Kira Duke shifted her five year old daughter from one hip to the other while listening to Rosco announcing the latest results for the race over the megaphone. Her husband was participating in a charity race along with her brother and oldest cousin. As a group of racers sped past the Boar's Nest Kira made sure that her daughter was able to get a glimpse of both her father's as well as her uncles' cars before they disappeared around the bend once more.
When the cars returned the race would be over. Then she could get the youngest Duke home since Crystal needed her nap. Of course getting the boys home will be up to Jebb since they were always allowed to stay with the men at the garage for a while after each race. At eight the twins were more interested in hanging out with the men in the family, doing things that they may or may not be allowed to do elsewhere.
Fortunately, Kira didn't think that she'd have to worry about her husband or the rest of the men doing anything that they shouldn't while the boys were with them. Even if their methods weren't exactly hers. She knew for a fact that Mikey had gotten a taste of beer when he pestered Cooter for some during one of the Saturday mornings at the garage that they'd gotten to tag along to as a reward for getting all of their chores done all week without having to be reminded too much. Her oldest had shown a bit too much curiosity in the drink that the men were all drinking while enjoying the weekly breakfast of doughnuts so Cooter had taken it upon himself to teach the boy that he wasn't old enough to enjoy the beverage. From what Kira could tell by listening to her husband tell the tale, her son had gagged and spat the drink back out all over the floor of the garage. Just seeing his older brother's reaction had prevented Jay from deciding to join in on the taste test.
Glancing around, Kira caught sight of Kim with Daisy's son, Jimmy. Daisy was working at the bar so, as was customary, Kim had volunteered to watch the young boy when his mother was busy. Kim had become a second mother for the young boy and Bo was very much like a father to him. Kira was sure that at times Daisy still worried about her son since she was a single mother after Darcy's death while she was still pregnant but at the same time her son had so many good male role models that she knew that he'd always have a man to talk to when he needed one.
Beside Kim sat Luke's wife and his little girl. Jo and Kim became the best of friends nearly from the moment each of them had moved to town; especially while Kim was the former Marine's doctor during her pregnancy with her and Luke's daughter, Faith. The young girl with dark curls was running around with her older cousins never far from one of the adults in the Duke family or another. In fact, Kira knew that Jesse intentionally had set up his game of checkers with one of the other men in town in an area where he'd be able to see if the younger Dukes wandered too far from their parents.
As the reports of the next lap came in from overhead, Kira listened as Rosco reported that the General Lee had just passed the fourth checkpoint along with a car being driven by one of the younger men in town. One that, in Kira's opinion, confused reckless behavior with talent. Now she knew that she'd done the same when she was younger and less experienced; but to be honest, she had felt that she had no reason to worry about getting hurt and she certainly had never worried about anyone else at the time. Being a bit older and wiser, the knowledge that someone like that was out racing her brother and husband grated on her nerves.
Bo seemed to be holding his own, though. At the next check-in his lead had grown just a bit more and it was clear that he'd be returning to the old roadhouse several seconds ahead of the rest of the racers. Next, Kira heard it reported that Cooter was giving the young driver a run for his money but one thing was definitely wrong. For the second update in a row she heard no mention of her husband at all.
When the leading cars could be heard pulling up toward the Boar's Nest Kira's concern deepened. As she made her way toward the finish line, she kept trying to listen for the Stonewall Jackson above the sounds of the exuberance of the race's spectators. When she got to where her brother and cousin each were embracing their wives she asked the one question that was at the forefront of her mind.
"Ain't he here?" Bo turned about while looking for his cousin as Luke did the same; each noticing for the first time that he hadn't crossed the finished line along with the rest of the racers.
"No," Kira answered her brother before adding, "and he never showed up at any of the checkpoints after the second one."
With only a glance between the two, the cousins hopped back into the General Lee and took back off in search of their missing kin. Bo took a shortcut back to the second checkpoint where Jebb had last been seen. In the stretch between the second and third checkpoints there were several bends in the road along with divots and ditches but nothing Jebb couldn't navigate past in his sleep.
From what Luke could remember, it had been during this particular stretch that the newer racer had taken Jebb's third place run and had begun to challenge Cooter for second. He did his best to remember just when he'd last seen his cousin but with all of the excitement of the race it all just seemed to be a blur. Instead he decided to watch the tire tracks to see if they gave any clue as to what had happened on the track less than an hour before. When he came to a couple of sets that looked to have been competing fiercely against one another Bo slowed the car down and pulled over to the side of the road so that he and his older cousin could get a better look.
"What do you make of them?" Bo asked as he knelt down to get a better look at the tracks.
Luke followed one set of tracks while his cousin examined the other. As he neared the deep ravine on one side of the road his eyes scanned the brush below. "Bo, over here."
