“I would never try to kill myself,” Mattea told the doctor staring at her.  “My punishment is to live.”  She

 glanced around the room.  Her head was fuzzy, but she was definitely in a hospital…again.

       “Why do you think your punishment is to live?”  The doctor asked, looking up from the chart he was

 writing in.

       She closed her eyes briefly, and then looked at him.  He had to be in his mid-to-late sixties, with a body

 slim and rigid.  His short, military style haircut framed a smooth, unrevealing face.  He made her think of

 her father; definitely not conducive to sharing.  She sighed.

      “Because death would bring peace and I don’t deserve it.”

      “We all deserve peace, Mrs. Chandler.”

      “I wish that were true.  Why are my arms bleeding?”

      “Because of the incisions on your wrists.”

       “You think I did this, don’t you? She asked nodding at her restrained arms, blood seeping from her right


       “Did you?”


       “But you said you didn’t remember what happened.”

       “I don’t, but I do know I would never take the easy way out.”

       “Okay.  Is the reason you feel you don’t deserve peace because of your daughter’s kidnapping?”  He

 asked, flipping through her chart.  “That was a couple of years ago?”

       Mattea exhaled deeply.  “Two years ago on April 27, 2020.”  She would give anything to be anywhere

 but here.  She looked around the room, her eyes stopping on a woman seated at a desk, reading a file,

 her face expressionless.  Odd for a patient’s room.

       “Yesterday was April 27.”

       “Yes, it was.  Who is she?”

       “This is Ms. Tilton,” the woman looked up and smiled, “and she is here to assist you in anyway


       Mattea nodded at her and turned her head to the window.  She couldn’t see bars, but she would bet

 her last dime they were there.

     “Is my family here?” she asked, ignoring his reference.

     “Your husband is grabbing a cup of coffee.”

     “Is he the only one here?”


     “How did I get here?”

     “Your husband found you and called an ambulance.”

     “Why don’t I remember what happened?  My injuries wouldn’t affect my memory, would they?”

     “No, but we’ve run some toxicology tests to determine if that would clarify the problem.  It’s my

 understanding that you have experienced some episodic memory loss recently.  Is that correct?”

     “Who told you that?”

     “Your husband.  Are you saying you haven’t?”

     “No, I’m not saying that.”

     “So, you are or you aren’t experiencing memory loss?”

     “I am.  Look, I’m not trying to be rude, but this is a waste of your time and mine.  Did you find any drugs

 in my system?”

     “Are you currently taking any drugs?”

     “We’re getting nowhere fast,” she muttered under her breath.  “I’m not taking anything except an

 antidepressant, unless you count a shot of Jack Daniels now and then.”

     “How much and how often do you drink liquor?”

     “Not often enough.”  She was getting ticked now.  He couldn’t come up with a straight answer to save

 his life.  She’d like to have him on the witness stand. She’d get answers quick enough.  A thought crossed

 Mattea’s mind and she narrowed her eyes, looking closer at his name tag.

     “Normally, I would have asked this question first.  What type of doctor are you?”  Mattea inquired.

     “A good one,” he said and laughed.

     Mattea didn’t laugh and she didn’t find him amusing.

     “I am a psychiatrist specializing in psychopharmacology,” he told her, his smile gone, his manner


     “So, the translation would be a psychiatrist specializing in drugs that affect what . . . the mind?”

     “Yes, exactly.”

     “Excellent.  Now we’re getting somewhere.  So, someone drugged me and slit my wrists,” she spoke to

 herself, gripping the cold silver rail of her hospital bed, her knuckles turning white, allowing the information

 to sink in, “What drugs could create memory loss?”

     “There are several, buy why would someone want to drug you?”

     “I don’t know, but I intend to find out.”  She watched his face as he adjusted his glasses before he

 looked at her again.

     He thinks I’m delusional.

     “You have retrograde amnesia?”

     “Retrograde with Lacunar to be precise, or so I’ve been told.  I don’t remember.”

     “How far back before your daughter’s kidnapping do you remember?”

     “I drove Elizabeth to my mother-in-law’s because she was taking her to the zoo.  I left, went to work,

 made Partner, left early to pick up Elizabeth and that’s all I remember.  I don’t remember arriving at the

 Chandler’s.”  She paused.  “It cost $8.00, the price of admission to the zoo, to lose the most important

 person in my life.”

     “I know it was extremely hard.  What is your next memory after the accident?”

     “Accident?  She wasn’t in an accident,” she looked at him, frowning.  “Elizabeth was abducted.”

     The flush began at his neck, blotchy patches spreading to his face.  “Of course, my mistake.  What is

 the first memory you have after the abduction?”

     “Waking up in Baylor Medical Center.”

     “Do you remember how you got to Baylor?”

     “My husband said I passed out when they told me about my daughter.  I was in a hospital bed sedated

 for three days.  Three crucial days I could have been looking for my daughter.”

     “I have your records from Baylor and it looks like that was the best course for you at the time.  Is that the

 first time you experienced memory loss?”

     “Yes.  Not really.”

