Might have messed things up, anyway, a possibility but not a certainty, for he’d reported that there had been no sign at all of the place being occupied, no smoke from the stove Kilgore had helped them build, no tracks in the newly fallen carpet of white to indicate that someone had been out that morning to run a trapline, or get water, or even use the outhouse…nothing. Which left him to wonder if they had, after all, ended up abandoning the place after he and Susan made their most recent departure. Doubted it, as they hadn’t done so after his first visit, and Einar had really seemed different after their little session in the woods, had seemed more settled, stable, ready to get on with things and prepare for winter there at the cabin. Which only deepened the mystery of why they were, it seemed, no longer there, and he wondered if they might have had a near miss with some hunters, hikers, something that convinced Einar they must move on. Could be, but could also be that Roger had simply caught the place on a morning when they were elsewhere, having spent the night out on a hunt, or collecting berries or some such. Which would have meant their being caught out in the storm, but he figured if anyone could deal successfully with that, it would be Asmundson and his bride. Provided the scoundrel had managed to put on a little weight in the meantime to help insulate himself against the cold that was sure to have settled over the high country with the coming of that storm. Otherwise, he’d be having a mighty rough time of it.
These things he mulled over as he navigated the steep and muddy switchbacks of Susan’s driveway--most of the high country snow had fallen as rain down at that elevation, a cold and piercing rain that spoke of early frosts, of bears going into hibernation and the coming of winter--keeping his tires carefully out of ruts deep enough to trap a medium-sized hippopotamus. Doggone driveway needs some work, or it’s gonna be a real mess come spring. Susan does what she can, I know, but she’s got so much to keep up with up there running her greenhouse business and taking care of grandchildren and all, and this thing’s a good half mile of muddy steepness, from what I can see. Huh. Have to do something about it, myself, if she’ll let me. Maybe even if she won’t, if I’m gonna keep driving up here like this. Don’t want to lose the truck, especially since it isn’t really even mine… He’d promised to tell Susan if he heard anything, saw anything that might give a clue as to how the pair were doing, and supposed this newest bit of information, though collected against his instructions, probably counted. Even though it was simply a repot of a lack of activity, and not particularly reassuring.
· · · ·Though inclined to protest when Liz mentioned her preparation of the poultice for his ribs--didn’t want her going to any trouble over him, and besides, he was already cold and damp enough, without adding any more moisture to the situation--he refrained, remembering his resolve to try and get the things to heal, allowed her to bind the mass of soggy, slightly warm leaves in place with several of the long cloth strips that they had previously used to wrap his damaged foot. Not a particularly good thing to be reminded of--he shuddered slightly at the thought, despite himself, which Liz took as a response to the wetness of the poultice, and once again she wished they might be able to have a fire--but of course they could not afford to dispose of anything so valuable, and had boiled and saved the cloths.
While the additional chill of the wet and soon no longer warm leaves pressed up against him was not particularly welcome that morning, Einar did find some relief in the tight wrapping of his ribs necessary to holding it in place, thanking Liz and breathing a bit more easily as he returned to his work on the elk hide. Was almost through, almost ready to move it outside and begin lacing it to the stretching rack they’d recently used with great success on the sheep hide, though he wasn’t entirely certain it would prove large enough to hold the skin of that massive bull elk. The thing was going to be a monster, quite a challenge when it came to braining and stretching, difficult to soften, as all bull elk hides tended to be, but it would be well worth the work. Especially once Liz was walking around in that hooded, marten-lined parka he was picturing, all covered and protected from the wind and with plenty of room beneath for carrying the baby securely wrapped against her for warmth as she went with him on his winter traplines down in the valley, helping him bring back their catches of beaver and muskrat. He smiled. Yes, definitely worth it…
Now to get outside and begin preparations for the tanning. Pressed his face to the crack above the door, squinting out at the brightness Snow was still there, slushy and no longer quite white as it began the melting process, but still in the way of their leaving the cabin. They needed a back door. One that opened upright into the heavy timber that flanked the cabin, allowing them to exit without leaving sign. Foolish to have only one way out, anyhow, and he wasn’t quite sure how he had allowed them to build the place without taking that into consideration. Quite an oversight, and one that he intended to remedy just as soon as the situation allowed for it. Even as it was, the cabin was fairly well shielded by timber at the front, cover which would have been sufficient under just about any circumstances other than the ones that they then faced, with the possible return of that plane. He simply couldn’t justify creating a situation by which their presence might be betrayed, not when they were perfectly capable of waiting it out there in the cabin. Which presented an interesting and somewhat ominous dilemma when he thought about the coming winter, the degree of caution with which they would have to conduct their lives.