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Montani Semper Liberi
"Mountaineers are always free men" (Book Two of Mountain Evasion) Silence filled the shadowy recesses of the granite gulley; the echoes of the blast and of the resulting rockslide having several minutes before reverberated and died out, the dust beginning to settle in the dusky light of that increasingly overcast March evening. The men on the ledge, scrambling to tend to their wounded, had little thought at that moment to spare for their erstwhile prisoner, who had disappeared into the dust and smoke and flying rock as the ledge had fractured and given way before the force of the explosion. Far below and too faint to be heard over the shouts of the deputies and agents on the ledge, there was a faint stirring on the gulley floor; up against the rock wall a freshly broken flake of granite scraped and slid and flipped over, then another. A sign of life… • • • •

Slowly fighting his way back to consciousness after the blast, Einar, covered with dust, found himself pressed up against the rock face on the blast side of the narrow rocky chute where he had come to rest after his fall, much of the rock having been thrown clear of him to land against the far wall. A number of chunks of fractured rock had come to rest on his lower body, pinning him to the ground, and he worked to free himself, lifting and shoving them one by one, glad that none of the jagged fragments were too heavy for him to move. The gulley was still full of dust, the acrid smell of freshly broken granite hanging heavily in the air, reminding him of times when he had been up high and too close for comfort when lightning struck rock, and Einar knew he had not been out for long. His thinking was muddled and slow from the concussion that had knocked him out, but something screamed at him to move! Get out of here! Shoving at the rocks, he was beset by a sudden wave of nausea, turned his head and vomited, saw that there was blood in the vomit. It took him a minute to realize, to his relief, that the blood was coming from a freely bleeding laceration on his cheek, rather than being an indicator of some type of serious internal injury. Which I may end up having, anyway… Turning his head to look up at the route of his fall, he was sent sprawling onto his back by an overwhelming surge of dizziness. When the rock walls around him had finally stopped spinning to the point that he was again able to make some sense of the world and attempt sitting up, Einar quickly tried to assess the damage, and found that in addition to one side of his face being coated with blood from the wound where a rock had grazed his cheek, his head throbbed sickeningly, and the ribs that had previously been injured were again tender and painful. Gingerly probing the side of his head where the pain seemed to be originating from, he found his hair damp with oozing blood, a lump the size of an egg already forming just above and forward of his left ear. Well. That’s not so good. “Head trauma with loss of consciousness…” Anything else? Unaware of the most immediately serious of his

injuries until he deliberately inspected his legs, Einar discovered a deep gash just under his left knee which had already produced quite a pool of blood on the rock beneath him. That’s a lot of blood. Got to stop that. He quickly tore a strip out of the already damaged leg of his orange prison uniform, tore another piece and wadded it up against the wound, then tied a strip tightly around his leg to hopefully provide enough pressure to halt the bleeding. He fumbled with the strip, eventually getting it tied despite the handcuffs he was encumbered with. I can get these off, but not here and now. No time. Bruised, bleeding and beginning to be in serious pain, Einar told himself that at least you’re conscious, you can move, you’re not bleeding to death any more. Go up. They won’t expect you to go up. But he was feeling awfully weak and dizzy and was pretty sure he was going into shock. The pool of blood beneath his leg, while it had stopped growing, was not insignificant. Yeah, well you can’t exactly lie still and elevate your feet right now Einar, so just get moving…hope you can somehow keep it up long enough… He didn’t know what was going on up on the ledge, or where the ledge had been—that recipe worked a little better than I thought it would—but could hear the occasional shout, and supposed they must have sustained some injuries. Glancing quickly around—and regretting it the next minute for the stabbing pain and dizziness it set off in his head— Einar decided that there was no obvious way for them to reach him without ropes and technical gear. Which he did not believe they had with them. So I may have a chance, here. In the dimming light he could see a smaller side chute that joined his some twenty yards up. It was a narrow, steep gnarly-looking thing that he expected probably ran out into cliffs not far above his position, but was angled in such a way as to offer him concealment from the men on the ledge, so it looked to be, if not his only chance, at least his best. To continue up the main gulley meant climbing in full view of the ledge, allowing him to be seen, and possibly recaptured or, if he resisted, shot, by anyone above who had remained uninjured. Which, as he figured it, ought at least to include the three Sheriff’s Deputies, because he had been careful to make sure they were some distance behind when the blast went off. Keeping as close as he could to the ledge side of the gulley, hoping to avoid being seen, Einar began dragging himself up towards his escape route. He had not gone far before realizing that, with his heart rate high and his blood pressure low due to the blood loss, he was not going to be able to move very quickly at all. Anxious to be out of the area as soon as possible he tried anyway, but the slightest exertion seemed to produce immediate dizziness and, if he raised his head too quickly, a rapidly spreading blackness that threatened to send him collapsing in a heap on the rocks. Slow and steady, Einar, or pretty soon you’re not gonna be moving at all… Reaching a point directly across from the side chute, he studied the terrain above him, looking for any sign that people might be watching, but could see nothing. Praying that he would not be seen, he hurried across the big gulley and clambered up into the protective shadows of the narrow one that he hoped would allow him to make his escape. And promptly passed out again. Einar woke up bleeding, the improvised bandage having come loose in the scramble, and did his best to again secure it in place, wadding a fresh strip of cloth from his pants and shoving it under the strip that he had bound around the

leg. He wished he could get ahold of some of the yarrow he had used so successfully the previous fall as a coagulant, but it was too early in the season. The snow had just barely begun leaving the ground in open, sunny places at his elevation. Beginning his climb up the steep chute, glad that its angle did, indeed, conceal him from the ledge, Einar struggled to make progress despite the difficulties posed by the cuffs, wishing he was not effectively reduced to climbing one-handed. Once he put his weight on an unstable rock which promptly came loose, and he had to scramble to put some downward pressure on it with his other foot to keep it from clattering down the gulley and giving away his position. Raising his head after the struggle with the rock, he was overcome by a terrible dizziness, simultaneously losing his sense of direction and his tenuous grip on the steep rock, sliding sideways into a steeper section of the chute that he had been carefully avoiding, falling. Scratching uselessly at the steep rock of the chute with his cuffed hands, he was pretty sure he was headed for a nasty and rather abrupt ending until finally the cuffs snagged on a protruding root, arresting his fall rather painfully but saving him from disaster on the rocks below. Einar was stuck, hanging helplessly by his wrists on the nearly vertical slope, unable to get his feet under him. He tried pressing the soles of his boots against the wall, hoping the friction would give him enough leverage that he might be able to free his hands. Below him by no more than eight feet and a little to the right was a small rock bench, and he thought that he could possibly roll to the right and land on it, once free of the root. But he couldn’t seem to free himself, couldn’t break the root even when he tried, and soon it would be too dark to see what he was doing, risking a serious fall when he did get loose. Every time he struggled he could feel a fresh warm trickle of blood running down his leg and knew that the bandage must have long ago soaked through. Swinging himself to the left, Einar tried bracing his foot against the granite slab that met the one he was trapped on, forming a dihedral, wanting to wedge the toe of his boot into the crack where the two met, but he could not get close enough to do it, and was rapidly losing the light as the clouds lowered and a wet spring snow began to fall. It was beginning to look like he might be spending the night. Not a good idea… He knew he was staying warm only because of his ongoing efforts to free himself, that he would quickly become hypothermic when that struggle was inevitably cut short at some point by his growing exhaustion. Then you die, Einar. He knew that his blood loss combined with the cold could very quickly turn lethal as temperatures fell for the night, especially if he should happen to be hanging there by his arms all night with no way to curl up for warmth or slow the bleeding from his leg. And if you do somehow make it through the night, they’ll find you right here in the morning when they send searchers up this chute. There was a narrow ledge above him, composed of little more than an inch of granite, that he could just hook his heel on if he tried very hard, but, with his boot up higher than his head, could not use it to lift himself at all. That ledge, though, seemed to be the key to his escape. All he needed were a few more inches, and he would be able to raise himself far enough to get some weight off of his arms, work the cuffs off of the root, and hopefully be able to grab the root with his hands and lower himself to the larger ledge beneath him. He knew the more likely scenario involved falling as soon as he freed the cuffs, having neither the strength nor the speed to grab the root in time. Even that,

though, was looking better than staying where he was. After trying unsuccessfully several more times to raise himself using his boot soles on the smooth wall, Einar remembered an ice climbing move—intended to help out when you have solid handholds but nothing to do with your feet— that he had used a few times in the past. I could still do this pretty easily two years ago, but now…we’ll see. Spreading his elbows as far apart as he could and leaning back out away from the rock face, he brought his right foot up between his arms, hooking his leg over his arm so that the thigh rested near his wrist. This allowed him to lift himself enough to get some leverage with his left foot on the little lip of granite, raising himself and at the same time sliding the cuffs up and off of the root. He didn’t even have time to think before falling, let alone make a deliberate effort to control his landing, and lay half a second later on the rock shelf, slowly untangling himself, grateful that he had not instead fallen all the way down. His hands had lost all feeling as he hung there, the cuffs cutting into his wrists. He tore more strips from the leg of his prison jumpsuit and dressed the wounds the best he could, replacing the blood-soaked cloth on his leg before resting on the shelf for a minute, catching his breath and waiting for a bit of feeling to begin returning to his hands. In the last of the evening’s light and with the snow now coming down in earnest, Einar worked his way over to a less steep portion of the chute and resumed his climb. • • • •

Slowly making his way up the increasingly steep and slippery chute in the dark that night, Einar knew that he needed to find a way out of it before he fell again. The wet snow was making footing very tricky, and it had so far showed no sign of letting up. Which was, as he saw it, one of the few things he did have going for him, along with the fact that the Sheriff had given him back his snow boots, as it meant there would be no helicopters as long as it went on. He hoped to be out of the area of the likely search by the time the snow moved out. So far though, the walls of the chute had consisted of steep rock and, while the route he was following was steepening as well, it still seemed more sensible than attempting one of the walls. As he continued to gain elevation, Einar began to be aware of a diffused glow coming from somewhere far below on the ridge, and realized that they must be down there searching the gulley. The snow muffled any sounds the searchers might be making, and, as he inevitably knocked loose the occasional rock in the near darkness, Einar hoped it was doing the same thing for him. The glow of the lights, diffused and reflected by the snow, was making it a bit easier to pick his route, which was a good thing, as the angle and slickness of the chute were such that each step required quite a bit of deliberation and care. Reliable handholds were becoming scarcer also, his unprotected hands numbing in the snow as his pace slowed. Einar kept stopping to warm his hands against his stomach, but after a couple of close calls, he began to seriously consider finding a secure spot and waiting for daylight. Which he knew meant risking discovery with the coming of morning, especially if the snow ended. Crouching behind a boulder, relieved at the temporary break from the constant possibility of falling, Einar rested and worked at convincing himself to continue, to go for it, that finishing the climb and finding a way out of the chute was just something he had to do. That used to be

enough. Just knowing I have to do something has always been enough. His head was hurting terribly though, he was beyond exhausted, could hardly keep his eyes open. And the thought of the steep, slippery snaking chasm of rock and snow that lay above—and below— him scared him like nothing in his recent memory had, though he knew he had many times been through worse without giving it a second thought. Come on. Move it. You know you’re just thinking this way because of the injuries. You lost a bunch of blood. Hit your head pretty good. But stop here, and they’ll have you as soon as the snow ends, if you last that long… The pain and the dull, confused feeling it brought to his head were making it hard to think, though, sapping his confidence and causing him to seriously doubt every decision he made, and he wanted in the worst way to wait in that little place of refuge until the confusion subsided and he felt like himself again. Yeah, how long’s that going to be? An hour? Couple of days? What are you afraid of, anyway? Falling? Dying? Why? Gonna die anyway, if you stay here. And he couldn’t answer, but that didn’t make the obstacle any less real. Huddled behind the snow-covered boulder in his prison jumpsuit and the grey sweatshirt the Sheriff had talked the agents into allowing him for warmth on the hike that day, Einar warmed his hands and waited for…he wasn’t even sure what. Finally, though, he just got too cold to keep still, and was forced to again begin moving up the chute. In the dim glow from below, he could make out a dark crack in the far wall of the chute, and, hoping it might offer a way out, his goal became reaching that crack. Easier said than done. As he attempted to cross the smooth, snow covered rock of the chute, heading for the other side where there were some small stunted trees and larger rocks he could use as handholds, Einar’s feet kept slipping and threatening to go out from under him, until he could hardly bring himself to try the next step. An idea came to him, a way to secure his hold on the rock as he searched for the next foot placement. Not far above him on the steep slope was a three foot spruce, growing out of a crack in the rock. Carefully balancing himself, he tugged on it to see that it was firmly anchored in the rock, then hooked his cuffed hands around behind it. This gave him the confidence to go ahead and move from his secure footing and seek new footholds. The difficult part was freeing his hands once he had repositioned his feet, but he managed it, and after that, went on with the climb, using the technique often as a backup and eventually as a way to haul himself up nearly featureless sections of the rock, using small trees, roots, even rock features to anchor himself as he climbed. His hands had for some time been too numb to feel, but a warm trickle of blood down his arm alerted him to the fact that this climbing method was taking quite a toll on his wrists. The next time he passed a spruce, he stopped and took some time to shake off the wet snow and search along its branches, glad when he found several hanging clumps of usnea lichen. Working the soft, stringy lichen in between his injured wrists and the metal of the cuffs, he went on, satisfied that he had done all he could to stem the bleeding and prevent further injury. A unique bit of climbing gear I’ve discovered here, but it really could use some modification… The shadowy crack Einar had observed from below did not turn out to be something he could use to climb out of the chute, but somehow the discovery did not prove nearly as discouraging as he had thought it might. Keep going. This is working. The haze seemed to have lifted some from his mind with the renewed activity, and though a good bit of pain and weakness still remained, he managed to make progress up the chute until finally it widened and he was

able to climb up a bank of loose rock into the timber above. Collapsing beneath a fir just inside the forest, he lay on his back for quite a while before his breathing slowed and normalized some, rolling over and sitting up to check the improvised bandage on his leg. The strip of cloth was gone, but inspecting the wound in the glow from the gulley, he saw that, though the jagged edges still gaped open, it barely oozed blood. Probably the cold…hope so, because otherwise I must either be awfully dehydrated, or I lost a lot more blood than I was aware of…either of which is possible, I guess. Pulling some more lichen from a nearby branch, he used his teeth to tear another strip of cloth from the pants —got to do something about all this orange—binding the lichen to the wound against the time that it again began bleeding. After resting for a while and melting a few globs of wet snow in his mouth, Einar hauled himself back to his feet and continued into the timber, wanting to put more distance behind him and make tracks while the snow was still falling to conceal them, and too cold to reasonably sit still, anyway. Stumbling out onto a snow covered rockslide, the burnt-out, split trunk of what must have once been an enormous tree loomed up at him against the fresh snow. He leaned against the twisted, hollow trunk, catching his breath. Looks like you had a long, hard life up here before that lightening finally did you in, he addressed the tree. And now you’re gonna help me, some. Climbing up into the hollow of the burnt trunk, he rubbed charcoal all over the his jumpsuit, which was already pretty dingy from the climb and well on its way to not being orange anymore. The grey sweatshirt had two pockets, and breaking off some chunks of burnt wood, Einar filled his pockets with them, knowing that he was once again almost entirely without supplies, and thinking of the many potential uses of the charcoal. This’ll come in handy as camouflage for my face and hands when I’m hunting this summer, I can grind it up and mix it with spruce pitch to make a sturdier glue for making arrows, tools, all kinds of things, I can write with it (on what? And why?) and if I get enough, might even be able to use it to make a rough water filter. He knew that it had just been luck, or Providence, that he had so far avoided waterborne illnesses after all the times he had found himself with no choice but to drink water in whatever condition he discovered it, especially last fall before he had a fire. Giardia is mighty uncomfortable at the best of times, but right now, it would probably finish me off. Not that my charcoal filter would eliminate Giardia, anyway… But he knew that the charcoal would remove arsenic, mercury and a number of other contaminants from water, and such a filter might be a good idea if he found himself getting his water from a seep near a mine tailings pile again, especially of he planned on using the source for more than a few days. Oh, and I could use some of the charcoal as medicine if I eat some bad food and need to absorb it and get it out of my system…ha! That’s not too likely, though… haven’t seen a thing to eat since I started this climb… Dragging himself out of the burnt tree trunk, Einar hurried back into the timber and continued on his way, knowing that, all joking aside, he’d better start thinking very seriously about obtaining some food in the near future, if he wanted to be able to keep going. • • • •

As the night went on, the snow moved out, the sky cleared and the temperature plummeted, creating a hard crust on the wet new snow that made traveling much easier

for Einar. He barely left tracks at all as he hurried along the ridge under the sharply brilliant stars, keeping up an exhausting pace in an attempt to stay warm, tremendously glad that none of his injuries this time had left him unable to walk. Despite the difficulty he was having with the cold—he was seriously worried about his hands after the long climb in the snow, and with the constriction caused by the cuffs—he was very glad to have the crust to travel on. He knew that there are times in the spring when the daytime temperatures cause the surface of the snow to begin melting in the sunlight, only to be turned firm and hard as cement again over night. At those times you can travel in the morning, skipping across the surface and barely leaving a sign of your passage, while anyone who may be pursuing you, if they are several hours behind, will find themselves floundering up to their hips in rotten spring snow, as the crust again softens and gives way. A great tactic for outdistancing a pursuit, though one Einar hoped not to have to use that spring. Really hope they lost my trail back there in the gulley… Though travel on the firm crust was relatively easy, dizziness continually plagued him, and he found that the only way to avoid periodically succumbing to it and falling in the snow was to keep his head as still as possible as he walked, looking straight ahead and avoiding looking up or down or especially to one side or the other, which he quickly learned would earn him a certain fall. He hoped this malady was not to be permanent, imagining himself trying to gather firewood or check snares or any of the numerous other things he would have to do to stay alive, without being able to turn his head. Wouldn’t be easy. Occasionally as he walked Einar was overcome, seemingly out of nowhere, by a sudden and pressing sense of hopelessness and blackness, that in the instant it hit him threatened to swallow him up and made it difficult to take the next step, let alone contemplate the next day or week of his life. The cold and the imminent threat of freezing if he stopped in his wet clothes kept him moving through it, though, and after awhile the feeling diminished and the world again appeared its normal self—cold, wet, somewhat hostile, but something that he knew he could deal with. After the second such incident he had to get rather stern with himself, telling himself that it’s not real, it’s just the injury, keep moving and don’t make any decisions when you feel like that… But it was real to him, scared him, left him feeling completely vulnerable, largely stripped of the persistence and determination that he knew he needed to keep him going. By the time the stars began paling against the increasing grey of the morning sky, Einar had covered quite a distance form the scene of the blast, following the tree covered ridge far back into the wilderness area, descending once and climbing an adjoining ridge when his own threatened to take him too far above treeline into a snow-choked basin where there would have been no cover from the inevitable air search. Stumbling along cold and exhausted that morning, leaning heavily on a spruce stick to remain upright, he wondered why there had as of yet been no sign of an air search. Are they waiting to see if there is a body? The sun was about to rise; a glow that had begun as a cold but promising green, highlighting the stark forms of the stunted, wind-twisted little sub alpine firs had grown on the distant horizon, white, yellow, then the brilliant orange of coming day, and Einar allowed himself a moment to sit on a bit of exposed rock at the edge of a boulder field

and watch the transformation, blinking into the sunlight in near disbelief after an incredibly long night. He had not meant to sit for long, but before he knew it minutes and then an hour had passed, the sun climbing higher in its path and finally beginning to provide him with the tiniest hint of warmth. Einar, dozing with his elbows on his knees and his forehead pressed against his hiking stick, was jolted back to wakefulness by the screech of a surprised pika, discovering his presence as it emerged from its rock den to bask in the morning sun. He shook his head, staring at the small round rabbitlike creature as it criticized him from a nearby boulder. “What? Can’t you share one of your snow-free boulders and a little sunlight with me, little one…you probably have a den full of food and a warm, dry bed back there in those rocks. This is all I got this morning. I need it.” Need you for food, for that matter… he thought to himself as he sat shivering in the weak sunlight, wondering how he might be able to trap the little creature which, while sometimes mistaken for a rodent, was actually part of the rabbit family. A deadfall would work, but how am I going to make a trigger, without a knife or even that sharp piece of quartz I had before? He knew he needed iron rich foods—pika meat would be a good start—if he was to begin recovering from his blood loss and regaining some strength. Looking around, he saw that a number of the surrounding boulders had sharp, fractured edges that he might be able to use to rub and scrape the necessary notches into a few sticks, but all of the ones that stuck up out of the snow were way too big to pick up. OK. So I bring the sticks to them. He found a dead fir, broke off a few of the smaller branches, kept breaking them until they were the right lengths to form the three parts of a figure four trap trigger, and carried them over to one of the exposed edges of jagged rock. It took him quite a while to create something he was satisfied with, struggling with his numb, battered hands as well as the inadequately sharp edge provided by the broken granite boulder. Tentatively setting up the trigger without putting much weight on it, he was pleasantly surprised to see that it would probably work. OK. Bait? Pikas, he knew, did not hibernate, rather retreating to their dens in the rock to live off of grass, flowers and other vegetation that they had carefully cut, dried and stored throughout the summer. So this little guy is probably hungry for a taste of something fresh and green, after a winter of hay… Searching among the snow covered rocks for any sign of plant life, he found a few tiny alpine sorrel leaves, just beginning to emerge from the rocky soil on the sunny side of a granite boulder. Ought to like these. Come to think of it, I’d probably like them, too. He chewed a couple of the succulent leaves, refreshing and tangy with oxalic acid. He knew that, while the sorrel could make for a nice snack, you shouldn’t eat too much of it raw, as the oxalic acid could eventually be rough on your kidneys. No chance of that, right now. These few leaves are all I see. Carefully setting up the trap on a nearly flat topped rock not too far from the place where he’d seen the pike, Einar eased a flat slab of rock down onto it, disappointed when his clumsiness caused him to set it off, starting over several times before finally succeeding. Carefully backing away from the deadfall, he retreated into the trees to wait, hoping his presence and activity had not scared the creature away from the area for the day. He doubted it. Pikas are pretty precocious little beings. Several times as he had traveled the high country that winter he had seen pikas emerge sleek and fat and content from the rocky fastness of their winter shelters to lounge on boulders, sunning themselves and picking at the orange and green lichen that grew on the

granite. Once or twice he had seen their dens, had even broken one open once in search of food, but it had not really contained anything he could eat, and he felt bad about disturbing the little creature’s winter store. Along with the assortment of dried grasses, bistort flowers and clovers in the little shelter, he had seen the skulls of several birds, neat little holes chewed in the backs of them where the bone was the thinnest, and he supposed the pika had stored birds it found dead throughout the year, eating the brains for fat during the winter. Smart critters. Come frost next fall, I’m gonna be sitting on top of a heap of good food in a nice safe hole somewhere like those guys do, warm and dry and ready and not needing to run and starve all winter like I did this year. One season of that was quite enough… It was a nice dream, anyway, and helped warm him just a bit as he sat there wet and freezing, waiting and hoping for his lone deadfall to produce a pika so he could eat. He waited there for several hours, creeping out into the sun and curling up on a dry rock when the cold got the better of him, but seeing no more of the pika and beginning to think that he would have to move on, return to check the trap at some later time. The wind that swept up from the valley that early afternoon was a bit softer than it had been of late, and brought with it the faint smell of the awakening forest. Spring was coming. Had already come to the valleys. Einar, taking measure of his situation with an objectivity and detachment that perhaps ought to have alarmed him, knew that if he could make it through the initial search and avoid succumbing to the immediate effects of his injuries, and if there was not something more serious going on internally as a result of the fall that he was not yet aware of, he would probably live. As the snow receded, avalanche lilies and spring beauty, both of which had edible, starchy bulbs, would be up, and the rabbits and other small animals would soon become more plentiful, as well. If… He pulled himself upright, stuck a little glob of wet snow in his mouth and let the icy water trickle down his parched throat. Time to move. • • • •

Continuing along the ridge under the trees, Einar knew he must find some shelter before the sun went down and he again lost the meager warmth that the day had brought. He knew that he would probably be unable, without food or at least more rest, to manage another night of constant activity, knew the smartest—and certainly the most comfortable —thing would probably be to find a sunny spot and sleep for a few hours so he would be ready to keep active during the freezing night hours. But, weighing this need against the desire to put more distance between himself and a probable search, he decided to keep moving for awhile. At least it looked like his clothes were going to be mostly dry before darkness, and the cold, returned. As he traversed the ridge, weaving his way in and out of stands of spruce and fir, Einar stopped now and then to harvest the stringy clumps of lichen that hung like hair form some of their branches. While the lichen was a common sight in certain areas of these mountains, there had been very little of it near his previous shelters, and he was glad to now find himself in an area where the it was apparently pretty abundant. Collecting the wispy green clumps and stuffing them in between his jumpsuit and sweatshirt for

insulation, he ran through their many possible uses in his mind. Already he had used them successfully to slow the bleeding from his injured wrists and leg, and he knew that the usnic acid they contain is strongly antibacterial, effective against staphylococcus, streptococcus, and pneumococcus, as well as being antiviral, and would help prevent infection in his wounds. Wish I’d had a bunch of this stuff back when I was having to use that improvised snow boot. Just might have kept me from getting frostbitten toes. And I know some of the Indians ate hair lichen, too, but I’m pretty sure they always boiled or steamed it for quite a while first to neutralize the acid. Seem to remember hearing that some of them would add ashes from the fire to the boiling water, since they’re so alkaline and would get rid of the acid quicker than water alone. But he knew that it would probably be a few days, at best, before he was boiling anything, maybe a good bit longer if there were signs of an active search that made a fire too risky. And in the meantime, terribly hungry after his climb and the miles traveled over the previous night, he stuffed a wad of the dry lichen in his mouth, added a little clump of snow, and chewed. For quite some time. The stuff was tough, stringy and very bitter, but once he’d got it down, Einar reached for more and repeated the process over and over, keeping at it because the bulky lichen made his stomach feel less empty and, he hoped, might yield enough nutrition to keep him going for awhile. It wasn’t long though before he was doubled over with stomach cramps and then nausea, and he began to think that there was probably a very good reason the Indians had boiled the vile stuff before using it for food. Despite the nausea, he was able to keep his meal down, and was soon up and moving again despite the continued cramping, collecting more of the lichen as he went. Needing shelter and a place to wait out the air search he still expected to see, Einar really wanted to go either to the rocky cavern behind the waterfall where he’d spent the latter part of the winter, or to the mine tunnel he had discovered on the way to Liz’s, but for the moment chose to stay far away from the mine tunnel, because it was not that far from the area of the blast. Looking up at the surrounding peaks to get his bearings, he set off in the late afternoon sunlight, intending to use what was left of the day to make as much progress as he could towards the cavern. If he could reach it, and if searchers had not somehow discovered it first, he would be able to retrieve his sleeping bag and rabbitskin blanket at least, which would prove very helpful, as he still had several long cold months ahead of him before summer really came to the mountains. He’d be lucky if all the snow was gone by late June, the way things were looking. As he walked, he thought of all the things he’d packed up and taken with him—and subsequently lost when he was arrested and unable to return to his cached backpack—that fateful morning he had set out for the ranch house—his tin can cooking pot and stove, extra clothes, socks, snare wire, knife, fishing kit—almost everything he owned, actually. Wish I had a way to get some of that stuff back. Getting kinda tired of having to start all over again so many times…Oh well. Comes with the territory, I guess. At least he would have a way to keep warm at night, once he retrieved the sleeping bad and blanket. A huge improvement over his present situation. Reaching a ridge opposite his old shelter near dusk, Einar, very tired and anxious for the warmth of the bag and blanket, considered heading straight down and across the gulley without delay. He made himself wait, though, sitting under a tree and watching the area

for some time before satisfying himself that nothing was amiss, that no one was down there waiting for him behind the waterfall. Struggling down the steep slope into the gulley and back up to the little opening in the rock behind the waterfall, whose ice was beginning to rot and flow again with water from the melting snow, Einar ducked behind the fall, doing his best to stay dry as he entered the cavern in the rock behind it. The rock, which had been icy all winter, was now in places damp and slick with mud, and he moved very carefully to avoid falling and sliding out under the falling water. Reaching the area where he had spent much of the winter, he poked around with his boot, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. His foot bumped against something lightweight and rounded, which went rolling away in the darkness. Searching for it, he found one of the empty Nutella jars he had carefully cleaned and saved after eating its contents that winter, planning to use it to carry water on his trapline next summer. Some sharp-toothed animal had apparently picked the jar up in its jaws, squeezing it and causing the lid to come off. He could feel the jagged places where its teeth had pierced the plastic. Won’t be using this one to carry water… The jar brought back thoughts of food, reminded him how hungry he was, and he tried unsuccessfully to get his mind on something else. No use. Visions of full jars of Nutella, Liz’s chicken casserole, and big bowls full of steaming split pea soup flashed through his head unbidden and quite unwelcome. Quit it! He told himself. You can eat later. What you need now more than anything is a good warm night’s sleep. Which, despite his cramping stomach, he knew was the truth. He was too tired to think, to stand up straight, and he believed that, unlike a hot meal, a night’s sleep was at least within reach. Right there in the back of the cavern. Though the shelter was damp and humid with mist from the awakening waterfall, he was hopeful that his bedding, stashed far back in a rock crevice, would be dry. Better go find it before it gets totally dark in here. Finding his way to the sheltered crevice where he had stashed his bedding, Einar felt around until his hands came in contact with something soft, grabbing it and dragging it out into the weak daylight, not wanting to believe what his senses were telling him. The sleeping bag was in tatters, shredded and torn apart by some animal, its down filling scattered and trampled all over the damp ground, and the rabbitskin blanket seemed to have fared even worse, some of the rabbit hides partially eaten by whatever hungry creature had raided his shelter. After staring at the wreckage in disbelief for a minute, shaking his head and laughing the broken, humorless laugh of a man who has reached the end of his rope one too many times and doesn’t really care anymore what comes next, Einar told himself in no uncertain terms to snap out if it! Get moving! Night’s coming and you got work to do. He forced himself up, returned to the crevice, dropping to his knees and starting to gather the fragments of fur and canvas, working fast to counter the scared, sinking feeling in the pit of his empty stomach. He had really been counting on that warm night’s sleep. • • • • That night Einar crouched on the tattered canvas remains of his sleeping bag, his head and shoulders covered as well as he could manage with the remaining rabbit skins, and choked down some more of the lichen, attempting to quiet the painful rumblings in his

stomach. Before entirely losing the light, he had explored the corners and crevices of the little cavern, finding in one sheltered area a scattered pile of bones, rabbit, mostly, it looked like, and one distinct furry track preserved in the mud that he was pretty sure was lynx. He picked up the cracked bones one by one, hoping to find one that the cat had overlooked and obtain a bite or two of marrow, but the creature had been hungry, too, and quite thorough. Nothing. Got to have something soon. Some meat, hopefully. He knew he was badly anemic from the blood loss, that things would not really improve for him until he found a way to reverse that. Well. Tomorrow… As the night went on and the dripping waterfall froze up, Einar dozed off and on, waking when the cold became unbearable to stand and stomp his feet and beat his elbows against his sides in an attempt to generate a little heat, angry that the handcuffs kept him from swinging his arms back and forth across his body to aid in the process. Tomorrow these must come off… After a couple hours of that, all he wanted was to get away from the damp, humid place, convinced that while the cavern had made a fine winter shelter, it was no good now that the water had begun to flow. During one of his wakeful times early in the night he heard, muffled by the surrounding rock, the rumbling of a helicopter as it passed low over the ridge. He expected that it was probably connected to the search; by the time it made a third pass, he was certain. So. They must have decided there is no body back there in the gulley. Guess I’m stuck here for the night, at least. Too cold to immediately sit back down and try to sleep, Einar limped over to the opening in the rock and looked out. The night was bitterly cold, the harsh white landscape illuminated by a waning half moon, and as he looked out across the gulley, Einar thought he saw movement. Straining his eyes in the dim light and focusing off to one side, he could pick out a shadowy form making its way up over the snow of the gulley. Before long the creature emerged from the shadows, showing clearly in the moonlight. The lynx! His first thought was that the creature seemed to be headed his way, and that it was a potential source of food. He shook his head. Do you really think it’s a good idea for a half dead guy in handcuffs to choose to wrestle a full-grown lynx, Einar? No…but I’m gonna be all the way dead here before too long if something doesn’t change. Got to go for it. He considered waiting with a large rock and attempting to hit the creature in the head with it, but knew that in the feeble light cast by the moon and with his cuffed, clumsy hands, such an attempt was almost certain to fail. And there would be no second chance. Got to get my hands on it… Positioning himself in the shadows to one side of the opening in the rock, he clenched his chattering teeth and fought to control his shivering breath as he waiting for the animal’s approach, knowing that lynx have an incredibly sensitive sense of hearing. As the lynx began the final climb up to the cavern, Einar could see that it carried an animal in its jaws—something brown and weasel-like, but not an ermine, because they were still white for the winter. The cat was large, probably a male, and to Einar’s dismay he realized that it probably weighed upwards of thirty pounds. Seeing what he was up against almost made him reconsider, but knew he must have food, and more protection from the cold, if he was to survive these freezing nights. Here, kitty… The lynx paused just outside the opening, cautious of the human smell in the cavern but

having grown somewhat accustomed to it in the days after Einar left, as it had sheltered there and eaten his rabbitskin blanket. As the animal passed through the crevice, Einar threw himself at it, grabbing for its head in the hopes of being able to quickly snap its neck, but missing, ending up with two handfulls of fur and thirty pounds of writhing, scratching furious lynx beneath him. He quickly got a good grip on the fur on either side of the cat’s face, and held on for all he was worth as it wormed its way out from beneath him and began slashing at his arms with its claws. Einar knew he must get the cat back under him, that his only chance of ending the struggle successfully was to press it into the ground and somehow cut off its breathing. The two of them rolled over and over on the half frozen mud of the cavern floor, Einar wishing his hands were free so he could grab at least one of its front feet and control the claws. The cat kicked viciously at him with its hind legs, gouging a deep row of bloody trenches down one thigh and almost causing Einar to lose his grip before, with one tremendous effort, he flipped over and pinned the animal to the rock, bearing down with the handcuff chain until finally it stopped struggling. Einar collapsed on the muddy rock beside the dead cat, panting for breath and pressing his damaged leg to slow the bleeding. He found a sharp granite flake and with great difficulty cut through the fur and skin of the lynx’s throat, catching some of the resulting blood in the empty Nutella jar, which, while it had holes near the top of it, was better than nothing. Exhausted and knowing he badly needed the iron, Einar sipped from the jar, leaving the remainder in the container to freeze for the next day. Einar was bleeding from numerous deep scratches on his forearms and torso, and dragging himself out into the moonlight so he could see what he was doing, he took a minute to press clumps of lichen to the worst of the scratches, binding them with strips of canvas from the ruined sleeping bag. Totally spent, he crawled back to the pile of shredded canvas, pulled the still-warm body of the lynx over himself, buried his fingers in the fur of the cat’s stomach, and slept. A helicopter woke Einar that morning well after dawn, and he lay blinking in the glare of the sunlight that streamed in through the opening in the rock. Bone cold and shivering, he tried to rise, realizing then that he was terribly stiff from the cat scratches, angry red welts with white centers running along his arms, chest and one leg, so swollen that he could hardly bend his left arm. He was glad, then, for the cold of the night, knowing that without it the reaction would likely have been much worse. Dragging himself into the patch of sunlight, he changed the blood soaked lichen on the worst of the wounds, wishing he had something to disinfect them with, looking out at the snowy world outside the cavern and working to get his hands flexible enough to begin gutting and skinning the lynx. Now for breakfast. Going to be interesting, trying to skin this critter with a granite flake… • • • •

As Einar set about searching the cavern for the flake of granite that would best allow him to begin the job of gutting and skinning the lynx, he wondered whether perhaps this cat

might be one of the same ones that had torn up so much of his bear meat back at the ledge the previous fall. He wasn’t sure exactly what their range was, but thought it possible. Well, either way, you’re my breakfast, now. He had eaten lynx a few times in the past and liked it, though not recently, at least not that he would admit in public, since the lynx had been granted protected status. Ha! Think the Division of Wildlife is probably the least of my worries at the moment, though… He had discovered in the daylight that the lynx’s prey had been a pine marten, which, while it wasn’t a species that would have been his first choice as a food, was a welcome bonus at this point, as anything edible would have been. And he was delighted to have the sleek, glossy dark brown pelt, which would go a long way towards keeping him warm. He was already picturing a hat, a Russian style hat with big warm ear flaps, because he was pretty sure he had a little frostbite on his ears after the previous night. Hmm. Now that’s pretty ambitious, Einar. But I’ll find some way to attach it to my head, anyway. He began working to gut the animal, using the granite flake, pounding it with another rock to make progress, again wishing he was rid of the cuffs so he could use his hands normally. Frustrated at his slow progress in making the necessary cut along the cat’s underside, he paused, studying the cuffs and searching around the cavern for anything he might use to pick them. OK. What’ve I got here? Sticks…I know they’d just break before doing me any good. Bone splinters? I could try that. He made his way stiffly back to the pile of chewed and split rabbit bones, sorting through them until he had found several longish splinters of different shapes and sizes, returning to sit in the sunlight and attempt to free himself. Rubbing and scraping the tip of one splinter on a piece of granite to reshape it, he was hopeful that the tool would allow him to make some progress. It broke, though, the first time he tried it, his clumsy hands preventing him from using the precision and care necessary to the task. Einar knew that at least part of his clumsiness and the cloudiness that continued to plague his mind was due to hunger, so, putting aside the cuff removal project for the time, he returned to the cat, finishing the cut and gutting it, enjoying a breakfast of half frozen but iron and calorie-rich lynx liver. Finished eating, feeling stronger and less shaky, he again concentrated on the cuffs, knowing that he had to get them off, had to have full use of his hands if he wanted to last very long. Can’t picture how I’d ever manage a bow and drill fire with these things on…maybe a hand drill? Might work. Might just have to try that. Because so far his efforts to unlock the cuffs had been entirely unsuccessful. Frustrated, he raised his hands over his head, slamming them down on either side of a sharply fractured, angular chunk of rock in an attempt to break the stout little chain that linked the cuffs. No luck, just a fresh trickle of blood from his battered wrists. He groaned, tucked in some fresh lichen to help control the bleeding. If I just had an extra set of hands…one extra hand, even, I could bash that chain with a rock until something came apart… He went back to trying the little bone shims, shaping a new one and painstaking manipulating it in an attempt to unlock the cuffs, stopping only when his hands finally cramped up to the point that he could no longer grasp the tools. Alright. Take a break. Back to the cat. The lynx, being half frozen, proved difficult to skin, as he had expected,

but things began going much better after he had the idea to use the lid of one of the damaged Nutella jars as a skinning tool, breaking it with a rock in the hopes of obtaining a sharp edge. The white plastic fractured easily in the cold, and the resulting tool, after he had ground it a bit against a rock, proved very helpful as he carefully separating the furry hide from the animal, working hard to keep it as intact as possible, needing every inch of it for warmth. Finally freeing the hide, he laid it carefully on a dry section of cavern floor, thinking to himself with some measure of satisfaction that apparently there really is, as they say, more than one way to skin a cat …because this sure isn’t the method I’d have chosen, but it kind of worked. Severing the hind quarters of the cat with a rock, he piled the meat on the hide, adding the head, which he had lacked the tools to successfully skin, to the pile. He knew he would be wanting the eyeballs, and probably even the brain, before many days had passed. He then tied the legs together, creating a bundle that he could sling over his shoulder as he traveled. He gathered up all of the remnants of his sleeping bag and the fur scraps from the blanket and stuffed them inside his jumpsuit, tearing a long strip from the tan canvas to use as a belt, so the fragments would not fall down his pants as he walked. Searching the cavern in the daylight, he found one undamaged Nutella jar—the animal, whatever it had been, must have given up after finding the first couple empty—that he stuck in one of the sweatshirt pockets for future use. Hey, at least I’ve got a warm vest, now, with all this insulation stuffed in here. Really wanting to be rid of the cuffs before leaving the shelter of the cavern, Einar again concentrated on picking the lock, twice thinking that he almost had it, but finding himself each time unable to complete the task because his hands were shaking. The third time he put all the focus and concentration he could muster into the task, but tried a little too hard and the bone shim jammed and broke off in the lock mechanism. No, no, no! Not good at all! He shook the cuffs, slammed them against a rock in an attempt to dislodge the bone fragment, tried retrieving it with another bone splinter. The thing was really stuck. Well. Einar shook his head, stood, returned to his preparations for leaving the cavern. What else can you do? Preparing to duck out under the waterfall and be on his way, Einar thought he heard the rumbling of another helicopter, couldn’t be sure because of the noise of the water, waited until it grew louder and he was certain. The chopper, though low, did not circle the area or double back, and he was pretty confident that, though they were actively searching, they had no real idea of his location. Let’s try to keep it that way. Time to move, get further from their starting point. As Einar walked he harvested and ate more lichen, and it seemed that each time he made a meal of the tough stringy stuff, his reaction to it was a bit less strong, the nausea more manageable. He wasn’t sure that the lichen was actually doing him any good, and not entirely certain either that it was doing him no harm, but the less empty feeling it temporarily gave his stomach was certainly welcome. Seriously concerned about his ability to remove the jammed cuffs without more tools, he knew he had to stretch his food supply as far as he could, knew that obtaining food would continue to be a major

challenge as long as he lacked the free use of his hands. Heh! One advantage, though…I guess I really only need one mitten… • • • •

Einar needed shelter, something dry and secluded that would shield him from the air search and allow him to stay put and recover from the blast and his fall. He’d so far barely had the chance to stop and catch his breath, let alone begin heading in the right direction. He hoped also to be able to have a fire in a few days, when things quieted down some. Would be a really good idea to be able to heat some water to clean up all of these dings and dents, maybe throw in some Oregon grape root if I can find some in an area that’s started to melt out. Don’t need to be dealing with an infection right now, on top of everything else. And while he had eaten the lynx liver raw without too much concern, the meat was another matter, because he had heard of people becoming infected with trichinosis from eating raw or undercooked cougar in recent years, both in Canada and the American Northwest, and that was not something he wanted to risk, if there were other alternatives. He knew the chance that he would encounter a problem was probably slight, told himself that he was being overcautious, (not usually a problem of mine…) but decided that if he could, he would wait on the lynx until he could have a fire. The second mine tunnel he had previously discovered was still out as an option for immediate shelter, since returning to it would mean heading in the direction of the search, rather than away from it. The timbered ridge he was currently following, if he followed it back into the wilderness area, ascended fairly quickly, terminating in a red, cliffy bluff, high and windswept and devoid of trees on the top—not a place to spend much time when there was an air search on—but he knew that down on the other side of the ridge, below the barren crest and the red, eroded cliffs of sandstone, were a number of small basins, surrounded and concealed by black timber. Far from roads and even established trails, the high basins were not places that a casual hiker was likely to stumble across. Some of them, as he remembered, had good southern exposure, and, before long, the snow should begin to leave areas of them, allowing him access to the several varieties of spring plants with starchy tubers, that would help stretch his food supply. The more he thought about the little basins, the more the image of them grew in his mind as a place of refuge, of safety, a place where he could perhaps set himself up for the longer term, avoid contact with people who might endanger his continued existence, and finally quit running for awhile and catch his breath. The secluded, timber-filled valley below, replete with numerous small creeks and seeps, could provide him a good place to set up a number of snares, and, before long, to perhaps take some larger game. Home, maybe. Would sure be good to stay put for awhile somewhere where there was more to eat. First, though, to cross that ridge. It took Einar, stiff and hurting from the previous night’s battle with the lynx, longer than he had hoped to reach the point on the ridge where the timber petered out and the open slope began. The scratches left on his legs by the claws of the cat’s powerful hind feet crossed his knee in a couple of places, making it very difficult to bend. The swelling had not gone down much, the scratches seemed red and inflamed, and he worried about

infection. The sky had grown overcast as he climbed, and though there did not appear to be an immediate threat of snow, the wind had picked up significantly, and he had not heard an aircraft for some time. Good. Means I can go ahead and cross, hopefully find some good shelter before dark tonight… Crouching against a stunted little fir up near treeline, Einar allowed himself a few minutes to change the lichen dressings on his scratches and the injuries on his wrists and leg, melting snow in his mouth as he worked to help quench a growing thirst. Passing the tumbled boulder ramparts that guarded the wide, treeless area that ran along the top of the ridge, he started out into the open, suppressing the prickly feeling that crept along his scalp by telling himself that there’s no way they’ll be flying in this wind. Einar had developed quite an aversion to open areas, and hurried to cross this one as quickly as his condition would allow. The snow of the ridge, swept by near constant high winds over the winter, had been packed and sculpted into a continuous series of hard little ridges—known as sastrugi—that would have made skiing difficult, if I was lucky enough to have skis… As he went on, Einar found that the wind on the ridge was an incredible force against which he could hardly remain standing, let alone make much headway. It whistled and blasted over the stark landscape with a violence that took his breath and slowed his progress tremendously, whipping up the newer snow into a near whiteout. After being actually knocked off his feet more than once by the wind, he ended up crawling at times out of sheer necessity lest he be blown off the mountain, the cold wind sapping his strength nearly to the point of collapse by the time he was halfway across. he couldn’t feel his hands, his face and the entire windward side of his body was numb as the wind flowed right through his inadequate, mostly cotton clothing. Einar stopped, fumbled with the tied legs of the lynx hide, dumped the meat out of it onto the ground, in desperation threw the hide over his head and shoulders, drawing it tightly around his neck and huddling there for a minute trying to feel a little warmer, but without success. Eventually he made himself get up and go on, doggedly clutching the fur with his cuffed hands, knowing that once he dropped down off of the ridge, the wind ought to be far less, remembering seeing some huge angular boulders near the dropoff that might well serve as temporary windbreaks. He had not gone far before a thought occurred to him, a dim, fuzzy thing on the edge of his consciousness that told him that something was wrong, that he was making a big mistake. He stopped, looked around him to see what it might be, but the blowing snow limited his world to the three foot circle of wind-packed white directly around his boots. So, knowing all too well that he would soon reach the point where useful work would become impossible and his mind too clouded to realize it in the cold, he went on, silencing out of necessity the little voice in the back of his mind that told him he was messing up by doing so. The sight of his boots, black in a world of swirling, blinding white, seemed at times to be the only thing that kept him tethered to reality as he traveled, reminding him that there was, indeed, a world waiting for him out there beyond this place of seemingly limitless, all encompassing whiteness and wind and crushing, bone-freezing cold. Then he remembered. The meat. He hunted for it then,

doing his best to retrace his steps, stumbling around in circles, knowing he must have it or die, but beginning to think that if he kept up the search for too much longer, he might actually die trying to find it. Finally, unsuccessful and growing colder by the minute, he decided that he must go ahead and start down, but he couldn’t remember which way he had come from, was totally disoriented in the swirling whiteness. Fighting hard to hold a growing panic at bay, he sat down, drew the lynx skin tightly around his head and shoulders, and tried to think, desperately searched his mind for any tidbit of information that might tell him which way to go. Please show me… OK. Ok, the wind. Climbing the ridge, the wind had been from his right, as the greater numbness of his right leg and arm could well attest. So. Put the wind on my right again. And go. Go…! Stumbling, he forced himself up, staggered in what he hoped was the right direction. • • • ` Einar, doing his best to keep the wind to his right and hoping that it was not periodically changing direction and throwing him off course, kept pushing his way across the open slope towards the shelter that he knew lay beyond it. Focused on his boots, he almost ran into the head-high, rectangular red boulder as it loomed up out of the swirling snow. Leaning heavily on the massive chunk of sandstone, catching his breath for a moment, he knew there were none like it on the wide expanse of the ridge, knew he must finally be near the sharp dropoff that marked the edge of the ridge. Careful, now. Got to find a way down between these cliffs. The visibility already improving a bit, Einar could just make out a steep but not unmanageable slope directly before him, and he descended slightly from the ridge, suddenly finding himself walking out of the squall into nearly still air and the last slanting rays of evening sunlight as they pried their way out from beneath the descending cloud cover, the sun preparing to slip beneath the horizon. He realized then that it had never been snowing at all on the ridge, that the whiteout had consisted entirely of already-fallen snow being whipped up by the incredible wind. Looking back, he could see a long streamer of snow curling off the ridge, white against the darkening sky. He sank to the ground, blinking into the sunlight, staring out at his suddenly expanded world, tremendously relieved at the cessation of the wind. Far below, he could see the basins that were his intended destination, a bit of exposed ground already showing dark against the snow in one of them. Alright. Down into the trees. Sitting there in the sunlight, Einar briefly considered returning to the ridge to search for the lynx meat, but, looking behind him, saw that the wind was as intense as ever up there, and with darkness approaching, he quickly decided against it. Go down. Got to be a little warmer down there in the trees. That night he spent beneath a spruce some distance down the slope, stuffing a clump of lichen in his mouth before settling in, on the general principle that it is a good idea to eat something every once in a while, even if it is just a wad of tough, bitter tree hair, and finding himself too tired to do anything that night about the pine marten that he was glad to find still attached to his improvised belt. Huddled against the spruce trunk with the lynx hide over his head and shoulders, the seconds dragging by as he waited for the sky to begin graying with morning, Einar dreamt fractured, disjointed snatches of dream as he shivered through the night—visions of the valley, fire, food, of Liz, even, ran through his head, but his periods of sleep never lasted long in the cold, and the dreams just left him wishing for things he knew he could not have, made it that much •

harder to return to the reality he found himself in when he inevitably woke minutes later. Bitter joy…brittle joy…you’re not part of my world right now. Stop taunting me. Leave me alone. And eventually it did, the dreams ended, and he was again alone with the cold and the darkness and the unbearably, immeasurably slow passage of time. It was a very long night. The night ended, though, as even the longest of nights always eventually do, and Einar, knowing he must move and that first he must eat, set about looking for a way to skin or at least cut open the pine marten that he had tied to his improvised belt the day before when he left the cavern. The creature had not fit in the lynx-skin pack with the other meat, which had seemed inconvenient at the time, but now pleased him. As much as a person could be pleased about anything after a night like that. After a number of failed attempts, he managed to make a cut along the belly of the half-frozen marten using the broken Nutella lid, glad that, though the meat had ice crystals in it, it was not frozen solid. He was able to remove and eat some of the internal organs, continuing his meal by worrying back the skin and tearing off rough strips of the meat with his teeth, terribly grateful for the food, but thinking that he was getting pretty tired of freezing and starving and existing like an animal all the time, and a poor one, at that. So how long does this go on? How long you gonna keep living like this, Einar? And, as he stiffly gathered his meager possessions and prepared to move on, the only answer that would come to his mind was as long as it takes… The journey down the timber-choked slope to the first of several basins he intended to look at that day was not an easy one, his progress hampered by numerous fallen trees whose trunks crisscrossed one another and were in places stacked several deep. It looked like a great wind had come through at some time in the past, toppling and breaking many of the trees. Eventually though, after going off course several times in the heavy timber and once ending up having to cross a deep, steep walled gulley, he saw not too far below him the little spine of rock that he had chosen as a landmark for the first of the basins. Reaching it, he waited cautiously in the trees for awhile, reluctant to leave their cover and explore the small meadow, parts of which were beginning to show brown with the emerging dirt as the snow receded. The day was still and calm if not sunny, and several times on the descent he had needed to seek refuge beneath thick trees as a helicopter or small plane passed over. So, not wanting to leave tracks for them to see in the open meadow, he skirted around it, keeping to the trees and heading for the rocky escarpment that he had seen from above. Which was a good thing, because he would have walked right past the cabin without ever seeing it, if he had chosen to cross the meadow. At first, seeing what appeared to be a manmade structure over against the rock of the ridge, he doubted his eyes, thought he must just be seeing a pile of fallen trees, but there was something too regular about the shapes he was seeing through the trees, something too orderly, and he detoured from his course, heading over to the base of the ridge to take a look. Half buried in the melting snow, the roof long gone from much of the structure, sat a rough cabin, its logs clearly hand-hewn and quite old, but stout and apparently not too badly rotted. Most of the roof had caved in and long ago rotted on the floor, but the roof beams still lay across the logs, and in one corner a roughly four by four patch of

roofing material remained, providing a small sheltered spot beneath, nearly free of snow under the additional protection of the heavy evergreens that loomed over the little structure. Wary, but realizing from the lack of tracks that no one had been to the cabin for the second half of the winter, at least, Einar made his way to the protected corner, scratching around in the shallow snow on the floor, turning up several old square head nails and a thick piece of blue glass that appeared to have once been the bottom of a bottle. Immeasurable wealth to a man who two minutes ago had owned nothing but a broken Nutella lid and a half eaten marten carcass. Glancing around, he saw several sheets of tin, apparently nailed to the walls at some point to help keep out the wind, and he could only imagine what other treasures might lie hidden beneath the snow. Einar could think of only one reason that a person—other than himself, perhaps—would have gone to the trouble to build a cabin in this remote and nearly inaccessible location, and, heading for the ridge some fifty yards behind it, found his suspicions to have been correct. There in the rock of the ridge, some fifteen feet up from the forest floor and concealed from the air by several ancient-looking spruces, the darkness of a mine tunnel awaited his exploration. • • • •

Einar could tell from the extent of the tailings pile beneath the dark opening in the rock that this tunnel had been worked for far longer than the two previous he had taken shelter in. The remnants of an old ore chute, some of the tin still in place, could be seen to one side the tailings pile, dilapidated and mostly fallen apart, but surely a source of much salvageable metal. Climbing the tailings pile, he kicked at some scattered rocks that had fallen at some point from the ceiling of the tunnel, partially blocking the entrance. They were covered with dust and a thin coating of calcite from water that in the warmer seasons must drip from the moss and dirt above the entrance, and did not appear to have fallen recently. Got to be careful, though. Not sure how stable this thing is. In his experience, he had found that it was usually reasonable to trust the stability of any tunnel that had not been timbered by the original miners, but the quantity of fallen rock gave him pause. Waiting just inside the tunnel mouth for his eyes to adjust to the dim light, he hoped that the tunnel would be habitable, because he knew it would actually provide better shelter from the wind and weather than the remains of the cabin, especially for the next couple of months when snowfall and below-freezing temperatures would still be commonplace occurrences. Exploring his immediate surroundings, Einar found the tunnel floor, once he was in a few feet, to be dry, dusty, and, with the exception of the first yard or so, not overly cluttered with fallen rock. Good. I may leave all that debris, maybe even add to it to discourage anybody who might be passing by from exploring very far in. ‘Cause I sure hope this is going to be home for awhile... Shuffling around in the dark, his foot snagged on something, and he caught himself just short of falling. Carefully he freed his foot, felt around until he found the thing that had snagged him. It was cold, metallic-feeling, about half an inch in diameter, and seemed to be twined or twisted like rope. Steel cable! He had seen long abandoned, rusted coils of similar cable at many other old mine and sawmill sites in the past, had cautiously used cable that had been bolted into a rock wall rock and abandoned in some past time as an

aid in descending a steep patch of rock a time or two, but never had he been so glad to see it as he was at that moment. OK. Finally gonna get out of these awful cuffs! He grabbed the cable, tugged at it to free it from the dust of the tunnel floor, but found it held fast by some force that was not obvious to him in the near total darkness of the tunnel. Feeling along the slightly frayed steel, he found the place where it disappeared into the ground, dug around it with a sharp rock, pulled again. Nothing. Got to break off a piece, then. The stuff was quite strong, though, the strands held fast to each other by a thin coating of oxidation, and Einar tried without success to pry up one strand so he could work it back and forth and eventually break it off. His repeated attempts were just tearing up his hands, as his somewhat numb fingers were sliced and bloodied by sharp slivers of steel that stuck out in places form the cable. Once more he struggled to free the whole coil, getting a loop of the stiff metal around his leg and straining forward until with a scrape and a rattle, the entire mass of cable came loose, sending Einar sprawling on his face in the dust of the tunnel. Picking himself up, he hauled the cable out to the entrance where there was more light, but stayed inside where it was dry, worn out by his efforts, but happy that, for the first time since starting up the windy ridge the previous day, he was almost warm. In the dim light that shone in from outside, he could see that the cable, while clearly old, was not terribly rusty, having been protected from the worst of the moisture by its location inside the tunnel. The black oxidation that bound the strands together was worst on the top, and, turning it over, he found metal that was barely covered with a light grey film, the strands still separate. Good! Pulling one of the square head nails from the cabin out of his pocket, he began prodding at one of the strands, finally getting it up far enough that he could grasp it and pull. Alternately shoving and prying with the nail and pulling with his fingers, he was able to separate a several-inch long section, which he bent back and forth in an attempt to form a weak spot so it could be broken loose. The metal, after a good bit of work, began developing a white spot at the bend, and he finished it off by laying it on a rock and striking it with another. OK. Now for a bit of concentration, a bit of delicate work, and I’ll have my hands again. Resting for a moment, though, he could see from the shaking of his hands and the dizziness that had come over him that any amount of concentration and delicate work just then would be a severe challenge, at best. Better eat something. Which, at the moment, meant some more half-frozen pine marten. After letting a few bites of the tough, icy stuff settle in his stomach for a minute, he was feeling steadier and ready to attempt the task. The fragment of bone shim that had broken and lodged in the locking mechanism of the cuff proved quite difficult to remove, even with the length of wire, and Einar poked and prodded at it for some time before finally thinking to create a little hook at one end to reach behind the fragment and grab it. Success! It took only a few minutes after that for him to manipulate and release the lock mechanism. He spread his arms wide, took a deep breath and stretched, allowed himself a little whoop of triumph before getting down to inspecting his badly damaged left wrist, which was swollen and red and deeply lacerated from the metal of the cuff. He was pretty sure there was some frostbite in the mix, too, after the skin being in constant contact with the cold metal over the course of several freezing nights, but with all the other injuries, he

couldn’t be certain. The second cuff went easier now that he had the hang of it, and soon he was free of them entirely. His inclination was to toss the vile things as far as he could into the trees, wishing never to see them again, but he stopped himself, knowing that a man is his situation could not afford to dispose of anything as potentially useful as the steel cuffs. He set them on a large flat rock some distance inside the tunnel mouth, adding the coil of cable to his little stash. Back outside in the daylight, Einar decided that his best course of action would be to gather as much dry evergreen duff as he could find around the trees that had begun melting out, and heap it in the tunnel so he would have some chance of keeping warm when night came. Jubilant at his newfound freedom of movement and the wealth of his discoveries that day, he bounded down the tailings pile into the forest below. As he headed for a nearby spruce in search of dry needles, Einar was sent scurrying and stumbling back up to the tunnel by the distant rumbling of a large helicopter. Crouching in the shadows, badly winded and gasping for breath as the chopper thundered low over the basin, he was reminded that, though his situation had improved considerably with the discovery of the cabin and tunnel and the removal of the cuffs, he was still only a few days out from an escape from federal custody, that he was injured and again almost out of food, that his situation was still extremely precarious. • • • •

Down at the FBI command post in the valley, a massive new search effort was being organized, but this time there were no press releases, no news conference, just a new fence put up between the old feed store and the highway, to keep curious onlookers at a greater distance. When officials did comment publicly on the case, the word was still that they believed the subject to have perished in the blast, but they knew quite well by the morning of the second day that there was no body to be found down in the gulley. The air search was pursued with a renewed intensity as they hurried to put an end to the manhunt before the snow melted and their subject found himself with far more travel options in the high country, and themselves with an infinitely greater area to search. • • • •

Unable to even contemplate fire for the moment due to the air search, and knowing that he badly needed to be warm and to sleep after his days of harrowing travel since the blast, Einar worked to gather all the dry spruce duff he could find, which wasn’t much. While the snow was gone in places, most of the exposed needles were still cemented together by ice left behind by the disappearing snow pack, and were not helpful to him in keeping warm. What he really needed was a fire, but he had counted four helicopters in the last couple of hours, and numerous small planes that slowly crisscrossed the valley, limiting the amount of time he was able to spend out of the shelter of the tunnel. Confined frequently to its darkness, Einar set about organizing the place as well as he could, laying all of his possessions on a flat slab of rock, looking them over and trying to come up with a plan for keeping himself going as he waited for spring. While he finally had shelter from the wind and the ongoing search, he still lacked a way to keep warm at night,

pending his decision that it was time to again have fire. So. Need more food if I’m going to be short on warmth. Wonder if I can use some of these cable strands for snares? He expected that they would not be flexible enough, but decided to try and separate one anyway to experiment with. In the meantime, he was hungry, and decided to find a piece of tin that could be made to serve as a skinning knife, and finish removing the marten hide. Need that hat. Hat would help a lot, especially at night. Returning from the old ore chute with a suitablelooking scrap of metal, he took the time to collect more lichen from the surrounding spruces, looking forward to soon being able to boil it to neutralize some of the bitter acid that continued to nauseate him somewhat whenever he ate the stuff. And there’s always spruce bark like I did up at the other tunnel, once I get a fire so I can roast it and make it chewable… Heading for the tunnel, Einar had an idea. He had seen some fallen aspens as he skirted around the open area of he basin and returned to them now, seeing loose, hanging bark on several of the leaning trees that had caught on their way down. Pulling off great strips of the black inner bark, he coiled it up, returning to the tunnel ahead of yet another helicopter whose distant rumbling he had been hearing for some time. His initial thought had bee simply to pile the bark up on the tunnel floor to better separate him from the heat-leaching rock as he slept, but, seeing the substantial quantity of bark he had hauled back and realizing that there was far more where that had come from, he wondered about the possibility of creating some sort of rough overcoat or blanket from the fibers. I know some of the Indian tribes using different kinds of grasses to make sleeping mats and coverings—duvets, I think, was the word the French trappers used for them. Maybe I could do something similar with this aspen bark. And he remembered hearing that the Oetzi Ice Man, found mummified on a pass in the Swiss Alps after apparently perishing there one winter over 5,000 years ago, had been wearing a woven grass cape in addition to his goatskin leggings and jacket. I’m no weaver, but anything at all would help at this point. It sure doesn’t have to be pretty. Uncoiling the strips of bark, he laid the longest of them side-by-side on the dusty floor of the tunnel, creating a patch that was about three feet wide by five long. Taking one of the shorter strips, he began weaving it into the longer ones, over, under, over, until he reached the last long strip. He continued in this way, continually pushing the long strips together to tighten the weave as he worked, finally stopping when he ran out of short strips. Hmm…gnarly-looking thing, but I think it may actually work. Poking his head out of the tunnel and listening intently for aircraft before leaving its concealment, he headed down to the aspen grove to collect more bark, returning to finish the blanket. As he worked, the thought occurred to Einar that he could more than double the protective properties of the blanket by weaving a second layer, stuffing the inside with some of the remaining rabbitskin fragments from his damaged blanket, canvas strips, spruce needles, and anything else he could come up with, before somehow attaching the two layers, like a quilt. Ha! Like a quilt…can’t say I’ve done any more quilting than I have weaving, but I bet I can figure something out… The weaving took longer than he had thought it would, and by the time he had worked his way halfway down the length of the blanket, the sun hung low in the sky, not far from touching the spiky spruce tops on the other side of the basin. Ok. Now all I need to do is finish this

thing, somehow get ahold of some goatskins, and I’ll be almost as well-off as that Ice Man...before he died on the pass and got mummified, that is. Now though, I’ve got to eat. Having finished off the marten as he worked on the bark blanket, Einar set out in the last hour of sunlight to hopefully find some more food. Descending down into the little basin below the cabin and tunnel, he saw that a large area of it had recently begun melting out, white stringy snow mold still covering the surface of the springy, tundra-like ground as it awoke and prepared for spring. At these elevations the growing season—the snow-free season—was so short that everything happened very quickly during the few months of warm weather—plants emerging, flowering and dropping their seeds just in time for the snow to again begin falling. Carefully inspecting the barely thawed ground, Einar discovered a number of avalanche lilies, their green leaves just beginning to emerge. He dug down beside the leaves, scratching at the icy soil with a nail and resolving to soon find or create a better digging tool from the scattered metal debris around the tunnel or cabin. The shallowest of the roots were several inches down, and with difficulty he extracted several of the long skinny white tubers from the dirt, cleaning them on the remains of his jumpsuit pants before eating them raw, right there at the edge of the meadow. Einar knew that the roots contain a carbohydrate, inulin, that is not digestible in its raw state. Cooking the bulbs would convert the inulin to fructose, readily usable as energy. Einar, though, was certainly too hungry to wait another day or two for a fire, and hoped the roots might provide him at least a bit of nutrition in their raw state. He finally stopped digging and eating when the sun went down and he began to get too cold crouching there on the damp, half frozen ground. Retreating to the tunnel, he curled up on his side on the meager pile of dry spruce duff he had managed to collect, pulled the lynx skin and the half finished blanket over himself, and slept, shivering before long, but certainly warmer and able to sleep for longer at a stretch than he had been since the blast. Einar woke thirsty in the predawn darkness, his need for water so pressing that he dragged himself out of his bed to creep out through the tunnel mouth and collect a handful of snow from the slope outside. The morning was clear and very cold, the stars casting a pale light on the remaining snow of the basin, and he hurried back into the tunnel, quickly wrapping up in the lynx skin and draping the stiff aspen-bark blanket over his head and shoulders, shivering as he melted his handful of snow and let the water run down his throat. Despite the cold, Einar’s face felt hot and flushed, his throat parched and his head light and dizzy. He was pretty sure he had a fever. Must be those cat scratches finally getting the best of me… He had taken as much care as he was able of the injuries from the struggle with the lynx, but there had been only so much he could do, and with the woefully inadequate food supply and near-total lack of sleep he had been dealing with since the blast, he knew his immune system couldn’t be operating at 100%. His left arm throbbed painfully, and gingerly probing it with his finger, Einar found it to be swollen and tender. Great. Guess the usnea lichen must not have been enough. Gonna have to find…something in the morning, some Oregon grape or something. Got to stop this thing right here. When it gets light… Suddenly very dizzy, he lay back down. Shivering in his improvised bed that morning, his fever high enough at times that he was delirious, Einar was aware whenever it subsided enough for him to have lucid thoughts

that he was in trouble, that he had better think of something quickly and act on it as soon as it was light. • • • • When at last he looked up and saw the glow of morning in the tunnel mouth, Einar rolled stiffly out of his makeshift bed and inspected his arm in the daylight. He found the area of the scratches to be puffy and inflamed, angry red streaks extending outwards from the ends of the scratches. Those weren’t there yesterday. Not good. He knew evergreen pitch was antibacterial and could be used to help prevent infection in scratches and scrapes, but figured that his current problem had unfortunately already gone way beyond that point. What he really wanted was some Oregon grape root, so he could take some of the tea (uh…how are you going to make tea, without a fire or a way to hold water…?) internally, as well as washing the site of the injury with it. The fever was coming and going, and, with the morning breezy and cold, he did not want to risk wandering around and getting his clothes wet just then under such conditions. Deciding to wait in the tunnel out of the wind until the sun was up, at least, he worked clumsily on the blanket, struggling to focus on the weaving through the waves of dizziness and nausea that seemed to accompany the fluctuating fever. Seeing sunlight through the tunnel mouth, he waited for a time when the fever again seemed to be subsiding before leaving the shelter, the lynx skin wrapped around his shoulders against the cold. Making his way around the edge of the meadow, Einar methodically searched the base of every tree and boulder where the snow had begun melting out, but found no Oregon grapes. He wondered whether he was perhaps too high, or maybe just over on the wrong side of he basin. Better head over and check out the other side. The fever returned as he walked, and he sat down after nearly blundering headlong into a tree in his dizziness. After staring dully about for some time at the swirling and undulating forms of the surrounding trees and ridges, Einar began eating snow to cool himself, and, finding that it felt good, lay down on his back in the snow, his damp clothes steaming gently in the crisp morning air. Some minutes later he sat up, shaking and very cold, the fever for the time broken and his mind once again clear and able to function rationally. OK. Quick. Do something. This is really getting worse fast. Stumbling to his feet, he glanced around for anything that might help. Got to reverse this infection, but have to control the fever some, first, or I’m gonna end up doing something really stupid while I’m delirious, not get the chance to try and deal with the infection. A small grove of aspens stood nearby, and he chose a small tree, scraping and digging at the bark with one of the nails in his pocket until he could pry back the white outer bark and reveal the inner layer, the same one he had used for the blanket, but fresh and white instead of dried. Pulling out a strip of the tough slippery stuff, he chewed it, adding a little snow to help the juice go down. He knew that the aspen bark, like that of the willow, contains salicin, and also populin, both of which can help to break a fever. Don’t think the stuff is as concentrated in aspens as it is in willows, so I’d better chew a bunch of this, he thought, scraping and prying to reveal more inner bark. Having done what he could for the moment about the fever, he continued the search for the Oregon grapes that he hoped might help reduce the infection.

Not far from the aspen grove, he saw something strange sticking up out of the snow, and, going over to investigate, found a dead porcupine, desiccated and partially eaten from beneath. Flipping it over with a stick, he wondered what might have killed it. Einar carefully set about collecting a number of the quills to take back with him, intending to return later with a strand from the steel cable so he could safely haul back the entire carcass. As he worked, he remembered hearing once that the waxy grease that coats the quills and makes up about ten percent of their volume has strong antibiotic properties, to protect the porcupine from infection when it falls from a tree and stabs itself on its own quills. Hmm…Never heard anything about humans using this as an antibiotic, but I guess I’d better give it a try. Rubbing several clumps of usnea lichen over the animal’s quills, he rolled them up to keep them clean before stowing them in his sweatshirt pocket. His idea was to bind these to the infected area after hopefully treating it with Oregon grape root. Inspecting the arm again, he could see that, though the fever had not been back for awhile, probably due to the aspen bark, the redness and inflammation was spreading. He had an idea. Sitting on a rock, he carefully cut the barbs off of several of the quills before wrapping them in lichen to keep them clean and stowing them in his pocket. This may give me a way to deliver that antibiotic porcupine quill grease down where I really need it…Seems like a bad idea to go sticking anything at all in there, but this thing’s spreading, and I’m flat out of ideas. Do nothing, and I die. Got to try it. First though, to find some Oregon grapes… He wandered over to the base of the rocky spine that ran all the way back down to the tunnel and cabin, knowing that often in the past he had found Oregon grapes growing among rocks, and hoping that the lack of snow on the exposed rock might increase his chances of finding some. Searching for quite some time without success, he finally found his way into a protected little alcove in the rock, and found a number of the plants growing out of a crack on a narrow ledge several feet up from the ground. Working carefully to avoid breaking off and losing the roots down in the rocky cleft, he pulled up several of the plants. OK. You’re obviously not making tea, so better just chew a few of these. Which he hurried to do, swallowing the resulting bitter yellow juice. Einar then chewed a couple more of the roots, spit out a mouthful of juice into the snow, packed the snow against his infected forearm and held it in place with a wad of lichen, waiting until the searing pain subsided and the skin, at least, became numb. He then took the three quills that he had cut the barbs off of, and poked them down into the most inflamedlooking areas of the arm, leaving them for a couple of minutes, trying to breathe slowly and not pass out from the pain. Then, removing the quills, he packed the area with another batch of Oregon grape root infused snow, not leaving it on for quite as long this time. He sat there catching his breath in the little alcove of rock, realizing that it blocked almost all of the wind, while reflecting sunlight on him from three angles, warming the air. The pain beginning to subside, he swayed and dozed in the sun, face upturned towards its warmth, letting it begin to erase some of the pinched whiteness of the long hard winter. At last giving in to his weariness and languor, Einar lay down on his side to sleep, finally warm, not just not freezing at the moment, but truly, wonderfully warm. He

dreamt as he slept, as his body fought to overcome the infection that had begun in his arm and spread to threaten his life, and in a dream he saw the old cabin, fixed up with a new roof of spruce poles, salvaged tin, bark and moss, smoke curling out of the chimney, and he realized as he approached that he carried a deer quarter slung over one shoulder, a bow in his hand. He limped still as he walked along the floor of the basin, but walked well and strongly nonetheless, breathing in the crisp evening air and hungrily anticipating a good supper after a day of hard work and far travel over the spruce-covered ridges. As he neared the cabin, the door opened, and Liz came out to meet him, the warm homey smell of something baking following her out the door, a lamp glowing in the window in the fading light of a fall evening. Liz… He woke, rolled over. Fever must be back, Einar. Get that nonsense out of your head. Not ready to be awake yet and kind of wishing he could get that dream back for a moment, he stared sleepily at a few wispy little clouds that were making their way across the bright afternoon sky, hearing water drip as snow began to melt on the rocks up behind him. Nearly asleep again, he was jarred out of his reverie by the thunder of a National Guard helicopter that suddenly emerged from over the ridge not three hundred feet above his head, sending him scrambling for the rock of the ridge. Einar had not heard the chopper until it was nearly on top of him, and he pressed himself against the cold rock, hoping it was enough to conceal him, hoping that he had not left a bunch of visible tracks in the snow as he he’d stumbled around earlier in his delirium… • • • •

The chopper did not circle the basin, but continued on down towards the valley and followed it, remaining low. Einar waited for several minutes, plastered up next to the rock, crouching in a bit of shadow, before he dared to move. The basin was quiet; he heard nothing to indicate that the helicopter was doubling back, but he had a bad feeling about this one. That thing was awful low, and here I was right out in the open. How could they not have seen me… He hauled himself to his feet, feeling a little woozy from sleeping so long in the sun, but at the same time wonderfully rested and somewhat stronger. Good thing, because it looks like I’m about to be on the move again. He shook his head. Had hoped to be done with that for awhile. Stretching out his swollen arm and removing the lichen dressing, he found that it was still red and puffy, the places he had treated with the quills looking more inflamed than they had before, but the spreading red streaks that had worried him so much that morning seemed to be a bit shorter and less red, and he was hopeful that his experimental antibiotic was having some positive effect. Evening was coming, and, operating under the assumption that he had been seen and that they would be back for him, or at least for a second look, Einar debated his course of action, trying to decide whether he should stay at the tunnel, or take advantage of the darkness to cover as much ground as possible in an attempt to get as far as possible from the place where he believed he might have been spotted. Don’t know how much sense that makes. I may be nearly blind at night, but those buzzards sure aren’t. Bet I’d show up real good to them against all this snow… He knew, though, that if searchers actually ended up on the ground in the basin, they would eventually stumble across the cabin and, very likely, the tunnel, and he could be trapped in there. On the other hand, he seriously

doubted they would send in ground crews before further scouting the area from the air, in which situation the tunnel might be his best hope for avoiding detection that night. Faced with the possibility of again having to run and losing his newfound bounty of mine debris, Einar set out at a brisk pace for the cabin site, intending to gather what he could and pack it in the lynx skin so he could, at least, take some of it with him if he had to leave in a hurry. Very careful not to leave tracks in open areas, he skirted around the open meadow, scouring it as he went for any tracks he might have previously left in the snow. Save for a little mark here and there where he had crossed a swath of snow with painstaking care on his way to dig avalanche lilies the previous day, he saw nothing. Doubt they’d recognize those little scratches as footprints. But then, emerging from the trees near the cabin and looking back across the basin, he saw the spot where he had stumbled out into the meadow that morning before lying delirious in the snow. The whole area was dotted and smeared with his clumsy, weaving tracks. It looked like an elk had been wallowing and rolling in the snow. Hope they think that’s all it was… Prowling around the cabin, he dug up and pocketed four more nails, a larger metal spike of some kind, two small broken bottles, and a partially rusted sardine can that looked a good bit newer than the other items. Guess there has been at least one other person up here since the 1890s… He was sure there was more, but it remained buried beneath the snow for the time. Before heading up to the tunnel, he pulled a roughly one foot by two foot piece of tin from the underside of the remaining bit of cabin roof, bending it in half and tucking it under his arm. A small plane droned slowly overhead as he worked, forcing Einar to take refuge in the still-covered corner of the cabin. As he stood there waiting for the hum of the plane to fade into the distance, he could not help but think that the cabin, what was left of it, appeared pretty solid, that it would not be impossible to turn it into a very serviceable shelter once again with some work. The image from the dream had stuck in his head, and his mind was already busy with a number of things he could do, given a few basic tools, to make the place not only livable but quite comfortable. As the plane circled back and made another pass up the valley, a new roof for the cabin took shape in his head, a floor neatly tiled with pieces of flat grey shale from a nearby outcropping he had noticed that day in his wanderings—bet I could even use some of that shale to build a Russian stove, make some mud and spruce needle mortar to hold the thing together, really keep this place warm next winter—and translucent but insect-proof coverings for the two small window openings, made from the stretched and dried stomachs of the deer that he would take with the bow he hoped to make as soon as things settled down. The roughly hand-hewn logs were massive, many of them well over a foot in diameter, and the more he studied the cabin, the more he had to admit to a growing admiration for the men who had built it, using rough tools and, and, at most, the help of a mule or two to haul the heavy logs. The plane had finally moved on, and Einar, beginning to shiver in the evening chill as the sun went down, knew that it was high time for him to move as well, and hurried up toward the tailings pile. While the cabin plans had provided fodder for some pleasant daydreaming, he knew that for someone in his position, setting up a permanent residence as he was now contemplating probably meant inviting disaster. You gave up the chance

at a settled life like that a long time ago, Einar. You’ll probably spend the rest of your life—however long that may be—moving from one place to another and watching your back trail like the hunted creature you are. And he knew it, accepted it, knew it was part of the price of remaining free, but hey, can’t a fellow dream now and then… Yeah, maybe, but not right now. Got to get moving. Back at the tailings pile he quickly surveyed the available mine junk, snagging a two foot long iron rod that appeared to have once been part of the ore chute, another small piece of tin, and, to his delight, a much-rusted Pulaski head, some rotted fragments of the wood handle still clinging in place. He saw more that he would have liked to take, assuming he might not be able to return to the basin, but the lynx skin could only hold so much, and it was all he really had to carry things in. He had not even had time to make any cordage that he might use to sling additional items over his shoulders. Hauling his newfound treasures up to the tunnel, he worked to tie them up in the skin, tossing in the handcuffs and marten bones, leaving a couple of the bones out for his dinner. Coiling up the steel cable as well as he was able, he secured it by wrapping the coil with a loose strand, tossing it over by the lynx-skin pack. OK. That’s it. Guess I’m ready. He was still inclined, though, to spend the night in the tunnel, fearing the possibility of being surprised out in the open on the snow that night if another helicopter popped up over the ridge. So, settling in near enough to the tunnel mouth to hear what was going on outside but far enough in to remain out of the dampness of the entrance, he draped the marten hide fur side down over his head for warmth, tying two of the legs under his chin and crouching on the pile of spruce duff, pulling his roughly woven aspen bark cape close around his shoulders. Ravenous after his day of activity and no food, he broke open a couple of marten leg bones with a rock, slowly scraping out and eating the small amount of fatty marrow that they contained, stretching his meager meal as long as possible and already knowing that he was really going to miss the added warmth of the lynx skin that night. • • • •

Huddled inside the tunnel that night, straining his ears for the sound of approaching aircraft, Einar ran through various scenarios in his mind, trying to decide which was the most likely. He knew that it would be a major effort for ground crews to hike into the basin at this time of year, and wondered if they might be flown in by helicopter. I’m pretty sure the closest place they could land that thing is the top of the ridge… And, as far as he knew, the constant high winds that swept that high open place would probably make it an impractical landing spot. Every time he had looked up at the ridge over his past two days there in the basin, Einar had seen quite a plume of snow streaming off of its craggy edge. So he guessed they might have to hike in, after all, unless there were nearby terrain features he was not aware of that would allow them to land closer. Which was entirely possible. He really wished for a map, wished he was more familiar with this side of the ridge. With the exception of one small plane that seemed to be following the course of the

valley, Einar heard no nearby aircraft that night, and by the time the patch of blackness in the tunnel mouth began paling, he was beginning to seriously question his previous night’s resolve to move on as soon as morning came. It bothered him that he seemed unable or unwilling now to follow through on a plan that had been pretty firmly set in his mind only hours before, that he was having trouble getting motivated to leave. It worried him, because always before he had found it easier to go than to stay in any given place if he suspected such a move was necessary, even back when he had been reduced to crawling by his injured hip. Watching morning creep over the basin outside the tunnel, he wondered if his new propensity for indecision was yet another lingering result of the head injury he had sustained in the blast and fall. He was still plagued by occasional dizziness, his head hurting frequently and waking him sometimes in the night to blinding pain and splinters of light before his eyes. He just kept hoping that things would eventually improve, and spent the early part of the morning struggling with the decision to go or stay. By the time the sun came up and there had been no sign of additional flyovers in the immediate area, he had convinced himself to stay, for the moment at least. Though there had been a couple of times in the night when he had felt a bit feverish and dizzy, Einar saw that the arm appeared to be doing much better that day, and hoped that he was out of the woods (Heh! Not the best analogy for you to use, Einar…) on the infection. Cracking open the last two marten leg bones that morning for a totally inadequate breakfast after another long cold night, Einar knew that he must get more to eat soon if he wanted to be in any condition to run again, should it suddenly become necessary. What he really needed was a way to take some bigger game, now that the deer and even elk would soon be returning to the high country. While he supposed that it might be possible to snare a deer with some of the steel cable, the stuff was stiff, somewhat rusty, and very difficult to work with, and what he really wanted was to make a bow. He knew that, with the limited and less than ideal varieties of wood available to him up there—sub alpine fir and Engelmann spruce, to be exact— his best bet would be to make a longbow, from a long branch or even a small tree his own height or slightly higher. The length would mean that the bow would not need to support as much draw weight, hopefully allowing him to take game without breaking the barely adequate wood of the bow in half. Einar had a vague idea of how to go about making a longbow, but knew that, never having actually tried it before, his efforts at first would be largely experimental. Better get some snares set out first, so I don’t starve trying to get this thing to work… He began working to free another strand or two from the partially oxidized cable, finally working loose a three foot long strand. Pulling the smaller piece of tin out of the pack, he used a nail to repeatedly score then break off a small rectangle of it, hoping to be able to make a locking mechanism for the snare. The cable strand was so rigid that he doubted its ability to secure a rabbit without a way to lock and hold ground as the animal struggled and it tightened. Before shaping the tin, he worked carefully with the sharpest of his salvaged square-head nails, boring a small hole near each end for the cable to pass through, and a narrow slot down the center of the piece. Then, using two nails as tools, he bent the tin in three places, curling one end over a bit. Threading the cable through the

improvised lock, he tested it, taking it apart and making a few careful adjustments before calling it good and starting on the next one. The single-strand cable did not grab all that well in the lock, the tin was somewhat brittle and not all that strong, and Einar didn’t know if the lock would work once, let alone multiple times, but he had to give it a try. He had been able to free enough of the single cable strand to make two snares. Two. Well, at least it’s something. He wondered what other raw material might exist that he could use for cordage. If nettles grew in the basin, and he suspected they did, they were still well-buried beneath the snow, and the aspen bark that he did have access to was not nearly strong enough to hold a struggling animal. Hmm. Hair? He reached up and pulled a little plug of hair from the back of his head where it was the longest, cording it and, liking the strength of the finished product, wishing he had not chopped off most of his hair before heading down to the ranch house the other day. Well, there’s still enough here to make it worthwhile. I’ll just have to splice the thing more often than I would have had to if it was longer. He used a sharply broken edge of the roofing tin to hack off some of the longer hair in the back, cording and splicing and ending up with several feet of thin cordage that, when he doubled it over and twined the two strands together, he believed would be strong enough for the job. Alright, well that’s three snares. Keeping well within the trees, he headed over to a little thicket of stunted serviceberry bushes where he had seen rabbit sign the previous day, and set the snares. Now for the bow. Einar knew he needed tools to work the bow with, to split the tree or branch he hoped to find and shave it down into the right shape. Searching the area of the ore chute, he found a bar of roughly quarter inch steel which while black and rusty and somewhat pitted in places, seemed to have been more protected than harmed by the oxidation. It was about a foot long and three inches wide, with two holes drilled near one end. He wondered what its original purpose had been. Finding an appropriate piece of granite, he began methodically drawing the bar across it at an angle, over and over, slowly beginning to sharpen one edge. It took several hours, but he was eventually satisfied with the edge he had ground into the metal, knowing that while it almost certainly wouldn’t slice cleanly through a sheet of paper, he had at least created a useful tool for shaping trap triggers and, hopefully, the bow. Don’t have any paper, anyway… Which random thought caused him to wonder how he would go about making paper out there, if he ever decided that he needed it. An interesting project for more leisurely times…if they ever come. The sharpened bar was stout enough that he believed it would even be helpful in splitting a tree for the bow, if he could get it wedged in and then pound it down with a rock. Next he started on the Pulaski head, removing as much rust as he could and sharpening the axe side of it on the granite slab. The tool needed a handle. If he could fit it with a handle, it would be tremendously helpful in cutting a branch or little tree for the bow, and hopefully later for cutting and splitting firewood. Heading up into the timber above the ore chute, he searched for an appropriate piece of wood. Several small aspens, one of them long dead and devoid of bark, stood there among the spruces, and while they were nearly the right diameter, he was pretty sure that they would shatter under the strain that would be put on them is used as axe handles. A bit further up, he saw a dead spruce, choosing and

breaking a shiny yellow barkless branch some four feet up off the ground. Not entirely straight, but it’ll have to do… Working one end of the branch with his improvised knife, he fit it into the opening on the Pulaski head. So. Now I just need some water to soak this wood in, to get it to swell up and fit securely. He had seen one place in the melted out area where he had dug the lilies that had looked sort of marshy, and he headed that direction, hoping to find enough standing water to soak the handle and Pulaski head. Could use some more roots, too, in case the snares don’t produce tonight. Finding a muddy little puddle in the tundra-like soil, Einar broke the thin film of ice that had remained on it through the day, and submerged the Pulaski head and handle. Hmm. This’ll almost certainly freeze solid over night, but I don’t really have a better idea… First standing still and listening intently for approaching aircraft, he dug a number of avalanche lily bulbs, eating several as he worked, stopping when the sun set. He made a little detour on the trip back to the tunnel to check his snares, which were, as he had kind of expected, still empty. The discovery was a bit disheartening nonetheless, as he could tell from the way the temperature plunged as soon as the sun was gone that he was in for a much colder night than the last few had been. Sure would like a fire about now. That, or some more to eat. He shook his head, shivered at the thought of the coming night. Well. Tomorrow, I will start the bow. • • • •

The next morning, after stomping back and forth in the tunnel a few times to warm up and gnawing on the two half frozen avalanche lily roots that he had managed to save from the previous evening, Einar started across the basin to retrieve his Pulaski from the puddle, hoping it would be serviceable after a night in the water to swell up the new handle and make it fit securely. Limping stiffly through the trees at the edge of the meadow, alternately wrapping his arms around his middle and beating them against his sides in an attempt to get some blood flowing, he told himself that, if there were too many more nights as cold as the last one had been, he might just have to become nocturnal for awhile, keeping active at night and sleeping during the day when it was a little warmer. He checked the snares on the way over, but they were still empty and undisturbed, and he wondered if he would have to end up moving them before having any success. The puddle had, of course, frozen nearly solid, and Einar struggled to break the Pulaski free of its icy grip. He finally succeeded, bringing a chunk of ice and a rather substantial clod of dirt with it, which he beat off against a boulder. Well, unless it’s just frozen on, looks like this handle’s going to hold. Wasting no time and too cold to remain still anyway, he took off into the trees in search of a bow stave. Einar passed several small dead spruces before finally settling on a live one, about eight feet tall, expecting its wood almost certainly to be easier to work with the inadequate tools at his disposal. He chopped it down using the axe end of the Pulaski, pleased that the handle seemed to be holding. In the area he saw several other trees of similar sizes, and took the time to cut two more, expecting that he might not succeed on his first try at the bow. A major concern to him was the numerous branches that bristled out of the tree’s trunk, and the inevitable knots that he would have to work around. There really wasn’t any wood available up in his area, though, that did not present similar challenges, and hoping that he could make it work anyway, he took some time to remove most of the branches before

hauling the logs back to the tunnel to begin his work. Einar returned to the tunnel to get his improvised steel blade and a few sharply fractured rocks that he had collected and kept as tools, but it was cold in the tunnel, and he was having a very difficult time keeping any feeling in his hands as he began his work. He had an idea, took the tools and the two most promising-looking tree trunks, and made his way to the protected alcove where he had been surprised by the helicopter two days prior, glad for some shelter from the stiff morning breeze and seeing that the sun was about to rise over the ridge. Why freeze my hands in that dark tunnel when I can work out here in the sun? He wondered about using the Pulaski to split the log, but, afraid of damaging the wood, decided to try the blade, instead. Wedging it into a crack that already existed from where he had chopped down the tree, he wrapped one end of the blade with a coil of aspen bark fiber to protect his hand, grasped it tightly, and began hitting the other end with a rock. Very slowly the tree began splitting, and Einar worked the blade down one foot, then another, but by that point he could see that this particular tree was a lost cause. Though it had appeared good and straight, the wood was splitting in a gentle spiral, and he could now see that the grain was not straight. He expected this pattern had been caused by the wind or other conditions where the tree had been growing, and very much hoped that all three of the trees he had picked did not share this flaw. Abandoning the twisted tree, he started on the second, with much greater success. The split was clean and straight, and after some careful work he ended up with two long straight sections, one slightly thicker than the other. He set aside the thinner portion, wondering if he might be able somehow to split it further and use it for arrows… Taking a seat on a half rotted log, Einar marked an area in the center of the stave where the handle was to be, then found two large rocks to wedge one end of the split trunk between, propping it on another and beginning to shave away at the stave with the steel blade, wrapping each end of it in aspen fibers to create handles of sorts. By that time the sun was up, and Einar watched it rise higher in the sky, anxious for the chance to finally begin warming up. He peeled off the bark, setting aside the slippery inner layer to hopefully roast and eat later, trying to dull the pains in his stomach by chewing on a wad of the slightly sweet stuff. He knew that the bow needed to be thinner out towards the ends, but wasn’t sure how much thinner, so intended to just keep going until he thought it looked right. Continuing his careful scraping, switching ends every so often, he debated whether to turn the log over, or do all the scraping on one side. Beginning to get a bit impatient and thinking the task might go more quickly if he alternated sides, he flipped the stave over and began shaving on the reverse side. Several hours later, having stopped only to eat the occasional mouthful of snow to ease his thirst, he finally finished the task to his satisfaction, painstakingly carving nocks into each end of the bow. Now for a string… As he worked, he had gone over and over in his mind what available material might be best used for the bowstring, and had not really been able to come up with anything that he was too excited about. Aspen bark cordage, he was pretty certain, was far too weak, and it was really the only source of fiber available to him. Except for my own hair… But he had already used most of that on the snare the previous day. Lacking a better plan, he went and retrieved the snare, stretching out the cordage and seeing that he had over four feet of it. Not enough, but it’s a start. Eventually getting the necessary

length of cordage, he tested it for strength, figuring that it would probably do. He had been worried about the splices, but they seemed to be holding quite well. Very carefully he bent the bow, strung it, inspected his day’s work. Not beautiful, but looks like it ought to send an arrow downrange. He drew it back carefully then, slowly, liking the feel of it, until the sickening sound of cracking wood told him that all of his work had been for naught. The stave had not actually broken in half, but it had been near enough. Discouraged, tired, his stomach empty and hurting, Einar removed the string, stabbed the wood of the now useless bow down into the snow and started back for the tunnel to retrieve the third tree and see how much he could get done on in it before he lost the light. Taking a slightly different path back to the tunnel and not paying as much attention as he ought to have been to his surroundings, Einar’s foot caught on something just beneath the snow, sending him sprawling. Picking himself up and brushing the snow out of his eyes, he saw that he had tripped over the desiccated and partially eaten carcass of a small deer. The creature’s hair was coming off in clumps, and it appeared to have been dead for several weeks, at least. Hard to tell in the cold weather, but it hadn’t been buried beneath too many snows since losing its battle with the waning winter. He wondered why it had been up so high, this time of year. You hiding from something, too? Didn’t turn out so great for you, huh? He prodded at the carcass with his foot, flipping it over and inspecting the reverse side. The coyotes had been pretty thorough with the carcass; the internal organs and the meat of the haunches were gone, but he saw that some shreds of meat, dried and shriveled, remained on the ribs and around the neck. And the animals had not bothered with the legs, at all. Pretty desperate for some nourishment by that point, Einar decided to risk eating some of the meat in its current state, figuring that it had probably never been much above freezing, and hoping that the creature didn’t die of disease. Letting a few fragments soften in his mouth, he set about inspecting his find, realizing that he had just stumbled upon an excellent source of material for a far superior bowstring to the one he had been planning to use. Struggling with the dry, hard skin of one of the deer’s hind legs, he finally succeeded in prying it back and gaining access to the dry, stiff tendon beneath. He knew that best of all would have been the long, tough sinew that ran along the deer’s back, but the coyotes had all but obliterated it in their quest for food. But he knew that with some work, he would be able to make a strong and quite serviceable length of cordage from the fibers of the leg tendons. Having swallowed the first batch, he pulled off some more shreds of frozen meat from the deer’s neck area, stuffing them into his mouth. He would much rather have cooked the meat, but was glad, at least, that it did not smell or taste at all decayed. He was reminded of stories he had heard of the selection and training routine for the Selous Scouts, a Rhodesian Special Forces unit from the days when there had still been a Rhodesia. Captain David Scott-Donelan, the main trainer for the scouts, had gone on to found a tactical tracking school after Rhodesia was taken over by the Communists. Glad the feds didn’t recruit him to track me down. I’d probably have been done for months ago. Part of the selection process for the Scouts had involved the candidates killing a monkey, hanging it from a tree for a week or two until the meat was good and rotten, then boiling and eating it, maggots and all. If he remembered correctly, only about twelve out of every one hundred and fifty recruits usually finished the course and went on to become Scouts. Well. I’ve still got it a lot better than those

guys, all things considered. He started on another mouthful of dead deer. • • • •

