Axel had stopped talking. I guess enough words had been said and nothing more would make the situation better. Exasperated, Jane turned and left the office. She moved down the hall toward the kitchen. She walked quickly and with purpose, trying to work through the bombshells of the past hour. Moving would help sort through the swimming thoughts in her head. Her conversation about the server with Axel had not gone well. She was shocked, and a bit hurt he would make such a move without her, even though she agreed the fewer people involved in such a thing, the better. But still, this was her long game, her master plan, and major decisions were being made without her. She cursed herself for not paying closer attention and for letting her concentration slip. How could she have not seen the discontentment in Todd? How could she not have seen the obvious construction project in the barn? How did she not hear Axel when he talked about needing a security blanket?
Motion detectors were turning on lights as she moved through the halls. This was not helping her mood. Her mood was sinking with darkness and maybe a bit of silence. Seeing one of the control screens on the wall, she went to it, opened up the settings page and tried to find the menu for lighting controls. Searching for what seemed like forever she finally found the screen she needed. When she tried to turn off the automatic lights, it denied her and asked for a passcode. She input her code, and still, the system denied her, saying “invalid code”. Her frustration built as she tried again to access the home automation system. After three denials she had, had it, and her emotions got the best of her. Jane threw her elbow into the screen, shattering the glass face. She could feel that the glass cut through her sleeve and opened up the skin on her arm. The screen still had the red blinking letters on it, “DENIED”. Her hands balled into fists at her side; she was breathed deeply. Telling her self over and over that misplaced emotions wouldn’t serve her, she tried to center herself. She stood still long enough that the motion sensor didn’t see her and mercifully the lights turned off. Well, at least she now had her darkness. Jane had her solitude. Finally, she had her silent control, there in the dark, silent, still hallway. She dared not move and risk being exposed by the light. She could feel a trickle of warm blood move down her forearm. Jane imagined the drying of the blood fighting against the slow gravitational march down her skin. Soon, clotting would cut off the supply of fresh blood, and the absorption of her skin would stop the movement towards her hand. Stop the stream of blood leaving her body. All things heal in time, she thought. Then she heard the far off sound of a dirtbike engine start up. She turned her head to look out the window to her left. Down in the driveway, she saw Todd cinching down saddlebags to the back of the bike. The western sky held but a faint dark blue glow.
She watched him, unable to move. She was watching her oldest son prepare to battle, to hunt. Guns holstered at his sides and his modern-day horse loaded with wilderness provisions. A contemporary cowboy, riding out to gun down the bad guys. She stepped sideways towards the window, and the lights flooded the hallway. The reflection of her own face now obscured her vision through the window. From nowhere, Jane was overcome with anxiety and a heavy sense of guilt. Before she knew what was happening, she was sprinting down the hall and rounding the corner towards the front door. She burst out on to the front porch taking the steps three at a time. Running down the front pathway to the drive she yelled for Todd to stop. It was too late. The front gate was open, and Todd was pulling through at a roll. The armed guard at the gate heard Jane and looked up. His hand went out to tap Todd on the shoulder as he passed. Todd twisted the throttle, and the only thing the guard touched was the dust kicked up by the rear tire. The four-stroke KTM 450 moved through the first four gears in quick time, and Todd was a hundred yards down the road before anyone could react. He was heading south into the San Luis Valley. In short time, his lights disappeared around the first bend, and all that could be heard was the wrapping of the motor. That, too, faded into the night.
Jane fell to her knees on the gravel drive and bowed her head. A short sob came from her throat. Then she took in a deep breath, wiped her face with her non-bloody sleeve, and stood up tall. The guard shrugged to her in an apology. Waving him off she turned and headed back to the kitchen. She was hungry and needed a drink.
The familiar jeep road felt smooth under the suspension of the dirtbike. Undulations in the dirt road created strict horizon lines below which the LED headlight could not penetrate, leaving a hole of darkness under each roll. Todd knew this road like his driveway, so the unknown was of no consequence to his speed. He smoothly shifted through the gears in anticipation of each corner and technical rock garden.
Standing on the pegs, he moved fast up the mountain, far around to the east of Axel’s compound. Todd figured a dirt bike in the solitude of the rocky mountain night wouldn’t be exactly inconspicuous. If he was right and the Johnsons came in from the north, heading them off from the east would be his best bet. He just hoped he was not too late, putting him behind them. Tracking the Johnson’s down from behind would be much harder than cutting them off and watching. Maybe even mirror their path. He figured his best chance for success was to choose the place he wanted to ambush them. Chasing them put the Johnson’s at the advantage and giving them an advantage would be losing before starting. They would be moving fast and to catch them would be almost impossible.
The road was becoming steeper, choked with rocks and water bars. The Old Spring Mine was just around the bend and up the last steep incline. From there he would be on a singletrack trail. Todd figured he would be on foot before long due to snowpack on the trail. About three miles up the trail, he ducked around a bend into an evergreen grove on a north slope. The snow on the trail rose up in front of him to 4 feet. Too deep to go around or over, he decided to park the bike.
Moving items out of the saddlebags into his pack he loaded up with ammo, food, water and sleeping gear. He stripped off his dirtbike gear, put on his hunting camo and changed into hiking boots. The bike was wheeled off the trail and covered with pine boughs. Strapping his elk hunting rifle to the pack, he felt the hunt warm up in him. He knelt for a moment, turned off his headlamp, and let his eyes adjust to the dark. The stand of pines blocked out the quarter-moon’s dim light. Patches of snow seemed to glow with stored sunlight. A small critter scuffled around in the underbrush. He took in the woods and all its smells. Then Todd looked up to the star-filled sky through a hole in the branches. He recited the hunter’s prayer to Ullr.
Hunter through the snows of Asgard,
May I take the perfect target.
Hunter Through the Fields of Vanaheim,
Guide my gift of flying death.
Hunter through the mountains of Jotunheim,
May prey never scream and never suffer.
Hunter through the worlds upward on trees,
See me safe to home and hearthstone,
To feed those waiting there for me,
Hold up your weapons and say,
Straight and strong may they all fly,
And find their mark in many hearts.”
He then drew the Algiz rune in a patch of snow and placed his hand over it, melding the rune into his hand print.
His GPS/ satellite phone beeped as a message came in.
Wolf pack over the hills. Moving due south. -Fell
Todd sighed in relief. He was not behind schedule. He had plenty of time to make the miles through the night and get some rest at dawn. He would not have to chase. He slung the pack onto his back, and now he was in the hunt. The only problem was that hunting hopefully leads to killing. His spirit was torn, for he wasn’t completely settled on the validity of his prey. Hopefully, he would have this worked out by the time his crosshairs focused in on the mark.