"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." - C.S. Lewis
Sometimes there are days where emergencies are prevalent and events seem to unravel in a series . Sometimes these events exhaust Jarah into driving in silence with Poppy curled up, asleep, in the backseat. Sarai rested her head against the cool passenger window and stared out at the sagebrush and shattered roadside glass while "September When it Comes" by Rosanne Cash murmurs through the radio. Stars shimmered above them and the moon was a crescent. Gunsmoke sneaked his muzzle out the trailer and snorted into the wind.
An interruption in the music alerted her to a local newscaster as he announced that "a fire was reported to have started at Sundown Ranch" and that it was "still burning as firefighters arrived on scene." Poppy pushed herself upright and Sarai darted alarmed eyes to Jarah, who swerved onto the side of the road with as much grace as he could and started to crank the steering wheel around.
The music resumed. Gunsmoke pulled his muzzle back in the trailer as they returned onto the road.
"What do you think caught fire?" Poppy asked under her breath.
There was no answer. There was a chill in the air that seeped in the pickup by means of its vents, and static started to punctuate the country station. The mustangs shifted within the trailer behind them.
"Breaking news," the woman cut into the radio again. "Firefighters are on scene at a fire on Sundown Ranch, where a bunkhouse has been burning out of control. The cause of the fire is going to be under investigation. Ambulances are arriving, but the number and extent of possible injuries is unknown."
Poppy propped en elbow on one knee and pressed her mouth into her palm.
Charcoal smoke billowed up from the flaming bunkhouse, encircled by volunteer firefighters. Two ambulances stood between the wooden pen and the house. People seemed to be rushing around without even noticing the trailer rumbling up the road and into the area behind the barn.
Rearden was hunched over on the tailgate of one ambulance, coated in smudged ashes, with an oxygen mask pressed over his nose and mouth. He started with surprise when Sarai appeared beside him with searching hazel eyes.
"You all right?"
He removed the mask long enough to answer with a wan smile. "Yeah, a bit oven-smoked is all."
She curled her arms around his shoulders and gave him a squeeze, inadvertently inhaling the residue of charred debris and a trace of his spiced wood and musk cologne. When she released him, she crossed her arms against the midnight chilliness and approached the triangle where Marshall was explaining the situation of Jarah and Poppy.
"What started the fire?" Jarah asked as she came closer.
"Firefighters said there was a beer bottle outside and a couple cigarette butts. The boys swear they couldn't handle a beer after their night in Las Vegas, and not one of them smokes." Marshall twisted around to peer at his wranglers in and around the ambulances. "Dang shame. Everett has been sent to the hospital with smoke inhalation, because he has asthma. August will be going with smoke inhalation and a broken arm; he almost didn't make it out. Trying to convince Gunnar and the others to get themselves checked out, but they all insist they're fine."
"I'm sorry about all this, Marshall," Jarah sympathized. "What can we do?"
They were startled by shouting. Rodney stormed up to August, who was seated on one of the ambulance tailgates, and exclaimed, "You risked our lives for a stupid wooden box?"
"I inherited it from my father," August answered coldly.
"Yeah?" Rodney moved closer as he raised his voice. "You know what else you inherited? Your life!"
"Get back!" August raised a knee and shoved him away with his heel. Rodney started to lunge toward him, but Rafe caught his arms and Rearden shouted his name. He stopped and straightened with a scowl at August, then stormed toward Rearden.
"They lost everything," Marshall mused as he scanned the property. "Except the Stetsons they kept in the tack room. Tonight, I'm not sure there is anything that can be done to help – but I appreciate it."
"At least let us help you get settled tonight."
"May I get some water bottles to give to the firefighters?" Poppy asked quietly.
Marshall nodded. "Sure. That sounds like a good idea."
She started toward the house while Sarai returned to Rearden and Rodney to hear their account. The flames started to dissipate into plumes of charcoal smoke as the firefighters persisted inside and out with several hoses, and the second ambulance disappeared with August.
"Marshall," Wyatt emerged out of the house, where his daughter stood at the doorway in her cotton nightgown. "Mesa gave me a list of department stores in the area that are still open. I'm going to get the boys some pajamas and necessities for the night."
"Go on home," Marshall said to Jarah. "I can let you know if we need help. I appreciate the offer."
