Seldom, in that winter season when Susan’s greenhouse business was only open two days each week, did guests arrive unannounced at the house during one of the other days, but that day happened to be one of those rare occasions. Both Bud and Susan knew the identity of the owners of the tan pickup—supposing that it was being driven by its owners, and not some federal contingent which had co-opted the vehicle for their own purposes—and knew that they were not to be feared, except for the possibility that they might accidentally discover the identity of the guests staying at the place. The couple, though friends and members of Susan’s church, were not part of the inner circle with which Bud and Susan might have trusted such knowledge. Which necessitated a delay, and Bud, after hauling the unconscious Einar to a back bedroom where any noise he might make could be masked—hopefully—by the running of the washing machine, hurried out to create said delay.
After whisking Liz and little Will down to the basement with strict instructions to stay there until she returned to them—Liz wanted very badly to stay with Einar, but Susan pointed out that should the little one take a notion to cry, there would be no explaining the sound to their guests, and the basement would prevent any such risk—she hurriedly neatened up the kitchen, hiding all evidence of their breakfast guests. That task accomplished, she and started a load of laundry before cautiously entering the room where Bud had deposited the fugitive.
Einar lay in a crumpled heap on the bed where Bud had dropped him, barely appearing to breathe but definitely alive, for even in unconsciousness he put up some resistance when she did her best to straighten his limbs and get him under the blankets. Gently inspecting the wound where the butt of her pistol had struck home—it had been a quick action, one she had the next moment realized might well have killed him, but it had seemed better at the time than two to the chest and one to the head, less likely to be final—she found that the bleeding had stopped, and was glad. No time now to do a proper job of dressing it, but she would see to that just as soon as their uninvited guests left. If he let her, for surely he would be waking by then, and would be none too pleased with the entire situation.
“Sorry fella, but I just wasn’t prepared to lose another husband. Not today,” she explained, securing Einar’s arms against the event of his premature wakening and pulling the quilt up to his chin for warmth. Already he was beginning to shiver in that room where little of the stove’s heat tended to reach, and she wanted, if at all possible, to prevent his slipping further into hypothermia while he was out. “And you’ll realize at some point,” she went on, “what a mistake it would have been for you to head out there today, you really will. Out into that snow where everybody can follow your tracks. You just can’t be doing that down here. Too risky. Now,” moving the quilt and adding a final wrap to the cords on each wrist, hating to do it but knowing it would take a lot to hold him, should he begin waking, “you sleep, get some of that rest you’ve been needing so badly, and we’ll work as fast as we can to get rid of this company, Ok?” No answer, and she left the room, drawing the blind and closing the door behind her.
Just in time. Bud had only been able to hold them off so long, and as she entered the kitchen they were at the door, a couple from church who had been out of town for several weeks and had wanted to catch up, for some reason not thinking to call ahead. Serving them peach cobbler and coffee at the supper table Susan did her best to make pleasant conversation, wracking her brain all the while for the best and most expedient way to empty the house. Finally settling on a planned appointment in Clear Springs that afternoon—wholly fictitious but not unconvincing—she impressed upon their guests the need to be moving on, only she made the mistake of naming a time several hours in the future, which the two of the, rather enjoying the telling of their travel adventures, took as permission to stick around for another hour or so. Susan, house always open to guests, could hardly hurry them too much without fear of arousing suspicion, so she retired to the kitchen to prepare some sandwiches, the noon hour having come. But excused himself, following her.
“What’d you do with Asmundson? He gonna come dashing in her any minute, or have you got him adequately contained?”
Susan saw the concern growing on his face as she described the situation in the bedroom. “Good try, but no way that’s gonna hold him if he wakes up in one of his states and is determined to get out of there! Which you can be pretty sure he will be.”
Bud left Susan to the lunch preparations, retrieved a small item out of his pack near the door, and went to make sure Einar would not be waking prematurely, at all… The fugitive, fortunately for Bud, was still out cold when he slipped into the room, allowing him to do his deed—nefarious thing, and one over which Einar would almost certainly have fought him to the death had he been awake to know what was happening, but Bud had a lot of people to protect, a great deal at stake, and had not quickly been able to come up with a better solution—and and hurry back out again undetected.
Thus it was that Einar came to be waking in that room after his rather long and sound sleep, but he knew nothing of this background, remembered, freeing himself, finally able to move his arms, none of the events leading up to it, from which he might have under other circumstances taken clues as to the meaning of his current plight, and being quite thoroughly convinced that he’d just managed to free himself from the ropes of his captors, he had little thought but to finish making good his escape.
First he had to be able to move, though, which little detail seemed to be presenting an almost insurmountable challenge just then. Had somehow managed to scrape together enough strength to break the ropes and free himself, but that frantic, adrenalin-fuelled series of actions had seemed to leave him entirely drained, muscles unwilling to respond when he did his best to press them into service and the world losing its shape around him whenever he tried to raise his head. Never mind such things, he would just roll. Could always do that, and he did, falling some distance and ending up face down and somewhat stunned on a hard, unyielding surface which did not at all seem to resemble the jungle floor, let alone the water he knew lay beneath his enclosure. Which was too bad. He could have used a drink water about then. Really could have used it. Might have helped clear the horrible, pervasive fog that seemed to be surrounding his brain and leaving him unsure of everything, world not quite real and his own place in it a matter of doubt. Maddening, it was, if not terribly surprising after his ordeal over the past…who knew how long? No water. A man needs water, even if he’s not to have food. Which is why he was sure water would have helped, had he been able to work his way through the bottom of that cage and fall into it. Or, more likely—he managed a bit of a smile—that water would have drowned him before ever he managed to benefit from drinking any of it, the way things were going. Still couldn’t really lift his head, much less stand as he would have needed to do in order to preserve himself from drowning in that stinking, thigh-deep swamp muck, so it was just as well he’d ended up here, on solid ground. But must not stay. Soon they would be back, discover what he had done and it would be too late.
Creeping, dragging himself. It was all he could seem to do. No strength in any of his limbs, and something way beyond dizziness knocking him back to the ground every time he pressed the matter and tried to rise. No wonder, he supposed—didn’t remember anything of what had happened there in the interrogation hut this time, which he figured must mean it had been pretty bad—but knew he must keep moving if there was to be any hope of escape. Surroundings were not making any sense. The place was too big. Couldn’t be the cage. In the cage, he could not even stretch out to quite his full length, and here he was crawling. Must have been left in the larger hut they used for interrogations, which was strange, but not an unwelcome discovery. Meant he was that much closer to Andy’s enclosure, to successfully getting the two of them out of there, and the thought of it lent him a fierce new energy, door had to be close, and he would find it. Only, someone was coming.