I do not know how long I stayed at the hospital. Samantha was still unconscious. The police found no clue where Bobbi was. Eventually, I returned home thinking maybe, I don’t know, maybe Bobbi would show up.
I found my new friend Donner Rothskeg sitting in the doorway. Just sitting. Watching as he had promised to do when I rode to the hospital with my wife. He stood at my approach. “My friend. Is your woman well?”
“The doctors said she’ll be okay.” I wiped my face with both hands. “They are not so certain about the baby. Oh, God, I need to be back there but…”
Donner put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed gently. “She would not thank you, I think, if you turned your back on your little one for her sake.”
“No, you’re right. But what can I do?”
“That I do not know, but–” He turned me so that I was facing the wall. “Behold.” Written on the wall were letters in, oh god was that blood?
“I do not understand.”
“That message is for me. He has…” Donner stopped and looked past me. I turned.
Near the fence stood another coyote. It seemed to be watching us. Behind me I sensed Donner stooping. A moment later he stepped past me and hurled something, a rock. The rock struck the coyote in the hindquarters, knocking its rear legs out from under it. As the coyote struggled to rise, Donner sprinted. His hand closed on the scruff of the coyote’s neck and he lifted it at arms length.
The coyote struggled, snapping and clawing. Donner shook it once and the coyote went limp.
“Where is your master?” Donner asked. I knew then he had gone crazy.
“It’s just an animal,” I said. “It can’t talk.”
Short barks, almost like laughter emerged from the coyote’s mouth. Then, clear as day, I heard, “You travel with fools, thunderer.”
“As do you, Trickster’s Servant,” Donner said. “As do you.”
Was Donner a ventriloquist?
“Tell me,” Donner said. “Or must I start breaking your bones?”
“Release me and I will tell you.”
At this point I finally understood. It was not Donner who had gone mad. It was I.
“Trickster’s word?” Donner laughed. “Do you think I am a fool?”
“Very well,” the coyote said. “I swear by Coyote, my master, by Raven the trickster, and by the Great Sky Spirit to take you to Coyote my master.” The coyote laughed again. “After all, he wants to see you.”
Donner looked at the writing on the wall then back at the coyote.
Once more the coyote laughed. “He changed his mind. What do you expect? I was sent to invite you. None of this was necessary.”
Donner gave the coyote another shake then released it. The coyote fell to the ground with a yip. It came to its feet, sat, and licked its hindquarters.
Donner turned to me. “I must follow this beast and see…”
“But what about Bobbi?”
“This one’s master has your little girl, I think. I will–”
“We will.” I sighed. “I may have lost my mind, but if you think they’ve got Bobbi.”
“Very well then. Together.” He held out a hand, when I reached back to take it, he moved, clasping not hand to hand, but hand to forearm. I returned the grip. It was like grasping a bar of iron.