-1Mountain

Evasion

Section One “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” ~William Faulkner __________________________ “… we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint…” Romans 5:3-5 Chapter One The wind gusted and he shivered, repositioning himself behind the boulder to avoid its icy bite. Slowly rubbing his cold hands together, he looked down at the house in the valley below. Sunlight was just beginning to touch the trees on the opposite hillside. It would be at least an hour before it reached the house, probably another before it touched his position on the steep, west-facing mountainside, some 2500’ above the valley floor. He shivered again. Two hours. It had been a long cold night, and he was exhausted, ready to sleep. Almost mechanically, he swung his arms back and forth, back and forth across his chest in a wearying routine he had maintained off and on throughout the night. It was his only way, he had figured, to keep warm. There were not many dry leaves here on this windswept hillside to burrow in for shelter. No pine needles, even. Most of the trees were junipers. Much as he wanted to get up and move to bring some warmth to his body, it just wasn’t an option. The previous afternoon he had been crossing a rockslide when a stable-looking rock had tilted with his weight, pitching him forward and trapping his left leg just below the knee. It had taken him a while to free himself, prying unsuccessfully with a stick and eventually finding a long, thin rock he could use to get some leverage. There was a deep gash on his calf, and it had bled pretty profusely when he finally freed the leg. Quickly tearing a strip from the bottom of his cotton shirt, he’d wrapped and tied it around the injury. For the next several hours he had struggled painfully across the remainder of the rockslide, stopping several times to adjust the makeshift bandage when it soaked through. He’d kept himself going until he reached his present position beside a large, somewhat overhanging boulder, under the wide spread of a large pinyon pine. As soon as the sun set, the cold had come very quickly on that September afternoon. Einar, almost too exhausted to care, would have quickly fallen asleep if he’d allowed himself, despite the pain from his then-swollen leg. With great effort he forced himself to stay awake. He’d eaten very little over the past eight days, and that, combined with his blood loss and exhaustion, would have made it all too easy to sleep long and soundly, as the cold crept in and took him. So he had remained awake, shivering through the darkness.

Now he crouched, watching the sunlight creep down the hillside across the valley, first illuminating the fall-yellowed aspens on the crest of the ridge, then making its way down through the pines and spruces to the juniper and cactus country. He smelled wood smoke, and, he imagined, the odor of frying bacon as the wind gusted up at him from the valley. His leg had swollen more during the night, but the bleeding had nearly stopped. Is it broken? Gingerly fingering the injured area, he could not detect a break, but it was clear that he had hurt himself badly enough that he probably wouldn’t be walking for a while. The thought worried him. I’ve got to eat soon… He shivered uncontrollably as the stiff morning breeze again changed direction and tore at his clothing. Cold. It seemed to have been pursuing him as relentlessly as the search teams and the dogs this past week, never letting him rest, exhausting his strength. And so far at least--he smiled wryly--so far the cold had been a lot more successful at finding him than his other pursuers. His last near miss with the dogs had cost him his jacket, used as scent bait in a deadfall trap for a particularly tenacious hound that the handler had made the mistake of releasing on his trail. Two days ago. They seemed to have lost his trail after that, though the helicopters still passed frequently overhead, sending him scrambling for the nearest boulder. Sure hope they’ve lost my trail. If they come now, with this hurt leg…maybe I should try to keep moving. He needed sleep though. Exhaustion weighed heavily on him, leaving him feeling hollow and sick inside, and he knew his mind was not as sharp as it should be. The sun had finally reached his hiding place, and fell in golden patches through the branches of the pinyon. He lay down next to the rock, in a place where he was pretty sure he would be completely hidden from the air, and gave in to his tiredness. Sometime in the early afternoon he woke, his throat dry and sandy with thirst. Painfully he crawled over to a patch of stunted prickly pear cactus--this was the upper limit of their range--and with a sharp piece of broken quartz rock he severed one of the small flat pads and scraped off the thorns. He chewed the slightly bitter flesh of the cactus, swallowing the thick, slimy pulp. Again he crawled into his hiding place, soon falling asleep. A helicopter passed during the afternoon, but Einar was completely concealed by the tree, and he never fully awakened, but saw the helicopter in his dreams. Shortly after sunset, he was wrenched out of sleep by his own violent shivering, as his weakened body was unable to maintain adequate warmth without the help of the sun. Not ready to wake up, he at first curled up and let the shivering try to warm him, but he only seemed to be growing colder. Finally he sat up, feeling faint and dizzy. Hunger was like a vise clamping his insides, twisting and hurting. Clumsily he hacked off two more prickly pear pads, hungrily gulping their moist green slime. He then turned his attention to the small tan pinyon nut shells that littered the ground under his tree. He had tried some of them the previous day and found them useless, containing only the shriveled, papery remains of last year’s nut, or in some cases a small pile of worm droppings. Today’s search proved equally disappointing. A month too late. His mouth watered as he thought of the abundance that would have existed here before the ground squirrels, rats and bugs got to it. Enough to last the winter if you went from tree to tree collecting the rich, fatty nuggets, shelled them, and roasted them by a fire. Too bad. Turning over several rocks in hopes of finding some insects, he was again disappointed, discovering only a few

random ants, which he quickly ate. In desperation he gathered a handful of juniper berries that had rolled down after falling from a nearby tree, slowly chewing the dry, bitter berries. They made his stomach cramp up, but he knew they contained at least a little food value--the Pueblo Indians had eaten them in times of famine--and would be better than nothing at all.

There were several hours of daylight left--the sun still showed golden high up on the ridge--and he wanted to secure some better shelter before nightfall. The prospect of spending another freezing, sleepless night out in the open was not something he wanted to face just then, if it could be avoided. Movement was very slow because of his leg, and the best shelter he could come up with was a little hollow in the ground where some old dry scrub oak leaves had blown and collected. Trouble was, there was no overhead cover to shield the place from the view of passing aircraft, and no large rocks nearby to throw off hear and protect him from infrared detection. So he compromised, tucking in his shirt and stuffing it, arms and all, with as many leaves as he could scrape together. There were not enough to do his pants, but it was some improvement, at least. The leaves were very dry, and would serve as insulation and help keep out the biting night wind. Maybe I can actually get some sleep tonight. The effort of stuffing the shirt had been so tiring that he had to lay down to rest for a minute before heading back to his pine-and-boulder roost. Just one more thing before it gets dark. While the gash in his leg had stopped bleeding, the area had become slightly red and inflamed, and he very much wanted to prevent an infection from setting in. He had seen some scrubby little Oregon grape plants with their distinctive holly-shaped leaves growing near a rock on his way over from the pine. This mountainside was too high, too exposed for them to do well, and while they looked like they had not bloomed or produced any berries this year, they would still suit his purposes. Einar paused to pull one up, first taking a stick and digging carefully down around the root so it wouldn’t break off. Peeling the thin bark off the root, he exposed a bright yellow core that stained his fingers and had a slightly tangy smell. He knew the root contained antiseptic compounds that would hopefully be enough to prevent the leg from becoming infected. It would have been better if he could have thrown a handful of roots into some hot water and let them steep it to a bright yellow, but he had no water, and probably would have drunk it by now anyway if he had. So, second best it is. Scraping the thorns from several more cactus pads, he pounded them to a pulp on a flat rock that had been exposed to the sun all day, hoping the heat of the sun had somewhat sterilized it. Adding the roots to the pulpy mess, he kept pounding and stirring until the green pulp took on a yellow tinge. Removing the temporary bandage, he smeared his concoction over the gash before retying the strip of cloth.

By the time he regained his position beneath the sheltering pine, grey, rain heavy clouds had begun drifting in, obscuring the sunset and bringing a premature darkness. An occasional rumble of thunder echoed through the valley, and the wind again began to gust fitfully. Einar huddled up against the base of the tree, trying to be warm and hoping it wouldn’t rain. It wasn’t long, though before he heard the first drops of rain pattering against the dry ground. Let it stop… For a while the rain remained light, slowly and steadily soaking the ground, and he was protected by the majority of it by the tree. A close clap of thunder was followed quickly by a pouring rain, and drops of rain were soon finding their way through the branches to land coldly on Einar, dampening his clothes. He plastered himself up against the tree trunk, desperately wanting to stay dry. The rain lasted only a few hours, but it was enough to thoroughly soak Einar’s clothing, try as he might to avoid it. The wind drove the rain almost sideways at times, and even the low, sweeping branches of the pinyon offered little protection. Einar lay curled in a ball, shaking with cold and watching the receding lightning play against the distant hills. The rain had ended, for now, the sky was clearing, and the leaf insulation in his shirt was sopping wet. He could hear water squishing in it whenever he moved. Wet and shivering in the wind, he knew he was in trouble. Got to get dry. Got to eat if I’m making it through this one. The lights were on at the house in the valley, and they looked warm and bright and very close as he began crawling, pulling himself along, heading for the house. The sandy slope had been turned in places to slick, watery mud by the rain, and soon his hands and legs were caked with cold mud, weighing him down and chilling him even further. He was breathing raggedly, worn out, not even trying to stand up. Once he slid, falling on his side and skidding in the mud until he slammed into the gnarly trunk of a juniper.

As he got lower he lost sight of the lights in the valley, and he pressed on, following the sound of a creek that he believed flowed past the house. The wind was gusting hard, and once when it slacked off he realized that in the jumble of sounds he had gone off course, and could no longer hear it. Close to panic, he headed in the direction in which he thought it must lie. The brush was thick, oak scrub and occasional patches of wild raspberry, and he kept getting snagged and stuck on it. It seemed forever that he was dragging himself in the direction--he hoped--of the creek, and his body was so numb from the wet and the cold wind that he could hardly feel the thorns grabbing him as he wormed his way through the thickets. Once he stopped to rest, leaning heavily against a large rock. He closed his eyes, and immediately heard laughing voices and saw several figures sitting around a blazing fire, not ten yards away. He could feel the fire’s warmth, but seemed unable to move to go to it. One of the figures turned towards him, and it had the face of a hound. It laughed, tongue lolling, and said, “This is one you’re not making it out of, Einar!” The creature laughed again, moving in closer to the fire. Einar, startled back to wakefulness, found that he could move again, but the fire seemed to have gone out. All that remained were embers, glowing strangely white. Clumsily he moved towards the embers, but when he reached the spot where they had been, found nothing but a puddle of icy water, reflecting the nearly full moon. He plunged his hand into the water, his foggy brain still thinking the fire had been real and hoping some warmth might remain. Disappointed, shaking uncontrollably, he sat with his hands in his armpits and stared at the moonlight glinting off the water. Ice cold, merciless light. This may be one I’m not getting out of… Then the wind died down again and he heard it. The creek! Scrambling lest he lose it again, he hurried toward the sound of the water, following the creek down the slope. The ground soon leveled and opened up into a meadow. He pulled himself up over a small rise, and there it was. Across a small field stood the ranch house, lights still on, warm and inviting. All that separated him from the house now was a little oak brush and a run-down barbed wire fence. His initial plan had been to scout around the house for something to eat, but he hesitated now, knowing that to do so would likely mean being discovered. There’s probably a reward by now. Can’t risk being seen. But he couldn’t go on, either. His strength spent, he lay in the oak brush and watched the house as the lights went off for the night. The wind was bitter and it tore at him, prodding him to move. A pole barn full of hay stood to one side of the house. He could see the bales in the brightness from a sodium light on the telephone pole. It would be a risk, but one that he was willing to take at the moment, as an alternative to lying there and freezing to death. He approached the barn carefully, half expecting dogs to come charging out at him from the shadows. No dogs, no dogs here, or they’d have seen me by now…so get out of the wind! He crawled over to a spot where the bales sat only two high, and tried to pull himself up on top of them. Fumbling with his cold limbs, he finally hooked his hand under some baling twine and flopped himself up onto the hay, wedging his body down into a space between the bales. He pushed with his knees to widen the space, then drew his knees up to his chest, pulling some loose hay in over top of himself. He was so wet

and chilled that it took him a most of the night to stop shivering, but he was out of the wind and soon slept. An occasional strong gust of wind found its way into his shelter to grasp at him with its icy fingers, and he slept fitfully, kept waking partially and wondering if it was morning yet. Got to leave before it gets light… Burrowed down in the hay, Einar came fully awake to the rumble of a diesel engine very close by. For several moments he lay perfectly still, the sound roaring in his ears, before very carefully moving a little of the loose hay by his head and looking out. It was daylight, though the sun was not yet up, and a white pickup truck was backed up near the bales, its tailgate down. He watched as a pair of boots approached the stack, felt his shelter moving as the rancher lifted the outer of the two bales he had wedged himself between. Einar rolled over and tumbled out onto the cement floor of the barn. The startled rancher dropped his hay bale and stepped backwards, grabbing a 12 gauge out of the truck. Einar had landed on his side, and he rolled to his stomach in an attempt to rise. “Now don’t you move!” the rancher shouted, pointing the gun in Einar’s general direction and taking a step toward him. “What are you doing here? What are you doing in my barn?” “W-was freezing,” Einar stammered, raising himself on his arms. “Didn’t mean any harm.” “Well, I can see you’re telling the truth about the first part, anyway,” the big man replied, leaning the gun against the truck. He could see that Einar was in no shape to pose an immediate threat. “Come on in the truck and get warm.” Einar didn’t move from the floor and the rancher held out his hand. “What? Your leg hurt? Looks like you’re bleeding.” Einar rose slowly, leaning on the bales. “You’re soaking wet! No wonder you’re freezing. Now come on in the truck.” He allowed the rancher to help him into the truck, hoping that the man didn’t know who he was, hoping still to be able to escape. “Electric fence is down,” the rancher said. “Got to go see if some of the cows are out, or if a tree fell on it in all that wind, or what. Pretty nasty storm last night, huh?” Einar nodded, shaking in the warmth of the truck cab. They drove in silence for a while, bouncing along the muddy ranch road. “So how long did you plan to stay out there like this,” the rancher finally asked. Einar, trying to appear nonchalant, glanced up with what he hoped was a puzzled expression on his face.

“Oh come on, I know who you are.” Einar didn’t respond, sat silently trying to make his sluggish mind work, looking for a way out. He was so tired. “You know I have to turn you in. It’s better this way that getting shot or freezing out there. Besides, you’re hurt. They’d be catching up to you pretty soon now, anyway.” More silence. Einar knew that if he opened the door and tried to jump out the man would easily catch up to him. Or use the shotgun. “Please just let me go. Forget you ever saw me.” The rancher shook his head. “Can’t do that. All those folks out there looking for you, what if somebody gets hurt? Or worse? How am I supposed to live with that? And what are you going to do when it snows in a couple weeks? You’re gonna die up there. Let them take you, give you a trial. Justice will get done.” Einar snorted. “No. This isn’t about justice anymore. I made them look bad. This is about revenge for them now. Give me a chance. Please.” The rancher seemed to be considering, but before he could respond the truck topped out on a hill and the problem with the fence became obvious. A large cottonwood had fallen in the night, and cows wandered freely through the gap. “Doggone cows. Can’t let ‘em get down in that draw down there!” Grabbing the shotgun, the rancher took off running in an attempt to get between the cows and the draw, leaving the truck idling in his hurry. Chapter Two Einar wasted no time, pulling himself over into the driver’s seat and putting the truck into gear, stomping on the gas pedal with his good foot. After leaving the pasture, the road quickly became steeper and more rutted, cluttered with partially exposed rocks that caused him to slow the truck to a crawl. He inched the truck up the worsening track for almost a mile before deciding to abandon it. Even I can walk almost this fast. And that guy could be back to the house by now, calling the sheriff… He chose a place where the red sandstone came down to the road, looking like it had at one time been flowing down the hillside like thick mud before being frozen in place. On the opposite side of the road was a steep bank leading down to a creek. Einar grabbed a little bag of sunflower seeds from the dashboard before leaving the truck. Scrambling down the bank to the creek, he made no effort to conceal his tracks. His leg was doing a bit better that day; the swelling had gone down, and he was able to put a little weight on it if he was careful. He paused

by the creek and ate some of the sunflower seeds, spitting out the shells and leaving them on the ground. It took great restraint to avoid eating the whole bag, but he knew he would need them later. Making his tracks appear to end at the creek, he carefully stepped from rock to rock until he reached the “flow” of sandstone, which extended across the road and down to the creek. He climbed up the roughly textured rock, crossed the road, and continued climbing on the sandstone until it became too steep for him to handle with the injured leg. This won’t help if they bring dogs, but should baffle most humans for a while. He knew they would eventually bring dogs, and that the rain-dampened ground would hold his scent well and make tracking easier. Dogs are hard to beat, but the handlers…they’re just people, like me. Only they can probably walk better… Moving as quickly as he could, he climbed a few feet of open slope and headed into the oak brush, worming his way through the thickest, most tangled areas he could find, continually changing direction and occasionally circling back on his own trail. They won’t dare let the dogs loose after my trap the other day. This should tangle the lines real good, slow them down. He hoped it would slow them down. The exertion of climbing the hill had exhausted him, and he rested under a juniper, eating a few more of the sunflower seeds and the pulp from several prickly pear pads. He knew a big part of his problem was the extended lack of food--he felt a lot more like hibernating than running-- but there was only so much he could do about that just then. Einar continued up the slope as the vegetation changed, the tangle of oak scrub giving way to juniper and pinyon. Reduced to crawling again by his injured leg, he made his way up over yellow-orange sun hardened soil and flat rocks that moved and threatened to clatter off down the mountain when he grabbed them. It was rough going. And getting steeper. He stopped behind a juniper trunk, wedged himself in behind it to make sure he wouldn’t start sliding as he rested. Thirsty in the midday sun, he searched unsuccessfully for prickly pears as he sat behind the tree, feeling his breath rasp in and out of his dry throat so hard that it hurt. He was high enough now to look down and see part of the pasture in the valley, a little piece of the road. He couldn’t make out any commotion down there, and the fact that there had been no helicopters since the day heated up seemed to indicate that the rancher hadn’t alerted anyone yet. Strange. Too strange to really trust. Get moving! A bit farther up the trees started thinning, and he began running into yellow-orange spires of rock with steep, narrow chutes between them, filled with loose rock and debris that he could barely pull himself through. Then a cliff. Not a very high one--the wall of yellowish rock rose no more than fifteen feet above his head, and looked to be full of good hand and footholds. He stared at it, pounding his fist on the ground in frustration because on any ordinary day it would hardly have pose any challenge at all, but this is no ordinary day, now is it? He was ready to try it anyway, but as soon as he attempted to stand, he dismissed the idea. Couldn’t stand anymore. Not on both legs, anyway. And he was shaking all over from exhaustion. OK. Back down, then. Back down and around the cliff. Crawling backwards over steep, loose rock is not easy, but he managed it, and once he got down out of the chute beneath the orange spires the going was easier for a while, slightly less steep. Trouble was, water had washed down this section during last night’s downpour, turning the pale yellow-grey soil into a sort of rough cement as it was

baked by the day’s sun. Small, loose rocks sat on top of the soil, with larger one embedded in it, seemingly securely. Most of them were not in very deep, though, and while the soil was just hard enough to keep Einar from kicking in his boot for a good hold, it was not firm enough to keep most of the rocks from coming loose when he grabbed them. It was slow work, and he hoped a helicopter did not come while he was stuck out here in the open. Struggling up the mountainside, he paused to rest for a moment with his foot braced against a large chunk of orange rock, hanging onto the edge of a slab with his right hand. Without warning the rock his foot was braced against gave way, leaving all of his weight on the slab, which began to slide also. He released his hold on the slab, lying spreadeagle on the slope, afraid to move. His foot was starting to slide, and glancing around for anything to use as a handhold, he lunged at a stunted, scraggly little half-dead scrub oak bush that had somehow scratched out an existence in the yellow dust. Amazingly, it didn’t pull out at the root, and he clung to it, searching for his next move. Very slowly he inched upward, using a sharp sliver of the yellow rock to dig into the hard soil and give himself a little leverage. Finally he reached the trees again, up above the cliffs and spires, and collapsed beneath a large pinyon, not moving for over an hour. The wind finally roused him from his state of semi-sleep, flowing over his sweat-damp clothing and chilling him as he cooled down from the climb. He crawled out into the sunlight--late afternoon sunlight already--and his head was light, his movements heavy and slow. Thoughts of food came unbidden into his mind and he tried halfheartedly to force them out, but the smell, the texture, even of bacon was so real that it made his stomach cramp painfully. Think about something else. Near where he lay was a slab of yellow rock, not too large, and he lifted it, hoping to find a few ants or a grub. Nothing. Too dry up here. On the north-facing slope of this hill, he knew, was some dark timber-more moist on that side, thick damp pine needle mulch, moss--might find something to eat over there. His plans were cut short by the distant rumble of a helicopter, as he scrambled to hide himself. The chopper buzzed low over the creek in the valley, zigzagging up the opposite slope before focusing on his side. Einar pressed himself flatter beneath the angled slab of rock that concealed him. Well, he must have finally called them. Gave me a chance, anyway… When the helicopter moved on, Einar did also, following the ridge up, sticking close to the edge where there was plenty of rock to offer concealment. That night the cold was even more intense, or so it seemed to Einar, who had by that point gone well over a week with very little to eat, and had in the meantime been expending tremendous amounts of energy. This can only go on for so long… Darkness found him huddled down in the dry sand at the base of an overhanging slab of orange rock. Early in the night a helicopter came through, and he lay watching its blinking lights as it faded into the distance, knowing that, for that night at least, he was safe from detection. His other pursuer though--the cold--had him firmly gripped in its sharp teeth, shaking his exhausted body as a dog shakes a rabbit. To death, probably… But he was weary, too weary to pry open those iron jaws, and he lay there growing colder and colder,

thinking of food, of fire, of better times, until finally he slept. • • • •

Down in the valley, about a mile east of the ranch where Einar had spent the previous night, Special Agent Toland Jimson paced nervously, the harsh white glare of the floodlights illuminating his sharp features as he watched his men set up the base camp in a dilapidated old steel building that used to house a feed store. Several of them were unloading gear from a small fleet of nondescript vans and box trucks, while others removed scattered pieces of brush from a nearby field to create a helicopter landing pad. He wanted to get the fence up. Didn’t like the looks of the locals who slowed to stare as they drove by in their ranch trucks. He felt as out of place here as…well, as a Los Angeles boy in the Rocky Mountains. Which he was. He didn’t care for this assignment, but did look forward to working his way one step closer to a promotion by making a name for himself in this major case. Quickly, he hoped. The search had gone on far too long already, almost six months now, and his agency was starting to be the butt of jokes, both here and in Washington. Some in Congress did not look kindly on the millions of dollars that had so far been spent unsuccessfully searching for one individual, especially after Jimson’s early assurances, often replayed on the major newscasts, that the search would be “over in days.” For the first five months there had been no sightings, no solid leads, nothing. The trail had gone completely cold. Then, a week and a half ago, the fugitive had made a big mistake; he had gone into town. Trusted someone he had thought he knew well enough. They almost got him, that time. The dogs had trailed him hard for two days, but he was always a step ahead of them. One of the handlers had then made the mistake of releasing his dog, and the dog had been killed. They’d pulled back after that, and once again the subject of the search seemed to have slipped their grasp. Then they’d received a promising lead that afternoon when a rancher had called the county sheriff to report a sighting of their fugitive. They’d gone out to his ranch with several agents, dog handlers and scent dogs, the dogs confirming that the subject of the search had indeed been in the pole barn, but after that the scent had just…vanished. The handlers finally resigned themselves to the fact that there must be too many animal odors competing with the scent of the fugitive, confusing the dogs and causing them to loose the trail. The rancher had told the agents of finding Einar in his barn, “this afternoon,” he’d said, and told them he’d chased the man away with a shotgun before realizing who he was. Jimson had sent a helicopter crew to search the surrounding mountainsides, but they had seen nothing. And now the wind was really picking up, making it unlikely they could go up tonight. Jimson paced, furious, knowing his agency’s reputation, his career, maybe even his job were at stake here. Chapter Three The rain began far up the mountain that night, pouring, combining and collecting to run

down the slope in little rivulets, reaching the orange sand and slabs of rock ahead of the storm itself. Einar awoke to violent shivering and an inch of water in his sandy hollow of a bed. Edging closer to the rock slab, he tried to get out of the water, but the rainstorm was turning into a real gulley washer, and the sand beneath him was beginning to shift and slide and almost flow downhill with the increasing runoff. He could feel himself starting to slide, and grabbed the edge of the slab. Attempting to stay calm as the rain pounded him in an icy torrent, he tried to recall the lay of the land. It was steep, very steep immediately below him, similar country to the land of chutes and spires he had traversed earlier, only magnified. So I’m going to be washed down over the cliffs, smashed to pieces down there if this keeps up. He considered trying to wait out the storm where he was, but the ground beneath him was rapidly turning to loose, watery mud as the rainwater saturated it, and he could feel himself beginning to slide. Suddenly he made his decision, shoving hard against the slab and throwing himself to the right, hoping to avoid the now rushing water. The whole slope was a mass of wet, slippery mud, though, and he found himself sliding, gaining speed, lying flat on his stomach and clawing ineffectively with his hands. A protruding rock jarred sickeningly against his injured leg, and he was able to grab it and halt his slide. He worked his arms up around the jagged, muddy rock, hugging it to him, not sure exactly what lay below, but already feeling his mud coated grip loosening and slipping. Wildly he searched for something else to grab, but it was too dark to see anything. He probed with his good foot and it struck a large rock, but when he tried to put some of his weight on it the rock came loose with a wet slurping sound, and he could hear it clattering away far below. He could find nothing solid to brace his foot against, and he could sense the mountainside dropping away sharply below him. When he fell, it was not a sudden thing, but a slow, grating slide over a band of muddy rock, then a last scrabbling struggle at the edge of the drop off, that seemed to go on for a long while. He tumbled then, somehow turning sideways and striking his hip on an outcropping of rotten sandstone that gave way and clattered down with him, starting a rockslide. Briefly he caught hold of a tree root before it ripped out of the saturated ground and he swung inward, hitting his head. He felt no more of the fall. With dawn the rain moved out, but the clouds persisted low and grey and heavy, obscuring the sun. Einar gradually became aware of a low, raspy sound that came in ragged bursts from somewhere near where he lay. He struggled to open his mud-crusted eyelids, finally getting one open far enough to see…mud. There was mud for as far as he could see, red, sandy mud, still running with water in places, punctuated by red, mud covered rocks. He closed the eye, still wondering where the sound was coming from. Barely conscious, it took him a while to realize that it was his own groaning, being jerked out of him by his shivering. He clamped his teeth together to stop the sound. The merciful dullness of unconsciousness was wearing off, and each shiver felt like it was tearing something inside his chest. He tried to stop, couldn’t. His throat was dry, too dry to swallow, even, and trying made him cough, which sent searing pain through his chest. Even breathing hurt. Broken ribs. Again he opened the eye, raised his head a little. He lay on his left side near the bottom of a deep ravine, a canyon, really. Steep red rock walls rose high above him, and he could see the wash that he, along with several tons of

mud and rock, had tumbled down in the night. Two hundred feet, at least. And somehow I’m still alive… He hurt too much to feel any gladness, though; almost resented being alive. Wished at the moment that he could allow himself to just give up and die. The thought passed quickly. Lord, I know there must be some reason you brought me through the night. Help me. Please help me now. And as he fought to free his broken body from the solidifying mud flow, he knew a taste of the bitter joy that can only be known by those who have struggled for their very existence, who have met suffering and pain and exhaustion and despair, and have fought through it and continued to be. Yeah, but I’ve got to do a heck of a lot more than just be today. Helicopters are coming. They’re going to see me out here in the open. I can’t run, and they’re going to take me. He imagined himself being dragged into a hospital and chained to a bed and forced to recover, so he could spend the next 30 or 40 years of his life in a cement box with no hope of escape. No! Filled with new energy, he began looking for a place to conceal himself, but the canyon floor was a vast wasteland of mud and rock. Nothing. Not even an undercut bank to squeeze beneath. The nearest concealment appeared to be a small clump of willow brush, some 500 yards downstream. He knew he had to reach those willows. Grating his teeth against the pain, he began dragging himself over the rough ground. His hands were in terrible shape from the previous night, bleeding and missing part of the skin on several fingers, but he had to ignore that for right now, just as he had to try and ignore the wrenching pain in his left shoulder where he’d sprained it grabbing the tree root. He kept at it, dragging himself forward with his elbows, shoving some with his right knee. Both legs seemed nearly useless this morning, and he dimly remembered whacking his right hip on a rock. Might be broken…I should stop, wait, might…GOSH it hurts! Might just injure it more trying to move. He didn’t rest for long, though, because he couldn’t find a position to lie in that eased the pain, and he was urged on by the knowledge that the inevitable helicopter would eventually show up. The clouds had begun to disperse and the sun was out by that time, and he had to fight hard against the urge to lie still and absorb its warmth as the wet, sandy ground he traveled across bogged him down and kept his movements terribly slow. It wasn’t long before he heard the familiar rumble of an approaching helicopter. Raising himself on his arms, he searched franticly for any shelter at all. Nothing. He did the only thing he could do, pulling his arms beneath his body and freezing in place. He had slim hope that they would overlook him, but knew that any movement would be noticed, for sure. Maybe I’m muddy enough to blend in… The rumbling grew louder and louder until he guessed it must be directly overhead, and it seemed an eternity that it thundered in his head as he lay face down in the mud, barely daring to breathe and struggling to control his shivering. When finally the helicopter rumbled off down the ravine, Einar lay still for a full minute before daring to move. They saw me. He was sure of it, and now the red rock walls started looking like a trap, a cage, and he was moving again, scrambling on his hands and one knee, heedless of the pain and the grating in his hip, until at last he dragged himself beneath the willow brush and passed out.

While Einar had hoped that his mud-covered clothes would help to camouflage him, the opposite actually occurred. The mud on his back had begun to dry, while all around him was wet mud, and the contrast resulted in a light colored, human shaped outline that proved highly visible from the air. Initial reports from the chopper crew were that the subject had been found apparently dead, but when a second flyover ten minutes later failed to spot him, the report was revised and search teams were sent in on horseback. • • • •

Einar came to cold and trembling some minutes later, as the wetness of the willow bog seeped up around him. His right hand was in a small puddle of water, and he pulled it out, sucking thirstily at the water. He began scraping at the willow bark with his fingernails, then remembered the quartz he had stored away in his pocket for opening prickly pears. It was still there, cracked during his fall to reveal a much sharper edge. Removing several long thin slices of willow bark, he scraped off the slippery inner layer with his teeth, chewing it, letting the bitter liquid run down his throat. He hoped the salicin might help dull the pain just a little, maybe reduce the swelling in his hip just enough to keep him mobile. He hacked off several more strips of bark, stuffed them in his pocket for later. • • • •

The team sent in to locate Einar was made up of two Sherriff’s Deputies and the only available FBI man who had ever been on a horse. • • • •

Einar had drifted back into something like sleep when he was roused by the sound of subdued voices. A horse snorted, not twenty feet from where he lay, and he turned his head and saw three men, two in blue BDUs and cowboy hats, the third in desert camo, carrying a radio. All were armed. Quickly figuring his odds of escaping the immediate situation, he resolved to play “dead,” or at least “totally helpless,” in the hopes that they would regard him as less of a threat than he was, possibly leaving him a chance to escape at some point. And, he thought to himself, it won’t even take much pretending on my part… He closed his eyes and waited. Footsteps very close by, and a rustle as the brush was parted. “It’s him, alright. He doesn’t look too good, Joe.”

“He even alive?” “I don’t…yeah. Yeah, look at him shake. He’s alive. “I’ll radio in,” Schultz, the FBI man said, lowering his AR-15 and stepping back. One of the deputies covered Einar with his Glock while the other rolled him to his back and began dragging him out from under the brush. “You awake, man? Can you hear me?” Struggling to keep his face a passive mask as pain tore through his injured shoulder and ribs, he did not respond. The other deputy joined the effort, holding the willows back and grabbing Einar’s arm. Despite his best efforts, Einar groaned and twisted away from his grasp. “Sorry. That hurt?” Einar went back to playing dead. More gently this time, the deputies eased him out of the willow thicket, placing him on a blanket and covering him with another. “Hey Schultz!” One of the deputies shouted up at the agent, who had gone to higher ground in an attempt to make radio contact. “Better tell them to send Mountain Rescue. I don’t think we’re carrying him out of here on the horses. Don’t think he’d make it.” Einar tried hard to focus on what the men were saying, but none of it made any sense, and then he passed out again, being brought back to awareness by someone gently cleaning the sand and dried blood off of his face with a handkerchief. He didn’t open his eyes, but very carefully moved one hand, then the other, beneath the blanket. I’m not handcuffed yet! His heart skipped a beat at the discovery. Now if only I could walk… He lost consciousness again then, and the next time he woke, he was being lifted into the rescue basket of a helicopter. They zipped him into the thermal bag, signaled the pilot, and he was airborne. • • • •

Twisting his head to one side, Einar could see out through a small hole in the orangepainted metal of the basket. They had risen up out of the canyon, above the pinyon covered hills, and were flying fairly low over a high plateau of willow brush and stunted evergreens, dotted here and there by lakes of varying sizes. The wind was strong--it looked like a storm was coming--and the helicopter seemed to be laboring in the thin air and the gusting wind. It was then that a wild idea came to Einar, born of the stubborn hope that lived in him and sometime seemed to take on a life of its own, pushing him beyond what he thought his mind and body were capable of. As soon as the idea came to him, he knew he would follow through on it.

Chapter Four Struggling, he got his left hand into the pocket of his jeans, closing his fingers around the sharp quartz fragment that they had somehow overlooked when they searched him. He squirmed his other hand up and unzipped the thermal bag far enough to free his arm. He was about to start trying to saw through the orange two inch webbing strap that secured his chest, but realized that he could simply unbuckle it, instead. Two more straps, and he was free. That’s it, then. Here we go. He was a little surprised at the calm, detached way he was proceeding with a plan that would, in all likelihood, mean his death. You’re out of your head, Einar! But there was no more time to think or to question, because he saw a large lake ahead, the largest yet, and the chopper had been forced lower still by the worsening weather. As the chopper approached the far shore of the lake, Einar worked himself into something like a kneeling position, then, face down, worked his legs out of the basket, causing it to rock and swing wildly. He was sure now that the chopper crew must knew what he was up to. No turning back now. Here, here’s the shore coming up… He let go then, struggling to keep his legs together, his arms tightly pressed against his sides. Einar’s movements in the basket had unsteadied the already laboring helicopter, and by the time the pilot got it back under control, it was far from the lake, which was now obscured by a heavy downpour.

Surfacing about fifteen feet from the rocky shore, Einar gulped in great breaths that were nearly as much rainwater as they were air. The rain was blowing in tremendous sheets, blinding Einar and turning the lake surface into a boiling, choppy sea. When he could finally feel rocks under his hands, he pulled and scrambled, climbing up onto a partially submerged boulder where he could rest. For a long time he lay there, just breathing and coughing up lake water. His lungs ached as he caught his breath, but otherwise there was a great numbness in him where he knew there should be pain, and he wondered if he had broken his neck or back in the fall, if perhaps he was partially paralyzed. Struggling to move his legs, he finally succeeded just enough to assure himself that he was not paralyzed, but probably “just” suffering from extreme exhaustion and maybe shock. Like it really makes any difference… “But it does,” he heard somebody tell him, and the voice might have been his own, but he couldn’t be sure. “It does matter.” And he lay there trying to figure out why, but before he could get around to it, he forgot “why what,” and gave the whole thing up. Cold, very cold was the wind that gusted and tore across the high plateau, and Einar knew he would die if he stayed there in the water, and as he knew he acted, dragging his shivering carcass bit by bit up onto the rocky shore. “It matters! It matters!” somebody was mumbling, and Einar wished the man would speak up, speak clearly, tell him why, give him some reason to go on. Willows. He saw willows. Willows are safe. Crawl in. Deep in…

Joseba Otsoa, the Basque sheepherder, had heard the low helicopter, had opened the door of his small camper to look out, curious that anyone would be flying in that wind. He had seen something fall from the laboring machine, and, donning his yellow rain slicker, he rode out in the storm to have a look. Three of the dogs remained curled up beneath a stand of gnarly old limber pines, but one, a big Akbash, followed him. What would fall? He wondered. Did they drop something to lighten their load? Something I could use, maybe? Riding along a low ridge that flanked one side of the lake, Joseba could see nothing unusual. It sank, maybe? As he rode around the lake, the dog began barking furiously. She was not one to be easily excited, especially when not with the sheep, and as he approached, he could see her pacing back and forth in front of a thick tangle of willows, growling deep in her throat. Cougar? he wondered. Surely not in this rain. With a few curt words in Basque from Otsoa the dog fell back, quiet, letting him go and investigate. Man! Dead man soon, looks like. But alive now. Einar lay on his stomach, a large round rock pressed tightly between his palms. His fingers had been too stiff and numb to grasp it, and his ability to use it as a weapon just then was questionable, at best. But at least it was something. “You fall?” The sheepherder asked pointing at the slate grey sky. Seeing the rock, he kept a careful distance from the man. Einar dropped the rock and stammered something that Otsoa was pretty sure he wouldn’t have been able to understand, even if he did speak better English. “Cold.” He said. “Too much cold. Come.” He walked back to his horse, beckoning to Einar, who made no effort to follow. “Come!” He demanded. “You die here. Come.” Small but wiry, Otsoa crawled into the thicket and pulled Einar out, hoisting him onto the horse so that his head hung off one side and his feet the other. Back at the camper, the sheepherder dragged Einar up onto the cot, struggling to remove his wet clothes and covering him with a couple of wool blankets. He put some water on the little stove to heat, and went back out to care for the horse. Einar lay shaking under the red and black striped blankets, trying to collect his thoughts. Quickly. Quickly now… they’ll be back soon. Go! He moved on the cot, tried but failed to sit up. Otsoa shoved open the door, shaking water from his slicker. “Ah! Water is hot!” He exclaimed, dumping some instant coffee into the simmering pot of water and holding the pot out to Einar. “Now you drink. Warm. Very good.” Sipping the scalding liquid, hoping he would be understood, Einar raised his hand above his head and made whirling motions. “You fall, yes?” The sheepherder responded. “Fall from hel’copter?” Einar nodded,

mumbled something, focused hard on getting the words out. “Th-they they’ll be…back,” he stammered, drawing his finger across his throat several times. “K-kill me.” “They come keel you?” “Yea. Soon. Please…please help.” “They very, how you say? Very dangerous? Maybe keel me too?” “Uh…o-only if…they see you…with me.” “Ah. You go then! Must hide. Very quick, go!” The little man was lifting Einar, helping him to sit up. He took one look at Einar’s sodden clothes, barely beginning to dry by the fire, and grimaced. “You die in cold with those.” He tossed the wet clothes into the stove, where they hissed and steamed. Digging around in a box under the cot, he pulled out a faded denim jacket and some grey wool pants, with which he hastily began to dress Einar. The jacket fit fine, but the pants were way too short. Not that Einar cared. They were dry. “Now you go! Quick! Quick!” he almost shouted, pulling Einar to his feet. Einar’s knees buckled and he would have fallen had the sheepherder not supported him. “You bad hurt, yes? Can’t walk?” “I think…I think I could walk…with a stick,” Einar said exhaustedly, his head drooping and his shoulders trembling. The Basque stepped outside and returned shortly with a five foot cedar pole. Einar took the pole and through sheer willpower was able to take a couple of steps. “Ah! Good! You go now! They come, I tell them I never see you. Go!” And he went, limping, stumbling, weaving like a drunk, out into the storm and the bitter wind that cut mercilessly through the denim jacket. He went, but not far, because willpower or not, his body would not cooperate, and he was soon reduced to crawling. When he found some boulders that lay in a jumbled heap against a hillside, forming a small, open ended cave he crawled in, knowing he could go no further without rest. Einar’s shelter was floored with broken chunks and slabs of rock, and the rain had found its way in through a crack where the overhead slabs met, leaving much of the cave floor wet and slippery. One thin strip, completely overhung by a boulder, had remained dry, and Einar pressed himself into it, pulling down part of an old packrat nest to lie on. The dry grass and sticks would provide at least a little insulation between his body and the

cold rock slab. Hardened to this type of life, Einar would ordinarily have found his accommodations quite acceptable--cozy, almost, if he’d had a blanket, but in his present condition--injured, cold, starving and wet--he found nothing but misery in the little cave that night. Too exhausted to stay awake and too cold to sleep, he lay shuddering through the night, his mind busy with thoughts of the coming morning, of the inevitable search that it would bring. He wanted in the worst way to have warmth, food, an end to this constant running… Chapter Five With dawn the storms moved out, leaving torn fragments of fog that soon dispersed into a blue morning sky. As soon as the weather allowed, the search teams made their way up to the area where the chopper pilot was pretty sure he had lost his load the previous night. Though they did primarily consider it to be a recovery mission--they fully expected to find a body--a small contingent of federal law enforcement accompanied the Sheriff’s Deputies and Mountain Rescue personnel. They had learned to take nothing for granted. • • • •

Einar heard the helicopters come in, heard the distant rumble of trucks, and knew there was only one thing it could mean. He also knew that the rock slabs over his head would be enough to conceal him from sight and probably also from infrared detection, and the rain the previous night probably meant that he had not left a trail that dogs could follow. Footprints… He doubted it. The springy, tundra-like ground was unlikely to have held any footprints, unless he had unwittingly crossed a muddy patch or two… One thing he did know for sure. He was trapped. He had made it just over half a mile from the sheepherder’s camp, and the ground was fairly open, dotted with small clumps of willow and sloping gently up toward his hiding place. To attempt to leave the shelter while searchers were in the area was almost certainly to be seen. Trapped. He swallowed the frantic feeling that had begun rising in him, urging him against all reason to just make a break for it and run. Be still. Think. Trapped. How long would they stay in the area? Weeks, probably, judging by their past actions. Unless they decide to declare me dead and give the whole thing up…I wish! So I’ve got to hold out here until they move on…if I can. He had his doubts. No water, no food, no way to get warm…well, he had some water, anyway. A small “bowl” had been water-worn into the cave floor where rain dripped and poured through a crack, and he saw that it held a good quart of water. Maybe more. His throat parched, Einar edged closer to the bowl and drank, ignoring out of necessity the dead beetle and two rat droppings that lurked near the bottom of the hole. Sunlight streamed through a wide crack nearer the entrance, and Einar decided that it would be a good idea to soak up some of the sunlight, see if he could warm up a little, maybe even stop shivering for a while before night came again and he really need every ounce of energy to stay warm, to stay alive. That’s what really had him worried. What if this goes on for several nights? Surely he would eventually just wear out--run out of the energy to keep up the shivering, and then…well. There had to be worse ways to go. Meanwhile, the sun was warm on him, warm and very good, and finally he was able to

sleep. • • • •

Joseba Otsoa held out for quite a while under the interrogation of the agents, pretending he didn’t know any English. They kept repeating their questions, though, and threatening to get his work visa revoked if he didn’t help them. Finally one of the lawmen pulled out a poster with Einar’s photo on it, and Otsoa, convinced that they were not going to go away, said “Ah! Yes. Yes, I see him. By the water. He dead, I think.” “By the water? Where?” “Come! Come, I show you.” Otsoa lead them to the place where the dog had first discovered Einar, and Jimson, who had made it up to the search area by that time, ordered bloodhounds brought up. When the bloodhounds arrived, the search began by circling the lake, though the handlers were pretty sure the rain would have wiped out all traces of Einar’s scent. They lead the dogs in widening circles, taking them to each of the sparse clumps of brush, hoping some scent might remain. When they reached the camper, the dogs went wild, alerting on the scent and snuffling in all the corners. Otsoa denied knowing that Einar had ever been in the camper. When the dogs couldn’t pick up a trail from the camper, the handlers again began circling, leading them to the brushy areas. • • • •

The baying of the hounds at the camper woke Einar. The sun was gone from the cave and he knew he had slept for several hours. Hounds? But the rain?… His heart pounding, he rolled over onto his stomach and struggled to push himself up to his knees. Stifling a groan he rose, clinging to a protrusion in the rock slab and peeking out through the crack in the roof of the shelter. There was the sheepherder’s camp, some distance off, separated from him by several gentle swells in the ground, a few patches of alpine willow and stunted pine and fir. Where are the dogs? Then he saw them, saw what they were doing, made his decision in an instant. To stay now was to be discovered, they’d corner him here in this rock cell. He waited until the search team was below a rise behind the camper, and, trying to move quickly, he left the shelter, staying in the shadow along the steep hillside that had flanked his shelter. He knew there could be people in other places, observing, knew that a helicopter could pass over at any moment, but anything seemed better than sitting there and waiting to be discovered. Not until he reached the first clump of evergreens did he stop. Pain was nauseating him, from his hip and especially from the broken ribs. Pressing his arm hard against his chest to ease the burning, he struggled to slow his breathing. OK. How long do I have? At their present pace, it looked like the teams would reach his rock shelter in no more than half an hour, and then they’d pick up his trail easily. Not long. Move! Einar reached a draw that began as a shallow depression in the ground and soon

deepened. He followed it, glad for the cover it provided. For what seemed like a long time he crawled down the draw, several times starting to see black spots in front of his eyes. Once he actually blacked out, collapsing on the rock-strewn gulley floor. Shortly after regaining consciousness, he heard a metallic clinking sound from somewhere ahead, and very carefully wormed his way into a thicket where he could see the source of the noise. In a little side canyon, partially obscured by some oak brush, a tan Jeep was parked. Nearby, a man in a blue ball cap hastily dismantled a tent, tossing the poles into a pile beside the Jeep. A middle aged woman sat on a pile of rocks, sorting cooking gear and stowing it in a black bag. Campers? They sure didn’t look like part of the search. He couldn’t get past them without risking being seen, though, and the gulley walls had steepened enough that he doubted he could climb up out of it. He waited, hoping desperately that they would move on so he could pass. The couple finished dismantling their camp, stowing everything in the back of the Jeep and covering it with a blue tarp, which the man secured with bungee cords. “Jim,” the woman shouted. “I’m going over to the creek to wash up before we leave.” “Yeah. Me too.” They wandered off down the side gulley, and Einar hurriedly began pulling himself past the camp. A hound bayed, then another. They’re onto me. He knew he was moving slower and slower, knew he had no chance of actually outrunning the dogs and handlers now that they were on his trail. The campers were still down at the creek, and Einar hurried over to the Jeep, looking for keys. Darn. Nothing. Then he saw that the tarp was still loose on one end, as if they still had more gear to stow. Hoisting himself up over the side and crawling under the tarp, he burrowed down among the nylon tent bags and backpacks that smelled of wood smoke and easily slid back over top of him. There was such a jumble of stuff in the back of the Jeep that he hoped maybe they wouldn’t notice his presence. It’s my only chance at this point. Sure hope they plan on driving off before the dogs get here. Chapter Six The couple returned shortly to the Jeep, and the woman tossed a bag into the back before securing the bungee cords. They eased out onto a rutted Jeep track that curved down through a band of aspens, and abruptly began down a series of tight switchbacks. Einar raised the tarp far enough to see out, realizing that at some point the would have to get back out of the Jeep. For the time, though, he was quite content to be getting a ride out of the center of the active search. He thought he could smell food in one of the packs, and carefully explored the contents of the one closest to him. In the top pouch he found some dried fruit and chocolate, which he ate, grateful almost to the point of tears. And this was by far the most comfortable bed he’d had in days. He struggled to stay awake, fading in and out as the Jeep bounced down the narrow track. Feeling a jolt, he opened his eyes. The Jeep had stopped, and the man stood on the floorboards, looking down the mountainside with binoculars.

“You think that’s part of the search? There’s a bunch of trucks down there on the main road. Looks like some guys with rifles, too,” The man said. “Like a roadblock?” Asked the woman, standing up also. “Yeah, I think that’s what it is. What, do they think that guy’s going to come driving out of here?” “I doubt it. Too bad we didn’t find him. That’s quite a reward they’re offering.” “Yeah. I think it’s up to a million now.” He whistled. Einar had broken out in a cold sweat. He couldn’t see around the Jeep to tell how far down the roadblock was, but they were easing forward again, and he carefully undid two of the bungee cords on the back, anxious to get out at the first opportunity. They turned out onto the main road, picking up a little speed. Einar pulled himself up over the back of the Jeep, waiting for an especially bumpy section to let go, hoping they wouldn’t notice. He hit the road hard, rolling over to the side and dragging himself into the brushy ditch as quickly as he could. He lay flat on his back in the ditch as the whine of the Jeep faded off down the road. After he was sure they were not coming back for him, he crawled some distance into the thick oak brush, plastered himself up against a boulder, and slept, feeling fairly safe in the knowledge that they he was at least ten miles from where they probably expected him to be. Awakened by the rumble of engines, Einar squinted into the late afternoon sunlight. Pulling himself forward to a vantage point, he looked down at the narrow brown coils of the road as it snaked its way down the mountainside. Two switchbacks below his position, a convoy of camouflage-painted Suburbans and Blazers lumbered up the steep grade. The National Guard. They’re really getting serious about this! Despite his dire situation, he took a bit of perverse delight in the knowledge that he was still one step ahead of them. Pressing himself into the ground right where he was, he did not move until he could no longer hear the vehicles. They must still think I’m up there, then… The logical thing seemed to be to head down, away from the focus of the search, so he began moving in that direction. After about an hour of this, he began to need water quite badly, and surmised that the nearest source probably lay in the canyon that the road switch backed up out of. Reaching it would mean crossing the road, probably more than once, but much as the thought terrified him, his need was pretty urgent, and he kept moving. There. Directly below him, down a dirt and shale embankment some fifteen feet high, lay the road. He lay with his eyes closed, catching his breath and listening for vehicles. Nothing. And no sense putting it off, either. The dirt slope was steep, though, and he wasn’t entirely sure how to go about descending it. He ended up going down feet first, slowing his descent with his hands, which worked fine until the angle changed and he rolled sideways, tumbling down the remainder of the slope. He ended up on the road with his breath knocked out, near panic because he could hear the whine of a dirt bike, quickly approaching from below. Forcing himself up, he scrambled across the road and dove into the brush on the other side. Seconds later, as he lay panting beside a jagged

chunk of orange rock, the dirt bike whizzed by. Einar didn’t feel like moving. Wanted more sleep. Made himself go on because he had to have water. • • • •

Jimson, in close radio contact with the dog teams, went into a silent rage when they again reported losing the subject’s trail. Chapter Seven Directly below him some two hundred yards, clearly visible through the thinning brush, ran the creek, shielded by a stand of mature cottonwoods. A blue dome tent stood down by the bank, down among the trees, and Einar watched it for any sign of life, watched for two hours as the sun went down, and saw nothing. Still he waited. That tent stood between him and his only access to the water he needed so badly--unless he wanted to go what looked like at least half a mile up or down the creek to avoid the forty foot cliffs. Until dark, Einar watched the camp, and when he could see no lights as darkness fell, he resumed his slow and cautious descent toward the creek. Edging to his left, he kept as far from the tent as possible. Crawling over some deadfall pines near the creek, he leaned too hard on a brittle branch and it snapped loudly under his weight. Einar froze, remaining motionless for some time before continuing on to the creek, where he drank long and deeply. As he made his way back through the area of deadfall, Einar was suddenly blinded by a bright beam of light shining directly in his face. Instantly he dropped to the ground and began slithering under the deadfall, worming his way desperately toward the creek. Someone was swearing and breaking branches behind him and he felt a hand close on his ankle, but was able to twist himself loose, and then he was in the creek, its swift current taking him. Branches! A fallen tree lay across part of the creek, and Einar was snagged. He jerked and twisted, ripping the left sleeve off of the jean jacket and freeing himself, but his pursuer had waded out and grabbed him by the collar. He resisted briefly, causing the man to drop his flashlight, but with a heavy blow to the side of his head all went dark… He was vaguely aware of pain. Pain in his hip, in his shoulder, in his chest every time he took a breath. And a splitting pain in his head that made his thinking fuzzy and blurred his vision. A light shone in the tent, shone dimly through the blue fabric, and Einar shook his head and blinked hard in an attempt to clear his vision. His hands were cuffed tightly behind a cottonwood, and he hung forward limply, in something like a sitting position. The pain was worsening, and he had to get his weight off of the shoulder. Bending his knees, he was able to raise himself a couple of inches and lean back against the tree. Footsteps crunching through the fallen leaves. Bright light in his eyes again. “Einar Asmundson,” a harsh voice said. “You are under arrest.” The Voice went on to tell Einar that he was a bounty hunter, that the FBI would be there as soon as he could notify them. Then the light went out, and the footsteps crunched back to the tent. Stupid, foolish, idiot mistake! This guy knew I might come here for water. He looked at the maps and he knew and he waited. He was wet from the creek and shaking hard in the

night breeze. Take me, Lord. Please just take me now… He let his head drop to his chest and waited for the only means of escape left him. Let them follow me and charge me with this, if they can… The Voice again, loud and insistent. Leave me alone. I’m tired. I’m going now. Louder words, shouted words, and the man with the Voice grabbed him by the hair and wrenched his head up, shined the light in his face. “I got some questions for you, I said. Now are we going to do this the easy way, Asmundson, or the hard way? I want to know who helped you. I know you didn’t make it this far by your self, not in your condition. Come on. Give me names!” The man waited, and Einar sat there, head bowed, eyes barely open, waiting also, mildly annoyed that the man was delaying his departure. Rick Randall, the bounty hunter, could see that he was not likely to get any response out of his prisoner. The man was clearly beyond being reached by the “usual means” of sleep deprivation, hunger, cold…looked like he’d already been through all that, and more. Matter of fact, it looked like Randall might lose him altogether, if he didn’t do something. That wouldn’t look good on my record… The bounty hunter retrieved his sleeping bag from the tent, uncuffed Einar, and rolled him into it. Re-cuffing his hands in front, Randall briefly inspected his prisoner in the beam of the flashlight before zipping up the bag. No obvious big leaks to plug, but the man looked awfully gaunt, starved, really, and the bounty hunter retreated to the tent to prepare some coffee and soup. Einar wasted no time in maneuvering his cuffed hands into a position where he could reach the zipper pull. He finally succeeded in pinching it between the heels of his hands, pulling slowly and steadily, hoping that the rushing of the creek would cover any noise he was making. Soon free of the bag, he made his way cautiously toward the creek. Escape was a pretty wild hope at this point, but he dared not allow himself to consider the possibility of failure, because it was all he had to live for at the moment, and death would have been so easy, such a relief just then. He didn’t hesitate at all, but pulled himself over the rocks of the creek bank, rolling over twice and ending up in the water. He eased out into the current, and from then on was engaged in a frantic struggle to keep his head above water and navigate around rocks. Twisting and falling, the creek carried Einar swiftly down the narrow valley, and a terrible fear began growing in him that a waterfall would surely come, and there would be no stopping. A great roaring ahead, and he was spun around so that he faced backward and slammed into a log that jutted up out of the water. He went under, thrashing and kicking and finally breaking the surface in a wide, calm section of the creek. Einar could see the black silhouettes of spruce trees against the greying sky, and made his way for the bank with his last failing reserve of strength. He managed to wedge himself between two boulders before passing out, totally spent. Einar dreamt dreams that morning as he lay freezing in the rocks, dreams of winter and of terrible hunger, and the smell of wood smoke. He awoke digging, digging feverishly at the sandy creek bank soil with his cuffed hands, digging like an animal for shelter. Then he stopped, because

something or someone? told him that he must, that he had to get away from the river, that he would soon be found if he stayed. He moved slowly up into the oak brush, his body stiff and unwilling with cold, because the voice told him to, demanded that he do it, would not allow him to rest until he was deep within the oak thicket. Leaves. He was crawling on fallen oak leaves that rustled as he moved among them, and among the leaves lay many acorns. He tried pressing them between the heels of his hands to crack the shells, but gave up several minutes later, exasperated that he was too weak even to crack the thin acorn shells. He then put a whole acorn in his mouth, cracking the shell between his molars and spitting it out. A few acorns only he ate this way before his stomach cramped up and he began retching violently. After he was done, he drifted for a while, semi-conscious, and saw a mountain goat deftly picking its way along the rocks down by the creek, even though he knew for a fact that they never came that low… The girl, her shoulder length brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, stood very still, not six feet from where Einar lay, staring straight at him. He was not worried, because she was an illusion just like the goat, and would just as soon be gone. She stepped closer, knelt down and spoke to him, and he thought to himself that hallucinations that real were probably a result of the hunger and dehydration, probably meant he was finally close to dying. Einar was way too cold and tired to care anymore. She was lifting him, telling him to walk, demanding that he walk, but the lifting hurt his shoulder, and he wanted her to go away. Surely if he closed his eyes--or opened them? Which way are they now?-she would be gone. It didn’t work, though, and her words became more insistent, more urgent, and she was again trying to pull him to his feet. He wondered how a hallucination could possibly make him hurt so much. Hoping that it would make her stop pulling on his injured shoulder, Einar began dragging himself forward. This went on for what seemed to him like a very long time, and every time he stopped, the illusion-girl would begin pulling him forward again, until finally he simply could not make his body move anymore. He lay face down in the leaves, trembling and exhausted, wishing only to be left alone and to sleep. The girl was still there, though, and he began to become convinced that she could not possibly be just an illusion, but must be real. The thought alarmed him, but he was too tired to act on the alarm, and merely lay there, glad the forced movement had, for the time, stopped. She was speaking again, saying something about hurry, about fast, about men coming and danger. So she knew then, knew who he was, knew they were looking for him…oh. The handcuffs. Of course she would know. Anyone who sees me will of course know, and soon they’ll have me again. “Come on! We’ve got to move!” She was almost shouting, pulling him, splashing water in his face. Yes. Got to move. They’ll be coming. And they were moving again, though the girl was mostly dragging him, and then everything went dark… Einar awoke some time later, terribly cold and completely disoriented. It was dark, totally dark with no stars and no movement of the air, and he wondered vaguely whether he had somehow found his way into a cave. Hope so. Would be safe in a cave. But he had no memory of a cave, none at all, and he struggled to remember anything at all about

the last few…hours?…days?…struggled as a man who is trying to recall a dream, or a fragment of a dream, and without success. He wanted to get up and feel around and try to find out where he was, but weariness lay much too heavily on him, so he remained still, growing colder and colder... Light. The bright white light of a gas lantern, and with it a voice. He remembered the voice. It was the Girl-Who-Was-Not-An-Illusion. “It’s all right,” she said. “They came here looking for you, but this place is hidden, and they’ve gone on now.” She set the lantern down on a box near him and propped him up on a pillow. He clenched his teeth to avoid crying out. What is this place… “You’re safe now. They won’t find you here,” she repeated, looking at him for any sign that he understood. She saw only confusion in his glazed eyes. “Here. Hold out your hands.” She took a key out of her pocket and unlocked the handcuffs, removed them. Einar stared at his hands, then at the girl, unbelieving. The next few hours he remembered only as a haze, as his wounds were cleaned and dressed, and he was talked into drinking some sort of warm liquid that he could not seem to keep down. The girl was asking him if he needed anything, if she could get him anything, and he tried to tell her how badly he needed food, but could see that he wasn’t making any sense to her. He could hear his own words as if someone else spoke them, could hear them but could not seem to get them to express his thoughts or to come out the way he wanted. Couldn’t even seem to keep his eyes open, for that matter, though he desperately wanted to stay awake, to find out more about his situation. “I brought you some more soup,” the girl said. “Why don’t you try again to drink a little?” The broth was warm and salty tasting, and Einar’s shriveled stomach cramped painfully, but this time he was able to keep the soup down, taking small sips as she held the cup. He slept then, and when he woke he was alone and it was dark, but this time he remembered where he was, remembered and was suddenly wide awake and very frightened, because he knew he had been lying there for many hours, knew that he should instead have been moving, traveling far from where his pursuers expected him to be. Very stiffly, he rolled to his stomach and began dragging himself forward. He could see a small chink of light along the ground which he took to be the door, but when he reached it, found it latched and unmovable. Hope it isn’t locked… Rolling up onto his side against the door, he found a protrusion, fumbled with it, and eventually succeeded in raising the latch and slowly pushing the door open. It was twilight outside--or dawn, he really didn’t know which--and bitterly cold. He pulled himself out over the threshold, shoving the door closed behind him. It appeared that he had been in some sort of a root

cellar, dug into the side of the hill and hidden by a thick stand of chokcherries. With great effort he dragged himself deep into the thicket, stopping only when he was sure he would be hidden from anyone on the outside, and lay on his stomach in a stupor of hunger and exhaustion. The few sips of soup had served only to reawaken his sleeping stomach, reminding him just how hungry he was and now causing him to twist in pain as his weakened body shook convulsively in the cold. He smelled wood smoke--aspen--and allowed himself for a moment to fantasize that he was inside by the stove, safe, warm, full, rather than lying there on the damp leaves waiting for the final chapter to play itself out in his losing battle with the elements. Footsteps rustled through the fallen leaves of the thicket, and Einar heard the cellar door creak open. Silence for a few moments, then the sound of the door hurriedly being closed and latched. “Einar?” She was speaking low, quietly calling him. “I know you can’t be far. Please let me help you.” Walking slowly, she rustled the brush, pushing it aside as she searched. Einar pressed himself against the ground, using all of his willpower to suppress the urge to call out to her. Can’t trust her. Can’t trust anybody. Keep still. “Come on. Please! They’ll find you out here.” With a growing sense of unease, Einar realized that he had been hearing for some time now the distant rumblings of a helicopter. He stayed still, face down, and prayed that he was hidden. A creak of the hinges told him that the girl had reentered the cellar. The helicopter came over quite low, seeming to follow the course of the river, hovering at times before moving on. It was some time before the sound of it totally died away. The hinges again creaked rustily as the girl left the cellar, hurrying back into the brush and calling for Einar. They really may see me here. This brush is not that thick… Better give this a try, see where it goes. “Here,” he croaked, his voice barely audible. “I’m here.” Chapter Eight “They’re still looking for you,” the girl said, parting the tangle of chokecherry brush to reveal Einar’s hiding place. “Let’s get you inside. You’re freezing again.” They did not return to the root cellar, the girl instead taking him to a house, a single story white clapboard structure with a green corrugated steel roof and a covered front porch, perched on a slight rise overlooking the river. A barn and several ramshackle

outbuildings stood clustered around the house, and the whole place gave the appearance of having been there for quite some time. Helping Einar up onto a couch in the living room, the girl covered him with a blanket and left the room. He pulled himself up into a sitting position, leaning against the back of the couch and pressing his arm against his injured ribs to ease the pain brought on by the intense shivering that came over him as he slowly began to warm. She returned with soup, a thin soup in a brown mug that he tried to hold and drink, but could not keep steady because of the shivering. The smell of the soup--beef bullion or some such--was driving Einar wild with hunger, but when the girl helped him drink, he could barely manage two mouthfulls before becoming terrible queasy and having to stop. Dizzy. His head was spinning so that he could not seem to focus his eyes or tell which way was up, and when she urged him to lie down, he did so gladly. Sleep was not long in coming. The girl draped another blanket over him, wondering how anyone could possibly sleep while shivering like that, and went to make sure all the doors were locked, that nothing out of the ordinary was going on outside. Elizabeth Riddle was house sitting for her aunt and uncle, who were away on a winterlong vacation to Florida, the first vacation they had taken in years. This job involved quite a bit of work --there were goats, chickens and an eclectic collection of oriental pheasants to look after, but her uncle had insisted on paying, which allowed her to quit her job and focus on her writing for a time. She had been greatly looking forward to a quiet season after finishing college, then spending a hectic summer working at the newspaper as a copy editor. And now this. The long term inplications, the risks, that could all wait. Would have to wait. The man could hardly stay conscious long enough to take a drink of soup, and she could tell he had some pretty serious injuries, but really didn’t know how to best go about helping him. This goes way beyond Red Cross Basic First Aid... which was the extent of her medical education. She wished there was someone locally that she could go to for help or at least advice--a doctor, a vet, anyone-but she really didn’t know anyone there, and was pretty sure she was risking arrest herself just by doing what she had already done. Well, she had chosen to help him, and however unwise the decision might in the end turn out to have been, she was going to try her best to keep him alive, at least, so she went to the kitchen to search the refrigerator and pantry for foods that would be good for him. She had never before encountered someone as gaunt and exhausted seeming as her guest, and she wondered if he could have been very far from actual starvation. Einar’s sleep was troubled by the constant, nagging knowledge that he was a hunted man, that he was in danger, that his time was running out. In his dreams, he struggled to wake, to make his body move. Several times he went through all the motions of getting up off the couch--it was a slow, painstaking process of getting his battered, fatigued muscles and sinews to work in concert--only to partially wake and find that it had all been part of the dream, that he was exactly where he had started. Finally during one of these struggles he rolled over and fell onto the floor, where he lay shaking his head, holding his body rigid against the pain. Liz came hurrying in at the sound of the crash.

