I have had a friend for many years who advised me that if I ever needed help all I have to do is look around, find a person, and ask. At the time, I smiled and claimed I understood, and yet the thought of needing assistance from a stranger rankled. (In fact, I struggled with asking loved ones for help.)
Still, Laurie insisted that it worked every time. Note that when we met, Laurie was confined to a wheelchair, the result of an accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Still, it didn’t seem to slow her down. I watched her play wheelchair tennis and we skied together, with her guiding her sled down the mountain using short, modified poles, something she sometimes did attached to blind skiers, so that they too might experience the thrill of skiing. Laurie has worked her whole life, traveled the world, and not too long ago I watched as she rolled across a stage to accept her PhD.
Recently, I thought of her advice. A badly broken leg that required surgical repair had me homebound for several months. A knee scooter became my prime mode of transportation. When the doctor informed me that I was free to walk in my big, plastic boot, I was thrilled, but my enthusiasm dampened the moment I took my first step.
It hurt! A lot! Kind of like I was breaking my leg all over again. Day after day, I tried, but after several weeks, my leg didn’t feel much better. I finally began to believe the doctor’s prognosis that it would take six to tweleve months for me to get back to normal.
When my sweetie pie, who’d been tending to my needs, got a very bad cold, we both agreed he should stay home, so I wouldn’t get sick, as well. The time had come for me to figure things out myself.
Determined to get back into the world on my own, I hobbled to my car and drove to the health club, grateful that my left leg is the mangled appendage. I leaned heavily on my cane and walked the few steps to the trunk of my car where I managed to pull out my scooter. The wheels were unwieldly and I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to get it back in the car. I muddled that problem over in the pool, where, as you might expect, walking was so much easier. Ah….
As I was leaving the club, I asked the young man at the desk if he could help me.
“Of course!” He graced me with a beautiful smile. After he got my scooter situated, he helped me to the driverseat, and offered me a fist bump before waving me off.
That felt so nice that I tried it again on the man who does security in the Trader Joe’s parking lot. Again, a lovely smile. “Happy to help!”
It went that way the rest of the day. My favorite was the eleven-year-old girl who smiled shyly at me as I scooted through the grocery store. After passing by, she did an about face and approached me. “Can I get anything for you, ma’am?” She looked so sweet and earnest.
“How nice of you to ask,” I said. “But I already have everything I need.”
She smiled, nodded, and bounced away.
After another gentleman in the parking lot pushed my scooter into the truck and waved, I sat there thinking about people in general. As an avid consumer of the news, I sometimes get disillusioned about mankind. But now I know most people are nice. They want to help. And, as Laurie taught me, all you have to do is ask.
Ancient ruins, haunted memories, and a ruthless criminal combine with a touch of mystic presence in this taut mystery about a crime we all must address.
Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Suspense
September 13, 2021
Maggie, a National Park Ranger of Native American descent, is back at The Castle—a six-hundred-year-old pueblo carved into a limestone cliff in Arizona’s Verde Valley. Maggie, who suffers from depression, has been through several traumas: the gang rape she suffered while in the Coast Guard, the sudden death of her ten-year-old son, and a suicide attempt.
One evening, she chases a young Native American boy through the park and gasps as he climbs the face of The Castle cliff and disappears into the pueblo. When searchers find no child, Maggie’s friends believe she’s suffering from depression-induced hallucinations.
Maggie has several men in her life. The baker, newcomer Jim Casey, who always greets her with a warm smile and pink boxes filled with sweet delicacies. Brett Collins, a scuba diver who is doing scientific studies in Montezuma Well, a dangerous cylindrical depression that houses strange creatures found nowhere else on Earth. Dave, an amiable waiter with whom she’s had a one-night stand, and her new boss Glen.
One of these men is a serial rapist and Maggie is his next target. In a thrilling and terrifying denouement, Maggie faces her rapist and conquers her worst fears once and for all.
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