Jim McBride knew his wife was pissed; he just wasn’t sure what had set her off this time. The sound of slamming doors that bombarded his ears indicated that whoever she was mad at would receive her full wrath. He was glad it wasn’t him. It didn’t even cross his mind that he would be the cause of all that racket. He wasn’t even sure that she thought about him at all. She didn’t seem to care enough about him to get mad at him. She had plenty of producers and cameramen and hapless assistants upon whom to vent her anger. Their relationship had been strained for several years, especially once the last of their children had left the house to pursue their own lives. But throughout their marriage, Jim had always accepted the mood swings. They seemed to be part of being married to a celebrity, or at least that’s how it had been for as long as he could remember.
So, sitting in his office, he poured himself an after-dinner brandy and opened the New York Times website on his laptop. He settled into the big cushy leather chair that sat behind his desk and started to read about the day’s events. It didn’t take long before the warmth from the fire in the hearth, and the warmth from the brandy in his belly, worked their magic, and he drifted off to sleep.
Jim awoke with a start, and in his foggy mind, he realized two things that made him believe that this time Barb, his wife, was pissed at him. The first was when she threw open the glass panel door that closed him off from the world and three panes of glass shattered when the door hit the wall. The second indicator that he was in deep shit was the fire that raged in her eyes. He couldn’t remember if he had ever seen her that angry, and he could feel the fear of what was about to happen well up inside him. The full glass of wine she threw at him was the cherry on top of all that anger.
The wineglass bounced off the back of the leather chair, spraying wine all over him and the desk, and continued until it met the river-rock fireplace and shattered against the stones, spilling what was left of the wine down the front of the hearth.
“What the hell, Barb?”
“Don’t you what the hell Barb me, you son of a bitch. How dare you?” she yelled.
“How dare I what? Why don’t you calm down and tell me what’s going on?”
Jim knew before the words were out of his mouth that he’d made a huge mistake. He turned away from her and started to wipe the wine off his laptop screen.
Barb walked to the edge of his desk and threw a handful of papers across the desk.
“How dare you bring this filth into my house? Have you no shame?”
Jim picked up the papers and leafed through them, and his eyes got as big as saucers. He could not believe what he was looking at. The papers were pictures of children, pornographic pictures of children, and it momentarily stunned him.
“Whe . . . Where did you get these? These are disgusting.”
The warmth he had experienced earlier was gone, and all that was left was confusion.
“Someone emailed those to me. Probably one of your pervert friends. What the fuck is wrong with you. I’m right in the middle of an exposé on child porn, and you have the balls to be involved in something like this.”
“I have no idea what these are. I would never be involved in something like this,” he said.
Barb didn’t seem convinced, and she threw down the last piece of paper she held in her hand. Jim picked up the picture and felt like he wanted to vomit. The picture was a young girl, no older than fourteen or fifteen, and she was sitting half-naked on his bed. Barb had recognized the picture on the wall over the bed.
Disgust and revulsion showed on his face and he raised his hand to his mouth. He didn’t have a clue how to respond.
“I have never seen this girl before, and I have no idea how you got a picture of her sitting on my bed.”
“You should be ashamed of yourself. You are a disgusting pig, and I want nothing else to do with you.”
“Barb, I would never do something like this.”
She stared at him with disgust and disbelief.
“I should call the sheriff right now and have you arrested, you pig. You and your friends are the lowest forms of humanity, and when I am finished investigating you, your pathetic life will be worthless.”
Barb turned and walked out of his office, grabbed her coat off the hook in the hallway and picked up her overnight bag, which she had left at the foot of the stairs.
“I’m going to spend a couple nights at my sister’s. I want you gone when I come back, or I swear to god, my first call will be to the sheriff.”
“Barb, wait. Let’s talk about this first. I am sure there’s a reason for all this. We need . . .”
He heard the front door slam, and the sound reverberated through the house. He sat and leafed through the pictures on his desk. He had no idea who would have sent these or why. He had never seen Barb that angry and he wasn’t sure what to do next. He poured himself another brandy, finished wiping the wine off his desk and sat back in his chair. He thought about going after her, but it was apparent she was not in a mood to talk. Maybe a few days at her sister’s would be good.
