Einar didn’t want to hear it, any of it, did not want to be compelled to spend his reserve of energy--which he sensed was dangerously low at the moment--defending his position to Kilgore, especially seeing as the man had sought him out, had shown up without invitation on his doorstep. Ought to be defending his decision, if anything, explaining the audacity that led him to make that hike and intrude on this place--my place--in the first place. Ha! Einar chuckled silently, eyes remaining deadly still, unreadable. He’s got no need to explain about the audacity. Guess that’s the way he’s always been, just part of what makes him able to do the things he does. Sure don’t like when it’s directed at me and mine, though. Be better if he kept that daring and bluster and such aimed squarely at the enemy, yep, a lot better. But here he is, and seems determined to talk, so guess your only real choices are to take that spear and run him through--or run him off--or sit here and listen. Einar, fortunately for Bud Kilgore, chose the second option. It was a near thing.
Kilgore shifted position on the log that was serving as his seat, not altogether oblivious to the danger he’d been in, but not terribly perturbed by it, either. Such is life. “So, you given this thing any thought, Asmundson?”
“Our proposals. Any of ’em. All of ’em.”
“Been giving things like that thought for the last couple years, off and on. Always come to the same conclusion.”
“Can’t risk it. That’s how these things end, Kilgore, and you know it. One little slip-up like that, one contact too many with the outside world, and it’s over. You’ve hunted enough human critters in your time to know that it’s so. Our only safety, our only chance out here, long term…is in total isolation. And you’re spoiling it. You and the lady.”
“Aw hey now, don’t go lumping me in with ‘the outside world.’ I ain’t part of the outside world, I’m just me, and I’m telling ya, we came up here only with incredible care and caution. Nobody followed us.”
“I believe you. But just as a matter of statistical probability, the more frequently we have these contacts, the sooner one of them’s going to get us caught. I’d rather keep those chances down to a manageable level, which means that when I say I don’t want to see you up here again, I sure as heck mean it. Don’t do this again. I’ve got a family to protect now, and you know I’m gonna use whatever means are necessary to do that. Even if they involve you not making the return trip to the valley, one of these times. Be kind of a shame for it to come to that.”
“Well now, yes it would. I’ve come to be fairly fond of this going-on-living business, as it turns out. Wasn’t always that way, but I seem to have got round to a spot where it’s a bit of a priority for me. Ever been there, Asmundson? In that spot? You can be, you know. But that’s for a different conversation. Maybe one we can have before I head out. We were talking about your family for now though, and how you plan to do whatever it takes to defend them. Which I know you mean as sincerely as a thing can be meant, and know you’re qualified to understand just what it may entail, too…but you ever thought of this?”
“Of the fact that maybe you got to think outside the box a little when it comes to defending them. Got to realize that maybe the best way to do it might involve doing something that’s way outside your comfort zone, just because it makes the most sense--for them. You got to come down off this mountain, man. Got to at least consider it. Your bride’s about to give birth to her first kid here in a couple months, and looking around I don’t even have to tell you that you’re woefully under-equipped for such an occurrence. You got a house without a stove, woodshed without wood and though you do have a start in the area of food and fat, it’s not a real solid one, considering how late in the season it’s getting to be. As for clothes, it don’t appear you even got enough to keep your scrawny self from having to shiver all day long once the weather cools off some more--look at you, even now--unless you’re gonna stay in bed all the time wrapped up in that one bear hide. Got to have more than that, an awful lot more, if you want to make it up here. If you want your family to make it. I know you got antifreeze in your blood and can sit for a week in the snow without eating or drinking or freezing to death if you have to--pretty close, anyway--but bet neither the missus nor the little one have got that skill. At least not yet. Give you time, and you’ll teach ’em, I have no doubt. But if you want time, you got to get the both of them through this winter that’s comin’ up. This thing you’re trying to do here, this winter up near treeline…not even the Utes did this, man! Went down lower, all of ’em, down to sagebrush country where they only had to contend with maybe six, eight feet of snow instead of thirty, where the mountains gave some sort of shelter against the wind, you know that, right? Transitory folks, migratory. And it worked for them. That’s all I’m asking you think about doing--migrating! Nothing to say you can’t come back up here whenever you want, sometime after the little one comes, grows a little, maybe when the snow starts melting out…this place’ll still be here.”
“And look, you may not know it, but I’ve got the feds in my pocket, down there. They came to me, all but begged me to sign up for the search and are looking pretty desperately for ideas on where to turn, how to see some progress in this thing. For the moment at least, they’re tending to go where my reports direct them. I go fly around with Roger, get a feel for the land, look for tracks and sign that appears out of place--that’s what they think I’m doing, anyway--and away they go. Don’t you see the potential in that? Not only can we kinda steer them around your current location, but we could use those routine flights as a cover for a supply drop, drops, however we decide to run it, or could even pick the two of you up on one of the passes over this area. Get you out of here altogether, let them carry on with their wild goose chase until they run out of funding and have to cut down to a skeleton crew there in the valley, just to keep up the appearance of an active search. We could do that. Can do it. You just give the word.”
“You’re an awful persuasive man, Kilgore. Should’ve been a doggone politician. You would have gone far.”
“Nah, I rub most folks the wrong way. Or so I’ve been told. Wouldn’t get many votes.”
“Nope, don’t guess so. Like to be able to give you mine, but in this case, just can’t do it. What I said before still stands. Ask me again someday when you’re running for Senate, and I may be able to reconsider my vote.
“Have it your way then, ya mangy old coyote. Never did lack for stubbornness, did you? But I had to try.” Gonna have to keep on trying just as long as I’m up here…