He came to with a jolt. Wind rushed through the broken windshield and slashed vicious tentacles against his face, while shattered glass and snow lay scattered across the dashboard and his lap. Pain cut into his skull and the back of his neck. With a tentative hand, he touched his brow and came away with damp fingers.
He blinked several times, unable to understand why he sat behind the wheel of a car.
Some type of car accident? He couldn’t remember.
The vehicle rested at an odd angle, its nose dipped downward, and the driver’s side tilted toward the pine tops. Waning light turned a cloudless sky to a dirty gray. Dawn or dusk? He didn’t know. He couldn’t think. How had he gotten here?
Lifting his hands, he peered at them. They were large, long fingered, and free of calluses. Fine brown hairs dusted their backs. Stranger’s hands. His hands.
He wrestled for answers—a memory, an image, a clue to his identity—anything.
Nothing but a black, empty slate.
Panic welled in his throat and cut off the air to his lungs. He couldn’t remember anything about himself. He didn’t have a name, a past, a family. He didn’t exist.
Finally, he managed to drag in a lungful of air, but its frigid sting rushed passed his throat and into his lungs too fast. Oxygen flooded his head and white sparks danced across his peripheral vision.
No. He needed to stop. Now. And focus. Think.
He forced himself to relax, to calm the wild thump of his heart. After a moment he managed to breathe in a slow, steady rhythm, and the panic eased. He turned and noticed the passenger to his right. A man sat slumped, silent, his body thrown forward and held in place by his seatbelt.
“Hey, are you okay?”
He nudged the man’s shoulder with a hand. “Can you hear me?”
Something wasn’t right.
He unbuckled his seatbelt and slapped a palm against the dashboard to stop from pitching forward. Awkwardly, he twisted in his seat, eased forward and ducked to get a better look at the person’s face. That’s when he noticed the hole above the passenger’s open and unblinking eye. For several long, heartrending seconds, he stared at how the blood pooled from the wound, and then dripped, again and again, slowly but steadily onto the person’s jean clad leg.
A gunshot wound. Had to be. “Jesus!”
Until now, he hadn’t noticed the pungent odor of death and how it clung to the interior of the car. At the stench, his stomach lurched but kept from heaving its contents.
The passenger wasn’t even a man but a kid in his late teens. A dead one at that. And the boy sure as hell didn’t die from a car accident with a bullet hole in his head.