“He didn’t run when Roger and I flew over the first time, may have wanted to, but for whatever reason, he didn’t. And besides, now he knows the plane. Has seen it before, knows to be watching for it, so it won’t have come as such a surprise, at least not if he was having a reasonably good day at the time… Which is why I had wanted Roger to steer clear of the area altogether unless we had a real good reason to go back--because it’s real hard to predict a thing like that, to say how a person’s gonna react. If I did have to predict it though, I’d say he’s not gonna run. Not this time. Probably will have known the plane, and even if he didn’t, Roger only buzzed the place once, and Asmundson ought to be in a position to realize that it wasn’t really much of a threat. We’ll hope so, anyway, because to run now…” He shook his head, spread his hands as if in exasperation.
“You don’t have to tell me. I know. It’d be disastrous, especially with the baby coming. Disastrous.”
“You’re wishin’ you could be up there for that baby, aren’t you? For the birth.”
Susan nodded, lowered her eyes. “Yes. She needs…it would be helpful for Liz to have someone there, but I know I can’t do it. Mustn’t do it, because snow’s coming before the baby does, and if I left tracks, got followed…”
“Nope, can’t do it that way. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a fairly safe way to do it, if it ends up being something that must be done, but that’s beside the point, really… And besides, she’s already got someone there. Asmundson’ll do just fine when it comes to helping her through that time. That fella’s one of the best out there when it comes to assessing a situation, figuring out what’s needed, and improvising until he makes something work. They’ll make it work. Especially now that he’s more or less got his head on straight again.”
“Yes, there is that…he certainly did seem to be doing better after you…did whatever you did up there in the trees, better, except that he wasn’t talking, but I expect he’s got over that by now…but are you sure it’ll last? Maybe something will happen, an encounter with a hunter or hiker or an especially bad dream or even that plane flying over, and he’ll be right back where he was when we first saw him on this latest visit, barely recognizing anyone, ready to take off into the timber at the slightest sound, and not at all able to help deliver a baby and care for Liz after the birth, no matter how much he might want to…”
“Nah, I’m not too worried about that,” Kilgore asserted with a good bit more confidence than he was feeling, about the matter. “You’re underestimating the fella, wild critter that he is. Asmundson’s the sort who once he knows his duty he’ll do it, and pity the person who tries to get in his way. Even if half the time it’s just him getting in his own way, which lately I’m gonna guess it has been… But you can be real sure he’ll find a way through all that when it really counts, and make sure that it gets done. Liz and that baby are in good hands, I’m telling ya. I just came today because you made me promise to tell you whenever I heard anything, and not seeing any tracks in the snow around that cabin did seem like something though I don’t know exactly what, yet. Don’t know for sure what it means.”
“Well, that may be why you drove up the hill today, but now that you’re here, how about some of this serviceberry cobbler? I can’t finish it all myself…”
“Well now Mrs. Goodland, I can’t just keep showing up and eating your food without making myself useful around here, in some way. Surely you got a project for me, greenhouse roof that needs some repairs, ruts filled in the driveway, manure needs shoveling, something like that? I’m reasonably competent at most forms of manual labor, or so I’m told, which is good thing, seeing as my main skill these days is man-tracking and its attendant specialties, and I kinda doubt there’s anyone--or anything--you need tracked down and ambushed, right now… So, got some work for me?”
“Oh, I’m pretty sure we can come up with something, if you’re going to insist. We’ll have to. Because I really do need help finishing up this cobbler!”
· · · ·Einar and Liz did not get any cobbler that night, nor were they to enjoy Liz’s much spoken-of chokecherry pudding, even, for she never managed to finish making it.
Best as Einar could figure--in the split seconds during which he did his figuring, just before he acted--they must have been followed home from the basin…