Einar decided that, rather than try to dismantle the deer carcass for all of its useful parts there on site, the best idea would be to haul the entire thing back to the area of the tunnel, and do it there. Maybe he would be able to find a way to hang it in a shady area where what was left of the meat would be protected from scavengers and sunlight. Kicking at it to free the one hind leg that was frozen into the snow, he started for the tunnel, dragging the remains of the deer. In addition to the bits of dried meat and sinew for a bowstring— and numerous other potential uses, if there was any sinew left after that—he was anxious to break open a leg bone and see if the marrow was still in a condition to be eaten. It was fattier than the meat, and he was hungry. But dinner would have to wait for later. The day was far more than half over, and he was anxious to get working on a new bow. Dragging the deer up into the tunnel, he pulled off and ate a few more fragments of meat, hoping the remainder would be safe for a few hours, at least. He had seen no coyote or other scavenger tracks anywhere near the tunnel since his arrival. Looking at the one tree he had left behind that morning in the tunnel, Einar remembered why he had left it for last. It was, he could see, more twisted than the first one had been, and having split two of them now, he could tell by looking that this one would not work out. He left it where it was, taking the Pulaski and starting up into the woods to find something else. This time, rather than choosing a small tree with all of its knots and the apparent likelihood for a twisted grain that came along with life at this high and windy elevation, he decided to try a large branch. Finding a fairly straight looking one, he freed it with the Pulaski and hurried back to the rocky alcove, realizing that the sun was only a couple of hours from the horizon. This time he worked more carefully, shaving wood from the branch with long, smooth scrapes of the steel, working on one side only and leaving the other untouched to maintain the integrity of the wood grain. He shaved the bow down a good bit thinner this time, giving it a gradual but steady taper out to the ends. It was very nearly dark by the time he was ready to try stringing it. Carefully doing so, he drew it back, dreading the possibility of having to start all over and very relieved when it did not even threaten to crack. Finding his way by the light of a bright quarter moon, he hurried back to the tunnel, satisfied with the day’s efforts and looking forward to a supper of marrow and some more of the dried deer meat in preparation for the cold of the night. Things, at last, seemed to be going his way, at least for the moment. That night he was able to get some snatches of sleep, warmer than he had been since finishing the pine marten. Morning came clear and frigid, and Einar crept out of bed tremendously glad that he had something to eat for breakfast, but, stiff with cold and hurting after the previous day’s work, wishing very much that he could allow himself a small fire to eat it over. Soon, maybe. He had heard two small planes and a helicopter pass over in the night, and dared not risk having one of them spot the heat signature from a fire. So, cracking one of the leg bones with a rock, he enjoyed a meal of frozen deer marrow, instead, before leaving the tunnel to begin the work of making arrows for his bow. He took with him the two long, round pieces of tendon that he had been able to

remove from the deer’s hind legs, intending to work on turning them into a bowstring, to replace the one he had made the previous day from hair. Using the sharpened steel bar, he split some straight, thin pieces out of the unused half of one of the split tree trunks, choosing to work with a length of it that was most free of knots. He then began working carefully to round them a bit, again using the steel bar, in addition to a notched piece of granite that he rubbed the arrows back and forth in to take off the sharp corners from the splitting. Once he had finished four arrows in this way, he sharpened their tips, being careful not to get them so sharp that they would be likely to break too readily. He wished he could have a fire to harden the wood, but fire was just not an option at that point. Nor did he have anything to fletch the arrows with. He had brought along some bits of down that he had been able to scrape up from the ruined sleeping bag back in the cavern, but they more closely resembled bits of fluff than actual feathers. Well. I can make some better ones later. Just need these to get me by for awhile, get me something to eat so I can concentrate on other things. He wondered about making arrowheads from some of the tin of the ore chute, pounding and working it with rocks and securing it to the arrow shaft with some of the deer sinew. Something else to try. It is steel, after all—“tinned” or galvanized steel... Might work. Heading up to the ore chute, he decided to give it a try, hoping perhaps an arrowhead might give him a better chance of actually taking a deer. He scored and broke some of the tin, bending, folding and carefully pounding it until he had something that he thought might possibly be superior to the sharpened wood. Splitting the tip of one arrow, he stuck the tin arrowhead down into the crack. Just need some of that sinew now, to wrap just under the tin and give this thing some chance of staying in place. Setting one of the round leg tendons on a rock and gently pounding it with another, he worked until it gradually began flattening and the fibers separating, before pulling some of them off and softening them in his mouth. He then wrapped some of the fibers tightly around the wood just below the split that held the arrowhead, satisfied that it should hold together pretty well once the sinew had a chance to dry and harden. Balancing the arrow at arm’s length and studying it, he wondered how much impact the weight of the thin steel head might have on the flight of the arrow. He began to think he might be totally sunk, without the addition of feathers. I really have no idea what I’m doing here…wish I’d made a point to try this back when there were still other ways to get food if it didn’t work out the first time or two, or three, or four… Einar took a minute to rub the white, exposed wood portions of the bow with the bits of charcoal he had been carrying in his pocket since the morning after his escape, not wanting to risk startling potential game with the stark white of the inner portion of the bow. Waiting for the sinew on the arrow to set up and dry, he pounded out some more of the fibers, dampened them with some melting snow, and set to work cording the sinew so he could use it for a bowstring, taking special care with the splices so as not to produce weak spots. Satisfied with the length of cordage and thinking that the single strand would probably be adequate for his needs, he took off the hair cordage string, replacing it with the new one but deciding to take the old one along as backup anytime he intended to use the bow. After some practice shots with the new arrows, Einar got to thinking that perhaps if one deer had been up in the basin recently, there might be others, especially if he went just a

bit lower where things were beginning to melt out and the grass starting to emerge. He knew any deer he encountered up at these elevations, or anywhere near them, were likely to be skinny, shabby creatures just then at the end of winter, but he didn’t care. Probably in better shape than I am, anyway… Taking the lynx-skin pack with the sharpened steel bar and a few of his other tools, the extra bowstring he had corded of hair, and some bits of dried meat from the deer carcass, he set out for a lower basin that he had seen as he crossed the ridge. After covering what he believed to be about half the distance to the lower basin, traveling mostly on steep, spruce covered slopes where he sometimes struggled to keep his footing, Einar began seeing deer tracks crisscrossing the steep slope, not plentiful, but enough to give him hope that his hunt might succeed. Reaching the edge of a small clearing, he waited behind a tree, seeing nothing out of the ordinary but reluctant somehow to go further without watching for a moment. There. A doe, her ribs showing some after a long winter, stepped into the clearing, pawing at the snow to reveal a bit of last year’s yellow grass beneath, tearing it up in hungry mouthfuls before pawing at a fresh spot. Though her ears flicked about warily as she ate, Einar could see that she was pretty intent on her meal, not even taking the trouble to periodically stop eating and look up, as deer usually will. Rough winter, huh? Tell me about it. The wind was in his face, and Einar hoped it did not shift quickly at some point. Very slowly and deliberately he stalked closer to the deer, carefully compressing the snow with each step, not committing his weight until the last moment, ready to pull back if he felt a stick or other potential noise maker beneath his foot. Inadequately clad for the breezy, overcast cold of the day, he found that his shivering made the stalking far more difficult than it ought to have been, but as he devoted his concentration fully to making the next deliberate move, the shivering diminished and became manageable. He had noticed a similar phenomena in the past, finding that very focused thought could for a time reduce or even eliminate shivering long enough to allow him to complete some critical task. He had always wondered if the concentration somehow interrupted the brain’s signals as it told the body to shiver, or if some other mechanism was involved. Anyway, he knew from experience that the effects never lasted all that long, knew that he must not take all day at the stalk if he wanted to be steady enough to take a shot at the end of it. Einar eventually worked his way to within thirty feet of the animal, who was slowly eating her way across the clearing, scraping the snow away and cropping the grass beneath. Stepping out from behind the little blue spruce that had served as his most recent concealment, he concentrated on stopping his shivering for long enough to take a steady shot. The arrow struck a bit behind the deer’s shoulder, and, he thought, went in pretty deeply. Maybe not the best possible situation, but it should do the job…eventually. Startled, the deer stumbled once, righted itself and bounded off into the trees on the far side of the clearing. Following, Einar moved as quickly as he was able while still taking care not to leave too many obvious tracks where they would show from the air, puzzled at first that the deer was headed down the slope instead of up, deciding at last that it must be attempting to reach a place where there was less snow and travel would be easier in its injured state. He knew he should wait, give the deer some time to wear out and bleed out before following, but the thought that a coyote or cat or some other predator might reach his kill

before he did kept him moving, probably unwisely, on her trail. In addition to the clear tracks he was following through the snow, he began seeing the occasional drop or two of blood, and once or twice a larger stain in the snow. Twice he stopped and scooped up the pink snow, hoping it would add a bit to his own failing strength and allow him to continue tracking the deer to a successful conclusion. After several miles of slogging through the snow, which was at times rather deep, Einar was really starting to get exhausted, and he knew the injured deer must be, as well. They had lost quite a bit of elevation, had bypassed the lower basin altogether, and seemed headed for the valley, and, while Einar was not looking forward to hauling the deer back up several thousand feet to the tunnel, he did notice from its tracks that the creature was beginning to stumble from time to time, and he was hopeful that the pursuit was nearing its end. Sure hope so. Gonna be dark before too long. The dark timber that he had been descending through began thinning, a wide and treeless valley floor opening out beneath, split down the center by a depression that he took to be a creek. Too much snow left to tell for sure. In the flat light of the overcast evening, he was having trouble telling whether the deer’s tracks crossed the valley, or kept to the trees, and, careful to keep to the most heavily timbered areas, he kept descending until he reached the point where the forest gave way to the open meadow of the valley floor. There. He saw the tracks, saw that the deer had been stumbling and occasionally falling, thought that it couldn’t have gone far beyond the roughly two hundred yard wide meadow. Then he saw something else. Just his side of the creek, a heavily packed and apparently recently used snowmobile track ran the length of the meadow, the deer’s path crossing it nearly at a right angle. He could see a discoloration in the snow where the deer had fallen and bled on the trail itself. Immediately he began searching for a way around the meadow, some way he could get over to the other side and pick up the deer’s trail without leaving one of his own where people would surely see it, but the open area ran along the valley as far as he could see in either direction. OK, Einar. Pick a direction. Walk until the trees close in and there’s some way across. That deer won’t be going far, from the looks of the trail recently. It’ll wait. You’ll find it in the morning, if not before. Which all sounded quite doable, until a group of snowmobiles, returning from a day in the meadows at the far end of the valley, came zipping along in the evening light, the lead machine pausing and the rider leaning over to inspect a mysterious pink stain on the trail. • • • •

Einar stepped back into the trees as the snowmobiles approached, crouched there behind a boulder, watching as the three riders studied the tracks and blood spot on the path. He took advantage of their momentary focus on the trail to retreat some distance up the slope into the heavier timber, concealing himself behind a clump of low-growing spruce saplings, anxiously watching in the hopes that the riders would move on and allow him to go and claim the deer. He knew if they decided to follow its trail up the mountain they would soon run across his tracks, and at that point he would have little chance of outdistancing them, considered for a moment forgetting about the deer and making as much distance as he could before that happened, but he needed that meat, needed it bad, especially after the long slog through the snow, so he waited, hoping they might soon move on. They did not appear to be part of any formal search, and as he watched their

actions and observed the gear—or lack of it—that they carried, he became more and more convinced that they had simply been out enjoying the snow for the day. So go on, get out of here. I got to eat. He hated to think that he might be returning to the tunnel with empty hands and an emptier stomach after what had turned out to be a rather strenuous journey for him, and knowing that the more difficult half of the trek still lay before him up the mountain that night. But it was looking more and more like that was to be the case. The three men down in the valley were showing no interest in following the deer’s back trail, but, sinking at times up to their knees in the deep, rotten spring snow, tracked it out across the meadow and into the trees on the far side. He could hear shouted words as one of them apparently reached the animal first. Still Einar waited, hoping they might see the dead deer, inspect it briefly, somehow miss the arrow, and leave so he could go to it, but these hopes were dashed when two of the men emerged form the trees, dragging the deer by its hind legs. He shook his head in disbelief. What…? Feeling more than a little desperate as he saw his chance for a good meal slipping away and realizing that he was now armed with a weapon capable of (eventually) killing a deer, Einar pictured himself hurrying down to the meadow and threatening the three men with an arrow, demanding that they return the deer to him, and the plan seemed reasonable enough in that moment that he came pretty close to acting on it before getting ahold of himself and remaining still. Well. Starting over again, then. Better get moving up that mountain. Gonna be another long night. As he started retracing his steps up the slope, Einar realized that his earlier descent had been fueled largely by the adrenaline and excitement of the hunt, by the prospect of fresh, warm food, that he was badly exhausted and it was going to be no easy task dragging himself back up to the tunnel. As he went, Einar tried his best to conceal his tracks from the air, doing what he could at the same time to leave as little sign as possible on the ground, knowing there was a possibility that he could be followed. The snow, having softened during the day and not yet refrozen for the night, did not cooperate well with his efforts to “leave no trace,” but one thing that gave him hope was the increasingly leaden sky and a restless wind that was beginning to sweep down from the peaks. It chilled him as he climbed, but, his focus on remaining undetected, he welcomed the coming storm. He was pretty sure he smelled snow. Sometime after dark the snow did indeed come, heavy wet flakes blanketing the trees, changing over gradually into late-season powder as the cold deepened and Einar gained elevation. It showed every sign of turning into a major spring storm. Pushing on into the wind, Einar struggled to stay on course, following the spine of a little sub-ridge that he knew should eventually take him to the basin when the snow and the growing darkness conspired to obliterate his trail from earlier in the day. • • • •

Down in the valley, brothers Jeff and Pete Jackson and their friend and business partner Rob Warren, heading home from what they expected to possibly be their last Saturday snowmobile excursion up the valley before the snow began disappearing in patches from its grassy floor, had stopped to investigate a strange deer trail as it crossed the track. The

animal had clearly been injured, and from the look of the tracks, had passed by not long before. Curious, the three followed the trail, finding the animal dead not twenty yards up the spruce-covered slope on the far side of the meadow. Turning it over, Jeff discovered the arrow, realizing that a poacher had been at work. Jeff, a hunter himself who, with his brother, ran an outfitting business out of Culver Falls, had very little tolerance for poachers, especially for one who would run a deer at that time of year, when it was obviously struggling to survive the last few lean weeks of winter before the snow began melting out. Adding to his ire was the fact that whoever had shot the deer had just gone off and abandoned it, apparently satisfied simply to have killed it and not even wanting to bother with the meat, such as it would have been, this time of year. Fuming, he dragged the carcass back to the snow machine with his brother’s help, intending to take it down to the local DOW office when he reported the incident the next morning. Angry as he was at the apparently senseless and wasteful actions of the poacher, Jeff realized as he inspected the roughly made arrow with its head of some sort of thin metal and sinew sinew? wrapping, that this was rather an unusual case. • • • •

Einar eventually made it back up to the tunnel, stumbling in through the entrance shortly before daylight. He felt around in the darkness of the tunnel for the deer carcass, and, relieved to find it apparently undisturbed, pulled off and ate a small handful of the remaining fragments of dried meat, knowing that he must give himself some fuel before attempting anything else. Having eaten and rested for a minute, feeling almost warm now that he was out of the wind, he struggled out of his wet and partially frozen coveralls and sweat shirt, doggone cotton…everything I’m wearing is cotton… crouching on the pile of spruce duff in his boots and marten-fur hat and fumbling with the bits of cordage that tied shut the lynx skin pack. Finally removing the ties, he dumped the pack’s contents out on the tunnel floor and clutched the lynx skin tightly around his shoulders, dry side in, and wrapped up in the partially finished aspen bark blanket, having decided that anything at all was better than being wet, just then, and trying not to think too much about the fire that he knew he could not have. Einar, as he huddled in the tunnel that morning trying to be warm and wondering how he was ever going to manage to dry his clothes without a fire, had no way to know just how serious his loss of the deer would ultimately prove to be. • • • •

Jeff Jackson, sitting at his reloading bench in his heated workshop after dinner that night, inspected the arrow he had pulled from the poached deer. It was crude work, apparently created with very rough tools. The tin arrowhead appeared to have been bent, folded and pounded instead of cut, which really puzzled him. Somebody had gone to a lot of trouble to create the arrow and, turning it over and over between his fingers, he slowly realized that there was probably only one thing this discovery could mean, considering where they had found it, and the fact that the wounded deer had apparently come from somewhere up on the ridge, where very few people went during the winter months, with the exception of a few backcountry skiers who hiked up to ski some of the high cirques. And they were

not generally known for poaching deer with homemade arrows… He knew that valley had not been the focus of the federal search, but it was close enough. So. He must have made it. And we just took his dinner, the poor fellow, and with this storm coming on… Not wanting to talk about it over the phone but also not wanting to risk Rob or Pete saying something to someone about the deer, he drove over to Rob’s. Pete was already there when he arrived; he and Rob were next door neighbors. “Guys, that deer…I was looking at that arrow tonight and you know…well, I think it must be Asmundson’s. I mean, who else…” Rob cut him off. “Seriously? You think he could have made it all the way over those ridges and down there to the valley, after being blown up and all, like they said? That must be…what? 30 miles or something? And not country I’d even care to venture into this time of year.” “Yeah, but remember that September couple years back when he worked for us packing stuff in to the high camp up on Falcon Creek before elk season? That guy was one hard worker. Made two, three runs a day sometimes to my one, just said he liked the work, when I commented on it. Never talked much, but he sure did earn a day’s pay. He was a weird one, though, come to think of it, the way he always just disappeared into the timber every evening instead of hanging around the campfire and sleeping in the tent… Told me once he liked to see the sky when he slept. And you know, some of those days I never did see him eat a thing, not even in the evening. Almost like he was getting himself ready for something like this. So, unlikely as it sounds, I wouldn’t put it past him. He might have made that trip. Woulda been mighty rough, though.” “So…” Rob continued, “If you’re right, I suppose the ‘responsible’ thing would be to take that arrow down to Culver to that fort the Alphabet Soup boys got down there, tell ‘em what we know… Don’t know about you though, but I just don’t think I’m feeling all that ‘responsible,’ tonight….” “Hmm. Yeah, I figure he’s pretty much earned himself the right to a deer or two. I say let it be. Matter of fact, kinda wish we could take the deer back, leave it where we found it. Old Einar’s probably getting pretty hungry, up there.” Rob nodded. Pete had listened in silence to the conversation, and did not comment, but sat nervously rubbing his ear, waiting impatiently for the little get-together to break up. Pete, unlike his brother Jeff, who lived pretty simply and didn’t have a credit history for the simple reason that he’d never taken a loan or used a credit card, had allowed himself to become too caught up in the “good life.” He was now struggling with a second mortgage on his house, was having to sell his brand new truck, and now on top of it all the stress of his financial situation was beginning to create a rift in his marriage. Pete had seen the reward posters; everyone had seen the reward posters, as the FBI made sure they were kept posted on the bulletin boards of the Ranch Supply, outdoor stores, and even the

grocery stores around town, and his only thought now, as he listened to the discussion, was of the million dollar reward that they offered. Pete needed that money. But he couldn’t let Jeff know his thoughts, certainly couldn’t come out and ask him for the arrow, knowing his views on the federal occupation and search. Well I don’t care for it, either, cut into business pretty bad this past year, but that’s why I really need that money, and anyway, ending this thing will be good for business, next fall, so I’ll be doing all of us a favor…be doing Amundson a favor, for that matter. Guy’s gotta be freezing to death, out there. In the dark hours after midnight the following morning, Pete drove the two miles over to Jeff’s house, parking his truck some distance down the road and walking, cinching the hood of his parka tight against the blowing snow. The workshop was locked, but Pete had a key and let himself in, searching with a flashlight until he found the arrow, carefully balanced on top of a tray of brass Jeff had been preparing the previous evening on the loading bench. He grabbed the arrow and hastily left, feeling like a thief and knowing Jeff would be angry with him, but after all, I was the first one to spot the deer, and surely Jeff would forgive him when the feds came through with that reward. • • • •

The spring snowstorm continued well into the morning, and Einar kept inside the tunnel, alternately huddling under the aspen bark blanket and rising to swing his arms and stomp around the tunnel in an increasingly less effective struggle to stay warm. Every time he rose, he pulled off and ate some more of the rapidly dwindling dried deer from the nearby carcass, once breaking open another leg bone for its marrow. The act of pounding with the rock had warmed him just a bit, and he went ahead and cracked the remaining two leg bones, intending to save their marrow for another day but in the end unable to keep himself from eating all of it as quickly as he could. Difficult as it was, his routine seemed to be working—he was shivering badly but not becoming immobile or, he was pretty sure, anyway, so hypothermic that he was unable to make logical decisions, so he kept it up, just hoping something would change before he became unable to maintain it. Like the weather. Sure wish the sun would come out… And it did, several hours later, and Einar dragged himself to his feet one more time and went stumbling out into the snow outside the tunnel, wrapped in the blanket and carrying his frozen clothes, hoping to find a place where they could be spread and dried before night came again. Einar was about as glad to see the sun that late morning as he had been to see anything in his life. For the previous hour or so he had barely been able to scrape together the strength to rise, and whenever he finally did, had just stood there, feebly shuffling his feet for a minute before sinking back to the ground, exhausted and not even sure anymore why he had been supposed to stand up in the first place. The appearance of the sunlight on the snow outside the tunnel had jarred him out of his stupor for long enough to take some action, and he stood now in a little clearing at the bottom of the tailings pile, trying to soak in a bit of warmth before beating some of the ice out of his clothes against a tree trunk, shaking the new snow off of a couple of little spruces and draping his sweatshirt and jumpsuit over them to dry. Or at least thaw? Please…?

He was just getting settled on a snow-free, sun bathed log, having scraped the snow off with his boot, and was beginning to warm when he heard the helicopter. It was actually below him, following the valley where he had lost the deer the previous day, and Einar realized with a sick feeling that the snowmobilers must have reported the deer, that the feds had somehow become involved. Darn. They’d mostly been leaving this side of the ridge alone. Hating to leave the warmth of the sun so soon but finding himself without a choice, he gathered his clothes and hurried back up to the tunnel, hoping his tracks were well enough concealed by the trees. At least that snow last night should have wiped out my trail up to the basin…I hope. • • • •

The FBI agents at the command center in the old feed store were very interested in the story Pete Jackson told them that morning, and, once they got over the sight of a civilian driving his truck up to the gate of their compound and emerging from the truck with a sharp implement, they escorted him in through the two layers of concertina wire topped fence that protected the compound from the herds of hostile natives that the agents apparently feared so greatly. They asked him about the arrow, who else had handled it and when, before taking it directly to the on-site mobile lab they had set up in a specially outfitted travel trailer behind the building. After several hours of questioning Pete was becoming rather anxious to be on his way, telling them that he had a job to get to, but they insisted he partake of their hospitality for a bit longer, because they would be requiring his services to accompany them out to the meadow and show them the precise location where he had found the arrow and dead deer. Riding behind one of the agents on a snow machine rented by the FBI for the duration of the search, Pete guided a team of four agents, one of them a tracker, up the valley, wondering at the single set of tracks ahead of them in the new snow. As they neared the area Pete saw a sled stopped beside the trail, realized with a growing dread that it was his brother’s, that it was Jeff they had been following up the valley, that he had probably decided to actually return the deer as he had mentioned the night before. Pete had assumed that to be idle talk between Jeff and Rob. As they came to a stop beside Jeff’s sled, he came walking out of the trees on the far side of the meadow, stopping still in his tracks and putting his hands up when the agents shouted at him to do so. One of them sped over to him, drawing his weapon and demanding to know what he was doing in the valley. Jeff looked up and saw his brother, his face white and drawn. “Pete? What’s going on here? And what do you mean, ‘what am I doing here?’ I live around here. I come here all the time…” They questioned him for a minute about finding the arrow and about why he was there that day, and seemed satisfied with his answers, until one of the agents followed his trail up into the trees and found the deer. Hanging from a nearby tree branch he also found a backpack, containing a rolled up one-piece snowmobile suit, gloves, a butane lighter, six Hershey bars and several cans of sardines. Jeff had a hard time coming up with a quick answer for that one, and the agents, not interested in taking any chances and anxious for

someone they could actually get their hands on and successfully prosecute in this case, placed Jeff under arrest on suspicion of being an accessory to unlawful flight to avoid prosecution and of “providing material support to a terrorist.” After searching Jeff’s home later that day, they dragged his rather substantial but entirely legal gun collection out into the yard and spread it on a tarp for the TV news cameras, amending the charges to include a trumped-up firearms count just to make the whole thing play better for the media. • • • •

By that evening, the remaining bits of dried meat on the deer carcass were nearly gone. Einar had made them last as well as he could, but in the absence of any outside source of heat, of dry clothes, even, he knew his only hope of maintaining an adequate body temperature was to continue eating and staying as active as he could, there in the tunnel. Before long, he had cracked and scraped the rest of the bones for marrow, even the smaller ones, cracked the skull and eaten the shriveled and partially dried brain, knowing there was some small risk of chronic wasting disease, but thinking that it was probably one of the least of his worries at that point, and by the next morning, with the renewed air search in full swing, he was reduced to scraping the hair off of the remaining tatters of hide and chewing them until they were soft enough to be swallowed. He wished he could have a fire so he could boil the bones for broth. Einar was feeling pretty nervous about staying in the tunnel, wondering whether his tracks had been entirely destroyed by the storm, wondering whether they might even bring dogs again, if the snowmobilers had given them enough information to know where to start them. At least the deer’s tracks would have been covered, too, so perhaps they would be unable to follow them up into the trees and even see where his own had begun. As wet and heavy as the snow had been when it began falling down in the valley, it should have stuck quite nicely to the layer beneath, making it more difficult for trackers to clear it away and decipher the trail beneath. Much more difficult than if it had been dry powder, by far. He hoped. Because as badly as he wanted to move on, the last thing he needed was to be surprised out in the open by a helicopter, the way he had been in the sunny rock cove only days before. The way it had popped up over the ridge, he had been given no warning at all of its coming, no time to hide, and he knew that it could happen again, with the way that the ridges distorted and at times muted distant sounds. And there was the little matter of his still-frozen coveralls. Not great odds, if you decide to head out right now… And not looking so good if he stayed, either, but those were the two choices, and, for the moment at least, he decided to stay in where he was safe from the menacing and near constant buzz and rumble of circling aircraft. Huddled in the tunnel, Einar knew he needed something to do, something to keep his mind off of the cold and keep him from thinking constantly of the search that was now going on in the air and in the valley, to keep him from jumping up and taking off into the snow as he had a very strong urge to do. He wanted to work on the blanket, having a

leftover pile of aspen inner bark strips stored up against the tunnel wall, but as the blanket was really all he had to cover himself with, decided that project would have to wait. Unable despite his best efforts to think of much besides the cold and his hunger, he decided to work on getting a bow and drill set ready to go, so there would be no delay when the air search finally ended, or another snowstorm came and grounded it for awhile, and he was able to have fire. He had previously set aside some likely-looking branches from a dead fir over on the other side of the basin, and part of an old board from the cabin area, and, glad for something to focus his attention on, he worked the wood with the sharpened steel until he was satisfied that he could use the results to produce a coal. All he would need to complete the set would be a small branch for the bow. Towards evening the wind picked up, and taking advantage of the temporary lack of air activity, Einar hurried over to check his snares, carefully watching how and where he placed his boots as he traveled. All three of the snares had been covered by the new snow, but digging around under the tree he had remembered as a landmark, he found them. The first he found, the one he had made of hair cordage, was empty, as was the second. He saw that the lock he had meticulously struggled to fashion out of the brittle tin had fractured, releasing whatever the second snare may have held. The third, though, contained a small rabbit, and Einar, amazed that a coyote or some other scavenger had not found it there under the snow before he did, quickly removed it, reset the snare and hurried back to the tunnel, grinning in delight at the prospect of his first (relatively) fresh meal in days. And in a day or two when they get tired of hovering over my head up there, I’ll go find another deer. The bow worked. Next time I’ll get even closer, and it will work better. I may see spring, yet. Feeling considerably stronger after having eaten the rabbit, Einar decided that he must find a way to dry his clothes so he could get out and try to hunt again, as soon as there was a lull in the air search. OK. Don’t have much choice here, I guess. Better get started while I still have that rabbit in my stomach to work with. And, after beating the coveralls against the wall to remove all the ice he could, Einar donned the icy cotton suit and spent a good part of the night repeating every aerobic exercise he could think of, knowing this activity would probably end up consuming more energy than the rabbit had given him, but glad to see after awhile that the cloth was finally beginning to dry in places. By the time he stopped, only the lower legs and the collar area remained wet and/or icy, and, resting, he found that the coveralls were finally dry enough that he was quite a bit! warmer with them than without. Well. Progress. And he slept. • • • •

Einar woke sometime in the early morning to the realization that something had changed, something was different, but not immediately sure what it was. He lay very still, listening for a minute before realizing that he had not heard an aircraft for some time. Feeling his way to the tunnel mouth and sticking his head outside, he learned why. A great wind tore through the trees, causing the tall, limber black spruce tops to sway violently against the slightly less black night sky . The wind, while cold, did not quite have the sharp edge of a true winter wind, and Einar knew that it would likely blow for a day or two, gusting and flowing over the mountains and beginning the process of melting

the snow for spring. It’s time to go. He regretted it, because he had, even as recently as the past evening, held out some hope that the active search would end or at least move on and allow him to remain there in the basin—it really was a promising location and one in which he could see himself spending a pretty comfortable summer, at least, but the search only seemed to be intensifying, and, though he was several miles and at least three thousand feet above the valley floor, he was becoming seriously concerned that he might start to encounter searchers on the ground, in addition to the endless barrage of flights that kept him confined to the relative safety of the tunnel, unable to hunt or set more snares or even sit out in the sun for a few minutes in the afternoon to thaw out. Too much pressure here. Maybe I can come back in a month or two when they get tired of this or run out of money or something, and go home…Yeah, keep dreaming, Einar… Gathering everything, including as many of the deer bones as he could reasonably carry, into the lynx skin and securing it closed with some cordage, he slung it over his shoulder, after putting on the still-icy sweatshirt, which he knew would remain frozen in the cold wind, and actually offer him some measure of protection from it. Using two of the loose ends that had remained when he finished it, he secured the aspen bark cape around his shoulders. Finding the coil of steel cable, he put it over his other shoulder, on top of the cape to keep him insulated from contact with the cold metal, and also to help keep the cape in place. Testing the snow, he knew that, for the next few hours at least, an icy crust the rough consistency of cement would remain on top of the snow pack, allowing him easy, nearly trackless travel, as long as he stayed away from tree wells and areas that had been too shaded the previous day to melt and subsequently refreeze to form a crust. On the way out, he collected his snares, stowing them in the lynx skin. Carrying the bow, he started across the slope, heading up the valley but not interested in gaining enough elevation that he would come out above treeline. Having crossed the open stretch on top of the ridge once in a high wind already, he had no desire to attempt it again, if there were other options. His intention was just to get out from under the active search, go until he found a quiet, timbered slope somewhere one or two ridges back from the valley where he could find a little shelter, hopefully some food, and wait out the active search. It was quite dark when he started out, but the faint glow of the stars on the surface of the snow was enough to allow Einar to see where he was going, though he was having trouble with his eyes watering so much in the wind that his vision was at times obscured. With the wind as strong as it was, Einar was doubly glad that the snow was crusted over, rather than remaining as loose powder that could be whipped up into a ground squall. He very much hoped to be able to keep his dry coveralls from again becoming soaked on this trip. Keeping in the timber as much to take advantage of the marginal relief it provided from the wind as out of a concern that he was leaving tracks, he made fairly good time, eventually angling up the ridge and crossing it in an area where it dipped lower and was timbered all the way to the top. Starting down the other side, he had to stop and rest, crouching in the lee of a brushy little spruce until he caught his breath some. The frozen sweatshirt had, indeed, proven somewhat effective as protection from the wind, but after several hours of pushing forward into the powerful gale, he was exhausted, numb with cold and more than ready to find a sheltered spot to rest for a few hours. Looking out across the brightening landscape as he rested beside the tree, Einar saw that he had come

farther than he would have guessed, that he was probably well out of the center of the search area. The wind showed no sign of letup, though, and he knew that nobody would be flying low over the ridges as long as it kept up, and that he should take advantage of the opportunity to leave the search even farther behind. Several hours later, Einar had crossed another ridge and started up the dark, heavily timbered slope of a third. He was running out of steam, found himself unable to force his body to move fast anymore, and decided that the only sensible course at that point would be to find some shelter where he could get out of the wind and rest for a time. Rising in the distance, he had been for some time getting occasional glimpses of a rugged spine of rock, and, hopeful of finding shelter up against the ridge, headed for it. He was starting to become seriously weary, to the point that he caught himself several times stumbling along with his eyes half closed, but his attention was brought back into sharp focus when, having a sudden feeling that he should look up, he saw the feathery shape of a grouse, roosting on a branch not eight feet in front of him. Stopping still, he considered his options. He knew that the birds, known for good reason as “fool hens,” were fairly easy prey, and he almost wished he had a good throwing stick or even a rock, rather than a bow, as he had taken them that way, in the past. But he could see nothing of that type within easy reach, so, very slowly, he reached back into his pack and grabbed an arrow. The arrow did strike the bird, but did not kill it right away, and he went bounding down the steep, spruce-covered slope after it, finally tackling it against a tree stump and finishing the job. Resting against the stump, he inspected the grouse, hardly able to believe his luck. Some good fatty food, and feathers to make some better arrows! Now if I could just have a fire, I could roast this critter and it’d be just like Thanksgiving. But, even though he knew he would be eating the bird uncooked in a cold camp under a rock ledge somewhere, Einar was indeed immensely thankful. Continuing on towards the spine of rock, he paralleled it until he found a small overhang, the dry area beneath it barely large enough for him to stretch out in, and not high enough to allow him to stand, but, with the heavy timber above, he hoped it would be enough to break up his infrared signature, should this prove necessary. Which he hoped it wouldn’t. The wind had slacked off some time ago, and for the past hour or so he had been hearing the occasional rumble of a helicopter or the drone of a small plane as they scoured the valley and the ridge he had left, but they seldom passed near his current location. Still, he did not dare tempt fate with a fire, knowing that all it would take to refocus the search on his area would be one slipup on his part, and determined to wait it out, despite the fact that he was knew he would really be freezing there on that dark, nearly sunless north slope. He was determined though, to make his shelter on the north side of the ridge rather than the south, as the vegetation was far less dense over there. It seemed there were always tradeoffs, no matter what decision he made, and now, as usual, his top priority was remaining undetected. So, I freeze for a few more days. What’s new? At least I’ve got a good dinner, tonight. • • • •

Pete returned to the FBI compound that evening, hoping to speak to someone and explain

that his brother was in no way guilty of the charges they had decided to pin on him, but found himself rather unceremoniously escorted off of the property and told in no uncertain terms that he was not to come back. He had served his purpose, answered all their questions, and they were through with him. Unless, he was told, they ended up subpoenaing him to testify against his brother in a couple of months. Pete, distraught that he couldn’t even put his house up as surety for the bond that he hoped Jeff would be offered, since he already had it mortgaged twice over, and unwilling to go home, where he would be faced with explaining the situation to his wife, headed across town to Culver Falls’ only bar for the evening. Rob, who had been questioned and released by the FBI earlier that day, went to some of the members of his church for help, and the next day, Bill and Susan took up a collection after church, hoping to be able to help Jeff make bail at his hearing at the federal courthouse in Clear Springs on Monday. Most people in the area were very skeptical about the “material support” charges against Jeff, because it was widely believed that Einar was dead, if not in the blast then of his injuries or exposure shortly afterward, and certain segments of the community had for some time been pretty well convinced that the feds were just using the ongoing search as a way to get in some (obviously) badly needed training and as an excuse to harass decent folks like Jeff, who made an honest living and also happened to like firearms. It had long been believed by many in and around Culver Falls that the agents were spending a good bit of their idle time collecting intelligence on locals who had little or no connection to their case, and now, with the arrest of Jeff Jackson, they were sure of it. The already tense relations were further soured be the arrest, and the agents, many of whom had become regulars at several of the little coffee houses in Culver Falls, suddenly found the quality of the service much reduced. Eighteen men from the Culver area, mostly folks who had worked with him and several from Bill and Susan’s church, also, attended Jeff’s arraignment in Clear Springs the next morning, packing the front row of the spectator section and making the prosecutor just a bit nervous. Jeff made bail, with the help of the money collected at church and his own house as surety. Bill, inspired by Einar’s persistence but having always thought that it was an awful shame that the guy had to do it all alone, that he had to end it the way he did, offered Jeff a ride home, so they could have the opportunity to talk. Driving back to Culver, Bill assured Jeff that he was welcome up at their place anytime, including on the date of his next court appearance, if that was the way he wanted it to go. Jeff thanked him, said he’d think about it, spent the rest of the day working to clean up some of the destruction left behind at his house in the wake of the federal search. Bill and his son spent much of that week doing “maintenance work” on the 500 feet of steep, rocky slope above their long driveway. That narrow set of switchbacks was really the only good way to access their property from the valley, unless you wanted to make quite a hike up the mountainside, inevitably crossing a couple of wide open avalanche chutes that were clearly visible from the little ridge above Bill and Susan’s log house. And Bill had a habit of spending a good bit of time up on that ridge, honing his long range proficiency on a number of targets mounted on a series of welded steel frames, each of them spray painted a different color to indicate their distance from his position on the ridge. Anyone determined to gain unauthorized access to the property would just have to hope they

didn’t “accidentally” step in front of one of Bill’s targets... • • • •

Over those next few days that Einar spent under the ledge, difficult as they were, the symptoms from his head injury did finally begin diminishing, and it was only as they slowly faded that he realized how greatly he had been affected by the injury. The frequent dizziness and headaches had been obvious and, unless he happened to be climbing at the time, manageable, but the clouded thinking and frequent feelings of confusion, indecisiveness and depression had nearly done him in more than once. Now as he slowly healed it was as if a heavy fog was lifting, bit by bit allowing himself to be his old self again. For the first couple of days the air activity remained quite heavy, and though it was still focused a good distance from his present location, Einar mostly stayed beneath the shelter of the ledge. To keep himself busy, he wove a second layer for the bark blanket, stuffed it with the canvas and rabbitskin scraps he had saved, and secured the two sides to each other by running numerous loops of aspen bark cordage through both layers and tying them on the top. It was a rough, spiky-looking attempt at a quilt, but he rolled up in the finished product to stay just a bit warmer at night than he had been able to before. Still, once the sun went down each evening, the temperature plunged quickly, and Einar just had to keep reminding himself, as he shivered through one freezing night after another, that spring was coming, that things would get better. But for the time, at least, they were not showing much sign of improvement, and as the days went on, exhausted from the extended lack of sleep, he took to being an almost nocturnal creature, trying to stay active at night to generate a bit of heat. He napped in the warmer daytime hours, dragging the bark blanket out and lying on two dry aspen logs that he had rolled into the sun, pulling the blanket over himself and hoping that it would not catch anyone’s attention from the air. For those three or four hours every day that the sun shone on the slope, he was something approaching warm, and usually woke rested and ready to get some work done before losing the light for the night. This usually consisted of checking his snares, scouting the area for deer sign, and working on making a few more arrows against the day when he dared venture far enough afield to hunt. He saw another grouse on one of these little excursions, but it was high in the branches of a spruce, and he lost an arrow among the tree’s needles before the bird finally became alarmed and flew off. Einar climbed partway up the tree in search of the arrow, but after slipping on a patch of ice on one of the branches and barely saving himself from a nasty fall, he hastily climbed back down and went looking for a straight branch to replace the arrow. Sure don’t need a broken leg, right now. He also collected quite a pile of dry firewood as he scouted the mountainside, piling what would fit under one corner of the overhang, the rest of it on an improvised wood rack of two small-diameter fallen aspens beneath the cover of a large spruce. He would be ready when the time finally came that he could have a fire. Einar used the sharpened steel bar to remove long strips of inner bark from some of the spruces in the area, chewing bits of the slippery stuff for its sweetish sap as he worked, but hanging most of it on tree branches to dry for the time when he could have a fire and roast it. To ease his hunger, he chewed almost constantly on a mouthful of usnea lichen,

which was fairly plentiful in the spruces on that slope, though he found it to be far more bitter than the what he had been eating during his days in the cavern, and he really wished he had a way to soak it for a couple of days before eating it. Though the lichen did keep his stomach from being totally empty, it never satisfied him for long, and after awhile he had trouble making himself choke the bitter stuff down at all. Einar came to really look forward to his little naps in the sun, and the occasional stretches of cloudy weather were pretty rough, sometimes keeping him from warming up much for several days at a time. He felt as though he had become almost a cold blooded creature, unable to generate much of his own heat and dependant on lying in the sun like a lizard to warm before he was mobile enough to do much. Got to find more to eat, Einar. This is not the way it’s supposed to work… On the sunless days, he tried his best to exercise to stay warm, but his meager diet of an occasional rabbit meant that it was not something he could sustain for long. His snares seldom yielded anything, and he finally concluded that the area he had chosen to shelter in simply did not seem to be especially heavily populated with rabbits. He had seen some sign, but as yet had snared only one small rabbit in the eight…he thought it had been eight, anyway…days that he had been under the ledge. On the third day of an especially long and cold overcast spell, he finally discovered another a rabbit in one of the snares. Wolfing down the meat as soon as he got the rabbit back to his shelter and skinned, Einar knew that he must use the strength it would give him to move on, to hopefully find someplace that would offer more frequent opportunities to obtain a meal. Lower would be good. All the critters have gone down to eat the little shoots of grass and things that are coming out for the spring. This just isn’t working. • • • •

The sun had gone behind the ridge hours ago on Einar’s north facing slope, and, accustomed in recent days to staying up most of the night anyway, he decided to use the last of the light to gather his possessions, rest a bit, and begin his journey in the darkness. He was sorry to leave the firewood he had collected without having the opportunity to use any of it, and considered leaving it in case he should pass that way again, but did not want to chance a hiker or hunter someday stumbling across it and alerting the authorities to the fact that he had stayed there. Carefully scattering the wood beneath a number of different trees and remembering a conservation slogan he’d seen once on a Forest Service map, he thought to himself that I’m really taking this ‘leave no trace’ thing to the extreme…old Smokey Bear would be proud. Hmm. Or how about the one that goes, “take only photos, leave only footprints?” Well, in my case, I’d better not even leave those footprints, when I can help it… Einar took the coils of spruce bark that he had gathered, hoping soon to be able to have a fire to roast them. Maybe if he could finally get far enough away from the search area that the flights were not passing directly over him anymore, he would finally decide it was worth the risk. As Einar traveled, he passed large south-facing bank of snow, stained a strange shade of pink and smelling, to him at least, exactly like watermelon. He knew that the color and smell were caused by a type of slime mold that was common in late season snow, and that it was not a good idea to eat

it, but he was tempted to try, just to see whether it tasted anything like it smelled. The first goal he set for himself was the top of the next ridge, from the top of which he hoped to get a good view of the surrounding country and pick a route. Assuming there was any light left by the time he made it up there. He thought there might be at least a little. He eventually made it to the top of the slope, intending to cross it and get even farther from the area of the search, but, emerging from the trees into a snow-filled cirque and seeing the red sandstone escarpments that guarded the ridge, he thought to himself that it looked an awful lot like the red, windswept ridge he had crossed before stumbling upon the old mining cabin. He knew that particular ridge ran for nearly fifteen miles, ending, at its north-eastern terminus, in a little valley full of jumbled rock and a good sized alpine lake, before rising again into a stark, steep-sided 14,000 foot peak of granite-like rock so light in color that it appeared nearly white under some lighting conditions. Could I possibly be that turned around? He doubted it, but as hungry and worn out as he was, such a mistake was not beyond the realm of the possible. Rather than starting up the wide open expanse of the cirque, he kept to the trees, angling off to the right and topping out on a lesser, timber covered ridge that branched off from the open, red-rocked one, realizing even before he reached the top that he would be lucky to have any view at all, through the trees and in the deepening darkness. The moon would not be up until well into the wee hours of the morning, and he could see a heavy bank of clouds rolling in from the west. He was right about the view from the top of the ridge, couldn’t see a thing, wished he could get up higher somewhere and get his bearings before continuing, but, after resting for a minute, was driven to keep moving by the cold. He had brought along the rabbit bones, and chewed and cracked a couple of them as he rested, for the marrow. For the rest of the night Einar kept himself moving, traversing the long, timber covered ridge and stopping only occasionally to drop to his knees and rest, eating a bit of snow each time in a marginally effective effort at obtaining the hydration that he was beginning to need rather desperately. Late the next morning he stopped under a spruce and cracked the last of the remaining rabbit bones, but the bits of marrow, though they gave him a bit of temporary energy, mostly just served to reawaken his empty stomach and set it to cramping painfully. He crouched under the tree, wanting perhaps fifteen minutes of rest, of stillness, at least, but ended up staying not even that long, driven on by an increasingly biting wind. A storm was blowing in. Einar had for some time been noticing the restless, unsettled feeling that he often got before a major storm, and as the sky darkened and the wind picked up, he began to think that he ought to be finding some good shelter, someplace where he could hole up and stay dry and protected if the weather turned truly nasty. He knew that any snow that fell this time of year was fairly likely to be wet and heavy, and the last thing he wanted just then was to be wet. Reaching the bottom of the slope, he had seen nothing too likely as far as possible shelter, and continued on up the next ridge. Einar was not halfway up before he noticed that his pace was really slowing, waves of dizziness and light headedness threatening at times to halt his progress altogether. He realized then that he’d been going for probably close to twenty hours, that the meager energy from the rabbit had long ago been used up, that he just didn’t have it in him to make it much further without some serious rest. The wind had become relentless, though,

tearing through the trees and bending them in toward the ridge, and he knew that if he could just make it up over the crest, the wind would be far less powerful. That thought kept him going, but as he rose after a brief rest forced on him by his increasing dizziness, he nearly fell back down in the snow, as immense black shapes welled up in front of his eyes, blotting out his vision. He crouched with his head bent, almost touching the snow, waiting for his vision to clear before moving on up the slope. As he climbed, though, he noticed that his heart didn’t seem to be behaving normally, speeding up before apparently slowing, leaving him dizzy and gasping for breath. Well. This is new, and I don’t much like it. Wonder how long I can keep climbing like this? He sat there for a minute in the hopes that things would get back to normal, but that did not seem to be happening, and the wind was increasing in strength, chilling him badly as he sat. Well, one way to find out, I guess… And he pulled himself back upright, stuffing some snow in his mouth to combat an increasing thirst. He kept thinking, as he stumbled from tree to tree, resting frequently against them, that he smelled the distinctive odor of scrambled eggs, and was even sure that he could smell the pepper with which they were seasoned. Not immediately able to think of anything in nature that ought to smell like scrambled eggs, and quite certain that he was not near any inhabited areas, he decided that it must be must be his hunger and exhaustion conspiring to play a cruel trick on him. You really need some sleep, Einar. But he kept going, having some time before glimpsed a few small patches of snow-free ground below him through the trees, and having set it as his goal to reach them before resting, hoping to find a drier spot and hopefully a few avalanche lilies or other plants of some kind that he could nibble on for some starch. As he neared the area, a heavy, wet snow began falling, the wind quickly plastering it against Einar’s side and soon soaking his clothes. Finally reaching the floor of the little basin, Einar stepped out of the trees into a small open area, steep rocky slopes rising sharply on both sides, their snow cover broken in places by bands of trees. He stopped still, squinting through swirling snow, staring in near disbelief at what lay before him. • • • •

Through the storm that was rapidly increasing in intensity and blowing the snow almost sideways, Einar could just make out a rough circle of rocks near the opposite edge of the small clearing, steam curling up from it to be snatched away by the wind. He now knew exactly where he was. Oh, wow. I really did mess up back there. Einar realized that he was looking at the little hot spring that he knew lay in a high rocky basin at the top end of the red ridge that he had suspected he might be following the previous day—far from where he had intended to be heading, and, though also far from the center of the search, too close for comfort to routes frequented by backcountry skiers. He knew for a fact that the hot spring was an occasional destination for skiers, as well as a waypoint on a long and difficult journey that a few hardier souls made each winter, following the ridges and high passes between Liz’s valley and one fifty miles to the east. It was certainly not a place that saw much traffic during the winter months, but at over 11,000 feet, what are you doing this high, Einar, you crazy fool…? it was one of the highest known hot springs in North America, was well known, and there was always the risk that someone would

pass that way. He saw no recent tracks, though, and somewhat desperate for the chance to warm up, skirted around the clearing, keeping to the trees. Hanging the lynx skin pack beneath the heavy cover of a thick spruce for protection from the snow, Einar approached the circle of rocks, peering out through the steam at the ninety-five degree water that collected several feet deep in a small pool that had been shored up and modified by hikers over the years to hold more than it naturally would have. He held his hands, nearly frozen from being unprotected all day in the wind and snow, in the steam until the circulation began returning, appreciating the slightly warmed air over the pool, before immersing them in the water, as far as he could get from the place where the hot water trickled out of a fissure in the rock and ran in rivulets across a little section of the slope, kept snow-free by its constant warmth. He drew his breath in sharply and jerked his hands back out of the water, sticking them down in the snow for relief from what had felt to him like the scalding heat of the water. He knew that while the water emerged from the fissure at well over a hundred degrees, it would be somewhat cooler by the time it mingled with the snowmelt and reached the far end of the pool, and not nearly hot enough to actually burn him, but it had certainly felt that way to his somewhat damaged fingers. He took it a bit slower the next time, and was able to hold his hands in the water until the intense pain of returning circulation began to lessen, and his hands again became flexible. Drying them on the inside of his sweatshirt he stuck them in his armpits to keep them from immediately getting cold again, and sat there on a rock by the pool, breathing the warm steam and nodding sleepily, thinking of stories he had heard of mountain man John Colter. Colter was believed to be the first white man to have seen what is now Yellowstone National Park, and had spent part of a winter in the refuge of its geysers and hot pools after being pursued there by an angry band of Blackfeet Indians, who believed the place cursed and would not follow him beyond its borders. The place later became known as “Colter’s Hell.” Hmm. Wouldn’t mind spending the rest of the winter here, myself, if I had any reason to believe that federal agents were superstitious about hot springs. Not likely, though… He could just picture himself spending most of the next month or so soaking in the warm water, not caring whether it snowed, or froze, or what…got to admit, that sounds pretty good, about now. Edging a bit closer to the warm water, his thoughts drifted back to Colter. Einar had long admired the mountain man, who had several times found himself facing the wrath of the Blackfeet, once having to literally outrun a large band of men who, having captured him, were intent on making a sport of running him down and ending his life. He had to run across a six mile wide plain scattered with prickly pear cactus to escape them, then slip into a river and hide out overnight in a beaver lodge until most of them gave him up for dead and moved on. Then, having no gear, no weapon, no clothing or shoes, even, the Blackfeet having taken everything when they captured him, Colter had covered over two hundred and twenty five miles in the space of seven days or so, to reach Fort Raymond and safety, gaunt, exhausted, and at first unrecognizable to his associates there. Einar, thinking of Colter’s plight, was reminded that, most of the time at least, he really did not have it all that bad. It did help, though, that those Blackfeet couldn’t fly… Sure wish my pursuers couldn’t fly, so I could at least have a fire now and then. The thought of which brought him back to the reality that he was sitting on a rock in the middle of a near

blizzard at 11,000 feet, wet and freezing and almost certainly becoming dangerously hypothermic, drifting towards sleep. He had almost forgotten, caught up in his musings on John Colter. The solution seemed obvious to him at that moment, and, putting aside the risk of being discovered as secondary to his need to live through the next hour, he struggled out of his snow-encrusted clothes, threw them under a tree, turned his boots upside down beside a rock to keep out the snow, and lowered himself into the steaming water. For a minute his whole body, numb from the cold and wind, stung fiercely, but he made himself stay in the water, and before long the stinging was replaced with the most wonderful warmth and feeling of relief as his tense muscles began relaxing for the first time in days. He leaned back against a rock, almost floating in the water, the snow falling heavily around him as he shivered violently in the warmth of the water, his temperature slowly beginning to return to normal. He had a brief thought that, not knowing just how hypothermic he might be, it probably was not a very good idea to submerge himself in water that warm, since under the right conditions it could quickly send the cold blood in his extremities circulating back through his body before it warmed adequately, potentially stopping his heart. He knew that was a real possibility, but, his judgment rather too clouded by the cold to actually worry about it, he just laughed at the thought and sank deeper in the water, thinking that if it did kill him, at least he was going to die warm and happy. Could be a lot worse… He seemed to be suffering no ill effects at all from the water, though, and after warming some he summoned up the courage to go dashing through the snow to his pack to retrieve the old sardine can he had found at the mining cabin, wishing for some spruce tea after many days without any. Hurrying back into the water and collecting a can full of spring water from near where it emerged from the rock and was the hottest, he crushed up a bunch of spruce needles and let them sit for awhile to steep. The water was really helping the itchy, binding scabs that he had left over form the struggle with the lynx, and he was hopeful that by spending enough time in it to soften them, he might find movement a bit easier and less painful afterwards. Einar stayed in for hours as he warmed and his shivering slacked off, dreading the time when he would eventually have to leave the water, dreading the icy clothes and the cold, windy world that awaited him outside of that tiny island of refuge. He did reach out of the water once to drag his aspen-bark blanket over to the edge of the pool, using it to create a canopy to keep the snow off of his head. Drowsy and more comfortable than he would have allowed himself to imagine possible hours before, he drifted around the edges of sleep, thinking for awhile of John Colter, then thinking that all that separated his present situation from absolute perfection was the unfortunate lack of food, and, his mind slipping easily into a state somewhere between hallucination and dream, he created for himself a big Thanksgiving turkey—or a grouse…. of course, it has to be a grouse...and mashed potatoes and gravy, a lot of gravy, gallons of gravy, sweet potatoes, peanut butter pie, pumpkin pie…he was pretty sure he could eat a whole one himself, so maybe there had better be two…because of course Liz was there to share it all with him. Matter of fact, she must have cooked it, because as he looked around, he realized that they were in

the little cabin in the basin, all fixed up and cheerfully lit by the glow of three oil lamps, the floor neatly tiled with the grey slate that he had noticed in his time in that basin. A wood cook stove stood in one corner, and Liz was just removing a pumpkin pie from the oven. Einar, though, was suddenly disturbed by the impression that he and Liz were no longer alone at their soon-to-be Thanksgiving dinner, and became sure of it when he distinctly heard another human voice, a man’s voice, somewhere behind him. Waking then, Einar was at first not even sure where he was or how he could possibly be so warm when he saw snow all around him, but was mostly just disappointed that he had not got the chance to eat any of that incredible bounty of wonderful-smelling food. As the confusion slowly cleared from his head, he realized that he had indeed been hearing other voices, looked up and saw that they belonged to two skiers who stood in the snow near the edge of the pool, staring at him as if he were some sort of museum exhibit. Einar, knowing that to take off randomly into the snow without his clothes was to die, stayed right where he was, hoping to be able to pass for a fellow skier. “Howdy. You coming in? Water’s fine.” • • • •

The skiers looked rather skeptical when Einar spoke, stared at him for a long moment without answering, until he began to wonder whether he could possibly look that odd, or if their reaction perhaps meant that they had recognized him, and were trying to decide what to do. Finally one of them spoke, unclipping his ski bindings, sticking his skis vertically in the snow, sitting down on one of rocks next to the pool and beginning to remove his boots. “Whew! Man! We thought you were dead. You looked dead. You totally had us spooked! Are you OK?” “Uh…yeah, not dead. No, definitely still breathing, here. Just enjoying the water for a minute.” “Dude, it’s been way longer than a minute. We’ve been here for, like, half an hour, at least. You never moved. We were just about to come poke you with a ski pole to see for sure whether you were dead, only I wanted him to do it, and he wanted me to.” The guy laughed, indicating the other skier, who was nodding and grinning. “We didn’t even think you were breathing.” “Oh. Fell asleep, I guess. This water’s great.” “So I’ve heard. But we weren’t about to get in there with a dead guy, you know, so you nearly spoiled it for us!” And they both burst out laughing again, apparently rather relieved at the lack of a corpse in the hot spring. Einar stayed low in the water, wanting to remain submerged as much as possible to keep

them from asking about the barely healed cat scratches all over his chest and arms. And he knew that he absolutely must not allow them to see the handcuff scars that were still quite visible on his wrists. “You come over from Ore Creek? What’s it like over on the other side of the pass? Has the big bowl slid lately, because we were kind of thinking of camping here and going back down in the morning, if it hadn’t.” He tried to think quickly, realizing that the guys didn’t seem to know who he was. No wonder. With this steam and all, they can’t have got a very clear look at me. Hope they don’t ask where my skis are, or anything like that. He knew that it would be to his advantage for the two skiers to continue on over the pass, because it was quite a bit farther than if they were to go back the way they had come, well over a day’s travel, giving him more time to clear out of the area before they had the chance to possibly talk with others about the strange guy they had met up at the hot spring. And he sure didn’t want them hanging around the hot spring for the night, because he could not leave the water as long as they were there, as they would then almost certainly see his orange jumpsuit. They would have to get suspicious at some point if he just stayed in the water, and he didn’t want to face the prospect of too many questions from the pair. So. Send them over the pass. “Yeah, looked like it slid within the last day or so, probably two days ago when we had that sunny afternoon. You should be OK as long as you don’t wait too long and let this new stuff build up too much.” “Great. We’ll get moving again pretty quick here. You done this route often?” “A few times.” The two skiers had joined him in the pool, and were retrieving food items from their packs, spreading them on a flat rock between them. Einar tried not to stare as they began eating a lunch of sandwiches, tea from a thermos and a big block of cheddar cheese that they passed back and forth, carving off huge slices with a pocket knife. He kept his eyes half closed in the hopes that they wouldn’t see the desperation, but it was all he could do to keep himself from attacking them with a rock in an attempt to get at that food. This is just too much… To make matters worse, one of the guys kept going on about how hungry he was after a long morning of skiing, and how good his sandwich was. Einar lay back until his ears were in the water so he wouldn’t have to listen, but the skiers kept trying to engage him in conversation, so that did not last long. “Hey, you run into any of the commotion from that search over on that side, or is it too far? They had a big sign down on the bulletin board at the trailhead, and these two guys were talking to everybody that came down from the trail, asking them all kinds of questions.” “Hmm. No, nothing unusual on the side I came from. Must be too far for them to bother

with.” “I don’t know why they’re bothering to keep searching like this at all, really,” said the skier, laughing and shaking his head. “Silly flatlanders. You know there’s no way that guy is still alive up here after those two storms we had since he went missing. I mean, anybody that thinks so just has no idea what it’s like this time of year. Don’t you think?” Einar nodded wearily. “No idea at all. None.” Finished with their lunch and their brief soak in the hot water, the two skiers dried off and got back into their clothes, thanking Einar for the information about the pass and continuing on their way. He watched as they climbed the slope up out of the basin, hardly able to believe what had just happened. He was pretty sure they had never suspected that he was anything other than a fellow skier enjoying a couple of days in the backcountry. That, or they were really good at pretending, and would be calling the authorities as soon as they got within range of a cell tower. That was possible, too, and he had no idea what they might have been discussing as he slept. In the second scenario, he had two hours, at best, before he could expect to start seeing a helicopter over the basin. Way past time to clear out of here. He saw that there were some crumbs of chocolate left on the flat rock, and quickly scooped up and ate them, noticing also that one of the guys had apparently not cared for the Swiss cheese on his sandwich. Two thin slices of it sat in the snow where he had discarded them, and Einar gobbled one, but made himself save the other. Einar rose, so weak and shaky that he could barely stand, feeling as though the hours in the hot water had taken all the strength out of his legs and replaced the remaining muscle with lead weights. He knew that in truth he couldn’t possibly have had much left to lose in the first place, that what he was feeling then as a result of relaxing so long in the water was probably far closer to reality than had been his stubborn refusal to heed the signs of his weariness and exhaustion as he climbed, pushing himself almost to the point of collapse before allowing himself to admit that anything was wrong. Sure was making it difficult to get motivated to leave the warm water, though. Well. Just do it. Just get started. You’ll be freezing again in no time, and that’ll be motivation enough to keep you moving. You’ll be so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that you won’t have time to notice much of anything else… Yeah. Right. You say. Was that supposed to be encouraging, or something? You know, you’d make one heck of a ‘motivational speaker,’ Einar. Teach them stuffed shirt cubicle dweller types a thing or two about what it takes to keep going, out here… Hmm. Somehow I doubt they’d like my style much. Can’t say I care for it that much myself, at the moment. He shook his head and allowed himself a little chuckle, glad that he had somehow managed to retain a bit of a sense of humor, such as it was. Hauling himself up out of the pool, feeling like he weighed five hundred pounds, he stood on one of the snow-free rocks by the water and looked out across the little basin, studying the small patches of exposed dirt where the pool drained for any sign of edible

life. There were a number of small green shoots emerging from the soggy, steaming ground, and he was pretty sure they were avalanche lilies. Einar’s feet hurt, and, inspecting them, he saw that they were covered with red, wrinkled, irritated-looking patches, with a number of small blisters in places. He attributed this to the fact that, though the boots had been quite adequate to prevent frostbite, he had been unable to change his socks for days or dry his feet from the accumulated sweat from climbing the ridges, figured he was now suffering from some form of trench foot. One more reason to get to a place where I can have a fire. Got to have a way to dry things out. Sure that the ground would not be frozen in the bare spots where he had seen the avalanche lilies, he hurried across the snow to crouch in the warm mud, which felt rather good on his damaged feet, and dig some of the roots. The ground was soft and he found digging fairly easy, despite the rockiness of the soil, and he soon had a small pile of the starchy white roots, onto which he threw some of the brilliant green, inch-long new leaves, knowing that they were good to eat, as well. Then, already freezing and shaking in the wind, he scrambled up the slope to the pool, sank back into the water with a huge sigh of relief, and rinsed the dirt off of several of the bulbs before slowly chewing them. He wondered if the water, where it emerged hot and steaming from the fissure in the rock, could eventually cook the bulbs enough to convert their indigestible inulin into the more usable sugar, fructose. If he had been able to stay, he figured he would have strung a bunch of the bulbs on a strand of wire from one of his snares, attached the wire to a rock near the fissure, and found out. Too bad I got to leave this place. He knew that he must, however, and with the light beginning to dim, decided that he must not keep putting it off. He figured his best bet at that point was to hurry down out of the high country as quickly as he could, find a place where the snow was well on its way to leaving and the nights weren’t so awfully cold, and hopefully find some more to eat and get some strength back, while continuing to avoid the search area. As he struggled back into his icy clothes and began hurriedly stumbling through the snow towards a patch of heavy timber he could just make out through the fading light in the valley below him, he thought to himself that hey, at least I have good dry boots, a bit of food in my stomach, and a few hours sleep behind me. • • • • [URL=http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1257331315053559768HgdVWl] [IMG]http://thumb8.webshots.net/t/14/15/3/13/15/257331315HgdVWl_th.jpg[/IMG] [/URL] The hot spring, or one very much like it… [URL=http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1257328515053559768DabHzN] [IMG]http://thumb8.webshots.net/t/34/35/2/85/15/257328515DabHzN_th.jpg[/IMG] [/URL] Despite his optimism, Einar had not gone far before he realized that he had seriously overestimated his ability to generate enough heat simply by moving quickly. The weakness he had felt upon first standing up out of the water had persisted, leaving him

shuffling and stumbling rather slowly through the snow, already shaking badly in his snow-crusted cotton jumpsuit, ice forming in his wet hair and beard. The wind had picked up as the sun set, and was tearing at him, quickly stiffening his arms and legs to the point that it was becoming difficult to keep going at all, let alone quickly. Don’t think this is going to work, Einar. Wishing to live, the decision was an obvious, if not an easy one for him. It was nearly dark by the time he made it back up to the pool, telling himself that the skiers had probably already made camp somewhere for the night, that he surely would be safe there for a little while, because even if someone else did come along, they wouldn’t really be able to get a good look at him in the failing light. He wanted fire, knew he must have a fire, if he was to dry his icy clothes and have a chance of being able to travel through the night. But before he was to have any hope of being able to use the bow and drill he had previously made and stashed in his pack, he knew he had to thaw his hands some, and hopefully stop shaking so hard. Stumbling to the water’s edge, he plunged his hands in, then his arms, almost up to the elbows. After a few minutes, shaking his hands and attempting to dry them on his shirt, he hurried over to a little clump of sub alpine firs that stood not far from the pool, searching for anything dry that he could use to build a fire. He found a number of dry, dead barkless twigs on the undersides of some of the branches, which he quickly broke off and piled on a slab of bark that he had been able to pry off of a dead tree. He stomped around in the snow under some of the little tree clusters near the hot spring, hoping perhaps to find a place where others had camped, hoping there might be something there that he could use, but if such a place existed, it was thoroughly hidden beneath the snow. Too few skiers passed there during the winter months to keep a camp free of the heavy snows that fell. Einar, though disappointed, realized that this also meant that he was not especially likely to encounter anyone else there that night. He somewhat doubted his ability to even successfully start a fire at that point, but all he could do was try. He ate his remaining little slice of Swiss cheese for a bit of energy, went back to the water and soaked his hands again until they became flexible, and continued adding to his supply of firewood. Every time his hands became too stiff and unfeeling to continue with the work—which was happening far more quickly than he would have liked—Einar hurried back to the pool and thawed them in the water, finally getting a fire ready to go on a slab of bark and settling down to the business of producing a coal with the bow and drill, using the lace from one of his Sorels as a string. It was no easy task in his condition and with the wind, but Einar finally got a little coal, wrapped it carefully in a bundle of aspen inner bark fibers from his pack, and blew it to life, setting the blazing bundle beneath his carefully arranged tepee of dry fir twigs and adding a few little strips of canvas that he had saved from his old sleeping bag. As the fire crackled to life, he added some larger branches, aiming for the drier ones that would produce little smoke, but not too concerned about it in the near darkness. Breaking some branches from nearby trees, Einar huddled and hovered over the little fire, feeding it and turning first one side, then the other toward its warmth, working at drying his clothes. He took off one boot at a time, thoroughly drying his socks and feet, but knowing that he did not have time to get all of the collected moisture out of his wool felt boot liners. That would have to wait until he was at a settled location where he could spend several hours beside a fire, at least.

By the time Einar’s clothing had thoroughly dried and he had covered the coals of his little fire with snow and then, when they grew cold, with a slab of bark, concealing the spot as well as he could, the new, somewhat wet spring snow had frozen hard, forming a crust. Setting out down the valley in the darkness, he moved easily over the crust, swinging his arms and hurrying to get the blood flowing before he again became too cold, but having to take great care on the steep sections, so as not to go sliding out of control and slamming into a tree below. He was glad of the crust. It would allow him to leave far less sign in case the skiers did sound the alarm upon reaching the valley. Einar kept himself going most of the night, traveling far from the hot spring, far from the place he had last been seen by others, as non-threatening as they may have seemed. His clothes dry and the wind somewhat less in the heavy timber, he was handling the cold fairly well, but his hunger and general exhaustion were another matter. Stumbling, falling, sometimes nearly asleep on his feet, he knew from past experience that the time was rapidly approaching when he would either have to obtain a good amount of food, or risk finding himself curled up under a tree somewhere without the strength to rise. He had been there before, earlier in the winter at the mine tunnel when he had been injured and out of food for too many days, and had been saved only by the timely appearance of a porcupine that he was able to kill by pushing rocks on it from his ledge. Thankful that he was at least still somewhat mobile and determined not to allow it to go that far this time, he resolved to spend the following day gathering food and, hopefully, resting some. Unless they somehow find me again, and I have to run. I sure hope that doesn’t happen. I need that not to happen…please. Down in a little alpine basin the next morning, Einar found a southwest slope where the snow had just recently melted out, seeing what looked like thousands of avalanche lily shoots poking up through the saturated ground. Breakfast! He hurried over to the slope, dropped to his knees on the dirt and began digging with his fingers, only to find the ground frozen solid and quite impenetrable. Seriously, what did you expect? For a good while he scratched at it with a nail and then the steel bar from his pack, but all of his efforts yielded only one small bulb, split and dirty from the digging, and hardly worth eating at all. He knew he was expending more energy going after the roots than they would return to him, so, almost too exhausted to remain upright anyway, he retreated to the trees to wait for the sun to soften the slope. As he waited, huddling against a spruce trunk and conserving heat as well as he could, Einar was encouraged by the fact that he had not heard or seen any sign of an air search that morning. He was hopeful that perhaps the skiers had not mentioned his presence to anyone, but knew that it was just as possible that they had simply not made it down yet. He knew he ought to be collecting firewood so it would be ready for later, really intended several times to get up and do it, but just couldn’t seem to summon enough energy to actually get started. It was good to rest under the tree, good simply to not move for awhile, and he did so, drifting in and out of sleep as he watched the sun slowly creep down the nearby slope to the bare patch where the lilies grew. Einar woke with a start some time later to the realization that the sun was on his face, his body shivering feebly in an attempt to use his failing resources to keep him warm and alive. He rolled over, sat

up, pulled his stiff hands out of his armpits and beat them against his legs to get a little blood flowing. All right. Go get food. And he dragged himself out onto the sunny slope, collapsing in the middle of a patch of lily shoots and beginning to dig with the steel bar, slowly adding to his little pile of plump white roots, eating some as he worked but knowing that he would not be able to extract too much nutrition from them until he was able to heat them and convert their sugars into something his body could use. Lying on his stomach in the sun, grateful that he had heard no aircraft as yet, he dug and collected the roots until he had several pounds of them, struggling hard at times against the urge to lay his head down and sleep. Looking with some satisfaction at the growing pile of roots, Einar realized that he needed a way to carry them, because the lynx-skin could not hold much more than he was already asking of it, and he hated to think what would happen if he was forced suddenly to leave the area, losing his morning’s work, and his only current source of food. Making his way down to a marshy section of the basin, he cut a bundle of straight little alpine willow shoots with the sharpened steel bar, and sat down on a rock in the sun. Spreading some of the shoots out on the ground in front of him, he began work on a rough carrying basket for the roots. As he added layer after layer, he decided to keep the bottom of the basket small, making it tall and narrow so that it could be easily slung over his shoulder, and carried without being awkwardly bulky. When the basket was finished to his satisfaction, it had an inner diameter of about six inches, narrowed significantly towards the top, was approximately eighteen inches high, and just held the roots he had dug earlier that day. He took some aspen bark from his pack and made a handle, not taking the time to cord it, but just tying it onto the basket as it was. He would cord it later, and also planned to make a coiled cordage lid for the basket. For now, though, he just poked a number of short willow sticks, left over from the basket making, through the top of the basket so they formed a pattern like spokes on a wheel, to keep the roots from spilling if the basket should tip. Heading into the trees, he began collecting dry branches. Time for a fire. • • • •

Down in the valley that afternoon, the two skiers, having finally made their cautious way across the bowl, which appeared rather heavily laden with new snow and did not seem to have slid anytime in the recent past, finally reached their Subaru at the trailhead. Heavily loaded with wind packed snow, the bowl had let go and slid just as they had finished crossing and entered the trees on its far side. As relieved as they were to be through with the treacherous journey, they were also rather irritated at the strange, quiet guy they had met up at the hot spring, who had apparently deliberately mislead them and nearly got them killed in an avalanche. They wished they had got his name. Hungry, they drove into town to meet a couple of friends at a local restaurant. • • • •

Picking an especially thick blue spruce and scraping away the duff down to the frozen

ground, Einar prepared a fire that he hoped would not produce too much smoke. He still had seen no sign of search aircraft that day, and hoped he was far enough out of the area that a small, nearly smokeless fire would not draw too much attention. Because he really needed to cook up a bunch of those lily roots, needed to dry out his boot liners to keep his feet from getting any worse, and badly needed a way to keep warm for awhile, other than the constant shivering, which was really wearing him out. Sitting over his little fire half an hour later, Einar stirred and flipped a dozen or so lily roots that he had placed on a flat rock on the coals, waiting for them to heat and roast. While waiting, he melted some snow in the old sardine can he had salvaged from the mining cabin, glad to see that, despite its rusty, pitted appearance, it apparently held water. He felt much better after a meal of sweet, roasted roots and spruce tea, and allowed himself to doze for a few minutes over the fire before heading out to dig more roots before the night came again and froze the ground. Returning to camp with another good-sized load of roots, he stirred the fire back to life and began stringing the roots on wire strands from the steel cable and suspending them over the fire to roast. He had found the cooked roots to be a far more satisfying meal than the raw ones had been, and wanted to roast as many as possible to use for travel food whenever he decided it was time to move on from that spot. Einar took a few minutes to clear a spot adjoining his fire and build a second, wanting to heat and dry a larger section of ground against the coming cold of night, and still having heard no low-flying aircraft. Resting over the fire with his aspen-bark blanket around his shoulders, Einar nearly met with disaster when a spark landed on it and started it smoldering. Luckily, he was not quite asleep yet at the time, noticed the smoke, and was able to flip the blanket over into the snow before being burned or losing too much of it to the flames. The incident reminded him how very long it had been since he had last had a fire—not since making the blanket, certainly—and he would have to be more cautious with it in the future. Before settling in for the night, Einar scouted around for a suitable place on a rabbit trail in an aspen grove, and set two snares, hoping for a breakfast of rabbit. As the bitter cold began descending on the basin that evening, Einar scraped aside the coals of his fire and curled up on the small patch of dried, warmed ground where it had been, using a stick to carefully fish several rocks out of the coals and place them close to him for added warmth. Covered with the lynx skin and his aspen bark blanket, waking once to pull a few more still-warm rocks from the pile of coals when the first batch cooled, he slept quite well that night, waking in the morning only a little stiff and barely even shivering after a night of temperatures that, if he’d had a way to measure them, Einar would have found to be well down in the single digits. Moving the flat granite slab and wad of aspen bark fibers that he had placed over his coal pile the previous evening in the hopes of finding a live coal or two in the morning, Einar was glad to see that, when he blew on the white heap of ash, a few embers responded by glowing a cheery orange. In no time he had a fire going again, and allowed himself a cup of hot spruce tea and a few lily roots before rising stiffly to go check his snares. To Einar’s surprise and delight, one of the snares actually held a rabbit, not yet even cold,

and he hurried back to the fire, a bit of spring returning to his seriously dragging step at the prospect of meat for breakfast, and cooked, at that! What a concept! With only the small sardine can to boil water in, Einar knew that he could not, of course, stew the whole rabbit at once, and ended up skewering part of it on a stick and roasting it in his hurry for breakfast. Not the most efficient way to cook this critter as far as keeping all the nutrients, but by golly I need some food now, and it is the quickest way… He enjoyed the still-warm liver raw as he waited, cutting up some of the remaining meat and tossing it in the sardine can with some snow and a couple of chopped-up lily roots to stew. Having devoured the skewered portion of the rabbit almost as soon as it was warm, Einar was still feeling pretty desperate for some fat, and knew that he would have to obtain some soon, if he wanted to keep things moving in the right direction, but for the moment he was starting to have a bit of energy again, and his stomach hurt far less than before the meal. The stew in the sardine can was beginning to bubble, but the can had a hole in one corner where water had apparently sat for who knew how many years and rusted it out, and as the broth boiled, it dislodged the little plug of rust that had been keeping the can watertight, causing it to spring a leak. Einar heard the hissing in the coals as his precious stew began escaping through the hole, and, not wanting to lose any of the tiny amount of fat that had been on the rabbit and was now melting and bubbling in that water, he snatched up the can and gulped the hot liquid, scalding his throat a bit but satisfied in the end that he had minimized his loss of the broth. Got to fix that hole. He pulled a little lump of hardened pitch off of the trunk of the spruce his fire was built beneath, setting it on a hot rock to liquefy and pounding and rubbing a bit of charcoal from the fire into a powder, adding it to the pitch and pressing the resulting sticky ball into the hole in the can. Hmm. We’ll see just how much heat this can take without melting out of there, but it’s worth a try. Finished with the rabbit, he cautiously melted a little snow in the bottom of the sardine can, glad to see that the patch seemed to be holding as long as he did not set it directly in the coals, stuffed the can with usnea lichen from the spruce, added some more snow, and set it down on a rock near the coals to simmer. Hungry again in very short order, he cracked and chewed on a couple of the rabbit bones for their marrow while the lichen heated, changing the water once as he waited and eventually eating the steaming mass of softer and slightly gelatinous lichen. Mmm… Much better cooked. It sat better in his stomach, too, than had the slightly nauseating quantities of raw, acidic lichen he had forced himself to eat over the past weeks. • • • •

The skiers had arranged to meet a couple of friends at Juanita’s Cantina, one of the few affordable eating places left in a town that had over the last decade begun increasingly catering to the influx of wealthy tourists that had come for the skiing, liked the place, and built or bought high-end condos, raising property values for everyone, but completely changing the flavor of that small mountain town. Settling down to a meal of big bowls of steaming Chile Verde and black bean burritos, the pair began recounting their adventures of the past several days, going on excitedly about their near miss with the avalanche. One of the friends who had joined them, a ski patroller at the local ski area, chastised

them for taking that kind of chance in known avalanche terrain, but they just laughed it off. “It was the dead guy’s fault.” “Yeah, the dead guy. Totally his fault, ’cause we were going to turn around at the hot spring, and head back down for the night, ‘till we met him.” “Dead guy? Whoa, hey, what dead guy?” “Oh, he turned out not to be dead, exactly, but we thought he was, because he was sleeping in the hot spring, and he looked pretty dead, but eventually he woke up. Some old hippie dude, or something, I guess. Didn’t quite seem all there. But he said he’d skied that route a few times, and it sounded like he knew what he was talking about. Told us the bowl had slid already, so we went ahead, and by the time we got there and saw it hadn’t it was almost dark and we didn’t want to camp out in the open like that, so we just went ahead and chanced it. Turns out that guy was just making things up, though, because we never even saw his tracks at all down on this side.” “So if he didn’t come up from this side, and you say there was nobody in front of you… where’d this guy come from?” “See, that’s the weird thing. Because I don’t remember seeing any tracks at all. I mean, it was snowing pretty hard when we got there, but we’d still have been able to see ski tracks if there had been any. Unless he had, like, been living there, or something. Since the last snow.” They both started laughing at that idea. “You know though, he kinda looked like he might have been up there a while. Kind of ragged, you know, and did you see the way he kept staring at our sandwiches? Like some sort of a hungry animal, almost. And when we got out that chocolate bar, I thought he was about to jump us for it.” “Um, guys,” the ski patroller interrupted their exchange, “did you ever consider that you might have just missed your chance to become millionaires? One of you, anyway…” They stared at him for a second with blank looks on their faces before it dawned on them what he was suggesting. “Dude…no way! That Einar guy’s dead! Got to be dead, and this guy… Wow. Do you think? But how would he have got skis?” “Did you see skis? I never actually saw skis.” “But how else…”

The ski patroller had gone to the entry area of the restaurant, and returned shortly with a copy of Einar’s wanted poster that he had pulled off of the bulletin board by the front door. “Well, guys, here’s the number.” Finishing their sopapilla sundaes with homemade vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, the pair argued over who should get to make the call. • • • •

Studying the two photos on the reward poster their friend had retrieved for them, the skiers became a bit less sure about their intended call to the FBI. The fellow in the photos bore only a passing resemblance to the “dead guy” they had encountered at the hot spring, and not sure what sort of trouble you could get into by providing false information to a federal agent, but thinking that it sounded kind of serious, they were leaning towards dropping the whole thing. Until they spent the next hour engaging in a lively conversation about how they would use the reward money, consuming several pitchers of beer as they did so. After awhile, the call began to seem to them like a good joke, if nothing else, and they finally flipped a coin to decide who would have the honor. The agent on the other end of the line thanked them for their tip and asked some details about the location of the hot spring and exactly when they had encountered the subject in question, but did not think the tipsters sounded especially credible. Which of course, by that point, they did not. The agent on the phone took their names and addresses anyway, though, and after some discussion a the command post outside of Culver Falls, a couple of agents were sent out to their homes the next morning to interview the pair. Some of the details the skiers gave them interested the agents greatly, and they decided the matter was definitely worth further investigation. • • • •

The day was sunny, and as soon as the ground had thawed sufficiently, Einar got back to digging lily roots, wanting to gather as many as possible while he had the chance. As he worked, he made an occasional trip back to the fire to string fresh bulbs onto the strand of wire, removing those that he could tell had softened and cooked adequately, stowing the finished ones in his basket. Need to make another basket, later. Haven’t seen this much food for a long time. Keeping the fire going continuously to roast the bulbs, he was running out of the small, dry branches he had been limiting himself to out of concern for smoke. Reasoning that if the skiers had reported him, he surely would have seen some sign by then to indicate that the focus of the search had shifted, he gradually allowed himself to begin using some larger branches from a nearby dead aspen, and, eventually, laying the whole trunk of the tree in the fire to allow him to go longer without having to

return and add wood as he harvested roots. The sun was warm on his back as he worked, and Einar found himself enjoying the almost leisurely activity of digging the roots, nearly dozing at times in the late-morning warmth. Something was gnawing at him, though, causing him to startle and look up at odd moments almost like he expected to see or hear something coming at him, and he was starting to become seriously uneasy, knowing that, despite the reassuring lack of aircraft, he had been in one place for too long, had really let his discipline go with the use of the fire. He knew that he really needed to get down lower, anyway, where his chances of taking another deer would be far better. The lily bulbs, as substantial a boost as they had given him in his near-starved state, would not be enough to really turn things around without the addition of some serious fat and protein. Soon. All right. Time to go. Just as soon as I finish filling this basket. Einar was on his stomach in the middle of the dirt patch when he heard the plane. It was low, and already quite close by the time its sound reached him. He raised up on his elbows, listening for a fraction of a second before rolling to his feet. Knowing he had no chance of escaping notice there on the exposed dirt in his orange coveralls, he scrambled for the nearest cover, which consisted of a stand of scrawny aspens, wishing his aspen bark blanket had been within reach to throw over himself for additional concealment. It was lying rolled up against a rock near the edge of the melted-out area, where he had left it when the climbing sun had rendered it more of an encumbrance than a necessity. Standing upright in the shadow of an aspen trunk, pressed up against the tree, Einar hoped desperately that his grey sweatshirt would blend in well enough with his surroundings that he might be overlooked. Glancing over towards his campsite, he saw to his great dismay a faint blue haze of smoke drifting and hanging above the timber as his unattended fire cooled and smoldered. He clenched his teeth, angry at himself for his foolish lapse in discipline. They’ll see that, for sure. Twice the little plane passed over the area, returning to slowly circle it once before heading off down the valley. As soon as he was sure the plane was not immediately returning, Einar made a pouch with the front of his sweatshirt, shoveled the pile of roots into it, and hurried back to the camp where he hastily killed the fire, stomping it out and beating at the two smoldering ends of the tree trunk where the fire had finally burned it in half. Scrambling to pack his few possessions back into the lynx skin and basket, he did what he could to disguise his camp, but the snow around the tree was all trampled down and there was no correcting that. He did throw a bunch of spruce duff over the fire pit and burnt tree remains, but knew there was no way it would be enough. All right. Slow down for a second. He forced himself to actually sit down then on the half-burnt tree trunk and plan his next action, knowing that he was tending to rush around somewhere near panic and that his immediate future, at that point, depended entirely on his ability to make clear decisions and carry them out. So. They’ve seen the smoke. They will find this place, will get people on the ground here to check it out, as soon as they can. How long? He couldn’t say for sure, but knew that it would depend on how they decided to bring the searchers in. Which he figured would almost have to be by air, because he was probably almost a two day hike from anywhere you could take a vehicle. His hope was to put as much distance behind him as possible before they actually got people on the ground, hoping to give himself at least some chance of throwing them off his trail when they did show up.

As he took off down the rocky slope, Einar could already hear the distant rumble of a helicopter, precluding him from returning to the open area where he had dug the lilies to retrieve his blanket, as he had intended. Avoiding the soft snow where he could and sticking to the still-frozen, exposed ground beneath the trees, he wove his way down the slope below him, eventually working his way over to a rocky-banked creek which he followed for awhile, fairly confident that he was not leaving too much sign. Before long, he came across a small, mossy-bottomed rivulet that trickled into the larger creek, hardly as wide as the breadth of his boot. Cautiously picking his way across the main creek on a row of icy, partially submerged rocks, he stepped into the trickle, placing one boot in front of the other with extreme care as he followed its winding course steeply up the slope, seeing with satisfaction that he was leaving no mark on its sides. He had to take great care as he went not to brush the overhanging, snow-covered branches of evergreens that sometimes nearly blocked his path, struggling over fallen trees that were at times slippery with frozen mist in places where the rivulet dropped sharply by a foot or two, sending a thin mist up into the cold air. Einar knew that his actions would not help if they brought in dogs, knew that they might not fool an experienced human tracker for long, either, but should buy him a little time, at least, which was all he asked at the moment. The sun was going down, the cold returning rather quickly, and with the exception of a small plane that seemed to be making near constant runs up and down the valley, frequently circling the area of his old camp, Einar had as yet heard no indication that a search was under way. But he knew that would not last. As soon as they saw his camp, the chase would be on, for sure, and he knew he had better be as far away as possible when that did happen. The steep little rivulet eventually petered out into a snow covered boulder field beneath firs that were progressively smaller as he climbed higher. By that time it was cold enough for the snow to have formed a crust, but, assuming that the feds would probably bring in real trackers this time, now that they had a solid lead, he decided that he must do everything he knew to do to keep them off his trail. Sitting on a rock, he tore off the lower portion of each of the legs of his jumpsuit, setting the rough rectangles of cloth on the snow. Next, he pulled some small side branches from nearby firs, rubbing a bit of charcoal from the supply in his pocket over the wounds where he had removed the branches so they did not show fresh and white to anyone who might happen that way. Placing the little branches in the center of the cloth pieces to form the rough size and shape of his boots, he set the boots on them and tied the cloths to his feet. Well. That should keep me from leaving boot tracks, anyway, if I hit a soft spot, and though I’m sure a tracker could still see the disturbance on the crust from these things, it’s gonna be a lot more difficult, and might give me some edge. And he took off across the snow, keeping for the time to the trees, but realizing that he would soon lose them due to the increasing elevation. Keep going up. They will not expect you to go up. No reasonable person would go up. He was to be reminded of that thought numerous times over the next few days. Nearing treeline, Einar realized that the air portion of the search, at least, was concentrated in the little basin where his camp had been and on the timber covered slopes

below it, and he saw that he had guessed correctly about the initial strategy of the searchers. The thought came to him that perhaps if he could get over on the other side of the high rock ridge in front of him, that he might just be able to slip away from his pursuers entirely. He knew where he was now; there was no mistaking the flat-topped, nearly vertical walled peak that lay before him, its long narrow approach ridge running on in an apparently unbroken buttress to his left. He also knew that there was supposed to be a pass of sorts somewhere in that wall of rock, a low spot that would allow you, hopefully with an ice axe but without the need of technical climbing gear, to pass over into the high rocky basin that lay on the other side. Einar had never been through the notch, had never seen it, even, though he had been on top of the peak once years ago and looked down into the desolate basin on the other side of it, which at over 13,ooo feet held three large lakes that were seldom visited even in the summer due to their remoteness. He had spoken once, though, to a man who had accessed the basin that way, and according to him the most difficult part of the scramble was dealing with the loose rock in the narrow, steep chute on the far side of the ridge. Eating a few roasted lily bulbs as he studied the wall in the uncertain light of a quarter moon, he thought he saw a low spot in its ramparts of nearly white rock, a notch that might allow him passage, escape. Well. Shouldn’t have any problem with loose rock, this time of year… And, reluctant to expose himself but thinking it his best option, he set out at as fast a pace as he could maintain, hoping to make it across the expanse of open snow that lay between the trees and the wall before something flew over and spotted him. • • • •

Pete Jackson, having spent far too much time at the bar in Culver Falls the night after he inadvertently got his brother arrested, attempted to drive home when the place closed, and ended up missing a curve on the rather winding stretch of road between town and his home, ending up halfway down the riverbank, the front end of his truck smashed in against a cottonwood tree. The next morning, a couple headed into work in Culver saw the fresh skid marks and discovered his truck. Pete was unconscious and badly injured, but alive, and was pulled up out of the ditch by members of the volunteer fire department and taken to the hospital with a punctured lung, broken ribs, and a leg that was fractured in three places. Jeff, because of the court hearing in Clear Springs, did not learn of his brother’s accident until the following day, when Rob came by to tell him. They drove together to the hospital to see Pete, who was recovering from the second of several necessary surgeries and was still unconscious when they got there. Rob was almost glad, because he had a number of things he wanted to say to his former business partner, none of them, unfortunately, very kind. Jeff was mostly just worried about his brother’s condition. Two days later, Jeff was served with a court summons for the next day in Clear Springs, on a motion revoke his bail. The reason: intimidation of a witness. Jeff, seeing that the deck was apparently to be stacked against him from the very start in this court case, decided that the time had come to talk seriously with Bill about his offer. He threw a few things into his truck, dropped his two dogs and a fifty pound sack of dog food off at Rob’s and headed out. Jeff checked carefully to make sure he was not being followed, before

turning off onto the steep, rocky road that led up to Bill and Susan’s. • • • •

Einar made it across the increasingly steep, open snowfield without incident, struggling up the slope towards the notch, kicking his toes into snow that was growing steadily more cement like as the temperature dropped. Finally reaching the top, he stood there for a minute nearly doubled over in an attempt to catch his painfully rasping breath, having far more trouble with the altitude than he was used to and knowing that, in addition to his lack of food, he was probably still somewhat anemic from losing all that blood after the blast, which put him at rather a disadvantage at altitude. Ha! One good thing, though, if any of those agents from near sea level in San Francisco or wherever they come from decide to follow me up here, they’re gonna have it just as bad… Resting for a moment, he stared out at the basin, its large icy lakes showing as flat spots in the snow cover, not a tree visible anywhere, looking stark and enormous and frozen in the moonlight, and not at all like a place that would sustain life. Well. Hope the feds think the same thing, if they end up looking this far out… Knowing that he must not stand still for too long in that cold, Einar started cautiously down the steep chute. Slipping, he barely caught himself, crouched there behind a little wind-hardened ridge in the snow, trying to get his courage up to continue down the chute. He was acutely aware that he was entirely alone in remote and potentially very dangerous place, that if he fell now and broke something or became otherwise incapacitated, he was almost certainly out of luck. In the past when he had deliberately put himself in such situations, he had liked the way that feeling kept him sharp and focused, far more so than when he had climbed with others and could count on them for help if something went wrong. That night, though, that familiar feeling tended a lot more towards producing a paralyzing fear than the keen anticipation and alertness he had come to enjoy, grabbing him around the middle and threatening to squeeze his breath out with its icy teeth. The only thing that finally got him going again was the thought of the search and probable pursuit behind him. Got to do it, Einar. The crust that had made travel so easy and relatively trackless as he had crossed the snowfield now added greatly to the danger of the descent, and Einar found himself sticking very close to the side of the chute, where he could cling to protruding rocks and carefully lower himself until he thought he had another secure foothold. Eventually though the angle of the wall changed, and it no longer provided him with anything to hold onto. He wished he had crampons, thought of an account he had read of Australian Antarctic explored Douglas Mawson, who lost most of his gear and nearly all of his food when his sled fell into a crevasse. Making his way back alone to the place where he hoped his ship was still waiting for him, his companions having died along the way, Mawson made improvised crampons for himself by pounding sharp pieces of metal—it might have been nails, but he couldn’t remember for sure—through the soles of his boots. This allowed him to travel down the ice shelf to the sea without ending his journey in a disastrous fall, as he almost certainly would have without the altered footwear. As he remembered, though, it had worked only marginally well, as the nails had the tendency to keep

working their way rather uncomfortably back up through the soles and intruding on the space needed by his feet. And Einar only had the two nails, anyway, that he had kept from the old cabin, so he decided against trying it. Instead he used the bow, which he had been carrying unstrung, as a walking stick, hating to think that he might break it, but at that point so focused on getting down to the basin without suffering a serious fall that anything was fair game if he thought it might help. He tried kicking in his toes, his heels, digging his bare hands into the snow for traction, but the surface was no longer just crusty snow, it was coated in places with thin water ice where snowmelt had trickled down the previous afternoon and frozen. He was doing pretty well at avoiding the ice, which carried a greater sheen in the pale moonlight than did the snow. Clouds had been building, though, and one occasionally scudded across the moon, taking his light, and at first he stopped and waited each time for the clouds to move on, but there were more and more of them, and he was getting too cold to keep waiting. Feeling ahead of him with the bow, he tried his best to detect and avoid the icy patches, but when he was nearly two thirds of the way down he missed one, placed his weight on it, his foot went out from under him, and he fell on his side and began sliding down the steep snow. Looking up, Einar rolled quickly to his left to protect his head from a rock that rose black and menacing out of the snow, knowing that to hit his head and lose consciousness for any amount of time then was almost certainly to perish in the cold of the night. Gaining speed, he flipped over onto his stomach, hanging onto the bow for all he was worth and attempting to jab it into the icy surface to halt his slide, but it just scratched uselessly along the icy surface and finally was snatched forcefully from his hands as it suddenly caught behind a protruding rock. • • • •

Einar lay still in the snow at the bottom of the chute, not feeling at all like moving but eventually, as the shock of his last impact with the icy surface began wearing off, forcing himself to sit up because he knew that it would be a very bad idea to allow the snow to begin soaking into large areas of his clothing. He sat there for awhile slumped over against a boulder with his head on his knees, dizzy and sick, waiting for the flashing in front of his eyes to stop obscuring his vision. He’d ended up actually tumbling a few times when the slope had dropped off steeply beneath him, and, though he was pretty sure he had somehow managed to avoid striking his head on one of the numerous exposed rocks, the icy snow of the chute had certainly been hard enough when it came into contact with his unprotected head. And something was seriously wrong with his left arm, or elbow, or perhaps even the shoulder. He couldn’t tell which yet, and for the moment it hurt too much to really do any exploring. After a few minutes, knowing he must not remain still for long if he was at all able to move and beginning to think that the origin of the pain was actually nearer the shoulder than the elbow, Einar began trying to assess the damage. Gingerly pressing and poking at various points along his collarbone, he found the worst of the pain and tenderness to be greatly concentrated out near its end, which gave him at

least some assurance that his collarbone was not broken. OK. This could be worse. Torn ligament of some sort, I think. It’ll be alright…in a couple of months. Got to find some way to keep it still for now. And he really wished he could stop the shivering, too, because its constant motion certainly was not helping with the pain of the injury. Good luck on that one, at least until you get moving… Which, the thought having occurred to him, he hurried to get started on. Rising shakily to his feet, unspeakably glad that his legs, with the exception of some nasty-looking, blood-oozing scrapes on the lower portions, seemed to be uninjured, Einar looked around for his gear. And discovered that everything was gone. The bow, the lynx-skin pack with all of its contents, the basket full of lily roots…everything. With the exception of the coil of steel cable, which had somehow remained slung over his shoulder throughout the fall. He fought back the sense of doom and finality that came over him at the discovery, tried to think of the next step— any next step, just to keep himself from sitting back down in the snow as he was feeling increasingly inclined to do. He had a very strong feeling that if he did that, he would not be getting back up. I’ve got to have that food. I will not die in this basin tonight. I will make it back down to treeline by morning. But not without some food. And he started hobbling about, beginning to stiffen badly from the tumble, searching for any sign of his scattered possessions. A cloud had been obscuring the moon, and as it drifted on in its course, he was able to make out a couple of dim black shapes above him in the snowy chute, somehow appearing different in shape from the jagged rocks that stuck their teeth up through the snow at random intervals. That’s got to be it. Trouble was, he had no idea how he was supposed to climb up that slope without the use of both hands for balance, and to move his left arm just then was sheer agony. Eventually he stuck his left hand in the collar of the sweatshirt in an effort to keep the injured arm still, and started cautiously up the slope, his legs trembling alarmingly at times as he inched his way up the icy incline. It was not long before he began finding a scattered item here or there, first a nail, then the sardine can and his two wire snares, the steel bar sticking up out of the ice where it had apparently landed after going airborne in the tumble, and by the time he had reached the indefinite dark lump that he hoped was the lynx skin, he figured he was doing pretty well at reclaiming his possessions. Loading everything into the lynx skin, he struggled to tie it shut with freezing hands, trying to warm them against his stomach but finding that even that tried and true method was not working especially well that night. He just wasn’t producing enough heat, knew he needed fuel if he was to keep going like that. As yet, though, he had seen no sign of the lily roots or their basket, which he knew he needed possibly more than any of the other items, if he wanted to last the night and make it down out of the snowbound basin. Reaching a large boulder and feeling around in the shadows behind it, he finally found the basket, empty but for a half dozen or so bulbs in its bottom. Badly needing the energy that he hoped they would provide, he stuffed two of the remaining roots in his mouth as he began searching in the hopes of finding more. A thin haze of cloud had crept over the moon as he climbed, and now, shining down through a ragged gap in the cloud cover, the moon dispelled some of the shadows behind the rock, allowing Einar to see that a good number of the bulbs were scattered over the snow above it, caught behind small rocks and little irregularities in the snow. He began collecting them, bracing his

feet against anything he could find to give him a bit of a hold and balancing on his knees before searching the dimly lit snow for the precious roots. Caught behind one rock, he found ten or twelve of them in one place, feeling himself quite lucky indeed at that moment, before the reality of his situation again set in as he unthinkingly tried to move his left arm. Having rounded up all he could find of his supplies and being unwilling to make the risky climb back up to where he believed the bow to be, Einar carefully downclimbed and at times slid back to the bottom, almost tripping over the bow when he went to stand up. He realized then that it must have slid down behind him as he fell, that he had overlooked it in the dim light before starting back up the chute. Good. This is good. He picked it up, started out across the basin, which, while he knew was indeed expansive, appeared that night to stretch on nearly forever before ending in stark, sheer walls of unforgiving grey granite. Somewhere in the distance, he knew, the walls gave way and the land sloped downwards towards the trees, towards a valley that, of he could reach it, offered him a chance at continued life. But first, to cross the basin. Sometime later as he traveled, Einar had a sudden flash of remembrance, so real that it stopped him in his tracks for a minute, of the way it feels to get back within sight of the house from a long ski, after dark, hungry and worn out and cold and knowing that you have a fire all ready to light in the stove to sit by while you wait for a hot supper to cook. He had always thought that feeling must be one of the most wonderful in the world, and it brought a twisted, ironic little smile to his face now as he thought of it. Finding it easy to slip back into the dream or hallucination or whatever it had been, he let it carry him along for a while, livening his step a bit and making the time pass a little less slowly, not caring that he was probably in for a difficult letdown whenever he was finally forced to abandon the fantasy. Einar kept descending, stumbling towards the trees below him, eventually reaching them and going on under sub alpine firs and a few spruces as the sky began graying with morning. His legs were shaking so badly from his prior exertion and the shock of the fall and injury that he at times feared collapsing on the snow, but managed to remain upright. He had some time ago stopped allowing himself to sink to his knees and rest periodically as he had at first been doing, sensing the direness of his situation and fearing that he might perhaps come to lack either the will or the strength to rise, and not wanting to test the possibility. Each time he stopped to rest, though, leaning over with his good elbow almost on his knee and trying to let his heart slow down for a minute, he did make himself eat a lily root. The pain from his shoulder precluded him from feeling any hunger, but he knew that the sweet roots would help keep him going. He was looking for shelter, for anything that might give him a dry place to rest and hopefully some cover in case somehow they did track him over the ridge or guess it as his path, and send aircraft. He stumbled along in a haze, time having long ago ceased to hold meaning for him, the only thing that counted being the fact that he kept putting one foot in front of the other, one more time. To think of it in larger terms at that point only brought him swiftly to the brink of despair, so he carefully avoided such thoughts, just focusing on continuing to move and doing his best to avoid leaving sign. Which he doubted he was doing a very good job of.