Luke began to follow the broken brush down until he finally saw a glimpse of the blue Charger that belonged to the missing Duke Boy. As he got closer he saw that the left side of the car was crushed against a tree.
"I see it. Head back up to the General and call for Cooter and for an ambulance. And hurry."
As he approached the passenger side of the car Luke peered into the window and saw his cousin slumped across the steering wheel. His blond hair bloodied from where his head had smashed into the steering wheel. Opening the door, Luke leaned in and checked for his cousin's pulse. He had a hard time finding one but eventually he found it. It was a bit thready and weak but it was there. He was then left to wait for Bo who told him that not only was Cooter on his way but he was bringing both Kim and Kira with him and the ambulance would be right behind him. The kids were being left with Jo and Jesse to watch.
Luke knew that neither of the women would have been able to stay back once learning of Jebb's wreck. Kira being his wife, was sure to be worried for her husband after learning of the accident that sent him down into the ravine. Kim, being a doctor, would be quick to come to aid of her brother-in-law. In no time at all the wrecker and ambulance pulled up behind where the fellas had left the General Lee. Before Wilbur and his partner could get the back board out of the ambulance both Duke Women were stumbling down toward the men with Cooter at their heels.
"How's Jebb?" Kira asked just before she saw the side of the car crumpled around a tree. "Oh God!"
"Easy. He'll be alright. Luke checked him out as much as he could. Let Kim and Wilbur take it from here but he'll be alright."
Bo put an arm around his sister as they stepped back to let the others work together to get Jebb safely out of the car and up the ravine toward the ambulance. Once the whole group was back up at the road Kim told Kira that she'd ride with Jebb to keep a check on him during the ride. It would be best if she followed in behind with the fellas. Before Kira could mount a protest Wilbur helped Kim up and shut the door to the back of the ambulance.
"I'll let Uncle Jesse know that we'll be heading to the hospital." Luke walked over to the orange stock car and pulled out the mic for the CB. Jesse assured him that the kids were fine with him and Jo and told Luke to let him know just as soon as he had word on Jebb's condition.
The three Dukes then climbed into the General Lee and followed in behind the ambulance while leaving Cooter behind to start working on pulling out the Stonewall Jackson out of the ravine. Once at the hospital each of them were forced to stay behind in the waiting room until Kim came out to tell her family members of her brother-in-law's condition.
"He's not awake yet. We've had to give him a couple of stitches from where he got just a bit to intimate with the steering wheel which also caused a fracture in his left cheekbone. He likely will have a concussion but we won't know for sure until he wakes up. In addition, he'll have some sore ribs; two of them are broken but several are bruised. He was lucky that he didn't end up with any internal injuries."
"Yea, real lucky," Kira muttered. "If he'd really been lucky he wouldn't be here."
Kim gave her sister-in-law a look of sympathy before telling her what room Jebb had been taken up to so that she could sit with him while waiting for him to wake up. Over the next several hours various friends and family members joined Kira while keeping a vigil in his hospital room. When night fell she reluctantly left her husband's side to be with her children. Bo volunteered to stay with Jebb overnight and promised that he'd let her know the instant that there was any change in his condition.
When Kira got home her sons and daughter were all waiting for her to find out how their father was. Kira did her best to slap on a convincing smile as she told them that he was fine before she walked over to gather her youngest up in her arms. It was well past Crystal's bedtime but she'd wanted to stay up with her brothers. Kira thanked Jesse for watching the kids and could tell that he wanted to ask things that he'd not dare ask in front of the children. Instead he gave each of them hugs and promised that he'd see them in the morning and left the mother to take care of her small brood.
Once all of the kids were in their own beds Kira went to her room and let the stress of the day wash over her. She wished that she knew that Jebb was going to be alright. She knew for her children's sake she couldn't let them know just how terrified she still felt hours after seeing their father hunched over the steering wheel of the family car that Jebb liked to race when he could.
Perhaps for the first time in years Kira felt the uncertainty of everything weighing her down. When she saw Jebb bloodied and limp in the car she had been certain that she'd already lost him. While waiting for him to wake up she had almost nothing to think about than what would have happened if he hadn't survived the accident. How would she be able to make it through life without him? Her rock and steady hand? The one who had not let her push him away when she'd been convinced that she couldn't depend on anyone to not abandon her after a lifetime of not being able to count on anyone for the majority of her life.
Sitting on the bed, Kira grabbed Jebb's pillow off of the bed and held it tight as she allowed the emotion-filled tears that she had been holding back since the afternoon to finally flow in hot rivers down her cheeks. Tears that she'd rarely let anyone else see. Tears that she rarely allowed to show themselves at all.