“Are you ok?” Einar raised himself on one elbow, shook his head again in the hopes of clearing his blurry vision. “Sorry. Fell off.” “Maybe we better make you a bed on the floor, so that doesn’t happen again.” As she gathered blankets and pillows and fixed him a spot on the floor beside the couch, Einar studied the room, taking in the small oak coffee table with the blue doily and potted African violet, the easy chair, the small shelf of books in the corner. And the windows. Especially the windows. Slowly he moved toward the one nearest the couch, which was covered with some sort of gauzy blue curtain that let in a little light, but could not be seen through. “Can I help you with something?” Liz asked, approaching him. He turned to look at her, his blue eyes, still glazed from fatigue and pain, seeming to stare right through her. Cold, unreadable eyes, she thought. What kind of a dangerous wild creature have I brought into the house… She left him alone as he dragged himself over to the window, pulling himself to his knees with a grunt and resting there for a moment, his forehead on the windowsill. “Don’t! Don’t open the curtains!” He turned to look at her again. “Why?” “You know they’re still looking for you, right?” Einar quickly let go of the windowsill and dropped to the ground. “Are they out there now?” “No. No, I just checked. But the road is not too far from the front of the house there, so better stay out of the windows, just in case.” He let his breath out in a sigh and leaned his head back against the wall, shaking at the moment more from the exertion of movement than from cold. “Why…why are you doing this? Why are you helping me?” She shrugged. “You needed it. Now I know you’re hurt, but is it mostly your leg, or your hip, or what? You’ve pretty much got bruises all over.” “It’s…a lot of things. Had one crazy week. The hip, mostly, and the ribs. May have

broken a couple. Real hard to…take a deep breath right now.” She could see that even speaking was taking quite a bit of effort. “Can I put your arm in a sling, wrap it against your chest to help keep the ribs still?” He nodded. “Be a good idea, I think.” “And now,” said Liz, finishing the sling, “you need to eat.” She brought him a big plateful of scrambled eggs and toast, and he was able to eat nearly half of it, carefully stashing two pieces of toast under his blankets while he thought she wasn’t looking, before once again falling asleep. When he woke it was dark, the only light a faint blue glow from a nightlight in the kitchen. He needed the bathroom, found it, sure is hard to move with this sling… but did not return to the living room when he was finished. Exploring further down the hall, he found himself in what he took to be a laundry room--he could feel the smooth cold metal of a washer and dryer. His strength spent, he dragged himself behind a large pile of sheets and towels, pulled one over himself, and slept. A helicopter, passing low through the valley in the night, rattled the windows and caused Einar to paw his way deeper into the pile of laundry. Willows are safe… Morning came, several helicopters later, and Liz could not find Einar anywhere. She searched the house quickly, but was most worried that he might have left the house in the night. Checking in the barn, root cellar and all of the outbuildings she found no trace of him. What if he made it out to the road, and somebody found him… It was a terrible thought, but upon returning to the house, she realized that all of the doors had been locked when she first got up that morning, meaning that he must still be somewhere in the house. Immensely relieved when she finally discovered him burrowed beneath the laundry, she left him to sleep. The first helicopter of the morning woke Einar with a start, and he lay there for a moment immensely confused as to the strange textile nature of the “willows” he had thought he was hiding under. Though he wanted to go on lying there in the warm pile of fabric, his injured hip ached terribly from being in the same position on the cold floor all night, and he dragged himself out from under the laundry heap, went looking for food. Liz thought he was doing a bit better that day, though he had developed a painfulsounding cough (“Swallowed too much of that river,” he said) and he still couldn’t seem to stay conscious for very long, and had periods of confusion when he was awake. She decided to attempt to engage him in a bit of conversation, to help keep his mind in the present, and hopefully keep him awake long enough to eat a useful amount. “So this stuff in the news,” Liz began cautiously, not sure whether she should ask. “Did you…do what they say you did?”

“What do they say?” She walked over to the stove, grabbed a newspaper off the top of a thick stack that had been saved for starting fires. “Here.” He glanced over the story on the front page, complete with a color photo of himself from what seemed a very long time ago: Search, Reward to Increase in Hunt for Fugitive
Culver Falls, September 15-The FBI announced today that it is increasing to one million dollars the reward for Einar Asmundson, 39, wanted in the deaths of two FBI agents in July. In addition to the reward, they will be bringing in additional resources to aid in the search, including two hundred FBI and BATF personnel, a contingent of National Guard, and several helicopters equipped with sophisticated infrared sensors that agents hope will aid them in spotting the fugitive. Special Agent Toland Jimson, speaking Tuesday from the heavily secured FBI command post outside of Culver Falls, said the agency remained “Committed to devoting all the resources at our disposal to capturing this dangerous fugitive, and we call on all residents of Lakemont County to come forward with any information that might help lead to his apprehension.” Asmundson, a survivalist and expert backwoodsman initially being sought on federal firearms and explosives charges stemming from a case in Clear Springs, is now charged with two murders after the blast deaths of FBI agents Seth Torrey and Thomas Bagamian in early July. The agents, acting on a tip from a local pilot who reported seeing smoke in the area, perished while searching Asmundson’s camp, centered around a mountainside cave which he had apparently rigged with explosives. He is also alleged to have killed a canine officer--a tracking dog known as Snuffy--just over a week ago. “He can’t stay out there forever,” Jimson said on Tuesday. “We anticipate bringing this to close very quickly now that we have these additional resources, and with the coming of winter weather.”

Einar looked up, nodding wearily. “Yeah. They’ve got it about right. Except for the ‘expert woodsman’ part, maybe. And the fact that this won’t be over anytime soon, if I have any say in it at all.” He waited, expecting her to ask him to leave, or worse, but she didn’t. Instead she retreated to the kitchen for a time, returning with more scrambled eggs and some cottage cheese. He ate in silence. “It was self defense up there at the cave, you know,” Einar said quietly. “They had me trapped in there. Threw in a bunch of smoke grenades. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t get out. I had…rigged the enterance earlier, as a last resort, saw that it was my only chance. Just pressed myself into a corner until the…rocks stopped falling, crawled over the rubble until I found fresh air… Took off out of there with nothing but the clothes on my back

and my rifle.” Liz nodded. “Did what you had to,” she said simply. “After that? The papers said you just disappeared, then two weeks ago…” “I was getting along OK until the weather started turning cooler. I don’t think they had any solid idea where I was, after…after the cave, and I was able to trap some, had a bunch of snares set up. I was getting enough to eat, but just barely. Mostly rabbits and squirrels and things, and a few berries this fall, but it really wasn’t a good year for berries, even worse for the acorns. So dry.” He sat for a long while then, just staring off into the distance, staring through the wall at something she couldn’t see, and she began to think she had heard all she was to hear of his story. “Then it started frosting at night,” he resumed. “Takes more energy just to live in the cold, and I started losing weight pretty fast; I was hungry all the time. Didn’t really have any warm clothes. Knew I needed to get a bear or an elk, soon, needed fat, needed a way to store something up for the winter. Had the rifle, but I didn’t dare use it. The helicopters were still going over several times a day, small planes too, and I had no idea how many people might also be out on the ground, looking, listening… I tried to snare a bear, and I was working on a bow, but it was all taking too long. The nights were becoming seriously cold, and fire was not an option, not with all the flyovers they were doing.” “I was getting scared, and I let myself make a huge mistake. I knew this guy…thought I knew him, anyway, and I hid out for two days where I could watch his house, until I was sure nobody else was watching it too. Just wanted some food, some fat, something to help me make it through the winter…well. They must have got to him at some point, because he pulled a gun on me, shouted at me to get off his property. I tried to reason with him, but I could see he was scared, didn’t want anything to do with me. He said he’d give me an hour to clear out of there, before he called the sheriff. That was two weeks ago, more or less. I think. Seems like an awful lot longer though.” Einar shook his head, snorted in disgust. “I was an idiot to trust him. I could have made it through the winter…probably. But now…” He shrugged. Chapter Nine The next morning Liz realized that she needed to make a run into town to replenish the rapidly diminishing grocery supply. “If somebody comes while you’re gone?” Einar asked. “Nobody should come. I never have visitors. You should be safe here for an hour.” Liz

left, not feeling wholly confident that this was true--there had been a greatly increased amount of traffic on the little road that paralleled the river, and at least some of it had to be connected with the search…but what else could she do. Certainly can’t take him with me! As soon as Liz was gone, Einar used the couch to brace himself, and carefully stood. While he had finally and reluctantly accepted the fact that Liz herself was not a danger to him, staying here at the house most certainly was. He intended to move on just as soon as he was able to…well…move. His left leg was quite a bit better, and could support his weight for a short time, even. The injured hip, though, was swollen and painful and impossibly stiff, and the movements that he was able to make could hardly have been called walking. Breathing hard after even the slight exertion of trying to walk, Einar lowered himself back down to the floor. I’ll make a crutch this afternoon. So if things change suddenly and I have to go, I’ll have some chance at least… But first, sleep. A loud pounding at the front door woke Einar shortly after he fell asleep. He cautiously peeked through a crack between the drawn curtains, and saw a black Suburban parked in the drive. The pounding came again, more insistently, and he widened the gap until he could see two men at the door, dressed in BDUs, both with slung rifles. Einar quickly shoved his blankets under the couch, threw the pillow upon it. Moving as quickly as he could, he headed down the hall, hoping his vague memory of some type of trap door in the laundry room had some connection to reality. He pushed aside the large pile of laundry in the center of the floor, and --yes!--struggled to lift the heavy door. There was only blackness beneath, but, he figured, the drop couldn’t be more than four or five feet, and the agents would probably be breaking down the door any second now. Hurry! He hoisted himself into a sitting position, legs hanging down into the blackness, pausing at the last minute to pull some of the laundry back up over the door, hoping to conceal it after it closed. He wondered briefly how he would ever manage to get back up out of the crawlspace in his condition, but in his near-panic over the agents at the door, it didn’t seem to matter much. When he landed, Einar’s injured legs collapsed beneath him and he rolled forward, striking his head on a steel support beam and quickly losing consciousness… The FBI search team, going door-to-door along the river, left when no one answered the door, making note to return later that day. Einar awoke to pain, when has there not been pain… and though somewhat groggy from the blow to his head, he immediately remembered where he was. He lay very still for a time, listening for any movement upstairs. Nothing. Very slowly he moved to ease his legs, which had ended up in somewhat unnatural positions after the fall. Feeling something wet on his face, he reached up to find a deep gash on his forehead, which oozed blood. Dried blood was caked in his hair and down one side of his neck. Must have been out for a while, for all that to dry. The crawl space was damp and chilly, and Einar was already trembling. He was lying up against the steel beam, and edged away from the cold metal. Movement upstairs. Einar stopped still, held his breath. Footsteps, slow at first, then hurried. Get out from under the door! He moved, groping in the

darkness, until he was sure he was no longer directly beneath the trap door. He heard the sound of speech--shouting--upstairs, muffled and distorted by the flooring snd insulation. Hope they don’t find me down here… Still weak, Einar easily slipped back into the state of semi consciousness in which he had spent much of the past week. Returning from town, Liz once again searched the house for her elusive guest, worried most of all that he might have wandered somewhere and hurt himself further. This time she checked all the doors and windows and, finding them locked, knew he must be in the house. He’ll come out when he gets hungry enough. And she went to put away the groceries. At dusk that evening, Liz was startled by a pounding at the front door. The two men at the door greeted her pleasantly enough, showing her their badges and explaining that they were there to do a “safety check” of her house. She gave her consent with as much calm as she could muster. Einar, I know you’re good at this, but I hope you’ve found an especially good hiding place this time… The agents found nothing to arouse their suspicions, and soon moved on to the next house. Liz began preparing a supper of eggs and sausage, hoping the smell of cooking food would bring Einar out of wherever he had stowed himself. Einar, still huddled in a corner of the crawlspace, smelled the food, but consigned it in his mind to the realm of the forbidden, the unobtainable, and tried to go back to sleep despite his cramping stomach and trembling limbs. Sometime the next day--he knew it was the next day because he could again see daylight through the ventilation grate opposite him--Einar heard shouting again from upstairs. Louder this time, he could tell it was Liz, and that she was calling his name. They must be gone. She wouldn’t call me if they were still here…would she? He tried to call to her then, but his mouth was so dry that the only sound he could make was somewhere between a groan and a croak--definitely not loud enough to be heard through the floor. He tried throwing some of the gravel from the crawlspace floor, but it was difficult to pick up in his hypothermic hands, and he lacked the strength to make it hit the ceiling. Exhausted, he curled up and lay still for a long time…. She was calling him again, and he knew he should make some effort to let her know where he was. Where am I? The willows? Willows are safe…but this is not the willows. This is a very dark, cold place, and I’m going to die here because there’s no water, and no way out… When next he was conscious of thought, Einar found himself very angry that he was down there dying in a stupid crawl space, after all he’d gone through. He felt around on the floor until he found a short piece of rebar, and, using all his strength to lift and maneuver it, began striking the steel support. Chapter Ten Liz heard the strange noise eminnating from beneath the house, and remembered seeing some sort of a door in the laundry room. She lowered a stepladder down into the

crawlspace. Einar, still hanging onto the piece of rebar for dear life, blinked and squinted in the brightness of the flashlight. “Einar. What happened? Have you been down here all this time? You’re bleeding!.” “Stuck here,” he whispered. She knew there was no way she could lift him up five feet to the trapdoor, and trying would probably only lead to further injury. “Come on,” she said. “I’m going to take this grate off so you can crawl out. I think it leads to the back yard.” “Are they…gone” “Who?” “Feds. They came while you were gone. Had to hide.” “Yes, yes, they’re gone.” After she got Einar back to the living room and started a fire for him in the stove, Liz cleaned and treated the gash on his head. “I’ve got to leave,” Einar said. “I think they know I’m here.” “No. They were searching every house on the river, not just this one.” “But they suspect. They’ll keep coming back. I shouldn’t stay near the river.” Liz was quiet. He had a point. “Could you…drive me somewhere…out of the area, maybe to the National Forest somewhere? They’d never know where to start looking.” She nodded. “I can do that. But you really can hardly walk yet. Can’t you wait awhile, get a little stronger before you go?” He sighed and drew the blanket in closer around his shoulders. “I got no choice. They’ll be back. I just don’t have any more running left in me right now. They’d have me.” “Winter’s coming.” “I’ll be OK. I just need to get somewhere where I can rest and heal up for a while, and

I’ll be alright.” “OK. Can we wait until tomorrow, though? That way I can get some supplies together for you to take.” He thought for a minute, rubbing the edge of the red fleece blanket between his finger and thumb. May be my only chance. I can’t really hunt like this. Can’t run a trap line. I’ve got no reserves left to live off of, no strength built up yet. I’d probably starve in a matter of weeks out there. “Alright.” “You make me a list. Things you need. I’ll go to several different stores so it doesn’t look suspicious.” As Einar worked on the list, Liz went out to the shed and rounded up an ancient canvas backpack and an old moth-eaten down sleeping bag that would likely never be missed. • • • •

Chapter Eleven Liz was still in the shed some forty-five minutes later when the commotion started. The first thing she heard was the helicopter, which was not too unusual, except that it seemed to be circling above the house. Then the sound of tires squealing on the pavement out front, and shouting and banging over at the house. Running out of the shed, she saw three black Suburbans parked at odd angles in front of the house, and seven or eight armed men were fanned out in front of the house, several in front of the door, the rest crouching behind trees, aiming their rifles at the windows. They’re going to kill him! “Hey!” She shouted, running toward the front door. “What’s going on?” She had startled them, and for a moment it looked to Liz like they were going to shoot her. Instead, she was quickly approached by one of the agents who had remained behind in the vehicles, with the dogs and handlers. “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to come with us.” He grabbed her by the arm, hustled her over behind the vehicles. “What are you doing?” she demanded, feigning outrage to mask her terror.

“Is this your house?” “Yes. Yes it is! And I demand to know what is going on here!” “We have reason to believe a fugitive may be in the area, and we will need to search your house.” “Aren’t you supposed to have a warrant or something?” she asked, stalling. “We have reason to believe a dangerous fugitive may be in or near your house. It would be in your best interest to give us permission for the search.” “Well, the door’s open. You don’t need to go breaking it down.” The agents entered the house, several through the front door, others running around back. Liz waited, her heart in her throat, expecting any moment to hear shots or sounds of struggle from inside the house. What have I done? Instead, several minutes later, one of the agents poked his head out the door and yelled, “Clear! You can bring the dogs in now.” The dogs, of course, found evidence of Einar all over the house. Liz pretended to be very surprised and alarmed that a dangerous man had apparently invaded her home, and thanked the agents profusely for “saving” her. “I never even lock the doors out here! I was out in that shed all morning! What if he’d still been in there when I went in for lunch?” Her “hysterical lady” act turned out to be pretty believable, and though the agents weren’t entirely sure that she was coming clean with them, they could find no evidence to the contrary. The dogs easily picked up Einar’s scent in the back yard, and the chase was on. • • • •

Einar had sat by the window, keeping a wary eye on the road as he finished the list. It disturbed him that he had seen the same tan pickup three times in the ten minutes he had been sitting by the window. It sure looked like the same one, anyway. When it returned for a fourth time, slowing to a crawl as it passed the house, he was positive. Got to go-now! Was the truck just part of a general surveillance they were doing along the river, or did they suspect this particular house? Is there even a concealed way out of here? He hurried, as well as he could, to the back door. The back yard was hidden from the air by three huge, spreading ponderosa pines, and would be invisible to anyone driving by on the road, also. Well, here we go again… He stuffed the list in his pocket, scrawled the word “THANKS” on the next sheet of the notepad, grabbed the blanket off the couch, and headed out the back door.

As he limped up into the trees behind the house, a helicopter passed low over the river. Einar squeezed up next to a ponderosa trunk and kept still, wishing he had a rock to hide under. As the helicopter faded off downriver, he hurried to get further from the house, leaving the red blanket under the tree. The house sat in a canyon along the river, and steep, nearly vertical walls rose on each side, separated from the river by a narrow strip of land that varied between cottonwood trees and meadow. Einar wanted to get up out of the canyon, away from the river where they apparently expected him to be. Another helicopter. Or the same one, making another pass. It’s too soon for another one. Pressed up against the rock of the canyon wall, he waited for the sound to die out, but it didn’t. The chopper was circling. Have they seen me? Keeping as close as possible to the rock wall, he edged downriver, hidden, he hoped, by the thick cottonwoods that lined it. He was heading for a stand of spruces that he had seen awhile back, hoping to be able to get up into them and away from the river. The chopper again faded downriver, and he hurried, running almost, his injured hip protesting with each step. After covering several hundred yards at his top speed, the pain forced him to slow down, limping and stumbling, fighting for his breath. The canyon was narrowing. He could see the spruces ahead. No! The trees did not extend down to the river as he had hoped. The bank below the forest was steep, nearly forty feet of crumbly dirt and exposed rocks where the river had carved into the mountainside, causing part of the bank to slough off. Beyond this slope the canyon narrowed further, and Einar saw that he would have to cross the river to go on. The chopper will be back. He threw himself at the hillside with desperate fury, knowing that he would have to keep some pretty good momentum going to avoid sliding backwards. He made it halfway. The slide and eventual tumble back down the slope hurt pretty bad, and he lay crumpled at the base of the cottonwood that had violently arrested his fall, as the helicopter again returned to circle the area. Einar would have tried the slope again, and probably again after that until he either succeeded or battered himself to death at the bottom, but after ten minutes of waiting, the helicopter still circled. Now what? Ahead, the trees ran out on his side of the river and the rock reared up nearly vertical. To attempt crossing the river while the chopper circled would mean certain discovery. So he waited, the choking feeling rising in his throat that he was trapped, that they were coming, any minute now they would be coming from up river, and it would all be over. Anyplace to hide here? There was nothing. To go back the way he’d come seemed foolish; he would probably be walking right into their arms. A commotion upriver, something he strained to hear over the roar of the water. Leaning on the tree, he stood. Dogs! They’ve brought dogs! He knew that sound. They were onto him. No time, no choice, just the river. He knew they’d see him. Knew, but it was his only hope. • • • •

The river’s icy grip eased the throbbing pain in his hip, but it took his breath, and he was having an awful time keeping his head up out of the water. Couldn’t hear the chopper anymore, couldn’t see it, had no attention to spare for anything but the river, the next breath.

The river, swelled by the recent heavy rains, swept him through the canyon in a boiling torrent of whitewater, spat him out the other side, and continued somewhat wider and calmer as the rock walls receded. Somewhere on his way through the mile-long canyon, Einar had managed to hook his arm over a branch on a floating tree trunk, one of many that had threatened to slam into him as he frantically and only somewhat successfully fended them off with his feet. The chunk of waterlogged wood was probably the only reason he was still breathing, and he clung to it tenaciously, his body numb from the icy torrent. The helicopter. He didn’t look up, knew doing so would make him more visible, but he could hear it again, directly above him, hovering. He made no effort to head for the riverbank, letting the current take him, hoping his pursuers might loose sight of him…

Einar’s arm was cramping, his grip loosening on the log, and he knew that if he didn’t get out of the river pretty soon, he would be too paralyzed by the cold to save himself if he lost the log. May already be… A logjam appeared ahead, jutting out far from the bank, and he kicked feebly in an attempt to steer towards it. His log caught on the others, and with a whispered prayer of please! he let go of the stump and lunged for one of the logs. It was impossibly slippery, and he felt himself being pulled under the churning mass of snagged trees. Blackness, icy blackness, black water gritty with silt, and a burning in his lungs as he struggled to find a chink of light where he could surface. Found it, gasped at the air, realized that his body would not fit up through the opening. He shoved at the tangled branches, but they would not yield, would not allow him passage. Exhausted, he clung there, catching his breath, knowing that each minute he spent in the frigid water reduced his chances of actually making it out. Finally he got his courage up and went back under, snagging briefly a couple of times on branches before the river dragged him free of the logjam and permitted him to resurface. Some time later Einar made it to the bank, fumbling at the exposed roots of a pine and pulling himself out of the water. He lay there unmoving, barely conscious. Frozen. Dead. Done. There wouldn’t be any Girl-Who-Was-Not-An-Illusion this time, no rescue, no help, just his broken, freezing body, his imminent death, and whatever will he could scrape together to resist it. That, and his pursuers. He groaned, raised himself on his elbows. Death from hypothermia he could accept, if it became inevitable, if he had fought to the last and spent all of his resources. But not capture. Move. Get away from the river… But he couldn’t seem to get his body to respond to his demands. Shivering heavily by that point, he was weaker and more exhausted than he remembered ever feeling. It was as if his body belonged to someone else, and they weren’t listening to a word he was saying. Rest a minute. But as he lay his head down he could feel the blackness descending on him, too comforting, too soft, too heavy, and he knew that he must act immediately if he was to get away from the river. Waiting would mean lying there in a stupor until they caught up to him. He grabbed a stick, jabbed it into his injured hip. Bet you’ll listen to this! The pain sent enough adrenalin through his system to get him moving, and he dragged himself up into the pine woods, grabbing roots, low branches, anything that would aid his progress.

It wasn’t long before another helicopter came, but it didn’t circle as before, and he hoped that maybe they had lost him under the logjam. They’ll be using infrared tonight, though. Better find some rocks. Unless (he grinned slightly through his chattering teeth) unless maybe by then I’ll be too cold to show up… He knew it wasn’t funny, though. Knew that in the end the cold was probably going to win out. Probably sometime during the coming night. The crawling was excruciatingly hard work in his present condition, but he couldn’t move fast enough to warm himself much, and he knew he had no hope of drying his clothes before sunset. He could feel himself growing colder in the wind, his movements more sluggish. Section Two "Courage shall grow keener, clearer the will, the heart fiercer, as our force faileth." --from The Battle of Maldon, translated by Alexander Chapter Twelve With the coming of snow in November, the search had been drastically scaled back. No longer did helicopters daily thunder through the valleys and over the mesas and high ridges. Special Agent Toland Jimson had declared Einar dead a month ago, just before abruptly taking an early retirement. A rotating contingent of four agents maintained an official presence at the mostly-abandoned command post, but for all practical purposes the active phase of the search had come to an end. The search for Einar’s body, carried out by the FBI, with assistance form Mountain Rescue and swift water rescue teams from three counties, was abandoned after a week. They had probed the logjams, checked the undercut banks and searched the river for miles, turning up nothing more than a single boot, of a make similar to the ones believed to be worn by the fugitive. Unable to produce a body, officials were forced to continue the search at least symbolically, but few people, locals or feds, actually believed Einar was anywhere but dead at the bottom of the river. As long as the search operation was taking place along the river, Liz did not dare to go near it herself. She very much felt responsible for Einar’s current trouble, knowing that if she had done as he asked and immediately driven him out of the area, he would probably still be out there, still alive, instead of…wherever he was now. She wouldn’t allow herself to think of him as “dead,” although she realized that was probably the case. In the weeks after the search ended, she walked long sections of the river bank, calling for Einar and looking for any sign of his presence, but finding nothing. • • • •

Wrapped in a bearskin, the man crouched in the shadowy opening of an abandoned mine tunnel, his face upturned to catch the few weak rays of sunlight that made their way

through the black timber of the ridge. His face wreathed by a full beard, it was difficult to tell where the bearskin ended and he began. Below his perch, the slope dropped away steeply to the valley below, crisscrossed by game trails and dusted with the first snow of the season. Subdued by distance, he could hear the gurgling of the river as it wound its way between ice-encrusted banks. Slowly he rose, limping across the fallen spruce needles that covered his small rocky ledge, and carefully feeding a handful of dry, barkless twigs to a tiny fire that glowed in the recesses of a hole that he had scratched into the hard, rocky soil just inside the tunnel. Perched precariously on a flat rock that covered part of the fire hole, the contents of a flame-blackened steel can neared a boil, and the man leaned close, breathing the steam. The small fire burned quite hot and produced almost no smoke, drawing in additional air through a short tunnel that opened up into a small hole less than a foot from the main pit. Any tiny wisp of smoke that did escape the pit was quickly dispersed by a shaggy blue spruce that clung to the mountainside just above the tunnel mouth. Chapter Thirteen That first evening, Einar had forced himself relentlessly up the mountainside, hunkering down beside rocks or under thick tangles of evergreen growth whenever he heard a helicopter approaching. As the movement finally began to warm him a bit, a fierce determination grew in him to not merely evade capture, but to live, to keep going. Not far from the river, he had stumbled upon a spot where someone, hunters, it looked like, had recently camped. Scattered around the firepit were a few crushed beer cans, a broken bottle, and, to Einar’s amazement, two stale corn tortillas that the ground squirrels had either not yet discovered or not wanted. After hastily gobbling the tortillas, he had poked around in the ashes of the fire and found a large tin can, still bearing the charred corner of a “Beans ’n Wieners” label. Wrapping the can and broken glass in a plastic grocery sack that had also been abandoned, he had stuffed them down the back of his shirt before continuing. Not far from the camp, Einar had passed the spot where the horses had been tethered, and added a three foot length of orange bailing twine to his growing collection. Struggling up the steepening slope, Einar had come across an area where the soil had been recently disturbed, the evergreen duff torn up in large chunks and a small tree nearly destroyed. Clearly visible in the loose soil was the impression of the hind foot of a small bear, and a fair amount of dried blood was scattered on the ground and the nearby vegetation. The Hunters. They must have shot a bear here. Einar had followed the bear’s trail in the dimming light, hoping that it might lead him to the carcass, hoping the hunters had left him something. As the darkness became complete beneath the evergreens, Einar had no longer been able to reliably follow the bear’s trail. Much as he had needed to keep moving in an attempt

to generate heat, he needed that bear carcass--or the hope of finding it, at least--even more. So he had stopped for the night beside a huge, rounded granite boulder, lying motionless beside it for some time trying to find a little more strength before removing his wet clothes and burrowing down in the dry spruce needles that had collected two feet deep beneath an enormous blue spruce. The night had been very cold, bringing one of the first heavy frosts of the fall, and Einar was continually waking and having to reach outside his little shelter and scrape up more needles to replace those scattered by his shivering. He hated to move at all, because each time he did, it released the meager warmth that had managed to accumulate, and it was taking him longer and longer each time to begin warming up. He supposed there would eventually be a time when the warmth didn’t return at all, and that would mean it was almost over. Probably won’t even be aware of what’s going on, if it comes to that… He buried his head in the duff, hoping to retain a little extra heat. Einar had been genuinely surprised when he woke for a final time and saw daylight through the gently swaying spruce boughs. He really hadn’t expected to see morning. Stiff with cold, he had struggled to get his clothes back on, grateful that they hadn’t actually frozen. Well, not completely, anyway. The collar of the shirt and one of the sleeves were rigid with ice, and he beat it against the tree trunk to loosen it up. He couldn’t feel his fingers or the toes on his left foot where he had lost his boot in the river, but on inspecting them, was pretty sure he had managed to avoid frostbite. Beating his arms against his sides to get the blood flowing, he had found the bear’s trail and again began following it up the mountainside. He had pushed himself as hard as he could up that slope, but it took quite a while before he began to warm much. Without the bear’s trail to follow--the injured creature had left pretty clear sign as it tore its way up through the forest--Einar didn’t think he would have been able to keep going for very long that morning. His body wanted rest, wanted to give up, to give in to the cold and exhaustion, wanted an end to the struggling. But the bear trail kept him focused, kept him moving, inching forward towards the hope of food. • • • •

All morning and into the afternoon Einar had trailed the bear, which appeared to still be losing blood fairly quickly. He had seen no evidence that the hunters had actually followed the animal, no tracks, no human sign of any kind, and he’d begun to wonder whether he was going to find a live, if injured bear at the far end of the trail, rather than the dressed out carcass he had at first been expecting. A helicopter had passed around noon, judging by the sun--they seemed to be coming over at some sort of regular interval that day, though he couldn’t really tell whether it was on the half hour, or less frequently. His perception of time had been warped out of all proportion by the endless uphill crawling and dragging that his life had been reduced to. He had squeezed himself under a lichen-covered rock ledge as the chopper passed low through the valley, almost at his level. “Can’t have me yet, you buzzards!” He had hissed. “I’m still kicking.”

Kicking, yes, but in desperate need of water. His dry throat was aggravating the persistent cough he had acquired after his first time in the river, sure would like to stay out of rivers for awhile… and, not knowing when he might run across the bear, he greatly wanted to get it under control. Seeing some damp ground at the base of a boulder, he had left the bear’s trail to dig in the black forest mulch, exposing a small seep from which he’d been able to suck a couple of mouthfuls of slightly muddy water before moving on. Allowing the seep to refill the small depression he had scooped in the forest floor, he had partially filled the tin can with water, securing part of the plastic bag over the top with the bailing twine and stowing it in his shirt. He didn’t like having the cold metal against his back, and hadn’t even been sure that his improvised canteen would hold water, but it was worth a try. Struggling up the mountain, Einar had several times believed he saw the bear ahead of him, but each time it had turned out to be a burnt out tree stump or a boulder, lumpy and black in the damp shadows. Once he had seen Liz, sitting on a rock and repeatedly asking him why he was going to the trouble of following the bear when she would be glad to go in the other room and fix him some bacon and eggs. He had known, on some level, that his mind was playing tricks on him, but just to be safe he had shouted at her to go away! You’ll lead them here to me! Go home! Nearing the top of the ridge he had been working his way up all morning, Einar had been filled with a sense of foreboding that he could not quite pin down, but knew from experience that he dared not ignore. Directly above him rose a rock outcropping, and the bear’s trail cut up along one side of it, clearly visible in the loose dirt. He had left the bear’s trail then, skirting around the rocks on the opposite side. It was difficult going, as the slope below the outcropping was covered with a slide of loose orange rock that vaguely reminded Einar of the mine tailings. Pulling himself up the final feet of the incline below what looked like a shelf of rock, clinging with both hands to tree branches to avoid sliding back down, he had poked his head up over the rock rim and discovered to his alarm that the bear’s trail disappeared into the dark opening of a long abandoned mine tunnel. Wedging himself in on the uphill side of a Douglas fir, Einar had studied the narrow rock ledge and the five foot by three foot hole roughly carved into the rock, quickly fading to darkness in contrast with the sunny day. The tunnel couldn’t be too long, he had figured, based on the relatively small pile of tailings below the outcrop. Probably no more than fifteen or twenty feet, less, if it had caved in or collapsed at some point during the last hundred-plus years since some miner had scratched it into the impossibly steep hillside. For a long time he had remained still behind the tree, catching his breath and straining to hear any sound of movement from inside the tunnel. Nothing. But his heart was still pounding so from the exertion of the climb that he couldn’t trust his ears. I need that bear. I really need that bear. To enter the tunnel after the injured bear, though, weak as he was and unable to stand, even, had seemed like suicide. Not that I really have anything to lose. If I don’t get a source of food pretty soon…

Searching the nearby mountainside, he had found a twelve foot spruce, straight and nearly devoid of branches, that had died in a rocky cleft for lack of soil. It came out of the ground readily when Einar pulled, nearly sending him tumbling down the steep slope before he caught himself. He broke off the remaining branches and the flimsy top foot of the tree, and was left with what he hoped was a reasonably serviceable spear. Chapter Fourteen Feeling somewhat like Beowulf approaching the dragon’s cave--only less well armed and unable to walk-- Einar had carefully made his way up to the rock ledge in front of the mine opening. Rather than actually crawling into the blackness in search of the bear, that would be a ridiculous way to die… he had decided to try and bring the bear out to him, to where he would be waiting just outside the tunnel with his spear. His hope had been that the brightness of the day would give him some temporary advantage over the animal. Bracing the improvised spear up against a rock so it extended at an upward angle toward the tunnel, he had thrown a rock back into the blackness and waited. Nothing. He threw another, threw harder this time, attempting to reach the back of the tunnel. Still no sound, aside from that of the rock shattering against the tunnel wall. Maybe it curves… After several minutes of waiting, he had crawled around to the other side of the ledge, again bracing the spear and throwing a rock into the blackness. It seemed like hours that Einar had crouched there with the spear, braced at the back against a rock and grasped tightly in his right hand, waiting to begin once again fighting for his life. Gradually he had begun to relax his grip, realizing that nothing was going to happen, trembling from the anticipation and from the effort of holding up the spear. Guess I’m going in. Very cautiously, he had crept up to the tunnel mouth, raised himself on his elbows, listening for movement, for breathing. Hearing nothing, he’d edged himself into the shadows, grasping the spear and waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He worried that that the spear might be too long to do him any good in the confines of the tunnel, if he actually had to use it. But if he shortened it, he would be forced to get that much closer to the bear, and he knew that one swipe of the animal’s claws could mean his death right now. So he had waited, barely daring to breathe for fear that he would cough. As his eyes adapted to the dimness, Einar had realized that the tunnel didn’t go back very far at all--he could fuzzily make out the far end, jagged rocks sticking out of the wall where the miner had finally abandoned his apparently futile quest. A side chamber of some sort extended to Einar’s left, deeper in shadow than the main tunnel. He had squinted into it, shielding his eyes with his hand form the daylight behind him. There! There it was, the bear, just a few feet inside the side chamber, its furry bulk looking absolutely massive in the shadows. Scrambling back out of the tunnel, Einar had quickly retreated across the ledge and wedged himself behind a tree, fully expecting the beast to come charging out at him. When it didn’t, he had still waited for a long time, watching as the lowering sun shone weakly through the spruces and illuminated part of

the tunnel wall. Taking the spear, he had returned to the tunnel mouth, seeing that the far recesses of the tunnel and most of the side chamber were then dimly illuminated by the sunlight reflecting off of the light orange rock. The bear did not appear to be breathing. It was small, probably a yearling female weighing just over a hundred pounds. As Einar carefully approached it, he found that the rocky floor around the bear was slippery with blood. Must have come here to die. This is probably where it was going to hibernate. Just to be sure, he had jabbed the bear’s rump with the spear, getting no response. He’d reached out a hand and touched the animal. Still warm. Einar had known he would have to gut the bear soon, hopefully skin it, also, to let the meat cool down before it began spoiling. It was too dark in the tunnel to see what he was doing, so, gingerly at first, he had grabbed the fur on the bear’s stomach and tried to roll it towards him, towards the tunnel mouth. Finally completely convinced that the bear was indeed dead, he had used all of his strength to move the creature, nearly trapping himself beneath it when finally it flopped over, mere feet from the open air. One more roll, and the animal lay on the rock ledge. Exhausted, Einar collapsed on his back beside the bear, smeared with its blood, chuckling and giddy with relief. This thing would have killed me if it hadn’t already been dead. My spear-tree would’ve snapped in two the first time I used it…who was I fooling? After catching his breath, he’d dragged himself over to the tree where he had stashed the can of water, glad for the refreshment. He knew he had an awful lot of work ahead of him if he wanted any of that meat to last. And he had almost no tools to aid him with the task. What do I have? He’d decided to take inventory before beginning on the bear. There was the can, of course, and the fragment of plastic sack he had torn off to cover it, and the three feet of bailing twine from the hunters’ camp. One of the pieces of the broken beer bottle had fallen out of his shirt at some point and been lost, but the larger one, a seven inch chunk that included the mouth of the bottle, was still there, wrapped in part of the grocery sack. There was his bootlace, of course, and a length of string that Liz had given him to help hold up the too-large pair of her uncle’s pants that she had supplied him with. He searched his pockets. Not much. His quartz knife was there, chipped some, but still useful. In a back pocket he found the grocery list that he had written for Liz, faded and almost illegible after the river. He stuck it back in the pocket. That’s it. Unwrapping the broken bottle, he tested the edge. It, along with the quartz, would have to do for gutting and skinning the bear. • • • •

Einar estimated that he had four hours of daylight left, and he hurried to gut the bear, struggling with the inadequate quartz knife and the thick bear hide. Propping open the chest cavity with a stick to allow it to cool, he took a break from his work to eat part of the liver. He knew that eating it raw meant risking trichinosis--not something he wanted to deal with out here--but the risk of contracting it was less with the organs than with the meat, and if he didn’t eat something soon, he knew he wasn’t going to be able to finish the job. The evening was turning quite cool; looked like it was going to freeze that night. Good for the meat, not so great for me, if I don’t get this hide off.

Fumbling with his numb fingers, Einar worked at skinning the bear, using both the quartz knife and the broken bottle, as the light faded from the sky. He knew he was doing a sloppy job of it, but he was racing the coming darkness and the time, fast approaching, when his cold hands would become all but useless to him. Finally freeing it from the bear, Einar dragged the heavy skin into the tunnel, rolled up in it, hair-side in, and was asleep almost instantly. He had a fleeting thought as he dropped off to sleep that he should do something to protect the meat from scavengers, but was simply too beat to get up and act on it. He slept long and soundly that night, out of the wind and relatively warm in the bearskin, enjoying the fact that, for once, he didn’t have to shiver all night just to stay alive. Einar awoke with a start some time in the early morning as light began seeping in through the tunnel mouth. Got to do something with that meat before the flies come out… Poking his head up out of the bearskin, he realized that would be awhile. It was cold. Colder than any of the previous nights, and Einar saw that frost had formed on the bearskin where his breath had escaped during the night. The flesh side of the hide had begun to freeze during the night, also, and Einar rolled out of it, pretty stiff himself from the long day of climbing and the difficult work of moving and skinning the bear. He crept to the tunnel mouth to survey the damage. Not too bad. Something small had been into the meat, foxes, it looked like from the tracks, but they hadn’t actually taken too much. The foxes had eaten part of the remaining portion of liver, and Einar quickly devoured what they had left. The problem now, as he saw it, was how to preserve the meat without using smoke. He didn’t dare risk a fire, and certainly not the smoky fire that would be necessary to keep flies--and the resulting maggots--away from the meat. The weather was cool enough, even during the day, that the bear should keep pretty well if hung in the shade, but during the warmer afternoon hours he was sure there would still be flies. Pepper would work, or lemon juice…yarrow, maybe? He had successfully used yarrow, crushed and rubbed on his skin, to deter mosquitoes, and wondered if it would also repel flies. Got to try it. Making his way down off of the ledge, he began collecting aromatic, fernlike yarrow leaves from the nearby forest floor, where they grew in small clumps and patches wherever the sun peeked through the dense foliage. The plants never got very tall at this elevation, but they were plentiful, and had not yet been killed off by the frost. When he had nearly filled the can with leaves, packing them down to fit more, Einar returned to the bear. Crushing and rolling the leaves between his palms, he rubbed and spread them over the outside of the carcass, doing the same in the chest cavity. He knew this would flavor the meat, but the yarrow would not be toxic at all in these quantities, and he cared a lot less about what the meat would taste like than he did about the simple fact that he would have something to eat. With the meat (hopefully) safe for the time, Einar, shivering badly in the morning chill, returned to the tunnel, crawling back into the bearskin. Once he had warmed a bit he went back to the ledge, working on removing the inch-thick layer of fat from the bear’s body. He used the remnants of the plastic bag to hold some of it, then found a supply of loose bark that was peeling off of a nearby dead Douglas fir. The rest of the fat he stored in these trough-shaped pieces of bark, dragging them one by one into the back of the

tunnel as they were filled. He hoped the fat would stay good until he decided it was safe to build a fire, so he could render it down and make it last the winter. In the meantime, he ate quite a bit of it as he worked, his starved body craving fat and calories. Several times as he worked, Einar had to duck inside the tunnel as a helicopter thundered through the valley, always following the river. They must really think I’m dead down there. With most of the fat removed from the bear and a fresh treatment of yarrow applied--it did seem to be working--Einar began thinking about how best to hang the meat. Simplest would be to hang the whole bear, allowing the cool air and freezing nights to preserve it, carving off chunks as he needed them. He doubted that he would be able to hoist its weight, even minus the innards and hide. Before attempting to quarter it with his crude and now dull cutlery set, though, he decided to try hanging it whole. Attaching the baling twine to the back legs and reinforcing it with the string that he’d been using as a belt, he set about searching for something he could use to make a length of sturdy cordage. There was not much available in his immediate area, but he had an idea. Digging down with his hands in the forest loam near the ledge, he found a pencil-thick spruce root not far beneath the surface. Pulling gently, sliding his hand along the root as he went, he was able to free several feet of it from the loose mulch before it thinned too much and broke. Several more roots he obtained in this way, some as long as five feet. Hauling his coil of roots back up onto the ledge, Einar split the ends of several of the roots and attempted to splice them together to form a longer cord. His hands, though, were impossibly cold and clumsy, and he had to stop and warm them before he could continue. After several attempts, he ended up with a twelve foot long cord, composed of three strands for strength. He looped one end of it under the twine that was tied to the bear’s legs, doubling it back on itself, using his bootlace to lash the two together. Sure hope this holds. A thick branch on the blue spruce above the tunnel mouth, some six or seven feet off the ground and quite near the edge of the rock outcropping, was chosen for the first attempt. Tying the other end of the cord around a rock, he threw it at the branch, missing by several feet. On the fifth try, exhausted by the effort, he finally succeeded in getting the rock, and his improvised rope, up over the branch. It dangled out of reach, about head-height. Einar stood, leaning on his improvised spear, and grabbed the rope just above the rock. Dropping the spear and pulling on the rope with both hands, he struggled to lift the dead weight of the bear. No luck. He leaned his whole weight on the rope, glad that it did not break, but still the bear would not budge. Come on! I have to weigh more than a gutless, fatless, hairless bear! Frustrated, he lifted his knees toward his chest and swung from the rope, finally succeeding in raising the animal. Too quickly. The carcass came up off the ground and Einar went down fast, losing his footing at the edge of the outcrop and dangling down over the tailings pile, desperately scrambling for a foothold, trying to get his weight off the rope. He found one, too late, as the rope broke at one of the splices and the bear fell on him, sending the two of them tumbling down thirty feet of steep, rocky tailings pile

and into the trees below. Chapter Fifteen As he lay crumpled on the spruce needles, bleeding heavily where the rocks had gashed his cheek and shoulder, Einar was overwhelmed by a sense of futility and despair. All of the struggling, the self-inflicted torture of moving his broken body, the heartbreakingly hard work of keeping himself alive and avoiding his pursuers…it was all just needlessly delaying the inevitable. You’re dead, Einar. Some two thousand feet below, the federal search of the river was in full swing, and he could hear the occasional shout as the teams walked the riverbanks, the familiar rumble of a helicopter in the distance. He half hoped they had heard him fall, considered trying to signal them, but decided pretty quickly that he’d prefer to just bleed out right here in the woods, if it came to that. You really are going to die, thinking like this. Come on! Do something. Anything. I…can’t. Can’t do this anymore. I’m done. Don’t worry. You’ll die, when it’s time. But right now you’re still breathing, and you… will…not…give…up! Now stop that bleeding! Move! He reached out his hand, feebly pulling and grabbing at some nearby yarrow leaves, crushing them, packing them into the gash on his face and pressing with the heel of his hand. When the bleeding had slowed, he gathered more yarrow for the shoulder wound, rolling over onto his back to apply it, realizing that, while there was a lot of blood, he had not actually been in any imminent danger of bleeding out. Deviating from the course of the river, the helicopter made a sweeping arc over his mountainside. He just caught the flash of its propellers through the treetops as it passed over him. I’m still here! Still here… OK. Where’s the bear… Covered with needles and dirt, the bear had come to rest against a nearby spruce, and Einar dragged himself over to it, gritting his teeth against the renewed pain from his damaged ribs. He had to get the meat back up to the ledge where it could be protected from animals, but he knew he could not haul the whole bear back up that slope. Wasn’t even at all sure he could make the climb himself. Have to…chop it up into pieces I can carry. But the quartz knife and bottle were back up on the ledge, and before going to retrieve them, he gathered a heap of yarrow leaves to rub on the bear, still hoping to keep the flies away. In his search for enough yarrow to treat the bear, Einar came across another small seep. He had run out of water the previous evening, and scooped thirstily at the damp spot in the mulch, waiting for it to fill with enough water for him to take a mouthful. The water had a slightly acrid taste, and he hoped there were not still harmful minerals leaching out of the tailings pile. Inch by inch he pulled himself up the slope, hating the cruel, relentless voice in his head

that forced him, heedless of his pleading and protests, to keep at it until he reached the ledge. Crawling to the back of the tunnel, he ate a small piece of the bear fat for energy, resisting the strong temptation to crawl into the bearskin and sleep “for a little while.” He knew he would be out for hours once he lay down, giving the scavengers ample opportunity to destroy his only source of food. Flies had found the congealed, drying puddle of bear blood in the side chamber, and Einar took a few minutes to shove a pile of loose dirt and forest debris over it, hoping to keep the flies from finding their way deeper to into the tunnel and contaminating his supply of fat. Returning to the bear with his improvised cutting tools and some of the spruce roots from the broken rope, Einar worked to remove one of the hind quarters from the carcass. This proved to be quite difficult, and he ended up using a heavy, rough edged rock from the tailings pile to bash his way through the last of the tendon. Using one of the roots to sling the quarter from his shoulder, he started up the mountain to the ledge, using a deer antler he had come across to gain some purchase on the loose soil as he dragged himself along. Four more times he repeated this sequence, more slowly each time, treating each piece of the bear with yarrow before hanging it with spruce roots as he got it to the ledge. The cut on his face had stopped bleeding, but his shoulder bore a deep, jagged gash where it had met the rock, and he kept having to stop his work to repack it with yarrow to stem the bleeding. For the last several hours of daylight, Einar operated in an exhausted haze, half asleep at times, hoping desperately he didn’t make any serious blunders. It was after dark when he finally got the last chunk of bear hung from the spruce, collapsing right where he was on the ledge until the cold of the night became too much for him, and he managed to stir himself enough to creep shivering into the tunnel and wrap up in the bearskin. Chapter Sixteen For the next several days, Einar left the bearskin only to harvest fresh yarrow for the meat, glad that there was quite a bit growing close to the ledge. Once, compelled by his thirst, he took the tin can down to the little seep he’d found below the tailings pile, filling it with water. His cough had worsened, though, his breathing was labored, and it took him so long to work his way back up the slope that he was afraid to go far from his shelter after that, lest he at some point find himself unable to make it back up to the tunnel before the cold of night set in. It was freezing every night now, and the days had the crisp, cool feel of late autumn in the mountains. So, he sipped water from the tin can for several days, his throat dry and parched, knowing he needed more but too weak to go and obtain it. Strangely, he didn’t feel much like eating, but periodically nibbled a little of the bear fat, because he knew he ought to. Einar was sick. The cough wasn’t going away and it hurt to breathe now, hurt deep in his lungs. Since breaking the ribs, he hadn’t really been taking full breaths due to the pain, and with all the river water he had probably inhaled during his wild trip through the canyon, he worried that pneumonia or some other lung infection might be trying to take

hold. Two nights after hauling the bear up the hill he woke, soaked in sweat and feeling like the bearskin was smothering him. Rolling out of it, he lay on the rocky floor of the tunnel, letting the night air cool him until his teeth were chattering, before crawling back in. This went on for most of the night, and once he fell asleep out in the open, sleeping long enough that he had no feeling in his hands or lower arms when he finally woke. He’d had his hands in his armpits, and they were not frostbitten, but it scared him. Can’t be doing this anymore, not if you want to wake up tomorrow… Once he’d regained a bit of feeling in his hands he had put some medium sized rocks on the edge of the bearskin, hoping they would remind him to stay wrapped up. By morning, he was having serious trouble with his breathing. He didn’t feel like he was getting enough oxygen, and had to sit up, leaning back against the rocky tunnel wall, to get adequate air. He was coughing up quite a bit of phlegm, too, feeling like he was drowning if he lay down. As the morning wore on things were not improving, but they didn’t seem to be getting any worse for the moment, either. I can do this, he told himself. One breath at a time…just like in the river. That’s all it takes to stay alive. Just one breath after the other. It was awfully tiring, though. He wished Liz was there to make him some of that beef bullion soup. That would help a lot…be kind of nice to talk with her for awhile, too. He supposed he missed her, in his own way. On a whim, he pulled the water-damaged grocery list out of his pocket, began reading its smeared words in the diffused light from the tunnel mouth. Oatmeal. Peanut butter Raisins. Suddenly he was beset by incredibly vivid, all encompassing daydreams--hallucinations, almost--of food. Raisins…all the ways he’d ever eaten raisins--in oatmeal, trail mix, cookies, his mother’s wonderful rice pudding-- danced through his head, his fevered brain and his hunger conspiring to make them seem totally tangible, touchable, real. Tuna. Tuna noodles. The casserole kind with cheese (cheese!) on top. Oh man, wish I had some of that right now! That stuff is so good… Reading the items on the list one by one, he was lost for hours in a fantasy world that was, he had to admit, a lot more pleasant than the real one at the moment. Einar was brought back to reality by a coughing spell, reaching for the can of water and realizing that it had been empty for some time. Got to have water. And he hoped that maybe moving around for awhile would help loosen up some of the congestion in his lungs, help him breathe a little better. And maybe give him the opportunity to find some plants to help with his breathing troubles. Got to do something about this. Person’s got to be able to breathe, or the rest of it doesn’t matter that much… The first thing that came to his mind was mullein, assuming now that he was probably dealing with some sort of

pneumonia. He could use mullein tea to help with his breathing, and the steam to inhale. Maybe also some rosehips for vitamin C, and some pine needle tea, for the same purpose. All that’s assuming I’m going to have a fire, though. There hadn’t been as many helicopters for the last day or so, only two or three each day, that he had noticed. But the idea of a fire absolutely terrified him. That’s how they found me, up at the cave. He knew he couldn’t do any running in his condition, so simply could not take the chance of alerting the searchers to his position by having a fire, no matter how careful he was about it. The mullein tea would have to wait. As sure as he was of his decision, he was also pretty certain that whatever malady he had acquired was not going to get better on its own. I may be out of luck, either way. Just have to try to hold my own, hope the flights stop soon… He had to have water, though, and spent the rest of the day working his way down to the seep, drinking as much as he could before filling the can to haul back up to his shelter. It was after dark and below freezing when he again reached the ledge, and he spent another long night sitting propped against the rock wall, struggling to breathe, never quite warm, despite the bearskin. In the night, awakened by a low flying helicopter, the idea came to him that he could make a pine needle tea of sorts by crushing up some needles in his remaining water, and putting the can in the sun for several hours during the day. Hope that’ll help some. This is getting really difficult. Go away, you buzzards! I need a fire… • • • •

Einar’s pine needle sun tea, steeped on rocky outcrop above the tunnel mouth in an area that received several hours of sun each day, was somewhat of a success. The tea was bitter, but very rich in vitamin C and antibacterial compounds, and he sipped it throughout the second half of the day, feeling a bit better. Leaving the tunnel to gather fresh yarrow for the bear and for the gash in his shoulder, he decided to scrounge up materials for a bow and drill fire, so he could have them all ready to go as soon as he decided it was safe. In his various forays for yarrow, he had seen a spruce that had been broken by a wind, leaving a jagged six foot high stump that bristled with thin, dry splintery wood where it had snapped off. From it he removed several long , straight slivers, ranging from one to three feet in length and averaging four inches wide. From one of them he hoped to make the fireboard. This was not his first choice for a fireboard, as the spruce was too hard to be ideal. He wished he could get down to the river, where there were cottonwoods and willows, which he knew made a good fireboard/spindle combination. Oh, well. Work with what you’ve got… He also gathered as much of the splintery wood as he could carry, tied in a bundle and lashed to his back with a spruce root. It would make excellent kindling, and some of the pieces were literally dripping with pitch, in various states of drying. A great find. Exploring the area around the ledge with fire in mind, Einar discovered that, while almost all of the trees there were either blue spruce or sub alpine fir, there were a few scraggly aspens mixed in here and there. Finding one that had fallen, remaining propped up off the ground by another fallen tree, he decided to use part of one of its fairly straight, dry branches as his fireboard, instead of the spruce slab. It would require splitting, now how

am I going to do that? but it was much softer than the spruce, and therefore ought to produce the smoldering ember he needed much more quickly. From the fallen aspen, he also collected a heap of the dark, shreddy inner bark, hoping it would make decent tinder, and knowing that he could also use it to produce a weak cordage. He chose a slender, straight spruce branch, barkless, dry and polished a shiny yellow by the sun and wind, for the spindle. Several stalks of mullein grew in the open area around the fallen aspen, their yellow flowers now brown from frost, but many of the leaves still a mossy green. Einar, glad they were not yet completely dead for the season, focused on collecting the smaller leaves near the center of the plants. Even better would have been to find some plants that were still in their first year and had not yet flowered, but at that point he was not feeling too particular about the whole thing. He remembered seeing a scattering of deer bones, interspersed with clumps of hair, over on the other side of the tailings pile, and slowly made his way to it, stopping to leave the spruce splinters and aspen branch on the ledge as he passed, drinking some more of the pine needle tea. From the deer remains, he took a shoulder bone, deciding that with a little work, the socket would make a fine bearing block for his bow and drill set. He decided to come back later for more of the bones, which would have a variety of uses. Looked like it had been a medium sized buck, having shed its antlers for the winter before perishing. From the condition of the remaining hair, he guessed that it had been dead less than a year. Winterkill, I guess. He shivered. Winterkill. That could be me in a few months…if I last that long. Rousing himself out of his contemplation of the deer carcass--he’d almost fallen asleep staring at it--I’m doing way too much of that today… Einar struggled back up onto the ledge and, after another sip of pine needle tea, began constructing the components of his bow and drill fire set. To create the fireboard, he needed to split the aspen branch, lengthwise. There was already a small split in the wide end of the branch, and he sought to enlarge this, wedging the tip of roughly triangular chunk of granite into the crevice and carefully tapping it with another rock, holding the branch upright with his other hand. After two or three tentative taps, he could see that it was going to work, but the sound of rock smashing on rock at regular intervals is not something you usually hear out in nature, and he was afraid that the sound could possibly be heard by searchers down at the river. Wadding up some of the inner bark of the aspen, he used it to dampen the noise as he finished splitting the branch. He scraped a starting depression into the fireboard with his quartz knife, wishing he had a steel pocket knife to speed things up. Not that I have anywhere else to be, or anything… The spruce stick spindle didn’t take much work, just a bit of scraping with the quartz to make it a little less round and smooth, so the string would catch better. For the bow, he chose a low-growing, springy branch from a nearby spruce, removing most of the little side branches, but leaving a couple of stubs near each end to help secure his bootlace to the main branch and keep it from slipping toward the center of the bow. This eliminated the need to carve a notch at each end.