     “So, what I can discern from your chart, is that you believe the diagnosis of Lacunar amnesia caused by the

 emotional trauma you suffered from your daughter’s kidnapping is correct, as is the diagnosis of your

attending physician that the retrograde occurred from a fall.  Is that correct?”


     “Your husband states that you fell down the stairway in the Chandler home, but you don’t remember it?”

     “That’s correct.  I was told I was found at the bottom of the stairway by an employee of the Chandlers and

 rushed to the hospital.  The first thing I remember is waking up in a hospital and finding out my daughter had

 been abducted.”

     “So, you don’t remember your husband telling you about your daughter’s kidnapping at the Chandler


     “No, only when I came to at Baylor.  That’s where the Lacunar comes in.”

     “You were an attorney then, correct?”

     “Yes, and I still am.”

     “Okay . . . okay, but you believe the current episodic memory loss is due to someone drugging you for

unknown reasons?  Is that correct?”

      She paused.  “I know it sounds like I’m paranoid, but —" a wave of nausea swept over her.  She swallowed

hard.  “Untie me please, I feel sick.”

     “Get Mrs. Chandler a container, please,” Dr. Hallaway instructed the nurse standing behind her bed.  “Don’t 

pull on your arms,” he told her, “You’ve probably opened some of your stitches.”

     Mattea stilled.  She watched the blood running from under the restraint, down her hand, and onto the bed. 

     “You haven’t given me one straight answer.  I am an attorney and I will sue,” she told him, her voice rising.  

“Why are my arms restrained?

     “So, you’ve said. Mrs. Chandler.   Your arms are tied is due to your thrashing about while you were

 unconscious.  It would be easy to pull your I.V. out.”

     Mattea took a deep breath, “What about now?”

     “The medication we’re giving you makes you drowsy and we prefer to leave them tied until the medication

 wears off and you’re completely awake.”

     “Why would you still be giving me medication?  Is it a sedative?”

     “You’ve been flailing about in your sleep.  The sedative keeps you still, which in turn, will allow them to heal.”

     “Fine.   Did you mention how long I’ve been here?”

     “Since yesterday, honey,” Gray told her, pushing the door wider and letting it slowly close behind him.  

Mattea watched her husband striding towards her.  At six foot two, Grayson Chandler towered over her by a 

good six inches.  He leaned over, kissing her quick and hard on the lips.  “You gave us a scare.”

     She wriggled her hand between the silver metal railing as far as she could with the restraint and he closed 

his large hand over hers. 

     “How are you feeling?”

     “Good enough to go home.  The doctor said you found me.  I’m sorry.”

     “No apologies. I found you and called 911,” he told her, squeezing her hand.

     “Where did you find me?”

     She watched his face shutter to a smooth noncommittal blank.  “You were in Elizabeth’s room.  You lost a lot 

of blood.”

     “I don’t remember what happened, she told him, turning her head to look at him.  “Ouch,” she told him, 

moving her head, the trapped hair pulling tighter. 

      “Let me put it up for you,” he told her moving to the night stand, rummaging through until he found a rubber

 band.  “On the top or on the side?” he said, with a grin.

       “On the side.”  She watched as he brushed her hair to the side, the blonde strands pale against his hand. 

 Black Irish his mother told her,  from her side of the family with emphasis on her side.

     “When I got home, Mo was howling and throwing himself at the back door trying to get in.”  She could picture

 Mozart, her Irish wolfhound, hurling himself at the door to get to her.  He was rarely away from her side when 

she was home.

     “Is he okay?”

     “He’s fine.”

     “He’s not eating, is he?”

     “No, but Betty’s taking care of him and you know he likes her.  She’ll get him to eat.”

     “So,” Mattea continued, what happened then?”

     “I let him in and he ran to Elizabeth’s door, scratching and whining.  I opened the door and you were in

 Elizabeth’s bed with the covers pulled over you.  For a moment I thought  . . .” he paused, “you were just 

sleeping in her bed again.  Then, I saw your arm hanging out from under the covers and the blood on the 


     “This happened when?”

     “Yesterday.  You were so still; I checked your pulse and, like I said, called 911.”

     “I don’t remember yesterday.  I’m not sure I remember the day before.  What day is it?”

     “It’s Tuesday,” Dr. Hallaway interjected, taking her wrist and checking her pulse.  

     “Are you going to release me to my doctor?”

     “In due time.”

     She stared at him.  “In due time, what precisely does that mean?”

     “I’ve asked Dr. Hallaway to treat you,” Gray cut in.  “He’s the best.”

     Mattea rubbed her lips together so hard, it hurt her bottom lip.  “Gray, I make the decision on what doctor I will
     “Dr. Hallaway is an old family friend, Mattea, and he’s the best in his field.”

     “I’ve never heard you or your family mention his name.”

     “He’s my father’s best friend and has been since childhood.”

     “He’s a psychiatrist specializing in how drugs affect the brain.  He said he didn’t find any evidence of drugs, so

 that’s that.”