Emerging from the trees at the edge of a little dropoff, Einar stood in the growing light of day in the hour before sunrise, looking out at the valley that stretched away below him, white with snow up close but honeycombed with small patches of brown and grey and even the soft, brilliant green of emerging vegetation lower down. Struggling through the basin that night, Einar had not really expected to see the valley, or daylight, even, for that matter, and the sight revived his flagging spirits a bit with the hope that with a few more hours’ travel, he might be able to reach those less-frozen lands below, where he could find more food, some shelter, a chance to rest. First, though, he had either to navigate his way down the steep, icy-looking rock of the twenty foot dropoff before him, or avoid the cliffy area altogether by going some distance out of his way and working his way down through the scattered patches of timber and snow-covered rock that broke up the steepness of the mountainside. The second definitely seemed like the better option, but it meant traversing the slope for some distance before he could again begin heading down. He leaned heavily against the trunk of a little spruce, twisted and bleached white and apparently long dead, nearly devoid of branches, trying to set a goal for himself somewhere down among the jumble of snowy rock and timber. It was, now that he studied the landscape, a very long way indeed down to the first patches of exposed dirt. Several thousand feet, he guessed. Too far. It’s too far. Got to stop for awhile. He was exhausted, dizzy, had been stumbling every few steps for some time now, and he knew that to attempt the gnarly descent without some measure of rest was to invite disaster. Again. So. Rest. But where? Scanning the land around him, he was met with soaring, nearly vertical rock on two sides, the dropoff and valley below, and the steep, snowy, timbered slope he had just descended behind him. Not too many likely prospects. Up against the wall on his right, somewhat above his present position and lying at the top of a little rockslide, he could see what liked like a very small and narrow gap in the rock, blackness within. Worth a try. The dark slash in the rock looked awfully far above him, and there were no guarantees that it would even provide useful shelter when he did reach it, but the prospect of sitting down for awhile in a dry place out of the wind made it worth the effort to find out. Preparing to head up the slope to the potential shelter, he shifted the lynx skin pack, which had become somewhat tangled with the handle of the root basket. He had been experiencing quite a bit of difficulty with carrying the lynx skin, basket and wire coil all on one shoulder, having to stop frequently and readjust everything to keep it from falling off, but he reminded himself that it was probably actually better in this case that he did not have a conventional backpack, as he doubted he would even have been able to use it, with the shoulder injury. Einar started up the snow of the rockslide, arriving breathless and panting some time later at a tiny level spot under against a wall of rock that towered several hundred feet over his head, overhanging just enough at its top to keep rain in the summer, and snowmelt in spring, from falling on the small sheltered spot. But what really interested Einar was the dark slit in the rock face itself. Not even three feet wide but at least ten or twelve high, the opening led into a cavelike space, free of snow and floored with dusty dirt. As his eyes adjusted, Einar could see that bats had spent a good bit of time in the cave, and

though he did not see any there at the time—way too cold for them up here this time of year, I guess… there was a big pile of guano over in one corner that indicated that they used the place for a summer roost, if nothing else. The cave went back only about ten feet into the mountain, more of a closed-top slot in the rock than anything. Several feet inside, he found signs of an old fire, having sat so long that orange and green lichen grew on the charred remains of several sticks of wood that had been left behind. A small tin can, charred from the fire but barely rusted after years of sitting in that high, dry hole in the wall, sat on a flat rock beside the fire, looking to Einar like it could have been placed there that morning by someone who intended on returning shortly after checking his snares… He wondered about the man who had previously taken refuge there, hoped things had turned out all right for him, whoever he had been. Probably just some hunter who had stopped for a snack and a little fire. The previous occupant, hiker, hunter or otherwise, had chosen his shelter well, as Einar discovered when the sun finally inched its way up above the rocks on the other side of the valley and slanted brightly into the cave. Out of the wind and sitting bathed in the midmorning sun, Einar thought to himself that there could hardly have been a more welcome confluence of circumstances just then. Then laughed at himself for thinking, unless you could add a giant plate of biscuits and gravy into the mix…and a three foot wheel of cheese. It does come that way, doesn’t it? That’d last me awhile, and I could just roll it along down the mountain in front of me as I went along…Hmm. Wheels of cheese… Such bounty firmly out of the reach of even his active imagination at the moment, though, he satisfied himself with chewing on a few lily roots as he sat shivering in the wonderful warmth of the sun. After resting for a few minutes, he began inspecting himself for injuries, not that he was equipped to do much about them, but he supposed that it was better to know of them than not to…for whatever it was worth. He knew his fingertips would be at least mildly frostbitten from the climb and the desperate scramble in the snow to retrieve his gear, but they had not really had the opportunity to warm up and start hurting yet, and he didn’t know how bad it was going to be. He was encouraged, at least, that none of them had the white, waxy look that would have meant he was in serious trouble, indeed. His knees, of all things, seemed to have some definite frostbite as well, he supposed from balancing so long on them in the snow while recovering the lily roots, and his feet, though protected by the Sorels and not actually frostbitten, were showing signs of advancing trench foot that had him worried. He knew that if not turned around, it could lead to gangrene and in his situation, probable death, almost as easily as actual frostbite. OK. Nothing that will keep me from making it down to the valley, anyway, where I can hopefully have a fire and find some cottonwood buds and Oregon grape roots to help patch up the damage. Dozing in little snatches, he heard a helicopter pass overhead and hoped, before dropping off to sleep again, that it was just on its way somewhere to refuel after searching on the other side of the ridge. If that was not the case, he was pretty sure he should have seen more activity by then. Einar’s badly needed sleep was cut short when he slouched over against the rock wall of the cave, jarring his injured shoulder and snapping himself awake rather quickly. The shoulder was swollen, and exploring it very gently with his right hand, he could feel a lump out near its end where it had apparently been injured as it slammed into the ice the previous night. He knew he needed a better way of

immobilizing it than tucking his hand into the collar of his sweatshirt—though that had kept his left hand a good bit warmer than his right—because every time he had tripped or stumbled, the hand came out, allowing the shoulder to flex rather painfully and, for all he knew, possibly doing it more damage. Lacking anything at all with which to make a sling or wrap the arm against his body, he pulled a strand of wire from one of his snares, flexed it back and forth in the center and finally pounded it with a rock to break it, and, holding his left hand up near the collar of his shirt, poked the sharp strand of wire through the cuff of the sleeve and the collar of the shirt, bent it, poked it through a second time and twisted it, pinning his arm in place. Concerned that the cloth of the shirt might end up tearing, he added a second piece of wire to secure the sleeve to the collar. Adding another such tie down near the elbow to help keep it from swinging out away from his body as he traversed the rough terrain ahead, he ruefully wished for a couple of great big safety pins to make the job a bit easier. And maybe a fire, to stop the shivering that continued to be necessary in the frigid air despite the sunlight, making his work that much more difficult. Eying the nice pile of small sticks left by his fellow traveler who had sheltered in the little cave some years before, which were quite dry indeed after who knew how many years of sitting in a cave at 11,000 feet, Einar wished he had the means of starting a fire just then. He was pretty sure he would have risked it, if he had. Though the improvised sling had already done quite a bit to reduce the constant pain of his shoulder, he couldn’t help but think that this current injury could possibly prove more challenging than being stuck in handcuffs, when it came to climbing and carrying out the tasks that would be necessary to sustaining his life over the next few weeks until the shoulder began to heal. Like making a fire. And how can I ever hope to take a deer, with one arm? • • • •

In the log-walled, tile floored dining area of Bill and Susan’s large kitchen the evening before Jeff’s scheduled bail revocation hearing, a serious conversation was underway between Bill, Allan, Jeff and several others who formed the core of a close-knit group of eight or so who met regularly at their house to discuss preparedness and freedom-related issues and do some target practice and other training. Jeff Jackson had never really been associated with the group, but most of the folks knew and respected him, and none of them were pleased about his treatment by the federal “occupation force” that seemed to be running rampant over their community of late. Bill had called a meeting the previous day—meetings were usually up at Bill and Susan’s, as it was somewhat centrally located in the valley and provided ready access to the National Forest—to discuss Jeff’s situation and their willingness to help. The general consensus was that, though Jeff had never been a group member, he was an upstanding member of the community, was regarded as a reliable and trustworthy individual, and that his situation was exactly why the group existed. A stand had to be made somewhere, and the obviously frivolous and malicious prosecution of Jeff Jackson seemed to them as good a place as any to make it. Hopefully though, without the feds ever finding out. No one in the group, prepared as they might be, wanted to deliberately invite the kind of trouble they knew that would bring. As the group sat around the large aspen-plank table that Bill had made years ago when

their five children had still been at home, enjoying cups of coffee and generous helpings of Susan’s serviceberry cobbler, Bill reiterated his offer to provide Jeff a place to stay in lieu of attending a court hearing after which he was likely to be jailed, but did ask him to start from the beginning in recounting the events leading up to his arrest. “Now let’s get one thing straight though, before you start,” Bill began. “We don’t want to know if you’ve been helping Asmundson. We’re not asking, and we don’t want to hear about it. So, just tell us about the arrest, about how the FBI got involved, if you would.” “Well, I can be real honest with you about that first part, because I wasn’t doing anything of the kind. I assumed he was dead, along with everybody else. This all started when Rob and Pete and I ran across a weird deer trail that day up along Muskrat Creek. Followed it, found a poached deer, hauled the critter back intending to take in to the DOW next day, but then I got to looking at that arrow, you know, and thought twice about it.” “Arrow?” The FBI had not released information about the arrow or their renewed search effort to the press, and Bill was curious. “Yeah. Real rough looking, not all that well done, but you know the thing that really got my attention was that whoever made it had wrapped sinew just under the head to hold it in place. Now who does that? Nobody does that. And if they did, if they were trying to recreate an authentic primitive arrow or something, well, I figure they’d have paid more attention to the other details. And would have knapped the head out of flint or something, not used some old folded piece of tin like this guy did.” He shook his head. “No, this was a thing of necessity, a tool meant to help a hungry man take some game, and I started to feel real bad about stealing somebody’s dinner. Won’t even speculate about whose. So next day I took the thing back, left it where I found it. Now where I may be in some real trouble with the feds is that I figured whoever was out there in the snow trying to take a deer with a homemade arrow like that was probably in need of some other supplies, so just trying to be a good neighbor, I hung this little backpack by the deer in a tree… My big mistake though I guess was showing my brother that arrow the night before. He…” Jeff stopped for a minute, clenched his teeth and shook his head, trying to quell his anger for Pete by reminding himself of his brother’s current plight in the hospital. “He snuck into my workshop and stole it. Went to the feds with it. My brother. They came that morning just as I had finished dragging the deer back up into the trees where we had found it. The rest, I’m sure you all know about already.” Liz, helping Susan wash up the dinner dishes, had been listening intently to the conversation, allowing herself for the first time since the blast to hope that perhaps Einar might have made it. She wanted very much to ask Jeff more about the arrow, about exactly where they had found the deer, but did not think it her place to intrude on the conversation. Later. There will be time to ask him later. I sure hope that was you, Einar… She spent the rest of the evening listening to the building storm outside and worrying about what Einar, if he was out there, would eat that night since his deer had been taken away. She knew very well that he could ill afford to be missing many meals,

wanted to pack up some food and warm clothes and go right out there and look for him, knowing, though, that if the feds could not find him, she had little chance of doing so herself. If. If it was even him. Which there is not much chance of. You know he’s gone, Liz. Stop this. Susan noticed the anguished mixture of hope and concern on her face as she listened to the conversation, squeezed Liz’s shoulder, but did not say anything. Bill continued with the questioning. “So, this latest thing, this ‘intimidation of a witness?’ You figure that’s just their way of locking you up until trial?” “Got to be, because you know what? Pete wasn’t even awake when I went to see him. How could I possibly have ‘intimidated’ him? Rob was there. He saw. But for some reason they’re leaving him out of this. I figure they’re just trying to add on more charges to make sure they get their conviction.” “Jeff, now the way I see it, there’s at least two ways we can go about this. If you want us to help raise money for a good lawyer…” Jeff shook his head, interrupted him. “No. I’ve seen the way that goes. They had this trial decided before they hauled all of my stuff out in the yard for that news conference. Man, they planted stuff in my workshop. I never, never messed with any of that Class Three stuff. Never. So what they say they found…no. Not mine. But now how am I going to prove that in court? They’ve probably got my fingerprints all over it and everything, by now. And I’m really not interested in enjoying their hospitality for the next eight or ten years or whatever.” “Well Jeff,” Bill said, rising and putting on his coat, “Looks like we got us a truck to hide…” • • • •

After resting in the rock crevice for a couple of hours until the sun left it, Einar got back to his feet and continued down the valley, choosing to go the extra distance in order to avoid the dropoff, which, looking at it realistically and with a somewhat cleared mind after having rested and eaten, he realized was not something he ought to attempt to downclimb. The descent through the band of timber and rock seemed to go on forever, but eventually he made his way down to the valley floor, following a frozen little creek that wound its way through thick tangles of alpine willow and red osier dogwood that would have been somewhat higher than his head, had there not still been five feet of snow on the ground. Before his distant view had been obscured by the thickening vegetation of the valley floor and the gathering dusk, Einar had caught a glimpse of a larger river some distance lower, and continued following the course of the creek, hoping it eventually dumped into the river. He wanted to get down near that river, thinking perhaps to find some melted out areas near it where be might be able to dig some more avalanche lilies to supplement his dwindling supply, maybe a little pond where he would have a chance to trap a muskrat, even. Darkness had come as he passed through the

willow thickets, descending swiftly on the narrow valley sandwiched between its high rock walls and slowing his progress until, at length, the moon rose to again illuminate his path. Descending, he found himself in a steep gulley, strewn with large red sandstone boulders and icy with the melting, compacting snow of spring. The lower he got, the taller the spruces became, obscuring his route at times with their dark shadows, eventually giving way in places to little patches of scrub oak. Einar took the time to stop and pull a handful of leaf buds from one of the scrub oaks, bitter with tannic acid, but, he knew, containing some protein. He continued picking and eating them as he clambered down among the boulders, avoiding the icy patches as well as he could. In a protected spot where an enormous slab of sandstone had at some point come loose from the hillside above and wedged in the gulley to create, in effect, a stone lean-to, Einar discovered a huge quantity of last year’s scrub oak leaves, apparently swept and piled there by the wind. Those far under the slab had been kept free of snow, and, crawling into the three-foot high space, he discovered that they were crunchy and dry, save for some moisture in the bottom layer that had collected and frozen hard. Feeling around in the total darkness under the sandstone, he guessed that the leaves must be a couple of feet deep at the back of the shelter. Quite worn out by the long descent, he burrowed down in the leaves, lay back in them and rested, glad of a dry place to stop for a minute. Or longer, as he was fast asleep almost as soon as he stopped moving. Einar woke stiff with cold sometime later, his shoulder hurting terribly with the shivering, thankful for the insulating bed of leaves that had no doubt meant the difference between life and death as he slept an exhausted sleep that night. Dragging himself through the leaves, he rolled over and looked up at the sky, seeing that, though the moon was gone, the darkness was not complete. So. Morning again. Having been still for too long in the cold, he knew that he must get up and move, knew that even the leaf insulation could only hold it back for so long. Based on the picture in his mind from the previous evening, he knew he couldn’t be too far from the river, and wanted to head down to it and try to set a snare or two in the hopes of obtaining some badly-needed meat before facing another night out in the cold. Knowing that he would likely return to the lean-to the following night to again take advantage of its wealth of dry leaf-insulation, he was tempted to leave most of his gear there in its shelter, but took everything with him in the end, afraid of losing it all again if he for some reason ended up not being able to return. Reaching the bottom of the gulley as the pale light began brightening into morning, Einar stepped out from behind the last of the boulders into a narrow, protected meadow, last year’s dry yellow grass beginning to show in spots through the thinning snow cover. And nearly walked right into the middle of a small herd of sleeping elk. • • • •

As quietly as possible, Einar stepped back behind the boulder and tried to force his cold, sluggish brain to plan his next move, realizing then that he had for some time been smelling the sweet, almost fennel-like odor of elk urine and chiding himself for blundering out into the meadow and nearly spoiling everything with his carelessness.

Spoiling what? What are you gonna do, go beat one of them to death with a rock? With one hand? He had heard no crunching of the snow to indicate that the elk had startled at his presence, was pretty sure that they remained unaware of him, stared at the bow in his hand, thinking it an awful shame that there was no way he could use it. I wonder. Are you really physically unable to use it? Is there no way , or are you just unwilling because you know it’ll hurt…? Hmm. Guess I don’t actually know for sure. But… He fished the coiled up sinew bowstring out of his pack, shook the coiled wire and root basket from his shoulder and removed the wire ties that pinned his arm in place. We’re about to find out. He struggled to brace the bow, gritting his teeth against the pain of raising his bad arm as he slid the looped sinew string into the nock at the top of the bow. Then, carefully straightening his left arm, he held the bow at arm’s length, clamping his mouth shut to avoid crying out at the pain it brought his damaged shoulder. He held it there for a bit, experimentally attempting to draw the string back, but in addition to the pain, there seemed to be a great weakness in the arm, leaving it trembling and sagging almost immediately. After a little rest he tried it again, this time knowing to anticipate and attempt to ignore the pain, but the results were the same. Einar sank to the snow, nauseous, pressing his left arm hard across his chest. OK. I think…think I’ve got my answer. The shoulder, rotated and extended as it needed to be to use the bow, simply did not seem stable enough to allow him to do the job. An attempt was likely to result in a miserable failure, just spooking the elk and ruining any chance he might have at obtaining some food. But he knew he had better at least give it a try, because the shoulder was not likely to be much better for a while, weeks, most likely, and he doubted he would soon have another opportunity like the one that waited for him then on the other side of that red boulder. He tried to think of other means he might use to take one of the elk, but none of them seemed practical, without either time or equipment he did not have available to him just then. All right. You don’t have too long to experiment here, Einar. Critters will be awake soon and moving on. Taking the one arrow he had left, which thankfully was one that he had made a tin head for back at the old cabin, he prepared to step out from behind the rock. Then he had a thought. He remembered seeing something years ago about a man who had been born without arms, and had learned to use his feet for nearly everything— driving, writing, playing a number of musical instruments, even—and carried on a fairly normal life. And I have one more arm than he did. I wonder… Sitting in the snow he experimented, placing the grooved Vibram sole of the toe of his boot up on the bow where his left hand ought to have been, carefully balancing to avoid tipping over and drawing the string back a bit. It was awfully difficult and, with the poorly-healed break to his left hip from the fall in the canyon the year before, rather awkward, but he thought it offered him at least some chance of success. Probably a greater one than if he tried to use the bow conventionally. Einar eased out from behind the rock, seeing that the elk had not moved, and, taking painstaking care to avoid alerting the sleeping animals to his presence, settled himself on a little rise at the edge of a one or two foot dropoff, perhaps seven yards from the nearest

sleeping cow elk. Her head was bent around the side opposite him, leaving one side exposed for a perfect shot. If, that is, I can manage any shot, at all… Getting his boot into position on the bow and nocking the arrow, he struggled to keep everything steady while he lined up on the sleeping elk. Almost there, almost there… and, focusing so completely on the elk and the awkwardness of keeping his left leg from interfering with the arrow, he forgot entirely about the need to balance, and found himself without warning toppling to his left toward part of a fallen cottonwood that stuck up out of the snow, its dry, brittle branches just waiting to snap in the silence and startle the elk. Einar caught himself just in time, rolling on his injured shoulder and avoiding the tree. Afraid to move, he listened for any sign that the elk had heard him, but there was nothing. Very slowly he sat up, dragged himself back up onto the little rise, and twisted himself back into the position that offered him his only hope at taking one of the animals. He was breathing hard from the near miss with the tree, and concentrated on slowing his breathing and steadying his aim. Einar was starting to tire badly, his left leg beginning to tremble, and he knew that he could not maintain the strained position for much longer, that he had better go ahead and take the shot. As he let the arrow fly the bow jumped up off of his foot and went spinning out across the meadow, sending Einar sprawling on his back in the snow with an awful cramp in his thigh, hearing the commotion of half a dozen large animals scrambling to their feet and crashing into the forest. Ignoring the cramp, he flipped over to his stomach just in time to see the his quarry take off across the meadow, the arrow appearing to be deeply imbedded very near the spot he had been aiming for. Exhausted and hurting, he lay there on his stomach with his forehead resting on the snow for some time before picking himself up and going to check the elk’s trail for blood. Einar collected the bow from the spot where it had come to rest against a clump of sagebrush, looked over the icy depression in the snow where his elk had been sleeping, and retreated to the leaf filled shelter to rest and eat a few lily bulbs while he gave the elk some time to tire. He tossed and fretted and couldn’t seem to lie still though, and it was all he could do to force himself to wait. He worried that perhaps the arrow would not be adequate to bring the animal down at all, or that at the very least the elk might be able to go many miles before stopping, and that another predator might get to it before he, with his slow pace, could reach it. Another thought that occurred to him as he lay there in the leaves was that the animal might end up down lower in the valley, somewhere near a road or a house where he would not dare go to retrieve it. With great difficulty he forced himself to continue waiting for over an hour, reminding himself of the disastrous results that had ensued when he had previously allowed his desperation to get the best of him and chased the deer down to the valley below the cabin, only to end up losing it anyway and sparking a renewed air search that had left him confined for days to the mine tunnel to very nearly starve. As he lay in the lean-to, he replaced the wire ties that had bound his arm to his side, hoping very much not to have to attempt using it again for at least a few days. The pain of the damaged ligament was causing the muscles of his upper back and neck to tense up and become nearly immobile, and, not able to find a comfortable position to lie even in the thick bed of leaves, he headed down to the marshy area near the river, in the hopes of finding a few willows. Breaking off several willow shoots and

peeling back the outer bark, he stuffed strips of the slimy, bitter inner bark into his mouth and chewed them for their juice, which he knew that, while nowhere near strong enough to eliminate the pain, would at least go a long way toward dulling it to a manageable level as he began tracking the elk. Going back up to the rock lean-to and collecting his gear in anticipation of not being able to return right away to its shelter, Einar set out on the elk’s trail, encouraged when after a time he began seeing flecks and then larger spots of dark red on the icy surface of the spring snow. I may eat today yet… • • • •

Knowing that they were way out of their league in attempting to navigate the rugged ridges and snow choked basins above Culver Falls, the FBI had been relying heavily on the expertise and assistance of the local Mountain Rescue, outfitting and hunting communities (which really did overlap significantly) in carrying out the active ground portion of the search for Einar. With the arrest of Jeff Jackson that assistance became significantly more grudging, and when they issued a federal fugitive warrant for him after his failure to appear at the bail revocation hearing, it nearly dried up altogether. Adding to the tension was the fact that, as former acquaintances and associates of Jeff’s, many of the local outfitters found themselves the subject of questioning and investigation in the ongoing attempt to locate and re-arrest him. Which left the agents to primarily fall back on their own resources as they searched the area around the basin where the remains of Einar’s fire had been discovered. But help, of sorts, was on its way. Gordon Metz had apparently decided that it was his mission in life—for the moment, anyway—to save Einar and end the federal siege of Culver Falls. Metz was a complicated man with a shadowy past in Army Intelligence and a present role traveling the gun show circuit and talking the talk as far as opposing federal abuses of power. Some, though, were not at all sure that he had entirely severed his connections with his former employer. A few even suspected that perhaps he had accepted commissions from other, more nameless agencies that at times moved in the shadows and blurred the lines between civilian and military intelligence and law enforcement operations. He just seemed to mysteriously turn up in the middle of too many near conflicts between freedom-loving citizens and the Alphabets for it to be coincidence. And whenever he did help resolve a situation, it always seemed to be in a way that benefited the government agenda and left citizens in federal custody. Still, he promoted himself as a “patriot,” and, his personal presence and powers of persuasion being undeniably strong, some still believed him. Metz’s Flying Circus swept into town one Thursday afternoon shortly after Jeff skipped his bail hearing, setting up camp not far from the FBI compound in a public campground, a small village of wall tents and travel trailers springing up in hours. Camp duties finished, the first thing Metz did, naturally, was to call a press conference, which was well attended by members of both the local and national press. Metz’s message, though, was not for the media. It was aimed primarily at Einar. Metz looked directly into the camera and appealed to Einar to turn himself in, either to him or someone in his party (who could be identified, he emphasized, by the blue scarves they would all be wearing

as they scoured the snowy mountainsides), promised that he would not be alone as he faced trial. “What we’re offering you, Einar, is a way to end this favorably for everybody. Nobody gets hurt. Everybody wins.” Why, Metz even announced his intentions to use the reward money to hire Einar some really great lawyers… The feds hardly knew what to make of this uncalled for “assistance,” and most of the locals just rolled their eyes and shook their heads when Metz’s name was mentioned. A group of citizens from Culver and the surrounding area, organized by Bill but choosing to remaining anonymous for obvious reasons, wrote up a statement that they delivered to the local radio station, so that if Einar was indeed out there and had any way of hearing radio communications, he would know that Metz did not represent the sentiments of everyone in the community. “We want everyone to know that Metz does not speak for all of us,” the statement read in part. “We understand what you would face if you came in, Einar, and we think you should just stay put.” Perhaps without intending to, Gordon Metz had done almost as much as months of federal occupation to solidify local support firmly behind Einar. In addition to dealing with the local antipathy, Metz had one big problem when it came to his newly announced “rescue mission:” he was not from those parts. And neither were most of his volunteer crew, though a couple of local boys, respecting his service record and interested in the challenge, had agreed to help with the operation. So he really needed an experienced local guide or two, if he was to have much hope of saving the day. Rob, seeing that no one else was likely to step forward and curious to see where the job might lead, volunteered. • • • •

For hours Einar tracked the elk as it climbed through the evergreens, zigzagging up over a timbered ridge and down towards another valley. At one point the elk stopped bleeding for awhile, and he almost lost her trail where several other elk had crossed it. He eventually picked it up again by following the one animal that seemed to have broken off from the group and gone its own way, traveling down as they continued on up the slope. He hoped the creature was finally tiring, because he certainly was. The elk’s trail led him across a melted out meadow near dusk, the damp, exposed ground already having frozen hard in the bitter cold of that crystal clear evening, the icy dirt not having taken impressions well at all as the wounded animal had crossed it. Einar first tried to track it across the meadow, down on his hands and knees at times trying to pick up any little detail or disturbance that would show him the direction taken by the elk. No luck, and he was freezing as he crouched there nearly immobile on the frozen ground, the sun having gone down some time before. He could see that a good bit of snow remained beneath the evergreens at the edge of the meadow, and he headed over to it, searching the patches of snow in the hopes of picking the trail back up, but seeing nothing. At that point he realized that he had been on the move for hours without stopping to eat or even thinking to melt a bit of snow in his mouth for water, and he sat down heavily on the trunk of a fallen aspen then and did both, his body crying out for something more substantial than lily roots and snow after the long hike, urging him up after a very brief rest to continue

tracking his elk. He couldn’t get the smell of liver and onions out of his mind as he went, and was finding it a bit distracting as he returned to the meadow and attempted once again to pick up the trail. Einar had just located the last clear disturbance left by the elk in a patch of last year’s grass when a small plane came over and he had to scramble stiffly to his feet and run for the cover of the trees, barely making it before the aircraft came into sight. When he was sure it was gone, he hurried back out into the near darkness of the meadow, searching in vain to find the point where he had seen the last definite track. By the time he admitted to himself that he was not finding the trail that night it was dark, and he could hear the plane returning. Hurrying back beneath the trees, Einar burrowed down in the three or four inches of icy spruce duff that he was able to kick loose beneath a large tree as it solidified for the night after having been dripped on all day by melting snow from the branches above. Telling himself repeatedly that with the morning light he would easily be able to pick up the trail, that he would be eating elk for breakfast, Einar spent a cold, hungry night shivering in clothes that were damp from pushing through the dense undergrowth and crawling around the meadow in search of tracks, staring up through the gently swaying spruce tops for any sign of the coming morning. • • • •

Einar heard the singing of coyotes in the night as he huddled there the icy spruce needles, and hoped very much that the creatures were on the trail of some other game, rather than having found his wounded elk. He didn’t much want to think about what would happen if the elk’s trail did not lead him, before too much longer, to the opportunity to eat. He had taken a chance in expending energy that he barely had to follow the wounded animal’s trail up one ridge and down another, a trek which had, in his current state, been rather strenuous and dangerously exhausting. The risk had been worth the chance at obtaining several hundred pounds of rich meat, bones he could crack for the fatty marrow, and a large, strong elk hide which would offer him some protection from the cold and wet. But now he pictured himself finding the elk carcass some time the next day, torn to shreds by coyotes and offering him mere scraps of meat for sustenance. Or worse, not finding it at all, perhaps losing the trail all together or, more likely, losing the ability to continue following it to its conclusion. He liked to think that he would not simply sit down in the snow at some point and give in to his exhaustion, but was not at all sure. All the signs told him that he was again getting back into the dangerous territory where he might soon find himself without much choice in the matter. I really need to find that elk in the morning… He barely waited past the first hint of morning before rising and stomping around under the tree to warm himself, stiff and trembling and having more difficulty dealing with the cold than was usual for him. Taking a few minutes first to work on limbering up his stiff right hand he loaded everything back into the lynx skin pack, having untied it sometime in the night and dumped everything out to clutch it around his shoulders in an attempt to reduce the seemingly enormous amount of body heat that had been leaking out into the bitter night air. He was none too anxious to give up the added protection of the skin now,

but it was all he had in which to carry his gear. Hope to change that soon. Sure hope to change it… The lily bulbs were gone, so he breakfasted on some of the crisply roasted spruce bark that he had prepared during his time up in the last basin. In the sharpshadowed light of the hour just after the sun rose, Einar was easily able to pick up the elk’s trail once again, following her path as she traversed up the ridge opposite the one she had descended the day before, and it seemed to him that she must have possessed quite a will and a ready supply of endurance to keep going that way, despite what he still hoped was a decent shot on his part. He tracked her for a couple more hours, seeing what appeared to be some clotted blood on the snow at one point, then larger spots as her stride shortened and her tracks grew closer together. The cow had finally collapsed on her side under the evergreens, neck stretched out at an odd angle in a last attempt to maintain her labored breathing. Einar, badly winded and feeling rather like lying down himself, knelt beside her in mute gratitude for a successful end to what he had begun to think might well be his last failed effort at obtaining the nourishment he so badly needed to stay alive. The animal had been stubborn, persistent, strong. It had died well. Staring at it for a moment before beginning his work, Einar could only hope for the same, whenever his time came. The cow was large but not massive, as a bull would have been, which was alright with Einar as he struggled to roll her slightly down the hill into a more favorable position for gutting. He guessed the elk weighed somewhere near four hundred pounds, though seeing the animal’s ribs through her dull brown coat, he could tell that there was not going to be too much fat, this time of year. No matter. Be a lot more fat than there is on lily roots and rabbits, anyway. Pounding with a rock at times to help the barely sharp steel bar slice through the skin of the elk’s stomach, Einar finally succeeded at opening up the body cavity and sliding the internal organs downhill onto the snow, cutting with the steel to free them. He pulled out the liver, warm and steaming in the cold air, knowing that there must be at least four pounds of it, if not more, and set it on a nearby flat rock. He carved off generous slices with the steel bar, devouring several huge mouthfuls of the wonderful, fatty, iron-rich stuff before leaning back against a tree with his eyes closed, feeling life and strength begin to flow through his body once again. After a few minutes’ rest he got back to work, knowing he had an awful lot of it ahead of him if he wanted to take full advantage of the elk and make it last as long as possible as a food source. At least it was still too early to worry about flies, a very good thing indeed. Einar began working to skin the elk, wanting to allow the meat to cool and especially wanting the hide for protection during the night that would be coming all too soon, but finding progress difficult almost to the point of impossibility using one hand and a blade that was barely sharp and entirely lacked a tip. Out of frustration he unpinned his injured arm and carefully attempted to use it to help hold the hide back as he cut the white membrane that attached it to the meat, but the shoulder was more swollen and tender than ever that day, and the lifting, pulling motions that the skinning necessitated were just not possible with the injury. He had an idea, got around behind the elk, on the side opposite to the cut in the belly, and grasped the cut edge of the hide in his teeth, tugging and pulling it back as he freed it with the blade. Stopping after a few minutes, he coughed

and spat elk hair out of his mouth, satisfied that, difficult as it would be, this method would allow him to finish the job. As he worked, Einar thought that what he really needed to do next was to dry large quantities of the meat so he could carry it with him. Which would take forever in the cold without a fire. The thinly sliced (ha! You really think you’re gonna be able to slice it thin with that dull steel?) meat would freeze, losing moisture only slowly and putting him at risk of losing everything again if he had to move on in a hurry. For a time then he puzzled over how he might be able to make a fire, wondering at first about the possibility of using a hand drill, which he had done successfully in the past with a dry mullein-stalk spindle and a split cottonwood branch for a fireboard. The raw materials were all available back at the meadow he had crossed the evening before, maybe even closer, but as he thought about it, he realized that this method would probably be even harder on his shoulder than the traditional bow and drill. First, though, he would need to dig a small pit with a side-tunnel to draw in more air—a Dakota fire hole as he had used early in the winter back at the mine tunnel—and find a couple of large flat rocks to keep handy to place over the openings and snuff out the fire if he heard an aircraft approaching. And this time, he knew that he must only allow himself to have fire at night, so as not to risk smoke being seen by a passing plane forcing him to run and abandon the elk. Even the night fire would be risky, though he knew that by careful use of the pit and the dark timber, he could minimize the light that escaped. And hopefully planes and helicopters equipped with FLIR would not pose too great a danger. He knew the devices would be able to easily spot the warmed ground from his fire, even if he had managed to slide the rocks over the opening before the aircraft got near, but, knowing that he had traveled far from the area of the active search, he did not expect to encounter FLIR-equipped aircraft doing random searches. I do hope not, anyway… Though it’s probably all irrelevant, because I doubt I can even start a fire with one hand… Finally Einar succeeded in freeing the hide from the elk, after many hours of exhausting, difficult work during which he had stopped frequently to eat snow and more of the liver before returning to struggle with the heavy animal, once having to roll it onto its other side to finish the job, glad that there was still snow on the ground to keep the meat from becoming coated with spruce needles when he rolled it. He knew that snow, being full of air, insulates better than bare ground does, actually causing the meat to cool more slowly, but as cold as it was, he was not too worried about spoilage. And he was glad that, as of yet, there been no sign of emerging bears, though he knew that the time could not be long in coming when they would begin to be a concern. He hoped though, for that night at least, that the meat would be safe where it was on the ground, with the exception perhaps of a small scavenger or two, because he was totally beat, his hand shaking from overuse, his whole body shaking from exhaustion and from the cramped, unnatural positions he had contorted himself into as he used his teeth to aid in holding back the hide as he skinned the elk, and he knew there was little point in even trying to go further with the project that evening. Some time earlier during a little break from his work, Einar had discovered a small sheltered spot up against the hillside not too far from where the elk had fallen, filled with collected scrub oak leaves much like the sandstone lean-to and protected from the snow by the roots of a massive spruce that had fallen at some time in the past. Rolling up the elk hide and eating another large portion of the liver, he took it,

and the hide, up to the shelter and prepared to sleep. Einar lay in the leaves under the overhanging roots and dirt that night, drowsy, warm, stuffed with elk liver, and as he heard a chopper pass over in the distance and watched with half-closed eyes as its red light blinked through the treetops, the words come to him…You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…and he drifted off to sleep with a little smile on his face, realizing that he had never before even come close to grasping the true significance of that passage. My cup runneth over… • • • •

Down at Gordon Metz’ tent camp that evening, Rob, Metz, and several of his team studied topo maps and planned the next day’s activities. Rob had previously assumed that there must be more to Metz’ plan than wandering around in the mountains waiting for Einar to step out from behind a tree and ask to be taken in, but as he listened to Metz talk that night, he realized that, odd and unlikely as it sounded, that really did seem to be the extent of his strategy. It seemed that he just wanted Rob to use his familiarity with the country to anticipate the area or areas where Einar he might be hiding, get Metz close, and let him do the rest. The man really seemed to believe that Einar would gladly come to him and accept the “help” he offered, on his terms. And Rob doubted that Metz could possibly be that ignorant. Must be more to this… The more time Rob spent around Gordon Metz, the less he liked him. The man was blustering, boisterous, self-absorbed, and it was clear that he was much better at speaking than he was at listening. And beyond that, there was something about him that made Rob immensely uncomfortable, as if there was more there than met the eye, even in the man’s blustery carryings on. One minute he would rail against the federal occupation, the size of government, the general abuse of power that was taking place in Culver and around the country for that matter, and he had Rob finding himself not only in agreement, but enthusiastically so. The next minute though, he’d make some comment about how the FBI was the finest agency he had ever worked with, telling some story of heroism from the Bureau’s history and putting down people that criticized its actions, and a couple of times he found himself nodding in agreement and nearly getting carried away by that talk, too. More than once he had to catch himself and remember which side he was on, for a minute. Conversations with Metz usually left him feeling a bit confused and fuzzy about what he actually did believe about any given subject. The man had skill with the spoken word, that was for sure. Rob, though not especially well versed in such things, began to get the feeling that the folksy, down to earth facade that apparently endeared Metz to so many and helped him in gaining their trust was just a cleverly cultivated cover for something far more powerful and perhaps, he felt, even sinister. He smelled a snake. A very clever, dangerous snake with the power to influence people and manipulate them without their ever suspecting his intentions. But, uncomfortable as Metz made him, Rob hoped that by agreeing to guide him, he could keep the man and his crew of eager volunteers from actually causing any harm to Einar—or, for that matter, to his business partner Jeff Jackson who, for all Rob knew, might be out there himself, since skipping his

bail hearing. Rob had no idea. All he knew was that Jeff’s two yellow labs and a big bag of dog food had shown up in his back yard the afternoon before the hearing, and that he had not heard from his friend since. Nor expected to. Though, by the actions of the two FBI agents who sat across the highway in an unmarked but pretty conspicuous white van, apparently the feds had somewhat different expectations. • • • •

Einar was not entirely surprised when he heard the flurry of snarling and yelping coming from the direction of his elk sometime in the night. Startled from an exhausted sleep, he scrambled up out of his little shelter, shouting and crashing through the brush and throwing sticks in the direction of the clamor. The coyotes, entirely unused to human presence, took off at the sound of his voice, leaving Einar to fumble around in the darkness in an attempt to find the elk and assess the damage. He had known that he was taking a risk in not staying up all night to guard the meat, known that losing it at that point might well be a matter of life and death, but that past evening, sleep had seemed a matter of similar priority. He could feel that one shoulder of the elk had been torn into, but other than that could detect no damage, and was hopeful that the morning light would not reveal too much more. Doggone coyotes. Well, I’m sure they’re hungry, too. But this elk is mine. Speaking of hungry, though… He found his way back up to the shelter and retrieved the remainder of the liver, ravenous again after his meal the previous evening, gobbling a good portion of it and eating some snow before dragging the hide down nearer the carcass and rolling up in it on the icy duff beneath a spruce. Not quite as warm as up there in those leaves, but there’s no way I’d be able to get back to sleep up there, wondering if the coyotes are coming back. What he really wanted was a fire, which would have helped to deter scavengers altogether, but, knowing that no such thing was happening that night, he settled for breaking off a dead spruce branch a couple of inches in diameter and sharpening one end to a point with the steel bar. He set the weapon beside his improvised sleeping bag, and spent the rest of the night sleeping lightly with one ear out for danger. By the light of morning, rolling with difficulty out of the nearly frozen elk hide, Einar saw how lucky he had been that the coyotes had got into a snarling match over his elk before they had the chance to do it much harm. The carcass was ringed with tracks; he was pretty sure there had been at least eight of the coyotes. Very little meat was missing, though he could see where they had begun tearing at one haunch, as well as the shoulder. That was close. He took the time to eat some more of the liver before getting down to the work of the day, which he started by breaking off a number of branches from a nearby dead spruce, removing most of their small side branches, and making a rough drying rack that could be placed over the fire, assuming he was successful at coaxing one into existence. In the meantime, the rack could be placed in the sun, to at least begin the drying process as he sliced up the meat. Einar used wire strands from the two snares to secure the branches in place—could have also used cordage to lash the branches, if he’d had any—creating a rough, pyramid-shaped structure with several levels of horizontal

poles for the drying meat to hang on. Before starting on the meat, Einar removed the slabs of fat, meager as they were after the long winter, from the animal’s shoulder and back areas, burying them in the snow to protect them from the warming temperatures of the day. He also collected the lumpy, yellowish globs of fat from around the kidneys, stashing them with the slabs. He knew that he would really need to render this fat— called tallow—by heating it over the fire, if he wanted it to last well. Hopefully that could be accomplished while he dried the meat. The work of carving thin enough slices of meat from the elk with the then rather dull steel bar was proving nearly impossible, and he had to keep pausing in a semi-successful attempt to sharpen it on a nearby chunk of granite. The use of both arms would have helped tremendously, and after working slowly and in frustration for some time, he finally freed the injured arm, repinning it at a lower angle that, while it did not do as much to ease the pain in his shoulder, did allow him limited use of the hand, which made his work much easier. Even this limited movement was not especially kind to the shoulder, though, and before long Einar found himself really wishing for some willow bark to help dull the pain. Well. Maybe later. Keep going. By the time the tree-shadows began growing long, he had more than filled the drying rack with slices of elk, having stopped frequently to eat as he worked and, though exhausted and hurting from the use of his injured arm, feeling remarkably revived with the addition of unlimited quantities of fresh meat to his formerly dismal and inadequate diet. Earlier in the day he had taken the time to wander around and find the materials for a bow and drill fire, had prepared them, and dug a small pit and tunnel near a large spreading spruce that would help conceal any light that might escape. Thin, dry sticks were in abundance with the presence of the nearby standing dead spruce, and he had gathered quite a pile of them, and some larger branches, as well. Evening was fast approaching, and he knew it was time to begin working on the fire. He was aware that it might well take him quite some time to master the technique of (nearly) one-armed bow and drill fire. The plan was to go ahead and use his left hand to press on the bearing block, bracing it against his left leg and keeping it as close to his body as possible, hopefully minimizing the pain enough to allow him to complete the job. But it wasn’t the prospect of the probable difficulty or pain associated with the task that was keeping him from beginning it. Einar was scared. He had so much, such bounty with the successful hunt of the elk, and it seemed to him that no matter how cautious he was, having a fire was risking losing all of it again and having to take off into the snow to scratch out a meager existence on roots and rabbits. But he knew that he would end up losing much of it anyway, unless he dried it and made it easier to carry and more stable against decay as the weather warmed. He knew what he had to do. Come on, Einar. There has been no air activity here all day. It’s as good a time as any, and you know you have to start drying this meat. The warmth won’t be bad thing, either. He worried, though, having had bad experiences in the past when he had relaxed his discipline and allowed himself a fire when he probably shouldn’t have. He kept telling himself that in this case, it really was a risk worth taking. But he still knew that there was a possibility that skiers or snowshoers, if they happened to be within range, could end up smelling the smoke and getting suspicious. Nah…don’t think so, though. I’m not anywhere near a trail here; nobody ever comes up this brush-choked little valley, except maybe during hunting season. And

I’m far from the ground search. Why would anybody be up here this time of year? Go for it. And he did. • • • •

On Gordon Metz’s second morning in Culver Falls, Rob, carrying skis attached vertically to the sides of his pack, guided him and three of his volunteers up towards a remote, forested slope that the map had told them was an area riddled with old mine tunnels, which should provide any number of likely hiding places for someone like Einar. They had reached the area by first snowmobiling up a frozen creek bed in a narrow little valley, until the encroaching vegetation had caused them to leave the snow machines and proceed on foot. Metz had made it clear to Rob that he would greatly prefer to go out for a day of searching and return to the camp with ample time to have a hot dinner before hitting the cots, but, at Rob’s insistence, they had packed bivy tents and sleeping bags for that first day of searching. That evening, their intended search area before them but the light fading fast, they prepared to make camp in a frozen little meadow, last year’s yellow grass beginning to show in patches as the snow melted off. • • • •

In the failure of Jeff Jackson to show up for his bail revocation hearing and the noticeable public antipathy in the Culver Falls area toward helping them find out where he had gone instead, the FBI agents stationed at the command center in the old feed store realized they were witnessing the latest manifestation of a disturbing trend. The public, in the immediate area especially, but nationwide as well, seemed less and less intimidated by their presence, less likely to comply with requests out of fear, and the feds knew that this was largely due to the situation with Einar and with their continuing inability to resolve it quickly. Or, apparently at all. For the first time in nearly a decade, the public perception of the Bureau seemed to be shifting significantly. Not that it had necessarily been especially positive before, but after a series of well-publicized actions that had turned out rather poorly for the citizens who had been the targets of the Bureau’s wrath, they had at least had an element of fear going for them in their dealings with the public. This shift in public perception, more than anything else, was the price the Bureau was paying for Einar’s continued successful evasion, and was a much more powerful motivator in their continued efforts to capture him than was bringing him to justice on the original charges. They were becoming a public laughingstock, and that had to end. In addition to reducing the stature of the FBI, and in a trickle-down effect, all other federal law enforcement in the public eye, the ongoing search was making them look bad in Washington as well, was even threatening their requested budget increase which was to be up before Congress in a few weeks. FBI Director Ferris Lee was putting increasing pressure on his agents in the field to produce some results. He even had a visit to Culver Falls on his schedule for the following week, which, while its stated purpose was “Showing support and solidarity for the agents who risk their lives everyday in the field

in our ongoing efforts to apprehend this dangerous fugitive,” everyone at the command post knew it was his not-so-subtle way of letting each of them know that he was watching their actions very closely. They knew well that heads would start to roll if they did not soon produce some measurable and positive results. The agents knew that if they could not soon get their hands on Einar—which was not looking especially likely— they had better procure another unlucky citizen to make an example of. They had hoped Jeff Jackson would fill the bill, casting him as a dangerous gun fanatic who was a threat to the peace and security of his community. Instead, though, the positive publicity they had received from his arrest had been rather overwhelmed by the public backlash against his perceived persecution, and now his case seemed well on the way to being yet another public relations fiasco for the Bureau. And they really did not know, past the usual and so far fruitless process of investigating his known associates, where to start searching for him. Time to divert attention elsewhere. On to the next target. • • • •

Rob, doing most of the work as the search party set up camp that evening in the partially snow-free little meadow, kept running across things that puzzled him. He had noticed an elk track or two, just a faint mark where the hard edge of the animal’s toe had scratched against the frozen dirt, and thought little of it. It would not be unusual for an elk to be taking advantage of last year’s newly exposed grass after a winter of subsisting largely on bark stripped from small trees. What had Rob rather curious was an odd set of scuffs and scratches that he had begun noticing near one edge of the meadow as he gathered firewood for the roaring blaze that he, as the guide, was expected to start and maintain. The marks were numerous, and somehow did not remind him much of elk. They seemed too large, too random, but were also too ill-defined for him to be positive of their origin. Until, that is, he saw a clear impression, two inches wide and nearly four across, of Vibram boot treads in the snow. Rob quickly obscured the partial track by covering it with one of his own, but, glancing up, saw that Metz had been watching him as he crouched beside the patch of snow. “What d’ you see there, Robert?” Metz boomed, approaching through the sparse aspens that dotted that side of the meadow and breaking a dry branch from one of the trees in pretense of helping him gather wood for the fire. “Tracks?” “Elk. Looks like there been some elk through here, last night, maybe. See there?” Rob pointed out one of the scuffs that he was sure had been left by an elk. “Came down after this grass, I guess.” Metz was nodding but, to Rob’s dismay, was studying his face rather than the ground. Rob sometimes got the impression that the man could see right through him, could perhaps even see his thoughts. It gave him a creepy feeling that he did not at all care for. The moment of strangeness having passed, Rob lugged his load of firewood out to the meadow, kicked a couple of rocks loose from the nearly-frozen ground, and set about preparing a firepit. He did not know whether Metz had suspected or recognized the odd scratchings as human sign. He had given no evidence to that effect, but then, Rob

figured, he probably would not have. The marks had been pretty subtle, and he just had to hope that Metz had overlooked them. The volunteers had succeeded in getting the tents up, pounding the stakes into the icy ground with rocks and creating a ruckus that echoed off the surrounding hillsides and, Rob thought, could probably be heard for a couple of miles in the evening stillness. Crouching on the icy dirt, he began splitting aspen branches with a hatchet in preparation for lighting the fire. Rob was almost done when he smelled the smoke. Its odor was sharp, distinctive, unmistakable, and he hurried to finish preparing the campfire in the hopes of masking its presence before the others noticed. Looking up, he caught Metz’s eye. Too late. “Whoa, hold off there, Robert! I think we may be onto something, here. Smell that?” “Hmm. Yeah. I…think so. Can’t tell where it’s coming from though, exactly. Wind’s real funny in these valleys.” “Well I think it’s a pretty good bet that it’s coming down from that hillside up there,” Metz replied, indicating the steep, timbered ridge across the meadow from their camp. “Wouldn’t you say? Seeing as the wind right now is coming pretty much straight down that slope? Now I wonder who might be up there? Good work, Robert. We may be heading back down to town before morning after all.” • • • •

After trying unsuccessfully for some time to get a coal with the bow and drill he had earlier prepared, Einar could see that he would have to do something different. Despite his best efforts, he seemed unable to even begin to produce much of the black dust that would have meant he was near succeeding. Holding his left arm out away from his body as was necessary to brace it against his lower leg as he normally did was extremely painful, and, try as he might to grit his teeth and work through the pain, the spindle kept jumping out of the bearing block to go rolling away into the snow. The arm simply seemed not to be stable enough to allow him to do the job. And he was rapidly losing the light, there under the black timber. Think, Einar. Try something else. He knew the Innuits and some of the far Northern Indian tribes had made drills, both for fire and other applications, where a mouth-piece of wood or bone was used to apply downward pressure, instead of the left hand on the bearing block. But even then, they had usually needed both hands to steady the setup and make it work. And I certainly don’t have time to be whittling any mouthpiece before it gets dark, here. He thought he ought to make more use of the arm if he could keep it in a position that put les stress on the injury, which at that point seemed to mean keeping his hand up near his collarbone. So maybe if I had a longer spindle… Hurrying against the rapidly descending darkness, he found an aspen that had a few dead, barkless branches, broke off the straightest of them and returned to camp. Leaving the new drill long, Einar found that he could lean way forward, bracing his left hand against his chest and keeping the shoulder in a better position. This created a rather awkward, difficult situation when it came to drawing the bow back and forth, and he found that the shift in the position of his torso necessitated a

longer fireboard than the one he had been using, as the spindle naturally came down a good bit further out from the point where his left foot held the fireboard. Quickly splitting a dry branch, he remedied that situation, and, after several minutes of hard work, had a smoking coal all ready to deposit in his waiting fire bundle. Einar allowed himself a few minutes just to enjoy the fire before beginning his work. As always when he had been without for a time, the flames and the warmth they provided seemed an almost miraculous thing to him. He would have liked to straddle the small firepit, wrap up in the elk skin and enjoy a few hours’ reprieve from what was turning into a bitterly cold night, but knew that he could afford no such luxury, with an entire elk to somehow slice up and attempt to preserve. As he broke more wood to add to the fire, Einar kept stopping, thinking he heard something out of place, a rhythmic, perhaps even metallic sound. But the wind was blowing downslope in great restless gusts, snatching whatever it was away from his ears before he could hope to identify it. Dragging his drying rack of meat over close to the fire, he reminded himself that he didn’t want to actually cook the meat, only dry it, and let the flames die down some before moving the drying rack overtop of the pit. Before doing so, he took advantage of the lively flames to cook a thick steak that he had cut from the backstrap, skewering it and roasting it until it was brown and sizzling before enjoying his first hot meal in what seemed to him a very long time indeed. To complete the meal, he melted several cans full of snow, using the can he had found in the rock crevice below the high pass and snow-filled basin, and making himself some very welcome spruce needle tea. Removing his boots before he ate, he set his socks to dry and worked on drying his feet, softening a chunk of elk fat on a rock that he pushed partially over the pit and rubbing the melting fat into his painfully cracked feet, finding some relief but knowing that he needed to get ahold of some cottonwood buds to really help them heal from the damage caused by the constant cold and dampness of the past many days. Finishing his tea, he chopped a section of the solid white fat up into small chunks, setting the can on his cooking rock and waiting for the fat to melt and bubble. As it heated, it retained a lumpy, somewhat jell-like texture and gave off a smell that he was pretty sure he would have found unappetizing if he hadn’t still been so darn hungry. As the liquefied tallow neared what he took to be a state of doneness, Einar began to think of how he might best prepare it for transport and later use. He didn’t exactly have a ready supply of containers, and thought he was pretty sure he could make such from lengths of the elk intestine, tied off with bits of cordage or sinew, it was too late to begin such a project that night. Hmm. Wonder if I could just pour it in the snow and let it solidify? Knowing the fat would solidify rather rapidly in the temperatures that must be down near the single digits by that time, he used the steel bar to shape a little square “mold” in some nearby snow, before pouring the fat into it to harden. Only to look on in dismay as the hot fat quickly melted down through the top layer of snow and disappeared. He dug around frantically in the snow until he was pretty sure he had collected most of the then-solid little globs of tallow, returning them to the can for another try. Too bad. It sounded like a good idea. Then he had a thought. Ice! Melting some snow in the sardine can, he shaped another square mold in the snow, slowly dripping and then pouring cool water into it until a hard layer of ice formed. Adding more water, he thickened the ice until he

thought it had a good chance of holding up to the hot fat. Letting the fat cool a bit this time, but not so much that it started hardening, he tried again. Success! In less than two minutes, he was rewarded with a solid sheet of tallow that he could easily pry up out of the ice mold and set in the snow, soon to be joined by another. Einar created two more of the molds, and went to work rendering down one can after another of tallow, using both the new can and the sardine can, adding to his growing stack of tallow slabs. He knew that this means of transport would only work as long as temperatures stayed cool enough that the rendered fat would not begin to melt again, but, pretty sure that air temperatures would have to be near ninety degrees for this to happen, figured he should be good for awhile. Quite a while, indeed… He shivered. Thinking of warm temperatures, or the lack of them, had reminded him that he would soon have to stretch, scrape and work on tanning the elk hide if he wanted it to be really useful to him. He really dreaded losing its warmth and protection for the days it would take to complete the process though, and, for that night at least, covered himself with it as he huddled by the fire, heating can after can of the fat before pouring the gooey liquid into its ice molds to solidify. As the chunks of tallow hardened, he placed them, one by one, into the lynx skin pack, still well aware of the fact that he was a hunted creature, and might at any time have to take off again into the timber. • • • •

As Metz and his volunteers prepared to head up the slope in search of the fire, Rob studied the timbered ridge with binoculars, but could see no smoke in the fading light. Metz was certain, though, that he knew where it was coming from. Rob loaded all of his gear, with the exception of his bivy tent, into his pack, but Metz, not doing especially well with the altitude and the exertion of the hike, left almost everything behind. Rob, though, glancing at him as he sorted his gear, did see that he was taking several pair of plastic handcuffs, a radio and a sidearm in addition to the .45 that Rob had noticed that he always carried. Metz looked up, saw Rob securing his skis to the sides of his pack, and shot him a quizzical glance. “Why the skis, Robert?” “It’s winter in the mountains. I always have skis.” He replied shortly, not doing especially well with the friendly façade he had intended to maintain for the duration of the outing. He stopped just short, though, of asking Metz why he had the handcuffs, if the whole idea was to “talk” Einar into coming in voluntarily. One of Metz’ three volunteers, overweight and already breathing hard form the altitude, opted to stay behind at the camp and tend the fire while the others hiked up the ridge in search of the source of the smoke. Rob led them up the slope, Metz wanting him out front because he knew the terrain, and it was difficult going in the dark, snowy timber. They kept running into little ravines, steep and rocky and choked with downed trees, having to struggle down one side and up the other, the near complete darkness broken only by the narrow beams of their

headlamps. As they went, they smelled the smoke off and on, depending on what the wind was doing. Rob, having been quite serious when he mentioned to Metz that the wind could be pretty tricky and hard to figure in that terrain, finally suggested that they head up the opposite ridge, thinking perhaps they would be able to see the glow from the fire, and get some idea of where they should go from there. As they climbed, though, it became clear that there was not to be much of a view, of the opposite ridge or anything else, for that matter. And the smoke was becoming more difficult to smell, also, as the wind carried it away down the valley rather than up towards the searchers. Rob pushed himself hard as he climbed the ridge, knowing that if he was climbing at a pace near the edge of his endurance, it would likely be too much for the flatlanders he was guiding. Which was of course the exact opposite of what he was used to doing as a professional guide who had always to be thinking of his clients’ comfort and safety, and of providing them with an enjoyable experience so that they would return and give him their business again the next year. He was breaking all the rules that night, and having rather a good time doing it. “Hey Rob…” Metz had stopped some distance below, and was shouting up at him, his voice hoarse from the effort of trying to maintain the strenuous pace at altitude, and lugging more than a few extra pounds, even though he’d left almost all of his gear back at camp. “Hold up a minute. These trees…too thick...can’t see a thing.” “There’s a clear spot up here at the top where the trees peter out, and I think we might be able to get a good look back over at that other ridge from there. It’s just right up here a little ways.” Though he failed to mention that his definition of “a little ways,” that night at least, involved about 1500’ of additional altitude gain. And he took off again without waiting for Metz’ answer. Metz had been about to add that his headlamp had just gone out, and to ask Rob if he happened to have extra batteries, Metz having left his back at camp to help reduce the weight of his pack. Metz had installed fresh batteries before heading out that evening and was expecting many hours of light from them, but, with temperatures barely even up in the single digits, he had not taken into account how drastically the cold reduces the life of alkaline batteries. Rob, the battery pack of his lamp clipped to his belt for warmth, was having no such difficulty. And of course, he had spare batteries in his pack. Reaching the open spot at the crest of the ridge long before his “clients,” he glanced over at the opposite ridge, straining his eyes for any sign of a fire, any glow among the trees, but was met with an unbroken sea of inky blackness that stretched on for probably thousands of acres on the long, gulley-riven ridge. A slow smile spread across Rob’s face as he looked down off the other side of the ridge he stood atop, into the perfect, untouched snow of an alpine basin, softly illuminated by the starlight. An opportunity that the backcountry skiers he occasionally guided in the winter would have paid dearly for, indeed. Ah, Mr. Metz. Methinks two can play this game… And, freeing his skis from the webbing straps that held them to the sides of his pack and clipping his ski mountaineering boots into the bindings, he launched off the cornice and began making turns down through the trackless, pristine snow, long out of sight down in the trees below

by the time Metz and his two weary volunteers struggled up to the crest of the ridge, gasping for air. • • • •

Clouds had begun rolling in, obscuring the stars and making it difficult for Metz and his two cohorts to see Rob’s tracks by the time they reached the top of the ridge, the remaining two headlamps having died by that time, also. One of the two volunteers had a lightstick in his backpack along with a small first aid kit and a Bic lighter, but they had all, to some extent at least, been counting on Rob to supply their needs if anything should go wrong. So much for Metz’ supposed mind reading capabilities… It took them awhile, inspecting the crusty snow in the dim glow of the green chemical light stick, but they found the spot where Rob had skied off the cornice. There was some argument as to their next move, but in the end Metz won out, with his plan to follow Rob’s tracks down into the basin. While he suspected as much, Metz was not yet willing to concede that Rob had ditched them, and therefore thought it foolish to strike out in a direction other than that taken by the only member of their party who had any firsthand knowledge of the country. Besides, Rob had all of the maps, and most of the food. They traversed the ridge until they found a route that allowed them passage around the cornice, and started cautiously down the steep slope after Rob. The volunteer who had possessed the foresight to bring the alternative light source attached it to his coat after nearly dropping it on the steep snow. Which ended up being a very good thing for him, when he fell. Gaining speed quickly in his slick snow pants on the steep snow, the man ended up headdown in a little ravine at the bottom, one leg trapped at an odd angle between two fallen trees, struggling to free himself. Using the glow of the light stick to guide them, Metz and the other volunteer reached the unfortunate man, just as he finally managed to kick free of the logs and go tumbling down the remainder of the ravine to the little creek below, where he passed out from the pain of his badly broken leg, halfway in the water, halfway out. His companions pulled him out of the water, and Metz, who had at least some medical training, assessed the damage to his leg, realizing as he did that their manhunt had just become a rescue mission. And they found themselves there at the bottom of a snowy basin in the middle of a very dark night with no headlamps, no maps, and, realizing that the injured volunteer’s pack had been lost in the fall, little food and no way to light a fire. The injured man had been the only one in the party with any actual mountain experience or knowledge, and Metz could see that he was going into shock and rapidly sliding towards unconsciousness. Metz, his own boots thoroughly soaked from entering the creek to pull out the injured volunteer, realized that they were in some serious trouble. He shouted for Rob, they both did, as they did what they could to tend to their injured companion, but when after some time he had not had returned to check on them or answered their shouts, they were left to conclude that he must have indeed abandoned them. Metz, badly needing to stay active in an attempt to warm his own freezing feet, climbed back up to the top of the ridge to try and radio the man who had stayed behind at their base camp in the meadow, only to discover that they were hopelessly out of range.

Einar spent that night working on the elk, not getting a lot of sleep, but finding the abundant food a fine substitute, for the most part. Whenever he became so exhausted that he could go on no longer, he would roll up in the elk skin by the fire and catch few minutes of sleep, before returning to his work. He had no trouble waking back up in a timely manner; his hunger saw to that for him. Now that he had begun eating again, he craved food almost constantly, and could devour a huge chunk of roast elk, only to find himself ravenous minutes later. If I keep going like this, I won’t have so much meat to dry, after all… Which he knew was an exaggeration. There was plenty of meat to go around. He did hope, though, that he did not have to take off suddenly up the ridge for any reason, with his stomach stuffed with elk. As he worked, Einar occupied his mind with future plans, now that it again appeared that he might have a future to plan for. He knew that, as high up as he was, fall, and the return of snow, would be coming just a few short months after the snow finished melting off, and if he intended to make a go of it the following winter, he would have to hustle to obtain and preserve food during those brief months of plenty. And he really wanted a fixed location—mine tunnel, cave, something— that he could prepare, insulate and weatherproof so he would not have to use up most of his calories just shivering to maintain his body temperature the following winter. He had proven to himself that it could be done, and he’d do it again if he had to, but it hadn’t been especially enjoyable. And he knew there had been numerous times when he had barely made it at all, between the ridiculously meager diet, the forced running, and the cold. He was well aware that it had been only Providence, and perhaps a good bit of sheer orneriness on his part, too, that had kept him from sitting down and giving in to the welcome relief that death would have brought during the especially rough times that past winter. I’ve got all summer to get ready, this time. I can do better than that. His thoughts returned to the fallen-down mining cabin in the remote basin below the red ridge, and he wondered if the search that he had fled from weeks ago had ever made it up and out that far, or if that basin might perhaps be a place he could consider returning to, when the snow had further receded. He had felt fairly safe there, between the steep, rugged, timber-choked slopes that surrounded the place, the rock ridge directly behind the cabin, and the remoteness of the basin. The cabin could be repaired, roofed, and, assuming his shoulder healed well and fairly quickly, a makeshift stove built from some of those flat shale slabs that were so plentiful up there. Going over and over the pros and cons as he worked, he decided that it would be worth making the trip when conditions allowed, just to see whether there was any evidence that searchers had been there. Something really made him want to return to the place. During the following day, Einar spent much of his time slicing meat to be dried, spreading it on tree branches to begin the process until the batch currently on the drying rack was finished and could be removed. Though he was tempted to keep the fire going, he thought better of it damped it down under a flat rock and a heap of shredded aspen bark, to preserve coals for darkness while eliminating the risk of releasing visible smoke

and imperiling his elk preserving operation. His elk camp was attracting a variety of small scavengers—already he had chased away several ermine, a pine marten and the occasional raven—and he just kept hoping that all the bears were still in hibernation, which he thought pretty likely, considering the amount of snow still on the ground and the rather low temperatures of the past few weeks. He knew it would not be long, though, until they emerged hungry and crotchety after a winter of hibernation, knew that his life would then become rather more interesting. As if I really need that… Better make some more arrows, and a better spear. And come up with a way to hang this meat in the trees at night, so I don’t end up as bear bait. On his second day of elk processing, sometime in the late morning after he had damped the fire down and begun slicing a fresh batch of jerky strips, Einar was startled by a nearby helicopter that popped over the adjacent ridge to hover for a long minute before disappearing back behind the timbered slope. • • • •

FBI Director Ferris Lee arrived in Culver Falls that Sunday to a lowering grey sky and a sharp wind sweeping down from the mountains, and spent the afternoon reviewing operations at the command post in preparation for his press conference the next day. While he intended to express nothing but solidarity and accolades for the work of the agents in his public appearance, the talk in the old feed store that afternoon was all about the upcoming funding vote in Congress and the need to either produce some visible results in the stalled search effort, or cut their losses, declare Einar dead and again scale back their presence in and around Culver Falls. Many of the agents who had been involved in the search were strongly in favor of the second alternative, doing their best to impress upon Lee the extreme likelihood that their subject would have perished in the mountains by that point, describing to him the hardships of day to day operations in the field, the enigmatic and ephemeral nature of the few leads they had come across—an occasional report of smoke, mention of a “strange hippie dude” found hanging out at a remote hot spring, this latest discovery of a high camp in a snow-filled basin. It could be anyone, they told him. Or no one. The locals could just be playing with them. It had happened before. Ferris Lee was not impressed. Lee was a short, intense man with close-cropped dark hair and black eyes that snapped and flashed alarmingly when he was displeased. And the Director was greatly displeased. Without a body, he told the agents, there was no way anybody was going to get away with declaring Asmundson dead. Again. Just not happening. And anyone who decided to cross him on the matter could forget being considered for promotion, that they could, for that matter, forget about continuing their careers with the Bureau. “Do you really think Todd Leer ‘chose’ early retirement?” He asked the room full of assemble agents, only to be met with deafening silence. “Well think again, gentlemen.” They got the message. The next morning, a gaggle of reporters and cameramen gathered from a variety of local and national press and TV news outlets, Ferris Lee began his press conference out in the chilly, wind-swept parking area of the compound, the white-tipped peaks backed by a heavy bank of angry-looking black clouds behind him as he spoke.

As the news conference got into full swing down at the FBI command post that morning, Gordon Metz pushed his way through the hopelessly thick brush of yet another valley floor, having been on the move all night in a desperate attempt to stay warm and save his freezing feet. In doing so, he had wandered far from the course he had intended to take in an attempt to reach civilization of some sort, unknowingly crossing the wrong ridge and descending into a small valley that was taking him deeper and deeper into an area of trackless wilderness that rarely saw human traffic until well into the summer. The night before, Metz and the uninjured volunteer, Dan Wendell, had worked together to carry the injured man down the valley, but they finally realized that they must stop and attempt to get him warm if they wanted him to have a chance. He was wet, shivering, in shock and barely conscious by the time they took shelter under a spruce and broke off a number of branches to make him a dry bed. No one in the party had brought any dry clothes, so Metz replaced the injured man’s drenched coat with his own dry one, splinted his leg using some spruce branches and two of the blue scarves that had been supposed to identify them to Einar, when they ran across him, and announced his intentions to head down the valley alone after help. Wendell, a kid from back east with little wilderness experience but a good bit of common sense, wanted them all to stick together for the night, doing their best to keep the injured man warm and waiting for morning before trying to signal help or find their way out, but Metz had insisted on going for help that night. He headed out down the valley, certain that he would be able to reach a road or a house or something before daylight, and at least salvage what was left of his crew, if not the operation itself. He left Wendell to care for the injured man, who was doing rather poorly between his broken leg, wet clothes and the cold. The injured volunteer, having lost consciousness early in the night, had been mercifully unaware of his situation as his core temperature dropped and he drifted into what was probably to be his final sleep. Not a bad way to go, all things considered. Especially compared to what Metz was enduring as he struggled through a seemingly endless thicket of dense willows that morning on feet that might as well have been made of wood, his sweater damp and freezing from passing through the snowy brush, more and more disoriented and verging on panic. Down at the base camp for Metz’ search operation, the remaining volunteer was really wondering what had happened to the rest of his team. He had finally got weary of keeping the fire going the night before and, unable to raise anyone over the radio, had gone to bed. By evening of the following day, he was beginning to be seriously worried, and, running low on food anyway, he considered heading down the group’s back trail to the waiting snow machines, but, all the volunteers having been strictly instructed by Metz not to involve outsiders in their search, he waited until the following morning before actually doing so. He reached the snowmobiles after a long slog through the snow and rode down to the parking area at the end of the plowed Forest Service Road, many miles down the valley. Only to find the truck with the snowmobile trailer that they had used to reach the trailhead mysteriously gone. He took the sled down the four miles of snow packed Forest Service road to the highway, where he was eventually able to flag down a passing motorist and hitch a ride into town. Returning to Metz’ camp near town, he

reported the situation to the other volunteers, who after some heated discussion about what Metz would want them to do, went the County Sheriff to report the search party missing. Sherriff Watts notified Mountain Rescue, and they sent out a team on the ground and also, concerned about the potential for worsening weather, got a chopper in the air fairly quickly. On a heavily forested ridge not far from Metz’ camp in the meadow, the chopper crew zeroed in on a promising thermal signature which appeared to be larger than one person and therefore interesting, radioing the ground crew with coordinates to go and investigate. This investigation was cut short, however, when on the next pass over the area the crew spotted Rob’s ski tracks and Metz’ trail down into the basin, and the ground crew headed up the ridge to begin their search. Among the eight Mountain Rescue volunteers that started up the valley that day were Allan, Bill, and their newest trainee, Liz Riddle. • • • •

Einar was sitting under the spruce near his firepit, slicing more elk strips for drying when he heard the helicopter. He had discovered that the flat granite slab he used to cover his firepit during the day made a fine place to sit as he worked, as the rock retained the heat of the fire for hours, helping him stay warm. Popping up over the ridge, the chopper gave him little advanced warning of its presence, and he quickly left the firepit to press himself up against the trunk of the tree, crouching with his good arm wrapped around his knees in the hopes of looking like a sleeping deer to the FLIR device he assumed the chopper was equipped with. The thing seemed to be hovering directly over him, seemed to stay there for way too long before continuing on and buzzing the ridge on the opposite side of the valley. Now what did I do this time? How’d those buzzards know where to find me? I was being so doggone careful! As soon as it moved on, Einar began scrambling pack everything up so he could get out of there, glad he had been setting the tallow and drying meat in his pack as it became ready. He really couldn’t imagine how they had found him this time. He had been extremely cautious, had produced no smoke during the day, and had noticed no plane in the night that might have seen his fire. He shook his head, angry about having to leave the rest of the elk. He’d had plans for the hooves, bones, everything, but knowing that he could only carry so much, he hurried to fill the pack with the highest-priority items, including breaking open the skull and removing the brain, which he needed for tanning the skin. He considered concealing the firepit under the spruce duff, but thought better of it, deciding the warm rocks might serve as a good decoy to keep the chopper focused on his camp as he hopefully slipped away undetected. And there was no was no way to reasonably conceal the entire elk carcass, and it would be obvious to anyone who saw it that the creature had not been killed and butchered by animals. As he worked, Einar found himself fighting a growing anger and frustration at being forced to leave his elk camp before he had taken full advantage of all the animal had to offer, and, feeling much stronger after several days of rest and plentiful food, he wished very much that he had the means to do something about it. He badly wanted to fight back, or at least to leave something behind that would make those lousy feds regret that they had ever discovered

his camp. And reluctant to approach any they might find in the future. No time, though. That chopper was obviously homing in on the warm fire pit, or on me, and they may decide to send somebody up here, if it didn’t quite look like an elk to them. I got to be far from here, by then. Back to work, Einar. He supposed, when he thought about it, that he ought to take it as a good sign that he once again had the energy to become angry at all. It had been a while. Having crammed everything he could into the lynx skin and rolled and tied the elk hide into a neat bundle that could either be slung over his shoulder or dragged behind him to save energy, Einar left the elk camp, heading up the ridge into the black timber, working hard to avoid leaving much sign as he went. • • • •

The FBI, learning not only of the rescue effort being mounted for Metz’ team but of the reason Metz had been searching that area in the first place, redoubled their efforts in the field, anxious at the possibility of some progress in the case—perhaps a capture, even— while Director Lee was in town. They focused their attention on the area around the search for Metz, thinking that, with the potential local connections he had, perhaps he had managed to obtain a bit of information that they lacked. • • • •

Dan Wendell did the best he knew to do for his injured companion that night, piling his own coat on top of Metz’ and heaping spruce duff over that in an effort to reverse the hypothermia that seemed to be rapidly claiming him. With the morning light, he wanted to return to the gulley to search for the lost pack, hoping to find some matches or something that would allow him to start a fire, but they had traveled some distance from it the previous night, and he was afraid to leave the injured man alone for as long as it would take to search for the pack. He did explore the immediate area by daylight, finding a small open area, covered in snow. Breaking a bunch of branches from the nearby evergreens, he created a giant “X” in the snow, hoping Metz had made it to help by then and that there would soon be rescuers in the air out searching for them. As the day wore on, nobody came, and towards evening Wendell found that he was no longer able to wake his injured companion or get any response from him, and though the man was still breathing, his breaths were shallow and, it seemed to Wendell, coming too seldom. He stopped shivering sometime in the late afternoon, and Wendell could no longer find a pulse, but knew the man might perhaps still have a chance, if rescue came soon. Which, of course, it did not, Metz having badly misplaced himself in one of the remotest valleys in the area, and the remaining volunteer at the base camp waiting until the following morning to report the party missing. Wendell huddled next to the injured man, using the spruce duff in an attempt to keep himself warm but eventually, thinking his companion surely beyond help, taking back his coat to increase his own chances of making it through the night. The next day, sometime in the late afternoon, Wendell heard a helicopter, struggled up out of his spruce bed stiff with cold and stumbled out to the little meadow where he had made the “X,” waving and shouting at the helicopter as it hovered over him, dropping to his knees in relief and amazement at what appeared to be imminent rescue.

The FBI, watching the movements of Mountain Rescue and the Sheriff’s Department chopper that was aiding in the search for Metz and his men, soon got their own chopper in the air and joined the search, hoping it might lead them to Einar and, even if it didn’t, needing to put on a good show for Director Lee. They even took him up on one of the search runs that evening around dusk, to demonstrate to him firsthand the difficulties presented by the terrain. • • • •

The Mountain Rescue volunteers snowmobiled in as close as they could to Metz’ base camp, and hiked in the rest of the way, following the search party’s trail up the valley from the camp. Having been given the coordinates of the thermal signature on the ridge by the chopper crew, they were headed up that way to investigate when the call came over the radio that tracks had been spotted on the far side of the opposite ridge, changing their course. Liz, hiking behind Bill at the back of the little group, asked him where he figured those coordinates would have lead them. Bill pointed up at the tree-covered expanse of the ridge. “Somewhere up there, I s’pose.” He glanced at Liz, who was intently studying the unbroken black timber of the ridge, which ran for miles before ending in a rugged, treeless expanse of snow-covered rock and finally a snow-crusted peak. “I know what you’re thinking, Liz. Forget it. It’s just a couple of elk up there. And if it’s not, well, all the more reason to drop it, you know?” She nodded, and they continued on up the ridge in search of Metz and his team, but she kept staring back at the opposite ridge as they climbed, wondering about the reported thermal signature and what it might mean. Are you out there? And she had rather a strong feeling that he might be. • • • •

Einar was indeed out there, making his way up through the timber, stopping to crouch “like an elk” beneath the thickest vegetation he could find, whenever a distant rumble told him the chopper was returning. He reached a place where his path was cut by a long, snow-filled couloir, seeming to stretch far up—and down—the ridge, and he was faced with the decision to try and find a way around it—probably slowing him by hours—or wait until the chopper had just passed, and go ahead and cross it. He chose the latter, hurrying across the steep, somewhat icy snow of the gulley as quickly as he could, thinking from recent observation that he had nearly five minutes to cross it and greatly alarmed when he heard the returning buzz of the small helicopter after only one or two. He was still out near the

center of the wide, exposed area, knew that to actually run was to risk a fall, but, lacking other ideas, began shuffling quickly across the crusty surface towards the trees on the other side. And, clumsy and poorly balanced with all of his worldly goods suspended from his right shoulder, promptly slipped. Einar fell head-down and rolled a couple of times, having trouble halting his tumble with only one arm free, before finally catching himself by grabbing a stunted little fir whose top stuck up through the snow in a rather fortuitous location. The chopper was close by that time, and, forcing himself up despite the wrenching pain in his left shoulder, he scrambled beneath the nearest concealment he could find, which consisted of a little rock ledge that stuck out from the slope and provided a protected space perhaps three feet high, and not much wider. Crouching under the rock, Einar hurried to brush the snow from his clothes before it had the chance to soak in, hoping he had not left a clearly noticeable trench as he fell in the snow. He thought not. It had been pretty icy. As soon as the noise of the chopper had again faded into the distance, Einar inched a bit nearer the edge of the small flat spot beneath the ledge and searched the snowy slope for his pack, elk skin and willow basket full of elk jerky, which had come off his shoulder as he tumbled, ending up at various places many yards below his position. He let his breath out in a huge sigh, shook his head. It all appeared to be there, having mostly come to rest over at one side of the gulley, not far from the trees. Which he hoped would keep his possessions from looking too suspicious from the air, until the search quieted down or moved on and he could go retrieve them. For hours Einar crouched under the ledge as the search continued in full swing outside, the FBI soon joining the Sheriff’s Department in the air. He was encouraged by the fact that none of the aircraft seemed to be hovering over or especially concentrating on his position, but was at the same time puzzled that their main focus seemed to be on and even perhaps beyond the adjoining ridge, rather than the site of his elk camp. Strange. But as long as they were in the area, making such frequent passes, there was no way he intended to leave the shelter of the little ledge. He was freezing, though, had been for some time, as the space beneath the ledge was not deep enough to have kept snow from blowing under and accumulating through the winter, and though he had crouched there for some time in a rather uncomfortable position in an attempt to avoid sitting down on the snow, eventually his badly healed hip would not allow him to maintain it any longer, and he had to sit down, the snow quickly beginning to melt through his jumpsuit. Sure glad I didn’t have to do this one on an empty stomach… Though it was certainly beginning to feel empty again, after two days of gorging on elk whenever he felt like it, and he found that his body seemed to be having a pretty hard time understanding that things had changed. Wish I at least had that elk hide up here right now. It’d make this waiting a whole lot easier. As dusk approached Einar worried that if he continued to be pinned there as the deeper cold of evening set in, he might have more to worry about than surviving the rather uncomfortable night that was looking inevitable at that point. He was concerned that the little ledge he was sheltering beneath would not be nearly enough to conceal his heat signature from detection, and that, his current position not being a place where an elk or deer would be all that likely to take refuge, he might become the focus of some unwanted attention. But he wasn’t to have long to think about that. From below, he heard a chorus

of familiar snarls and yips, which made his blood run cold(er) and sent him scooting to the edge of the shelter as quickly as possible to watch in horror as three coyotes emerged from the trees to begin gobbling his elk jerky and tearing at the hide in an attempt to carry it off. He shouted, pried a rock from the overhanging ledge and threw it at the creatures, causing them to run scared back into the timber. To his relief, Einar saw that they had left the rolled up elk hide, apparently finding it too heavy to drag off in their hurry. Another helicopter was approaching, and he crammed himself back into the recesses of the shelter to wait it out. When the noise had died out, he peered back down the slope, seeing that the animals had again returned to decimate his food supply. For awhile he shouted at them and threw rocks, but the shouting did not go on for long, as he was concerned about the potential of it being heard by searchers on the ground, and eventually he ran out of rocks, also, and the creatures grew bold and returned. Einar was left to watch helpless and shivering, his stomach rumbling painfully as the creatures devoured the food he had worked so long and hard for. And had been counting on. • • • •

Einar spent a long cold night under the ledge, taking advantage of a break in air activity sometime towards morning to slide and scramble down to his lost gear and salvage what he could from the coyotes, who had done a pretty thorough job on the jerky and torn up the lynx skin pack, but had left some of the tallow slabs, of which, though they had shattered in the fall, he was able to retrieve some large chunks. He found that the coyotes had done only minimal damage to the rolled up and tied elk hide. Which, wet and freezing and dreading the wind that seemed to be picking up, Einar considered to be the priority anyway. He had thoroughly expected to get down there and find it gone, or shredded beyond usefulness as a source of warmth and protection. Amazing what you can find yourself unspeakably grateful for, under the right circumstances. Dragging everything back up under the ledge, he got himself wrapped up in the elk hide, which though frozen and fairly rigid, still provided some protection, once he had wrestled it open and got it around himself. He stuck a piece of the tallow in his mouth, wondering if he should be alarmed when it showed no sign of melting at first, trying to begin warming up and listening as a small plane returned to circle the area. Sometime after daylight, Einar was startled out of a near sleep by the faint and distant but unmistakable sound of gunfire. He listened, puzzled, but heard no further shots after the initial three or four, and shortly after noticed that the air activity had lessened greatly, then ended altogether. Well, don’t know what on earth just happened, but I’ll sure take it. Bundling his gear and remaining food up in the elk hide, he struggled to get his stiff, trembling limbs to cooperate, carefully traversing the remainder of the open slope and heading back into the trees, relieved to be moving again and anxious to be far from the place where he had been trapped for so long. • • • •

FBI Director Ferris Lee called another press conference that morning, which was scheduled to be his last in Culver Falls, wishing to talk about the challenges that faced the

agents on the ground and laud their hard work, now that he had seen the search area from the air. Halfway through his prepared remarks, he was interrupted by an agent who hurried out of the warehouse and handed him a note: “Shots fired, suspect apprehended. Chopper ETA 20 minutes.” Which, while only the semi-legible scrawling of the excited agent who had first heard the news over the radio, Lee took to mean that Einar had been captured. He did not want to announce this publicly without some confirmation, but did hastily dismiss his audience, telling them that he had some urgent business to attend to, and that a big—and positive— announcement in the case should be forthcoming before the hour was out. • • • •

Gordon Metz possessed a good bit more stubbornness and fortitude that he did mountain know-how or personal integrity, and it had kept him going, stumbling around on frozen feet and fighting the hazy, sleepy feelings that urged him to lie down and rest, that he knew would men his death if heeded. He had heard the Mountain Rescue helicopter as it searched for his two lost volunteers, had heard the FBI chopper that joined it, and had even seen it once for a brief moment, as it passed across a patch of open sky that was visible to him from his narrow valley. But the aircraft had never come anywhere near close enough for him to attempt signaling them, so he kept pushing on, hoping to find some sign of human presence and get help. Struggling through willow thickets and over slick, snow covered rock slides, Metz followed the valley down until it spilled out into a larger valley, this one containing a decent-sized river whose steep, rocky banks he attempted to navigate, on the theory that the brush was less thick on the banks than slightly further up the slope on either side of it. All night he kept going, clumsy, exhausted, slipping and falling often on the rocks and twice nearly falling into the river, which he knew would have been the end of him. Towards morning he began smelling smoke, and his pace quickened at the prospect of finding help. The FBI camp was situated near the river at the mouth of a steep-walled valley, miles outside Culver Falls but as near as they could easily get, by snowmobile, to the search for Metz and his crew. Who they still hoped had possessed some bit of intelligence about Einar’s location. When the bearded, disheveled, snow-encrusted man stumbled out of the woods into the camp that morning, shouting something and waving his arms, there was only one thing the two nervous agents who were awake and about at that point could conclude, their judgment a bit clouded by a couple of nights spent in an unfamiliar and seemingly very hostile place: Einar had found their camp, and had come to attack them as they slept. So they opened fire on him. Metz, acting on instinct, dropped to the ground and returned fire, and the agents were lucky that he was nearly incapacitated by the cold at that point, or at least one of them almost certainly would have been dead. As it was, Metz’ bullet only nicked one agent’s shoulder before he realized what was going on, dropped his gun and shouted his identity at the startled agents before they could turn him into Swiss cheese. The eighteen or so

agents at the camp, thoroughly awakened by that time, tended to the wounded agent, gave Metz some hot coffee and called in their chopper, which landed in the meadow half an hour later to take the injured agent and Metz, who was suffering from some fairly severe frostbite to his toes, in to the hospital in Clear Springs. Initial reports of the incident, radioed back to the command post in Culver, were that Einar had been captured. A case of mistaken identity that those involved were never to live down, especially after the Director had his press conference interrupted by the news, only to later have to explain this latest embarrassment to the press. Metz eventually recovered from the dehydration and hypothermia brought on by his little adventure in the mountains, and in the end only lost a couple of toes. At the hospital he learned that, while the injured volunteer had succumbed to the cold and passed away, Mountain Rescue had reached Wendell in time, and he had made it. Metz went home after two weeks in the hospital in Clear Springs, discredited and despondent after his first failure at citizen-federal conflict resolution in quite some time. Metz’ wife, exasperated at his latest escapade and the pressure she had been receiving from a number of their former friends and acquaintances at Gordon’s would-be role in apprehending Einar, moved out while he was gone, leaving him no more than a note after many years of marriage. Several weeks later Metz, claiming that his life had no meaning without her, attempted to take his own life. Which attempt, fortunately for him, ended no more successfully than did his search for Einar. After that, Metz faded quietly into the background, having lost all credibility with his former Patriot followers and fans, and thus having little value anymore to his erstwhile federal employers, who had relied on him using his guile, charm and reputation to insinuate himself into difficult situations where he could then do their bidding. Einar, of course, rather busy keeping himself alive and maintaining as much distance as possible between himself and even the most well intentioned of federal stooges, had never even been aware of Gordon Metz’ efforts. • • • •

After the mistaken identity fiasco with Metz and the hurried departure of the angry Director, and amid much talk of rumored review and censure, the FBI agents on the ground in Culver Falls were doubly anxious to produce some positive results before the scheduled Congressional hearings and vote the following week. What they needed was a villain to parade in from of the cameras, an individual or group of individuals actually in their custody whose arrest or arrests they could put forward as the result of a successful operation, an example of the “ongoing threat” that necessitated the budget increase the Director was so set on, and on which, they were pretty certain, hung numerous of their careers with the Bureau. Jeff Jackson was to have been this villain, he had even come (nearly) complete with a collection of “evil black rifles” for them to show to the press, and they had carefully and quickly filled in the holes in his collection in a way would allow their charges to stick. But now, with the hearings and vote approaching, they had no idea where Jeff could be found. A problem they were working frantically to remedy. After much asking around town and a bit of digging to collect wayward bits of intelligence, the general consensus was that, if anyone in the area was providing refuge to Jeff Jackson, there was at least a good chance that it might be Bill and Susan. Bill had

quite a reputation for, shall we say, “community organizing” when it came to firearms and other Constitutional issues, and some of his public statements in the early days of their search for Einar led the agents to the conclusion that his place would be as good a place to start as any, in their search for Jeff. Not enough evidence for them to actually earn a warrant, but enough to convince them they were looking in the right direction. Time to go strong-arm a Federal judge. One problem. Bill’s house sat at the top of a rather long, steep and exposed driveway far from anyplace you could land a helicopter, and he was known around town as one who didn’t appreciate unannounced guests. There was also, as they discussed possible plans of action, the problem that Bill seemed to enjoy fairly widespread respect in the community. And while they were nonetheless determined to move forward in searching his premises for Jeff, it was an operation that clearly would require quick and decisive action, and would need to involve a strong public relations component if it was to end in anything short of disaster. • • • •

