the side of the road, and once again, when a hand landed on his arm, he shrugged it away. He did not need to stay away. This was what they did. His mother had an accident of some sort, planned it so he’d be the one to find her, and he showed up to help. Just as he’d done that time.

He’d been right there. Talking to her. She’d been fine.

As his feet closed in on the still-open door, his determination somehow keeping the sheriff and his deputy at bay—or maybe he’d just blocked out anything else they might be saying—his eyes roamed over the exterior of the dark Suburban. The vehicle could fit all five of his siblings, along with him and his parents at the same time. It was the family vehicle his mother had been so insistent on having. The one she loved to show off around town.

It was also the vehicle where most times she drove it, she did so alone.

Cord finally reached the door, his vision now zeroed in as if only able to see through a tiny pinhole, and he leaned in to ask his mother why she hadn’t gotten out of the car. Only . . . it wasn’t his mother’s lifeless face staring back at him.