By the time the pickup and trailer were rambling down the dirt road, the wranglers were seated on the porch and watching the fire disappear in a plume of dark smoke as water was sprayed in and out. Rearden managed to sprawl out and sleep until Wyatt returned sometime later.
Then each wrangler showered and dressed to go to sleep, either on couches or in sleeping bags, while Rodney slept in the guest room in case he was to snore. Eventually, August returned by taxi with his left arm in a cast and sling. Rearden rose sleepily from one of the leather couches and moved to a sleeping bag on the wood so that the other wrangler could sleep more comfortably with his arm across his chest.
Flames consumed his mind within about two hours, and he startled awake to the rasping of his own breathing. He rose with ginger movements and retrieved the wooden case that sat on a stack of books to accompany him to the porch.
The azure sky was starting to fade into a cornflower color as the sun rose up to the horizon, making silhouettes of the distant pines. Fire engines were leaving the property one at a time as the remainder of the smoldering ash was quenched with water. August dropped down and sat on the steps, staring at the disappearing taillights.
August snorted. "Aahsaapinakos."
Gunnar seated himself beside him and stared out at the approaching sunrise. Sparrows chattered as they awakened and silhouettes mustangs started searching out strands of hay. The crisp morning air was tinged with the aroma of charred wood and smoke.
"I need help," August admitted and peered at his companion. "Realized that when I was tempted to stay in the fire." Gunnar pursed his lips and squeezed his shoulder. "Owe you my life."
"Don't owe me anything. We all know I suck at explaining myself, but I have something to say: You are a better friend to me every day than I can mirror in one action. And because of what you've been dealt, I learned to look beyond myself to be a real friend. And you saved my life by shoving that beam aside so we could get out."
"After I risked it. I only meant to risk my own." August released his breath and cracked open the wooden box to remove the redwood flute and stare down at the photos beneath it. One showed a portrait of a couple in their youth with a small boy. The woman was clearly expecting, ebony hair streaming past her rounded body. In the second photo stood another couple with a young man and several children. "It's trivial now. No matter how much I love these, they're not worth any of your lives."
"Or yours. But I get it."
August removed the flute and put one end in his mouth. An eerie and earthen melody drifted into the desert and seemed to resonate in the atmosphere. The music wavered and lilted in rich, drawn out tones until the sun was seen peering above the ridge and its rays poured down the hills.
Gunnar rose to start the coffee, but Marshall appeared behind screen door.
"Go back to sleep. We can start in the afternoon this time."
"Marshall," August rose as Gunnar disappeared into the house. His boss came outside and let the screen close behind him. "I was stupid in Vegas. Drank too much, punched someone, got myself arrested, and was thrown in the drunk tank at the jail. Anyway," he continued when the man's eyes widened with each admission, "I am responsible. Anyone else who may act as if it was his doing is absurd. I was out of it yesterday. Sorry."
Marshall considered what he said. "I appreciate your honesty. You have been impressively stable with your treatment until this point, and I trust you've learned from all this."
"Good," Marshall started to open the screen again to go inside, a basset hound panting behind it. "Go back to sleep. You could use one more late start."
After the sun was risen above, Mesa sizzled bacon and ham on the griddle and scrambled eggs in the skillet. She already positioned a variety of juices down the counter and restarted the coffee pot. The basset hounds waited at her heels with dripping tongues and swishing tails, until she tossed a shred of bacon into each of their aluminum dishes.
"Good morning," she said as August peered out the screened kitchen door to the bunkhouse, with Rearden beside him and staring in the same direction.
"I see the Gemstone boys are out there," he mused under his breath.
"Clearing the debris from the fire," Mesa confirmed as the rest of the men streamed into the kitchen to be seated and eat. "Greg and Maxine said to not worry about that work day you owed their hands for covering you on Monday. And still, they send their hands to help us today."
"They give a reason for cancelling that debt?" Marshall asked and scraped his chair to the table.
"No," Mesa delivered him a plate of extra scrambled eggs with bacon and sliced cantaloupe. "You know, I haven't been over there in months. Miss the dinners we used to have there."
"They're preoccupied starting up their ranch and getting it some momentum," Marshall explained. The wranglers assembled into a line and received their plates to pile on various fruits with the bacon, ham, and omelets. They returned to their seats and ate in ravenous silence several minutes.
