An injured Lara Croft must track down a missing amulet.
Lara sat on an examination table as her doctor examined her knee. A bright, morning sun poured in through the mostly closed blinds of a window on the right, adding a cheerful air to the room. Lara had slept through the entire night thanks to the Ibuprofen and woke up refreshed. Her knee still hurt though. An angry, red-purple bruise had formed on the side of her knee during the night.
“This does look very swollen,” Dr. Winston said, pressing gently on the knee.
Lara gasped. “What should I do?”
Dr. Winston took one more look at the bruise. “Judging by your symptoms, I think you just need RICE therapy: rest, ice, compression and elevation.” She wrote something in her electronic clipboard and stood up. “Want me to write it down for you?”
“No, thanks,” Lara replied. “I can remember it.” She had suspected that RICE would be the treatment. Last year, she had sprained her ankle and had taken it easy for a week.
“Stay off it for a few days,” the doctor continued. “If it gets worse, let me know.”
“Thank you for seeing me so soon.”
“You’re welcome.” The doctor smiled. “And try not to break anything or die before your next physical.”
“I’ll try.” Lara grinned.
The doctor left the room, shutting the door behind her.
Lara dressed, gathered her purse and phone and left the office. As she limped to the exit at the back, uneasiness clawed at her like a feral cat. She took a few deep breaths and pushed open the door. The parking lot surrounding her was mostly empty. An elderly man with a walker headed past her. A few cars to the left, a woman helped a toddler into the back seat of a mini-van. Lara let out the breath she was holding and headed to her car.
Lara got home around midmorning. She parked in front of the manor and limped up the stairs slower than a snail. Once at the top, she opened the door and went in.
Her butler, Hillary, came into the foyer carrying a set of wooden crutches.
“Look what I found!” he said.
“Fantastic!” Lara took the crutches and tested them out. Happiness and relief flooded her as she headed toward the living room. “I won’t have to sleep on the couch tonight,” she added. There was a bed not too far away, in the maid’s quarters near the kitchen.
“Shall I get you anything?” he asked.
“No thank you.” She flopped down on the couch and leaned the crutches against the seat beside her.
“If you need anything, let me know,” Hillary said.
He headed up the stairs on some unknown errand.
Lara listened to the house settle while she turned Jack’s offer over in her mind. It would be easy to say “no.” Three million was a lot of money but she wasn’t sure it was worth putting up with the pain in her knee and risking further injury. She reached for the living room’s landline phone. Her hand froze over the receiver. Sitting at home would soon grow boring but maybe she should pass on the assignment.
An hour passed, marked by the ticking of the grandfather clock. She put her foot on the closest footstool and relaxed into the comforting softness of several throw pillows. A horrible thought came to her. What if the injury was so bad she could never go on adventures again? The last thing she needed was a life-long knee problem.
“You’ve got to be more careful, Lara, dear,” she said to the empty room.
Her eyes fluttered shut and a dream began. Lara opened her eyes. A bright sun hung in a clear blue sky, giving the momentary impression that it was warmer than it really was. She stood at the edge of a Native American village, a sight she had only scene in photos. Large Tipis made of buffalo skin sat in a clearing that was splattered with large patches of glistening snow. A bitter, spring wind blew.
Uneasiness knotted her stomach. Something about the scene was wrong—there were no children playing outside. Where was everyone?
Sorrowful crying drifted through the field, making her shiver. It came from the closest tipi. As she got closer, the crying stopped. Was someone in trouble? Forgetting all manners, Lara pulled aside the flap and went inside.
The interior was roomy. Mattresses surrounded a fire in the centre. Five small bodies were lined up on the left side. Lara’s heart sunk. The children ranged in age from three to around fourteen. A woman with a clear complexion knelt in front, wiping her reddened eyes with a leather cloth. Her hair was tied up in a pompadour style with two small braids framing each side of her face.
“What’s going on?” Lara asked. A kernel of anxiety formed in her stomach.
A man went to stand beside the woman, placing a strong hand on her shoulder.
“It’s been such a long, cold winter,” the woman said.
“Wyuma, we must hold the burial soon.” His voice was gentle but full of sorrow.
“Just until midday?” Wyuma asked.
