Rohana Frost has had the worst luck. It started when her fiancé vanished without a trace three months ago. Then she lost her job and her car engine died. Her grandfather knew the cure – unli...
There was a body on the floor.
She had expected to find the cabin as her grandfather had left it last summer – white dust covers draped over the furniture, the area rugs rolled up and resting against the far wall, shutters closed and locked. She didn’t expect to find a strange old man propped up against the bottom of the sofa, listing to his side. He looked as if he was drunk, wandered into the wrong house, and passed out on the floor –
and indeed, that would have been her first thought had it not been for the blood.
“Oh!” Rohana exclaimed, tossing her bag, keys, and supper that had been picked up at Youd’s Deli on the small stand by the door
and rushed over to the body.
“Are you OK?” She knelt down beside
him and placed two fingers on the side of his
neck. There was a faint pulse, and his chest was rising and falling with shallow, slow breathing. He was alive. She felt some relief.
Now that Rohana saw him up close she saw that he wasn’t an old man at all, but quite young –possibly in his mid-twenties – close to her age. His hair was a shaggy silver-white, with long bangs that fell loosely over his forehead and down to his eyelids. The rest of his hair stopped just above his shoulders, in varied lengths, covering his ears. His face was oval, skin pale, and a slight flush to his cheeks. He wore an expression of pained but peaceful sleep.
She gently patted his face, trying to wake him up. “Hey,” Rohana said softly. “Hey! Wake up. Are you OK? Wake up!” He gave a low groan. She sat back, then repeated, “Hey. You OK?” His eyes flew open and he tried to sit up. She placed her hand on his shoulder and tried to keep him still. “Take it easy,” She said softly. “What happened to you?”
“Are you alone?”
“Yes.” Then mentally she cursed. Idiot! You have a bleeding man in your grandfather’s cabin, you’re at least 40 minutes from any town let alone a police department – and you just told him you were alone. Quickly she added, “well, my dog is outside.” I didn’t have a dog, she thought. It was a pathetic attempt to make me seem not so vulnerable. “He’s a pit bull.”
He tried to get up again, winced, grabbed his left side, and slumped back.
“Are you badly hurt? I’ll call for an ambulance.” Rohana started to rise up when he grabbed the front of her grey cotton poncho.
“No, I’ll be fine,” he ground out. “It looks worse than it is.”
She didn’t want to waste time arguing with him and decided to determine what kind of shape he was in for herself. “Can you stand?”
“With a little help, maybe…”
“Let me help you up on the sofa.” After a few awkward moments he managed to put his arm around her neck and she managed to pull him up to the sofa. He winced at the movement and eased himself down. He was already feeling better than he had been twelve hours ago when he first broke into this cabin. He had thought it was unoccupied. Had this woman come here tomorrow, he would have been gone.
Rohana stood back and tilted her head. “Huh. Let’s start with your jacket.” The jacket was a heavy black cotton with three-quarter length sleeves and wide cuffs. It reminded her of a military style jacket. It cut off at the waist and buttoned up the left side instead of down the middle. There were no lapels – just a round, flat collar that reminded her of a baseball jersey. It was easy to remove. She eased one arm out of its sleeve, then held him slightly forward while she pulled it out from behind him.
Then it just slid the rest of the way off the bad arm.
His deep purple shirt would prove to be more problematic. Now that the jacket was off Rohana could see that the wound was just above his left hip. Whatever had caused it tore right through his shirt and his flesh. Dried blood was caked around it. She bent over to get a better look, then straightened up, steepling her fingers in front of her face.
“I’m going to have to cut your shirt off,” she finally said. Rohana then crossed behind the sofa and headed to the master bath.
The cabin was one story – her grandfather had always called it cozy. It had three bedrooms and two full baths. The bath in the master bedroom had the jet tub and separate shower. There was a kitchen, an eating area, a storage area, a laundry room, a study, and a sunroom that had an open porch off the French doors. There was also a formal dining area, though it was rarely used. Quite a lot compacted into a small place.