"I am going to be leaving this afternoon," August proclaimed suddenly. "My medication was all burned, and my doctor had to write another prescription because my dosage was altered. When I called, he was not in the office and will not be there tomorrow. My withdrawal is not going to be pretty."
Marshall chewed and swallowed his cantaloupe. "Lamotrigine withdrawal is severe. Someone should go with you in case it gives you any seizures, or –"
"No. I am not going to ask anyone to be with me when the rage shows up."
Marshall eyed him. "August…"
Rearden added, "We can come without you asking –"
"I can do this," he promised. "I'll be all right, and I'll come back when I get my prescription."
"You're a grown man; it's your decision," Marshall sipped his coffee. "But I don't agree with it."
"Appreciate it," August scooped the last of his pile of blueberries into his mouth and rose to pack a plaid overnight bag. Marshall cleared throat and crossed his arms on the table.
"I want to discuss more security measures, now that we're missing more cattle. I think the most effective prevention we could have is a guard dog, but Mesa was right to point out that we have strange people coming and going often to look at mustangs, and I don't want an incident there. We could put up some cameras in the barn area, but that doesn't monitor the pastures. We could have two riders patrol at night, but not one of us can afford to lose that sleep."
"Have there been any pattern to when cattle go missing?" Gunnar wondered.
"Seems to be at night," Rearden mused. "We lost some after we spent that evening in Las Vegas, but that is the only one that stands out for any reason."
"We lock our barn at night," Rafe said. "So it would have to be someone with access."
"Wasn't me," Rodney muttered.
"I truly don't suspect any of you," Marshall assured them. "There's clearly no reason to rustle cattle, since they're ours, and I trust you all enough to know you would not steal tack or anything else."
"I'll look around and see what other ranchers use as security," Wyatt suggested.
"Good. Then we'll think on it. You boys go out and put more miles on the green mustangs and get some of them wormed. We are going to take it easy today and get back to working calves tomorrow."
They rose and stacked their plates beside the sink before traipsing outside. Some ribbons of clouds streaked areas of the clear sky. A sparrow darted past them while Gunnar and Rodney gathered halters and removed a couple mustangs out of their stalls to ride. Rafe prepared wormers while Rearden haltered mustang after mustang and led each into the aisle. Some pinned their ears when the syringe was squeezed into their mouths. Some raised their muzzles up and wrestled against the wranglers, who sometimes waited until the muzzle was lowered to treat them.
"Come on," Rearden murmured to Caliber and reached beneath his chin to clasp the halter while the mustang snorted and raised his muzzle. He sneaked the syringe to the side of his mouth and squeezed the paste out. Caliber nodded as he swallowed the medication with pinned ears. "Good boy."
"Look at that," Rafe peered out at the crunching of approaching tires and the murmur of an engine. After Rearden settled Caliber in his stall, he pointed at a woman and a teenage girl with brunette hair tied over one shoulder. She carried what appeared to be stacked clothes in a basket to the house while her mother knocked on the screen. Marshall opened the door and she extended the basket toward him.
"My mom and I stopped by some of the thrift shops in town and got some donations from church members. A lot of people wanted to give some extra clothes to the guys."
Marshall received the basket and peered down at the stacks of shirts and jeans with a smile. "We appreciate this so much. Everything was lost in that fire, and it would have been expensive to go out and get everything new. We really appreciate this."
"We hope to have more this Sunday," Mrs. Lawson said.
"God bless you," Marshall smiled at them as the two wranglers approached. Rearden touched the brim of his Stetson when the women peered around to see who was coming, and Rafe met the eyes of Marybeth and smiled. She returned it and darted her eyes to the earth beneath her shoes.
"We appreciate that, ma'ams," Rearden called merrily to the women.
"May I get you ladies something to drink?" Marshall asked.
"No, but thank you," Mrs. Lawson smiled and started toward their car again. "We should get home. My son has soccer practice in a couple hours."
Marybeth added, "And we don't expect August at rehearsal tonight or at the drums Sunday."
"Good," Rearden muttered.
The women climbed back into their silver station wagon as the kitchen phone rang, and Marshall disappeared to answer it.
"Hello; this is Jacqueline Taylor. My son is still hoarse between his asthma and the smoke inhalation, but he wanted to ask about August."
