Time to eat, little one still on his lap, and Einar struggled to manage both tasks at once, Will grabbing for his food and wanting tastes of everything. Liz did not mind this, knowing Will could not take a significant portion of Einar’s breakfast even if he wanted to, and seeing that Einar seemed to find it easier to eat something, himself, while distracted by trying to feed the child and keep him from getting into too much trouble at the table. Susan had joined them by that time, having finished a few phone calls she’d needed to make that morning. Liz, for a change, was able to serve her breakfast also, an omelet of eggs, sharp cheddar cheese, green chilis and sausage, with generous portions of sour cream and Susan’s own home-canned salsa on top, and she was glad for the turn-about, after all Susan had been doing for them.
Though still finding it somewhat physically difficult to do much eating, swallowing reflexes not back to normal and the entire process somehow a good deal more exhausting than a person inexperienced in such matters might have guessed possible, Einar did a pretty good job on his breakfast, managing to keep up with Will’s rate of consumption and perhaps even to surpass him by a bite or two.
As they ate, Susan switched on the radio as she did every morning, tuning in to the local news and weather report out of Clear Springs. It was with some apprehension that she did this on mornings when Bud was away doing his work with the feds—never for, always with, he would correct her, if she ever slipped up and said the former, never working for ‘em, but sometimes working on ‘em—and having been out of communication with him for going on three days at that point, there was an edge to her concern, that morning. There was no news, however, about the search, no report of an avalanche wiping out an overly ambitious team of federal investigators, no arrest of a wayward tracker—obstruction of justice would be the least of the charges, she knew, should that day ever come. They’d have him on material support of a terrorist, and worse. Patriot Act stuff. She’d probably never see him again—and she could only hope that in this case, no news was good news.
The biggest news of the morning came in the form of the weather report, which for the first time in nearly a week and a half was calling for a fair chance of snow, eight to ten inches to fall over the course of the following two days. Studying Einar with some concern as the coming storm was announced, Liz saw him quietly lay down his fork and stare so hard at the curtained window that she wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been seeing right through the blinds, through the spruces that overhung that side of the house and up into the sky beyond, scrutinizing, judging the likelihood of that offered storm. She could see what he was thinking before he said a word, wanted to shake her head but instead just watched him.
For a moment, easing Will onto his mother’s lap, he stood up straight as a rail—he’d always managed to hold himself straight and tall like that, Liz noted, even at the worst of his exhaustion, when he’d barely had the strength to hold up his own head—no hint of the weariness that had dogged his every step for the last days and had earlier that morning halted his weight lifting endeavors, blue eyes flashing, and in that moment, he was once again the Einar Liz had come to know, the leader, the warrior. Too bad, she thought, that the answer almost certainly had to be no…
“Sounds like it might be our chance, Lizzie. Let the snow come in, make sure it’s wanting to stay around for a while, and head out. Let it cover our tracks, conceal our passing, and we’re home!”
They were quiet for a minute, Einar paying them no heed as his mind wandered through the soon-to-be snowy corridors of spruce, pine and sub-alpine fir which would lead them up away from this house, from civilization, and back into the heard of their mountains, Will tucked snugly away in the fur-lined pouch on his mother’s back, what few possessions they had brought along on his own and their lives once more before them, free, gone without track or trace which the enemy could follow…
It was Susan who finally broke his reverie, Einar starting at her words and sitting down hard in his chair, suddenly dizzy and not entirely steady on his feet. “What about Bud and the feds, though? Don’t you need to wait for Bud to get back and tell us what’s been going on up there, what they’ve found, and where—and where they’re heading next with their search? Hate for you to walk into the middle of something like that, snow or no snow…”
Einar nodded slowly, considering. “Mighty big place up there. We know they were heading for the area of the slide, and planned to go on from there. So, we’ll go off in the opposite direction. Across the highway, into the Wilderness Area over there where the Spires are, where I had my old cache and spent a couple months that fall…they don’t have any reason even to be looking over there. We’ll go to the Spires, Liz. Find one of those narrow, overhung cracks between the rock walls, put up a roof of sorts down inside to keep out any stray snow, and stay there until things really start melting out. This looks like our opportunity.”
Silence from Liz, and he went on. “You know we’ve got to get away from here. You both got to realize that. Before something happens, some curious neighbor or customer or maybe even the feds getting suspicious for some reason…one visit to the house under the wrong circumstances, and it’s over for all of us. That’s got to be remedied, and the sooner the better.”
Well, he’d done it, Liz had to admit, nearly got her agreeing with him once again. He was right, of course, about the dangers posed to them all by their little family continuing to stay on at Bud and Susan’s; every day the risk of discovery inevitably increased, and sooner or later, someone was bound to slip up, some set of circumstances beyond their control conspire to reveal their presence, and then, as Einar had said, it would all be over. Perhaps it made sense to take advantage of the coming storm to make their escape, if they were going to make one… But then she looked at him. Really looked, not at the warrior who had stood before her a moment ago, fire in his eyes and a plan fully formed and ready for execution in his mind, but at Einar the man, who was despite what would surely have been vehement protests to the contrary on his part still severely emaciated and nearly dead. But she couldn’t bring herself to say it.
Susan said it for her. “Do you think you’d make it to the highway?”
“I think we would. Know this place pretty well, and under the cover of snowfall, and partial darkness…”
“You, though. Do you think you could physically make it down there, right now? When you can’t even quite make it from the library to the kitchen without stopping to lean on something and rest, and you start shivering the minute you sit still, even here in the warm kitchen. Is there any reason to think you wouldn’t end up leaving this baby and his mother all alone down there by the highway, with big decisions to make?”
Silence, an angry glare, but he couldn’t answer her, left the table and returned to the library to work on the problem.