As always, a huge shout out to my editing team, PapaKilo14, Hal, Pixel the Cat (love my big brother), GeorgeAnderson and Olddave1951. Thanks, guys, I love you all. You all know what a mess I am and you make my stories shine. Special thanks go to my friend, GeorgeAnderson, on this story. You helped me when I was stuck and your huge contribution made this story complete. I owe you. Harddaysknight and Saxon_Hart give me peer review. I love what you do for me. You told me the first draft lacked drama and you were right. Thank you for everything you do for me. My team is the best in the business and I'm blessed to have you all.
I rode my ATV up to the bank and parked. The sound of the water plunging over the falls was thunderous. It would be dark in an hour and a half and I wanted to be ready. I got my big rod off the ATV and opened the top of the bucket strapped to the back. The aerator was working well and the suckers in the bucket were lively and doing fine. I tied a 3/0 circle hook to the 60 pound braid and caught a sucker. I hooked him just under the dorsal fin and cast into the deepest part of the pool. It was probably fifteen or twenty feet deep there. The two-ounce sinker settled to the bottom and I pushed my rod holder into the moist earth, engaged the bait clicker and went to get my chair.
I got an Augustiner Bräu Lagerbier Hell out of the ice and pried off the top, settling down into my chair with a sigh of contentment. It had been a tough day. I had fired my wastewater treatment manager after a spill at the plant that I was going to have to explain to the city and the EPA. I'm the plant manager of a company that makes dehydrated food. We use huge quantities of water and it has to be treated before it goes back into the environment. I didn't yet know how serious it was going to be and at the moment, I didn't care. I was going to catch a huge flathead catfish.
This stretch of river runs along the back of my place for over a mile, and I knew it well. The hole below the waterfall was a quarter of that and big fish lived in it. I had seen a huge fish in the shallows three days earlier and if it was hungry, I was going to catch it. They tend to feed at sundown and sunup. Sunup was out of the question since I planned to sleep in. This was a prime time.
I had finished my first beer and was into a second when I heard the reel click a few times. It was one of the big Penn Squall reels, and I eased the rod out of its holder. There were a few more clicks and then the line ran out in a steady ratchet. I took off the clicker and engaged the reel. As the line tightened, I felt the weight and the battle was on. This was a huge fish! It felt like at least 50 pounds and it was all I could do to hold it. The line screamed off against the drag and I held on for dear life. In the fading light I saw what looked like a log come over the falls. I didn't pay much attention until a bright blue kayak came over and then another.
Damn! I had the fish of a lifetime on! The log drifted closer as the kayaks were caught in the backwash under the falls. I looked closer and it wasn't a log, it was a person! I dropped the rod and it instantly disappeared into the river as I sprang down the bank. The water was only about waist deep and I grabbed the woman by the hair. It was a woman and her hair was about three feet long! I reeled her in and moved to the bank as quickly as I could. I laid her on the grass and put my ear close to her mouth. Shit, she wasn't breathing!
I quickly rolled her face down and jammed the heel of my hand between her shoulder blades, giving her a few quick pumps. Water spewed out of her mouth and I rolled her back over. Damn it, how long had it been since I had a CPR refresher? I knew they didn't do mouth to mouth anymore, but this little lady wasn't breathing! I felt her neck and there was a weak pulse. Thank God! I pinched her nose and breathed into her mouth. I would give her a few breaths, watching her chest rise and fall and then stop for a few seconds. The time stretched out interminably as I kept breathing for her. Shit! I sat her up, sharp thump between the shoulder blades and more water came out. I eased her back down and breathed for her again. I felt her body spasm and she was choking and jerking under me.
I rolled her onto her side. She puked, water, and other things spewing as she convulsed. Her eyes opened and the softest, warmest brown eyes I had ever seen looked at me vacantly. Lucidity dawned in them slowly and she struggled to sit up. I helped her and she looked wildly around.
"Kara!" she screamed. "Kara, where are you?" She scrambled wildly to get up. I helped her and held her in my arms as she struggled to get away.