Einar kept moving up the ridge that morning, using a snowy peak in the distance as his landmark in an effort to keep traveling away from the area where the search of the previous day and night had been centered. He still wondered why they had ended up focusing on that area, rather than the area of the ridge near where they had apparently noticed his fire. Thinking about it as he limped through the trees in the flat light of what was shaping up to be another cold, cloudy day, he was half tempted to go back and see what might be left of the elk carcass—there had still been some meat on it when he was forced to leave, and certainly some larger bones he could crack for their marrow, which would be a welcome addition to his again-meager food supply. A few small scraps of the jerky remained in the bottom of the damaged and chewed willow basket where the coyotes had been unable to extract them, and he stopped under a tree, huddled against the sharp wind in the feeble shelter of its trunk, and stuck one of the fragments of dry meat in his mouth to soften, debating with himself and eventually making the difficult decision to forgo returning to the site of his old elk camp, knowing that the searchers could have left someone behind in anticipation of his doing just that, or could have perhaps rigged the area with seismic, noise or other sensors that would get him a surprise visit from a chopper as he worked on the carcass. And besides, he told himself, the coyotes had probably thoroughly decimated what was left of it, anyway. Still, though, whatever they would have left almost certainly represented to him a far greater bounty than anything he now possessed. He shook his head, made himself rise, leave the shelter of the tree trunk and start back up the ridge into the wind, one step after another, having a awfully hard time just then convincing himself that it was worth continuing at all. Exhausted, cold and, despite his best efforts, rather despondent at the loss of the elk, he badly wanted to sit down, to lie down, to let the elements have their way with him and finally allow himself an end to a life of struggling and hardship that of late just seemed to go on and on without letup. He knew that was a foolish idea, though. Knew the absurdly stubborn thing in him that had consistently denied him rest and relief at other such times would find some reason to make him get up and go on again before it was too late, weaker than before but unable to give in, further prolonging his miserable and futile existence. Maybe, he told himself, the best thing would be to head back down the valley, find one of those

federal search parties, and…no. No, even in his state of near-despair, he was unwilling to consider allowing himself to be taken. But perhaps if they tried to take him and he resisted… Einar stood there trembling in the wind, staring at the ground and trying to make up his mind as to which of the two rather bad alternatives he saw before him was…less bad, when for some reason the sight of those vile coyotes devouring his elk jerky flashed across his mind. His despair suddenly turning to rage, he stood there seething with anger at the creatures and what they had done to his food, to his chances of being able to keep going. Stupid coyotes. You wait. I’m gonna…snare your scraggly butts, eat your lousy, stinking stringy meat…tan this elk skin with your brains, and use your hides for a coat before this thing is over. And, he thought, he could perhaps use a bit of the remaining jerky to do just that. He still had the coil of steel cable, and thought that perhaps if he tried hard enough, he might be able to separate some more of its partially oxidized strands to make a coyote snare or two. Consumed with the thought, he again began trudging up the ridge, his pace quickened a bit as he thought of the revenge he would wreak on the animals at his first opportunity, warming him slightly and sharpening his focus as he worked to keep moving without leaving sign in case he ended up being followed. Einar felt somewhat foolish taking his anger out on creatures that he knew were only, like himself, struggling to make it through the lean days of early spring in the mountains, but he sure needed something to be mad at, something to put a little determination back into his step and keep him from seeking refuge and rest in the icy duff beneath one of the spruces he was passing, which, his bleak mood broken somewhat, he knew would be a big mistake, for a number of reasons. With his clothes soaked and icy in places from the night under the ledge and still shivering badly despite being on the move again, he knew that his only real hope was to keep moving and thus generate whatever heat his body was still capable of, and getting out of the area was looking like a wise idea anyway, considering the close proximity of the recent air search. He still puzzled over the meaning of the gunshots he had been sure he heard that morning, and the cessation of the air activity shortly afterwards. Had someone on the ground been shooting at the chopper? Ha! Likely as anything, those jokers just got spooked and started shooting at each other… Later, descending down into a remote little valley and digging a few lily bulbs to give him energy while he worked to create the coyote snares he had earlier envisioned, Einar thought back to that morning and the dangerous thoughts that had crept in to his mind and very nearly led him to do something rather foolish and potentially irreversible. At that moment he was grateful to the coyotes, or to the memory of what they had done, anyway, for jarring him out of his despair and getting him going again. Guess you little buggers probably saved me, in a way. As if in answer to his thoughts, a distant howl rose from the opposite ridge, sharp and clear in he cold, still evening air. And you’ll do it again, too, you ugly old flea-bitten brush wolves, because I was real serious about using your meat and brains and hides… Just got to get ahold of you, first. • • • •

Bill had known he was taking a risk by offering sanctuary to Jeff when he decided not to show up for his bail revocation hearing, and had prepared accordingly. But this turn of events was by no means the first time he had thought about the possible need to make his home defensible, nor the first time he had worked on doing just that. He knew that it was not realistic to think that an individual or group could adequately fortify a position against the weaponry available to the modern military or even, under the right circumstances, the right federal agency—one rocket through a window or a bunker buster bomb on top of your location and it would all be over. But, short of an all out assault of this type, which he expected was fairly unlikely at the present moment at least, he knew he could do pretty well in at least buying some time for his loved ones to escape the area, and at the same time make the losses to whoever chose to attack him heavy enough that they would think twice about mounting such an operation against another citizen. And, thought he realized that he might not himself make it out the other side of such an action, he fully intended to make his best effort to do just that if the circumstance ever arose, on the theory that a live resistance fighter is a lot more effective in most cases than a dead one. Bill had planned for and rehearsed a number of different scenarios, both alone and with his family and the small group that met weekly at his house. That day, having heard increasing rumors and grumblings of a possible escalation in the search for Jeff, he spent most of the morning cutting pairs of aluminum squares, approximately four by four inches, out of a number of thin printing plates that he had acquired when the old print shop had closed years ago in Culver. He then cut an equal number of pieces of thin cardboard, slightly larger than the squares. Finished with this work, Bill retreated to his machine shop to begin the next step in his project. • • • •

For the next couple of days there was almost no air activity in Einar’s immediate area at all, but he could still at times hear an occasional rumble in the distance that kept him on edge and moving along the ridge. Though he did not think fire an acceptable risk that first night, opting instead to huddle under the elk hide with spruce duff piled around him for additional warmth, by the second evening he was ready to give it a try. Scratching a small pit into the ground with the steel bar, which was by that time too dull to be harmed much by such abuse and badly in need of sharpening, Einar gathered a quantity of dry wood and a rounded up a big flattish rock to throw over the pit in the event of a flyover. He did not take the time to dig the little side tunnel that had made his other fire holes so successful, as he did not plan to be in that location for more than a night and perhaps part of the following morning, before moving on again to put a bit more distance behind him before hopefully finding a place to settle for a longer stretch of time. All he wanted that night was a bit of warmth, a chance to hopefully get more than the scattered snatches of sleep allowed him by the intense cold of the past several nights. He knew that his neardisastrous lapse in mental discipline the morning before had been due at least partially to lack of sleep, and knew he must do all within his power to prevent such a thing happening again. Being the second time that he had used the somewhat awkward bow and drill setup that he had adapted to spare his injured arm, the firemaking went somewhat more smoothly than it had the previous time, and before long he was huddling

over a tiny fire, feeding it with sticks and eventually adding a few larger branches that he broke off and shoved deeper into the pit as each section burned. Though he really had nothing to cook, besides a scrap or two of jerky that could be stewed but which he had resolved to save—in case of emergency, which thought made him smile slightly and shake his head at the irony—Einar did greatly enjoy the multiple cans of hot spruce needle tea that he made himself as he sat over the fire. In his pocket he had a couple of lily roots that he had dug earlier in the meadow where he had stopped to work on separating the strands of the steel cable for coyote snares, and he tossed them in, almost cheerful as he fed sticks into the little fire and waited for the bulbs to boil and sweeten. As he sat there wrapped in the elk hide, the ice that had formed in the flesh side began to melt and steam him a bit in the heat of the flames, forcing him to flip the heavy thing over, hair side in, and reminding him that he had better get down to the work of fleshing and tanning it as soon as his situation allowed. Guess I’m gonna need those coyote brains, now. He slept the sound sleep of exhaustion that night, dreaming of coyotes and waking at first light to find the fire dead but his clothes dry and himself a good bit less stiff and cold than he had been in recent memory on waking. Cleaning up the camp, filling in the little hole and replacing the carefully removed plug of dirt that he had set aside the previous day, Einar rolled everything back up into the elk hide and slung it over his shoulder, scattered spruce needles to conceal the random specks of dirt that had been left on the duff by his activities, and left the area, taking meticulous care to avoid leaving a trail as he did so. Despite the encouraging lack of air activity, he was determined to take no chances when it came to assuming that no one had noticed the smoke from his fire were at that very moment using it to pinpoint his location. He had been wrong about such things in the past. While he knew, having seen tracks, that the coyotes he now sought frequented the valley where he had spent the previous night, Einar was not at all comfortable spending any more time in an area where he had allowed himself a fire. Sometime that past evening, as he had crossed a small meadow to his camping spot, he had caught a glimpse of a rocky escarpment that ran for quite some distance at the top of a nearby timbered ridge, and his plan that morning was to make for that area, remembering that he had often seen coyote sign in similar settings, in the high country. The ridge became progressively steeper as he climbed, and was broken here and there by steep, rock-filled gullies, some of them coated with an amount of ice that made Einar fairly certain they must contain springs. In several places where the snow had begun melting off of the exposed slopes, he was sure he saw the remnants of tailings piles, though only once did he spot something that could have perhaps been a tunnel entrance, and the yellow rock of the hillside had sloughed off and eroded so badly over the years that he seriously doubted his ability to make the climb up the in places nearly vertical slope of loose rock and hard packed soil to investigate it. And doubted even more strongly the wisdom of any such attempt. One thing that did interest him greatly as he climbed, though, was the occasional glimpse he had been getting through the trees of what looked to be a manmade, if badly decayed structure on the opposite side of one of the steep gullies. While he had been afforded at best fleeting sights of the object of interest through the rather dense timber, Einar had been fairly sure once that he saw a

number of worked logs, perhaps indicating a cabin. The spot did not look at all a likely one for someone to have chosen to take up residence, did not in fact even look especially accessible, considering the work done to the slope below it by over a century of erosion but, with the obvious mining activity that had once taken place in the area, it was not out of the question. Something to look into. Later. First, he intended to reach the top of the ridge and look for a suitable place to get ahold of a coyote or two, and also hoped that the ridge crest might afford him easier access to the little spur on which he had seen the logs. As he continued the climb, Einar’s imagination was busy with the potential bounty of materials that he could possibly end up finding if the odd-looking pile of logs did indeed end up being the remnants of a cabin or shack of some type. Reaching the conclusion of his climb after numerous rests forced by his weakness and not a few others necessitated by his nearly incessant need to slow his breathing and quiet the pounding in his head enough to listen for helicopters, Einar found a coyote trail along the edge of the high ridge, its course following along no more that a foot from where the yellow, crumbly rock dropped away steeply into the valley below. It looked rather well traveled. He could see fresh tracks and sign, and there was a place where the path, running through a narrow passage between the precipice and a ten foot high wall of rock, was blocked by a heavy tangle of brush. He could see from the numerous strands and tufts of grey and brown hair caught in the tangle of old chokecherry sticks that the animals typically chose to crawl under the blockage rather than go around it. Einar grinned. Perfect. • • • •

Because he had not been able to think of a good way to create a locking snare with the equipment he possessed, and knowing that the little lock he had bent from tin for his rabbit snare would be far too brittle to hold up to the weight of a struggling coyote, Einar knew that he would need to create some type of a spring snare if he was to have much hope of successfully holding his prey. The coyotes, he estimated, would weigh somewhere around twenty or, at the most that time of year, thirty pounds. They had looked pretty scrawny. Scanning the area, he saw only one tree, a little spruce two or three inches in diameter and standing not far from one end of the tangle of brush that blocked the trail, that looked like a good possibility. Einar, grabbing it with a wide strip of aspen inner bark to avoid directly touching the wire of the snare, having smoked it over his fire the previous night to remove at least some of his scent, suspended the loop a few inches off the ground in the place where he could see that the coyotes emerged from the tangle of vegetation as they traversed their trail. He used a single strand from the cable as a support wire. Setting up the simple two-piece trigger he had laboriously scraped and whittled the day before with the dull steel bar, he pulled down the tree, just hoping it didn’t decide to break, and wired it securely to the trigger. Slowly straightening up and backing away from the setup, he let out his breath in a big sigh on seeing that it all seemed to be holding. OK. I’ll be back up here during the day tomorrow to see if anything comes of this. After setting the snare, he headed back down the treed spur in what was left of the

daylight, hoping to use it to locate the structure he had been pretty sure he saw from the other side of the gulley as he climbed. The timber was so dense on the spur that Einar was almost—literally—on top of the cabin, by the time he spotted it. It was a crude structure of hand-hewn logs, backed up to the mountainside at such an angle as to be half-buried, a feature which appeared to have been intentional rather than being the haphazard result of time and erosion. Nearly all of the roof was gone from one section, though a number of spruce poles and some tar paper remained on another. Aside from window and door frames of milled lumber, all of the work appeared to have been done by hand, and the square head nails sticking out twistedly from odd places in the windowsill told him that it harkened from the mining days of the late 1800s or early 1900s. He had to wonder, as he explored the place, what had possessed someone to build in that particular location. It seemed far more unlikely than had the first cabin he had found, even. The terrain was forbiddingly steep and timber choked, and there was not even any likely source of water that he could see, anywhere closer than the apparent spring way down at the bottom of the gulley. Had to be the lure of gold, I guess. Or silver. But he expected the cabin should, even in its ruined state, give him some protection from the wind and cold of the coming night, and with this in mind, he began removing bits of roof debris from the still-protected area where its collapse had not been complete, in an effort to clear a spot large enough to sleep in. Beyond the possibilities it offered for shelter that night, he was seeing in the wreckage of the cabin a multitude of useful scraps of metal and lengths of milled wood, not the least among them ready timbers to use in the creation of a frame for stretching the elk hide, assuming the timbers were sturdy and un-rotted enough for the task, and assuming that he actually managed to snare a couple of the coyotes, and that their brains would work for tanning the skin. That’s an awful lot of assuming, Einar. And I sure never heard too much about tanning anything with coyote brains… But as he thought about it, he could not come up with a good reason that it should not work. The brain of any creature, as far as he knew, was largely made up of fats, and it was the fats in brain tanning that served to soften the hide and keep it pliable and, in combination with smoking, waterproof. He supposed that he could even use some of the old nails, extracted from the rotting wood of the door frame and pounded in with a rock, in the construction of his frame. Curious at the possibility, he began sorting through the wreckage in search of timbers that had been shielded from the weather and would have the best chance of holding up. He was in the middle of this search when, prying up a pile of rubble, he made the discovery. There beneath the jumble of partially rotted wood and fallen tin, largely protected from over a hundred years of weather by a section of tarpaper-covered roof that had fallen at an angle over it and caught on the beam above, sat a small cast iron wood cook stove, probably not looking too different than the day the miners had abandoned it, and the cabin. The lighter metal of the chimney had been twisted and destroyed by the falling roof timbers, but Einar, as he inspected the little four burner stove complete with a small oven, figured that he could improvise a new one out of some of the roofing tin. Visions of a winter spent in a cozy, log-walled space heated by the little stove, stacks of wood waiting for him outside from a summer of work and a ready supply of food in the attic and in raised caches outside the cabin just begging to be cooked, danced before his eyes as he practically drooled over the stove. He marveled once again at the determination and stamina of the

men who had lugged such a heavy thing up the incredibly steep and rugged slope below in pieces, on the backs of mules, or possibly even on their own backs. Amazing. And a real shame that he was probably not going to be there in that place long enough to enjoy it, if past history was any indication at all. Before concealing the remains of his firepit that morning, Einar had dug down in the ashes until he found several still-glowing coals, and had carefully wrapped them in a bundle of aspen inner bark that he had rubbed to break apart the fibers, separating them nearly but not quite to the degree that he usually did for the fire nest when he did a bow and drill fire. Next, he had added a thick pad of very dry usnea lichen to each side of the growing bundle, sandwiching the entire thing between two small slabs of hard outer bark that he had pulled from a dead aspen beside his camp. Stowing this fire bundle in the pocket of his sweatshirt for lack of a better way to carry it, Einar had stopped periodically during his travels that day to open up the bundle and let just enough additional air in to keep the coals smoldering, without actually causing them to burst into flame. He had forgot about the fire bundle in his excitement over the discovery of the cabin, and hurried now to see if it was still alive. Opening up the bundle and pulling back the top layer of lichen, he felt with the back of his hand to see if any warmth remained in the coals. Yep! Think so. Think it’ll go. This will save me some work tonight, for sure. Several times at his previous camps Einar had considered trying this method for carrying fire with him to his next location, but it seemed that every time he has either had to leave in too great a hurry to put the bundle together, or had been actively trying to evade either a ground or air search, with fire being the last thing on his mind. He was finding it incredibly nice that night not to have to start all over. The prospect of easy fire made the place seem almost like home. Not so sure I even remember what that means, anymore. Choosing the rustiest and therefore least otherwise useful of the several large tin cans he had found in a tumbled heap in a corner of the cabin he sunk it down into the accumulated duff and dirt in the center of the floor, piled a few rocks around it to further reduce the amount of light that would escape, and proceeded to break up some small dry branches for a fire. Scrounging up a large sheet of tin from the floor, he bent it and stuck one end down in the loose duff not far from the fire can to act as a reflector and help concentrate a bit of heat in the one semi-intact corner of the cabin. Almost as an afterthought, he stuck a few shreds of old tarpaper from the roof, too tattered to be especially useful to him in other applications, into the can to help the fire along. Placing the coal bundle down among the sticks and blowing the fire to life, Einar sat very close to it for a bit, enjoying its warmth and again working to dry his socks and knead some softened tallow into his damaged feet. As he worked, staring into the flames and watching as fire curled energetically out of the shreds of tarpaper, he wondered whether he could perhaps make use of any of the larger pieces of remaining tarpaper as a rough rain suit-type garment or, at the very least, a wind and weatherproof tarp that he could take refuge beneath as he traveled. He rather doubted the rain suit bit, thinking the stuff would have to be awfully brittle by that point, but decided the matter was definitely worth pursuing, after daylight. It was after dusk that evening when Einar, rolled up in the elk hide on a bed of spruce duff in the dry corner of the cabin, the little fire with its tin reflector putting out a fair amount of heat not three feet from him, was startled out of his sleep by what he took to be

the wanderings of a rather large animal in the brush some distance below him. • • • •

He lay perfectly still for a few seconds just listening, his eyes darting around in the nearcomplete darkness for any sign of trouble before very slowly and deliberately reaching out of his bedroll and covering his fire with the flat rock he had kept handy for that purpose. His first thought was that he might be hearing a bear, awakened early from its hibernation and attracted by the scent of the elk hide, but he realized as he listened that there was not nearly enough crashing and trampling for it to be a bear. And way too much for a big cat. So. Deer? Elk? What? The tangle of fallen trees below the old cabin was so heavy that he doubted a deer or elk would choose it as a path of travel. Which really just left one thing, that he could think of. They found me, somebody found me. Don’t know how, but that’s got to be it. He struggled to picture in his mind exactly where he had left everything when he settled in for the night, and, rolling slightly, felt around in the blackness of the cabin behind him until his fingers closed over the sharpened stick he had kept near him as he slept at his elk camp. Fumbling in the darkness, he removed the wire ties that held his injured left arm in place, deciding that, while it would hurt and would be of limited usefulness, he wanted to have the option of using the arm if he ended up in a struggle for his freedom. Whatever it was seemed to be just below the cabin by that point, and Einar, having convinced himself with fair certainty that his stalker must be of the human variety, crouched in the inky darkness against the wall of the cabin, grasping the spear in his good hand and bracing it against the cabin wall at an upward angle, hoping he would be able to see a dark shape against the faint starlight that filtered down through the heavy timber in time to make the first move. Because, he figured, whoever it was would almost certainly be armed, and, though he had only heard one set of movements, might not be alone. And may not be blind, either. He knew there was a good chance that whoever was out there that night hunting him, whether federal agent, bounty hunter or otherwise, probably had some form of night vision or thermal imaging device. In which case he was in some serious trouble. He imagined the man jumping up from behind the remaining foundation logs of the ruined cabin and blinding him with a flashlight… Well. It’s a long way from here to anywhere, so if he’s alone, I got a pretty good chance of making it so I don’t go all the way back with him, even if he does get his hands on me. Though if he’s a fed, he’ll just restrain me and call for backup, anyway. If the radios work this far out… And, such thoughts keeping him as alert and ready as a starved, exhausted man is capable of being, he waited. But no shape came, no silhouette bulking against the sky, no blinding light in his face, and Einar crouched there for some time, waiting, straining his eyes and ears for any further clue, but there was nothing. After a time his arm began cramping badly in the cold, he was having more and more trouble keeping still, and eventually he had to lay down the spear or risk dropping it with a clatter to the cabin floor. Huddling in the darkness, he clamped his jaw against his chattering teeth and waited for whatever was out there to move again so he could be certain of its location, pretty sure that if it was human and already knew his position, it would not have waited so long to make a move. Maybe I can get the jump on this guy, come up behind him. Maybe he’s got a coat I can

have, some food… He saw that the moon, nearly half full and glinting through the trees just above the horizon, would before long be passing into a gap in the heavy cover of branches, and Einar hoped to be able to use its light to get a look at the source of the sound. Moving extremely slowly and deliberately, using the elbow on his injured side to help things along, he crept over to the two logs that still sat one atop the other on the downhill side of the cabin, lying behind it with his forehead on the ground and waiting for the moon to move into a position where it would shine through the trees and illuminate the ground near the cabin. When at last a patch of moonlight fell through the spruces and illuminated the ground near his left hand, Einar got slowly to his knees, spear poised, and looked over the logs at the snow-covered, moon-dappled forest floor outside the cabin. It took him a minute, but he saw it, saw its ear flick in the moonlight, as his eye was caught by the motion. A deer. A scrawny, starved-looking doe, curled up in a little hollow at the base of the cabin logs, looking to Einar like it had gone about as far as it could before choosing that spot to lie down. He let his breath out, rested his head on the log in front of him, the tension passing out of him and with it the strength he had summoned for what he had fully expected to be a desperate struggle for his life and continued freedom. He raised his head, saw that the deer had not moved, and decided that he must attempt to turn it into some food. Einar wished he had an arrow, knew that his chances of bringing down the deer would be much greater using the bow, but knew just as well that he had to work with what was available to him at the moment. Which meant the spear. He supposed he could get up onto the logs above the sleeping animal, and drop the three or four feet down onto it with the spear. Which would probably break, or, considering that he was basically limited to one arm, prove ineffective. Worth a try, anyway. But he was stiff and clumsy from keeping still for so long in the cold, and despite his best efforts at careful movement, soon tripped over a protruding board and fell heavily against the cabin wall. By the time he scrambled to his feet, the deer had taken off down the hill, bounding over the crusty snow and sailing over tangles of downed trees that Einar knew would involve slow and painstaking work for him to navigate. Well. It’s gone. Probably would have just got knocked on the ground and kicked in the head trying my plan, anyway. Limping back to his little camp in the corner of the cabin, he found himself overcome with relief and exhaustion after the unexpected series of events. Einar flopped down on the elk hide, laughing out loud with relief until tears were running down his cheeks, chastising his foolishness in letting his imagination run away with him. He realized that he had very nearly gone running off into the night again, leaving almost everything behind and in all likelihood never returning for fear of an ambush. You’re losing it, Einar. Been living this way for too long. Ha! A little old scrawny deer, and here you were all ready to do battle for your life. Suddenly rather acutely aware of the cold once again now that the excitement had passed, he rolled up trembling in the elk skin, lying on his stomach and reaching out with one hand to attempt to stir the fire back to life. Fortunately enough lively coals remained in the bottom of the can that he was able, without too much difficulty, to bring it back once again, creeping close to its warmth and curling around it as he tried to get back to sleep. The false alarm, foolish as he now felt for his response to it, had reminded him of the fact that it probably was not wise for him to spend much time in a location that others, even if

they were only a few local hunters, were likely to know about. Still, the place with its ready shelter and—to him—bountiful resources was very tempting, and as he watched the sky brighten that morning, he decided to make a thorough search of the area after daylight and try to determine if the cabin had been visited recently by other humans. That morning after drinking the can of slushy water that he had set in the coals to melt before going to back to sleep after the deer and sticking a little piece of elk tallow in his mouth to melt, Einar prepared to head up the hill to check his snare. Wanting to leave the heavy elk hide at the camp if possible to make the long climb up the ridge a bit less taxing, he used the coil of steel cable to suspend it, wrapped around most of his remaining tallow and other gear, from the high branch of a nearby aspen, hoping that would put it out of reach of most scavengers who might attempt to harm it. He took with him only the steel bar, some chunks of tallow in one pocket, and the spear, hoping it was not a decision he would come to regret, but honestly not all that sure that he had the strength to haul himself and all of his gear up the steep ridge that morning. He needed to eat. Pushing himself up the ridge at a fairly quick pace in an attempt to warm up, Einar wondered what he would do if the snare was empty, supposed that he would have to look for a place to try and get ahold of some rabbits or, as a last resort and rather a poor one, return to the valley with the creek where he had dug the lily bulbs the day before. He topped out on the crest of the ridge, and caught a glimpse of grey-brown fur over in the vicinity of his snare. Breathing hard from the climb and chilled despite the exertion, Einar hurried towards the spot, an almost childlike expression of glee creeping over his face as he saw the animal that was held in his snare, somewhat scrawny looking but still bearing a fine cold-weather coat. Gotcha! Never would have guessed I ever could be this glad to see a coyote… • • • • Finishing with his project in the machine shop, Bill carried three of the completed items out to an area up behind the Quonset hut where he had a number of years ago cleared just enough brush to create a narrow, somewhat steep 200 yard shooting range. There was no flat ground to be found on Bill and Susan’s property, but Bill didn’t really mind. Dealing with varying elevations was just part of shooting in the mountains, and, he figured, the more practice he had in adjusting for it, the better. Wired to each of the three-layer aluminum and cardboard sandwiches Bill had created was a length of PVC pipe, each containing, for the purposes of the test, a 9 volt battery and a small white LED that stuck out through a small hole he had drilled. The 9 volts were for the tests, only. He had sized the pipes to house and protect 6 volt lantern batteries, and would need their greater push (amperage) when it came time for the real thing. Settling down behind his Blaser R93, made by Sig and chambered for .308, which he had been shooting for a number of years and liked for its long range accuracy as well as the fact that it could be quickly and easily disassembled and stowed inconspicuously in a backpack, Bill chambered a round. Getting the little square of olive drab-painted aluminum centered in his crosshairs, he watched it drift gently up and down for a couple of breaths, and took the shot. Success! The light had come on and, more importantly, had stayed on, meaning that a good electrical connection had been established as the bullet tore through the two thin sheets of aluminum, making a neat hole in the thin

cardboard that had insulated them from one another and forcing the two layers of metal into contact as they bent and distorted. All Right! If it’ll complete the circuit well enough to keep that light on, it’ll sure do the job I need it to do, also. Just to be safe, Bill went ahead and put bullets through the two remaining switches that he had set up as tests, pleased when they both functioned as well as the first. Before heading out to complete the next phase of his project, Bill returned to his workshop and painted the three remaining switches with a single layer of strontium aluminate-based glow paint, which ought to ensure that he would have something to aim at, even at night. The targets would be angled in such a way—up slightly towards his position on the ridge—that he was not too worried about anyone on the ground lower down picking up on what would be a rather faint glow. The rest of the afternoon he spent climbing the ridge above the long, steep driveway, going about it a back way so his movements would not be too obvious to anyone who might be watching the house. Very carefully, he set up the switches and the devices he had intended to pair them with, near the tops of each of the three main avalanche chutes that cut the ridge. Most of the snow was gone by that point, but Bill’s interest that day was in rock, anyway. Specifically the several tons of rock that were being held back by three carefully-constructed log berms concealed at critical points along the ridge. Several years ago he, with the help of his son, had made some these rather interesting ‘improvements’ to the slope above the driveway. The slope did require a fair amount of routine maintenance to keep it clear of hazardous accumulations of snow in the winter, and loose rock in the spring and summer, so Bill was able to complete his modifications without arousing anyone’s suspicion as to why he was spending so much time up there. It had become a private joke between Bill and Susan, though. Whenever he told her he was “off to do some rock-fall mitigation,” she knew that meant he was about to spend some time on one project or another that she might be better off not asking him too many questions about, so she usually let well enough alone, dismissing him with a wave of her hand and an admonition to “be careful up there, then, and don’t be late for supper.” Over time, the term “rock-fall mitigation” became their code for any “project” that was better not spoken of outside the immediate circle of trust. And there were indeed a number of such, over the years. As it was to turn out, Bill completed his project not a day too soon. • • • •

As he freed the coyote from the snare, Einar saw that the tree he had used had been barely adequate for the job, just raising the creature’s front feet off the ground. He could tell from the way it had torn up the dirt with its hind paws that death had taken awhile, and for that he was sorry, even if this had perhaps been one of the same beasts that had stolen his elk jerky. He ran his hand through the fur, thinking of the coat he hoped to make, if he could manage to get ahold of one or two more. Gonna be real warm. And, living at such elevations, the animals shouldn’t even have any fleas for him to contend with. As far as he knew the only fleas that lived that high were the “snow fleas” that you could often see congregating in the warmer, still air down in fresh elk tracks. The cold-

blooded little creatures are attracted to the warmth that lingers in the tracks, but do not, as their name suggests, actually feed on blood. They are a type of springtail, jumping and, to the naked eye, appearing much like fleas, but feeding on decaying forest debris. Einar reset the snare where it had been before, doubting that it would yield again in the same location but, seeing that the tangle of brush did block what appeared to be a major thoroughfare for the animals, willing to try again. He would have his hands full for a couple of days anyway, between skinning the critter, fleshing out the hide, and chopping up and attempting to preserve some of the meat. The first order of business on returning to the cabin, though, was to dig a Dakota hole in the icy dirt where the floorboards of the cabin were long rotted and gone, knowing that he needed a better setup than the little fire in the can if he intended to cook the critter before eating it. Which, in this case, he certainly did. Finishing with the fire hole, he did what he could to sharpen the badly dulled steel bar, also choosing a torn shard of tin from the collapsed section of roof, wrapping one end of it with aspen bark fibers to create a handle. He knew this tool would likely not be strong enough to cut through the skin, but might be helpful in separating it from the body once the process was started, especially around the head where he knew it could get tricky. Cutting the skin around the animal’s lower legs and just below the tail, he pulled the hide off of each of its legs like socks, taking a minute to stick a couple of strands of steel wire in between the animal’s tendon and leg bone near the lower leg joint, wrapping the wire around a small tree just outside the cabin. Struggling to do the difficult job with one arm, he braced his foot against a rock and began pulling and tugging at the skin, working it off of the animal from back to front and using the sharp tin only seldom and with great care, lest he nick the hide. The shoulder area proved somewhat difficult, as did the head, but he finally got it done. His hands were freezing as he worked, and he had to keep stopping to warm them, glad when he finally tugged and cut the last bit of hide from the coyote’s head, freeing the nose and turning the hide back fur-side out like a sock to keep the flesh side free of needles and duff when he set it down. Catching his breath and contemplating the scrawny, hairless, hideless coyote, looking for all the world like a slightly short-bodied, slightly stocky greyhound, Einar thought ruefully of the perfectly good elk he had been forced to abandon, and of the abundance of jerky that the coyotes had gobbled shortly after. Oh, well. This will have to do. Protein is protein, I guess. Speaking of which, his stomach was rumbling painfully despite the stink of skinning the creature, and he decided it was high time to get some stew going. Sure don’t want to eat this one raw, if I can help it. Filling his water can with fresh snow, he set it down in the coals to begin melting, knowing that, despite his hunger, he must wait until after dark to stir the fire back to life. While he waited for darkness, which was still several hours off, Einar prowled about the ruins of the cabin until he found a length of worked wood that stuck out of a tumbled-down portion of the wall at an upward angle, looking like it might well have once been part of a roof beam. Sliding the coyote skin onto the beam like a sock, he began carefully scraping the remaining bits of fat and membrane from the hide, in preparation for tanning. He was tired, his arm sore from the work of pulling off that hide with one hand, but the fleshing was something that had eventually to be done anyway, and it was helping to keep him warm as he waited for

dark. Several times as he worked he rose and stretched, beginning to cramp up from the bent-over position necessary to scrape the hide, attempting to keep it from moving around too much on the beam by leaning against it with one knee. Einar was awfully hungry, was feeling the hunger especially acutely after that morning’s climb and the hard work dealing with the coyote, and, seeing the carcass hanging there from a branch, he was having a hard time waiting until dark to start eating. If, he kept telling himself, you couldn’t have a fire, I’m sure you’d eat this critter raw before you would go on starving like this… But he made himself wait, knowing that a scavenger like the coyote was almost certainly full of parasites, and that cooking it was the far better option, since it was one that was available to him. By the time the darkness deepened to a degree that Einar considered “fire-safe,” coyote stew was sounding mighty good indeed. He had already chopped up a quantity of the backstrap meat and thrown it in his water pot—one of the gallon-sized tin cans from the trash heap in the corner—and had it boiling not long after transferring the remaining live coals from the fire-can to his new pit, and coaxing it to flame. Getting creakily to his feet and hobbling over to a patch of snow, he attempted to scrub his hands of the coyote stink from skinning the creature and working the hide, wondering whether the smell would ever come out but deciding that, seeing as the animal was providing him with a desperately need meal, he really didn’t care one way or another. Sitting sleepily over the fire that night with the elk hide around him and a belly full of coyote soup, a can of spruce needle tea nearing a simmer on the cooking rock, Einar could not help but think life was pretty good right at that moment. He knew, though, that he had better enjoy the warmth of the elk skin while he could, because in the morning he was to begin the tanning process, and it would be a good many days before he had the benefit of using it again. Sure hope things stay quiet here for the next while, so I can get these hides taken care of. • • • •

The next day Einar began working on the elk hide, taking two of the tin cans from the cabin down to the little seep in the gulley and digging down in the partially frozen dirt until, slowly, enough water accumulated to fill first one can then another, hauling them up the hill one at a time and adding their contents to the snow he had managed to melt over the night before and keep from refreezing by setting the can down in the covered fire hole when he went to sleep for the night. He had no container large enough to soak the entire elk hide in, which, as dry as it had become, he knew needed to be his first step before attempting to flesh and tan it. So, setting down four timbers in a rectangular pattern on the cabin floor and spreading the hide out, he poured water into the large shallow “dish” this created, folding the edges down into the water so the entire flesh side of the hide could soak. Not ideal, but this may end up working… And he headed down to the seep for another can of water, planning to boil down the coyote brain that night so the solution would be ready as soon as he got the hide prepared. Not convenient, only being able to have a fire at night. Ha! But an awful lot better than not being able to have one at all… Near the seep on a small shelf of level ground in the steep gulley, Einar discovered a small patch of alpine willow, cutting a number of the shoots and carrying them back up

the hill with him. Peeling off the inner bark, he chewed a wad of it, sticking a good quantity of the remainder in his small can with some water to sit. The injured shoulder, as hard as he had tried to spare it, had been bothering him considerably with all the work he had been doing, and the small relief provided by the willow bark was welcome, if incomplete. On another trip down to the seep that day he discovered a few spring beauty plants, their narrow leaves of brilliant green just emerging from the damp, thawing ground. As far as he was concerned, they represented one of the best root vegetables that could be found in the high mountains, and there was even an alpine version that grew far above treeline. The roots ranged in size from peas to small walnuts, and were almost pure starch, with the taste and texture of new potatoes. The plants would often cover a grassy slope or the forest floor beneath an aspen grove to the degree that a good, filling meal could be dug with half an hour’s easy work, lying on the ground and prying with a sharp stick. Of course, it was too early and too high for them to exist in that quantity there by the little seep, but as he dug the ones that were scattered around the small muddy spot, enjoying the succulent leaves and stems raw as he went, Einar was encouraged at the sure sign of the changing season. He leaned down and smelled the thawing soil, thinking that it smelled like life itself after the seemingly endless winter. Spring is coming, Einar. Spring. And it was about time, too. He was pretty sure it must be sometime around the middle of April, by then. Depositing his little pile of spring beauty roots in a pocket of the sweatshirt, which was little more than rags by that point, he grabbed his can of water and headed up the steep-sided gulley, anxious at the prospect of having “potatoes” to go with his boiled coyote that night. Several times that day Einar paused in his work to eat leftover coyote stew. He did not know, of course, whether the coyote he had snared was one of the group of three that had torn up his supplies and stolen his food earlier, but as he ate the cold soup, he liked to think that it was. The thought made the stuff a bit more palatable. After that first night huddling over the fire without the elk skin, his clothes damp from lugging water up the hill all afternoon, badly wishing to lie down but too cold to leave the fire, Einar was rather anxious to see if the stove might be made to function. He had been for the past two nights making sure to damp his fire down several hours before dawn to give any residual smoke a chance to dissipate before daylight, and he spent those last couple of dark hours that morning stomping around in the cold, shivering and plotting his course of action in preparing the stove for use. There were plenty of downed trees in the area, as well as burnable rubble from the ruined sections of the cabin, and he though he lacked axe or saw, he knew he would be able to obtain and break up enough wood to make the stove worthwhile. After cleaning out some of the built-up ash and kicking at the slightly rusted damper to free it up, he saw that there was no reason at all that it ought not work. And with all of the tumbled-down lumber and roofing material sitting around, he knew he could probably rig up an enclosed space that the stove could heat quite nicely with a minimum of wood. He bent some roofing tin for a crude chimney and stuck it in place, knowing it would leak some smoke but supposing that he could gradually work to create a tighter one, if he was able to end up staying. As he worked to accomplish this, thinking what luxury it would be to sit in a dry room with sixty or seventy degree air for a change, the thought struck him that the stove, as hot as it, and the air around it would get, would make one heck of a target for any aircraft that might happen to fly over with

infrared sensors… So, I’ll insulate the roof. Pile duff on it… But he knew there was no way he could keep heat from leaking out through the gaps in the walls. Knew with fair certainty that the place would look like a big glowing box from the air, and he would not have the option of covering it with a flat rock and shoving a heap of pine duff overtop as he could with the fire hole. Real bad idea, Einar. Maybe in a few weeks, but right now, you just can’t do anything that might make you have to run again. Can’t afford that. This scrawny little coyote will keep you going while you work on the hides, but no more than that. Can’t afford to get chased all over the place again. Einar spent the next several days living on coyote stew and spring beauty bulbs from the little melted out spot near the gulley, but living nonetheless, which was the only part that really mattered to him at that point. The details could always be improved upon later. Building a rough frame and stretching the elk hide on it, he slowly worked through the steps of brain tanning the skin—something he had done before, but certainly never with the use of only one arm and a limited supply of water. Perhaps his biggest difficulty was the lack of a nearby source of water. The constant need to descend the steep gulley to the seep and struggle back up again while carefully balancing a can full of water was really wearing him out and adding to his exhaustion as he struggled to stretch, wring, and rub the hide, all with one arm. He went through a lot of willow bark during those few days, chewing almost constantly on a wad of the bitter stuff and drinking the tea in the evening when he got the fire going. After the first day or so it seemed to become somewhat less effective, but he kept at it for lack of other options. On the second day he decided to make the trek up the ridge to check his snare again, taking most of the morning to rig a way to suspend the stretching frame and elk hide from a tree with the steel cable, hopefully out of reach of critters. The snare, rather to his surprise, held another coyote, this one a male and somewhat larger than the first. Great! Now I might actually have enough brain to take care of the whole elk hide, though the coyotes will still have to wait. Returning to the cabin and skinning out and fleshing the animal, he stretched the hide on an improvised stretcher he had made from three boards, held together with nails he pried out of the windowsill and pounded in with a rock. With the two skins, Einar was sure he could make a decent coat, or at the very least a really good hooded vest that would allow him to travel and sleep much warmer than he had been able to…well, for most of the winter, when it came down to it. The nights were a bit rough, as he had little shelter from the cold with both the elk and coyote skins unavailable to him, but he ended the days so exhausted from his work that he slept anyway, huddled under a pile of duff in the corner of the cabin and waking stiff with cold each morning to stomp around for awhile before breaking the ice on the remnants of the previous night’s pot of stew for a slushy but very welcome breakfast. On the third day of his work on the hides, having reached a point where he had to let the elk skin sit undisturbed for a time, Einar decided to descend the steep slope back to the little meadow with the creek where he had dug avalanche lilies several days before, hoping to supplement his food supply and perhaps locate some additional food sources in the area. Carefully suspending everything from trees and grabbing his steel knife, some chunks of

coyote “steak” for lunch and his spear, Einar set off down the slope. After digging lilies for an hour or so and stuffing both of his pockets, Einar wandered over to the creek, which had thawed significantly since his last visit and was running pretty good, wary of spending much time near it because of the possibility of its noise drowning out the sound of approaching danger, but wondering about the possibility of finding fish. He had eaten up most of the remaining elk tallow by then, adding it to his nightly coyote concoction to make up for the fat the creature’s meat lacked, and was again beginning to feel a need for an additional source of fat. A fish or two, even if small, should be just the thing. Crouching on the snow beside an undercut bank, he watched for some time before his eye was caught by a slight flicker of movement in the shadows. He had the spear, but lacked experience in fishing with one, and thought his chances somewhat better using his hand, which he had done before with success. Rolling up his sleeve and submerging his hand for a minute to allow the skin to approach the temperature of the water, he very slowly and carefully moved it nearer the fish, sliding it beneath the creature and waiting until he was sure of his aim before making a move. Getting his fingers in the gills and hanging on tight, Einar scrambled to his feet and took a step back from the creek, jubilant at the sight of a rainbow trout that had to be at least ten inches long. It was then that he noticed for the first time the man who stood on the opposite bank watching him, his AR-15 at low ready. • • • •

They stood there for a moment staring at each other, separated by the ten foot expanse of the creek and several additional feet of snowy bank on each side, neither seeming exactly sure what was to come next. “Asmundson?” The man finally spoke. “You Einar Asmundson?” Einar just stared, not entirely certain of the man’s intentions but, noticing his tactical vest and radio in addition to the rifle, thinking he had a pretty good idea of what they might be. Einar’s eyes darted around for any way out of the situation, but he saw none immediately obvious, with the rifle now trained on him at a distance that virtually eliminated any possibility of the man missing if he decided to take a shot. Einar, unwilling to allow for a repeat of the set of circumstances that led to his capture the first time, was about to take his chances and test the theory by running. The armed man spared him the decision, acting first and reaching with his left hand for the radio that was clipped to the front of his jacket, letting the muzzle of the carbine drop slightly in the process. Einar saw what the man was doing, took advantage of the temporary shift in his focus. He had found himself caught completely off guard as the man approached him under cover of the river noise, but this was a scenario the likes of which he had gone over and over in his mind in the quiet hours of many sleepless nights, and his next move was automatic, without need of conscious thought and without hesitation, as he dropped to the ground behind the little rise that lay between him and the creek, rolled once and slithered down into some willow brush beside it. He heard the deafening blast of three rapid-fire shots rather close behind him, pressed himself down into the soggy snow of the willow swamp and low-crawled into the densest part of the thicket, heard splashing and cursing

and crashing in the thick willow brush as the man attempted to follow, and he scrambled along on his hands and knees, able, completely unburdened as he was by bulky clothing and gear, to move far more quickly than his pursuer through the tangle of brush over ground that was essentially a soggy, icy, partially thawed bog. Einar reached the nearby evergreens, scrambled to his feet dripping icy water and was running, zigzagging up the heavily timbered hill before dropping into a narrow draw where he slid and jumped and at times practically tumbled down a steep slope covered with crusty old snow and frozen duff and deadfall jumbled and twisted and at times completely blocking his path. It was quite some time before he stopped moving, brought up short when he slid and wedged his leg between the parallel trunks of two fallen aspens, almost panicking at the thought that he might be trapped, that he might have broken it, struggling frantically for a moment to free himself before he realized that there was no sound of immediate pursuit behind him. Slowly extracting his trapped leg, finding it badly bruised but fortunately no worse, Einar was about to take off running again, but made himself crouch there for another moment, listening. OK. Stop for a second. What’s the plan here? He’d been going for a while, had covered quite a bit of ground, and thinking about it, he realized that the fact that he had not yet heard the approach of a helicopter likely meant that the man had not been able to immediately reach anyone over the radio, and had probably needed to climb to be able to do so. Then again, the man might have decided to be a hero and attempt to track him down without backup. Einar doubted it. He had been moving fast, but not that fast. The man would have caught up to him by then, or at the very least would have been close enough behind to be heard, if he was actively pursuing. So I may have a bit of time, but not much. He really wished he knew who the man had been. He had certainly looked, from his rifle and gear, like a fed, but was he alone? Part of a larger group, perhaps? Was he a tracker who had been on Einar’s trail for a day or two, finally making his way to the meadow? Who knows? Einar knew what he needed to do, knew that his chances of being able to maintain a good pace and keep a clear head as he put more distance behind him were much greater if he had access to the food that was back up at the old cabin. And he was going to need some of those hides, too, if he was to be on the move again. He looked up at the mountainside, but was prevented by the trees from seeing much. Knowing that the ridge with the coyote path on its crest ran for quite a distance, he expected that if he just started climbing in that direction, he would be able to reach the ridge and descend to the cabin. If whatever search the armed man called down had not closed in too much by that point. Taking off up the slope towards the ridge crest, Einar pulled himself up the steep, slippery slope by grabbing evergreen branches, chokecherry shoots, anything that presented itself to aid his progress. He had popped loose the wire ties that pinned his injured arm to his front as he crawled through the willow swamp, and continued to use the arm now out of necessity, knowing that the shoulder was not yet fully healed but needing its assistance to make better time up the slope. Reaching the crest of the ridge sooner than he would have expected (nothing like an active search on your tail to really get you motivated…) he hurried along the coyote trail, casting an anxious ear to the sky but still hearing no sign of approaching aircraft. He dropped down off the ridge at the dead spruce snag he had been using as a landmark on his trips up there to check his snare, taking the steep downslope in giant, barely

controlled leaps and slides that got him down to the cabin in very good time. Half a can of slushy water remained unfrozen in the slightly warm firepit under its protective rock, and, panting for breath, he took several big swallows from the can as he glanced around the cabin and tried to decide what he could take. The hides… Einar’s clothes were soaked from crawling through the snow by the creek and sliding down the slope, and most of one sleeve of the grey sweatshirt had been torn away when it snagged on a protruding spruce branch as he went down. He knew he had better find some way to wear the coyote skins for protection, because he wouldn’t be having a fire again any time soon, and the nights were still plenty cold enough to kill him if he didn’t show them adequate respect. Pulling the stiff, as yet un-tanned coyote hides off the stretching racks he briefly inspected them, trying to figure some way—some quick way— to turn them into clothing. Well, an odd little voice began, interjecting a bit of ill-timed humor into the situation, if I get much skinnier, I could probably just cut off the head, make arm holes, and slip this thing on like a sweater-vest. He shook his head. Hmm, yeah, but any skinnier, Einar, and I think you would be what’s commonly referred to as a ‘skeleton.’ Not the direction you want to be heading in. Now come on. Quit joking around, and clear out of here! He decided that there was no quick enough way to create even a rough vest from the coyotes, and figured he would be moving too quickly to become dangerously cold for awhile, anyway. One of the coyote hides he turned into a hastily improvised backpack, stuffing it with whatever he could grab in a hurry and thought he could reasonably carry without slowing himself down too much, including one of the large tin cans, everything he had previously salvaged from his torn up lynx-skin pack, and as much of the remaining coyote meat as he could hastily remove from the carcass. He glanced up at the elk hide, suspended from the tree in its stretching frame, soft and supple and finished aside from smoking to make it waterproof, which he had intended to begin that night, and could not bear the thought of leaving it. The hide was heavy, though, and bulky, and he feared that it might slow him too much. No point getting killed over nice warm clothes. He went back and forth on it for a moment, but the matter was decided for him when he looked down and realized the toll his latest flight had taken on his remaining clothing. The jumpsuit was in sorry shape, was mostly gone from mid-thigh down, and what remained of the sweatshirt was threadbare and falling apart at the seams. Well. Got to try with the elk hide. I can always abandon it later if it becomes too much of a problem. He quickly lowered the stretching rack, removed the hide and folded and rolled it up, securing it to the outside of the coyote skin, which he slung over his shoulder. That’s it, then. Nice knowing you, cabin and stove. Sure would have liked to stay for awhile and enjoy your shelter. Perhaps another time, if I get out of this one. If… And he took off up the ridge, hoping to be on his way down the other side of it by the time the helicopters came. Which, to his dismay and consternation, was not to be. • • • •

Einar was no more than halfway back up to the ridge crest above the cabin when a familiar feeling of impending doom alerted him to the presence of the helicopter almost a full second before he was actually aware of hearing it. With the unpredictable way the sound bounced and echoed off the surrounding ridges and peaks he could not tell exactly what direction it was coming from, but hurried over to the dropoff into the gulley that ran along beside the slope he was climbing, knowing it would provide his best chance of quickly finding some rocks to get under. The gulley, once he had slid down into it, did indeed offer an undercut bank of sorts where the water of many years of spring runoff had eroded the dirt away and left rock exposed along one side, and Einar squeezed into the narrow hollowed out space it had left behind, lying down flat and rolling up against the rock at the back of the dark horizontal space. Waiting for the chopper to approach, he found himself glad that the day was, for a change, sunny, perhaps giving him the advantage as far as remaining undetected for the moment. Unfortunately though, thing that really had him worried was not the prospect of immediate detection by the chopper crew. He knew that if the man on the ground was not following him, others almost certainly soon would be, and having made the two trips back and forth between the cabin and the creek on nearly the same path, there was no way his trail would be missed by even the least qualified of trackers, let alone the professionals the feds would probably bring in, now that they finally had a solid location to start from, and him with only a rather slight lead on them, time-wise. With that in mind, he realized that one of the things he had most to be concerned about was the possibility of being pinned down by the chopper while the teams on the ground followed his trail and cornered him under the shelter he had found to shield himself from aerial observation. Pulling the coyote skin and attached elk hide in beside him and resting his head on the fur to help insulate himself from the cold rock, he pulled a chunk of roast coyote haunch from the pack, struggled to tear off a piece of the tough stuff with his teeth and choked it down, feeling more nauseous than he did hungry at the moment with the adrenalin of the chase coursing through his system, but knowing he would be needing energy for what lay ahead, and might not soon get another opportunity to eat. Einar realized that his only chance this time might well lie in slowing or temporarily halting the ground pursuit to give himself the chance to put some distance behind him and make his trail scarce, which he knew he could do, but probably not in the awful hurry he would be traveling in if he knew pursuers were on the ground close behind him. So, how to slow or stop them? Lying on his back and looking out at the adjacent slope, he saw a place not too far above his shelter where the steep ascent of the mountainside was broken by a small bench, nearly level and covered with a thick growth of small-diameter aspens, so numerous that many of them were within inches of their companions. He nodded, an idea taking shape as he studied the spot. All right. May just be able to see to it that this is a really bad day to be an FBI tracker…now if that buzzard would just move on so I could get busy. And don’t they know it’s way too cold to keep lying here like this? Apparently they did not know, or did not care, because the chopper had neared, and took its time as it slowly circled the area several times. It was difficult for Einar to tell exactly what it was doing from his position beneath the cliff, but after circling it seemed to hover

for a time in an area that he thought ought to roughly correspond to the meadow where he had encountered the armed man, then its sound changed and for a time he did not hear it at all. Sliding out from beneath the ledge he rose, jerking to free the soaked sweatshirt where it had begun freezing to the rock and hoisting the pack onto his shoulder. He was preparing to start out up the gulley, anxious to put his plan into effect, when from below the whine of an engine followed by the pounding of propellers picking up speed told him that he had better take cover again pretty quickly. The chopper, it was now apparent, must have landed in the meadow by the river and was preparing to take off again. Well. Here comes that ground search, then. And with that added urgency Einar very much wanted to be on his way, but was forced to wait for nearly another half hour, freezing in the shadows of the ledge as the chopper continued to circle and probe the nearby ridges and valleys, the fact that it seemed to be focusing only on his side of the creek telling him that they had at least a good idea of where he must have headed, but had not yet pinned down his exact location. At last the helicopter rumbled off down the valley, to refuel or pick up more searchers or who knew what; Einar certainly did not know what and he did not care, he cared only that it stay gone long enough to allow him to move, to get up to that aspen-covered shelf and put up an obstacle that would hopefully make them think twice about following him. Or, as he saw it, his chances of getting out from under them this time were looking poor, at best. He had even been thinking, as he lay there waiting for the chopper to move on, of what his options might be if they did indeed catch up to him at some point. He had the bow still, though he had abandoned the spear back at the creek, and during his time at the cabin had made four more arrows, two of which he had tipped with bent tin from the roof and two with broken nails. He wondered of the agents would be wearing body armor. Maybe, maybe not. They have to know by now that I’m not armed, and they’ll be breathing hard in this thin air and probably looking to save on weight wherever they can. So maybe if I can hide myself at the last minute… Even at that, he didn’t know whether his improvised arrows would necessarily go through the multiple layers of winter clothing the men were likely to be wearing. If they get that close though, it will mean something has gone seriously wrong, anyway. They will not travel alone, and the reality of it is that at that point I’ll just be making the best last stand that I am able, with little chance of coming out the other side. Gonna try and make sure it doesn’t come to that. And, listening as the last echoes of the helicopter reverberated from the nearby walls and died out, he shoved the coyote skin out of the shelter and into the snow of the gulley. Rolling stiffly out of the rocky crevice, he stumbled to his feet and began climbing through the mixed rock and snow towards the shelf, making no attempt to conceal his trail and, clumsy and shaking after lying for too long pressed up against that freezing rock, glad that he had no intention of doing so at that point, because it would have been quite a challenge. Passing a stand of chokecherry bushes he stopped to hack at them with the steel bar, gathering seven or eight of the straight, flexible red-barked sticks and pushing snow over the cut ends to conceal them. Seeing how the bark peeled easily in thin, sturdy strips from the wood beneath, he cut several more of he sticks, longer ones this time, before hurrying up into the aspens. Before beginning his work he stood very still at the edge of the shelf, listening but hearing nothing to indicate that anyone was close by. There was really only one easy approach to the little shelf, and it was the one he

had taken, leaving clear sign but not, he hoped, so clear as to arouse the suspicions of his pursuers. Working his way over to a point that overlooked the approach, above it by only ten or fifteen feet and separated by a steep section of rock fall and scattered brush, he sat down on a rock and began stripping bark off of the long chokecherry branches he had gathered, testing it for strength and glad when he found that it would hold quite a bit of weight. He knew that as soon as it began to dry, it would quickly lose flexibility and strength, but in this case that was irrelevant. All I need is an hour or two. At most. Which reminded him. He had better make quick work of this. Trimming eight of the sticks to a similar length, he bound them together at several points with wraps of bark, carefully bending the finished bundle and thinking that it ought to do. Next he corded two strips of bark together, then two more, combining the finished cords to make a single one that, while bulky and ugly, was quite strong. He tied a loop in each end, bent the tied bundle of sticks, and inspected the finished bow. Ought to work. Once. Choosing two inch and a half diameter aspens whose straight white trunks grew within several inches of each other, he hurried to set up the next step of his ambush device, concerned that he could begin to hear voices from somewhere far down the slope. Got to pick up the pace here, Einar. You got a ways to go on this. • • • •

Hurrying but trying not to get too careless in his haste, Einar bound the bow tightly to the gulley side of the two tree trunks with some of the bark strips, at a slightly downwardfacing angle. He knew that if he could get this trap to function, even if it did not end up doing his pursuers any serious damage, it would surely put some caution in them, slow them down, and cause them to approach every shadowy section of trail, every branch that seemed out of place and every disturbed spot on the ground differently. The minutes he gained from such hesitation just might make all the difference. Attaching a length of twined chokecherry bark to the center point on the bowstring and looping and tying the other end of the bark around the center of a five inch long section of broken aspen branch, he pulled it back, carefully drawing the bow and relieved to see that the length of the string he had attached, as he had estimated, allowed the stick to reach a point just behind another set of two small trees that grew very close together. Pulling the stick between the two trees, he turned it so that it was parallel to the tree trunks, holding it in place by inserting two short sticks at right angles to the trunks, and carefully easing the first stick down so that it sat across them forming roughly the shape of an “I,” the weighted bowstring holding them all in place. He carefully backed up, glad that everything was holding, and inspected the setup. It’ll work. Slowly releasing the tension on the bowstring and setting the trigger sticks on the ground, he hastily stripped and spliced together a number of long bark strands, creating a trip wire that would run around the trunks of at least two other small aspens before stretching inconspicuously across his back trail in the shadowy, melted out area beneath two large spruces. The other end of the trip line he attached to one of the horizontal trigger sticks that served to hold back the bowstring. When the line was tripped, the horizontal stick would be jerked out of place, releasing the vertical stick, and thus the bowstring. By choosing small aspens to run the trip line around in its path from the trap to the trail, he

ensured that it would slide well and not get bound up, as the aspen bark was very smooth and coated with a white powdery substance that would act as a lubricant. He got everything set up, wishing he had a way to test it, arrow and all, but, not wanting to risk having it work too well or possibly lose the arrow, he settled for a test minus the arrow, hoping it would not be too hard on the roughly improvised bowstring. Everything went smoothly, and he did his best to mask any additional sign he had left near his trail in setting the thing up, rearmed it, and put the arrow in place, choosing one of the two that he had tipped with part of a nail. Looking down the little dropoff toward his trail, he saw that the tripline, running through some brush, was nearly invisible even to him, who knew exactly where to look. All right then. Come and get me, if you insist… And, the occasional voices from below becoming steadily more audible, he hoisted his pack, turned and, with a little prayer—Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me… draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers!— he hurried up into the dark timber above the shelf. As he climbed, Einar took a moment here and there to stretch a bit of twined bark across the trail, suspend a fallen branch from a tree at an odd angle, disturb the ground a bit, and generally make the woods a very unfriendly-looking place indeed to group of searchers who, he hoped, would have recently encountered his trap when they passed that way. Keeping this up for some distance, he finally chose an area of dark timber to stop leaving sign and make his trail disappear altogether. Einar knew that his pursuers had been closing in behind him when he left the shelf, but he did not realize how very close they had been until, less than fifteen minutes out into the dark timber, he heard a faint and distant but distinct commotion of shouting and crashing below him, and knew they must have reached the shelf. Heart pounding hard, he picked up his pace even more, wanting very badly to be up and over the ridge by the time the helicopter returned, which he knew would probably not be long now, especially with this new development in the search that would have told them, if they had retained any doubt, that they were indeed on his trail. Einar knew that, between the stretch of black timber that currently concealed him, and the crest of the ridge, lay an area of stunted little aspens and chokecherry scrub, sparsely vegetated at best and not at all something he wanted to find himself trying to cross with a chopper hovering overhead. His progress was significantly slower now that he was taking care not to leave sign, and by the time he reached the edge of the black timber he was concerned, though the had not yet heard it, that he might not have time to cross the open area before the chopper showed up. There were no other good options though, as to stay in the patch of timber was to risk being cornered against the open area or even, if his pursuers were numerous enough and well organized enough, surrounded. He doubted they would attempt anything like that; the racket they had been making as they climbed indicated to him that they were not necessarily especially…tactically savvy about how to approach someone in the woods, but he figured the trap would have sobered them up some and made them realize they weren’t on a walk in the park. Since the commotion, he had heard nothing to indicate that they had continued climbing, and he wondered whether they had just gone quiet, were waiting for more help, or whether perhaps he had got lucky and actually hit one of them with that arrow. That would be some luck, all right. He doubted that his hastily

constructed trap had the ability to do more than perhaps scare them and slow them a bit. And perhaps convince them to let the chopper do most of the scouting, from then on. Encouraged as he was tempted to be by the lack of noise behind him, Einar knew it would be a big mistake to underestimate the imminent danger he was still in. All right. So I go for it. And he started out from under the shelter of the spruces, moving as quickly as he was able while being careful of his trail over the somewhat rocky, snow-dotted ground that lay between him and the summit of the ridge. Reaching the ridge crest without incident, he hurried to cross the wide, nearly flat ground just below and beyond its summit, heading for a small stand of firs that would allow him to move undetected for a short distance, at least, while he looked things over and planned his next move. He was finding that there was less forested area over on this side of the ridge than he had remembered, but he could see some distance below him a red-rocked, cliffy area that might well offer some good prospects for shaking his pursuers. Then suddenly and without warning a helicopter rose from behind the adjoining ridge, skimming along his own and heading straight for him. Einar glanced around for some hasty concealment but there was nothing, no rock overhang, no dark timber, not even a single likely evergreen, just the sparse vegetation of the ridge, and he knew that if they had not already seen him, they soon would. The chopper was doubling back and he dropped to the ground, pressing up against the side of a boulder, flattening himself into the ground and attempting to take refuge in the inadequate shadow of the rock, pulling the coyote skin up over what remained of the orange jumpsuit to hide it. The thing was hovering, was low, he could feel the wind of its propellers in his hair as he lay there, dust and grit from the ground being stirred up and nearly blinding him as he squinted and huddled closer to the rock. And then they must have seen him because they were shooting, and Einar, glancing up for one startled instant, saw a man in BDUs and body armor with an AR-15 leaning out of the chopper as it hovered, and then he was running, sprinting down the steep open ground of the ridge towards a stand of fir trees not fifty yards below him, leaping over rocks and clumps of vegetation and as he zigzagged down the slope, taking shelter briefly beside another boulder when he heard more gunfire, only to have his face peppered the next second with flying rock shards, sending him scurrying to his feet in one last desperate dash for the trees, finally diving into the shadow of the forest and scrambling back up to go running some distance further before throwing himself to the ground and rolling beneath the thick, low-swept boughs of a large fir, realizing that the chopper was no longer directly above him, though not far from it, and knowing that he needed to take a second and make sure that he had not been hit by more than the rock fragments. After a brief inspection he was satisfied that he was not, at least, losing blood at a dangerous rate, and the rest of it could wait until later. The shooting, without so much as a shouted warning or demand of surrender from a megaphone or some such, had surprised him a bit, but he supposed it ought not to have; he had, after all, been the one to take it to that level with the trap, which he supposed must have been at least somewhat successful to get them that riled up. What Einar could not know was that his trap had in fact killed a man that morning, a sixteen year veteran of the FBI who had been unlucky enough to be second in line after the man who had stumbled across Einar’s trip wire. He had taken the arrow through the neck, and had never even had a chance.

Einar was also unaware, but might have found a small glimmer of encouragement in the knowledge if it had been available to him, that the FBI’s response time was had been significantly longer that morning and their attention at first divided in the renewed pursuit of him by a series of events that had developed that day in the predawn hours when they started up the hill to serve their search warrant on Bill and Susan. Creeping out from beneath the tree and dragging his pack behind him, he was glad to see that he still had the bow, had dropped it beside the tree as he rolled under it. He had not until then known for sure whether he had lost it, or not. Pulling the sinew bowstring from his shirt pocket where he had some time ago secured it with a twist of wire, he strung the bow, repositioning his three remaining arrows in the pack so that he could easily reach back and grab them, should the need arise. The chopper was behaving in a way that made him suspect they had at least a good idea where he was, and the patch of evergreens was not all that large, if they should get people on the ground after him, so he moved toward the red rocks he had earlier seen, slipping from the shadow of one tree to the next and just hoping that they did not get a clear look at him in the meantime. Reaching the last tree in the cluster, he pressed himself against his trunk and surveyed the land before him, an open slope of recently melted out dead grass ending abruptly in the world of broken, looming red sandstone that he had noticed from the top of the ridge and that he now hoped might offer him escape. Waiting for the helicopter to move on or at least change direction he studied the rock, noticing a faint trail, no more than a trace and probably used mainly by bighorn sheep and maybe even mountain goats, that took off across what he might have otherwise mistaken for a nearly sheer rock face. He had seen such trails before, had walked them, in fact, only to look back from the other side and wonder what on earth he had been thinking. They never seemed quite as narrow, nor the dropoffs below them quite as steep, when you were actually on them. Einar knew then what he must do, knew that from the air that red rock face would appear entirely impassible, knew that, as near as the trail was to the overhang above it, he should be completely invisible to the chopper crew while on it. That, or they would see him and shoot him down as he crossed the exposed rock. It was a risk, but one he preferred to waiting trapped in the little stand of firs until they came and took him. So he waited until the chopper passed behind the trees, quickly crossed the open slope and took off on the narrow thread of a path, struggling at times to maintain his balance on a narrow ledge that was shadowed and in places icy and covered with loose gravel from the freeze and thaw cycles of early spring. He could hear the helicopter but could not see it, continued on the trail until it finally emerged from beneath the overhang and passed over a wide, exposed rockslide before again continuing along the impossible-looking cliff face. He did not want to go back if he could help it, was not in fact even sure he would be able to successfully get himself turned around on that narrow sliver of rock, especially with the bulky pack, and he couldn’t reasonably stay where he was for long either, because, exposed to the sky there at the edge of the rockslide, there was a good chance that he would eventually be spotted. In fact, he could hear the chopper turning, returning for another pass, and he looked about for any place to conceal himself, seeing nothing, save for a dark little crack just below him, no wider than two or three feet. He couldn’t see the bottom, was not sure looking down that that it really had one, but he figured that

even if it snaked down a hundred feet or more, it was narrow enough that he ought to be able to wedge himself in it and slide no more than a few feet down. And then hopefully be able to climb back up out of it when the time came. The chopper was nearing and Einar, slinging the bow over his shoulder and hoping very much that he did not break it, launched himself into the darkness. • • • •

Einar slid down further than he had intended into the narrow rock crack, quickly sliding twenty feet into the darkness, scrambling frantically and finally stopping his descent by pulling his knees up and wedging himself in, glad that the walls were of sandstone instead of something less abrasive and more slippery. Though his knees were rather wishing it had been less abrasive. As his eyes adjusted to the semidarkness, he was able to make out a rock shelf some five or six feet below him, and, growing rather fatigued from bracing himself with his knees, carefully slid down until his feet rested on the ledge. The space narrowed as he went, the walls of red rock closing in until, by the time he reached the angled chunk of rock, they were barely two feet from each other. Finally safe from immediate danger of falling, he let his breath out in a sigh and sagged toward the ground in exhaustion, not getting very far because of the narrowness of the space, finding himself unable to sit down or even crouch, finally finding a position where he could get a bit of rest by leaning his chest and one side of his face against one wall, his backside against the other, and letting his knees take most of his weight as he hung there. Water. He needed water. He was parched from his dash up the ridge and the hurry of the escape from the chopper, his throat sandy and too dry even to swallow. Looking around in the hopes of finding a little snow-covered ledge somewhere, the best he could come up with were some little frozen rivulets where snowmelt had apparently trickled down into the chasm on some of the warmer days, freezing as it contacted rock that never saw any sun or had the chance to warm up. Very carefully lest they drop and shatter and be lost to him, he pried at and freed several flakes of this ice, finding them gritty with red sand but tremendously welcome nonetheless. He wondered how long the sun had to be on the cliffs above before those frozen little rills started running again. Looking up at the tiny patch of blue above him, nearly obscured by the looming wall of sandstone that had concealed him in his travels on the sheep trail, he rather hoped he would not be there long enough to find out. Before long he started becoming very cold from being pressed up against the rock on both sides, and, very careful not to drop it, he maneuvered the pack over to where he could reach it and painstakingly removed the elk skin, working it in increments around behind his back and over his shoulders, tucking it around his knees to remove them from direct contact with the rock. A bit better, and the hide did keep the breezes that seemed to be constantly finding their way into the crack from chilling him quite so badly, but it did not take the cold of the rock long at all to seep through the hide, and there was just no escaping the fact that he was stuck between two layers of icy rock in a place that never saw the sun, at least not that time of year. He eventually worked the second coyote pelt up out of the pack and wedged it between his back and the wall, getting some measure of relief. He was having real trouble with his feet, his toes were going numb in his damp socks and he had to keep wiggling them and shuffling his feet to

keep circulation going. He wanted to loosen his boots and try to dry his feet, but the confinement of the space kept him from reaching down and doing it. Later in the day he could hear people on the open slope outside, and hoped the steepness of the rock face was enough to discourage them from coming and looking down in the crack he hid in, because he knew there was absolutely no way he would be able to maneuver and use the bow in the cramped space. It seemed, from the little that he could hear, that they eventually moved on, though one of two helicopters, the light one that had held the agent who took the shots at him, not the Huey that had later joined it, continued to regularly buzz the mountain. It seemed that they must know he could not have gone too far, and he wondered how long they would continue to scour the place. Not too much longer, he hoped, because he was becoming seriously cold and had as of yet discovered no way to really improve things in the narrow confinement of the rock crack. Hmm. Maybe some hikers will come along and set up camp at the bottom of this crack, and decide that it looks like a good chimney for their campfire. That would help a lot…till I got roasted. Or smothered by the smoke. Continuing with that line of thought for awhile, liking the distraction it provided him, he drifted somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, the cramped position he hung in keeping him from ever truly falling asleep for more than a few seconds, despite his weariness. He daydreamed, half asleep, of Liz, of the little cabin in the basin, of a dimly remembered world where there was enough to eat and no need to hide the smoke of your fire and flee at the sound of approaching aircraft, returning to awareness some minutes later freezing and shivering to the sound of the helicopter and a bad cramp in his leg, wanting very badly at that moment to be anywhere but where he was, wanting warmth, better food and more of it, perhaps some human company of a sort that wouldn’t be trying so awfully hard to end his life as were the men that prowled about outside that day. He didn’t allow himself to indulge such thoughts for long though, knowing they were unproductive if not downright dangerous, telling himself that he’d gladly settle for simply finding a way out of his present jam before the sun hit the rock face the next morning and set the snowmelt to trickling down the crack, as it was clear from the fresh ice that it did, at times. Better start working on a way out of here, Einar. Believe it or not, this can definitely get worse. He wondered if it would be possible to descend further down the chasm, perhaps eventually coming out the bottom or at least reaching a place where it opened up enough to allow him to exit, perhaps in a stand of trees. The obstacle to trying involved the angled rock shelf that he stood on. It jutted out somewhat beyond the confines of the crack, and, with its downward angle, passing it would likely be a real challenge, though one that he was willing to try, considering that it might offer him a way out of the immediate area of the search. That attempt would have to wait, however, as the chopper still patrolled the area quite persistently, and he would have to expose himself for a time as he passed the block of sandstone that he stood on before dropping back into the concealment of the fissure. Though he hoped this could be done quickly, he knew from experience that it could end up being long slow work involving much searching and testing of hand and footholds, especially if the thing was at all icy or slippery. And that red sandstone had a real reputation for being far less firmly anchored than it might appear. In fact, local climbers had a saying that, in these mountains, “you often have to

hold your handholds in place while you use them.” He had found this to be quite true, and in the past had nearly perfected the technique of balancing himself and applying the correct pressure to these questionable holds. But he had never attempted it with one injured and marginally functional shoulder, an awkward and unwieldy pack swinging from the other and angry men in a helicopter shooting at him all the while just to improve his focus, and did not think this a good time to start. So the continuation of his descent would have to wait until he was reasonably certain that the chopper had moved on for a time. Waiting, really beat from the exertion of the day and knowing he would need all the concentration he could muster when it came time to finish the descent, he slept, his exhaustion finally overcoming the discomfort of his cramped quarters, clutching the elk hide around him and shivering as the massive expanse of cold rock drew the heat out of him at what would have been an alarming rate, if he had been awake and able to pay attention. In his sleep Einar heard a scrape and a rattle on the rock far above him, struggled to wake up and get a look at the source of the noise. Finally succeeding in opening his heavy eyelids he squinted up at the little patch of light, which had dimmed some as the afternoon progressed but was still quite bright enough for him to see the silhouette of a human head, leaning over and looking down at him. “Are you OK down there? Are you stuck?” He shook his head, stared for a moment, realizing that he had been discovered and vaguely surprised the shooting had not yet begun. He was, beyond question, trapped. The person spoke again, repeated the question, and though the shape was fuzzy and indistinct in the diffused light, he realized in disbelief that the voice very definitely belonged to Liz. “No,” he spoke quietly, afraid of alerting his pursuers, “not stuck. Just…hiding. How… what are you doing here? How did you get past the search?” “Oh, I’m with Mountain Rescue now. They’ll let me go anywhere. I’m going to get you out of here, but you can’t come out until they’re gone. You’ll have to wait a while.” Einar did not answer immediately. Something seemed very wrong about the whole situation. He knew there was no way that they would have allowed Liz, or any other civilian SAR personnel, into the middle of a hot search like was ongoing. And besides, Liz had left the valley long ago, had gone back home to…wherever she was from, he could not recall the name of the town, but she was certainly not still around, and as far as he knew, she had never had anything to do with Mountain Rescue. He was cold, was confused, everything seemed just a bit too hazy to make much sense of, and he wished he could get his brain to work and tell him what to make of the situation. She was telling him again that he would have to wait, asking him if he could wait, and he answered quickly, afraid that the searchers would hear her is she kept talking like that. “Alright. I can wait. I’m waiting. Do you have any food, though? It’s awful cold down

here. I…I could really use some food.” “Yes. In my pack. Just a minute.” And the head disappeared from the patch of light that constituted his only visual connection to the outside world, a series of loud crashes and scrapes making him seriously wonder what she could be up to out there. • • • •

When the FBI headed up the hill to Bill and Susan’s early that morning, intent on serving the search warrant in a rather dynamic manner and leaving Jeff, if he was indeed there, no chance to slip their grasp, there were several things they failed to take into account. The first among these was the call, not over the phone, which they had wisely cut off before the raid, but over the frequency used locally by Mountain Rescue, warning Bill in somewhat cryptic language of the suspicious activities around the command post. The second thing they failed to plan for was the well-organized and prepackaged welcome Bill had arranged in case he was ever visited by them or their ilk. As it turned out, he did not even need to use half of the “special measures” he had arranged for. The agents on the ground at Bill and Susan’s that morning, particularly those in the APC that led the way up the steep switchbacks, hardly had time to distinguish between the crack of the bullet as it flew over their heads, the noise of the blast, and the roar as several tons of rock—which had been held back by the carefully constructed and camouflaged log wall—came thundering down the mountainside around them. When the dust settled, the APC was thoroughly trapped, half buried beneath several dump truck loads of rock rubble that had been held back by Bill’s log berms, and at least that much more that had been brought along by the momentum of the slide. The drivers of the two Suburbans that had been following along behind managed to stop their vehicles in time to avoid being crushed or carried over the side by the tumbling rocks. Bill, watching from his position on the ridge, quickly put in a call over a local emergency frequency that he knew was monitored by the Sheriff’s Department, reporting that there had been a rockslide on his property, and that he saw lights and believed a vehicle might have been trapped. By the time Watts and his Deputies arrived, the place was crawling with FBI agents, and a heated dispute broke out between the Watts and several of the agents as he tried to figure out what had just happened, and why the feds had been taking a “tank,” as he kept referring to the APC, up his friend Bill’s driveway at four in the morning. The FBI, knowing that their element of surprise was by that point totally gone, knowing that Jeff, if he had ever been up there, had just been given ample time to clear the area, and seeing that the Sheriff was scrutinizing their every move, decided against executing their search warrant that morning. Bill watched the goings on through the Nightforce scope on his rifle, which did a rather fine job of collecting the ambient light from the ongoing efforts to free the trapped APC, allowing him to see the show. As he watched the animated discussion take place between

Watts and the fed that seemed to be in charge, then saw the federal agent turn angrily and head down the hill to the truck he had come in, Bill was confident that, for that morning at least, disaster appeared to have been averted. • • • •

“Here’s your food,” Liz shouted cheerfully, her head reappearing in the square of light. Before Einar could do anything about it something hit him hard on the shoulder and went clattering away down the chasm, taking several small rocks along with it and followed by another projectile, which he got a good enough look at to see that it was a jar of some type, its white plastic lid telling him that he had probably just missed his chance to snag some Nutella. “Wait!” He shouted, dodging a can of corned beef hash. “Slow down. I can’t…” Another jar of Nutella hit a nearby rock and bounced past him, just out of his reach, coming to rest on the rock slab near his feet, followed by a tin of sardines that somehow strangely managed not to burst open when it slammed into the rock, but, like the Nutella, ended up hopelessly beyond his reach. “Hey, Liz…” She seemed to be ignoring him, though, kept dropping things on him, Einar avoiding them the best he could while striving but each time failing to catch the food that bounced and clattered past him to go rolling down into the darkness of the chasm below, some of it stopping on his ledge and beginning to pile up a bit against a raised slab of sandstone that sat near the edge of his little platform. A large canned ham had his especial attention, and he struggled to reach it with his foot. He finally caught one of the flying jars of Nutella and, ravenous, tried unsuccessfully to get the lid off, only to realize with a sinking feeling that the object in his hand was nothing more than a fist-sized chunk of red sandstone. Startled, he looked up just in time to see a small cascade of rocks hurtling down the crack at him. He scrambled and shoved, dragging himself six inches further into the small space, which was all the room he had to maneuver in and which fortunately was enough to keep him from being pounded by the fusillade of falling rock. When the tumbling of the rocks had stopped, Einar leaned out and looked back up at the patch of sky, calling for Liz and hoping she had not been injured or even knocked off the narrow trail by the rock fall. There was no answer. He looked around, saw that the entire pile of food he had watched accumulate on the ledge was actually composed of rocks. Kicking at the pile and rubbing his bruised shoulder, his cold brain slowly wrapped itself around the fact that Liz had, of course, never been there at all. He squeezed his eyes shut and rested his head on the wall. Wow, Einar. That was a good one. I hope you were just imagining shouting at her, too, or they may have heard you… Now that he was fully awake and thinking a bit more clearly, he realized that there was no way Liz could have ever been expected to find him, no way she would have made it past the choppers and the ground search, even if she had somehow guessed at his location. The realization left him feeling a bit desolate for a moment, lonely, almost, if he would have allowed himself to admit it, but there was not much time for such thoughts, because he found himself

wondering what had actually caused the rocks to fall in the first place. Had a search team found the trail and knocked them down as they passed? Or had a bighorn sheep perhaps done so? He knew that while either of these scenarios was possible, it could just as well have been nothing more than a single rock coming loose at the end of an afternoon of thawing, starting the cascade. Whatever had started the slide, it seemed over for the time, and if it had been a fed passing on the little thread of a trail, apparently they had not discovered him. But the crack was clearly a death trap, and no place to be spending any more time than he had to. He knew he had only narrowly missed catching a rock or two with his head. It was near dusk outside, the sun was almost entirely gone from the section of wall that was visible to him, and, though he expected that with temperatures dropping quickly as the sun went down, the danger of rockfall was likely over for the night, he very much hoped to be able to escape his current predicament before darkness set in and he was forced to wait until morning to finish the descent. The prospect of a night spent sandwiched in that icy crevice…well. He was pretty sure he could make it through if he ended up without a choice, but certainly had no desire to try. Already he had been there long enough, his legs stiff and cramping and his hands nearly without feeling, that he wondered about his ability to effectively down climb the remainder of the crack, let alone make it over the exposed bulge of sandstone that blocked his progress. But he had not heard the chopper for a good while, and knew that he must try. Unable to move much at all in the narrowness of the crack, he tensed and relaxed his muscles repeatedly, trying to get the blood flowing a bit and warm up as much has he could before attempting the climb. Rolling up the elk hide with difficulty in the confined space, he secured it to the pack, slung the pack as securely as he could from his shoulder, and edged out across the downward-sloping stone block. The descent over the bulge of sandstone was not easy, and once the freely swinging pack, gaining a bit of momentum, nearly caused him to lose his tenuous hold and come off the rock, but he made it, and rested for a minute down in the darkness and comparative safety of the chimney below, immensely relieved that the chopper had not returned while he had been stuck there out in the open. For some time he worked his way down the crack, finally seeing some daylight down below, a bit of rock-strewn ground and a solitary bank of half melted snow that apparently marked the end of the descent. Some twenty feet from the bottom, the walls suddenly grew much farther apart beneath him, too far to continue much longer descending the way he had been, and he stayed there with his back pressed against one wall and his feet against the other for some time, trying to decide whether he should attempt to climb back up to the ledge, or take the risk of dropping the twenty or so feet that remained between his position and the ground. Einar knew that he almost certainly lacked the strength to make that climb, and, even if he succeeded, doing so would just leave him stranded again on the ledge, as the chopper had returned during his descent to make slow passes along the ridge. Well. Twenty feet. I can do that. He eased the pack off of his shoulder and, craning his neck to get a good look at the ground below him in the half-light of evening, dropped it to the rock-strewn ground below, sending the bow after it, flinging it to one side to reduce his chances of landing on it and praying that he would find it still usable. Taking a couple of deep breaths he dropped from the chimney, aiming for the somewhat softer landing he hoped the pack would provide. Einar landed

hard on his feet in the spacious, almost cave-like rock alcove that opened up beneath the long chimney, his knees bent, protecting his head with his arms as he rolled onto his left shoulder, tumbling once and hitting his head on a rock despite his best efforts. He managed to drag himself a bit further under the sheltering overhang and pull the elk hide, which had come loose in the fall, partially up over himself before losing consciousness, fighting it all the way but in the end unable to fend off the blackness that rapidly overtook him. Einar woke stiff with cold sometime well after sunrise the next day to the steady drip of icy water on the side of his head, coughing and spluttering and trying to raise his head but finding his beard partially frozen to the rocky ground beneath him. He jerked himself loose, rolled over to get out of the dripping water, and lay there for a minute waiting for the pain of his re-injured shoulder to subside some before dragging himself back over to the tiny puddle that had collected near where he lay, sucking the water out of it to relieve his thirst and staring dully about in search of his pack and bow. He saw them not far away, relieved that the bow appeared undamaged. Sitting up and slumping back heavily against the wall of the alcove, he pulled the elk skin up over his head and shoulders, wiped his face dry on it and huddled with his hands in his armpits, trying to get some feeling back in his fingers and decide how bad the damage might be from his fall. He dimly remembered hitting his head, but beyond a little lump on his temple he could find no sign of injury, and, aside from his left shoulder, which he had rolled on and which seemed unfortunately to be almost as bad as it had been when he had first injured it, his arms and legs seemed basically alright. The agony in his shoulder seemed just a bit better when he remained immobile in the hunched-over position he had settled into, and he was close to talking himself into staying put for awhile on the theory that, if they had not yet discovered him, perhaps he was safe there for a time. Which he knew was ridiculous. The search would make its way down there, eventually. And he was freezing. Needed to move. Come on. Get up. You got to get warm. Got to get out of here, too, because they haven’t found you yet, but they will if you stay. That prospect was enough to get him going. He tried his legs, managed to stand and found that, though he was awfully stiff and sore and shaking so badly in the cold that it was a challenge to put one foot in front of the other, he could walk. Good. That’s all you need. Now go. Things will start to loosen up as you move. You’ll get warmer. And he went, sticking close to the rock face and stopping still in its shadow as a helicopter appeared from over the ridge, grinning slightly through his chattering teeth as he watched it run a tight zigzag pattern over the timbered area far above him. They still think I’m up there... • • • •

For the rest of that morning, Einar kept close to the shelter of the red cliffs, his progress slowed greatly by the frequent need to seek shelter from passing aircraft, finally working his way down into a green-carpeted valley where he stopped at the edge of the timber near a little creek for a few minutes, badly needing more than the occasional mouthful of snow for water. Hastily scanning the valley floor for any sign of danger, he flopped down beneath a fir and pulled out the remainder of the roast coyote that he had left from his previous camp, wolfing it down hungrily and gulping snowmelt water from the creek,

silty and roiling and cold enough to make his head ache as he swallowed great mouthfuls of it. The air was warmer down there in the valley, and though he quickly became chilled lying in the shade of the tree, Einar could tell that, if it had been safe for him to be out in the open, he would have warmed up in a hurry, sitting in the sun. He found the thought rather encouraging. Resting in the shelter of the tree and smelling the green, alive odors of emerging spring, he had the feeling that, if he could just successfully get out from under the current search, the precarious balance of factors affecting whether he lived or died might just start to tip in his favor, for a change. If, that was, he could get some more food soon. He had one coyote hindquarter left, but with no way to cook it knew that, lacking an alternative food source, he would soon be faced with the choice to go hungry again or eat it raw, risking acquiring a potentially dangerous parasite. Despite the risk, he was pretty sure what he would decide. With the rivers and larger creeks having finally thawed, he knew fish would begin to be an option, but after his last experience with the water, was afraid to spend more than a moment near the sound-masking rush of a snowmelt-swollen creek in search of fish. Better would be a small alpine lake, of which there were many but nearly all of which had yet to melt out. And as these lakes often drew hikers and backpackers, he knew he would have to be very careful about how and when he approached them. Lying there and musing about coming alpine summer that he knew would be all too short in its bounty and greenness and warmth, Einar worried that the ongoing search might keep him too busy moving from one location to another, just barely scraping by as he put all of his energy into eluding capture, to be able to put anything by for the next winter. Which, despite the fact that the aspens were just then beginning to show the soft and brilliant green of emerging leaves down around the edges of the meadow, he was well aware would be on its way all too soon. He knew he had better find a way to start putting on some weight pretty fast, catching and jerking some meat for the lean times, and hopefully getting himself set up in a sheltered location that he could insulate and prepare and where he might have some hope of spending at least part of the winter protected from the elements. Without such preparations, which rightfully ought to take most of the summer, starting as he was from the beginning, he knew that his chances of making it through another winter were, realistically, rather slim. Einar scooped up some more water from the creek and drank, raising his head to take another look out across the valley for any sign of his pursuers and suddenly, reminded of his current plight, found his thoughts of “next winter” rather funny, in a dark, desperate sort of way. Heh. Next winter, you say? Well, seeing as your chances of making it through the week are probably something like one in five at best, I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about next winter just yet, Einar. Oh. Thanks. Real comforting thought. I’ll try and remember not to worry. He chuckled a little, shook his head, got up and started on his way once again, too cold to remain still. And nearly stepped out of the trees into a waiting group of twelve armed men in BDUs that were making their way up the meadow, before he noticed their presence. Hastily stepping behind a thicket of low-growing evergreens, pretty sure that he had not

been seen, Einar dropped to the ground and pressed himself down into the damp fir needles, silently removing one of his three remaining arrows from its place in the pack and sliding the bow around in front of him as he waited, barely daring to breathe, listening as the men approached his position. He could hear occasional words among the spread out group, but they were too far away for him to decipher their meaning. After a time, the muffled voices told him that the men had passed him, and he cautiously raised his head enough to peek out between two clumps of vegetation, watching as most of the group continued up the meadow, a member stopping every fifty yards or so to take up a concealed position behind a tree or rock over on the far side of the meadow. He watched for awhile, expecting that they were going to begin walking across the meadow and up his ridge in a search formation, but they remained where they were, occasionally saying a word or two over their radios. This puzzled him, worried him a bit, even, just because it left him unable to guess at their strategy. But it did mean that he might have the time to slip away, before they did finally get organized and start up the hill at him. The trees were not especially thick right where he was, but Einar believed they were heavy enough to conceal his retreat, if he moved very slowly and stayed low. Starting out, his main problem was that he could hardly use his left arm, certainly could not support any weight on it, making crawling a rather difficult task. This meant that he was not able to both crawl and keep the bow ready, so he moved with it slung up over his back, hoping that if they heard him and came for him, he might have enough warning to get it into position and get one shot off, at least, before it was all over. Which he knew would probably mean using his foot instead of his left arm, as he had in taking the elk. A cumbersome though successful method, and one that he doubted he could manage with anything resembling haste. So. All the more reason they must not hear or see me. Creeping from tree to tree and taking great care not to set any of the slender things to swaying by brushing against them too heavily, he wove his way up the ridge, picking up a bit of speed as he put some distance behind him and reached an area of more dense timber, leaving the mixed, patchy aspen and fir forest behind. Finally feeling a bit safer he stopped to look back, having heard no sounds of pursuit, and could just make out a couple of human forms half concealed down in the trees across the meadow. They seemed not to have moved, and by that time the entire column had disappeared into the forest. So what’s your plan here, boys? What makes you so sure I’m going to go walking out into that meadow? And then he saw. • • • •

Far up the rocky hillside above him, just visible through the thinning vegetation around treeline, Einar spotted one man and then another, realized what was happening even before he saw the eight or ten others that were spread out in a long, loose line across the open expanse of the ridge. He knew then that they had him hemmed in, trapped between the rocky height of the ridge top and the grassy meadow below. They must, he decided, have come over from the top of the ridge where they had shot at him before losing his trail, systematically searching, knowing that they would have to eventually run across either him or his sign. He wondered whether he had been spotted by one of the flights, or

whether this search was widespread, encompassing the area of the red rocks and cliffs and much of the rest of the ridge. He wished then that he was still back in the rock crevice, where he might actually have stood some chance of being overlooked by this type of search. Thinking of the rock chimney, he was reminded with a sudden flash of alarm that he had accidentally left a boot print in the muddy ground in the alcove beneath the crack, obscuring it as well as he could with a rock but certain that a tracker would be able to see through the ruse and possibly pick up on his trail. Not that they would even need to, the way things were looking. He glanced to his left, knowing that to the right lay the red cliffs he had come from, an obstacle which he could not pass without being observed by the helicopter that still scoured the ridge. The men on the ridge, unlike those in the meadow, were moving, were descending the slope in a line that stretched for some distance, and would be able to cover a much greater area by sight, as the trees were not especially heavy, even where Einar was presently. His only chance, he quickly realized, was to take off to the left, and fast, hoping to slip out from between the closing ranks before they trapped him completely. Another option he briefly considered was hunkering down somewhere in the stand of mixed firs and spruces that currently concealed him, covering himself with duff or even climbing a tree and hoping that they would pass him by, but he saw that there were too many of them, that his chances of avoiding detection in that way, with minimal time to set up a hide, were not good. Get out of here. He went, moving from tree to tree with the intention of staying hidden from the men above him, knowing that there was enough timber between him and the meadow that he probably did not have to worry about being spotted from below. Unless they were really studying the slope with binoculars. And why would they not be? This is bad, Einar. The trees were running out ahead of him, growing smaller and sparser before petering out altogether in a rockfield and he started descending to stay in them, but stopped before long as the meadow came into clear view. He knew at least some of the men in the meadow had radios, and with a clear line of sight up to the higher searchers—they’re not searchers anymore at this point, they’re hunters—above him, they would have no trouble letting them know his position if they saw him. He thought of going back, of heading towards the red cliffs and trying to lose himself again among the jumble of red rocks, but the men up above were moving at a steady pace, and he knew he did not have time. What, then? Ahead of him, just before the trees ran out entirely, there was a little depression in the rocky ground, a trench that had been carved out or at least deepened by the weight of the snow that slid down the slope above and collected there, progressively pushing the rocks up in front bit by bit every winter. He knew that this feature would conceal him from below, but was less certain about its value against those on the slope above. It seemed his only chance, though. Crawling, staying as low as possible and making an effort not to scrape the rocks against each other or make any sound that would carry to the ears of his pursuers, Einar started out across the rockfield, his scalp prickling at the prospect of the bullet that he half expected would end his life before he ever heard its blast. But none came. The rocks increased in size as he went, slowing his progress but also providing progressively more cover as he wormed his way between them, heading for…well…he had no idea, wasn’t at all familiar with the place, but hoped some

avenue of escape might present itself over where the ridge had appeared to drop away steeply. Maybe there will be more trees. But there were not. Not for a good distance, anyway, and the trench he had been using ran out long before reaching them, the slope smoothing out and the size of the rocks decreasing, leaving him pinned in a small concealed space beneath a series of large boulders at its edge, crouching on top of a section of ice, dirty and melting but preserved by the constant shade of the rocks, left over from the waning winter. The men were coming, had to be coming, he knew it as surely as if he had been able to see them, and wondered if they might miss him if he stayed where he was, if they might walk on by and find their snare empty upon reaching the bottom of the mountain. Doubtful. He could see the place where the terrain changed, grew steeper and more broken up, the slope disintegrating into a series of small cliff bands and crags that might offer him some chance. The change began not all that far from his hiding place, but reaching it undetected was another matter. Especially in light if deep rumble that told him the Huey was headed over to his section of ridge. It’s cold out here, cloudy, the rocks had very little time to absorb the heat of the sun this morning before the clouds rolled in. They’ll see me with their FLIR, even here under this rock. If that thing gets in over top of me, I’m done. And he was running, keeping low and sprinting across the rockfield towards the broken land beyond it, hearing a shout but no gunshots, realizing that he must still be far enough away for them to consider him out of range. He made it over to a stunted, twisted little copse of sub alpine fir that marked the edge of the dropoff, crouched there out of breath, realizing that the drop below him was steep, nearly vertical, ending some seventy or more feet below him in a series of jagged granite pinnacles. He was trapped, glanced wildly around but saw no way out, and the chopper was hovering now, the men approaching from above, shouting words that were snatched away by a growing wind. But he had no trouble guessing at their meaning. They were offering him one last chance at surrender, had to be, or somebody would already be shooting. So how’s this going to go, Einar? You’ve always said ‘freedom or death,’ said you would never let them take you again, well, this is it. No way out. You really gonna die today? He stood there for another second, staring out at the rugged canyon below him and looking for some sort of peace, for a bit of resignation, perhaps, to what appeared to be the inevitable, but finding instead a boiling anger at the men who had him cornered, who were literally running him to death and would not leave him alone, and with it an almost eager excitement at the challenge before him. No, his answer came, but some of them are… • • • •

Einar had seen something that he was pretty sure his pursuers, especially those on the ground but likely the chopper crew as well, had not. There was a little shelf of rock not ten feet below him, partially shielded by the jutting shelf of fractured grey schist that composed the edge of the little plateau Einar found himself trapped on, and that shelf had

a crack in it. Not much of one, but a gap of two or three feet that he believed would allow him access to the protection if the shelf below. He acted quickly, knew he must act quickly because they would likely start shooting at him as soon as they realized what he was about, scrambling over to the edge and wedging himself down into the crack, the backpack hanging up alarmingly for a second before his weight hanging on it pulled it down after him. He pressed himself up against the rock face, as far under as he could get, and lay on his back with the bow ready, waiting for someone to appear in the crack above him. He intended to make sure they knew it was going to cost something to follow him down there, maybe make them hesitate long enough for him to find a way out. Not wanting to lose the bow over the side, he quickly pulled the lace from one of his boots, tied it with one end through the top loop on his boot and the other around the bow, hoping the improvised tether might keep it from springing over the dropoff if he had to use it. The chopper was approaching, sweeping dust and small stones loose from the surrounding rock and drowning out all other sound, and he wondered if they were actually going to try and bring it down into the gorge. The gorge was quite narrow, and he knew if the chopper was to be used to get a look at him, it would have to be maneuvered down between those walls of rock, leaving only a few feet of clearance on each side. A dangerous situation indeed. He had no more time to think of it just then, though, because a head appeared in the little square of light above him and he let the arrow fly, heard a grunt and a thud above as the man, apparently struck, rolled to the side and narrowly missed tumbling down into the gorge. He heard shouting then, muffled by the pounding of the propellers as the chopper apparently landed on the open slope above him and quickly became airborne again, in what he assumed was a hasty rescue of the injured agent. For a couple of minutes then there was complete silence, and Einar sat up, peering down into the gorge in search of any land feature that might offer him escape. He saw a possibility and was untying the bow tether in preparation for trying it when the shooting started. At first he could not figure out what they were doing or why, but that was before the bullets began ricocheting off of a nearby fin of rock, one striking not too far from his head and sending rock splinters flying. He pressed himself lower, pulled the pack over his head to shield it from the splinters, knowing all the while that if they kept at it, they would eventually have to hit him with something that would do some real damage. After awhile the shooting stopped, and though he had no way to know it, they believed him dead, though no one was interested in volunteering to stick their head down the crack to check. No need, as the chopper was returning, ordered against the better judgment of the pilot to descend down into the gorge and let them know the condition of their quarry. Einar saw what the Huey was doing, saw at the same time the swaying of the trees on the opposite cliffs as the wind picked up, sending great gusts down the gorge. He had to admit a grudging admiration for the courage and skill of pilot, who was managing to keep the thing steady and avoid rock walls that loomed mere feet from his rotors on either side, and as the chopper came into view he silently shouted at the man to go on, get out of here, surely you got something better to do with your life…I don’t really want to see this happen. But he kept at it, perhaps as a matter of pride, perhaps ordered to do so by his federal employer. No one was ever to know the whole story, because the next minute a

powerful gust of wind swept down through the gorge, and with almost no room to spare between itself and the unforgiving grey granite of the walls, the already laboring machine drifted to the side, struck rock and tore itself up on the pinnacles below. Einar tucked himself up under the little ledge, not sure whether or not to expect an explosion, but none came, and he glanced down the seventy feet of narrow gorge to the wreckage, barely visible due to the undercut nature of the cliffs. Knowing that he had very little time before the bottom of that gorge was crawling with rescue personnel and FBI agents, Einar made his way down from his hiding place, clinging to the rock and finding that he could in fact use his left arm if he absolutely had to, which he did. The men on the plateau above could not see him and, he hoped, their focus would be temporarily on the crash and on getting help down to the site, anyway. He finally reached the bottom of the gorge, somewhat below where the chopper had gone down, and walked out. It really was that simple, once he hit the bottom. He kept expecting to meet with a rescue crew or someone coming up the gorge at him, but none came, and he fairly quickly reached an area where the timber extended down into the gorge, providing him a way out, though one so steep that he had to cling to tree trunks as he dragged himself up the frozen dirt of the shaded North slope. Traversing the ridge in the timber not too far below treeline, afraid to go anywhere near the valley and not really even knowing exactly where he was anymore but glad that the small chopper no longer made passes directly over his position, Einar kept himself moving for several hours over rock and frozen duff interspersed with patches of the hardpacked, icy remnants of the past winter’s snow. A number of times as he climbed he began experiencing pains in his chest and had trouble catching his breath and he knew that by continuing to push relentlessly forward he was demanding things of himself that were very possibly beyond his physical ability to come through on, but he kept at it, driven on by the knowledge of the ongoing search behind him. Thinking that there was at least a possibility that they might find his trail somewhere along the line and bring in dogs, he zigzagged up and down the slope through the black timber, clambering up one steep, rock-strewn gulley and down another, weaving in and out of the thick stands of chokecherry and close growing, small-trunked aspens that clustered in old avalanched chutes where the larger trees had at some point been swept away, wanting to make good and sure that he confused any human pursuers who might be on his trail, and make them lose faith in their dogs, if they were using such. He was pretty certain most dogs would have trouble following the trail he was laying down, anyway, a he had seen the difficulty many canines had in descending steep rock, as their nails caused them to slide and become hesitant to continue. Dogs that were not familiar with mountain work, he figured, should not have much of a chance. Which meant that he might have some. While he believed he was doing pretty well at not leaving much of a visible trail, Einar had to admit that he was unsure. For the past hour or so of his travels, he had been struggling so with bouts of faintness and dizziness that he was not always entirely certain what he was doing. His entire focus was on continuing to make some distance, in an attempt to put himself well beyond the area where their search would be focused, to

ensure that he had at least some chance by the time he inevitably collapsed. Try as he might to keep telling himself that he must not stop, he could feel it coming. The only thing he really wanted, and he wanted it very badly by that point, was to crawl into a hole somewhere and rest, sleep, curl up in a ball and not move for a very long time. Finally setting for himself a goal of reaching a band of heavier timber that sat just below the crest of a nearby ridge, he made his way up the slope and dragged himself under a tree, weak and shaking and unable to go any further. He kicked at the duff to hollow out a little spot before wrapping up in the elk hide on the frozen ground, curling up with his head nearly on his knees, asleep almost instantly. The wind swept over the mountainside that evening, heralding a coming weather front that had the FBI and the civilian SAR teams they had called in for help scrambling to free the two FBI agents who had been trapped by the crash. With temperatures hovering right around freezing they knew that any precipitation brought by the storm would likely fall as heavy, wet snow that would make mountain travel hazardous and seriously hamper the rescue effort, not to mention the ongoing search for their fugitive. • • • •

The glare of sunlight on his closed eyelids woke him, exacerbating a splitting pain that seemed to have settled between his eyes to throb in time with his heartbeat, a sickly yellow sunlight that pried its way out from beneath a bank of descending clouds to shine weakly through the trees and urge him unwillingly back to consciousness. Einar’s throat was dry, he couldn’t swallow, reached out of the elk skin with a hand that functioned more like a claw in the cold and scraped up some crusty snow, letting it melt in his mouth and trickle down his throat until he could swallow again, kept eating little bits of it in this way because he knew he must need water badly after his flight the previous day, hoped that as he got some, the feelings of heaviness and confusion that seemed to be pinning him to the ground might lift some. He thought he had some coyote meat in the pack still, where is the pack… knew he ought to eat some if he wanted to have the strength to move on that morning, but he didn’t know for sure where it was, and wasn’t really all that interested in expending the effort it would take to check. If he was cold he wasn’t much noticing it, though his jaw ached from clamping it against his chattering teeth, so he supposed that he was, or had been…had been was definitely more like it, because he didn’t seem to be feeling much of anything just then and he knew this apathy and numbness would end up killing him if he didn’t find a way to pull himself out of it, but the motivation to do so seemed seriously lacking. Besides, moving would mean leaving the shelter of the elk hide, and it looked awfully windy out there. And cold. Which sounded bad, even if he wasn’t really feeling it anymore. Staring up through the restlessly swaying tree tops, he could see clouds moving at a good pace, speedy, slender little things, drawn out by the wind and sent racing across the sky to build up against a row of distant peaks, and he knew that despite the partially sunny start to the day, a storm was coming. Something told him that this information was significant, that he should perhaps be acting on it and using it to his advantage in some way, but he didn’t seem to be able to complete the thought or translate it into action.