"August has started to cope. Lost his medication in the fire, so he is about to get slammed with some intense withdrawals until his prescription comes in. But August is stoic, and he'll get through it."
There was a terse silence. Marshall swallowed.
"We have always had horses," she continued, "but I was reluctant to send him where he would ride wild mustangs for a living. He persisted, and I relented. But I was not aware until today that there is a man there who is bipolar and on medication. This afternoon, I spent some time reading about the disorder and the affect it has on the people around the person who has it. Between these facts and the fire, I must say that I am not comfortable with the idea of my son returning."
Marshall cleared his throat. "Ma'am, with all due respect, August manages his bipolar with exceptional responsibility. He never missed a dose of medication until the fire. He has never physically lashed out at anyone. As a matter of fact, he generally takes new hands under his wing until they are comfortable here. He is a good man."
"I'm sure he is," Mrs. Taylor assured him. "But everything I read on bipolar disorder seems to indicate that it's unpredictable. No matter how good a man is, this disorder messes with brain chemistry."
"Yes," Marshall agreed, "it does. But it can be managed to a great extent."
"I am sorry, but I am not all right with Everett living with a potential madman."
"August is not a madman," Rearden murmured fiercely to Rafe. After Marshall answered the phone and he dropped his tone, Rearden convinced his companion to sneak into the study to eavesdrop on the second phone. Rafe peered out the open door and across the living room to see Marshall meandering around the kitchen while he answered.
"Maybe you could speak with August when he gets everything back under control."
"I may," she relented, "but I'm not sure it looks like this disorder is ever 'under control.'"
Rearden gently replaced the phone in its cradle as the conversation started to conclude and ushered Rafe out to the barn where the Gemstone men continued to pile scrap debris in the wheelbarrows and salvage anything repairable.
Wind scattered the remaining pages across the desert. They were so delicate, one may have expected them to disintegrate into the air. Sunlight sparkled against a shotgun peering out beneath a crumbled beam. A melted laptop lay plastered to the earth.
Rearden registered the scorched possessions in his mind, novels in particular, until the available Sundown and Gemstone men were all assembled amidst the charred wood and morsels of cloth. Ash coated their boots and smeared their hands as they reached into the ruins in search of anything that could be recognized and into a pile those that were not. The aroma of smoke saturated everything.
After some time, Marshall came onto the steps and called them in. August was by the kitchen table when they entered, a plaid overnight bag beside him.
"You sure about this?" Rearden asked.
"Yeah," he gave a meager smile. "You'll be grateful I am."
"We are going to pray for August before he leaves," Marshall announced and planted his hands on his shoulders with a smile. Rearden reached to lay a palm on his shoulder in support while the rest of the man and Mesa gathered around and touched him. "Lord, we ask that You protect August and heal his mind. Help his prescription to be replaced soon, so that he may get his schedule right."
"God, we are so grateful You gave us August," Mesa added. "Restore his peace and joy."
"Be with him," Gunnar murmured.
"Stabilize him," Rafe requested.
"Remind him who You are," Wyatt said.
"And help him get back here soon and help us with the calves," Rodney smiled. August managed a smile and covered the hand Mesa laid on his arm with his own.
"And thank You that I have these brothers and sister in You."
Mesa squeezed his arm and Marshall gave his shoulders a pat as he said, "We pray all these things in the name of Your Son and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen."
They opened their eyes and August met each with his own. "I appreciate this."
"Stay for lunch," Mesa suggested.
"No. I have to go."
"You know I don't like this," Marshall reminded him.
Mesa leaned out the kitchen window over the sink and shouted, "Lunch is ready!" as August picked up his possessions and started toward the door amidst an array of slaps on the back from the wranglers.
"You stay strong and come home," Marshall admonished him. "A lot of people love you."
"I promise I will."
Mesa moved ahead of him and enveloped him into her arms, cheek against his chest. "We'll miss you," she said and released him. He slung the plaid bag over his shoulder and strode down the porch steps only to be stopped short by the Gemstone hands approaching to come in for lunch. In the lead was Roy Hawking with a smirk as he removed his Stetson from his short tawny hair.
"Hawk," he acknowledged and shouldered past him, but the man stepped ahead of him.
