The Ultimate Fear
By Sissy (sissy@svs.net)

When Walker shoves the door open to the DA's office Alex stands and seeing the look on his face, terror fills her heart, "Walker … what…?"

He moves up to her quickly and takes her in his arms pulling her close, but sensing that something dreadful has happened, she pushes him back. "Walker, don't … oh, God, tell me what's wrong."

"It's Chrissy, she's missing. She didn't get off the bus at the HOPE Center." He sees the tears and the pain gathering in her eyes, and his heart just about breaks.

As what he is saying penetrates her mind, her knees weaken. He tightens his arms around her to keep her from falling and guides her to the couch and sits down with her. As she struggles with the news, her mind just keeps thinking, 'My baby! Chrissy is missing? She's only 6 years old, my baby.' She grabs Walker shirt with steel fingers, "Walker … no … please. She's just a baby."

"I know, hon. I wanted to tell you first, before we start backtracking. We need to find the last place she was seen. I've already got people looking for her but I need to go, too." He pulls her into his chest, feeling his shirt dampen from her tears. "Do you want to stay here, or go home?"

She pushes away from him, "What do you mean? I'm going with you, I can't just sit around here, I've got to help." She closes her eyes, burying her face against his chest, "Oh, Walker," she wails, "She's so little. What could have happened to her?"

"I don't know, Alex, but we're going to find her, okay? We have to believe that." He squeezes her to him, kisses the top of her head, and then stands to leave.

She stands with him and lays a hand on his arm, stopping him, "Walker, what can I do? I'll go crazy if I just sit around waiting for you to call me."

He takes her hands in his, and looking deep into her eyes, "Call the school, find out if she got on the right bus. Maybe she got on the bus to go home instead of the HOPE Center." He stops then at the idea that she may be at the ranch by herself. "I'm going out there right now to see if that's where she went. I've got my cell phone, if you find out anything, call me. I'll do the same." He kisses her quickly and turns to leave the room. Pauses, looks back at Alex, "We'll find her, hon, I promise." Then he's gone.

Alex calls the school and is informed by Chrissy's teacher, that she did get on the bus to the HOPE Center. Learning this she calls her husband, "Walker, they said she got on the right bus. Maybe you should go talk to the bus driver?"

"I'll go there now. What's the driver's name?"

"He drives bus No. 10 and his name is Charlie Becom. Lives out on Marshall Drive, last house on that road."

"Got it. I'll call as soon as I know any thing."

*****

When Walker turns onto Marshall Drive, he notices that the left side of the road is heavily wooded with underbrush right up to the road. Coming to the last house, he pulls into the drive and parks by the side of the house. Getting no answer when he knocks on the door, he walks around to the back of the house and seeing the bus he moves over to it and pushes the door open. Climbing up inside, he kneels down checking under the seats, seeing nothing, he stands and walks down the aisle, looking in all the seats, nothing. The last bench, however, has several papers scattered on the seat. Picking them up, he sees Chrissy's name scrawled across the tops of each one. Clutching them in his hand, 'She was here!' He leaves the bus, returning to his truck. As he starts to back out, a car pulls in behind him and a man gets out and rushes up to the truck window.

"I just heard. Have you found her yet?"

"No, but I found her papers in your bus out back. Do you remember where she got off?"

"God help me, I don't." He wipes his eyes with the back of his hand, "My mind was on my dental appointment, and … for the first time since I started driving I forget to check my bus to make sure everyone had gotten off. When I heard about her missing, I came right back here to look, … but … I guess you didn't find her."

"No, I didn't. If she fell asleep, the first thing she would have done would be to come to your house when she woke up. But since you were gone…!" He drops his head down to rest on top of the steering wheel, suddenly he sits up, "Please … move your car, I've got to check the other houses up the road, she might have tried them."

"No one lives in any of them. They haven't been sold yet."

"Then maybe she tried to walk out. Please move your car." After Becom moves his car, Walker tears out of there like the devil is after him.

As he drives up the road, he calls Alex, and tells her what he has found. When he hears her trying to choke back the tears, his heart flips flops and he feels tears build up in his eyes. "Alex, honey, I'm going to pick up the kids and take them to Hope Center, then I'll come get you. I want you with me." When he comes to a crossroads, he drives one way for a couple of miles then turns around and drives the other way. Looking at his watch, he realizes that it has been two hours since school has let out. He finally gives up, and goes to pick up his kids.

*****

He taps on the door lightly then pushes it open to find Alex standing in front of the window. She turns when she hears the door, her face lighting up with hope only to fall when she looks into Walker's eyes. He moves up to her, takes her in his arms holding her close as she sobs quietly against his chest. Rubbing his hand up and down her back, "Are you ready?"

She nods her head, and he turns with his arm around her waist, picks up her purse, hands it to her, then gently guides her out of the office.

*****

She sits quietly, leaning against him, "Where are we going, Walker?"

"Home. I want to make sure she hasn't some how found her way home."

"Oh … honey, that's a long way for her to walk. Do you think she could find her way home from school?"

"Well … maybe not from school, but Mr. Becom's house is just on the other side Tanner's woods and that's just up the road. Maybe she tried coming that way."

"Oh … God, Walker that woods is a wilderness. I wouldn't even try to walk through there."

"I know, hon, but you never know what goes through a kids head."

When he stops in front of the house, Alex immediately jumps out and rushes up to the door. As she unlocks it, she realizes that Chrissy is not inside the house because of the locked door. She turns to look at Walker only to see him running for the barn.