Now for a fire pit. The place he had picked was just inside the tunnel mouth, far enough in to shield the light from overhead observation, but near enough the open air that most of the smoke would--he hoped--go out, rather than into the tunnel. He began scraping at the rocky ground, using a sharp sliver of granite. It was slow going, but he succeeded in scratching out a foot and a half deep hole, only about 12 inches wide. From near the bottom of the pit, he then carefully excavated an angled tunnel out toward the ledge, which surfaced about a foot from the main pit. This was to let in extra air, allowing the fire to burn hotter and creating a stove-like effect, if all went well. Then, using the deer scapula as a trowel, he widened the bottom of the pit to allow him to burn slightly longer pieces of wood. He had positioned the fire pit so that he could lean against the tunnel wall just inside the entrance, sitting almost on top of the tiny fire, and he tried it out, resting there for several minutes until he had another coughing spell, spitting up large quantities of brownish phlegm. This can’t be good at all… He crawled to the back of the tunnel and finished the pine needle tea, rolled onto the bearskin and rested, feeling shaky and feverish. With all of the materials for a fire gathered, his pit dug and dusk--and the cold-- fast approaching, Einar was tempted to go ahead and give it try. I need that mullein. Need the warmth, too, for that matter. It’ll be too dark for them to see any smoke, by the time I get a fire going. And there’s no way any light is going to get out, between the pit, the tunnel and all this black timber. What he wasn’t so sure about, though, was the infrared technology he was certain the choppers were using to search for him in the woods and along the riverbanks. Would the heat of the fire in the tunnel mouth create a visible signature for them if they should happen to fly over? Something that could definitely not be mistaken for a hibernating bear in a cave? He just didn’t know for sure. And what if the search teams are camped out somewhere down there, and they smell the smoke? Filled with doubts and quite honestly more afraid of discovery and capture than he was of the increasing difficulty of taking his next breath, he decided to wait another day or two on the fire, see if perhaps they would give up on the night flights. Chapter Seventeen Late the next afternoon there was a great increase in helicopter activity, and Einar stayed in the shelter of the tunnel, wondering if he had unwittingly done something to alert them to his presence. The activity, though, seemed to be focused in the valley. It didn’t even sound like they were making their usual passes up and down the river. Several hours later the rumbling had ended and all was quiet, quieter than it had been since he had first arrived at the ledge. There were no more helicopters that evening, no shouts from search parties on the riverbanks. When the night passed without him hearing a single helicopter, Einar began to believe that the searchers had, for the time at least, gone from the valley. Today. Today I will have fire, he told himself as he sat at the back of the tunnel the next morning, watching the outside world go from black to grey to a soft green as the sun rose and filtered down through the evergreens. First, though, he leaned forward until his chest

rested on his knees and pounded his back with his fist, first one side, then the other. This seemed to loosen up the phlegm in his lungs and allow him to cough some of it up, and he had been doing it several times daily for the past two days. This exercise, along with the improvised pine needle tea, seemed to be allowing him to hold his own against the illness, but just barely. He knew he should be drinking more water, but the trip down to the seep had become so difficult for him that he was making one can last several days, taking a little sip every time he coughed. Food was a big problem, too, Since getting sick he really had not felt like eating at all, and though he had continued to force himself to nibble bits of the bear fat, he was still losing weight, and felt cold all the time now. Really need that fire… Since deciding to build a fire, Einar had collected quite a heap of dry, brittle aspen branches, weathered and grey and barkless, as well as the planks and splinters from the shattered spruce. He had spent some time each day splitting and breaking his supply of wood, sorting it into piles by size just inside the tunnel. Now, taking his time, knowing that the longer you take building the fire, the more likely it is to take off on your first attempt, he carefully arranged wood in the pit. Still afraid of creating any smoke, he used only totally dry, crisp bark-free wood, avoiding for the time even the pitchy pieces from the spruce. Finishing with his creation, satisfied that it should succeed, he used the quartz to split a large quantity of the remaining spruce into long, toothpick-like slivers, stacking them with some aspen sticks on a nearby rock as backup in case the young fire should falter and need emergency assistance. He then carefully made a nest for the ember he hoped soon to bring to life, rolling some of the dry aspen bark between his palms until it was a mass of fuzz, almost down to the level of individual fibers. Several small paper wasp nests clung to the rock ceiling just inside the tunnel, and he knocked them down with his spruce-spear, shredding them up and adding them to the nest. OK. Here we go. It somewhat difficult for Einar to get started with the bow and drill, as his injuries prevented him from getting into the position he was accustomed to. With a little experimentation, though, he found something that worked. The bow and drill worked fine, meshing nicely and quickly producing smoke and hot, brown wood dust that spilled out through the notch in the fireboard and collected on the chunk of bark he had beneath it. Einar, struggling to breathe, was tiring quickly, though, and found himself unable to keep up the necessary smooth back and forth motions of the bow long enough to actually get an ember. His hands were unsteady, shaking and clumsy after a few minutes of trying. After the sixth unsuccessful attempt, he began to seriously doubt his ability to produce fire by this method. He’d done it dozens of times before, but he was just so exhausted today; couldn’t seem to catch his breath. Coughing, he rested his forehead on his knees and waited for his hands to stop shaking. Got to have this fire. Got to… He almost fell asleep right there in the middle of his work, shook his head, made himself try again. This time he got it, got a small smoking ember on the bark that he carefully transferred to his nest of tinder, cradling it in his hands and blowing gently to bring it to flame. Set off by the little wisps of smoke that had begun rising from the nest,

Einar was doubled over by coughing, dropping the nest despite his best efforts, scrambling to pick it up and salvage the coal. Too late. It was dead, broken apart by the fall. No! Disgusted, discouraged, his meager strength totally spent, he tossed the tinder nest into the fire pit and dragged himself to the back of the tunnel, collapsing in a heap on the bearskin. For a long time he lay there, pretty sure that he didn’t care whether he ever got up again or not. The need for oxygen is a powerful motivator, though, and eventually the encroaching feeling of drowning caused him to rise, gasping for breath, to lean back against the rock wall. It’s…getting worse. Can’t breathe. Get that…get that fire going, Einar, get your useless, lazy bones out there and start that…fire! So he went, sheer desperation sharpening his focus and keeping him on the task until he produced another smoking coal and deposited it safely in the nest. This time he set the bundle on a rock near the firepit, to prevent dropping it again. He blew gently on the ember, saw a little smoke, kept blowing, then fanned for awhile with his hand as he tried to catch his breath. Please…please…live! I need you! He had pins and needles in his hands and face and a growing blackness before his eyes from lack of oxygen when at last the little bundle leapt into flame. Very gently he placed the flaming tinder in the pit, beneath his prepared wood, before passing out in the rocks. All of his careful preparation paid off, and the fire took, drawing air in through the little tunnel as it leapt up through the dry spruce splinters and aspen sticks. Struggling back to consciousness, Einar was horrified to see his fire reduced to a little pile of barely glowing sticks in the bottom of the pit. Can’t loose it now, don’t let me lose it now… He grabbed for his supply of extra pine splinters, shoved some of them into the pit, leaning them against the side so as not to crush the delicate coals. He blew into the pit, praying that he wasn’t too late. The coals were hot and the fire took, flame crackling up through the dry splinters as he scrambled into the tunnel for more dry wood to keep it going. Einar huddled over the tiny fire, trembling in its warmth, marveling at how wonderful it felt, realizing that he had not truly been warm since leaving the house in the valley. For some time he just sat there feeding sticks into the firepit, staring in grateful wonder at the flames and feeling for the first time in days like his life might actually go on for awhile. Chapter Eighteen Reminded of the original purpose for the fire by a bout of coughing, Einar retrieved his supply of mullein from the back of the tunnel, tearing some of the leaves and dropping them into the can, which was still almost half full of water. He chose a long thin slab of granite and placed it over part of the fire hole for a cooking surface, balancing the can on it to heat. It wasn’t long before the water was steaming, and he leaned over it, inhaling the steam, breathing as deeply as his injured ribs would allow. After drinking the hot liquid and breathing its steam, Einar felt much better. He was hungry. He lowered one of the bear quarters, shaved off some slivers of the near-frozen meat, and spread them on the hot rock to sizzle and cook, throwing in a little chunk of bear fat to keep them from drying out too much. He would rather have boiled the meat, which would have retained all of the vitamin-rich juices and allowed him to get more nutrition out of it, but he was

all out of water for the moment. The meat tasted strongly of yarrow--I think I’m gonna come to love that taste…or hate it, maybe--but was otherwise fine. The flies had left it alone, and it was now cold enough that he was pretty sure they were gone for the year. Half dozing over the fire after eating, Einar’s thoughts turned to the coming winter, now that it looked like he might after all be around long enough to worry about it. Snow could come any day, could come as a dusting, warning him of the impending change in weather, or could dump two feet on him overnight with no warning at all. That’s how it happened, often as not, at his elevation, which he estimated to be somewhere just above 10,000 feet. Every fall several out-of-state hunters, apparently uninformed of the dramatic and rapid changes that were common in these mountains, would get stranded up high by a snow, sometimes being rescued in time, occasionally not. Got to scrape up a good supply of firewood before that happens, before the stuff on the ground all gets buried and I have to try to chop down a tree with a chunk of granite or something… Better start working on some snares, too. This little bear won’t last me forever. And I’m gonna need some sort of a boot for my left foot, pretty soon, if I don’t want to start losing toes. But he knew he needed to rest, also, and to eat, and to give his body a chance to recover some before winter really set in. The cold’s going to be mighty rough, as scrawny and starved as you are right now. And how long do you really think you’ll last if you have to run a trapline in the deep snow, crawling like this? Need to let that hip get better. He wanted water, wanted more of the mullein tea, but was a bit afraid to leave the fire for as long as he knew it would take him to get down to the seep and back. He really didn’t want to start all over again with the bow and drill already. Searching around on the ledge outside the tunnel, he found a thin, flat granite slab, slightly larger than the firepit. With some difficulty he dragged it over to the pit, adding a couple of larger chunks of aspen to the fire before pushing the rock over the hole until it was nearly covered. A smaller rock he used to cover the opening of the little air tunnel, again leaving just a crack for air to get through. He hoped this would work something like damping down a stove for the night, allowing him to return to find a few glowing embers, at least, from which he could start a new fire. Got to try it… The idea came to him that he could use these same two rocks to cover the holes in the event of another helicopter flyover, to quickly smother the fire and keep any smoke from escaping. Probably wouldn’t do me any good at night, though. The ground around the pit would be so warm, it would show up for sure. The infrared thing really had him spooked. Have to work on a solution for that, too. After the water. Crawling and dragging himself up and down the rocky slope had taken a toll on his arms and elbows, and they, along with the knee on his good (better?) leg had been rubbed nearly raw in places where he used them to drag himself along. He didn’t have much padding left anywhere on his body at that point, and he really wanted to avoid developing sores on his elbows or arms, which would render him effectively immobile. And the last thing I need is one more place for an infection to possibly take hold… He knew that his immune system couldn’t possibly be operating at full strength just then, with the extended lack of food and the constant exhaustion of the last few weeks. Taking some of

the remaining inner bark that he had saved from the fallen aspen, he wrapped strips around his forearms and elbows, and around his knee. The bark was pretty soft and flexible, but fairly sturdy as well, and it seemed that his improvised padding would allow him to move fairly freely, while hopefully preventing further injury. While the tea and food had greatly improved Einar’s disposition, reaching the seep was no easy task for him. Feeling more confident, he had taken off too quickly down the steep slope, nearly losing his footing and just stopping himself from tumbling down the mountain again. Fighting for breath after catching himself, he had been reminded how tenuous his hold on life still was, and he proceeded more cautiously to the water. The little seep, protected from the sun by the black timber, was rimmed that day by a thin ring of ice, and ice clung delicately to the nearby spruce needles. Einar drank, lying on his stomach and thirstily consuming the small amount of icy water, draining the seep down to the spruce duff. I should try to enlarge this thing, so I don’t have to wait so long each time for it to refill. Exploring the area around the deer skeleton for a digging tool, he found the other shoulder bone, and took it over to the seep. He dug into the ground, removing some of the duff and soil from the area, creating a depression roughly two one feet squared, and almost a foot deep, pleased when it quickly began filling with water. Using small thin slabs of rock from the tailings pile, he floored the depression with rock, also adding some to the sides. This should mean less pine needles and dirt in my drinking water… He knew the seep would almost certainly freeze soon for the winter, but he had an idea for dealing with that, also. Searching around the seep, he came up with eight or ten fairly straight spruce sticks, laying them out on the ground like a grid. He pulled up a few thin, flexible spruce roots, using them to lash the sticks together, laying more sticks over the grid to create a sort of platform. Then, working carefully to hopefully avoid killing it, he loosened strips and chunks of springy green moss from the forest floor, placing them on the platform, covering it completely. The result was a roughly square “lid” for the seep, heavy and difficult for him to move, but hopefully insulating enough to keep the seep from freezing for awhile, at least until enough snow came that he could begin to melt it for water. Filling the can and dragging the lid carefully over the seep, he headed back up the mountain. • • • •

Taking a slightly different and less steep path up the mountainside, Einar found himself struggling through a large patch of some type of dead plant, and he paused to take a look. Nettles! He had stumbled on a patch of nettles, their leaves dead and their stalks browning in the cool weather. He broke one, inspecting the strong fibers that surrounded the woody core. Here are my snares! And he knew that the roots, boiled down into a strong solution, might give him some further relief from his nagging respiratory troubles. He collected some of the roots and several dozen of the stalks, brown leaves still clinging to them in places, and stuffed them down the back of his shirt for transport, glad that the chemicals that created the sting were destroyed by drying.

Passing the fallen aspen, he stripped off more of the inner bark, rolled it up, and added it to the stash of nettles in his shirt. He knew that his continued survival depended in large part on being constantly alert for anything he could use, and never passing up an opportunity to collect it. There were still many dry branches on the upper portion of the tree, light and dry and full of air, great for his little smokeless fire. He took some time to break off a few of the branches, leaning them up against the trunk to keep them off the ground. Concerned about the inevitable coming of wet weather, and snow, soon, he had plans to fill the side chamber of the tunnel with dry firewood, while he had the chance. Breaking up the wood into pieces that would actually fit into his firepit was going to be quite a challenge, and , lifting a good-sized rock as high as he could, he dropped it on one of the dry branches. A loud crunch told him that that the wood had, indeed, fractured internally, and he was then able to easily break off a chunk by whacking it on the ground. Several more times he tried this, satisfied that he had found a method that would work, on dry branches of this diameter, at least. Upon returning to his ledge, dragging several more branches from the fallen aspen in addition to the nettles and bark, Einar anxiously pulled back the flat rock that he had used to cover the firepit, discovering to his relief a lively glow of orange when he blew on the ashes. So it works! He wondered if he could keep coals overnight in the same way, but planned to spend this night, at least, leaning against the tunnel wall within easy reach of the fire. Got to sit up anyway to breathe, so I might as well be warm… Stirring the fire back to life and adding some wood, he started a batch of mullein tea. Inhaling its steam seemed to be doing him more good than anything. The pine needle tea seemed also to have been helping, but he only had the one can of water, and considered just adding the needles to his mullein tea. He wasn’t sure, though, if inhaling the potentially resinous pine steam would help or hurt his lungs, so decided to start with the mullein, breathing its steam for awhile before adding the needles and drinking the liquid. Waiting for the tea to heat, he worked with the nettle stalks, carefully pounding each of them with a rounded rock to help the fibrous bark separate from the core, then gently peeling back the bark with its strong fibers, making a growing pile of it on one side of the firepit. When the tea was almost ready, he decided to throw in some slivers of bear meat and a chunk of fat, also. Why not? As hungry as he was now feeling, he found that he couldn’t eat much at once, couldn’t eat enough to actually feel full for more than a few minutes, and he figured he would have to work up to it gradually, let his stomach become used to food again. He seemed almost constantly to be thinking of food now--seeing it, smelling it, suddenly tasting things that he hadn’t eaten in months or even years. Rather than disturbing him, these thoughts and sensations became like a form of entertainment as he passed the long wakeful night hours. He welcomed them as a distraction from his labored breathing and the increasing feeling that despite his best efforts he was not getting any better, was just barely hanging on, that all it would take would be a slight change in a complex set of circumstances over which he had little control, and he’d be dead. Sometimes, he just preferred to think about pizza... That night as he dozed by the fire, the bearskin up over his shoulders and head, Einar was jerked out of sleep by a terrible hissing and yowling out on the ledge. Quickly adding

some wood to the quiet fire, he was able to see two furry forms on the ledge, fighting and tumbling and making a horrible racket. Shouting, he threw some rocks in their direction, frightening them off. They had looked like bobcats, maybe even lynx. It was morning before he realized what they had been fighting over, realized the implications for his future. His supply of meat was scattered, chewed up, half gone. He sat there for a minute staring at the destruction, cold needles of fear creeping up his back and scalp. The animals had apparently leapt up and grabbed the meat, pulling some of it down and feasting before getting into the fight that has wakened him. Two pieces still hung from the trees, unmolested, and he crawled out into the frigid morning to re-hang what was left of the others. Scraps and shreds, mostly. He was trembling so badly in the cold that he could hardly finish the task, and hurried back to the fire when he was done, wrapping up in the bearskin and waiting for the shivering to subside. He was scared. I’ve got to have those snares, now. Adding some wood to the fire and huddling in close to it to hopefully keep his fingers flexible, he began twisting the nettle fibers into cordage, twining two cords together for added strength. Whittling triggers for a couple of the snares with his quartz knife, his clumsy fingers adding to the difficulty, he wished once again for a steel knife of any description. Late that morning as the sun came up and the air warmed, Einar traversed the mountainside, setting the five snares he had managed to create from his supply of nettles. Three he put in obvious rabbit runs that he had previously noticed, and the other two were placed on the branches of fallen trees, for squirrels. Worn out, he rested in a small, transient patch of sunlight before heading over to the seep for another can of water, his thoughts wandering as he absorbed the warmth of the sun. It’s not easy, being an injured predator. I really see now why sick and injured mountain lions end up going down to neighborhoods to eat the dogs and cats… He remembered hearing one time that in the wild, many of the larger predators are only successful in their hunting about 30% of the time, even when they are healthy and mobile. But I’m not going down there to eat little poodles out of anybody’s back yard. Not going to the valley anymore. Learned my lesson on that one. He found his thoughts turning in that direction more and more often, though, wondering about Liz, about the other houses in the valley and the possibility of obtaining some food to supplement his rapidly dwindling supply of bear and the occasional rabbit or squirrel that he hoped the snares would yield. And boots. A boot, anyway… Some heavier clothes would be good, too, especially when the snow got deep. The knees of his jeans were in shreds from all the crawling, and the green plaid flannel shirt Liz had given him barely added any warmth at all on these cold days. You get those thoughts out of your head, Einar! They could get you killed, or worse. Don’t let it end that way. You’re holding out up here. You’re still breathing. You go down there, let your guard down like that, and they’ll have you. It’s probably what they’re counting on. The ones who don’t think you’re already dead, that is. The valley, though, had become something of an obsession to him, an almost mythical place of bounty and abundance that intruded on his thoughts and danced through his troubled dreams, offering both life and death at the same time in a dreadful paradox. He wished he could just forget about it. Chapter Nineteen

Discouraged by his state of constant of exhaustion, Einar didn’t think he was going to be able to make much headway against the breathing troubles or build up much strength as long as he was having to make the daily trips down to the seep for water. They just took too much out of him, in his current condition. Soon enough, he knew, snow would come, and then he could melt it for his water supply, as long as he had enough wood… In the meantime, though, he needed some way to carry and store more water, so the journeys up and down the slope could become less frequent. He remembered hearing about how some of the southwest Indian tribes had made cordage containers so tightly woven that they could hold water, and wondered if he could do something similar with the aspen bark. Hovering over his little fire, he corded six or eight feet of the bark pretty quickly, but saw that it was impossible to make a very tight cordage with its coarse fiber. Coiling the cord and securing each successive layer together with strands removes from the orange baling twine, he created a pint-sized vessel as an experiment, pleased with the ease with which the little container took shape. But it certainly would not hold water, not for very long, anyway. Spruce pitch. He had collected quite a bit of it in his wanderings, piling the little yellow and white lumps on a rock inside the tunnel. He knew the pitch would have a multitude of uses, not the least of which was as an aid in starting a fire in wet or windy weather. Putting a few small chunks of it in your fire as you constructed it, or better yet coating dry sticks in it and carrying them for future use, would almost ensure that you would be able to keep a fire going, even under marginal conditions. Now, though, his intention was to coat the inside of the bark container with pitch, to create a waterproof vessel. Einar thought briefly of melting the pitch in his can and pouring it into the container, but wasn’t too interested in having all of his future meals taste like pitch, so he decided instead to heat a few small round rocks in the fire, rolling them around in the vessel with balls of pitch until the inside was coated thoroughly. This worked reasonably well, and after heating the rocks a couple of times and experimenting with the amount of pitch to add, he had thoroughly coated the container and was fairly certain it would not leak. The cooling pitch soon became hard and shiny in the cold air. He then corded a lid, coating both sides of it with pitch. He intended to secure it to the top of the container by wrapping and tying an additional length of cordage vertically around the container and lid. If the container indeed held water, he could make a larger one, enabling him to haul enough water for two or three days in one trip. Can’t rest just yet, though. He knew this long stretch of clear weather couldn’t last forever, and he had to put in a good supply of firewood before snow came. Also, he wanted to gather a bunch of dry spruce duff to pile on the tunnel floor, to act as insulation and make his winter quarters a bit more comfortable. For the rest of that day Einar dragged loads of dry aspen branches to the tunnel, piling them in the side chamber to be broken into firepit-sized chunks at his leisure. He climbed up the hill to a small stand of aspens to collect the wood, allowing him to drag it downhill instead of up, saving a little energy. Each time he headed back to the ledge with a load of wood, he stuffed the back of his shirt with spruce needles for the tunnel floor, amassing quite a heap by the end of the day. Handy that there’s plenty of extra room in this shirt…

On the last firewood trip of the day, Einar checked his snares, finding a rabbit in one of the two that he had rigged with a trigger and attached to a springy spruce branch. For the next two days the weather held, and Einar collected as much firewood and evergreen duff as he could haul back. It was exhausting work, but there had been an iridescent circle around the nearly full moon for the past two nights, and he strongly suspected that snow would come within days. He didn’t like the fact that he was collecting all of the wood from areas fairly near his shelter--under most circumstances, he would have wanted to save this as an emergency supply, in case he should become somehow debilitated and unable to foray far from his camp in search of wood. But I already am debilitated, he thought to himself, and this whole thing will turn back into an emergency pretty fast if I don’t have a bunch of wood accessible by the time snow comes… His snares yielded two more rabbits during that time, and he was glad to have something fresh to eat, and for the chance to save more of the bear for later. Einar’s lungs had taken another turn for the worse with the incessant and hurried work of gathering wood, and it was all he could do to keep them clear enough to allow him to keep going. With more water available since he had made the aspen bark water carriers, he was able to have several cups of tea every day instead of just the one, and the increased water seemed to be helping some. He was having to stop several times during the day, though, and pound his back in the hopes of breaking up and expelling some of the phlegm, and he planned to search for some Oregon grapes the following day and make a tea of their roots, to act as an antibiotic and hopefully kill off the persistent infection. That night, totally exhausted from the day’s work, he stoked the fire, pulled the rocks most of the way over the pit and air tunnel, and crawled to the back of the tunnel to sleep. Waking sometime around dawn to change position and ease his breathing, he noticed that the light was very different--bright and diffused, illuminating the tunnel in an unaccustomed way--and he knew that the snow had come. With the arrival of snow, making a boot became a top priority. Gangrenous toes do not lend themselves well to a long life. He had saved the three rabbit skins, and now worked to sew two of them into a sort of crude sock, using strands from the bailing twine as thread, poking holes in the thin rabbit skins with an awl he had made from part of the rib bone of the deer skeleton, and drawing the thread through by hand. It was very tedious work, and he had to keep warming his hands over the fire as he went. He wished his squirrel snares had been successful, because he knew you could skin a squirrel in such a way that you could simply turn the hide inside out, slide your foot into it, and have a ready made sock of sorts. Oh, well. When the sock was finished, he turned it inside out so the fur faced in, and drew it onto his foot, after removing the shredded remnants of his old wool sock and stashing them in the tunnel for later use. While the fur sock was certainly warm, he knew the delicate rabbit hide would not hold up to much abuse. And the sock, wide at the top, kept slipping off of his foot. Again using the awl, he made a series of larger holes about an inch down from the top of the sock, through which he strung a piece of nettle cordage, creating a drawstring. Pulled tight and tied, this kept the sock in place. An idea came to him, and he spent the remainder of the day making a long

coil of aspen bark cordage. When he stopped, he had nearly twelve feet of it. Using more of the bailing twine--several strands together, this time--he shaped and sewed an oval mat from the thick cordage, making it a bit larger than his foot. With more of the cordage, he sewed successive rings on top of the mat, forming a flexible, roughly footshaped basket. When it was almost six inches high, he carefully eased his sock-covered foot into it, greatly pleased with the effect. It would protect the rabbit skin sock, while leaving him space to add some shredded aspen bark for additional insulation. He knew there was no way his creation would be waterproof while traveling in the snow--it was more of a slipper than a boot, really--but maybe it would be enough to save his toes. Excited by the success of his aspen-bark boot, Einar wondered how else he might use the cordage. Confined to the tunnel that day by the snowstorm and wind, he made another two coils of the stuff, constructing a large bowl that he intended to use as a winter hat, once lined with the remaining rabbit skin and coated with pitch to keep out the wet and the wind. After securing the rabbit skin inside the hat with more strands from the twine and trying it on, he decided to go ahead and coat it with pitch, so it would be all ready to use before he ventured out into the winter landscape. He debated for a minute whether it would be better to coat the hat on the inside or the outside--the inside would be a lot easier to do, because he could put the pitch in there with some hot rocks and shake and twirl the whole thing, as he had done with the water jar. The hat would have more insulation value, though, with the cordage on the inside where it could help trap and hold his body heat. Then a scenario popped into his head-funny enough that he actually grinned for the first time in days--that decided the matter for him. He imagined the pitch, warmed by the heat escaping from his head, oozing down around the rabbit skin and sticking in his hair, attaching the hat semi-permanently to his head. Then in a thousand years, when some future archaeologist found his frozen and mummified corpse at the back of the tunnel, there would be great confusion as to what aspect of 21st century American culture had caused people to glue their hats to their heads… Beginning to melt the pitch, he carried on an imaginary conversation in his head between two future archaeologists, both with inexplicably Shakespearean British accents: “Perhaps in this primitive culture the hat was the most valued possession, a symbol of status in the community, even, and was thus kept attached to one’s person at all times to prevent loss or theft.” “Ah, perhaps, but don’t you suppose it could have had some religious significance? Look at how oddly shaped it is. Not your typical headgear, I should say, even for that benighted period. I do believe it must have been a ceremonial hat of some type, and this poor fellow probably perished here after being stranded by the snow while on a religious pilgrimage.” He laughed out loud, his own voice sounding terribly harsh and alien after so many days of silence. So! Pitch on the outside it is! Don’t want to be confusing those poor archaeologists!

Melting the pitch on an angled rock that he had propped against the side of the firepit and allowing it to run down onto another rock that had a slight depression in it, he hurried to coat the outside of the hat, using some shreds of aspen bark like a paintbrush, before the bubbling pitch actually caught fire and was consumed. The following day, feeling pretty good about his inventions and anxious to see if his snares had yielded anything else--he could really use some more rabbit skins for mittens and other protective clothing--he set off to check them. Einar returned drenched, freezing and empty-handed to the tunnel that afternoon, after crawling through the wet snow for three hours checking his snares. He spent another miserable hour huddled naked and shivering under the bearskin as his clothes dried over the fire, trying to knead some feeling back into his purple hands. Not…worth it. Think I’m…losing more calories than I would have gained…even if there had been a rabbit. Gonna be one long winter at this rate… The snow, though, did ease his water supply problems. Having fallen during a time of relatively warm temperatures, it had a high water content, and was easy to melt down into drinking water. Once his clothes had dried, he sat there feeding the fire, brewing can after can of spruce tea and bear broth, trying to warm up. A luxury, and one he would not have been able to enjoy as long as obtaining more water meant a long journey down to the seep and back. • • • •

Thawing by the fire after his trek through the wet snow, Einar inspected his feet, which were in varying states of numbness. The improvised boot had soaked through, and he saw telltale white patches on the tips of two of his toes where they had pressed through the stitching on the rabbit skin sock. Warming the toes against his inner thigh, there was some pain but not too much, and no blisters appeared, so he was pretty sure the frostbite was superficial. He softened some bear fat in his hand and rubbed it on the toes, and also on his other foot, which appeared uninjured, but was painfully dry and cracked in places. Better try to waterproof that boot, when it dries out. It won’ t soak through so bad, once the weather is colder and the snow drier, but until then, I’ve got to try to keep the foot dry. He knew that the toes would take weeks to fully heal from even this mild frostbite, and would always be more susceptible to reinjury. Rubbing the remainder of the little piece of bear fat between his palms, a small amount dripped into the fire, spluttering and sizzling and bursting into flame. Hmm. Guess I could make a lamp out of some of this stuff, have some light and a little heat in the tunnel, when I don’t want to sit out here by the fire. But first, the boot. He had placed it as close as he dared to the fire, knowing that it was essentially composed of tinder. The boot had dried quickly, and he reluctantly left the warmth of the fire to get his supply of pitch from the tunnel, melting some once again on the tilted rock and applying it to the boot with a brush of aspen bark. The pitch would not be very flexible in the cold, and he expected that it would eventually crack and flake off. Maybe by then I’ll have figured out what to mix with it to keep it flexible… To give the boot some traction, he imbedded a couple of small coils of bark cordage in the pitch on the sole, as it cooled.

Around dusk, finally warmed to the point that he was able to stop shivering, Einar rested by the fire, drifting in and out of sleep. In a dream he heard the rumbling of a helicopter, tried to open his eyes, and when he succeeded, found himself again lying on the muddy canyon floor he had tumbled onto over a month ago, out in the open and completely without cover, the chopper hovering low above him. He struggled to rise, to run, to save himself, but the wind from the propeller was pushing him down, crushing him into the mud, and he couldn’t move. He woke drenched in sweat, his heart pounding, near panic as he realized that the sound of the propeller was not fading. The helicopter was real. Scrambling, sending his can of melting snow rolling out across the ledge, he pushed the flat rocks completely over the firepit and air tunnel, shoving some pine duff over the whole thing, diving into the tunnel and pulling the bearskin in behind him. The chopper thundered over, very low through the valley, following the course of the river. It didn’t hover or circle, but the temperature was cold enough outside that he was sure his firepit would have shown up quite clearly, if they were looking. He forced himself to sit still for a few seconds, fought down the panic that urged him to go rushing out of the tunnel without further hesitation. He knew that would probably mean his death, floundering around in the wet snow, with night coming. What, then? He had to assume that they had seen the heat from his fire, that they would come to investigate. Oh, man. They really may have me this time. In the tunnel, he rushed to find his bow and drill set and a coil of dry aspen bark for tinder, lacking a good way to carry them, stuffing them down the back of his shirt. Food. He pulled the aspen bark back out and wrapped it around several chunks of bear far, stuffing another in his mouth. He was already wearing his improvised hat and boot, and there really wasn’t much more to take, not that he could carry while trying to move quickly, anyway. He moved the bearskin only with difficulty as it was, and knew that he couldn’t take it with him. OK. Which way to go? He knew they would easily track him through the snow as soon as they got men on the ground, especially with the wide trail he would be leaving as he crawled, and decided to take off uphill, into the heavier timber, hoping there would be less snow beneath those trees. I’ll probably freeze to death before they catch up to me, anyway. But I can’t just sit here and wait for them to come. So, with that grim reality clearly established in his mind, he pulled himself to the tunnel mouth and prepared once again to flee for his life. The helicopter was returning, though, down the valley this time, and he waited in the shadows for it to pass. It was just light enough for him to see the chopper dimly through the treetops, and he stared, unbelieving. It was a medevac chopper--he could clearly see the markings--and showed no interest as it passed over his shelter. He let his breath out in a huge sigh, sank trembling to the rocky tunnel floor, feeling that he had once again been snatched from the brink and set in a wide place. They’re not here for me…must have been an accident or something down on the road in the valley… He resolved to come up with some way to carry his meager possessions, and to keep them together from then on, in case this ever happened for real. It was dark by that time, and Einar didn’t want to restart his fire that night, just in case there were anymore flyovers. He dragged the bearskin to the pile of duff he had collected in the back of the tunnel, and slept a troubled sleep, tormented by terrifying dreams of

helicopters and dogs and desperate chases in which he always ended up in the river, drowning, gasping for breath as he was pulled under. He awoke that morning hardly rested, feeling feverish again, his thoughts muddled, unable to shake a sense of doom from the previous day. He knew it was not logical, but he was afraid to have a fire, afraid to even crawl to the mouth of the tunnel to check the condition of the coals or search for his cooking can. It seemed somehow certain that if he did, another chopper would come, that he would lose what little he had and be forced out into the wet snow again to die. So he stayed at the back of the tunnel, unmoving, sitting on the heap of spruce duff and finally stuffing his shirt with some of it when he couldn’t stop shivering. For many hours he sat there, only semi conscious of his surroundings, until finally his thirst forced him up to look for water. Squinting into the daylight, he peered outside. Couldn’t see the can anywhere, but there was a funny looking squiggly trail that ended at the ledge, and he supposed that it must have rolled over the ledge. Somehow it didn’t seem to matter much. Thirsty, he grabbed a handful of snow and squeezed it in his hand until it compacted and started to become ice. He sucked some of the water out of it, then chewed and swallowed the rest. The snow chilled him badly and he didn’t want to do it again, but he was still aware enough to know that he had to have water, so he repeated the motions until his thirst was somewhat lessened, switching hands each time to let one warm between batches. Sometime the next day he felt hungry, and crept out to scrape off a few frozen slivers of bear meat, still hardly daring to leave the darkness of the tunnel. This went on for several days, and when the fever finally broke and his mind cleared, he was almost too weak to do anything about his situation. Furious at himself for allowing it to get so bad, he searched for his bow and drill. Fire. Need…fire… Chapter Twenty Hauling the bow and drill out into the daylight at the mouth of the tunnel, Einar was surprised to see that at some point while he was down with the fever, much of the wet snow had melted off, leaving the ground damp and fresh smelling. So. Not snowed in for the winter quite yet. He got the fire going with little trouble this time, doing everything very slowly and deliberately, knowing he had no energy to spare. It bothered him, though, that he had to lean against the rock wall just to remain upright for the amount of time it took him to get an ember. Lowering one of the bear quarters, he shaved off several pieces and set them on the rock to cook. Now where’s that can? He looked down over the ledge, finding the can wedged behind a spruce trunk, only about ten feet down the slope. Sure glad it didn’t go all the way down. Moving very carefully on the slippery ground he edged his way down to the can, determined that he must not slip or fall, filling the can with some of the lingering snow on his way back up. He hovered over the fire as the snow began to melt, thirsty after several days of very little water. Got to try something different, here, he told himself as he watched the snow slowly turn to water in the can, the little island of slush beginning to disappear into a growing moat of liquid around the edges. Seems like every time I gain a little ground, I end up losing more. This can really only lead one place, if it keeps up. Realizing what had happened to

him over the last few days--how completely out of it he had been and how close he had come to just lying at the back of the tunnel until he lost consciousness one final time-convinced him that something must change if he wanted to make it through this. And I do. For some reason, I still do. His two priorities, as he saw it, had to be getting rid of the persistent pneumonia that was constantly dragging him down and sapping his strength--not to mention threatening him at times with the inability to breathe--and allowing his hip to get well enough that he could walk. Crawling through the snow day after day just isn’t going to work, not in these clothes, anyway. He knew that lack of proper nutrition, or anything that even closely resembled it, had to be a major factor in why the hip was taking so long to become functional again. Or maybe I injured something that just can’t heal on its own, no matter how long I give it… The thought had come to him many times before, but every time he had quickly dismissed it, realizing that in that direction lay only despair, and probably a long slow death from starvation. Got to be able to walk again, eventually, if I’m staying out here. If he just could get strong enough to make an occasional trip down to the river, he knew he’d have the chance to supplement his diet with fish, and he would have access to plenty of willows to make fish traps, baskets, and the snowshoes he would soon be needing. As his mind chewed on the various possibilities, he began to get excited about giving it a try. Maybe he could even trap a beaver or two for food and for their thick warm pelts…whoa, Einar, that’s waaay in the future. Aren’t you the guy who could hardly sit up long enough to start a fire a few minutes ago? Yeah. So trying it now would be a disaster. You can forget about that. When he really thought about it, the two thousand foot descent down to the river, and the subsequent climb back up to the ledge, seemed almost insurmountable at that point. He thought he remembered seeing a few Oregon grape plants up in the small aspen grove where he had gathered much of the firewood, and decided that it would be worth the effort of the climb to obtain some, assuming that the mullein and spruce teas had done all they were going to do in his fight against the pneumonia. Waiting for the warmest part of the day, and giving the ground a little more time to dry out, he headed up to the aspens, alarmed at how difficult travel had become for him, even compared to several days ago. Returning with the Oregon grape roots, Einar was glad that the ledge lay downhill from the aspen grove, and that the climb was already behind him. Protected by the flat rock, the coals were still lively and glowing by the time he made it back, and he sat down as close as he could to their warmth, one leg on either side of the small pit, almost making a tent with the bearskin to trap the heat close to his body. Slowly warming, he prepared a can of tea with some of the Oregon grape roots. Just as the roots had helped prevent infection when he had initially injured his leg in the rockslide, he hoped their antibiotic properties could now chase the infection from his lungs. As finished sipping the bitter yellow liquid, Einar’s thoughts once again turned to his immediate needs. He was beginning to run short on broken wood that fit in the firepit, and dragged several aspen branches out unto the ledge to break up. Choosing the largest rock he thought he could lift repeatedly, leaning on a boulder just outside the tunnel mouth for stability, he dropped it on the thick end of one of the branches. To his dismay, the branch did not simply fracture, as the wood had done when sitting on the forest floor, but shattered, sending pieces sailing up over his head to be lost in the surrounding trees. On the next

try, he didn’t lift the rock so high, and the branch snapped cleanly, the broken piece skittering out across the ledge, but remaining within reach. He broke up some of the wood in this way, but too many of the pieces were skipping and rolling over the ledge, and he moved the operation into the side chamber of the tunnel, where the wood could not escape as it broke. This worked pretty well, though he did end up with a pretty good bruise on his cheek where one piece flew up and whacked it. Not bothering to stack the broken wood, he took several pieces of it out to the fire and started some more bear soup, adding several pieces of fat as the broth began to bubble. • • • •

After two days of sticking close to the fire, drinking Oregon grape tea and consuming can after can of bear soup, Einar was finally able to lie down at night to sleep without feeling like he was drowning. The cough was much better, also, he seemed to have a little more energy, and he was hopeful that the tea was having its desired effect. Never guessed just being able to breathe freely could be such a wonderful thing… As he sat by the fire, Einar, when he wasn’t sleeping, used the time to work on various projects that he hoped would make the winter a bit easier. He had collected quite a pile of the shaggy inner bark from various fallen aspens in the firewood grove, and now he corded several yards of it, coiling it into a mat for the tunnel floor. It was tedious, timeconsuming work, lacing the expanding layers together with some of the last of the strands from the baling twine, but about all I do have plenty of is time… Using a rock to break one of the deer ribs he had brought back from the skeleton at the bottom of the tailings pile, he shaped a crude needle from one of the resulting splinters, scraping and rubbing it on a piece of granite to sharpen and form it. He thought of trying to create an eye in the needle by scoring it repeatedly with a rock, but decided that, for his purposes, it would be easier, and just as effective, to rub a slight notch just below the top of the needle, and tie the twine onto it. When the mat was finished, he slid it under the bearskin where he was sitting by the firepit, pleased at the warmth and padding it added to his seat. Next, he decided to address the issue of light and heat in the tunnel, where he expected to be spending much of the winter. He knew there was no way he could gather enough wood to last him the winter, if he kept the fire going most of the day as he had for the past few. Once I’m walking again it will be easier to get out and find more, but still… As an alternative, he wanted to try making some bearfat lamps that could be burned in the tunnel to provide light and a bit of heat, much as the Inuits had heated their Igloos. Of course, these rock walls won’t insulate like snow would, but it’ll be an improvement, anyway. He hunted around the ledge and found a chunk of orange sandstone, fairly flat on one side. With a sharp piece of granite, he began methodically scraping at the sandstone, slowly forming a small depression in its center. For the rest of the day he alternated between working on the lamp and melting water for soup and tea. He kept drinking the spruce needle tea pretty frequently, knowing that the vitamin C in the needles should help with his overall health, as well as his continuing recovery from the pneumonia. The Oregon grape root tea he limited to once a day now, down from the

three or four times he had been drinking it at first. He knew that the same alkaloid, berberine, that served as an antibiotic could eventually be rough on the kidneys, of you consumed it too often. He was very thankful for the widespread existence of the Oregon grapes. They’re like the goldenseal of the mountain west, he thought, knowing that the two plants contain the same main medicinal compound. Would have been in some real trouble (ha! I’m pretty sure I was in real trouble…) without the Oregon grapes and the yarrow…and the mullein. Think the mullein was all that kept me breathing, there for awhile. Around dusk he was finally satisfied with the depth of the depression he had worn into the sandstone, and decided to try the lamp, melting a quantity of bear fat in the can and filling the depression. He cut a few inches of nettle cordage off of his coil, thinking it might work better than the aspen, and soaked it in oil. Lighting it with a stick from the fire, he watched as it spluttered and smoked a bit before settling down into a steady glow. He carried it into the tunnel, where it nicely illuminated the small space with a warm orange glow. Ah! Need some more of these! The next morning, seeing that the weather was still clear and no new snow had fallen, Einar was anxious to go out and check his snares. A fresh rabbit would taste good, and he really needed more skins for mittens and other clothing. The morning was bitterly cold, though, the ground frozen hard, and he made himself wait, spending the morning by the fire until the day warmed a bit. His main focus, now that he was able to breathe well and think clearly, was on saving his strength and trying to put on a little weight, and he knew that spending the morning dragging himself over the frozen ground and shivering for several hours after he returned to the fire was not a very efficient use of his resources, if it could be avoided. The snares yielded two more rabbits that afternoon, though one was frozen solid and had obviously been there for a couple of days. Even in the warmer afternoon the ground had not thawed, and crawling over the frozen forest floor was akin to dragging himself over rough cement or rock. His hands were bloody by the time he made it back, the aspen bark arm and knee protectors in shreds and nearly gone. He took care of the rabbits, washing his hands in the snow afterwards and wishing he had something he could put on the numerous scrapes and raw spots they had acquired that day. He had a few of the Oregon grape roots left, dry and crisp after sitting on top of his woodpile for several days, and he wondered about making a salve with them, using a little of his remaining bear fat. He wondered if the berberine was even soluble in fat, decided to try. After melting a little snow and swishing boiling water around in the can to sterilize it, he melted a few ounces of the fat, adding chunks of root and waiting anxiously to see whether the grease would begin to turn yellow. Very slowly, the bubbling bear fat took on a yellow tinge, deepening eventually to the bright rich yellow he was accustomed to seeing in the tea. So. Slowly, but it does work. He didn’t really have any good way to filter out the chunks of root--no item of his clothing even resembled clean at that point--so he hoped they would mostly settle to the bottom as the mixture cooled. He poured the liquid salve into a curved section of outer bark that he had removed from some of his small-diameter firewood, where it quickly solidified in the cold. A small sliver of granite at each open end meant that not much of the salve would

run out and be lost before it solidified. Satisfied, he kneaded some of the finished product into his damaged hands. Got to quit this ridiculous crawling. It’s really tearing you up. Stand up, Einar. It’s time to walk. He retrieved his spruce spear from the back of the tunnel and, making sure to stay far from the edge, pulled himself to his feet. And promptly collapsed back onto the rocky ground. Come on, you wimp, you got do this. Get up! Sweating and straining with the effort, he again stood, leaning heavily on the stick. This time he managed to stay on his feet for nearly a minute before sinking to the ground, exhausted, his legs trembling. He still hadn’t been able to put much weight at all on the injured hip without a good deal of pain. After trying several more times without success, he finally had to face the possibility that he had broken his hip during the fall in the canyon. It was something that he had tried very hard to avoid thinking about, but he was becoming more and more convinced that it was likely the case. He thought he had heard that some types of hip fractures could eventually heal without extensive medical intervention or surgery, but was pretty sure the recommended therapy would not include crawling for miles over rough ground, falling from a helicopter, floating down a raging river or tumbling down a tailings pile. Well. Work with what you’ve got. It’s not like I had a choice at the time. At least I stayed mobile, right, and that’s got to be good… He decided to begin some gentle exercises for his hip and leg, hoping that he could slowly strengthen the area without further damage. Chapter Twenty One After doing the exercises for several days, Einar again tried standing, and was a bit more successful. He was even able, though with great difficulty, to take a couple of lurching steps there on the ledge before having to sit down. The more he thought about enduring the winter there in the tunnel, the more determined he became to walk as soon as it was at all possible. If he’d had plenty of food and firewood, the prospect of being essentially trapped for the winter would not have been too bad. But he knew that as soon as the snow returned, venturing far from the tunnel in his current clothing would again become a desperate life and death affair, and not something he was interested in attempting too often. He was worried about his firewood supply, knew snow was likely to return at any time, and probably not melt off again until spring, but he also knew that a trip up to the firewood grove just then would probably significantly set back the healing and strengthening that seemed to be taking place with his hip. He weighed the two options, realizing that there was a potential for disaster either way, but he finally decided to put all of his effort into trying to be mobile, on his feet, by the time snow came. He would limit his excursions to an occasional trip to check the snares for the meat and skins he so badly needed. In the meantime, he began working on two more of the bearfat lamps, encouraged at the success of the first and hoping to have an alternative means of heating the tunnel, in case he should run out of firewood before he was walking well. Finishing one of the lamps, he placed it on a small ledge of rock near the back of the tunnel. Got to make some sort of a barrier, if I want these lamps to heat the place at all. He

wished the tunnel went in deeper, wished it was more like a cave, where the volume of rock would keep the place at a constant temperature, even in the winter. In his area, he knew, the temperature in a cave, summer or winter, would hover steadily around 46 degrees. That sure would make my life easier this winter… That’s not what I’ve got here, though, and there’s got to be some way to make this place a little more livable when it starts getting way down below freezing at night in a month or two. The warmer he could keep his surroundings, he knew, the less calories he would need to consume, and with his dwindling supply of bear, that was looking like quite a big deal. I’ll need to leave some source of ventilation if I’m going to have lamps burning in here, though--not that I have any way to seal it up tight, even if I wanted to… Gathering rocks from the tunnel floor, he began narrowing the tunnel about six feet out from the face, leaving a passage just wide enough for him to crawl through to reach the chamber at the back. That arrangement would, he hoped, allow him to trap some of the warmth from the lamps while also allowing enough fresh air in to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. With the rock barrier completed, he took most of his remaining strips of aspen bark and lay them over the rocks, rolling some of the strips up to chink and fill in larger cracks. I can always take them back out when I need them for cordage… He wanted to construct a raised sleeping platform to get himself further from the cold floor at night and up into the (hopefully) slightly warmer air that would accumulate up high, but lacked for the moment adequate materials such as long branches to lash together. So, he settled for cutting a number of spruce boughs from nearby trees, piling them on the heap of pine duff, and putting one of the aspen-bark mats on top of it all. Not bad, really. Several days later, with the sky darkening and a sharp wind beginning to blow, Einar was beginning to be really concerned about the dwindling supply of bear meat. His snares had not yielded a rabbit in days--no new sign, even, and he wondered where they had gone. On his way back from checking the snares that evening, he was able to drag along a couple of small dry spruce branches that had fallen in a wind long ago and over time become devoid of needles and bark. He was still unwilling to contemplate using green or insufficiently dry firewood, worried that the smoke would give away his position to someone who might still be watching in the valley below, or to the occasional small plane that overflew the area. That night, the temperature dropping and the wind howling, snow returned with a vengeance, and by the time daylight came, over two feet had piled up outside the tunnel. Einar found that snow had blow in on his woodpile, drifting almost a foot deep in parts of the side chamber. Scraping the snow out of his wood storage area with a rock, Einar was reminded of how depleted his firewood supply had become. It was really almost gone, despite the branches he had brought back the previous day. He moved what was left to the far end of the side chamber where it would be out of the dampness if the blown snow melted--but it didn’t look like that was going to happen anytime soon. The sky was grey and heavy, a solid, nearly featureless mass of cloud, and a sharp cold wind blew down from the

northwest. He decided to let his fire go out for a day or two, feeling an urgent need to save the few sticks of wood that were left in case the storm got worse and he found himself unable to venture outside the tunnel for a few days. That afternoon Einar huddled over one of his bearfat lamps in the back of the tunnel, trying to trap as much of its warmth as he could with the bearskin. The flesh side of the skin had dried and stiffened to the point that it had become difficult to maneuver, and it was now all but impossible to actually wrap up in the hide. He was cold. Already he was missing the frequent cans of hot spruce tea he had been enjoying, and was starting to realize that they had been playing a larger role in keeping him warm than he liked to admit. His attempts to gain weight on the meager daily allowance of bear and rabbit had not really been successful, and, he now realized, he had been relying heavily on the fire and tea to maintain his body temperature. Without the fire, he was reduced to melting snow for water over one of the lamps, propping the can on two rocks that he had arranged in a “V” around the lamp to form a crude stove. It was a slow process, and he found himself eating and drinking less due to the increased effort. With all three of the lamps burning, there was a noticeable if slight increase in warmth at the back of the tunnel. This will work. I can make this work. When the snow stops, I can get out and find some more wood. Maybe it’ll stay cold, and I won’t have to worry about the snow melting through my clothes so fast… He was getting dangerously low on the bear fat, though, now that he had begun relying on it for heat and cooking, as well as it being a major part of his diet. He began to seriously question the wisdom of his decision to lay low and try to heal his hip instead of gathering as much wood as he could before the snow came. • • • •