"Blackfeather! Man, first we get called out here to help while you boys party, and now this."
August clenched his fist and drove it into his mouth, sending him sprawling to the ground. "See you all on the other side," he saluted his companions as he continued across the property.
Rafe reached down and hauled Hawk up as. The rest of the Gemstone men surrounded him with protests and shouted curses after the wrangler.
Hawk spat blood. "That son of a –"
August revved his motorcycle and tore down the dirt road, dust swirling up behind him.
"Stop," Rafe said, but Hawk shoved him away.
"Do not tell me what to do!"
"Leave him alone!" Rodney leapt between them with a palm out to each. "A couple of us have wanted to do that a long time, Hawk. You kick a man when he's down like no one I've ever seen."
"Rodney," Marshall admonished.
"It's true, boss," Rodney returned his eyes to the Gemstone man, who was red and seething. "I am sick and tired of being treated like an inferior man on our own ranch. Takes a special kind of narcissist to do that to someone."
Rodney stretched his fingers and clenched his teeth. He pivoted and stormed into the house, saying "I am not a child."
"You do not have to be a child to act childish," Marshall reminded him.
The rest of the afternoon passed in a surreal stream of eating sandwiches in a tense silence, pitching wood into a wheelbarrow, and riding mustangs against the horizon as fiery clouds smeared the sky at sunset. Stars appeared as the sky darkened and the sun disappeared and coyotes yelped in the distance.
By sunrise, coffee streamed into a pot and boots were pulled on same as any morning. Basset hounds pleaded to be sneaked a scrap of toast or hash brown, chickens scuttled around the property with a crowing rooster, and the cat nuzzled all the knees seated around the table.
Mesa cleared the dishes and the men strode out to the barn, where each jammed a Stetson onto his head and snatched a halter from its hook to retrieve his mustang. Gold Dust stared after his companions with a curious nicker when they were saddled and started out toward the range with calves in sight.
"See you later," Rodney called over his shoulder.
The amount of calves to process in the chutes grew with the lost time. Marshall assisted with the vaccinating, and even Mesa appeared to push some of the calves down the chutes before returning to the house to shower and prepare lunch.
By the time everyone arrived at the barn again to unsaddle their horses, lunch was awaiting them.
"Let me unsaddle the horses," Marshall offered. "You guys grab lunch."
"I'll help," Rodney added as he dismounted and loosened the girth on his mustang.
Marshall dismounted and loosened his own girth, waiting until everyone else was clear out of the barn before he said, "Let me guess – you want to speak to me?"
Rodney darted his eyes up. "Yes."
"And you have a confession to make?"
Rodney blinked with surprise. "Yes."
Marshall snorted and smiled. "I figured as much. What's up?"
Rodney released his breath through his lips and raised his saddle to carry to the tack room. "Please do not say you told me so," he started, "but I am starting to suspect that Vegas idea was a bad one."
"Really," Marshall heaved his saddle into his arms and started after him. "What makes you say so?"
"Because August would never have had that reaction to alcohol if he was not there and didn't have any," Rodney returned to his mustang to remove the saddle blankets and return them with his saddle. "And there was a lot more stuff that is going to stay in Vegas, so to speak."
"Listen," Marshall returned to his own mustang and slung an arm over his back with a smirk. "August already came to me and said to not blame you, even if you start blaming yourself. He's a grown man, Rod. Heck, he's older than all the rest of you, except Wyatt."
"Two years older than me, is all," Rodney answered indignantly. "Four older than Rearden."
"Point is that I appreciate how concerned you all are about him. Yes, you're the last person to make his confession. But August is a man who makes his own decisions, and he made some bad ones. He's the one who will have to come to terms with that; not you. Can you let that sink in?"
"I can try."
"Good," Marshall started to remove the bridle. "Get going so you can get to lunch."
It was almost two by the time everyone seated themselves to eat the pasta salad and ham steaks with canned pears. Marshall allowed them some spare time until late in the afternoon, when Gunnar and Rearden prepared vaccinations in the barn to attend to the mustangs that they had not yet gotten to when the rest were wormed the morning prior.
Static scrambled the radio station as Rearden adjusted the dial and Gunnar retrieved one of the mustangs out of his stall. Traces of acoustics and voices could be heard between the stations, but not much else. After Gunnar cross-tied the mustang, he appeared beside Rearden and dialed a station.