She quickly follows him and watches from the door of the barn as he thoroughly checks the stalls, the tack room and any place else that a little girl might be asleep, waiting for someone to come home. When he finally stops his frantic search he walks up to Alex, "She isn't here." He takes her in his arms, knowing that he isn't giving her much hope with his actions. He feels as lost as she is.

Alex puts her arms around his waist, feeling the dejection in his body, knowing he is taking this just as hard as she is. "Honey, we'll find her. I know we will. We just have to keep faith."

"That's suppose to be my line, baby. But you're right, we have to have faith." He pulls her close and kisses her tenderly than just holds her.

In a soft hushed voice filled with fear, "Oh, God … Oh, God, Walker … look."

He turns around to look behind him and sees Chrissy standing at the corner of the corral looking toward the house. At her side is a beautiful silver wolf. With her hand on the animal's back, she seems to be saying something but neither one of them can hear what it is.
Walker tightens his arm around Alex and whispers softly, "Alex … kneel down with me. Real … slow." With her breath caught in her throat, she does as he says. "Don't make any sudden moves, honey. And no matter what happens, don't run. Okay?" Without looking at her he feels her head nod against his shoulder.

A little louder than a whisper, "Chrissy."

Chrissy doesn't move but the wolf turns his head towards them and just stares at them. Then he takes two steps towards Alex and Walker, causing Chrissy, to turn in their direction. When she starts to move toward them, the wolf steps in front of her and looks up into Chrissy's face. She puts her hand on his head, speaks quietly to him and the wolf backs away from her. She turns then and runs just as fast as she can right into her Mom and Dad's open arms.

Walker watches the wolf for several minutes, then as the animal turns around and slowly trots away he turns his attention back to his daughter. With the tears, and hugs and kisses, the terrifying ordeal is over. He picks up his daughter and helps Alex to stand then starts walking with them back to the house.

Inside, Walker calls Trivette at Ranger Headquarters and tells him to call off the search. "Chrissy is home. I can't tell you any more because I haven't had a chance to get the full story from Chrissy yet. Just tell everyone that she is home and all right and to thank them for all of their help. I'll come in shortly and pick up the other kids."

"Hey, man, you stay with Chrissy, I'll go pick them up and bring them out, it's time for me to pick up Josie and my two anyway. See you in about 20, alright?"

"Thanks Trivette. I appreciate that."

*****

Walker goes into the living room and joins Alex on the couch where Chrissy is sitting in her lap. "Chrissy, can you tell us what happened?" He watches her face as she tries to get her thoughts together.

"I fell asleep on the bus." Walker reaches over and picks up her hand, urging her to continue. "When I woke up everyone was gone. I went up to the house but no one was home. I didn't know what to do then, I just sat down on the porch," She looks from Walker to Alex, "and I guess I cried a little bit."

Alex pulls her back against her chest in to a hug, "Oh, honey. It was all right to cry, you were scared."

Walker, still holding her hands, waiting silently for her to continue. "I went back to get in the bus, and I heard a noise, when I looked up I saw an eagle in the sky." She sits up then from Alex's arms, and looks intently into her Dad's face. "I remembered that story you told about the eagle showing you the way in the woods, and … I started to follow it." When she sees the smile appear on his face, her face brightens and she continues with her story. "Sometimes it would disappear so I'd stop and wait. Then I'd hear it scream and there it was again. One time ... when he was gone for a long time, I just sat down and waited. I … I fell asleep. But when I woke up there he was like he was waiting for me. When he started screaming, I started to get up … that's when I saw it."

"Saw what, honey?" Alex is listening intently, not really understanding, at least not like Walker is, but knowing that somehow what Cherokee blood she had gotten from him had brought her home.

"The big dog." Chrissy feels her mother stiffen, "But he was nice, Mommy. He came up to me and kissed me. And when I got up he started walking away. I didn't want him to go it wasn't so scary when he was there. I looked up at the eagle and he was going the same way the dog was, so I went with the dog. He … brought me home." Walker moves closer and takes Chrissy and Alex both into his arms in a contented embrace. Chrissy, in a muffled voice, "Did I do all right, Daddy?"

"Honey, you did just fine. When we saw you by the barn, what did you say to the wol… the big dog, when he moved in front of you?"

"I just told him it was all right, that you were my Mom and Dad." Walker tightens his arms around them, pulling Chrissy's head against his chest, and Alex's cheek against his. "Daddy will I ever see him again?"

"If you ever need him again, I'm sure he'll be there, baby." As he sits quietly with his wife and daughter in his arms, he sends a silent prayer to the spirits for bringing his daughter home safely to him.

When he hears a car outside, he stands and goes to the door and pulls it open as the rest of his family comes flying up on the porch and into the house. They all congregate around Chrissy who is still sitting on Alex's lap.

Feeling happy at being the center of attention, she willingly tells her story again. As she finishes, Walker watches to see if any one shows any doubt to what she has said. John and Jimmy both beam with joy at the adventure she's had with, "Wow" "Wish I could have seen them" almost wishing they had been there, too. Jessie stares at her little sister, grateful that she is home, and feels just a little awed at Chrissy's encounter with creatures from her dad's stories.

Walker moves off to the side, letting his daughter bask in her fame. Trivette listens to her story then moves back to stand at Walker's side. "God, Walker, do you think that's the way it really happened?"

"I don't know Trivette, but Alex and I were out by the barn when we first saw her and there was a beautiful silver wolf with her."

"Man, that sounds like some of the stories you use to tell."
"Yeah, ain't it great!"

The End