08 October, 2012
8 October 2012
Juni thought for a minute about Einar’s question, knew she could easily make things worse than they already were by giving the wrong answer, tried but failed to give the right one.
“I just want to understand you. That’s why I spent most of the past year out in the rocks, mountains, desert and swamp trying my hardest to learn the skills that make your daily life possible out here, and that’s why I’m asking these things. It’s a big part of who you are and why, the history in those transcripts, and I just want to understand.”
Wrong--though the truth, as near as she could come to telling it--and she knew it right away by the uncomfortable silence, the way she could feel his hostile stare boring into her, though it was by then far too dark to see, but it was too late to take the thing back.
“I do not want to be understood! By anyone.”
It’s true, Liz wanted to chime in, he really doesn’t want to be known or understood, not even by me, sees it as a threat, though it took me a long time to learn that, but she wouldn’t really have said it, would have considered it disloyal to provide such information and besides it was too late; the reporter was already talking again. “Surely you do, though. Everyone wants that.”
“No, they don’t. And the more you talk, the closer I come to thinking maybe you really were sent by the enemy. Is that why you’re here? Poke around in my business, ‘understand’ me for them so that I’ll be an easier target, more predictable, and the next time they come for me won’t be so costly for them, and will be the last time? Is that it? This whole thing’s starting to make some sense now. Was like I said when you first showed up, this time around. Roughly half of all so-called reporters in any modern war zone are really intelligence operatives in the employ of one side or the other. That’s it, isn’t it? That’s you.”
She felt the danger, that deadly serious tone in his voice and figured he might be bluffing, but had never known him to do so. Well, perhaps this was the first time. She was pretty sure it was all bluster and diversion, that business about the enemy. He didn’t believe it, but neither did he want to talk about the other thing, or answer any of the questions she would have for him. “No, that is not it. And if it were, if I was just up here as an intelligence asset of some sort, what’s to say that I couldn’t be working for your side? If you have a side. Your side is just avoiding capture and continuing your life out here, I guess, and it seems to me that by providing you the information about where they’ve searched and how intensively, I’ve helped you further that goal. Doesn’t that count for anything?”
“That’s assuming you gave us accurate information.”
“You say.” But he knew she was almost certainly telling the truth on that account, at least; he’d seen no deception in her. Perhaps she simply was curious about the rest of it, as she claimed. Wanting to “understand.” The words grated on him, though, left him wishing very much they might be able to make a fast march through the valley, lose her amongst one of the numerous tangles of willow which turned its floor into a haven every bit as fit for moose as for beaver, and leave her there to find her own way out, hopefully over the course of many days. She seemed at the moment more of a threat to him--if not to the rest of his family, thankfully--than a fully armed and equipped federal strike team would have been, though when he paused and tried to ask himself in a rational manner why this was so, he had no good answer. Didn’t matter. It was reality, this threat, and he had to be rid of it at the first opportunity. Give himself some room to breathe. Only problem was, with snow still on the ground and Juni having apparently become a fairly decent tracker, she would have little trouble following them, if that was what she wanted to do.
They had to wait until the moment was right, until some favorable feature of land and terrain afforded them the opportunity to slip away unnoticed and nearly impossible to follow, and from that time forward Einar determined to keep a sharp eye out for such a favorable confluence of circumstances. Sure wouldn’t be finding it that night, not in the pitch blackness that had descended over the valley in the absence of a moon and with the starlight blocked so by high, rearing walls of rock on both sides. It amazed him how much he’d come to rely on the light of the stars while moving about in the basin, that winter; one might not think it too significant a source of illumination, but in its absence, Einar knew a great loss. And with Liz seemingly unwilling to abandon him to the midnight peregrinations which would have helped him pass the dark hours in relative peace, even if half frozen by morning, he saw few options but to return to camp and do his best to wait out the night there where she clearly wanted him to be. Perhaps it would not be such a bad thing, in the end. He certainly was tired, dead weary and almost frighteningly heavy of limb, when he paused long enough to let himself feel it--not to mention bone cold and slipping fairly speedily into a chilled state from which he might not be easily able to retrieve himself, even should he recognize the need in time, which he knew was not incredibly likely--and a few hours’ rest might do him some good, if he could get it. Leave him more ready not only to carry out his trapping duties the following day, but to lead Liz and Will up through the sort of rough, rocky terrain which would likely be their only option, should they want to once and for all lose Juni and make a fresh start.
Yeah, best try for some sleep, doggone…reporter’s not…gonna try anything tonight, anyway, I can tell it from her tone of voice… And he stopped resisting Liz’s gentle pulling, hands on his arm and voice soft in his ears, come, sleep, you earned it today, long climb, lots to do in the morning, and barely had he crept between the bear hides and allowed his head to sink down onto their insulating softness--one final, fading thought, resist it, you know what’s waiting for you in that darkness--before he was asleep, limbs all stiff and rigid and shaking with cold, but so deep in slumber that he would surely and contentedly have slept right through his own demise as the night chill crept in and took him, had not Liz been there to reverse the process.