08 November, 2015

8 November 2015

Responding to a silent summons from Kilgore the little group assembled beneath a stand of junipers, some distance further back from the edge of the vegetation and just out of sight of the airfield.

"Here's the plan, guys.  Roger's got a vehicle stored down there, not on airport grounds but nearby.  He and I are gonna work our way down around to where it is, show up and check things out.  Then while Roger gets the plane ready I'll take the truck back off of grounds, since there's a fence and no cover and you kids don't need to be climbing it...come here."

Bud beckoned and the others followed, Einar lowering himself to his belly on the little rise indicated by the tracker and taking the binoculars, studying the fenceline, two spots where the timber crept down nearly to the fence, itself.
"We're supposed to meet you, and the truck, down at the edge of the timber?"

"Better.  In the timber.  There's a little access road that parallels the fence.  You can't see it from here, and it can't be seen from airport grounds, either, and that's where you're gonna meet me.  The three of you will hurry into the back of the truck, where Susan'll help get you all packed into your transport containers as I drive out to meet Roger at the plane."

Einar looked skeptical.  "Transport containers?"

"Sure.  You don't think you're just gonna be walking around out in the open out there, do you?  No!  We've got it all figured out, got a couple cargo crates for you guys. "

Cargo crates.  Sensible plan, really, he had to admit, good concealment, but the thought of being locked in a crate and shoved aboard a plane with no way to see out and no chance to resist should trouble come...he let out a slow breath, nodded.
"Let's do it."

Roger grinned, Susan let out a silent sigh of relief and Kilgore clapped the fugitive on the back, nearly bowling him over.  Liz just watched silently, knowing Einar was agreeing too easily, wishing she might know what was going on in his head.

"Now," Roger took over, "should something go a little funny down there and we fail to make contact with you for one reason or another, we've got a backup plan of sorts, a rally point so we can all have a second chance at this thing."  Roger spread a map on the ground, indicating the airport and plotting a course cross country, over a series of low hills and around a low, open basin, indicating a location near its northern edge.

"Can set the plane down here, if need be.  About a three hour walk from the airport, if you really hoof it.  So we'll give you six hours, to be safe.  Should we miss meeting one another then, we'll make a second attempt the following morning just after dawn.  After that,  I've got to clear out of here and you're on your own.  So we better make this work.  Understood?"

Einar nodded.  "This afternoon, then?"

"I was thinking morning.  Morning will give us more options if we have to go to plan 'b.'  We'll head down first thing in the morning, after a good night's sleep."

A slight smile from Einar, sleep, sure...  "Lot of daylight left, here.  Seems better to just get it done, minimize our time here near town."

"Sure, we could do it that way.  Morning means more time to watch the place though, make sure it all looks right before we head down there."

Sounded good to Einar, the extra time, almost outweighed the added risk which came of passing another night near the glow of the town.  He glanced up at Bud, but the tracker shrugged noncommitally.  Could see potential benefits and pitfalls either way—spooky as the man had been of late, he knew the fugitive might well change his mind about the entire operation, given another long night to stew over the thing, but might just as well back out should he decide he had not been given enough time to reconnoiter the airstrip and surroundings—and wanted Asmundson to make the decision.

Einar rose, studied the low folds of land that flowed away all sage‐and‐juniper dotted below their position, squinted down at the yellow‐grass basin which held the airport, and nodded to Roger.

"Yeah, sounds good.  Morning.  But we can't spend the night here.  Too exposed."

"No, no way, not here," Kilgore agreed, hoisting his pack up from the log on which he had been resting it, settling the load on his back and grabbing Einar's arm to help him to his feet, seeing that the man, despite his a tremendous effort, could not get his legs to cooperate.  "Already got us a spot picked out, back along this ridge by about a mile, mile and a half, still within bino range of the  planes, but far enough back so we won't be worrying about any townsfolk stumbling on us while they're walking their dogs in the evening, or anything like that."

Will, having grown restless on Liz's back since their stopping, squirmed and wriggled at the mention of "dogs," having seen pictures of them in a little book Susan had brought him.  After the first time reading that book to him, Susan had been begged, cajoled and finally commanded to re‐read it time after time, the boy's little hand clasping her finger and tugging insistently, making sure she understood his intentions by repeating, "ook.  Ook!" until she fetched the book and sat down to read.

Now, having heard Bud mention dogs, he wanted to see the book again, but wanted even more to see the dogs the big man seemed to be taking about, making his desires known with a series of well‐executed woofs and growls just like the ones Susan had demonstrated while reading to him.  Liz did her best to hush him, explaining that this was neither the time nor place for dogs, or books, or the sounds of dogs or demands for books, that one must be very, very quiet when within sight of towns and cars and all that mess down in the valley.  Will understood few of her words, but grasped very well their intention, watching the valley with huge eyes and keeping still.

Onward, then, to the spot where they had determined to pass the night, hours of daylight left and some final preparations to be made for the following day's journey once they got there.


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