10 September, 2012
10 September 2012
Setting aside his atlatl and pulling the pistol--he would have rather prevented their uninvited guest from discovering that they had firearms, that being a piece of intelligence that he did not at all want distributed to the wider world, but more important than protecting this information was bringing Liz, the baby and himself safely through the next few minutes--Einar stepped back towards the boulder where Liz crouched concealed, demanding that Juni stay where she was, get down on her knees, hands on her head. Liz spoke softly, wary eyes on the woman.
“Who is she? Skier?”
“No, reporter. Seems to be alone but we got to find out. Give me Will, and I’ll cover you while you search her. Pack, clothes, body, everything. We’re looking for anything electronic, anything that looks at all like it could be used for communication. Quickly transferring Will to Einar’s parka, Liz slipped forward and stood carefully regarding the intruder, keeping well to the side in order to give Einar a clear shot, should he need it.
“Ok, get those snowshoes off, and toss them to the side. Right. Way over to the side. Now. Do you have any weapons?”
“A knife. In the pack.”
“Take off your coat and spread it on the snow.”
“Now dump the pack on the coat. Right. Good. Shake it. Now turn it inside out so I can see.”
Juni complied, the meager contents of her pack rolling out onto the sleek white ermine of the coat, sheathed knife, wool sweater, two pairs of wool socks, spare hat and gloves, notebook and pens, insulated bivy sack and what looked, even to Liz, like a pitifully small amount of food in the form of energy bars and hard candy. There was in addition a leather pouch which contained, when opened, flint and steel, some sort of tinder in a little bag--either milkweed down or cotton, Liz could not be sure from that distance--snare wire and a good coil of what appeared to be hand-made cordage, all packed in a small aluminum cooking pot. The only additional item was a camera, carefully protected in two layers of plastic and, when Liz had her disassemble it right then and there, apparently a camera, and nothing more. Liz then thoroughly inspected every item of Juni’s clothing before allowing her to put it back on, finding nothing to cause suspicion and hoping no electronic transponder or other device too small for her to easily detect might have been concealed amongst the ermine furs of the reporter’s coat… Einar, possessed of a similar idea and a good deal more suspicion than Liz, insisted on inspecting the coat himself, tracing every seam and probing areas where the fur was thicker until he was satisfied that the coat was clean. Tossing it back, he put away the pistol, ventured out from behind the boulder with Will, and stood beside Liz.
“Fine mess this is.”
Juni relaxed, breathing a sigh of relief as she slipped back into her coat. “I really thought for a minute there you were going to do me in with one of those atlatl darts, just like I thought the first time! Aren’t you going to introduce me to your family?”
Einar remained silent, but Liz slid Will, awake now, from his pouch on his father’s back, brushed the snow from a nearby fallen tree and sat down. Hoped Einar would do the same, as she could see that he was struggling mightily to keep from toppling over after all the excitement and activity of the past hour, but he remained standing, watching, so she beckoned for Juni to sit beside her.
“I’m Liz, and this is our son, Snorri Willis. We usually call him Will.”
“Will. Will Asmundson. That fits, alright. I like it! How old is he?”
“About four months. He’ll be crawling soon.”
“I have a niece who just turned four months old…oh, there’s so much I want to ask you about your life up here, about the baby and…what do you call this coat? It’s like what the Eskimos used, right? Baby carrying coat?”
“Amauti. Einar made it before Will was born, and yes, it’s an ancient Inuit design. Helps keep the little one warm because he’s always right in against Mom’s back, and makes it easier to carry him and protect him from the weather. I really don’t know how we’d have got through these last four months without it.”
Einar, meanwhile, was still standing straight and ready for action beside the boulder, glowering at the two women and the ease with which they seemed to be speaking to one another, on this, perhaps the most disastrous day of their life in the basin, the day they lost everything, and suddenly he had to get away, have a bit more space around him, and he went, quietly retreating behind the boulder, believing Juni posed no immediate threat and knowing Liz was more than able to take care of herself, should his assessment prove incorrect… A bit of space between them now but still close enough that he could hear the women conversing, he finally allowed himself to sink down in the snow, entire body trembling, utterly exhausted after the events of the day. Couldn’t let them see it, mustn’t, the thought of Juni, especially, having any idea just how marginal a hold he was maintaining on consciousness and probably on life itself just then seeming to him particularly threatening, and he resolved to be up on his feet again within the minute, ready to return to them and figure out what must be done. After which he promptly fell into sleep, or unconsciousness, or some shadowy state between, but whatever it was he could not seem to get out of it, hard as he tried, and it was thus that Liz and Juni discovered him some minutes later, sprawled out in the snow and appearing quite dead, but for his shaking.
He was not dead, was not even asleep, really, had simply run out of the energy needed to stay on his feet, and when Liz stood over him he quickly opened his eyes, blinked, shook his head and rolled to his stomach--doggone it, now they’ve seen--making an effort to rise but not quite succeeding, ending up face down in the snow again. Liz knew what he needed, hurried to fish the little container of honey out of her pack and give him some. Einar almost refused, but when she whispered in his ear a reminder of his recent promise to her, he ate, and was immediately far more able to keep awake, move, and he rose, getting shakily to his feet but still appearing pretty distant, not quite aware.
Having seen it all before Liz was not terribly concerned, not outwardly at least, but Juni reacted differently, turning to Liz as if the situation were something of an emergency. “Where do you live? Surely you’ve got a shelter of some sort, especially with the baby… I can help you get him there.”
Liz had no intention of telling her, knew they had probably lost the cabin, anyway, with the close proximity of such an intruder, but was not about to go and finish the job before its time. “Oh, we camp here and there. Right here will be fine, for tonight. Right over in that next bunch of trees.” Would have to be. Einar clearly wasn’t going far before some serious rest and some food, and they certainly couldn’t risk going back in the direction of the cabin, anyway, with Juni there to potentially follow them… The camp would be a bit sparse, a bit chilly, but she’d brought food, a cook pot, Will’s rabbitskin blanket and she and Einar had their parkas; they would make it.