Eat. You need to eat, something told him. Find that pack and get something to eat. Come on. You got to move, Einar. Need more distance behind you. No… He closed his eyes, turned his head away from the dismal, dying sunlight. Can’t run anymore. Don’t want to run anymore. Not without more rest. Not sure I could even get up right now if I tried. Got to have more sleep. Then Liz was there beside him offering him some steaming tea from a thermos and urging him to get up and be on his way before somebody found him, lifting and pulling and trying to get him to stand. He told her to go away, told her he was OK and begged her to let him sleep, but she wouldn’t quit, and he finally let her help him to his feet. Einar stood there swaying and trembling, leaning heavily on an aspen when his legs threatened to give out, and though he indulged his imagination for awhile because the thoughts of Liz were somehow comforting and because he really had been at a loss as to how he was to manage standing up, he knew this time with a clarity that he almost wished he lacked that she was not real, that he was indeed completely alone on that windswept mountainside with a storm coming on, unable to seek help because human contact would mean death or worse, and in all likelihood not far at all from perishing from a combination of starvation and cold and just plain exhaustion. The difficulty he was having catching his breath and the way his heart raced when he stood, almost to the point of causing him to black out, told him that he might not be making it very far that morning. Well. Gonna give it a try though, aren’t we? Yes, she told him, you must try… And he was walking, shuffling and stumbling along through the trees and stopping now and then to scoop up a little handful of snow in an attempt to ease the thirst that seemed especially to be plaguing him that morning, following Liz even though he knew he was just imagining her presence there ahead of him as she led him up one ridge and down another and looked back occasionally to make sure he was still on his feet and moving. Several times he let the pack with the heavy elk skin drop to the ground, seriously intending to abandon it, feeling like it was crushing him into the ground and thinking for some reason that he would not be needing it anymore “since spring is coming,” but each time Liz insisted that he pick it back up again, so he did. Einar kept on for what seemed to him a very long time, as the clouds gathered and a wet snow began falling, draping the elk skin over himself like a cloak to keep the snow off and wondering occasionally where he could be and how far he had gone from the site of the crash. He realized later that evening during a break in the storm that he did indeed know where he was, that he had somehow by a rather circuitous route and without being consciously aware of any effort to do so made his way back to the area of the red, windswept ridge below which lay the remote basin with the first mining cabin he had stumbled upon some time ago. He found that he was, in fact, as he studied the nearby landmarks and begun to recognize his surroundings, walking near the crest of a little sidespur that ran along a basin just to the East of the one that held the cabin. Wow. You covered a lot of miles back there, Einar. Don’t expect they’ll be looking for you this far out. And, with darkness very near and not wanting to lose his way now that he actually

had some idea where he was, he chose a large spruce to shelter under for the night, crouching in the dry area beneath it as the snow came down heavily outside. As he drifted near sleep, fighting it a bit but knowing he would eventually have to give in, he resolved that if he was indeed allowed to see the light of another morning, he would make for the cabin and take shelter there for awhile, as it was far from the area of the current search. Thank you, Liz… And he slept. • • • •

As the grey light of morning slowly began seeping through the heavy cloud cover, Einar worked to get himself limber enough to think of moving on as he chewed on some of the frozen coyote remains from his pack, quite certain, unlike the previous morning, that he was cold. He was, in fact, freezing, was shaking badly as he huddled under the inadequate cover of the elk hide in clothes that had not stayed entirely dry as he trudged through the snow the evening before, keenly aware of the damp chill of the stormy morning. Oddly, he found this rather encouraging, knowing that it meant he was aware enough of his surroundings and thinking clearly enough to do himself some good, which he barely had been the day before. And he knew that nobody would be flying in that weather, leaving him free to approach the cabin without too much risk of being observed, though he would have to be careful of where he left tracks, in case the snow stopped before covering them, and someone should happen to fly over before it melted out. The elk hide, dampened by the snowfall the evening before, had stiffened overnight, leaving him wishing that he had been able to smoke it before leaving his previous camp. He knew he would have start all over now on the process of rubbing and softening it, and it would prove rather a challenge to get the thing rolled up for transport. Not that I’ll be rolling it up today, though. Got to keep this snow off of me. The gravity of the situation he had managed to walk out of back at the ledge was just then sinking in for Einar—he hadn’t possessed the time or inclination to really think about it, before—and as he sat there trying to knead some feeling back into his hands and get his leg to stop cramping so he could stand up, a sort of weird elation began to creep over him, a feeling of having been snatched from the jaws of the beast once again and set in a wide place with yet another chance at life. A rather wet, cold, hungry life at the moment, yes, and one that could greatly benefit from a week or two of solid sleep…but life, nonetheless, and at that moment Einar was pretty sure that the big old cold snow covered world around him had never looked better or held more possibilities. He loved it. This bitter joy persisted as he rearranged his pack and set out into the snowstorm, buoying him and keeping him going as he limped along on legs that seemed inclined to cramp every few steps as he made his way down through one basin and up over the ridge that separated him from the one that held the cabin. At the cabin, he hoped to find some better shelter from the spring storm that had dumped

a good bit of snow on the ground overnight, and showed no sign of letup, perhaps a dry place where he could spend a few days or, if all went well, even a couple of weeks. Been a while since I was able to do that… There was also the possibility, which had occupied his thoughts considerably as he had shivered through the night, of finding a number of additional useful items around the cabin and mine site, now that the snow cover had receded considerably. He knew that there was a good amount of tin, and nails as well, and he needed to make some new arrowheads, and had been thinking of a couple of other little surprises he might be able to construct, given the right materials and a bit of time, incase his pursuers should end up close on his trail again. He very much hoped he had shaken them, as all indications were, by walking out of the gorge and into the snowstorm, because, though he for the most part refused to allow his thoughts to linger on the possibility, he knew that if he had to continue running just then, he might at some point find it beyond his ability to recover from the exhaustion of the chase. Even if he did manage to successfully evade the search. Not going to let that happen, though. That would be a rather silly way for all of this to end. Laughing, he pictured some search team in a few months combing the dark timber and stumbling across a skeleton in a threadbare orange jumpsuit, a bow in one hand and a well-gnawed coyote bone in the other, a gruesome grin on its face and its legs still in the running position. “Must have died on his feet, anyway,” they would tell each other… And he laughed again, but he knew there was nothing funny about the heaviness of his steps of late, or the way his heart seemed to beat irregularly at times, or the fact that he woke up each morning with his hip and shoulder aching something awful where he lay on them because there was so little flesh left on the bone. Need some time, Einar. Got to have some serious rest. Or food. Hey, both would be even better… But it’s got to at least be one or the other, and pretty soon, I think. The storm seemed to be slacking off a bit for the moment, and Einar took advantage of the change in the weather to climb a few dozen extra feet up to a tree-free crag on the ridge he was crossing and look back in the direction he had come from, searching for any sign of pursuit. He saw nothing that looked out of place, and had not really expected to, but did suppose that as soon as the storm moved out, the air activity would resume at a level he had not yet seen, as they scrambled to locate him. While he could not know for sure how many might have lost their lives when that chopper went down, it certainly had not looked good, and he knew they would blame him for it, even if it was almost certainly the result of some bureaucrat’s foolish decision to order the Huey down into the gorge in the uncertain wind conditions of a brewing storm. Well. I expect it’s gonna get real interesting for the next few weeks. As soon as this storm is over, I’m probably going to have to figure on mostly staying put for awhile, or at least keeping to the dark timber when I do get out. Which I’ll have to do, because I’ve got to eat… Starting down the other side of the ridge towards the cabin-basin, Einar moved carefully, staying beneath the trees and watching each foot placement with the thought of how it might look from the air, wanting to leave no chance that his trail might be spotted from the air and give him away. The snow that remained beneath the new layer, which was wet and heavy, compacting down to only three or four inches deep in most places, was hard and icy, easily supporting his weight as he walked and ensuring that the tracks he

did leave were not too deep, and would disappear quickly as the new snow melted off. Stopping on the last little rise above the basin, he studied the area where he knew the cabin lay, backed up to the cliffs and well concealed by a thick stand of tall spruces. No tracks marred the smooth snowy expanse of the basin floor, nothing caught his eye as he scanned the treeline and let his gaze wander up along the high rocky line of the cliffs behind the cabin, and he was about to finish the descent to the basin when the sun, stabbing through a small gap in the leaden grey of the sky, glinted briefly off of something up on the cliffs. Einar, without the slightest hesitation and without taking the time to look twice, dropped to the ground and rolled behind a boulder there on the hillside, staying still for a good while before carefully peeking out between the branches of a little fir that grew beside the rock. The clouds had closed back in on the little ray of sun and, though he easily found the odd shaped rock that stuck up on the ridge and roughly marked the spot where he had seen the flash, he could not determine to his satisfaction whether or not there was anything unusual about what he was seeing. The rocky promontory was some distance off, his guess put it at nearly a quarter of a mile, and he very much wished he had binoculars, wished his vision was not blurring so, as it seemed to do with greater frequency now when he had too little to eat. The thing that troubled him most was that the place provided almost the perfect vantage point for someone who might want to watch the basin and the approach to the cabin—and the slope he was descending, too, for that matter. Studying the cliffs, he saw that it was very nearly the exact spot he would have chosen. Knowing that he must not stay where he believed he might have been observed—if I saw that flash, they may have seen me, may decide to call in the choppers if they don’t get another look at me, as soon as the weather permits it—he kept low, pulling himself across the snowy ground on his belly behind the trunk of a fallen aspen until he reached a thick stand of bushy little spruce saplings, confident that they concealed him thoroughly. Einar crouched there for some time, keeping as still as his shivering would allow him and trying to decide if he ought to abandon the idea of the cabin altogether and do his best to leave the area without being spotted again, or wait in the hopes that the sun might come out again and let him get a better look at that cliff. Of course, if there had been someone up there, they could well have moved by then, anyway. And he knew that he would never feel safe about approaching the cabin now, would always wonder if he was being watched or was walking into an ambush. But the snow seemed to have ended entirely, the clouds were thinning and the sky brightening, and he knew that it would be quite a challenge to get off of that somewhat sparsely vegetated hillside without leaving a trail that stood out from the air, while at the same time making sure he was not visible to whoever might be up on those cliffs. Got to give it a try, I guess. And then he heard the helicopter. • • • •

The chopper was still some distance off when Einar first heard it, which he supposed must mean that it was not especially low, and he glanced around at the meager opportunities for concealment provided by the few clumps of evergreens and stands of

chokecherry scrub that dotted the hillside. Nothing much. Best of a number of bad options appeared to be the rock he had initially sought refuge behind after seeing the flash of light on the cliff, with the fir that hugged it on one side and gave fairly good shelter from above. None of it would end up mattering much anyway, he expected, because the trench he had made crawling through the snow along the aspen trunk would likely be clearly visible from the air, if anyone was looking. All he could do was try. Reaching the boulder he curled up beside it in the little hollow beneath the fir, waiting as the chopper neared. And passed overhead without so much as deviating from its course to circle the basin. As quickly as it had come it was gone, leaving Einar trembling under the little fir, wondering what on earth had just happened. He had been certain that it had been called in by whoever was up there in the rocks with a scope, and the fact that he had apparently been wrong left him without a clear idea of what to do next. So. This must mean they didn’t see me, because surely they would have at least been communicating with it and had it hover over here for a minute to confirm my position, if nothing else… He began moving again, slowly working his way across the hillside to the thicker evergreens that covered the lower portion of the cirque wall above the basin. Reaching the trees and finally sure that he could no longer be seen from the cliffs he stood, taking a minute to secure the now stiff and cumbersome elk hide to his pack and rub his bare shins, which were purple from the extended contact with the snow as he crawled, trying to decide on his next course of action. He had been counting on a dry, sheltered place to sleep for a while, and its certain existence had been to some extent the thing that had kept him going, the one thing that was, in his mind, going to hopefully shift the balance of factors that were sapping his strength and allow him to go on living. And now it was out of his reach… Well. Just keep moving. There will be other shelter. Which he did, though he was not sure he believed that voice anymore. It had lied to him more than once, and he was getting tired of listening to it, tired of forcing himself to continue against his will and beyond the limits of his strength. Tired. Taking his time and stepping carefully through the dark timber as he headed for the cliffs in order to skirt around them, Einar heard another helicopter, curled up under some trees and waited it out, realizing that it, like the last one, was just passing overhead on its way somewhere else. They don’t know, then. That is good. And the thought came to him, from a place of near desperation and need, that since he apparently still possessed the advantage of surprise over whoever was up there in the rocks, perhaps he ought to try and stalk around behind the cliffs, climb up there, and do what he could to get ahold of some gear, some food, whatever they might have that would give him some better chance of making it. A rifle wouldn’t be bad, either… He figured that there would be no more than two men up there, though there almost certainly would be two instead of one. If he could get in close, undetected, and take one of them with an arrow… That would still leave the other one to take his leisurely time choosing whether to shoot you before, or after calling for help on his radio, as you fumbled to get the bow back up on your foot and use your last arrow. And that’s assuming your first shot even hit well enough to do any real damage, and didn’t just hang up in his coat. Bad, bad plan, Einar. They don’t know where you are. Your only chance is to keep it that way. He tossed the idea back and forth for a bit, but eventually decided that the advantage of having his location once again apparently a mystery to his pursuers outweighed any potential benefit he might receive

from snatching gear from the rocks, an attempt that he did not figure he had an especially great chance of living through, anyway. Disappointed but knowing it was the right decision, he kept to the trees, skirting around the cliffs and beginning the descent towards a neighboring basin, and away from whoever waited for him up on those cliffs. On the way down the back side of the ridge, the rotten crust over the old snow gave way as he crossed a place where it had been drifted high by the wind, leaving Einar submerged up past his waist in snow, kicking and pulling at the nearby chokecherry scrub in an exhausting attempt to extract himself. His struggles caused some of the chokecherry branches, weighed down all winter by the snow, to spring free of it, revealing several clusters of dried, shriveled chokecherries that had somehow been overlooked by the birds that past fall and covered by the snow before they could be eaten. Einar stopped, stripping them from the branches and stuffing most of them in his pocket, but eating a few right then, spitting the cyanide-containing pits back into the snow under the bushes. The dried chokecherries were sweet, though slightly fermented-tasting after a winter sitting under the snow, and Einar felt an immediate change in his energy level as he ate, marveling at their sweetness and feeling that he could once again go on. He knew that many of the tribes had used the fruit for food, most mashing the berries and separating out the pits before forming the pulp into little cakes that they dried for later use, usually reconstituting it but sometimes eating it dry as a trail food. A few of the tribes had dried and ground them, pits and all, gaining extra nutrition from the pits, which lost their dangerous levels of cyanide sometime during the drying process. Not entirely clear on the details and unable to chew the pits anyway, he chose to keep spitting them out, but made sure as he traveled that they went into his pocket instead of onto the ground, where they could potentially act as yet another sign of his passage to anyone who might end up on his trail. His clothes were pretty badly soaked from the fight with the chokecherry bushes, and he moved quickly along the ridge, attempting to delay the inevitable chilling that this would bring him. The sugar in the fruit had done wonders for Einar’s level of alertness and his ability to move at a good pace, and though he knew it would likely be rather short lived, he wished for other sources of such energy. There was one potential source he could think of that ought to be available to him if he could safely access it, but as he walked, he could not really come up with a way. While there were certainly no sugar maples in the area, there were box elders, a scraggly-looking maple cousin that produced sweet sap. He had been around once or twice when people down in the Culver Falls area had tapped them, and though the resulting syrup was not as strongly flavored as maple, it was, if boiled down, similarly sweet. He knew that days like these—or at least, days like these had probably been down in the valleys—with warmer daylight hours and still-freezing nights, were just the sort needed to get the sap flowing. He even knew how he would go about tapping the trees, using one of the nails in his pack to bore a hole about an inch into the tree, enlarging it, and pounding in a hollowed out section of willow shoot for a spout. Another nail beneath the spout would hold one of the tin cans to catch the sap, of which he knew you could expect to collect a gallon or more from one tree, on a good day. Even if he currently had no way to boil it down, the straight sap could be drunk and would contain enough sugar to give him some continuing energy as he traveled. Too bad there was no

time to stop and take advantage of the trees just then, and no way he was no way he was willing to spend enough time just then down in the valleys where the box elders grew, either. Continuing up out of the basin through the black timber, he reached the crest of a little rise and looked out at ridge after timber covered ridge that lay before him, some of them with high, windswept summits rising several thousand feet above treeline; an enormous place that he was not especially familiar with, but that he hoped might now offer him some refuge, some rest, a reprieve from the constant need to flee. All right Einar. Go lose yourself in that. Forget that cabin. It can lead only to more trouble, to more running, to death. Such a move would mean leaving the roughly twelve thousand acre area he had wandered in since his escape, remaining within its confines because he had been, to some extent, previously acquainted with it, knowing where its ridges ran, what he could expect to find on the far side of this pass or that, which areas of it were popular with skiers and needed to be avoided. This knowledge had served him well, had probably even saved him, a time or two, but he now was faced with an increased search that would keep him moving almost constantly if he chose to stay, never spending more than one or two nights in a given area, and he knew that such constant movement was something he no longer had the resources to maintain. Heading for the valley that he knew he had to cross before reaching those ridges, he continued his descent. Leaving the spruces to skirt around a little meadow in a stand of aspens not far from the base of the cliffs, Einar stopped in his tracks, wondering whether he had just stumbled upon the best find of his life, or the ambush that would finally end it. • • • •

Einar could clearly see the two sets of tracks where Vibram soled boots, their wearers apparently carrying rather heavy loads, from the looks of them, had approached the spot through the snow, the trampled area that had obviously been a hastily-arranged camp of sorts, a three-season tent half concealed behind a little stand of firs. He retreated behind a tree, though being an aspen, he knew it provided him little concealment, and listened intently for a moment. Nothing. And he had experienced no warning as he approached the place, no hesitation, no little prickle in his fingertips as he often did when danger, or even a non-threatening human, was near. The spot seemed abandoned. But in this case, that assurance was hardly adequate. He knew that his level of alertness had suffered considerably with the hunger and growing exhaustion of the past weeks, and he had caught himself slipping up more than once. And his fingers were close to being frozen, anyway, from digging around after those chokecherries, so he considered that perhaps his early warning system would not be working as he had grown used to expecting, anyway. He watched the place for a minute trying to make up his mind what to do, his inclination being to leave the area as quickly and stealthily as possible, heading for the dark timber and hoping to be far from the place by the time the owners of the two sets of tracks returned and discovered his own. As he watched, though, he became more and more convinced that no one was in the immediate area. It just had a quiet feeling to

it that went beyond the obvious cues that he could hear and see, and which told him with more certainty than they would have that he was alone. And he really wanted to explore that camp, see what he might be able to carry away. As he looked over the items that were strewn about the little camp—the ski bib and pair of wool socks that hung drying from a nearby tree, the two collapsed and nearly emptylooking black backpacks that sat in snow beneath it, and especially the various food items that lay neatly arranged maybe too neatly? on a flat, snow-free rock that had apparently been used as a platform for a camp stove, foolishly tempting any bears that might be awakening and standing out as the true mark of a mountain greenhorn, Einar knew that he would have to give it a try. Approaching the camp, Einar walked carefully in the already-existing tracks, knowing that though his boots had a slightly different, and far more worn tread pattern, they were nearly the same size as one of the sets of tracks. Perhaps the pair would turn out not to be especially astute at tracking and might at first overlook the double tracks, or perhaps they would even arrive back to their camp after dark and not notice the missing items until daylight, giving him some valuable time to disappear. It was certainly worth a try. Heading over to the tent, knowing that he must either start there or stay on edge the entire time wondering whether it was occupied, he watched it for a minute before carefully unzipping it to look inside, thinking it would be just his luck to be met by a startled FBI agent. Which of course did not happen. The tent was, in fact, disappointingly empty. He had really been hoping for a sleeping bag or foam pad that would have meant a tremendous savings in the resources he had to expend in keeping warm as he slept. What did you do? Take the bags up in the rocks with you so you could stay warm while you waited for me? Wimps. Another pair of socks hung inside the tent, and he quickly snatched them, relieved at the chance to allow one pair of socks to dry while he wore the other. His current pair, with holes in the toes and heels, were worn to the point of barely being useful, and he seldom had the opportunity to dry them, or his boot liners either, resulting in his feet being in such poor condition that it was all he could do some days to continue walking on them. The chance to begin reversing this situation was well worth finding the camp, in itself. And he was by no means done. In fact, looking over the bounty that existed, he began wondering how he was going to carry it all with him. He knew that there was little chance of him being able to use one of the backpacks, and the thought was confirmed by a quick experiment, which caused him to nearly cry out in pain as the weight of even the nearly empty pack pressed on his injured shoulder. Nope. Sure not doing it that way…though I could probably manage if I loosened that left strap a whole lot, and mostly relied on the other strap and waist belt to take the weight. He was about to try it when the thought struck him that perhaps it would be a big mistake to simply grab as much as he could carry, anyway. If I take everything I want—ha! More like everything I can carry, which is a different matter altogether—then they will surely realize what has happened as soon as they come back here tonight, and that means I will have less time to get out of the area before the choppers, trackers, maybe even dogs are brought in. But maybe if I just snag a bit of food and gear here and there, I will have until morning before I need to be seriously

worrying about pursuit. A bunch of gear is not going to do me any good if it gets me tracked down. Hard to enjoy warm clothes and good food when you’re…dead. Exploring the packs, he found that each of them contained, in addition to six MREs each, a “Camelbak” style water bladder integrated into the pack, near the wearer’s back where they would be kept from freezing. One of them had some water left in it, and he pulled it out, taking a big swallow of the icy water before rolling it up and stuffing it in his pack. Taking a can of beef stew and one of chili from the kitchen rock, he could see the little marks in the skiff of snow that remained on the flat rock where the feet of the stove had set as the men presumably cooked their breakfast. Wish that camp stove was around here somewhere. With that, I could occasionally melt snow and heat water safely even with an air search on. Must’ve taken it up there on the rocks with them so they could have some hot drinks during the day. He knew though that he probably wouldn’t have taken the stove even if it had been available, as it was one item that almost certainly would have been missed right away. And with no way to renew its fuel supply, it would have soon been nothing more than dead weight to lug around, anyway. He did find and take a little green waterproof tube of matches in a side pocket of one of the packs, though. In the same pocket, he came across a plasticized National Geographic “Trails Illustrated” map of the area, which while not exactly one of the 7.5 minute quadrangles he was used to, was still quite detailed, and was far more map than he had, at present. He took it, figuring that they must have another packet of maps somewhere, and likely would not miss it right away. Debating with himself how many of the twelve MREs he could safely take without having their absence noted in the dark, he finally settled on removing two from each pack. Along with the MREs, one of the packs held several packets of Ramen noodles, a few cans of sardines, and several small oranges, and he helped himself to one of each. Einar realized that the entire success of his system of choosing what to take was dependent on the men not returning until dark or close to it, and he knew that he had no reason to be so sure that they would not be back in an hour, instead. And no reason to assume that they would not realize their camp had been pillaged, if modestly, even if they did return after dark. All the more reason to hurry and get out of here. Though he hoped that perhaps men foolish enough to leave all of their food within easy reach of hungry bears might also overlook his careful modifications to their camp supplies. As he worked, he could not get the thought out of his mind that the camp could still be a trap, even if it was not an ambush. What if, for instance, there were tracking devices hidden in some of the gear he was preparing to take? He had no way to know for sure, but, though the prospect rather worried him, when he made himself think about it logically, he decided that there was no reason for them to have expected him to return to the area, and no way they could have expected him to discover this particular camp, if he did. At least not enough reason to make it worth their while to set up and maintain a dummy camp in this location for the purpose of luring him in and trapping him…unless they were perhaps getting better at predicting his movements and behavior and learning from their mistakes. Fast. Einar shook his head and kept sorting gear, trying to silence the nagging, paranoid section of his brain, knowing all the while that, in his situation, he had every reason to listen to it and heed its warnings.

In a front pouch of one of the packs he found a black collapsible entrenching tool, and recognized it from a threaded section near the top of the handle as one that contained a small saw, hidden in the handle. Oh! Now this is our tax dollars at work! Good choice, guys. He grabbed it, considering its nearly two pounds of weight well worth carrying. All right now. No more. Pack’s full, and you been here way too long, already. Glancing around to make sure everything appeared basically as he had found it, he left the camp. Backtracking for a good while, he eventually split off from the agents’ trail and headed up into the black timber, climbing several hundred feet up the ridge to a place where he could look down out of the trees and watch the area of the camp, without much chance of being seen, himself. It had taken all of Einar’s considerable willpower to keep from sitting down on one of packs back at the camp and tearing into the food as soon as he had discovered it, but he had managed to make himself wait, knowing that he must not spend any more time at the camp than was absolutely essential. Now, though, it was way past time to eat. He could wait no longer. Before beginning his meal, he took a minute to pull on the “borrowed” ski bib which, though still a bit damp around the lower legs, was far better protection from the cold and wet than the orange coveralls, which were by that time threadbare, tattered and barely holding together at the seams. And, being woodland camouflage, the ski bib was a good bit more stealthy, too. He could not help wishing briefly, as he donned them, that there had been a parka to go along with the pants, but no matter. He had both the coyote skins and the elk hide to make such from, if and when he ever got to stop running long enough to do so. Einar had already cut open a pouch of chicken and noodles, finding it partially frozen but wanting to save the heater for future use, when he thought to stop and be thankful for this new development that had most likely saved his life. And he was very thankful, indeed. The chicken noodles were gone in short order, followed by most of the packet of peanut butter, after which Einar decided that, too long unaccustomed to such rich food, he had better save the rest. He finished off the meal with part of a cracker and a couple of red hot cinnamon candies, saving most of them with the thought that they would be a good source of a bit of emergency energy later, when the rest of the food was gone. Leaning back against a log after eating, Einar had perhaps never in his life felt more like curling up and sleeping as the nutrition he had been so desperately needing began to be absorbed by his body, warming him and easing the tight, painful knot that had been growing in the pit of his shrunken stomach. Later. He could rest and enjoy the bounty later, and he had more food with which to celebrate the occasion, but at the moment he knew he had better keep moving, if he wanted any chance of enjoying it. It was not long before he was doubled over with horrible stomach cramps, telling him that, despite his best efforts, he must have eaten too much or too fast. Or both. Or they poisoned those things, and are giving me an hour or so to collapse before they track me down and take me without a struggle... It was a terrifying thought, and one that almost made him want to go hole up someplace where they could not get to him, in case that was in fact what was happening. He could hardly think of anything worse than being in a position where they came to take him, and he found himself unable to resist in any way. He really doubted that he had been poisoned, though, knowing that he was experiencing symptoms very similar to the ones that had plagued him at Liz’s when he began eating

again after going without for so long the last time. Only then, he had been able to lie on the couch for a few days and wait it out, which he would in no way have the luxury of doing, this time. He just hoped that the next step did not involve the breathing difficulties and near-paralysis that he had also dealt with at Liz’s. That turned out to be an electrolyte imbalance of some sort, I think…low phosphorous, or something. He remembered eating the half box of powdered milk that time, on a guess, and the great improvement that it had brought his condition. Not wanting to take any chances, he paused for long enough to fish a packet of “fortified hot chocolate mix” in its green mylar packet out of the MRE he had opened, pouring its contents into a bit of clean new snow and stirring with his finger before scooping up and eating the resulting “ice cream.” Wow. Now that’s good! It did nothing to ease his discomfort though, which briefly started him thinking on the poison theory again. As he thought about it, though, another reason he doubted poison was that he expected the drug of choice in that case would have likely been some sort of heavy-duty tranquilizer, to knock him out but presumably keep him alive until they could reach him, and he doubted such potions would cause the hideous cramping he was experiencing. It certainly felt like it was trying to kill him. Ah, well…I can still move, can’t I? That’s all I need. Einar continued on his way, knowing that reaching the far ridges he was headed for would entail crossing the valley where he had shot the deer some time ago. Though he did not look forward to the prospect of exposing himself to detection in that way, he hoped that by descending to an area where the snow was already gone, he might be able to leave fewer tracks, though he knew that the damp, newly exposed ground of the valley would not help any in that regard. • • • •

Down in the Culver Falls area, the investigation was ongoing into the cause of the rockslide that had spoiled the FBI’s surprise raid on Bill and Susan’s house. No one had been injured in the slide, though it had taken many hours of work to free the trapped APC and the agents inside, work for which Sheriff Watts recruited Rob, who supplemented his seasonal outfitting and snowplow driving income by doing occasional contract work as a heavy equipment operator. Slowly making his way up the switchbacks of Bill and Susan’s driveway that morning in his backhoe, Rob could not help but chuckle a bit at the irony of the whole situation. Rob, as he carried out the duties associated with his winter job as a snowplow driver for the state Department of Transportation over the following days, was aware that he was being watched from time to time, and as a former business partner of Jeff’s, this did not surprise him. What did surprise him a bit was that, so far at least, he had suffered no repercussions form his hasty decision to abandon his “clients,” Metz and associates, up on the snowy ridge. He had known he was taking a gamble in returning at all after that stunt, but he had responsibilities—dogs, horses, the plowing job, a business to try and save—and he had made the decision to return and see what came of it. Rob knew that Metz was a dangerous man and not one to be taken lightly, but he also had a pretty good

idea that Metz, proud and arrogant as he seemed to be, might not be too interested in making public the fact that he had been unable to easily lead his cohorts out to safety after being abandoned in the mountains by a local guide. Banking on the fact that he would want to keep such an embarrassment out of the public eye, Rob skied out of the wilderness area approximately eight hours after jumping off the cornice on the ridge top, taking a circuitous route back to the trailhead where they had parked the snowmobile trailer the day before, and driving home in his truck. As he had guessed, Metz never went public with the details of the events leading up to his disastrously failed search mission in the mountains, and Rob went about his business day by day, becoming a bit more confident over time that he had dodged that particular bullet, but not so confident that he did not keep his skis and pack with him in the plow truck as he cleared the state highway between Culver and Clear Springs and worked to keep the pass open through the last couple of major spring snows. Jeff, in the meantime, was nowhere within fifty miles of Culver Falls, having hiked around the backside of the ridge for a prearranged meeting and ride out of the area a number of days before the raid. • • • •

The much-anticipated Congressional vote on the requested budget increase for the FBI had to be delayed at the last minute, since Director Ferris Lee was unavailable for testimony at the hearings that had been scheduled the day before, and without which testimony many members of Congress were not interested in considering the measure. Director Lee, much to his dismay, had been required to make an emergency return trip to Culver Falls the day before the scheduled vote, in light of the sudden developments in the search for Einar, particularly the loss of the helicopter, pilot and two of the three agents who had been on board. One of his first duties upon arriving in the area was to stop by the hospital in Clear Springs to pay a well-publicized visit to the agent who had been injured by Einar’s arrow during the search back at the ledge. The arrow with its rusty nail tip had caught him in the hollow space just beneath the left eye, necessitating surgery to save his sight and introducing a nasty infection that had nearly claimed the man’s life. It would be awhile before any more federal agents casually stuck their heads into rock crevices in search of Einar. While in Culver Falls, Ferris Lee announced that the reward amount for information leading to Einar’s apprehension was being raised—again—making it second only to that being offered for a certain turban-wearing former Saudi who was believed to be hiding out on the mountains of Afghanistan. Decision makers at the FBI was beginning to be seriously disturbed by the duration and escalation of the ongoing search, and were pulling out all the stops in a concentrated effort to end it. • • • •

Einar was unaware, of course, of the goings-on down in Culver Falls. He did not need

that information, however, to know that he was still in the middle of a rather serious situation. He knew he had struck the agent with the arrow back at the ledge, he had seen that helicopter go down, and, though he finally had a bit more food and some muchneeded clothing and other gear, expected that in obtaining it, he ultimately had alerted his pursuers to his location and set them on his trail again. But having been traveling for nearly an hour since leaving the camp, and as yet hearing no unusual air activity that seemed focused on his location, he had some hope that the agents up on the cliffs might indeed be waiting until dark to return to their camp. I may have a few hours then, to pull this off. Which meant descending down to the valley, crossing it, and heading up into the country on the other side where he could hopefully lose his pursuers for good. When he had descended far enough that the patches of snow became smaller and more spread out Einar stopped, sitting on a fallen aspen and removing the second coyote hide from his pack, unrolling it and cutting off the two front leg sections of the hide. Slitting them down the middle with the little saw from the handle of the entrenching tool he had borrowed from the federal camp, he lay them flat on the tree trunk, fur side down, he placed his boot on one of them, seeing with disappointment but not too much surprise that it was too wide and overlapped the hide by about an inch on each side. He had expected this, and quickly cut two roughly oval sections of hide form the haunch area, laying one in the center of the longer strip and again testing it with his boot. Good. That’s wide enough. Next, he made a slit down the center of the strip behind his boot, bringing the two “tails” this created up around either side of his ankle to meet on top of his boot. He made a small slit near the front of the long strip just forward of his toes, and ran the two tails through the slit, first crossing them over the lower tongue area of the boot. Pulling the tails back toward his heel to cinch the improvised overshoe tight, he secured it in place by wrapping the tail ends several times around his bootlaces where they crossed the lower tongue area of the boot. He took a few steps, saw that the thing would hold, for awhile, at least, and got started on the other overshoe. His greatest concern was that the fairly thin coyote hide would end up tearing as he walked, likely where he had made the slit near his toe. It was dry and fairly hard, though, so he had some hope that it would hold out. All right. Time to head for the valley. His digestive distress continued as he traveled, making it a bit more difficult to concentrate on the task before him and requiring all of his focus as he strove to make his back trail disappear. Finally within five hundred feet elevation of the valley floor he paused, lying on a slab of red sandstone and inspecting the green expanse of the valley, looking for anything out of place, watching for movement but seeing only a doe that made her way lazily out across the meadow, ripping up mouthfuls of new grass and occasionally raising her head to listen, seemingly finding no cause for alarm. A good sign. He was somewhat disturbed, though, that the angle of the slope he was descending prevented him from seeing the strip of valley floor that was nearest him. He knew there was a river or a creek in the valley, knew it was being concealed by the slope, though he was not at all sure of its size, as the only time he had actually been down there it had still been thoroughly frozen over and covered with wind packed snow. Well. One way to find out… Though an increasing roar as he lost elevation told him quite a bit about the condition and size of the river, long before he was able to see it.

The closer Einar got to the valley floor, the clearer it became to him that he would not simply be wading across the river and continuing quickly on his way. The thing was huge and swollen with snowmelt, grey and silty and frothing, carrying fractured ice chunks and branches and occasionally entire trees along as it roared towards the lower elevations with an awe-inspiring speed and force. Einar thought that it seemed a bit early for high water, but he had to admit that he actually had no idea what the date might be, and it had been significantly warmer lately, even up high. Warm enough, clearly, to bring down a bunch of the melt water in a hurry, because he could see that the water had already crept all the way up its steep rocky banks, and was tugging and tearing at the lower branches of the evergreens that lined the side he was on. The timber extended down all the way to the river on Einar’s side, and he went down near the water, gingerly walking out a few feet onto a heaving tangle of partially submerged logs, icy and slick from the spray of the passing water, and looking up and down the river for anything that might allow him passage. Nothing. He certainly could not stay there on the slope above the river, though, as those agents would have to return to their camp at some point, and it was more than he could hope for to think that they would not sometime in the following hours discover his tampering and report it. And, if he was guessing correctly, the search that they would then call down on the area would make their previous efforts look like a child’s game of hide and seek. He knew that they would be taking the loss of the helicopter, and perhaps of several men as well, very seriously, and expected that this time they would be ready with trackers, more aircraft and more troops on the ground than he had so far encountered. Having increasing difficulty keeping his balance on the slick logjam and knowing that he would not find his answer by staring in a daze at the roaring water, Einar slowly made his way back to the solid ground of the bank, sitting down heavily on the spruce duff and reaching into his pocket for the rest of the peanut butter. Whatever he chose to do, he knew would be needing the extra energy. Seeing that there was no ready way across, he was tempted to try and use the river for travel, knowing that such an attempt would mean risking injury from swiftly moving logs and submerged rocks, and that he’d come out of it soaking wet and cold, but with the snow gone in the valley and the temperatures a bit warmer, these were not his greatest concerns. Nor was the fact that he would probably end up losing at least some of his gear, and thoroughly drenching the rest. The biggest problem, as he saw it, was that the river flowed only one way, and I sure don’t want to go downstream. Downstream means people, houses, towns, trouble. And from the looks of it I very likely might not be able to control when or where I got out of the water. For all I know this river could spit me out right beside some camp of theirs. Besides, despite telling himself that he had greater concerns, he knew that there was a pretty good likelihood that he would not come out of that water in one piece, anyway, especially without any sort of flotation device and going into it with barely enough strength to keep on his feet, let alone contend for long with an icy, raging torrent such as the river had become. Hey, it worked once before though… I could break loose one of these logs and hang on to it to keep me above water, come out a mile or two downstream…could plan on staying low so I’d just look like some river debris if anybody saw me. Stuff the ski pants in the pack, wrap and tie the elk hide

around the whole thing, and I might even have something dry to wear when it was all over. No. No, that last ride you took down a river very nearly killed you, and it wasn’t even high water. And you were in better shape then than you are now, even if you couldn’t exactly walk. You’d be lucky if you could take ten minutes of that ice water right now. And what about when you get out and can’t have a fire, or course, and find out that— oops—you can’t move fast enough to get warm, either? So, better ideas? All he could think of was to walk the bank for a distance and see if there might be a fallen tree that could cross on, but knew that if someone ended up tracking him and saw that his trail seemed to be heading for the valley, they would search all along the river bank for the place he had crossed. He knew he had better, then, do all he could to minimize the sign he left along the bank, which preferably meant not tramping up and down on the steep, damp needle-covered slope where one little slip or scrape that he overlooked could end up easily giving him away. The river appeared to narrow some upstream, and he headed that way, keeping wherever he could to the rocks, but finding his fur moccasins to be dangerously slippery if he ventured too near the icy rocks by the water. For some time he followed the river upstream, twice seeing fallen trees that might have been suitable bridges at other times of the year, when they were not busy acting as spillways for the white foaming water to cascade over. The longer he paralleled the water the more anxious Einar became, knowing that over its thundering he had little chance of hearing a helicopter and none at all of a small plane. Something was changing in the sound of the river above him, a booming hollowness and a depth that had been absent before, and rounding a bend where the trees thinned out, Einar saw why. Some distance ahead the course of the river was broken by a concave rocky bowl, grey and smoothly waterworn and well over fifty feet high, out the top of which the river spewed with a thundering fury, spitting out half-chewed trees and occasional rocks in a thick-looking churning slurry of silty water and ground ice. Below it, just beyond the reach of its spray, lay the access Einar had been seeking, a smooth black log that stretched the entire span of the river, starting high up on the slope on his side of the water and angling downwards to the opposite bank. He could see that it had been a massive tree, almost certainly a blue spruce, and numerous years of spray from that waterfall had removed all vestiges of bark or side branches from it, leaving it smooth and burnished and looking almost as if it could have been iron instead of wood. Einar shuddered, looked about for a good way around the waterfall, but saw none. Well. There’s my bridge. Best not put it off, or I’ll start having doubts and probably sit here thinking about it until they sneak up behind me, or something. Climbing thirty or so feet up the slope to the place where the huge tree was anchored to the ground by what remained of its roots, he rested against them, catching his breath and once again inspecting the mountain around the rocky bowl, seeing that though he would have to detour quite a distance to get around the bowl, it could be done. Perhaps if he did so, there would be another opportunity to cross, one that did not involve navigating sixty

feet of slick, sloping tree trunk with no branches to grab to steady himself. But he had already traveled some distance back from the valley floor that he wanted to cross, and was faced with backtracking once he did get across. That would only be worse if he managed to cross up higher. And, more importantly, if he did find a higher crossing and happened to fall in while traversing it…well, I’d get chewed up and spit out along with all the other debris in that waterfall. Fish food. That convinced him. That, and the fact that he had no idea how long it might be until the search became active on his back trail from the federal camp by the cliffs. All right. Go for it. He removed and stowed the fur boot-coverings, but was having a hard time deciding whether to secure the pack more firmly to his side so it would not swing and unbalance him on the narrow log, or simply let it hang by the one strap created from the tied coyote legs, in case he fell in and had to jettison it quickly to keep from getting pulled under. Looking down at the roiling mass of grey water and wood and ice below him and considering how small his chances probably were if he fell into that, he decided to put most of his focus on not falling in the first place. Using the remains of the orange coveralls that he had stuffed into his pack after donning the ski pants, he wrapped the pack solidly against him to prevent it shifting or swinging as he crossed. Briefly he considered removing the ski pants and wrapping them in the elk hide to keep them dry if he did fall, but supposed that to do so would leave him shaking so badly in the wet, windy chill of the waterfall’s breath that he might lose his balance. Knowing that he had spent too much time already putting off the inevitable, he climbed carefully up through the black roots of the tree that stretched out like the gnarled, curled fingers of some dead giant, stepping out onto the wet, slippery wood of the log, his world quickly narrowing down to the thin, rounded black path that sloped down with alarming steepness in front of him, somewhat obscured by the clouds produced by his breath in the cold, humid air, his face and hair already wet from the spray. • • • •

When the FBI trackers reached the river the next morning they temporarily lost their subject’s trail among the rocks along its banks, but found it again when one of them spotted a partial boot print in a little patch of snow in the shadow of an uprooted tree that stretched black and slippery across the booming river. Climbing up to an open, rocky knoll and calling in the chopper to ferry them across, they were deposited in a little meadow and made their way back to the river to continue their search, but never did find any more tracks that morning. • • • •

Einar inched forward on the slick log, realizing after three unsteady steps that he lacked both the balance and the traction to manage it standing up. The thing was not just wet, it was icy, and he crouched, easing himself down onto the tree and grabbing with his knees, the slick material of the ski pants not proving especially helpful. He sat there for a minute, considering seriously the possibility of turning back and heading up around the

waterfall, but in the end deciding that, without knowing that there would be a better way across and without a clear idea of how close behind him his pursuers might be by that time, he must continue. First, though, he decided that he must better secure some of his possessions before making the slippery journey, so he carefully backed off the tree, back onto solid ground, and took off the pack. He took the waterproof container of matches and the small orange and stuffed them in the pocket of his sweatshirt, wiring it shut with the wire ties that he had previously used to immobilize the arm on his injured side. Into the other pocket he managed to fit the can of sardines and two nails, similarly wiring it shut. Thinking that it would be an awful shame to lose the MREs, or the entrenching tool, either, he poked small holes with one of the nails in the outer edges of the thick plastic packaging on the meals, careful not to actually puncture the waterproof seal (except on the one he had already opened) but knowing that even if he did, everything was individually sealed inside, and ran a longer strand of wire through all of them, wrapped it around the e-tool and finally secured as well as he could to the loop of tied coyote legs that made up the carrying strap of his pack. He knew this arrangement would only serve to drag him down if he did fall in, but he was picturing the possibility that he might at some point in the course of the crossing end up sliding to one side or the other and spilling the contents of the pack, without necessarily losing his balance. This was the main thing he was trying to prevent, with his modifications to the pack. Because I am not going in that water! Though he knew he ultimately might have far less say in the matter than he would like to think. Next he considered the bow, which had just been slung over his shoulder, deciding to remove the string and coil it up in his pocket where it, at least would be more secure. The stave he shoved down in the pack, which of course left it sticking way up above his head when he put the pack back on, but it was light enough that he knew it ought not affect his balance. On with it, then… Up there near the roots the tree was much too wide to get his arms or legs very far around, though he saw that about halfway down it narrowed to the point that he could probably do so, which ought to make the going a good bit more steady. He had an idea, carefully untied one boot and then the other, reached under the log but could not reach far enough to connect them, ended up kicking with his left foot until the freed lace swung over and he could grab it on the right side and tied them together, not sure whether they would hold his weight and not at all certain that he would even want them to if he did fall. He could picture himself hanging there helplessly by his bootlaces as he slowly died of exposure in the icy spray of the waterfall, or even as the trackers possibly caught up to him. But looking down at that ice choked water below him, he knew he had to do all he could to avoid ending up in it. Maybe the few extra seconds before the laces in all probability broke would give him the chance to right himself if he began slipping. OK. Self belay with bootlaces, here we go… And with his improvised safety system anchoring his mind if not his body a good bit more firmly to the slick tree, Einar began scooting across, anxious to reach the other side. All went well for awhile, his slow but steady progress taking him out past what he had judged to be the center point of the log, which had begun narrowing and should soon, he

thought, be small enough for him to reach his arms around, if he had to. Not quite halfway across Einar began picking up some speed, sliding a bit faster than he wanted to because of the angle of the log and the slickness of the ski pants, and he tried to grip the tree with his knees to slow himself, but could feel himself drifting to the right as the weight of the pack unbalanced him. He saw not too far ahead a little protrusion on the side of the tree, a broken branch that stuck out an inch or so just below his right knee, and he tried to grab it as he slid past, missing it but succeeding in snagging the remains of the orange jumpsuit on it. This, unfortunately, pulled him even further off center, leaving him hanging precariously from the side of the log as he carefully worked to get himself back on top of it, knowing that the orange cloth could not possibly hold his weight for long. Which it did not, soon ripping and leaving him lunging to get his arms up around the tree as it tore. For a few seconds he hung there with his hands locked around the trunk, which was just barely narrow enough at that point for him to do so, but his shoulder injury combined with the slickness of the log made it impossible to maintain this for any length of time and he lost his grip. The force of his weight falling on the bootlaces jerked his right boot partway off, and he fought to keep his ankle bent and maintain his tenuous hold on the tree as he struggled to lift his upper body and get his hands back in some kind of contact with the tree, wanting to grab the protruding branch with his right hand. His foot pulled out of the boot before he was able to do so, however, and the loose boot whipped around the tree and struck him on the leg as he went down, leaving a large swatch of orange jumpsuit hung up on the protruding branch, flapping in the breeze of the waterfall and already partially encrusted in ice by the time he hit the water. Einar knew that if he could get through those first few seconds in the water he might be OK, might have a chance, at least, and he fought hard against the panic that wanted to take hold as he went under and the icy water crushed the breath out of him. He surfaced moments later gasping for air and knowing he needed to get his feet out in front of him, but concepts like in front and behind seemed at first to hold little meaning in the churning chaos of that water. He finally got himself somewhat oriented, pointed downstream and breathing again, but it was not long before he was suddenly jerked backwards and down, at least that’s what it felt like, tried to rise to the surface but could not, opened his eyes but could see nothing in the silty water. It felt like his foot was caught, and yet he knew he was kicking both of his feet in a frantic attempt to reach the surface. Forcing himself to be as calm as he could, he reached back along his leg, discovering that his right boot, the one that had come off in the fall, was hung up on a snag beneath the water, the force of the water dragging him forward and preventing him from getting his head up. Which is one reason a person should never enter swift water with a rope tied around their waist when attempting to perform a rescue. Not that Einar had time to think such thoughts as he held his breath in the frigid water, pulling at the trapped boot, kicking at it with the other foot, and finally managing to raise it by an inch or two and free it, just as he was reaching the outer limits of his ability to hold his breath. He was snatched away down stream then, surfaced coughing up water and fighting for air, his face completely numb from his time beneath the water.

He did not know how long he had been in the water or how far it had carried him before he had the chance to get out, a current taking him into a calmer, nearly still little eddy beside a slightly undercut bank, where he was carried around in the gently swirling, foamy water for a minute with a bunch of driftwood and evergreen branches before he felt himself scrape on some rocks and made an effort to reach the bank. Reaching it, his hand closed on something, and he realized dimly that it was the lower branch of a box elder tree, its scrubby appearance making it easily recognizable even without its leaves and he began dragging himself out, battered and bruised from the logs and fractured trees that had been hurtling down the river around him, slumping over against the tree and just breathing for a minute before trying to move again. He looked around to see if his pack was anywhere within sight only to find that it was—somehow—still slung over his shoulder, apparently held in place by part of the jumpsuit, though from its deflated appearance he guessed he had lost a good many of its contents to the river. He sure hoped some of the food was still there. Couldn’t see the MREs, fumbled with the pack and finally succeeded in shrugging it off of him, looking rather like a drowned coyote and, to his dismay, nearly empty. The wire that had held the MREs was still there, the entrenching tool down at the end of it dangling out of the pack and looking only slightly damaged where it had apparently slammed into a rock, but the MREs had been torn loose and carried away by the water. Uh… Not good… The elk hide, though, was still attached by one corner where he had wired it around a coyote leg with a strand of cable. It trailed off into the river, soaked and heavy and leaving Einar wondering how he had ever managed to keep his head above water with that attached to him. Einar knew that he needed to try and move, to make some effort, at least, to figure out whether he was capable of movement, and he staggered to his feet, glad that he seemed not to have broken any bones but soon discovering that he was so stiff and uncoordinated that he could manage only a couple of lurching steps before collapsing to huddle on the icy rocks, his body wanting to stay in a drawn up position with his arms bent at his sides and his head on his knees to retain whatever heat he had left. He stayed like that for a minute or two shivering and hoping to begin warming up, but knew it was not going to be enough, knew it would probably not be long at all before he lost the ability to even recognize that he was in trouble and must do something to correct his situation. Move. He knew also that he must get away from the river because people would eventually be on his trail if they were not already, and he would never hear them there by the water. Need some energy…need…need something to get you going, Einar. He had the sardines but what he really needed was sugar, and was sorry then that he had not opened another of the MREs and stowed some of its contents in his pockets, also. And he was finding it beyond impossible to get his fingers to function enough to remove the wire ties that held shut his pocket. Not that it mattered, really. He was certain that the river would have by that time thoroughly dissolved and washed away all traces of the open packet of cinnamon candies it had contained. His mind wanted to drift, did not want to focus on anything too detailed, but he made himself continue to take inventory of his immediate area, searching for anything that might allow him the energy to get moving. Methodically pondering each object his eyes came in contact with, he very nearly overlooked the most obvious answer, which he

discovered in the box elder tree that supported him as he crouched there against the multiple shoots of its trunk. Sap…I could use the sap… And he thought perhaps if he could get a nail into the tree, enough sap might ooze out to do him some good. The nails, though, were in his pocket, secured by the wire ties that he had very diligently twisted and tightened before crossing the log and which now denied him access nearly as well as a padlock might have. He stumbled over to the backpack, picked it up between the heels of his hands and shook it, hoping perhaps somehow one of the other nails might have remained inside. Out came a battered tin can, the steel bar that he had been using as a knife, and, to his relief, a small nail and the four inch spike that he had picked up at the cabin. Before he reached the bottom of the pack, he also shook out the water bladder from the FBI agent’s backpack and the handcuffs he had been wearing when he escaped, which he had not yet found a use for but which he had continued carrying. It took a good bit of concentration for him pick up the spike, gripping it between the heels of his hands and managing to wedge it in between two rough ridges on the bark of the main trunk of the box elder. He sank back to the ground then, not feeling much like moving and huddling in an attempt to warm up a bit, having to remind himself rather sharply to get back to the task at hand. He was sleepy. Rock. Find a rock, pound in that nail. A smooth, elongated piece of granite from the river bank was the first thing he could come up with that was not frozen into the ground, and he sandwiched it between his hands, clumsily pounding at the spike and twice knocking it from its niche in the bark and having to replace it before going on. When the spike had been driven a good ways into the tree he stopped, waiting, staring at it for what seemed like a long time and wondering if anything would actually come of his efforts. Waiting, he leaned back against the trunk, drifting near sleep only to be prodded awake again as the sap began running, dripping insistently on his face. Einar stirred, shifted position a bit and started catching the drops in his mouth, feeling the effect of the sugar-laden sap almost immediately as an increase in his wakefulness and ability to concentrate. After a time he again dragged himself to his feet, the sap having given him enough of a boost to get up and leave the river. Which he knew he must do as quickly as possible, having already been too long near the deafening roar of its water. He hoped, at least, that his unplanned ride down the river might have done something to create a more difficult trail for his pursuers. Though he doubted any such benefit would in the end make up for the fact that he was now drenched, frozen and again nearly without food. At least the snow is gone, down here… Only then did he think to wonder where his boots might be. • • • •

Einar stared at his feet, one bare and the other still wearing one of the soaked green Thorlos from the feds’ tent, thinking it odd that he had not been aware of losing his boots in the water. He knew that he must find those boots. Not likely to be going much of anywhere without boots, torn up as my feet are already. He stood up, stared at the rocks around him, saw nothing that resembled a boot, and sank back into his hypothermic crouch, leaning on the tree and finding it dangerously easy to accept the fact that the boots were gone, and that he therefore wasn’t going anywhere. Better to sit still anyway.

Movement hurt, reminded him that he was cold, and he really did not want to hurt anymore. Knew he needed to, though. Knew that as long as he did, there might yet be some chance of reversing the crippling hold that the cold was quickly gaining on him. OK. The boots. Go look for them. He got himself to his feet again, stumbled over to the river and began walking the bank, checking rocks and snags and partially submerged trees for any sign of the boots, but seeing nothing. Finally he started back for to the undercut bank where he had first crawled ashore, and as he went a picture entered his mind of the little eddy pool that had finally allowed him to exit the river, and in the picture was a boot, hung up on a floating log and following him as the current carried him around the pool. Hmm. He reached the pool, found it clogged with sticks and branches and brown frothy foam… and a boot! Einar spotted it floating four or five feet out from the bank, laces hooked over a log just as he had pictured it, giving him some hope that the second might still remain attached to it, dragged along beneath the water. There were a number of long driftwood sticks and poles washed up on the rocks of the bank where they had been left by water a few feet higher than now flowed down the river, and wanting very much to avoid a second dip in the icy water, he chose a long one and tried to grab it, but couldn’t get his hands to close around it or grasp it. He finally picked the stick up by squeezing his hands together on either side of it, mostly relying on the larger muscles in his arms. After a number of tries he got the stick up under the bootlaces and tried to pull the boot towards him, but watched in dismay as the current pulled the stick out of his weak grasp and carried it along for another trip around the pool. Nothing for it. Have to go back in. And he did, relieved to find that the water, though it squeezed him around the middle and felt like it was sucking the remaining life out of him, did not feel nearly as cold as he had remembered. Retrieving the boot was a different matter, though, as was staying on his feet, which he was not able to do for long walking as he was on slick rocks with feet that were by that point too numb to feel a thing. The first time he fell he went under, the water closing over his head and temporarily disorienting him before he pushed himself to his feet and got his head back out of the water, which was not especially deep. After that he crawled, catching up with the boot and trying unsuccessfully to grab it, telling himself that he must hurry and get out of the water, finally gripping the knotted laces in his teeth and tugging, bringing a mass of little sticks and branches along with the boot. Not until he reached the bank and pulled it out did he realize that the second boot was, indeed, firmly tied in place. As he struggled to pull himself out of the water, feeling like he weighed a thousand pounds, his eye was caught by what looked like a bit of dark colored plastic sticking up from between two pieces of driftwood on the bank, and he crawled over to investigate, hoping that perhaps one of the MREs might have washed up there with him. He was starting to be disappointed when he found that, instead of food, he had discovered the chemical heater from the MRE he had previously opened, but then he realized that it was, after all, a source of heat, and as such perhaps the best thing he could have found. Aside from a little hot spring… He took a minute to search among the washed up forest debris on the bank incase any of his other possessions had made it there as well, but found nothing else.

Einar dragged himself back over to the box elder tree and dropped the boots, knowing that he had to find a way to open the MRE heater and get some water into it so it could begin warming up. Pressing it against the tree with his elbow he tore open the packet with his teeth, working to stuff it down into his sock before adding the water, so he might be able to hold onto it without getting burned. He also knew that the wet wool of the sock would produce a good bit of steam while in contact with the bag of boiling water, and something told him that perhaps the best way for him to gain a little heat from the thing was to breathe as much of that steam as he could. He saw that the nail he had driven into the tree was still dripping sap, and kicked the tin can from the backpack under it before stumbling up the bank towards the nearest evergreen, wanting to be off the icy rocks when he sat down. Up under the spruce, Einar kicked a trench into the deep, dry duff and struggled out of his sodden clothes, knowing he had nothing dry to put on but pretty sure that the wet cloth was probably pulling the heat out of him faster than if he was wearing nothing at all. Sucking some of the remaining water from the water bladder he spit it into the heater, pressing it between his stiff hands and waiting for it to begin reacting. It seemed forever that he waited to begin seeing steam or feeling warmth, and he was not entirely sure what he would do if it ended up not working but thought that it would probably involve some serious and long-term sleep. Soon. But nothing was wrong with the heater and the sock soon began warming and steaming, and Einar, burrowed two feet down in the duff, curled up and held it close to his body, breathing the steam and knowing that he was probably burning his hands a bit, but not caring. As the sock began drying he put more water on it to keep the steam going, thinking that perhaps if he had ten more of them, he might actually have a chance. He was shivering again though, which he had all but ceased before, and knew that he had better eat if he wanted to be able to keep it up long enough to do him any good. Pulling the sweatshirt into his little shelter he fumbled at the wire ties that held shut the pocket, frustrated that his hands were still unable to do the task and finally resorting to pulling them off with his teeth. The sardines were still there, the can a bit dented from the ride down the river but not breached. With one of the nails that he had also stowed in the pocket he eventually managed to hook the little pull tab and get the can open, and lay there eating sardines and shivering as the MRE heater released the last of its energy and began cooling. Retrieving the sardines had reminded him of the waterproof match holder in the other pocket, saw that it was still there, and wondered if he would be able to strike one. He was pretty sure that he could, with enough effort, and there were plenty of dry dead sticks within reach on the branches above him. He could get a big fire going there under the tree, dry his clothes, begin to get warm. Yeah. A big, smoky fire, right here by the river… If one thing was clear in Einar’s cold, foggy brain, it was the fact that he was being pursued, and that he did not want to live if he was captured. But I do want to live… Working on it. I’m working on it. When the heater at last ceased to impart enough warmth to keep the sock steaming Einar struggled to his feet, rounded up the scattered remains of his gear and stuffed them, including the sodden elk hide, into the pack, which felt like it weighed well over fifty pounds though he knew it could not possibly be anywhere near that heavy. The little tin

can was by that time nearly half full of sweet sap, which he quickly drank before stowing the can in the pack. He waited until the last minute to get back into his wet clothes, dreading the moment and stuffing the still-warm sock and heater down in the ski pants so that it sat over the small of his back and continued to warm him a bit. Glancing around the rocky bank, he took some satisfaction in seeing that, with the exception of the hole he had scratched under the spruce, he was not leaving behind much sign of his presence. Einar started out up the bank in the waning light of the evening, weak and nauseous and beyond exhausted, but at least warm enough to feel cold. There was hope. • • • •

Stumbling along the low, rocky ridge at the top of the riverbank, Einar worked his way toward the meadow he intended to cross, using all the concentration he could muster in an effort to leave as little sign as possible. He was not finding it possible to move very quickly, was forced to the ground by bouts of dizziness whenever he tried to maintain even a moderate pace, and had to settle for stumbling along like someone in a dream, maintaining a tenuous hold on reality by continually reminding himself of the need to step carefully and avoid scuffing the ground or stepping on soft soil. He finally reached the edge of a band of large rocks and aspens that hugged the bottom of the little ridge, dropping into a crouch beside a granite boulder for a moment of rest before starting across the meadow. He wished he still had the coyote skin over moccasins to put on his boots for crossing the meadow, which he could see was in places damp and even muddy, but they had been lost in the river and he was fairly certain he lacked the dexterity to create new ones. And he knew it would be dangerous to stop long enough to try, as the chilly breeze on his wet clothing was making things increasingly difficult, even when he was moving. The small rest was a welcome thing, though, as he had been having increasing difficulty catching his breath and had been bothered more and more by disturbing feelings of tightness in his chest. Continuing, he felt a bit steadier for having paused to breathe for a minute. Aware that he was becoming progressively clumsier and worried about safely crossing the soft ground of the meadow, he was glad to discover a well used elk trail that cut through the grass. Following it and carefully avoiding the muddy areas, he stepped from one grass hummock to another, knowing that he was mashing them down but hoping this might be mistaken for wear from the repeated tramplings of the elk. As he approached the trees on the far side of the meadow the ground began rising and becoming drier and rockier, and he left the elk trail, heading for a thick stand of aspens under which he could see that the ground once again became a boulder field. Before stepping off onto the rocks, he stopped and, leaning heavily on a tree for balance, did his best to dry the moisture of the meadow from the soles of his boots so as not to leave damp tracks on the boulders. Once Einar reached the dark timber above the boulder field he relaxed a bit, sinking to the ground for a moment’s rest and knowing that he was about to head up into country that he had so far not set foot in during his time on the run. He hoped that by doing so, he

might be leaving his pursuers behind to continue searching the area between Liz’s valley and the one he was now crossing. It had been an enormous swatch of high rugged land, but perhaps not large enough, with the increased focus they were certain to be putting on the search since the helicopter went down. His immediate intention, if he could make it, was to get at least halfway up the ridge that loomed above him before stopping for the night, at which point the knew he would have to attempt a fire, if he wanted any chance of seeing morning. He was just too cold to sit for any length of time without one, and far too weary, he knew, to go on walking all night. The energy just wasn’t there. It seemed reasonable to him that if by sometime around dusk he had not begun hearing helicopters, he could take that to mean that they did not discover his raid on the camp that evening, and that he would probably have until morning to rest and enjoy a fire. If he was even capable of making one. He was not sure, but was certain that he had been crouching far too long on the cold ground thinking about it. Get up. Now. And he dragged himself to his feet, heading up the steep slope into the dark timber. As soon as Einar began climbing the strange fluttery feelings and occasional pain in his chest returned, this time accompanied by a cough that could not quite seem to keep up with a growing feeling of congestion in his lungs, slowing him even further. He could not seem to catch his breath even when he stopped to rest, and wondered if he had inhaled too much water again going down the river, but certainly did not remember doing so. Something else must be going on. You’re falling apart here, Einar. Things are falling apart… Some time later after slowly ascending several hundred feet from the valley floor, Einar began noticing a number of large boulders protruding from the forest floor, some leaning against each other to create sheltered spots beneath. It was by that time nearly dark, and he began searching seriously for a place to shelter for the night. A large, leaning slab of granite finally provided him the refuge he sought, the cave-like space beneath it surrounded by sizeable boulders and heavy timber that would help hide the light of his fire from anyone in the meadow below. Crawling into the protected space, Einar found the floor to be dry and rocky, with numerous packrat droppings in one corner that looked like they had been there for some time. Searching in a dark crack between two boulders he found, as he had hoped, the packrat nest, which consisted of several cubic feet of small, dry sticks and shredded aspen bark. May just have a fire yet. He shoved some rocks together to form a rough fire circle, and kicked the contents of the nest into it, his hands still practically immobile from the cold. Fumbling with some of the shredded bark he rolled it on the ground until its fibers were separated and fluffy, returning it to the center of the nest for tinder. Outside the shelter, he collected some dry spruce branches, kicking at them to break them from the trees and pushing them back to the shelter with his feet. It had not taken long after he stopped moving for the feeble amount of heat his motion had been generating to dissipate, chilling him further, but to his dismay he found that instead of beginning to shiver harder, he was just growing quickly stiffer and more clumsy. Better hurry with that fire… Which of course he could not really do. Finally the time came for him to attempt striking a match, after removing the threaded lid of the little container with his teeth, but Einar found himself entirely unable to grip a match, let alone strike it. After several tries and several lost matches that had fallen and rolled off into the growing darkness, he slumped over against the rock wall of his shelter,

worn out and discouraged, wondering what other options he might have. He knew he had neither the time to make a bow and drill setup nor the dexterity to hope to operate it, but also knew that he must not continue dropping matches, because he only had a few left, and could not hope to find the lost ones until morning. A hazy idea came to him, seemed worth trying, and he got a good bundle of shredded bark tinder from the fire ring, dropped it on a slab of spruce bark that he had found, and with painstaking difficulty got a match positioned on a flat rock just above it. Putting a slab of bark over the back half of the match and clamping it down with his left foot, he tried to grab a small slab of rough sandstone in his right hand but could not get the hand to close, finally managing to grip it between his thumb and the side of his hand. He struck the match, too hard, only to have the head come off and go rolling away across the rock. More careful on the second try he was successful, watching the match flare into flame before raising his foot to allow it to drop into the little nest of tinder, where it quickly took. Clumsily he picked up the bark slab by pressing its two ends between nearly useless hands, carried it over to the waiting packrat nest and tipped it in, collapsing on the ground and blowing it to life. He lay there watching the lively flames for a minute before getting up to add some sticks and remove his drenched and icy clothes, spreading them on nearby rocks to begin drying. A dimly remembered bit of information drifted into Einar’s cold brain that told him it would be a bad idea to get too close to the fire at first, since this could send the cold blood in his extremities circulating too quickly and shock his heart, but he didn’t know how close was too close, and the warmth of the flames felt so awfully good that before long he was huddling over the little fire, adding wood and holding his stiff hands over its heat. Before long his enjoyment of the fire was cut short by a terrible dizziness, and he rolled onto his back and lay on the rock slab for a good while as his heart raced alarmingly, too dizzy to move and feeling like he was about to pass out every time he raised his head. Eventually his head began feeling a bit clearer and he sat up, leaning back against the boulder behind him, afraid to get too close to the fire lest he experience another such incident. He did not know how many of them his heart could take, and did not want to press the matter. He knew he must get warm, though, knew that sitting five feet back from a tiny fire in the night air while leaning on a cold chunk of granite was not going to do it. Fumbling with the ski pants he found the sock that the MRE heater had been wrapped in and used it to pick up one of the smaller rocks that made up his little firepit, shoving it over to the spot where he had been lying, repeating this until he had gathered a number of them. Throwing his wet sweatshirt on the pile of hot rocks, he rolled over on top of it, lying on his back with the steaming sweatshirt under his torso. Einar lay there for a time with his hands in his armpits and the steam rising around him as he began warming and eventually shaking violently, finally deciding that he was warm enough to try sitting by the fire again. I hope… Approaching the fire carefully and sitting down at a respectful distance Einar shivered in its warmth, waiting to see if he would start getting dizzy again, and gradually moving closer as nothing bad seemed to be happening. When his hands had limbered up enough

to manage it he retrieved the tin can from the pack, scooped up some crusty snow from a little bank that remained in the shadow of one of the rocks that composed his shelter, and set it to heat. He stretched the soles of his feet out towards the fire, seeing that they were cracked and bleeding again and glad that temperatures were not getting down as low as they had been a month ago, or he knew he would be losing toes for sure. Frostbite or not, though, the feet were cracked and painful and, with only one sock and a lot of distance to cover still, he knew he had better do what he could for them. Rummaging in the pack, he found the empty sardine can, a bit of oil clinging still in its corners, and worked to rub it into the worst areas of his feet. Checking his clothes he found that they had barely begun to warm, let alone dry, and he moved them a bit closer to the fire, wondering if he could use hot rocks to hurry things along a bit. He ended up wrapping the sweatshirt around several of the hot firepit rocks and gradually streaming it dry, continuing to breathe the steam as he worked and beginning to feel a bit better as he did. The wool boot liners he held over the fire occasionally to speed up the drying of the densely felted wool, dropping a hot rock into them from time to time and watching the steam rise out, but he knew that the synthetic ski pants would just end up full of holes, if he tried the same thing with them. His only hope of drying the pants seemed to be to keep the fire going, and continue turning them over from time to time. Sometime in the middle of the night the shirt was finally dry enough to put on, and Einar sat there by the fire in the dry shirt, a hot rock wrapped in the sock and pressed against his chest beneath it, sighing and feeling like he had suddenly discovered the very height of luxury and comfort. What could possibly be better… Sleep. Sleep could be better. He wanted to sleep, badly needed to sleep, but made himself stay awake and continue feeding the fire, knowing that he had only until daylight to finish drying his clothes, before he must put out the fire. Possibly less time, if they should for some reason choose to mount an air search near the river that night. Please, no… I could sure use a few hours. • • • •

It was well after daylight when Einar heard the first helicopter down by the river and knew his previous day’s activity at the federal camp must finally have been discovered and reported. He lay curled around a pile of still warm rocks on the ground where his fire had been, having scraped away its coals sometime in the early morning when he decided it must be put out, and laid down with the hope of getting a bit of actual sleep before he had to move on. He had managed, by keeping the fire going nonstop until the sky began graying, to dry his boot liners thoroughly and the ski pants nearly so, and to warm himself fairly well by keeping rocks constantly heating in the fire and frequently changing out the ones he had in the pockets of his sweatshirt and held against himself in the sock. Also, he had been drinking numerous cans of warmed water as he sat by the fire, the hydration helping him perhaps even more than the warmth of the water in his stomach. He had not realized until then how very dehydrated he must have allowed himself to become, but, hoping to avoid slipping right back into it, had melted a good quantity of snow and nearly filled the water bladder for use after he no longer had access to the fire.

Now, with light—and a helicopter—in the sky, he knew it was time to move on, to put several ridges between himself and that meadow before seriously seeking a place where he could hunker down for a time and rest. It certainly seemed easier said than done though, because between the beating he had taken in the river, the ensuing struggle with hypothermia from which he had certainly not yet entirely recovered and several hours spent lying on the hard rock floor of his shelter, it was all he could do to sit up, let alone drag himself around the camp and prepare to leave. For a good while he just sat there rubbing his cramping legs and trying to restore a bit of flexibility to his battered body, finally managing to haul himself to his feet. Movement hurt some, but he made himself keep at it, stiffly dragging himself from one task to the next as he searched the corners of the shelter for the matches he had lost the previous evening, rolled up the elk hide and reinserted his dry boot liners, which he had been wearing as he slept, into his icy boot shells. As he went about the simple tasks he had set for himself, Einar had an increasing inclination to huddle down on the slightly warm patch of rock where the fire had been and slip into a stupor, caught himself crouching there more than once staring off into the dark corners of the rock lean-to without a thought in his head and with even less desire to move, and he finally decided that if he wanted to keep going that morning, he must eat his one remaining item of food, the orange from the federal camp. He was just pushing the limits of his depleted energy stores a bit too closely and could tell that he needed some help if he wanted to maintain consciousness much longer, let alone head on up the ridge. The orange, a little Clementine, had frozen, of course, but he finally got the peel off and stuffed a section of it in his mouth, finding its benefit to be immediate. He stashed the orange peel in his pocket, not wanting to leave it where his pursuers, if they should trail him that far, might easily be able to spot it and recognize it as being from the camp, and thinking that he might find a use for it later. He actually did not even have to think about the first part, having years ago made it a habit not to leave anything, be it metal or plastic trash, wrappers, or even biodegradable items like egg shells or banana peels, behind as he traveled through the woods. It had always made him cringe when people he hiked with tended to do so with impunity. Why deliberately leave a big old sign that says “I was here…” he would think to himself, but did not say it out loud after seeing the blank stares on his companions’ faces the first time he mentioned it. To him, it was a basic operational security measure that seemed a matter of simple common sense. Just one of a long list of reasons why he had, in his prior life, nearly always ended up hiking alone. Which had been just fine with him, anyway. Continuing to eat as he finished loading his few possessions into the coyote skin, Einar was at last ready to move on, and did so, having not heard the chopper in over ten minutes and hoping, that it would, for the time at least, be staying over near the river. Having been pounded and bruised by logs and rocks as he rode the river, he was not especially steady on his feet that morning and was again having some trouble with the previously injured hip, but he was able to keep on his feet and hold up under the modest load of his few supplies as he started out beneath the dark timber. Another day…

Not too far up the slope, taking a little break in a patch of sun at the edge of a small clearing with the intention of finding a suitable stick to take some of the load off of his aching hip, Einar spotted a good sized patch of stinging nettle shoots, only a few inches high and glowing with the brilliant, deep green that distinguished nettles in the spring. Stopping, he began collecting the nettles with the aid of his sock and stuffing them into the pack, knowing that they would make him a decent meal that night, assuming he was again able to have a fire. As he harvested the little nettles, Einar accidentally stung his hand on one of the stems, realizing that, along with the considerable pain of the sting, the feeling seemed to be returning to his hand which had previously been nearly numb with cold. He grabbed a nettle with his other hand, wondering if he had perhaps unintentionally discovered a good way to get the blood flowing again in his stiff hands and make them more useful. Several minutes later he had decided that this was, indeed, the case, as he was finding his hands a good bit more flexible than before. He supposed the stings must somehow stimulate circulation, and wondered if they might be used to help his damaged feet, as well. Continuing to gather the shoots, he decided to experiment with this idea later that night, after he had hopefully settled in somewhere. Sure wouldn’t want to eat them raw though, even if they did warm me up inside…that sounds like a real bad idea! He knew, though, that the formic acid that made the nettles sting, incidentally the same compound that an ant injects when it bites, would be easily destroyed by a couple of minutes of boiling, leaving him with a tasty green vegetable that was composed of over ten percent protein, the most contained by any leafy green. The leaves also had a high amount of vitamin C, calcium, and B vitamins as well as potassium and phosphorous, and, most importantly, contained a good bit more iron than spinach. Einar was sure that he must be anemic, as starved as he was, and that this condition must be contributing greatly to his constant state of exhaustion. Steamed nettles, boiled nettles, nettle tea…he knew he had just stumbled upon a very useful source of nutrients, and collected a large bundle of the shoots before moving on, taking the time also to gather a number of last year’s old, dead stalks for cordage, which he knew he would have to get busy making as soon as he was at a more established location. The nettles, though, as beneficial as they would be, certainly would not be a long term substitute for the serious nutrition—fat, calories, protein—he needed to stay alive and begin building up his strength, and the thoughts of cordage had reminded him that he had lost his snares as well as all of the remaining cable strands and the large cable coil, to the river. He had nothing, then, aside perhaps from the bowstring that remained coiled in his pocket, with which to make snares. And the bow itself had been lost in the water. He told himself that he would make nettle snares as soon as he had the opportunity, would set up some deadfalls at his next camp, but in the back of his mind he knew that his life was precariously balanced at best, that the loss of the snares might well be the thing that finally tipped it irreversibly in the wrong direction. Get those thoughts out of your head, Einar. Not useful. You got distance to cover, a lot of work to do once you get to another safe spot. Gonna feast on nettles tonight. • • • •

When the two agents at the camp by the cliffs woke the following morning and realized they had been robbed, they put in a call over the radio and a search was quickly underway, two FBI trackers being brought in by helicopter from the command post at Culver Falls, along with over seventy armed agents to help comb the ridge for Einar. Which they did quite thoroughly, quickly trampling the ground and generally making working conditions miserable for the trackers, who still ended up finding enough sign of Einar’s passage to be fairly certain he had been heading for the river. Slowly walking the riverbanks, having finally prevailed on the powers that be to allow them a good distance out front of the bulk of the search party so the ground would not be trampled beyond recognition by the time they reached it, the two men discovered the log and the partial boot print Einar had accidentally left in the little patch of snow in the shadow of the treebridge’s roots. They did not even have to look twice at the high, icy log to know that they had no interest in attempting to cross it, and instead radioed for the chopper, climbing to an open, rocky knoll to meet it and be ferried across the river to a little meadow some distance from its banks on the far side. Making their way back to the river bank on the far side and working their way up to the terminus of the log bridge, the trackers found no sign at all of Einar. They were about to move on when one of the men noticed an odd, ice encrusted shape adhering to the side of the log, about halfway across. Thinking he saw a bit of orange through the ice, he quickly confirmed his suspicion with binoculars, still unwilling to risk the walk out across the log to investigate further. As neither the trackers nor the FBI agents participating in the ground search that morning were equipped with technical climbing gear of any description, and only a few had more than a passing knowledge of its use, Mountain Rescue was called in for technical assistance on retrieving the item in question. A team of seven volunteers responded, a team which included Allan and Liz, but not Bill, who was understandably inclined to stick a bit close to home for a few days following the foiled federal raid on his home. The volunteers quickly set up a belay and sent a man out across the log to fetch what turned out to be a good sized scrap of orange cloth. The discovery of what was clearly a piece of a much worn set of prison coveralls, combined with the complete lack of tracks and sign on the far side of the river, was enough to convince most of the agents that the subject of their search had, indeed, gone into the water. Liz, waiting with the other volunteers to see if their further services would be required, watched from a distance and listened as the agents discussed the next phase of the search. Splitting the main search force up into two groups, they decided to walk the banks on each side of the river to search for any sign of the fugitive, at the same time putting in a call to the swiftwater rescue team from the adjoining county whose assistance they had previously recruited in searching a different river for Einar’s remains. The general consensus among the agents was that their search had just become a recovery mission, though they were certainly not willing to take this for granted, having wrongly believed such things more than once during the course of the manhunt. Liz watched the goings on with a knot in her stomach, wondering what Einar’s chances could possibly be if he had, indeed, gone into that water. She wanted to do something, anything, wanted to hurry down there and walk those banks herself, but had to wait along with the others while the feds planned and organized their search efforts.

When she glanced at Allan, looking perhaps for a bit of reassurance, for some reason to hope, he just shook his head and stared down at the roaring torrent with its churning cargo of logs and branches and crushed ice. “I don’t think so, Liz. I sure wouldn’t want to end up in there. And I heard one of the trackers say that he was pretty sure the boot print they found over on the other side was made sometime yesterday. So even if he made it out of the river, he’s been out there all night…” Liz nodded, knowing the implications and fighting to keep ahold of herself, wishing that she did not have to be there when they found the body. She knew, though, that she must do her best to appear normal and participate in the search in whatever capacity the other volunteers were called on to assist. When the swiftwater rescue team arrived Liz, Allan and the other Lakemont County volunteers mostly just observed and helped some with rigging, lacking the training and experience to participate on a more active basis with the operation. Though after several hours no sign was found of a body, several items, including an MRE and a packet of Ramen noodles were discovered at various points along the river, reinforcing the belief that Einar had indeed gone in the water. Liz knew that the fact that no body had turned up certainly did not mean that there was not one, especially under the sort of conditions presented by that snowmelt-swollen river, but the longer the search went on without any sign of Einar, the more she allowed herself to begin hoping. Allan glanced at her. “I can see you thinking, Liz. What? Think we ought to take off and go look for him?” Liz frowned. That was, in fact, exactly what she had been thinking, though she had certainly not intended on mentioning it to anyone. “Allan, he had to be pretty desperate to take things from that camp, I mean, to take that chance. And if he went in this river…” She shook her head, stared at the water for minute. “I just wish we had a way to get some of this stuff to him, if he’s out there,” she waved her hand, indicating the well-stocked packs carried by each of the volunteers. “Yeah, he’d be needing it, alright, if he… Liz, you know the chances are like zero that he would have lasted the night, right? And that’s if he even made it out of the water. Which is not all that likely. I mean, look at those logs, and then there are the submerged rocks, tree snags, heck, this water is moving so fast that it’s dragging rocks along with it. Hear that? That’s rocks scraping along the bottom and bouncing off other rocks. It’s moving that fast.” He looked at her, saw that her eyes were bright with tears that she resolutely refused to allow to fall as she stared at the water, and decided that perhaps he had gone too far. He hadn’t seen any sense in letting her build up too much false hope, though, and he did indeed believe it to be false. And, if he had been willing to admit it, maybe he resented this “probably dead” guy just a bit, resented that he, or his memory, anyway, seemed to be keeping him, Allan, from getting anywhere within ten feet of Liz, who he thought he really might like to get to know a bit better, if she had not insisted on being so steadfastly distant around him all the time. Oh well, it is what it is. And now I’ve gone and upset

her. “You know though,” he said, “I guess I’ll come with you, if you want to give it a go. Looking for Einar, I mean.” Liz glanced up warily at Allan, almost taking him up on his offer before reconsidering. “No. If their trackers can’t find him, how can we expect to? And even if we somehow did, we would probably just end up leading the feds to him. Thank you, though.” “Hey Liz…” Allan knew he was pushing his luck, but decided to try anyway, “I’ve got to know. That Sunday last winter when you got to church late and asked me all those questions about nutritional deficiencies and such—was Einar…” She dismissed the question with a wave of her hand before he could even finish asking it. “That was just idle curiosity on my part, Allan. I’m a very curious person, you know!” He rolled his eyes. “Yes, Liz, that you are.” Liz, watching as the search of the river went on around them, sent up a silent prayer for Einar, doing the only thing she knew to do for him under the circumstances. Help him, please. Give him whatever he needs most today. Keep him out of their hands, and in Yours… • • • •

What Einar needed most at that moment, at least as far as he could tell, was something to eat. His progress had become maddeningly slow due to the increasingly frequent need to stop and rest, just to let his head clear and allow the growing blackness that welled up and threatened to blot out his vision to subside enough that he could see to continue. He had finished climbing one ridge and followed a narrow, rocky gorge for awhile as it steadily gained elevation, liking the fact that he could keep on the rocks and leave minimal sign by doing so. Eventually though it grew too steep for him to continue in, was in fact close to ending in a dry waterfall type of formation, and he began seeking a way up out of it, prevented by his injured shoulder from doing much actual climbing or even scrambling. Finally he found a rockslide that was slightly less steep and allowed him passage, taking the rocks one at a time with a step grown increasingly heavy as the day wore on. Reaching the top and walking out onto the steep, treed slope he sat down to rest, able with the elevation he had gained to look out at the valley and even see a small area of the meadow, over by the river. He could see no activity, save for a Huey that appeared to be following the course of the river, nose pointed down. Still focused over there, seems like. Good. From his vantage point, Einar could see a rocky escarpment about halfway up a nearby ridge, and hoping to find shelter for the night and concealment for the fire he hoped very much to have, he traversed the ridge he was on, heading for those rocks and not knowing that his immediate plans were about to change in rather a big way.

Einar had worked his way back to a point almost directly above the dry waterfall formation that had ended his travel along the gulley floor, struggling to maintain his footing on the steep, slick, needle-covered ground when he saw what looked like a small, light colored deer, lying on the rocks below him, its head bent back. Hanging onto a little spruce for balance he leaned out to get a better look, unsure at that distance exactly what the creature was, but quite certain that it was dead. He knew coyotes occasionally worked together to drive an animal over a cliff like that, allowing them to kill something that would otherwise have been beyond their means to take down. More than once he had found the picked-over bones of such an unfortunate creature at the base of a drop. From his perch high above the gulley floor, he could not of course tell how long the carcass might have lain there, but the fact that it appeared fairly intact gave him cause for hope that it was recent enough to do him some good. And at this point I’m gonna be eating it, even if have to fight (or eat!) the maggots to get at it. He didn’t expect to have to contend too heavily with maggots just yet, though. It was still too early in the season. The carcass appeared to have come to rest on a “step” in the dry waterfall formation, an area of rock roughly ten by thirty with the sheer main drop of the falls above it and a smaller one beneath, and he hoped very much that he would find it within his ability to climb up that shorter drop below the step and get at the meat. There might well be a good reason that the scavengers had so far left it alone. Searching unsuccessfully for a closer way down to the gulley floor, Einar ended up having to retrace his steps and descend the steep rockslide, which seemed to be one of the few access points that allowed passage around its nearly sheer rock walls. Reaching the bottom of the first step, which consisted of a steep, water-polished section of rock, he began looking for a way to the top that did not involve attempting to haul himself up thirty feet of slick rock. On the right side, where the waterfall course met the canyon wall, there was a narrow crack out of which grew a few gooseberry shrubs and a stunted fir or two, and Einar focused on this as his potential access. The rock was steep but not, thankfully, actually vertical in the area of the crack, which was just wide enough for Einar to jam the toe of his boot into for some leverage. Very slowly he made his way up the crack, wishing he had the use of both arms but finding the left nearly useless due to the shoulder injury. The pain of attempting to use the injured arm and the exertion of the climb several times brought blackness welling up in front of his eyes and a hissing to his ears, forcing him to lean into the rock, sticking his arm into the crack and twisting until his hand and elbow locked it in place, most of his weight hanging from the arm as struggled to get his buckling legs back beneath him. Sick and dizzy, he rested his forehead on the cold rock until he could go on, hoping desperately that he would make it to the top without actually losing consciousness. Alternately jamming one foot then the other into the crack, grabbing the edge of the rock and occasionally a bit of brush to help himself along, Einar reached the top of the ascent, rolling over a ring of rocks at the rim and collapsing on the flat, water-polished surface, promptly passing out. He came to some minutes later when a raven landed on his boot,

opening his eyes and squinting at the bird, keeping himself very still and wondering, desperate for food and for the moment having forgotten about the carcass, if perhaps he could move quickly enough to catch it. A ridiculous notion, as he quickly discovered when he attempted it, sitting up way too fast and nearly tumbling back down the way he had come, as his head spun with dizziness. Quickly he rolled over and dragged himself further away from the dropoff, suddenly remembering why he had made the climb and searching the rocky ledge for his deer carcass, or whatever it had been. He realized the raven must have been there after it, and hoped the winged scavengers had left him something. He could see no sign of it, dragged himself to his feet and headed for the vertical expanse of the upper waterfall, finally seeing a bit of tan hair and a small hoof sticking out from behind some rocks. The creature, as it turned out, was a young bighorn sheep ewe, not very big but also, from the look and smell of it, not too long dead. The ravens and perhaps other winged scavengers had done a small amount of damage, but there was plenty of meat left. Einar rose and looked back down the crack he had ascended, wondering what his chances would be of getting the entire carcass down that drop. He wished he could just roll it down over the edge and collect it below, but the smooth face of the lower fall was broken by several small ledges, and studying them, Einar saw that the sheep was almost certain to hang up on one of those ledges if he let it drop. It would then be hopelessly beyond his reach, unless he wanted to try a difficult and risky climb up the slick rock, and in all likelihood a nasty drop back to the rocky ground below. Sure wish I had a rope…could keep tossing it down and hauling it up until it made it all the way down. Lacking that, his best option seemed to be quartering the animal or cutting it up in way he was able, given the limited tools he had to work with, and taking it down the way he had come up, loading whatever would fit in the pack and making several trips. Working to sharpen the steel bar that was his only knife on a rock, Einar remembered the entrenching tool, took it out of the pack and removed the saw from its place inside the handle, thinking that it ought to prove quite useful when it came to severing tendon, and that the shovel itself ought to do quite nicely for breaking bone, if he should need to do so. The internal organs of the animal, unfortunately, were green and soft and degraded to a degree that Einar knew he must not attempt to eat them raw, if at all. That’s too bad. Sure could have used the fat in that liver. But much of the meat seemed just fine, and he looked forward to mutton with his nettles that night. As he worked, something kept bothering Einar, a little warning in the back of his mind that kept gnawing at him and demanding his attention, but which he could not seem to pin down firmly enough to discover its origin. He wished his mind would be just a bit clearer, but knew that might not happen until he got some serious food and sleep. Tonight, maybe… The feeling kept him on edge, though, pausing at random intervals to look up and listen for he knew not what. A trickle of water, tracing its way down the smooth rock above him, pooling in a little crevice and dripping coldly on his head, finally made clear to Einar just what had been bothering him. He was, obviously, standing in a watercourse, and one that clearly flowed quite heavily at some point during the year, if the banks of accumulated sticks and branches and red silt that lined the sides of the little canyon were any indication. The thing had not begun flowing yet, but only, he now

realized, due to the colder temperatures of the higher elevation. At some point when enough snow melted above it, the waterfall and gulley would almost certainly be flowing with a fury similar to that of the river in the valley, if only for a few days. He knew that, barring an almost unprecedented sudden thaw up high, he did not have to worry about being caught unawares by a torrent of water suddenly descending the gorge, as he might have expected in a desert canyon during a rainstorm. No, the water would come slowly but steadily, increasing as the sunny portion of the day wore on and diminishing some overnight. Comforting as it was to know that he was probably not about to be washed over the dropoff by a sudden flood, Einar saw that the little trickle was increasing, that trickles were appearing at other points across the high rock face and beginning to drip steadily near the sheep carcass, and he knew that he had better find some way to get the meat out of there fairly quickly if he wanted to avoid getting it, and himself, soaked. Which he very much wanted to do. Sure would rather not start the night all wet again. Let’s try and wait a few days, at least. Need some sleep. And the prospect of attempting to descend the thirty feet of slick rock below him, even with the assistance of the crack, when it was wet with melt water and all the slicker, did not especially appeal to him. He hurried, finally getting one hind quarter separated and loaded in the pack, but, stopping to listen before beginning the descent, he thought he could hear the distant rumble of a helicopter. There was only one place on the ledge that offered concealment from the air, consisting of a little overhang to the left of the waterfall. He crawled under it, sure by that time that a chopper was approaching, and waited as it skimmed the opposite ridge, hoping that what he was seeing was simply part of a routine search of the area, and not an indication that they had picked up his trail across the meadow. Not wanting to be trapped there as the flow of water increased, he thought briefly of hurrying over to the crack and trying to get down while the chopper was focused on a different ridge, but he knew any such descent would mean at least tem minutes of slow down climbing on some very exposed terrain, at best. Wait. Before long, watching the chopper, he became reasonably certain that they had no solid idea of what they were looking for, as it followed one ridge for awhile, doubled back and scanned a valley, then did a tight zigzag for a while on a timber-covered slope. The thing was not going away, though, and after waiting under the ledge for over half an hour, Einar was getting seriously concerned about the amount of water that was coming over the waterfall. The entire surface of the large ledge was by that time wet, if not from direct contact with the water then from its splashing, and, though Einar had so far been able to keep himself dry by huddling up against the rock wall and shielding himself from the splashing water with his pack, he could see that even this would not protect him for much longer. He could see that years of falling water had worn the rock away some towards the center of the ledge, leaving a slight depression that was rapidly becoming a pool. It would not make a very deep pool, as the water would spill over the side before that time, but looking at it, he was pretty sure that it would reach his little shelter before spilling over, leaving him stuck lying in the water if that chopper stayed around too long. And then having to somehow make his way across a slick ledge covered with flowing water before descending the crack. Which, for all he knew, might be flowing by that time, too. Go away, you buzzard!

