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The memory keeper, p.29
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       The Memory Keeper, p.29

           Lisa Stowe

  Chapter 29

  Rachel drove back toward Wallace, leaving Burke in the shadows.

  “Rivers talked about all the problems Burke has,” Cody said, watching the derelict homes drop behind them. “I’m surprised she still lives here.”

  “Burke gets in your blood,” Rachel said, and then grimaced. “And probably poisons it, too. I’ve wondered sometimes if the pollution contributed to Granny’s dementia. I wouldn’t live anywhere else though. It’s our history, who we are.”

  “History won’t do you any good if you’re dead." Cody shifted her feet trying to avoid all the debris on the floor of the Jeep.

  “Oh, it’s not that bad,” Rachel said. “It’s just that no one seems to know what to do about it.”

  They rode in silence a few miles, moving out into sunshine and past the ghosts of old mining sites.

  “Matt said you’d fill me in, something he told you on the phone,” Cody said as they passed the turn to Thompson Pass and Jake’s place.

  “Oh, yeah. He said it’s positive the body in the mine is Nate’s dad, like they thought.”

  “I didn’t think you could autopsy and identify people this fast. Matt said it could take weeks and it’s only been a couple days. That doesn’t sound right.”

  “I know, I was thinking the same thing. But that’s what he said." Rachel drove with one wrist sagging over the top of the steering wheel and one wrist equally boneless over the gear shift. “So what do you think, Keith or Kendra?”

  “No idea. Like you said, Keith is nasty enough. And neither one seemed real upset about losing Kelly. But Kendra? She has about the same amount of courage where Keith is concerned as I do where mom is. Though I think she’d do anything he told her to.”

  “As you used to,” Rachel corrected, smiling slightly. “I’d say you’re a lot braver than her, now. Doubt she’d leave Keith sitting in a hotel lobby.”

  “Don’t remind me,” Cody said. “I’m still queasy. Of course that could be thinking about climbing.”

  Rachel laughed as she pulled in behind the old gas station and parked. “Relax. You’ll have fun.”

  “Right. Back to Kelly though, I want to find out who and why almost as much as I want to learn about my grandfather. Kelly should have had a long life, married, had kids, and retired without ever arresting someone. The thought of such a life wasted makes me so sad I don’t want to think about it.”

  “I know,” Rachel said. “And not thinking about it means not thinking about Kelly and that’s even harder. I think about him all the time.”

  As they got out of the Jeep and Rachel reached for her backpack, Jake came around the corner of the station, looking as disreputable as ever.

  “Thought I heard your Jeep,” he said. “The brakes squeal as loud as the door hinges.”

  “What’s your point?” Rachel asked.

  Jake shrugged. “None, just stating the obvious. Going climbing?”

  “Stating the obvious again,” Rachel said.

  “If people were meant to climb cliffs we’d have been born with hooves and be called goats.” Jake rubbed his knuckles under his chin as if sanding them on the scruffy shadow.

  “Like I’ve never heard that one before.”

  Jake and Rachel were not breaking eye contact and neither smiled to give humor to their words. Cody looked from one to the other and had a sudden sense of history more recent and personal then the kind Rachel normally dealt with. She wasn’t sure what was going on but it felt like each one waited for the other to step onto the trap and grab the cheese.

  “I’m going to lock the Jeep and leave my wallet,” she said, to remind them there was an audience.

  “Sure,” Rachel said, and seemed to breathe again.

  “Cody, you do know how stupid climbing is, right?” Jake asked.

  “I don’t know about stupid,” Cody said, not wanting to be disloyal to Rachel. “Scary maybe. But I won’t know anything about it unless I try it first.”

  “That’s even more stupid. That’s like saying you’re going to try a head-on collision to see if you want to drive. Where are you going anyway? In case you need rescuing.”

  “We’re not going to need rescuing, Jake,” Rachel said, sighing heavily. “We’re doing the Crack Horror. Not that the name means anything to you.”

  “The what?” Cody asked.

  “Climbers make plays on words for naming routes. Go away Jake,” Rachel said. “You’re scaring her just because you don’t climb. Come on Cody. Let’s head up.”

  “Rachel,” Jake called after them as they walked toward the trail head. “You and me have some unfinished stuff.”

  “And it’s going to stay unfinished,” Rachel called back.

  “You can’t avoid me,” Jake continued. “I’ll just keep following you until you talk.”

  Rachel didn’t respond, and acted as if she hadn’t even heard him. Cody glanced over her shoulder and Jake gestured for her to come back. When she shook her head, he waved a hand at her as if giving up and turned away.

  Cody and Rachel entered the trees and walked in silence for several yards before Cody couldn’t stand it any longer.

  “Can I ask what that was about?”

  “Jake’s an ass.”

  “I like him, actually,” Cody said.

  “I do, too,” Rachel said. “When he’s not being an ass. Which is never.”

  “So what’s unfinished between you?" Cody breathed heavier as the trail steepened and wondered briefly how many times she’d have to do this before it got easier.

  “We have completely opposing views about the forest service logging around his place. It’s ended up in some loud shouting matches." Rachel held a tamarack branch until Cody caught it.

