Jack was driving, and for the first time in forever it was Brady who sat in the passenger seat instead of Stacey. Normally he moved for her when Jack took the wheel, but Brady hadn't even noticed when Theo had moved to the back seat and Jack had started driving. There was too much going through his mind for him to even realize that they had pulled off to the side of the road.
And the whole time Brady could think of nothing but the growing anxiety in his heart. He had tried calling Silas multiple times, but nothing had come of it. Silas hadn't called him back, either, which either meant that he was already in serious trouble or that something had simply happened to his phone.
Or there was also the possibility that Silas didn't want to talk to him, which was almost as bad as the first option. He didn't want to consider that possibility, and knew that there was little evidence to support that fact, but that didn't mean it wasn't hanging on the edge of his mind, teasing and tormenting him as it threatened to drain away the last bit of his sanity.
They had just made it into the mountains and he looked at his phone, wondering if he should try and call again when he noticed that he didn't have a signal. Even if Silas tried to call him it wouldn't do any good. He let the phone fall limp in his hand and almost dropped it to the floor of the van but barely managed to catch it before it slid completely from his grasp.
The snow was falling around the van in sheets of white, and he knew that the storm was likely to slow their progress. He wondered if it was snowing in Crow's Lake, and if the weather were somehow going to be the cause of whatever misfortune was about to befall Silas. It took all of his willpower to suppress the scream of rage building up inside him at the futility of it all. Nothing was going to sate his agitated nerves until he saw Silas again.
"God dammit!" Jack said as he fiddled with the radio and was met with static at every station. "Between the mountains and the storm we're not getting anything."
"That's good, I don't want the noise right now," Brady muttered. "It would just distract me."
"That is exactly what you need, Brady," Jack said with a chuckle. "You've been high strung ever since we left the hotel. I know you think something bad is about to happen to your lover, but you worrying isn't going to solve anything."
"Hey, he's hardly my lover, Jack," Brady said with a glare. "And you should know that I'm going to worry anyway. Every single time that I've had a feeling like this it's come true, so don't tell me not to worry."
"I'm sorry, jeesh," Jack replied, shaking his head. "I suppose you don't want to hear me tell you that everything is going to be all right, either?"
"No, that would just make me want to bite your head off," Brady said with a roll of his eyes. "You know, you're entirely too optimistic."
"And you're entirely too pessimistic," Jack replied immediately. "Brady, we're going to be there in a few hours. We've made good time, and despite the snow we're going to make it before midnight or a little bit after. We can find him in the morning."
"Yeah, whatever," Brady said with a shrug, "I just wish . . . Jack, look out!"
Jack applied the brakes gently as he too saw the red brake lights glaring through the snow at them. There was a long line of cars stopped on the highway, and all four lanes seemed backed up to varying lengths, though those lanes were all filling up quickly. They were in the second lane from the side of the road, and a car pulled up and stopped in the outer lane, then two more filled up on their other side. Within a matter of seconds they were boxed in, and no one was moving.
"What the hell?" Jack asked as he kept his foot on the brake and moved his head to the side, trying to get an angle on what was happening in front of them. "Is there an accident or something?"
"Just what we need! Bah!" Brady said as he punched the dashboard, which opened the glove compartment and made it slam hard into his knees. "God dammit!" He shouted and then slammed the glove compartment closed. The force was too much and the compartment opened again, slamming him in the knees a second time. "Argh!" He growled and then with tensed hands he closed the compartment slowly and firmly, and then clenched his fists as he pulled them away and folded his hands in his lap.
"Braids, what the fuck?" Theo asked and then immediately yawned. "I was having the best dream ever, and suddenly I'm woken up by your shouting."
"Yeah," Stacey yawned. "What's the matter with you? I've never even seen you angry before. Is this from all your years of pent up rage? Are you about to enter your angry period and make us thousands from the dark lyrics you're going to write?"
"Stacey," Jack said with a frown, "You can't talk down about Braids like that. He's going to make us millions, not thousands. He's way too angry not to."
"You guys are fucked up," Theo interjected, "We can't abuse Brady's anger like that! It's not about the money we'll make, and that cheapens the whole experience. Think of the fans! And the ladies that will want me to sign their breasts!"