     Gray glanced away for a moment before turning and looking at her, taking her hand.  “I just want what’s best for

 you and to resolve the issues.”

    “You don’t believe me.”

     “I didn’t say that.”

     “You didn’t have to,” she told him, slowly pulling her hand out of his.

     “Dr. DeHoyos has been your doctor since Elizabeth has been gone.  And, you’re not getting any better.  In 

fact, you seem to be getting worse.”

     “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” she whispered to him.  “I’m through here,” Mattea announced.  “If you

 gentlemen will excuse me, I’m going home.  Remove the restraints.”

    She saw Gray look quickly at Dr. Hallaway.

     “Mattea, that’s not possible at this time,” Grayson explained.

     “On what grounds?” Mattea asked, her voice growing colder.

     Gray stepped back, allowing Dr. Hallaway to move closer.  The doctor’s slender fingers gathered her I.V.


     “On the grounds that the guard outside of your door won’t allow it,” Gray continued with the one-two punch.

     “So, someone IS trying to kill me.”

     “No, Mattea,” Gray told her, as Dr. Hallaway shoved a hypodermic needle into the tubing.  “That’s not it.  

There was a man found dead on the floor near you.”

     “A dead man?  In our house?  Who was it?”

     “The police are running his prints.”

     “Why are you drugging me?”

     “To keep you calm,” Dr. Hallaway told her.

     “I am calm.  You had better untie me.  I’m . . . ,” she told him, growing agitated.

     “Yes, you told me; you’re an attorney,” Dr. Hallaway spoke to her in a clipped voice, “but we have rules and

 protocol that . . .”

     Mattea turned her head swiftly and threw up yellow-green bile all over the good doctor’s custom-made 

Berluti shoes.

     “. . . going to be sick  . . . ,” she finished.


     “I don’t know who slit my wrists. I don’t know who that man was or who killed him. I don’t know why I can’t

remember,” Mattea told the officer, “and I certainly don’t know why you’re questioning me.”

     “Because you are the only one that was there that could tell us what transpired.”

      “I told you I don’t---”

      “Mrs. Chandler, we’re not going to talk about what you don’t remember, we’re going to talk about what you do.

We’ve established that you don’t remember how your wrists were slit or how a man was found dead beside you.

I’d like for you to tell me, what is the last thing you can remember?”

     “Going to work, meeting with clients, lunch with…,” she paused, looking at her hands.

“     Lunch with…,” the detective prompted.

     “My mother-in-law, Sara Chandler, and my brother-in-law, Hudson Chandler,” she said, clasping her hands.

     She saw Gray stiffen; his face noncommittal.

     “Hudson Chandler?” The detective asked, “The District Attorney?”


     “My wife has been been to Hell and back Officer. I’m sure my brother will vouch for her.”

     This seemed to worry the officer. He stood, giving her a long thoughtful look. “I think that’s all the questions for

now. If we need to get in touch with you, what’s a good number?”

     "972...," but before she could finish, Gray had already pulled his billfold out and handed the

officer Mattea’s business card.

     The officer glanced at it and stuck it in his pocket. “Thank you for your cooperation, Mrs. Chandler, we’ll be in


     The door swung shut leaving the room in silence. Mattea gathered the clothes Gray had brought her and

headed in the bathroom to change. She slipped into her black slacks but they were a little too snug in the waist.

Gray must have made a mistake and brought a pair of her 6’s. She looked at the tag and ​sighed.  Size eight.

This day just kept getting better.

     They were waiting for the elevator in silence. The nurse had insisted that it was hospital rules for her to leave

the hospital in a wheelchair. She glanced at her wrists.  She knew she didn't do this, but yet, the smallest little 

insipid thought was trying to inch slowly forward.  Could she have done this?  Never.  Elizabeth was somewhere 

waiting to be found.

      Two teenagers were waiting at the elevator.  Mattea turned her head, meeting the gaze of two teenagers.

“Excuse me, Ma’am,” the petite blonde with a purple streak through her hair and a small silver ring through her

nose said, "but are you--

     “Let me guess…am I Reece Witherspoon and the answer is no,” Mattea told them smiling. She got this at least

a couple of times a week.

     “Uh, no,” the girl stuttered, “holding up an I-pad with Mattea’s picture on the front page of the Dallas Morning

News; headlines screaming, “Prominent Attorney in Hospital Following Suicide Attempt.”

     “I’ll sue them,” Mattea told Gray, then looking at the teenagers. “I didn’t do this."  Mattea noticed the dark-

headed girl glance at her bandaged wrists. Mattea sighed deeply.

     The elevator opened and the nurse wheeled Mattea in. Gray followed, riding the elevator down to the first floor

in silence. Gray gave her a quick kiss and told her he’d meet her out front. The sun was warm on her face, the 

wind blowing her face. She could have enjoyed it more had the cigarette  smoke enveloping her from the smokers 

gathering around the trash can. Mattea saw Gray’s silver Aston Martin round the corner pull to a stop in front of 

her. She just wanted to get home without a fuss, but she knew from experience, it was easier to go with the flow 

and wait for him to get out and open the door for her. The ride home was filled with empty, meaningless words, 

skittering around the real issue at hand.

