Back in the cabin, Bud seemed almost unaware of Juni’s presence as he began delving into the midsized expedition pack he’d brought up with him, Liz wanting to stop him, take him aside and ask if he’d thought of the possible ramifications for Susan, as well as for himself, should the reporter come to know the extent of their prior association, but doing nothing of the sort. Silly question, as he had certainly considered all possibilities and must, though she couldn’t see what it might be, have a plan all worked out. She wondered idly, watching as he removed sleeping bag, stove and a gallon-sized steel snow-melting pot to get at whatever lay beneath them, whether his plan involved Juni making it down off the mountain alive, but knew matters were somewhat out of her hands, at that point. Einar, however, was not entirely out of her hands and clearly needed a bit of attention at the moment, cold, pale and appearing not far at all from sleep, the morning’s two snowy ventures having taken all the energy he had to give. Bringing him the rabbitskin blanket she draped it around his shoulders, tried to talk him into sipping at a pot of hot broth but as soon as she’d turned back to check on Will he set it down heavily beside him on the floor, increasingly dizzy in the radiant warmth of the stove. Couldn’t seem to stay awake, finally conceded part of the struggle by closing his eyes, though still determined to remain aware enough to monitor the conversation and keep an eye—well, an ear more like—on that Kilgore…
Having commandeered an unused deer hide and spread it neatly before the stove, Kilgore worked busily at laying out the treasures he’d carried up with him, first amongst them a good warm pair of socks for each member of the little family, Will included—one can never have too many warm socks Susan had said, and the things do wear out—and Liz could see that his were somewhat too large for him at his present size, a thoughtful detail on Susan’s part, considering how fast little ones grow and change. Next came a spare magazine for Einar’s rifle, and several boxes of loaded ammunition. Einar, who had remained propped against the water barrel, cold, dizzy and half asleep since returning to the cabin, perked up some at that sight, got his eyes the rest of the way open and scooted over nearer the stove, and Kilgore. Holding up one of boxes, the tracker addressed him.
“You know, I was all set to travel light and quick, and pretty much did, anyway, but Sue wouldn’t let me get away without bringing certain items, and seeing as your chances for resupply are somewhat limited up here, hope you may find this stuff useful. I know you almost certainly won’t have even fired the FAL, considering present circumstances, but wanted to add to you stash in case the day should ever come. Only brought you three boxes, but it’ll almost double what you’ve already got, so a good start I figured.”
“Good start. Thanks! Wish I could fire the thing now and then, get game, stay in practice, but the noise…”
“Yep. Though you could just say you’re blasting for avalanches, should anybody ask.”
“Should anybody ask, it’s way too late for talking…”
“Don’t I know it! So they’re for saving and storage only, against future need. But here’s something Susan figured you could probably use right away, and from the looks of you, I don’t think she could have been more right.” At which he pulled two jars of Nutella from his pack, setting them neatly on the hide beside the other gifts. Einar eyed the jars with a keen interest, need for food suddenly presenting itself as an urgent, pressing thing which threatened to shut out all thought of other matters until it was met, and not liking this, he pried his eyes away and did his best to put such thoughts aside. Kilgore noted the act, the deliberation and strength of will required to bring it about, acknowledged it with a nod but said nothing further on the matter.
In addition to the Nutella there were vitamins for Liz, Susan knowing that their diet was reasonably well balanced even in winter with all the greens and berries they’d been able to dry, combined with an ample supply of meat, but she’d wanted to be certain no deficiencies developed as the winter went along, so had sent the tablets, along with a bag of refill items for the medical kit knowing that such things do tend to get used up, living as the trio were with a daily schedule of hard outdoor work and no way to resupply, except from nature.
“Also brought you a radio this time,” Kilgore continued. “simple little thing, receiver only, solar powered and it also winds up to recharge the battery, and I knew you’d want to take it apart and check before you accept it, so I left it hanging in a tree up by where you met me, to be dealt with at your leisure. Figured it’d help you keep up with the news from down there, not too helpful on search intel, but at night you ought to be able to pick up AM stations from half the country I’d think, get some useful stuff.”
“Radio hung in a tree, huh?”
“Yeah, it’s hung in a tree! Don’t know just what you’d have done to me had I brought something electronic like that into the cabin without your prior notification and permission, but it sure wouldn’t have been pleasant, I can be pretty sure. Taken enough risk just coming up here in the first place, would hate to push my luck one little step too far and end up spending the rest of the winter tied to an aspen tree out there in the clearing, or something.”
“Aw, we wouldn’t have done a thing like that. Would have been unnecessarily unkind to the poor aspen…”
“Yeah. You know, that’s real reassuring, Asmundson. Just puts me completely at ease.”
“We do try to put our guests at ease, around here.”