The next day Kira was sitting in Jebb's hospital room once more and waited in a silence that both irritated and frightened her. She had called his parents earlier in the morning and promised to call them the moment that she had any news. She then pulled out her bag with some files for a case that she had going to trial over in Hatchapee next week. It was nothing major, really. Just an incident where a few men had gotten into a dispute with one another after a bit too much beer at the local roadhouse of the county. She really didn't need to read over the information again but she felt that if she didn't do something that she'd go out of her mind. As she was putting one file down in favor of another she glanced over at Jebb only to be greeted with clear signs of him trying to wake up.
"It's about damn time," Kira muttered in relief. She then moved closer to the bed and watched as Jebb's pained expression took in the sight of the room.
"How'd I end up here?" Jebb asked since the hospital looked different than any he could remember.
"You got a little too up close and personal with a tree during the race yesterday." Now that Jebb was awake it felt as if the weight of the whole world had been lifted from her shoulders. "From what Bo and Luke told me, it looked as if that newcomer may have ran you off of the road."
"Bo and Luke?" Jebb thought hard as he heard his cousins mentioned.
"They'll be by later." Kira smiled knowing that the other men would be nearly as relieved as she was to know that Jebb was awake and appeared to be just fine. "I'd better go let a nurse know that you're awake. I know that Kim planned to come check on you pretty soon, too."
With that Kira rushed out of the room to go in search of a nurse. She came across her sister-in-law instead. Kim told her that she'd go and see Jebb and get a few tests lined up that she'd wanted to wait for once he was awake. In the meantime, she expected Kira to head down to the cafeteria since she knew dang well that she hadn't hardly eaten since the accident. Reluctantly Kira agreed since she would rather not be left alone in the hospital room while Jebb was out for his scans.
Kim headed to Jebb's room and went on in to get a look at her patient. When she did she noticed that he looked to be a bit confused. "Jebb, how's the head?"
Jebb raised a hand to his head where he could tell he had stitches instinctively before shrugging. "Hurts like hell but I'm guessin' that there's a good reason for that."
"I'd say so. Now I'm going to just ask some basic questions so we know where to start today. Alright?"
"First, can you tell me where you are?"
Jebb scoffed just a bit at the question. "A hospital."
"Right. But can you tell me which one?"
Jebb glanced around the room for a clue but couldn't see one. He knew that the hospital didn't look like the one in his hometown of Placid. The last that he could remember he had been heading to Atlanta for a race. But the woman who had been in his room when he woke up had mentioned a tree. Had the race been an off road one? Or maybe he and his friends had arranged for a street race after the Motocross. But she'd also mentioned Luke and he couldn't have been there. He was on the other side of the world.
"Atlanta?" Jebb guessed but knew right away that he'd been wrong by the look that crossed the nurse's face.
"Jebb, do you know who the president is? What year is it?"
Those questions caused him to laugh outright. "1975 and it's Gerald Ford. Have any other obvious questions that you want to ask me?"
"I see." After a few more baseline questions Kim's brows furled in concern at Jebb's answers. "I'm going to go ahead and get some tests scheduled and then I'll be right back."
Kim headed toward the nurses' station and gave the orders to the charge nurse before making her way toward the cafeteria where she knew that her sister-in-law was waiting for her. When she found her she could barely make herself join Kira at the table where she was eating a sandwich of some sort that she'd gotten for her lunch. Kim braced herself for what she needed to tell the other Duke.
"So, how is he? Is he going to be alright?"
"Well, he's having a CAT scan right now but there is something that we need to discuss."
Kira saw the seriousness in Kim's face and instantly became concerned. "What? Why? What's wrong?"
Kim bit her lip as she tried to figure out just how she was going to tell the other woman that her husband had just lost nearly twenty years of his life. "Well, first, I should say that this may not be permanent-"
"What's not permanent? What's wrong?"
"After asking Jebb some questions it seems that he's lost some of his memory. Now like I said, it may just be temporary but right now we really don't have a way of knowing that."
"His memory? So what? He can't remember the race?"
"It's a little bit more than just the race, Kira."
"How little bit more?" Kira asked as she crossed her arms.
"He, uh, he can't remember anything after 1975. He thinks it's the summer that he was sixteen. After looking up his medical records it looks like he had a motorcycle accident right around then. It could be that this recent trauma has triggered a latent injury that he'd sustained way back then."
"He what? 1975? We hadn't even met yet in 1975!" Kira took in fact that her husband now had no idea of who she was. Hell, he had no idea that he was a grown man with his own family. "The kids! How am I going to tell them that their dad doesn't know who they are?"
"Well, hopefully this won't last long-"
"But if it does?"
"All I can say is that we'll need to take this slow. It's going to be hard on Jebb when he realizes just how much of his life he's missed."
"So what do we do now?" Kira asked while feeling that her entire life had been turned upside down in a way she hadn't thought possible.