Rumbling down the road in Bud's old pickup, Liz and Will had soon worked their way out of their bag, too, Liz moving carefully lest she disturb the coverings with which the tracker had concealed them but Will fascinated both by the unfamiliar surroundings and the motion of the vehicle, wanting to explore. Liz corralled him, pointed out the crack through which his father was watching the world, and crept over closer to Einar.
"About sixteen miles from the airport to Bud's house, didn't he say?"
"To the turnoff, yes. Then a long climb up to the house on a dirt road."
"I like the sound of that. Sounds nice and out of the way."
Einar said nothing to that, face grim, appearing deep in thought. Nothing, she knew, to which one could drive on a road, dirt or not, would likely ever see remote and out of the way enough to him. Perhaps he was even beginning to regret the decision to leave the backcountry , now that they were on the ground at their final destination and his familiar hills were far behind them. It seemed better not to ask just then. They could talk about it later, after they were settled. He seemed completely focused on watching the road, keeping the rifle ready, and she left him to that, corralled Will and began quietly telling him about the things they were passing, other vehicles, the occasional old barn or shed, most having nearly succumbed to time and dry rot, and once, an irrigated pasture full of llamas. The boy seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his first road trip, fascinated, especially, each time a semi truck passed them going the opposite direction.
Truck slowing, turning, leaving the highway, and Einar's hands tensed on the rifle, a quick glance at Liz to make sure she was paying attention before he flattened himself lower against the truckbed, squinting out through the crack along the tailgate. Wished he could get a look around the front of the vehicle, see what was up ahead, but could not. Had to trust Kilgore, hard to do, hard to trust anyone, with so very much at stake, but he had put himself, and his family, in this situation, and now he had little choice. Tired. Bones hurt where they jarred against the truck bed, and had the situation not demanded of him such a level of intensity and alertness, he might have been having a difficult time staying awake. Liz wordlessly put a hand on his arm, gave it a squeeze, almost there...
Slowing further, rolling to a stop, daylight creeping in from outside becoming less intense, shaded, somehow, though from his perspective Einar could not make out what was creating the shade, and then Bud cut the engine, stepped out, slammed the door.
"Ok kids, that's it. We're home. Now, just in case you were getting any ideas on that long ride...hey, don't deny it, I could smell the gears in your brain smokin' from turning so fast...anyway, you ought to know that Sue and I spent last night here, and I made real sure there are no surprises waiting, no eyes or ears in the place aside from our own. So no need to worry about any of that. You just keep under the roof when you leave the vehicle, so you're hidden from above, and come on in when you're ready."
The tracker left, then, Einar hearing the house door open and then shut behind him, and they were alone. No reason to wait, nothing to gain, really, yet Einar found himself having a difficult time with it, not wanting to move from the protective little cocoon of the truckbed. Too bad. Time to move, and he did, motioning Liz in behind him as he dropped the tailgate, rifle ready, only silence meeting him outside. Silence, and the sound of the wind in aspens just barely leafing out; springtime down there in the high desert. Quickly scanning the area Einar found himself in a carport, cover from above but no walls, and he stood blinking in the bright daylight, swaying, bracing himself against the truck, standing up straight.
"Come on out, Lizzie."
She joined him, Will on her hip, and together they walked to the door, where Bud met them, escorted them in.
"Welcome home, soldier. My home, yours too, for as long as you can stand it. Glad to have you here."
With a hasty glance Einar took in the room, eyes lingering on the assegai hung above the stove, kudu hide draped over the railing of the loft upstairs, the view of the San Francisco Peaks through a pair of large triangular windows near the ridgepole upstairs in the loft. All around the house the aspens were leafing out, soft‐shouldered form of Mt. Humphreys rising in the distance through their brilliantly yellow green trembling leaves, and it looked a lot like home...