     “Where’s Mozart?” She asked as they entered the house.

     “He dug the grass up and rolled in the dirt. I sent him to be groomed.”

     “When will he be home?”

      “Misty said she was picking him up and would drop him by in the morning.”  Misty was Mattea’s cousin, but

more importantly, she was a friend.

     “Do you know where my necklace is?” Mattea asked, feeling her bare neck.

     “In my pocket, for safe keeping,” Gray told her pulling the necklace out.

     “Could you help me?” Mattea asked, turning her back to him. She held her hair while he fastened the necklace

in place.

     “There you go.”

     “Thanks, Gray,” Mattea said, leaning forward to kiss him. Gray kissed her the way you would kiss a friend; a

friend you weren't that close to.

     “I miss Mo; I wish he were here,” Mattea told him. She had adopted Mozart as a six-month-old puppy from Pet

Rescue. He had been abused and abandoned. There had been no tail wagging when she stopped at his cage;

when he looked at her, it broke her heart.

     Gray encircled Mattea in his arms. “You missed Mo, what about me?” She grinned. Gray kissed Mattea on her

forehead, releasing her from his arms. “I know your grandfather gave you that necklace, but what I don’t

understand, is why you have to wear it all the time.”

     “My grandfather told me this necklace has been in our family for as long as anyone can remember.”

     “How would he know that?”

     “He said it’s mentioned in the genealogy as the Paschall necklace. This is a Paschall lamb,” she told him,

     touching the necklace. “It means sacrificial lamb; like Jesus was."

      "Your grandfather's surname means sacrificial lamb?

     "Yes.  In some places, the Last Supper is called The Paschall Supper."


     Lowering her hand, Mattea looked Gray in the eyes, “Thanks for your part in getting me out of the


     “Well, Counselor, you didn’t seem to need much help. Although, I am curious why you told them that the last

thing you remembered was having lunch with my brother and mother, before, waking up in the hospital?”

     “You sound like I deliberately tried to implicate Hudson and your mother; I said we had lunch. That’s what I

remember and nothing else until I woke up in the hospital. Period.  I would think you’d be more concerned with

who did this,” she told him, raising her wrists.

     “The reason I’m concerned, is that now, the police will want to question my brother. In his position, it doesn’t 

look good and I just don’t think it was necessary to mention it.”

     “You would rather I lie?

     “No, that’s not what I’m saying, and God forbid if I did want you to lie. Forget it. What’s done is done. I’ve called

Omer to come in and take over the investigation for us,” Gray told her, “If anyone can get to the bottom of this, he


     “Is he still a special government ops person, saving countries?"

     “Was. He has his own company now. He’s the best one for the job.”

     "If you say so. I have a question of my own. I called my grandmother before we left the hospital and she was

beside herself with worry. Why didn’t you let Gran and Alex know what happened?”

     “I didn’t think you would want me to worry your grandmother and your brother was out of town.”

     “It caused her more stress to not know what happened and then find out after the fact.”

     “Let’s not leave my brother out.”

     “You can never leave it alone. I married you.”

      “But,” he said, with a slight smile, “You were engaged to him.”

      “You knew that when you asked me out.”

      “You could have said no,” Gray said, placing a hand on Mattea’s arm. “Look, Mattea, I always do what I think is

best for you. I didn’t think you would want them to know.”

     “Why would I care? I didn’t do it, but obviously, you think I did.”

     “I just thought it would be better this way.”

     “Someone drugged me Gray and you just gloss over it. She paused…"in the future, anything that has to do with

me, please let my family know.”

     “Yes; I swear I will notify your whole clan the next time. Now that the issue of notifying your family is resolved, I

would like to change the subject,” he announced, “there’s an elephant in the room and I think it’s time to discuss


     “The dead man. Do you think he slit my wrists?”

     “At this point, I don’t know.”

     “I wish I could remember what happened. I can’t imagine how he got into the house.”

     “You do realize that if you didn’t kill him, it would mean there was a third person in that room?”

     “Yes, and I don’t even know how to process that; the dead man must have known our routine.”

     “The police said there wasn’t any sign of forced entry. Omer’s working on it, and my money’s on Omer.”

     “Hudson is the D.A.; yet you’re saying you think Omer is better at solving this crime than your own brother?”

  Mattea shook her head and moved around the room looking at family pictures.

     “Actually, yes, that is what I’m saying. Omer’s not under any laws or restrictions like Hudson is and those two

reasons are why I think he’d be the better person to help us.”

     “I don’t agree, but I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree.”

     “Fine; we usually do. The cabin at Mammoth sold,” Gray said, changing the subject, “I know you have some

personal items there and thought you might want to get them, but if you prefer, the movers¬ —”

      “No, I would rather get them myself.”

     “Dad and I have a meeting in LA on Monday. Then, we could fly up to Mammoth and spend the rest of the day,

and that night. That should give you enough time to gather your things together. We could head back Tuesday, or

possibly Wednesday, and be back in time for you to rest up before your birthday party on. What do you think?”