“Very well.” She stood up slowly. Her eyes widened with surprise when she looked at Lara.
“What is it?” the man asked.
The woman kept staring at Lara. “A spirit.” She turned to face the man.
“There’s one here right now?” he asked.
A sharp pain crept into Lara’s knee and the pressure of finding something no one else could started to build until the weight of it seemed to crush her mind like the a horde of stampeding horses. It was all too much.
“You think that is suffering?” Wyuma’s voice asked her.
Pain razed through Lara’s mind like a wild fire, the pain of a mother who had lost all her children. It was raw and burnt through her skin, a pain that surpassed even the deaths of her parents. She never thought there was anything worse than that—until now. She could cry a river of tears and never stop. It seared through her mind. Threatened to engulf her soul—
“Stop it!” she cried and sat upright. Her heart pounded in her chest. A cold sweat covered her body and her knee throbbed—a sign the painkillers were wearing off. The dream started to fade but the pain lingered like hot ashes.
Who was Wyuma? What did she have to do with anything? It was settled. She had to find out more. Picking up the phone, she dialled Jack’s number.
The flight to the US was quiet and went by faster than she thought it would. It took two planes to get to Fargo City. The first one landed at O’Hare International Airport, in Chicago. The second flight took her to her destination, Hector International Airport in Fargo, North Dakota.
The thirteen-hour and twenty-four-minute trip gave her knee plenty of rest and she almost didn’t need her crutches as she left the plane and headed toward baggage claim number two.
“Do you need any assistance?” an airport worker asked.
He picked up her suitcases and followed behind her.
Hector International had a high ceiling and a clean, white floor. The upper part of one wall was angled and lined with skylights. Car rental cubbies lined the area below. Two rows of beehive-shaped hanging lights lit up the large corridor that led to the exit.
She scanned the area for Anna Grey Wolf, the woman who was supposed to give her a ride to the museum. A woman with shoulder-length, black hair stood close to the front of a small crowd, holding up a sign that said, “Welcome, Lara Croft!” in bright green marker. Soft, angular features made up Anna’s face. Her white smile stood out against a deep tan. She wore a t-shirt and worn, light blue jeans. An outdoors woman. Lara liked her already. Friendly, brown eyes looked at Lara with questioning recognition.
Lara waved. “That’s her,” she said to the airport worker, a lanky young man with auburn hair.
“I can carry your suit cases to her car if you’d like.”
“That would be wonderful.”
Lara headed toward the crowd and the young man trailed behind her with the luggage.
“Hi! You must be Lara!” Anna said with a smile. “It’s so good to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you too,” Lara said. She reached out for a handshake.
“How’s the knee?”
“It’s getting better, thanks.”
“Good, good,” she said. “My father wants to meet you right away.”
Her enthusiasm reminded Lara of happy bird. “I’ll need to get a rental car at some point,” Lara added.
“I know a person who can give you a good deal, better than the airport dealership.”
Lara and the airport worker followed Anna toward the exit.
Once outside, she took a deep breath of humid, warm air. A hot afternoon sky warmed her skin. Her muscles welcomed the movement after sitting for so long. Behind the parking lot, there were green fields, a few buildings and roads spreading into the distance. The sky was bright blue and dotted with a few puffy, white clouds.
“I’m in the short-term parking area,” Anna said. “It’s close by.”
Lara and the airport worker followed her to a weathered, red Mazda. Anna opened the trunk and helped him shove the luggage inside.
Lara tipped the young man with two American twenties.
His eyes widened. “Thanks!” He turned headed back toward the terminal at a brisk pace.
Lara put her crutches in the back seat and limped to the passenger seat.
Anna started the car and drove out of the parking lot.
“My father’s museum—Grey Wolf’s Heritage Museum—is about twenty minutes away,” she added as she turned on the radio. “Do you like country music?”
“I don’t mind it.” She rarely heard it in the UK so it would be a nice change—or a bad one. She smiled.
Anna cranked up the radio to a volume that made Lara wince. It was difficult to talk so Lara relaxed against her seat. Scenery flew by as they travelled south, down North University Drive. Anticipation and worry warred in her mind. She wanted an adventure but there were no leads. Ah well, perhaps some of her contacts knew something.