Since the cabin hadn’t been used since last spring, Rohana knew that the only thing she’d find would be towels and a small first aid kit. She grabbed the kit, soaked a hand-towel in hot water, grabbed a few dry towels, and headed back into the living room. He was still sitting there.
She hadn’t been sure if she expected something else, but it was better than walking back in and him not being there. She set the items down on the sofa beside him.
Opening the kit she pulled out a small pair of scissors. She gently pulled the tail of the shirt out of his waistband and began cutting it up the middle. The shirt was form-fitting, so she cut very carefully so as not to injure him further. The shirt was grimy and looked like it was soaked in blood, but she only saw the one wound on him. Once she managed to peel sections of the shirt off of him, she straightened up again and tilted her head to the right.
Truth was, she really had no idea what she was doing.
Rohana had learned the basics of first aid in 4-H and later in high school health class but beyond that, she knew nothing else. Well, she’d start with cleaning the wound. Gently she laid the wet towel down on the wound and let it soften up the dried blood. Then she patted it off, softly wiping it away from the wound. Once it was clean it was easier to see.
It didn’t look as bad as she had prepared herself for. Instead of some gaping hole it looked more like a stab wound. She tried desperately to remember anatomy from tenth
grade science. Had the knife gone through anything vital? She felt his forehead and then
his cheeks. He wasn’t feverish, nor did he have
a grey pallor.
“Have you been nauseous or throwing up?” He shook his head. “Look, I’m not a doctor, but I don’t think anything vital was hit. It looks like it just went through muscle and you are weak from loss of blood. However....there’s always concern for infection.” Rohana rummaged around in the first aid kit.
“Now...” She said while opening up the antiseptic packet, “this might sting a bit.” She first wiped off the area carefully with the small alcohol soaked cotton square, then opened the antibiotic ointment. Rohana smeared it over the wound, squeezing the entire packet. Better safe than sorry, she thought. Then she cut up the sterile gauze into a large strip to cover the wound and taped it down with the white cloth tape. Then she fished out a packet of two aspirin and said, “Would you like these for the pain?”
“No,” he replied. “I can’t take it.”
There was nothing left to do but to make him comfortable. Rohana went into one of the smaller bedrooms. It was neatly decorated in shades of light blue. Like the rest of the cabin, it had hardwood floors with the area rug rolled up and along the far wall. A double-sized oak bed and matching dresser, cedar trunk and two oak nightstands with small lamps were the only furnishings in the room. Rohana pulled a pair of sheets out of the shelf in the closet and quickly made up the bed. Pillows were stored
in the cedar trunk. She pulled them out, put the matching pillow cases on them, then fluffed them and put them at the head of the bed. Then she went back to the closet and found a light summer blanket. When she returned to the living room he had shifted slightly, sitting up more. She offered him her hand.
“C’mon, let’s get you in bed.” She walked him to the side of the bed and sat him down and pulled off his tall black suede boots and helped him swing his legs onto the bed. Once he was settled down Rohana pulled the blanket over him. She stepped back. “I really ought to call 911,” she said again.
“If I’m worse by morning, you can.”
“Hang on, I’ll get you some water.” Rohana went into the kitchen and washed the dust out of a glass and refilled it with fresh water. Remembering her own supper, she went and fished the straw out of the bag and stripped the paper off and put it in the glass. Then she took it back into her patient and held it while he took a long drink.
“Thanks,” he said. It was then that she noticed his deep purple eyes. “Sorry about all the mess.”
“Hmph. Just get some rest.” She quit the room, leaving the door cracked so she could hear him if he called out. Then she set about cleaning the blood off the hardwood floors.
Her grandfather had built this cabin long
before Rohana was born...long before her mother was born, actually. He had always loved the Adirondacks and would bring his family here every summer for two weeks of rural living. When his kids grew up and married, he’d allow them to use the cabin for vacations – either in the summer or the winter.