Knowing that he would eventually have to go back out and collect more wood, Einar worked on turning his remaining two rabbit skins into crude mittens. He took several more strands form the bailing twine to use for thread, and sewed the mittens in much the same way as he had constructed his makeshift sock, poking holes with the deer rib awl before lacing the twine through them with his crude needle. The mittens, though, were really only half the size of the sock, because he only had one rabbit skin to use for each one, but he hoped they’d be adequate. When they were finished, he made a drawstring for each one, using nettle cordage to secure them to his hands. They were narrow, and barely came up above his wrist, but they would go a long way towards preventing injury to his fingers. The mittens were bulky and awkward, though, and he knew he would have to take them off to do any fine tasks with his fingers. Einar had no intention of crawling all the way up to the firewood grove, if he could help it. Inspecting the spruce spear, he considered how he might make it more practical as a walking aid. It tired his arm badly and was of limited use in its current state except to walk the short distance within the tunnel, especially if he had to try to grip it while wearing the mitten. Best of all would be to construct an actual crutch, which he thought he could do, given a forked branch of the right height. After some searching, he found a live spruce branch that he thought would work, and he cut it, leaving a side branch protruding at about hand-height, so he would have something to jam his mittened hand

down against when he used the crutch. Standing, he tested the height of the fork, seeing that he needed to take several more inches off of the bottom. When the height was right, he rubbed some shreds of aspen bark between his hands to turn them into a fuzzy, woollike mass, securing a wad of it to the Y of the crutch with strips of the same bark. Carefully, he tested his creation, finding it serviceable if somewhat heavy. A dead branch would have been lighter. He took a couple of tentative steps. Clumsy and labored, but, at last, possible. Walking, while finally once again possible for Einar, was by no means an easy task, and was still fairly painful. He had lost so much muscle over the past two months as his body began consuming it for energy that moving forward was a major effort, and he tired very quickly. His hip seemed to be slowly healing, and he favored it, trying hard not to re-injure it. He wondered of he would ever again walk normally. While he was very glad to finally be rid of the pneumonia, Einar worried that, with his increasingly restricted diet and the renewed struggle to stay warm since abandoning the fire, he was quickly losing what little strength he had been able to regain since shaking the illness. Got to get more wood. More meat. It’s time to go. Taking the improvised crutch and wearing every scrap of clothing he owned, Einar set off early the next morning to reset his snares and gather some branches, the movement a welcome relief after a long chilly night huddled over the lamp. Hope I’ll be able to find the snares in all this snow… Einar had not gone three steps from the ledge before he sank up to his knees in the fresh powdery snow, the leg on his injured side collapsing and nearly sending him careening down the steep snowy slope. He saved himself by mere inches, struggling upright in the powder. With difficulty he rose, leaning heavily on the crutch. He briefly considered turning back and waiting to try again until the snow developed a crust, but knew that there in the shade of the trees, he might be waiting all winter. Sure can’t do that. Got to have more to eat. After a few more falls, he developed a system of moving forward that involved slow, deliberate steps, accompanied by careful placement of the crutch, testing each placement before putting his full weight on it. Just like crossing a steep snowfield with an ice axe…he told himself, briefly reminiscing about a time when venturing out and exerting himself in the mountains had been a voluntary and greatly enjoyable activity. A lifetime ago. He found his new method of walking to be slow and terribly exhausting, but far less so than if he had been falling on every second or third step, as he previously had been. He finally made it to the leaning spruce that marked the location of his first snare, scattering the snow in search of the loop of nettle. He eventually realized that the weight of the snow had tripped the trigger, and, without a hanging rabbit to keep it low, the branch had sprung back to its original position, flipping the cordage up and over it. He grabbed at the branch, ending up using his crutch to snag the loop and pull it down within his reach. He saw no rabbit sign in the area of the snare, but had noticed some slightly lower on the hillside beneath a heavy stand of spruces, where the snow wasn’t quite as deep. With difficulty, he removed the snare from the branch, struggling with hands that were stiff and barely mobile despite the fur mittens. He couldn’t seem to muster enough coordination to grip the cord between his finger and thumb, and ended up using his teeth

to remove it from the branch. Shivering uncontrollably now that he had stopped climbing, Einar decided against continuing on to the second or third snare, wanting to keep his obvious hypothermia from progressing to a point where he wouldn’t be able to reverse it. He didn’t know exactly where that point was, but was pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to recognize it if it did come. So don’t just sit here waiting to find out! He realized then that he had been crouching in the snow under the tree for some time, staring dumbly at the nettle cordage in his hands, growing colder and colder. Long enough that the snow had melted through his jeans and soaked his backside. Go on! Get up! Move, doggone it! Reaching the place where he’d seen some rabbit sign on he way up, he set the single snare, finally succeeding after many failed attempts to arm the delicate trigger, taking far longer than he would have liked under the circumstances. Grimly determined, knowing that he must not stop moving until he reached the ledge, Einar made his way back, limping, sliding and eventually crawling through the snow. Finally dragging himself up over the ledge, he hurried into the tunnel, hoping desperately that at least one of the lamps was still burning. Please… Sputtering, drawing the last bit of bear fat out of the depression in the sandstone, the lamp on the ledge still glowed orange, imparting a flickering light but not much warmth to the little shelter. He took a tiny piece of fat from the meager supply in its bark container and added it to the lamp, watching in relief as the warmth of the rock quickly began to melt the small white chunk of fat and allow it to be drawn up by the wick, stopping the sputtering. Attempting to warm his hands over the little flame, Einar was thankful and immensely relieved that he didn’t have to attempt a bow and drill fire in his current condition, shaking violently and almost too numb to even arrange dry wood in the firepit when he went out to try. He lit his little fire from the lamp flame, sitting almost on top of it until he was mobile enough to remove his wet, ice encrusted clothes and begin to dry them. Realizing that he didn’t have enough wood to keep the fire going for long, he carefully set several fist sized stones down in the pit to warm. Einar had time to brew one can of spruce tea, augmented by a generous helping of the remaining bear fat, before the hungry little fire consumed the last of the wood and died. A cold, hard knot of fear began forming in the pit of his stomach as he watched the last little blue tongue of flame sputter and go out. He felt an odd kinship with the starving fire, wondered how long it could possibly be before he met the same fate... He drank the tea, hastily refilling the can with snow and nestling it down in the coals to hopefully melt before they went completely cold. Still shivering, he lay down on the slightly warmed ground next to the pit, curling himself around it and eventually pulling himself over top of it to absorb the last of its dying warmth, covering himself with the bearskin. When the ground cooled to the point that he had to move, he quickly dressed in his not quite dry clothing and fished the hot rocks out of the pit with two sticks, wrapping them in strips of aspen bark to avoid getting burned. Retreating to the back of the tunnel, he wrapped up as best as he could in the bearskin, leaning back against the wall and placing two of the hot rocks against the small of his

back where they would warm the blood passing through his kidneys, cradling the third in his shaking hands. If I ever do that again, I’d better not come back here without some more firewood, or I’m dead. Drifting off to sleep in the back of the tunnel, Einar resolved to attempt some crude spruce bough snowshoes as soon as he warmed up, to prevent a repeat of that day. Chapter Twenty Two Einar spent the following morning fabricating rough snowshoes from spruce branches, placing two branches side by side, lashing the ends, and spreading them in the center with a short section of branch that he scraped notches into each end of, so the pressure of the long branches would hold it in place. Almost out of nettle cordage and knowing that the aspen bark would not be sturdy enough for the job, he used his bootlace to lash together one of the frames, the string that had been around his waist for the other. In lieu of webbing for the shoes, he cut several bristly spruce boughs and placed them on the frames, hoping they would hold his weight and keep him near the surface as he traveled over the snow. In cutting branches for the snowshoes, he noticed that the outer bark could be peeled off of the small branches with relative ease, exposing the inner cambium layer. He knew that this substance, which carried water and nutrients to the tree, had been a food source for some of Indian tribes, particularly the more Northern ones, and should contain some starch and a little sugar. The trees were already mostly dormant for the season, but he figured there would probably still be some nutrition in the inner bark. With the quartz knife he scraped off several slivers of it, rolling one up and chewing it. The bark was strongly flavored and slightly sweet, but also incredibly tough. This is not something I can actually chew and swallow… He seemed to remember hearing somewhere that the Gwitch’in Indians roasted the bark before eating it, and he took several small pieces into the tunnel, holding one over a lamp flame until it began curling and turning brown. The sap began bubbling out of the bark, infusing the tunnel with a sweet, resinous scent. When the bark cooled he tried it again, finding it crunchy and much easier to eat. Not bad. Finishing the snowshoes, he scraped off several more slivers of bark, wishing he had a knife or hatchet so he could more easily harvest larger amounts of it. He hoped to try obtaining some more later in the day, maybe using a sharp piece of granite to hack his way through the thick outer bark on a larger branch or even the trunk of one of the nearby trees. With his supply of bear fat down to a critical level, Einar resigned himself to burning only one of the lamps and keeping the wick very short to save on fat, and though he constantly had a can of snow melting over it for tea and soup, it seemed to be taking forever just to melt the snow, let alone heat and cook food. Holding them directly over the little flame, losing one when it caught fire, he roasted and ate the remaining bark slivers he had collected that morning, but was mostly reduced to chewing on frozen

shavings of bear meat and taking occasional sips of tepid water from the can. His stomach has nearly stopped cramping and hurting, which, while it was a relief--these pains had been tormenting him off and on for weeks--also worried him a bit, and he wondered if some of his systems were actually beginning to shut down. Nah. It’s probably the spruce bark…Got to get some more of that stuff…later. It seemed to him that he had never really been able to warm up thoroughly after his last misadventure in the snow, and he spent most of the following night shivering in a marginally successful attempt to maintain something like a normal body temperature. By the second day of this things were getting pretty desperate, and Einar knew he needed to do something quickly before he became totally helpless to reverse his situation. The snowshoes aside, he didn’t dare venture out in the snow to check his lone snare. The last time had nearly killed him, and he still didn’t feel like he had yet completely recovered from it. If he took that risk and came back empty-handed again… He was seriously rationing the bear meat now, though, was down to the last dry shreds that had been left when the wildcat had damaged his supply. Long ago he had crushed open most of the bear’s bones to eat the marrow, and he found himself wishing he had saved a couple of them. He’d completely stopped eating the fat, saving it for the lamp, feeling an urgent need to keep the little flame going as long as he could. He thought more and more about the valley, about Liz, wondering if he even had the strength left to make it down there now if he chose to try. It is mostly downhill… He knew, though, that a trip to the house would involve traversing well over a mile of ridge to avoid the canyon, then crossing the river…and would she even be willing to help him, supposing he did make it? Had the feds threatened her, scared her as they had his other “friend?” Maybe she’d just hit me on the head with a shovel and turn me in for the reward…that’s ridiculous. She took the risk of helping me once. Sure don’t understand why, but she did, and maybe she’d do it again… For that matter, though, he didn’t even know for certain that she had not been arrested for assisting him. Maybe they had known about that, too. Sure hope not… It was all idle speculation, though. He knew he wouldn’t be able to make that journey, not now, starting out already hypothermic, dehydrated and with a nearly empty stomach and almost no food to take along. The house in the valley was a lot further than the trip to the snares, and even they were beyond his reach at the moment. So he contented himself with a little sliver of bear meat and a quick gulp of slushy water from the can. Dizzy, he lay down, suddenly finding himself too tired to remain upright, staring at the little orange flame as it danced and flickered in the lamp, convinced irrationally that he could draw some warmth from it just by staring. His heart didn’t seem to be beating normally--racing and then slowing down; he’d been dealing with this for the past week or so, but it was worse today, and he wondered if it was the cause of the dizziness. He was sure then that if he’d still been able, he would have taken his chances and gone to Liz for help. While he wasn’t afraid of death, and was completely at peace about what was to come after, something in him just really wanted to go on living, when it came down to it. He thought about trying to find a few dry spruce twigs that might still linger within his reach on the ledge, just enough for a little fire to make one last--one more!--can of tea,

but he knew very well that he had long ago scavenged all of them. And, even now, he was unwilling to risk attracting the attention of his would-be captors with a smoky fire. As the day wore on, Einar fought hard against an increasing tendency and temptation to allow his mind to wander about in pleasanter realms, drifting, losing all touch with the grim reality that his life had become. Stay focused, Einar. If this is the end, I want to be present for it. Want to keep a clear mind. It’s about all I’ve got left to call my own. Around dusk that evening he heard, plain as anything, a woman screaming outside the tunnel. Great. I’m starting to hallucinate for real now… The sound grew louder though, and he stirred himself to creep stiffly out to the tunnel mouth and have a look. At first he saw nothing, but then the cry came again, and he realized that, if it was indeed real, it must be originating from somewhere just below the ledge. Cautiously, he crawled over to investigate, a wave of vertigo making him feel that he was falling as he peered down over the edge. When his vision cleared, he saw it. A porcupine! The creature was floundering about in the deep powder about fifteen feet down from the ledge, just as he had done a few days ago, struggling to reach a nearby spruce and occasionally crying out in anger or frustration at its slow progress. Food…I’m gonna live! If it had been anything other than a porcupine, he probably would have thrown himself down from the ledge in his excitement, to land on top of it. Instead, picturing himself impaled on thousands of needle-sharp quills, he gathered a supply of rocks from the tunnel, knowing that the creature would not move especially fast. It took him several tries, but he finally hit it on the head, stunning or killing it. He couldn’t tell which, and dropped a few more rocks just to be sure. Already wearing all of his meager protective clothing, he returned to the tunnel only to grab the spruce spear and a coil of aspen bark before heading down the slope. Sliding down beside it, he found that the porcupine was indeed dead, its head crushed by the rocks. He lay one end of the spruce pole parallel to the animal’s tail, carefully lashing the two together with the aspen bark, dragging it up the hill by the pole to avoid being injured by the quills. In the crisp cold of the evening, very little snow melted into Einar’s clothes in the amount of time he was away from the ledge, and he returned fairly dry. Breathing a wordless but completely heartfelt prayer of thanks, totally unashamed at the tears that he felt streaming down his face, Einar carefully and laboriously skinned the creature in the mouth of the tunnel, forced by his weakness to lean against the tunnel wall as he worked. He stopped to eat the liver as soon as he had gutted the animal, feeling a hint of warmth and life begin to return to his beleaguered body as he did. • • • •

Not worrying about cooking it, his immediate need overriding any lingering fear of parasites, Einar devoured some of the porcupine meat as he worked, noticing that it tasted rather strongly of the spruce that the animal must have been living on. It was good, fatty meat, high in protein, and Einar ate as much as his shriveled stomach could hold, falling asleep next to his work for a few hours and waking in the darkness to eat again. Not willing to risk losing any of the meat to scavengers, he took the carcass into the tunnel with him, and finished butchering the already half frozen flesh by the dim light of the

bearfat lamp. He carefully dragged the bristly hide into the tunnel also, sure that the quills would be of some use. Einar slept warmer that night than he had in a good while, his body finally having something more than frozen bear shavings and sheer stubbornness to burn for energy. In the morning, feeling a great need for water after all the meat he had consumed, Einar decided to break up and burn his spruce spear for firewood, since he was mostly using the crutch to help him navigate around the cave and ledge. The spruce wood was significantly more difficult to fracture than the aspen had been, but he finally reduced it to firepit-sized chunks and splinters by repeatedly dropping rocks on it in the side chamber of the tunnel. The bear lamp was still glowing--he had added another small piece of the fat to keep it going through the night once he realized he would have another food source--and he once again used it to light the fire, gratefully warming his cold hands and face over the flames. As his can of snow began to melt, Einar shaved off a number of generous slices of porcupine, adding them to the mix, along with the kidneys and, as an afterthought, the eyeballs, which he knew were a good source of sodium. Gripping the steaming can in his stiff hands as soon as the water began to bubble, he enjoyed his first hot meal in days, savoring the warmth it brought him, the feeling of renewed strength and well being. This buys me some time, he thought, but that’s all. I’ve got to find a way to get more food, a steady source of food so I don’t have go so long between meals . I was pretty far gone this time… It was the need for more clothing that finally drove his decision to make a trip to the valley. He just didn’t think he could last very long if he had to keep venturing out in the deepening snow in only his cotton shirt, tattered jeans, and the improvised hat and gloves he’d been able to create. Even there in the tunnel with the bearskin, he felt like he was freezing half the time, could never really seem to get warm anymore, and the winter hadn’t really even become seriously cold yet, in comparison with the sub zero temperatures that he knew would be commonplace later. He briefly considered attempting to turn the bear hide into some gaiters and a vest, but he really needed it, intact, for sleeping in. This would have all been over a long time ago without it… But, with the porcupine quickly diminishing, he knew the time was coming when he would have to go check the snare, and would have to make and set more, if he wanted to keep eating. Well, I’ve done it several times in these clothes, and I’m still here…it’s not easy, but I can keep it up, one day at a time, he argued, still trying to talk himself out of the risky and difficult foray to the valley. Sure, you’re still here, but barely. Look at yourself. And one of these times, you’re gonna get caught in a storm out there, or wander too far and get exhausted and sit on a log until you freeze, like you almost did last time, or maybe you won’t be able to get a fire started quick enough when you get back… He knew it was all true, knew he was in real trouble, knew that without better clothing his reluctance to venture out would cause him to eat very little, stretching whatever food he did have as far as possible, keeping him in a state of constant exhaustion in which he was very prone to succumbing to his chronic hypothermia. So, you go. You live. You choose to live. The morning sky was grey and heavy with the promise of snow, though, and he knew this would not be a day for travel.

The little fire quickly consumed the dry spruce spear, and Einar was glad that he had remembered to put more rocks down in the pit to heat. This time he had heated some small ones, also, which he now blew the ashes off of and placed in the can with fresh snow, glad to see it quickly begin to melt as the rocks steamed and hissed their way down to the bottom of the can. Should have been doing this all along. Looks a lot more efficient than setting the can above the fire and waiting for it to heat… He knew that if he kept a steady supply of rocks heating in the fire, exchanging them as those in the can cooled, he could boil water and even cook his food in this way. Too bad I’m all out of wood again… Between frequent small meals of porcupine, Einar worked on making several lengths of aspen bark cordage and a coil of nettle as well, to take on his journey. He hoped it might come in useful in hauling back…whatever it was he might manage to obtain down there in the valley. He didn’t really have a firm plan, wasn’t even sure how he would manage to cross the river, assuming he intended to go to Liz for help. Huddled in the bearskin as he worked on the cordage, he ran various scenarios through his mind, not really coming up with anything that sounded practical, beyond finding some way across the river that wouldn’t leave him frozen and immobile on the other side, and hopefully approaching the ranch house unnoticed and finding some winter clothes. Maybe in the shed that Liz had mentioned, where her relatives stored their camping gear. Sounds great, Einar. Sounds like a brilliant idea… He felt that he had to try, though, if he wanted to last much longer out here. Starting out well before sunrise the next morning, Einar found that the improvised snowshoes worked remarkably well, as long as he wasn’t trying to climb a steep grade in them. He did have to remove them, slinging them over his shoulder, to make the climb from the ledge to the top of the ridge, because they acted like short skis on the steep slope, preventing his upward progress and threatening to send him sliding down the mountain. That could come in useful at some point… For the time, though, it was just frustrating, was slowing his progress as he was forced to break trail through the knee deep powder, and he was glad the morning was cold enough to keep the snow from melting too quickly through his jeans. By the time he neared the top of the ridge, though, his teeth were chattering with the cold, his legs were numb from plowing through the snow, and he hurriedly struggled to tie the snowshoes on so he could keep moving. As he fumbled with the cordage to attach the snowshoes, Einar chewed on a chunk of frozen porcupine meat, which he had stowed in his aspen bark water container and slung over his shoulder with a length of cordage. He’d had no water to bring, as the bearfat lamp had finally consumed the last of its fuel sometime during the night and died. He knew it was a really bad idea in this situation to rely on melting snow in his mouth for water, knew that it would chill him from the inside and use up energy that he did not have to spare, but there seemed to be no choice. The snowshoes reattached, he pushed himself as quickly as he could along the ridge, finally succeeding in generating a little warmth as his pace picked up. It felt good to move again. Limping along just below the ridgeline, following a long unused elk trail because it provided a slightly more level place to walk on the steep hillside, Einar eventually saw

that he was directly above the canyon, and took great care not to lose his footing on the slick, snowy trail. The elk trail was not wide enough for his snowshoes, and progress was very slow as he tried to coordinate moving with the bulky snowshoes and the crutch, but the constant movement seemed to be generating just enough heat to keep some feeling in his extremities. Though quite weary, he did not dare stop to rest. Finally he reached a rocky outcropping where the trees thinned and he could look down and see the little house in the valley, some two thousand feet below, smoke curling up from its chimney. Chapter Twenty Three As Einar watched the house, trying to decide on his next move, Liz emerged, went to the barn, and came out carrying a blue bucket with what he assumed must be grain for the menagerie of oriental pheasants that she was caring for. Wish I had some of that stuff right now, whatever it is… She paused, looked up at the ridge, seeming to stare straight at Einar, who pressed himself down into the snow at the base of a boulder, even though he was pretty sure there was no way she could see him at that distance and in the shadows of the dark timber. It had seemed that she knew right where to look, though, and that spooked him. What he couldn’t know was that she scanned that ridge and several of the others every day, every time she was outside, always hoping to see a hint of smoke or some other sign that he was alive and well. Liz kept telling herself that Einar’s troubles, if he was indeed alive, were not actually her fault, that she had just done what she could to help a stranger, but she felt somehow responsible, thought there must have been more she could have done at the time, and as the weather grew colder and snow moved in, she found herself thinking of little else. As time had passed since the raid, she had the inexplicable but growing conviction that Einar was indeed still living, but she was troubled by occasional, vivid dreams in which he was in great trouble, was ill or injured, was calling to her for help. It had been a similar dream that had originally lead her to find him, freezing in the rocks down by the river some months ago. But, in these recent dreams as in real life, she could of course never actually find him to offer assistance. Many times after snow fell, she had gone out along the river, where possible, on cross country skis, looking for footprints and looking up at the ridges and occasionally calling for him, wondering if she should try leaving food or supplies by the river in case he was indeed up there. She never actually did it, knowing that in reality he was most likely either dead or long out of the area. Images came to Einar as he lay hiding in the snow, remembered fragments from what seemed another life, so vivid that he could almost see the inside of that little house--the warm glow of firelight from the glass window of the stove on the walnut colored wood paneling of the living room walls--he even thought he could smell the wonderful aroma of stew emanating from the kitchen. He took a quick bite of porcupine to quiet his rumbling stomach. Shook his head... Somebody else’s life, Einar. Not yours. You

crossed the Rubicon a long time ago. No going back. And, he was beginning to think, no going down to the house that day, either. I have no idea what the situation actually is down there. The flyovers have stopped, but they may still have people on the ground… they could have even put a camera or a listening device outside that house. At the very least, they’ve probably pulled back and are just waiting, counting on me to make the one mistake that will let them get at me. That’s exactly how they do it… Ok. I know. So I’ll be really careful not to let anybody see me, not even Liz (great, there goes my one chance for some scrambled eggs and bacon…) I’ll wait until after dark to approach the house, make sure not to startle those birds, get the stuff, and be gone. I can do that. Ha! There are no guarantees. Nobody’s that good. Now you’ve already been over this a bunch of times. You know that this kind of overconfidence and arrogance is what leads to disaster (huh? Leads to? This whole thing’s been one long disaster…) in situations like this. This may be your first time as a federal fugitive, but that doesn’t mean you have to be completely dumb about it. You’ve heard all the stories of how these things end. You know the odds. Don’t do it. But I’ve got to do this. Got to take the chance. I’m just not going to make it unless I can get some warm clothes, at least… It took everything I had in me just to get here. So you’d rather have it all end down there today, have them take you, ‘cause you know that’s what’s going to end up happening if you do this. You’ve let yourself get way too complacent, just because you haven’t had a helicopter buzz over your head for awhile… You know that’s what the feds are counting on. They know a person can’t maintain the highest level of alertness forever. Wears you out. They’re just waiting for you to wear out and slip up. Like you’re about to do right now. He shook his head and pressed his thumbs to his temples, wishing he could just stop debating himself, and do something… You know you’re not making any sense, Einar. Look down there. It looks OK. It’s quiet. There’s Liz, just going about her day. It’s alright. Go, before you get any colder sitting here. Watching Liz tend to the ranch chores Einar was, to his surprise, overwhelmed by a powerful sense of loneliness that grabbed hold of him and totally caught him off guard. He had a sudden longing for human companionship after the long solitary months of struggling for his mere existence, a compelling wish to be through with running and starving and shivering all night just to stay alive so he could maybe face one more miserable day of cold and hunger and exhaustion. He wanted very badly to be done with it all. Picking himself up out of his snowy hiding place and leaning on the boulder, he was sure Liz would hear him if he shouted. But he did not. Instead, clenching his chattering teeth, he watched quietly from the

shadows as she took the bucket back to the barn, and, with one last glance up at the ridge, went back into the house. Very deliberately Einar turned his back on the valley, began limping up the ridge with a new determination and almost a spring in his step. Free. As he made his way up the ridge, doubts tried to creep in: come on, turn around, you idiot! You’re gonna die up here if you don’t get some help. You’re not thinking straight, Einar. Yes, I am. This time I really am. I know what this decision means. I know I may not make it back to the ledge, even. I choose to try. I choose freedom. His mind was, for a change, totally clear and he knew it, knew this was one decision he wouldn’t be going back on. Einar felt exhilarated, almost euphoric as he traversed the ridge, his jeans frozen rigid like armor below the knees where the snow had melted and refrozen as he watched the house, his sleeves rapidly approaching the same condition. He had the feeling that he had just endured some sort of major test, had passed it, that perhaps the most difficult part of his ordeal was now behind him. Which was of course somewhat ridiculous, considering that he was starting the long snowy walk back to the ledge near dusk, his clothes icy and his travel food gone, with no firewood and no quick way to build a fire waiting his return. He made good time though, buoyed by a newfound, if somewhat irrational confidence in his future. • • • •

Einar’s euphoria had faded somewhat, dampened by the exhausting work of traversing the steep slope with the crutch and snowshoes, by the time that, just over halfway back to the ledge, his left snowshoe caught on something beneath the snow and sent him sprawling. He ended upon his back in the deep powder, his head steeply downhill and the snowshoe hopelessly snagged. Floundering, he struggled to rise, to push his body back up the hill where he could reach the trapped shoe, but every time he got his arms under him, the fragile surface of the snow collapsed again, and he was right back where he had started, his head nearly buried in the powder. He looked around for anything he might use to help himself--a nearby tree, a fallen branch…couldn’t find anything, and his crutch had been lost in the fall. He knew he must not break the snowshoe in an attempt to free it, but he could feel the snow starting to melt through his clothes, and he was getting frantic. Get a hold of yourself, Einar. Shoving and swiping at the snow on each side of him, one hand finally struck something solid. The crutch! Well, the top half of it, anyway. Using the broken crutch for leverage, he flipped himself almost all the way over, all but his trapped leg, pushing himself up the hill. It was awfully hard on his stillhealing hip, but he made it, and sat panting on the trail, checking the snowshoes for damage. They appeared to be alright, and he released the trapped shoe from the buried gooseberry bush that had snagged it. He had lost one of the rabbitskin mittens in the struggle, and he couldn’t feel the fingers on his right hand. Pressing the hand against his bare stomach, he waited until he felt the sharp prickly pain of returning circulation before he went hunting for the mitten.

The light had faded significantly while he struggled to free himself from the gooseberry bush and locate the mitten, and he was anxious to be moving again, not looking forward to stumbling along in the dark in search of the ledge. Without the crutch, though, he found movement in the snowshoes to be nearly impossible. Unsupported, he was not able to lift either foot high enough to swing the shoe forward, and he was reduced to slowly and painfully shuffling along, gaining mere inches with each step. This is not going to work at all. He knew it would take him forever to make the distance at this rate, and without the crutch for balance, it was only a matter of time before he fell again. Got to have a stick, a branch, something…got to move faster somehow. I’m freezing. In the failing light he began searching the nearby trees for a walking stick, relieved to find a small dead aspen leaning on another tree. Pushing and kicking it loose, he hurried along his back trail, trying to warm up and to make as much progress as possible before dark Gonna be needing a fire awful bad by the time I get back there…better start picking stuff up as I go, now while it’s still light. He planned to burn the aspen walking stick, and was also able to find several dry branches on dead trees, which he slung on his back with some of the cordage he had brought. As the darkness deepened, Einar began struggling to follow his trail, glad now that it was so wide and obvious. Twice in the shadows under the black timber he lost the trail entirely, wandering and losing time before picking it up again by climbing up and down the slope in a zigzag pattern until he ran across it. When the moon finally rose, the ambient light was enough to keep him on track, though not much direct light made it through the trees. Limping along the ridge, he caught an occasional glimpse of the distant peaks through the trees, stark and white and magnificent in the moonlight. Two hours later, stumbling along the trail cold and half asleep, Einar looked up and saw the silhouette of a leaning spruce trunk, black against the moonlit sky. He stopped, thinking that he recognized it as the one marking his rabbit snare. Dropping stiffly to his knees, he felt around under the tree, but could not find the snare. As he leaned forward to search closer to the trunk, his head bumped something, and it moved. Rabbit! It wasn’t warm, but also was not yet frozen, and he removed it from the branch, snare and all, stuffing it down the back of his shirt because his fingers were nearly useless with the cold and entirely unable to tie the snare to anything for transport. He couldn’t feel his toes, either, but kept trying to wiggle them, stomping his feet as he walked, hoping to keep enough circulation going to save them. So. I know where I am. Not too far now. Less than an hour, if I move fast. And he moved as quickly as he could, following his earlier footprints easily in the light of the moon, which was nearly overhead by that time. Needing something to keep his pace steady and prevent him from slowing down after a few steps, which he was becoming increasingly inclined to do, he started reciting bits of rhyme and fragments of songs, anything with a rhythm he could walk to. It helped, and he didn’t care that he was getting most of the words wrong after awhile. • • • •

As Liz made her rounds down at the ranch that evening, closing up the animals for the night and bringing in more firewood, she couldn’t stop looking up at the ridge across the

river, troubled by a very strong feeling that she was being watched. She studied the horizon and couldn’t find anything unusual, but every time she turned her back, she thought she felt eyes on her. Are you up there, Einar? She left a lamp on that night in the window facing the ridge, just in case. Her sleep was interrupted by a dream in which she saw someone--she couldn’t make out the face in the weak moonlight, but was sure it must be Einar--lying in the snow, his clothes crusted with ice, barely clinging to life. The dream had been so vivid, so real that she sat up in bed, put on her coat and moccasins and went to stand on the back porch, studying the stark, snow-covered landscape, the mountains appearing harsh and frozen in the moonlight and the frigid air catching in her throat. Where are you? • • • •

After what seemed like endless hours of shuffling through the snow, he saw the open snowy slope of the tailings pile rising in front of him, and knew that his journey was almost over. Removing his snowshoes and making the short climb up onto the ledge, Einar sank to his knees on the snowy rock shelf, beyond exhausted. Made it…made it… He sank lower, resting his head on his knees. No, you don’t! Get up! You’re not done yet. Hauling himself back to his feet, he took his walking stick into the tunnel, slamming it into the wall as hard as he could, over and over, breaking it up for firewood and warming himself just a bit at the same time. From the tunnel, he dragged out the hollow section of bark that held his few possessions, including about a dozen pitch sticks he had made by coating pieces of the splintered spruce with hot pitch. He had been saving them in case he ever urgently needed to get a fire started in wet weather, but, he figured, it probably wouldn’t get a lot more urgent than this…. He dropped the sticks into the firepit and made a brief effort to arrange them, leaving room for a fire nest. Next he tossed in the dry spruce twigs he had been able to collect on the trip back, set some splinters and chunks from his walking stick around them, and took the bow and drill out to the ledge where there was some light. He hurriedly brushed the snow aside with his boot, rubbed some aspen bark strips between his hands to form a nest for the coal. Crouching on the ledge in the moonlight, he struggled to wrap the bow, to hold it steady enough that the spindle wouldn’t jump out and go rolling across the rock every time he tried. He could see pretty quickly that this effort wasn’t going anywhere. He was just shaking too hard to keep the setup steady, and he could hardly grip the bow. Not gonna go unless I can warm up some first…but that’s what the fire’s for, isn’t it… He stood, swung his arms across his chest, beat them against his sides, tried to jump up and down to generate some heat, but the injured hip hadn’t been helped any by his fall in the snowshoes, and the leg collapsed under him.

Chapter Twenty Four Einar lay on his back where he had fallen, staring up at the sharp black spruce tops

swaying gently in the moonlight. Beautiful. Kind of nice just to lie here…kind of peaceful…kind of…kind of a pitiful way to die. Come on. Get up! Did you really think you were gonna get off that easy? With a grunt, he rolled over, somehow got to his hands and knees, crawled stiffly into the tunnel to where he had left the porcupine meat, covered with a pile of large rocks to help keep out scavengers. He moved the rocks, shoving with his hands and finally pushing and kicking with his good foot, finding the meat frozen quite solid beneath them. He had previously cut some of it up into smaller chunks for the stew can, and he was able to knock a few of these loose with repeated whacks from a large rock that he pressed between his palms. He ate the meat, rolling it around in his mouth until it thawed enough to chew and swallow, feeling a bit of energy return to him as he did. Scattering the rocks and chiseling out the meat had warmed him slightly, and, wanting to keep moving in that direction, he kicked at the pile again, took the heavy rocks one by one in his numb hands, lifting them, stacking them, kicking down the pile before starting all over again. Frustrated at the difficulty of grasping the rocks, he threw one of them at the wall, shouting in anger for the first time since his ordeal had begun. The anger felt good, felt warm, and he found himself filled with uncharacteristic rage--at his pursuers, at the cold and the snow and his missing boot and his broken body, at his own bad decisions that had exacerbated his already dire situation and left him here to die, starved, frozen, unable to help himself any more or prevent what he knew was coming… As he began to warm he moved faster, grabbing the rocks and throwing them forcefully enough to shatter against the wall, shouting and kicking and pounding his body with his fists. He stopped when he could move his fingers again, feeling foolish at his lapse in discipline, tired, still shaking, but once again able to use his hands. Ok, quick, before you lose it again… The ice on his clothes had begun to melt, his back and shoulders were soaked, and he knew it wouldn’t be long before he was right back where he had started, chilled to the point of immobility. He scrambled back out to the bow and drill. You got one shot at this, Einar, make it count… Even slightly warmed as he was, it took all the concentration Einar could muster to operate the bow, and he wasn’t able to produce the long strokes he knew would most effectively and quickly create an ember. Please…please…he finally saw a little wisp of smoke rising in the moonlight, nearly ruined the whole thing in his clumsy excitement, caught himself, carefully tipped the bark chip to drop the coal into its waiting nest of bark fibers. Remembering previous firemaking disasters and knowing he couldn’t afford any more mishaps that night, he lay the bundle down on his cooking rock and got down on his belly in the snow to blow the tiny ember to life. He was still shaking hard enough that it was difficult to get the long steady breaths he needed to fan the ember to flame, but it eventually went, aided by a stiffening night breeze that flowed over the mountainside. Pushing the flaming nest down into the firepit, he stuck his head into the opening and blew until the flames crept up and caught the pitch-coated spruce splinters, crackling and blazing up into the larger wood. Hurrying into the tunnel and dragging out the bearskin, he got it over him, got himself positioned by the fire, waited to start warming up, staring mesmerized at the lively

flames. Einar slept over the fire that night, head on his knees, the bearskin over him almost like a tent, a little opening in the top to let the smoke out. He hadn’t been able to stay awake long enough to remove his wet, thawing clothes, or to drink a can of hot water, as he had intended, and his still-damp clothing steamed in the lingering heat of the coals. His can of melting snow boiled, steamed and eventually burnt dry as the night went on. Wakened by the cold in in the early morning before it was quite light, the fire out and the shoulders of his shirt once again rigid with ice, he knew he had to get the fire going again, and quickly. Needing more wood, he tried to rise, fell over beside the firepit, his hand going down into the ashes as he tried to catch himself. Good. Still warm in there. Dragging himself over to the nearest spruce, he swatted at some small, lowhanging branches with hands that were again nearly useless, finally resorting to grabbing one in his teeth and throwing himself to the ground to break it off. He did this several times, not caring anymore that the branches were only partially dead and would make some smoke. The branches caught readily after heating over the coals for a time, and he clumsily refilled the can with snow to melt. Drinking the hot water, he decided that, as soon as he had thoroughly thawed out and had something to eat, he would have to try a trip down to the river, hoping to find an additional source of fur and food to keep him going. Several cans of porcupine stew later, and after doing what he could for the three mildly frostbitten toes on his left foot where the improvised boot had soaked through, he realized that he must not attempt the trip before first doing something about his footwear. Can’t let those toes freeze again… The only thing he could think of was to cut up part of the bear hide for gaiters, hoping to keep his feet drier and warmer. He didn’t want to lose any of the already inadequate protection the hide offered during the increasingly frigid nights, but without feet, I’m dead anyway. Same thing if I end up with gangrene from frozen toes. So he reluctantly and laboriously scored and cut the bearskin, using both the quartz knife and the remainder of the glass bottle from the hunting camp. As he worked, he couldn’t help but think that every action he took seemed to be backing him further and further into a corner, depleting his limited resources in one area to save him in another. He could just hope he would be able to turn things around, somehow tip the delicate balance in his favor, before things went too far. • • • •

That morning after tending to her chores, Liz, haunted by her dream of the previous night, set out along the riverbank on her cross-country skis, carrying them and hiking up through the timber where the riverbank couldn’t be skied. She still believed that it was highly unlikely Einar could actually be alive out there, but the dream, coming the night after being so sure she was being watched from the ridge, really had her wondering. The going was pretty rough on the house side of the river, and she could see that things were generally more open and less steep on the other side. She decided to ski that side the following day. Section Three

“Cold, cold water surrounds me now, And all I’ve got is your hand…”
--Damien Rice, song lyrics

Chapter Twenty Five While Einar had fully intended to start down for the river later that morning, he found himself almost too weary and sore to move from the fire, as the day wore on. Though the trip to the ranch house had only been a few miles, his muscles, unaccustomed for several weeks to such work, protested at every move he made that day. So he stuck close to the fire, melting snow for soup and making a new crutch from another spruce branch. Not knowing what he might find down by the river that he would want to haul back, he decided to try to build a rough pack frame to make the job easier, lashing together spruce boughs for the frame, constructing shoulder straps from three strands of aspen cordage, braided together for extra strength. Don’t know if these will take too much weight, but then, neither will I at this point… The frame finished and appearing serviceable, he worked on the bearskin gaiters, softening the stiff rawhide by holding it over a steaming can of water, wrapping the newly flexible piece around his lower leg, down over most of his boot, and binding it in place by wrapping and crossing a length of aspen bark cordage around it, leaving the gaiter to dry or freeze…whichever comes first. He hoped they would end up flexible enough to remove without too much trouble. He was out of bark for cordage, aside from that he had used in the attempt to windproof and insulate the back of the tunnel, and he removed some of it, warming his hands over the fire to get them flexible enough to twine the bark. Now I have something to lash stuff to the frame with…seems to be no such thing as too much cordage, out here. Wanting to actually be able to use his pitch-covered water container for carrying water, this time, and already having got started on chopping up the bearhide, he decided that he might as well use a bit more of it to create a pouch for transporting food and his few tools. Scoring and cutting the hide from one of the bear’s front legs, he punched holes in the sides with his awl and laces it up with baling twine fibers, creating a rough pouch. Good. He pounded loose several more pieces of porcupine and put them, along with part of the rabbit, the awl, the bottle and quartz knife into the bear-leg bag, boring two holes near the top of it and threading a loop of cordage through so he could sling it over his shoulder. OK. Got food, got water, got tools, such as they are, got a way to carry back whatever I find down there…guess I’m as ready as I can be, aside from hopefully getting some sleep tonight and staying warm (ha!) so I don’t start out too cold in the morning. The trip down, he told himself, should be easy, compared with the trek to the ranch house. It wasn’t nearly as far, and was all downhill. Rather steeply. The spruce-covered mountainside dropped nearly 2,000 feet in less that a quarter mile’s distance, and he hoped that he could control his descent and avoid slipping, gaining speed and slamming into a tree. The return climb would be another matter, but, after all, I’ve already done it once before…

Einar continued cooking up can after can of meat and broth, wanting to give himself as much of a head start as he could on energy and bolster his body’s ability to produce heat. The fire produced a good bit of smoke off and on throughout the day, but he just kept feeding it the partially dry branches from nearby trees, hoping that the smoke was being dispersed somewhat by the thick, bristly spruce growing above the tunnel mouth, hoping that nobody was looking. Near dusk, hearing a small plane in the distance, he scrambled to cover the fire, glad he had kept the flat rocks handy. The plane wasn’t all that low, didn’t circle the area, and he was hopeful that it had nothing at all to do with him. Still, he waited until after dark before carefully digging down to the live coals and breathing the fire back to life. Starting out early the next morning, it took him awhile, and a few near misses, to figure out the best way to travel, zigzagging down the slope to avoid sliding. Traveling downhill did not generate as much heat as he would have liked, and he was having trouble keeping feeling in his fingers and toes, despite the mittens and gaiters. As he neared the bottom of the slope and the grade began lessening, Einar became increasingly nervous about approaching the river. He hoped to find willows to make better snowshoes, baskets and other useful items, maybe make a fish trap, even, and find a place to trap a beaver, but he worried that the sound of the river might mask the approach of people or aircraft. Before emerging from the trees, he traversed the slope until he found a calmer stretch of river where the noise was reduced to an icy gurgling, feeling much safer about the whole thing. Not far from the river, he found, seemingly by accident, a patch of rosebushes, when his snowshoe snagged on the brambles, barely buried beneath the snow. Kicking to free the trapped shoe, he exposed quite a number of clusters of rosehips, shriveled and dried and frozen, but still a good source of vitamin C, some starch and a little sugar. He ate a handful of them right there, stopping to gather as many as he could find, stowing them in the bearskin pouch with the porcupine and tools. As he made his way along the riverbank, choosing willows for his fish trap and laboriously severing them with the quartz knife, something caught his eye, bobbing up and down in the water, trapped in the thickening ice. Careful not to get his boots wet, he went to investigate and discovered a 2 liter soda bottle, partially submerged and filled with water and silt. He picked it up and dumped out the water, turning it over and over in his hands, marveling at his newfound wealth. So many possibilities… The most obvious use of the bottle was as a water container, but he was doing pretty well melting snow, and had something else in mind. Retreating to the cover of a nearby willow thicket, he took the glass bottle fragment out of its bearskin pouch, carefully cutting the top off of the plastic bottle, so that two thirds of it remained. Then, with some difficulty and not doing a very neat job of it, he enlarged the opening at the neck of the bottle, stowing the resulting threaded plastic ring in the pouch for future use. He inserted the top of the bottle into the bottom section, turning it around so that it created a funnel, leading into the main part of the container. Yes! Gonna work! Separating the two pieces, he used his awl to carefully poke a number of holes in the plastic near where he had cut it, lining up the

holes on the two pieces of plastic and threading the last strand from the baling twine through them, to hold the two pieces together. With the awl, he started some holes in the base of the bottle to allow water to flow freely through it, enlarging them with a stick. He made another hole near the funnel end, and threaded a stout length of nettle cordage through it. The fish trap completed, he put a bit of porcupine in it for bait (don’t know if this’ll do much good, or not…it would probably attract more attention if it rotted, which certainly won’t be happening with the water this cold) took it down to the river and submerged it down beside an undercut bank, in a place that was still relatively free of ice, tying the nettle string to a nearby bush. The water was painfully cold, even with the brief submersion required to set up the trap, and he hurried to warm his hands against his stomach. Continuing on as the bank rose steeply up away from the river, Einar followed it hoping to find another stand of willows to harvest from, and perhaps some beaver sign. Suddenly the snow gave way beneath him, sending him rolling and sliding down the precipitous bank, knocking off one snowshoe and his improvised boot. He ended up catching hold of some exposed tree roots and arresting his fall just short of the river. Hooking his elbows over the roots, he struggled to secure his tenuous hold, submerged up to his waist in the icy water. The water was dark and swift in that section, and so cold that it burned like hot metal. Don’t you go in that river, you will not go in that river… And he didn’t, clung there, but lacked the physical strength to pull himself back out. Looking back up the nearly vertical bank for anything that might help him, he saw that his hat had snagged on a bit of vegetation some ten feet above, but the boot was nowhere to be seen, and must have gone in. It’s OK. I’ll wrap the foot in the rabbitskin from the hat for the trip back, somehow use the hat to protect it, I’ll make another boot…but he knew his chances of actually coming through this one were looking pretty slim. Again he struggled unsuccessfully to pull himself up out of the water, nearly losing his hold on the branches before finding a way to wedge himself more securely. He began to think that maybe he’d finally run up against a situation where all the willpower and stubbornness and hard work in the world just wouldn’t cut it. He simply didn’t have the physical ability to pull himself out of the water. He wondered what his chances would be if he just let go and slid into the river, but he knew they would be almost zero, so he stayed put, hoping to think of some way out. He could feel himself getting weaker as the 36 degree current rapidly pulled the heat out of his body. Einar had almost stopped shivering by the time he spotted the skier approaching from upriver. He somehow knew it must be Liz, opened his mouth to call to her, couldn’t get his voice to work. He stared at her, willing her to see him, begging her to look up and see him before she went behind the trees again and it was too late. Help me…down here…help…she stopped, looked in his direction, seemed to see him and began hurrying his way. Einar, after nearly twenty minutes in the frigid water, was close to losing consciousness by the time Liz reached him, hurriedly taking off her skis and sliding down the steep bank. Carefully bracing herself against the slippery roots, she grabbed his wrists. • • • •

Inch by inch, Liz finally managed to get Einar up out of the water, his knees resting on

the tangle of tree roots. Seeing that he wasn’t really able to help much, she tried to keep going, bracing her feet and pulling him step by step up the steep snowy slope. Without at least one of her hands for balance and leverage, though, it wasn’t long before she lost her tenuous footing and slid back down, nearly losing Einar to the river, catching herself on the roots and struggling to pull him back out of the water. After that, she saw that there was no way she could drag him up the bank, that continuing to try would probably mean eventually losing her grip on him and sending him sliding into the river, possibly taking her with him. Einar wanted to tell her to stop, to get away from the river before she fell in, to leave him, but she was speaking to him very insistently, telling him to do something, and he struggled to make sense of her words: “…sideways, across the bank, OK? You understand? It’s not as steep over there, and we can just slide down to that little flat spot and stay out of the water. I’ll count to three, then you help me as much as you can. Across the bank. Here we go!” Einar found himself unable to move his legs or even to feel them, but Liz dragged him sideways through the steep snow, sending both of them careening down to stop on a small flat area beside the river, out of immediate danger of falling in. Liz rushed to dig Einar’s face out of the powder, rolled him over and dragged him into the shallower snow beneath a huge spruce that grew there by the river. She kicked away the snow until the duff was exposed, pulled off his drenched clothes and dressed him in her ski bib, extra socks and a spare sweater she had been carrying in her day pack, pulling her stocking hat onto his head and wrapping her scarf over it and down under his chin before putting her coat on over everything. Einar’s lips and parts of his face were purple with cold, as were his legs where he had been in the water. She really wanted to get him to the house, but knew that he’d never make the trip in his condition. I’ve got to do something here and now, quickly… She had brought along a thermos of tea, and, seeing that he wasn’t really awake enough to safely drink it, she lifted him and held the open thermos under his face for a couple of minutes so he could breathe the steam. She was pretty sure that, if he had been getting enough to eat, Einar’s situation wouldn’t have been nearly as serious, that he would have been alright with dry clothes and a source of heat, but that certainly didn’t appear to be the case, and she worried that he couldn’t possibly have much reserve left to keep him going. He didn’t seem to be doing too well, and she was afraid that if he lost consciousness, she would never be able to get him back to the house in time to do him any good. “Come on, Einar, you’ve got to wake up, you’ve got to stay awake. Help me, here.” Dumping the contents of her daypack onto the ground under the tree, she hastily searched for the bottle of matches she knew was in there, found it, and began breaking dry branches from the underside of the tree, piling them near Einar. When she had gathered a good number of branches, she retrieved a little tea candle in its foil cup from the heap of pack contents, lit it with a match, and shoved it up under the branches. It took a minute, but the wood heated and caught, and she carefully added more to keep the fire going, pulling the candle out with a stick for future use. Adding larger branches as the fire took

off, Liz stayed with it until she was sure it wasn’t in danger of going out. Leaving the shelter of the spruce, she stomped on a couple of small dead leaning trees to free them from the snow, dragging them back and stacking them at the edge of the space she had cleared of snow, hoping they might reflect some of the fire’s heat back on Einar, who was finally starting to shiver again. She was pretty sure that was a good sign. He was mumbling something, and Liz knelt down next to him, struggling to understand his slurred words. “G-get…rocks. Put…put…in…fire.” “Rocks in the fire?” She didn’t think he was making any sense, but he kept repeating it, and seemed to be getting agitated when she didn’t respond, so to keep him quiet she kicked loose several rocks that were frozen into the duff at the base of the tree, and placed them around the fire. Hoping to help keep him awake, she gave him some of the tea, and, when he didn’t seem to have any trouble with it, a few raisins and a piece of chocolate from the trail mix in her pack, knowing he needed sugar and carbohydrates if he was going to be able to maintain the shivering and begin to head in the right direction. He ate the raisins, reached for the bag, and she helped him eat nearly half of the trail mix and finish off the tea. He rolled over and tried to sit up, collapsed by the fire, tried again. Liz helped him, supporting and holding him as he leaned back heavily on the spruce trunk. For two hours Liz kept the fire going, encouraging Einar to eat whenever he seemed awake enough, keeping him as warm as she could. When Einar had recovered enough to communicate a little, he let her know what the hot rocks were for, and she put them inside her wool glove liners to avoid burning him, before placing them under the sweater where they could help raise his core temperature. He slept then, as Liz set several more rocks to heat and tended the fire. Einar woke still shivering but warmer, scrambling to his feet and taking a couple of clumsy steps away from the fire before tripping and falling backwards over a log, once again aware enough of his surroundings to be very alarmed that he had been sleeping next to a smoky fire. By the river. “Einar. Hey. You’re awake! Where are you going?” Liz helped him up, helped him back to the fire. He stared at her, momentarily confused before slowly beginning to remember the events of the past few hours, feeling suddenly awkward in her presence, not quite knowing what to say. He realized that she had almost certainly saved him, had once again taken a great risk to do it. “Guess you...uh…kind of came along…just in time back there.” “Yeah, I think you were starting to get pretty cold in that water. Are you feeling any better now?” He nodded. “This fire…how long have I been here?”

“It’s been a few hours.” He rose again, stood trembling and swaying by the fire, unable to put much weight on his injured leg, looking for his crutch. “Can’t stay here. Somebody’s probably already seen the smoke.” “Einar, please, sit back down.” His speech was still slurred and she knew he couldn’t yet possibly be warm enough to be thinking straight, but didn’t want to make him even more bullheaded by suggesting as much. She knew something of the type of person she was dealing with here. Instead, she pulled him rather firmly back down by the fire, got out the remaining trail mix and offered it to him. Temporarily distracted from his goal of immediate flight by the chance to eat, he sat there gobbling almonds and raisins and chocolate chips as she tried to talk him out of it. “The search is over. It’s shut down for the winter, at least. Nobody is out looking for you right now.” “Man, this is good food. I’d almost forgotten that food could be this good…” Hopeful that he had given up the idea of immediately venturing back out into the snow, Liz sorted through the pile of items from her pack, finding a can of sardines and opening it for Einar. As his hunger lessened, his mind returned to his immediate circumstances. If they come to check out this smoke, they’ll follow my trail in the snow. They’ll find the tunnel. I won’t be able to go back there, won’t have any shelter at all, won’t have the bearskin, even… As close to panic as he’d been in a good while, Einar quickly drank the last of the oil from the sardine can and again dragged himself to his feet. “I had a crutch. Did you see a crutch?” She shrugged. “Didn’t see it. It must have gone in the river.” He knew she wasn’t being quite as helpful as she might, knew why. He tried to limp over to the tree for a branch, fell, crawled the rest of the way and broke off a dead branch, stood up. “Liz. Thank you. I can’t stay, but thank you.” “You’re really leaving now?” He nodded. “Got to. They will see the smoke…somebody will, somebody will come, and I’ll be right back where I started…” “Einar, you don’t have any boots.” “I have one boot. And a hat, if I go get it off the bank. It’ll work. I’ll make it work. Could I…uh…I see that you have a pocket knife there in your pack. And matches. Do you think maybe…” “Of course you can have them. You can have everything there. But please, wait awhile.

Get warm. You’re shivering. You’re hypothermic. Don’t you realize that you almost died a few hours ago?” “Yeah, I think I’ve pretty much been hypothermic for the last couple of months,” he answered, ignoring the last part of her question. “It isn’t great, but I’ve been living with it OK…most of the time.” Liz was at a loss as to how to convince him. She was half inclined to club him in the head with his crutch and drag him back to the house, but she knew very well that would end any future chances she might have of helping him. You stubborn, pigheaded, cantankerous old fool! You’re going to kill yourself if I don’t find a way to stop you…

Liz, determined not to give up so easily, followed Einar as he collected his pack frame, water container and bearskin pouch, trying to convince him that the best course of action would involve coming with her to the house: “You know, they’ve already been to the house…there’s no reason they would come there again. You could stay in the root cellar. They never even searched there at all. And nobody would see you between here and there. I’ve never seen anybody’s tracks here along the river, other than my own.” Einar just smiled a crooked smile and continued gathering his gear, preparing to leave. I’ll go get you boots from the house if you wait here by the fire. My uncle’s boots would fit you, I think.” “I’ve got to go find my hat.” “Oh, come on, you stay here. You’re going to get that sock all wet. I’ll get the hat.” Einar hovered over the fire as Liz went for the hat, trying to absorb a last bit of warmth before setting out up the hill. He was still pretty cold. Liz retrieved the hat from its perch on a gooseberry shrub where it had hung up in Einar’s fall, grabbing the crutch, also, which had come to rest nearby. She had seen it the first time, but had declined to mention it, hoping its absence might be one more factor in convincing Einar to accept some help. If he’s really going, he might as well have it… “Found your crutch!” she yelled cheerfully as she approached the camp. Einar cringed, really wishing she wouldn’t shout. He took the crutch, tried it out, glad he didn’t have to make the trip without it.

“Is your hip getting any better? It looks like it’s still hard to put any weight on it.” “It was better, but then I fell…it’ll mend again. Sure is taking its time, though. I’m pretty sure I must’ve broken it, before.” “Broken it? Einar, please, won’t you come to the house with me? How do you expect a broken hip to ever heal out here, with you climbing up and down mountains and falling in rivers all the time? You’re just going to keep hurting yourself.” Einar didn’t answer. He put his foot in the hat, tried to bind it around his foot with some cordage, but it was pretty rigid from the pitch he had used to waterproof it. Molding and attaching it the best he could, he took one of the bearskin gaiters and tried to use it to cover the large gap that had been left at the top of the boot. Walking a few steps out from under the spruce, he tested it. Returning, he found that the bearskin had not remained in place, and the improvised boot had scooped up snow like a shovel. He quickly removed it and dumped out the snow, barely able to untie the cordage with his still-clumsy fingers. The sock was matted with snow, and already soaking through by the time he got the boot off. His foot was cold. He wished Liz wasn’t standing there staring at him in what he took to be silent reproach. It was beginning to be aggravating. He limped over to the fire and draped the sock over a leaning stick to dry, wrapping his foot in the gaiter in an attempt to warm it while he waited. “So. Boots?” Liz asked, sitting down next to him. “I can be there and back pretty quickly. You’re going to end up losing a foot, you know, without boots. And then you won’t be moving very fast, at all.” He sat there glumly for a minute, scowling in her general direction, waiting for the feeling to return to his numbed foot. Why does she have to make so darned much sense all the time…? “OK. I’ll wait. But not here. Not by the fire. I’ll be up in the woods where I can look down at the river.” “How will I find you?” “Just follow the big old wide lame-footed trail, same as the feds will do when they come to check out all this smoke,” he retorted, wrapping some cordage around the gaiter and cinching it down to secure it to his foot for the walk. She sighed. “OK. I’ll do that. Hey, tell you what. You can keep my backpack, if it will make you feel any better. And if you have to leave for any reason, just take it with you. I’ll be right back.” Einar began removing the borrowed coat to return it to her, but she stopped him. “You keep it. I’m a pretty fast skier, and it’s only a few miles. I’ll be just fine.” “Hey Liz,” he stopped her as she turned to go. “Thanks.”