As the afternoon wore on, the helicopter continued its slow, methodical search of the surrounding area, preventing Einar from leaving the shelter of the little rock crevice beside the waterfall, which was by late afternoon running quite vigorously with the day’s melt water. As the sound of the water increased from a trickle and a drip to a lively chorus of splashing and finally to a roar as the water volume increased, he was prevented from hearing the chopper, but if he poked his head out from under the rock, he could usually see it, focusing its attention on one ridge or another. He had very much hoped that his unwelcome dunking in the river would have at least left the feds, if they managed to track him down to its edge, believing he had perished in its icy grip. Judging by the actions of the chopper, it had not gone that way. They must not have found the place where I came out of the water, though, because if they had, they probably would have tracked me across that meadow, and this air search would be a lot more focused on my position by this time. As careful as he had tried to be in concealing his passage through the meadow and up the forested ridge beyond, he realized, looking back, that he had barely been aware or in control of his own actions at times during that journey. It had been all he could do to keep on his feet and continue putting one foot in front of the other, let alone keep vigilant about not leaving sign. Still, it looks like they did not pick up my trail, after the river. All he could think was that perhaps the years of consistent and deliberate training—in which he had treated nearly every walk in the woods, hike and hunting trip as a training exercise, picking a scenario and working it like his life depended on it—had paid off, and that when it really mattered, he had done automatically what he had lacked the wherewithal to do with deliberation. Hope so, because I was really out of it back there… Einar wanted to go out and get the rest of the sheep, fearing that it might be carried away by the water if the flow became much heavier and fairly certain that he could still make it over to the carcass without being knocked off his feet by the force of the water, but he could see that doing so would mean getting thoroughly drenched, as it sat just behind where the bulk of the spray was hitting the ledge. Knowing that he could not have a fire as long as that chopper buzzed the nearby ridges and valleys and lacking the room in the confined space of the crevice to even be able to remove his clothes prior to the trip to keep them dry, Einar decided against making the attempt. He had the rear quarter of the animal that he had finished removing and stowed in his pack just before the chopper made its appearance, and if he ended up losing the rest of the meat, that would just have to do. He was well aware that he had never warmed up entirely after his struggle with the river, as was made clear by the fact that he had begun shivering again almost as soon as he had stopped climbing. The prospect of lying still in the little crevice, drenched and pressed up against the cold rock for some undefined period of time after dragging the sheep from beneath the waterfall…he just didn’t know if he could survive such a thing for long, at that point. In fact, it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to go on lying there at all, as the pervasive damp chill of the place and the constant breeze from the falling water combined with the bottomless heat sink of the enormous mass of limestone on which he lay to draw the warmth out of him at an alarming rate. He was not

sure though, as he lay there shivering, what other option he might have at the moment. At least the water in the little pool had not, as he had feared, actually reached the level of his hiding place, spilling over to go cascading down the slick rock below mere inches before inundating the crevice. This had been a relief, though a short-lived one, as before long the increasing flow of the water began dragging along silt and sticks and branches from above, and he watched the debris build up against the rocks at the edge of the dropoff, slowly raising the level of the pool. Then an entire log washed over, snagging at the brim of the lower fall and acting, along with all of the other junk, like a dam, causing more debris to be trapped and build up behind it. Einar could see that before long at all he would be lying in at least three inches of icy melt water. Feeling a bit frantic to avoid this, he began scrambling to get rocks beneath him, raising himself with one arm and sliding them under one at a time in an attempt to get himself a few inches further off the ground. There were not many rocks available within his reach, though, not nearly enough to keep him up out of the rising water, and most of them were already thoroughly wet from the spray. Twisting himself around as well as he could in the confines of the crevice, he began pulling rocks from behind him, from up against the face, finding more there but having a very difficult time maneuvering them beneath him. Already the water was lapping at his pack, trickling and oozing coldly in beneath him and beginning to soak through the ski pants at one knee where it had been scuffed and damaged, drenching one elbow and creeping up his arm. The ground rose slightly behind him, and as Einar pulled out more and more loose rocks, tossing them out into the water when they ceased fitting beneath him, he wedged himself up into the space they left behind, earning a temporary reprieve from the rising water but increasingly fearing that he might become trapped by it. Surely it will start spilling over again before then… That had certainly appeared to be the most likely scenario, but as the water continued rising, he wondered. His legs were halfway submerged by that point, and his torso would have been, had he not been putting all of his strength into keeping himself raised the few inches off the ground that the cramped space would allow. The water tugged at him as it flowed past, leaving him to wonder whether he would drown first, or be washed out of the crevice and over the dropoff. Drown, I guess. The current probably won’t get much stronger until the water starts spilling over, and I only have a few inches of air left, here, so by then it’ll be too late… He knew he would not wait that long, though, would not simply lie there and drown. At some point he was going to have to make the decision to leave the crevice for air, and his intention was to do his best to grab that log that had snagged at the edge of the fall, hoping to be able to use it to pull himself over to the opposite end of the ledge and perhaps find some way out that did not involve taking the fast way to the bottom of the gulley. As he pictured the place, though, all he could see were sheer rock walls, without even so much as a gooseberry shrub for him to hang onto as he waited for the water to subside so he could descend the crack. And that water won’t be going down any, until the sun goes and it cools down for the night and that snow stops melting. And I’d be gone long before then, anyway. Already freezing, and that water can’t be any warmer than the river was. Gonna have to try it, though, because I can’t stay here. And I better do it before this water gets much deeper, if I want to keep breathing.

Squirming around in preparation for leaving the crevice, he kicked hard at the rock face behind him, startled when his feet, after knocking aside a pile of loose rock, hit a void. He pushed himself backwards, probing with his feet and finding a cavity, just large enough to cram himself into when he tried. Which he did rather quickly, pulling his nearly-floating pack in behind him, wanting to be out of the rising water and seeing that the cavity was a good bit higher than the soggy ground he had recently occupied. Huddling in the small space and watching the foamy water rise up over the rocks he had just been lying on, Einar was surprised to find that he could sit up, that the ceiling of the little cavern was in fact at least four feet from the ground. Well! Now there’s no way the water should get this high! He knew that the water should not rise much above the top of the crevice before spilling over and ceasing to rise, based on the height of the “dam” created by the trapped log, and decided he could always duck under the water and rise to the surface if he had to. Which he ought not, even if the water did rise to the top of the crevice and cut off his supply of fresh air, as there should be enough air trapped in the little space to see him through a few hours until the water started going down for the night, if he kept still. Crouching there for a minute in the darkness, glad to be out of immediate danger of drowning but wet and beginning to be very cold indeed, he began exploring the small chamber, finding the walls to be of a rough, pitted limestone, reminiscent of some of the caves he had explored not too many miles from that area. If this is a cave, maybe it goes somewhere… And he began feeling around in search of a tunnel, though he knew in all likelihood that his shelter was just a pocket hollowed out of the limestone by the action of many years of melt water. Einar’s search yielded nothing, and he began focusing on how he might keep himself from getting too much colder before evening came and the water receded, at which point the knew he would have to go out and find wood for a fire. If that chopper was gone. If it kept searching into the night… He shook his head, shivered, prayed that it would move on before then, before he became too cold to get a fire going or to remember that he needed one. At least there was no wind in the rock shelter. Though the comfort this brought was merely intellectual. He was freezing. Einar tried everything he could think of in his attempt to hold his ground against the cold that afternoon, finally resorting to eating some of the raw sheep meat from his pack, knowing that it had been sitting for awhile and was of questionable quality, but physically unable to keep up the activity needed to maintain his temperature and unwilling to sit there and let the elements claim him without a fight. The meat, though raw and not tasting quite as fresh it might have, helped quite a bit. Sometime after dark the sound from outside the cave told him that the water was diminishing, the noise eventually quieting until it spoke to him of no more than a trickle of water making its way down the course of the waterfall. Knowing that he must have fire to make it through that night and having no wood there in the little cave, he crept down to the opening in the rock, rolled out of it and stood with difficulty, the light of a nearly full moon gleaming on the little pool of water that had been left behind by the earlier torrent, the surface of the ledge already slick and icy where the wetness had begun to freeze. The helicopter was gone, and all was silent save for the drip of water from the rock face above him. The sheep was, to his surprise and relief, still there, pinned against

the log and branch dam where it had earlier become trapped by the current. He grabbed it by the front legs, icy and waterlogged and already partially frozen to the mass of branches, and dragged it back to the crevice beneath the rock shelf, wedging it in but not blocking his access. OK, Einar. Wood. Got to have a fire, got to warm up, and you can now, since that chopper is gone. The most obvious answer was to try and descend the crack and find some dry wood in the gulley, but finding it wet and icy, he doubted his ability to make that descent without suffering a serious fall. He looked around for another way off of the ledge, but could see none. • • • •

Inspecting the ledge in the moonlight as he stomped around on the icy rock in an attempt to generate some heat, Einar realized that there was indeed wood available, and plenty of it, tangled and twisted and pressed together in the dam that had held the water that had nearly drowned him earlier that day. Trouble was, the stuff was soaking wet and icy. He kicked at the tangled mess, searching for anything that might be less than entirely water logged. The top half of a long dead spruce, apparently broken apart by the force of the water, had lodged near the edge of the dropoff, and attempting to break off one of its side branches, he was encouraged to find that the thing snapped sharply and cleanly, indicating that the tree couldn’t have been in the water for too long. The bark, though, was quite soggy and beginning to freeze, and he knew that he would have to somehow get it off, if he was to get a fire going. And he entirely lacked any sort of dry tinder, doubting his hands possessed the sort of control and dexterity he would need to finely split or shave some of the drier wood into the splinters that would give him a chance of lighting a fire with one of the matches. He wished he had a little candle to light and push under the damp wood, knowing that this would in time dry it out and let it ignite. Breaking off and collecting a good bundle of branches from the dead spruce, he was about to return to the little cave when he saw that the log that had created the dam was apparently the bottom half of the dead spruce, and was covered along one side with dried blobs of sap. Breaking off a marble-sized piece and sticking it in his pocket, he searched along the trunk, finding a number of these gobs of dried pitch. All right! Got my “candle.” This stuff should keep my fire going long enough to dry the wood some. Assuming I can strike a match in the first place… He opened and closed his stiff hands with difficulty, beating them against his legs and doubting that he would be able to grasp the match, thinking that perhaps he would have to resort to again clamping it under his foot and striking it with a rock. Hurry up. This breeze out here sure isn’t helping things any. He dragged himself back into the cave, dropping the pile of sticks and hauling the coyote skin pack out into the moonlight so he could see to find the entrenching tool. He realized then that he had better plan on starting the fire under the rock shelf where the moonlight would give him enough light to see what he was doing, instead of up in the pitch black cave. Working in the darkness, he knew he would probably just lose or break most of the matches before he even got one lit. Working to split some of the drier sticks and remove their half frozen bark proved to be a slow, frustrating and largely futile endeavor for Einar, who ended up with more nicks and cuts on his hands from the saw

blade than he did pieces of split wood, finally abandoning the saw and resorting to using the barely sharp steel bar, which while it made the splitting more difficult, also did him less harm in the process. He worked with painstaking care, everything seeming to be happening in slow motion, balancing a stick on end, steadying his shaking hands enough to get the blade placed near its center, pounding with a rock until the thing either began splitting or, more likely, fell over and forced him to start all over again. After a steady ten or fifteen minutes of work he rested, cold and desperately weary, staring in dismay at his dismally small pile of crudely split sticks, each of them damp on at least one surface, knowing that they would hardly suffice to get a fire going. And most of them were not nearly fine enough for his purposes. He took a minute and tried warming his hands against his stomach to restore some flexibility, but it didn’t seem to be especially warm, either, I think that should probably worry me… and this had little effect. He stayed there for too many minutes just staring at the moonlight on the little pool of water, at the thin rim of ice that had formed around its edges. Hey! What are you going to do, then? Because sitting here sure isn’t working. He stood slowly, stared dully around in hopes of some inspiration. Then an idea came to him. The nettles. He remembered the nettles that were to have been part of his supper, remembered their warming effect on his hands that morning when he had inadvertently stung himself collecting them, and fumbled around in the pack until he found them. At first he couldn’t even feel their stings, but kept handling them until he could, slowly feeling the blood return to his hands as he did so. After that the splitting went much more quickly, and before long he had a good little stack of thinly split wood, which he began arranging on one of the drier rocks beneath the ledge, carefully placing blobs and strings of dried spruce pitch throughout the little fire teepee. Several more of these chunks he placed beneath it on the rock, intending to light them with the match, of he could hold it steady enough. In ferrying the split wood up under the ledge, Einar noticed from the deposit of silt and sticks that though the water had not quite reached the top of the little crevice that let air into his cave, it had certainly come within an inch or two. And if tomorrow happens to be a warmer day, it will come up even higher. Got to be out of here in the morning, before that water starts flowing. The nettles and the work of splitting wood had helped his hands a good bit, and Einar found himself able to hold the match to strike it, using both hands to steady it and holding his breath as he carefully slid it under his split kindling and held it to one of the pitch blobs. Which took, sizzling and sputtering as a flame slowly grew from its center and became more lively as it began to melt. Before long the little flame had climbed up into the kindling, which steamed and hissed some as the water was driven off, but eventually caught, also. Einar carefully added some of the larger sticks he had split, huddling over the fire until it seemed well enough established to safely leave before hurrying back out to the dam to break more branches from the dead spruce. These, after stripping them of their bark, he set on rocks near the fire to dry out. Conditions were damp, breezy and cramped at best under the ledge, and Einar worked to move the fire into the cave, using a burning stick with a bit of pitch on the end as a small torch to light the place as he worked. He knew that attempting to have a fire in the small cavern might just result in a quick and suffocating buildup of smoke, so he kept the fire under the ledge going for the time, incase he had to retreat there for fresh air. He really hoped it might work to have a fire in the cave, though, because he knew it would provide a bit more concealment of the

heat signature if a chopper should happen over in the night, and ought also to allow a good bit of heat to accumulate. Because I think I’d kind of like to actually be warm for a few minutes, for a change. Maybe sleep some. Rather than build up in the cavern and suffocate him, Einar was delighted, though not entirely surprised, to find that the smoke was drawn rather rapidly into a tiny passage that he had previously overlooked, and carried away into the intricacies of what he had guessed might be a rather extensive underground limestone landscape. He knew from prior explorations that once the water began working on limestone, releasing carbonic acid and progressively dissolving the rock to create tunnels and caverns, it seldom stopped with one little chamber. The passage, though appearing far too small for a man to crawl through, worked quite well as a chimney, and the way it drew the smoke told Einar that somewhere in the recesses of the rock, that tunnel led to another source of outside air. In a moment of curiosity and excitement, he all but forgot that he was wet, freezing and starved and was ready to attack the wall with the entrenching tool to see if the little tunnel might be made large enough to allow him passage. Forget it, Einar. Tomorrow, maybe. Tonight, dry out, get warm, rest. Some of the nettles he had earlier collected had fallen out of the pack when he had earlier removed the entrenching tool, and seeing them there on the ground by the fire reminded him that it was time to eat. Badly needing some nourishment, he set the can of water he had previously collected from the pool by the fire to heat, using the saw from the entrenching tool to carve off some chunks and shreds from the sheep haunch. Tossing them in the water, he waited for the stew to begin heating, leaning over and breathing its steam as it did. Doesn’t smell bad at all. Collecting the nettles he tossed some of them in, knowing that he was about to eat the best meal he’d had access to in quite some time. He was still awfully cold, though, shivering in the warmth of the fire but seeming to take forever to begin thawing out. Remembering how the nettle stings had seemed to help the circulation in his cold hands, he wondered if he could use the same idea over larger areas of his body to help him get warm, or perhaps more importantly to keep him warm that night, if the chopper came back and he had to put out his fire. He thought about it for a second before quickly tossing most of the remaining fresh nettle shoots into his cooking can to keep himself from experimenting. No, I don’t think that would be a good way to keep warm. Might work, but I don’t think I’d like it at all. In the end it might just end up making me lose more heat, anyway, if I got the blood flowing to the skin when my body was trying to keep itself warm by concentrating the blood towards the core. But it might be useful on a small area like my feet. Have to try that, later. For the time though, the little fire was doing its job very well, the small space heating up quite nicely and Einar finding himself before long sitting in a dry shelter surrounded by sixty five degree air, relaxed and almost comfortable as he took off his wet clothes and set them to dry. The sweat shirt, unlike the insulated ski pants, had not been soaked thoroughly, and with a bit of attention was dry before too long. Einar really slept that night, for the first time in way too long, drawing his legs up inside the sweatshirt and resting his head on his knees, waking occasionally to shove more wood into the fire as it dried. He woke slowly after several hours of steady sleep to gently smoldering coals, diffused sunlight from under the ledge reflecting off the wall of the cave and the muffled sound of

roaring water from outside, realizing with a start that he had slept way too long. • • • •

Scrambling down to the space under the ledge, Einar saw that it was already nearly full of frothy brown water, lapping at the rock mere inches from the ceiling. My sheep! At first he thought it had already been swept away, but, searching, saw one hoof sticking up out of the water, the animal having hung up on a spur of rock that protruded from the face. Removing his sweatshirt to keep it dry, he struggled to float the carcass over to a place where he could pull it up out of the water, knowing that he had to get it up into the cave itself if he did not want to eventually lose it to the water. The sheep barely fit through the short tunnel, and took up rather more room in the little cave than he had anticipated, soon causing a cold, slimy puddle to accumulate on its rocky floor and sending Einar scrambling to get his nearly dry ski pants up out of the reach of the water and put on. He sat on a rock, catching his breath and contemplating the situation in the dim glow that entered through the several inches of space that still existed between the ledge and the fast-moving water outside. He had fully intended to leave the shelter of the cave sometime before the sun came up, before the water again began trickling, let alone flowing so strongly that he had no hope of crossing the ledge and descending the crack to safety. Well, I slept too long. Way too long, because it must be nearly afternoon already. Big mistake. And now, like it or not, looks like I’m here for the day. And, though he was a good deal closer to the river and meadow than he had intended to be when he took more permanent shelter, Einar had to admit that he really did not mind having to spend another day in the cave. He had food, water, protection from the elements, and could look forward to another fire and some good warm sleep the following night. Though he was rather short on wood, and knew he would have to venture out when the water slowed to obtain more. He was also concerned that at some point the water would not stop at all at night, but might keep up a constant flow for a month or two. I doubt that’ll happen today, though. So there should be no harm in another day or two. But after watching the water in the tunnel slowly rise as it narrowed and finally entirely blotted out the little crack of light that has been providing him his fresh air, he began to wonder about his prior confidence. For the time at least the air seemed to be holding out just fine, and he hoped that enough fresh air might be allowed in through the tiny tunnel that had acted as a chimney to keep the place from becoming too stale before the water level outside started going down. He waited there in the darkness, feeling around for his pack and taking out a chunk of sheep haunch that he had cooked over the fire and saved from the night before, very aware of his hunger after the good meal the previous night and thinking that he had better go ahead and eat as much of the sheep as he was able, in case something happened and he lost all or part of it before he could finish it. By the time he had finished his breakfast, the air was becoming rather close and stifling, and Einar decided that the little tunnel was probably not going to be much help to him, after all. In order to “breathe,” he supposed, the cave system must need both entrances open for air to pass through. With the outside access beneath the ledge blocked off by the flowing water, there was simply no draw to pull air through in either direction. Now, he speculated as he sat there trying to breathe slowly to conserve

oxygen, if a person had some PVC pipe with an angle joint or two in it, they could run the thing out through the tunnel and secure it to a spot on the cliff outside where the water would not reach. You’d have to find some way to paint it grey like the rock of course so it didn’t show up, but with a little planning, you could turn a place like this into a really comfortable, hidden little shelter. Sitting there on the rock and trying to keep himself very still both inside and out to slow the deterioration of his air supply, Einar let his mind wander off on rabbit trails, nodding and slipping into something like sleep as he balanced on the rock. He traveled far, leaving the little cave and climbing ridge after ridge as he made his way deeper into the wilderness area, finally finding a little basin much like the one the first cabin had been in, only without a mine or cabin. There was a spring, though, and plenty of good timber, much of it already dead and leaning or recently fallen where a great wind had swept through at some point and uprooted a number of tall, straight spruces. He chose a spot up against a rocky little ridge for the cabin site, hauling the logs one by one and working them by hand with an axe as the cabin took shape. He looked around and saw that the aspen leaves were gold with autumn, and took satisfaction in knowing that the shelter would be finished and snug by the time snow fell. Turning and heading back to start work notching the next log, he picked up the axe. Which Liz must have brought when she came up, because he certainly never had one, before… He wondered where she was, looked over towards the cabin and saw her there, cooking something over the fire. Einar startled awake, caught himself just before he fell off the rock. Liz was gone, and his feet were wet. He stood up, hastily splashing over to his pack and grabbing it, fumbling for the entrenching tool. The failing air supply, apparently, was not to be his greatest concern after all. • • • • It was nearly dark in the cave, but with the sun on the water outside, a tiny amount of sickly light seeped in, proving to be just enough to allow Einar to see that the water was several inches deep on the cave floor, and rising. He knew that he would probably have to duck out through the tunnel and take his chances with the waterfall outside, chances? Not much chance at all that this’ll come out good, and you know it… but he decided to take a minute first to see if he could make any headway in enlarging the little “chimney” tunnel to allow him passage. It started several feet off the ground, and he had noticed the day before that the rock in and around it was loose, and looked like it could be moved, with some effort. Prying at the rocks with the entrenching tool until one of them gave way and fell to the ground with a splash, he kept working until after a time he had the sense of a growing void in front of him, probed with his hand and found that the removal of the rocks had exposed a low crawlway, no more than one foot high and two or two and a half wide, but large enough, he thought, to accommodate him. Its walls were of rough and pitted limestone, with the little calcium protrusions here and there that told him that the tunnel was, or recently had been, part of a “living” cave, rather than merely being a dead-end cavity that resulted from a somewhat desperate man attacking a bunch of loose rock with a shovel. Good. This should go somewhere. And it was a good thing indeed, because as he worked, the water had risen another four or five inches with alarming speed, until it was nearly spilling over the tops of his boots. The faint light that

he had been working by was entirely gone by that point, as the brown silty water outside deepened, and Einar felt with his hands, running them up and down the rock on either side of the tunnel in an attempt to determine how high the water had previously risen in the little chamber. He wasn’t sure he even wanted to try the tunnel if it was a near certainty that he was to be trapped and drowned in it. Better to take his chances with the waterfall, so he could at least take his last breath out under the sky, if it came to that. The crusty layer of dried mud, though, seemed to stop about halfway up the height of the tunnel opening, leaving him wondering whether the tunnel went up, or down… Well, I’ve got to try it, because even if the water comes only that high and leaves me a foot or so of breathing room here in this chamber, it’s feeling pretty likely that I’d pass out from lack of oxygen before the water starts going down, anyway. And it was a heavy snow year, so the water could end up going higher than that old silt line, anyway, So either way, going looks like a better option than staying. After leaning heavily on the wall for a second in an attempt to catch his breath in the depleted oxygen of the little chamber, Einar felt for his pack, stowed the entrenching tool and hurriedly tied the end of his right bootlace to one of the coyote legs, hoping to be able to drag the pack behind him as he squeezed through the tunnel. The sheep remains would have to wait, as there was no way he could hope to drag them along, also, and he was glad to still have part of the sheep quarter in the pack. He was not even sure that he would be able to drag the pack, but had to try. Before tying the pack to his boot, Einar had removed several split sticks of dry wood that he had partially coated in pitch at his fire the night before, amazed that they had remained dry, stashing them in his sweatshirt pocket. He supposed he could use them as torches—very small, temporary torches, but as they were his only potential light source, they would have to be made to do. He certainly hoped there was better air in the tunnel. Think I’d give just about anything right now for a couple of lightsticks, flashlight, anything that makes light without using up air… Thoughts went through his head as he pulled himself up into the little tunnel, pressing flat and dragging himself several feet in before struggling to get his right arm back behind him and pull the pack up into the passage. What if I get a good ways into this, and the water comes up and traps me at a point where I wouldn’t be able to make it back out in time? Or if this little tunnel pinches down to nothing after a few yards, and I have to try and back out all the way, only to find the water all the way up to the tunnel when I get there? The questions were legitimate, he knew, but options were very limited and there was no sense delaying things any further with such fruitless speculation. Get moving. And if the thing does flood…well, you always did say you thought cave diving would be kind of interesting, right? He shook his head, you get less funny every day, Einar, and continued with his slow forward progress into the inky darkness. His left arm, he could already tell, was going to be a big problem as he navigated the tight passage, the limited mobility of the injured shoulder preventing him from moving and twisting as he would have liked to ease his travel through the confined space, and which might become absolutely necessary later if the passage narrowed any further. Ahead he could feel the ceiling closing in on him, flattened himself into the ground and pulled on a rock protrusion with his fingers, half wishing the passage was a bit muddy so he could slide

along more easily but knowing that the absence of mud was, in fact, a huge blessing. He would soon have been wet and freezing again if he’d had to slither along through wet mud. As the ceiling of the crawlway became progressively lower, he remembered the story of Floyd Collins, and thought, sure hope I don’t end up stuck in here like that guy in Kentucky… Collins was a well known cave explorer who, in 1925, had become trapped as he navigated a narrow crawlway in an unexplored portion of Sand Cave, near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. His leg had been pinned by a rock, which though it was not particularly large or heavy, he found himself completely unable to reach in the narrow space. Collins had died fourteen days later, a week after a cave-in cut him off from further rescue attempts. Well, I seriously doubt I’d last that long, at this point. I’d probably just go to sleep after a few hours, maybe a day at most, and they’d never even find my body. Not so bad, if it comes to that. But of course, he had no intention of letting it end that way, if there was any other option. Which, at the moment, there was. In order to continue, though, he had to squeeze all of the air out of his lungs so he would be flat enough to pass through the increasingly narrow slot in the rock. He tried it, and found that he could indeed continue to make progress in that way. Hmm…there are, apparently, some advantages to being this skinny… He pulled himself forward, shoving in tiny increments with his toes and turning his head sideways until his cheek scraped along the tunnel floor to allow his head to fit through. Einar had been in spots that tight before, places where you had to remove your helmet and shove it in front of you just to fit through, where you had to hold your breath because there was, for a space, no room for your chest to expand, but he’d always had light when he’d done it, had always been able to see at least something of his surroundings. Doing it in pitch blackness he found to be a different matter entirely. Progress was very slow, and with the passage too tight for him to draw a breath, Einar wondered how long he could hold out, how much of the blackness before his eyes was the darkness of the tunnel and how much of it might be his oxygen-starved brain drifting towards unconsciousness. Keep going…keep going. You pass out here, you’re dead. And he went, inch by inch, until suddenly things opened up and he drew a huge, gasping breath, and the air was good and fresh and felt like life itself as it entered his burning lungs. He lay there for a minute just breathing before rising to his knees when he found the space large enough to allow it. When Einar had recovered some, he checked to see if the pack was still behind him, glad and a little surprised to find that it was. He had half expected it to get hung up on something in the low tunnel and stay behind. Though the darkness around him was total, the place had a spacious, hollow feel to it. Time for one of those torches, I think. Would kind of be a shame to go blundering around in the dark until I crawled off the edge into a fifty foot deep pit, or something. The pitch sticks, a couple of them broken, were still in his pocket, as was the match holder, and he struck a match, lighting one of the sticks. In the orange, flickering light of the flame, Einar inspected his surroundings, finding himself in a fairly large chamber, its ceiling vaulted away above him, out of reach of the feeble light of the pitch stick. OK. There is good air in here. Where is it coming from? His hope, beyond the immediate and pressing need to avoid being drowned in the rising melt water, was to find another entrance, something that would allow him to exit the cave

without going back and descending that icy crack beside the waterfall. Carefully standing and inspecting the grotto, he found only one tunnel that led out of it, and, excited by the find, saw that the flame flickered gently as he neared it. Ah. A breeze! Knowing that his light would last for a very limited amount of time, Einar started down the passage, relieved that he could actually crawl this time instead of slither. After crawling for twenty or thirty feet, the space narrowed and at the same time the ceiling soared off above him, leaving Einar standing up, carrying his pack and squeezing through a long narrow slot that took him for quite some distance between two massive rock faces, towering above him in what was in effect an underground canyon. The walls were white with calcite and thin straws of calcite hung from jutting protrusions in the walls. Then the floor dropped out from under him. He saw it in time, stopped at the edge of the drop and hurriedly considered his next move. The torch was sputtering and about to die. In its fading glow, he saw that the walls appeared to stay close together, close enough to allow him to continue by chimneying, his back against one wall and his knees and, if it widened, toes against the other. Without light he would have to do it entirely by feel, a less than ideal situation, but one he believed he could manage. OK. I can do that. Unless the walls suddenly get a lot farther apart, and I don’t realize it in time, or I get too worn out to go on, and am too far out to make it back… Its useful life over, he leaned out and dropped the torch into the blackness below him, wanting to get some sense of the depth of the crevice. It was narrow and twisting and rather deep, well over forty feet, by his estimate. Please don’t slide down that… The walls, though their distance from one another did vary, stayed within a range that allowed Einar to make slow but steady progress, though after awhile he did start to wonder when he might reach the end, and how he would even know it when he did. For all he knew, the floor could have raised already and be there waiting three or four feet below him, but he would never know it in the darkness, and might just go on chimneying until his strength gave out and he fell. His hip was already aching terribly and he was shaking all over from the exertion. An idea came to him, and bracing himself firmly with his knees against the wall, he felt with his hand along a narrow little ledge of rock in front of him until he encountered some small, loose stones. Stuffing a number of them in his pocket, he dropped one between his legs, hoping to hear it hit solid ground not too far below him. The rock, though, clattered away into the depths, bouncing and ricocheting off the walls as they twisted and drew closer together towards the bottom. Still an awful long way down. Got to keep at this for awhile. And he did his best, his left leg cramping and nearly useless, until the wall that his feet were braced against suddenly grew wet and slick and he lost his footing, catching a glimpse of a crack of light in the rock ceiling far above him as he went down. • • • •

For some time Einar hung there a bit stunned, wedged in fairly well where the presence of his backpack had meant that he was too wide to continue his slide down into the narrowing space between the two rock faces, not feeling much like moving and staring up at the little sliver of daylight which appeared to be a great distance above him. It took Einar a minute to realize that he ought to be glad that his fall had not ended any worse than it did, having scraped one knee and badly wrenched his injured shoulder, but

fortunately hanging up in the narrowing crack before actually hitting bottom. As the blinding pain and nausea of his re-injured shoulder slowly began to fade, he started looking for a way out of the situation, feeling around with his right hand in an attempt to assess just what that situation might be. Discovering his pack, he was suddenly very grateful that it had not fallen off as soon as he had slipped. As his mind began working again, he realized that he very easily could have fallen all the way down, could have been killed at the bottom or at the least, considering the distance, broken something and found himself entirely unable to climb back out. As soon as he carefully pulled out and lit one of the remaining pitch sticks, the implications of this became even more clear. He could see the bottom, not fifteen feet below him and covered with jagged, broken rock. He had become lodged at a constricted point where the walls drew their closest together, though only briefly. Below him the crack again widened, the walls flaring apart before ending at the rocky floor. The sight sent a brief electrical thrill through the pit of his stomach. Einar knew he must have been moving pretty fast by the time his fall had been halted by the narrowing slot. This one was a little close… It would have been a nasty end. Thank you… Now, to get up out of here. For a moment he considered finishing the descent and seeing where the narrow ribbon of ground at the bottom of the crack might lead, unsure at the moment that he possessed the strength to climb back up at all, but almost out of pitch sticks and very much wanting to find out about that daylight he saw above him, he decided to go ahead and try the climb. In the glow of the pitch stick he could see that he had been mere feet from the end of the crack, on the upper level, when he had fallen. The rock walls closed in not far from where he hung, leaving the ribbon of rock-strewn ground at the bottom to continue on through a tunnel created as they met. He saw that if he made the ascent and chimneyed for a very short distance more, he would again be standing on solid ground. Well, that figures… Movement was not easy in the confined space between the two masses of rock, requiring the constant use of elbows and knees and toes as he inched and scooted his way higher, and with the use of only one arm, it was frustratingly slow. Attempts to use the left arm and elbow, though, quickly convinced him that he must make do with the slow pace. The going became slightly easier as the crack widened and he was again able to use more traditional chimneying moves, but between his general exhaustion and the renewed trouble he was having with his hip and the near-continual cramping in his left leg, it was all he could do to convince himself not to give up and go sliding down to the bottom just to end the agony of climbing. Grimly forcing himself to continue up the crack, Einar finally reached what he guessed to be the level of the floor, stopping to light another pitch stick for fear of slipping again if he could not see the place where the water oozed down the wall. By the light of the flame he made his way over to the rocky floor, hauling himself up onto it and remembering to snuff out and save the half-burnt pitch stick before collapsing on the damp rock, badly exhausted. After a minute he rolled over onto his right side, wanting to spare his wrenched shoulder and aching hip. Einar slept then, or something close to it, until the soggy chill of the ground forced him up, shivering and brushing the sticky mud from his face and hands, struggling to rise. His mouth was dry and sandy, and feeling his

way over to the damp, slippery wall, he tried without success to collect some of the barely trickling water in his hands, finally using the sleeve of his sweatshirt to sop some of it up, wringing the gritty stuff out into his mouth and repeating the sequence until he was again able to swallow. Before extinguishing the pitch stick he had seen that the passage before him, the one that led towards the little splinter of light, was wide and fairly level, and he started down it cautiously, carefully feeling in front of him with his boot before committing any weight and keeping a hand on the wall. The crack of light turned out not to be as close as it had appeared, and even seemed to be moving away from him as he went. He knew that this was an illusion, but it was somewhat discouraging, nonetheless. The passage narrowed as he went, to the point that he could eventually no longer squeeze through it anymore, even dragging the pack, and had to chimney up to a point where it was wide enough to allow him passage. At least this time he knew how far down the bottom was… After what seemed to him an unreasonable amount of time considering how close that light had at first appeared, Einar felt rocks beneath his feet, carefully tested them and found that the floor of the passage had risen up to meet him, and he could once again walk. Or scramble, more like, because the ground was littered with good sized boulders, some of them slippery with mud, over and among which he made his way as the passage climbed sharply, bringing him much closer to the sliver of outside light, which, as he approached it, took on a much more defined shape, until he could see the silhouettes of the jagged rocks that rimmed it, and, he believed, even the branches of evergreens outside. Suddenly the walls that had enclosed him for so long widened out and vanished, and Einar stood in what felt like a rather large chamber, looking nearly straight up at a little patch of sky and trees. Blue sky, but beginning to pale with evening. He sat down, stretched out on the ground and stared at the sky for a minute, immensely thankful but too tired for words. Taking the half burnt pitch stick from his pocket and lighting it, knowing he was using one of his last few matches but needing to get a look at his surroundings, he discovered that he was in a large, roughly oval shaped chamber with a good deal of rock fall along one side, rock fall which looked as though it might possibly provide him a way to climb up and access that little door back out to the world of sky and trees and firewood! Freezing in here… Though he knew the air in the cave was actually significantly warmer than the average outside temperature that time of year, probably somewhere near a consistent 46 degrees in the inner portions at least. This outer chamber, exposed as it was to the outside environment, would be somewhat colder. He was certain, though, that he would be quite comfortable as soon as he was able to dry his clothes and clean off some of the cold, sticky mud that unfortunately had come to coat him rather thoroughly during the final portion of his scramble. Einar could not tell for sure in the dim glow of the burning pitch whether he would actually be able to climb all the way up to the opening, let alone exit through it, and would not be able to until he made that climb. Which could definitely wait a few minutes, at least. His leg was cramping so badly that he found it very difficult to remain standing, let alone hobble around and inspect the grotto. Directly beneath the far end of the crack that opened to the outside was a little waterworn depression in the rock, and he saw that it contained a good amount of water which,

though of course stagnant, at least looked relatively clear. Crouching down he gulped several handfulls of the icy water, hoping that it was clean enough to do him no harm and badly needing it to wet his parched throat and help clear his head and hopefully ease the cramping some. Walking around the chamber as the pitch stick burned low, he found, in addition to the crack that he had entered through, one other passage that appeared promising, and which lead off at a right angle to his entry as a low tunnel, its walls streaked white and purple with mineral buildup. Also, just opposite the little pool of water, he discovered a small side chamber, no more than five feet high and six or seven deep, its walls covered nearly entirely with a curtain of nearly smooth white calcite that appeared still to be flowing, though he found the walls to be quite dry. Here he left his pack, thinking the small space should do quite well as a place to spend the night. The torch had by that time burned out, and as his eyes readjusted to the darkness, Einar realized that the split in the ceiling was actually admitting a fair amount of light, enough to allow him to move about in the grotto without tripping over anything or stepping into the little pool, if he was careful and did not move too fast. Which he was certainly not feeling especially inclined to do, anyway. All right. Got to try that opening before I lose the light. Fire would sure be a good thing, tonight. Returning to the side chamber he felt around until he found his pack, slinging it over his shoulder, unwilling to leave it behind in an unfamiliar place for even a short time. He had seen no sign whatsoever that humans had been in the cave, certainly not recently, at least, and had seen no animal sign belonging to anything larger than a rat or a squirrel, but he was not going to risk losing what little food he did have to such creatures. He was going to be needing every bit of it, as he was pretty sure that he was not going back after the rest of the sheep anytime very soon. But I may see it differently in the morning. Or in couple of days. That little crawl, climb and scramble would have been fun after all, under slightly (alright, very) different circumstances. Something I would have chosen to do, and not hesitated to repeat the next week. But there was more food back then, as I remember. And fewer people trying to kill me whenever I poked my head up out of a hole. Makes a big difference… Either way, he addressed the creatures that had left the droppings, speaking aloud in the echoing chamber, I will end up trapping you for food, if you’re still down here! The rediscovery of daylight had greatly improved Einar’s outlook on life. Finding his way over to the pile of rock fall, he began climbing, the light strengthening as he neared the opening, which appeared to be roughly two feet wide by four long. Reaching the top of the rock pile, he discovered that the opening, which turned out to be situated more in the wall than the ceiling, was still at least a foot or so above his head. • • • •

Reaching his hand up out of the opening in the rock, Einar tried to learn what he could about the situation outside. Which was not much. All he could feel was rock, slightly damp rock with a light covering of dry spruce needles. The branches he could see as he looked up through the crack told him that he was beneath some pretty heavy timber, but beyond that, he could discern nothing. The spot where he stood was somewhat

precarious, being little more than a pile of loose rock, parts of which seemed disconcertingly inclined to shift and tip as he moved, so jumping to get a better look was out of the question. He stretched up on his toes, hooked his wrist around a rough, waterpitted limestone spur and grabbed on, struggling to lift himself and scrambling at the wall with his feet but finding it wet and slippery with seeping water. Hmm. So this is how that little pool gets filled… Following the path of the seeping water, which glinted on the rock in the dim daylight glow from above, he saw that after trickling down the wall it oozed out along a little shelf, slowly dripping and collecting on a slightly angled slab that stuck out several feet into the empty space of the grotto, eventually dripping down into the pool. At first he supposed that it was probably just melt water, and would therefore dry up in a few weeks or a month and cease to supply the pool. Exploring a bit, though, he encountered a quantity of slimy algae and up where there was more light, moss, telling him that there was very likely a little spring somewhere above that kept the area supplied with a steady trickle of water all summer long. Good! Very good. Now back to work. Again he attempted to lift himself high enough to see out of the crack, stopping to catch his breath after several unsuccessful tries, frustrated at the memory of the one armed pullups he had routinely done as part of his conditioning less than two years prior. OK. Well I’m sure not doing any such thing today, so…let’s raise this floor a bit. He began stacking and piling some of the loose rock, trying to make the heap wide enough that it would support itself and not be too likely to tumble over when he put his weight on it. In order to give himself some chance of being able to make it up and out into the daylight, Einar knew that he would have to send his pack out first, having seen that he had virtually no chance of being able to lift both himself and the pack with the use of only one arm. Removing the pack, he hoisted it up, intending for it to come to rest on the ledge but swinging a bit too vigorously, watching horrified but unable to reach it as the pack slowly toppled over and went tumbling down out of the crack. In the split second when it disappeared from view a vision flashed across his eyes of a crack that opened up in a cliff face, thinking that perhaps he had just sent his pack tumbling five or six hundred feet down a sheer cliff to splash into a river or get hung up in the topmost branches of an evergreen at the bottom. He had certainly seen cave entrances in such places, situations where you had to rappel down eighty or a hundred feet from the top of a cliff just to reach the thing, then carefully get yourself swinging on the rope until you could reach a little ledge and grab hold of something, securing the rope so that it would be there waiting for you to ascend when you finished exploring the place. Surely not. Too many trees here, above, around, below, for it to be a cliff. But the thought was only marginally reassuring. With the added elevation of the rock pile he was finally able to pull himself up high enough to hook his right heel on the edge of the crack, hoisting himself up and very nearly tumbling down the rather steep and tree covered slope outside. Einar, the conjured up vision of the infinite spaces and precipitous drops that were perhaps waiting below him still very fresh in his mind, caught himself just before he fell, clinging doggedly to the same protrusion he had used to haul himself up out of the cave as he struggled to halt the momentum he had put into getting himself up onto the ledge in the first place, very grateful for the rough, grippy nature of the waterworn limestone. Carefully he balanced himself on the narrow little ledge of rock just outside the crack, straddling it and

squinting in the weak evening sunlight as he looked down almost straight down! at a timbered slope, nearly free of snow but clearly damp with snowmelt and in places already frozen in the evening chill. A drop of five or six feet of vertical limestone separated him from the sloping ground, while above his head, the cave entrance was well protected and hidden by a jutting limestone overhang, creating a sheltered space beneath it that appeared to have remained free of deep snow over the winter. He could not see especially far due to the concentration of timber around and above him, but the dark, damp feel of the forest told him that he was on a north-facing slope (makes sense, because that waterfall was on a south-facing one…I must’ve come all the way through that ridge!) while the position of the sun indicated that it must face north-west. Well, good. I’m at least a little further from the valley and river than I was at the waterfall. And he was pretty sure that no one was going to be tracking him into and through the cave, anyway. The waterfall was such an unlikely looking place for a person to go in the first place, and the rushing melt water would have rendered it impassable as a travel route. His pursuers, even if they managed eventually to track him to the bottom of it, would have no way to know that it had not been flowing for days, and surely would turn another direction to continue their search. And judging from the behavior of the chopper the previous day, (can that possibly have been only a day ago?) he believed they had lost his trail at or just beyond the river, anyway. Lying there on the ledge as a lively breeze moved among the spruce tops and blew coldly against his damp clothing, Einar quickly came to appreciate just how relatively warm it had been in the cave, compared with the outside air. Already starting to shiver in the evening chill, he was anxious to return to its shelter. First, though, he needed to find some firewood, and retrieve his pack, which had come to rest against the trunk of a large spruce some twenty or thirty feet down slope. He saw that it could very easily have gone a good deal further, that tree not brought it up short. Easing himself down over the ledge and dropping to the steep ground below, Einar rolled a couple of times before stopping himself, scrambling down to the pack and checking to make sure nothing was missing. Alright. Firewood. The area to the right was thick with deadfall, a little gulley that ran along beside the ledge that sheltered the cave entrance containing four or five fallen spruces, in varying states of dryness. Originally he had planned to simply break off some branches from the driest looking deadfall for his fire, but climbing a short distance above the level of the rock ledge and inspecting the trees, he found a small one which, though appearing a bit rotten and punky where several feet of it sat in contact with the ground, looked for the most part very sound and burnable. Struck by a sudden idea, Einar wondered if it would be possible for him to drag the entire tree down to the crevice and stuff it whole down through the entrance. He knew that he would eventually have to get out and try to set some snares, hope those dry nettle stalks are still in the pack, I’ll have to check later… but he was really beginning to think that he ought to try and remain in or at least near the cave the following day, and attempt to get as much rest as possible. It kind of scared him that he had lacked the strength even to pull himself the short distance up out of the crevice, and, realizing that he never knew when he might again find himself forced to flee again, a day of rest sounded like a wise idea. And it would give him the opportunity to work on cordage for some snares, also. He had some of the sheep quarter left in the pack, and with the ready supply of wood that the dead spruce would provide,

he wouldn’t have to worry about getting out to collect firewood for the following night. Sounds good. But moving the tree, of course, was far easier said than done, as the trunk and several of the branches were partially frozen into the ground. After kicking and pushing the tree until his legs cramped up and forced him to stop, Einar sat down and got out the entrenching tool, using the saw to work his way through several of the offending branches. The branches freed from the ice, he was able to roll the small tree free and begin hauling it down the gulley towards the limestone ledge. Wanting to keep as many of the small branches intact as possible, knowing that they would be necessary for getting the fire going and wishing to save the work of having to walk around and collect all of them after breaking them off, he wrestled the tree over to the crack, struggling to lift and shove it into the small space. After five or ten minutes of hard work he had managed to get the top five feet of the tree in through the crack, which allowed the protruding branches to catch and hold it when gravity tried to pull it back down on him. Bent double in an effort to catch his breath, Einar was seriously questioning the wisdom of trying to fit the entire tree in through that narrow crevice. Dumb idea, Einar. Kind of like trying to stuff a porcupine in through a window that’s only open a couple of inches…not that I have actually tried that, but I can imagine. Too late now, though, because I don’t think I can pull it back out, and there’s not room to crawl around it… Seeing no good alternative, he kept at it, finally reaching a point where the heavier portion of the tree was underground, and the trunk tipped up and its weight lifted off of him. He would have shouted if he hadn’t been so badly winded. After that the job almost did itself, and Einar crouched on the little ledge, listening with satisfaction as the tree splintered against the rocky floor some thirty feet below. Grabbing his pack, he carefully clambered down the rock pile inside the cave, waiting a minute for his eyes to readjust to the semi-darkness before inspecting the tree. It had indeed broken, most of the small dry branches splintering off and flying all over the grotto to be collected later, the main trunk lying in two large pieces on the floor not far from the pool. The fracture had left numerous thin shards of wood sticking out of the trunk where it had occurred, reminding Einar of a tree that had been snapped in half by a sudden strong wind. He had more than once collected these thin dry splinters and used them with great success as kindling, and was delighted to have such a ready supply of them in front of him. Collecting a pile of the splinters and searching about for a favorable location for a fire, Einar worked with the glad knowledge that in less than an hour, it should be dark enough to safely allow for one. • • • •

Sitting by his fire that evening in the small side chamber, the white calcite coating on its walls reflecting the light and the confines of the space allowing the air to heat quite nicely, Einar waited for a stew of sheep and leftover nettles, wilted and a bit muddy but still green, to begin heating. He had built the fire at the spot where the small grotto ended and the space opened up into the largeness of the main chamber, which allowed the smoke to be easily drawn up and out of the crevice to the outside air. There seemed once again to be a slight draft, telling him that the waterfall at the far end of the cave system had probably gone down far enough to allow air in. The cave was breathing again. By

locating the fire at the open end of the calcite chamber, Einar had created a situation where the low, curved rock walls and ceiling behind it acted as one big reflector for the heat, warming him quickly as he sat between the fire and the back of the chamber. Reluctant to leave the warmth of the little room but seeing that he would soon be needing more wood, he crawled around the fire, gathering an armful of broken branches as he navigated easily about the larger space by the reflected light of the fire. The damp, punky lower portion of the spruce trunk had broken open when it fell, and, knowing that even this wood should burn if adequately dried, he picked up a few chunks of it to set near the flames, discovering as he did so that a number of plump white grubs had fallen from the wood as it broke apart. He started gathering them, knowing that while they contained some protein, their greatest value to him lay in their fat content, which was, ounce for ounce, significantly higher than that of the sheep meat. You are going in my stew tonight… Continuing to search the floor, Einar found enough of the grubs to fill his two cupped hands, deciding to save most of them for future meals, allowing him to stretch out his meager supply of bighorn sheep until he could hopefully get some snares made, set and beginning to produce. He wondered how best to preserve the grubs he did not plan to eat that night, finally deciding that since they had apparently been doing just fine down in the damp wood of the spruce trunk, that was probably where they should remain. Scraping out a little hollow in a large section of the trunk with a rock, he deposited the creatures, still and dormant in the cold, into the makeshift “refrigerator,” confident that they would be there the next day when he needed them. As his stew simmered, Einar worked to dry his clothes, finding that they were beginning to steam and dry fairly quickly in the growing warmth of the cave. Hungry as he was and tremendously anxious for supper, he wanted to let the stew boil for a bit to make sure the sheep meat was thoroughly cooked before he began devouring it. The stuff was definitely not smelling especially fresh that afternoon, and he knew the last thing he needed to deal with just then was a bacterial infection of any sort. The stew did not really begin to smell much more appetizing as it simmered, but he knew the boiling ought, at least, to kill off any harmful pathogens and render it safe to eat. And, he told himself as he wrung a few drops of water out of the sweatshirt sleeve, I think tonight I’d eat rotten onions with maggots crawling out of them, if that was what was available. And this stew is gonna be a whole lot better than that! He wasn’t sure what had made the rotten onions come so vividly to mind, and supposed he ought perhaps to be somewhat disturbed that they actually sounded so appetizing. It seemed the longer he went at a stretch without adequate food, the more frequently these little hallucinations? he wasn’t sure what to call them, occurred. Often he would just be going about his business actively thinking of nothing food-related, when he would see, or worst of all smell, one food or another in detail as vivid as if it had actually been right in front of him. He had long ago learned not to allow these involuntary little flights of fancy to bother him, sometimes even enjoying the momentary diversion they provided to his sometimes dismal existence. It could be difficult though, to have to be smelling fresh baked pizza or pastry or hamburgers, when you knew you would have to satisfy your rather substantial hunger on a cup of spruce needle tea or two bites of coyote jerky. So the illusion of maggot-infested rotten onions was actually a pleasant one, as he knew that he had something far better to eat that night.

After dinner, Einar used a bit of water from the pool to get some of the mud off of himself, leaning over the fire to dry before crouching near it and holding the sweat shirt open above the flames to speed its drying. Doing so, he realized that it had become nearly as threadbare as his orange coveralls had been when he found the ski pants, and had not been helped at all by all the crawling and scrambling he had done in the cave. The elbows were in tatters, and he could see firelight through most of the seams. Got to work on that elk hide, soon. It’s already brain tanned, so all it ought to need is a bunch of softening and then smoking, and I can make something to replace this when it finally gives out... Or burns up! He jumped to his feet, beating the shirt against the cave wall and leaving little black marks on its white surface where the flames had begun charring the drying cloth of the shirt down near the hem. Einar had fallen asleep over the fire, letting the shirt trail in the flames for a moment before he had awakened. Whew! Not good! Didn’t lose much of it, though. Now about that elk skin… Drifting off to sleep, sitting with his head on his knees to avoid lying on the cold rock of the floor, Einar decided that he must go out and get some evergreen branches the next day to make a bed, so he could actually sleep lying down for a change. Lying down or not, though, he was asleep very quickly that night, warm, mostly dry, his stomach not empty if not entirely full. Einar, as exhausted as he was, did sleep long. Shortly after falling asleep he was startled awake to the sound of a low helicopter, hovering, the wind of its propellers pressing him into the rock and blinding him with fine white calcite dust. He covered his head, flattened himself into the ground and tried to disappear, but they must have seen him already because the thing continued to hover, and he couldn’t understand how this was possible at all, until he looked up and saw that the cave roof had crumbled and fallen in great, grey-rock shards standing sharply all around him, starkly illuminated in the glaring white beam of a flood light, leaving him trapped without anywhere to go. He knew he had to try though, and did, took off running in the direction where he believed he would find the slot he had entered through…and promptly ran headlong into the white calcite wall of his little bed chamber. Einar sat there by the glowing remains of his fire, waiting for the dizziness to subside and rubbing his sore head, trembling as he came to realize that it had all been a dream. That kind of thing doesn’t happen, OK. You know it doesn’t happen. Tons of rock don’t just fall in like that, and if they did, you’d be crushed to death by it anyway, and wouldn’t have to worry about any old buzzard hovering over you. Now go back to sleep. He added a few sticks to the fire, rested his chin on his knees for awhile and stared into the flames, waiting to feel sleepy again but realizing pretty quickly that it just wasn’t going to happen. He was wide awake and jumpy despite his great weariness, straining his ears in the silence of the cave for any outside sound, and didn’t feel the least bit like sitting still, much less sleeping. Seeing the black smears on the calcite wall where he had snuffed out the flaming sweatshirt, he had an idea. He poked at the fire with a spruce stick, picked it up, blew out the flame on its charred end, and tested it on the smooth white of the grotto wall. Rubbing the charred stick end on the rocky ground to sharpen and shape it, Einar

began carefully sketching on the wall, finding solace in the focus demanded by the detailed work, keeping at it until he had created a reasonably good representation of the helicopter as it had pursued him down into the narrow canyon just over a week prior, capturing the moment when its rotor had struck rock, including himself crouched under the ledge with his bow. He stepped back and looked at it when he was finished, appearing oddly animated in the flickering light of the fire, thinking that it did not look entirely unlike old images he had seen, preserved on parchment or in silver or bronze, of his ancient Norse ancestors battling dragons. Though in this case, I did not really have anything at all to do with the beast’s demise. The thing did itself in, on those rocks… you’d have made a lousy dragon slayer, Einar. He was about to rub the picture out with his hand, thinking it unwise to leave such a thing for his pursuers to potentially find someday, but stopped himself at the last minute. The chances of them stumbling upon that place, he knew, were incredibly small, and if they ended up discovering it because he somehow gave himself away…well, then they would already know he had been there, and there would be no harm in them seeing his little mural. Instead of destroying it he began adding detail, first a tree or two, then the mountain up behind the cliffs, complete with its descending line of armed agents as they hurried to close the jaws of the trap they had set for him. Finally, eyes again heavy with sleep, Einar curled up on the ground with his back close to the fire, resting his head on his arm and sleeping soundly for several hours. • • • •

Waking as the coals of his fire cooled and the cold of the ground seeped into his bones, Einar wondered what had ever made him think it could be a good idea to lie directly on the rock floor in the first place. He was stiff with cold, his hands didn’t work, and he was pretty sure it was too late in the day to safely rekindle the fire. Kicking at the remains of his fire, which still contained a few glowing coals, he cleared the area of rock where it had been, dragging himself onto the warm ground and curling up. He lay there shivering until he began warming some, drifting in and out of sleep until he saw light beginning to find its way in through the crevice, crawling out of the calcite chamber and peering up at the little patch of daylight. The sun was up an it appeared to be a clear day outside the cave. Feeling around in the still-complete darkness of the side chamber, he located his cooking can, covered with a flat slab of rock to protect the remnants of the previous night’s stew. Breakfast was cold but, to Einar’s delight, not actually icy as it would have been had he slept outside. His plan had been to remain in the cave and rest for most of the day at least, working on nettle cordage for snares and perhaps even beginning what he knew would be the time-consuming work of softening up the elk hide to prepare it for smoking. He did intend to leave the cave that day for one thing, at least, knowing that his sleeping situation would be greatly improved by a pile of evergreen branches to insulate him from the cold rock of the floor. He was still stiff and moving with difficulty after the night on that chilly rock, and did not look forward to repeating it if there was an alternative. I’ll go get those branches in a few hours. Let it warm up out there some, first. Sitting in a spot in the large chamber where a good bit of light found its way into the cave, Einar

began work on the dry nettle stems that had, to his relief, remained in the pack as he had crawled, scrambled and fallen through the cave, wetting them in the pool before pounding gently with a smooth-edged chunk of limestone to begin separating the fibers. The damp chill of the cave made it increasingly difficult to maintain the necessary flexibility in his hands as he worked , and before too long he was shivering and had to stand up and stomp around for a bit before continuing with his work. Even the comparatively mild 46 degree temperature of the cave was proving to be a bit of a challenge to Einar, immobile, hungry and wearing only one layer of clothing. Got to finish that elk hide… But he knew that his first priority at the moment was to get out and set the snares that he hoped to create from he nettle cordage, giving them time to start producing while he worked on making some better clothing and meeting his other needs. He was dry and out of the wind, and should do just fine for a few days in his current clothing, if he could manage to keep active during the day when he couldn’t have a fire. The sitting still had been a large part of the problem. Perhaps, he thought, if he was determined to rest during the day or had a good bit of work that would keep him confined to the cave, it might be a good idea to heat a portion of the rock floor in the small calcite chamber by moving the fire throughout the night, so he could sit or lie on the warmed rock during the day and hopefully allow some of the meager food he did have to start sticking to him, rather than having to use it all up just struggling to maintain his body temperature. Too late for that at the present, though, and while the ground where his fire had been remained slightly warm, it was not enough. He had allowed the fire to go out too soon. Thinking of fire reminded him that he ought to have made some effort to preserve the coals from the previous night’s fire, so he did not have to use one of his three remaining matches to light one that night. While he knew he could probably find the materials for a bow and drill in the vicinity of the cave, a desire to spare the injured shoulder made the use of one more match sound like a rather good idea. Then I’ll be sure to keep some coals smoldering, and save these last two matches for emergencies. Trouble is, most of my “emergencies” tend to make it so that I can’t have fire, anyway. But you never know. For now though, might as well head outside and round up some of those branches, if I can’t sit still. Loading the entrenching tool, cooking can, steel bar and his remaining food into the pack, he climbed the rock pile to the crevice that allowed him access to the outside world. Squinting in the somewhat muted sunlight of the treed slope outside the cave, Einar listened for a long minute but heard nothing to indicate that anything was amiss, not even the rumble of a chopper in the distance. He was beginning to feel fairly safe at the cave, but would not be entirely confident in the security of his location until he made the climb to the top of the plateau above the slope, and got a look at the country around it. He needed a distant view that would give him a better idea of just where he was, in relation to the river and valley where he had (he very much hoped) lost his pursuers. And…I can see some firs up there on that plateau. Mostly just spruces down here, and firs make a much better bed. A lot less prickly. He chided himself the next second for entertaining such a thought. Getting soft, are you? Must have been here in this nice spot for too long already… but decided to go after the fir branches anyway, needing the vantage that he hoped to gain upon reaching the plateau. The climb, an ascent of some seven or eight

hundred feet of steep, evergreen covered mountainside, took Einar quite awhile as he found himself having to stop more frequently than he would have liked to catch his breath. During one such stop, as he leaned against the rough bark of a spruce, he noticed a number of little globs of dried sap, remembering how invaluable the pitch sticks had been as he made his way through the cave, and thinking that it would be a very good idea to have more, in case the need arose. And, come to think of it, he had been wanting to explore the little side passage that he had discovered in the large grotto and which, along with the slot he had entered through and the crevice that led to the outside, comprised his third way out of the large chamber. Unless it just ends or becomes completely impassable after the first few yards. He very much wanted to find out, especially after his dream of the previous night which, while by daylight seemed wholly unrealistic, had nonetheless served to vividly remind him of the precariousness of his situation. Better have a bunch of pitch sticks if I plan to do that, so I can light one from the other before it goes out. Because I only got those two matches left. After that he kept a close watch for more pitch, collecting quite a bit of it and storing it in his cooking can, also gathering a good quantity of usnea lichen from the evergreen branches as he went, stuffing it in his pockets. Not the best food maybe, but it is food. And I think it would probably help my feet some if I stuffed my boots with it, since socks are a little scarce at the moment. The remainder of the climb was filled with thoughts the planned exploration of the rest of the cave, and of various things he might do to improve his existence there, for however long he might be able to stay. Only a hundred or so feet below the top of the slope, the steep, duff covered ground gave way to a band of broken limestone cliffs, as the limestone formation that held the cave system broke through the thin layer of dirt to make Einar’s travel a good bit more difficult. After scrambling between the bands of exposed rock for some time, clinging to spruce branches for balance and seriously wishing he had the full use of both arms, he stumbled upon a little gulley that made his continued progress, if not easy, at least possible. Able once again to devote a bit of his focus to something besides avoiding a fall, his thoughts returned to his future at the cave, and by the time the ground began to become less steep, he had planned his entire summer and, in his mind, turned the place into a very comfortable winter refuge. Seeing a grove of small aspens above him, the soft and brilliant green of their spring leaves just beginning to show, Einar knew he was about to step up out of the rocky gulley onto what had appeared from below to be the nearly level ground of the plateau. The sure sign of spring provided by barely unrolled leaves of the little aspens reminded Einar of the bounty of berries—serviceberry, currant, chokecherry, Oregon grape—that should await him up there that summer and fall, if he was able to stay, and his mind was already busy with thoughts and plans of how best to collect and preserve the harvest. Plans that were suddenly called into serious question when he hauled himself up the last three feet of steep rock, poked his head up above a clump of currant bushes, and saw what awaited him on the plateau. • • • •

The road was clearly visible from the spot where Einar stood, coiling through the band of

small aspens he had seen from below, muddy and still covered with the remnants of rapidly melting snow banks in places. Knew I probably wasn’t far enough from civilization yet, but I sure didn’t expect this…thought I was in the Wilderness Area already. He crouched down behind the thick stand of currant shrubs, parting them just enough to watch the road without being seen himself if someone should happen along. What concerned him more even than the discovery of the road was the fact that he saw tire tracks in the snow, fresh looking tracks, and following the road with his eyes he saw where they had broken through one of the higher snow banks, and the scattered snow did not even look like it had seen the sun yet. Great. Hope no one smelled my smoke. Keeping to the brush, he carefully followed the road, climbing to the top of a low rise and dropping the ground when he saw the tents clustered in a grassy little meadow on the far side of it. Crawling forward until he could see the camp, Einar lay on the frozen ground under the cover of a patch of ground-hugging evergreen scrub, noting the two yellow dome tents accompanied by a large blue Coleman-style six-man tent. Off to one side sat three ATVs and a grey pickup with chained tires, nearly every inch of it covered in splattered mud. The camp did not have the look to him of a federal operation, the tents and vehicles definitely appeared to be civilian, though what a large group like that was doing up in the cold, muddy high country at that time of year was a bit of a mystery to Einar, and one that worried him some. I mean, I’d have done it, but most folks…they’d wait till things were greener. And warmer. Or until hunting season. It was becoming increasingly difficult for him to stay still on the frozen ground, and Einar wished the sun would hurry up and reach his position to warm him a bit. He knew though that he had better be out of there before it had time to thaw the ground too much, though, because it looked thoroughly saturated and, unsure of the nature of the camp, he did not want to leave too many obvious tracks as he left the area. There had as of yet been no sign of life at the camp, and he wondered if its occupants could still be asleep, or if they had already left the camp for the day to do…whatever it was they were up there to do. He doubted that they were gone, expecting that they would have taken the ATVs. The truck interested him greatly, as he could see even through the mud splatters on the rear window that its camper shell was packed full of equipment. Whoever the campers were, he was pretty sure that they would have some basic gear in that truck—tarps, sleeping bags perhaps, if they had already left the camp for the day, something warm to wear, an axe, maybe. And food. They would surely be keeping their food in the truck because of the risk of hungry bears just out of hibernation. The truck was closest to him, separated from the tents by the parked ATVs, and Einar had just about talked himself into going down there to see if it was unlocked, when a man emerged from one of the yellow dome tents, stood and stretched, and headed for the truck. Hastily squirming back another foot into the brush, Einar watched as he lowered the tailgate, pulled a two burner propane stove from the heap of gear in its bed, and set two pots to boil, after filling them from a blue plastic five gallon water can that he had hauled out onto the tailgate for ease of use. The breeze was blowing towards Einar, and before long the smells of coffee and some kind of food—it smelled to him like chili, which he thought a bit of an odd breakfast—reached the little hummock where he lay hidden, causing him to bury his face in the moist, pine scented ground litter in an attempt to end the twisting stomach pains that came as a result of smelling the food. He continued waiting, wanting the man to

return to the tent or at least move away from the truck before he risked causing the revealing movement of the brush that would be somewhat inevitable to his retreat. Finished with his cooking, though, the man sat down on a log on Einar’s side of the truck to eat, pulling his stocking cap down to his eyebrows and zipping up his down coat before devouring the steaming contents of the food pot, pausing now and then to slurp instant coffee, to which he had added the partial contents of a can of sweetened condensed milk, out of the other. Einar watched hungrily as he shivered under the lowgrowing evergreens, hands in his armpits in an attempt to protect them and once again very grateful for the nighttime shelter of the cave, hoping that maybe the man would leave something behind in the pot when he finally left the camp. Wouldn’t be smart, with the possibility of bears, but Einar had noticed that people often did things that were not smart, and was fully prepared to take advantage of such an oversight if it should occur. As good as the chili had smelled as it cooked, it was the can of milk that held Einar’s attention. It sounded like just what he needed. Hurry up and eat, go away, don’t you know I’m freezing up here…? The man glanced up in his direction, and Einar pressed himself into the ground, certain that he could not be seen in the shadow of the low branches that hung down in front of his face, but careful not to direct his thoughts towards the man after that. He knew that some people, and many animals, could “hear” such thoughts, even if not on a conscious level. Thinking about the situation, it seemed to him that the man in the down coat man must be the only one who had not left the tents earlier, and he wondered why, wondered where the others had gone, and when they might return. • • • •

After it was discovered by the higher-ups in Washington that the second in command at the FBI base in Culver Falls had leaked a comment to the local paper about the search of the river, along with an assertion that Einar was, once again, believed be dead, the Attorney General put a gag order on all of the agents involved in the search, and word came from the Director that if anyone was to speak to the media about the case, it would be him or someone from his office. With the enforced change in media relations came yet another shift in strategy in the hunt for Einar. Congress had finally come through on the requested FBI budget increase after the loss of the chopper and agents in the canyon, but had made it clear that it was coming at the price of increased scrutiny and oversight. Director Ferris Lee knew that something had to change. So he again scaled back the number of agents actively involved in the search, maintaining enough of a presence at the base in Culver to keep up the appearance of an active and vibrant investigation while at the same time saving a good deal of money. In addition, he began working closely with the senior agents on the ground to develop a strategy for finding their fugitive and ending the growing embarrassment of the ongoing and thus far fruitless search. Lee was an intense and ambitious man with political aspirations that went far beyond his current appointed position of FBI Director, and had no intention of allowing the failures of others to endanger his own career as they had ultimately ended those of two of the three Special Agents who had so far been tasked with overseeing the search. He made a point to schedule frequent visits to the old feed store outside of Culver, hoping to boost the morale of the agents on the ground and at the same time let them know that they were

being watched, that he expected results. The new strategy developed by Lee, working with senior agents on the ground, involved relying far more heavily on local (or close to local) assets and knowledge to assist in the search. To that end, agents drove fifty miles from Culver one morning early in May to pay a visit to local geologist and avid caver Darren Raintree. Darren Raintree had reluctantly agreed to assist the feds in their search, mostly because his life’s work had been the mapping, study, preservation and in some cases where damage had already been done, the restoration of local caves, and he couldn’t stand the thought of a bunch of feds scrambling all over things, tracking mud around and causing irrevocable harm to the delicate mineral formations and fragile cave environments that they had made it clear to him they intended to thoroughly scour for signs of their subject, with or without his help. They agents had initially approached him for maps, which he had provided, but it had been clear to him from the start that they did not have anybody who really understood how to read the maps, let alone go about searching the dozens of known caves without doing them serious harm. While Raintree had agreed to take them through some of the better known caves as they had requested, he knew, and had mentioned to them, that if someone was intending to hide, and had any idea what he was doing, he would probably stay pretty far away from known and mapped locations like they were asking to see. After which they promptly demanded that he guide them to the lesser known locations, and help them hunt for some that might be as yet unknown. What Darren Raintree neglected to mention to the agents was that he had actually met Einar years before on a hike up a canyon to a remote limestone bluff in another part of the county, the two having traveled together for a few miles and chatted about caves, climbing, and other interests that they had shared, and Darren had thought the man decent enough company, if a bit intense at times. Einar had eventually taken off up a steep, nearly impossible looking rocky gulley and quickly disappeared. Raintree had returned the following week to explore that gulley, but had never found any sign of a cave, or of Einar’s passage, either, for that matter. Nor had he been able to discover a way up out of it, eventually having to descend back to the floor of the main canyon. It had been a mystery, and one he had wanted to ask the man about, but had not encountered him again on the trail and had never got around to looking him up. So, while Darren Raintree did not wish Einar any harm, there was at the same time a sense in which he looked forward to the challenge of matching wits with the elusive fellow. Raintree had guided a team of six agents as they searched some of the lesser known locations in the high ridges and cliff faces around the Culver Falls area—he had insisted that the team be no larger than six, as a safety matter and also to help protect the delicate caves interiors from the inexperienced agents, though he had conceded that more men could come along, with the agreement that they would remain above ground. The first week of searching had not yielded so much as a footprint of a scrap of cloth that had appeared promising, and Raintree had begun a new week of guiding by urging his beat up old Nissan, loaded to capacity with gear and agents, up the muddy, winding switchbacks of a seldom used and poorly maintained Forest Service Road to a little plateau he had explored some years before, its exposed limestone cliffs and numerous sinkholes speaking to him of an extensive cave system that likely lay buried somewhere beneath its

grassy meadows and scattered clumps of aspen and stunted sub alpine fir. He had never found anything aside from a small blind hole or two, and looked forward to the chance to do some more poking around, on Uncle Sam’s tab. Several additional agents following the laboring truck on ATVs, the party finally reached Raintree’s intended campsite near dark, setting up camp and sleeping in preparation for a day of searching. Each time they went out to search, one agent was tasked with remaining behind at the camp to guard it, a task that had quickly come to be labeled “bear duty” after an unfortunate overnight incident involving a hungry black bear and eight MREs, which had occurred after the agents had failed to follow Raintree’s advice about securing their food overnight. Bear duty, with its requisite hours of sitting around in a cold camp on one desolate plateau or another, was not a coveted job, and the agent who had drawn the short straw that day, after finishing his breakfast and stowing the camp stove back in Raintree’s truck, retreated to its cab for a nap, carelessly leaving his unwashed cooking pot and partially used can of sweetened condensed milk sitting on a nearby rock. Einar watched from his hiding place in the evergreen scrub as the man’s head nodded with sleep. OK. Sure hope he left me something… • • • •

Einar waited beneath the concealment of the evergreen shrubs for some time to make certain that the man in the truck was really asleep, debating as he did so exactly how much he ought to try and take from the camp. His immediate need was food, but some clothing—a warm upper layer and perhaps some socks, would certainly make his life easier. From the look of the camp, the tents, the apparent lack of organization and especially the old beat up truck that was loaded rather haphazardly with gear that appeared well used, Einar was convinced with fair certainty that he had not stumbled upon a federal outpost. While the campers’ choice of location and season still struck him as a bit odd, and therefore worthy of suspicion, he finally decided that if he could sneak in while the man slept, get a look in that truck bed and find perhaps one or two articles of clothing and a bit of food, he ought to be able to gain some things that would benefit him a great deal without arousing too much suspicion on the part of the campers. But he would have to pick and choose very carefully what he took, and limit himself to things that might not be missed, or at least not right away. Carefully backing up and ducking behind the low rise of ground before making his way around it, he intended to approach the truck from behind where he would not be seen. By that time he had decided that the sleeping man was very likely alone at the camp. Surely some of the others would have been up by then, if there were others. Staying low as he made his way through the brush at the edge of the camp, Einar, directly behind the truck at that time, saw something that made him stop and look twice. Barely visible through the mud but nonetheless unmistakable he could make out a small bumper sticker on the upper right portion of the camper shell, yellow with the black image of a bat in flight. Cavers! Well, that explains the odd choice of campsite and why they don’t mind being out in the muddy season before the scenery has really greened up… Hmm. Wonder it it’s anybody I know? He doubted it, having done much of his exploration, to the

consternation of others, alone. Maybe I should have got to know some of those fellows a little better, taken them up on their offers when they asked me to go along with them sometimes. Might have meant that I could walk into this camp right now and get some help from folks who would not be at all likely to talk about it in the wrong places. If there’s one thing cavers can do, it’s keep a secret. Sure would help to get a ride down out of here, maybe see if they could dump me out somewhere fifty miles down the road and I’d never hear from the feds again. Be nice to just focus on living this summer, on getting ready for next winter, without having to be so awfully careful all the time. Just think of being able to have a fire at any time of the night or day, without having to worry about whether someone might see or smell the smoke! He had nearly convinced himself to approach the truck, wake the sleeping man, and ask if he might be amenable to such a proposal. Which would of course have resulted in his making the man in the truck one of the luckiest and most well known federal agents in the nation that day. Forget it, Einar. The idea had sounded plausible, had sounded pretty good, actually, as weary and hungry and—if he was honest with himself—just plain tired of running as he was, but he had no intention of actually approaching the stranger. And the knew that he probably would not have approached the cavers for help, even if they had been acquaintances of his. His past experiences with approaching former acquaintances for assistance—Liz being the one major exception— had left him with a very bad taste in his mouth, and a wariness that prevented him from even seriously considering such a thing as an option. People change, people get scared…some people might well be tempted by that reward money. Doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t even know these folks. At once relieved at what he believed to be solid confirmation that the campers were not feds, and a bit concerned that perhaps the cavers might stumble on his hiding place, Einar decided that, so long as the sleeping man did not wake prematurely and spoil everything, he ought to be fairly safe in approaching the truck and spending a few minutes inspecting its contents. If the rest of the campers were down in a cave, assuming they had not left camp before daylight, they probably would not be back anytime soon. The tailgate of the truck had been left down, and he could see a number of large stuff sacks, backpacks, and cardboard boxes that surely contained what would be to him an unimaginable wealth of gear and clothing. Very cautiously he approached the truck, stopping once to listen for any sounds from the area of the tents but hearing nothing. As he passed the rock and log where the man had eaten, Einar saw that there was indeed a bit of the chili left in the bottom of the pot, and over half of the milk in the can, also, but passed them up for the moment, intent on inspecting the contents of the truck bed. In order to get a look at the gear in the truck, he saw that he would have to first move the camp stove, which the man had placed on its side just inside the open tailgate, and he began carefully maneuvering it, concerned that the least little metallic bump or scrape had the potential for waking the sleeping man. Einar had just got the stove placed with painstaking care on the tailgate when he heard voices. The sounds were muffled and indistinct, but unmistakably human in origin, coming from somewhere a good distance beyond the tents. Fellow cavers or not, he knew he must not allow these people to discover his presence. Hurriedly replacing the stove, he took off for the trees, scooping up a handful of the remaining chili and stuffing it into his mouth

before hastily placing the pot back on its rock, grabbing the can of milk at the last minute and scurrying into the nearest stand of firs, which lay just beside the rise in the ground that had previously helped to conceal him. Rolling to his stomach just as they came into view, Einar watched as the five men in muddy coveralls and helmets made their way into camp, dropping packs and helmets and two coiled ropes beside the tents, several of them shouting and gesturing and apparently giving the man in the truck a rather hard time when he was discovered to be sleeping. An increasingly strong and gusting wind prevented Einar from hearing their words, but it seemed to him that they were rather overreacting. Poor guy was just trying to catch up on some sleep, after all… Oh, well. Maybe he was supposed to be fixing food for the group, and now they’re upset that they have to wait to eat. The previously sleeping man had climbed out of the truck by that point, and was pointing at the chili pot there on the rock. A rather animated discussion ensued among four of the cavers and the man who had stayed behind, as they alternately bent down to inspect the pot and stood to stare off into the meadow and surrounding woods, shading their eyes from the sun. OK. Time to get out of here. The recently sleeping man had apparently noted the absence of the milk can, and had alerted his companions. They probably think it was taken by a bear, but I don’t want to be stuck here if they come beating around in this brush after the critter! As carefully as he could, Einar got himself turned around and crept through the bushes until he was well behind the rise in the ground, standing and starting down the slope. If he had waited around to watch, Einar would have seen the agents remove a black hard plastic case from the truck, and begin to process the chili pot for fingerprints right there on the rock where he had left it, covered in grubby fingerprints that were obvious even to Darren Raintree, who had absolutely no training in forensics. • • • •

Einar carefully picked his way down between cliff bands, heading for his shelter and unaware of the developments up at the cavers’ camp. His biggest concern, aside from what he believed to be a fairly remote possibility that the cavers might stumble upon the little crevice that would give them entrance to his shelter, was the realization that he probably should not allow himself a fire until he was sure the cavers were gone, lest they smell the smoke and become curious. He knew that he could deal with the cold—it wouldn’t be pleasant, but he had been through worse—especially seeing that his clothes were dry and he had a bit of food left to eat, but he had really hoped to begin smoking the elk hide the following night, and knew that he also needed to turn the decent amount of pitch he had gathered into pitch sticks against the time he would either choose or need to return to the deeper recesses of the cave. Well, I expect those folks will have a fire tonight after they’re all done with the day’s activities, even if only for a little while. I should be safe lighting one and keeping it going just long enough to make the pitch sticks and warm the ground a bit for sleeping. And boil up some more of that sheep, maybe. Because I seriously doubt that it’s safe to eat raw anymore, if it ever was. Having smelled food all morning and tasted the chili, his stomach was rather urgently demanding

more. The more Einar thought about the fire, the more firmly convinced he became of the necessity of saving both of his remaining matches for lighting torches if and when he explored the rest of the cave. To go into it with only one was to risk being stranded in total darkness if he dropped it or broke it or failed to light the next torch before the first one died out. To that end, he began looking for the materials for a friction fire, finding a suitable straight dead spruce branch for a spindle and an aspen branch to split for the fireboard. Having difficulty this time coming up with anything to use as a bearing block, he finally settled on hoping to find a smallish chunk of limestone with a depression he could work and deepen, until he remembered the sheep haunch, wondering if the hip socket could be used. Thinking that it would likely require less preparation than a rock, unless he found one with a suitable depression preexisting, he decided to give it a try. With the realization that fire was not to be a big part of his life over the next several days, gathering evergreen boughs for a bed took on added importance. He knew he would have to sleep sometime, and he had already tried doing so lying directly on the cold rock of the grotto floor, finding it not to be an especially good situation, even if he had a fire to lie near. There were a few firs scattered among the spruces down below the cliff bands, and he focused on these, collecting as many boughs as he could carry and stuffing them in through the entrance to his cave, first carefully inspecting the soft ground below the ledge for any sign that it had been visited in his absence. There was none, but, he realized, he had been leaving quite a bit of sign as he scrambled up and down from the ledge, and it would be obvious to anyone who passed by that someone had been making frequent trips in and out of the crevice. Not good. He took a few minutes to carefully press a rock over the obvious boot prints that he had left in the damp soil, obliterating them and sprinkling a fresh layer of spruce duff over everything. Wouldn’t fool a tracker, but it might keep a caver from realizing that he was standing at my front door. Not that it would do me much good. If they find this place, they’re gonna be coming in, anyway to check out this opening, but at least maybe they won’t do it expecting someone to be in here…might give me a minute or two to figure something out. Thirsty from the climb, Einar scooped up and drank a double handfull of water from the little pool on the cave floor, realizing as he did so that the bite of chili from the pot at the camp had long ago worn off, that he was beginning to feel dizzy and shaky, badly in need of something more, if he intended to continue doing useful work that day. Collecting the fir branches where they had fallen and dragging them into the small calcite chamber, he wondered if he would ever manage to get ahead at all when it came to nutrition. He very much wished to be in a position where he could build up a bit of a reserve, so he did not have to spend nearly every moment of his existence thinking about food. After working on his fir-branch bed, Einar sat down heavily with the can of sweetened condensed milk from the camp, resting his head on his knees for a minute to catch his breath before enjoying a few scoops of the rich sweet goo, stopping himself with difficulty from tipping the can up and drinking its entire contents. He could already feel the tremendous energy boost that the sugar-laden substance was giving him, and knew he

had better make it last, as short as he was on real food. He would be needing it later, and hoped to be able to dole it out over the course of several days, perhaps saving it for occasions when he found himself having trouble with the damp cold of the cave, as he knew he would, in the absence of fire. A carefully placed smear of the milk here and there might also prove useful as bait for the snares he hoped to be setting before it got dark that evening. Feeling around in the darkness of the calcite grotto, Einar found the nettle stems he had previously started work on, again making the climb back out to the daylight to sit on the ledge outside the cave and work on snare cordage. He had a good start, having previously pounded the nettle stalks and corded nearly two feet of the fibers, and sat there under the ledge, taking advantage of the daylight to create enough double twined cordage for three snares. Only a start, but it is a start. Before leaving to set the snares, he prepared the fireboard for that evening’s fire but waited to assemble the bow, for which he intended to make use of his bootlace. Grabbing his pack from the ledge beside him, he dropped to the ground and began descending in search of a likely place to set the snares. Thinking that the cavers would probably have little reason to descend below the band of limestone, Einar did so, wanting to reduce his chances of accidentally running into them as he checked his snares. Returning to the cave near sunset after a climb that had proven a good bit more taxing than Einar thought it should have, he crawled into the calcite grotto and flopped down on his bed of evergreen branches, his heart pounding, feeling weak and sick and not even sure he could find the strength to get up and prepare his fire, let alone operate the bow and drill long enough to get it going. In the dim evening glow that made its way through the entrance crevice he could see the can of sweetened condensed milk, reached for it and scooped a little of it into his mouth, lying there and continuing to do so until he felt a bit better. You’re starving again, Einar. Using too much energy climbing all over this mountain, and not replacing it with anything. Those snares better start working pretty quick, or you’re just going to have to leave this place and head down that slope until you find a big creek or something where you can get some fish. This is not working. The milk was gone, but Einar, once again able to stand up and, even more importantly, think a bit more clearly, did not much care. He’d hardly had a choice. He used the remaining light to prepare his firepit, shaving off some of the few remaining bits of sheep and setting them, along with nearly half of the grubs that waited sleeping in their “refrigerator” of rotten wood, in the tin can along with some water, wanting the stew to be able to begin heating just as soon as the fire was lit. He was still pretty nervous about having a fire at all that night, and very much wanted to reduce the amount of time he kept it going to what was absolutely necessary. Choosing a number of the thicker splinters from the fractured spruce trunk for his pitch sticks, he placed them beside the fire pit on a flat rock, along with the sardine can full of spruce pitch that he intended to melt. Feeling stronger for having finished off the can of milk, Einar was tempted to go ahead and make the climb up to the ledge again that evening to see if the cavers were gone, aware that such a discovery might well spare him from the unnecessary discomfort of a night spent largely without fire, but decided to give it another day, just to be safe. He knew that he would soon have to move on regardless, as he would always be wondering if it was safe to have a fire, and, with summer coming, could expect to be seeing an increasing amount

of traffic up on the plateau. After boiling his rather foul-smelling stew of rotting sheep meat and grubs long enough that he was confident it could be eaten safely and making twenty pitch sticks of varying widths, Einar put out the fire, knowing that he had no way to even be certain that the cavers, if they were still there, would have one of their own to mask its scent. They could just as easily have cooked their supper on the Coleman stove, and gone to bed. Pushing the coals aside, he dragged some of the fir boughs over the warmed rock, curled up and slept. The quick fire had hardly warmed the rock past the first inch or two, though, and that heat quickly dissipated, leaving Einar to wake shivering and hungry barely an hour later, rising to stomp around the cave and wishing rather strongly that he had more to eat. Desperate and growing colder, he raided the compartment in the rotten spruce trunk and swallowed the remaining grubs raw, removing the heads and gulping a bit of water with each of them. He was dismayed to find that there were only four left, but the sheep haunch, what little he had left of it, had developed a smell that told him that eating it without first subjecting it to some serious boiling would likely mean risking an illness that might very well do him in, in his present condition. He reluctantly made himself leave it alone. Einar was drifting in and out of sleep, having finally curled up shivering and exhausted on his fir bed after a long chilly fireless night of pacing and stomping around the grotto in an attempt to stay warm, when he heard the helicopter. His broken sleep had again been troubled by many dreams that morning, and at first supposing the sounds to be part of a dream, he stirred, shifted position on the bed and tucked his nose inside the collar of his shirt, attempting to get back to sleep. • • • •

If he had been up on the plateau that morning when the sound of the helicopter had disturbed his sleep, Einar would have seen a good deal of additional activity up at Darren Raintree’s caving camp, despite the predawn darkness. Unlike the previous instance, the helicopter Einar had heard in his sleep that morning had not been purely the product of his troubled dreams. It had been real, had landed on the plateau to deliver a team of three FBI trackers and twenty additional agents to help in the search and provide security, after the agents had finally confirmed the fingerprints on the chili pot to be Einar’s. It was fortunate for Einar that the ground around the camp had still been frozen when he had walked on it the previous morning, and that the agents had trampled all over it looking for any sign of the thief, greatly increasing the time it took for the trackers to find and begin following his trail as light began creeping across the plateau that morning. They did eventually find it, though, and made their way very slowly and carefully down the steep slope that descended at times nearly vertically between fins and escarpments of exposed limestone, delayed for nearly half an hour at one point as they waited for a team to arrive and rig ropes for a particularly exposed section of the descent. • • • •

After more than an hour of exhausted sleep another sound woke Einar, this time jarring him wide awake and instantly very alert, realizing that it had come from the direction of the cave entrance. At first he thought that perhaps an animal—raccoon, cat, or even a young bear, as an adult could not squeeze through that crack, might be entering the cave. Grabbing the entrenching tool and locking the handle into place, he waited to see the creature in the dim glow that shone through the crack, ready to leap at it in an attempt to acquire some badly needed food. Nothing came, though, and, continuing to hear scrapes on the ledge outside and the occasional rattle of a small rock as it tumbled in through the entrance and went rolling and clattering to the floor below, he rolled stiffly up off of his makeshift sleeping pallet and went to investigate. Daylight was streaming in through the crack in the rock, illuminating the thin snaking shape of a climbing rope that had been dropped into the darkness below, dislodging the rocks that had awakened him. • • • •

Einar realized instantly that the cavers must have found his shelter, hurried back into the grotto and rounded up his cooking can, still half full of re-solidified pitch, and the empty milk can, which, in addition to the shovel, were the only possessions that he had not kept in the pack overnight. He stuffed a number of the pitch sticks into his pockets, stashing the rest in the pack and slinging it over his shoulder before hurrying out into the main grotto, sticking close to the wall as he headed for the slot that had first allowed him entry. No one was yet visible on the rope or in the little patch of sky that showed through the crack, and Einar crouched in the darkness of the access slot, very much regretting not having explored that third way out. There was no way he was going to take it just then, though, not knowing whether it might leave him trapped after a few yards to explain his presence to a group of startled cavers. He heard muffled voices, looked up and saw a human head and torso silhouetted against the sky, a slung rifle clearly visible as the man turned to adjust the rope. Einar’s breath caught briefly in his throat as he realized that the camp on the plateau had been no ordinary cavers’ bivouac. They are here for me. Should have known it, Einar. Should have known that camp couldn’t be a coincidence. Should have picked up and left this place just as soon as you discovered that camp. Hurrying, he left a few clear boot prints in the narrow strip of damp, muddy ground that passed in front of the second tunnel, wiping his boots on his pants and jumping back across the muddy strip onto the rock floor of the main grotto, hoping that the necessity of investigating the fresh tracks, however briefly, might perhaps give him a chance to escape. Just as he ducked into the narrow slot that had allowed him entrance, a light was lowered in through the crevice, a bright spotlight of some sort that lit the up grotto with a stark white gleam and made every detail and corner stand out sharp and clear. And ended any further thoughts Einar might have harbored of waiting at the bottom of the rope with the entrenching tool in an attempt to obtain one of those rifles. Too bad I’m not armed. You boys are gonna make some fine targets when you start coming down that rope, with all this light. I’d just stay here in these shadows and see how many of you wanted to keep coming down, and you

might get me eventually, but it’d be worth it. Not an option, though. What am I gonna do at this point? Throw rocks? If I’d have really thought ahead, I could have set it up so rocks fell on them as soon as they got down to the grotto floor. Wouldn’t have been too difficult, with that angled slab up there that the water drips off of, a log, maybe, and some cordage… But of course, he had done nothing of the sort. Had got to feeling too secure in the cave, had not prepared. And now he was worried. He knew they would quickly discover that he had been in the cave, knew his tracks in the mud of the second tunnel probably would not fool them for long. Starting down the rocky incline into the slot, Einar wondered what his chances could possibly be if it came down to an actual chase through the cave, wondered if he even had the strength to make the journey out to the waterfall himself, after a day of climbing and very little food or sleep over the past twenty four hours. He just had to hope that his experience and recent familiarity with the geography of the cave might serve to balance the fact that his pursuers were certain to be better equipped, well fed and uninjured. And would have lights that did not consume oxygen. Oh Yeah. That sounds like it’ll balance out, all right… You’re gonna die in here, Einar. He continued quietly down the slot away from the glow of the spotlight, thinking that, as his dire prediction was almost certainly correct, he wished all the more that he was armed so he could at least make a stand in the grotto, make his life cost them something. Or, better still, that he had possessed the time and foresight to rig the entrance and make it discouragingly difficult and dangerous for anyone who chose to intrude on his place of refuge. Then he could have been making his escape while they dealt with the consequences of trying. Well. Work with what you’ve got. And he continued down the passage, reluctant to use one of the pitch sticks lest the light be seen, but knowing that in the absence of light, he would have to be very careful not to fall into the narrow, twisting slot that he had previously chimney across. Moving in a shuffling walk, feeling far ahead with his foot before committing any weight, Einar reached the dropoff, warned of its presence by an increasingly muddy smear on the passage floor even before his foot probed the open space at the edge of the slot. Looking back he could see the glow of the spotlight, saw a man on the rope and wondered how many might already be down in the grotto, how long it would be before he had company there between the walls of rock. Hurry. And he began chimneying, glad that the slot curved and twisted and soon blocked the light behind him from direct view, leaving only a diffused glow that at first aided his travel a bit, but soon faded to near invisibility. Though he kept urging himself to move faster, it was in reality all Einar could do to keep himself wedged in the crack and moving forward, making constant but maddeningly slow progress with limbs that were already beginning to tremble and cramp up and threaten him with an untimely fall. Einar had not been going for long before he realized that someone was pursuing him, that the glow he saw was changing, brightening and occasionally flashing in a way that told him someone with a headlamp was following not all that far behind him. He will have seen my tracks in that mud by the dropoff. No way to not leave tracks in that… Pausing for a moment to look back, he could see that the man with the light was moving much more quickly than he was able, that as soon as he rounded one or two more curves, that light would be shining directly on him, at which point he would really have no way out.

