Welcome to The Book of Bones, a weekly adventure story. If you’re just joining the story, click here for Chapter 1.
The knock at the door came again, harder this time. Bones turned off the shower, grabbed a towel, and opened the bathroom door.
“Hold on a minute!” He pushed his long hair back out of his face, wrapped the towel around his waist, and, still dripping, headed to the door. A thin trail of water followed him across the threadbare carpet. When he got to the door, he peered out through the security peephole and smiled.
Marisol stood there, gazing intently at the door as if she could see right through it.
“This is a surprise,” he said as he unlocked the door and opened it. “Come on in.”
“This isn’t a social call. I just…” Her eyes widened when she saw his state of undress. “Do you always answer the door naked?”
“Only when somebody keeps pounding on the door when I’m trying to shower. Besides, I’m not naked. I’m wearing a towel.”
“That’s a hand towel.” She pointedly looked the other way.
Bones looked down and realized that, in his hurry, he had indeed grabbed a towel that barely covered his hips and pelvis. “First peek is free. Anything more than that you’ve got to buy me dinner.”
“Could you just get dressed? I’m in a hurry.” Mari turned her back on him and stood, arms crossed, tapping her foot while he pulled on shorts and a t-shirt.
“You don’t mind if I go commando, do you?”
She let out an exasperated sigh. Even that was cute, Bones noticed. “Oh my god,” she said, “are you always like this?”
“Give me time. I only get better.” He dropped down on the corner of the bed, eliciting a strained squeal from the aging box springs. “You can turn around now. I’m as decent as I ever get.”
Mari took a quick glance back to make sure he was, in fact, dressed, before she turned all the way around.
“What were you doing out at Halcón Rock?” she asked without preamble.
“Oh, is that what it’s called?”
“Just tell me.” She took a deep breath and bit her lip. “Please?”
“It’s cool. I’m into climbing. I went for a run, saw the, what did you call it, Halcón Rock, and thought I’d give it a go.”
“Just like that? You saw a rock and decided to scale it?”
“That’s sort of how rock climbing works. Do you climb?”
Mari shook her head. “Matthew thinks,” she hesitated, “that you went out there just to mess with him.”
“That would be a trick since I didn’t know anyone was going to be out there. I might be devilishly handsome and wickedly charming, but I’m not psychic.”
Mari considered this for a quiet moment. “And of all places, you just happened to wander out there?”
“Dude, I’ve never been here before. I went for a run to kill time and that’s where I ended up. What’s so special about that place?”
“Nothing,” she said, much too fast. “It’s just that Matthew was out there and I was afraid you might have gone out there to start something with him.”
“Why would I do that?” Bones knew the answer, and he suspected she did too, but he wanted to hear her say it.
“No reason, really. It’s just that he sometimes rubs people the wrong way. I saw you two talking earlier and I thought maybe you might have, I don’t know, taken a dislike to him.”
“I hated that idiot before I even met him, and you know why.”
Mari hung her head.
He softened his tone. “Why do you put up with him? You’re awesome and he’s a tool.”
Mari giggled at that. “You don’t know me at all. I’m not that great.”
Bones rose and, in two steps, closed the distance between them. He reached out to brush the hair back from her bruised eye, but she flinched and took a step backward.
“Sorry,” he said. “Listen, I know relationships are complicated, but this is the simplest thing in the world. You need to get away from this guy for your own safety. Hell, get out of this town. If you need my help, I’m here. Whatever it takes.” Mari was right; he didn’t know her. But he couldn’t stand to see a person stuck in a situation like hers. He had to at least offer.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “But you don’t know what you’re offering. Matthew’s dangerous, and it’s not just him.”
“I promise you, I’ve faced a million times worse.” He almost laughed. Mari wouldn’t believe half of the things he’d done in his life.
“I should go,” she said, taking another step back. “It’s a small town and someone might notice me hanging around your room.
“Let them talk. Maybe your boyfriend would be stupid enough to make an issue of it.”:
Mari shook her head. “Will you just promise me you’ll stay away from Halcón Rock?”
“I will if you’ll tell me why.”
A curtain seemed to draw down over her eyes. That request was obviously a non-starter. She cocked her head and frowned. “Did you really run all the way out there and then climb the rock?”
“Almost. I still had about ten feet to go when Deputy Dipshit and your fellow showed up.”
Mari smiled. “I’m going to have to remember that one.” She fell silent. They stood, gazing at one another, Mari not crossing the threshold, but not making a move to leave, either. “Is this what they call an uncomfortable silence?”
“I’m not uncomfortable, but I think you’d be a lot more comfortable if you came inside and closed the door. We can just talk.”
She twitched, as if she were about to take a step toward him, but froze. “You have a lot of scars. I peeked a little bit.”
“I was a Navy SEAL. I’ve been through some stuff.”
“I’ll bet you’ve got some stories to tell.” The eye contact was gone.
“Plenty. Want to hear a few?”
“Yeah,” she said. “Maybe tomorrow at lunchtime.” She turned and hurried away without a goodbye.
Bones moved to the doorway and watched her walk to her car, get in, and drive away. When she was gone, he closed the door, grabbed his cell phone, and did a quick search for Halcón Rock. The results made him whistle.
“Holy crap. I think I need to go back for another look.”