The plane was a white one, a little single engine Cessna of one sort or another, and Einar’s immediate inclination upon seeing it was to suspect that Bud or Susan had somehow alerted the authorities to their position, had done their best to put them at ease and keep them in one place while the enemy made their way to the basin and secured their capture…and with that in mind he wanted to securely restrain the two of them in the cabin and take off, try to get himself and Liz as far from the whole mess as he could before it turned really ugly. To that end he used the time of Liz’s absence--she was out in the woodshed watching the aircraft through the spaces between the ribs of the half-finished structure--to rather thoroughly bind Bud Kilgore’s hands with a length of paracord taken from his own pack. Rather an inconsiderate move, as far as Kilgore was concerned, a fine way to repay the attempted kindness of a friend but not a particularly surprising one given the circumstances, and aside from a few glares and a grumble or two when Einar pulled the cords too tight, he put up little resistance. Figured things would sort themselves out, just as soon as that plane saw fit to go on its way. Wasn’t Roger--he’d looked--but hopefully whoever it was would simply pass over the place in passing, and not give it any undue attention to further aggravate and inspire Asmundson’s imagination, as such a situation could potentially turn dangerous for he and Susan in a hurry.
Would be a real shame to have to take action against the poor fella, but if it comes to that, it’s my life before his, and Mrs. Goodland’s before either. Hopefully I’ll just be able to…yeah, the kind of shape he’s in I really shouldn’t have any trouble coming to grips with him, rendering him temporarily unconscious, provided he don’t tie me up any tighter--ha!--though of course the danger there is that the line can be awful fine between temporary unconsciousness and the permanent kind when a fella’s so far gone as he appears to be. Well. Got to plan for it, but hopefully the plane’ll just move on so everybody can settle down.
Finishing his securing of Kilgore with a grim, wordless efficiency Einar turned his attention to Susan, who had watched the entire procedure in silence and with a hint of amusement, taking her cues from Bud and remaining calm though she did recognize the situation’s very real potential to turn serious if Einar took the wrong notion, which by all appearances he already had… Einar didn’t like it at all, the thought of securing Susan similarly to Kilgore, but couldn’t see as he had much choice, not being at all certain which one of them might be working in collusion with the authorities and calling in the air support and also knowing that he did not fully understand the dynamic between Susan and Kilgore. Never had been any good at judging such things, but there seemed to be a bit of something between them, some sort of wordless communication going on at times that made him wonder just what lengths Susan might be willing to go to in an attempt to protect or free the trapper, if left mobile herself. Couldn’t risk it, any of it, was about to make good on what he knew he needed to do when Liz stepped back through the door, the plane having faded into the distance of soon-to-be memory, and the look on her face when she saw just what Einar had been about in her absence was an absurdly perfect cross between cold fury and hysterical laughter. Susan seemed near laughter herself, which, Liz meeting her eye with a silent query, eased the tension just a bit, but when she finally caught Einar’s gaze she recognized in it no trace of hilarity, no indication that there was any semblance of joking in the situation, did not, in fact, even recognize the man who stared back at her as the one who had just minutes ago been sharing dessert with their guests and thanking her for dressing his battered foot. Had seen them before, the eyes that met hers, knew them and recognized immediately the urgency of the situation. Moving--in a gesture designed to appear as if she was simply reaching for one of the baskets on the back shelf--so that she came between Einar and Susan, she put a hand on his arm, tried to keep him looking at her.
“It’s gone. The plane is gone.”
“It’ll be back. Better get you pack together in a hurry, and we’ll…”
“No. I’m not going. Not until you explain this to me.”
Einar shook his head, didn’t have time, no time for explanations but she was being insistent, showed no sign of backing down and it wouldn’t do at all to leave without her, to have to drag her along as he tried to make his escape, so he slowed down, tried to make her see the urgency of the situation. “Don’t you see what they’ve done? One of them, if not both. Maybe it wasn’t even intentional, but they’ve led the search here to us. GPS transponders in their packs, boots, clothes, who knows? Doesn’t matter. Only thing matters now is that plane, how soon it’s coming back and how much company we can expect it to have. How close the ground teams are, already, and how fast we can move. Everything else is a moot point. Get your pack.”
“Einar. The plane didn’t circle the basin, not even once. Wasn’t really even flying directly over us. It was just paralleling the valley as near as I could tell, and with it being almost September already, don’t you think it was probably just some hunters scouting for elk? I really don’t think it’s coming back. It isn’t like that green and white one from a week ago, and you know what? Even that wasn’t what it seemed. It was Bud Kilgore and his friend up there!”
Einar opened his mouth to speak, closed it again, shook his head and stood there staring at the ground with clenched fists, suddenly unable to find the words, to get his thoughts to slow down and come together in a way that made sense, and then came a terrible moment when, glancing back and forth from Kilgore to Liz, he came within a hair’s breadth of convincing himself without any doubt that Liz was working with them, too, had turned on him and decided to try and get herself a good deal by cooperating in his capture. He could see it, could even spell out the justification she would use, had to admit that he couldn’t dispute her logic, the rightness of the thing, couldn’t blame her, and he was about to leave, to turn and flee while he still had the chance but Bud Kilgore was on his feet, struggling to get there with his hands bound but making it, addressing him loudly, belligerently, standing inches from his face.
“Now just what exactly are you saying here, Asmundson? Because I thought I heard you question my tradecraft just a second ago--GPS transponders in our boots, indeed! You think I don’t check for things like that before heading out on something like this?--and that’s not something I like to hear. Did I misunderstand, or do we have a major problem we got to settle between us? You trying to say I’d fall for a thing like that? Let them track us? I’m the tracker here, remember? You’re way out of line here, soldier. Better get your head on straight and think what it is you’re accusing me of, ’cause I can’t just let this one slide. You got to know that. Now about them planes, nope, this one got nothing to do with me, or with Mrs. Goodland, either…you really think I’d let somebody tag along if I wasn’t real sure of their intentions, and hadn’t been watching them awful close for a while, besides? You know better than that! And so does your bride, your lady, and you better start listening to her on some of this stuff, I’m telling ya, ’cause she’s a real sensible girl. The first plane though, the green and white, yep, that was me, me and Roger Kiesl--you know Roger, right? Roger the Ferret? You must remember him. That was us, and we were scouting this place out, getting to know the terrain so we’d be ready to direct the search, seeing as that’s what them federal boys hired us to do, not direct them to you but away from you, around you, give you a great big safe zone here where nobody’ll bother to look. Make sense, man?”
Einar smiled, shook his head and scrubbed his hands over his face, not sure at all what made sense and what didn’t, but beginning to suspect that there was a possibility--small one, but it did appear to exist--that he could have been wrong about the plane, about both planes, and the possibility felt like water on a parched tongue, desert-dry and with little hope of finding water before the end came, a reprieve, a gift. Stay of execution. Or at least the reasonable possibility of one. Enough possibility that a fellow had better slow down and think it through, consider the possibilities for a few minutes before taking any action too hasty or too final. Liz was working at untying Kilgore, and he did not stop her, did not resist when she took him by the arm and led him towards the bed of bear hide and freshly cut fir boughs.
“Einar, you need to sleep. Stay here with me for a little while and sleep.” He nodded, sat down.
Bud and Susan rose to go, Liz looking over her shoulder as they ducked through the door and catching Bud’s eye. “Thank you.”
He nodded. “I know the language, Ma’am.”