Snow Melts in Spring - By Deborah Vogts
RED LIGHTS FLASHED LIKE FIRE IN THE MURKY SHADOWS OF THE night. Mattie Evans slid from the seat of her truck and made her way to the accident scene, tuned to the shrill, intermittent static of the emergency radios.
What a way to start this early Sunday morning, not even a week into the new year. Lord, give me strength.
As she neared, the crushed sedan came into view. A ghostly chill crept up her spine. She noted the shattered glass, a trail of blood. Paramedics worked to pull the driver from the car and transferred the motionless boy to a stretcher.
At the sight of the victim’s marred face, Mattie pressed her hand to her mouth. Another body lay covered on the ground.
“Thanks for getting here so quickly, Doc.” The county sheriff met her on the dirt road, and Mattie forced herself to regain control. “Got ourselves a bad one. Two drunk teens hit a horse with their car. One’s dead, the other . . . well, it don’t look good. As for the horse, I doubt you can save him.”
With his flashlight, he cleared a path through the dense fog, and Mattie followed to the edge of the road where her patient lay. Blood stained the gravel.
“They probably didn’t even see the animal until it was too late,” he said. “Don’t know why the horse was on the road — must have a fence down.” He shined a beam into the dark pasture. “Likely spooked and jumped toward the vehicle, then smashed into the windshield. Still breathing, though.”
Mattie knelt for a closer inspection. Someone had tried to stop the massive bleeding with towels, to no avail. She stroked the horse’s neck, and the gelding raised his head. The white of his eye showed pure terror, dilated from shock.
“He’s lost a lot of blood.” The sheriff drew the light over the animal’s body.
Mattie took a deep breath and reached into her bag for a syringe. Once she had the horse sedated, she removed the towels to examine him. Her heart sank at the extent of the damage.
The impact of the windshield had lacerated his right shoulder, withers, and limb. Corneal rupture of the right eye and massive skull fractures. A quick check of his mouth revealed his old age. She noted the paleness of his gums.
At times like this, she hated her job. Such hopelessness. Angered by the senseless destruction, she fought back tears, her teeth clenched as the horse lay wheezing his every breath. Despite her oath to save animals, Mattie knew the horse would require extensive treatments, and even then, his chances for a full recovery were slim.
“He’s in a lot of pain.” The nagging worry from her recent loss caused her to doubt her abilities. “There’s no reason to make him suffer. I recommend putting him down.”
“Can’t do that, Mattie,” a gruff voice answered close by.
Her gaze jolted to see her friend John McCray slumped over his cane. “Didn’t you just get out of the hospital? You shouldn’t be out on a night like this.”
“That’s my fault.” Another man stepped from the darkness, and Mattie acknowledged John’s hired hand, Jake. “When I heard the car horn blaring and realized what had happened, I called the ambulance. Figured the boss would want to be here.”
“This is Gil’s horse.” John gripped her shoulder. “You have to save him.”
Mattie had heard stories about Gilbert McCray from her older sisters, though John hardly spoke of his son. Some said he could have been a professional team roper, but he’d left it all to become a football hero in California. A stupid move, as far as she was concerned. Why would anyone give up being a cowboy for a football career?
She shook her head. “I don’t know if I can.” She studied the horse’s wounds again, then glanced up at John McCray. Mattie recognized the look of regret, the kind that left people empty. She also acknowledged the uncomfortable tightening in her stomach. If she tried to save the horse and he died, could her business or her heart handle another fatality?
THE TEAM MANAGER FOR THE SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS OPENED THE door to the trainer’s room, and the musty stench of sweat crept in and mingled with the odor of medicine and bandages. “Gil, your dad’s calling on your cell. I figured you’d want to take it.” His booming voice broke through the racket of the locker room next door as he tossed the phone to Gil.
Gilbert McCray slid off the table and apologized to