"The news?" Rearden straightened to stare at him with a wry expression. "Really?"
"Might as well get updated," Gunnar returned to the mustang and removed the syringe cap with his teeth and spat it aside. He withdrew the medication out of the vial and passed it to Rearden to insert into the neck while he prepared another. Rearden returned the mustang when he was done and retrieved a mare while Gunnar prepared another.
Five mustangs later, a special alert trumpeted into the news: "Authorities say there is a man who has barricaded himself in the Sagebrush Motel after chasing a curious tenant away from his room. The man, who has not been identified, has attracted several deputies to the scene after shouting and screaming to be left alone. We will keep you updated as this story progresses."
Rearden and Gunnar exchanged a glance.
"Do you suspect that may be August?" Rearden asked.
Gunnar dipped his chin in a subtle nod. "I will drive down there and see."
He unclipped the current mustang and led him back to his stall as Rearden called, "So will I."
"You are going to miss your drama and literature classes," Gunnar warned as he shut the stall and started toward the massive Ford with the second wrangler beside him.
"Will be the first time," Rearden said.
The early evening seemed steady with sunshine, and calm, as there was no one around to be seen. As Gunnar drove toward the sun nearly an hour, Rearden compiled information about bipolar and the medications and withdrawals and the therapist that could pertain to a situation with August.
After some time, a sign in a desolate area pointed to a motel. Two sheriff patrol cars were parked in the dirt area ahead of the motel, as was a maroon Triumph America motorcycle beside them. They climbed out of the Ford and slammed the doors to stride toward the cluster of people outside.
A sergeant and two deputies were planted ahead of a dirt-sprayed stretch of rooms. One was speaking to a rotund man in a stained white undershirt, who was gesturing frantically as he recalled the crazy man destroying his motel. Another stood with a megaphone, into which he shouted, "Sir, please answer the phone inside. We would like to speak to you."
"You are not allowed to be here," a moustached deputy rushed toward them, arms out.
"We know him," Rearden protested.
"You do?" Deputy Wilson confirmed.
"August Blackfeather," Rearden explained as the deputy started writing. "He's bipolar. He has two medications that were burned in a fire. The prescriptions are not going to be filled until the pharmacy estimates he's about to run out."
"So this is withdrawal."
"Appreciate your information."
"One of my deputies will be coming in just to talk with you," said the sergeant on a megaphone. The window shattered into shards and a lamp clattered to the cement.
"We can chat and stay in the same places!"
"There's more," Gunnar continued. "When his uncle lost his job in Helena, Montana, he became abusive toward August and his cousins until his oldest cousin got cancer. August came here to a ranch when he was seventeen so he could work and send money home to help her; none of us even knew. He says she's his hero. When I came to the ranch the year after, I was silent. Could go an entire school year without speaking –"
"Well, you're not silent now."
"He stayed by me. Stood up for me when I was suspected of stealing money out of the boss's house, which another hand was later fired for. Been good to me all six years."
"Why is any of this relevant to what's happening here right now?"
"So you realize there is a good man in there, not the monster he's acting like."
Deputy Wilson met his eyes and nodded.
"Can you explain what is happening in your room?" the Sergeant called.
"You get away! Stay away!"
"Serge," Deputy Wilson waved his superior closer, and the man lowered his megaphone and approached them. "These two are saying that the man in there is experiencing withdrawals from a medication he takes to stabilize his bipolar disorder. What are the usual withdrawal symptoms?"
"Detachment, hostility, suicidal emotions, and exhaustion to name some," Rearden answered.
The sergeant nodded. "So we have to contain him."
"Let me speak to him," Gunnar said.
"He's too volatile. After he attacked the tenant, we arrived on scene and heard him screaming as loud as he could in the middle of the room while he threw everything within reach. He pitched a glass against the doorframe the first time my deputy attempted to enter the premises."
"If he was aiming for him, he would not have missed."
"August, I understand that you're experiencing some scary withdrawals. Your emotions are intense, your temper is short, and it seems like you're outside yourself."
"I am losing my mind!" August shouted.
"I know," the sergeant answered. "But you're a smart man, and I understand that you manage your medications well. You know that these emotions are going to pass soon. You can get past this."