He considered going down, seeing if he could make his way along at the bottom of the crack where he might remain hidden, but for all he knew, it might quickly become too narrow for him to make any progress at all, and while there was always the chance that the entire search might pass over him and move on, he was not interested in taking that for granted, if there was another option. Which there was. Go up. Let him pass under you. The walls grew farther apart up higher, and as he ascended, Einar found himself having to switch from chimneying with his back against one wall and his knees/feet against the other, to straddling the space with one foot on each wall, wishing very much that he had the use of both arms, and that his hip was not protesting so greatly at the activity. The going was a bit more unsteady than he would have liked with only one hand to help balance himself and the rubber of his boots worn nearly smooth in places from many months of hard use, but at least the walls were mostly dry in that section, and he found the approaching light, which was by that time flashing off the wall directly adjacent to him, to be a rather powerful motivator. Looking up, Einar saw, with the assistance of the glow from the agent’s headlamp, a massive block of rock some fifteen or twenty feet above him, wedged in the slot and spanning it like a bridge. Heading for the block with a burst of desperate energy, Einar pulled himself up on top of it just as the man rounded the last curve, his headlamp flashing on Einar’s boots as he dragged himself up onto the rock. He lay sprawled on top of the block, waiting for the cramping in his leg to subside and struggling to quiet his breathing so the approaching agent would not hear him. The man’s progress had seemed to slow greatly as he rounded the curve, and Einar, facing the other direction, could not turn to look behind him to discover why without risking knocking loose one of the small pebbles he felt beneath him and possibly alerting his pursuer to his presence. After a minute he heard a series of metallic clanks and clicks, including the distinctive sound of a carabiner gate clipping closed, and decided that the agent must be setting up an anchor, perhaps with the intention of rappelling to the bottom of the crack. The light was moving again, and Einar found that he could get a look at the man by carefully inching forward on the block, and craning his neck over the edge. It did not take him long to realize what the agent was doing. Chimneying along, he was placing protection every five or six feet in a narrow crack in the rock that ran parallel to the slot, choosing chocks and cams from a large rack slung over one shoulder on a piece of webbing. As he placed each piece of protection, he clipped a rope into it before moving along. They had apparently sent their best climber ahead to set up a safety line for the rest of the search crew. No. No, I don’t think so. Sharing this place with a dozen of your well-armed buddies is not my idea of a good time. Or of a good way to live through the day, either, and I do want to live. Very carefully, Einar slid his pack down beside him on the block, felt for the piece of cordage that secured the heavy, stiff elk hide to one of the coyote legs, and untied it. He was very sorry to be losing the hide, but knew he would soon be losing a good deal more than that, if he allowed all those agents in behind him. There was still a good distance to cover before he would reach the narrow squeezeway that he hoped would halt them altogether, and as slow as he was moving, he knew they would almost certainly have him long before that. Carefully maneuvering the elk hide out in front of him on the block, he waited until the agent was directly below him and thoroughly absorbed in his work. The hide hit the man squarely on the helmet, knocking

him loose and sending him sliding down into the narrowing, twisted depths of the slot, his climbing gear and slung rifle rattling and clanking against the walls as he went down. Scrambling, Einar felt around on the block until he found some large chunks of loose limestone, sending them down after the man for good measure. This is my territory down here. You should not have followed me. He could already hear voices in the passage behind him as he hurriedly began chimneying his way across the remaining fifty or sixty yards of the slot, aided by the light of the fallen man’s headlamp, which seemed to be pointing straight up, but worried at the same time that it would give him away if any of the others rounded the curve before he made it to the end. He could see their lights flashing on the wall in front of him as he struggled with his cramping legs, the distance he still had to cover suddenly appearing immense. • • • •

By the time Einar reached the far end of the slot, he found himself barely able to move, plagued by cramps and a constant and nearly incapacitating tremor in his left leg, brought on by overuse and fatigue and commonly known to climbers as “sewing machine leg.” Several times he nearly fell, catching himself and putting all his strength into pressing with his right foot, giving the left leg a chance to rest in the hopes that it would begin functioning a bit more normally. No luck. He could see the ledge that he was aiming for, dimly illuminated in the reflected light of the fallen agent’s headlamp, finally reached it, stepping down onto it and immediately collapsing on the muddy ground where he allowed himself a brief and necessary moment of stillness. When his rasping breath had quieted some, he lifted his head and listened for any hint that the other agents were starting across the slot, at first hearing nothing. He wanted to descend to the bottom of the slot, to see if he could perhaps obtain a headlamp, rifle or other gear from the fallen man, but as he lay there trying to decide whether it was worth the risk, the muffled sound of voices reached him, and with it the brightening glow of more than one headlamp as several agents slowly made their way through the slot to see why they had not yet heard from their companion. He heard shouting as they discovered the reason, heard them repeatedly call to the man and get no response, then he heard something else, something that made his scalp tingle and sent him scurrying down the corridor as quickly as his stillcramping legs would allow him to move. Raintree. They were calling for Raintree, and if he’s in on this, I am in more trouble than I had guessed. Einar had only met the man a time or two, but knew him by reputation to be perhaps the most knowledgeable person around when it came to Lakemont County’s hollow bands of limestone. Aside, perhaps, from Einar himself. This is not good. He may know of this place. He may even know of that other entrance. Or be able to guess at its location accurately enough to get me trapped in here. Got to move fast, now. What Einar did not know, but might have surmised if he had taken the time to think through it, was that Darren Raintree, as the only experienced caver among the federal searchers, was at that moment being called upon to spearhead the difficult and dangerous rescue of a man who all involved believed likely to be suffering from serious head and neck injuries, and who had somehow to be extracted from the seventy five feet of narrow, twisting slot down which he had fallen, without further exacerbating those injuries. It

was not to be an easy task, or a quick one. Einar continued down the passage, between walls that he knew from memory if not from sight were white with calcite, feeling as he ran his hand along them the occasional protrusion of a delicate calcite formation. Einar did not know what conditions would be like at the other end, whether he would be able to get out at all, or even whether there would be enough air to keep him going for long enough to do him any good, if he found the water to be up over the top of the other entrance. If the draft he had been feeling in the grotto each night and morning was any indication, the water level was still going down low enough every night to expose the small chamber where he had left the sheep remains to the open air. Perhaps he could hold out on whatever oxygen existed for the few hours he estimated he would have between the time he reached the chamber and the time when the cooling temperatures of evening would begin to lower the water level, allowing him to duck out of the chamber and take his chances with crossing the slab above the waterfall. Perhaps the log that had jammed at the top of the waterfall would still be there, perhaps the water level would be low enough that he could use it to steady himself as he waded across, allowing him to maintain his footing and not fall to his death. He shook his head, tried to shove those thoughts to the back of his mind, for the time. He had a lot of work ahead of him, and needed to concentrate if he wanted a chance of making it. And he knew that he could soon be dealing with the additional complication of being pursued through the narrow passages by a dozen angry federal agents with rifles and headlamps. Reaching the large chamber that he had first discovered after squeezing and dragging himself through the tight, breathless crawlway from the waterfall, he felt around for the opening, found it, and hastily tied his pack to his boot for the crawl. The passage was tight, but not quite as tight as he had remembered it, and he did not know whether to attribute this to the fact that things were shaped slightly differently coming as he was from the opposite side, or whether he had simply lost more weight since first passing through its confines. Almost certainly both… He did have to hold his breath, but it was not nearly as bad as the first time, since he knew it would not need to last long. Very soon the passage opened up slightly and he was crawling again, rather than shoving himself forward inches at a time with his toes and pulling with his fingertips. A welcome change. Crawling along in the darkness, Einar had noticed for some time a growing rumbling, though he was aware of it more as a vibration in the rock than as an actual sound, convincing him that he must be approaching the waterfall. He was glad. The air had been growing increasingly stale and close, and he found himself straining for breath and coughing frequently as he pulled himself through the low crawlway. The stench told him he was nearing the chamber before he was even aware of the widening of the passage that he had been counting on as a sign to warn him before he crawled over the four foot drop, and potentially into the water. Feeling ahead with his hand, he found the drop, reached down until he found the inevitable water, glad to discover that it was several feet lower than the crusty silt line that marked its high point just above the top of the little tunnel. So. Water’s already on the way down for the evening. He was well aware, though, that one’s sense of time can easily become warped

in a cave, that for all he knew, it might already be the middle of the night, and the water at or near its low point. Hope not… The air was bad in the little chamber, close and foul smelling from the rotting sheep carcass, and Einar was anxious to be out of it. Mainly, of course, because he still expected his pursuers to be somewhere back there behind him. He was pretty sure though that there was no way any of them ought to be able to get through that dreadfully tight squeezeway. Not, that is, if they were in the habit of eating regular meals. They might have ways of widening a passage, though, or they might, that’s a horrible thought decide to toss a couple of smoke or pepper grenades through the tunnel if it finally became too low to allow them passage. And the longer he waited, the greater the likelihood became that they might discover the tunnel entrance by the waterfall, and be there waiting for him. He knew the crevice would not be visible with the water as high as it was, but if anyone knew of the opening, he thought, it was likely to be Darren Raintree. Or someone the caver knew personally and could go to for information. The speculation was rapidly becoming less relevant, anyway, because he was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe, and knew that if the water level did not soon go down, he would have to take his chances and duck out through the tunnel in search of oxygen. Can’t live long without that. Lying on his stomach in the muddy tunnel, the thought occurred to him that perhaps his best plan might be to lie there until the water went down, let himself pass out if that became inevitable, and count on the influx of fresh air to wake him when the level went down far enough to let it in again, and him out. Yeah, but what if they do somehow make it through that tunnel behind you? Or if the water never goes down that much, and you just don’t wake up? Pretty sure it doesn’t make much sense to keep lying here, Einar. You’re just tired. Better move. But he was becoming less certain, was having a difficult time making a decision, having trouble, in fact, remembering that he had a decision to make at all. It seemed enough just to lie there, each breath a great enough effort that he couldn’t really imagine why he would want to exert himself any further. Time passed. The water below him seemed to be glowing with an odd green and purple iridescence that swirled and crackled, held his attention, made him very much doubt his eyes, then nothing, blackness, silence, the stench of death and the immense weight of the rock closing in around him. He shut his eyes. Struggled for the next breath. And the next. Words came to him, lines dimly remembered in the shadowy recesses of his dimming brain, and he searched for them, clung to them, struggled to bring them to his lips…Out of the depths…the depths…And suddenly they came to him, and they were his words, his prayer, his cry, and he was saying them with all his strength, silently, over and over again: Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord…Lord, hear my voice…I sink in the miry depths where there is no foothold…hear my voice…deliver me…do not let the floodwaters engulf me or the depths swallow me or the pit close its mouth over me…hear me. Lord. Please. And He did, He must have, because when Einar opened his eyes, a tiny sliver of light was showing, just a crack of dusky light between the black water and the blacker mass of rock above it, and a hand—it looked to him very much like Liz’s hand—was reaching in through the crack, reaching for his own, and Einar struggled out of the tunnel, rolled into the stinking, slimy water below it and went under, pushed himself to his feet coughing and choking and spitting out water, stumbled towards the

hand. Liz… Please… Help me… He grabbed the hand, was pulled rather insistently out of the crevice, swept out into the open air where he clung to the rock above the opening, submerged up to his armpits in the icy, silty water, barely keeping his footing, gulping great breaths of the good sweet life-giving air and blinking in the evening light, alone on the ledge above the waterfall. • • • •

Struggling to keep his feet under him, Einar glanced around in an attempt to formulate some sort of plan that would get him off the ledge, and further away from his pursuers, without drowning him in the process. The planning was not going especially well, as it seemed to be taking all of his focus, and all of his strength, as well, just to remain standing and maintain his slippery grip on the rock outcropping that was keeping him from being swept over the falls. He did not remember the water being so deep before, but supposed the logjam that had allowed the level to begin rising in the first place had acquired more material over the past several days, further backing things up. He could see that the ground rose fairly quickly in the direction of the waterfall, and very slowly began moving that way, sliding his boots along the slick surface and hanging onto the rough limestone protrusion with his left hand, keeping it close to his body because of the injured shoulder as he reached for the next handhold with his right. Inching forward in this way, Einar was able to reach a place where the tug of the water was much less insistent, rising just above his knees and swirling slightly in a small eddy pool created by an alcove in the rock. He stood there for a minute leaning on the wet limestone of the wall, relieved at the sudden elimination of the constant struggle to stay on his feet, exhausted and beginning to seriously notice the cold. The damp spray of the booming upper fall was unavoidable, its constant breeze seeming to chill him more quickly than the deep water had been, though he knew the reverse was more likely to be true. Taking another step in towards the wall, he noticed something dragging at his right foot, tried to lift it and suddenly remembered that he had never removed the backpack, which he had tied to his bootlace in order to haul it through the cave crawlway. Hope it’s not empty… He lifted it, nearly fell as its sodden weight unbalanced him on the slippery surface of the water-covered silty limestone, caught himself and went to his knees in the water, fumbling at the knot that held the pack, his hands already rather too stiff to manage the fine work. The knot had become impossibly tight as he dragged the pack behind him through the cave, and Einar searched around for the roughest, most water-pocked limestone protrusion that he could find, rubbing and abrading the boot string on it until it broke. He lifted the pack out of the water and onto his shoulder, heavy, streaming and looking like a drowned coyote. A lumpy drowned coyote. Good. Something’s left in here, at least. Maybe a tin can and that e-tool, if I’m lucky. If I’m really lucky, maybe it’ll be the can that’s half full of pitch. Burning that in the can like a little stove may be my only chance to warm up some after I get out of this, without making smoke for those feds to smell. Glad the stuff is waterproof. As he stood there shivering, trying to force his foggy brain to tell him what to do next, Einar could feel a familiar inertia beginning to come over him, sapping his remaining

strength and resolve and tempting him with the comforting lie that the safest thing, the only reasonable thing was to remain still, to wait, to see if perhaps in an hour or two the water might go down enough to allow him easier passage. He knew it wasn’t true, fought it as if fighting for his life, which he was. Move. Find a way across. It’s gonna be dark soon, and there’s no way you’re lasting an hour or two, let alone the night in this water, even if it is less deep here. But what to do? He knew that the only way off of the ledge that did not involve going over the lower fall had to center around the crack he had first used to access the ledge and which, straining his eyes in the gathering dusk, he could see was probably beyond the reach of the flowing water. As he was already nearer the waterfall itself than he was to the logjam and edge of the lower fall, Einar wondered if he might be able to make his way behind the falls and stay away from that dropoff altogether, but a quick inspection of the brown, thundering water that slid down the rock and left no space behind it told him that trying anything like that would likely just lead to a fall which, if it didn’t result in his being quickly swept over the edge, would probably get him beat to death under the force of the falling water with its occasional floating logs and branches, or trapped beneath it and drowned. The logjam, then, seemed to offer his only real chance through the rushing water of the ledge, and he knew that if he was going to try it what choice do I have? he had better do so quickly, before he lost any more of the light or got too much colder and lost his coordination and balance entirely. Carefully retracing his steps and sharply chastising himself for even considering ducking back through the widening crack into the relative shelter of the cave chamber where there should now be plenty of air! And where you could wait until the water goes down some more, and could rest…he reached the logjam, alarmed at the strength of the current that wanted to pull him up and over the logs to be crushed on the rocks below, or, just as likely, trapped and drowned on one of those little ledges that had prevented him from rolling the bighorn sheep down the drop, several days before. He started across, clinging to the slippery log and bracing his feet against the tangle of branches that it had trapped, fighting against the panic that tried to seize him when his boot became badly wedged between two branches, ducking under the water to allow himself to reach and free it. Holding his breath as he struggled to force apart the branches that held his boot, Einar realized that the current that had nearly been knocking him off his feet when he stood seemed far less forceful down beneath the level of the logjam. His boot once again free he rose, gasping for breath and hurrying to complete the crossing. The closer he got to the center of the ledge where the bulk of the water was coming down, the stronger the current became, until it was all he could do to keep his feet beneath him while clinging with both hands to the tangle of logs and brush and leaning into the current, let alone continue to make any forward progress. He considered going back, considered releasing the death grip he had on a clump of slippery, tangled willow brush and letting the water take him, but ended up choosing neither, just standing there growing colder and knowing that before long the decision would be taken out of his hands. An idea came to him as he clung there, and, remembering the reduced current strength he had noticed when freeing his boot and completely out of other ideas, he dropped to the ground, went under, started pulling himself hand over hand along the rocky surface of the ledge, using the tangle of branches, surfacing for air when he could hold his breath no longer before going under again. While the current was weaker

several feet beneath the surface, there were places where the tangle of trapped debris was thinner, and before Einar could do anything about it his legs and lower body were pulled through one of these gaps, leaving him trapped and unable to breathe, being slowly dragged further over the ledge as he fought to pull himself back. He finally made it, hauled himself several feet beyond the gap before surfacing to gasp for air, his strength spent, too weary to be glad at the discovery that he was beyond the worst of the current, and could once again stay above water. Einar took a few dragging, stumbling steps over to the shallower water near the crack he hoped to descend, dropped to his knees and rested, his head throbbing from his time beneath the icy water. Knowing that he must keep moving, he stood, stumbled over to the crack, glad to find that only a small amount of water trickled down it, finding his hands nearly useless with the cold and keeping his footing with great difficulty as he began the descent, once losing it altogether, catching himself by grabbing some gooseberry bushes before falling the last ten or fifteen feet, tumbling twice and splashing into the shallow water at the bottom, briefly trapping one leg in the silty buildup at the edge of the pool. He hauled himself up out of the water, flopped over on the spruce duff and lay there on his back for a long minute, exhausted and hurting from the fall, but not, he was pretty sure, seriously injured. Looking up through the trees at the dimming sky, Einar wondered what the chances would be that all of the agents from the camp might still be down under the mountain trying to rescue the fallen man from the cave. He knew cave rescues could be rather complicated, drawn out matters, that Darren Raintree was already down there, and that he ought to be kept quite busy until the rescue was finished, possibly leaving his truck and gear unattended on the plateau. Then there were all those ATVs… He knew the idea that was taking shape in his mind was a daring and perhaps a foolish one, the desperate plan of a man in desperate need, but he did badly need food, needed clothes that were dry and not falling apart at the seams, needed that truck. He could see the top of the plateau as he lay there, its covering of stunted aspens showing sharply against the paling orange of the evening sky, and it seemed not unreasonable to think that he could make that climb. Until the approaching buzz of a small helicopter, barely audible over the rumble of the water, sent him scrambling up beneath the nearest evergreen to watch as it hovered for a minute, white with a blue stripe and lettering that he was too far away to read, before landing on the plateau. • • • •

The cave rescue was soon to be big news in Lakemont County, and before long nationwide, as well, as several Mountain Rescue members, who were not of course covered by the federal gag order and had no interest in keeping the FBI’s secrets, would leak information to the press. Arriving on the plateau in a caravan of several trucks and Jeeps after a call was put in to the Sherriff’s department for assistance with the cave rescue, Lakemont County Mountain Rescue converged in the main grotto where Einar had been sheltering, to help in raising the injured man out of the narrow crevice, several of them working to rig the ropes as two others went into the slot to help Darren Raintree secure the injured man to a rescue

stretcher for lifting. The FBI agents on scene would not allow any of the Mountain Rescue personnel into the small grotto, where they had set up lights and were busy photographing the walls and collecting evidence. Curious, Liz, who had stayed behind with the group that was rigging the ropes to lift the injured man out through the crevice, crouched down at the entrance, Einar’s charcoal scratchings clearly visible on the white walls in the harsh light of the spotlight. A young agent was busy photographing the images, and she attempted to strike up a conversation with him, finally convincing him to allow her in for a look. She had never seen anything Einar had drawn, of course, but when she noticed the little oak leaf down in one corner of the mural, she was sure that the work was his. He is alive! Or was, at least, not too long ago, and doing well enough to take the time to scratch this story on the wall of the cave. Too bad they found this place, because it looks like a pretty good shelter. Where are you, Einar? Somewhere safe, I hope, and beyond their reach. Having finished helping with the setup of up a system of ropes and pulleys to haul the injured man up and out of the crevice, Liz, Allan and one other volunteer were sent back up to the plateau to begin setting up camp, as it looked like the rescue would be lasting well into the night. Darren Raintree, a number of feet lower than the others participating in the rescue, noticed something odd down below, a shapeless object that he could not readily identify, wondered, squeezed down into the bottom of he narrow crevice after they had raised the injured agent and picked up the elk hide that Einar had used to dislodge the agent and halt the search. While it was stiff and covered with drying mud from being dragged through the cave, the hide definitely appeared to Raintree to have been scraped and worked with some care, and was tied with what was obviously roughly made natural cordage of some type. Darren inspected it, turning it over and over in the beam of his headlamp, before letting it fall back to the bottom of the crevice where he had found it. Let the archaeologists wonder about that one, someday. Besides, he may be back for it. He did not mention the hide to his federal counterparts. Darren had done what he had come to do, had guided the agents as they searched and protected the caves as well as he could, and as a bonus had even discovered a cave previously unknown to him, while leading agents to a place that contained recent evidence of the subject of their search. And, his task accomplished, he was beginning to feel a bit of remorse for helping them continue so closely pressing a man who he had met, had hiked with and found not to be bad company at all. Having seen Einar’s improvised living quarters in the small calcite grotto, it had been clear to Raintree from the well-scraped and chewed animal bones, and not many of them, at that, and the remains of grubs that had clearly been used as food, that the man was struggling to get by. He doubted that Einar would return to the cave after such a search, but was half inclined to drop a dry bag with some additional supplies down beside the elk hide, just in case. From the still-wet mud on the hide, it was clear to Raintree that Einar had quite recently been in the cave, and, depending on what other access might exist and be known to him, very well might still be. He eventually decided against leaving supplies, knowing that the agents would likely take great exception to such an action, if it was to be discovered.

Watching the helicopter from beneath the shelter of an evergreen on the steep slope above the waterfall pool, Einar regretted that its sudden appearance had prevented him from attempting his climb up to the camp, not sure this time that he would be able to keep himself going without the food he had hoped to obtain up there. The escape from the cave and the subsequent crossing of the waterfall had taken all the strength he possessed, its completion leaving him very nearly unable to lift his head, let alone work to put the needed distance between himself and his pursuers. The thought of raiding the camp had given him something to focus on, and he had been pretty sure that with it as his goal, he could drag himself up the slope beneath that plateau, with the understanding that things would improve—or at least change—at the top. Change being the operative word, as he knew there was no real reason to assume that everyone would necessarily be underground, and he was under no illusion that he would be able to outrun or, at that point, even outsmart anyone he might meet. But it had been worth a try. Now, faced with a hungry night out in the open at 10,000 feet, wet and worn out and seemingly out of options, all he could think to do was to somehow keep himself moving. Another helicopter was arriving, this one larger and painted a flat olive drab, in contrast to the obviously civilian blue and white chopper that still sat perched on the plateau, he supposed awaiting the injured agent. He knew that the arrival of the choppers likely meant that they either had or were close to extracting the agent who had fallen, and were ready to transport him somewhere for help. The plateau would be crawling with people just then, and that those who were not down continuing with the cave search would probably maintain a presence there throughout the night as the hunt proceeded below ground. He wondered if they would find his exit point, knew that he had better find a way to get moving, not wait around to see. But first, he had to warm up some, even if it did mean losing some time. Looking around for a land feature that might best serve to conceal the little fire he hoped soon to have from the observation of anyone on the plateau, the best he could come up with was a little hummock where a large spruce had apparently fallen some years ago, its roots pulling up a large section of ground as it went down. He hauled himself up the slope to the place, rolled into the little depression in the ground behind it, leaning back heavily against the upflung roots of the tree with their load of dirt and duff. It will have to do. Time to see what I got left in here… He turned the sodden pack upside down and shook, dumping its contents into the depression beside him, regretting it the next instant when two cans clanked against each other loudly enough to alarm him. Got to be more careful! But at least that means I’ve got two cans left to clank together. Good news. He picked up the sardine can, set it on a log, found that the other remaining can was, indeed, the one in which he had melted the pitch for the pitch sticks, and which remained nearly half full of re-solidified pitch, its smooth surface gleaming in the evening light. All right. Gonna try this. He found the steel bar, which had somehow also managed to stay in the pack, looks like everything’s still here, actually, pressed it between his hands and began attempting to scrape some flakes from the surface of the hardened pitch, holding the can between his knees and struggling to get his shaking hands to perform the task. After a time he got a fairly good little pile of flakes and scrapings, fumbled in his pocket for the waterproof

match holder, relieved and a little surprised to find it still there, along with several of the pitch sticks, their wood of course thoroughly soaked. On his first try he dropped the match, searching for it on the ground in the near complete darkness and glad to find that it had not fallen in one of the small patches of snow that remained in the shadow of the uprooted tree. After several more careful attempts, he successfully lit the match, intending to push it in through one of the air vents he had poked in the side of the can, but realizing very quickly that he lacked the dexterity to do so. He ended up just dropping the match on top of the pile of pitch shavings, greatly relieved when they took, the little flame spreading through the shavings, growing, and eventually igniting the surface of the quantity of pitch in the bottom of the can. Einar shivered over the little stove, knowing that it would not allow him to dry his clothes, but hoping that perhaps it could warm him enough to get him moving up the slope, away from the plateau and the growing federal encampment that sat perched on the open ground on its top. Scraping up some of the crusty snow from beneath the tree roots, he set the sardine can on top of the can that he had turned into a stove, trying to breathe the steam as the water heated but getting nearly as much acrid pine tar smoke, before he discovered that he could avoid this by placing the can off to one side, instead of trying to center it. He drank the water as soon as it was warm, scraping up more snow to thaw and heat. In the light cast by the stove, which was not all that much with the sardine can partially covering it, he began inspecting a chunk of wood, part of a fallen and largely rotted aspen that had at some point fallen partially across the depression caused by the uprooted spruce. The section of tree had caught his attention because it had reminded him of the punky lower half of the spruce trunk from which he had collected the grubs back in the cave, and he began pulling away the blackened, crumbly bark, damp and almost squishy in places, glad that it had not yet frozen for the night. Sure enough, after several minutes of searching, he had come up with three fat white beetle grubs, not a feast by any stretch of the imagination but, he hoped, enough to give him a bit of energy for his travels that night. He downed the grubs with another can of melted snow, unaware—though it should have been one of the first things he thought about when choosing his location— that the glow from his little stove was being reflected off the smooth white bark of several nearby aspens, clearly visible from the plateau, if anyone chose to look in that direction. • • • •

Liz, her camp duties finished for the time, walked through the stunted aspens at the edge of the plateau opposite to the one that held the cave entrance where the agents and most of the Mountain Rescue crew were still working to bring up the injured man. It was after dusk, the sky clear with the chill of night having fallen quickly as the sun set. She had been drawn to the edge of the plateau, had wanted to get a view down into the canyon, finding it deep and prematurely black with the gathering shadows of night. Scanning the lower recesses, down where she knew the creek must be, she thought she saw a faint glow, looked again, keeping her eyes off to the side instead of focusing directly on the spot, and was sure. Assuming that it must be Einar down there, she wanted to go and

warn him of the federal presence on the plateau, wanted to take him some of the food and supplies that she was sure he could probably use, but she knew that to do so would almost certainly be to put him in greater danger, as she might very well be missed and followed, leading them right to him. As she watched, though, the glow grew brighter until it was unmistakable, obvious, a beacon to anyone who might walk away from camp and find themselves anywhere near the south end of the plateau. What is he thinking? She knew then that she must go and try to warn him, must do so very carefully so as not to bring anyone along after her. The rest of the camp occupants were still back near the tents finishing up their evening meal, and she hoped that Allan and the other Mountain Rescue volunteer might take her absence to mean that she had retired to her tent for the night. Which would not be at all like her, and would probably make them wonder, but she supposed could tell them later that she had not been feeling well. Trouble was, the pack with all of her gear was back in the tent, and there was no way she could go and retrieve it without being seen by the volunteers and the federal agents at the camp. She settled for hastily and quietly going to Allan’s truck at the edge of the encampment, where she had left a daypack with extra supplies incase they ended up being out for more than a day. It contained mostly clothing, but in its side pockets she also had stashed a number of other items, all of which she knew would be useful to Einar, if she did end up finding him. Cautiously latching the truck door without making a sound, she hurried back to the little aspen grove at the edge of the plateau, seeing that the glow in the canyon was as bright as ever. In the dimming light Liz tried to choose landmarks, something that would let her know where to look in case the fire had gone out or was hidden by a land feature once she reached the bottom, and she saw that it appeared to be near a spot where the canyon ended in a rocky bowl-type feature, and she supposed that if she descended, followed the creek nearly until that bowl, which she expected must contain a waterfall, from the looks of it, and climbed twenty or thirty feet up the opposite slope, she ought to be pretty near the fire. Wasting no time, knowing that someone at the camp could choose to explore the little grove of aspens at any time, and that, even worse, the Med-Evac helicopter would be taking off again as soon as they finally got the injured man up onto the plateau, she started down over the side, careful about her footing on the loose rock of the steep, sparsely vegetated slope. As she went, she told herself that even if someone else did end up seeing the fire, at least she, with a head start, ought to be able to reach it first, warn Einar that they were coming, maybe give him some chance of getting away before they arrived. Unless they sent up the larger chopper that had arrived that evening, bringing in additional agents to aid in the search. She knew it was equipped with FLIR, as she had overheard Allan talking about it with a couple of the agents. Put out that fire, Einar, or they’re going to have you! It took Liz longer than she had anticipated to navigate the steep descent to the creek and, by the time she reached it, she could no longer see any glow, was glad, hoped that meant it was no longer visible from above, either, but knew she must go check, just in case. The creek was wide and shallow at that point, crisscrossed by a network of logs and branches that had become trapped on the rocks when the water level went down for the night, and she decided to go ahead and cross incase it became narrower and deeper higher up,

slinging her boots over her shoulder and wading at times leaning into the current and using a stick to help maintain her balance, stepping from rock to rock when possible and using logs to aid her passage. Reaching the far side and sitting on a rock to put her socks and boots back on, she thought she caught a whiff of smoke, though it did not smell to her exactly like wood smoke. Making her way up the creek bank, Liz was pretty sure that the smoke smell was growing in intensity, though the growing breeze kept her from telling exactly where it originated from. There’s the bowl. Sounds like a waterfall, all right. So, just a little ways up the slope from here… She started up into the mixed evergreens and aspens of the mountainside, looking for any hint of brightness, searching for places that appeared to be likely locations for a man to shelter in. • • • •

Einar was asleep, lying on the damp ground in the hollow left by the fallen tree, curled around his little stove, which had long ago burnt up its supply of pitch and grown cold. He certainly had not intended to sleep, had planned only to warm himself for a few minutes and drink a bit of warm water before hopefully moving on, but his exhaustion had finally got the better of him, and he lay there as the evening went on, always intending to get up “in another minute,” but finally sleeping instead, quickly growing dangerously cold and rather too worn out to wake up and do anything about it. • • • •

Liz almost walked right past him, following the faint, lingering smell of smoke up the slope. A fallen spruce, its upflung roots looking wild and weird in the moonlight drew her attention, and approaching it, she saw him there behind the fallen tree, mostly hidden by the shadow of its roots, his face partially illuminated by a patch of moonlight that fell between the aspen trunks, looking terribly gaunt, hollow, barely alive. She would, in fact, have thought him dead, had he not still been occasionally shivering. “Einar?” She spoke quietly, not really expecting him to respond, but not wanting to approach him entirely unannounced, either. Einar’s eyes jerked open, though, he rolled to his stomach and pushed himself up to his knees, collapsed back against the tree roots, tried again and made it. “It’s all right. I’m alone. I don’t think they know you’re here. I saw your fire, but I don’t think anyone else did. Are you OK?” She didn’t really need to ask, though. He looked awful. And, at the moment, very confused. Einar shook his head, slumped back down against the roots. “Uh…no, no fire here. Too close…” His speech was slurred, indistinct, but she was somewhat surprised he was speaking at all, the way he looked. “You had a fire, a light of some kind, because I saw it. Here. This can. You had…what, pine sap in here? You were burning pine sap? They’re up there, you know,” she pointed in the direction of the plateau, “they’re camped up there,

and I was afraid they would see your fire.” Alarmed, he remembered the little stove, got to his knees again but could not rise. “Yeah. I…was cold. Waterfall. Had to…had to warm up so I could go...didn’t work.” “Waterfall?” She felt his sweatshirt, which was soaked and freezing, having barely begun drying before the fuel burnt out of his improvised stove. “You sure have a way of ending up in the water at the worst times….” She hurried to retrieve an extra polypro top from a stuff sack in her pack, but he pushed her away and curled up against the tree roots when she tried to help him into it, thinking her an especially persistent and somewhat aggravating illusion, just another product of his cold and deteriorating mind. All he wanted just then was to be left alone, to sleep, to lose himself again in the merciful dullness of unconsciousness that her arrival had so unkindly jarred him out of. Liz had other ideas. “What are you doing? Wake up! You’re freezing. I’ve got dry clothes for you. And food. Here.” She took some dried fruit out of a side pouch of her pack, insisted that he eat it. Einar chewed the dried apples, realizing that the energy they gave him was real, too real to be part of any dream or hallucination. He sat up slowly, squinted at her in the pale light of the quarter moon. “Liz?” • • • •

“That’s better,” Liz said, glad to see that the food seemed to have allowed Einar a bit more awareness of his surroundings. “Now stay awake, OK? Let’s get you into some dry clothes.” She removed the icy sweatshirt, helped him into the polypro top, zipped her jacket overtop to help keep out the chilly breeze, and did the same for the ski pants, glad that she was in the habit of always carrying an extra pair of polypro bottoms, also, which while they were too short, certainly fit him otherwise. She was very much alarmed at the amount of weight he seemed to have lost in the two months since she had last seen him. He really looked starved. “Einar, have you been eating at all?” “Not...much, I guess. Not enough. What…how did you…” he had meant to ask her how she had found him, but couldn’t seem to find the right words, at the moment. She pulled her stocking cap down onto his head, gave him some more of the dried apples from her pack, along with some of the almond and chocolate chip trail mix she always carried, but could see that he was too cold and exhausted for the dry clothes and food to be sufficient; he was going to need some outside source of heat. Liz knew that he was in trouble; he was hypothermic, disoriented and by all appearances badly undernourished, and she had only a few hours to get him warm, fed, to do all she could for him before she must head

back up to the plateau so as not to arouse the suspicion of her companions and have people come out looking for her. And she knew that they had better not stay where they were for much longer, because others could easily have seen the glow from the fire, could have decided to investigate its source. Einar, having finally realized that Liz, for once, was not merely a product of his imagination, was, in addition to being baffled about how she could possibly have found him, very concerned that she might have been followed, that someone else must have seen the light of his ill-conceived fire. There were things he needed to ask her, thing he needed to know about the search, but he seemed to be having a difficult time getting Liz to answer his questions, and supposed that his words must not be making as much sense to her as they were to him. Which they were not. And then, despite his best efforts, he fell asleep again. Liz could see that he needed the rest about as badly as anything, but knew that she must not let him have it, until she got him moved to a safer location and hopefully a bit warmer. She was not sure that he would even be capable of walking, but knew she had to try. Waking Einar with difficulty, she gave him several more of the dried apples that had seemed to help before, lifting him and helping him to sit up in the hopes of keeping him awake. “Can you walk? We need to get out of here, in case somebody else saw that fire. Understand? You have to try.” He nodded in agreement, stood with her assistance before remembering that he had dumped and left the contents of his pack, sank back to the ground and tried unsuccessfully to begin gathering his few possessions. Liz saw what he was doing, searched around until she had found everything and stuffed it in the coyote hide, slinging it over her shoulder and pulling Einar, who had nearly fallen asleep again, back to his feet. After several minutes of walking, Liz taking them across the slope towards the waterfall, knowing that in the other direction lay the road up to the plateau, she heard the sound of the Med-Evac chopper powering up, and they paused beneath a spruce as it took off, the sound of its rotors seeming to pierce through the fog in Einar’s brain sufficiently to get him standing up on his own again and more than ready to keep moving away from the plateau. Their progress was faster after that, Liz finally deciding that they had gone far enough when they descended down into a little gulley that bisected the slope and could no longer see the glow of the lights at the camp on the plateau. She chose a large spruce with a good pile of duff beneath it, kicked at the duff to fluff it up a bit and create a flat spot, and sat down near its trunk, getting Einar, who had sunk back to the ground as soon as she had stopped, in front of her where she could support him. Rummaging in the side pocket of her pack, Liz found a space blanket, some hexamine tablets, her little Esbitstyle stove and some matches, and hurried to set up an improvised shelter, wrapping the space blanket around the two of them and setting the stove on a rock between Einar’s knees.

Concerned that the faint blue glow of the hexamine might show from the plateau, but far more worried about the reality that she had to get Einar warm, awake, mobile and able to care for himself before she left in a few hours to head back up to the plateau ahead of the coming morning, Liz went ahead and lit two of the fuel tabs, filling the sardine can from Einar’s pack with water from her water bottle and setting it to heat. The burning fuel tabs quickly heated the air in the near-tent created by the space blanket, and as it warmed, Einar’s shivering become more intense, which Liz knew meant that he was finally beginning to warm. As soon as the water in the sardine can was warm, she stirred in a good quantity of the hot chocolate-Tang mixture she had stashed in a freezer bag in the pack, a habit that she had picked up from several of the other Mountain Rescue volunteers. The warm, sweet drink seemed to go a long way towards reviving Einar, who was able to drink the second can without her help. After that he slept for awhile, Liz holding him and keeping the space blanket around them as she wracked her brain trying to think of what to do next. She was really worried about his physical condition, realized that he was in serious need of food and rest, and lots of it, over an extended period of time, if he was to recover, spent most of the night trying to think up a way she could get him this kind of help, without getting him, and herself as well, killed or captured. Einar mostly slept, though whenever he woke, she tried to get him to drink some more of the tang mixture, and eat a few bites of trail mix. After, that was, she convinced him each time that he was in no immediate danger that required him to take off up the hill, and talked him into staying in the warmth of the shelter. Which was no easy task, and took all the patience she could muster. She knew that there might be people on the trail behind them by that point, but thought it likely that they would have got the FLIR-equipped chopper airborne to aid in such a search, if it was indeed happening. She certainly hoped so, hoped there would be some warning, hoped she would have time to get back up to the plateau and somehow sneak back into camp before anyone noticed her absence. If they had not already. Clouds were moving in, low, heavy clouds that had begun early in the night as a few ragged streamers that raced across the moon, building up against the distant peaks until they covered the sky, obscuring it and making Liz glad that she had a watch, because she knew that she would not otherwise have been able to tell when morning was nearing. Around 4am she decided that she must be going, woke Einar and encouraged him to eat some more trail mix, told him of the plan she had devised as a result of her night of thinking. It wasn’t much, but, she thought, was worth a try. “Einar, you follow this creek down a little ways, maybe a quarter of a mile, and you’ll come to the place where the road switchbacks to start up there to the plateau. There are a lot of trees around there, so nobody should see you. Wait there, and I’ll come for you tomorrow. In a white truck. Sometime around the middle of the day, to give those folks time to clear out from on top. OK? Think you can make it that far?” He nodded… “All right. I’ll take you somewhere safe. You understand? Where they can’t find you.” He nodded again, but she was not entirely confident that he understood, and even less so that it was something he would be willing to contemplate.…

She hated to do it, but had to take back her orange Mountain Rescue jacket back just before she left, knowing that its absence would certainly be noted back at camp. Einar said he understood, thanked her, mumbled something about being careful, and promptly went back to sleep. Wanting to keep him as warm as possible as he slept, she rolled him to the side, kicked a trench in the duff and lined it with the space blanket, rolling him on top of the blanket and wrapping it around him before piling a thick layer of duff on top of him, leaving only his face exposed. She wished her daypack had contained a couple of chemical heat packs, so she could have included them, as well, but it had not. I’m sorry, Einar. This is the best I can do for you. I really want to stay, but If I’m not back there pretty soon, we’re both going to be in a lot more trouble… “Please show up this afternoon, OK?” And she started down the slope, hurrying against the coming of morning and an increasingly restless wind that promised an impending change in the weather. Einar woke less than an hour later, knowing that he had to get moving and puzzled at the memory of a pleasant dream that had left him, it seemed, a good bit warmer and drier than he had been when he fell asleep. Attempting to rise, the crinkling of the space blanket very suddenly reminded him of just how he had come to be so dry and warm, reminded him that it had been no dream, and he hastily got to his feet, scrambling up out of the little gulley and looking up at the plateau, wondering how much time he had before the trackers reached his lower camp near the creek. • • • • Einar could clearly see the diffused glow from the federal camp reflected on the low cloud bank as he looked up at the plateau, wondering what the searchers had been doing all night that had required them to set up lights. Still searching the cave, I hope. Maybe it’s taking them a while, and they’ve set up some sort of a base camp up there. He shook his head, suddenly remembering lighting the pitch stove in what had to have been pretty clear view of that plateau, if not of the actual camp, despite the little hummock he had crashed behind. It had certainly made sense to him at the time, had seemed, in fact, like the only thing that made sense. Must have really been out of it, to think that. He still did not understand how Liz had come to find him, how and why she would even have been in the area in the first place, though some dim memory of their one-sided conversation that past night told him that it had something to do with Mountain Rescue. So…she is part of the search, then? This prospect alarmed him further, but it made sense, in light of her seeming hurry to leave that morning, saying that she had to get back somewhere before it got light. He really wished he had been more awake and aware that night, had been able to ask her some questions. Well you’re awake now Einar, so you better get busy in case they’re on your trail back there. Returning to his bed on the side of the gulley, Einar searched in the darkness for his coyote skin pack, finding it hanging from one of the lower branches of the spruce, Liz’s daypack beside it. It was too dark for him to get a good look at the contents of her pack, but he could feel that it contained a bit of clothing, a half-full water bottle and a length of

paracord, among other things. There would be time for further exploration later. He hoped. He was about to sling the pack over his shoulder when a thought struck him, causing him to toss it back down under the tree like it was full of copperhead snakes. If Liz is somehow associated with the search, doesn’t that mean that maybe there’s something planted in her pack? A tracking device of some sort, so they can watch me on a little screen somewhere and wait until I’m out in the open, or sleeping, and pop up over a ridge in a chopper and come take me before I can do anything about it? It seemed reasonable to think that they might have chosen to do it that way—perhaps they had seen his fire, knew where he was, but did not want to attempt to take him there, afraid he might escape into the creek or disappear in the heavy vegetation of the slope, instead choosing to send in someone he knew to plant the tracking device, allowing them to finish him off on their own terms. As he thought about it though, it made less and less sense to him that the device (he had convinced himself by then that there must be a device) would have been hidden in the pack. The feds probably would not have considered that a secure enough means of ensuring that they would be able to track him. They probably would have just had her put the thing in these clothes, or hide it in my hair, or have me swallow it with that drink she kept giving me… Rooted to the ground by his indecision, Einar very nearly made up his mind to put back on his old, wet clothes, abandon everything Liz had left him and take off up that ridge as fast as he could, hopefully leaving the feds to focus on his camp with the tracking device it would contain, their discovery of his location confirmed by a decoy he would construct from the space blanket and one of the trioxane tablets he guessed must remain in the pack. For a minute, it looked to him like the only way out of a certain trap. He had already begun hastily removing the polypro top when he stopped himself, struggled to push aside his growing panic and think through things logically. Yeah, OK, but this isn’t about logic. It’s about trust. And he trusted Liz. But what if they found out that she helped me before, threatened her with prosecution, and gave her the choice of serious prison time…or this? Do I really know for sure what she might do in a situation like that? He did not, of course. Knew what he wanted to think, but knew at the same time that it might have little to do with reality. For several minutes Einar stood there debating with himself, knowing that he was losing valuable time but feeling too lost and confused, himself, to make a decision, feeling rather more trapped than he had in the cave chamber with the water rising outside. She would have warned me. He finally decided. I know she would have found a way to warn me. And he knew it was the truth, knew with as much certainty as was possible for him considering the circumstances, and it was enough to get him moving again. Hastily pulling the space blanket up out of the needle-filled trench he rolled it up and added it to the pack, slinging both packs from his right shoulder and starting out up the gulley, after kicking the duff back into the depression where he had slept in what he knew would probably end up being an inadequate attempt to conceal the evidence of his camp, if anyone should discover it. After a few steps he stopped, returned to the spruce and did it right, carefully smoothing and scattering the needles and tossing a few sticks on top when he was finished, pressing them into the ground to make them look like they had

been there a while. Still, in the dark and finding himself dreadfully weary (another ten or twelve hours of sleep would have been real good, about now…) and rather clumsy he knew his efforts probably still left something to be desired, but he had to try. Wanting to give himself the best possible chance of throwing off any trackers who might be on his trail up from the river, or Liz’s trail, for that matter, he continued up the rocky gulley, watching his steps carefully and mostly sticking to the exposed patches of limestone that honeycombed the area. He topped out on the ridge not long after sunup, or what he guessed would have been sunup, had not the sky been so heavily overcast, and took a minute to rest under a fir beside an eroded grey spire of rock, looking down at the valley and clearly seeing the creek and the little road, beginning its switchbacking journey up the mountain just as Liz had described. He was not high enough to get a look at the flat area atop the plateau, but could see a dark colored truck and a Jeep slowly making their way down the increasingly muddy switchbacks. It was raining up there, or perhaps snowing, but it looked to him more like rain. He could see great sheets of it blowing across the top of the plateau, soon obscuring the little aspens that dotted its skyline. It was moving his direction, and would reach him before long. As cold as it was, he was pretty sure that the rain would soon change over to snow, even at the lower elevations. He was sure that the temperature had been dropping as he climbed, and more rapidly than could be accounted for by the gain in elevation. Looks like some fine weather we’re in for, today. There may be some hope yet. He wondered if they were still in the cave, still hunting him in there. Cave operations could be slow, he knew, especially if they were taking any sort of precautions with the thought that he could have rigged some of the passages to make himself more difficult to follow. Maybe that will keep them occupied while I get out of here… Which was his intention, having remembered Liz’s offer to meet him at the bottom of the road and rejected it without much thought as unreasonably risky for everyone involved. The precipitation began on Einar’s ridge as a thin, piercing drizzle that quickly drove him beneath the shelter of the thickest evergreen he could find, anxious to keep his clothes dry. As the wind picked up and sent the rain slanting nearly sideways, Einar hurriedly retrieved the space blanket from the pack, draping it over himself and huddling against the leeward side of the spruce trunk, waiting for some time as the storm broke over the plateau and ridge, cold rain drenching everything and eventually beginning to drip through the branches of his shelter-tree to land in a steady rhythmic pattern on the space blanket, nearly lulling him to sleep as he crouched there, dry and warmer than he had been for some time, despite the weather. Anxious as he was to keep moving, he decided to wait for a bit in the hopes that the rain would go ahead and turn to snow, knowing that he would have a far easier time keeping his clothes dry traveling in the snow than he would in the present rain squall. And, he told himself, the weather should prevent them for the time from using the larger chopper that he believed was still up on the plateau in any search for him, and ought to really slow any trackers who might be on his trail, also. Truth was, he was beginning to have second thoughts about Liz’s offer, beginning to wonder what the chances might be of such a

thing turning out well. He was tired. Dead tired, tired enough to sometimes catch himself almost wishing he would die, so he could finally have some rest. He knew that was a dangerous place to be, knew he needed the sort of rest and recovery that could only come if he was somewhere safe, where he did not have to be constantly struggling to maintain full alertness, constantly looking over his shoulder and waking in the night wondering if it was way past time to move on again, as well as attempting to secure food and find shelter and do all the other things necessary to keep himself going. But he knew at the same time that he would probably not get that, or anything approaching it, by allowing Liz to take him to someone’s house at that point. With the search as active as it was bound to be, surely they would have her under surveillance, would have him before they got out to the main road, let alone any distance from the center of the search. He rested his chin on his knees, drew the space blanket tighter around him in an attempt to keep out more of the biting wind, stared down at the brown snaking switchbacks of the road, blurry and nearly obscured by the rain. Einar felt a bit of sadness, of loss over the fact that he had not really been able to talk with Liz at all. He had certainly wanted to, though most of what he had wanted to tell her that past night had revolved around why she must never, never again take such a risk, must not try to find him, must forget him. Why anything else could only end in one or both of them being killed or captured. Perhaps, he told himself, he ought to be glad, after all, that he had not been able to express those thoughts to her. They sounded rather ungrateful, in light of what she had just done, and was offering to do. He knew he ought to have been thanking her, that he ought to be awfully grateful to her for keeping him alive that night. Looking back he was quite certain that the sleep her arrival had interrupted had not been a good thing at all, had not been something he had possessed the strength or ability to pull himself out of. It would have been his last. And he’d been too far gone to even realize it. He shivered, beginning to grow cold in the damp breeze of the ridge, decided that it was time to take inventory of the little pack and see if there was any food left. Hoped so. Looking down at the valley, Einar watched as a white king cab pickup made the last turn off of the switchbacks, stopping in a wide place just after they ran out. Someone got out of the driver’s side, raised the hood. He was pretty sure that he recognized Liz. • • • •

Liz hurried down to the creek in the predawn darkness, making sure to take a different path than the one they had climbed up on, so as not to leave an even more obvious trail than she expected she had already left. Crossing the creek was a bit more challenging without the light of the moon to aid her, but she managed it without incident, keeping up a good pace for the climb and topping out not too far from where she had started down the evening before. The camp was well lit, quiet save for the attached generators that powered the light towers, and she knew that she must not simply go walking back into camp without some good explanation for where she had been. Carefully making her way through the bushes some distance outside the circle of lights, she was glad of the hum of the generators, knowing that it would serve to cover any small sound she might make as

she crept over to the area where the Mountain Rescue volunteers had set up their tents. Liz had positioned her own tent off to the side, some distance from the others up next to a thick stand of chokecherry, and was suddenly very glad to discover that the brush should cover her approach, if anyone was watching. Crouching in the shadows just behind her tent, she saw that a couple of people were stirring, and recognized Allan and two of the other volunteers, standing around the fire and drinking coffee. The sound of muffled voices could be heard from the FBI portion of the camp as well, a light showing through the fabric of one of the canvas wall tents they had set up. Liz stepped out from behind her tent, yawning and walking over to join the little group by the fire. “Hey, Liz.” Allan noticed her first. “Wondered when we’d be seeing you. We were just discussing breaking down the camp and heading out pretty soon, ‘cause it looks like we’re in for some weather this morning. Snow, probably. And they,” he nodded towards the wall tents, “have made it pretty clear that they won’t be needing us, today.” As they loaded tents and gear into Allan’s truck, Liz tried several times to decide how to bring up the subject at hand. She didn’t have a vehicle up on the plateau, had ridden up with Allan, and knew that, while Einar would not like it at all, Allan he had to be in on it, this time, if there was to be any chance of success. She could see no way around it. “Hey Allan, can I drive down today?” He looked a bit puzzled. “Uh…sure. Fine. Why?” “Remember a couple of months ago when you said to let you know if I needed any ‘hypothetical’ help? Well, now I do.” It did not take Allan long to realize what she must be talking about, but he wanted more details before agreeing to participate. While he had some doubts about the wisdom of the plan as Liz described it to him, especially considering the rather large federal presence on the plateau, he did agree to help, said he supposed they could decide to have engine trouble on the way down, pull over at the bottom, and he could stay hidden so as not to spook Einar, but get out and appear to be working on the truck if anyone else came along. All that remained was for them to find a way to delay their departure so as to arrive at the bottom of the switchbacks closer to the middle of the day. This ended up being a nonissue, as two of the vehicles that headed down the hill ahead of them became badly stuck in a narrow, muddy portion of the track, which had been greatly worsened by the increasing rain, requiring several hours of work to extract them. • • • •

The rain had turned to snow as Einar sat there watching the white truck, had slowly begun whitening the saturated ground and plastering the tree trunks as the wind whipped it nearly sideways, entirely obscuring his view of the valley at times. He was hungry, getting cold, wanted to explore the contents of Liz’s pack for anything that might improve the situation, but waited, not wanting his next move, which he seemed to be

delaying with all his might, to be dictated by what he found in there. Which at that point he knew it very well might be, if he allowed himself to look. He was pretty sure that a discovery of minimal or no food in the pack would sway him in favor of heading down the ridge as quickly as possible to that truck, to warmth, shelter, food. And probable capture. The pack can wait. It was a silly thing, he knew, knew that if the pack contained food, however little there might be, he ought to be eating it to help keep himself warm and give him energy to keep moving, but Einar was learning something of how his mind functioned in his current depleted state, knew that with his resolve not as strong as it ought to be, he must allow himself, for the moment at least, to hang onto the hope that the pack contained a good bit of food. And maybe some dry clothes, because I don’t think these will be dry for long, in this storm. He rose, shook the accumulated snow and frozen rain from the space blanket, slung the packs over his shoulder. Good bye, Liz. Thank you. He turned away from the dimming image of the truck, of the road, of the valley below him, started up the remaining ground that separated him from the crest of the ridge, beset by a sharp sense of loneliness and loss that he had somehow managed to keep at bay throughout his entire ordeal up until that moment, but knowing that he was doing what he had to do, for both of them. Einar did not look back once he started up the ridge, and would not have seen much, if he had. He certainly would not have been able to see the two white vans that had pulled in behind and beside Liz and Allen’s truck, or the four men who quickly exited the vehicles to “assist” them. Nor would he have seen the insistence on the part of the friendly agents who, once the truck was running again, insisted on following Liz and Allen out to the main road, in case they experienced any further problems. The snow was increasingly heavy, wind driven and swirling along the ridge, cutting his field of vision down to the few yards that immediately surrounded him. Einar walked hunched over, leaning into the wind and hoping that it would lessen once he reached the crest of the ridge and headed down the opposite side, but finding the opposite to be true. The space blanket was helping some in his desperate efforts to keep his clothes dry, but he was finding it a constant struggle to keep the wind from snatching it away from him altogether, let alone prevent it from raising a corner enough to allow the wet snow in. He knew he needed to stop, to seek shelter and get out of the wind, but kept telling himself that he must go on, must put more distance behind him while the storm kept the choppers grounded and hopefully interfered with the work of the trackers. That thought kept him going down the backside of the ridge and a good distance down the valley this lead him to, traveling downvalley for the simple reason that he was too worn out to climb anymore. Finally, knowing that he must either stop and choose a place to shelter or have it chosen for him by his growing exhaustion, he picked out a stocky evergreen with lowsweeping branches and a boulder nearby to help block out the wind, dropping to his knees under the relative shelter of the tree and knowing that his immediate future would largely depend on exactly what he found in that pack. • • • •

Ducking his head under the space blanket to shield himself further from the wind, Einar found that beneath the spruce, its force was enough reduced that he could keep the crinkly mylar sheet in place by digging down several inches into the duff and piling it along the sides of the space blanket, leaning back against the tree’s trunk to finish pinning his little shelter in place. Cold and worn out from his extended struggle the storm, he took a minute to catch his breath before unzipping the pack, starting with one of the side pouches. The first thing he found was the little Esbit stove that he dimly remembered Liz using to heat water the previous night. Beside it was a tube of hexamine tablets, half empty. Wonder if these are some of the leftovers from my little cooking experiment… Pretty sure that he would not run across a better time to use one of the fuel tablets, if only because he knew he might not live long enough to find himself in greater need of them if he didn’t keep from getting too much colder, Einar shook one of the round tablets out of its tube and opened up the stove, pulling his sweatshirt out of the coyote pack to get at the single match left in its pocket. He hoped Liz’s pack might also contain some matches or other means to light a fire, but knew that the priority was to get warm; he could finish searching the pack in a few minutes when he stopped shaking so bad. Finally managing to get the match and the fuel tab lit, Einar huddled over the little blue flame, thinking after a minute to fill the sardine can from the half empty water bottle that Liz had left in the pack and get some water heating. Reminded by a fit of coughing that hexamine fumes were not the best thing to be breathing much of, he reluctantly adjusted his shelter so that his head was out in the fresh air, glad for Liz’s knit cap and the dense spruce branches that kept out nearly all of the snow, if not the wind. As the water heated and he regained some feeling in his hands, Einar tried to determine just how much snow had managed to get through his improvised poncho to dampen his clothes. Quite a bit, as it turned out, and the stuff had been wet and had melted quickly, soaking the sleeve and shoulder areas of his top and doing worse on the bottoms, where the space blanket had offered him little protection. Well…good thing this stuff really does still insulate some when it’s wet. Doesn’t feel great, but it’s an awful lot better than that cotton sweatshirt, anyway. But he was certainly not warm, knew he must not spend a night sitting still in his wet clothes, wondered just how many hexamine tabs it might take to dry them, and was quite certain that it would be many more than he had. Continuing with the inventory of the pack, Einar found, also in the side pocket, the length of paracord that he had earlier discovered, along with a waterproof match container which, when he shook it, sounded nearly full. Not as good as a fire steel, but sure is a lot more than I had, before! And food! In the bottom of the pouch was a plastic bag with the remains of the trail mix he had eaten the night before, some almonds and raisins and chocolate chips, and a full pint bag of what appeared to be the same mix. There was also another bag with some sort of mysterious brownish-orange powder, which upon smelling, he recognized as the source of the wonderful hot drink Liz had given him. Munching on trail mix and carefully pouring some of the powder into his heating water, he went on to explore the main portion of the pack, the contents of which were enclosed in a small white drawstring garbage bag, apparently to help keep them dry, which Einar was rather glad of, considering the weather. And considering the welcome discovery that the bag held a spare polypro top and a pair of black fleece pants of some sort, also dry. After

getting into the dry clothes, Einar found that the water was warm—not yet hot, but good enough, as the smell of the hot chocolate-Tang mixture was making it rather difficult for him to wait—and he drank it, refilling the tin to hopefully heat again before the fuel tab burnt out completely. The pack also held a small stuff sack with a lightweight rain jacket, which while too small for him, would be of some help, nonetheless. Two pairs of socks completed the contents of the main chamber of the pack, and were perhaps the discovery, up to that point, that delighted him the most. His feet, after so many days of existing in damp boots in the chilly weather, were in sorry condition and would be helped greatly by the ability to always have one pair of socks drying as he wore the other. Now if I can just stay out of rivers and waterfalls and rainstorms and swamps and things long enough to let my boot liners dry, I just might be able to get somewhere! In his excitement over the socks, Einar nearly forgot about the remaining side pocket, which would have meant overlooking three Bear Valley “Pemmican” meal bars, and a small commercial first aid kit, consisting of a bright yellow zippered bag approximately the size of an index card that held a few bandaids, gauze pads and some foil pouches of antibiotic cream among other assorted items, including a small nondescript pocket knife with a black Delrin handle and two not quite sharp blades, which he supposed Liz must have added to the kit. Feeling around in the bottom of the pouch, which he had supposed must be empty by that point or nearly so, he discovered something that he knew by feel and that brought a big grin to his face as he remembered the time Liz had introduced the stuff to him with the information that it could help a person “recover from starvation.” Well, too bad it doesn’t come in five gallon buckets, then…! Pulling out the jar of Nutella, he silently thanked Liz for keeping such a thing in her pack, deciding that there could be no time better than the present to begin “recovering.” After a couple of large scoops he reluctantly made himself replace the jar in the pack, knowing that it would be a rather unfortunate mistake to consume too much of the rich, fatty goo without giving his body some time to get used to eating again. That was it, the sum total of the treasure held by the pack, and Einar considered himself a rich man, indeed. And, with such a relative bounty of food in front of him to remind him of the fact, a very hungry one. He sat there slowly working on one of the Pemmican bars, staring sleepily at the remains of the fuel tablet as it burnt itself out, his thoughts drifting from one thing to another before finally settling on the question of what he was to do next. All he could come up with at the moment was to return to the plan he had been working on when he was halted by the temptingly secure shelter of the cave, which was to make his way deep into the area of wilderness that lay on the South side of the river, traveling far from the area of the search before hopefully finding a suitable location to set up a more permanent shelter and prepare for the following winter which, while the current early May snow squall could have easily fooled a person as to the time of year, he knew would be on its way all too soon. Well. First thing is to get a little further from that cave and the search, find a place to hole up for a few days, rest, eat, hopefully get to a point where I’m not trying to fall asleep every ten or fifteen minutes. Not gonna get too far, like this. And the words kept repeating themselves in his mind as he, not unexpectedly, drifted towards sleep only to startle awake moments later when he dropped the partially eaten Pemmican bar. He snatched it up off the ground and made a meticulous search for any crumbs that might have dropped, scarfing up and eating the

few he found. He had started out worrying that he might have trouble keeping himself from devouring one entire bar and starting right in on the next, but in the end found himself only able to eat a small portion of it before having to stop. He re-wrapped the unused portion and stashed it in Liz’s pack. The food and the hint of warmth provided by the blue flame had left Einar terribly sleepy, and seeing that the snow was still falling quite heavily outside the circle of protection offered by the spruce, he decided that he ought to be fairly safe lying down for a few minutes. He kicked out a trench in the duff, spread the space blanket in it and lay down, knowing that Liz had definitely done right by him when she had left him in such a shelter, wrapping up in the blanket and pulling duff back in overtop of it. Scraping up a heap of needles and piling them in a rough “U” shape around the area that was to be occupied by his head, he provided himself with a bit of further protection from the wind before lying down. Einar fell asleep with his arms around the pack, not willing to let the sustenance it contained any further from him than that, dry and out of the wind, dropping very quickly into a deep sleep as the storm raged on outside the shelter of the tree. • • • •

Waking with the distinct impression that someone or something was very close by, Einar kept still, listening, knowing that to move in the space blanket was to certainly give away his position. The footsteps he was hearing were heavy, lumbering, almost clumsy sounding, not at all like a person attempting anything approaching stealth, and he very carefully twisted his head in an effort to get a look. The snow had slacked off considerably, the wind died out altogether, though the clouds were still too low and heavy to allow him a guess at the time of day, but beyond a bit of sky and the heavy, crisscrossing boughs of the spruce above him, Einar could see nothing, nor would he be able to without sitting up. The noises had stopped altogether, leaving whatever was making them out in front of him and, he estimated, not far outside the circle of this shelter-tree. Then it moved again, this time letting out a distinctive whuffling sound that finally let Einar know just what he was dealing with. Bear! Probably a hungry one, this early in the season, and here I am with a backpack full of almonds and Nutella and stuff, right next to me. He supposed bears would find Nutella nearly as attractive a target as he did at the moment. The animal seemed to be approaching, and Einar knew that his best bet, unless the critter had cubs with it, and he’d just have to take his chances that it didn’t, was to make himself appear less edible and a bit more intimidating by standing up and making some noise. The noise was inevitable anyway, considering that he was wrapped in a sheet of mylar (heh! Maybe the critter would find the wrapper unappetizing and leave me after a couple of experimental bites?) and, not especially wanting the bear to get any closer he rose suddenly, shouting, seeing the bulky black form of the creature not ten feet from him just outside the low-swept boughs of the tree. It backed up a step, reared up on its hind legs, snuffling and sniffing at the air, Einar continuing to shout and wave his hands and shake the spruce branches as it finally dropped back to all fours, wheeled around and took off into the trees. Einar sank back to the ground, dizzy and close to blacking out from having stood up too

quickly, his heart pounding sickeningly at what had been, if not necessarily a near miss, way too close for someone who could hardly afford to be injured, or horrible thought! to lose what little food he had to a prowling bear. Wish I still had my bow or some other way to take the critter, though, because this food will not last all that long, and there was an awful lot of meat on that bear, if not nearly as much fat as there would be in the fall. Remembering how long it had taken the elk to die, though, he seriously doubted the wisdom of putting an arrow in a bear, even if he had the opportunity. Sounded to him like a sure recipe for a wounded, infuriated bear, and he figured he’d better be in or at least near a good tall tree if he ever tried that one. That, or come up with some better arrowheads. Or both. Maybe I’ll have a chance to work on that in a while. He knew, though, that the bulk of his diet that summer was likely to come from whatever he could snare, and while this meant mostly small game of the rabbit and squirrel variety, the addition of the paracord to his available resources meant that snaring a deer or even an elk was not totally out of the question. Einar took a big swallow of water from Liz’s bottle, ate a few more bites of the Pemmican bar, and decided that it was time to move on, lest the bear decide to come back the next time he fell asleep. Which he was fighting hard to avoid doing as he sat there, despite the excitement of the bear. He nodded, his head sinking toward the ground and resting for a moment on the pack in his lap before he startled awake, shaking his head and knowing he must get on his feet and put some more distance behind him while the snow was still falling to cover his tracks and keep search aircraft grounded. Repacking and zipping the pack, he realized that he had done a rather foolish thing, sleeping with the food so close, but the snowstorm had put all thought of bears out of his mind. Of course they would be awake, at that point, hungry, and probably looking for an easy meal, as the new snow made some of their normal food sources harder to access. Food gets hung from a tree from now on, when I sleep. And he knew he was not likely to forget, no matter how tired he happened to be at the time. Continuing to make his way down the little valley, sticking to the dark timber on its side to help conceal his tracks in the snow, Einar reached a place where the steep evergreen covered slope he had been traversing gave way to a broken landscape of jagged rock and scattered patches of vegetation as the ridge dropped off sharply into a meadow where the small creek he had been for some time noticing terminated in a series of small beaver ponds. On the far side of the narrow meadow the ridge again rose, rugged and steep and ascending up out of sight into the low cloud bank. Off to the left another valley joined the one he had been paralleling, and seeing that it took off in a direction that would lead him further from the cave, Einar decided to follow it, sorry that circumstances did not permit him to stay for a time near the meadow, where he expected he could have found a number of things to eat. He could see a fairly large area of cattails in the swampy area on the far side of the beaver ponds, last year’s stalks and leaves having been fairly well flattened by the recently departed snow load, but enough of them left standing to clearly tell him what he was seeing. He knew they ought to be beginning to send up new shoots about then, and there were always the starchy roots he could access as long as the ground wasn’t freezing hard. And he could use any of the fuzzy down the winter had left on those stalks as tinder, or, if there was enough of it, even to pad his clothing and offer him more insulation against the cold. Then there was the possibility of trapping a beaver or two, and probably muskrats at that series of ponds… But he knew the area was too open,

too close to the search for him to safely spend a useful length of time there. He did not even want to risk leaving tracks across that meadow to go take a look at the cattails, knowing that the snow could stop at any time, leaving the signs of his passing clearly visible to anyone who flew over before the three or four inches of heavy, wet new snow melted off. As warm as the days were becoming at these elevations and as saturated as the ground had been before the rain changed over to snow, Einar was hopeful that the snow would not linger long at all after the storm ended, erasing all the tracks he had made from his shelter beneath the spruce and hopefully leaving his pursuers without a clear idea of the direction he had taken. But he knew better than to take this for granted. It could just as easily turn bitterly cold for a day or two when the skies cleared, preserving his tracks for that time as if in wet cement. He chose his steps carefully with this in mind. Making his way down through the rocky outcroppings and scattered boulder fields of the ridge and starting up through the trees near the bottom of the narrow valley that he had chosen, he stayed low, paralleling a little creek that wound among the scattered aspens and evergreens of the valley floor. Einar usually preferred traveling near the crests of ridges, keeping to the high ground far above the valleys where he could keep an eye on the surrounding country and hopefully allow himself some warning if trouble was coming. That afternoon, though, he chose to stick close to the valley floor, knowing that, inclined as he seemed to be to fall asleep at random intervals, it would be wise to stay down where there were more opportunities for shelter, and where the wind was less intense. That, and the fact that he was finding it awfully difficult to climb very far at all that afternoon. As he slowly made progress up the valley, roughly following the little creek and finally reaching a point where he was fairly certain that he had put three or four miles behind him, he began looking for a place to hole up for the night, settling on a fallen spruce in a grove of evergreens some fifty yards up the slope from the creek. It was still light, but Einar was exhausted, dragging, more than ready for sleep and beginning to worry that he might make a serious mistake if he kept going. The storm seemed to be returning as well, the wind, even there in the valley, sharpening and temperatures dropping as snow again began spitting from the leaden sky. Crawling under the windfall spruce and finding the duff beneath it to be mostly dry and fairly thick, Einar decided that he had found his shelter for the night. He lay down, stretching out with the intention of “testing” the place, but instead falling asleep almost instantly. • • • •

Liz and Allan sat in somber silence as they drove down the remaining four miles of rocky dirt road that lead out to the highway, followed closely by their federal escorts. Liz started to say something once, but Allan motioned discreetly for her to be quiet, not knowing whether their entourage might have ways of eavesdropping on the conversation. They could discuss the matter later, in a more secure location. The snow became progressively wetter as they descended, splattering on the windshield as little balls of slush and finally changing over altogether to a thin, cold rain as they reached the valley and turned onto the highway, headed for Culver Falls and the Sherriff’s Department where the Mountain Rescue volunteers had met the previous morning and left their

vehicles to share rides up to the plateau. As they sorted gear in parking lot, Liz loading her pack into her truck, one of the Sheriff’s Deputies wandered over, asking Allan what the latest word was in the search of the cave. “Feds won’t tell us a thing,” the Deputy lamented. “Last we heard was that they got their man out of that cave and were flying him to Clear Springs. Sounded like he was in pretty bad shape. Rock fell on him, or something?” “Don’t know for sure. They wouldn’t tell us much, either. I wasn’t back in there where the accident happened—they mostly had me out with the crew rigging the entrance to lift the guy—and they wanted us up out of that cave just as soon as the rescue was finished. Insisted on it. One of the fellows that was back in that crack, though, said that it was all muddy and slick in there. Said it looked like the injured guy had slipped and gone down to the bottom of that crack, and there was some fresh rock fall, too. We were definitely acting on the assumption that he had some neck and head injuries. We finally brought him up around eleven last night, and they were kind of pressuring us all to pack up and go home right then, but we already had tents set up and everything, so we just told them ‘no.’ Haven’t seen Raintree since he went down there, and it seemed like five or six agents must have been down in the cave with him all night, because they never did come up, either. Two or three came up about halfway through the night, just after the chopper left, but that’s the last we heard from them. Overheard some of the agents talking this morning, and it sounded like they had found a bunch of tracks down there, all made by the same boots, and were just trying to figure out if he was still in there, or not.” “Well, I doubt it,” the Deputy responded, chuckling a little and heading for the door to get out of the increasingly heavy rain. “Way this thing has been going, Asmundson’s probably miles from that cave by now, sitting in a well-stocked old mine listening to the radio and laughing at the thought of those boys spending the day crawling around a cave looking for him. Though I did overhear a couple of agents in the Diner this morning discussing the possibility of calling in some military assistance to drop a couple of those Daisy Cutter bombs on that plateau, you know, like they been using in Afghanistan, and call this whole thing done. I think they were just joking, but I’m pretty sure they’d do it, if they could.” Liz and Allan went their separate ways, Allan telling her to let Bill and Susan know that he would be coming for dinner that night. Liz was glad; she knew she had to let them know about Einar’s situation, see if together they could come up with a way to help him. She knew Einar well enough to realize that he probably would not have showed up at the truck even if the agents’ arrival had not prevented it stubborn old independent fool! but hoped it had been his choice, rather than being dictated by the fact that he was still lying under the tree where she had left him, by then dead or close to it. That image would not leave her mind, and she really feared for his life, after seeing what a struggle it had been for him to remain awake that past night, let alone make sound decisions or do the things necessary to ensure his survival. • • • •

The wind picked up significantly as the storm moved in that evening, gusting down the valley and tearing at Einar as he lay under the fallen tree, shivering in his sleep as it flowed through his single layer of snow-damp polypropylene to chill him. Fortunately for Einar, one of the gusts also drove some of the dry, hard snow pellets through the protective roof of evergreen branches around him, stinging his face and waking him before too many minutes had passed. Shaking and chilled, he scrambled out from under the deadfall and to his feet, beating his good arm against his side and stomping around under the trees to get warm. Oh! That was a bad idea! Guess I can’t trust myself to lie down at all until I’m good and ready and have a warm bed all fixed up and my gear stowed somewhere safe. Not good. Squinting up through the branches at the stormy sky, he saw he was already beginning to lose the light, and headed down to the creek, wanting to refill Liz’s water bottle before the darkness became complete, and knowing that he had better move around and warm up a bit, anyway, before settling in for the night. Beside the small creek was a stand of cotttonwoods, one dead and fallen, its branches sticking up at odd angles, dry and grey and barkless after sitting for a number of years in the weather. He wished he could have a fire, as those branches would have allowed him a ready supply of nearly smokeless wood. It was tempting, as he knew the storm ought to keep search aircraft grounded for the night, at least, but Einar made himself walk on by the tree to the creek, knowing he was still too close to risk a fire. Moving as slowly as he knew he had been that day, he was aware that he could not have put that many miles behind him, and for all he knew, trackers and searchers could be out on the high ridges that evening, might potentially see the glow of a fire, or smell its smoke if he allowed himself one. He had food, clothes that remained mostly dry, and a big pile of spruce duff to burrow down in for the night, with the space blanket for added protection and warmth. He knew would make it without fire. But the fallen cottonwood did offer something else that Einar knew he could use to improve his situation that night. The bark of the tree’s main trunk, deeply ridged and well over an inch thick, had loosened over time, hanging from the underside in long, rigid strips, some of which nearly half as wide as the large tree. Carefully he pried at one of the strips, finding that it could be loosened and pulled off in one large chunk. He freed a number of the bark strip, also gathering a good quantity of the shreddy brown inner bark that was freed by this process, coiling up the flexible stuff and slinging it over his shoulder for future use as a weak cordage that would be similar, but slightly superior to what he had previously made from the inner bark of aspens. Loading his pile of outer bark strips and chunks on one especially large piece for transport, Einar filled his water bottle at the creek before struggling to drag the load of bark “shingles” up the slope to his shelter site. It was getting dark by that point, but he took a few minutes to lean the bark strips up against the main trunk of the fallen spruce he was sheltering beneath, kicking and digging around beneath another nearby tree and loading up a great heap of duff on the large bark slab, dragging it over to his shelter and adding it to the bedding it already contained. Now, dinner. Which consisted of the remainder of the Pemmican bar topped with a generous scoop of Nutella, with the thought that he had better give himself some fat to burn during the night, if he wanted a chance at staying warm. As he sat beneath the tree enjoying some much needed nourishment, Einar took stock of his remaining food, trying to decide whether he ought to

continue using it as travel food to allow him to get further from the search, or if he should work on setting some snares in the morning (bet a little smear of Nutella would be good bait for a row of squirrel snares,) staying where he was for a few days and hoping to supplement and stretch the food supplies in Liz’s pack. Having eaten, he prepared the pack to be hung for the night, stowing it in the garbage bag that it had been lined with, hoping to keep it from getting any wetter in the storm. The match case, spare socks, first aid kit and knife he stashed in his pocket, wanting to make sure something went with him, if he had to leave suddenly in the night without the chance to retrieve the packs. Looking up through one of the many gaps in the roof of his shelter, Einar drifted off to sleep with the idea that he ought to go down and get some more of that cottonwood bark, if he ended up staying more than one night. • • • •

The decision whether to leave the shelter at daylight or stay for a bit was made easier for Einar by the fact that he woke that morning with awful cramps and a feeling in the pit of his stomach that precluded breakfast and made it difficult to motivate himself to rise out of the drawn up position he had adopted sometime in the night when the trouble had begun. The motivation provided itself not long after daylight, though, when an urgent need to find the outhouse sent him scrambling out of his improvised sleeping bag and shelter to stumble a few steps down the hill and crouch beneath a spruce. Dragging himself back up the hill, he crawled under the fallen tree, glad that its boughs and the strips of bark he had added had kept nearly all of the night’s snowfall out of his shelter. Rolling back into his bed and hastily scraping some of the duff back over himself he lay there for a minute shivering in the morning chill before summoning up the strength to reach a hand out for his water bottle, sipping from it and nearly spilling it before getting the cap back on. He was dizzy, lay his head down, thinking that he was probably just experiencing the beginning stages of the discomfort he had gone through twice before when he had finally begun eating again after extended periods with very little. Better back off some on that Nutella, today… Which proved not to be a problem, as the very thought of food of any kind turned his stomach and made him scrunch his eyes shut and take deep breaths in an attempt to control a growing nausea. That worried him some. Before, he had always found food very appealing during the times when his body was readjusting to eating, he just hadn’t been able to handle much of it at once. He wondered if something else could be going on to cause the nausea, hoped not. Though he felt more like sleeping than anything, Einar was determined not to go back to sleep just then, having decided that he really needed to get himself further from the cave before settling down for the days of rest that he knew he needed. The fallen tree shelter with the protective slabs of cottonwood bark he had added was a tempting argument for staying, though, as he knew that with a few hours’ work, he could haul up a bunch more of the bark slabs, weaving the wide, flexible inner bark strips between layers to add insulation and help waterproof the shelter. Add a long curved section of bark horizontally

across the top to help shed water, stuff in a bunch more dry duff from beneath the surrounding trees, and he would have a snow proof and very nearly rainproof shelter in which he could spend a few days resting snugly, without even the need of a fire. He could tell from the way he had felt after a couple of meals and a decent night’s sleep— well, the way he had felt, anyhow, before the latest problem set it—that it would only take another day or two of such conditions to allow him to be in much better position, as far as being able to travel and work at obtaining more food. His mind felt clearer and sharper that morning than it had in some time, despite the new digestive troubles. And the fact that no one had shown up yet had encouraged him that perhaps they had not discovered his trail up from the river before the storm had moved in, but he did not want to take that for granted. Knew he really ought to move on, despite the favorable shelter situation in his present location. The thing that finally tipped the balance in favor of leaving was the reality that whatever was causing the cramping in his gut and the increased feeling of shakiness and weariness seemed to be worsening, despite the fact that he had eaten nothing since the previous evening. He was beginning to be convinced that it must be something more than the typical problems associated with adjusting to the availability of a reasonable amount of food again. Got to move now while I can, then, in case this turns out to be something serious (heh! Almost anything’d be serious, at this point, Einar…) or long lasting, and I end up incapacitated for a couple of days. Like to be further out if that happens, hopefully far enough that I can have a careful fire under the right conditions, in case I need a little help staying warm from time to time. Einar walked slowly, bent over, the slung packs seeming heavier with each step and himself feeling terribly hollow and sick inside, having to stop frequently to crouch beneath trees and making an effort to sip some water each time, but knowing that he could not possibly be coming close to replacing what he was losing. Finally he had to sit down, and when he looked back and realized just how little distance he had covered, he came close to giving up for the day and curling up beneath the nearest tree to sleep. The sky was clearing, though, and he knew that it probably would not be long at all before an air search became active, and he very much wanted to be further out before that happened. Finally his halting movements worked themselves into something of a routine —get up, take a few steps, lean on something and rest, do it again…again. He found that it helped if he picked a landmark, preferably something not too distant at all, and focused on reaching that, not thinking of what would come after until he did. Breaking up the distance in this way seemed to make the travel a bit more manageable, less overwhelming, and the next time he allowed himself to look back, five landmarksegments later do five…you gotta do five before you can look back… he was pleasantly surprised at the amount of ground he had covered. Swaying, he sank to the ground to rest, crawling under a spruce and leaning against its rough trunk. Though he was slowly gaining elevation, the snow was melting as the day warmed; in the stillness he could hear dripping and the sound of percolating ground as the moisture trickled down through the recently thawed dirt. Spring. He closed his eyes, listened for a minute to the sounds of the thawing and awakening world around him. And then he heard something else, something that made him very glad he had insisted on putting more distance behind him, despite the way he felt that morning.

The helicopter was blocked from view by the evergreens, but Einar could tell that it was back in the area of the ridge he had climbed up and over the morning before, moving slowly, hovering occasionally as it scoured the area for any sign of him. He hoped the falling snow had hidden his tracks well enough, or at least that the new snow was as nearly gone back there as it was in his current location to prevent them seeing sign of his passage and guessing at his movements. The chopper did not seem inclined to head up his valley at all, and after a few minutes he rose slowly, tightly gripping a branch to steady himself and looking up the valley in an attempt to determine the best route that would give him continued concealment from the air. He was dizzy, knew he should eat something, knew he needed energy if he was to continue, but food still sounded entirely revolting, so he compromised by stirring and dissolving the tiniest amount of the chocolate-Tang mixture into his drinking water, finding that he was able to keep down the results, and benefited almost immediately from the energy boost provided by the sugar. OK. This will work. I can keep at this for a while. And he did, making himself take a sip or two of the sweetened water every time he stopped to rest, whether he felt like it or not, because he knew that serious dehydration was a real danger at that point, and as he was having to stop for rest pretty frequently anyway, this system ensured that he was getting at least a minimal amount of water and a bit of energy back into himself on regular basis. He traveled that way all morning and into the afternoon, hearing the almost constant rumble of a helicopter behind him, but getting a glimpse of it only a time or two, and at a good distance. Einar’s long-range goal had for some time been a low spot in a rocky ridge that he got an occasional look at when the trees thinned out, thinking that if he could use it as a pass to get over to the backside of that ridge, he would finally be satisfied enough with his distance from the center of the search that he could begin to think seriously about finding more lasting shelter. Emerging from a stand of firs at the edge of a little meadow he was able to look up the valley and see the ridge, not more than a mile distant by his estimate, the low spot not looking nearly as low now that he was closer, but the route was still, he hoped, doable. A scattering of spring beauty plants covered the soggy meadow, their succulent leaves and small pink and white flowers flourishing in the moisture of the recently melted snow, and he stopped for a few minutes to dig a handful of the bulbs, which was fairly easy with the soft, damp ground. He still was not feeling much like eating, but knew that he must be on a constant lookout for additional sources of food. The last time he had stopped to rest he had tried eating a few bites of trail mix, but it had upset his stomach and gone right through him, discouraging further tries, for the time. As he dug the little marble sized potato-like bulbs of the spring beauty, Einar wondered whether he could have picked something up from drinking that stagnant water in the little cave pool before boiling it, when he had first discovered the large chamber and had been rather desperate for moisture, or if his malady might be the result of eating the spoiling sheep meat, that last night in the cave. It had tasted pretty ripe, please…think about something else! but he doubted that was the source of his troubles. He’d boiled the stuff rather thoroughly, which should have killed almost anything that would have made him sick. And he would have expected to start seeing symptoms earlier, anyway, if that was it. Who knows… Later that day he knew, as the origin of his distress revealed itself just

before he started up over the ridge in a series of sulfur-tasting belches that told him he had likely acquired Giardia. Had to be that water in the cave, I guess. Too soon, if it was the creek by last night’s shelter. Though drinking that probably wasn’t the brightest idea, either, knowing that there were plenty of beavers in the area. He’d had Giardia once before, or had been pretty certain of it, anyway, and it had been unpleasant, but not a disaster. Of course, he had been at home then, had been well fed at the start of it and had not been attempting to evade anyone, so he knew that might have colored his perspective some. As he remembered, he had managed alright, and been back to normal in seven or eight days, more or less. A number of pounds lighter, though, and it had been a mild case. He sure hoped he was wrong about his diagnosis, because he certainly did not have ten or fifteen pounds to spare, this time around, and already the malady, if it was indeed Giardia, seemed far more serious than what he had dealt with previously. He assumed this would be largely due to his already compromised health and an immune system that couldn’t be operating at full strength after so many weeks of near starvation. The prospect scared him a little, but at the same time made him all the more determined to find good shelter before the malady had the chance to weaken him any further, as it seemed rather determined to do. The sun was beginning to peek through the dispersing clouds, and Einar pulled the damp polypro layer that he had been wearing in the snowstorm out of the pack and attached it, tops and bottoms, to the back of the pack where they could dry, hoping perhaps to have something dry to change into when he stopped for the night. As he climbed the ridge, heading for the low saddle that he had seen from a distance and taking care to keep beneath the trees, Einar’s view of the country behind him improved until he could clearly see what he believed to be the backside of the ridge he had stood on as the snowstorm moved in, watching Liz’s truck and making the decision to turn away. May end up regretting that, if this case of the runs doesn’t clear up pretty soon. Kinda wish I had a few gallons of that rehydration stuff she mixed up for me, when I was at her house last time. Already the snowy morning on the ridge and his last meeting with Liz seemed like quite some time ago, a thing dim and hazy with distance, as was the ridge. Hmm. Or maybe it’s just my eyes again… He shook his head to clear his blurring vision, steadied himself against a tree. A helicopter, hovering over the ridge in what he expected must be the ongoing search for him, appeared as little more than a speck in the sky, the rumble of its rotors barely audible over the slight breeze that sighed through the spruces. Einar nodded. He had gone far enough. Whatever awaited him on the other side of the saddle, he would hope to be able to make his home there, for a time. • • • •

The sky had cleared completely as the afternoon went on, and while Einar was enjoying the sun, he knew that the clear weather would also make for a colder night than the last several had been. Reaching the crest of the ridge he scanned the basin that opened out below him, looking for a likely place to shelter for the night. Checking the polypro top that he had secured to the outside of the pack he found that it had barely begun to dry, and would not be much help to him that night. Insulation was going to be big priority.

As he descended into the basin, heading for a large swath of dark timber on its far side, Einar surprised two grouse from beneath a stand of small firs, watching as they went flying clumsily off to roost in a large spruce some twenty yards down the slope. He knew that he ought to be looking at the birds as a food source, ought to be trying to come up with a way to take one or both of them, and the mild, detached curiosity with which he regarded their flight alarmed him a bit. A day or two before, the birds would have had his complete and entire focus, until he had either found a way to procure them for his dinner, or exhausted every option in the attempt, and here he was about to continue down the hill without giving them a second thought. Whoa, Einar. Wake up! Just because food doesn’t sound good right now doesn’t mean that you get to slack off on this. You’re gonna be needing every bite you can get your hands on, soon as you’re able to eat again. He sat down, quietly opened the pack and pulled out the coiled length of paracord that he had used the previous night to suspend his possessions out of the reach of curious bears. Studying it, he tried to think of a way he could create the device he had in mind without cutting the cord, but could not, and ended up using Liz’s pocket knife to cut three two foot lengths out of what he estimated to be twenty or thirty feet of cord, tying them together with a simple overhand knot at one end. Searching around on the rocky ground where he sat, he found three roundish rocks, giving preference to ones that had irregularities that would help retain the loops of cord he intended to tie around them. He knew that smoother, rounder rocks might have been preferable, but did not exactly have the time at the moment that would have been required to work grooves into such rocks to prevent the cord from slipping. The rocks tied on, he tested the weapon, slinging it around several times before deciding that it ought to do. If his aim was any good. He would have liked to have some practice before attempting to use it on a grouse, but figured he might as well give it a try. Quietly making his way closer to the spruce where the birds had roosted, he finally got within fifteen feet of them, carefully stepping out from behind a low fir and whirling the hastily improvised bola a few times before releasing it in their direction. After the turmoil of flying feathers and frantic squawking settled down, he was able to see that one bird still sat up in the tree, one wing bent back at an odd angle. Well. He had hoped that the bird would become tangled and fall to the ground, but saw now that such a thought had been absurdly optimistic, considering the number of branches that surrounded the bird. Looking at the situation he was, in fact, amazed that the weapon had not become tangled on a branch short of the birds, letting them fly away to safety. So. Guess I’m climbing this tree. The spruce had many low branches and he did fine at first, even climbing as he was with one arm, but after the first six or seven feet of climbing Einar had to stop and rest, leaning over a branch and panting to catch his breath, deciding that he must have seriously underestimated how greatly his unfortunate intestinal troubles had weakened him that day. He finally made it up to the bird, quickly twisting its neck to dispatch it before untangling and dropping it to the ground, very nearly following the grouse in its tumble, as he was overcome by a wave of vertigo that left him clinging blindly to the tree, his arms wrapped around a branch as he struggled to maintain consciousness. After a minute the spell passed and Einar worked his way shakily to the ground, slumping down heavily beside the dead grouse and resting his head on his knees until he was able to rise and continue slowly down the slope, carrying the bola in case another opportunity should present itself. This is a fine way to

take birds, but only use this thing on open ground from now on…please. At least until you can climb trees again. Reaching the dark timber that he had set as his destination for the evening, Einar discovered the whole slope was damp from the seeping of the melting cornice far above, and as he tried to burrow down in the duff beneath his chosen tree, he found the needles on the surface damp, the duff frozen solid not two inches down. He kicked at it, finally managing to free a large frosty chunk, but realizing that the dense, icy mess had little to offer him in the way of protection from the cold. He explored several other nearby trees, finding the situation to be similar with each. The sun was gone, temperatures were falling rapidly and Einar was beyond ready to stop moving for the day. He knew that the situation might be a bit better over on the other side of the basin, but the trees were not as heavy over there, the slope rocky and the vegetation scattered, and he really wanted to be in or at least near the protection provided by the mass of dark timber on his side of the basin, just in case the ongoing air search happened to work its way into his area during the night. Well, I can make it work. Won’t be as good as the cocoons I had the last two nights, but it’ll keep me alive, and that’s the whole point, right…? And he began breaking and gathering spruce boughs, piling them behind the trunk of the tree where the ground was, if not flat, at least not so steep that he was likely to roll down the hill as soon as he fell asleep. Despite his confident assertions to the contrary, Einar felt sure he was going to freeze that night as his growing dehydration greatly reduced his resistance to the cold, leaving him clutching the space blanket around his shoulders and wishing he could have a fire as he shivered on his bed of spruce boughs, forced to rise frequently by his grumbling gut and growing colder each time he had to leave the minimal protection of his improvised bed. Though temperatures barely dropped below freezing that night, Einar could have very easily been convinced that it was colder than all but one or two of the others he had spent out in the open that past winter, despite the dry fleece layer and space blanket. He tried pulling his still-damp second pair of clothes overtop the space blanket where it seemed that they might least offer some additional insulation, but after having to rise for the third or fourth time, he stopped bothering. It seemed that he barely had time to begin warming before he had to scramble up again, anyway, and after several long sleepless hours of this he finally decided to use one of his two remaining fuel tabs in an attempt to warm up. Sitting on the spruce boughs with the mylar sheet around him and the Esbit stove precariously balanced on the uneven pile of branches, Einar huddled over the little blue flame and heated himself a sardine can of slightly sweetened water, remembering to retrieve the bola from the spot where it hung on the tree and melt the freshly cut ends of the paracord over the flame to prevent them from raveling further. Feeling a bit better after the drink and the ten minutes of warmth afforded him by the hexamine, Einar finally fell asleep sitting up as dawn neared. When he woke again and looked out at the suntopped evergreens and rock escarpments high up on the opposite slope, it was with the determination that he had to find better shelter, and perhaps also a way to add a layer of insulation to his clothing before night came again. But not before he made an attempt to halt the worsening intestinal troubles that seemed to be rapidly sapping what little strength he had left and interfering with what would have otherwise been an excellent

opportunity to rest, eat and recover. Under other circumstances, Einar’s typical course of action would most likely have been to wait for the ailment to run its course, making sure he got enough to drink and dealing with the difficulties it presented as well as he could, but he knew that in his current state, the inability to keep any food or much water in him could be the thing that finally did him in. Gotta find some way to get rid of this thing. His only thought was to find some Oregon grapes, whose roots he had used successfully for other maladies in the past. He was pretty sure he remembered hearing that the berberine they contained had been successfully used to treat Giardia, and had been proven in several studies to be nearly as effective as the prescription drugs that were commonly used for the same purpose. He could not recall the study in enough detail to remember how much of the root extract the subjects were taking, but it seemed to him that it had been quite a bit. Better find a great big patch of the stuff, then, and get busy. He had to give it a try. Didn’t know how many more days of this he could take. • • • •

Up at Bill and Susan’s the night after Liz and Allan came down from the plateau, the talk centered, of course, around the search, Bill questioning the two of them in an attempt to find out as much as he could about recent federal activities. Ordinarily Bill would have participated in the rescue operation himself, but after the failed federal raid on his house, he had taken a leave of absence from his Mountain Rescue duties, which would have occasionally taken him far from home, leaving it unprotected. There had been no further trouble with the feds, and the word, at least when they spoke publicly about it, was that the rockslide that had halted the raid was believed to have been “accidental.” Bill was certain, though, that they must know more about its cause than they were willing to let on publicly, and expected that he would have to deal the repercussions at some point. Bill was anxious to hear about the search, and Allan gave his report of the federal activities on the plateau and the small amount of additional information he had learned from speaking with two or three of the agents at the camp, Liz going on to describe the charcoal drawings in the calcite chamber. Rob, who had been invited up for dinner as well, listened attentively to their report. Before sitting down to supper, Liz had taken Bill aside and let him know that she had something of a rather serious nature to discuss with the group. Finished eating, they adjourned at Bill’s suggestion to the Quonset up the hill that housed his workshop, setting up a circle of folding chairs. All particularly sensitive matters were discussed out there rather than in the house, as Bill considered it a bit more secure against unwanted listeners, being a windowless metal structure that he, in recent times at least, regularly swept for listening devices and cameras. “Liz, I believe you had something else you wanted to bring to out attention?” Bill asked, sitting down and pulling his chair into the circle.

“Yes.” She hesitated. Hope this is the right thing to do here, Einar. “I was…walking near the south edge of the plateau last night and saw a glow, like from a fire, down near the creek.” She had everyone’s complete attention at that point. “I know I probably shouldn’t have done it, but I climbed down there and went looking for where that light had been, smelled some smoke…” She glanced from Susan to Bill to Rob, trying to reassure herself that she was indeed safe telling them what came next, though she already knew it. “He’s pretty bad off, guys. He…” “Whoa, Liz!” Rob stood up suddenly, causing his folding chair to scrape noisily across the cement floor. “You trying to tell us you actually found Einar? No way!” She nodded. “He was all wet and frozen, said something about a waterfall, but he wasn’t making a lot of sense.” “How’d he know you weren’t a fed? I mean, didn’t he try to run or anything?” “Rob, slow down,” Bill insisted. “Let the girl tell her story.” “We had…sort of met before,” she responded, staring at the floor and clearly not too interested in giving more details. “I knew it!” Allan chimed in. “He was at your house uncle’s house last winter, wasn’t he? When you were asking me all those questions about starvation and deficiencies and were acting all weird and everything?” She shrugged, nodded, looking exasperated. “Allan…yes. But I don’t think it’s a good idea to go into the details. The less everybody knows, the better, right?” Bill agreed, and Allan dropped the matter. “I wasn’t going to bring it up at all,” Liz continued, “but I really think he needs help. I was…we were,” she indicated Allan, “going to try to meet him on our way down and take him somewhere safer, but these two vans full of FBI agents ended up coming down right behind us, and they stopped to see if we needed help, then insisted on following us out. And I don’t know if he would have shown up, anyway. He’s been pretty determined not to accept any sort of help.” Bill nodded, scowling thoughtfully at the floor for a minute before answering. “Smart guy, I’d say. You know, Liz, whatever he’s been doing seems to have been working pretty well for him, so far…” “It’s not, though, right now. He’s starving. I mean, literally. And he’s hurt, he was hurt before, and I don’t think he really ever had the chance to heal from that, and now he

seems to have one arm that he really can’t use at all. I left him my daypack with some dry clothes and a few other things in it, but he could barely even stay awake long enough to eat last night, and when I finally got him up and walking, he was falling asleep on his feet. And I know he wouldn’t like that I’ve even mentioned any of this to you, and I wouldn’t have, but I’m really afraid that he might still be lying up there under the tree where I left him…” Liz had been very calm and matter of fact up to that point, but Susan, sitting next to her, could see that she was beginning to tear up a little, and reached out to squeeze her shoulder. There was a long silence, broken only by the crackling of the logs in the 55 gallon drum that Bill had turned into a wood stove to heat the shop. “Bet I could find him,” Rob spoke first. You give me a starting point, show me on a map where you left him, and I’ll track him down and make sure he gets some help.” “And how’s he going to know you’re not one of three or four federal tracker teams they’ve probably got out there looking for him at this point?” Asked Bill. “Seems like it has not always ended well for the people who end up pressing him too closely. How many of those federal boys have made that mistake now? Three or four, it seems like. More, if you count the chopper incident. I wouldn’t necessarily want to be the one to come across him, even if he is having a hard time of it. Maybe especially then. And at the very least, you’re going to cause him to take off running again, which sounds like the last thing he needs right now, assuming he’s even mobile.” Rob nodded, but he wasn’t through. “Well, Einar’s not the only one who can come and go without leaving much sign. I’ve got some practice at it, myself. And I’m not interested in getting close enough to try and convince him to come in, or anything. Just want to find him, make sure—from a distance—that he’s up and mobile and not needing any emergency assistance, drop off some stuff and head out without him ever seeing me, hopefully.” Bill was shaking his head. “Rob, as one of Jeff’s closest associates, don’t you think they’re probably watching your every move, hoping you’ll eventually lead them to him? And that’s even if they don’t know anything about your role in Metz’ well-earned little mishap…” He shot Rob a mischievous little grin, chuckling at the memory of the debacle but quickly regaining his somber demeanor as he awaited Rob’s answer. “Mmm… I know they got me under at least occasional surveillance, ’cause it’s hard for them not to be a little obvious at it, out where I live. But it doesn’t seem to be constant, and I’m pretty sure I can get out from under it, especially if I can get a ride with somebody. I wouldn’t start anywhere near the access road to that plateau, either. I’m pretty familiar with the area, and there are several other starting points I could use that would throw them off pretty bad, even if they did spot me on the way to one of them. Who knows? Maybe I could no more find him than them feds have been able to, but I’d kinda like to try. Figure we owe the poor fella something for tying up all those federal resources for so long. I mean, who knows how many lives he may have saved, just

keeping them occupied like that? Plus making them burn through several years’ worth of operating funds, most likely, just running around the hills making fools of themselves! It’s been downright entertaining, at times.” “Ha! That it has. I want to do something for him as much as you do, Rob, and I know you have the skills to get out there and do this safely, but…. Well, man like that would probably rather just be left to fend for himself than risk having a tracker or somebody follow you as you hunted for his hideout. It’d sure be an awful shame if anything we did ended up leading to his capture, after all he’s chosen to go through, avoiding it.” Susan excused herself and left for the kitchen to make coffee. It was clearly going to be a long night of debate and discussion. • • • •

Einar got all of his gear rounded up and slowly started out for the other side of the basin, where he had decided on a large clump of spruces around what appeared through the shadows to be a rocky outcropping as a likely place for a shelter. Hurrying as well as he could across the open space pf the meadow and pausing to refill his water bottle at the little creek that ran through it, he began climbing the opposite slope, moving with difficulty through a series of worsening stomach cramps and stopping when he stumbled across a good sized patch of Oregon grapes under some aspens at the meadow’s edge. Good. Now I can give these a try. Better get started… And he wiped the dirt from one of the roots, chewing on it and fighting hard against the nausea as the bitter juice trickled down his throat. Hope it helps. About halfway up to the shelter site he stopped, dizzy and knowing that he must try to drink something before going further. Despite his efforts at hydration, his legs seemed to be cramping up at every opportunity, and his eyes and mouth felt terribly dry and sandy that morning, which he might have attributed to the slight fever that he was pretty sure he had, except that he had noticed at the same time that the flesh on his hands appeared strangely hollow, sunken, and feeling his face, he found it to be the same way. He was beginning to be seriously worried about his apparent inability to keep up with the amount of water he was losing. He sipped from the bottle before pouring some water into the sardine can and adding a bit of the remaining Tang mixture. Einar knew that in addition to the sugar water he had been managing to take sips of, he must be in serious need of salt and electrolytes by that point, but when he tried eating several of the salted almonds from the trail mix, he quickly discovered that eating was not yet a good idea. He had a thought, put a number of the almonds in the sardine can and poured water over them, swishing the water around to help dissolve the salt before removing the almonds and setting them on a nearby sunny rock to dry. Adding a pinch of the tang mixture to the salted water he drank it, immediately feeling a bit better and knowing that he had settled on a way to create a weak improvised electrolyte mix, of sorts. Of course it was not complete, and he would soon run out of salted almonds to soak anyway, but it had to be better than nothing. He sat there letting his body absorb

the drink for a minute, trying to think what he could have replaced it with, if he had not had access to the drink mix and almonds. Guess I could have tried to get some more box elder sap for the sugar, if I was able to find some of the trees, but salt…that can be more difficult. Though I do have that grouse, and blood is salty, so I suppose that would help, if I could stomach it. He supposed it ought to contain a useful amount of potassium, as well. And the eyes. The fluid in the eyes is especially salty, if I remember right, though there can’t possibly be much of it in the tiny eyeballs of that grouse… He figured he might as well try it anyway, being pretty sure that the bird’s blood, which he had caught and kept in his cooking can the previous evening, would be too substantial for him to stomach at that point. Though as he began to get a bit better, he could perhaps benefit from beginning to add it, also, to his water as he drank it, for its iron as well as the for the salt it contained. It might allow him to begin to get some nourishment even before he could stomach solid foods. He inspected the can that held the blood from the grouse, seeing that the clearish plasma had separated in the night to form a layer across the top of the darker, coagulated blood. The plasma, he knew, would be mostly water with a little protein and trace amounts of sugar and electrolytes, and he poured it off into his can, deciding to try it with his next drink of water. The dark sludge in the bottom of the can he would save for later, possibly letting it dry to help preserve it so he could use it to enrich a can of grouse stew, whenever he was able to start eating again. He knew seal and caribou blood had been important nutrient sources for the Inuit, as well as for his Norse ancestors in ancient times. He shook his head, shoved the can out of his view. All the thoughts of food had left him rather queasy, and not wanting to lose the two cans of water he had just consumed, he directed his mind elsewhere for the time. Or tried to. He knew that his next priority, after locating better shelter and setting some of the Oregon grape roots to soak, was to begin working on snares so he could assure a continued supply of…food. No way to not think about it… That fact reminding him what a huge part of his life the constant search for food had become. Hmm. Well. Nothing too unusual about that, I guess. I’m sure it is the opposite situation that is the exception, if you take all of human history into account. • • • •

The group of trees that Einar had hoped to use for shelter proved to be a fine location, the duff being much drier beneath them than it had been on the other side of the basin where he had spent the previous night. The rock overhang, while it concealed a small protected space only seven or eight feet long by five or six deep, offered good protection from the weather and perhaps the beginnings of a more permanent shelter, with the addition of some bark slabs and branches across its open front. The dirt beneath the ledge looked relatively undisturbed, aside from the plentiful tracks of some small carnivore—he took it to be fox—that had apparently sat there from time to time to eat its kills in the shelter of the rock, leaving a scattering of small, well-chewed bones behind. Kicking at the dirt, Einar found it to be dry and dusty, indicating that the weather was largely kept out by the overhang. The trees, though not providing coverage as dense and continuous as they did on the other side of the basin, were clustered quite heavily around the overhang, and he knew they should serve well to conceal the light of the small fire he hoped to have that night.