As Liz climbed the slope back up to her skis, Einar put on her pack, as well as his pack frame and improvised carrying pouches, and made his way up into the trees on the lower slope of the ridge, after thoroughly putting out the fire and covering its remains with snow. • • • •

Just over a mile downriver from Einar’s hiding place, two white sixteen passenger vans pulled into a plowed parking area beside the river, and five men began busily unloading and sorting gear. They inflated an eleven foot Zodiac boat, depositing it in the snow near the river before spreading topographic maps out on the hood of one of the vans and consulting them, discussing the details of their upcoming search and drinking coffee out of thermoses as they waited for the other members of their party to arrive. One of the men released two dogs--a Catahoula and a yellow lab-- from crates in the other van, leashing them and walking them around the parking area for a minute before re-crating them. A few minutes later, a Sheriff’s Department blazer pulled in behind the vans, the Sheriff greeting and joining the men studying the map. Sheriff Jim Watts was getting tired of the Federal presence in his county, even though there were only a few FBI men still occupying the lonely outpost in the old feed store, and he hoped that if he could turn up a body, they’d finally go back to San Francisco or Denver or wherever else on earth they had come from, and leave his department and county alone. So, he had called in a search team with cadaver dogs from a neighboring county, hoping to finally resolve this. He hadn’t been too excited about the federal invasion of his county in the first place…he’d never met Einar, but knew people who had, and they mostly seemed to think he was alright. No criminal record. And even if he did do what they claimed…well, he’d caused less trouble in all his years as a county resident than the feds had in their relatively brief time there, that was for sure. Watts had spent a good bit of the fall dealing with citizens’ complaints about the agents--disobeying traffic laws, disrupting church services by flying their helicopters low over town on Sunday mornings, not paying their tabs at local restaurants and motels, not to mention disrupting the local economy by cutting into the number of out-of-state hunters who came in for elk season--the search had been given so much nationwide publicity, and who, after all, wanted to spend their vacation elk hunting in the middle of a federal manhunt? Didn’t even sound safe. The Sheriff was anxious to close the matter, once and for all. Watts, when he thought about it, could kind of understand Einar’s decision to run. Thought it was foolish and pointless, but he could understand it. He knew once that federal prosecution machine gets ahold of you, especially in politically sensitive cases like this one, it often doesn’t matter nearly so much as it ought how flimsy their evidence might be. And, in this case, it wasn’t all that flimsy. He’d personally been there when they collected some of it. They’d be able to make the charges stick. The FBI, claiming that this was still their case, insisted on sending two of their agents along on the search, even though the Sheriff told them in no uncertain terms that their

assistance was not required. After a threatening call from the Justice Department, he reluctantly relented, but the dog handlers were concerned that the presence of the agents might distract the dogs from their work, so the agents agreed to hang back behind the boat by a couple of hundred yards. Chapter Twenty Six Einar crouched in the snow under a spruce that provided him a good view of the river, shivering, immensely glad of the ski pants and coat. He fully expected Liz to return with the boots, in a timely manner as she had promised, but as he waited, he worked on the hat, trying to improve its usefulness as a temporary boot. Always leave more than one way out…you got to leave more than one way out… After what seemed like several hours, judging by the position of the sun, he began to wonder just when Liz might be showing up. He was starting to get anxious, hoping nothing had gone wrong, even beginning to contemplate leaving. He knew that was natural, though, when waiting, knew it probably just meant she was almost there. Then he heard the motor. At first he thought it was a small plane, and was glad the snowcovered fire had long since quit steaming. The sound grew louder though, and when he finally shifted his focus from the sky to the river, the little boat was nearly parallel to his position. Two dogs stood in the front of the boat, their noses nearly touching the water at times as it slowly zigzagged up the river. Suppressing the urge to start running immediately, Einar forced himself to remain still and observe for a minute. Cadaver dogs. As far as I know those critters are trained to only alert on dead bodies, which I’m not, yet, so maybe I’m OK here… Then he saw the two men in black jackets and with slung rifles, only about three hundred yards downriver of the boat, on his side of the river. • • • •

As Liz neared the place where she was to begin looking for Einar’s tracks, she was beset by a very strong sense that something was not right. Stopping to listen, she could hear the faint buzz of a motor, coming from somewhere downriver. Not normal. The road’s way over on the other side of the ridge, right here. Removing her skis, she stepped off the trail and up under a tree. Watching as the sound grew louder, she saw the boat, the dogs, and knew she must hide herself better. Returning briefly to the trail and putting on her skis, staying low and hoping the trees were sufficient to hide her, she turned around on her skis to make this look like the legitimate end of the trail, again removed the skis, and hopped up onto a nearby fallen log that had been melted free of the snow, taking the skis with her. The boat had passed, but she thought she could hear voices, and remained hidden as the two agents came into view. Their voices were clearly audible as they apparently discovered Einar’s trail up the mountain:

“What do you think we’ve got here, Gary?” “Uh, I’m not a tracker, but I’d say it’s got to be human. And limping pretty badly, too.” “Think we should follow it?” “We’d better stay with the boat for now. I see the canyon coming up, and if we don’t hitch a ride through it on that boat, it looks we might have an awfully long hard hike ahead of us on the ridge up there. It’s only about a mile from here to where they know he went in, and we can come back and check this out afterwards. Whoever made this trail, it sure doesn’t look like they’ll be moving very fast.” They moved on, stopping briefly to inspect the ski tracks, and Liz was glad that she had taken the trouble to jump to the log when she left the trail. She waited until their voices faded up the riverbank before emerging from her hiding place and taking off up Einar’s trail. She stopped, suddenly realizing that her actions would only make the trail easier to follow. Knowing she could not effectively conceal the trail, she decided to try to make several others, to hopefully confuse or at least delay the agents when they returned. Maybe they would decide the matter was not worth pursuing. It was all she could think of. She split off from Einar’s path, cutting sharply back down the mountain, then up again, looping and weaving and attempting to mimic his limping, dragging walk, one foot turned in slightly towards the center. Eventually she turned down the hill and rejoined the trail, walking backwards down the last twenty feet of the slope. At the bottom, she hurried along the ski trail for a bit, then cut back up the slope, still limping and dragging her feet, meeting her previous trail and crossing it where she had begun the backwards walking, to hopefully make it appear seamless. I really doubt that this looks very convincing, but the guy said he wasn’t a tracker, so it’s worth a try… After she had made several of the false trails, she hurried down and put her skis back on, knowing that she must get out of the area before the agents returned, unless she wanted to answer a lot of questions and be subject to a level of scrutiny that would probably prevent her from being of any further assistance to Einar. Liz was not too concerned that they would track her to the house, since she had to walk across the pavement of the bridge, and down a few hundred yards of road before reaching her driveway. She listened carefully for traffic as she walked the bridge, but none came, and she arrived home without incident, wondering if she had done the right thing, wondering if she could have done more. • • • •

Einar took off up the slope, keeping under the trees, traveling faster than he would have thought possible a few minutes before. He had no plan, no idea how he was going to escape the men if they came after him now, he was just trying to put as much distance behind him as possible before they found his trail. The threat of imminent pursuit and capture proved to be a rather powerful motivator, and, combined with the strength he had gained from the trail mix and sardines, Einar made good time, gaining a thousand feet of elevation before he stopped, totally winded, his legs trembling and his lungs burning

from the exertion. As he fought to catch his breath, he opened Liz’s backpack and hastily sorted through it for anything he might use as a weapon, if it came to that. All he could find was the pocket knife, which he was glad to discover was a locker. Dragging himself to his feet and searching the immediate area, he came up with a stout spruce branch, dead and devoid of bark, still attached to the underside of the tree. He broke it off, carefully split one end with the pocket knife to a distance of four or five inches, and wedged the handle of the knife down into the split. Taking his last length of nettle cordage, knowing that it was far stronger than the aspen bark, he wrapped it around and around the split part of the branch, squeezing the split ends together tightly around the knife handle. A spear. Better than nothing. He knew, though, that if the men got that close, armed as they were with rifles, he would likely never have the opportunity to use the weapon. Unless they happen not to be paying enough attention… Thirsty, he grabbed a handful of snow, pressed it in his hand to compact it, and stuffed it in his mouth before hurrying on his way. So far Einar had heard nothing to indicate that he was being pursued, but he didn’t trust that to be the case. His pace slowed somewhat as the slope steepened, but before he stopped to rest again, the tailings pile was in sight. In the tunnel, he quickly gathered the fragments of porcupine that were left, the half a rabbit, and a few of the porcupine quills (they looked awfully useful, though he hadn’t yet decided for what), loading it all into Liz’s pack, discarding his heavy pack frame. He wanted to take the bearskin, or part of it, anyway, but it was too heavy for him to carry whole while trying to move fast. Using the pocket knife, he cut off several pieces, stowing them in the pack for future use. The can also got stuffed in the pack, after he filled it with other items to save space. OK. Got to do something to delay them, because I know they’ll be moving faster than I am… A plan to accomplish this had been forming in his mind as he climbed, and he hurried to put it into effect. Chapter Twenty Seven Rummaging around in the backpack Einar found a flashlight, took out its two “AA” batteries, and wrapped and tied them end to end to a stick with some cordage. Would have liked to have these for light, but if I can’t slow them down, I won’t have the chance to use to use it, anyway. He hurried to the back of the tunnel, found his remaining supply of spruce pitch, and put a little piece of it in his mouth to soften. Seeing that Liz had a small folded sheet of tinfoil in her pack, he carefully cut two lengthwise strips out of it, folding and rolling them until he had two foil snakes. Cutting two more strips, he prepared and attached them to the previous two, to double their length. Taking the softened pitch from his mouth, he stuck small pieces of it to the battery terminals, top and bottom, attaching the foil wires quickly before the pitch cooled and hardened. Yeah, I know pitch doesn’t conduct, but they won’t know what’s holding this thing together, and I have to make it look believable… He set the finished battery pack on a rock beside the wall just inside the tunnel mouth, where it would be visible to anyone approaching from the ledge. Next, he found two three inch long sticks, quickly flattened matching spots on one side of each, and placed them one on top of the other, tightly binding them with two or three wraps of cordage near the center. Making more foil wire, he wrapped a little

piece around each of the flattened spots on the sticks, running the wires off the back of the sticks and twisting them into the battery wires. This would be a lot easier if I just had a clothespin… He inserted a short stick between the two flattened, foil covered ends of the improvised clothespin to separate them and break the circuit, searching the backpack for something to use as a tripwire. Wow, Liz, you’ve got paracord in here! Pulling several feet of one of the little white internal cords out of the green sheath, he cut it and tied one end of it to the stick that separated the foil on the switch. The other end was tied around a rock on the other side of the tunnel. He the made another foil wire and tucked it into a nearby crevice in the rock of the wall, secured the clothespin by tying another piece of paracord around it, the batteries, and the rock they sat on, and decided it would have to do. Make them think for a minute, anyway. Hopefully for a minute or two longer than it took me to build it… Before clearing out of his temporary home for one final time, Einar took a minute to wrap and tie strips of bear hide, fur side out, to his boots, both the improvised and the factory-made, hoping to provide his feet with a little extra warmth and possibly cause his tracks to be, on the packed snow of his trails at least, a bit harder to make out. When the cadaver search ended, unsuccessfully, and the two agents returned to investigate the strange track they had seen earlier, they were baffled and frustrated at the rambling, seemingly absurd course taken by whatever it was they were following. They began to think the whole thing was some sort of a strange practical joke, or even a wounded, confused animal of some type (they really weren’t trackers…). Just before giving up, though, they stumbled across Einar’s actual trail heading nearly straight up the mountain, and it became obvious, even to them, that they were following a human, who was walking with the aid of a stick. That was worth investigating. Arriving at the tailings pile, they followed the trail up onto the ledge, and stopped short. The two agents, well aware of what had happened the last time the subject of their search had been cornered in a cave, approached the dark opening very carefully, unwilling to go further when they saw the batteries, wires and the trip wire. Discussing the matter, they decided that, as little effort as seemed to have gone into concealing the device, it must be a decoy for the real thing. Einar’s ruse was a success. Instead of entering the tunnel to investigate further, they retreated to a safe distance and radioed their command post in the valley, requesting backup, suggesting that the bomb squad and tracking teams be flown in without delay. There were so many tracks and trails in the snow around the tailings pile, many of them partially melted and refrozen several times, that they couldn’t sort out which one might be freshest. For all they knew, the subject might still be in the tunnel, or might be watching them from behind a nearby tree, and they certainly had the feeling of being on hostile, unfamiliar ground as they waited for backup to arrive. Einar, though, was nowhere in the area, having nearly an hour ago carefully picked his way over the delicate crust on his most used trail--the one to the rabbit snares--barely leaving noticeable tracks on the first part of it, taking off up the mountain, driven by the knowledge that if he wanted to make it, he absolutely had to shake these pursuers, and soon. He knew he’d just barely been hanging on for the past few weeks, with shelter and fire and pretty much able to stay put. And as long as he was running, he’d have little

opportunity to get food or melt water or dry his clothes if they became wet, little chance to rest, let alone sleep. The warmer, waterproof clothes from Liz were making a huge difference, though, and he was hopeful that having them would allow him to hunker down and do without fire for as long as he might have to. Not long, maybe. Maybe they never even bothered to follow my trail…maybe they won’t keep after it long enough to find the tunnel. He seriously doubted that, though, and wasted no time in heading for the top of the ridge, planning to start down the other side where, judging by what was typical in that area, there would be less trees but also less snow, and he hoped thus to be able to leave less of a trail. • • • •

When Toland Jimson resigned from his position at the FBI, a young agent from the San Francisco Field Office was put in charge of coordinating the limited search activities that were taking place over the winter. Special Agent Todd Leer had only been out to the command post a couple of times in the three months since being given the assignment. With the news of the renewed urgency of the search, he was flown in, along with a number of other personnel and resources. Determined not to suffer the same humiliation as Jimson, especially not on this, his first really big case, he called on all the resources the bureau could muster, now that it again looked like their quarry was possibly within reach. By dusk that evening, the fenced area around the old feed store was once again a bustling center of activity, and the local Department of Transportation was tapped to provide snowplowing service for the landing pad. Chapter Twenty Eight Einar reached the crest of the ridge near sunset, still having heard nothing to suggest that he was being closely pursued. He stood under a tree catching his breath and sucking on a chunk of compacted snow, watching the valley far below fill with shadow, the distant peaks bright with the soft rosy light of alpenglow, feeling triumphant, almost as if he could just step across the valley and skip from peak to peak. In reality, though, his hip was hurting pretty badly from the hard push up the mountain, and he wondered just how long he would be able to maintain this pace, wondered, even if he could, whether it was going to be enough to do him any good, in the end… Studying the downslope before him, he saw that was indeed less snowy, with very different and sparser vegetation than the north slope the tunnel had been on. He was hopeful about the possibility of throwing his pursuers off his trail if they’re really back there…I would expect to have heard something by now… in the rocks below. Starting down after a brief rest, he carefully avoided the numerous snowy patches, sticking to the rock and frozen dirt where he would leave less sign. He was crossing a boulder field, laboriously stepping form one large angled rock to the next, his crutch threatening at times to skitter out from under him, when any hope he had of avoiding a renewed search was shattered by the appearance of a small helicopter that hovered low over the ridge, making passes in what seemed to be some sort of regular pattern. Lying on his stomach in a little cavern created by two leaning boulders, Einar hoped that the rocks had absorbed enough sunlight during the day

to mask the heat he would be emitting… The fact that the machine did not seem to be circling his position was probably a good sign. He knew that if they had already called in air support, they probably had a bunch of people out on the ground, also, and he wondered how far behind him they could possibly be. Well, I’m not going anywhere at all with this thing buzzing around, so I hope they’re still a ways back there… One thing that gave him a little glimmer of hope was that he doubted they would have brought in dogs, assuming his trail could easily be followed in the snow by sight alone. These rocks may just save me. For the moment, though, he was pinned down, and starting to get awfully cold, despite the pants and coat. The bare rock was just sucking the heat out of him. He got to his hands and knees, slid the backpack under his torso to provide some measure of insulation. Before long, the buzz of the light chopper was joined by a deeper rumbling, and the two seemed to be working together to cover the ridge, crisscrossing back and forth, way lower than he liked. Man! That was fast! They really are serious about this… The wind was picking up, and in the near darkness he could see a few snowflakes beginning to filter down from an increasingly leaden sky. He took a minute, before losing the light entirely, to adjust and tighten the cords that held the bearskin strips onto his boots. He was certain they were helping, because he could still feel his toes, and they had even given him a bit of extra traction at times on the way up, as the fur acted like ski skins, keeping him from sliding backwards as easily as he otherwise would have. Come on, snow! Go ahead and ground these buzzards already…cover my tracks! And it did come, the storm increasing in intensity nearly to the point of being a blizzard. It was after dark by that time, and Einar was shivering and more than ready to be moving again. It was treacherous and difficult work crossing the remainder of the rockslide, slippery now with the quickly accumulating snow, and he fell more than once. As he reached the edge of the rocks and was able to relax his focus a bit, Einar’s weariness hit him like a ton of bricks. It really had been a long day, and he was suddenly aware of being brutally tired, could hardly keep his eyes open, caught himself several times stumbling along with them closed. He stopped, shook his head. This absolutely will not do, Einar. You’re gonna end up walking right off a cliff, like this. He felt around in a side pocket of the backpack until he found one of several butterscotch hard candies that he had remembered seeing there, tried it, and found that it helped tremendously. He pushed on in the dark and the snow, into the teeth of an increasingly intense wind, scrunching and distorting his numb face in an attempt to avoid frostbite, immensely thankful for Liz’s hat and snow suit. He was cold, but doing alright, and he knew that being forced to travel in this storm would have almost certainly killed him, before he had the extra clothing. After a while the storm seemed to be lessening some, and he stood for a moment watching as torn scraps of cloud quickly scudded across an enormous half moon, the peaks looking like huge gleaming white teeth in its stark cold light. In the distance he could see what appeared to be a heavy, billowing mass of cloud, and he knew that it would likely soon obscure his source of light once again. He really wanted to be on more stable ground by the time that happened. Got to make some time here, Einar… The big down-steps necessary to continue descending were becoming almost impossible with his hip, though, incredibly slow and painful, and the knee on his uninjured side was tiring of

acting as a brake, threatening to give out at every jarring step. Really hoping to take advantage of the moonlight while it lasted, he began taking huge jumps, sliding in the new snow, hoping each time to find a soft landing awaiting him. The term “barely controlled descent” came to mind. Einar, you know better than to go jumping and sliding in terrain like this… in his increasing haze of exhaustion, he thought it was Liz speaking, and he turned and asked her if she had a better idea. She didn’t answer, though, and, as he certainly didn’t have a better plan, he just kept going. Parts of the song “Old Slewfoot” began running incessantly through his mind as he jumped, slid and at times almost bounced down the mountain, lending a kind of chaotic rhythm to his movements: High on the mountain, tell me what do you see, beartracks beartracks looking back at me… He slid off another rocky hummock, landing in a heap in the soft deep powder below, picking himself up and continuing on. Running ninety miles an hour, taking thirty feet a jump… Another falling leap, aiming vaguely for a white patch below instead of a black (rocky) one…Ow! Didn’t see that tree! Ain’t never been caught he ain’t never been treed, and some folks say he looks a lot like me…” But as I remember, it didn’t end all that well for Old Slewfoot… Einar was sure that Liz was there with him, leaping and floundering down the mountain beside him, and glad for her company and not wanting to run her off, he hoped she didn’t mind the occasional singing… After traveling in this way for some time, Einar brought himself up short at the edge of a cliff, catching himself just in time at the edge as he was about to make one more leap. Looking around in the still-bright moonlight, he didn’t see any easy way around the thirty foot drop. Liz, I bet you never rappelled on paracord before, did you…well we’re gonna do it now... The stuff’s supposed to be good to 550 pounds, and I’ve only taken two strands out of it, and I don’t think I weigh much at all any more so it should be fine, right? Liz didn’t answer, though, and when he turned to look for her, she was gone. He took the paracord out of the pack, fumbling to untangle it with his numbing fingers. There was a stout looking limber pine there near the edge of the drop, and Einar briefly debated whether he should double the cord around its trunk and rappel on the double strand, which would allow him to pull it down after him at the bottom, or whether he should just tie it to the tree trunk. It really didn’t look like he had enough cord to reach the bottom, if he doubled it over. Can’t leave it, though. They might end up seeing it, and besides, I may need it again before I get down this thing… So he doubled the cord around the trunk, tying the ends to one of his mittens, hoping to be able to feel it and stop himself from rappelling right off the end, before tossing the ends down over the dropoff. Rope! He placed a coil of aspen bark beneath the cord to hopefully protect it from bring

abraded by the sharp rock. The thin paracord was far more stretchy than anything Einar was used to rappelling on, his fingers were numb, and the crutch, slung on his back, kept getting in the way, but he made it, reaching “the end of his rope,” so to speak, only about ten feet from the bottom. Gaining a foothold on a little ledge, he untied the mitten and pulled down the cord, letting it drop into the snow below, before himself letting go and following it down. Scraping himself up out of the snow, relatively uninjured, Einar hurried to get his freezing fingers under his shirt to warm before retrieving the cord and stumbling down the remaining slope towards the valley. • • • •

While the bomb squad fairly quickly determined Einar’s trap to be a fake, it was not reported that way to the local media. Wanting to keep public opinion in their court (or push it in that direction, as the case may be), the FBI quickly issued a press release, and writers for the local paper worked overnight preparing their lead story: Hunt for fugitive takes a dangerous turn
Culver Falls, November 25
FBI agents combing a mountainside yesterday in the ongoing hunt for fugitive Einar Asmundson, 40, discovered an abandoned mine that he had apparently been using as a hideout, rigged with explosives in a potentially deadly trap that he left behind as he fled. Special Agent Todd Leer stated that this latest development has given a big boost to an investigation that had been all but dormant for the winter, while further demonstrating the urgency of capturing Asmundson. Speaking from the heavily secured FBI command post outside of Culver Falls, Leer, the newly appointed head of the Mountain Task Force, said Tuesday that ”This is not someone you want in your community. As demonstrated by his recent blatant disregard for human life, the only way to ensure the safety the public is to effect the immediate apprehension of this dangerous fugitive.” Several sources inside the investigation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that it is not believed that Asmundson could have survived the harsh winter conditions of the past two months without assistance, and that an active investigation is underway to determine whether any local residents may have been involved in providing such aid. “If this suspect had evaded capture because someone is aiding him, we would urge them to stop, and remind them that any such action would constitute a federal felony for which they will be vigorously prosecuted,” said Leer. He added that Asmundson is to be considered armed and extremely dangerous. “I think every day we are closer to an arrest,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time. I’m very confident that we’ll have a successful conclusion to this investigation.”

Back at the house that evening, Liz busied herself in the shed, borrowing one of her uncle’s backpacks and returning to the house to load it with various supplies that she

thought Einar could use, including the boots she had not been able to deliver that afternoon. It was all she could think of, and made her feel like she was doing something, at least. She heard the choppers come in, knew that they must have found his trail even before the story hit the ten o’clock news. When the blizzard blew in not long afterwards, the wind whipping snow so hard against the living room window that it quickly coated the lower half of the glass, she was glad, because she knew the helicopters would not fly in the storm. She worried about Einar, though, out there in the wind and snow and with who knew how many men (May their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them!) on the mountain after him by that point. Wish you were here in the root cellar, Einar… She left the lamp on in the window that night, eventually going to bed but not sleeping, lying there listening to the shrill wind as it plastered the house with snow before eventually getting up to dump out and rearrange the contents of the backpack. Chapter Twenty Nine The snow was blowing fairly hard again by the time Einar reached the level ground of the narrow valley, emerging from the trees to find himself in a large meadow that ran for almost a mile in each direction there on the valley floor. His intention had been, if the snow was falling hard enough to cover his tracks, to cross the meadow and start up the ridge on the other side, which would take him up into 180,000 acres of nearly roadless wilderness where, he knew, travel would be more difficult for his pursuers, and his choice of route would be limited only by his physical capabilities. Einar was only marginally familiar with this territory, having twice hiked the eleven mile trail up the valley to reach the small alpine lake at its terminus, but he knew it well enough to make basic judgments about his course that night. He started out carefully across the meadow, barely able to see the looming black bulk of the opposite ridge through the storm. The going was slow, and the further he got from the trees, the deeper he began sinking with each step into the fresh powder snow. Deep snow and crutches really don’t mix. Sure wish I had my snowshoes… Between the snow and the wind, though, he was pretty confident that his trail should be well obscured by morning. The wind was already causing the dry powder to drift on the valley floor, and he kept stumbling over the drifts, which were compacted harder than the surrounding snow. Briefly the wind let up, and in the lull, Einar was sure he heard the whine of an engine in the distance. He couldn’t judge the direction in the wind, but knew he had better get back to the shelter of the trees. Just then he saw lights, as a group of three snowmobiles sped towards him from down valley. The headlights of the lead machine flashed across him before he could do anything about it, and he dropped to the ground, rolling behind a low drift and flattening himself into the snow, hoping desperately that he had not been seen. The snowmobiles continued on past him, but not far, and they seemed to be circling back. Cautiously raising his head a few inches, he saw that they had stopped, not twenty yards from where he lay, and he could hear shouts as the men attempted to communicate over the wind, but couldn’t make out any of the words. Go on, move on, get out of here..

The men stayed, though, and within minutes several more snow machines arrived, two of them pulling small cargo sleds. The men stopped the snowmobiles in a rough circle, using the light this provided to begin unloading the sleds. To his dismay, Einar realized that they were setting up a tent. As the large dome tent took shape, the shouts of the men were joined by the hum of another motor, and he saw that it was a small generator, apparently brought in to power the bank of portable floodlights that suddenly bathed the entire area in a harsh white light, diluted only somewhat by the lessening snowfall. No… are they basing the search down here now? He wondered if they could see his trail through the snow, figured they probably already would have been over to investigate, if they could. So, unable to move he remained hidden, making certain to stay within the confines of the sharp shadow cast by the drift that concealed him. He tried, as he began losing the feeling in his hands and feet, to remind himself how much warmer he was than he had been a week ago, crawling through the snow in his jeans to check his snares, but it didn’t seem to be helping much, and he prayed that the snow would soon begin falling heavily enough again to allow him to creep back to the trees undetected. • • • •

As Einar studied the nearly featureless expanse of snow that separated him from the safety of the trees, searching for any depression or irregularity in the snowy field that might allow him to slip away unnoticed, two of the snowmobiles took off from the group, heading in opposite directions up and down the valley. So. Looks Like they’re trying to make sure I stay pinned between the river and the meadow…smart move. Now what? Knowing that the meadow was only a couple of miles long, he pressed himself further down into the snow, carefully brushing some of it up over his legs, removing and burying the backpack, working very slowly and making sure to stay hidden by the shadow, concealing himself against the return of the snow machines. He eased the improvised spear from its place where he had tied it to the backpack, keeping it within easy reach. As soon as the snow picked up again, his plan was to make the best time he could for the trees, keeping low to stay out of view, and parallel the meadow until it narrowed to the point that he could safely cross over to the other ridge. As he waited, though, seeing that the clouds were thinning and the moon beginning to reappear, he became increasingly frustrated with his situation, with the men who were unknowingly keeping him from carrying out the one plan he did have, with his seeming inability to turn this thing around and start seeing a few things go his way. The way the weather was looking, they could probably start doing flights again any time, if they chose to, and even if he did manage to crawl away unnoticed now, without the continuing snow to cover it, he would leave a clear trail for them to follow in the morning. No. Not gonna do it that way this time. And I’m sick of crawling. I want one of those snow machines. All but two of the men were inside the tent by that time, and when he raised his head, he could see their outlines through the thin fabric, standing around a little folding table and highlighted by the white light of a propane lantern, presumably studying maps. The two men finished their tasks outside, joining the others in the tent. Einar noticed a small gas can strapped to the back of one of the snowmobiles, and suddenly he knew what he was

going to do. He found the little bottle of matches in the backpack, stuck one in his mouth and two inside the fold of his hat as backup, put on the pack and began hurriedly low crawling towards the camp, knowing that the other snowmobiles could return at any moment. Reaching the machine with the gas can he rolled behind it, glad that it was not one of the two that had been towing the small utility sleds, sliding his hand up and undoing the bungee cord that secured the gas. Are there keys? Check for the key…good! I can take this one… With his improvised spear he slashed the seats of the remaining snow machines, which had been parked close together before the men went into the tent, pouring some of the gas over the them and making sure it soaked down into the exposed polyurethane foam. As an afterthought, he stripped a large chunk of foam out of one of the seats, soaking it in gas and tossing it over near the tent, almost against the wall. I was just trying to clear out of here tonight, you buzzards! You brought this one on yourselves… Seating himself on the sled he had chosen for his escape, hoping that no one decided to leave the tent just then and really hoping the machine would start readily, he lit all three matches on the zipper of his jacket, tossing two at the other snowmobiles, one at the chunk of foam by the tent. He knew that if his machine did not start easily, it would probably all be over for him in a matter of minutes, one way or another. Not waiting to see where the matches had landed, he started the motor, glad that it was still warm and took readily, speeding off down the valley as the parked snowmobiles erupted in flame. Einar didn’t take the time to look back, ripping down the trail for all the lively little sled was worth, finally able to move as fast as he wanted to for the first time since going on the run. It felt great. A sudden orange glow, reflected on the snowy trees of the ridge ahead, told him that at least one of the matches had landed well. He saw lights coming at him from down valley, knew it was too late to avoid being noticed, hoped the man couldn’t yet see the orange glow of the camp. Einar waved as they passed each other, and the other rider waved back, continuing on around the bend to the camp. After a few minutes of speeding down the trail at a pretty good pace, Einar looked back to see a light on his trail, and knew that he was being pursued. He left the trail then, heading up the slope into the sparse trees, weaving in and out of them in an attempt to shake his pursuer. The other rider was gaining on him, though, and he made a sudden sharp turn down the slope, crossing the valley and heading up the opposite ridge, on the wilderness side. Not too far behind him, the other sled was nearly keeping pace. Don’t you know snowmobiles aren’t allowed in the Wilderness Area… In the distance he saw gleaming in the moonlight the snowy steepness of an alpine cirque, and, struck by an idea, worked his way up the slope towards it. Opening up the throttle, he took off at a steep upward angle across the bowl, his apparently less experienced pursuer following far below and slightly behind him. He had nearly reached the trees on the far side of the bowl when the wind-packed slab fractured and let go, unstable after that evening’s heavy snow. Einar was thrown clear as his machine tipped and finally rolled on the 37-plus degree slope, narrowly missing being

crushed beneath it. Flailing and kicking, he struggled to stay on top of the snow, making one desperate leap uphill before he was fully caught up in the force of the avalanche. He ended up tumbling a good distance down the steep slope, but was above and to the side of the worst of the slide. When his world finally stopped spinning, Einar lay near the edge of the slide, one leg trapped in the rapidly solidifying mass of compacted snow. He jerked the backpack off his back, amazed that it was even still there, searching for anything at all to dig with and settling on the tin can, scraping frantically at the ice and snow that held him firmly in place. So far he had not heard the sound of approaching snow machines or aircraft, and did not know the status of his pursuer, but he knew that it could not be long before the help surely already summoned by the men at the camp arrived in force. Finally free, he scrambled across the remainder of the hard packed field of avalanche debris and off into the trees, badly bruised, mittenless, and again unable to walk unaided, but otherwise unharmed. Chapter Thirty Einar knew he had better put some distance behind him quickly, because after his wrestling match with the avalanche, he expected in a few hours to find himself almost too stiff and sore to move. He wished he’d been wearing a helmet when he took the tumble, but was glad that he hadn’t apparently come into contact with anything more solid that the chunks of compacted snow. They’d been bad enough. He had a deep, nasty scrape along one cheekbone, and his head throbbed where a chunk of ice had struck him fairly hard. He considered himself very lucky not to have lost his knit cap, and was really beginning to miss the rabbitskin mittens. Just be glad you didn’t lose a boot again… Finding another branch to use as a walking stick, he limped up through the spruces, into a band of stunted sub alpine fir, not too far below treeline. He had gained quite a bit of elevation on the snowmobile, and was not too keen on spending many nights up this high, without better shelter. While the wind had diminished greatly in the valley as the snow moved out, that was not the case high up on this more exposed ridge. He could see, highlighted by the moonlight, long plumes and streamers of snow curling off the nearby peaks as the wind whipped over them. The snow was deeper here than in the valley or on the ridge the tunnel had been on, and he considered digging a snow cave--or at least a tunnel--for shelter, to get out of the wind. This is where they’ll expect me to be, though, up on this side, once they find the slide…or maybe they’ll just decide that I’m dead back there under the snow… He knew, though, that Mountain Rescue would bring in avalanche dogs, for him and especially for the other rider, and they would not give up until both subjects had been found, dead or alive. Or determined to be missing. It had been a big slide, had looked to him like the entire bowl had gone, so it could take them awhile, but sooner or later, they would come to the conclusion that he was not back there. The sensible course, then, seemed to be to follow the ridge up the valley, up above the meadow, and cross back over to the tunnel ridge--they’d never expect that. He hoped. Remaining for the time at his current elevation, Einar slogged through the snow, traversing the ridge and breaking trail with difficulty through the deep powder, trying to stay under the trees as much as he could to avoid leaving a trail that would be spotted

from the air, hoping that the wind would obscure his tracks enough by daylight that he could not be easily followed. This was seeming increasingly likely, as the wind was by that time ripping over the mountainside with such fury that he could hardly see his boots through the powder it drove nearly sideways, replicating the blizzard-like conditions of earlier that evening. His goal that night, as he thought about it, became following the ridge past the meadow, crossing the valley, and starting up the other side. He wanted to be well up valley of Liz’s house, far from anywhere they knew he had previously been, before again starting up the tunnel ridge, and he could remember an area of cliffs and eroded rocky spires on that ridge that marked the upper limit of the meadow. He was hopeful that he would be able to recognize it by moonlight, if the wind would cooperate and stop throwing snow in his face for a few minutes at just the right time… He pushed on doggedly through the deep snow, his exhaustion barely held at bay by the knowledge that he was probably still being pursued, that he perhaps had a chance to shake his pursuers if he gave the effort all he had that night. Several times he stumbled in the snow, tripping on a buried branch or stubbing his foot against the harder packed snow of a drift, and it was all he could do each time to drag himself back to his feet. He almost wished he could start hallucinating again as he had been on the cliffs, so Liz could be there beside him and offer him some encouragement, reproach, anything…but it seemed that he had gone beyond that, that this time it was just Einar, the wind, and whatever insanely tenacious thing it was in him that kept him going at times like these. For the third time since his ordeal started, he began to resent it just a bit. Finally the wind eased, the blowing powder settled, and he was able to dimly make out the rock spires that marked the end of the meadow. OK. Just another mile or so, and I can cross and cut up that ridge… He stopped for just long enough to fish another of the butterscotch candies out of the pack, hoping it might push back the descending haze of weariness a little, lend him just enough energy and alertness to make it the rest of the distance without any major blunders. As he went, Einar began slowly descending, looking for a likely place to cross the narrow valley and begin his climb up the opposite ridge. The ridge was dotted in this area with rockslides and bands of cliffs, and he searched in the light of the lowering moon for any break in the steepness that might allow him passage, finally settling on what looked like a steep but tree-filled gulley between cliffy sections. If there are enough trees, I can haul myself up anything… And the thick vegetation would hopefully also act to further conceal his trail from the air. Finding an area of relatively hard packed, wind driven snow, he made the final drop down into the valley, confident that his trail would soon be drifted over by the wind. Cautiously, still thinking that there might be searchers on the valley floor, he crossed, sticking to the heaviest timber he could find, and started up the other side. As Einar climbed, he had the impression of first being immensely, impossibly heavy, nearly unable anymore to move his legs to put one foot in front of the other, then feeling hollow inside, empty, like a bubble, its shimmery skin evaporating, thinning, growing dull, about to dissolve into nothingness and cease to be. He slipped on some ice, hidden beneath the new snow in the increasingly precipitous couloir, caught himself by grabbing at some nearby evergreen boughs, narrowly avoiding a nasty fall back down the rocky steepness behind him. The near miss woke him up a bit, sharpened his focus as much as was possible for him at that point.

Einar pushed on up the ridge for as long as he could, but finally he had to stop and rest, having been on the move for over twenty two hours at that point, his only respite having been the brief time by the fire that morning while Liz tried to thaw him out after pulling him from the river. He had caught himself more than once wishing that he had never left the tunnel the previous morning. Things sure would be less complicated right now… Choosing a large tree with a small flattish spot beneath it, he broke a couple of branches to shield himself from direct contact with the snow, and huddled up against its trunk. Putting the last of the hard candies in his mouth before drawing his arms inside the jacket, he tucked his hands into his armpits and his mouth and nose down into his collar, reaching a hand up and pulling the hood of his coat down nearly to his nose. Retaining as much heat as he could, he and spent an hour or so shivering and dozing beneath the tree before forcing himself back up to continue his climb. Got to have a snow cave tomorrow, if I’m still here… Chapter Thirty One As the sky began graying slightly, Einar struggled up the increasingly rocky couloir, realizing that it was in fact far steeper than it had appeared from the valley. Ridge must be way higher here than back where the tunnel was.. I’m about to come out above treeline again, and there’s no sign of the top. He kept expecting to run up against a vertical wall, but so far he had always been able to find a way around the steepest parts, and had managed to keep his upward progress going by grabbing the trees, sometimes bracing his good leg on a solid-feeling rock, grasping a branch up nearly as high as he could reach, and making a little leap for the next available solid footing. He knew this was likely to eventually end in disaster, and kept an eye out for a way up out of the steep-walled ravine. Morning brought small planes and two helicopters, and though they seemed to be concentrating their attention in the area of the slide, Einar did not want to risk being caught out in the open. He was still down in the couloir, and, aided by the strengthening daylight, picked his way up out of the rocky declivity and took refuge beneath the thickest stand of sub alpine fir that he could find, out on the edge of the nearly treeless slope, overlooking the couloir. He figured that as a last resort he could drop back down into the couloir and attempt to slip away if somebody surprised him up there. Slip is probably right…that thing’s full of ice up high here. Just barely enough rocks still exposed to find footing on. The wind, while apparently not enough to ground the air operations, was too much for Einar that morning. As soon as he stopped moving, he knew that he must have a windbreak if he was to stay still for long. He hastily kicked and shoved some of the snow under the tree into a pile on the windward side, stomping and packing the dry powder with little success. The snow was not especially deep there on the edge of the couloir, the area being scoured by near constant wind. He heaped some more snow on the little pile, huddling down behind it and wishing that the snow was a bit deeper, so he could use the

hollow space created by the tree as a windbreak and shelter. He had done this before, digging down in a tree well until he had excavated a large enough space to comfortably sit in--often not far, since the heavy branches naturally kept out much of the snow and created a depression under the tree--carpeting the bottom with branches and laying more branches over the top for additional protection. It worked pretty well, and he had spent some relatively cozy nights in such shelters. The only thing he could think of to improve his present situation, though, was to break some branches off the undersides of nearby trees and lean them on the wind side of his little shelter, to create a windbreak. This was some help, but hardly adequate, and he hoped that the aircraft would soon back off enough to allow him to find or create a better situation. Despite the wind, snow clung heavily to the branches above him from the previous night’s storm and as a small plane followed the valley just below his elevation, he hoped the snow and dark timber would be enough to prevent his accidental discovery, either by sight or heat signature, by one of the aircraft. They seemed to be focusing their search over on the other side of the valley, starting around the area of the slide and working outwards. So my tracks must have been pretty much wiped out, or they’d have seen them by now… He expected that they might eventually shift the search to his ridge, and began working to conceal himself against that possibility. Need more protection from this wind, anyway. I’m really freezing. He began to wonder if he could just dig into the wind packed snow bank beside his tree, dumping the excavated snow under the tree to hide it. He figured that the entrance would have to be up under the trees, to hopefully mask and disperse the escaping heat. Opening the pack, he pulled out the deer scapula. A shovel. He began scraping at the bank where the wind had shoved and packed it up against a neighboring tree. It was fairly easy to dig in, and seemed firm and packed enough not to collapse on him as he excavated. Before long he had carved out a pretty good sized cavity in the snow bank, the movement warming him a bit. Whoa, stop, Einar. You go digging a snow cave in these clothes, get them soaking wet, what are you going to wear tonight? It’s not like you have a change of clothes. You’ll freeze. Uh…yeah, but I’m already freezing out here in this wind… He finally decided to remove the sweater, wearing only the coat and snowpants as he dug, so that his inner layer, at least, would remain dry. He wished he had an inner layer for his legs, also, but the jeans had been in tatters, and wouldn’t have done him much good, anyway. It became clear to Einar pretty quickly as he dug that he absolutely had to have some mittens before going much further with the snow cave, or he was going to start losing fingers. He had wrapped strips of furry bear hide around his hands to help protect them on the climb, but these were too bulky, stiff and cumbersome to use while digging, and also were thoroughly soaked by that time and not offering much protection. He considered cutting part of the inner liner out of the coat or snow pants to improvise some mittens, or even removing the hood of the coat and somehow using its drawstring to cinch it around his hand for a single, but very warm and waterproof mitt, but decided to do that only as a last resort. Which left his socks. Got to keep them dry for tonight, though. Having enough trouble with the feet as it is. Wet socks or no socks would be a disaster… He searched the pack for anything that might offer some protection, and found a small yellow stuff sack that seemed to have a waterproof coating inside, peeling slightly around the seams from

age and use. OK. Got to get out of this wind. He removed one sock, pulled it into his right hand, and cinched the stuff sack down overtop of it. The improvised mitten would keep the hand dry, and he decided to dig with one hand, alternating when that arm tired. As the tunnel grew, Einar stopped periodically to carefully pile the snow he removed beneath the nearest tree, concealing it from the air. He needed water badly after his climb of the previous night, but with no way to melt the snow, resorted to holding chunks of it in his mouth until they began melting, swallowing the resulting trickle of liquid. The snow at Einar’s elevation was like Styrofoam, though, dry and grainy, squeaking between his teeth, and it took many mouths full to obtain a small swallow of water. The day was sunny, and he wished for a piece of black plastic--a garbage bag would work-- that he could set in the sun and scatter snow on to melt, letting the resulting water run down into a depression he would create in the center of the plastic. A small amount of water, even, would have made a big difference, would have saved the energy he was using to melt the snow in his mouth and warm the resulting ice water when it hit his stomach. He knew though that with all the aircraft in the area, he wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of such a setup that day, even if he’d had the plastic. As he worked on lengthening the tunnel, wanting at least to get it large enough to keep him out of the wind by the time the sun went down, Einar found his progress slowed and hampered by occasional icy patches that he could not carve away with the deer scapula, and he had to chop and pry his way through the ice with the antler before again reaching the softer snow of the wind drift. This was very time consuming and tiring work in his condition, and he had to take more and more frequent breaks as the day went on, chewing on a bit of frozen porcupine or rabbit each time in an attempt to maintain what little strength he had left. As he worked, Einar was beset by an increasing and almost debilitating stiffness as his avalanche injuries started catching up to him, and it didn’t seem to help any that he was for the most part having to work lying on his back on the snowy tunnel floor. Without the sweater for extra insulation, the coat provided only limited warmth. It seemed that he must have slightly wrenched his right shoulder and his left wrist escaping the avalanche, and the hip…don’t even go there, Einar. He found himself reverting to his old habit of ignoring the hip, rather than facing the implications of its apparent inability to heal while he was on the move. By dusk, he had carved out only about five feet of tunnel, having been slowed by an increasing iciness in the snow pack. Not wanting to lie all night on the snowy floor without his coat, which was pretty damp from the day’s work, he dug upwards until he had created a space at the back of the tunnel where he could sit up. Flooring the back of the tunnel with a pile of evergreen boughs and testing it out, Einar felt almost warm, protected from the wind and the blowing snow of the ridge. Finished with his work for the day, he hurried to change out of the jacket, which, while waterproof, had become wet inside from the constant shower of snow as he chipped it off the tunnel walls and ceiling, some of it inevitably going down his neck and sleeves. The sweater, to his dismay, had become coated with a fine dusting of wind driven powder on its perch in a tree branch, but it had been in the shade and the snow had not melted, so as he beat the powder off against a tree trunk, he was hopeful that it had remained dry. Einar dragged the backpack into the tunnel, piling up snow and placing the pack on top of it to create a

plug in the tunnel and keep most of the wind out, and his body heat in. Before huddling down and attempting to get some sleep, he burned the remains of Liz’s tea candle for a few minutes, hoping to warm the small space a little. Despite its welcome protection from the wind, Einar shivered through an uncomfortable first night in his new shelter, sitting on top of the pine boughs and his coat in only his sweater, boots and snow pants. Chapter Thirty Two The coming of daylight found Einar out under the tree that concealed his snow tunnel entrance, beating his ice-stiffened jacket against its trunk in an attempt to remove some of the frost and warm himself after what had turned out to be a rather long and cold night. The inner fleece layer of the coat had frozen where he had not been sitting on it, and, while he knew he would soon have to exchange his dry wool sweater for the coat in order to keep the sweater dry while he worked to enlarge the snow cave, he had no desire to try it in its current state. Aw, come on, Einar. It’d be just like putting your crunchy socks back on the morning after a long hike. Only colder. And wetter. No big deal, right? Right. He slammed the coat against the trunk a couple more times before crawling back into the tunnel to find some breakfast, delaying for a few more minutes the inevitable removal of the sweater. His supply of frozen rabbit and porcupine was not holding out especially well, and he set aside a generous chunk of the fattier porcupine, wrapping it in bearskin and resolving to save it to give him the strength he would so badly need whenever he finally had the opportunity to finish climbing the ridge. Even as he worked to turn the cave into a more permanent shelter, he hoped the time would not be long in coming when he could move on. This place was too high, too desolate at this season to expect to trap much, if anything, to eat, and was far colder and windier than a lower slope might be. As long as the clear weather lasted, though, and the air search continued, he could not risk leaving tracks on the open snowy slope that lay between his cave and the top of the ridge. Got to wait for another storm, or darkness and a bunch of wind, at least, so the tracks will be drifted over before morning. Einar dug into the ceiling at the end of the tunnel until he could stand up, before starting another horizontal tunnel, just above waist height. This would keep wind out of his shelter, as well as creating a heat trap that would allow the upper chamber to be much warmer than the outside air--slightly above freezing, even, with his body heat and an occasional few minutes of candle flame to warm the air, and the insulating snow to trap the heat. Which would be a huge improvement over the conditions he’d had to endure the previous night. He was having to stop fairly often and carry the excess snow out of the tunnel, and wished he had a sled to load it on, which would reduce the number and frequency of the snow dump trips and speed up the whole process. Remembering the bark strips he had used to hold various supplies back at the old mine, he searched under the trees until he found a dead fir, removing a large curved bark strip from it to use as a snow hauling vessel. The bark strip broke the first time he dropped a heavy load on it, and, returning to the tree for another, he proceeded a little more cautiously, and with great success. As the upper chamber of the cave grew larger, Einar began to run out of places to put the snow he was removing, and began piling it under an adjacent tree. Remembering the previous morning and his urgent need for a windbreak, he began

dumping the loads of snow in a circle, a distance out from trunk of the tree, careful to make sure none of it tumbled out into the open where it would show from the air.

As long as he was digging steadily, Einar was able to manage alright in the damp coat, but whenever he took a break he had to hurry to exchange it for the sweater to keep from being quickly chilled to the point that his hands were near useless. As he worked, Einar found himself really looking forward to his little rests under the tree in the dry sweater, to the chance to sit with his face in the sun for a minute or two, and the thought occurred to him that our ideas of physical comfort are very much a matter of perspective, of what a person has come to expect from life. He realized once again how very much he used to take for granted. Like the occasional bite to eat. And not shivering all night... He dozed a little in the sun, enjoying its warmth and the temporary lull in the wind, feeling that if he could just sit and absorb its rays for long enough, he could perhaps actually gain some calories from it, could keep himself going a little longer and stretch his dwindling supply of frozen critter. This pleasant illusion was shattered rather suddenly when he slumped forward and tumbled onto his face in the deep powder of the slope, floundering to right himself and creep back to the small level spot where he had been sitting. Shaking the snow out of the sweater and hanging it back on the tree, he donned the soggy jacket and got back to work. While the deer scapula worked fairly well for carving chunks of snow out of the packed drift, Einar tried the tin can, finding that he could take larger scoops with it at certain angles. The can was awkward to hold though, and he wanted to attach a stick to the base of it as a handle, having used a similar tool--a coffee can with a broom handle nailed to it--as a scoop for removing dirt from deep, small diameter holes. How to attach the stick? Searching the backpack, all he could come up with were a couple of plastic zip ties. Ought to work… Hating to damage his cooking vessel but really needing to get the cave finished, he worked the metal with his awl, carefully scoring and pressing from one side and then the other, making four holes without breaking the awl. Sure wish I hadn’t lost that knife in the avalanche. No way I could have held onto the spear though. He found a stout stick, only a couple of feet long for easy maneuverability in the cave, and secured it to the base of the can with the zip ties. Testing it out, he saw that the improvised handle was going to hold. Digging became much faster after that, though the can was no good when he hit the occasional icy patch, where he still had to stop and work past it with the scapula and antler. Finally enlarging the main chamber of the cave to a suitable size, Einar worked to shape the ceiling into a smooth dome, knowing that melting snow would tend to collect on any irregularities or protrusions and drip coldly on him at night when he least wanted it to. Dragging a big heap of branches into the cave, he piled them along one side as a sleeping mat, before finding a long stick and pushing it up through the ceiling in two different places to make ventilation holes. He created a little indented shelf in one wall for the tea candle, and found that it lit the space quite well, and soon warmed it to a much more comfortable level. Which was a good thing, because the snow pants had finally soaked through in a couple of places, the coat was drenched, and he knew he was in for another less than comfortable night.

