Relentlessly, the search continued. If a plane did not pass over the area every hour—not always directly over the basin or cabin, but near enough to cause alarm and make everyone glad they were inside and without a fire—those lying low inside could have quite easily been talked into believing that such was the frequency of the overflights. No one quite understood it, Liz quiet and grim, speaking softly to Will as she tried to prevent him picking up on the tension in the room, Kilgore quieter still and quite unreadable and Juni wishing only that she could leave, lead this menace away from her new friends and make some sort of amends for the danger in which she had placed them all.
For his part Einar naturally supposed the entire thing really must be related to the ongoing manhunt, even going so far, as evening approached and the strain of the thing began to get to everyone just a bit more, as suspecting that Kilgore had somehow led the search to them, this time. GPS transponders, probably, hidden in his pack or on his person perhaps even without his knowledge, but one never knew about people, even those one had come to trust. Very few were above manipulation or blackmail of one sort or another, especially those who had family that they cared deeply about, as Bud Kilgore now had in Susan, her children, grandchildren…a lot of potential leverage, had the feds seen a purpose in exercising it. Didn’t make a whole lot of sense though, that they would risk the virtual certainty of alerting all inside the cabin of their designs with repeated plane passes, if they were already sure of their target. Place would have gone up by then in a roaring splinter of fire and impact, that, or an assault team, probably supported by a single helicopter which they might or might not have had the privilege of hearing at all before initial contact, would have been through the door and taken everyone, had they chosen to go the “live capture” route.
That was what logic told him, and as darkness fell outside and the flights continued Einar struggled to hold onto this assurance, hold back the growing conviction in his mind that they had been set up, that the guilty party was likely as not sitting right there amongst them, their betrayer, whatever dreadful pressures might have been applied to press him into that service. Had to hold it back, keep reminding himself of the reasons why he’d initially dismissed that scenario as one of the less likely amongst many, and as time went on and he felt the darkness growing around him, logic fading, he wished somewhat desperately to be able to talk the matter over with Liz, get her good, solid perspective on it, she, who had so often proven a rock in the storm, even if he was most times quite unable to admit the fact. In the presence of the two outsiders, however, and unable to safely venture far from the cabin due to the continued flights, he found himself quite thoroughly alone in his struggle. Alone, and losing. Pretty soon probably wouldn’t even remember what he’d believed logic had told him about Kilgore and his relation—or lack of it—to the appearance of the aircraft, and if he did, would be certain that the thoughts had been part of the plot of the enemy, a ploy meant to deceive him into letting his guard down while they were all surrounded and destroyed. In fact, he was pretty sure of it already.
Scrunched his eyes shut, turned his head to the wall. Getting lost here, Lord. And I don’t want to be lost, because this is looking like a pretty important one. Got to find some way to hold on, here, and could sure use your help… To which an immediate answer was not forthcoming, they seldom are, at least in the form which we might be expecting them, but as the next plane came droning over at a height which sent all in the cabin a bit closer to the ground than they already were, Einar glanced over at the tracker and was able to see, for so brief a moment as to not be entirely certain, later, that he had seen anything at all, that the man was nearly as alarmed by the aircraft as he was, himself. Not positive proof of his lack of involvement and certainly no protection against the possibility that transponder of some sort might have without his knowledge been placed on his person, but enough to allow Einar to relax just a bit, ease the necessity of immediate action against the man.
Kilgore, seeming blissfully unaware of the danger though in reality rather acutely attuned to the fact that Einar had been about to make a move at him for one reason or another, and fully prepared to counter it without unduly endangering the other occupants of the rather small space or—hopefully—doing too much permanent damage to the fugitive, rose and helped himself to a fresh dipper of water from the barrel.
“Well, that was a low one wasn’t it? Using infrared, would be my guess, trying to skim these valleys and basins after sundown in the hopes of picking up on a heat signature that don’t look quite like an elk, something they might want to come back for a second look at or even put folks on the ground to check out further…”
Juni, rising finally from her distressed crouch against the back wall, shook her head and joined the tracker at the water barrel. “If they’re just out here looking for me, then why do you think they’re coming over so often? It seems once or twice over the same area should be plenty, doesn’t it? Especially when they have no more reason to think I’m right here than that I’m anywhere else in the state…”
“Sure they do. And besides, this last one was the first to come through really low and slow, anyway. Most of the rest were just traveling, taking enough time that they might have spotted something if it had been there, but coming and going between this and another search area, for the most part.”
“What do you mean, ‘sure they do?’ I never told anyone I was coming here! Never told a soul.”
“No, but you been here before, haven’t you? Not right here of course, but in the search area, hunting wildflowers and doing interviews with most wanted men and such? So when you turn up missing and folks start to worry, why shouldn’t this be the first general area they’d think of? Should have told someone, you know? Told them you were going to Mississippi for a month, or something like that, just so they wouldn’t get to wondering…”
She nodded. “Guess I should have. I didn’t think anyone would ask questions…”
“Well. We’ll get you back down there soon enough. Just have to wait for the right weather. Snow, wind, stuff to ground the aircraft and cover our tracks, and we’ll be out of here. Maybe sooner than we think. That could be one possible explanation for the intensity of this air search right now. Could be they know stuff about the weather that we don’t know, see a limited window and want to make the best of it before it starts storming again.”
“I hope so…”
Liz and Einar, though, exchanged glances. May not be so simple as just walking out of here, the two of you…