August dropped down against the cabinet that supported a small television and leaned his head back against the wooden drawers. "I know I am! But you have to leave me alone!"
"You know I can't do that. The tenant here says you came at him when he knocked on the door."
"The tenant's a coward. I chased him out a little when he wouldn't stop knocking."
"Well, he was scared. And we're all a little scared you might catch up to someone next time."
August chuckled to himself. "If I wanted to catch up to him, believe me, I would have."
"Why don't you let us get you somewhere safe, where you can get help managing these emotions until they're out of your system?"
"Because I don't want someone else to have control over me when I don't!"
"How about I send a deputy in there to make sure you haven't gotten hurt in all that glass—?"
"You stay away," August screamed. "Stay out there and shut up!"
"I can calm him," Gunnar murmured to the sergeant. "Watch me."
"Son," the Sergeant said, "he's too dangerous."
"You're agitating him," Rearden observed and nodded to the parking area about fifteen feet away. "I have information on the medications August is on and his therapist's phone number in the truck." He darted his eyes to Gunnar and returned them to the deputies. "May I show you all these? Might give some perspective to help communicate with him."
"Sure," the sergeant and his two deputies trudged after Rearden, who continued to explain what preceded their current circumstance.
August scrambled up and started to pace the room, massaging his palms over his short black hair until it stood in disheveled tufts and murmuring in Blackfoot. After reeling across the room, he braced his palms on the wall and dropped his pounding forehead against it.
Gunnar climbed over the open window and crunched across the shattered glass. "Sunny."
August pivoted and used his arm to pin him against the wall in a single motion. He released him when their startled brown eyes met and collapsed against the wall. "Get out."
"Can't," Gunnar evaluated the twisted sheets on the bed and the unpacked bag. "You're going to get hurt if you keep this up."
"Get out!" August snarled and slid down the wall until he was seated on the carpet. He smeared his palms across his eyes. "Stay. Seem to be losing my mind. Everything is surreal; a movie."
"All withdrawals," Gunnar dropped down beside him. "Separate what you know from what you feel."
"I am; much as possible. I'm not sure I can keep it up."
"You can," Gunnar clapped a hand on his knee. "You're one of the strongest people I know."
August peered at him in the corner of his eye, breathing as evenly as he could while anxiety rose within him. "Will you pray for me?"
His companion clasped his hand and implored God to calm August and end the withdrawals. He hastened his words as he considered the amount of time Rearden distracted the police, and sure enough, amidst the sparrows and the wind whistling in the window, was the crunching of shattered glass. Gunnar concluded the prayer and raised his eyes, but August rested his head against the wall.
"Sundown's probably easier without me," he admitted in resignation.
Gunnar snapped his eyes up. "No."
"You don't need me. You get someone else without my problems—"
"You are my best friend," Gunnar answered curtly. "We at Sundown are a family. And you are a good horseman and marksman. No one can replace all that."
August peered out the window, whose curtains billowed in the wind. "They're about to arrest me."
"Let them get you help."
He shook his head. "I want to ride it out here."
"You've damaged the room," pointed around them. "You could do worse to yourself!"
"I'm not going to!" August shouted. "Just leave me alone!"
"We can't," the sergeant appeared at the window. "You have people concerned about you, August. We all want to help you get back up again. But we need you to cooperate with us if you want support."
"Don't want support," he insisted.
"Then what do you want? What will happen if you keep spiraling down here?"
August strained his mind to imagine his symptoms plunging into deeper severity and what he could do to maintain his sanity. Gunnar clapped a hand on his shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
"They could get you back on your medication until you're steady again."
August considered his response and stared down at his trembling hands. He peered at Gunnar and murmured, "I need you to know what they're treating me with. You have more awareness than I do."
"Don't worry about me; I'll be fine."
The sergeant entered with his approval and reached down to pull him up. Two deputies clasped him by the elbows and steered him out to their patrol cars, wrists cuffed together behind him.
"I would not hurt anyone," he said to the sergeant.
"I know now that's not who you are."
He wrenched his arm away when one of the deputies pulled him toward the patrol car. Rearden stared as August reeled and broke out of their hold. All at once, he started to tremble and dropped to the dirt with convulsions.
"Call an ambulance!" Rearden shouted.