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It was the price they were paying for such a beautiful, hot, sunny weekend. Certainly there had also been something of a price in their complete failure to catch any fish - it was far too bright - but Blair still considered the weekend a success; Jim had been able to relax, unwind, and recharge his batteries.
They were still an hour from Cascade when the fog began rolling inexorably in from the west - from the sea. Visibility reduced steadily - and quickly. Compensating for it, Jim slowed down as the blanket of fog thickened, until at last he pulled off the road and stopped.
"Stupid to go on," Jim said. "I've got my sight cranked up about as far as it'll go, and even at that I can only see a few yards. We can't be more than ten miles from home, but - " He broke off as a car passed them, heading towards Cascade, at a speed rather more than Jim had been going. "I'd prefer - " He broke off again as they heard a loud crashing noise.
They looked at each other. "Come on, Chief."
Jim jumped out of the truck and began to follow the edge of the road, with Blair close behind him.
After a bare hundred yards they came on the car. The bend in the road was minimal, but enough that the driver had clearly failed to see it and, driving straight on, was finally stopped by a tree.
The driver was slumped, unconscious, over the steering wheel. Jim went to him, reaching through the broken window to turn off the ignition. Blair went to the passenger side, where the woman in the front seat was trying to get out, but getting nowhere because she seemed to have forgotten that she needed to unfasten her seat belt, and the child in the back was whimpering.
"Are you all right?" Blair asked the woman.
She nodded. "Yes, but I seem to be stuck."
"Seat belt?" Blair suggested.
"Oh!" She fumbled with the buckle and released it.
Blair helped her out, then helped her get the child out.
"Take them back to the truck, Chief," Jim said. "I'd say call it in, but I don't think even the emergency services will risk moving in this. I'll stay with the driver, and if he's mobile when he comes to, I'll bring him back to the truck as well. We'll be a little crowded, but it'll be warmer."
"Yeah - odd how cold it is now, after how hot it was." He turned back to the woman. "I'm Blair - my friend there is Jim."
"Olive. This is Wayne, and my husband is Seth."
"Well, you come this way, Olive." As he urged her to move, he went on, "Our truck isn't far. We pulled off the road when Jim decided the fog was too thick to risk going on. That was just a couple of minutes before you passed us... "
Jim turned his attention back to the unconscious driver, hearing Olive saying, "I tried telling Seth we should stop, but he wanted to get home," as Blair, carrying the child, led her back up the road. He checked the man, quickly discovering that apart from a broken leg, there didn't seem to be any injuries.
The man - Seth, he reminded himself - moaned softly. "Olive?"
"She's all right, so's the kid," Jim said. "But your leg is broken."
Seth raised his head and, still obviously half dazed, looked towards Jim. "I drove off the road, didn't I."
"Yes. You really should have stopped when the fog got so thick."
"I thought I knew the road well enough... " He shivered. "It's cold."
"Yes. And the last thing you want is hypothermia on top of a broken leg."
"Olive?" Seth asked again, forgetting, it seemed, that he'd already been told she was all right.
"My friend took her and the kid - Wayne? - back to our truck." Jim thought for a moment. He had already decided that the fog was too thick... but that was before he had the responsibility of an injured man who really should be checked out in a hospital before he was much older.
The road was quiet - he probably wasn't the only driver who had decided it was safer to stop. If there was nothing else moving...
"All right," he said. "I'm going to go and get my truck. It won't be pleasant for you being lifted into the cab or sitting cramped with four of us on a bench seat meant for three, but I can't leave you here in your car - you'd freeze."
Jim walked back to the truck. As he got in, Olive asked, "My husband?"
"I'm going to drive down to your car, then get him into the truck. It'll be awkward - he has a broken leg - but it seems to be the best option."
"We'll get a little more room if you were to sit on my knee and Seth could maybe manage to take Wayne on his?" Blair suggested.
"That's a good idea," Jim said as he started the truck.
With both Jim and Blair helping him up and Olive steadying him from inside, Seth managed to get into the truck. While Olive settled Wayne on his father's lap, Blair clambered in from the driver's side, and maneuvered Olive onto his knee.
Finally Jim climbed in, handed Olive her purse with a quick, "You'll need this, won't you?", gave Blair a pointed look, started the engine, and moved off.
Surreptitiously, Blair slipped his left hand between them to rest against Jim's thigh and Jim relaxed slightly.
Keeping very close to the side of the road, and going no faster than ten miles per hour, Jim drove steadily, hoping that his unexpected passengers wouldn't register that he had not put on his lights - even the sidelights caused enough glare to make it harder for him to see any distance. At this speed he reckoned it would take close on an hour to reach Cascade, though with luck visibility in the city would be better. They passed two or three vehicles parked as far off the road as possible; if there were any on the other side of the road, heading out of Cascade, the fog was too thick for them to be visible.
Finally visibility improved slightly and they could see that were now actually in Cascade. Speeding up very slightly, Jim headed for Cascade General.
Pulling up at the entrance to Emergency, Jim got out and went to meet the porter who was approaching from the doorway.
"Got a man here with a broken leg," Jim said. "He ran his car off the road in the fog. I reckoned even the ambulances wouldn't be running in this, so I brought him in."
The porter nodded, and headed back for a gurney.
Between them they got Seth out of the truck and onto the gurney. Jim looked at Olive. "What about you? If you want, I can take you home - "
She shook her head. "No, I'll stay here with Seth," she said, "but thanks for the offer. And... and I can never thank you enough for what you've done. Both of you."
Blair grinned at her. "Look at it this way," he said cheerfully. "If we hadn't picked you up, we'd still be sitting out there are the roadside waiting for visibility to improve. As it is, we'll sleep in our own beds tonight. When we get home, we'll report the accident for you as well - oh, better give us your surname."
"Jarvis," she said.
They watched as she took Wayne's hand and headed into the building; then they got back into the truck and carefully made their way home.