Knowing that he needed to look no further for that night’s shelter, Einar’s attention shifted to preparing a solution of Oregon grape root to hopefully help alleviate his ongoing gastric distress. Dragging a large flat rock beneath the shelter of the overhang, he used the pocket knife to scrape a good portion of the bright yellow inner bark from a number of the roots, covering the bottom of the sardine can and pouring water over it, knowing he would be able to extract more of the berberine using hot water, but not wanting to wait until after dark when he could have a fire to get started with the process. The knife, dull though it was, made much quicker work of the roots than the awkward steel bar had the times he had used it for that purpose, and he knew that as soon as he took the time to sharpen the blades a bit, the work would be easier still. All right. Snares. There was a spot along the small creek that flowed through the meadow in the bottom of the basin where water had collected in a slight depression in the ground, forming a large puddle that, from the tracks he had observed near it, attracted all sorts of animals. He had seen deer tracks, and though he had not taken the time that morning to follow them and see where the animals chose to emerge from the brush, he was pretty sure that when he did, he would discover that they had one or two main routes by which they approached the clearing. Rabbits and squirrels were one thing, but if he could take a dear he would have a ready source of meat and fat that he could live on while he stuck close to camp and recovered for a time, delaying the necessity of establishing a trapline that he would need to walk every morning to ensure something else did not get to his quarry before he did. And, snaring a deer would eliminate the likely need to track it for some distance as he would need to if he were to make another bow and take one, which under normal circumstances would not have been a problem, but could prove rather challenging, in his present condition. Making a loop in the end of a length of paracord and securing it with a slip knot, he suspended his pack from a branch with the remaining cord better find some nettles or something and get working on some more cordage, here before long… and went scouting. As he was leaving the shelter he had a thought, turned back and lowered the packs, stuffing everything into Liz’s and taking the coyote skin with him, thinking that he might well find things that he would want to haul back. Of the two three main deer trails that emerged into the basin, one in particular appeared to him to be the most well traveled, and he chose it, in a place where it passed near a large spruce, as the site for his snare. The brush closed in around the trail on either side in the chosen spot, making it very unlikely that a deer would attempt to go detour around his loop, which by the time he got dine with it would be fairly well concealed, anyway. Tying the free end of the paracord securely to a stout branch not far from where it met the tree, he used some nearby chokecherry shrubs to help keep the loop open, disguising it a bit at the same time. He had to take a minute to sink to his knees and rest after securing the paracord to the branch; looking and reaching above his head like that had set off a terrible wave of dizziness that had very nearly knocked him off his feet and had reminded him rather undeniably of his condition. He had been so absorbed with the placement and construction of the snare that he had almost forgotten. When he was finished, the center of the loop was just below waist high, and he left the area quietly, intending to check the

snare sometime the next morning. He knew that it might have been preferable if he could have set it in an area that he could have seen from a distance, so that he did not have to make a trip across the basin every time he wanted to check the snare, possibly alerting his intended quarry to his presence and spooking it in the process, but there had been a lack of suitable trees as he approached the open area, and the current would have to do. Getting himself some distance from the snare site, Einar picked a dry spot beneath a tree and flopped down on his side to rest, having for some time been feeling a pressing need to do so. As he lay there, dizzy and struggling to catch his breath, waiting for his heart to slow enough that the nausea could begin to subside, he could not help but think that he was, despite the food and gear in Liz’s pack, not all that much better off than he had been the week before, in the cave. Can’t eat it, after all, so I’m still starving, and now I can’t seem to get enough to drink, either… He knew it wasn’t quite as bad as he was making it out to be, though. You’re just worn out. It’s messing with your perspective. He told himself rather sharply to stop complaining and be glad that it appeared that, for the time at least, he had once again slipped away from his pursuers. The human ones, anyway. The elements, his hunger, the possibility and now the reality of illness and injury—these things were far more persistent and difficult to shake than the gang of ill-prepared flatlanders who kept insisting on running around the mountains after his hide—though it would be a lot easier to deal with the elements, and with getting enough to eat, if I was not having to constantly worry about being spotted… OK, true, but at least you have these good dry clothes, now, a place to shelter that is miles outside of any area they have known you to be in, and some food and gear to get you started, whenever you are able to eat again. Not bad. And, drifting towards sleep, he rolled over and made himself get up and continue back down to the basin, not wanting to risk sleeping the day away and finding himself far from his shelter when darkness came. He knew that it was going to be challenge enough, just dragging himself up the five or six hundred feet of slope back to the shelter, the way he was feeling. On his way across the floor of the basin earlier, Einar had noticed a number of dry cattail stalks in the half-frozen marshy area beside the little tarn where the deer gathered to drink, and stopped to gather a number of the still-fuzzy heads, remaining from the previous fall. Before leaving the rock overhang that morning, he had hung his damp polypro tops and bottoms from a tree where he expected they would be able to get some sun, and as mild as the day was shaping up to be, he was fairly sure that they would be dry before dark. As he stuffed the coyote pack with cattail fuzz, he looked forward to the opportunity to use it as a layer of insulation between two sets of polypro. Maybe I’ll actually get some sleep tonight. • • • •

After returning to the ledge and digging down beneath one of the spruces near it to create a bed, Einar cleaned and plucked the grouse he had taken on his way down into the basin, intending to cook it while he had a fire that night. Should have cleaned this thing last night—sure would have been easier to get these feathers off—but I was just too wiped out

by the time I stopped for the evening to do much besides try to sleep. Oh, well, guess I’m kind of getting used to that, too. Or finding ways to live with it, anyway. Which was a good thing, because so far at least, his symptoms had shown little sign of lessening, and seemed, if anything, to be progressing in the other direction. He doubted that he would be able to eat much that evening, but knew that, with the daytime temperatures beginning to warm, the meat would keep better once it had been cooked. He set aside the feathers and the small amount of down that had been on the bird, sandwiching them between two slabs of bark he had pulled from a nearby dead spruce and holding them down with a rock. Wonder how many grouse it would take to make a down vest…? Inspecting the tiny heap of down he had saved, he figured it would have to be an awful lot. But he intended to have a down vest before winter came, and had a good idea of how he was to accomplish it, too. Milkweed was plentiful in some of the high valleys, and if he waited until fall and collected a good quantity of the seed pods just before they burst open, he knew he would have a ready source of down that was, in some respects, superior to that from birds. The silky fibers, whose intended purpose was to give lift to the seeds and carry them to new locations, had the unique property of being unable to absorb moisture. That, combined with the fact that they were hollow and filled with encapsulated air, gave them excellent value as an insulation, and made them float, as well. The material was, in fact, used in lifejackets during World War II, as was cattail down. But Einar was more interested in its insulating qualities. Though I could certainly have used a lifejacket, a time or two over the last few months! He knew that milkweed fluff was very resilient, springing back when crushed, making it a far better insulation than something like cattail fuzz, which once it was compressed, never regained all of its texture or “loft,” which is a very important factor in how much air a material can trap, and therefore in its value as an insulation. And being non-absorbent, it would not have the problem of taking forever to dry if it happened to get wet, no! Now how could that happen…? or gradually accumulating moisture in the form of ice throughout the winter, as was sometimes a problem with down sleeping bags and clothing. So. The grouse do not need to fear a massive roundup when fall is approaching. I’ll just keep an eye out for milkweed patches through the summer, and harvest a jacket when the time comes…Maybe pick up a bunch of the stalks for cordage, at the same time. Can never have enough of that. Though he knew that, milkweed down being one of his favorite tinder materials, he would have to be somewhat careful just how close he sat to the fire when wearing that vest! A potential problem he hoped to remedy by making the vest itself of deer hide or something similarly fire-resistant. Planning the down vest had reminded Einar that he was getting pretty cold as he sat there, having cooled down thoroughly from his climb and finding that he was having an increasingly difficult time maintaining a normal body temperature without some sort of outside help as the effects of the Giardia continued to rob him of nutrients and make it difficult to stay hydrated, and he decided that it was high time to test out the cattail down that he had gathered. He shook the pile of cattail heads out of his pack, putting on the finally dry second polypro top and stuffing the cattail down between the layers as he stripped it off the heads. The stuff immediately fluffed up and became very difficult to

manage as soon as it was freed from its moorings, and he was very glad the afternoon was not especially windy, or he knew he would have been losing about as much as he managed to keep hold of. Einar discovered to his satisfaction that he had enough to stuff the torso and sleeves of his top, with a bit left over, though it quickly became clear to him that it would tend to shift, settle, and clump up in one area as he moved, leaving the rest of him uninsulated and cold before long. He had an idea, tying his remaining length of paracord around his waist, centering it to leave equal amounts hanging off on each side. These “tails” he crossed over his stomach, took them around and crossed them on his lower back, and so on, creating a quilt-like effect that he hoped might serve to keep the down in place and prevent it from bunching up. He ran out of cord before he was able to try a similar concept on his arms, but after a few minutes, could see that it was going to work as he had hoped, on his torso at least. Finished with the improvised down jacket, Einar rested for a minute, his arms crossed, still a bit shaky but feeling much warmer than he had before. It’s going to be a good night. Even without a fire, it would be good. But he intended to build a fire, anyway, wanting to make some Oregon grape infusion and cook the grouse before it had a chance to begin spoiling. He knew that he could extend its useful life by boiling or otherwise coking it every day until he was able to eat it, which would kill any bacteria that had begun to grow and slow the spoiling process, but which he knew from experience had its limits, also. Better still would be to dry the meat over the fire, which he supposed he could try, with the leaner portions. He hoped such options would prove to be irrelevant, though. Knew he was going to be in big trouble if he was not able to begin eating again, soon. Preparing the fire pit and splitting wood for kindling proved to be refreshingly easy, with the use of the entrenching tool and knife he had recently acquired, leading Einar to think just how far he had come from the previous winter when he had to scrape his firepit into the rocky and partially frozen ground just inside the mine tunnel with a deer scapula. Though that did work, in the end. Glad to know I can make do with whatever I have. He positioned his firepit well beneath the ledge, surrounding it on the open side with a semicircle of rocks for additional concealment and digging a short tunnel to let in additional air, as he had done in the past. One of the remaining cattail heads he stuck down under the kindling he had split, pulling a bit of the fuzz out and fluffing it up some to allow more air around it. Shortly after dark Einar had a fire going, reflecting nicely off the surrounding rock to warm him as he spread out his still-wet grey sweatshirt and ski pants to dry. He wanted to have the sweatshirt, ragged and thin as it had become, to wear over the polypro for protection from the inevitable sparks that he would encounter, working over a fire. Having seen how the cattail head went up when he touched a match to it, he certainly did not want to have an ember melt through the shirt and get at that layer of insulation. Einar let his Oregon grape root tea heat for a while, then set it on a rock and steep until it was a rich yellow color and quite bitter, adding a pinch of the Tang mixture before he drank it in the hopes that he would be able to keep it down, grimacing as he sipped and then gulped the stuff, wanting to be done with it. It stayed down, though, and he set another can to heat.

As he boiled the grouse, Einar began feeling a bit hungry for the first time in several days, and was able to sip a bit of the broth, though when he tried swallowing a bite of the meat, his stomach protested strongly enough that he decided to stick to the liquid. Finally, more than ready for sleep, he hung all of his food, including the remaining grouse broth, from a tree some distance from the camp, one which he had picked out while it was still light, and rolled into his bed beneath the spruce. Einar slept warm and soundly that night, surrounded by multiple layers of insulation in the form of cattail down and over a foot of dry spruce duff on all sides of him, warm rocks from the fire adding initially to the comfort of his cocoon. His sleep was disturbed only twice by his lingering ailment and once by the distant rumbling of a helicopter, and he was able to warm up and get back to sleep fairly quickly each time after leaving his bed. Which was a very good thing, as the next morning was to bring him all the work he could handle, and more. • • • •

Morning brought a cold, steady rain that woke Einar to the soft sound of water dripping in places through the spruce boughs, making him very glad that he had chosen to shelter beneath the densest area of a rather large tree. He was dry, only a few drops of rain having found their way through the branches to land in the area of his bed, and he lay there for some time, sleepy, drifting, feeling very secure and warmer than he could remember being for a very long time. He rather dreaded getting up, wanted very to go on lying there, but a serious need for water was being exacerbated by the dripping of the rain, eventually making it nearly unbearable for him to continue lying still. His mouth too dry to swallow, he reached out of his bed and felt around until he found some needles that were wet from the rain, holding them in his mouth in an attempt to gain some moisture, but finding it hardly enough to help eliminate the cracked, sandy feeling that had developed overnight. He finally dug himself out of his nest of spruce duff, wishing very much that he had not neglected to take his water bottle to bed with him the previous evening when, exhausted and sleepy from the warmth of the fire, he had left it on a flat rock up under the ledge. Getting to his feet, he climbed up the ten or fifteen yards to the overhang, hurrying across the open spaces between trees to avoid getting wet. The rain jacket he had stashed with his other gear in Liz’s pack, which had been suspended in a tree overnight out of the reach of bears, and he detoured in his rush to the ledge to retrieve it, finding the pack mostly dry despite the downpour. Einar took a minute to fish out the rain jacket, its windproof fabric proving a welcome addition in the wet, windy chill of the morning, which had already set his teeth to chattering, despite the cattail insulation that had served him so well overnight. Reaching the overhang and taking a long drink from the water bottle, he shoved aside the flat rock that he had used to cover the firepit overnight, poking around in the ashes and blowing on them until a faint orange glow told him that a few live coals still remained. With the storm, he decided that it ought to be reasonably safe to go ahead with a fire, even after daylight, and he broke some of the dry sticks that were left over from the previous day, adding them along with another of the remaining cattail

heads and coaxing the fire back to life. Warming his numbed hands over the flames, he set a can of water to heat on the flat rock, pushing it partially over the pit to act as a cooking surface before shaving a quantity of bark from several of the remaining Oregon Grape roots to go in the water. He intended to consume as much of the infusion as he could tolerate that day, encouraged by the reduced number of outhouse trips during the night, though not yet ready to attribute the improvement to the bitter yellow juice. Time would tell. It could have been coincidence, he supposed. But he did feel a little hungry that morning, and was able to drink a bit more of the grouse broth and even cautiously eat a small strip of the meat, before his stomach warned him to stop. He was glad to be able to take in some nourishment, no matter how small the amount, as he was feeling awfully weak and listless that morning, despite the good night’s sleep. His head hurt, he was dizzy, and he was having a hard time keeping feeling in his hands, despite holding them over the fire until they ought to have been thoroughly warmed. As the tingling and numbness seemed to be progressively affecting his feet and face as well, he eventually concluded that it was more likely due to a worsening state of dehydration than to the cold. He finished off the bottle of water, realizing then that he had barely consumed an entire bottle since the previous morning, all the while losing a good bit to the effects of his illness. And a good bit of that water had gone to boiling the grouse, whose broth he had only managed to take a few sips of. Not good. Got to go refill this thing, and do better about drinking today. Knowing that he would likely be able to find some water trapped in depressions and pockets in nearby rocks, and that he could catch a good bit himself by scraping a little depression in the ground in an open area and lining it with the space blanket to catch the falling rain, he nearly talked himself into avoiding a trip down to the creek, not really feeling up to a journey of that length and dreading getting his clothes wet and the long, chilly process of drying them over the fire that it would necessitate. As parched as he was feeling, though, he knew that he had better go ahead and make that trip, rain or not, if he wanted to halt the dangerous progression of a condition that he knew could incapacitate and kill him as surely in the spring as it could in the heat of summer, if he did not keep on top of it. Removing one layer of polypropylene he stowed it, as well as the bulky cattail fuzz, well beneath the dry shelter of the ledge. That way, he figured, he’d at least have something dry to put on when he came back more or less soaked and certainly chilly from his foray to the creek. Liz’s rain jacket would do him some good, but as it was rather too small, his arms stuck out by several inches. Ah, well. It’ll be alright. It’s not even all that far. Just seems like it, this morning. Being somewhat steeply downhill from his shelter, Einar made fairly good time to the creek, managing to keep mostly dry for a good while by staying beneath the timber as he traveled, emerging out into the meadow just as a renewed rain squall swept down the opposite slope of the basin, reducing visibility to a few yards and soon soaking his polypro bottoms as it was driven nearly sideways by the wind. As cold as it seemed, he was a bit surprised that the moisture was not falling as snow or at least sleet, and expected that it might change over before too much longer. He half wished he had brought the space blanket to drape over his head to help keep off more of the blowing water, but knew that he would have hardly been able to hang onto it in that wind,

especially considering the trouble he was having with his hands, which seemed to be varying between numb and tingling, and which seemed not to be especially dexterous, either way. Filling the bottle at the creek, he turned to head back up to his shelter, wet, cold and exhausted from fighting the wind, but stopped before long to sip water from the bottle, his resolve to wait and boil it before drinking proving no match for his immediate need for moisture. Facing away from the wind, hunched over against its lashing, he realized that, in reaching the creek, he had already covered well over half the distance to his snare, and decided that the only sensible thing was to go ahead and check it. Already wet. He took a moment to wring water from the exposed cuffs of his polypro top, tried unsuccessfully to restore some feeling to his hands by pressing them against his stomach. Might as well go ahead and do it as long as I’m already wet, in case this rain lasts a while. Which he expected it would not, anyway, as weather in the mountains was notorious for its rapid and complete shifts in mood, but one never knew. Hate to lose a deer to coyotes or something, if I did get one, though. Which I doubt, with this rain. But I don’t really know when it started, and it may not have been going on all that long. The deer may have been out and about earlier, before it really got started. Turning back into the wind, he descended again to the small creek, stepped across it and started up towards the two scraggly spruces that he had previously picked out as a landmark for the general area of his snare, realizing even before he reached them that something was not quite right, though he couldn’t put his finger on exactly what it was. He stopped, listened, but could hear nothing over the wind and rain, which had turned to an icy mix of sleet and partially solidified pellets of slush as he climbed, plastering itself against his jacket and pants and drowning out all other sound. As he followed the deer trail and stepped out into the little clearing just before the snare-tree, Einar realized what has disturbed his subconscious as he approached the area. It had been the look of the skyline. The branch that he had secured his snare to was broken, gone, a long splintery strip of broken wood left hanging from the tree and a wide swath of trampled vegetation leading off down the slope through the chokecherry scrub. He wondered how a deer could have possibly made such a complete mess of the thicket. • • • •

The sleet was falling heavily, having already covered the exposed dirt of the deer trail with a layer of ice, and Einar knelt and carefully brushed it aside, hoping to reveal at least a piece of the story that has led to his snare being gone, and the branch it had been attached to broken. It appeared that the ground had been at least partially frozen when the drama had taken place, meaning that the animal had left no clear tracks, but he did spot some scrapes and shallow gouges in the ground that spoke of the struggle. The sign had clearly been left by a hoofed animal, but was too indistinct from the effects of the melting sleet and the rain that had come before it for him to be certain of the size of the hoof that had left it. It certainly appeared to him somewhat wider than what he would have expected from a deer. But I’m pretty sure I set that thing too low for elk, so… He began following the wide trail of trampled and parted chokecherry scrub, finding that it presented little challenge, even with the worsening weather that was further reducing visibility. The creature had left a pretty wide swath of disturbed and trampled vegetation as it fled, apparently dragging the broken branch behind it. The trail was headed

downhill, which pleased Einar, as it meant the creature would be that much closer to his camp when it finally got hung up on some brush and strangled itself, but at the same time, he was concerned that if it had actually ended up making it out into the meadow, the chance existed that he might lose its trail altogether, or at least be in for a long wet day of attempting to track it across what probably would have been the at least partially frozen, tundra-like ground of the meadow, at the time of its passage. Emerging from the chokecherry thicket, Einar followed the animal’s trail of destruction across a small clearing and through a stand of the previous year’s nettles, their brown stalks bent and trampled, (Cordage! I’ll be back!) and into a grove of small-diameter aspens, their newly emerged leaves heavy with the freezing sleet. The aspens had, much to Einar’s relief, finally stopped the flight of the snared animal. It lay slumped oddly forward next to one of the trees, sleet matted in its hair, nearly covering the dark ruff around its neck and shoulders that told Einar that he had, indeed, managed to snare an elk, if a small one. It looked to be a small yearling bull, and did not appear to be breathing. The creature had apparently taken off running when his snare tightened around its neck, breaking the branch dragging it along through the brush, stopping only when it finally caught crossways between two aspens that grew fairly close together. Einar approached cautiously, knowing that the last thing he needed was to have the animal suddenly rise and kick or trample him, wanting to know for sure that it was dead before getting too close. Walking up behind the animal to the trees that had finally snagged the branch, he tugged on the cord, not wanting to risk freeing the branch, but needing to know whether the elk was actually dead. There was no reaction when he raised the cord a few inches, the animal’s head flopping limply back to the ground when he released it, convincing him with fair certainty that he was safe approaching it. Only then did he ask himself just how he was going to get the elk back up near his camp where he could work on it and hopefully keep it out of the reach of bears and other scavengers. Freeing the branch that had finished the animal off, he brought it over his shoulder, braced it against his chest and attempted to drag the creature down the hill, having some success on the slick, sleet-covered ground, until it slid into a tree and managed to become wedged on its uphill side. He knew that the weight could be significantly reduced by gutting the elk, but at the same time he was pretty sure that he would be wanting and needing nearly all of the internal organs for one purpose or another, and had no other good way to carry them, once they were separated from the animal. Well, I could fit some stuff in the pack… But he decided to give dragging another go, first. After bleeding the animal out, as well as he could. Might already be too late for that, but I’ll give it a try. He wanted to keep the blood, knowing that he could benefit from adding it to his diet as soon as he was able, but was at a loss as to how to catch it, until he remembered the three gallon-sized ziplock bags in a side pocket of Liz’s pack that had held the trail mix, Pemmican bars, and some of the other small items she carried. He hastily emptied two of them, thinking he could attempt to catch at least some of the blood and save it, perhaps doubling the bags up for transport. This ended up working fairly well, though it was a messy proposition, and he was glad to have the sleet to clean the bags on before carefully stowing them, each about half full, back in the pack.

Rolling the animal out from behind the tree that had trapped it, he continued on down the slope, glad that it was fairly open and free of downed trees, which would have made his task all but impossible. Perhaps a bit too open, and too steep also, as he soon discovered, the elk beginning to gain momentum on the slick hillside, which held a bank of stillmelting snow, as well as the sleet that continued to fall. At first he tried to hold it back by stumbling along behind it, the snare cord wrapped around behind his back, hoping to keep the dead weight of the animal from again becoming wedged behind a tree, but he could tell very quickly that it was not going to work, and was instead a rather dangerous proposition. He let go of the branch, but it jammed behind his backpack as it whipped around behind his back, jerking him off his feet and sending him sliding and rolling down the hill after the elk, ending up crumpled against the base of a tree, the impact fortunately softened significantly by the small patch of gooseberry shrubs that surrounded it. Slowly picking himself up and untangling the paracord, which had become wrapped around one leg as he fell, he looked for the elk, finding it to have stopped just below him, apparently brought up short by his impact with the tree, combined with the lessening grade of the slope. Einar finally got the elk, still whole, down to the meadow, knowing that his task was about to become immeasurably more difficult as he tried to drag it across the uneven and in places somewhat swampy ground of the meadow, which while it started out nearly flat, soon began sloping and climbing up towards his ledge and shelter. He stopped for a minute to rest beneath the shelter of a tree, soaked and cold and desperately thirsty after the struggle of dragging and lowering the elk down the slope, gulping nearly half the water in the bottle and resting his head against the trunk of the tree for a minute until his racing heart slowed to a more workable pace. Looking out across the meadow, which was by that time white with sleet in all but the most heavily vegetated, alpine willowcontaining sections, he hesitated at the thought of attempting to drag the animal across that open expanse. The storm seemed to be lessening, and as quickly as the weather tended to shift in the mountains, he knew that in fifteen minutes or less, there could well be full sun and a clear blue sky. And helicopters. As yet, none had approached the basin more closely than a mile or two, best as he could tell, but he knew they might at any time choose to expand their search, possibly surprising him in the middle of a white meadow with a dead elk and a clearly visible set of tracks marking his back trail. Not the best idea. He knew it was going to take him quite some time to drag the elk, small though it was, across the meadow. If he was able to manage it at all. Einar finally decided to take a quarter only, suspending the remainder from a tree with the snare cord and returning for it later, piece by piece, until he got everything up near his shelter. Before leaving, he decided to gut the animal to cut down on the risk of spoilage, and because he wanted to take the liver with him, in case he found himself able to eat that night. Which he very much hoped would be the case, as he hardly imagined that he would find himself capable of making return trips after the remainder of the elk, otherwise. Emptying the stomach of the elk, its contents still warm, stinking and steaming lightly in the cold, I know the Inuits often ate the stomach contents of the caribou they killed, as a way to supplement a near complete lack of plant matter in their diets during some seasons, but I believe I’ll pass, at the moment… he cleaned it as well as he could with

some of the gathering sleet, and stashed the heart, liver and kidneys inside it, loading it into the pack, which prevented him from zipping it closed, but would allow him to haul the innards back up to the camp. He wanted the lungs as well, but was out of carrying space. Perhaps in the chilly weather they would still be good when he returned. Getting the elk hoisted up into a tree with difficulty, knowing that the height allowed him by the fairly short piece of paracord might not be enough to save the meat from a determined bear, but lacking a better idea and hoping what he had done might prove to be enough, Einar set off across the meadow, weighed down by the heavy pack and the quarter that he carried slung over his good shoulder. • • • •

It took longer than Einar would have liked to cross the meadow, stumbling under the weight of the elk quarter and his loaded backpack, wishing he was able occasionally to shift the load to the other shoulder. He fell more than once, rising with difficulty and finding himself exhausted and struggling for breath by the time he reached the creek, watching the sky clear and becoming increasingly concerned about the potential for aircraft passing over and spotting him. Stopping to refill his water bottle, he let his load slide to the ground, kneeling beside the creek and resting his head on the pack. He was soaked and shivering from the rain and from repeatedly falling on the slushy ground, his sleeves having absorbed water where they stuck out beyond the shorter ones of the rain jacket, and he knew he must not stop for long in that condition, knew he must get back up to his shelter and fire no, no fire…not if the sky keeps clearing like this… and dry clothes as quickly as he could, and he forced himself up, pushing doggedly ahead until he collapsed again upon reaching the trees at the edge of the meadow, finding himself too dizzy to rise, even after a few minutes’ rest. Einar knew he had to get some energy in him if he wanted to go on, took out his pocket knife and carved off a few thin strips of meat from the elk quarter, quickly swallowed them with a gulp of water, pretty certain that they were not going to stay down but hoping he might be able to absorb at least a bit of nourishment from them, in the mean time. Maybe enough to allow him to reach the shelter, at least, and hopefully get the quarter hung from a tree where the scavengers, including bears, could not get at it. His stomach cramped up horribly at the introduction of the solid food, and he had not gone many yards up the slope before he found himself doubled over beneath a tree, and it was all he could do after that to get himself back to his feet. For a minute he thought he was going to have to abandon the meat for the time, focusing on getting himself up to the shelter where he could dry off and get warm, taking his chances that it would still be there when he was able to come back. After another minute the worst of the weakness passed, though, and he was able to slowly get to his feet and continue up the slope. Back beneath the overhang, Einar, thoroughly chilled by that time, got into his dry clothes and huddled over the lingering warmth of the firepit, the sky being too clear for him to consider risking a fire. The dry clothes made all the difference, though, and he was soon, if not comfortable, at least out of danger from the wet and cold. He drank the Oregon grape solution that he had left steeping that morning before venturing out into the evergreens to pull up some small, flexible spruce roots, tying several lengths together to

create a hastily improvised cord to hang the elk quarter, being out of paracord at that point. The existence of the small knife meant that he had a far easier time splitting the roots to create splices than he had the last time he had used them, to hang the bear carcass back at the mine where he had spent much of the previous winter. That experiment had ended in near disaster when the rope failed at one of the splices, sending him, and the bear, tumbling down the steep tailings pile. Staring up at the successfully suspended elk quarter, he turned the folded knife over and over in his hand. A simple tool, yet it had the potential to go such a long way in tipping the balance in favor of his survival. His immediate task completed, Einar crawled into his bed of dry duff, which had been kept that way by his careful placement of the space blanket before leaving the camp that rainy morning, spreading it over the area of his bed and holding it in place with piles of duff. Exhausted, he was asleep within moments of lying down, waking nearly two hours later to the slanting rays of the sun as they angled across the basin in advance of the coming evening. Einar was hungry, rose and went up to the overhang, where he was able to eat a good portion of the leftover grouse and drink a quantity of the broth, feeling much stronger and only experiencing a minimum of cramping after having done so. As he sat for a minute letting his body begin to absorb the badly needed food, Einar looked up at the sky, which had grown sunny, and decided that he probably had two or three hours until sunset. He saw that the sun had melted the sleet off the meadow, cutting down on his chances of leaving a trail that would be visible from the air, and decided to make one more trip that afternoon in an attempt to carry back the other quarter of the elk, at least. The trip across the meadow went far more quickly than it had the first time, the distance seeming far less daunting now that Einar had managed to keep some food down for more than a few minutes, and he reached the hung elk without incident, quickly getting to work on separating the second quarter, this time making good use of the saw from the handle of the entrenching tool, which he had thought to bring along. Into the pack, which he had nearly emptied before leaving the camp, he loaded the lungs and, after emptying them somewhat, the intestines also, intending to clean them in the creek and use them, cut into segments and tied, as containers for the pemmican he hoped to make from the tallow and dried meat of the animal. With little room remaining in the pack and even less time before the sun would set, he hurried to free a portion of the backstrap of the animal, rolling it up and stowing it in the remaining ziplock bag to keep it clean, before hoisting the carcass back up into the tree and starting for the creek. His plan was to return the next day and skin out the elk, packing back a good portion of the remaining meat and fat, as well as the hide. A task the he knew would keep him busy for most of the day. After again filling his water bottle at the creek, Einar decided to go ahead and clean out the elk gut, so it would be ready as soon as he had some of the tallow rendered down and ready to store. As he worked, he began feeling rather uneasy, in a vague, indefinable way that he at first attributed to the fact that he was crouched down in the middle of an open meadow, focused on something that might well prevent him from noticing the approach of danger. The feeling grew, though, and he finally stood, glancing around and listening for anything unusual. Nothing. Then he looked up at the terrain above the basin, saw a man descending the opposite slope, taking a path that roughly corresponded with the one

he had used to enter the area, a large pack on his back and an oddly shaped object in his extended hand. Einar dropped to the ground, rolling behind a clump of alpine willow that grow low and dense there by the water and peering out through an opening in the brush, squinting up at the man, who he guessed to still be well over seven or eight hundred yards away, at that point. As he watched the man turned slightly to make his way down a rocky section of the slope, giving Einar a good look at his profile. Suddenly he recognized the object in the man’s hand as an antenna of some sort, consisting of one horizontal bar approximately two feet long, with a vertical bar of a similar length crossing it at each end. The man moved slowly, turning this way and that, stopping frequently to fiddle with something that appeared to be clipped to his jacket. He’s tracking me! The realization came to Einar with a shock like the icy water of the river, and he struggled to remain still, make himself think before taking off blindly for the trees. Tracking what? Must be something I got from Liz…the pack? Gotta be the pack, because that looks a lot like one of those radio rigs the Division of Wildlife uses to track the bighorn sheep and stuff that they fit with radio collars, and I’ve seen the transmitters for those things up close…they’re kind of bulky. Too bulky to hide in anything but this pack. And he was about the abandon the pack where he was and take off slithering thorough the low willows in an attempt to be as far as possible from the place by the time the man arrived, but then the thought struck him that there was at least a possibility that the man could be a tracker, and might easily pick up his trail and follow him if he did that. Better keep the pack for a minute, set something up to slow the guy down. Einar didn’t know for certain, but he was fairly sure from what he had heard that the man he saw was not likely to be working alone. Something about triangulating the signal. There would probably be at least one other out there somewhere with an antenna, and he expected that they would surely be in communication with each other. Wonder how far out the other guy will be? He low-crawled through the willow scrub, heading for the trees on the side of the basin opposite to the ledge and shelter, striving to stick to the slightly more open areas where rabbits and in some cases deer had left passages through the thicket and working hard not to set the brush to swaying and possibly alert the man to his position. As he went, Einar debated with himself whether his best course of action would be to hide the pack as well as he could and hurry to leave the area before they discovered that he was not with it, or perhaps to stash the pack, and set up an ambush for the man with the antenna. • • • •

Heading up into the evergreens, keeping well away from the spot where he had hung the elk and hoping very much that the man did not stumble across it, Einar worked his way deep into the black timber, wanting to leave a trail that would give the man as much difficulty as possible with maneuvering the antenna. He finally settled on a deadfall tree to stash the pack beneath, concealing it with duff and branches after stuffing its contents into his shirt, tucking it in to prevent everything from falling out. Lucky I left almost everything at the camp, since I have to ditch this pack. Or maybe not so lucky…Looks like I’m gonna end up losing everything again. Well. What’s new? At least I have the knife and saw, this time. And the matches. Wish I could have carried that elk quarter, but

no way to be stealthy and quick while lugging that thing. Sure hope the guy with the antenna doesn’t follow the creek and find it. Of course, they apparently already know I’m here, so no big loss if he does… As he climbed, working frantically to decide on his course of action, it did not take Einar long to reject the idea of setting up an ambush. If something went wrong and the man was able to contact his partner, wherever he may be… then they could conceivably call in air support fairly quickly, likely pinning Einar down and preventing him from leaving the area, if not immediately spotting him. Better to leave the pack, hope he’ll have some trouble locating it and then approach it cautiously (I do believe they will have learned by now to approach me cautiously…) when he does, while I get as far from here as I can. Without leaving a big old obvious trail for them to follow. Because if this guy’s not a tracker, I can be sure they’ll be bringing them in, as soon as they discover that I’m not with that bag. Einar’s inclination was to leave the area as quickly as possible but the more he thought about it, the more certain he became that he must first make an attempt to return to the overhang and retrieve the rest of his gear. Or else I’ve got no way to carry things, no shelter from the wind and rain, no food or spare clothes. I’ve done it before, and in colder weather, too, but I’ll have a much better chance if I can get ahold of some of that stuff. He worried some about just where the man or men who would likely be out there helping to get a fix on the signal from his backpack might be, but decided it was a chance he had to take. Quickly! Taking a careful and circuitous route back towards his camp, stopping from time to time to try and get a look at his pursuer, Einar finally reached it, sensed nothing amiss, and began hurriedly stashing everything he could fit into his coyote skin pack, again stowing the liver and heart of the elk in the stomach, along with several pounds of meat that he hastily removed from the quarter that hung near the camp. It’s enough. It’ll keep me going long enough to get out from under this search, and get set up somewhere else. Though he could not help but think that he would very much like to be able to quit running, for awhile, and just focus on living, on getting his health back and preparing for next winter. Well. Later. He took a moment to down the remaining grouse broth and meat, which wasn’t much, washing it down with half a bottle of water before taking off again, heading up the treed ridge and out of the basin, very careful of his trail and able to focus fairly well after the small meal. Looking down through a break in the trees, he saw the antenna flash in the last rays of the sun, the man having reached the basin floor and beginning to climb up towards the area where Einar had snared the elk. Time to be gone from here. Topping out on the ridge and looking far down a grassy slope to the largely open basin below, Einar noticed a number of cow elk, many of them grazing in the greying light of evening, and he was fairly certain that he saw one or two small ones in among the herd. Huh. Must be calving season. So that kind of explains why that yearling was off by himself when he ran into my snare. Mama must have kicked him out to make way for the new one. Knowing that he must not risk spooking the elk and giving away his position, Einar carefully detoured further into the evergreens that flanked the left side of the basin, walking quietly and leaving very little sign on the springy duff groundcover beneath them. It was still light enough to get a look at the elk when he reached their level, and

Einar took a moment to carefully approach the edge of the timber, wanting to see if the animals sensed any approaching danger. He hoped that his pursuer might be somewhat less stealthy than himself, and might perhaps have given himself away to the elk, if indeed he had opted to follow Einar’s trail after discovering the abandoned pack. The animals seemed calm, though, twitching their ears this way and that as they grazed and occasionally stopping to look up, but never in a particular direction or with any sense of real alarm. Good. I’ve got a lead on them, at least. And, with that knowledge, he allowed himself to sink to the ground and rest for the first time since spotting the man with the antenna, having covered a distance of well over two miles from his camp and lost at least a thousand feet in elevation since reaching the top of the ridge. He was not sure how he had done it, as worn out as he had been at the start, but figured he could attribute it to the fact that there were probably few motivators as powerful as the prospect of an active search behind you. Which there still is, or is about to be. Get moving! First, though, he stood still for a minute surveying the land below the basin, which seemed to consist of a largely unbroken expanse of dark timber that went on at least several thousand feet lower before being lost to his view by the angle of the slope and the gathering dusk. OK. That’ll make a good place to lose myself for the night, maybe climb up that adjacent ridge in the morning, or whenever I reach it, if they have not brought in the choppers, yet. He was a bit surprised that they had not done so, already. Thought that perhaps the man with the antenna was having a worse time navigating with it through the dark timber than he had dared to hope. But they’ll eventually discover that the pack and I are not together, and I had better have something more than those trees to crawl under, if they start scouring these basins with FLIR, tonight. Gonna be a cold night, now that the weather has cleared. He expected that there would likely be some boulders down in the timber that would do a decent job of concealing him. Just as he was turning back into the black timber to continue his descent, Einar spotted the radio collar on the nearest of the cows, and looking, noticed that three or four of the others wore similar devices. He stood quite still, letting the implications of the discovery sink in, some of the frantic energy that had been compelling him forward draining away as he realized that he had probably never been the target of the man with the antenna. Of course. Elk calving season. They—the Division of Wildlife, I suppose—like to keep statistics on the number of live births, size of the herd, such things. He shook his head. Einar, you fool! It’s not all about you. Now get out of here before that guy finds his elk and spots you down here in the middle of the herd. And then go back for that pack. You’re gonna need it. He hoisted his pack up onto his shoulder, feeling at the same time like an enormous weight had been lifted from him. It looked like he was not going to lose all that elk meat, after all, and be left to spend the night and at least part of the next day dodging through the timber and crouching under rocks to avoid an air search when what he really needed was to sleep for two or three days, waking only to eat. An incredible relief. The cow startled, lumbered to her feet, and Einar froze in place, thinking that he must have unwittingly done something to alert her to his presence. Two seconds later, he

picked up on the approaching rumble that had spooked the elk. • • • •

Making a brief swing over the Wilderness Area to check out a reported sighing of smoke, the chopper crew probably would never have even noticed the Division of Wildlife research technician, had he not been standing out in a little open area on the high point of the ridge, attempting to reacquire a signal after having lost it climbing through the dark timber. One of the agents spotted him, and the chopper doubled back, circling once before hovering above the ridge. Einar had curled up beneath the largest tree he could find, digging down in the duff and partially covering himself with it as soon as he had realized how close the chopper was, hoping that he might be mistaken for one of the elk that grazed only yards from him on the grass of the basin. Peeking out beneath the spruce boughs as the chopper hovered, it did not take him long to see that the focus of the chopper crew was neither on his position, nor that that of the backpack he had abandoned, and to realize that they were fixed on the man with the antenna. The DOW man had dropped the antenna and was making angry gestures at the chopper, which hovered low over the ridge at that point, apparently upset that it was scaring off the elk herd that he had spent the day searching for. The chopper crew apparently had not seen the antenna, and when the man bent to pick it up with the intention of showing them what he was doing, and why they needed to quit hovering and ruining his efforts, they interpreted it as a hostile act and opened fire, fortunately only grazing the man’s arm. The man dropped the antenna, raised his uninjured arm above his head and shouted uselessly over the thundering of the propellers, pretty sure that they would stop shooting at him if they realized that he was a state employee, and while the agents on the chopper were not able to surmise as much as they hovered two hundred feet above his head, they were becoming increasingly certain that the man must not after all be the subject of their search, as he was making no attempt to run or to bring them down with the ominouslooking metal object that he had been holding. The chopper circled once more, and, the agents seeing that the man was right where they had left him, on his knees by that point and waving frantically at the chopper, the decision was made to land in the open space of the basin below, and attempt to mop up the damage from what was beginning to look like a bad case of mistaken identity. The elk scattered, took off running as the chopper hovered and then descended towards the basin floor, one of them nearly running into Einar where he stood, and he realized as he dove out of its path that he had better not be the only warm-bodied creature that stayed curled up under a tree when all the others were taking off running, incase anybody was watching. Keeping beneath the trees, he followed the elk, moving quickly in the trail left by three or four that had fled one behind the other, seeking the refuge offered them by the higher ground of the treed slope that rose above the basin. Guess I know for sure now that Antenna Guy was not after me…unless this search is even worse-coordinated than I thought! Always a possibility… Panting and out of breath, he stopped several minutes later, realizing that he no longer heard the pounding of propellers from the basin behind him, leaning on a tree and looking down at the helicopter where it sat, just able to make

out the forms of several men as they climbed up the grassy slope towards the wounded antenna man, several of them carrying rifles. Poor guy. First I almost decide to ambush him as a searcher, and then this… Einar realized that he now had a problem, he just didn’t know how to judge the extent of it. With all the activity in the area, he did not dare try to return to his camp at the overhang that night, and was not sure that he ought to plan on doing so, even when the present activity died down. After all, he did not know what course the man with the antenna might have taken up the slope above the creek in the last basin, and there was always the chance that he could have stumbled on the abandoned elk quarter down by the water, or even the entire carcass where it hung from a tree branch just inside the timber. If he reported such a find to the agents from the helicopter… No. I can’t go back. I’d never be able to know for sure whether they had found some sign of me, whether they were camped out somewhere around that basin, watching. Can’t do it. That place was a nice stop-over, but it’s time to move on, put some more country behind me. If things turn out well, Antenna Guy will not have discovered that I was back there at all, and they will have no reason to search this area further. Though I do wonder why they were out here this evening, in the first place? And he took off up the ridge again, not wanting to be further delayed by doubt and speculation that he knew could not, with the information he had, reasonably end up changing his course of action that evening. It was nearly dark by that point, and Einar began looking for a place to spend what was turning into a fairly cold night, finally settling on a spot beneath a large limber pine on a rocky bluff with a view back to the basin, but a good distance removed from it. Despite the best efforts of the FBI—short of finishing the job they had started—to keep the incident quiet, a front page story detailing the debacle on the ridge appeared in the next morning’s Sentinel. Oscar Bennington never was one to keep quiet, about anything… • • • •

DOW employee shot in near-tragic case of mistaken identity Valley Sentinel May 12 Culver Falls—Oscar Bennington, a research technician with the Division of Wildlife who had been conducting a multi-day study of elk migrations and calving habits in the wilderness high above Culver Falls is recovering in the hospital in Clear Springs this morning, after apparently being grazed by an FBI bullet, highlighting the growing tensions that have become almost routine in the ongoing search for Einar Asmundson. Bennington was attempting to locate an elk herd by following the signals given off by their radio collars when, he says, a helicopter appeared from over the ridge, scaring off the elk, which he had just spotted in the basin below, and causing Bennington to begin gesturing rather insistently at them to leave the area. What happened next might be considered difficult to believe, and, as the FBI refused to comment on the situation, we are left for the moment to take Bennington, a longtime Lakemont County resident and

DOW employee, at his word. The following is a brief excerpt from our reporter’s telephone interview with him this morning from his hospital bed: Bennington: They were spooking the elk, you know, running them, and they had a bunch of little ones on the ground down there, so I was trying to get that chopper to leave, waving at it and all, but they wouldn’t, so I picked up the antenna and held it over my head so they could see what I was trying to do, but instead, they just started shooting at me. Sentinel: Did they give you any sort of warning first, shout at you, anything? Bennington: Well, I sure don’t think so. I mean, it was awful loud, maybe I missed it, but I don’t think so. Sentinel: What did you do when they started shooting? Bennington: I…you know, I don’t even really think I had time to do anything, before that bullet hit me. I could hardly believe what was happening, at first. Thought maybe the wind from the propeller had stirred up some little rocks or sticks or something, and slung one at me, but then I looked up and saw this guy with a rifle, and he was pointing it at me, so I just stuck my hands—well, the one hand, anyway—above my head and hoped they’d quit shooting. Sentinel: What happened next? Were you seriously injured? Bennington: No…turns out I wasn’t, but I sure didn’t know it at the time. There was a lot of blood. They landed the chopper down in the meadow, scared off those elk so quick…boy, I was mad at them for doing that! Maybe even madder than about being shot, at the time. Just what they needed, having dropped their calves not three or four days ago, I’d say. I tell you! Then three of four agents came charging up that hill with their rifles and bulletproof vests and all—well, charging as fast as they could, I guess, not being used to the altitude—and for a minute I was pretty sure they were going to finish me off (nervous laughter.) Well, instead they stuck a dressing on my arm, but not before searching me, for weapons, I guess, which I did not have with me, aside from the tranquilizer gun, which kind of alarmed them, even though I was trying the whole time to tell them who I was and what I was doing up there. They were about to cuff me, when the one agent who was searching my pack finally found some paperwork that apparently satisfied them that I was a State employee, like I was claiming… The full text of the interview will be published in Sunday’s edition of The Sentinel. Repeated requests to the FBI for comments on the situation have gone unanswered, but as we have repeatedly told them, there is a standing invitation for an interview, to be published in its entirety, anytime they are willing. Evidence of Asmundson, 40, was last discovered in a previously unknown cave on a remote plateau above the Juniper Springs road when FBI agents, guided by local caver

Darren Raintree, came across charcoal drawings and remnants of a camp that appeared to be very fresh. One of the agents, searching for Asmundson in a dark passage of the unmapped cave, fell and sustained serious injuries, becoming trapped and sparking a rescue effort that lasted overnight and involved Sheriff’s Department personnel and Mountain Rescue teams form several counties. While the FBI refused to comment on the drawings that first indicated Asmundson’s presence in the cavern, one of the Mountain Rescue volunteers, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells us that, ominously, they depicted a scene in which an FBI helicopter crashed in a canyon, a tragedy that happened several weeks prior to the discovery of the cave. While the investigation into the crash is ongoing, some associated with the search have publicly speculated that Asmundson might have been shooting at the helicopter with an improvised bow and arrows moments before the crash, a theory that is backed up by the images on the cave wall, which according to witness involve a depiction of a man with a bow, hiding under a rock as the chopper goes down. • • • •

Einar huddled under the pine as the darkness became complete, listening to the chopper in the valley power up and finally watching it leave, traveling, he thought, in the general direction of Culver Falls. It did not head his way, which was what mattered most to him at that point. He was nauseous, found himself unable to eat despite the knowledge that he needed to, after covering so much ground that day, and at first he attributed it to the lingering adrenalin of having the chopper nearly land on him back in the basin, but before long a series of sulfur belches, followed very quickly by the urgent need to go crouch under a tree, told him that the Giardia that had plagued him earlier had not been entirely eliminated, and was acting up again. He tried to sleep after that, waking several times to scramble back from his roost at the edge of the bluff and crouch under a tree, finding his water bottle empty after the first couple of hours and sleeping fitfully because of his thirst and the digestive troubles that seemed to have returned with a vengeance. He knew that in the morning he had better get started right away at finding some Oregon grapes, and the good news, as he thought about it, feeling his way back to his bed after one of his bouts with the illness, was that the place he had chosen to spend the night was just the sort of terrain they tended to prefer. Cold and shaking in the single layer of polypropylene that had been dry enough to wear that evening, he curled back up beneath the tree, chewing on a pine needle to combat the dry, sour feeling in his mouth and drifting around the edges of sleep until he was again forced up by his condition, dizzy and stumbling as he searched for his outhouse tree. Hope I don’t go the wrong direction one of these times, and walk right off of this bluff. It’d be a second or two of falling, then splat! And I’d be jerky for the vultures after a few hours of sunlight on those rocks down there. He laughed a weird, dry little laugh at the mental image of a wheeling vulture looking down at his desiccated body, thinking twice and moving on to look for tastier fare. Yep, pretty sure even the buzzards would pass on me, right now. Think I’m already well on the way to being all dried out, and not that much meat left, either… With that thought, exhausted, he slept, vivid, garish dreams bringing him visions of vast, arid expanses of open land where there was not a shred of

concealment and no water to drink, and the sharp, alkaline dust rose to cake his dry mouth and nose as he ran how is it possible to be so thirsty and so awfully cold, all at the same time…? weaving and stumbling, driven on by the ever present thunder of propellers close behind him and thinking that if he could just make himself move a little faster, perhaps he would begin to warm up, at least. The chopper was low and persistent and left him wondering why they didn’t just shoot him and get it over with, and the dust that it stirred up was choking him, blinding him, and he pressed on with the small hope that perhaps it was also blinding the chopper crew, perhaps there might still come some means of escape. Just when he was becoming certain that he could force himself to go no further, he tripped over something and fell hard, struggling to get back to his feet and realizing that he was no longer on the seemingly endless dusty plain, but beneath the dark timber of a high slope, the air sharp and clean with the moist smell of evergreens after a rain, a soft damp carpet of fallen needles beneath him and the thick, dark glorious safety of the black timber above his head. He slumped back to the ground, resting for a moment and trembling at the horror of what was behind him before picking himself up and going on, wanting to get deeper into the forest before the chopper, which strangely he could no longer hear, made its return. Einar smelled smoke, aspen, it seemed, and he followed the odor along the ridge and quite some distance from the place where he had been lying, curious and cautious at the same time, reaching a spot where the trees parted and he stood on a rocky outcropping looking down into a little clearing in the aspens below. Peering around a clump of low, close growing firs, he saw a small cabin, roughly constructed of hand-hewn spruce and fir, smoke curling out of the chimney in the cool morning air, and the sight looked to him oddly familiar, though he could not immediately place where or when he had seen it before. Then the door opened, Liz emerged, and Einar turned away, wishing with a brief flash of anger that she would leave him alone, stay out of his dreams, for he knew then with certainty that it had been merely a dream, which was at once a relief and a disappointment to him. The dream faded after that, and he blundered about for some time in a dark world of vague and looming images that pursued him relentlessly through a tormented landscape of thirst and dizziness and confusion from which he very much wanted to seek escape by waking, but which, for the time, held him firmly in miry grasp. Einar woke some time later to the smell of woodsmoke, squinting out at the brightening world below him and struggling to get his eyes to focus through a dull, pounding pain in his head, knowing that he must go and find water before thinking of anything else. It did not take him long to gather his possessions; the coyote skin pack and tied-shut elk stomach that held his supply of meat hung from a nearby tree where he had left them, and seeing in the daylight the result of the previous night’s inadequate attempt at bearproofing, he was grateful that no bear had come, because it would have easily torn down and made off with all of his gear and food. He got the pack slung over his shoulder, staring dully about in an effort to choose his route and finally deciding that he must head down into the narrow valley—more of a gulley, than a valley, really—at the bottom of the ridge that he had traversed that past evening. There would almost certainly be a creek down there, which should, at that time of year, yield at least some water as the high snow finished melting and coming down. But what about that smoke? He had nearly forgotten about it as he prepared to leave the camp, but realized that he could still smell it quite

clearly, though staring out at the sun-topped ridges around him, he could make out no sign of it on a horizon that blurred and danced maddeningly as he tried to focus. He shook his head, clamped his eyes shut against a wave of dizziness. You need water, Einar. Bad. Head downhill. And he did so, carefully skirting around the rocky areas that would have provided far too many opportunities to lose his footing in his dizzy state and go tumbling forty or fifty feet to the rocks below. He noticed some Oregon grapes growing among the rocks, stunted and scraggly in that exposed place, and stopped to collect a few of the roots, frustrated when the first two he tried, digging around their bases with a rock and gently pulling to free the root, broke off in his hand. He kept the lower portions of their stems, anyway, knowing they contained at least some portion of the yellow berberine held by the roots. He dug deeper around the next plant before pulling, and managed to get most of the root. Six or seven roots he collected in this way, figuring that he had better do so while the opportunity existed, and knowing that he could at least chew the roots as he traveled, hopefully reaping at least some of their benefits, even if he found himself on the move and unable to have a fire to heat water for tea. It turned out that there was indeed a creek at the bottom of the slope, small and clear in the morning chill, the snowmelt of the day having not yet reached it, and Einar knelt and filled his bottle, gulping the frigid water until his eyes ached and refilling the bottle, leaning back against the half-exposed roots of a tree as his body began absorbing the water, his shriveled stomach feeling uncomfortably bloated. It was not long at all before he was sick, leaning over the roots of the tree to keep from contaminating the creek, his stomach unable to tolerate the volume of icy water that he had swallowed. No…not good. Gotta keep something down. You’re not going to make it unless you can keep something down. And he tried again, this time adding a bit of the Tang mixture and drinking much more slowly, sipping a small quantity of water and sitting hunched over by the creek, hardly daring to move for fear of losing it again. After several minutes he ventured a few more sips, keeping at it until he had drunk nearly half a bottle. After managing that successfully, he gingerly tried chewing on one of the Oregon grape roots, its bitter juice tying his stomach in knots but no worse. Getting stiffly to his feet, Einar started back up the ridge, not wanting to travel for long down in the gulley where the creek might mask sounds that would otherwise give him warning of approaching danger. And he wanted to make his way up higher where he might get a look at the surrounding country, too, hoping that his vision would be a bit better since he had taken in some water. He knew that he needed a plan, an idea of where he was heading, and his immediate thought was to keep going deeper into the Wilderness Area, seeking shelter when he was a sufficient distance from the meadow where the chopper had landed to again risk a fire. While there had been no air activity at all over the area since the previous night, Einar was not entirely satisfied that Antenna Guy might not have seen some sign of his presence back in the other basin, and passed the information on to the authorities. Seems like they would have been in the air by now, if he had, but not necessarily, I suppose. They could have opted to bring people in and track me quietly so I would have no idea of what was going on, and no chance to set up…‘obstacles’ an their trail. The possibility certainly precluded any thought he might still have been harboring of returning to the elk carcass for more meat. And I’ve got to be

pretty careful about my trail still, just in case somebody is on it, and manages to work their way up to where I slept last night. If, that is, I’m able to keep moving at all, today. He was beginning to doubt it, as the constant dizziness that had been with him since the return of his Giardia symptoms had, as he climbed, been joined by occasional spells of faintness during which the world began going black and he had to quickly sit with his head between his knees lest he fall. Well, I’ll do what I can. Better have some more of that water… Reaching a spot high on the ridge where his view opened up a bit, Einar studied the ridges and valleys around him, finding nothing that appeared amiss and settling on following the ridge he was presently on, which appeared to continue for some distance, perhaps crossing it at some point in a mile or two and dropping down the back side to see what the country was like over there. He stood swaying, daydreaming, his eyes drifting closed, jerking back to wakefulness the next moment and telling himself rather sharply to get moving! The sooner you put some more distance behind you, the sooner you can rest. Then he saw the smoke. Just the faintest wisp rising in the clear, still morning air, but it was unmistakable, and not all that far away on the lower slopes of the opposite ridge, seeming to come from beneath a dense stand of spruces. • • • •

Stepping back inside the cover of the trees, Einar studied the area where he had seen the smoke, which had dissipated almost as soon as he had noticed it and not reappeared. He doubted that FBI trackers would risk giving themselves away like that, and for that matter doubted that they would still be in camp, so late in the morning. And the camp was not anywhere particularly near his back trail, anyway. So who, then? Maybe one of Antenna Guy’s partners? That seemed to make sense, more sense than anything else he could come up with, and while such an individual was still a danger to him and contact with him something to be carefully avoided, his presence was perhaps not the emergency that would have been presented by the presence of trackers. Which was a relief, because Einar was increasingly struggling with his body’s apparent need to shut down and lose consciousness, and as difficult as it had become to stay upright and keep his vision clear enough that he didn’t run into things, he knew that, try as he might to avoid it, he had to be leaving pretty clear sign. Finding a well-used deer trail that cut horizontally across the steep slope of the ridge he followed it, figuring that the safest thing was to quickly (ha!) and quietly distance himself from the area of the smoke, hoping that whoever was down there would have no reason to suspect his presence. Reasonable as that all sounded, he was beset as he walked by a strong sense of foreboding and of danger, of something being terribly out of place, his mind screaming at him to get off this trail! Get up into some dark timber, now! but try as he might he could find nothing to substantiate those feelings, finally deciding that he must have just been spooked by the smoke. And he was too tired, anyway, he told himself, to go scrambling up into the evergreens, running from the shadows in his mind when the deer trail in front of him presented a clear, fairly level path that took him in the direction he had already decided to head. Be sensible! You sure don’t have any energy to

waste, today. He did, though, take a few minutes to construct a hastily improvised spear by splitting the top few inches of a dry spruce branch, inserting the open pocket knife into the split and wrapping his remaining length of paracord around it to hopefully keep the thing in place, working with difficulty to coordinate his shaking hands and blurry vision as he built the weapon. Einar couldn’t seem to stop shivering that morning, even though the soft ground and rapid melting of the remaining banks of snow told him that it was already well above freezing. He felt like ice. Time to move, then. Which he did, stumbling along like a man in a dream, leaning heavily on the improvised spear. “Asmundson, you’re leaving tracks.” Einar froze at the sound of the voice, slowly turned to face the man, a small sad smile creeping across his face along with the awareness that though there probably wasn’t going to be a way out of this one, he intended to find or make one, or die trying. He was ready, whichever way it went. All morning he’d been dogged by the grim and unshakable feeling that he was walking way too close to the edge, pushing things too far, that unless he found a way—soon—to reverse his worsening dehydration, he probably wasn’t long for this world. He knew it was a dangerous line of thought, even if it was true, but was too tired to put his accustomed amount of energy into quashing it, using all of the focus and strength he could muster to keep himself moving along the ridge. And now this. In a strange way, he almost welcomed the encounter. At least now I get to die on my feet and fighting to stay free, rather than curled up under a tree somewhere like a sick dog… His vision blurry, it took Einar a moment of blinking and searching to locate the man, clad in Realtree camo and wearing a homemade-looking Ghillie hat, who sat on a rock not far above the deer trail Einar had been following, behind the trunks of a few small aspens. He did not appear to be holding a gun, which surprised Einar some. “Tracks, huh? That how you found me?” Einar responded in the hollow, raspy voice of a man who had been too long without enough water, food, rest, as he carefully eased his improvised spear into a better position and glanced around out of the corners of his eyes to get some idea of the lay of the land. There was a sharp-looking dropoff not ten feet to his left, where the hillside had sloughed off at some point, and he wondered if he’d be able to make it over there before the man was able to draw a sidearm, or jump down and tackle him. Worth a try, I guess…he won’t jump on me, ‘cause he’d land right on this spear. And if he decides to shoot me…well. “Whoa, relax, OK?” The man spoke up, seeing what Einar appeared to be contemplating, and he removed his hat as he spoke and held up his empty hands where Einar could easily see them. “I’m not with the feds. I’m not with the search. Remember me? Rob. I work with the Jackson brothers. You know, Juniper Creek Outfitting? You worked with my partner Jeff one fall.” Einar looked skeptical, took another step back towards the dropoff, but the man had looked familiar, and now that he had the context, he did indeed recognize him as who he claimed to be.

“What are you doing out here, then? Working for the DOW?” “No…looking for you, actually,” Rob answered. “Isn’t everybody?” Einar replied wearily. “Don’t know what you planned to do with me when you found me, but I’ll be on my way now. Thanks for mentioning about the tracks. I’ll be more careful.” And he continued down the trail, watching Rob out of the corner of his eye and glad that he was not jumping up to follow. Einar did not want to have to use the spear on him (yeah, mostly because it would probably fall apart if I tried…) but was prepared to do it, if the man insisted on getting in his way. Rob could hear the irony in Einar’s voice, the bitter determination of a man who was resigned to his fate but intent on facing it on his own terms, and could see that he had no intention whatsoever of sticking around, but realized at the same time that it was all Einar could do to keep on his feet. He was reeling, stumbling, leaving clear sign as he made his way down the deer trail, and Rob had an idea. “Asmundson, hey, they’re gonna be able to follow that trail you’re leaving. You’re not walking straight. Scuffing up the ground. My camp’s right down there in those spruces. Come on down and have some breakfast with me? Might make you a little steadier on your feet.” Einar turned back to look at him, nearly losing his balance as he did so and catching himself on a nearby aspen. Don’t do it…you know you can’t do this. What if they followed him here? What if this is all a trick to get you down there to his camp where he can hit you over the head or sedate you or something until he can radio the feds and claim that reward? But he silenced the voice by telling himself Rob was a local, someone he had been acquainted with before, that perhaps he could be trusted (Perhaps? You’re willing to stake your freedom on some half-baked ‘perhaps?’) and that, besides, if he didn’t get help of some kind, he’d probably wind up unconscious under a tree by the time evening came, at which point the cold would easily come in and finish him off. He nodded, slowly got himself turned around and limped back towards the man. “Ok…Ok, thanks.” Rob jumped down from his perch above the trail and offered to take Einar’s pack, but could see that the mere suggestion made Einar very nervous, so he backed off and did not offer again. “It’s right down there, see, where the trees get heavy, just the other side of the creek.” “I see. Saw your smoke, this morning.” And they headed down the slope together. • • • •

As soon as they reached the camp, Rob began stirring the fire, adding some dry aspen branches and a pile of shredded juniper bark that he had apparently gathered at some lower elevation on his way up. “Wait,” Einar insisted, standing up and taking a step back from the fire. “Somebody might see that smoke.” “It’s Ok. This dry wood won’t smoke much at all. And you look pretty cold; this’ll help a lot.” “Ah, no, I’m alright. Been a lot colder than this. I mostly just need to drink a bunch of water right now. Haven’t been able to keep much of anything down for a few days. Giardia, I’m pretty sure. Think it’s about done me in.” “I can tell.” Rob half filled a canteen cup, rummaged around in his pack and stirred something into the water, handing it to Einar. It smelled like lemon. “What is this?” “Some sort of rehydration mix that I got from a paramedic I know, when he helped me pack my medical kit. It ought to be better than plain water, with the troubles you’ve been having. Supposed to have some rice powder or something in it, to help with the runs, too.” Seeing Einar’s hesitance, he handed him the empty packet that had held the drink mix, wanting to demonstrate that it was indeed what he said it was, and nothing else. Einar glanced at the yellow “CeraLyte” packet, nodded, trying the stuff and hoping he could trust Rob not to be poisoning him, finding the drink to be wonderfully refreshing and not upsetting to his stomach as the overly-sweet Tang water had become of late. As he drank, feeling somewhat revived, he explained to Rob his marginally successful attempts to create a similarly effective drink, mentioning the box elder sap and elk blood, but deciding at the last minute to leave out the part about the Tang, not wanting to possibly compromise Liz by having to explain where the Tang came from. Though he’s probably already wondering about this polypro and the jacket that’s too short for me, because this stuff has obviously not been out here as long as I have… “Want some more?” “Uh…better leave it at that for now. Don’t want to risk losing all of it. But if I could have just a bit more water…” he pulled several of the Oregon grape roots from his pack, wasting no time as he started to break them up in preparation for making some berberine solution. Thinking a bit more clearly and feeling slightly less wiped out after the electrolyte drink, he was becoming more and more certain that he must not spend much time at the camp, and wanted to take full advantage of the opportunities it offered to meet his basic needs, during whatever time he did spend there. Nesting the cup down in the still-warm coals of Rob’s fire, Einar crouched trembling over its warmth, waiting for the water to begin turning yellow. As he waited, he unwrapped the paracord that had held his

pocket knife into the improvised spear, closing the knife and stashing it, along with the hastily coiled cord, into the zippered pocket of Liz’s windbreaker, where it joined one of the Pemmican bars, the small first aid kit, and the little waterproof bottle of matches he had got from Liz. As an afterthought, he reached down to the bottom of the coyote skin pack, pulling out the pair of handcuffs and stowing them in the jacket pocket, too, thinking that if he was somehow separated from the pack and it was discovered in Rob’s presence, they were the one thing that could positively identify it as his. Guy’s trying to help me, after all… Not a great idea, but maybe I can keep him out of jail. “Oregon grape roots?” Rob asked, staring quizzically at the yellowing water. “That’s not something I’ve ever seen used for tea. Won’t it be kinda bitter?” “It’s for the Giardia. Was starting to work, I think, but then I had to move again and didn’t keep up with it. I need to drink a whole bunch of this stuff, if I want it to work. Please, if you ever see me not working on some, remind me…” “Will do. Hey, think you could eat something?” “I’d sure try. Got some elk liver in this bag, here, that ought to still be Ok, after that cold night.” Rob dug down in the coals, setting a little titanium pan down in them and pouring in a bit of oil from a bottle, adding thin slices of the liver which very soon began to cook and sizzle and emit a wonderful odor, leading Einar to realize that he actually felt hungry again for the first time since his illness had returned. As the liver cooked, Rob searched his backpack for something, coming up with a little fire steel and striker on a cord, stowed neatly in a small leather pouch. “Liz sent this for you. I’m sure it’s something you can use.” Einar took it, inspecting it before slipping the cord over his head. “Sure is…thanks,” he finally answered, not acknowledging the mention of Liz. “Listen, I know you probably think you have to protect Liz by pretending not to know who I’m talking about, but she came to us, you know. She’s the reason I’m here. That, and the fact that I’m always glad for the opportunity to mess with the Federal Occupation Force…!” Einar nodded, grateful but at the same time wishing that Liz had got the message when he failed to show up at the truck near the waterfall and cave, and left well enough alone. They ate in silence for awhile, Einar taking it very slowly, glad that the food seemed to be inclined to stay where he put it, for the moment at least. “So,” he asked Rob, realizing that he had better come up with all the information he could, while he had the chance, “how did you find me? Why this area? Why did you come here?” “Well, there’s this old timer I know, Oscar Bennington, who works for the DOW on some of their elk tracking programs, and he was up in this general area yesterday, when apparently the feds mistook him for you, and shot him in the arm while he was operating a radio telemetry antenna. Apparently they thought it was a rifle, or something.” He

shrugged, rolled his eyes. “Well, I went to see Oscar in the hospital last night, and he told me about a couple of things…stuff he saw over on the other side of that ridge there,” he indicated the slope behind them, “that made me wonder, so I had to come check it out.” “What kind of ‘stuff,’ what did he see?” Einar, who had been leaning back against a tree, sat up again, bolt upright, staring intently at Rob as he waited for the answer. “Elk quarter with saw marks on the bone, a few tracks, things like that. Now Oscar didn’t think it made an awful lot of sense for poachers to be up here this time of year, much less to be taking a half grown little elk like that quarter was out of, then leaving it sit in the middle of the basin like ‘somebody’ did. And when he told me about it, I was pretty sure what it meant. Though I gotta say, you made your tracks disappear pretty good, after you started up out of that basin. Found your pack, though. Why did you leave it, anyway? So you could move faster?” Einar shook his head, pulled himself to his feet. May be in more trouble than I realized, here… “Did uh…Oscar tell this stuff to the feds, too? Guess he probably would have…” “I wouldn’t have come, if I thought he had. But I really don’t think so, and here’s why: Oscar loves to talk, to tell stories, you know, and I was in his room when he gave a phone interview to The Sentinel. And he didn’t mention one word about the elk or the tracks, which would have added a little mystery to the whole story, so I think he’d have brought it up, if he wanted it to be public knowledge. And he waited ‘till everybody else was out of the room to tell me, too. So I’m thinking he didn’t tell them.” Einar let his breath out in a big sigh, sat back down heavily. “Ok. Sure hope not. But one more thing. How did you end up ahead of me on my trail this morning? You said I wasn’t leaving tracks up out of the basin, so how did you find me?” “Are you kidding? You were crashing around like a bear, coming up from that creek this morning. I’d spent the night down here, just trying to think where somebody might go if they’d seen the chopper that shot at old Oscar. When I heard you this morning, I just got in close enough to where I could see you, figured out which way you were headed, and went ahead to wait for you.” Einar nodded. “I know. I was getting pretty clumsy. Tell you what…don’t ever go for… I don’t know, a couple months, anyhow, with way too little food and sleep and too much country to cover, then get a nasty case of Giardia to top it all off. It really messes with your concentration.” “Messes with…?” Rob burst out laughing, apologizing profusely the next moment. “I’m sorry, I know that’s not funny at all, it’s just…well, that must be the understatement of a lifetime, or something. Jeff said you had a habit of understating things.” “Hmm. Maybe. Convince myself, sometimes I guess, that things aren’t as bad as they seem, or…as bad as they are, as the case may be. Helps some.”

Einar’s initial enthusiasm at the renewed energy and clarity brought him by the electrolyte drink and bites of liver was, unfortunately, rather short lived, as he ended up minutes later creeping off behind a tree and losing his breakfast from both ends, barely making it back into camp afterwards before collapsing in a heap on the ground. Rob tried several times unsuccessfully to wake Einar before rolling him into his sleeping bag, pulling his knit cap down almost to his eyes and zipping him, pale and shivering, into the bag. Rob mixed up another packet of the rehydration drink, so it would be ready when Einar woke, and hung his coyote skin pack from a nearby branch where he would easily be able to see it. The still-damp second pair of polypro tops and bottoms he draped over evergreen boughs in the sun to finish drying. For the rest of the day and into the evening Einar fought with the heaviness that held him down, unconscious at times, knowing that he needed to be getting up, moving on, but finding himself entirely unable to do so much as sit up and have a conversation with Rob. It was as if his body, quite independently of what his mind was so insistently telling it to do, had reached a point where rest was essential and could be delayed no longer, seizing upon an opportunity and forcing him to comply. Einar didn’t like it, but found himself able to fight it only in his troubled dreams. During the brief periods of wakefulness that Einar’s condition allowed him, Rob got him to take sips of the electrolyte mix and of his Oregon grape concoction, keeping watch over the camp and, honoring Einar’s prior request, waiting to rekindle the fire until after dark. Waking to the glow of the fire, Einar found his clarity of mind if not his strength to have finally returned somewhat, and along with it the sure knowledge that something was wrong. He did not know what, but the sense was of something immediate, pressing, demanding action without delay. Einar knew better than to second guess such inklings. He grabbed for his pack, found it missing, got quietly to his feet and took a few steps back away from the glow of the fire, crouching beneath a spruce and steadying himself against the rough bark of its trunk. He could clearly see Rob, sleeping wrapped up in a wool blanket not far from the fire, and nothing looked amiss; all was quiet on that still, moonless night. But the warning of danger was stronger than ever, bringing all of his senses into sharp focus. He heard a twig snap, and another, and higher up on the ridge a larger movement as of some sizeable animal. But he knew those sounds, knew the pattern they made, and knew that it was no bear or wandering elk that he was hearing. • • • •

Taking another two steps back from the camp Einar nearly tripped over something, finding it to be the empty elk stomach that had housed his supply of elk meat and liver. Rolling it up with the knowledge that he was probably not going to be able to return to the camp for the rest of his gear, he stuffed it as well as he could into the emptier of his two jacket pockets, stopping after a few more steps to listen, certain as he did that the camp was being approached from several different directions. He wanted to warn Rob, thought of throwing something at him, but decided that perhaps it would be best if whoever was out there just discovered him sleeping by a fire, making no effort whatsoever to conceal his presence…! Hope he has a good cover story for all of this.

Einar took another step out into the evergreens, traversing across the hill, suddenly beset by a very strong feeling that someone was nearby, just above him. He dropped to the ground and scooted behind a tree just as the near-silence of the night was split by the sharp crack of nearby rifle fire, one of the three shots impacting the trunk of Einar’s tree, not two feet above his head. Einar quickly rolled over, dragged himself several more feet away from its source, realizing as he did so that the men would almost certainly be equipped with night vision goggles, and could likely see him as plain as day at that point, unless the trees were concealing him. There was a crashing of branches behind him, a few shouted words, and Einar was on his feet, running and tripping down the slope, hands out in front of him to hopefully prevent a hard impact with a tree, dodging and zigzagging in the hopes that it might save him from meeting one of his pursuers’ bullets. Which it very nearly did. He made it down to the creek, splashed across, slipping once and getting back to his feet before starting up the opposite slope, but the timber was not as heavy there, the trees more widely spaced, and the bullet took him in the back of the left thigh, a few inches above the knee. Einar stumbled, went down briefly but picked himself back up in a hurry, scrambling on up the hill as fast as he could. The leg seemed to be functioning alright for the moment, and he hoped that meant the shot had missed the bone, but he knew that despite the current numbness, he would be hurting before long no, wrong, you’re gonna be dead before long, if you don’t get out of here…pretty clear what their rules of engagement are, tonight. There was some kind of commotion going on at the camp behind him, and for the moment Einar did not hear sounds of pursuit, but he did not wait around to find out why not, dashing up towards a patch of blackness that bulked blacker than the rest of the dark world ahead of him, hoping desperately that it might be dark timber that would give him some concealment from his night vision-equipped pursuers. Which it was, and did. He kept climbing beneath the concealment of the trees, remembering the dropoff that had been behind him when he had first met Rob, (should have jumped off of it then, like I was thinking, and saved myself all this trouble. I could be sleeping quietly under a spruce right now, and the feds with no idea where I was…) thinking it might well represent his one chance to lose a team of pursuers who were obviously armed, could see in the dark, and would be moving a good bit faster than he was capable of. Einar was getting dizzy, though, stumbling more frequently, and he knew he must be losing blood, stopped to check and found the back of his polypro pants sticky and soaked down nearly to the ankle, discovering after some hasty probing both an entry and an exit wound in the back of his thigh, most of the blood, he thought, coming from the exit, which to his dismay seemed a bit more extensive than the single neat hole he could feel on the other side. There was a good bit of blood, but the wound didn’t seem to be gushing like you’d still be going, if it was… and he was pretty sure he could control the loss if I had a minute to work on it, which I probably don’t… Pulling the torn remnants of the surrounding polypropylene over the wound and pressing the heel of his hand hard against the damaged flesh, the pain beginning to catch up to him a bit as he did, he wasted no time in opening his jacket pocket and fumbling for the first aid kit, knowing that it was hardly designed to be useful in such emergencies, but having little else to try. His fingers slick

with blood, he couldn’t even get the little zipper started, though, finally managing it with his teeth only to find himself unable to get the internal plastic bag of kit components out of the narrow zippered opening, and he finally gave up trying after several failed efforts, knowing that he hardly had the time to waste. Instead, seeing the outline of shaggy spruce boughs against a sky that was slightly less black than the trees themselves, he grabbed a handful of Usnea from a nearby branch, running his hand along it and stripping off as much as he could find, by feel. He stuck a wad of it under his left hand, pressing hard again and glad that the flow seemed to have lessened somewhat. This is taking too long, it’s all taking too long… Below him he could hear crashing and the snapping of branches as his foe again took up the pursuit, but he knew that he must have a way to hold the hasty Usnea pressure bandage in place if he wanted to keep the bleeding in check, felt around in his pocket for the small coil of paracord this is bad, need something wider, but it’s all I’ve got… and wrapped it several times around the injured area, stuffing clumps of Usnea under the wraps against both of the wounds on his leg and wiping away as much of the blood as he could with his sleeve, hoping to be able to check later to see how much he might still be losing. Breaking off a short section of a nearby dead branch he stuck it between the wraps of cord so he would have a way to tighten the bandage, if needed. Remembering at the last minute to stuff the first aid kit back in his pocket so it wouldn’t be there for his pursuers to find, he took off again, feeling awfully faint, but managing to keep on his feet. By the time Einar reached the ridge crest and began searching for the open, treeless area that he knew would mark the dropoff, he could clearly hear the sounds of pursuit behind him, though his pursuers seemed to be spread out in a way that indicated that they were covering a large section of the slope with their search, rather than actually following his trail. He wondered if they knew they had hit him, supposed that they must have seen him go down. Ok. Well, no way I’m gonna be able to outrun them once they get up here, so… He ran a short distance along the spruce needle-covered crest of the ridge, leaving the clear, scuffling sign of a man who is beginning to drag an injured leg a bit (don’t even need to fake that one…) stopping when the ground underfoot became rockier and he knew his trail would naturally become more difficult to see, returning carefully to the dropoff, leaving as little sign as possible. He started down over the edge, hanging onto a fir branch and swinging himself out away from the edge before letting go, to reduce his chances of leaving telltale scuffs in the lose, shale-flake covered ground at the top, slipping and sliding on the lose shale, glad that the slope wasn’t any closer to vertical and hoping that his pursuers were still far enough behind him that the racket of sliding and crashing rock would be blocked by the hillside. Einar lost elevation quickly on the steep slope, picking up speed as he went, rolling twice before getting himself flipped back over onto his stomach and coming up short against a ledge of solid rock that stuck out from the steep slope. He lay there for a moment with his breath knocked out before getting shakily to his feet, shuffling along the ledge and feeling in front of him with his foot, hoping that he would not walk off the end of it at some point. The Usnea bandage had been loosened and dragged out of place during the

tumble, and he stopped to readjust it, realizing that he was bleeding again and taking a minute to scrape up a handful of dust from the slope beside him and scatter it over the trail of blood drops that he could just make out behind him on the ledge. Such an action, he was well aware, would do him no good at all if men ended up on the ledge following his trail, but might make things less conspicuous from the air, anyway. He hoped. Though he realized that the loose shale that had come down with him would have left quite a path, clearly visible to anyone who flew over the area. Such small rockslides were not at all uncommon in the spring months as things thawed and let go, though, so he had some hope that the sign might be overlooked as a natural occurrence. A definite possibility, though Einar knew that it was not especially likely to matter much, in the end. In all likelihood they’d have him long before daylight came. That, or blood loss from the injury would do him in. He knew that, being already pretty badly dehydrated from his illness, it wouldn’t take the loss of much blood to leave him in shock and unable to continue with his flight. Briefly acknowledging the truth behind those grim musings, he quickly banished them to some dark corner of his mind, knowing that they were, though probably accurate, not especially useful to him at the moment. Einar knew that his barely controlled slide and tumble couldn’t have taken long at all, and expected that his pursuers would not yet have topped out on the ridge. Crouching on the ledge for a moment of rest, He wondered if his ruse up on the ridge would work, when the men did reach the its crest, sending the search off at least temporarily in the wrong direction. He rather doubted it, but perhaps there was at least some chance, in the darkness. I’ll know, soon enough. • • • •

Feeling around in the darkness, Einar tried to determine the best way off of the shale ledge, seeing the dark shapes of a number of evergreens in the distance and anxious to reach them. In exploring, he found a small protected space beneath the ledge, dropped into it and briefly considered staying in its shelter, but quickly decided against it. They’d find me soon enough, if I did that. Surely it won’t be long before they’ve got a chopper up, and I’ve got to be out of this open area by then, or they’ll just pin me down ‘till it’s light enough for them to track me again. Hopefully it will take them a while to figure out that I went over the edge of the bluff back there, give me a little time to figure something out, at least. Reaching the trees, he started up towards the top of the ridge, intending to cross it, go down the other side and, air traffic permitting, cross any meadow that might exist at its bottom, and start up and over the next ridge. His pursuers, he figured, would expect him either to follow a creek along a valley floor, heading down, as most people naturally tended to do when running, or to follow the contours of a ridge just below its crest, gaining elevation as he had often done in the past. So, I’m gonna do the opposite. Up and over, one after another, and hope to lose them. By the time he reached the crest of the first ridge, dizzy, dragging and out of breath despite maintaining only a moderate pace as he worked to avoid scuffing up the duff and stepping on exposed ground where he would leave more sign, Einar was thinking that there was a good reason indeed why most people tended to head down a valley when fleeing. Yeah, but most people tend to get caught, too. Keep at it, Einar. He was soon helped along by that added encouragement of a helicopter behind him, crouching beneath

a tree when its rumbling approach first reached his ears, but soon getting back on his feet and continuing on his way as it became clear that the chopper’s focus was on the immediate area of Rob’s camp, by then some distance behind him. He wondered what had happened to Rob, didn’t like the idea that the man might have got into major trouble, or worse, trying to help him, but he had not, after all, requested the help, though he had made the mistake of accepting it when he ought to have known better. Shaking his head, he pushed that thought to the side to join the others he had dismissed earlier. Got plenty of my own troubles to worry about, at the moment. Though I do wonder why that chopper took so long to show up. Seems like the guys on the ground would have called for it right away after finding the camp, even before the shooting started. Hmm. Wishing to be further from the sound of the chopper, he started down the back of the ridge. Einar’s bleeding, while it had slowed to a level that he was pretty certain ought not be endangering his life anymore, had certainly not stopped, and Einar, feeling weak enough as it was and wishing he had a way to halt the loss altogether, stopped from time to time to ease himself down in an open area of the slope and feel along the ground with his hands in search of yarrow, whose blood stopping properties he had taken advantage of in the past. He had no luck, though, and finally gave up on the matter, tightening the bandage again and deciding that it would have to do, until daylight. The wind rose in the night, chilling Einar as he moved through the forest in his damp clothes, limping along, stopping occasionally to tighten the bandage or to replace a soaked clump of Usnea with fresh, listening to the whispering and whistling of the evergreens as he kept on for a space of time that seemed rather longer than any night ought to last, and with the wind grew a hope in him that the dogs he was sure his pursuers would be bringing in might not have an easy or quick time staying on his trail and catching up to him. He finally stopped to rest after having not heard the chopper nearby for a while, easing down onto his right side beneath a tree to keep pressure off of his increasingly painful and swollen leg, but not allowing himself to lie down for fear of dropping off to sleep for what might prove to be too long, with men possibly on his back trail. He did doze in little snatches though, his eyes closing for a few minutes at a time, but jerking back to wakefulness each time with a barely suppressed yelp as he inevitably moved his injured leg in his slow slump towards the ground. Fine alarm clock, but I’d sure like to quit jarring the leg like that… Searching his pockets in an attempt to keep himself focused and awake, he took inventory of what he had left. Not much. This is just what you needed right now, Einar. Lose everything, and get shot, to boot. He shook his head ruefully, realizing that he was back down to almost nothing again, had lost the coyote skin pack, even, along with nearly all of his food, and was left with the elk stomach—and the pockets of the windbreaker—as his only carrying container, and he supposed he would have to try and cook in it, as well, because he had lost the sardine can and larger tin cooking can, also. In one of the windbreaker pockets he did discover, much to his surprise, six or seven packets of the CeraLyte powder that Rob had been mixing up for him. Ah! This may be very helpful! Guess he stuffed these in here while I was sleeping. Now, I wonder what he did with my other clothes…? Not that it matters, at this point. He realized that he was

back down to one set of clothes agian, the polypro tops and bottoms and windbreaker that he had been wearing when he arrived at Rob’s camp and which were damp from slipping in the creek on his way across, one leg sticky with drying blood. At least it is drying… means I’m not losing so much anymore. May have a chance. Though when he thought ahead to the soon-to-be pressing need to clean, irrigate and disinfect the wound if he wanted any chance of avoiding a potentially life-ending infection, his head spun at the seeming impossibility of the task, knowing that he could not even hope to have a fire (though at least now I do have an easy way to start one, if it ever ends up mattering again) to sterilize water anytime in the foreseeable future. The most important thing that I lost tonight was the progress I’d made in getting out from under the search. I was almost to the point where I could stop and rest like I need to do, have fires again, but now… And, though it had been bothering him less since his day of forced stillness at Rob’s camp, he doubted that the Giardia was through with him, yet. Einar closed his eyes, rested his pounding head against the trunk of the tree, fighting a growing inclination to wish that the whole thing could just be over. One step at a time, Einar. You slowed the bleeding, made it so they’re not right behind you anymore, just take it one step at a time and you’ll make it. Or make a good end of it, anyway. One step at a time. And the next step, he knew, in addition to continuing to put more distance between himself and his pursuers, had to involve finding some water. When Einar rose some minutes later, it was to discover that his leg had grown terribly stiff and painful during the rest, making movement, let alone the careful movements of a man who had a potential need to lose a team of experienced trackers, rather a challenge. Daylight was approaching, dismal and flat through the cloud cover, and he took a minute to inspect his wounds by the dim light of the increasingly overcast and windy morning, loosening the paracord and carefully attempting to remove the Usnea dressing, but finding it firmly held in place by the blood that had soaked it and dried as he rested, the cessation of movement reducing the flow. He knew that Usnea possessed strongly antibacterial properties, but at the same time did not think it a good idea to leave the stuff in place for too long. For all he knew, there could be bullet fragments, or, at the very least, spruce needles or gravel from the shale slope embedded in the wound, needing to be removed. If I was headed for help, someplace where I could expect to get actual medical attention in the next day or so, I think the best thing would be to leave the Usnea, but…that’s certainly not happening, and I’m gonna really have to stay on top of this, if I want to avoid an infection. Better go ahead and find a way to wash it out. And better get some more Oregon grape roots today and start drinking that stuff again, just as much of it as I can manage. Maybe if I can get enough of it into me, it will help stave off infection, and finish off the Giardia, at the same time. First, though, he needed water, and headed for a nearby gulley that cut the ridge he was descending, hoping that it might contain a small creek or at least a seep that he could use. While there was no creek in the steep, evergreen-lined declivity, Einar did find, after a bit of searching in the growing daylight, a spot where the needles on the ground were wet, the ground squelching and oozing as he probed it with a toe, and he dug down with his hands, waiting until the little hollow he had scooped out filled with water before cupping the slightly muddy stuff in his hands and drinking. Well, I’ll drink it right now, but I certainly can’t wash my leg with this goop. Got to find a clear spring or a creek, at least, for that. Once he had

begun drinking his body wanted more, and, seeing how slowly the hole was refilling, he scooped another, going back and forth from one to the other until he could hold no more water. Shaking a bit of electrolyte powder into his hand from one of the packets, Einar mixed it with a small amount of water and swallowed the resulting paste, finding that it almost immediately lessened the exhausted, dragging feeling that had been increasingly slowing his steps, and figuring that he could keep himself going for a good while on it if he was able to take occasional breaks to gulp some water and swallow a bit of the paste. Climbing up out of the shallow gulley and straining his ears for the sound of the chopper Einar could just make it out over the growing wind that swept along the ridge, bending the trees and bringing with it a few hard-driven drops of cold rain, stinging his face and making him very grateful that the windbreaker, while rather too small for him, at least had a hood. Chopper won’t be up for long, if the weather keeps heading in this direction. Come on, storm! And as he was met by a fresh gust of wind and an increasingly steady downpour that blew across the dimming landscape in great sheets he grinned, tightened the bandage on his leg, and began once again hobbling up the ridge, the stormwind lending an odd, frenetic energy to his exhausted movements that helped to carry him along and keep him going. Thank you… • • • • The rain that swept Einar’s ridge that morning was widespread, persistent, and for the first time that spring, did not turn to snow, even at the higher elevations. Moving beneath the cover of the trees, doggedly sticking to his plan to travel up and over the ridges in an attempt to baffle his pursuers, Einar was able to keep himself going at a steady if slow pace, stopping when he had to and catching a few drips of water in his hand as they poured off the end of an evergreen branch, adding some of the electrolyte powder and resting against the tree for a minute as his body absorbed the stuff, before going on. Eventually he learned to anticipate when he was nearing the point at which he could no longer continue without a break, stopping just short of it and finding that things went quite a bit more smoothly when he did so. In addition to the electrolyte powder, he occasionally nibbled on his one remaining Pemmican bar, though his leg was hurting enough at that point that he really did not feel especially hungry. The ridges were becoming progressively higher and more rocky, and Einar, stopping for one of his routine breaks, could tell that he was before too long going to reach his limit and have to stop. Walking was becoming more and more of a challenge, and he had for some time been relying on a stick, the trunk of a small aspen that he had found lying in a boulder field, to take some of the weight off of his leg. Despite adding several more clumps of Usena to his improvised bandage, the exit wound continued to bleed from time to time, and Einar knew that he needed to get off his feet, stop the movement if he wanted to control it. He set himself a goal, a spruce covered escarpment that he had seen from a good distance back, red rock showing in broken patches through the timber near its summit. Get up over that thing, and you can stop, rest, look for some shelter. He hadn’t heard a helicopter or any other sign of pursuit since the rain had begun, and was hopeful that his trail might have been lost in the storm. Either way, he had to have some rest, had to try and do something for his leg. On the

way up the ridge that he had decided on as the final section of his journey for that day, he found a few scraggly Oregon grape plants growing among the rocks in an open spot, and ventured out into the downpour long enough to collect several of their roots, finding that, after moving a few rock slabs that sat among the plants, the roots could be pulled fairly easily out of the saturated ground. Stashing the roots in the elk stomach and pausing to wring the water from his sleeves where they stuck out from beneath the windbreaker, which was itself beginning to admit moisture after a morning of soaking, he went on, finally reaching the ridge’s crest. Starting down the back of the ridge in search of shelter, he traveled into a section of dark timber where the trees, at times, grew close enough together that they made his progress all the more difficult, and before long he found himself growing rather weary of pressing through their dripping branches and stepping over the multitude of old, fallen trunks that littered the ground and threatened to send him sprawling down the slope, his leg trapped behind him. Getting a glimpse of what appeared to be a slightly more open area he headed for it, finding the reason for the somewhat less dense tree cover to be an outcropping of rock, grey and granite-like, that punctuated the otherwise unbroken sea of evergreens. Einar found that he had emerged from the timber at the edge of a dropoff, looking down some twenty feet at…more treetops. His view of the larger world was entirely cut off by the continuing rain and an icy fog that rolled in great banks along the mountainside, at times preventing him from seeing even the tops of the trees that he traveled beneath. Going off to the left of the dropoff, Einar picked his way down among the rocks, hoping very strongly to find at the bottom of the bluff a little ledge beneath which he might take refuge from the winddriven rain and the falling temperatures. Wet, sick, exhausted and beginning to be feverish from the wound, he was all done in, ready to be out of the worsening storm, which he was sure would have at least significantly slowed if not halted the search, and be still for a while. The granite outcropping, though, provided no such opportunity, petering out in the trees below without offering so much as an overhang for him to squeeze beneath, and he stumbled along down the slope, stopping after a few yards to sit on a fallen spruce that blocked his path, seemingly unable to haul himself up and over it. Looking back up at the outcropping behind him one last time, hoping to find some protection that he had overlooked at first, Einar’s eye was caught by something that seemed out of place, just a bit too regular to be a part of the forest arou