One more deleted scene before Deep Down is available tomorrow. The fox who appears in this excerpt was left out of the final version of the book entirely. Maybe it will come back in some future story.
When Hallie’s alarm went off the next morning at 6:30 AM, she sat up blinking. It might have been the first time since she’d come home that she’d slept a full 8 hours straight without waking. It was not quite light, the sky outside her window lightened to charcoal, but everything still indistinct and dark.
One of the water troughs needed repair down in the back south pasture and Hallie’d told her father she’d get to it today. After a quick breakfast, she grabbed a jacket and headed to the barn to load supplies. The little fox was back, trotting behind her as she crossed the yard. She stopped. The fox stopped.
“What do you want?” she asked.
The fox looked at her. It sat and curled its tail around its body and blinked its eyes. Hallie headed on into the barn. At least it wasn’t trying to kill her.
When she came back out, the ghost was there, floating in the early morning sunlight, almost completely transparent, but there all the same. Great. “He told me it wasn’t any of my business,” Hallie said. “So, go away.” It made her morning just about perfect so far, talking to two things that didn’t talk back. The ghost floated, staring, maybe at her, maybe at nothing, cold radiating like a deep freeze.
Hallie ignored both–the fox and the ghost–and loaded the truck with wrenches and hammers, a shovel, and several lengths of pipe in case she actually had to replace something. The morning was cool and clear, a light wind blowing out of the north. Things had started to green up in the last few days, though there was still plenty of dead, dry grass. The ground was springy underneath, an artifact of the snow melt.
Hallie was never sure if she liked spring or not. She’d been through spring in four different places–South Dakota, Missouri, Texas and Afghanistan. Sometimes it was gloomy, cold, and muddy. Other times it was warm and bright and alive, like Persephone really did walk out of Hell, bringing life and flowers with her.
This spring was the first time in a long time when Hallie seriously didn’t know what she was going to do next. Not day to day didn’t know, because she could keep busy on the ranch all spring. But after that, for her sanity and her father’s, both, she’d need to figure out what she was going to do next.
Out at the water trough and windmill, she replaced a length of pipe. As she worked, she thought about Boyd. She thought about the accident and the zone of dead things surrounding it. And she thought about the fox. She didn’t want any of it. Because, why her? Though the accident had maybe been directed at her. Or directed through her to Boyd. Still, she had no idea what it meant and she didn’t think Boyd really did either.
She worked steadily until just after noon, replaced two lengths of pipe, inspected three other water troughs and replaced a bent windmill blade on one of them. She was rolling back across one of the upper pastures when her phone beeped. A voice mail from her father.
“Hey, where are you?” Like this was a regular conversation and she was going to answer him. “Don Pabahar called me. Says he hasn’t heard from his Mom in a couple of days. Wanted one of us to stop by and check on her. Since you’re out that way I figured you could do it on your way back. Okay? Yeah, talk to you later.”