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Destiny at Hand

By Chet Baker


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Watching her squint into the sun splashed dusty street, he felt
something stir. Something rotten.

It didn't look dangerous. Why would it, just a chalky hued eating
house on mainstreet of a dead town? Sarah looked over and blinked in a
nervous slow motion glimpse. She glanced at her watch and then went back
to studying the little cafe that was catching the brisk fall winds
gusting down from the puffy early morning buildup over Berthoud Pass. A
swirl of dust zigged across the street, cutting back and forth before it
crashed into the side of the cracked clapboards and vanished.

Decades of high mountain weather had fatigued the little building. It
listed to the west, the chipped paint had look of a pale alligitaors
belly. Leaning between a dark abandoned barnwood furniture store and the
littered remains of a Dairy Queen it and it's masters had not
surrendered. Smug and implacable it waited for them.

Eeak, squeak, eeak, squeak. A swinging wood sign scratched out an
irritating staccato noise like fingernails on a chalkboard. Carved in
heavy wood over colors of blueberry and lavender, were stenciled ruby
letters. It read: Hard Rock Cafe. Annoyed at the grating, she
glanced at the watch again.

The town had never amounted to much, just a reputation for being a
little speed trap in it's best years. Now abandoned except for the
dozing cafe that cast it's two story shadow into the weed filled asphalt
street, the town just dried up. Civil war tended to do that. People
simply left. Where did they vanish away to?

Sarah nibbled at a raw spot in the corner of her lower lip. He wanted
to feel sorry for her, but somehow it just didn't seem right, feeling
sorry for Sarah Pennington. The girl always landed on her feet.
Hardship only firmed her resolve. Men who chased after her had found
only handfulls of nothing. Sarah walked with impunity among the vanguard
of the war, calloused militia troops, mercenaries, even bounty hunters.
Even the most hard-line rapscallions, showed respect for the high
spirited girl and avoided the lewd commentary reserved for other single

He had come to know a lonely girl who was driven to her destiny, pushed
to meet the delusion that haunted her.

Sarah had been pouting. Now she was just being stubborn and flippant.
Where was the little naive girl he met three years ago? He pulled his
wire rimmed glasses from his nose, pinched where they had been resting,
rubbed the lenses on his sleeve. He watched her check the action of the
revolver and take a deep breath. What a wonderful chest. He watched it
expand again. Glancing at her Rolex for the tenth time in the last
minute, she signaled with a fist. Ready to go. She still believed in
time and order and her watch told her it was nine, even if time had
little relativity anymore and even if it wasn't nine, it was time to go.
Sweet pine scent lingered in the warm morning air. Her nose wrinkled
as she squinted into the low sun hanging over the rendezvous.
Pounding in his ears, his pulse was racing. Was she as nervous? Early
sun washed all color from her eyes, a crystal blue tainted by specks of
brown and green.

Warm gusts caught her glossy hair pulled into a loose pony tail by a
leather strap away from her unkept bangs. Almost long enough to touch
her golden shoulders the silk tossed and floated around her high cheek
bones splattered with hints of freckles that lay across the bridge of
her nose. Without noticing she pulled strands of the mousy brown silk
from her chapped lips and pinned it behind her ear.

Last year had hardened her, taken a toll on her soul. Nothing was more
important to him than this girl who was getting ready to walk into
trouble. Her excitement swirled a bitter sweet emotion inside of him.
He knew the poison of revenge. Win or lose would it change anything
with her?

The tiny white lines at the corner of her eyes were deepening in the
olive skin that was darker than it should have been.

Kneeling on the crumbling sidewalk at the corner of a charred gas
station she examined both ends of town.

"Now," she whispered and stood up, kicking her long legs twice to get
the stiffness out. The black pistol pointed skyward, her dry calloused
hands gripped and regripped the stamped checkered stock pressing against
her sun burned cheek.

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