The next day morning after he had warmed enough to almost stop shivering and eaten all of his remaining food, aside from the chunk of porcupine he was saving for the climb, Einar made a window in the side of the cave, saving the chunks of snow he was removing to fill the hole back in later, and emptied the contents of Liz’s backpack out on his coat to take inventory. He had not really had the time to do so before now, and thought it wise to know exactly what he had. There were the few items he had brought from the tunnel, of course--the quartz knife, bear hide strips, deer bone awl and needle, and the porcupine quills. The little flashlight was there, without batteries now but still potentially useful in starting fires, if and when he ran out of the waterproof matches that were further protected inside an amber colored pill bottle. The paracord was there, and had already proven quite helpful once. He would try to keep it intact in case he had to do another rappel, but as a last resort it could also be used as is for cordage, or the inner strands could be removed and used one by one. In the side pouch that had contained the butterscotch candies, he found a film container full of Vaseline soaked cotton balls, another candle, and a few first aid items in a ziplock bag--bandaids, small gauze pads, some assorted iodine and alcohol wipes, and a little tube of antiseptic gel. Well, it’s a lot more than I had before. That seemed to be it, as far as the contents of Liz’s backpack-after all, he told himself, she had just packed it for a two or three mile ski, and I’m already wearing all the extra clothes she had included--and he took the luxury of using one of the bandaids and a bit of the antiseptic to treat his left thumb, which had become badly cracked in the cold, and had been bleeding off and on for the past few days. As he loaded everything back into the pack, Einar noticed a small zipper on the inside, which he had previously overlooked. Inside he found, to his delight, two small packages of fruit leather--grape and apple-- and an energy bar. Thank you, Liz! Needing the sugar, he ate part of the apple fruit leather, marveling at its incredible taste and sweetness. The other food he stuck back in its compartment to save for the climb. Also in the little zippered pocket was a set of keys, and he hoped she had others… There were four keys on a small key ring, and he knew their possible uses were endless. One could probably be modified to make a serviceable blade, even. For two more days Einar was trapped at the cave, as the clear weather, and the frequent flights over the area, continued. In desperation on the second day, unable to stay warm without eating, he had finished off the energy bar. Lack of water had turned into a huge problem, and he seemed to be spending most of his time melting snow in his mouth and then struggling to warm back up afterwards. He had, though, been able to dry the coat out nearly entirely, spreading it out on a broken fir branch in the sun for several hours each day, sitting nearby and straining his ears for any sound of approaching aircraft so he could hide it in time. As evening approached on the third day after he had completed digging the snow cave, the fleece lining was finally completely dry. There had been a wide, faintly rainbow colored ring around the waning moon for the last two nights, and that evening the clouds rolled in, low and heavy and bringing with them the smell of snow. As Einar took one last look at the sky before preparing for sleep that night, he felt a few snowflakes brush against his eyelashes. He slept curled up on the fir boughs, his clothes finally dry and the cave feeling cozy and secure against the wind and

the coming storm. Tomorrow, he thought as he drifted off to sleep, Tomorrow I climb the ridge... Chapter Thirty Three When Einar poked his head out of the tunnel the next morning, he realized that the snow had finally returned in full force. He didn’t have to dig himself out to exit the tunnel, but only because it emerged under the thick boughs of the fir. Around the tree, nearly a foot of new snow had piled up, and it was falling so heavily that he could not see across the couloir. This was the chance he had been waiting for to make the trip over the ridge--and further from the center of the search--undetected, but now that it had arrived, he was reluctant to leave the shelter of the snow cave and venture back out in the wind and snow. The past night had allowed him the best sleep he’d experienced in some time, and he had a strong urge to hunker down in the shelter and wait out the storm. Not happening. You’re about out of food. Can’t get water. Can’t have a fire up here, as long as that search is going on. Get moving. So, packing up his few possessions and taking the time to create some very rough snowshoes out of fir boughs and paracord, he set out into the blizzard. Lacking anything that resembled a compass and unable to see more than a few feet in any direction, he headed up in the direction where he thought the low spot in the ridge ought to be, trying his best to stay on course. He knew there wasn’t much chance of that, though, because his whole world consisted of swirling, unbroken white, the ground and sky merging so that there was no telling where one ended and the other began. The best he could hope for was to keep moving up, using the steepness of the slope to keep him from wandering in circles. He’d have to reach the top, eventually, and hopefully he wouldn’t find himself climbing a peak to do it. As the climb went on, seemingly for many hours, Einar became convinced that he must, indeed, be climbing a peak. One that he had not been able to see from the valley. The wind there on the upper slopes was so intense that it was all he could do at times to remain upright, leaning heavily on his walking stick and taking very deliberate steps. Twice he actually lost his footing as a gust slammed into him, once nearly slipping on the windpacked snow, which would have probably meant a rather long, uncontrolled slide back down the steep slope. He caught himself by driving the tip of his walking stick into the snow as he fell. His clothing was entirely inadequate for the wind, and before long he was pretty badly chilled, despite the effort of climbing. He was very anxious to get back down into the trees. Finally the angle became much less steep, and Einar stood at last on the crest of the ridge. Crouching just below the high point to avoid being blown off the ridge, Einar waited for the snow to lessen, wanting to get a view of the valley before starting down, to see exactly where he was. The wind showed no sign of slacking, though, and eventually he had to move on. The other side of the ridge was far steeper than the one he had just climbed, and he took it very slowly, afraid of sliding, of an avalanche that could be started by his movement, or by part of the cornice he had gone around on the summit breaking loose and coming down on him. He had to remove the snowshoes to descend the ridge, because they were slippery and awkward, and he needed to be able to kick his toes and heels into the hardpacked snow for footholds. After picking his way slowly down through the snow for some time, he realized that the slope

was becoming less steep, that he was no longer of imminent danger of coming off the mountain, and he staggered along through the deep snow, totally exhausted, hoping that the trees, and rest, were close by. Terribly thirsty from the climb and the wind, he tried chewing on some snow, but it was dry like Styrofoam and just burnt his tongue when he tried to melt it. He couldn’t seem to get the stuff to melt in his mouth, spit it out in frustration and continued his descent. It was not until the snow began to clear a bit that he realized just how high he must actually be. All he could see were white peaks and high, snow heavy basins. No trees, no valley, no idea where he was. Einar was scared. I wanted to disappear, but not to get lost above treeline in a blizzard… Though he could see no sign of the valley, he knew he must head down, must get down where there would be some protection from the relentless, deadly wind, where he could get some rest. Hour after hour he stumbled down the slope, only to find when the snow lifted again that he had mistakenly dropped down into a steep-walled basin, and would have to climb back out of it before he could continue his descent. He dropped to his knees and rested for a minute before staggering back to his feet and starting up the slope. A premature darkness, hastened by the again heavy snowfall, overtook him as he made his way back down in the direction--he hoped--of the valley, slowing his travel even further as he became more cautious of each foot placement on the steep mountainside. While he hoped he was headed down towards the valley, for all Einar knew, he could be traveling in the opposite direction, further into the mountains. He just kept moving because he knew he couldn’t stop here, but he also knew he was blundering along blindly, that he had no idea where he was or where he was going. The moon was not yet up, and the darkness and silence--aside from the wind-- were nearly complete. Even as he pushed himself forward, he could feel his pace slowing, couldn’t seem to do anything about it. He’d been without adequate food for too long at that point, living on the bare minimum for too many days, and he just couldn’t move fast anymore, though he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep warm unless he did. Face it, Einar. This is it. You’re done… He knew it was almost certainly true, but the thought made him angry, and in what he figured was probably his final act of defiance against the weakness he now felt growing in his will as well as in his body, he picked a ridge and started climbing, throwing himself into the effort with all the enthusiasm he could muster, doing the only thing he could think of to fight the growing inertia and the crippling cold that were rapidly overtaking him. Trudging up the ridge, Einar was so exhausted that he had to keep stopping, falling forward onto his knees to rest, rising again each time through sheer gumption, his hip stiff and hurting worse than it had in a long while. Help me…help…I’m all done in… Finally he reached the top, dimly able to see the valley in the weak moonlight. There far below him was the winding silver ribbon of the river, the flat plowed snow of the road beside it showing clearly in contrast to the snowy ground. Straining his eyes in the moonlight, he followed the river’s course down the valley, seeing, a mile or two down, the bridge where the river passed beneath the road, and, black against the snowy field, the roof of the ranch house. Suddenly he knew that this was the help he had been asking for. OK Liz, I’m coming…

The morning after Einar took the snowmobile and escaped the avalanche, the FBI held a press conference in the drafty steel building that housed the nerve center of the renewed search. Sheriff Watts, grim-faced after a long sleepless night, stood beside Todd Leer behind the bank of microphones. With the renewed search and the dramatic events of the past night, local and national media outlets had scrambled to get their reporters on the scene, and the room was packed. “As you all probably know by now,” Leer began, “one of our search crews was firebombed last night, leading to the destruction of equipment and several vehicles, but thankfully no casualties. In pursuing the suspect, who fled on a stolen snow machine, one of our agents was caught in a snowslide and buried. He is alive this morning thanks to the quick work and heroism of Sheriff Jim Watts, the employees of the Lakemont County Sheriff’s Department and the entire Lakemont County Mountain Rescue crew. We want to especially acknowledge the work of three avalanche dogs and their handlers who were instrumental in the hasty location and recovery of Agent Barker. He is in stable condition at the hospital this morning, and is expected to make a full recovery.” “Our trackers tell us that it appears the fugitive is injured, and from evidence that we found at his booby trapped shelter in the mine tunnel, it does not appear that he has been receiving much, if any assistance. If that is the case, he will be hungry, cold and growing increasingly desperate as this storm progresses. We do believe that he survived the avalanche, but was almost certainly injured further, and he will not be able to move quickly, and likely not far from the site of the slide. It is our hope that the subject may yet decide to turn himself in and end this peacefully. One way or another, we fully expect to be able to bring this search to a positive conclusion over the next few days.” “Make no mistake. This suspect has killed in the past, and that was clearly his intention in the brutal and unprovoked attack on our camp last night. This man will be pursued vigorously with the joint resources of the Bureau, the Mountain Task Force, and Lakemont County. We will not give up on this search until he is brought to justice.” • • • •

Liz watched the press conference on the morning news, a sick feeling growing in the pit of her stomach as she thought of Einar out there, injured, hungry, with only one boot and everybody after him. She knew that he had hardly been able to get around when he left the camp the previous afternoon, and if he had been hurt in the avalanche, on top of that… The part about the snowmobile made her smile, though. It told her that he had not given up, that he was still fighting. You crazy old fool! You may just make it. Chapter Thirty Four Though Einar now knew basically where he was and had a clear objective in mind, the

going was not easy. He was still several thousand feet above the valley floor, separated from it by some very rugged terrain and further slowed by snow that had drifted five and six feet deep in places. His immediate goal was to reach the trees, which he could see below him as a dark smear on the far side of the moonlit snowfield, before the clouds closed back in and obscured his vision. The slope below him was steep, but not, he thought, so steep that he couldn’t stop in time at the bottom if he slid. It even looked to him like the ground rose a little at the bottom of the slope, with the trees starting up on the low rise. Looked like a safe runout, and, knowing he was himself running out of time, Einar took a leap down the slope, landing in a sitting position and glissading down the steep snow, gaining speed quickly in the slick snow pants, holding his walking stick ready in case he needed to flip over and attempt to stop the slide. Wish this thing was an ice axe… Just enough fresh snow had clung to the slope to keep Einar from picking up a dangerous amount of speed, and he reached the bottom of the slope, slowly sliding to the stop just short of a patch of black exposed rock that jutted up out of the snow. Getting shakily to his feet, he brushed off the snow and continued into the trees. As soon as he reached the first sizable tree, drifted up past its lower branches with blown snow, Einar crawled under it, hoping to find some refuge from the wind. Immediately he found himself floundering up to his armpits in the soft, crumbly snow of the tree well, completely unable to extract himself. He tried to climb out, to swim out, even to dig himself out with his hands, but couldn’t seem to make any headway. So he lay back in the snow, exhausted, laughing hysterically for some reason that he couldn’t quite figure out. Tears would have been rolling down his cheeks by the time he was done, if he hadn’t been so dehydrated. After a while he tried again to pull himself up out of the snow, finally shoving and trampling his way to a place where it was more solid, and he could remain closer to the surface. Free of the tree well, Einar stood nearly doubled over, clinging to his walking stick and gasping for breath, the inside of his coat damp again as the snow that had gone down his neck in the struggle began to melt. This is…going nowhere, Einar. Totally…pointless. He probably would have given up then and sat down to wait quietly for the end, except that he couldn’t be positive that he’d be gone before they flew over in the morning and found him. Not…doing…that. He picked himself up and stumbled on down the mountain, avoiding the trees, knowing that he did not have the strength to help himself if he fell into another tree well. The next portion of the descent was fuzzy in Einar’s memory, like a dream where everything is hazy around the edges and nothing is quite what it seems. He was, though, aware of being glad when it began snowing again, because he knew he couldn’t go to Liz’s house if he was leaving tracks that someone could potentially follow later. After he had been back in the forest for a while, Einar noticed a feature that reminded him of the tailings pile under his old shelter, and, compelled to discover what might lie at the top of it, he crawled up beside the snowy slope. His heart was pounding so after climbing the fifteen feet of the tailings pile that he had to lie on the snow, nauseated, until it slowed some, and he was glad that the rest of the distance was downhill. Looks like my climbing days are over, till I get some food…some rest. When he had recovered enough to sit up and look, Einar found a tunnel, similar in dimension to his previous shelter, at the top of the pile. He crawled in, wanting shelter from the wind, realizing as he did that this was a place the

searchers wouldn’t know about, a place where he could perhaps spend the remainder of the winter. Feeling around in the darkness, his hand bumped against something metal that rolled clattering across the rocky floor, and he was anxious to explore the place by daylight. But first, the ranch house. He rested in the tunnel for a minute but did not dare stay long, because in the absence of the wind the place felt so warm, but he knew it wasn’t, knew it would be way too easy for him to fall asleep sitting there. Einar slipped back into a dreamlike state as he stumbled and slid down the ridge, falling more and more frequently and getting up each time more out of habit than because he had any actual hope of reaching his goal. Eventually, though, he found himself on the lower slopes of the ridge, staring through a gap in the trees at the flat whiteness of the road, not fifty yards below him. The snow was still coming down fairly hard, and he decided that there would be no better time to go ahead and cross the bridge. Reaching the trees at the road’s edge, he waited for a long time, straining his ears for any sound of approaching traffic. Nothing. The road appeared to have recently been plowed, and he went lurching and weaving down one side of it, knowing that the next vehicle to come along would wipe out his tracks in the snow. He could hear the river gurgling not far below, and was terribly thirsty, but was not at all sure that he would be able to climb back up the steep bank if he went down to get a drink. Hitting a patch of ice that lay just beneath the snow, he slipped and fell hard, striking his head and lying there stunned for a minute, too dizzy to rise. He heard a roaring in the distance from down the valley, thought at first that it was just in his head, part of his dizziness, but it grew louder, and he saw the flashing orange light of a snowplow as it rounded the corner, throwing up a huge cloud of powder in the bright beam of its headlights. Einar tried to roll quickly off the road, but the backpack prevented him from rolling over, and he frantically scrambled over to the bank, throwing himself down the steep embankment just as the plow thundered past, his body digging a trench through the deep snow as he slid down towards the river. Stopping mere feet from the ice-encrusted river bank, he dragged himself the rest of the way down, broke the thin ice away with his hands and gulped as much of the frigid water as he could hold, the water quickly turning to ice in his beard when he rose. As the clatter of the plow faded around the curve, Einar wallowed up through the snow, flopping over the snowplow berm and back onto the road and lying there panting for a minute before going on. His walking stick was gone, tossed over the bank by the plow and buried, but not wanting to be exposed out on the road long enough to crawl to Liz’s driveway, he hunted around until he found a tree close enough that he could break off a branch to assist his walking. Einar recognized the ranch house by the little cluster of outbuildings, limping down the driveway and cautiously approaching from the side of the house. He wanted to go right to the door, but waited in the bushes, hesitating, thinking that it would be just his luck for Liz to have company that night… Going around to the kitchen window, all he could see was the blue glow of the nightlight shining softly through the curtains, but he saw light on the ridge side of the house, went to investigate, saw the lamp in the window, but no sign of anyone in the living room. Leaning heavily on the door, he pounded with his fist, and it seemed forever that he waited, afraid that perhaps no one was home, but possibly even more terrified by the thought that someone might be, before finally hearing

footsteps in the house. He almost changed his mind then, almost fled back out into the storm, but Liz opened the door before he could make good on the thought. Einar was able to take two halting steps in through the door before collapsing in a snowy heap on the floor. Chapter Thirty Five Liz hurried to help Einar out of his icy coat and hat, got him over to the stove and found him a blanket before quickly making sure all the doors were locked and the curtains drawn. She was glad he’d been wearing the wool sweater and that wool insulates even when wet, because the sweater was soaked around the neck, shoulders and down the back, and beginning to freeze in places. She doubted that it insulated nearly as well when it was frozen. Unsure how best to help Einar and remembering the hot rocks he had wanted after being in the river, she filled a couple of hot water bottles and wrapped them against his sides with a towel, hoping she was doing the right thing. He seemed to be slipping towards unconsciousness, and she wasn’t sure that it was a good idea to allow that to progress. “Einar. Wake up. I don’t think you need to be sleeping just yet. Do you think you can drink something? Einar?” He didn’t seem able to answer, possibly wasn’t even aware of the question, but she decided it was worth a try, anyway. I bet he’d snap out of it pretty quick if I said something about the feds being at the door… She knew it would be really counterproductive, though, if she woke him up only to have him to go scrambling out of the back door in a panic. In the kitchen she heated a mug of water and mixed in some Tang from the cupboard, pouring and stirring until the drink was almost as thick as syrup. She tasted it. Yuck! That ought to be just right. Einar had slumped over against the wall and she pulled him back upright, insisting that he try to drink. He grimaced at his first taste of the sickly sweet liquid, glared at Liz like she was trying to poison him, but went ahead and drank most of it when she kept insisting, able to sit up on his own and cooperate a bit better with her efforts when he had finished. Einar’s improvised boot was falling apart, held on by several frozen wraps of paracord, and Liz struggled to get it off, knowing that the foot would be needing urgent attention. She found herself furious at him as she worked, angry at what he had done to himself, at how close he’d come to not making it, but at the same time so relieved that he was alive, that he had escaped and was finally safe, that she treated him rather brusquely in a vain attempt to conceal her emotions. Einar, barely awake and shivering hard in the warmth of the stove, didn’t really notice. Some of his toes had cracked and bled, and she had to soak his sock off in lukewarm water before it could be removed. Most of the toes on that foot and two on the other were obviously frostbitten, and Liz cleaned them up the best she could and put gauze between them, hoping that the frostbite was not too serious, but concerned that parts of two toes actually looked black. Einar had been jarred out of his semi conscious state by the pain of his thawing feet, and she offered him something for

the pain, but, inexplicably afraid that she was trying to drug him, he emphatically refused. He now seemed unable to finally let go and get the sleep he so obviously needed, clinging doggedly to consciousness by sitting as upright as he was able. Liz made some chamomile tea, helped him drink some, and before too many minutes had passed, he was more than willing to lie down and sleep. Einar woke several hours later to the wonderful smell of something baking, aware of being warmer than he remembered possible, though he still shivered under the two blankets and quilt that Liz had tucked around him as he slept. It was daylight, and snow curled down heavily outside the window. Liz, seeing him awake, sat down next to him and offered a sip of tea. “It’s been doing that all morning,” she said. “There’s no way anyone will see your tracks.” Einar struggled to sit up, but Liz gently pushed him back down and insisted that he rest. Now that the necessity of fighting every moment for his immediate survival had been removed, Einar felt immensely lazy and honestly a bit lost, and his instinct was to resist, but Liz was insistent and he found himself too tired to argue with her just then. “Are you ready for breakfast? I’ve got biscuits and gravy almost ready, and scrambled eggs, too.” He nodded. “Please. Yes! But first…do you know…what are they saying about the search? Where do they think I am?” “Oh, they’re still saying you can’t be far from where that avalanche happened. In the other valley. I’ve hardly even seen a helicopter or anything over here for a couple of days.” “Liz.” He raised himself on one elbow and looked her in the eye with an intensity that caught her off guard and scared her just a bit. “They’re real serious about this now. I had to do some things a few days ago…I’m sure you heard about it. They’re not gonna back off till they get me this time. Are you…I know you asked me to come here before, but the search wasn’t active then. I don’t have to stay…it’s a big risk for you.” “Are you kidding? It’s way too late to worry about that! And besides, they think you’re way over in that other valley. I looked at a map. That avalanche was at least twenty miles from here.” Einar lay back wearily on the couch. He looked relieved. “In the slide. There was somebody following me…” “He’s OK. I guess he got buried, but the dogs found him and they dug him out in time. How did you get out though?”

“I never really got buried, except for one leg, and I dug it out with my cooking pot. I guess it kind of does help to try and swim in an avalanche, like you always hear. More than that though, I was near the edge when it went. It kind of spit me out to the side, I think.” “Now I’ve got to know,” Liz asked him, “what on earth made you think it could possibly be a good idea to ambush a camp full of armed federal agents to take a snowmobile, in the first place?” “Ambush?” He snorted. “Is that what they’re calling it? Hmm. I was just trying to cross the valley. They set up that camp almost on top of me. What was I supposed to do?” Liz just shook her head. “And then? That was days ago. Where were you?” He shrugged. “Just…trying to get away from the search, trying to find some place where I could wait it out. Holed up in a snow cave for a few days way up on the ridge. Waited for more snow so I could get further away without them seeing the tracks. Then last night…that’s an awful big place up there. And I couldn’t see a thing in the storm… You got that map handy? I’d like to see where I was.” “So you got lost up there?” “You could say…” “I know the map’s around here someplace, but first let’s eat.” As soon as she left the room, Einar sat up and tried to rise, leaning heavily on the back of the couch and squeezing his eyes shut against the dizziness. He felt a pressing need to try and reclaim a bit of the grim tenacity that had kept him going for so long, felt that if he let go of it entirely, he could quickly slip away into the blackness that he knew still waited to claim him in his weakened state. He felt very strongly that he was in greater danger at that moment than he had been most of the time out there in the snow, just because it was now so tempting, so easy to let go and stop fighting. An immediate wave of vertigo, combined with his injured hip and pain from the damaged foot, knocked him to the floor as soon as he rose, and Liz hurried in at the commotion. “Am I going to have to use those handcuffs you were wearing when you first came here to convince you to stay this time and get some rest?” she nearly shouted, indignant. Einar slowly picked himself up off the floor, slumping over against the couch. “You kept those?”

“Of course not! I knew they’d eventually be searching the house. I threw them in the river.” “Good.” “So you’ll stay, then?” “Well…I’m sure not going anywhere today, if I can help it...” And she believed him, but only because he had just fallen asleep again, leaning on the couch. • • • •

Einar slept for hours, and sometime around midday Liz began wondering whether she should try to wake him so he could eat. She wasn’t sure whether food or sleep was the greater priority for him at that point, but was certain that he hadn’t been getting much of either for way too long. Reluctant to disturb his rest, she decided to reheat the gravy and eggs, hoping the smell might wake him. Liz was spared the decision by a low-flying helicopter, the first in several days, that rumbled through along the river, rattling the windows and returning Einar rather suddenly to wakefulness. As its rumbling faded away up the valley, he rolled over and pulled himself as quickly as he could to his feet to look out the window, but dizziness and a rapidly spreading blackness before his eyes forced him to cling to the couch back to keep his balance. “It’s OK,” Liz assured him. “Just a routine part of the search, I’m sure. Your tracks are long gone under all that new snow. The storm just lifted a little bit ago.” When the sound was thoroughly gone and Einar was able to focus on something else, Liz talked him into sitting back down on the couch--he refused to lie down-- put pillows on either side of him to keep him from falling over, and brought him a tray with a bowl of biscuits and gravy, some scrambled eggs, and a glass of orange juice. She sat in a nearby chair as he ate, wracking her brain trying to think of a way to keep him still long enough for his hip and feet to begin healing. I have never in my life met such an impossibly intractable character…guess I’ve got to try and start thinking like he thinks (Now that’s a scary thought!) if I want to reach him. So what motivates this guy? “Einar, I have a deal for you,” she said, struck by an idea. “Deal? Don’t think I have too much to offer right now. What kind of deal?” “I’ll go get a bunch of stuff from the shed, and a big backpack, and we can pack it and get it all ready for you, in case you have to leave again.” He glanced at Liz suspiciously out of the corner of his eye, thinking it rather unlike her to be wanting to help him prepare to leave. “And my part of the bargain?”

“You have to agree not to get up off that couch for the rest of the day.” He scowled, shook his head. “Got to stay mobile. Got to try anyway. And what if I need the bathroom?” “OK, with that one exception. But not for any other reason. And you do not need to be mobile right now, you need to rest and let that hip mend so you can walk again.” He shoved some more scrambled eggs in his mouth, chewed in silence for awhile. “Don’t have much choice, do I?” “Nope!” Einar threw up his hands in mock exasperation. “OK then. Let’s do it.” “So, what all do you need? We can fill the backpack, if you want, and if there’s anything we don’t have here, I’ll go to the store. What were you missing out there?” “Missing? Uh…just about everything. But I can’t carry everything. Especially if I have to be trying to move fast. A knife would be good though. And some wire for snares. Spare socks. Gloves. Something to heat water in. String of any kind. You wouldn’t believe how glad I ended up being for that paracord you had in your pack. Saved me at least once.” “Oh? How?” “Mmm…I met this cliff, see, and had to rappel on it…” “On the paracord? How did you hang on to it?” “Don’t exactly know, because my hands were too numb to really feel it. Just went for it. Was the middle of the night, the storm was…” “OK.” She interrupted him. “Stop. I really don’t want to hear any more of that. You’re crazy, you know?” He just shrugged. “Alright. What else do you need. That can’t be all.” “Well, a little hatchet would be great, and maybe some sort of fire steel or magnesium firestarter for when I run out of matches…and grease. Any kind of edible grease. Lard, peanut butter, oil, I don’t care. Whatever you’ve got around here. That’s probably more important than anything…beside the knife, maybe. Seems like the times I was in the most trouble out there, it was either because of wet clothes and no way to dry them, or just plain lack of energy from not having anything to eat. And the cold is way worse

when you’re that hungry. Water was a big problem sometimes, too. You know, if I had a piece of black plastic, like a garbage bag, then I could melt snow for drinking sometimes without having to build a fire. That would really help.” Liz bit her tongue to stop herself from just coming out and asking him why he didn’t have the good sense to go ahead and spend the winter down here where there was plenty of water and food and dry clothes, for goodness’ sake! Einar, you’re going to freeze to death up there… “How about a sleeping bag?” “You have one? That would be incredible!” “There’s this old canvas and down one that I was going to send with you before. It’s kind of bulky, but not that heavy.” Between the shed and the garage, Liz found everything Einar had requested, with the exception of the fire steel. She kept a list of everything, so she could buy replacements for her Uncle before he returned. Hauling the heap of treasure back into the living room and spreading it out on the floor in front of the couch, on which Einar had remained seated as he had promised, Liz noticed that he had not eaten very much of his food. “Aren’t you hungry?” “Yeah, but there doesn’t seem to be too much room in here right now. Guess I kind of have to get used to eating again. Got any more of that orange juice, though?” Einar, despite his deal with Liz, had to leave the couch more than once as they worked on the pack. The food he had been able to eat just seemed to be going right through him, and he crept back to the living room each time feeling weak and shaky and rather worse than before he had eaten. After his third trip to the bathroom, Liz was really starting to worry. She knew he had already been pretty badly dehydrated when he arrived, as he had told her that he’d been forced to obtain all of his water by melting snow in his mouth since leaving the river several days before. Got to turn this around. “You think if there’s anything else we can get for the pack. I’ve got to go do something for a minute.” Einar didn’t answer, having dragged himself up on the couch and lay down on his stomach, looking very pale and barely aware of his surroundings. It can’t be a good sign when he decides to lie down without me getting after him, first… In the kitchen, Liz took two cups of the remaining orange juice and mixed it with two cups of water in a pot, heating it nearly to boiling and adding a teaspoon of salt and four teaspoons of sugar. Searching the pantry she found some molasses, and added four teaspoons of it, as well, stirred the mixture until everything was dissolved and poured a glass of it for Einar. She knew that it would also work to use water instead of the orange juice, and replace the molasses with some other type of sugar, but the juice and molasses

would contribute some needed potassium and other minerals to the solution. It wouldn’t end his digestive troubles, but might at least keep him from getting too much more dehydrated while they--hopefully--resolved themselves. Einar had gone to sleep while she mixed the rehydration drink, and she had to turn him over and prop him up on some pillows before she could rouse him enough to take a sip. Liz was starting to realize that helping Einar recover might not be as simple as just making sure he had food and rest. She wished again that she had someone to go to for advice. In the months between first finding Einar by the river, and the renewed search that was now taking place, Liz had met some folks through a local church who had expressed strong opposition to the federal presence in the county. They all knew about the federal raid on her house, and one man had personally told her not to hesitate to call him if “those snakes” ever gave her any more trouble. She didn’t know him well, but was aware that he was a paramedic who volunteered with Mountain Rescue. Maybe he’d know what to do… She was sure Einar would never go for it, would probably leave the house as quickly as he could if he knew she was going for outside assistance. It’s taken him three months just to be willing to let me help out… She decided, though, that if he didn’t seem any better by the next day, she might just have to go over his head and do it anyway. • • • •

For most of the afternoon Einar lay on the couch, wanting to sit up and talk with Liz about the pack, but mostly too dizzy and disoriented to manage it. Liz gave him occasional sips of the rehydration drink and tried to get him to eat, but he only managed a few bites here and there, and eventually fell asleep, but not before repeatedly asking Liz to be sure and wake him if anybody came. She kept telling him that nobody was coming, that it was safe to sleep, but could see that her assurances were not getting through to him. He just kept mumbling about helicopters and how he had to find some rocks to sleep under so they wouldn’t see him. Finally Liz told him that she would keep watch while he slept, and wake him if there was the slightest sign of anything at all suspicious. That seemed to make all the difference, and he finally let go and slept. Waking again the next morning to the sound of Liz bustling around in the kitchen, Einar’s head was much clearer. Liz brought him some eggs and toast. “You really had me worried yesterday. Are you feeling any better?” “I’m OK. Sorry to scare you. Been dealing with that off and on for the last month or so, since I started…running out of food. Reality just gets a little hard to hang onto from time to time. Hope I didn’t say anything too weird…” “No, nothing like that. You just wanted to make good and sure I would wake you up if anybody came.” “Well you would, I hope! Seriously though. I’m sorry. It’ll get better as I’m able to eat more, I think. At least it’s dry and warm here, so now when that happens I know I won’t

be waking up lying out in the snow, or with my shirt starting to freeze because it didn’t quite have time to dry before I lost track of things…happened more than once out there.” Liz stood up and turned away to keep him from seeing how upset she was. “Well. I’ll get you some more to eat. I see that you like the toast.” Einar was able to eat more that day, nearly finishing off an entire loaf of bread, as Liz, glad to see him finally able to take more than a few bites, kept bringing him slice after slice of toast. By afternoon, though, some other problems were starting to develop. He had been noticing an increasing tingling and numbness in his extremities since coming to the house, but had attributed it to lingering damage from the cold, that he had just not been able to feel until he had warmed up thoroughly. Now, though, he was not so sure, as it was unlike anything he had experienced before, and, concerned that the problem seemed to be worsening, he insisted on trying to walk. Is that his solution for absolutely everything? wondered Liz. He seemed to be really disturbed about his condition though, so she agreed to help him, and got one of her uncle’s canes from the bedroom. The walking didn’t go well at all. Einar wasn’t able to take more than a step or two before sinking to the ground. Movement hurt, everything hurt, even his bones seemed to ache, and it seemed that something was terribly wrong with his legs. He wondered if he was just beginning to notice injuries and debilities that had been there all along, now that he was warm and able to focus on something besides staying one step ahead of his twin pursuers, the search teams and the cold. But his breathing didn’t seem normal either, and he found himself very tired and short of breath with the slightest exertion. Liz noticed that he was shaking and thinking that he was cold, asked him if he would like to try a hot bath or shower. Einar didn’t really feel like getting up again at that point, but did not want to appear ungrateful by refusing her offer. “But the river counts, right…? Seems like I’ve spent way more time than I wanted to in that river, lately. Yes. Please, though. Some warm water would be great, for a change…” He tried a shower, but his legs seemed to be getting weaker, and after slipping and falling repeatedly, he gave up and crawled out, wrapping up in a towel and huddling on the bathroom floor, chilled and out of breath. Liz finally came to see what was wrong, filling the tub in the other bathroom for him when she realized what had happened, apologizing for intruding and for not realizing that a bath would have been better. The bath did work much better, and after washing, Einar lay back in the warm water, almost asleep, not wanting to leave and staying in until the water cooled down and he started getting cold. Looking in the mirror as he dressed, he realized that he must be rather a frightful sight, found some scissors and hacked off some of the hair in the back, where it was getting long, but left the beard alone. He felt much better after the warm water, and spent a couple of hours talking with Liz and answering her questions about his time in the woods, eating more toast and some scrambled egg before taking a nap.

That evening, though, as he ate dinner, Einar seemed to be having increasing difficulty swallowing his food. He tried gulping water to get it down, but just ended up gagging and narrowly avoiding choking on a mouthful of casserole. Liz watched in dismay, not sure how to help him. “Would you like to try something else? I can get you something else…” “No, there’s nothing wrong with the food. I…it was never like this before. This has never happened before. Nothing’s…working right. Something’s wrong with me.” “Einar, I know. Can I go to somebody for help…please? There’s this man at church who’s a paramedic, and…” “No.” He interrupted her. “No, wait. It’ll be better in the morning…I’m…just tired. Need some sleep, and I’ll be fine.” But he wasn’t. The next morning he seemed to be having a hard time catching his breath; it felt almost like instead of breathing being an automatic process, he had to think about taking each breath. Felt like if he stopped concentrating on it, his breathing might stop, also. Which seemed unlikely when he thought about it, but he wasn’t really interested in experimenting. And he couldn’t seem to get his eyes to focus, either. Liz, not wanting to leave him like that but knowing she had to have help, knowing she couldn’t just sit there and watch him get worse, told Einar that she was making a quick trip to the grocery store, and left. While Liz was away, Einar became increasingly alarmed at the apparent progression of whatever was wrong with him. Feeling that it must have something to do with his state of near starvation, he rolled off the couch and made his way painfully into the pantry, clinging to a shelf to pull himself upright. Help me…show me what to do…don’t know how long I can keep this up… Clumsy and shaking, he knocked several cans of corn off a shelf, picked up a box of cereal, a can of cocoa and a jar of olives, inspecting and discarding each before finally settling on a foil-lined box of powdered milk, drawn to it for some reason, Mmm…now that looks good… Pushing the box along in front of him, he crawled back out into the kitchen, found a knife and cut the top off the box, spilling some of the powder in the process. He carried it back to the living room and first tried to eat the powder by shoving a handful of it into his mouth, but he gagged on the dry powder and was doubled over by a coughing fit. The milk somehow tasted right to him, though, and grabbing the glass of rehydration drink Liz had left for him, he poured part of it directly into the box, glad that the foil lining kept the liquid from soaking through. Stirring the liquid in with his hand, he scooped up some of the resulting goo and ate it, struggling to swallow and washing it down with the remaining drink. He choked down several hands full of the stuff before slumping over on the couch asleep, still clutching the box. Chapter Thirty Six

Liz knew that she was too late for church but she went anyway, hoping that Alan, the paramedic she hoped to talk to, might still be around. She didn’t expect that he had necessarily encountered a situation like Einar’s, but he had some training at least, and surely would have something to recommend…she hoped. She didn’t really know what else to do. Relieved to see his truck in the parking lot, she pulled in beside it to wait for him. “Hi, Liz.” Alan said, noticing her as he went to get in his truck. “Missed you in church today. You’re a little late.” “Yes, I know. Ran into a little problem at the ranch, but it’s OK now. Hey. I have a hypothetical medical question for you.” “Medical question, huh? OK. Shoot.” “If somebody had been without enough food for a long time, what would cause them to suddenly have trouble walking and swallowing when food was available again?” He glanced at her quizzically, but she wouldn’t look him in the eye. “Hmm. Now that’s a pretty specific hypothetical question. And a little outside what I normally deal with.” He thought for a minute. “Would the person in your…uh…hypothetical situation also be having some occasional shortness of breath, or double vision or anything?” She nodded. “Both.” “Well I don’t have any actual experience with it at all, but what you described kind of sounds like something called hypophosphatemia.” “ Hypo…what?” “It means there’s not enough phosphorus in the blood. From what I can remember, it can happen as the metabolism tries to normalize after extended malnutrition or starvation. When the person starts eating again, if it’s not the right mix of foods, they get muscle weakness and a bunch of other problems, to the point of having trouble swallowing or eating or even breathing, eventually. I think it’s usually worst if they eat too many carbs at first, because they take the most phosphorus to metabolize.” Great. Thought Liz. I gave him that whole loaf of bread yesterday… “What…um… hypothetically, would be the right foods? What would you do?” “I think they usually hospitalize people and give them stuff through an IV, if it’s as bad as you’re describing, but I’m guessing that’s out of the question in your little scenario?”

She nodded again. “Then maybe some foods that are high in phosphorus…milk, I think? A lot of milk. Other dairy products. And some sort of multivitamin might help out, too, because the hypothetical patient is probably deficient in some other important nutrients--stuff like iron, potassium, vitamin A, even salt. If somebody had been short on food for long enough to develop that problem, they would probably need to start with something like fruit that’s easy to digest, then some fats, then protein as they assimilated the other stuff…starting them on regular foods too soon can cause some other problems, I think.” Liz thanked him, hastily excused herself and started her truck. “Liz, if you end up needing any hypothetical help with this…please come to me or to Bill and Susan. You know, a few of us are getting together up at their place for dinner tonight, and you’re welcome to come. We were just going be discussing this crazy federal occupation we’ve got going on here again. And we’re all pretty good at hypothetically keeping things to ourselves…” “Thanks. No, I’ve got plans. Alan? Would this…phosphorus thing be an emergency? I mean, how serious is it?” “Like I said, I’ve never dealt with it myself, never even talked with anybody who has. It’s mostly a third world thing, I think, aside from maybe people who have a chronic illness that keeps them from getting proper nutrition. So I don’t really know for sure. But I’m pretty sure that a person could, hypothetically, die from it if it wasn’t reversed pretty quickly. It won’t resolve itself.” “Thanks.” “Well, if you change your mind about coming up to Bill and Susan’s, just remember to chain up before trying that driveway of theirs. You’ve been up there, right? Pretty long and steep.” She waved as she sped out of the parking lot, headed for the grocery store. Liz had really wanted to ask Allan to come to the house with her, especially after what he said about the potential seriousness of Einar’s condition, but she was seriously worried that such an action would likely do more harm than good. She was reasonably convinced that Einar would leave the house as soon as he was physically able if he knew she had brought in outside help, especially if someone actually showed up at the house. And while he probably would not be able to get far in his condition, he had certainly surprised her before with what he was able to do when he set his mind to it. So, sure that causing him to wander around in the snow by himself would bring disastrous consequences in pretty short order, and being unwilling to consider actually physically detaining Einar in order to get him help, she decided against directly involving anyone else. • • • •

Full of powdered milk and fast asleep, Einar dreamt vivid dreams as he struggled for breath on the couch that morning. In the first, he was in handcuffs and shackles, being hustled all too quickly from a well secured building to a waiting helicopter. He stared up at the distant peaks, still snow topped against a nearly purple sky, knowing with a certainty that exists only in dreams--and maybe in federal custody--that this was the last time he would ever see that view, let alone wander freely among the ridges and valleys. He woke then, just enough to raise himself and look out the window before scooping some more milk paste into his mouth and drifting off again. In the second dream he was also in custody, but was being led along a steep mountain trail, in shackles and guarded by heavily armed men. After awhile it seemed to Einar, strangely, that the party was traveling at his direction, asking him where to go next, though he was certainly not at all free to move on his own. He looked up and saw a rocky promontory on which stood three dead, bare-branched spruces, showing stark and black against the sky. Einar said something to his keepers and they all headed up the slope toward the crag. Suddenly there was a deafening, earth shattering roar, huge quantities of dirt and fractured rock were airborne, high velocity splinters of rock peppering his face and side, and he was falling, choked by the billowing dust, lost in the blind confusion of a rockslide. He woke shaking and in a sweat, not exactly sure where the dream had been headed, but thinking grimly that it had a much greater potential for a good outcome that the first one… By the time Liz got home an hour later, a plan had begun forming in Einar’s mind, and the first thing he asked her, after apologizing for the trail of milk powder that he had left from the kitchen to the couch, was to help him outside so he could look up at the ridge. • • • •

Liz hurried home as quickly as she could after picking up some groceries, afraid after what she had learned from Allan that Einar’s condition might have further deteriorated. She was greatly relieved to find him awake and sitting up, though mysteriously covered in some sort of white powder. In fact, the powder seemed to be everywhere, and Einar, seeing her puzzlement and realizing for the first time what a mess he’d made, grinned sheepishly and tried to hide the half-empty box behind his back. “Are you OK? What happened?” “Sorry… I guess you’re gonna have to put a padlock on that pantry. I’ll clean it up…” “No, don’t worry about it. Here, give me that box. I’ll mix you some more. What were you doing? Just eating it dry?” “I…poured some juice in it first.”

“Is swallowing getting any easier? How about your breathing?” “Not great, but everything seems a little better since I slept. Can almost see straight again. Still can’t really stand up at all though. Could I borrow that cane again? I’ve got to see about something outside.” “No, everything’s OK outside. You stay right there on that couch while I fix some food.” Einar, though, couldn’t get his thoughts off the image--seared into his mind by the dream--of the cliff and three dead trees, couldn’t rest until he discovered whether it was real or not. In the dream he had been under the impression that the ridge with the cliff was the same one that rose above the ranch house, the same one that held his old shelter in the tunnel and the new tunnel that he hoped to take refuge in whenever he was able to leave Liz’s house. As quietly as he could he lowered himself to the floor and started for the back door where he hoped to get a view similar to the one in the dream. Busy in the kitchen, Liz did not immediately notice his absence. There was a dry spot on the back porch where Liz had kept the snow shoveled and the sun had dried the redwood boards, and Einar sat there for a minute leaning up against the house, just enjoying the feeling of the sun on his face, sleepy again. Can’t see much of the ridge from here, though. A ponderosa pine growing up against the porch blocked his view of the ridge, and he crawled over to the other side where he could see around the tree, crouching on a pile of snow to improve his view. He scanned the snowy ridge, looking for anything familiar. The ridge, from that perspective, consisted mostly of an unbroken sea of spruces, packed in close together and standing straight like a field of wheat on a still day or the freshly combed hairs on the back of some enormous animal. Letting his gaze wander far up the valley, though, Einar saw that the terrain changed some, the unbroken ranks of greenblack trees giving way to a landscape of rocky crags and dark shadowy chutes, heavy with snow. There. He thought he recognized a ledge that jutted out from the mountainside, but his vision was still a bit cloudy, and, squinting into the sun, he couldn’t quite make out whether the three trees from his dream stood on its rocky prominence. Einar, sitting in the shade of the ponderosa as he studied the ridge, had begun shaking with cold after only a few minutes, and he wondered briefly how he had ever managed to keep going day after day in the cold and snow, with less clothing than he was currently wearing and almost no food. The fact that he was asking that question at all worried him and made him seriously question whether he had perhaps already been too long in the shelter and comfort of the house, whether he had better go ahead and move along before he lost his resolve. The life he had chosen just didn’t seem compatible with lying on a couch and being cared for, and while he knew Liz had saved his life and was grateful for it, he worried that by continuing to accept her attentive care, he might be giving up whatever it was that had been keeping him going, voluntarily acquiescing to weakness and eventual destruction. He knew that his endurance over the past months had been, to some extent at least, no accident, that he had trained and hardened his mind, body and will through half a lifetime of deliberately and repeatedly choosing the harder path, consistently rejecting many of the little comforts and conveniences that others took for granted, acclimating himself to

hardship and pain and doing without. The grim determination that this life had produced had served him well, and he knew that if he ever lost it, if taking the easy way out ever started to become an acceptable option to him, this would almost certainly lead to his death or, still worse to his way of thinking, to his capture. But life, as he’d been forced to fight so hard for it over the past months, had become progressively more valuable to him; he found himself really wanting to keep it going and to see what the future might hold, and he knew that at the moment doing so almost certainly meant accepting the help Liz was trying so hard to give him. Wonder if she realizes yet what an absurdly lost cause she’s latched onto here… Einar’s extended philosophizing came to a rather abrupt end when Liz, alarmed at his absence from the couch when she brought his food, discovered him shivering in the snow on the back porch. “What are you doing out here? Besides freezing? What, did you miss it, or something?” “Yeah. A little, I guess.” He grinned, but she didn’t seem to see the humor in it. “Well come on, let me help you back inside. Einar, your clothes are soaking wet again.” She grabbed him by the arm and tried to lift him, but he shrugged her off. “Wait. I…I’m alright. You got any binoculars? I need some binoculars.” “Binoculars? I think there are some in the house. Come on in. You can sit on the couch and see the mountains, if that’s what you’re looking at.” “No, I need to…s-see the ridge here.” “You’re really going to sit here in the snow and freeze until I bring you the binoculars, aren’t you?” “Yep!” He nodded, grinning again through his chattering teeth. Exasperated, Liz stomped into the house, debating whether it would be better to take him the binoculars he was asking for, or to throw a bucket of cold water on him and lock him out there until he came to his senses and asked to come back in. She settled on the binoculars. Wouldn’t surprise me if he’d just enjoy the cold water in some weird way, the crazy scoundrel! Probably wouldn’t teach him a thing. She took Einar the binoculars, but he couldn’t hold them steady enough to find the cliff in question, even, let alone tell about the trees. Liz, seeing his struggle, asked if she could find something for him. “See where the cliffs start over there, up where the trees get thin?”

“I think so” “Well there’s this ledge kind of a thing about halfway up. See, it...has a long chute full of snow to the left of it. Looks like it almost comes down into the valley.” Pretty sure she saw what he was talking about, Liz scanned the mountainside with the binoculars. “Yes. Here it is. I can see the chute. So what about it?” “Are there…any trees on it? On the rock, out near the edge?” “Yes. A couple. Looks like they’ve been hit by lightening, or something.” Einar was anxious to see, and she helped him find the ledge, steadying the binoculars while he looked. The rocky ledge with its three black spruce skeletons was exactly as it had appeared in Einar’s dream, and, unaccustomed to such occurrences, the sight made his scalp crawl. He knew then that he must focus on becoming mobile again, so he could begin to put into effect the plan that had begun coming together that morning when he woke. For the moment, though, Liz was urging him to come in and see the groceries she had brought, and he was more than ready to eat. Chapter Thirty Seven It seemed to Liz that after finding whatever it was he'd been looking for with the binoculars, Einar had all of a sudden become unusually content to lie on the couch and rest his hip and elevate his frostbitten feet, as she had unsuccessfully been trying to convince and sometimes coerce him into doing for the past two days. She was suspicious of his motives for changing, but, wanting him to continue getting the rest, she decided not to risk spoiling things by asking him about it. So she returned to the kitchen and made him some more breakfast, putting a cup of milk, a banana, and a spoonful of peanut butter into the blender. Einar seemed to do well with the milkshake, so she made him another, sitting down next to him as he drank. “I need to see how your toes are doing. Will you let me? The sooner they start getting better, the sooner you can try the boots…” Einar’s injured toes had swollen badly since the previous day, he had a large blister on the side of his right index finger where the deer scapula had pressed as he dug the snow cave, and there was a bit of frostbite damage to two of his fingertips, though amazingly it was superficial and not as bad as the toes. Liz removed the loose gauze that she had previously wrapped his feet with, gently changing the gauze pads between his toes and applying some aloe vera gel to the injured areas. She had been doing this several times each day, and though the toes looked worse than ever, she knew it would still be days

before it became clear how bad the damage was. No sign of infection yet…if that happens, I’ll just have to get help from Allan, or somebody, no matter what Einar says about it. She wanted to be giving him huge quantities of ascorbic acid or sodium ascorbate--forms of vitamin C--to help heal the injured tissue, but knew that at levels high enough to really have an impact, it would almost certainly exacerbate the problems he was still having with loose bowels. Maybe in a few days. Einar was still steadfastly refusing to take anything for the pain, but she could tell that it was really bothering him at times, and she decided to go back into town later in the day and pick up some homeopathic arnica, to help some with the swelling, at least. Having done all she could at the moment for his feet, Liz apologized, knowing it must have hurt him, though he had just stared out the window as she worked, saying nothing. “Pretty bad, huh?” He asked. “Can’t tell yet. Maybe in a few days, when the swelling starts to go down. Your right foot will be just fine.” “Think maybe I refroze a couple toes on the left. That’s not good at all. I already had a little mild frostbite on those toes once before, from before I waterproofed my homemade boot. After that it was working alright as long as I wasn’t going far enough from camp for the boot to soak through, but that last bit up on the ridge…I just went, just had to keep moving. Couldn’t keep stopping to deal with the foot. I wouldn’t have made it over the ridge that night if I had.” “I wish I’d been able to get those boots to you before you had to take off up the ridge again…” “I know you tried. Real hard. You know, I’d have been out of luck for sure without those clothes you gave me. Never really thanked you…” “Well.” She rose, feeling awkward. “I’ll go get my uncle’s snow boots, and you can try on the right one, anyway, to see if they’ll fit. If they won’t, I can get you some in town later. If you will agree to stop trying to use that foot all the time and give yourself some chance of actually getting to use the boots…” “I’ll do it.” He answered, stretching out on the couch and propping up his foot to demonstrate his good faith in the matter. “Liz, about the toes. You’ve got some cottonwoods here along the river. If any of the buds are down where you can reach them, I could really use them for my toes. You can make a salve that you sometimes hear called Balm of Gilead, from the sticky resin in the buds. Winter’s the best time to collect them. Done it once before, and it’s real good for burns, frostbite, anything like that. Best way is to put a bunch of buds in a jar, pour oil over them, heat it for a while and let the whole thing sit for a month or two, but I don’t have that kind of time right now. I’ll just kind of pound up the buds and mix them with some warm grease of some sort, and use it as is. Think you’d be able to get me some? ”

“Yes! I’ll do that! I know where there are a bunch of cottonwoods, and I’m pretty sure there’s even one that fell in that last storm, so I ought to be able to reach plenty of the buds on that one.” Liz returned shortly with the boots and a mug of ginger tea, explaining to Einar that the ginger would help increase his circulation, and possibly aid in healing the frostbite. “Cayenne pepper would do the same thing, but I don’t know if your digestive system could handle much of it, yet.” The boots, though, ended up being too small, and Liz, wanting to do something to help Einar continue to feel that progress was being made towards his eventual departure, got out the backpack. “OK. You must have though of some more things that you need, by now. If I’m going into town for boots, I might as well stop for the other stuff, too, so we can finish packing this thing.” “Well, I was thinking that it would be good to have some black pepper or citric acid or something so that next summer when I get a deer or another bear, I can use it to keep the flies off the meat. One of those mesh bags that hunters use, or some cheesecloth would also work, but they might be harder to find, this time of year.” “Another bear? You mean you actually killed a bear this fall?” “Ha! Not exactly. It was already dead. Which is good, ’cause I just about was, too, at the time. Looong story. And then some bobcats or lynx pulled it down out of the trees and stole most of it. I was able to keep the flies out of the meat by rubbing yarrow on it every day, but it was an awful lot of work. I’d have more time for other things with some pepper or something to keep the flies off.” Einar went on for some time recounting some of the details of his adventures and discoveries, glad to finally be able to talk about some of it, leaving out some of the worst parts because he knew they seemed to bother Liz. “And it’s gonna be so much better this time, because I won’t be starting out so hungry and exhausted and all. And I’ve got a place in mind--you don’t need to know the details, but it’s somewhere they’ll have no reason to look, and I can take my time and really get set up good by the time next winter comes…if I don’t have too many more disasters or get caught, in the meantime.” Liz saw how animated--excited, almost--he became when describing his time in the woods and his plans for the future out there, and was surprised that he would still look at it that way after all the hardship that this life had recently brought him. Taking a chance, she brought up something she had been wondering about for some time. “Einar. Don’t you ever…get tired? Wish things could be different for you? Wish you could go back to your old life…you must have had one?” “That,” he answered wearily but with a finality that precluded any further discussion on

the matter, “is not something I have the luxury of contemplating.” And though she very much wanted to tell him that there had to be a way, that she would find a way or make one if he would just agree to let her, she knew by the faraway look in his eyes as he stared out the window that the conversation was finished. • • • •

Before heading into town the following morning, Liz brought Einar a stack of folded 7.5 minute topo maps that she had found on a shelf out in the garage, pushing the coffee table up against the couch and spreading out a map of the immediate area. “Here. This’ll give you something to do while I’m gone. See, this little purple square here is the house, and there’s the ridge.” Einar was already absorbed in studying the map as she turned to go, but wanting to do all she could to encourage him to stay on the couch, she got a can of citric acid powder from a box in the pantry, which also held her aunt’s supply of canning lids, sure gel and pickling spices. “And here’s the citric acid for that bear you’re going to get. Is there anything else you need from town?” The availability of the citric acid had given Einar an idea, a way to possibly move forward with the plan he had been developing since the dream about the cliff and rockslide. “Yes. Yes there is something. You know those little round white hexamine fuel tablets you can get at the sporting goods store? I could really use three or four tubes of those.” “Hexamine? Is that like trioxane? I know I’ve seen trioxane at the Ranch Supply place, with the hunting stuff.” “No, it’s not the same. Maybe they have both. Only the hexamine will work.” “Well, I’ll look.” “Thanks! Hey, can I use the kitchen while you’re gone?” “The kitchen? Sure. But if you tell me what you want, I’ll be glad to fix it before I go.” “Mmm…doubt this is something you’ve ever ‘cooked’ before…think I better do it myself.” “OK. You know where the pantry is. Pots and pans and skillets are in the lower cabinets. Is there anything else you need?”

“Do you have any more of that citric acid? And some aspirin?” “You’re…going to can some tomatoes? And you have a headache?” “Uh…not exactly. But I could use a couple of quart canning jars, if you have some handy. And some ice. And rubbing alcohol and peroxide, and maybe a big glass casserole dish or something.” Liz gathered the eclectic collection of items for Einar, very curious and really wanting to stay and see what he had in mind. It was clear though that he didn’t even want to discuss the details of his project with her, let alone have her looking over his shoulder as he worked, so she prepared to head into town. As soon Liz had pulled out of the driveway, he closed the curtains over the couch, dragged a chair in front of the stove to sit on, turned the kitchen exhaust fan on to “high,” and got to work, filling the casserole dish with ice from the freezer before he began. Chapter Thirty Eight Before heading to the grocery store, Liz stopped by the library to do a little research on the computer. Not knowing how long she would be able to keep Einar at the house, she knew she needed to quickly do as much as she could to build up his strength and remedy the nutritional deficiencies that had been causing him so much difficulty. He was better that day, but still seemed to be having occasional periods of confusion and dizziness, and problems focusing his eyes. She found several articles on malnutrition and starvation in third world countries, including one about a French scientist called Andre Briend, who had come up with some sort of fortified peanut butter that he was successfully using to save severely malnourished children in the African country of Chad. Apparently it was made of peanut paste, dried skimmed milk, sugar, oil, vitamins and minerals. I could make him something like that, for now and to take up there with him, too. She also found that pumpkin seeds, sardines, split pea soup, carrots, raisins and, as Alan had said, dairy products, are high in phosphorus, and should continue to help remedy his problems in that area. Armed with this new information, she headed out to finish her errands. Searching for boots in the local ranch supply Co-Op, Liz passed a display of disposable chemical hand warmers, and added several to the basket, remembering Einar’s description of the near impossibility of getting a fire started with freezing hands. Later, as she stocked up on peanut butter at the grocery store, she discovered that a hazelnut spread called Nutella contained almost the exact formulation of ingredients that Briend was giving to the children in Chad, minus the extra vitamins and minerals. And with the addition of chocolate. What could be better? Delighted at the discovery, she added several jars of it to her basket. • • • •

Einar, humming a little tune as he concentrated on his task in the kitchen, was startled by the sound of a large engine just outside the house. He knew he couldn’t walk away from his recipe just then lest a potential disaster result, so he just kept stirring, slowly turning down the heat and trying to get the mixture to a point where it would be safe to leave unattended for a minute. Having--he was pretty sure--accomplished this, he grabbed a knife from the wooden knife holder by the stove, dropped to the floor and worked his way into the living room, just in time to get a glimpse of a man in some sort of blue uniform jacket and pants approaching the door. Pressing himself up against the wall, Einar waited as the man knocked on the door several times. After a couple of minutes, he heard booted feet on the back deck, and an insistent pounding on sliding glass back door. Did he go around, or is there more than one…? He hadn’t got a good look at the man’s uniform and was not sure whether he was armed, though he knew he had not seen a rifle, anyway. After another minute he heard steps on the front deck again, then the sound of the truck starting back up. Hanging onto the windowsill he carefully peeked out between the curtains, watching as the white king cab pickup pulled out of the driveway. Does the Sheriff’s Department use those? He was pretty sure the FBI did not. Suddenly remembering his unfinished business in the kitchen, Einar scrambled to his feet and staggered over to the stove, falling once along the way and making it just in time to stop the whole mess from overheating. He got the quart jar up out of the hot water bath and into the ice just as a heavy white steam began rising from it, and he quickly poured salt and water over the ice to hasten the cooling and stabilize the mixture. Ack! Whew! That was just way too close! He sank to the floor, worn out and wanting to avoid the fumes, trying desperately to decide on his immediate course of action. It there was an officer at the door, no matter what agency he was with, they must have some reason to suspect that I’m here again, though I really can’t imagine what it would be…except that I was here once before. He wanted to go, to get out before anybody had the opportunity to come back, but I don’t have any boots at all. And I can’t just leave this little half-done project here for them to discover, in Liz’s kitchen. That’d get her caught up in this thing for sure… • • • •

When Liz arrived back at the house, Einar was gone. She looked in the kitchen for any sign of him or of whatever he had been cooking, but the kitchen was quite a bit cleaner than she had left it that morning. It looked, in fact, like he had meticulously scrubbed every surface, including the floor. Very odd. Where are you? He had seemed so intent on furthering his recovery the previous day that it made no sense at all to her that he should choose to disappear now. Especially knowing that she was bringing him boots. The thought had not even crossed her mind that morning that she had to worry about him taking off while she was gone. Big mistake, I guess… The backpack was gone, too, as were the maps. All of the blankets that Einar had been using were neatly folded and piled at one end of the couch, and it appeared that he had even washed and put away his dishes. No! It’s too soon, Einar! There’s no way your foot is going to heal out there… Come back! She wondered if Einar’s absence could have some connection to whatever he had

been cooking, but, having no idea what it was, she just didn’t know. Well, Einar, I’m coming to get you this time. You don’t have any boots, and there’s no way you’re going far with that foot all swollen the way it is. I’m just not going to let you do this again. She searched all around the house for tracks, but could find nothing that didn’t look icy and at least a day old, except for a single boot track on the back porch, where someone had placed one foot on an un-shoveled section. Comparing the track to her uncle’s boots, she found them to be a similar size, but a different tread pattern. Who was here? She couldn’t find more than the one track, though. OK. Where could he have gone without leaving tracks? The driveway and the various paths she used to access the barn, shed and bird enclosures had been packed hard over the last few days of clear weather, as she shoveled them and used them several times each day. Testing her own boot on the slightly icy surface, she saw that it hardly left a mark, at least that she could see. And he must just be in socks, or something, because there weren’t any shoes or boots in the house that would fit him. So his tracks are not going to show up at all on this hard packed stuff. But they will, as soon as he leaves it. She searched the shed first, then the barn and the other outbuildings, ending with the root cellar, but found no sign of Einar, and no tracks taking off from the paths. Remembering the time he had taken refuge in the crawl space, she returned to the house to look down there, even though it made no sense to her that he would have taken the backpack with him, if he was going no farther than that. No luck. She sat down at the table, trying to think of anything she might have overlooked. Where are you? Liz’s pondering was interrupted when the phone rang, startling her and causing her to jump up out of her chair. “Hello?” “Hey Liz, it’s Allan. I stopped by earlier, but nobody was home. Just wanted to make that everything was…hypothetically…going alright out there.” “Um…yeah. Allen. You were here at the house? When was that?” “Oh, couple hours ago, on my way in to work. So your, uh, ranch duties and all are going OK? You don’t need any veterinary assistance or anything?” “No, it’s all under control. Thanks for checking.” She ended the conversation as quickly as possible, realizing now what must have happened to spook Einar. • • • •

As soon as the truck was gone that morning, Einar began cleaning up the house as best as he could, hoping they would find no sign of him if they just casually searched it. He gave

special attention to the areas where he had worked on his project. They must not find any trace of this stuff in her house. His project, interrupted at a critical point, was a total loss, and now unstable and dangerous besides, and he worked to neutralize and dispose of it safely. As he worked, he wondered if he was thinking logically, if maybe he was just paranoid from so many months of running, but, he thought, I really am at the center of a huge search right now, so it is reasonable to assume that if a law enforcement officer comes to the door, it probably does have something to do with me. As hard as he tried, he could not think of an unrelated explanation that satisfied him. So. Time to move again. Without wasting any time, he stuffed the maps into the backpack, glad that everything else had already been organized and loaded into it. Crawling from room to room in the house, the only thing he could find to protect his feet was a pair of bedroom slippers that must have belonged to Liz’s uncle. They were loose enough to fit on his injured feet, and, though they did not look even remotely waterproof, would have to do. In the kitchen he found some gallon ziplock bags, painfully forced his swollen feet into two pairs of wool socks, then the bags, and donned the slippers. Well. That should work for about an hour or so…and it’s gonna be awfully slippery trying to walk in these things. He knew though that if he froze the left foot again now, there was probably no chance at all of saving the toes. Or my life either, probably. So this has got to work. He passed several loops of paracord across the bottoms of the slippers to provide a little traction, tying them on the top. Ready to head out, Einar realized that he was not at all sure where to go. Following the river would leave him trapped--already tried that once--and to get anywhere else off of the property, he would have to end up crossing the road. Which he assumed was probably being watched. Guess I’ll head out back where the trees will hide me some, see what the options are…Checking the living room and kitchen again to make sure he was leaving no obvious sign of his presence, he set the backpack on the edge of the couch, crouched down and eased it onto his back. Using the cane, he managed to stand, but it was all he could do to take a step. He knew the pack couldn’t weigh thirty pounds, even, which has got to be less than a fourth of my weight, even now, I hope… but it seemed to be crushing him into the ground. You’re not ready for this, Einar. Had to do it, though, and he did, though the pain of walking on the swollen foot was nearly too much, even for him. Section Four "Liberty is one of the most precious gifts heaven has bestowed upon man. No treasures the earth contains or the sea conceals can be compared to it. For liberty one can rightfully risk one's life." -- Miguel Cervantes Chapter Thirty Nine Einar had not gone far. Keeping beneath the ponderosas between the river and the road, he had walked in a set of old, icy elk tracks to conceal his trail. He dimly remembered hearing a story once about Albert Johnson, known as the Mad Trapper of Rat River in

Canada’s Northwest Territory of the 1930s, slipping away from his pursuers by walking in caribou tracks on a frozen river. If it worked for him, it can work for me… Things didn’t end at all well for Johnson, as he remembered, but the man had escaped a 15 hour siege of his cabin that ended when the RCMP dynamited it with him still inside, to lead his pursuers on one heck of a chase, covering over 150 miles of frozen tundra and high peaks and snowy passes near the arctic circle and enduring temperatures that sometimes dropped to 50 below, before finally being cornered and shot some five weeks later. Took nine rounds to finally get him to stop shooting back and, in the end, a lucky shot through the spinal column to bring him down. He didn’t have much at all to eat that whole time, and couldn’t have a fire to dry his clothes out or anything, either, because of the air search… Sometimes when things had started to become especially grim for him over the past months, Einar would find himself thinking about the trapper, thinking that he would have liked to meet the man and talk things over with him. Using the elk tracks to conceal his own, Einar was not able to make use of the cane as he had intended, knowing that this would leave very clear sign, even if he placed it in the icy tracks. With his weight on it, the cane would punch right through the crust. So he did the only thing he could think to do, taking a step, bracing the cane on the top of his forward foot to take a little of his weight, and swinging the other leg forward. It was slow, exhausting and extremely difficult to manage and not at all good for his injured foot, but seemed to be working alright as far as not leaving a clear trail. Looking back, he thought he might even get away with it until and unless they brought in an experienced tracker. He hoped that the elk had perhaps crossed the road in a place where he could safely do so, allowing him to then continue up the evergreen-covered slope on the other side. Before covering many yards, though, Einar realized that he couldn’t keep this up for long. Between the hip, the leg muscle weakness that continued to plague him, and especially the foot, he knew that with each step he risked stumbling or falling and leaving hugely obvious signs of his passage. The elk he was following had passed beneath a small ponderosa at one point, and, reaching the tree, Einar carefully left the animal’s trail and sat on the exposed ground where several days of afternoon sun had melted out a small area on one side of the trunk. Looking back, he could just barely see the ranch house through the trees, and though the place where the driveway cut off from the road was hidden from him by the house, he did have a clear view of the parking area. Feeling out of immediate danger and fairly certain that he had not left a clear trail, he decided to wait and watch for awhile before settling on how to proceed. Before long Liz arrived home, and Einar realized that she was searching for him as she systematically visited each of the outbuildings on the ranch. So they must not have a visible presence down there yet… He debated showing himself or calling to her to warn of the impending search that he expected was coming, but, deciding that the house was probably under surveillance by that time from the road and not wanting to make things worse for Liz by risking her being seen with him, he kept quiet. After sitting there for several hours, though, there had been no sign of unusual activity down at the house and he was beginning to wonder whether he had perhaps overreacted. Maybe he could at least take the chance of going down there one more time to warn Liz about the visitor, and hopefully get those boots she said she was picking up in town.

