15 November, 2012
15 November 2012
Liz had heard enough conversation between Bud Kilgore and Einar to have a strong suspicion that the former might well be the man to whom Juni was referring in her description of the Arizona survival course, and she, like Einar, had a bit of a hard time believing the whole thing could really be attributed to coincidence. Einar, she knew, could certainly handle the situation, his suspicion level naturally so high that there was seldom any danger of his getting himself caught up in a conversation and letting something slip, and now…well, any trust Juni might have begun establishing between the two of them over the past days would be gone, the situation, despite Einar’s outward joviality, once more a rather dangerous one for her.
Despite his frequent and sometimes even violent confrontations with the tracker when the two were in close proximity to one another, Kilgore was, it seemed, one of the few true friends Einar had, and loyalty was something which Einar took tremendously seriously. He would protect the tracker by any means necessary. Which for the moment simply meant avoiding the demonstration of any knowledge of the man, beyond their common experience overseas, and he was managing that quite nicely. Liz let the two of them be, went about her supper preparations. It was good to be in the cabin again, strong, secure walls around them holding in the heat and keeping out the wind which had whispered so coldly through their camp down by the river, here with firelight and candlelight flickering on the walls and Will, glad enough to be out of the confinement of her parka hood, crawling about delightedly on the floor in pursuit of Muninn, iridescent black feathers attracting his attention and the bird--wisely, for already he had lost a good-sized tail feather to the inquisitive hands and strong grip of the youngest Asmundson--keeping always one hop ahead of him. Home, and Liz could not help but revel in their return, even if their stay was this time to be temporary.
Warm in the cabin, Liz’s fire doing its job and then some, and in the warmth, Einar was beginning to grow sleepy. All throughout the long days on the trapline he had never really allowed himself to relax, senses always alert for the danger he know could easily creep up on them unawares there in the valley, a single skier, snowshoer or other casual backcountry adventurer perhaps spelling the end not only to their somewhat secure and quiet lives in the basin, but to their freedom, as well. Maintaining that level of alertness for so many days--not to mention his night-long episode splashing through the frozen river and the frigid jungle carrying Andy on his back--had left him utterly exhausted, and he was only now in the warmth and security of home beginning to realize the full extent of the thing. Could hardly keep his eyes open anymore, let alone formulate articulate answers to Juni’s questions, and besides, he was beginning to shake so hard as he warmed thoroughly for the first time in days that he couldn’t have exactly managed to get the words out, even had he been able to compose them. No matter. Probably better for everyone that the conversation end then, anyway, and he closed his eyes, tucking hands beneath his arms and letting his forehead rest on his knees. Only Juni didn’t seem to get the idea, kept right on.
“It sounds like, with the exception of the monkey meat which we didn’t really have access to in Arizona, the training this instructor put us through was modeled after some of the Scouts training over there in Rhodesia, don’t you think?”
A sleepy nod from Einar, head sagging further and Muninn, finally tiring of Will’s game of tag, hopping up and onto his shoulder. That was the end of Einar’s would-be sleep, the bird upsetting his balance and sending him sprawling over backwards into the narrow space between water barrel and wall, a great rasping and beating of wings as the bird took to the air, and laughter from both women and one little person who was just beginning to discover that the world could be a very humorous place, indeed. Einar did not find the incident terribly humorous, head thick and confused with sleep as he sprang to his feet after the raven, somehow grabbing the bird and getting him tucked under his arm all in one swift motion, Muninn too startled even to protest. The others were startled as well, Liz snatching Will from the floor and pressing herself against the wall, somewhat uncertain what was to come next, Juni crouching beside her. Nothing happened next, however, Einar glancing in confusion from the rather subdued raven to Liz and Will and back again, the hard lines of his face slowing relaxing as he began realizing that any disturbance in cabin had been his own making, and his alone, falling asleep right there in the middle of the floor, were you? Foolish thing to do, and you know it, and he released his hold on Muninn, who flapped somewhat indignantly to his perch beside the water barrel and began straightening his feathers. Everyone was quiet, trying not to stare at Einar but somewhat failing and he shrugged, gave a little lopsided grin and sank back down beside the barrel, weary and cold as ever, but certainly a good deal more wide awake, entirely steady.
“Sorry. Little clumsy, there. Guess I shouldn’t let myself sit down when I’m starting to get sleepy...”
At which Juni struggled to suppress a laugh, turning away so Einar wouldn’t see the hilarity in her eyes. “I think the bird might disagree about the ‘clumsy’ bit. You had him nabbed, grabbed and fully contained in half a second or less. If that was clumsiness, I’d hate to see you when you weren’t clumsy!”
“Bird startled me. He knows I don’t mean anything by it. If he was gonna end up in a raven pie, it would have happened before now. It’s just that he ought to learn not to fly at a fella’s head just as he’s drifting off to sleep. ”
“Raven pie. That’s probably something else my instructor would have had us eating, had that course gone on longer than the one week!”
“Guess you can always go back.”
“No, I’m pretty sure he’s not doing it anymore. Running the course. A couple of the other guys who were working with him are in charge now, because he supposedly left to take some sort of consulting job, and got married in the meantime.”
“Consulting job, huh? Doesn’t sound too interesting…”
“Reports have it that he’s working with the feds, down at Mountain Task Force. I wasn’t able to confirm that for sure myself, because while I was there this last time looking for information, he was out in the field. But from what people were saying, it does sound like that’s what he is doing. And he married a local lady, too. I think…” she glanced at Liz, “you know Susan Goodland?”
Careful, Liz. This is starting to get pretty complicated… “I worked at her greenhouse for one season.”
“Yes, that’s her. The lady who runs the nursery. Good for him I guess, finding happiness like that, but it’s a shame, too, since I was wanting to do another week of that course…”
Einar was through. Questions might be innocent enough, but he wasn’t going to risk it. “You want another week? Well, here you are, and the whole thing’s free of charge, too. How about that? You stick around here another week, and it’ll be unlike any course you ever took before, in your life. Not even old Mr. Selous-Scout-tracker-turned-federal-consultant-fellow will be able to top this!”