Her car pulled out of the garage and he sensed the garage door closing, and then she was past the house and flying up the road towards the highway. He took a long drink, sat back and closed his eyes.
Barb had never felt so humiliated in her life. You would have thought after all those years of marriage you would know someone, but that was not the case, and she wasn’t sure what she was going to do about it. She should call the sheriff and have Jim arrested. It wouldn’t be a big loss since he was basically worthless anyway, but deep inside she still loved him, and she was having a hard time believing he would be involved in something like this. She would decide what to do once she had a chance to cool off and talk to her sister.
She threw her overnight bag in the trunk, slid into her car, started it and pulled out of the garage, pushing the button to close the door as she left. She drove past the house and then headed down the dirt road towards Highway 9.
As she approached the end of her road, she didn’t see any oncoming lights, and she blasted onto the highway, fishtailing as she went. Light snow was beginning to fall, and she hoped she would be able to make the hour-and-a-half drive to Steamboat Springs before the roads got bad. She hated driving over Rabbit Ear’s Pass in the snow, especially at night.
She had driven about five miles north of the ranch and was approaching the South Cow Creek campground at Green Mountain Reservoir when the lights in the car flickered, and the engine died, plunging her into complete darkness. She managed to steer the car over to the shoulder before she lost all her momentum.
“Shit. What now?” she said out loud.
She stepped on the brake and pushed the start button, and nothing happened.
“This is all I need,” she thought to herself. “The damn car is only two years old. What the hell?”
She reached for her purse and pulled out her cell phone, but when she pushed the button to activate the screen, it also appeared dead. She felt alone on an empty stretch of highway, and the snow was getting worse. She considered her options, which were not good, but the best option was to walk back to the house. She hated that idea, and besides, she wasn’t dressed for a long walk in the snow. She decided to wait it out and hope someone would come along.
She didn’t have to wait long before her prayers were answered, and a pair of headlights pulled onto the shoulder behind her. Now, Barb was no dummy. She knew better than to open her door to just anyone, but opening the door was her only option as she had no power to the windows, so she waited until what she hoped was a Good Samaritan walked up to her door.
The man walked up and tapped on her window.
“Barb, are you all right?”
She was so relieved to see who it was that she set her phone down on the console and opened her door.
“Thank god. I’m not sure what happened. The car just died, and so did my phone. Can you give me a ride back to the house?”
“Sure can,” he said. “See if it will start now. Maybe it needed to sit for a minute.”
Barb stepped on the brake and pushed the start button, and the engine started right away.
“What the hell?” she said. “It was deader than a doornail.”
She was about to thank the Good Samaritan when he reached a huge hand behind her head and in one swift move slammed her forehead into the steering wheel. The blow was so hard that it cracked the top of the steering wheel. It took two more blows to knock her out.
The Good Samaritan checked the highway in both directions and didn’t see any lights coming from either direction. He reached across the unconscious Barb, picked up her cell phone and pulled her laptop out of her purse. He walked back and put them on the seat of his truck and then returned to the car. The car had stopped precisely where he wanted it to stop.
This section of Highway 9 skirted one of the finger inlets that made up the east side of the reservoir. The guardrail covered the area that was open to the lake below, and there was just enough room to roll the car past the guardrail, where it would plummet the forty feet into the reservoir below.
He put the car in gear and, checking once more up and down the highway, pushed the car past the end of the guardrail and stopped it at the edge of the drop-off. The reservoir was still frozen, but he hoped that enough of the thaw had occurred to make the ice thin enough so the car would crash right through it. He was confident that the snowfall that was under way would cover the hole in the ice.
With one last look up and down the empty highway, he closed the door, walked behind the car and gave it a shove. With a grinding of metal against rock, the car bounced over the edge and rolled down the side of the reservoir, crashing into the ice with a loud bang, and after a second’s hesitation, broke through the ice and disappeared beneath the surface. He stood on the shoulder of the road and watched until the taillights blinked off.
Comforted in knowing that Barb had not fallen out of the car or revived enough to swim out of it, he turned, walked back to his truck, did a U-turn and left the scene.