Harry's Long Day
Chapter 1: A Request and Day Trip*
4 AM … An Albuquerque Subdivision
The phone's ringtone made Harry Roybal-Anderson twist his mouth in annoyance. Much as he liked a certain show's theme tune (it tended to get stuck in his head and he was known for humming it as he perused books – even in the library), it could be annoying at times. Like now, for instance, jerking Harry out of a deep slumber. At least it was the 1980 version. Fumbling for his glasses, Harry squinted first at his alarm clock then at the caller id on his phone. Terrel Roybal and his cousin's cell number. Hmph.
"Yeah? I hope you've got a good reason for calling me at four in the morning Terry."
"Oh hey Harry," Terry sounded excited, nervous and upset. "I, uhm, look could you come to Chaco Canyon this morning? I really need to talk to you. In person. Please?" There was a note of pleading in his cousin's voice that bothered Harry. It was not a normal tone for his normally confident cousin.
"Can't it wait Terry? I have plans this afternoon with Erin." Erin Otero was a long time friend of both Harry and Terry.
"Please, Harry. You know I wouldn't ask if it weren't so important. I have some news I need to tell you, and, uhm, I need you to talk to mom about it for me." Aunt Matti could be a holy terror when it came to her only son. If Terry could not speak directly to his own mother, with whom he had a fairly good relationship, then there really was something up. Harry let out a deep sigh.
"Okay, Terry. You know you are one of the two people I would do this sort of thing for, right?"
The wealth of relief coming from the other end of the phone, even over a cell phone, was palpable. "Thanks Harry! You'll know where I am when you get up here. I really appreciate this."
"Yeah, yeah. You owe me cuz." Harry pushed the covers off, stood from the bed and headed for the closet. "It'll be close to 7 am or so before I get out there. I need to get some coffee down my throat and get something to eat. I'll be there as soon as I can." He clicked off the phone and tossed it among the bedclothes.
Fifteen minutes later, a mug of coffee and a couple of breakfast bars in hand and his hiking kit slung over one shoulder, Harry was in the car and headed northwest from Albuquerque to meet with his cousin.
7 AM … Chaco Canyon National Historical Park
The early morning sun was just rising high enough to cast long shadows into the canyon and just barely touching top of Harry's head. Overhead, the sky was a silvery blue which would darken as the sun rose higher. This late in summer the air held a hint of humidity and though the sky was clear, there would no doubt be clouds gathering later in the day.
Though Harry had a hat to cover his dark red hair and his annoyingly light skin, right now it hung on its strings bouncing on his back in a comfortable manner. A bottle of water bounced at his side along with a side pack, filled with hiking snacks, a handkerchief, a small first aid kit and his id, money, cell phone and keys. The coat he wore, a light-weight, ankle-length duster, was warm in the early morning chill, his shadow just a suggestion to his left as he hiked northward along the canyon, the coat the flapping like bat's wings. His glasses rode high on his nose over a pair of dark inquisitive eyes.
Harry was not a happy person right now. His stride, long and lanky like his frame, was fast and hard. He ignored the majestic ruins that lined the canyon walls, even his personal favorite Casa Bonita, went by without a glance.
Why he kept getting caught up his cousin's troubles was something that left him flabbergasted. At least this time it was not Erin's fault thankfully. She had a knack for getting into the oddest … situations, he supposed was the best way to put it. Right now, however, his best friend was safely back in Albuquerque, some 100 plus miles southeast of his current position, probably just beginning to wake up, though hopefully still asleep, seeing as how the sun was just really starting to come over the top of the mesa to his right. No, this time, the problem had originated with the other person who could get himself into interesting situations.
"Hey! Excuse me!" A voice rang out behind him. It echoed through the canyon in the crystal air.
Harry stopped with a slight frown and turned to see a tall, leggy blond chasing after him, her hair bouncing on her back in a pony tail. She smiled excitedly as she came nearer, her eyes obviously liking what she saw. Harry hid a growl of annoyance behind a bland smile, politely waiting for her to catch up. He really did not have time to play this game right now, but resisted the temptation to use a charm to chase her away. In truth, though, she was most definitely not his type. Instead, he fell back on an even simpler method.
"May I help you?" He spoke with a certain amount of coolness of tone to let her know she was interrupting his constitutional.
The blond girl's grin slipped a bit, but she pushed beyond it determinedly. "I was wondering if you'd like a hiking partner." She was a little more blatant in her appraisal this time, her smile warming her face. Harry noted that she was pretty in her way, but felt that she was the type of girl who would be happier with a football player than an admitted nerd, which would be him. Then he wondered at the quick flash of guilt which accompanied the thought.
"Thank you for the offer," he said politely. "However, I am meeting a friend in a little while and I don't think he would like it if I showed up with an unexpected … guest in tow." Which was true in a way, he thought.
The girl's face went frigid for a moment before she got herself under control. "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." Harry suppressed his smile as his sharp ears caught her muttering something that was most definitely not complementary and having to do with his orientation. Then the young lady was stomping off northeastward across the canyon; her stiff gait spoke of profound embarrassment.
Harry felt another flash of contrition, this time at misleading the girl, quickly followed by a flash of annoyance which left him puzzled. Was he that sensitive? Or perhaps he was being insensitive. Not sure what to make of the conversation, Harry decided he would ponder things later, when he actually had time. He had somewhere to be after all.
He turned back to his original path, following a split off to the northwest, which curled away from the main trail and around to another, smaller, canyon, to where he would meet his cousin and long time friend Terry.
Harry sensed Terrel's presence long before he saw him, lurking around the bend in the path which would lead to another canyon with lesser known ruins. There was something extra added to Terrel's presence, a resonance which had not been there before. Stopping for a moment, Harry allowed his shields to lower enough to get a sense of the difference – not bad, just different, perhaps more happy? Or something deeper, he thought. About a mile from his current location, give or take.
Terrel Roybal stood at the opening of an even smaller side canyon. He was … bouncing on his toes in impatience, Harry noticed. Usually Terry was such a calm person. The shadows were still long here. Even though the sun was fully over the top of the mesa, the canyon they stood in was still deep in shadows and cool from the previous night.
Harry stopped walking, studying the terrain with curiosity, noting the chamisa, apache plume currently in full bloom with its feathery like seed heads, desert willow full of pink and purple flowers and the profusion of wild flowers lining the dry arroyo which ran the length of the canyon here. A lovely spot to meet people he thought, but found the idea of the blond hitting on him surprisingly uncomfortable. Turning his attention back to Terry, Harry decided it was safe enough to go meet his cousin.
"Harry! Thanks for coming dude." The relief in Terry's voice was more than obvious.
"Yep. I'm here. Stop the presses!" Harry grinned at his cousin and held out a hand. Terry came forward with a jump, his mouth falling into a broad grin. He took Harry's hand and yanked him into a one armed hug, before pulling away again. Harry blinked at him in surprise. "Okay," he said slowly. "What's wrong Terry?"
Terry suddenly looked nervous and began bouncing on his toes again. He wiped his hands on his jeans and for the first time, Harry noticed just how tired, drawn and disheveled his cousin looked, despite the underlying happiness flowing through his emotions. A quick appraisal made him quirk an eyebrow with a slight frown. "What's up?" He pressed again.
Terry ran a hand over his hair, tugging uncomfortably at his braid and sighed. "How does one approach such news?" he asked no one in particular. "I got into a patch of trouble recently and urm, it's led to some unforeseen consequences …" His voice trailed off. "Uhm. Er." Terry swallowed and he refused to look Harry in the eye. For his part, Harry could not remember ever seeing his cousin so nervous.
"Just spill it Terrel. What's going on?"