A New Life
Written by Rachel

It felt so good to be off the train. I thrust my arms up over my head, stretching. At six-foot-four, there was no way to be comfortable on the train; even a sleeper, if I had splurged, would not have helped. I slipped my backpack on and looked for the bus I needed to catch. It was just after 6:30 a.m., and the sleepy western Washington town was starting to come to life. There were a few migrant fruit pickers near the bus station waiting for the buses to take them up to the orchards. I walked over and consulted the schedule. There was just enough time to grab a cup of coffee before my bus arrived.

The smell of fresh-brewed coffee lured me into the small deli. Fells Point and the Daily Grind seemed a million miles away. I had only been gone a couple of weeks, but it seemed like forever. I had known, no matter what, that I would leave Baltimore. I should have gone much sooner, but I have never been terribly good about change. When I packed up my desk, I knew I would never go back into that building again. Too much water under the bridge; there was no going back, no do-overs. Dragging my thoughts back to the present, I paid for the coffee and walked back out into the morning haze.

The bus arrived and I climbed on board behind a young woman. She had two sleepy children with her, one in a backpack carrier. The little girl, a toddler, smiled shyly at me. I love kids. I had always enjoyed spending time with Olivia and Frankie. But I don't think I'll ever have kids of my own… too much baggage. I think I would always be afraid that I might hurt them . . . . I've seen it too often. I'm not sure I would be able to help myself. It's better to just not risk it at all.

The bus pulled up at my stop. I grabbed my bag from under the seat and waved goodbye to the little girl. The winding highway had brought us up to Lake Chelan for the second to the last leg of my trip. A boat would take me up to a retreat center. I had read about it a few years earlier and contacted them when I decided to leave Baltimore. I could live up here as long as I needed to, until I was ready to face the next phase of my life.

With my ticket in hand, I walked up the plank. The boat was filled with tourists, some just on the lake for the day, others headed to cabins for vacations. I slipped onto a bench where I could watch the trip up the lake. The mountains were unbelievable, the sun warming my face as it shone across the deck. It was hard to believe that this could exist on the same continent as Baltimore. Again I had the sense of being so far from my home. It was an odd sense--not a bad one, just one that I hadn't expected.

That night, when I went to talk to Danvers, to apologize, I knew what I had to do. I couldn't let Luke Ryland get away with what he had done. I'm not sure why it bothered me so much. After all, Risley Tucker had gotten away with killing Adena Watson. Maybe it was the cumulative effect, maybe it was my own murder of Larry Moss. Maybe I knew how easy it was to take another human's life and I had to make sure there was some retribution for what Ryland had done.

My mind slipped back to the street in front of the Waterfront. I thought Munch would tell me about Gordon Pratt. I had always known it was him. I had to know how he had lived with himself. I had to know how I would live with myself. There had to be a way to move past what I was going to do.

When I had turned down the street toward Ryland's house, I could feel my heart growing cold. I had dedicated my life to finding those who murdered, now I would join their ranks. I was no longer doing God's work. As I grew closer I saw a figure move out of the courtyard in front of Ryland's house. The figure turned toward me, moving more quickly. As she passed I reached out and grabbed her arm, spinning her back.

Rene's eyes grew wide as she faced me. I knew she had completed my mission for me.

"Don't go down there, Tim," she said.

I nodded slowly. "I'll see you around, Rene," I answered. I didn't wait for an answer, instead making my way toward the new life I should have found so much sooner.

The boat pulled up to the dock. The final leg to Champlin Village was a bus ride back up the mountain, into a valley. The village had been a mining community until it closed and was donated to an ecumenical group for study and retreat. The lodges and cabins had been turned into lodging for the village guests. I was going to spend the next few months splitting wood and painting cabins in exchange for my food and lodging. I needed to get as far away from detective work as I could. This seemed like a perfect first step.

The bus stopped in front of the Village Center and the others climbed off. I paused as I stepped out of the door. It was as beautiful as I had been told. The wooden lodge buildings were built into the sides of the mountain valley; a stream ran along the road, snow covered mountain peaks visible in the distance. I could feel my soul healing already.