Three months ago Rohana’s fiancé had gone missing. There had been much made about the search -son of a prominent Buffalo politician had vanished. No ransom note, no...nothing. He had left his parents’ house on Friday and was heading to her apartment and never showed up. Four weeks ago she lost her job. The official reason was downsizing, though Rohana knew the real reason was the press circus that was following her around. A week ago her old Fiesta finally gave up the ghost and blew
its engine. And now, for all she knew, she had just treated the man who may decide to murder her in her sleep because “she had seen too much.” When it rains, it pours.
It had been her grandfather who had suggested that she use the cabin. Nobody had laid claim to it for the summer so he loaned her his car and told her to give up her apartment, put in for a change of address, and move into the cabin for as long as she needed it. He had done the same thing for a cousin when she divorced, and for her brother when he was getting a bit out of control. The mountain air must have been
good for them as they came back refreshed and renewed. Rohana didn’t hesitate. Her grandparents had two cars but really only drove one, so she knew she wouldn’t be leaving him stranded. She had really been looking forward to time away from the reporters.
She had planned on heading to Syracuse tomorrow to stock up on groceries and other items she’d need while she stayed there. The only thing she had with her tonight was her clothes and craft supplies and a sandwich she had picked up from the deli on the way. It was her grandfather who also suggested she get back to jewelry making. He had always felt like Andrew had really discouraged Rohana’s creative side. Maybe he was right. An attorney didn’t need an oddball for a fiancée or a wife.
Much of Rohana’s look that she had in college was gone. She wore her long black hair straight, parted in the middle, falling midway down her back. She had her grandfather’s grey eyes and her mother’s small nose and oval face. She had a small frame and a small waist with hips that flared out. It gave her a slight hour-glass figure that she was secretly glad she had. Much better than the slim boy-figure, she always thought. When she was younger she liked to show it off with wild colors and short skirts. Now she dressed conservatively. Even her casual clothes were stylish but plain.
Rohana decided to get her bags in before
dark and began the task of carting in her suitcases and craft case. She put them directly into the master bedroom and left them on the floor. She went out once more to make sure the car was locked, then made sure the doors were locked. As she was examining each room, she found where he had broken in.
Other than the front door, the only other entrance was through the double French doors in the sunroom that led to the back porch. One of the small panes of glass by the doorknob had been broken. He must have busted the glass, reached in, and unlocked the door. Rohana went to the storage room and found cleaning supplies –the basics: broom, dustpan, mop, bucket. Then going back into the sunroom, she swept up the glass. She could see the trail of dripping blood leading into the living room. She diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap in water and began to mop up the blood.
Once the sunroom was finished she wondered about how to secure the door. She’d have to get it fixed, of course – she’d call her grandfather and ask him whom he used – but in the meantime, something needed to be done now. It bothered her that she wouldn’t be able to lock the door up tonight – who knew if the person or persons who did this to this man were still lurking out there? The door that was broken into led out to the back porch, which
overlooked the vast back yard. Lots of trees and
places to hide. Hell, they might even be out there now, watching me, she thought.
It was getting dark quick.
Rohana put her hands on her hips and took a look around the room. She spotted the futon in the corner. Made with a heavy wooden frame, it would make the perfect barrier. After a great deal of coaxing and swearing, she finally managed to shove the futon in front of the French doors. Then she set about cleaning up the rest of the blood.
Most of it was splatters where he had crossed the sunroom to the living room. The majority of it was where he had been lying when she had come in. Rohana got down on her hands and knees and put a little elbow grease into her efforts. Then she scooted the sofa back a few inches to get the spots under there when she saw it.
It was encased in a black lacquer sheath that had elaborate amethyst work inlaid in a Celtic knot design. The hilt was wrapped in cris-cross purple silk and black lacings and topped with an iron cap. It had an iron hilt that was, upon inspection, a flat Celtic knot. It was a katana style sword and it looked rather old. Was it his...or did he steal it? Clearly he had hidden it...but why? She pulled the blade out of its sheath and it was speckled with blood. His? Or someone else’s? This...she would not clean up. She sheathed the sword and laid it on
the sofa. Then she sat down on an easy chair across from the sofa and stared at it.
