Snow beginning to fall outside the library window, big, lazy flakes that drifted to the ground to accumulate with a deceptive swiftness that soon had the deck entirely covered, obscuring bits of rock and tree which had after many sunny days been beginning to show, and Einar, pacing from window to window, felt trapped. Knew they ought to be moving, taking advantage of the concealing effects of the storm to cover ground, get themselves to a safer spot where they wouldn’t have to be forever worrying about the next vehicle to come up the driveway, the potential raid which might one night descend on the house, should something arouse the suspicions of the authorities…
Halting in his incessant pacing, he braced both arms on a windowsill, stared out at the increasingly heavy swirl of white that had by then all but obscured even the nearest trees. Wished he had a way to contact Kilgore, get a sense for what was going on in the high country, where the search was currently focused and what sort of risk he would be taking leading his family into—or at least through—the search area. As things stood, he lacked a clear idea of the scope of the thing, the expected duration…he was, in fact, almost completely ignorant when it came to this latest scope and intention of the search. Not good to head out from what so far at least had been a reasonably safe location, and into the unknown, without any current intelligence.
Without much intelligence at all, Liz would probably say. She seems to think the whole idea of leaving right now is a real bad one in the first place, not saying too much about it, but I can see from the look on her face that she tends to agree with Susan on this one. What a mess. Here lately I’ve started wondering if I ought to just go, myself, head for the hills and let them stay here where they’re among friends and can probably pass as folks other than themselves with Bud’s help. Live a pretty normal sort of life, which they’ll never do with me. Not that I want my boy to live a “normal” life by the standards of the world, really. Was looking forward to raising him these mountains, seeing him grow and change and come to know them and to draw strength from them…
But maybe Susan is right about me, about my probably keeling over and leaving them somewhere between here and the highway if we try to leave right now, and if she is, I got no business abandoning them partway into this thing, leaving Liz to bear the entire burden not only of completing the escape, but of starting a new life for the two of them in the still-winter high country. Without any more supplies than she can carry on her back, while also carrying Will.
Think of it, Einar. What kind of an existence would you be consigning them to? Lizzie is one strong mountain woman, but how long would they really make it out there, under those circumstances? Especially considering that she wouldn’t be able to head back up to the cabin and all of our caches, since we wouldn’t have heard from Kilgore and would have no idea whether or not the place had been discovered by the enemy… Yeah, pretty rough for a full grown adult in decent health to squeak by in times like those…winter conditions, no supplies, I should know, after my first fall and winter out there, and for a woman by herself with a child to care for…would be little short of a death sentence.
Little as you like to face the fact of your own condition, this is one time when you can’t simply keep pushing forward and insisting that you’ll find a way, or make one…you might, seeing as so far you’ve mostly just proven too doggone stubborn to die, even when by all the laws of physiology, biology and common sense you really ought to have done so several times by now, but this time, the cost is simply too high should you prove to be wrong.
Can’t risk leaving them all alone somewhere in the snowy woods between here and wherever it is you’re going, and to leave now is definitely to do that. Half the time when you’re ready to go somewhere right now, even just across the room, there’s more than a few seconds’ delay between standing up and actually getting moving, even when you’re trying your hardest to just get up and go, and that time’s increasing. Even when you do gain a little momentum your balance is no good, you really would benefit from a walking stick just to help stay on your feet, and how do you think that’s gonna translate to climbing snowy, timber-covered slopes? Mighty slow work that’ll be, and one of those times when you try to start moving again after a little delay, the message just isn’t gonna get from brain to body, and there you’ll be, a solid block of ice before long, and leaving Liz with the dilemma of whether to try and stop long enough to thaw you out and get your sorry carcass moving again—and maybe risk her own capture by the delay—or go off and abandon you. No way. Not putting her in that position. If you go out there, you go alone, and only after making sure she has a full understanding of what it is you’re doing, and why she’s not to follow.
Which, shook his head, sat down heavily on the weight bench, snow falling too heavily now to allow any view but whiteness from the windows, she would never go for, and you know it. Would have to leave without discussing it beforehand, or she’d find some way to stop you. Which, considering Will and all, probably is her right, if it’s ever anyone’s. Which left him right where he’d started from. Trapped. Pacing. Wishing to take advantage of the weather, but unsure how best to do it.
* * *
Bud watched the advancing weather with a hopeful eye, praying that the storm would descend, and without too much delay. Already the agents, led by Shirley, had begun forming opinions about the trail preserved there beneath the timber, and he knew that unchecked, the current direction of their investigation could well spell disaster not only for the fugitive family, but for their hosts in the valley, as well. Shirley, though understandably not saying much about it, was quickly coming to the conclusion that the second man in the party which had accompanied the dead reporter left tracks which bore an uncanny resemblance to Kilgore’s own, even if his boots had been different ones. Something in his walk, left toe turning out just a bit more than the right, combined with the boot size—certainly not conclusive, on its own, but perhaps part of the puzzle—strongly suggested to him that their tracker might not have been telling the whole truth in his rendition of finding and recovering the body of the avalanche victim.
With some of the men beginning to eye him suspiciously and give themselves a bit of separation from him, distance-wise, as they went about their search, Bud figured that the storm could not get there fast enough.