     “Fine…I guess.”

     “Dad’s flying back home on Monday with an old friend of his from college, so we’ll have the jet and now the

scheduling is resolved. Finally, things are falling into place.”

     “For you,” Mattea told him. “Not so much for us.”

     “What are you talking about?”

     “Let me see, you’ve been awarded the government contract for manufacturing the human Imprint chip, you’re 

on the government’s Board of Director’s for the DNA Database, you’re friends with the Vice President of the 

United States, who is a snake in the grass and your parents…should I go so far as to say they hate me?”

     “Things are falling in place for us. The chip implant is a good thing Mattea. It'll cut down on theft in various

ways. There won’t be any currency; we’ll use the implant to buy and sell. It will be instrumental in locating missing

persons and the DNA database will be invaluable in locating and convicting criminals, as well as numerous other

applications. We’ve known Creed Sinclair since I was a boy. He’s like an extended member of our family. As far

as my family, they don’t hate you. I think they just don’t understand you.”

     “Finally we agree on something.”

     “What’s all this leading up to?”

     “I wanted to tell you something before you read it in the paper. The Citizens Against the Chip Implant— ”

     "A thorn in my backside…”

     “I’ve," she paused, not as sure as she had been,  "accepted the position of Chairman for The Citizens Against

the Chip Implant.”

     “I can’t believe you did this Mattea, Gray said, running his hand through his hair and sighed.  “I guess I don’t

have to tell you this will be an embarrassment to me and my family; a big embarrassment.   I guess you were right.

If my parents don’t hate you now… they will.”


     The flight from Los Angeles to Mammoth Lakes was uneventful. The landing was a different story. The wind 

picked up as they began their descent, the plane bucking in protest. Mattea gritted her teeth and continued to 

pray. The pilot’s experience was instrumental in navigating the landing. She knew Dan was well qualified. He had 

been with the Chandlers since she had known them.

     “Gray,” Dan said, “I’m going to bunk down in the hangar tonight after I grab a bite to eat. If you need me, I’ve got 

my cell.”

     “Why don’t you stay at the Village?” Gray asked. “You’d be more comfortable.”

     “I’ve got a bed and television; I’m good.”

     Gray and Mattea climbed in the four-wheel-drive Lincoln Mark SUV with the snow mobiles loaded in back. 

They headed out of airport storage and up the mountain. Friends of theirs, the Gentry’s, had a cabin near the ski 

lodge. They left the SUV there and rode the snowmobiles to their cabin. The snow was white and pristine and the 

sun was warm on her back.

     The cabin, and she used that term only because that was what Gray and his family called it, came into view;  a 

custom build tri-level with five thousand square feetThere were not tracks in the snow but theirs. Gray, heading for 

the front door, was caught off guard when a snowball caught him square in the back of the head. Mattea had to 

admit, that felt really good. He jerked his head around as the second one grazed his temple.

     “So, it’s like that, is it?” He told her, stepping off the porch and forming a snowball. Mattea’s third shot hit him 

on the shoulder, spraying snow in his face. Gray smiled, took aim, and threw his ball of snow.

     “You throw like an old girl,” Mattea screamed, twisting to the right as the snowball whizzed by her head, 

smashing into a tree. The outdoors was invigorating. Although she had never been an overly physical person, 

hitting Gray with snowballs felt very satisfying.

     Gray grinned as he firmly packed his next snowball for another attempt.  He wound his arm up like a pitcher in 

a Texas Ranger baseball game and let it fly. She bent over and the snowball sailed past, crashing into the snow 

berm behind her with a thud.

     “You . . .,” Mattea yelled, gulping cold air, tears running down her face, “couldn’t hit . . .,” she leaned to the right, 

another snowball flying by, “the broadside of a barn! Make it BIGGER!” she screamed, shaking with laughter. “I 

promise, I won’t move!”

     Gray shook his head and zinged her, the snow clinging to her hat.

     “You got me . . . finally,” she told him, laughing.

     “What’s so funny?”

     “You. You always have to win.”

     “Well, what’s the point, if you’re not playing to win? Are you playing to lose?”

     “There are more important things than winning or losing,” she told him, her face sobering.

     “I know there is,” he said, quietly. “And, I’d like to discuss the issue later.”

     "Good.  Mammoth really is beautiful,” she said, changing the subject.  Mattea sighed, closing her eyes, inhaling 

the clean scent of pine trees and the smell of burning wood in a fireplace somewhere close. “Remember how 

much Elizabeth loved to play in the snow?”

     He laughed. “She was so frustrated that she couldn’t build a snowman because the snow was powder.”

Mattea turned her head so he couldn’t see the tears.  What kind of mother am I? My daughter could be in the 

hands of a... pedophile or dead and I’m here playing in the snow.  Her heart hurt. This, selling the cabin, was 

closing the door on their life with their daughter.

     “We haven’t been here in over a year. We’ll stay at The Village when we come again.”