Liz was out looking for him again, studying the snowy ground around the house and occasionally looking up to scan the surrounding hillsides. Einar hauled himself stiffly to his feet, nearly falling over backwards under the weight of the pack, and started down the hill towards her, shuffling along through the snow and leaning heavily on the cane, no longer caring about staying in the elk tracks. She saw him when he reached the edge of the trees about fifteen yards from the back deck, and hurried to him where he waited, hesitant to leave the cover of the forest. “Einar! I thought you had gone.” “I am going. They were back, Liz. They came back while you were gone, Sherriff’s Deputies, local police, somebody. Came to the door not long after you left. They must know I’m here and they’re probably watching the house, so I need to make this quick. I was just hoping maybe you got those boots, maybe you could bring them out here for me…” “I’ve got the boots, but you can come on back in the house. It wasn’t them. I’m so sorry, Einar. It was just a guy from church. He called a little while ago and said he had stopped by while I was gone. He didn’t see you.” “No. No, this guy had a blue uniform. He was law enforcement. Was driving a big white pickup…maybe from the Sheriff’s Department? I don’t know how, but they’ve found out about this. I got to clear out of here before we both end up in a world of trouble.” She shook her head. “That was Allan’s truck. And the uniform--he’s a paramedic on the ambulance out of Culver Falls. He was on his way to work when he stopped here. They don’t know. It’s still safe.” Seeing that Einar was swaying and about to fall she grabbed his arm to steady him, took the pack off his back. “Please come back in now, get off your feet.” Einar went with her, relieved beyond words, exhausted from his trek up the hill and cold from sitting so long under the tree, but stopped halfway to the house, struck by an alarming memory that suddenly had him wondering if he could really trust Liz at all. “Paramedic from your church? Is this the same guy you mentioned before when I couldn’t swallow and you wanted to get help? Is that where you went yesterday? Did you tell him about this? Does somebody know I’m here?” He had pulled himself loose from her steadying grip and taken a step back, and was staring her in the eye with an intensity that scared her. Liz could tell that he was almost as much angered as he was frightened by the possibility that she might have involved someone else in his situation, and knew she must tread very carefully if she wanted to avoid ruining everything and sending him back out into the snow way too soon.

“I did not tell anyone,” she answered truthfully, meeting his gaze. “Allan just wondered why I didn’t show up for church yesterday, and he stopped by to make sure everything was alright. I have not told anyone.” Einar was not entirely sure he believed her, thinking the incident too much of a coincidence, and he found himself questioning her judgment, if not her intentions. But, he had to admit to himself, he was awfully glad to be headed back to the house just then rather than up the mountain, because putting weight on his injured foot had become nearly unbearable as he walked, worse than the hip had ever been, even, and he knew he would have soon been reduced to crawling if he’d had to continue. With clear skies and no snow in sight, the resulting tracks probably would have lead to his capture in pretty short order, if anyone had been looking for them. • • • •

Einar’s socks had to be soaked off again, as his toes had oozed and bled badly with the untimely use. The plastic bags had kept them dry, though, and despite how they looked, Liz was hopeful that no further damage had been done by the cold, at least. The walking had certainly not done his feet any good, and Einar gripped the arm of the couch until his knuckles turned white as she cleaned and bandaged them. Despite this, he was anxious to try on the new boots soon after she had finished. She had chosen the black Sorrels nearly a whole size too large to accommodate for his healing feet and allow him to wear two pairs of socks, and Einar felt much more at ease with the whole situation after he found that he was able to carefully work his feet down into the boots. Liz wouldn’t let him try walking in them just yet though, insisting that he stay on the couch while she prepared some food. He agreed, with the condition that he could keep the boots within easy reach. Until she mentioned the food he had not realized how hungry he was, but soon finished off two banana peanut butter milkshakes, half an avocado and a big bowl of cottage cheese, and seemed to still be looking for more. Liz, glad to see him apparently able to eat a bit more normally, spread some Nutella on a piece of toast for him to try, explaining her research about the French scientist and the peanut paste he had created for hungry children in Chad. Einar quickly finished the toast. “So this stuff’s supposed to be good for ‘recovering from malnutrition and starvation,’ you say? Then how about you just bring me the jar, and a spoon? I think it would work quicker that way…” She smiled. “That sounds like a good plan.” She brought it, but set it on the coffee table and wouldn’t give it to him right away, wanting to have his full attention for a minute. “Hey, how about sticking around for awhile this time, OK? You know your feet are pretty bad, right? And every time you use them right now, you’re doing more damage. You’ve got to give them time to heal if you want to walk again. Understand?” He sat up, irritated, and grabbed at the jar of Nutella in the hopes of avoiding the conversation, but she pushed it out of his reach.

“So what was I supposed to do?” He was sitting on the edge of the couch, leaning forward for emphasis, nearly falling forward before catching himself. “Last time I was here…if I’d waited just a few more minutes to leave the house, they would have had me. Would have anyway, except I went in that river. What was I supposed to think when I saw a uniform out there this morning? As far as I knew, that guy was going to be back in a few minutes with ten friends and a bunch of flash-bangs. You want me to just sit here and wait for them to break the door down? Not happening.” “But they don’t know you’re here. They have no way to know. The whole search is still centered over on the other side of the ridge. And what were you going to do out there anyway? You wouldn’t have been walking for long, and then what? You wouldn’t have made it.” “Well, I might have. Chance I’m willing to take. I’ve had to crawl before, and I’m still here. And if they show up now I’m not going to make it anyway, because I sure can’t move fast enough to outrun them, and I am not going in. There’s only one way they’re taking me in…” Liz didn’t really have an answer for that one. She stood up. “Well. I’m going to go get those cottonwood buds so we can fix up your feet.” He stopped her as she opened the door. “Could I…did you find that hexamine in town?” “I found some. They had four tubes of it at the Ranch Supply, and I got all of them. You need it now?” “I…uh…kind of have to start over with my project in the kitchen. Your friend interrupted it this morning before I was done. And the hexamine will make it a lot easier, this part of it anyway. Means I won’t actually have to cook anything, just mix and shake for awhile. I wonder if your relatives keep any coffee filters around here? Or if not, a few paper towels or something?” She got the hexamine and found him some coffee filters in the pantry. “I guess you’ll be needing more of the citric acid, too?” “No. I have some left from before. Don’t need a very big batch of this stuff, at all.” “Do I even want to know why?” she asked rhetorically, heading out the door. She was pretty sure the hexamine wasn’t a standard ingredient in any recipe you would eat the results of, and she figured the less she knew about it, the better. Einar, finished for the time with the initial stage of his project--it would need to sit undisturbed overnight before he did the next step--put the glass jar in a dark corner of the kitchen away from the stove, and, not wanting to use the metal canning lid, covered the jar with a tile coaster from the coffee table before putting a dish cloth over the whole

thing. Liz was still outside, and he decided to take the opportunity to explore the garage for items that might be helpful in the next phase of his project. Not likely, but who knows… What Einar discovered in the garage was far better than he could have expected. Wow! I can have this whole thing done tomorrow, if I need to… Though he was pretty sure there was no way Liz would let him out of the house that soon, if she knew what he had in mind. And she’s probably right, too, but I’ve got to do this. Despite what he had said to Liz about never letting them take him, he knew very well that it could happen, that circumstances totally beyond his control could come together in such a way that he unexpectedly found himself in their custody, and, haunted by the two dreams, he felt that he couldn’t really settle seriously into the business of recovery until he finished his project and got it in place on the cliff. Finding the binoculars, he crawled out to the back deck, lying on his stomach and steadying the them against his backpack as he studied the mountainside. Alright. Exposed rock. So I don’t have to wait until it melts out, or anything. Returning to the house after gathering a coffee can full of cottonwood buds, Liz found Einar on the back deck, using the glasses to plan his route up the ridge. He winced when he saw her approaching, not at all looking forward to explaining this to her, and thinking that she must be getting pretty tired of thawing him out and patching him up after his various misadventures. Can’t imagine why she even bothers… “What do you see?” She asked cheerfully, setting down the can and stretching out next to him on the deck. He motioned in the general direction of the cliff. “I’m going up there tomorrow.” “What?” She stood up, crossed her arms. “No. You’re not. That’s crazy. Why would you want to do that?” “I wanted to go ahead and tell you, in case you intend to hit me over the head with a shovel or something to try and stop me, so we can go ahead and get it over with now and not delay things tomorrow…” She clearly did not see the humor in it at all. “This has something to do with your ‘project’ in the kitchen, doesn’t it?” He nodded. “Can’t it wait, though? What could be that important? That’s an awfully long way, and your feet…” “No, I’ve got to do it. And it really is that important. This is…this might just end up being my last chance at a way out, if they ever do take me. You’ve always got to leave more than one way out, you know.” Chapter Forty

While Liz did not at all want Einar to make his intended journey and thought he was being absurdly unwise for insisting on it at that point, she had learned enough about him to see that any further efforts at dissuasion would only strengthen his resolve. So, she decided to focus instead on doing her best to see that he lived through the excursion and made it back to the house where she could continue to help him recover. Maybe he’ll settle down some after this… To that end, she found her daypack, emptied it, and took it to Einar, who was doing something in the kitchen with more canning jars full of liquid. She saw then that he had a whole row of jars set out there on the counter, some covered with coasters and towels, and, sitting on a stool in the corner, he held a jar in each hand, gently swishing the liquid inside. “Would that be easier if you had a bigger container, because there are some big old glass pickle jars out in the shed?” Startled, Einar glanced up at her. “What? No…these quarts are really too big already. Ought to be using pints. But I don’t have time for that. Better not come in here right now, OK?” She backed out into the living room. “I thought you could use this pack to carry a few things up there with you. I can put some food and water and matches and extra gloves if you want…” “Actually I was hoping to use the bigger one, with the waist belt. This…project is going to weigh at least twenty pounds by the time I get done with it.” Finishing with his task in the kitchen, Einar went out to the garage, where Liz’s uncle’s collection of a dozen or so RC airplanes hung suspended from the ceiling. Sure glad he mixes his own fuel… He grabbed a half empty jug of nitromethane from a shelf, a bag of fertilizer from its place near a pile of hibernating garden hoses, and, searching among the random bottles of oil and antifreeze on another shelf, found a container of Radiator Stop Leak. He hauled everything into the kitchen, and asked Liz if she had any Vaseline. Liz couldn’t really see what he was doing, but it seemed to involve heating something in the oven for awhile, stirring a bunch of white pellets in some sort of liquid, then heating the pellets in a frying pan. She just shook her head and went out to check on the pheasants. When she came back in, Einar had the pellets in a large glass mixing bowl, crushing them up into a powder and mixing in the Stop Leak. Adding the Vaseline, he shaped the stuff with his hands and wrapped it in plastic wrap. The good thing about this, though, is that it doesn’t even matter too much if the plastic wrap keeps the weather out entirely, because from this point on, both components will still work even of they get wet. Now to find something to pack it in… “Is it safe to come in the kitchen yet?” Liz asked from the door. “I’d like to make you something to eat, if you’re really intending on going tomorrow.”

“Yep. All clear, as long as you don’t knock any of those jars over or put them on the stove or anything.” He sat on the stool, tired from even the mild exertion of his cooking duties and wondering how he was ever going to make it up the mountain the next day, as she blended milk and peanut butter with a banana and poured it into a cup. She handed Einar the cup, pulled up a chair from the table and sat next to him as he drank. “You…are planning on coming back, right? After you finish whatever it is you have to do up there? ” “Oh, I’m coming back. Are you kidding? This is where all the food is…besides, you’ve really got me hooked on that Nutella stuff.” That evening when she went out to feed the birds and close them up for the evening, Liz rummaged through the shed, returning to the house with two FRS radios, checking them for batteries and retrieving some from the refrigerator when she found them to be without. She turned them on, tested them, and set them to the same frequency. 9.20. “Hey Einar!” She called into the living room. “I have an idea.” Crouching down next to the couch where he was carefully loading a few smaller items around his main cargo in the pack, she showed him the radios. “You take one, and I’ll leave mine on, here. You can just keep yours off unless you run into some sort of trouble or need some help.” She had known that he was likely to be opposed to the idea, and could tell from the dark look on his face that she had guessed correctly. “They’ve probably got people listening to all the radio traffic. Couldn’t use it even if I wanted to…which I really can’t see happening anyway...” “Oh, use your imagination. And as far as anyone listening in, we’ll just be a couple out snowmobiling. You’re Ed, and I’ll be Edith…or Edie. I’m Edie. Easy to remember, right? And if you need to contact me, we’ll just act like we got separated while we were out riding, and are trying to find each other. Will you please at least take it along?” He shrugged, put the radio in a side pocket of the pack. Liz knew that there was almost no chance of him actually using it, even if he ended up lying out there in the snow dying of something, but she had to keep trying. It would give him one more option, at least. That night Einar lay on the couch wanting to sleep in preparation for the next morning’s climb, but unable to quiet his thoughts and stop going over the details of a plan that he was not at all sure he could successfully pull off even one individual segment of, let alone bring together into something that might allow him another chance at freedom if things went seriously wrong in the future.

Watching the fire slowly die down through the small pane of glass on the front of the soapstone stove that stood against the opposite wall in the living room, he went over and over the details of the next day’s activities in his mind. His greatest concern, short of possibly discovering that he did not yet have the physical strength or endurance to make it up to the ledge, was that he would leave a trail for someone to follow. While he doubted, as Liz had said, that anyone was even looking over in this valley, he couldn’t do anything that would arouse suspicion. Another big concern was the trigger mechanism for the device he was lugging up there to the ledge--he was confident that the thing would function as he intended, but knew that because of the deep snow, he couldn’t set a tripwire and have any hope that it would be undisturbed if he needed the setup in a month or two, let alone next spring or summer after the deer and elk returned to the area. That wouldn’t do. Einar would have liked more time--a lot more time--to plan this out…but he knew that every day he stayed here at the house without some sort of backup plan was another day he risked irrevocably losing his freedom. Hours later, as the glow from the coals subsided and finally died, an idea came to him, and he slept. The next morning after finishing up with the initiator stage of his project by straining and drying the white particles that had collected overnight in the canning jars, Einar assembled everything, packed it carefully, and prepared to depart. Hope I don’t trip and go rolling down the mountainside, ‘cause that would be the end of me, for sure… Liz, treating and bandaging his toes one last time and helping him with his socks and boots, offered to drive him across the bridge, at least, and he reluctantly accepted, not really wanting to risk walking across the bridge in broad daylight, especially at a time of morning when the greatest number of people would be heading in to town to begin the workday. Loading the pack in the bed of the truck and covering it with a tarp, Einar crammed himself as well as he could down in the footwell of Liz’s truck, and she threw a blanket over him. Things seemed to be going pretty well, and as Liz started the truck, Einar had a growing confidence that he was going to be able to successfully complete the mission that he had set for himself that day. Until Allan, on his way into Culver Falls, waved Liz down as she pulled out of the driveway. “Just keep still, Einar. We’ll be on our way again soon.” Chapter Forty One Liz did not want to stop, but Allan had her boxed in the driveway, and she knew she must not do anything to make him suspicious. If he wasn’t already. She was pretty sure from some of his comments that he had guessed at what was going on at the ranch. She was suddenly very worried that he might say something that would let Einar know that she had gone to him for help.

“Morning. Where you headed?” “Oh, just into town.” “Kinda looks like you’re pointed the wrong direction… So how’s the hypothetical…” Knowing where it was headed, she cut his question short with a series of frantic hand motions. “The pheasants? Oh, they’re doing better. I just had to replace one of the heat lamps out there, and everything’s back to normal again. Thanks for asking.” She was motioning for him to be quiet, to go away, and Allan, not quite sure what to make of her odd behavior, burst our laughing. “Pheasants, huh? OK, well I won’t ask any more questions, but you remember if you need any help at all, anything, we’re here and we know not to spill the beans about any hypothetical pheasants.” “Thanks. Thanks, Allan.” He drove off, and Liz pulled out onto the road. Einar let out his breath in a huge sigh, pushed the blanket aside. “What was that about? Was that the guy that came to the door yesterday? And what’s he got to do with the pheasants?” “Yes, that was him. I’ve been having trouble keeping the temperature right out in the pheasant house at night, and last week at church I had asked him what he thought I should do…that’s all.” “Hmm.” Einar flopped the blanket back over his head, hoping that was all they had been talking about, but having heard the strain in Liz’s voice, he was not at all sure. She dropped Einar off where he asked, by the side of the road not too far past the bridge, helping him get the backpack on and steadying him when he stumbled at first under its weight. “You come back, understand? I’ll have dinner waiting for you. And don’t forget Ed and Edie if you run into some trouble.” “I will be back, but maybe not tonight. Don’t look for me till tomorrow sometime, at the earliest. Liz…thanks.” Without another word he turned and picked his way up over the icy snowplow berm, starting up the slope into the heavy timber. The slope steepened quickly, and Einar was soon badly winded and dealing with worsening leg cramps, as his wasted muscles protested at the renewed activity. Having dragged himself several hundred feet up from the valley floor, he leaned gasping against a tree, waiting for his heart to slow and the nausea to subside some, wondering what he could possibly have been thinking, attempting the climb so soon. He nearly made the

decision then to turn back, but after catching his breath he continued, finding a pace that worked a bit better and allowed him to keep going. The ridge was cut by a number of steep-walled gullies and peppered with haphazard tangles of windfall trees, and the going was much slower than Einar had anticipated, even factoring in his condition. He had to keep climbing over the snags, his legs becoming trapped frequently in the hollow spaces beneath the suspended logs. As he went on, progressing up the hill became a series of grim tradeoffs between sparing his injured foot, and keeping himself from falling too hard and striking the backpack on a tree. At first he had made a great effort to keep most of the weight off the right foot and avoid jarring it in any way, but after one fall and a couple of close calls, he decided that he would just have to focus all of his attention on staying upright, even at the expense of the foot. While he had packed the device as carefully as he could, protecting the shock-sensitive component with padding and waiting to do the final assembly until he reached the cliff, he did not want to risk a heavy blow to any part of the backpack. I’ve never actually tested this stuff to see how hard you’d have to whack it on a tree to make it go, but I know putting a little pile on a brick and hitting it with a hammer isn’t the best idea, and this sure isn’t the time to be doing any field tests…so looks like I’ve got two choices here… One option, he knew, could potentially lead to his untimely demise, the other would just hurt like heck. Which he was pretty sure by now wouldn’t actually kill him, though he might at times finding himself almost wishing it would. Number two it is… Einar managed to stay warm for the first part of his climb, and fairly dry as well. Sweating at times as he ascended, he kept slowing his pace, knowing he would almost certainly be out for at least one night and couldn’t afford to dampen his clothes. Before long, though, the pain from his foot was causing him to sweat profusely anyway, and he pushed ahead as fast as he was able, just wanting to get it over with. Nauseated by the pain, he didn’t feel at all like eating or much like drinking when he stopped for a break, but he forced himself to take a sip from the water bottle Liz had sent with him, knowing that his already lackluster pace would soon slow even further as he became dehydrated. • • • •

Liz returned to the house after dropping Einar off, finished her morning chores with the animals, did the dishes, and sat down with a book, trying to concentrate on it and not fret about what she had no control over. She could not sit still for long though, and in an attempt to get her mind off of Einar, she went into the kitchen and boiled a chicken that her aunt had in the freezer, and chopped up and sauteed an onion and a green pepper, planning to prepare a casserole that she could save to put in the oven when if? Einar returned. Done with the dinner preparations and not wanting to stop moving and give herself time to sit and worry, she started cleaning the house, thoroughly scrubbing the kitchen floor and the bathroom and then dusting every available surface, including her aunt’s little knick knack shelf in a corner of the living room. She stopped when she dropped a glass bell from her aunt’s collection, shattering it on the hardwood floor. Sweeping up the fragments of blue glass, Liz asked herself, and not for the first time, why she was wasting her time on a man who was so relentlessly unwilling to accept help,

why she was allowing herself to come to care so deeply for someone who seemed entirely incapable of harboring similar feelings. She kept telling herself she just needed to let go of the matter, trust it to God and not worry about what might happen…but as darkness began creeping down the valley, she kept looking out the window, kept checking the radio to make sure the volume was turned up, that the batteries weren’t running low. Without wanting to, she kept imagining all the ways Einar could be injured or trapped out there, wondered if perhaps he had just decided not to come back at all, despite what he had told her. She knew that she could probably follow the tracks he would be leaving, wanted to get a flashlight from the shed and do it that night, but knew that he would be upset about it and that, not being as savvy and elusive in the woods as he was she might well be putting him in greater danger by going. So she waited, sitting up most of the night at the kitchen table drinking tea and trying to find the words to pray for his safe return. • • • •

Finally, near sunset, Einar began recognizing in the landscape scenes from his dream, albeit snow covered, and knew that he was nearing the ledge. When finally he reached the rocky outcropping, there was not enough light left to do much that night, so after resting for a few minutes and taking in the dimming view of the valley, he stashed the device in a safe place, crawled under a large fir, and dug down in the snow until he reached the frozen duff. Liz, knowing something of the problems his foot was certain to give him, had insisted on sending a small bag of ibuprofin tablets along, and, seeing that the pain was not subsiding any even after he got his weight off the foot, he swallowed a few of them and sat back against the tree trunk, hoping they would start to work quickly. The pills didn’t seem to have any impact on the foot, though, and Einar sat there with his eyes closed until after a half hour or so, the pain slowly reached a more tolerable level. Got to try to eat something if I want a chance at staying warm tonight… He pulled out the jar of Nutella Liz had sent with him (“fat, protein, and chocolate, all in one convenient little package,” she’d said, and he smiled a little at the memory) and pried some of the nearly frozen substance out with his knife, tremendously glad that he at least had food and water on this trip… Ready to hunker down and wait for daylight, Einar painfully changed his blood-soaked socks for the dry ones in the pack and stuffed his booted feet down into the nearly empty backpack for added warmth, remembering to tuck the water bottle in under his coat for the night to keep it from freezing solid by morning. He spent a cold but not unbearable night huddled under the tree, snatching a few minutes of sleep here and there before being again wakened by a fresh wave of pain from his abused foot. Chapter Forty Two As soon as light began showing in the sky, Einar dragged himself up from his bed at the base of the tree and, after eating and taking a gulp from his ice encrusted but not quite frozen water bottle, worked to warm his extremities to the point that he could begin his task. He knew he had a lot of work and then a difficult descent ahead of him that day if he wanted to avoid spending another freezing night out in the snow. Which would be a

really good idea, because I can hardly feel my toes this morning--less pain, which is great, but also less circulation and less chance for healing-- and after today, I’ll be all out of dry socks to change into… • • • •

That morning, Liz decided to try and turn some of the cottonwood buds into a salve that she could use for Einar’s feet when he returned. He had seemed, as with most things, to have a definite idea of how he wanted to do it, and it wasn’t something she had ever done before, but he had said something about stirring and mashing the buds into some sort of grease, since there was not time to soak them in oil for several weeks. Not sure what would make the best base for the salve and limited by what she had there in the house, Liz carefully heated some Vaseline, shaved in some beeswax from a block she had for other projects, and added a bunch of the buds, snipping each in half with scissors before dropping it into the pot. As she stirred, the kitchen was filled with a sweet tangy smell and the mixture began taking on a definite reddish-orange color, telling her that the resin was melting and combining with her other ingredients. After heating it gently for awhile, Liz strained the mixture into a pint jar and covered it with a cloth to let it cool. She had an idea, though, and wondered if the salve couldn’t be improved by the addition of a couple of ingredients. Exploring the pantry shelf where her aunt kept her herbs and spices, neatly arranged in rows of labeled glass jars. She found one that contained a number of dried comfrey leaves from last year’s garden, and, pouring half of the stillliquid salve back into the pot, she broke a couple of the leaves into it, heating and stirring for awhile before straining the mixture into another jar. Well, if I did it wrong, at least half of the buds are still left, and he can start over when he gets back… Liz had been listening to the local public radio station as she worked--Tuesday morning was bluegrass morning--and as she poured the salve into its jar, the DJ began reading a special report about a Mountain Task Force press conference that had been held earlier that morning: “Special agent Todd Leer said at a press conference this morning that there has been no sign of fugitive Einar Asmundson since his disappearance over a week ago after a brazen attack on an FBI outpost, in which he stole a snowmobile and firebombed the remaining machines. Leer went on to declare that since there have been no sightings of Asmundson, it is believed that he is either dead in the snow, or receiving help from local residents in the Culver Falls area. He announced a newly-instated reward of $25,000 to anyone providing information about such assistance that leads to the prosecution of the individual or individuals involved. Leer went on to state that harboring or providing material support of any kind to a federal fugitive is a federal offense, and would carry a hefty fine and in this case a minimum of ten years in prison. And,” commented the DJ, finished reading the press release, “if you put that new reward together with the one they’re already offering for this guy, that adds up to a pretty hefty chunk of change indeed, Culver Falls, so you better all keep your eyes open. Besides, the sooner they find him,

the sooner we can all have our county back, our town back, our lives back, get back to normal here and let the old feed store go right back to rusting away in peace…” She clicked off the radio, not really interested in the DJ’s continuing commentary on the situation. “Providing material support,” huh? I wonder if they do suspect me…if they may come back here and search again. Surely they already would have, though, if they had reason… In the months between first finding Einar by the river and his showing up again at her doorstep, Liz had done some reading at the library, and knew from her research that the legal term “material support” was incredibly broadly interpreted by the courts. Without even trying, she could think of five or six specific provisions of 18 U.S.C. 2339 that she had already repeatedly violated, and she almost wished she hadn’t done the research. It’s better to know what’s at stake, though, I guess… • • • •

Shortly before noon, Einar finished carefully positioning his device in a crevice in the rock on the outcropping, and rigging the trigger. Now that he was actually up at the site and able to see specifically how the area was set up, he was doubtful that his plan would work, seeing that so many things would have to come together in just the right way for him to even be able to give it a try. Deciding on a trigger mechanism--which in this case just involved causing a rock to drop on the shock-sensitive portion of the device when it was tripped--had posed its own unique problems in that winter environment. Most of his usual choices were out of the question due to the fact that they would likely either have been covered by the deepening snow before he needed them to function, or would be at the wrong height due to spring melt out. He had decided on using a tripwire, placing it a couple of feet off the snow in a heavily treed area adjacent to the cliff, hoping that the trees would preclude its being buried. It would be at nearly chest height when the snow melted out, and, he hoped, concealed well enough by the shadows under the black timber. For the tripwire itself he used a length of fishing line that he had found in the garage, and attached to it and supported by a small secondary triggering mechanism that he wired to a tree, a length of heavier wire stretched at an angle up to the rock he planned to drop on the device. He hoped the dark timber would be enough to conceal the wire from sight, because in the scenario he was imagining, he would have no control at all what time of day he might be up there with the chance to make use of the device. But it would probably be late morning at the very least, if not early afternoon like it is now, because they would not start up the ridge before daylight, and I think it’s going to take a few hours to reach this ledge, even in the summer. And I can hardly see the wire right now, even knowing where it is. The rock was placed on a rough shelf of logs that he had bound together with wire, supported by an upright post that sat on a smooth, round aspen log, placed horizontally on a flat rock. The heavier wire was attached to the upright post, and when tripped would cause the post to roll on the lower log, dropping the rock from its place on the shelf. Einar was glad that there was an overhanging rock ledge on the outcropping, as he had thought he saw from below with the binoculars, because without this shelter for the rock dropping setup, he knew that the extra weight of the snow piling up on top of it through

the winter would have probably eventually destabilized his trigger and made the rock fall prematurely. And without the sheltering ledge, the rock would have been buried deep under the snow anyway, making his task very difficult if not impossible. Even with the precautions he had taken, he knew that something could still happen--a branch fall on the wire or an elk walk into the fish line--to set off the device, but he was confident that, even if for some odd and unforeseen reason a person should trigger it, they would be spared the brunt of the damage, protected somewhat by the outcropping as--hopefully--part of the ledge came down and started a massive rockslide down the gulley. The primary purpose of this device was as a diversion, to hopefully allow him to escape in the resulting confusion. Well. Hopefully I’ll never find myself in the position where I need to try it, because that would mean something had gone really terribly wrong… He knew it was a possibility, though, and decided to create a secondary trigger that he would perhaps have the chance to trip manually, if the trip wire somehow failed to work. Repacking the backpack with his remaining gear and checking all of the tripwires and triggers one final time, Einar headed down the mountain, sitting down and sliding whenever he could safely do so, wanting very badly to spare his feet. • • • •

The descent of the ridge was somewhat easier than the climb had been, and, without a backpack full of shock sensitive improvised explosives to worry about, a whole lot less intense for Einar. He was thankful, because he found himself nearly unable to walk, stumbling and sliding down the slope clumsily, just trying not to jar his swollen right foot too badly or gain too much speed in the open sections and slam into a tree. It was late afternoon by the time he began to see the road far below him through occasional gaps in the timber, the valley already full of shadow. A red pickup with an empty snowmobile trailer was parked in the wide spot where Liz had dropped him off, and stopping at a safe distance beneath a tree, he thought he saw the silhouette of a human head through the passenger’s window. He knew that he couldn’t reach the house by going further downriver on that side without having to cross the river (no way!) at some point, and going upriver out of sight of the truck would mean crossing the road in an unfamiliar place and somehow making his was past several houses before finally crossing the bridge. As carefully as he could, Einar crept lower on the slope, going from tree to tree and keeping a close eye on the truck. The human form didn’t seem to be moving, and he began to wonder whether it was just a coat and hat, draped over the seat back. Reaching a point where he had to make a choice whether or not to leave the cover of the trees, he hesitated, knowing that he would be moving pretty slowly out there, and would probably have no way to hide in time to avoid detection if there was indeed someone in the truck. So if they’re out snowmobiling, surely they’ll be back soon. It’s got to be well into the evening by now… Starting to shiver in his sweat-damp clothes as he waited, Einar briefly considered going ahead and trying to sneak past the truck, but when he saw the person inside stir and change position, he thought better of it, deciding to wait it out. Hungry, he carved out

some of the Nutella, waxy in the cold, and ate it slowly as he sat waiting for the truck to leave. Near dusk and beginning to grow rather cold from sitting still so long in the snow, he heard the buzz of snow machines coming down the road, and watched as the two sleds were loaded on the waiting trailer. Concerned about the steady stream of traffic that was headed up valley that evening, he waited until after dark to cross the bridge, crawling across because he knew at that point it would be quicker than walking, which had become difficult and painful almost to the point of impossibility after wrenching his hip one too many times falling through the rotten snow around the buried snags on the mountainside. He made it across the bridge without incident and dropped down into the woods, wanting to get to a place where he could watch the house for awhile before approaching it. Observing from the same forested rise that he had retreated to after Allan came to the door the other day, he could see nothing amiss, but waited to go down until he saw Liz emerge from the house to close up the animals for the night. She was still out in the barn when he made it to the house, and he let himself in, stumbling through the door and hurriedly getting into some dry clothes before rolling up in a blanket on the floor in front of the stove, shivering and exhausted but finally convinced that he had done all he could do for the time to ensure his continued freedom, finally ready to rest. He was asleep almost instantly. The rest didn’t last for long though, because soon Liz came in, wanting to tend to his feet and get him food. Einar knew the toes needed attention--they were hurting badly again as he warmed, and he hadn’t even tried to get his socks off to take a look at them, but was sure they were a mess--but he was otherwise so comfortable and drowsy that he really didn’t want to move, and at first pretended to be asleep in the hopes that she would leave him alone. Liz, though, not knowing what kind of shape he might be in after his journey, insisted that he wake up and let her take a look at him, and, finally giving in to her persistence, he rolled over and sat up. “You’re back! Are you OK? Let me see your feet.” “Yeah…I’m alright. Having food along helps a lot. F-feet are…pretty bad again though I think.” His speech was a little slurred and she could tell that he was pretty cold, but seemed at least to have a good grasp of what was going on around him, and she decided that he was not in nearly as much trouble as he had been after crossing the ridge the other night. He’s an amazingly resilient fellow, I guess…or maybe just absurdly well practiced at hiding how bad off he really is. Probably a good bit of each. I’m pretty sure he even fools himself, half the time… She once again soaked off his bloody socks and treated his feet, this time applying the new cottonwood bud salve before putting gauze between each of the damaged toes. Attempting to take his mind off the painful process of cleaning and bandaging the toes, Liz described to him in detail the process she had used to make the salve, asking if she had done it right. Einar just grunted, wishing she would not talk to him while she worked, because it interrupted his focus and made it harder to deal with the rather significant pain of his swollen and battered foot. Liz had intended to heat up a big

plate of casserole for Einar when she finished with the feet, but returning from the kitchen she found him fast asleep again, rolled up in the blanket. She draped another blanket over him and let him be for the night. A few days later, between a lot of rest, a liberal use of the cottonwood bud salve and numerous mugs of ginger tea, Einar’s foot had finally begun healing and for the first time, he was beginning to be hopeful that he might make it through the frostbite without losing any toes or facing a life-threatening infection. Spending most of his time on the couch, resting his foot and eating as much as Liz would bring him, he had at last managed to begin putting on a little weight and stop feeling so cold and shaky all the time. It seemed, though, that he was constantly hungry; he could finish off an enormous heap of scrambled eggs or chicken casserole, and find himself starving again an hour later. Liz did her best to keep up with him, nearly clearing the store shelves out of Nutella more than once and spending a good bit of time in the kitchen preparing casseroles, stews, and split pea soup, which seemed to have become one of his favorites, but Einar, in spite of himself, had begun stashing and hiding food in the living room and sneaking into the kitchen while Liz was outside to get more. Liz caught him at it once, and tried to reassure him that there was plenty to eat, that she’d bring him as much as he wanted, but she could see that being confronted about it just irritated him and even embarrassed him a little, so she dropped the matter. The injured hip began healing faster as Einar was able to eat more and give it some rest, and while he had not been putting any weight on it in an effort to allow it to mend, he was pretty sure he could now, if necessary. Liz, having promised him that she would find him a set of crutches if he gave his feet several days to recover first, set off on the fourth day after his expedition to locate a pair. Chapter Forty Three As Liz drove past the FBI compound that morning on her way into town, she glanced at the steel building, sitting securely behind its high chain link fence and double coil of concertina wire. It looked fairly quiet, with the exception of two or three network news satellite trucks that sat near the gate, broadcasting their prerequisite and repetitive “on the scene” reports for the morning news, the reporters and cameras strategically repositioned each day to provide a fresh scenic mountain backdrop for their viewers. A National Guard Huey sat off to the right of the building in the cleared area, and several agents, their dress varying from blue uniform jackets--imprinted with the yellow alphabet soup letters of the wearer’s respective federal agency--to BDUs, milled around between the building and a series of trailers that were being used for equipment storage. What Liz could not see, of course, was the subtle shift in strategy that was taking place that morning as the senior members of the Mountain Task Force met over coffee and Danish to discuss their next move. Special Agent Todd Leer, unwilling to see his career go up in smoke over this case as Toland Jimson’s had, remained steadfastly unwilling to risk prematurely declaring Einar dead as his predecessor had done, or even hint that his demise was being considered as a

possibility, unless and until a body had been found. The two Mountain Rescue volunteers who had been brought in that morning to consult on the matter tried to impress on Leer that it was highly likely that any potential body in this case, especially if the subject had headed up instead of down after the avalanche, would probably not turn up until spring, if then. They recounted to him numerous incidents where the search area had been far more well defined, and the subjects making no effort at all to conceal their presence, where a thorough search had turned up nothing, and the body had not been found or recovered until much later. In conditions such as this, they told him, it would be reasonable to presume after a length of time, based on precedent, that the subject was not going to be found alive. “Not good enough.” Leer dismissed their presentation with an impatient wave of his hand, telling them their services would not be needed any more that day. Two agents quickly escorted the men out of the compound, highlighting what had become a growing tension between the federal searchers and the local law enforcement and rescue communities. The feds felt that the locals, including and especially the Sherriff’s Department, were not putting out as great an effort as they might to assist in the search, and that, combined with the preconceived notion that many of the city-based feds had brought with them that the locals were just a bunch of ignorant cowboys, had lead to Leer and many of his subordinates treating them with an air of condescension that was not lost on the residents of Lakemont County, and did little to increase their goodwill towards the agents. The room cleared of undesirables, Leer went on in no uncertain terms to tell all gathered that he would not be caught ‘presuming’ anything, until and unless the subject’s frozen corpse was dragged into his office, thawed out to make sure he was thoroughly dead, positively identified and put into a body bag. “And as far as precedent goes, in this case precedent tells us that we must presume Asmundson is alive, if not well, and may actually be stalking us rather than running. What we need here is a new plan, people. Now I do concur with those local guys when they say there is no way our subject has been making it out there all this time and in these conditions…at least not without assistance. I believe our focus from this point on needs to shift from the active ground and air search, which is clearly yielding nothing useful, to concentrate on rooting out whoever is aiding our subject. From now on we will devote our resources to following up on all leads, no matter how small or old they may be, we will revisit those that seemed promising at the time, and will make a concerted and timely effort to integrate one or more undercover agents into the local community for the purpose of gathering intelligence on any organized group or individual who may be providing supplies, safe houses or any other form of assistance whatsoever to Asmundson. And no mention of any of this to the press, at this time.” With the official portion of the morning meeting concluded, Leer and several of the other agents, including the BATF liaison--another source of tension…the two agencies still did not work at all well together--sat around the table for another hour to hash out the specifics of their new strategy, confident by the time they finished that this approach

would soon yield results. The assigned community infiltrator set out for town in a nondescript vehicle to do some background work, dressed in the “civilian” attire of the region--meaning jeans, Sorrels and a flannel shirt. • • • •

After inquiring unsuccessfully at the drug store and the pharmacy of the local grocery store, Liz had finally managed to find a pair of serviceable crutches at the Good Will in Culver Falls, and was anxious to show her find to Einar. Arriving back at the house she found herself somewhat anxious, knowing that almost every time she had previously left Einar there alone, he had managed to convince himself that some impending disaster lurked and undo several days’ worth of healing in an attempt to outdistance it. Much to her relief, she found him stretched out in the sun on the back porch, reading a newspaper and coaxing the last bit of Nutella out of the jar with a spoon. I’d be willing to bet he’s never relaxed this much before, in his life… And she knew that the respite would almost certainly be short-lived this time, as well, but hoped that it would be enough, at least, to give him a fighting chance when he did venture back out there. Over the past few days, resting and eating and waiting for his feet to start turning around, he had spoken some about leaving, and she had tried several times to talk him into staying the winter, saying that he could live in the crawl space, in the root cellar, in one of the barns, even, if he would feel safer about it. And while he had never just come out and said “no,” She could tell that he really could hardly wait to get back out there, and knew that with his feet finally beginning to show improvement and his energy seeming to be up quite a bit, it probably wouldn’t be long before he took off again. Einar was really excited to see the crutches, and insisted over Liz’s protests on trying them at once. “Don’t worry. I won’t even let the bad foot touch the ground. And my hip is feeling a lot better today. I’ve got to start using it some, or those muscles just aren’t going to do what I need them to when the time comes…” She finally relented and handed him the crutches, saying he could experiment with them while she went out to care for the animals, having already missed her morning chores and being late for the afternoon ones. Sorry for causing Liz to shirk her duties and anxious to test his limits with the crutches, Einar offered to make dinner while she caught up on her work. “Oh, no you don’t,” she exclaimed, grabbing the crutches back out of his hands. “I’ve seen the kinds of things you cook, and while I know they have their uses, I’m pretty sure I would never actually want to eat any of them…” “Hey now, give me a chance! You should have tasted the spruce needle tea with bear fat that I was making up there. And roasted spruce bark, and porcupine liver. Mmm. Nothing better! I have very versatile cooking abilities…”

She wrinkled up her nose. “Yuck! But I guess you can go ahead, if you’ll promise not to get confused about exactly which type of “project” you’re cooking up in there…I do want to live through dinner, you know!” “I’ll be very, very careful…” He grinned, took off into the kitchen, making great bounds on the new crutches, delighted at his newly restored mobility. Chapter Forty Four Sitting on the couch after finishing Einar’s supper concoction, a casserole of ground beef, potatoes and left over vegetables that had turned out rather well despite Liz’s previous misgivings, he brought up the possibility of obtaining a few more items that he hoped to take with him when he left the house. “Wonder if I could take some split peas and lentils and things from the pantry? I know I’m not going to be able to carry a whole lot yet at one time, but it would be great to stash some of that stuff away in the woods around here, so if I get in trouble this winter I’ll have something to fall back on without…going somewhere that might put me in danger of being seen. If the supplies are out there in the garage or shed, I could make a couple of tubes from ABS pipe with endcaps to store the food in, but if not, you don’t need to be going in and buying that stuff. It might look weird to somebody, if they noticed. I could use a five gallon bucket, instead, especially if you could find one of those “Gamma Seal” lids like they sell at sporting goods places, that have a threaded ring you hammer onto the bucket so you can easily screw the lid on and off. It wouldn’t be quite as good, but I could make do with an empty icing bucket from the grocery store bakery, and the used lid that would come with. Put the food in ziplock bags, run several wraps of weather resistant duct tape around the outside of the bucket to seal the lid in place, and it would probably be good for one winter. And if I could put some socks in there, too, and maybe a few first aid supplies…” “I get the idea. And I know I’ve seen those Gamma lids at the Ranch Supply. I’ll go in the morning. Anything else?” “Well, I saw some coffee cans out in the garage. Do you think anybody would miss them if I took a couple? Sure would be nice to be able to make a little stove out of one, put the other on top for cooking in. And it would be great to have a little .22 for hunting, when the search dies down again and it’s safe to make a little noise, but I can’t go into town and you probably can’t buy one, since you’re from out of state. I…don’t suppose your uncle has anything like that stashed around here someplace?” Having thoroughly searched the house in the hopes of finding a weapon several days ago while Liz was at the store, Einar was pretty sure that he already knew the answer, but thought it was worth a try, in case he had missed something. “No, I don’t think so. He has a pistol, but that went with them in the RV. Maybe one of the guys at church…”

“No. Please don’t bring anybody else into this. I just need a few more days here, can’t risk having them find out, now. I can make do with the snares.” “I’m sure you can. How did you…get so good at making it up there? How does a person prepare themselves for that?” “Well…I’m not sure I am all that good at it. Was really just barely getting by, those last couple of months. But to answer your question, you mostly learn those things from experience, I guess. I used to spend an awful lot of time up in the woods, even before… It’s what I know. But it wasn’t all just for fun or ‘recreation’ or whatever. You can really stretch the limits of your endurance through deliberate training, and I’ve done a good bit of that, too. Intentionally go without food for a day, then for two or three, just to see what it feels like, how it limits your abilities. Then go for a little longer. It trains your body to be able to keep going, but it’s just as much about keeping your mind in line, letting yourself know what you’re actually capable of. Same thing with the cold. Now I know (boy, do I ever,) that there are some solid limits there that you will eventually run into, and if you insist on pushing them, you’re gonna get hurt. But you can gradually push where those limits are for you, and increase your tolerance to the cold, even come to enjoy it, to some extent. I had been working on this for years before I actually had to use my training, and I hate to think what kind of trouble I’d have been in up there this winter without that background. I’m pretty sure I would have just sat down and died at some point because I couldn’t take it anymore.” He paused, staring at the fire through the little window in the stove door, recalling how he had come way too close to doing just that, more than once… “And the will, or whatever you want to call it, has to be exercised just like the body, if you want it to be fit and ready when you need it. Only way to learn persistence is to frequently put yourself in situations where you have to…persist. You can’t wait to think about this until you actually need it, because then it will probably be too late. It has to become a way of life. Now I’ve heard people say, ‘well, I don’t want to live that way, but I know I will be able to do what I need to do, handle (whatever is being discussed) when the time comes…” No. You almost certainly won’t. When things suddenly get bad, a person tends to default to what they know best. And if that involves usually doing the convenient thing, taking the easy way out, avoiding hardship at all cost in your daily life, then that’s what you’re probably going to do. Or at least you’re going to take too long to make your decision, and by then it may be too late for you to have any influence over your situation. A person has got to train so it becomes automatic, so that your default is what you will need in the scenarios you are planning for or find the most likely. In my case, I knew that some of the stuff I was into could end up leading me right here, into the middle of a search like this--though I guess I never imagined it being quite this massive-so I trained for it, trained for making it out with my freedom and if possible also with my life… It’s like life insurance, only you get to use it while you’re still alive…though if I had focused a little more on making some other things automatic--some operational security measures that I should have never allowed myself to deviate from, maybe I wouldn’t be here right now…but that’s beside the point.”

He stopped, realizing that he had been going on for way too long and preaching a bit in response to her question. “Why do you ask, anyway?” Sitting around the stove, comfortable, relaxed and full of casserole and chocolate cake, Liz decided there would probably be no better time to broach a difficult subject that she had been struggling with how to bring up for some time. “Einar. I want to come with you.” “Huh? Where?” He was totally caught off guard by her statement, to the point that he was sure he had misunderstood its intended meaning. “What are you talking about?” “I want to go up there with you when you go. Up the mountain or wherever you’re going. I could be a lot of help.” “You want to…what?” He was about to start laughing, but seeing the pained look on Liz’s face, thought better of it. “You want to come up there and live in a cold, dark old mine tunnel and eat rabbits with me and probably starve half the time for the rest of the winter and only have a fire when there’s nothing flying over? ‘Cause that’s what I’m gonna be doing.” “Yes. I do.” He shook his head, not knowing at all how to respond to this unexpected request. “You’re crazier than I am then. I don’t have a choice. I…guess I appreciate that you want to help, but no. No way. Not like that.” “I’ve thought about this, though. I’m pretty handy at some things, and I’d learn the rest quickly. With two of us to run traplines and all, everything would be a little easier, and if something happened to one of us, the other would be there to help out. I want to do this, Einar.” “Well I don’t want you to!” He stood, took a few limping steps back away from her, leaning on the couch for balance. “And anyway, it would be way more risky for two people than for one out there--leaving tracks, beating down trails, it would double the chance of being seen and having to run again. Not to mention that people would miss you and start asking questions…and why on earth would you even want to do something like that?” Liz was staring at the ground, wouldn’t meet his eye. “I…have to go feed the animals.” She left hurriedly. He could see that he’d upset her, but what did she expect me to say? What could possess her to come up with a crazy thing like that? It was an unspoken thing between them, after that conversation, but they both knew that the time would soon come for Einar to leave.

On her way in from the evening chores, Liz found him the coffee cans, and insisted also that he pack the FRS radio and extra batteries. “I’ll be here through the March at least, so if you end up needing anything, I could always meet you somewhere with it…” She had a thought, went into the other room and returned with two keys on a small ring, pressed them into his hand. “For the house and the root cellar. In case you decide to come sometime when I’m not here.” That evening, the sky was heavy with impending storm, the wind was picking up, and Einar, though he denied that anything was wrong when Liz inquired, was unusually quiet and detached, sullen, almost , as he sorted through the backpack and rearranged everything, reminding her more of the way he had been months ago when he’d first shown up at the house. He kept going from window to window like he expected to see something in the gathering dusk, couldn’t seem to sit still. The next morning when Liz got up, startled out of sleep around 4 am by a disturbing dream, Einar was gone. A folded piece of paper lay on the table. Placed neatly side by side on the note, adding an unmistakable air of finality, were the radio and the keyring. She hurried to look out the back door, but his tracks were already nearly gone beneath the heavily falling snow. Less than an hour later, as Liz sat at the table with a mug of tea, three white Suburbans skidded to a halt in front of the house, digging trenches through six inches of fresh powder. Chapter Forty Five Liz heard the commotion outside, calmly walked to the stove and tossed in Einar’s note-she had it memorized by then, anyway--and stuck the radio and keys in a kitchen drawer before returning to the table to finish her tea and wait for the action. She wondered if they would bother to knock this time, or just break down the door. How did you know about this, Einar…? And how had they known, for that matter. Had she done something to tip them off? Had it been the boots? The food? The crutches. They knew he was injured, they saw his tracks there by the river. It had to be the crutches. Glancing around the house she could see no obvious signs of Einar’s presence, but knew that if they really searched, they would find fingerprints, hair, who knew what all, but certainly enough to arrest and charge her. And if they brought dogs… Seeing that Einar had taken only one of the crutches, she had a sudden idea. It probably wouldn’t fool them for a minute, but she sure had to try. When the knock finally came, she rose slowly from the table, limped over to the crutch where it leaned against the wall by the couch, and hobbled with it to the door. The three men at the front door were polite but very businesslike, presenting her with a paper that they said was a warrant, and demanding to search the house. She could hear stomping on the back porch, as well, then the glass of the sliding back door shattering as they entered, weapons drawn. Two of the agents took Liz over to the table and detained

her there as the search took place, beginning the questioning. Examining the back deck, one of the agents saw the remnants of Einar’s tracks under the eaves, where the snow had not completely drifted over them. Liz told them that she had heard a noise earlier that morning and, fearing that a bobcat might be attacking the birds, had gone out the back to check on them. She included a lot of detail in her story of checking on the birds, hoping to create some cover for herself when they inevitably found evidence of Einar in the house. There’s probably no way they’ll believe that he was here in the house on two different occasions, without me knowing. She could see that this was by far the most serious search effort yet. When they asked her to produce the boot that had made the track, she got her uncle’s from the bedroom, knowing it was larger than her own, though not quite large enough, if they really dusted away the new snow and looked. Which they did. With all the new snow, there was not a clear trail for them to follow once they got out from under the eaves, and the storm troopers had trampled down the snow on the deck pretty badly anyway, as they assembled and broke in the glass door. The agents could see enough, though, to convince them that someone other than Liz had been on the deck that morning. They tore up the shed, bird houses, barn and other outbuildings in search of Einar, rather careless of the animals, despite Liz’s protests, but could find no sign of him, and no further tracks in the snow. Radioing the command post, they called in the trackers and dogs, doubtful that there was a good trail left under the snow, but anxious to try, convinced that this time, they were not too many hours behind their subject. • • • •

Einar had not been able to sleep much that past night. He lay awake for hours, staring at the glow of the coals in the stove and debating with himself whether it was time to go, or if perhaps he should give himself a few more days. He was doing much better, but knew that to truly recover from his injuries and the exhaustion brought on by the extended lack of food, he actually would need to spend the winter at the house. Well. That’s not happening, and it is snowing tonight, would cover my tracks… And the more he thought about it, he really dreaded facing Liz the next morning, after the awkward end to their conversation that night following dinner. He never had known how to handle situations like that, and felt that he must have done a rather bad job of it in this case. Leave it. Get some sleep. You can figure out what to do, in the morning. Every time he managed to drift off, though, he woke with a start some minutes later to a sense of danger so tangible that he more than once got up off the couch to go from window to window, straining his eyes in search of anything out of place in the dimly lit snowy landscape outside. After the third or fourth episode of this, and starting to feel hungry, he decided to give up on sleep for awhile and get himself something to eat. Sitting at the kitchen table in the dark with a quart of cottage cheese and a spoon, Einar told himself that he really had been unfair to Liz earlier, with his hasty and rather ungracious dismissal of her sincere offer of help. She’d just startled him so badly, he had been a at loss for words and had said the first thing that came to mind. And he knew it would likely only make things worse if he

tried to elaborate on it in person. Knowing that there was a notepad over by the phone, he decided to attempt to put his thoughts into writing, instead. After several failed tries I’m not so good at this, either… he ended up with something that almost satisfied him, folded it and left it on the table for Liz to find when she had her morning tea before going out to feed the birds and let the goats out of their shed for the day: Liz-You give me hope that all is not yet lost for our country. I don’t really know why you chose to help me, and I certainly don’t understand why you kept at it, even when I made it very difficult and unpleasant for you. I’m just an ornery, stubborn, unsociable old fool who really doesn’t deserve to be treated half as well as you have treated me. You kept me alive and also reminded me that there really are people out there worth spending the time to get to know (though probably not many…) and for that I am very grateful. About what you said last night. I am sorry for responding the way I did, but it caught me completely off guard and I’m not at all good at knowing what to say to people, anyway. I expected that you were just barely putting up with me until I was well enough to go, and that you would be relieved to get back to your life when I was gone. So what you said came as quite a surprise, and I no doubt handled it badly. But I did mean at least some of what I said. The life I have chosen, some of the decisions I have made…though I believe they were right and would not go back and change much, my current situation-and I can’t really see it changing for the better--means that I have less choices than others when it comes to some things. That includes sharing my life with someone. I understand that you said you were willing to come up there and help me with traplines and everything, and as great as that really does sound, what kind of a life would it be for you? And it is too risky. Chances are that one or both of us would eventually be captured, or in my case probably killed, and I am not willing to put someone else (you) in that position. Go. Enjoy your life. Find someone to share it with, if that’s what you want. I’ll always be grateful to you for what you have done, and I truly wish we might have met under other circumstances. --E. As an afterthought, he had drawn a stylized oak leaf beside the “E.” It had always sort of been his signature, and seemed to belong. The note finished, Einar checked out the window and saw that the snow was still falling and the cloud cover showed no sign of lifting. Guess this is as good a time as any… He took a block of cheddar cheese from the refrigerator and added it to his stash in the backpack, before folding up all the blankets on the couch and checking with the flashlight to make sure he was leaving nothing out of order in the house. Still beset by the a pressing feeling of impending danger, he took the flashlight and retrieved the crumpled

drafts of his note from the trash, shoving them in the stove before donning his snow pants, coat and boots.

The snow was coming down heavily by the time Einar got everything together and quietly headed out the back door, the low, heavy clouds completely blotting out the moon in the predawn darkness. The world was still and silent, all sound muffled by the snow, no wind stirring. Starting out for the bridge, walking well with the crutch and managing the weight of his pack without too much difficulty, Einar felt at home, felt safe, surrounded by a protective shield of falling snow that blotted out sight and sound and even, before too long at this rate, his tracks. Hide me under the shadow of thy wings, from the wicked that oppress me, my deadly enemies, who compass me about… Thank you. The weather is definitely my friend this morning… By the time he made it across the bridge, though, the reality of his condition had begun to seriously dampen his enthusiasm, as he was faced with a fair amount of pain from his healing foot and hip and, as he began the climb, an almost crippling heaviness and weariness that told him that he still had a long way to go before he regained his accustomed endurance. He kept at it though, and found himself pretty far up the ridge by the time daylight finally began seeping in through the leaden cloud cover and infusing the slope with a flat light that made it difficult to see slight variations in the snow covered ground, sending him sprawling in the snow more than once as he climbed. As the morning wore on, Einar was also finding it harder than he would have imagined to go from the approximately 8,000 calories he had been consuming daily for the past several days at Liz’s probably could have really used a few more weeks of that… back to the severely restricted rations he was now imposing in an attempt to stretch his food supply. He was, it seemed, ravenously hungry all the time, and it was all he could do as he made his way up the mountain that morning to restrain himself from curling up under a tree and gobbling half the food in his pack at one sitting. Sure wish I’d been able to get those caches put out before I had to go… He was not to have long to focus on his hunger, however. Chapter Forty Six When the dogs arrived at the ranch house, it quickly became clear to the agents on the scene as well as to the dog handlers that Einar had not only recently been on the porch, but all over the house as well. Finding a blanket that especially appealed to the dogs, the handlers collected it in a bag and started the dogs on the back porch where the footprints had been found. Without too much difficulty they picked up his trail and followed it up into the woods beside the house, the handlers convinced they were headed in the right direction by the occasional partial footprint or depression in the snow that had been preserved beneath a tree where the powder had not completely covered or filled it in it.