  “So are you for the logging or against it?”

  “For it, but I can see Jake’s point,” Rachel said. “I understand a clear cut is going to affect his place. But he was offered a shit load of money to sell it.”

  “But it’s been in his family for generations. That would be like you being forced to sell Florence’s place.”

  “Yeah, well, shit happens,” Rachel said. “And most of the time there’s nothing we can do about it. That’s life and the only alternative is death.”

  “Wow, that’s kind of hopeless." Cody stared at Rachel, but her friend kept going, oblivious to the shock waves bouncing off her back.

  “It’s not hopeless Cody, it’s realistic. If Jake wants his place he’s going to have to deal with the area being logged. He doesn’t see that, and has this naïve belief he actually has a say in what happens.”

  “I’m surprised you’d support logging." Cody stopped a moment to catch her breath, standing with her hands on her hips.

  “I’m not Rivers,” Rachel said, not noticing Cody had stopped. “One environmentalist in Burke is all we can stomach. Besides, logging that area will open it up to a lot of access.”

  Cody took a deep breath and started upwards again, lengthening her stride to catch up to Rachel.

  “Okay, so a route named Crack Horror is easy? Doesn’t sound like it.”

  “Yeah, well, climbers are as hard to fathom as Jake." Rachel slowed. “I always have a hard time spotting the trail. It’s not used often enough to make it really visible." She started walking again.

  Cody looked around, realizing they were getting close to her grandfather’s cirque.

  “Did I tell you about getting a copy of Charles’s birth certificate?” Cody asked.

  “No. Find anything interesting?" Rachel stopped again, scanning the area.

  “The date of birth was a week earlier then what he said his birthday was. And it had Alice listed. So I guess there’s no way to prove if Ethel was really his mother." Cody had come to that conclusion privately, but putting the thought into words felt like reaching a decision.

  “Probably not,” Rachel agreed. “Unless you can find out if Ethel has any descendants. But I think you need to leave this shit alone.”

  “I don’t ha
ve many days left,” Cody said, ignoring Rachel’s opinion. “But maybe the book I got from the Oasis museum will have something.”

  Rachel stopped. “Here it is.”

  She left the main trail, stepping into the woods with confidence, even though Cody could barely make out the indentation of a track. She had followed Rachel only a hundred yards when a memory tapped politely on the back door of her mind. But not having spent a lot of time in the woods, it was hard to tell one tree from another.

  It wasn’t until they broke through the underbrush and entered a roughly scooped out clear area that the internal back door opened.

  “I know where we are,” Cody said. “This is Nate’s camp! Matt and I were here.”

  Rachel kept walking, barely glancing around. “Yeah, I talked to Nate once or twice.”

  “I didn’t know you knew him.”

  “I didn’t know him. The guy was rude, smelly, and not exactly the talkative type.”

  “But you knew where he was staying. I got the impression rangers were trying to find him.”

  “If they were they never asked me.” Rachel entered the woods again, leaving Nate’s squatting grounds. “Besides, he wasn’t hurting anyone hanging out here, so what was the big deal?”

  The track got steeper and rockier, and Cody had to let the conversation drop behind her. She needed her breath for walking, not talking. Rachel was like the mountain goat Jake had referred to, stepping from rock to rock, boulder to boulder, as gracefully as she moved from kitchen to living room. Cody went slower, trying to keep her balance, and the distance between them grew. When Rachel finally stopped, Cody realized they were at the base of a long waterfall of tumbled boulders.

  “Water break,” Rachel said, dropping her pack. “Even when it’s cold like it is today, you still need to drink.”

  “Where exactly are we?” Cody asked, taking a water bottle. “I’m completely turned around.”

  “Back the way we came, obviously, is Bounty Track." Rachel swallowed water and capped her bottle. “In front of you is where you are going to do some bouldering. We’ll climb up these for a short distance, then cut across to another trail. That one takes us to the Desolation area, where most of the climbing routes are.”

  “That name sounds familiar.” Cody used the back of her hand to wipe her chin where water had dripped.

  “Desolation is spider webbed with routes. It’s also kind of notorious for aid calls. But before you panic, we’re not going that far.”

  “That’s where I remember the name from. When I first met Kelly they’d had a rescue there. And it’s where Matt’s dad and grandfather died.”

  “Which is why you aren’t starting your climbing career there,” Rachel said, repacking her water.

  “Where’s Burke from here?”

  Rachel pointed vaguely. “Out there somewhere. I suck at directions. But what’s weird is if we climbed a couple routes on Desolation, the ones around Diamond Gulch, we’d be able to walk to Jake’s. Kind of like taking a really, really, tense shortcut.”

  “Think I’ll just drive." Cody handed the bottle back and Rachel stowed it in her pack.

  Cody shivered, the chill air seeping through her jacket. She hadn’t noticed how cool it was while she was walking, but now she wished she’d brought warmer clothes.

  “You’ll warm up soon enough,” Rachel said. “As long as you’re working you’ll be fine. Okay, ready for your first boulder?”

  “Guess so,” Cody said. “But don’t laugh when I ask you to boost me.”

  Rachel pulled on the backpack and turned away. “I don’t laugh anymore.”

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