     “Well, if I had a drink, I would toast the person that made this all possible,” she said, indicating the world around 

her, pushing her grief into a corner of her mind where she never ventured if she could help it. A corner that held all 

the hurt she had suffered.

     “That would be Dave McCoy.”

     “You pointed out that statue of him the first time you brought me here, but you’ve never told me why the statue 

was made.”

     “McCoy was the one that obtained the rights from the Forest Service to build a permanent rope tow on 

Mammoth Mountain. He started developing it and here we are,” he said, gesturing at a minaret. “My great 

grandfather started coming here in the fifties and it’s been a tradition in our family ever since. Of course, it’s 

changed with all the construction, but that doesn’t affect the cabin.”

     “I love it,” she whispered. “It takes my breath away.”

    Gray touched Mattea’s face. “Did I ever tell you that when I met you, I couldn’t look away? I’ve never seen 

anyone with eyes that were sapphire blue. You take my breath away. I love you, Mattea,” Gray whispered, as he 

leaned down and kissed her.

     “I’ve loved you since I was in high school,” Mattea told him, a smile tugging at the corner of her lips.

Gray raised his right eyebrow slightly. “I was out of high school four years before you were.”

     “Hudson showed me your picture in the yearbook.”

     “Ahhh . . . remind me to thank my little brother again the next time I see him,” he told her, taking her hand, “but, 

for now, there’s a warm fire calling us.”

     “I thought you wanted to . . .”

     Mattea was interrupted by the incessant beeping of Gray’s cell phone. He glanced at the number, frowning.

     “Grayson Chandler,” he answered in a firm business tone, motioning Mattea into the house.

      Mattea watched Gray through the window. The snow was following hard now, covering his head in large white 

snowflakes. His shoulders were rigid and the path in the snow was becoming wider with his pacing. Gray stopped 

and turned, looking directly at the window. His face . . . someone had given him bad news.

     “Mattea,” he called, stomping the snow off his boots as he shut the front door. Mattea looked at him 


    “Omer’s on his way. He’ll be here late tonight. He wants to talk with you. And then, the two of us will discuss 


    “Don’t you mean the three of us will discuss strategy?”

     "Yes, of course I meant the three of us."   

     “Why is he coming here? I thought he was meeting us in Dallas after we get back?”

    “He was, but he feels that security is an issue and he doesn’t want to wait.”


    “Omer feels we need to head home in the morning, Love. So, you’ll need to pack tonight.”

    “In case you’ve forgotten, we haven’t had time to unpack.”


     Mattea loved this cabin where they had spent part of their honeymoon. She was finished packing their 

personal items except for the master bedroom. According to Gray, Omer would arrive in a couple of hours. She 

yawned, thinking she might take an hour nap before he arrived.  

Mattea opened the door to find Gray undressing. She watched him fold each piece neatly on the chair after he 

took it off. He looked at her and winked.

     “See something you like,” he asked her, grinning.


     His eyes were the warmest brown and if she could have his long dark eyelashes, she would never have to 

wear mascara again. Gray broke his nose when he was a Navy Seal, but it only added to his rugged good looks.  

     She watched him as he drank a glass of water, some dripping, trailing down his chest. Now, he was removing 

his briefs.  Gray walked over to the fireplace, his hands extended to the fire, his back to her. A Nordic warrior 

didn’t have a thing on his body.

     “I was going to get a quick shower, before Omer gets here, but I could be persuaded to delay it.”

     “I think I can spare five minutes.”

     He laughed. “I promise; it’ll be the best five minutes you’ve ever spent.”

     On the other hand, her heart was reminding her that he was stubborn as a mule. When he dug his heels in, it 

was for the long haul. Then, there was that teensy little problem of him thinking and acting on what he thought was 

best for her without consulting her. That was a real problem.

     His eyes never left her as she walked slowly to him, kicking her shoes off, peeling her sweater over her head 

and dropping it, followed by her bra, slacks, then, her underwear.

     “Let’s get something straight between us,” she whispered.

     He welcomed her with open arms, running his hand down her face and neck, kissing her lips gently, trapping 

her bottom lip in his teeth. His mouth traveled down her neck, making love to her body with his mouth.  He 

stopped at her belly button for one last kiss before traveling to her lips.

     Gray’s hands slid beneath her hips, slowly pulling her close. He groaned as his hands touched her bare flesh. 

He pulled her roughly to him and kissed her hard, opening his mouth; his tongue searching and finding hers.

     She pulled back looking at him. He took her face in his hands and kissed her gently again and again, then 

harder, as the urgency increased.

     “Turn around,” he told her abruptly, pushing her gently against the wall. He put his foot between her feet, 

nudging her legs open. She slowly reached upward with both hands, caressing the wall.  

     “Mattea,” he whispered, his breath hot on her neck, sending chills down her arms.

She heard the need in his voice. He shadowed her body, moving gently between her legs, as she arched her hips 

and rotated gently against him.

     “Don’t make me rush, baby. Be still for . . .” a loud explosion rocked the cabin.

    “What the hell,” he said, grabbing her, pulling her down to the cold, wood floor. A hail of gunfire was raining on 

the cabin.