"Easy, sweetheart," I said. "There's no one here but you and me."
Her hands came up to cover her face and she wept bitter tears. "Oh God, oh God," she cried over and over. "She's gone! What am I going to do? She was drowning and I couldn't ... I couldn't get her out! What am I ... Mom ... how am I going to tell her? Oh God!" Her emotions overcame her and she sank to the ground, weeping hysterically.
I gathered her up in my arms and carried her to the ATV. She was so light it felt like I was carrying a small child. She clung to me desperately and I could feel her wracking sobs all the way back to the house. She was shivering uncontrollably. I carried her inside and into the bathroom, sitting her on the edge of the tub. "I'll be right back," I told her. Her face was buried in her hands and I don't know whether she heard me or not.
I still had a few of Cybill's clothes and I found a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and a fluffy robe. I took them into the bathroom and she was still unresponsive. "Sweetheart, you need to get out of those wet clothes," I told her. "Do you think you can change, or do you want me to help you?"
She didn't move or respond, just crying, huge gulping sobs with her face in her hands. I got the dry t-shirt ready and raised the one she was wearing. Gradually and slowly, I slipped it up and she moved her arms enough to let me pull it over her head. I tried not to look at her. I dried her off a little with a towel and pulled the new t-shirt on her. It was too big, but that was good. It went on easier over her wet skin. All she had on down below was a bikini bottom and I stood her up so I could get it off. Averting my eyes as much as possible, I lifted her feet and pulled the shorts up, tying the drawstring when they were on. I put her arms in the robe and tied the sash.
Her hands were still covering her face and I picked her up and carried her into the spare bedroom. I laid her down on the bed and put a pillow under her head. "I'm going to go make you a cup of hot cocoa," I told her. "I'll be right back." I couldn't tell whether she heard me or not.
She was still in the same position when I got back. I sat her up and scooted in behind her. She let me take her hands away from her face and I put the cup in them. That seemed to register with her and she whispered, "Thank you," as she sipped.
"I'm going to call someone," I told her. I started to move away and she grabbed me with one hand. "No, don't leave me." The desperation in her voice broke my heart. This little lady was hurting badly.
"I'll just get my cell phone and come right back," I assured her.
"Okay," she whispered. When I got back, I climbed in behind her and she rested her back against my chest and belly. I called the sheriff's department and explained what had happened.
"I think there's another girl in the river," I told the dispatcher. "You better send a search team."
"Who's Kara, honey?" I asked her.
"My sister," she whispered.
"There is definitely another girl, the sister to the one I've got," I said.
They told me a team was on the way and they'd send an ambulance to my house. I ended the call. I wrapped my arms around her and held her. She was a tiny little thing.
"Honey, can you tell me what happened," I asked her.
"We ... it ... there was a log ... she was trapped," she couldn't go on. She wept uncontrollably for about five minutes. "I tried to help her. I couldn't ... I couldn't get her out! I couldn't!" Her voice was full of agony. "I dove and dove, but I was too ... too weak! I got tired, but I tried and tried! I knew she was ... was drowning. Oh my God, what am I going to do?" It was a wail of despair. "I tried until I couldn't swim anymore! I went under ... you saved me, didn't you? Why?" she beat on me with her tiny fists. "Why didn't you just let me die? Why couldn't it have been me? How can I ... what am ... Oh God, I just want to die!" She was hysterical and I wrapped her in my arms and just held her.
"I know, honey," I petted her hair and just whispered to her. "I know. It's awful, just let me hold you, you're safe. It hurts, I know. Be strong, now. Kara would want you to be strong. What's your name?"
She didn't respond for a minute, just burying her face in my chest and crying uncontrollably. "Dara," I finally heard a choked reply.
A terrible thought darkened my brain. Could they be twins? Jesus Christ, it was bad enough the way it was; that would just be nightmarish! I held her shaking little form for about twenty minutes, just talking to her quietly, and I heard sirens in the distance.
"I'm going to go down and let the EMTs in," I told her. "I'll be right back."
.... There is more of this story ...