They lost his trail on the road, though, which had, in the time since Einar crossed the bridge, seen at least two passes by the orange state Department of Transportation snowplows whose operators worked so diligently to keep the road open in the snowy weather . One of the dogs went down towards the river and the other ran back and forth across the road, snuffling at clumps of snow until his handler became convinced that he, too had lost the scent. It began to appear to Todd Leer and the other agents that their elusive quarry had once again managed to slip out from under their noses. Until someone had the idea to lead the dogs along the tops of the snowplow berms to see if they could once again pick up the scent. • • • •

The snow did not persist much past daylight that morning, and the clouds soon began thinning and lifting a bit. No sooner had the ceiling lifted than Einar began hearing the rumble of a helicopter from down valley. Though very careful to stick to the dark timber, he at first he wasn’t overly concerned, because the whole time he had been at Liz’s house, they had been making occasional runs through the valley, roughly following the course of the river. Crouching under a tree as the helicopter approached, as close as he could get to the trunk in the hopes that he would not be detected, Einar watched through the thick branches, catching occasional glimpses of the dark shape as it prowled the valley. As he watched, he began to realize that the chopper was not making routine passes up and down the valley. Instead, it was making tight turns, zigzagging back and forth along the ridge, starting down near the ranch house and making its way slowly in his direction. He could still see the house, but it was no more than a speck in the snowy field, too far away for him to tell what was happening down there. Something must have told them to focus on this side again. Have they been to the house? He began to think that perhaps the inexplicable foreboding of danger that had afflicted his sleep the past night had not been all in his imagination. I should know that, by now… There had been more than one occasion in the past when he had regretted not heeding such a premonition. The helicopter had finally made its way up to his section of ridge, and Einar kept still beneath the tree, head on his knees and arms wrapped around them, hoping they might mistake him for a sleeping deer or elk if he showed up on infrared. The day was still heavily overcast and quite cold, and detection was a real concern. I really seriously do not need to be running again yet. If I have to run, if I can’t stop to dry out and take care of my foot now and then, the foot is not going to be OK. Go away, go away you buzzard! Keep moving up that ridge. But it was hovering, if not directly over his position, then not at all far from it. For several minutes he huddled there unmoving, becoming increasingly certain that he had been discovered, before the chopper moved on, slowly scouring the ridge up valley of him. He let his breath out in a rush, stood, wondering what to do next. Cautiously making his way to a place where he had a better view of the valley, he took out the binoculars Liz had sent with him, braced himself against a tree, and began scanning what he could see of the road. Nothing appeared amiss, until he spotted the area immediately across the bridge from the ranch house. Six or seven vehicles, mostly vans and Suburbans, were crowded into the wide spot on the far side of the road. He could see

people milling around, and to his great consternation, several leashed dogs. OK, Einar. This sure wasn’t part of the plan this morning. What now? His intention had been to make his way, the snow hiding all evidence of his passage, back up to the mine tunnel he had discovered after crossing from the other valley. He had hoped that, as it was only a few miles distant from the tunnel that they had discovered, they would not expect him to return to this area and would not again search it thoroughly. He had hoped to perhaps be able to finish out the winter there, aided by the supplies he had taken from the ranch house. Well, not any more. And if they tracked me from the house to the road, it won’t be long before they’re headed up the ridge, here. At a loss as to his next move, he briefly considered leading them into his trap up on the ledge, but hesitated, really wanting to preserve that option in case things became even more desperate. Einar, you fool, how can things get much more desperate than this? They’re in the air, they’re back there behind you on the ground, the snow’s stopped and you’re leaving tracks again… Oh, it can get worse. If they actually get their hands on me, it’ll be far worse. And then, the ledge will be my only option, and a slim hope at that. I’ve got to save the ledge, if I can. And I may still have another option or two, here. But with the chopper making repeated passes a few hundred feet at most over his head and the search team assembling on the road in the valley below, he was hard pressed at the moment to say what those options might be. Finally the helicopter moved on, and Einar worked fast to make good on an idea that had occurred to him as he waited. Pulling out one of the two black contractor’s garbage bags that he had taken for melting snow on sunny days he carefully opened it over a small dead fir in a place where it would not be clearly visible from the air, but also would not be under too much heavy timber. From another pouch in the backpack he took four of the chemical handwarmers that Liz had sent with him, and placed them beneath the bag, but did not activate them yet. Cutting a length of paracord, he tied it loosely around the top part of the bag to create a roughly head shaped section, leaving the cord loose so the soon-to-be warm air could still rise up into that area. He briefly wondered whether he should also leave the coat, dressing the dummy in it to make it look more realistic, but I’ve tried making it out here without a coat before, and it really didn’t go at all well. And it’s even colder and snowier now than it was then. Got to have the coat. But in the end he decided to leave one of the two polypropylene undershirts that Liz had given him, hoping to make his decoy appear more realistic. As a finishing touch, he took a handkerchief out of the backpack, folded it over, and fastened it to the top of the “head” to serve as a hat, before activating the heat packs so they could begin warming the air in his decoy. He wanted to take the time to rig a deadfall or some other type of surprise for the searchers who would eventually--he hoped--be called in to check out his decoy, that’d really slow down the ground search… but pressed by the possibility of the helicopter returning at any moment, he decided it was time he just didn’t have.

Finished with the decoy, Einar hurried off under the dark timber, trying his absolute best to take a course on which he would leave no track that would show from the air. Of secondary importance, he strove to leave as little sign of his passage on the ground as possible, stepping on crusty patches or places where the wind had caused the heavily laden evergreen branches to dump their loads of snow, leaving disturbed, icy patches on the ground. Chapter Forty Seven One of the FBI trackers who had been called to Liz’s that morning, after carefully blowing the snow out of the tracks under the back eaves to reveal the detail of the boot tread, made impressions of them by spraying the tracks with liquid paraffin (similar to the liquid paraffin that makes up some of the higher grade lamp oils), which quickly solidified on the snow and allowed him to make plaster casts. It would not take them much research to determine the brand and size of boot that had left the tracks, and agents would soon begin canvassing the sales records of the local sporting goods shops to see where, when and by whom the boots had been bought. Liz, watching through the shattered glass of the back door as they make the casts, was glad she had paid cash for the boots, but was not at all sure that would end up being enough to protect her. What if that store had security cameras…? The interrogators--there were two of them--were at first quite polite and professional with Liz, but as it became clear to them that she intended to deny all knowledge of Einar’s presence, they changed tactics, endlessly repeating their questions with only slight variations, deliberately asking questions that there was no unincriminating way for her to answer, and repeatedly threatening her with arrest and prison if she didn’t fully cooperate with the investigation. For hours they kept her there at the table, taking turns at the questioning, not allowing her to get up for any reason. After the first hour, she was shivering in the frigid morning air that blew in through the gaping hole where the sliding glass door had been, but she just kept telling herself to stay calm, to be strong and stick to her story, that things had been so much worse for Einar, and he had endured… She wondered how it was going for him up there, hoped the snow had been enough to wipe out his trail. While the feds at that time had nothing solid with which to prove that Liz’s version of events was not factual, the agents knew very well they could find something to hold her on, pending such discovery. Todd Leer though, in consultation with representatives of the other agencies taking part in the search, decided not to bring Liz in at that time, thinking that if their current chase did not end in his apprehension, perhaps Einar might at some point return to the house and he and Liz could be taken together, allowing for a far more solid case against Liz. They would back off for the moment, he decided, and watch the house, and Liz’s every move, very carefully. Finally they left, having thoroughly torn up the house and outbuildings in their search for Einar, and for evidence of his presence, removing several cardboard crates of material from the property. After the last Suburban pulled out of the driveway, Liz, using the

crutch to keep things consistent, threw on her coat and hurried out to check on the animals. She found her aunt’s prized pair of brightly colored red and yellow Golden Asian Pheasants dead on the ground--trampled, from the looks of it--and one Boer goat suffering from a deep scrape to one of its hind legs. She treated the goat’s injury, rounded up several other pheasants that had escaped through a damaged section of wire mesh in their enclosure, and did her best to put things back in order in the shed and barn. After cleaning up the mess outside the best that she could, Liz returned to the house and sat at the table, staring at the jumbled mess that used to be the living room, feeling violated and very alone. She wanted to call Allan or Bill or Susan from church, but was afraid doing so might drag them into this, too. She still wasn’t sure that the agents wouldn’t be back later with a warrant for her arrest. She wished she could ask Einar’s advice, but wasn’t at all sure she would like what he would tell her, if she could. She was certain, though, that he would have an idea of some sort. He always seemed to have an idea. I miss you, Einar… Chapter Forty Eight Scouring the ridge in the flat light, suppressing an urge to run blindly up the slope against the return of the helicopter, Einar saw a spine of exposed rock rising out of the timber some distance above him, and made his way towards it as quickly as he was able while still taking care with his trail, hoping to reach the rock before the helicopter returned, hoping to find some shelter beneath what appeared to be a series of small overhangs. He wasn’t quite there when the rumbling started, and quickly sought the shelter of a heavy clump of spruces and froze in place as the chopper approached. Ay first, he thought it was going to pass his decoy by without a second thought, and he wondered whether the heat packs were even functioning properly. He had not stayed to check. The chopper circled back though, and hovered not far from where he had left the bag and heat packs. Taking advantage of the helicopter’s momentary focus on that section of the ridge, Einar hurried up to the base of the rocky escarpment, wedging himself in beneath a low overhang, having to remove his pack and drag it in behind him. The black timber backed right up to the rocks in that area, and Einar was reasonably certain that the combination of vegetation and rock would protect him from being detected from the air. Hope I’m not just trapping myself here against this wall though, waiting for the dogs to show up… The wind was beginning to pick up, and though he knew it would have to grow quite a bit stronger before grounding the air search, he was hopeful that it might at least serve to disperse his scent some, if they did indeed bring dogs up the ridge after him. The dogs were out of the picture for the moment, however, as the agents on the helicopter radioed in the coordinates of what they were calling a “very promising thermal signature.” They kept hovering over the area, believing they had their subject pinned down on the mountainside, as the teams on the ground made their way up to the area in question. One of the handlers and his dog went along in case the subject should move before they reached him, but they were kept behind the dozen or so armed agents, who

believed they would shortly be approaching an armed and extremely dangerous suspect. As the helicopter continued hovering over his decoy, Einar decided to try and put some more distance between himself and the active search. The best way to do this, he had decided, was to pick his way up and over the rock spine, hopefully finding himself able to follow the exposed rock on the other side of the ridge. He took the chance then of making his way up the rocky slope knowing that he could be seen if they chose suddenly to fly over him, crossing as quickly as he could over the crest to the other side, which was deep in shadow and out of view of the hovering chopper. The grey schist of the ridge was brittle and in places loose, and Einar moved on it as fast as he dared, strapping the crutch to his pack to get it out if his way and struggling along on the steep rock. Though scoured of its snow by the wind, icy patches dotted the slope where snow had melted and run down earlier in the winter, refreezing into clear water ice that was at times almost impossible for him to see in the flat light. Several time he slipped and nearly came off the rocky spine, once catching himself on a sharp rock protrusion and struggling back to his feet with difficulty under the heavy pack. Finally, beginning to think that he had better get off the exposed rock pretty soon before his luck ran out, he saw from below what appeared to be a large overhang, partially protected by a frozen waterfall and accessible from the ridge only through a dark slot in the rock that he expected to find icy and impassible without crampons and axes. Reaching the top of the narrow chimney, he could not see the bottom, but decided that it was likely not more than twenty feet below, and the chimney was narrow enough to risk trying. Though the day was cold, he found that a small amount of water trickled down one wall of the chimney, making it terribly slippery. And his pack made it impossible for him to use the chimneying technique he needed to have a hope of not slipping and falling to the rock below. Struggling to pull himself back up out of the crack, he hastily found a length of paracord in his pack, tied it to one of the shoulder straps and lowered it into the darkness, dropping the cord when he felt the pack hit bottom. So. About thirty feet. I can do that… Free of the pack, he wedged himself into the crack, his back and one foot against one side, the other knee braced against the other in the narrow space. Fighting to avoid placing his feet against the wall that dripped with water, he edged his way down, slipping at one point on some ice and catching his fall by jamming both boots against the opposite wall. Not good for the hip… Chimneying down into the dark, damp recesses, Einar finally reached the bottom of the crack, six or seven feet above the rocky floor, which, now that his eyes had adjusted some to the darkness, was dimly illuminated by the daylight that found its way in through the chimney. He dropped to the rock below, which was wet and icy and very slick from the seeping water, and crawled around until he found a dry spot near the back of the cavernous space, removing his pack and slumping over against the rock wall, shaking with exhaustion and damp from the descent of the chimney, but feeling safer than he had in some time. • • • •

After resting long enough to begin catching his breath, Einar dragged himself to his feet

and quickly removed his damp snow pants and coat, finding his polypropylene pants to be fairly dry, but replacing the shirt with the fresh one from the pack. Moving carefully to avoid slipping on the icy rock floor, he explored his surroundings in the diffused light that filtered down through the chimney, finding that the only other way out appeared to be through a small opening between the rock face and the frozen waterfall that covered much of the front of his shelter and cast a faint bluish glow on the surrounding rock as light oozed in through the thick ice. I like it. This ought to be enough rock and ice to defeat their infrared detectors. It’ll work great, as long as the dogs don’t end up tracking me to the chimney up there... He poked his head out through the opening in the ice, which was roughly three feet high and not quite as wide as his shoulders. Blinking in the daylight, he looked out over a large section of mountainside to the valley far below. Immediately below his position the ridge dropped away sharply, the ground covered in ice from the waterfall, running down into a steep rocky gulley that twisted off toward the valley, lined with black timber. Doubt anybody will be coming up that at this time of year … And he was pretty sure that if they did, it would be no difficult task for him to drop a load of snow and rock down the gulley. A great deterrent… And if I have to, I can go down that gulley, myself. Have to explore it some, when the search moves on. If that happens before they find me here… Starting to get cold since he had stopped moving, Einar explored a dry looking crack up behind the chimney, finding a small, nearly level area at the back of it that was drier than anywhere else in the cave. He spread out the sleeping bag in the driest recesses of the crack, knowing that he must try to keep it dry at all costs, because it would be nearly impossible to dry anything down in that dark damp space, and he wouldn’t be venturing out in the sun until all signs of the active search had been gone for several days. He spent the rest of the day huddled in the sleeping bag, trying only somewhat successfully to stay warm. Relieved of the pressing need to run, his hunger had returned with a vengeance, and he ended up moving the backpack to another section of the cavern to keep himself from eating through too much of his limited food supply. Curled up in the sleeping bag, he nibbled on some almonds and attempted to sleep. A number of helicopters passed overhead as the day went on, but their sound was faint and muffled through the mass of rock and ice. By morning, Einar was so cold that he decided to risk using one of the left over hexamine tablets to heat some water and allow himself a small hot meal. The down in the old sleeping bag had tended to clump up beneath him, creating cold spots where he lay on the rock, and causing him to do a lot more shivering than sleeping that night. Still, though, he told himself as he watched the little patch of sky at the top of the chimney slowly change from black to grey, this is so much better than before, up at the tunnel. No comparison at all. Looking up through the chimney, he could see that the day was going to be clear, and he waited to light the hexamine until the sun was up, wanting to be as certain as he could that the small amount of heated air that would rise up through the thirty foot rock passage would not show too clearly. Then, placing the hexamine on a dry rock beneath the little coffee can stove he had made, he melted a chunk of ice for water, adding one of the little packets of instant chicken noodle soup that Liz had sent him, breathing the steam as he waited for the little chunks of dried chicken and carrot to soften

before drinking the soup. For the next three days Einar stayed in the cavern as helicopters passed frequently overhead. He found that the ice of the waterfall was great for melting as drinking water, yielding a far greater amount of water than a similar amount of snow would. He only had a few hexamine tablets left, though, and was glad to discover that, during all but the coldest hours of the night, a small amount of water continued to trickle down through the chimney. He rigged his one remaining contractor’s bag to catch the water, sticking one end of a two foot length of paracord into a crack in the rock where the water came down, letting the small stream run down the cord and into the bag. Seeing that it was going to be difficult to get the water out of the bag without upsetting the entire arrangement, he cut a small piece out of one corner to allow him to access the water that would accumulate, tying the hole shut with a single strand taken from the paracord and suspending that corner by tying the cord to a protrusion in the rock, to prevent water from leaking out. Those first couple of days in the cave were pretty cold ones for Einar, as he spent most of his time sitting still in the damp darkness, huddling in the sleeping bag and wishing that he was able to slow his metabolism and hibernate like a bear. Only I’d never make it, because somehow I managed to forget to put on an extra fifty pounds or so of fat last fall… He knew, anyway, that humans did not actually have the ability to hibernate. Sure would make the winter go faster, though. When he was finally able to get outside, careful to stick to the areas where the falling water had hardened the snow to avoid leaving tracks that might be seen from the air, he gathered a number of spruce boughs for his bed, which, keeping the sleeping bag up off of the cold rock floor, really helped him to sleep warmer. Under the shelter of the dark timber on the rim of the gulley below his shelter, Einar found rabbit tracks, and was able to set several snares, using the steel wire Liz had found for him. He collected firewood there also, sticking to the small dry branches on the undersides of the trees, that he could easily carry back and break up to use in his tin can stove. After several days had passed without a helicopter, he allowed himself a small fire in the stove, but not until after dark to eliminate any possibility of the smoke being seen. Looking around at the rock-strewn floor of the cavern, he had the idea that it should not be too difficult to build a rough stone fireplace or stove there under the rock chimney, as there were an almost limitless number of granite chunks, slabs and flakes on the floor, ranging in size from tiny chips to slabs that he could have stretched out on full-length, if he had been inclined. An idea to hang onto for the future. When there’s mud to use for mortar. Already he found himself making long term plans for this place, thinking about spring and how the shelter would change when the waterfall melted out and began flowing again it may not be a yearround thing, at all, though. Kind of hope not, because that would be awfully loud. I’d never hear if somebody was climbing up the gulley on me. Even as Einar made his plans for the spring, though, he knew that he first had to make it through the winter, which would by no stretch of the imagination be an easy feat. Already he was beginning to run low on the food brought from Liz’s and the snares had so far yielded only one small rabbit. And though he was able to walk with the crutch, his hip had been re injured to some extent by the fall in the chimney, and the frostbitten foot, though continuing to heal

with the aid of the cottonwood bud salve he had brought, could not yet tolerate much use without cracking and bleeding. He knew he wouldn’t be going far from the shelter until some more healing had taken place, and hoped he would be able to keep himself adequately supplied with food, in the meantime. Chapter Forty Nine Sitting at the kitchen table that afternoon and thinking about the events of the morning, it did not take Liz long at all to go from lost and frightened to very angry. So they think they can get away with this? They think that just because I’m a woman and I’m here by myself, they can ransack the place and kick the birds around and not face any consequences? Pretty soon she had worked herself into a fury, stomping around the house straightening out the mess they had left. She had an idea, stopped her work, and got her digital camera out of the bedroom. Somehow they had overlooked it, or just decided they did not need to take it. She went from room to room then, photographing the damage before heading out to the barn to do the same. The pheasants still lay where they had been trampled into the snow, and she got a picture of them, too, of the hole in the wire that she had hastily patched after rounding up the loose birds, and one of the injured goat. Taping some Visqueen plastic over the broken glass of the door, she took her camera and headed into town. She knew they would be watching her, and was pretty sure that the grey van that appeared behind her shortly after she pulled out of the driveway was part of the surveillance, because it would not pass her even when she slowed way down, but she did not care. Liz drove straight to the office of the Valley Sentinel, Lakemont County’s only daily newspaper, and asked the lady at the front desk if she would like a news tip. With photos. Leaving the newspaper office over an hour later, relieved that she was no longer alone in her knowledge of the federal activities that morning, Liz stopped at a pay phone to call Bill and Susan from church. She had considered just driving up there to their house, but was pretty sure that would not have been a good idea at all. You never wanted to show up at Bill and Susan’s unannounced, or at least that was the word around town, even before the federal occupation… So she called ahead, giving Susan a brief version of the raid over the phone. The feds were already well aware of Bill and Susan. Bill had held an FFL for many years before finally deciding not to renew it after the 1994 implementation of new BATF regulations requiring “dealers” to have a “storefront” that complied with all local zoning regulations. Bill knew that this change was a blatant attempt to make it difficult if not impossible for people to operate small firearms businesses out of their homes--it ended up having exactly that effect, as the number of small gun dealers fell by nearly 79% over the following decade-- and was rather vocal in his opposition to the new regulation. That had put him on the BATF radar, coupled with the fact that he never hesitated to speak his mind on political or freedom-related issues, including the current federal occupation of Lakemont County. Over the past several months, Bill had organized several meetings at the local volunteer firehouse in opposition to the FBI’s handling of the search, and while

the tone of the meetings was not so much in support of Einar--local sentiment on that varied greatly--there was near total agreement among the attendants that the whole situation was being mishandled and taken advantage of by the feds as an opportunity to get in some extra training and basically take over a small town and the surrounding area. Bill and Susan had quite a place--three adjoining 10.33 acre parcels that had been briefly and unsuccessfully mined for silver in the 1890s, and were now surrounded on three sides by National Forest. Liz had been up to the house once before, for a church picnic and barbecue that past fall, and had found the whole setup a bit intimidating at the time, but today, it struck her as rather reassuring, instead. The house sat on the mountainside at the top of a mile-long driveway that switchbacked up through the aspens and finally into a band of spruces, and was crossed in two places by what looked very much to her like avalanche chutes. Bill maintained the driveway area well, though, and it appeared to Liz as she urged her truck up the steep switchbacks that the snow had recently slid out of the chutes and then been cleared from the driveway. Maybe that’s why you’re never supposed to show up here unannounced…? The main house was a modest log structure with an attached greenhouse, and behind it up the hill, overlooking the house, sat the large camouflage-painted Quonset hut that housed Bill’s machine shop. A bit further up the hill, nearly hidden by the trees, was another log home where one of Bill and Susan’s grown sons, his wife and two young children lived. Liz was surprised, when she had finished navigating the treacherous driveway and finally arrived at the house, to see Allan already there, along with several other men from church that she didn’t really know. Liz had carefully kept her distance from Bill and Susan--and everyone else, for that matter-- while Einar had been at the house, but now, for her own protection, and knowing they could help her spread the word about the behavior of the federal agents during the raid on her house, she was glad to seek them out. • • • •

As the days went on with no renewed sign of the search, Einar began ranging out farther from his shelter in search of favorable locations to set his snares, until he had established a loop of nearly a mile there on the ridge, which he checked almost daily. He knew that as traplines went, his was ridiculously short, but it was all he could really manage at that point, and most afternoons he came back exhausted from the hike, barely having the energy left to change out of his damp socks and heat a little water for tea before crawling into the sleeping bag for the night. Knowing that it could only do him good, and might help prevent a dangerous deficiency of vitamin C that winter, he went back to adding spruce needles to his heated drinking water, enjoying the tea with most of his meals. Of which there was usually only per a day, anyway, on a good day. Einar worried that he was quickly getting back into a situation where the work he was doing to obtain food might actually be burning more calories than the food provided him. A losing game, for sure. He knew he needed to get down to the river and once again try to trap a beaver or even just catch some fish, but that would have to wait until he became more certain that the search had moved on. Wood gathering, though, was going a little better, as he found

something to bring back from each of his forays. He was actually managing to get slightly ahead of his immediate need and pile up some wood in a dry corner of the cavern, which gave him some reassurance that he would be able to have a small fire even when he should find himself confined to the shelter by a storm or other circumstances. In addition to cooking over his little stove, Einar was careful to always have a pair of socks drying by it whenever he had a fire going, and down inside his clothing when he did not. He had three pairs of socks now, and by being very diligent about keeping them dry and changing them as soon as one pair became damp, he so far seemed to have avoided doing too much more damage to his injured foot. As his snares continued yielding the occasional rabbit, Einar used the first few hides to make double-thickness rabbit fur foot coverings--crude slippers, really-- to use there in the shelter when he came back from a day in the snow with damp boot linings, and also to help keep his feet warmer at night. He first treated each rabbitskin with a little salt, careful to use as little as possible in an attempt to conserve his irreplaceable supply of salt. As he got more rabbits, he began assembling a rabbitskin blanket, sewing it together with inner strands from the paracord, using his old deer bone awl and needle, which he had kept. At first he just sewed a row of skins together like a scarf, to drape over his head and shoulders for extra warmth as he sat in the shelter. As his snares continued to produce, the blanket grew, and he began using it on top of the sleeping bag at night as an extra layer of insulation, adding tremendously to his warmth at night. The longer the winter went on, the more Einar found himself sleeping, until he thought that, while not actually hibernating, he must be coming about as close to it as a person could. Some days, even when the little patch of sky at the top of the chimney became bright and blue with daylight, he had real trouble dragging himself out of the sleeping bag and getting into his coat and snow pants to check the snares. It was easier, and warmer, to just go on sleeping. At first he told himself that this was alright, that it was probably actually the best and most sensible way to stay warm and reduce his energy needs, but he realized he had a problem when it was all he could do some days to force himself out of the sleeping bag to do the little tasks that he knew were necessary to sustaining his life. After the first few days in the cavern, he had begun bringing the felt liners of his snow boots into the sleeping bag with him at night, which allowed them to finish drying overnight, kept them warm, and made it a lot easier to put them on in the morning. The water from the little seep that he collected during the day had begun freezing overnight, also, so he always made sure before going to bed for the night to fill the plastic water bottle Liz had sent him with warm water, taking the bottle to bed with him, as well, so he would have something to drink in the morning without first having to make a fire. He eventually thought he was starting to see a connection between the amount of spruce tea he had drunk the previous day, and the ease or difficulty of motivating himself to get up the next morning. It seemed to be a bit easier the day after drinking two or three cans instead of just one, and he wondered if this meant that he was suffering from dehydration on the more difficult days, or whether the extra vitamin C was having some positive effect on him. Either way, he decided to make a serious effort to increase the amount of tea he was consuming. Things got a little easier after that, but it was still a daily struggle. He decided to plan a trip down to the river within the next few days, weather and aircraft

situation permitting, thinking a change of scenery as well as diet would do him good. Chapter Fifty Liz spent a lot of time up at Bill and Susan’s after the meeting the evening following the raid. Though neither of them actually asked her the details, they had little doubt that she knew more about Einar’s whereabouts over the past month than most people in the valley. They could see it was hard on her every time a report about the search came on the radio or showed up in the paper. For several days, there was little news of the search, as the feds tried to do damage control on their latest unsuccessful attempt to bring the long and fruitless manhunt to a close. When the agents on the ground had finally reached the place where the helicopter crew believed Einar to be, and had discovered the decoy, they had been forced to secure the area and wait for their bomb technician to show up from the base camp in the valley, expecting that the decoy might be booby trapped, and after their past history with Einar, not willing to take the chance. By the time they had cleared the area and decided to try to start the dogs on Einar’s trail, the ground was so trampled and contaminated by the mingled scents of the searchers that they never did pick up his trail. They had people out on the ground and in the air for a few days, but didn’t see further sign of their fugitive. The official line to the media was that this latest flurry of activity was the result of “new information,” about which, at Todd Leer’s insistence, they declined further comment, even when the Sentinel ran a front page article about the raid at Liz’s, complete with color photos of the dead pheasants. Though they tried to prevent information about Einar’s successful ruse with the garbage bag and heat packs from becoming public, word leaked out through various individuals connected with the Sheriff’s Department, and the local and national press that the incident then received made Leer wish he’d just gone ahead and held a press conference about the latest debacle in what was becoming a long series of embarrassing failures, so they could have at least tried to spin it their way. Liz was up at Bill and Susan’s helping Susan prepare a batch of comfrey-Oregon grape root salve when news of the decoy and the failure of the latest search came over the radio. Bill walked into the kitchen laughing and switched on the local station, telling them that they had to hear something. “You know, that boy really does know how to take care of himself,” he said, glancing at Liz. “I think he’s gonna outlast them, on this one.” Liz hoped so, was grateful to Bill for his confidence. Susan was an herbalist, and as Liz spent more time with her, she had begun watching and eventually helping as Susan prepared various salves and tinctures from things she had collected over the summer, picking her brain while they worked for all the knowledge Susan had of local medicinal plants. And, at Bill’s recommendation, Liz took a week long Wilderness First Responder course at the nearby community college--at least now if I ever find myself in the position where I need to help…somebody again, I’ll have more

knowledge, be more ready to help out. Poor Einar, he was having to give me suggestions on how to treat his injuries, half of the time. Though she would seldom admit it even to herself, there was still a quiet little hope in the back of Liz’s mind somewhere that told her perhaps she would see Einar again someday. When she thought about it, this seemed quite unlikely, but the thought always made her smile and silently wish him well as she went about her day. Liz started doing a lot of skiing and snowshoeing that winter, and once even dug a snow cave and camped overnight after Bill and Allan showed her how to construct one, demonstrating the technique in the compacted pile at the top of the driveway where Bill pushed the snow when he plowed the parking area. Sometimes she skied with Allan, but remained very reserved with him, and he knew as her gaze frequently wandered to the snowy ridges that her thoughts were somewhere else, with someone else, but knew better than to ask her about it. Liz found herself thinking often of Einar, every time she looked up at one of the snowy peaks or--not such a good thought--heard a helicopter or small plane pass overhead, and though she did worry about him and wondered, especially on cold windy nights, whether he was alright, whether he was warm and dry and getting enough to eat, mostly she smiled when she thought of him, pretty sure that he could take care of himself and hold his own up there, and quite certain that there was nothing he would rather be doing than trying. • • • •

Einar kept himself going that winter, though at times just barely, spending more and more time sleeping in an attempt to stay warm and reduce his energy needs. That’s what he kept telling himself, anyway, but when he was completely honest about it, he had to admit that many days he was just too weary to do much, including, sometimes, melt ice for water, let alone check his snares. The snares didn’t yield as much after the first few weeks anyway, and he had lengthened and changed his route, but could manage the increased distance only once every two or three days, with a rest day or two in between, so oftentimes he just found himself going without food for a day or two at a time, which was really difficult in the cold, and becoming more so as his body used up the small store of fat he had managed to put on at Liz’s. Shivering in the sleeping bag one morning, he went over and over the options in his mind, trying to think of something that would allow him access to more food. He’d been down to the river several times, caught some fish, even, with the little kit he had put together with items he found in the garage at the ranch house, but the river made him nervous, and every time he was down there, he saw some sign of human presence--ski tracks, snowshoe tracks, once a candy bar wrapper with a little piece of chocolate still clinging to the inside. Because of the apparent risk of discovery, he kept the river trips infrequent, and usually planned them so he would reach the water at night or early in the morning. That presented its own set of difficulties, as he worried that in the dim light he might make a wrong step and find himself falling into the river again. He knew that, because he couldn’t risk a fire down there by the river, such an accident could well be disastrous for him. Once his foot had gone through an overhanging bank of snow that he hadn’t been able to see in the early morning light, and before he had been able to pull himself back out, the boot was full of icy water. Dumping

the water out of the boot and removing the drenched felt liner, blotting it on the snow to remove as much of the water as he could before it froze, he changed into a dry sock, immensely glad he had thought to bring a pair that day, and shoved the foot back into the boot, minus the soaked liner. Hurrying back up the mountain as fast as he could, Einar had made it back to the shelter in time to avoid serious frostbite, but it had been close. On another trip, though, he had found a good patch of willows near the water, and cut a bundle of them, hoping finally to be able to make himself a good pair of snowshoes, which would greatly reduce the difficulty of checking his snares after a major snow. It was getting light by the time he finished harvesting the willows, and he was climbing the bank to head back up the ridge when he heard voices. He had pressed himself into the steep river bank, getting a glimpse of two snowshoers and a golden retriever as he went down. They kept up their conversation, passing within feet of Einar apparently without noticing anything, but just as he was beginning to think he was alright, the dog came barreling down the snow bank at him. For some reason the dog didn’t bark, but sniffed Einar, licked his face, and bounded back up the bank to run after its people. That incident had been the last straw for Einar as far as visiting the river that winter. They walked right across my trail. And most dogs would have barked… The rabbits and squirrels would just have to do for awhile. By the time the snow began leaving the lower valleys, Einar had long ago used up all the food he had brought from the ranch house, nearly trapped out the rabbit and squirrel population in his immediate area, and most serious of all, had been without a source of supplemental fat for some time. He knew the bears would begin to come out before too many more weeks, but even they wouldn’t have all that much fat on them, after hibernating all winter. And it would be a while before the deer and elk returned to the still-snowy high country. After a winter of living primarily on rabbits and squirrels, Einar was hungry and constantly struggling with the symptoms of what is known as “rabbit starvation,” caused by a near total lack of fat in a diet high in protein, as the body eventually finds itself unable to extract nutrients from the food that it is receiving, leading to major digestive troubles, progressive weakness and eventually death if a source of fat is not added to the diet. For much of the winter, Einar had saved half a jar of Nutella as a reserve, with the thought that he could live off of it if he became injured or incapacitated and had to go a few days without checking his snares. But as he watched his body break down and knew he had no hope of reversing things without a change in diet, he finally gave in and used up his last bit of Nutella, gaining a little temporary relief from his affliction. One day in late March he killed a ptarmigan, still totally white in its winter plumage, by sneaking up on it and hitting it with a well-aimed rock. He saved the feathers, thinking that they would have numerous uses, especially when he hopefully got around to making a bow that spring. The little bird had a thin layer of white fat beneath its skin, and as Einar sat over the tin can stove waiting for his ptarmigan stew to heat, he couldn’t help but think of all those pheasants down at the ranch house. Bet they’ve got even more fat on them than this little guy… For the past week or so, he had noticed that the snow had receded enough that he should be able to travel the valley without as much risk of leaving

obvious footprints, and that night as he lay there feeling reasonably satisfied for the first time in weeks, he decided to risk a trip to the valley. Just to scout, he told himself. It would be foolish to actually go back to the ranch house. Ever. There may be other opportunities, though… But that night he dreamt of pheasant stew. Chapter Fifty One The next morning, after thawing and drinking a little of the previous night’s ptarmigan broth that he had saved, Einar packed some extra socks, matches, his cooking can and stove, knife, awl, fishing kit and a few other things that he considered essential into his backpack, fully intending to return to the shelter, but knowing that the unexpected could always happen. It’d be just my luck to get down there, have to cross the road for some reason and not be able to make it back up here for awhile, having left all of my gear behind… He really wanted to take the sleeping bag and rabbitskin blanket, but knew they would potentially slow him down too much, and not leave him room in the pack to bring back whatever food he might be able to come across down in the valley. One last thing before I go… Taking the knife back out of the pack, he hacked off some of his hair and beard and thoroughly washed his face, hoping it might help him blend in a little better down there if someone did happen to see him. Considering his rather gaunt appearance and the somewhat sorry state of his clothing after a winter of hard use--he’d twice needed to sew up tears in the snow pants after snagging them on rocks, and the coat wasn’t much better off--he doubted that he would fit in all that well down below, but I sure don’t intend on being seen, anyway. Hurrying out through the opening in the rock, he ducked to avoid the little trickle of icy water that now fell almost constantly during the sunny part of the day. As Einar started down the rocky gulley, he glanced back at the shelter, pausing to reread the verses he had scraped into a piece of orange sandstone during a three day snowstorm that February, and placed just under the ledge. They were the only lines he’d remembered from a poem he had read years ago, and had seemed especially appropriate to his situation there in the cavern as he had struggled through the winter, hungry and sometimes cold, but at least, for the time, beyond the grasp of his would-be captors:
The banner of the chieftan Far, far below us waves; And the war-horse of the spearman Cannot reach our lofty caves; Thy dark clouds reach the threshold Of freedom’s last abode; For the strength of the hills we bless Thee, Our God, our fathers’ God! For the shadow of Thy presence Round our camp of rock outspread; For the stern defiles of battle, Bearing record of our dead;

For the snows and for the torrents For the free heart’s burial sod, For the strength of the hills we bless Thee, Our God, our fathers’ God!*

Once while he worked on the etching, the thought had occurred to him that the sandstone slab could well end up being his gravestone. Somehow the possibility did not disturb him too much; he knew that with the lack of food that winter, he very well might not see spring, knew the cavern might indeed end up being his “burial sod,” but, if that was to be the case, he still very much preferred it to the alternative of capture and imprisonment. The descent of the gulley and ridge went mostly without incident, though the gulley was still pretty icy in the shadowy areas, and he had to take great care not to slip in the wrong places where such an accident would have sent him tumbling down twenty or thirty feet to the waiting rocks. The closer he got to the valley, the more convinced Einar became that he could safely venture close enough to the ranch house to take a pheasant or two. He really needed the fat, and the birds should be asleep and groggy enough that they wouldn’t make too much noise if he worked carefully and quickly. And on a cold night like the following one was sure to be, everyone would have their windows closed, anyway. A little voice told him that this could not possibly be a good idea, that such efforts had seldom turned out well for him in the past, and though he debated the matter most of the way down, his hunger finally won out. He sought to appease the wary part of his brain that remembered he was a hunted man who really shouldn’t be going to the valley at all by telling himself that of course it was safer to go somewhere he was already familiar with and knew would provide food, than to go stumbling all over the valley in search of it. Sounded logical enough, and besides, he was awfully hungry. It was, as Einar had intended, well after dark by the time he reached the road. Hurrying across the bridge and into the trees above the ranch house, Einar found a sheltered spot at the base of a ponderosa and prepared to spend an hour or two watching the house before approaching it. Everything looked quiet at the ranch house, but he knew that Liz was probably gone, that her relatives would surely be back. The pheasant enclosure stood over near some brush on the far side of the house, and Einar, not knowing whether Liz’s relatives might have a dog that could alert them to his presence, decided to walk past the house, down the neighboring driveway, and approach the birds through the bushes on the adjoining property. Stashing most of the contents of the backpack at the base of the tree and concealing them with duff and fallen branches, he went down to the road and quickly walked past the house and down the next driveway, which belonged to a house whose owners wouldn’t be back until well into the summer, according to Liz. It was one of those fancy vacation “cabins,” a small mansion, in truth, that were becoming all too common in the valley in recent years. Intently watching the ranch house from a cleared area beside the driveway of the adjoining property, attempting to make sure no one was stirring, Einar was surprised by a sudden flash of light from behind him, accompanied by a shouted command to “Stop! Put your hands where I can see them!” The voice sounded very young and slightly unsure, but insistent. Only a few yards from the brush, Einar was about to run when he

heard a distinctive series of metallic clicks. The kid apparently meant business. He stopped, raised his hands. Standing there in the beam of the flashlight, waiting for the armed man to make the next move, Einar quickly glanced around and saw a white truck with a blue logo on the door highlighted in the glow of the flashlight. Apex security? The irony of the situation was not lost on him. So I successfully evaded one of the most massive federal manhunts in history only to be taken down by a kid working the night shift for Apex Security… He shook his head, squinted and smiled at the guy, who had walked around him to shine the light in his face. Whoa, hang on, Einar. He fought back the feelings of resignation and perhaps even a bit of relief that had come over him in the instant he realized what had happened. There’s gonna be a way out of this one, if you don’t blow it and give yourself away. He’s just a private security guy, and just a kid. You can talk your way out of this. It’s worked for you before. Continuing to shine the light in Einar’s eyes, the man asked his name, demanded to know what he was doing there in the middle of the night. “Howdy. I’m Ed. Edward Brown.” Einar lowered his hands slightly and took a step towards the security guard, trying to leave all of his options open, but the kid was having none of it, raising the pistol and warning Einar not to move. “Hey, sorry to startle you. I was just going to my neighbor’s, there, to check on their birds--they have a bunch of ornamental pheasants, you know, because I just scared a bobcat away from my chicken coop, and was afraid it might have headed over here.” “Can I see some ID, Mr. Brown? There have been some break-ins here recently at some of these houses that are closed for the winter, and we got a call about some suspicious activity tonight.” “Don’t have any ID on me at the moment, but if you’ll follow me over there to my house, it’s just a quarter of a mile up the road there…” The security guy wasn’t buying it, though. He thought the stranger looked just a bit too ragged to have come from a house a quarter mile up the road. And what was with that backpack? Keeping the gun on Einar, the kid dialed 911 on his cell phone, reporting a trespasser. As they waited for the Sheriff’s deputies to arrive, Einar began to become a bit more concerned, but realized that he was rather too far into things to make an immediate change in his situation. Well, I could make one change. I could run... And take the chance that either the kid wouldn’t actually shoot, or that he would miss. But with the deputies already on the way, he knew that would leave him little time to make his escape before they arrived, leave a fresh trail for them to follow, and in all likelihood, the security guy could run faster than he could, anyway, as he still had quite a limp from the hip injury the previous fall. He decided to wait it out, count on talking his way out of the situation or finding some other way to change things before they actually got him into a cell somewhere. Sure hope these guys don’t recognize me… The deputies came, two men

in a Sheriff’s Department pickup, and questioned Einar, who remained calm and very conversational, and for awhile it looked like they might actually be falling for his story. Then one of the deputies took off rather suddenly for the truck, shuffling through a stack of rat-eared papers on a clipboard, removing one and returning to consult with the other deputy. They spoke together urgently in hushed tones for a minute before showing Einar the paper in the beam of a flashlight. It was a copy of his wanted poster.

Section Five “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me; give me liberty or give me death!” --Patrick Henry Chapter Fifty Two Even after they cuffed him, Einar kept denying that he was the man on the poster, kept asserting his identity as “Edward Brown,” but he knew that once they checked his fingerprints against those that were surely on file by then in the federal NCIC computer system, it would all be over. And the deputy who had originally identified him seemed pretty sure of his conclusion, anyway. But Einar, knowing that he must keep all his options open in case of some unexpected development, held out until they got him to the Sheriff’s Department and took his prints. Sheriff Watts, awakened that morning by a page from the Department and told of the capture, entered the booking room as they were taking Einar’s mug shot, and held out his hand. “Einar Asmundson?” Einar nodded. “Guess you got me.” “Well I want to shake your hand, Asmundson. That was quite a fight you fought up there. Sure gave them federal boys a run for their money, I’ll say that for you.” The local guys treated Einar with deference and possibly even a hint of awe, and it took the FBI, which had again abandoned the outpost in the steel building in all but name-they’d kept the lease--over an hour to arrive. • • • •

Liz had reluctantly gone back home a week before Einar’s capture, feeling somewhat like she was abandoning him, but knowing that there was really nothing she could do if she did stay. And her aunt and uncle were on their way back, anyway. Knowing she had

made friends in the area and thinking she had enjoyed her time there, they had offered to let her stay, but Liz decided to return for the summer to the small upstairs apartment she rented above a friend’s garage, and to her summer job tending flowers and herbs at a nursery, some seventy five miles from Culver Falls. She left, promising Bill and Susan and Allan that she would be back often. Liz was at a garage sale that Saturday morning when she learned of Einar’s capture. The lady had a TV on in her garage, tuned to CNN, and Liz, who hadn’t been paying much attention to the TV as she sorted through a table full of jeans and sweaters, looked up when she heard Einar’s name. The report was brief and without much detail, but they showed footage of a boyish looking employee of a private security company, who had supposedly captured Einar around four that morning, as he “prowled around an empty house on Highway 19.” Leaving the sale and walking back to her truck, Liz, despite the knot in her stomach, kept telling herself that she must have somehow misunderstood the report. Long ago she had prepared herself for the possibility of someday learning of Einar’s death, but not this! He would not want this! She drove home, praying all the way that there had been some sort of mistake, but listening to the radio news at ten that morning and hearing the story confirmed. She pleaded with God then to let him out, to deliver him, thinking somehow that if she repeated her prayer enough times, surely He would listen, would answer her. Though she knew that such answers do not always come in the form we are seeking. And from the start she blamed herself for his capture, even though she knew this was, if a natural response, not a logical one. But he must have been hungry, he would only have come down there like that if he had been desperate for food, and I should have made sure he had more with him, should have discussed hiding things where he could come down and get them…I should have stayed. Throwing a few things into a backpack, she set out for Bill and Susan’s, having already promised Susan she would be there Saturday afternoon to help transplant some things in the greenhouse, and feeling a pressing need to be with some likeminded folks just then. A verse came into Liz’s head fully formed as she drove, as her poetry usually came to her, and she pulled over and took a minute to scratch it down on a scrap of paper, feeling that it came close to adequately expressing her grief: I have walked these paths alone a thousand times or more, Smiling because I knew that somewhere You also walked free and smiled as you thought of me. But now the spring is gone From my step, my heart like lead, Beats slowly, sunk in sorrow. Today they took the sunshine From my life and now I mourn. Bill had a copy of that morning’s Sentinel when she arrived, complete with a big photo of

the “hero” who had discovered Einar--looking a little dazed at all the unaccustomed attention--and Liz felt a brief moment of anger for the young man, which she quickly refocused on the feds, knowing that he had, after all, just been doing his job, in the most literal sense of the term. Liz very much wanted to head right down to the County Jail and see Einar before they took him away and it was too late, wanted to do more than that, wished she had the means to go down and break him right out of there, but knew she certainly did not, must not even be seen anywhere near the place. It was a very long day for Liz. • • • •

Waiting for the feds to arrive and take over that morning at the County Jail, the guards and the constant stream of deputies that wandered by to see their notorious prisoner had a lot of questions for him, and while he knew that it was definitely not the course a lawyer would have recommended, Einar went ahead and spoke freely with them about his time in the woods, giving them as much detail as they seemed interested in hearing, some of it factual, some decidedly misleading, in the hopes that they would believe he was being very open with them. He asserted, at every opportunity, that he had been completely on his own out there, hoping to be able to protect Liz. If they haven’t already arrested her and dragged her in front of a grand jury… In reality, he had no idea what had happened at the house after he had left that morning several months before. He hoped soon to be able to find out, but of course he could not ask anyone. The deputies weren’t sure whether to believe everything he was telling them, but he certainly didn’t look like he’d been getting enough to eat, and with the barely healed frostbite on his feet and some of the details he gave them, they were inclined to think he was basically telling them the truth. They brought him food, and, seeing how quickly he ate it, kept bringing him more, until he had finished off several plates full of biscuits and gravy and two oranges. He was later to be glad that he had taken advantage of the opportunity to fill up, because the FBI interrogators were on their way, and he would have no more food that day. When the FBI arrived they took him, over the protests of the Sheriff, to the command post at the old feed store, questioning him for hours in an attempt to get him to admit to the aid they believed he had been receiving, and name names. Einar was considerably more reticent with the agents than he had been with the local folks, and after several hours of fruitless interrogation they locked him in an unheated holding cell with minimal clothing for a couple of hours before trying again. Shivering, but for the most part undisturbed, Einar actually found a bit of dark humor in the fact that they seemed to think this would have the desired effect on him. They apparently have no idea what my winter has been like, if they think a couple hours in a chilly room is going to make me talk… This time, feeling contrary, he flat out refused to answer any of their questions. Realizing that they weren’t going to get anywhere with their questioning, the interrogators returned him to the cell, opening the loading dock door and drenching him with cold water before setting up two industrial fans just outside the chain-link front of the cement block

enclosure. He thought of asking for a lawyer then, expecting that they might decide to go ahead and comply with the request, but decided he didn’t really feel like asking them for anything at all, at that point. Einar sought refuge in a far corner of the cell, but there was no escaping the blast of the fans in the thirty degree air that they pulled in through the open door. This is interesting. So how long do they plan to leave me in here? It wasn’t long at all before Einar was reminded of the fact that he’d just spent a long hungry winter trying to live on rabbits and squirrels, and consequently had very little body fat left, making it impossible for him to maintain a normal temperature for very long in his present situation. Wonder if they realize how quickly they can probably kill me like this, because I’d really like it not to go that far just yet… By the time the interrogators returned to remove Einar from the cell for more questioning, they found him crouched in a corner, pale and shivering and barely responsive. Concerned that they might indeed have gone too far, they quickly gave him dry clothes and returned him to the county lockup, where he managed to roll up in a blanket on the cement bed and wait to begin warming. The whole sequence felt pretty familiar to him after the past winter, and he was reasonably sure he’d come through it alright, now that he was dry and out of the wind. Kinda hope they don’t plan on doing this every day, though… The Sheriff’s Deputies did not confront the agents about the obviously worsened condition of the prisoner, but one of them hastily left the building, returning shortly with a sandwich and hot coffee for Einar. Finally warmed up some and able to move around again, Einar knew that he must act quickly if there was to be any hope of implementing his plan. He’d overheard two of the agents talking about transporting him somewhere the next morning, and he knew that once they got him out of the area, the project up on the ledge might still be useful as a bargaining chip, might get him a better deal in there or, at least, possibly leverage them into taking the death penalty off the table, but would no longer have the potential of allowing him to actually regain his physical freedom. Which was all he was really interested in. Slouched over on the edge of the cement bed in the cell that night, elbows on his knees and chin on his clasped hands, Einar was feeling very low, faced with the stark reality that his plan had little if any chance of success, that he had no ability to change his situation and was seriously looking at spending the rest of his life in a little cement box. He tried to think of other options, other ways out, but couldn’t come up with anything that seemed plausible. Too bad we don’t have the concept of Jubilee as part of our legal system…forgiving debts and freeing prisoners every twenty five or fifty years, because even that would let me see daylight again sooner than I can probably expect to right now… Einar harbored no illusions about his ability to prevail through the legal system if his case went to trial. They’d get their conviction. And, the more he thought about it, the more certain he became that he must not allow this to get to trial at all, if he could find or make

a way to avoid it. There was the possibility that at a trial they might subpoena Liz, and she’d be faced with contempt of court or even perjury if she insisted on protecting him, and even more serious charges if she told the whole truth…he knew he had to do all he could to shield her from this, and decided that if his planned self-rescue failed, he’d try to plead out, and attempt to prevent a trial and at the same time hopefully keep his life, at least, such as it would be, in trade for the location of the trap…if they’d go for it. He was not at all sure that they would. But for now, he had to get them to let him out there one more time, and seeing the tension between the Sheriff’s Department and the feds, he wondered if he could play off of this in an attempt to get what he was after. A deputy, seeing that he was not sleeping, came over and sat in the chair outside the cell, attempting to strike up a conversation with Einar, asking if there was anything he needed. Einar asked for food, and the deputy brought him some. “Guess there must not have been too much to eat out there, this time of year,” he observed, watching Einar wolf down the meal. “You know,” he said, sitting back down, “They found your fingerprints in a house down by the river, thought maybe this girl had been helping you. She denied it all though, and they never could make anything stick. Said you must have broken in…” Einar kept his face a passive mask to prevent his immense relief from showing. Liz is safe. Something inside him relaxed a little. “Some girl is supposed to have helped me, huh? Don’t I wish.” And he repeated his standard line about being on his own all that time, said that of course he couldn’t comment on any alleged break-ins. “My lawyer wouldn’t like it, if I had one… But what do you think? Does it look to you like I’ve been getting much help, out there?” And the deputy couldn’t say that it did. In fact, he had been one of several in the Department, including Sheriff Watts, who had wanted to transport Einar straight to the hospital when he was brought in, but Todd Leer, on the phone from San Francisco, had told them in no uncertain terms that they must do nothing of the sort, pending his arrival. Watts hadn’t liked it much, but knew that this was ultimately to be a federal case, and did not consider it worth the effort to contradict Leer on the issue. Besides, their prisoner, while frighteningly scrawny and a little unsteady on his feet, seemed to be doing alright, especially once he’d had something to eat. “Really though,” the deputy continued, “Aren’t you glad it’s over?” Einar just shook his head and answered with a flat “No.” He wished the deputy would go away for awhile or at least stop talking and leave him alone so he could collect his thoughts. But the man stayed, continuing to attempt to engage Einar in conversation, and he wondered if the deputy was doing it because he was interested in the case, or because the task had been assigned to him. Probably the latter, because he keeps asking about where I was hiding, where I was all that time, like he wants me to give him directions or something. Either way, it seemed an appropriate time to bring up the trap, get them thinking about it and give him time to introduce his proposal before morning came and the feds whisked him away to…wherever it was they planned on taking him. He wasn’t sure. Back to Clear

Springs, I expect. After listening to Einar’s description of his “cache of explosives in the woods outside of town,” the deputy hurried to page the Sheriff, who soon showed up, insisting that Einar repeat his story. Watts then got out a topo map of the area, urging Einar to show him the location of the cache. Studying the map for some time in feigned confusion, Einar looked up at the Sheriff, shaking his head. “I couldn’t say, exactly. Didn’t have a map up there. It all kind of looks the same, now.” The Sheriff kept pressing him, eventually asking whether he thought he could lead them to the cache. Trying hard not to come across as too eager, Einar finally allowed that yes, he probably could. The feds, of course, insisted that there was no way they were allowing Watts to take their prisoner up there, or anywhere else, for that matter. The Sheriff, though, tired of being kicked around, told Leer that it was his duty to protect the safety of the citizens of Lakemont County, and that while the charges against Einar might be federal, this was a matter of County jurisdiction, and that if Leer kept standing in his way on this, he would not hesitate to go right to the media so they could add the FBI’s total disregard for public safety to the already humiliating story of a young security guard accomplishing in one night what several hundred federal agents had been unable to do in over a year, with nearly unlimited resources at their disposal. Watts had at that point dealt with the pervasive federal arrogance for long enough, and wasn’t interested in taking it for another minute. Leer, seeing that he had pushed the man too far, reluctantly agreed to the operation, with the stipulation that his Bureau would have complete control of security measures as it took place. Einar had been able to hear parts of the heated argument from his cell and allowed himself a brief moment of triumph, glad that something, at least, finally seemed to be going his way. Starting out, the feds demanded that Einar be left in shackles as well as cuffs, and also wanted him to make the hike in the flimsy jail slippers he had been issued, an idea which Watts quickly nixed, giving him back the snow boots he had been captured in. As they started up the ridge, Einar made sure that their progress was so painfully slow that eventually they relented on the shackles as well, allowing him the free use of his legs. He led them up toward the crag, looking out at the peaks at every opportunity and thinking that his life over the past year had been pretty good, despite the hardship, that every day of it had been a gift, that his brief time with Liz, especially, had been a gift, and, though he had no regrets about the course he had chosen, he found himself a little choked up as he thought ahead to the probable finality of what was about to come, wishing that he could have seen her one last time. Looking up through the trees, Einar saw the rocky shelf that was his intended destination, the last rays of sun glowing softly on the granite as they illuminated the three blackened trees that marked the spot. Not far to go now. Almost home. Please let this work…

Einar picked up the pace as they neared the ledge, hoping to create a bit more distance between the clump of eight FBI agents that were grouped around him, and the Sheriff’s Deputies who followed along behind. As they climbed, the air was suddenly and without warning filled with dust and smoke and splintering fragments of rock, a deafening roar drowning out all other sound, and without hesitation Einar lunged towards the dropoff, broke away from his startled keepers just as the shock wave hit them, and with one hard roll to the left was falling, tumbling, lost in the dust and confusion as several tons of shattered, crushing rock were made airborne, sent down the gulley by the force of the blast. Jubilee…

• An article and an epilogue…

Chaos, Injuries as Asmundson Disappears in Blast
Culver Falls, March 30-The FBI reported in a news release this morning that five of their agents were injured, two of them seriously, in a mountainside blast approximately eight miles outside of Culver Falls last night. Agents were following up on a report that recently captured fugitive Einar Asmundson had cached a quantity of explosives in the hills not far from Highway 19, when they were surprised by the blast. Asmundson, who, under heavy guard, was guiding the agents to the location of the cache, is believed to have been killed Sunday night as he threw himself into the path of the explosion. Three Lakemont County Sheriff’s Deputies and an FBI bomb technician, following several yards behind the agents, escaped injury and were able to perform emergency first aid on the two seriously injured agents who were closest to the blast. Three of the other federal agents sustained non life-threatening injuries when they were grazed by rock fragments from the explosion, with one of them needing to be hospitalized for the removal of a splinter of rock imbedded in his jaw. Sheriff Jim Watts, in a phone call this morning from the scene, tells us that Sheriff’s Deputies and Mountain Rescue volunteers are at the scene to aid the FBI in their recovery efforts, as the search quickly becomes a race against the worsening weather. Efforts are also being hampered by the rough terrain and by a concern on the part of federal agents that Asmundson may have hidden a second device in the area.

A major spring snowstorm moved in overnight, having already dumped several feet of snow in the mountains to the west, and, according to Sheriff Watts, the recovery mission may have to be temporarily called off if the snowfall becomes too heavy. Mountain Task Force spokesman B.J. DeLorre, speaking from the FBI command post this morning, said that, while he could not comment specifically at this time on the ongoing investigation into the blast or the search for Asmundson, agents on the scene “are confident that a body will be recovered within hours.”

Epilogue: Liz, after spending a few days with Bill and Susan following the blast, went home to her job and apartment, but before a month was out, she returned to Culver Falls at Susan’s invitation to help with her herb business. She spent several months that spring and summer hiking and climbing with Allan before becoming only the second female volunteer in the history of Lakemont County Mountain Rescue, her colleagues often remarking at the passion and dedication with which she threw herself into her training and work. For a long time she was very angry at Einar, or at his memory, realizing what he had been cooking in the kitchen that day and knowing very well now what he must have meant by “leaving another way out.” But surely there must have been some other way…! Try as she might, though, she could not think what that might have been, knew it would not have been fair for her to expect him to face the next forty years of his life in there without the hope of release, not if he thought he had another option, knew that he really had, in the end, valued his freedom more even than his life. Finally, through countless miles hiked in the silence and splendor of the high country that summer, she began to find forgiveness and a bit of understanding for the path he had chosen. Liz later wrote a fictionalized account of Einar’s story as he had recounted it to her, and her brief involvement in his world, setting the story on the other side of the country and changing some of the names and many important details of the events, but never sharing it with anyone for fear of prosecution. Todd Leer chose to end his career with the FBI shortly after the explosion at the ledge, taking a job coordinating stadium security for a major sports team on the West Coast, where he works to this day.