      “What was it?” she whispered, shaking.

     “It sounded like the snowmobiles. Don’t talk,” he told her, his voice low.

Gray crawled from the bedroom into the bathroom to the garden bathtub, dragging Mattea behind him. His hand 

snaked up pressing one of the ceramic rectangles. The tub lifted like the car door of a DeLorean.

     “Down,” he said, ushering her down a flight of stairs. His hand slammed the button as he followed behind and 

the tub repositioned itself.

     Light illuminated the dark and Mattea saw shelves filled with guns, ammo, food, batteries, and flashlights. Who 

is this man?

     Gray touched her arm and she looked at him. He put his finger to his lips, and then he pointed into the 

darkness. She followed him as the path wound around to the left and back to the right before straightening out for 

what must be at least a quarter of a mile. Lights came on automatically as they walked; the path dead-ended at a 

door with a staircase on the left. Gray placed his hand on a panel and the door opened. Mattea walked slowly into 

the small six-by-six room. She felt the claustrophobia rising, like acid in her throat. Her breathing became quicker 

and deeper with each breath. Gray picked up a phone and called Omer.  She couldn’t hear all of the conversation, 

but it sounded as though Omer was coming to pick them up.

     “We can talk now,” he said, closing his phone.

     “Who do you think blew up the snowmobile?” She asked him, trembling, “What did they want?”

     “My guess is you.”


     “So, you do believe me?”

     “Yes,” Gray said, handing her a pair of thermal underwear. “Put those on.” 

     Mattea dressed hurriedly and he followed suit. Gray looked at her, “It does appear that someone is out to get 

you and I don’t think they care who’s with you.”

     “Maybe it’s you they’re after. You’re manufacturing the Imprint chip. A lot of people don’t want to take a 

mandatory chip implant. Maybe it’s you they’re targeting.”

     “My wrists aren’t the ones that were slit. Here’s a sweater; put it on. I don’t have any clothes that will fit you.”

     “I don’t care as long as I’m warm. Let’s try something . . .”

     “Mattea, I hate to interrupt, but could we continue this conversation as we . . .”

     Suddenly, there was a loud explosion that was followed by low rumbling through the tunnel. Mattea lost her 

balance and fell against the wall, hitting her head.

     “Damn,” Gray swore, pulling her into his arms, “Are you alright?”

     “Gray, I don’t want to be buried alive. Get me out of here!”

    “Let’s go,” he told her, holding her close.

     “What’s happening?”

      “That,” he told her, “was most likely our cabin.” The ground shook slightly.

     “And that, unless I’m mistaken, is the beginning of an avalanche.”

     Gray laid his hand on the front of the security panel and the door opened. He pulled her through the entrance.

The room was fairly large, containing computer equipment, a small fridge, a love seat, and a staircase.

     “What are you doing, Gray?” She asked as he sat down at the computer. “Let’s get out of here before the 

whole place caves in.”

     “I have cameras topside and we’re going to see what we’re getting into before we head up . . . Damn! You 

can’t even see the cabin. Stay here, I’m going up.”

      “I’m not staying down here by myself,” she told him, scrambling up the stairs behind him. He touched a panel 

similar to the one in their cabin and a wall opened.

     “I wondered why you never had the bathtub fixed in the cabin. Your family has secret passages everywhere.”

“Sometimes, they come in handy.”

     “Do you think you might show me where they’re at? They might come in handy for me.”

     Mattea followed Gray up the stairs into a tomb of a dark house. He swore. “The electricity is off. Stay here 

while I turn the generator on.”

 “But, I’m . . .,” her words fell in to the empty room, “. . . afraid.” She heard him fumbling in a room off to the right, 

then a heavy thud. “Gray?”

     Bright light engulfed the room. Mattea blinked rapidly. “You were expecting someone else?” he asked.

     “Maybe we shouldn’t have the lights on. What if they see them and come over to investigate?”

     “We’re completely covered in snow, thanks to the avalanche, so they won’t be able to see us. They’d have to 

know this cabin is connected to the other one."

     “How are we going to get out of here?” she asked, opening the blinds to a snow-packed window. She could feel her chest tightening, her breathing shallow and the pain closing in.  Claustrophobia winning again.

     “Omer should be here soon and he’ll dig us out. There’s nothing we can do up here."

     “I don’t want to go back down there. We might be buried alive.”

     “We’re safer downstairs; it’s built to bunker specifications. There’s a ventilation system and food, but more 

importantly, we’ll have the computers and cameras.”

     Mattea’s feet were heavy as she took each step down the ladder. She looked up at Gray. “You can close it. I’m 


     “You might as well make yourself comfortable. I’m going to take another look at the cameras.”


     “Damn, they’re out there sniffing around.”

     Mattea watched the screen as three men on snowmobiles scattered in different directions, occasionally 

dismounting to look at the snow. Each of them wore white ski suits, blending in with the scenery. The man nearest 

to the cabin they occupied walked up close to the tree with the hidden camera and looked straight at them.  