A sword? Who the hell uses a sword anymore? It has to be an antique of some kind, but why carry it with you and why use it? She remembered that she had passed signs for the Sherwood Medieval Faire on the way here...could he be someone from there? Was he one of those actors, or was he one of those who would dress up and go to the Faire? Had he been mugged? The Faire was at least fifteen miles from here – perhaps someone drove him all the way here, beat him up, robbed him...and he escaped by using his sword.
Suddenly she felt the need for some kind of weapon. She remembered that her grandfather, always very organized, used to keep sporting equipment in the storage room for the kids to play with when they were here. Rohana went into the storage area and found a nice, solid wooden baseball bat. She gave it a few test swings and nodded as if she found the weight acceptable. It was one of those things you did when you were pretty sure you were alone but just in case someone was actually watching you, they’d think, “oh...that girl must really know her baseball bats. Better not mess with her.” Silly, yes. But also comforting.
Her phone rang. Rohana jumped, startled by the sound. Quickly she fumbled for
her bag and dug it out, checking the number
while answering it.
“Hi, Grandpa,” she said. Damn it, I forgot to call him when I arrived.
“Ro...I hadn’t heard from you. Have you made it to the cabin?” Her grandfather’s booming, friendly voice always made her feel better.
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“Everything in order there?”
Now would be the time to tell him. If ever there was a time to say something, now would be the time to do it. “Yep, everything’s fine,” She found herself saying.
“What happened, sweetie? You sound a bit shook up.”
“Oh, nothing. Everything’s fine.” Chick fine, which means that nothing is fine. If the next words her grandfather said were, “did you find a half-dead stranger in the house?” she would not lie to him. However, he said instead:
“More spiders than you thought, eh?”
“Yeah,” She replied meekly.
He chuckled. “I know my Ro-ro! I’ll let you get back to settling in.”
"OK. Hey, Grandpa? Thanks for everything.” Then she added, “I love you.”
“Love you too, Rohana.” Then there was dead air. She hit END, laid down the phone and picked up the bat. She decided to check all the windows and both doors one more time, then went in to check on her guest.
He was sleeping, looking a bit better than when she first found him. In fact, he almost looked as if color was starting to return to his cheeks. The blanket had shifted slightly, so she pulled it back up to cover up his shoulders... and noticed his ears. When she first saw him his hair had covered them, but now it had fallen away and exposed them. They where longer than most ears and curved up at the tip and ended at a point. There were two iron hoop earrings in the lobe.
Unable to stop herself, Rohana reached out her hand and two of her fingers lightly traced his ear. Then she snatched her hand back in horror, scanning him for signs that she had woken him up. He continued to sleep. She backed up slowly and left silently – again leaving the door ajar. He has to be from that Faire, she thought.
Rohana sat down on an easy chair, laid the bat across her lap, and fished the remote out of the drawer in the end table. Perhaps there would be something on the news about....
About what? An escaped criminal? A missing person? Maybe anything to make her feel like she wasn’t stupid for helping this guy. But there was nothing. Nothing on national news, nothing on the closest local news channel. Her mind went back to the man in the bedroom.
Violet eyes, white hair, and pointed ears? He didn’t sound foreign when he spoke. She didn’t
even know of any foreign countries that had those characteristics.
What if he was a drug addict who was roughed up because he didn’t pay his dealer? What if his dealer was still out there looking for him? What if he was a carjack victim and escaped and the crook was still out there looking for him?
Finally Rohana turned off the TV and went into her room. Bags still scattered everywhere, bed unmade, she found a blanket and pillow and curled up on the bed, cuddling the bat. She woke up three times thinking she heard a noise. The fourth time she woke up there was morning light was pouring in the window. This time, however, she knew it wasn’t her imagination. There was someone moving around in the house.