"The bassist never gets those kinds of ladies," Jack pointed out. "Only the singer and the guitarist do, and last I checked the guitarist isn't going to let the singer do any breast-signings."
Brady shook his head at his friends' antics and said, "You guys are horrible, but I love you. Don't worry about my anger now, worry about how angry and dark I'll be if we don't get there in time."
"We'll try not to," Stacey replied, "But you know we're just concerned for you, right?"
"Yeah, I get it," Brady said with a sigh. "I'll try to calm down and keep it cool."
"Well, with this snow you shouldn't have a problem," Jack said with a chuckle. "I wonder why we still haven't moved."
"Maybe I'll get out and look?" Brady offered. "I hate it when it snows in spring, but I guess it goes to show that mountain weather is always unpredictable."
"Yeah, maybe we should all get out and take a look," Theo offered, "Except one of us should stay with the van. One two three not it!"
"Not it!" Stacey chimed in.
Jack glanced over at Brady and said, "I'm staying, so you might as well go check it out. It was your idea, so I'm not going until someone else comes back."
"Got it," Brady said. "Thanks, Jack."
"You bet, brother," Jack replied with a grin.
Theo and Stacey were already climbing out into the snow when Brady opened his door to join them. As he put his feet on the road he turned and looked down the long road of cars, squinting to see if there was any end in sight. He could just make out flashing lights in the distance and he pointed them out to Theo and then Stacey before closing his door.
"Looks like the authorities are here," Brady said, "so perhaps we can get some answers."
"Lead the way, oh angry one," Theo said with a dramatic bow and a wave of his hand.
Brady chuckled dryly and started walking toward the flashing lights all the while watching the cars to see if there was any indication that they had started moving. From the layer of snow on some of the vehicles closest to the flashing lights he was sure they had been there awhile, though how long remained to be determined.
Theo and Stacey kept pace with him until they reached the first in the line of cars and saw the police officers blocking the road so that the ambulances on the other side of the accident could work without any interruption. Seven vehicles including a tractor-trailer were among the wreckage, and four of the vehicles were completely totaled. Paramedics were still working over several injured people, and still more people were talking with several highway patrol officers by the side of the road.
Another officer in a thick winter coat turned toward Brady as he reached the end of the cars. He held up his hand to stop Brady from going any further and then said, "Let me guess, you're in a big hurry and you need to get through, and you're about to ask how long it's going to take to clear this up."
"Actually, yes," Theo said as he joined Brady. "All of that."
"Well, you're going to be stuck here for a while," the officer said with a roll of his eyes. "We haven't even been able to get the tow trucks here yet, and before we do we still have to finish getting statements and taking care of the injured, and you see that semi?"
"Yeah," Theo said as he squinted through the snow. "What about it?"
"We're going to have to tow that as well. An SUV smashed into the other side of the engine and it's not going anywhere anytime soon," the officer explained. "We understand that it is inconvenient, but there is nothing we can do about it, so please get back in your vehicles and wait until the line starts moving again. As soon as we have a lane clear we'll start getting people through."
Brady sighed and turned around to start walking back toward the van with Theo right behind him. "Thank you, officer," Stacey said politely before rushing to join them. She fell in step beside Brady and slipped her gloved hand into his own. "Brady, it's going to be all right," she said with a smile. "Don't worry, okay?"
"Yeah, that isn't going to happen," Brady said as he glanced over his shoulder toward the accident. "I see those injured people right now and I can't help but think that Drake is in a situation that's just as bad."
"I'm sure that he's all right, Braids," Theo said as he laid a comforting hand on his shoulder. "The kid is strong enough to survive anything."
"I know he's strong, Theo," Brady said with a sigh, "But I can't shake the feeling that his life is in danger. I'll never forgive myself if something happens, because we're the ones that abandoned him in Crow's Lake. We're the ones that . . . we should have been there for him."
"And we will be, Brady," Stacey said with a smile. "You'll see him again, and you'll realize that all of this worrying has been for nothing. Don't forget that the Navigator always finds a way."
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