Mattea backed up as though the intruder could see her.

     “Steady,” Gray told her, taking her hand.

     “Are they looking for us?”

     “I believe so.”

     “How do they know we didn’t die in the cabin’s explosion?”

     “I don’t know.”

     The image shook and cleared, the intruder located the camera. Then, he did something strange; he hit his 

head on the tree, as though trying to dislodge the camera and slid down the tree. The white hood turned red, an 

erratic pattern forming down the white suit into the waiting snow.

     “What in the . . . ?”

     “Omer,” was his one word reply to this spectacle.

     A flicker in the background caught Mattea’s attention. “Look, they’re both coming back.”

  The man on the right fell off his ski mobile, leaving the unmanned machine careening to the right of the camera 

and plowing into the cabin.

    Short blasts followed by flashes from the third intruder filled the camera before he was out of the range.

    “Did he get away?”

     “We’ll soon know. Let me scan the area . . .,” the screen went dark.

     “I take it that’s not a good sign.”

     “Stay here.”

     Mattea immediately followed him to a bookshelf at the far end of the room. Gray pulled a copy of War and 

Peace off the shelf and pushed a button, stepping back. The bookshelf swung out to reveal a large walk-in closet 

filled with guns and ammunition.

    “I should have guessed.”

    “My motto is the same as the Boy Scouts, ‘Be prepared,’” he said as he grabbed a gun. “This is a Glock 36. It 

has a softer recoil and better accuracy than some of the other guns. Here, hold it and see how it feels.”

Mattea took the gun, weighing it in her hand.

     “Glock pistols,” he continued his instruction, “have three independent and automatic safeties. As the trigger is 

pulled, they sequentially disengage, and as the pistol fires . . . Mattea, could you leave the gun alone for a minute 

and listen?”

     She looked up. “I’m not a child; so, please don’t talk to me as if I were one.”

     “Sorry, we just don’t have a lot of time.”

     “It fits in my hand better than the thirty-eight.”

     “That’s why I chose it for you. It’s easy to conceal with this design. And as the pistol fires, the trigger returns to 

its forward position; it re-engages. The combination of the trigger, firing pin, and drop safety make the Glock one 

of the safest pistol on the market. Do you have any questions?”

     “Nope. Got it,” she told him, not sure at all.

     He chose another gun for himself.

     “What kind of gun is that? It looks lethal. Maybe I should have that one.”

     Gray smiled, “It’s a MK23 Mod O .45 caliber pistol. This is what I used when I was in the Navy Seals. The 

Glock’s better for you.”

     He walked back over to the computer, sat down, entered some passwords, and activated a different camera 

up the hill about a hundred yards from the house. The scene was chaotic. Dead bodies were strewn on the 

hillside and gunfire lit the night.

     Gray pulled out his cell and called Omer. “It’s ringing,” he told her.

     “Omer, do . . .”

     He looked at the phone, then at Mattea. “He said he was busy and he’d call me back. He has a few men with 

him, but I believe he might need some help. I’d ask you to stay put, but I know it wouldn’t do any good.”

     “You’re right. It’s my . . .”

     Gray stepped out of the room and the door closed, locking Mattea safely in the room with her gun and the 



     Mattea stared at the door. Damn! How do you open this . . . then she remembered . . . the chip scanner. No 

way ​out.  All Mattea could do was watch the action on the computer screen. Bursts of gunfire were still illuminating 

the grisly scene. She saw a snowmobile heading up the mountain with two snowmobiles giving chase. Mattea

watched as a figure ran to where the cabin should have been, his feet sinking in the snow. He slammed his foot 

down with force, then stood still and listened.

     The skier bent down, looking left to right and knocked the snow off. It was Omer. Gray climbed out and he and 

Omer ran for the trees. Mattea heard motors roar to life as they shot out of the trees on snowmobiles and headed 

up the mountain. The monitor was silent.  

     Please keep him safe and bring him back to me.

     The clock all but stopped. Patience is not my strong suit. Movement on the screen caught Mattea’s attention.  

     There was someone on top of the house in a white ski suit. It definitely wasn’t Gray and she didn’t think it was 

Omer. She grabbed her gun, turned the lights off and waited.

     Mattea’s heart was beating loudly in her ears, her breath shallow and rapid. Short bursts of ammunition against 

the door were interspersed with short pauses. Could she shoot the intruder? Shooting targets was bound to be a 

little different than shooting an intruder . . . and that was, if she could hit him before he shot her.

     More action on the computer screen drew her like a moth to a flame. Mattea touched one of the thumbnails, 

revealing the area outside of the door. Two men were trying to get in. The larger one looked up into the camera 

and smiled, raised his gun, and blew the camera out.

     She heard muffled noises, followed by the sound of gunfire, then silence. The door clicked as she held the gun 

with both hands and ducked behind a chair, pulling her firearm up. Steadying her shaking hand, Mattea took aim 

and shot the intruder when he entered.

     “Damn it, Mattea, I told you to always aim for the heart,” Gray told her through clenched teeth as he fell to the