After leaving the antique shop, Maya made her way toward the hills. It was not long before Old Duffy made his appearance. As usual, he was a stone’s throw away and sitting down indifferent to the world around him. At least he gave that impression. Maya’s heart raced. She could not be silent. The frozen earth beneath her feet cracked like eggshells. She could not run. The field grasses were frozen in bunches and made the footing awkward. Old Duffy turned his head toward her as he picked up the sound of her footsteps. He got up and started a slow walk as if waiting for Maya. Then, Maya started to get the feeling Old Duffy was leading her somewhere. When Old Duffy got frustrated with her slow and mistrusting pace, he would circle back toward her, enticing her to pick up the pace with a few crouch and sprint movements. Maya started to enjoy his taunts, especially his double take grins. As they ventured deeper into the woods, the sunlight grew dim. Maya lost sight of Old Duffy. She picked up the sound of something running toward her and she took cover behind a tree. She peeked around the trunk and saw a scruffy and dirty dog. She pulled back. As the dog began to pass she realized it was Cooper. Or, at least it resembled her dog. She could not help but cry out.
“Cooper, over here! Is that you?”
Cooper stopped short and turned to look at Maya. Then, he bolted toward her. He bounced up on his hind legs to look Maya straight in the eyes and got a good lick on the bottom of her chin while knocking her down to the ground. The two wrestled around on the cold earth as they enjoyed seeing each other again. The reunion was short-lived as Cooper let out a few barks. He wanted Maya to follow him back the way he came. When the two of them reached the trapped girl, Old Duffy was already there. Maya calmed Cooper’s mistrust by saying, “It’s all right Cooper. He was helping me all along.”
Maya saw there was no chance of moving the boulders to free the girl. She was hunched forward and too weak to keep her head up. Maya asked, “Are you Emily?” The girl nodded her head up and down and gave out a few short rasps. Maya pulled a bottle of water from her pack.
“Now don’t swallow. Take a few sips and spit it out,” instructed Maya.
Maya examined the situation and came up with an idea. Cooper could dig a hole big enough between the boulders and Maya could slip through. If she could remove the girl’s sneaker that may just give Emily enough room to free her foot.
“Cooper, dig!” Maya commanded.
Cooper began digging but his pace was slow and sloppy. From afar, Old Duffy watched the dilemma and it did not take him long to catch on. He mustered up his trust and got right beside Cooper. They both dug with a sense of urgency. When the hole was wide enough, Maya slipped part of the way in, untied Emily’s sneaker and removed it. She wiggled back out of the hole, grabbed Emily by placing both arms under her armpits and pulled. As the girl screamed in pain, she opened her eyes revealing their dark, silver pattern. Maya looked into those eyes and felt both anxiety and relief. Emily was now free but not out of danger.
Maya thought aloud, “Now what? You are too weak and we can’t carry you.”
Maya knew the only help was back at the town and darkness was fast approaching. She reached into her backpack and pulled out the newspaper. She tore off the heading about the missing girl, folded it, and placed it snug between Cooper’s leg and the friendship bracelet that remained strong through the entire adventure.
“I hope that holds, Cooper. Now, follow my trail to the town and get help,” Maya said as she pointed in the direction of the town.
Cooper would make the trip in about an hour. He picked up Maya’s scent all the way to the antique shop. Wendell had just stepped outside the shop to end his day. Cooper ran over. At first, Wendell was startled and turned to defend himself. Then, he realized what appeared to be a note on the dog’s leg. He saw the friendship bracelet holding the note. Wendell glanced at the bracelet on his wrist and then, back to the dog. He reached down, removed the note and read it aloud. “This is from the paper. Maya!” he whispered.
Cooper barked twice.
“You found Emily!” shouted Wendell.
Cooper barked again and as a show of inducement, he started to run back in the direction of the woods. Wendell went back into the shop to phone the police.
Within five minutes, the police arrived with all-terrain vehicles and a canine crew. Wendell gave a rapid, yet confusing set of details to the police. However, the officers were inclined to believe. They were filled with hope and wanted to act. Hope was better than not being optimistic. Wendell jumped on the back of one of the ATVs. One of the officers placed a dog headlight around Cooper’s neck and Cooper led the charge into the woods. As they made their way, the headlights picked up the eyes of several coyotes. All the coyotes began a group yip-howl that contained the rise and fall of yips and yaps. Unknown to the rescue team, the coyotes were actually vocally guiding them toward Maya. Maya and Emily had crawled back inside the space between the rocks to keep warm and to stay out of the brisk winds. Old Duffy sat at the newly formed entrance between the boulders to protect the girls and shield them from the cold. When Old Duffy picked up the headlights of the rescue team, he bolted away. Maya saw the lights and crawled out. The police scrambled to retrieve Emily and carried her over to the rescue vehicles. The police were preoccupied with Emily and turned their backs to the scene. Wendell approached Maya and said, “I believed in you all along. You too, Cooper. Now the town will believe in me and I will have a home and a permanent job.”
As his eyes turned from silver to a dazzling amber, Wendell said, “You will be unstoppable.”
Seconds after Wendell spoke those words, Maya and Cooper found themselves back on the summit of Sundown Hill. In the distance, Old Duffy appeared on the hill to the left. He let out a few yips and yaps, then, finished with an approving howl. A breeze was blowing at their backs and into the high bluestem grass. The scent of warm, fertile soil filled the air, harmonizing the mood. Maya could hear the jubilant screams of her parents. She was not fazed and focused her eyes on the setting sun and its beams that were dancing in the amber sky filled with silky, glittering seeds of aspiration.
For now, this concludes the adventures of Maya and Cooper! All six chapters combined only takes about an hour to read.
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