02 January, 2012

2 January 2012

The weather wasn’t cooperating, and Bud Kilgore found himself anxious the morning of the wedding, pondering the honeymoon plans and what might be their alternative, should the storm entirely preclude their execution as it appeared likely to do. Had already necessitated hauling some guests up the long, winding driveway on snowmobiles after getting them parked down below, and had nearly prevented three of his closest friends and former associates from making it in from their various locations--almost, but not quite. Not much could stop those guys, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor…well, technically, I guess that refers to the US Postal Service, but it could equally apply them, only it’d just be the start. You’d have to add some stuff, like “nor hail of lead nor heavily patrolled border, international embargo, avalanche, sand storm, plague of locusts or pretty much anything else man or nature can throw at them,” yep, have to add that stuff or Roger’d get mad at me for leaving it out. Certainly doubt he’s gonna be flying his little plane in through this howler, probably not the big one either but that fella’s surprised me before, and may do it again. Bet he’ll find one way or another to get them here, though. For which reason Kilgore was not surprised in the least when Roger Kiesl and his two associates showed up, despite the weather. All three of whom had longstanding friendships and work relationships with him, and who had come as a trio that previous year at the request of the Mountain Task Force--trackers, they had needed trackers, real, professional ones, and had turned to the experts, the guys who ran the school--had explored and tracked and nearly closed in on Einar in their thorough, stealthy way before being pulled off the hunt by the Agent in Charge to chase shadows and rumors of shadows down around base camp, subsequently leaving in disgust, without pay, and with a thorough knowledge of the inner workings of the search, a rather dangerous combination when dealing with mercenaries, or former mercenaries, even those who adamantly disavow the title.

The men put in their appearance a good two hours before the officially announced commencement of festivities, bouncing and sliding up the switchbacks in a disreputable-looking little pickup, taking those hairpin curves at a speed which even Kilgore, well accustomed to them after days of plowing, would have found somewhat alarming, two of the fellows sitting in the back, plastered with snow, just to provide a little more traction… A good thing they’d made it, because they had his wedding suit, having agreed to stop by his home in Arizona to retrieve it for him, being the only three folks on earth who had keys and the only three, also, who could have any reasonable expectation whatsoever to safely approach the place while he was away. Though of course most of the other folks, the ones who couldn’t expect to do so, didn’t know it, didn’t even know there was anything to be concerned about, which was exactly how Kilgore liked it. Some things are definitely best not known ahead of time, because if you don’t know ahead of time, you can’t take countermeasures, and what, after all, is the purpose of elaborate and brilliantly conceived passive defenses if the enemy knows ahead of time to take countermeasures? But they’d made it, that motley crew, and with them the dress greens he intended to wear for the ceremony--provided they still fit; he hadn’t tried to get into them in nearly thirty years, but had always kept himself fit and trim and figured all the time he’d been spending maintaining the driveway, getting firewood, repairing sagging greenhouse roofs and running all over Kingdome Come on one wild goose chase or another for his federal employers ought to outweigh all the good meals Susan had been cooking for him, and his potential and occasional overindulgence in such. Well, almost. The greens were a little tight here and there--perhaps, though he wouldn’t have liked to admit it, he’d lost just a bit of muscle over the years and replaced it with a bit of fat, in certain areas, but it all pretty much balanced out--but largely fit him the way they had all those years prior when he’d worn them on those dusty and infernally hot parade grounds, and looked pretty sharp with all the dust shaken off and freshly pressed, too, for he had sneaked into the laundry room and borrowed Susan’s iron that morning somewhere between greeting his guests and plowing the driveway to press them…

Wasn’t the least bit hot or dusty up at Susan’s mountainside homestead that morning, but it was--in the greenhouse where the ceremony was to take place, at least--toastily warm thanks to the fact that Susan had been out there since well before dawn feeding the little woodstove and putting her finishing touches on the place

Susan, too, was concerned about the weather, having come to look forward to the honeymoon trip with greater anticipation than ever since Kilgore had let her in on its details, and now the storm seemed likely to prevent or at lest delay their starting on that journey at a time when she was more anxious than ever to see it begin. They were, she was pretty sure, already too late to witness the birth as she had secretly hoped to be able to do, wanting to be there to provide Liz with any support and assistance she might need, help out if either she or the baby had any difficulty but she’d wakened in the night from a dream so real she had little doubt it must have some bearing on reality, the little cabin lit by candlelight and little more, no fire in the stove, for some reason, and Liz in labor, and though she had never herself seen the baby, she knew the time must have come, spent much of the remainder of the night in prayer for the little family, strength for Liz, courage and calm for Einar, and for the little one, a smooth entry into the high, cold and stormy world which was to be his home, difficult at times, no doubt, but free…

She sighed, made one final sweep through the greenhouse--her friends from church would be there soon to help her finish preparations, but she was enjoying the quiet time--seeing that everything was in order, poinsettias all nicely arranged, watered and ready to witness the event, tables nicely laid out for the food which was to be served after the ceremony and all the chairs set up for guests both welcome and unwelcome--they would, she figured, have some of each show up, and Bud had already gone over the entire place several times in an effort to make sure it was all ready for the unwelcome ones--and with everything done stoked the stove, headed into the house. Only an hour more, and she’d be well on her way to being Mrs. Kilgore. A major change in life and coming so few years after the loss of her husband of nearly forty years, but a happy time--he would have approved, she was sure of it, blinked back joyful tears at the thought--and the start of a new life of sorts, for both she and Bud.