Bear River Rendezvous

by

Sue Kite

 

Part Two

 

 

 

Chapter 4

 

 

Chip was right; Lee didn’t have much left in him. He wavered, stumbled and would have gone down, if Chip hadn’t been holding on to him. "I think we need to hunker down somewhere."

"I think you need to just go find this valley of yours," Lee mumbled.

Chip was horrified. "You mean leave you?"

Lee nodded wearily, not even looking up at his companion.

"Nope, doesn’t work that way," Chip tossed back. "Not an option, m’bucko."

"It is if there’s no other choice."

"But there is a choice," Chip said vehemently. Despite his words, he knew he might have to go for help. Lee was unable to go any farther and he needed medical attention in the worst way. Chip was amazed that his CO had made it this far. Lee still wasn’t totally up to par from his time in the People’s Republic. He said nothing for a moment, then…. "Look, if I have to leave you, it’s only going to be after you are safe in a dry and warm place." The snow was falling thickly, making an already obscure landscape almost impossible to see. He shivered. The cold had been seeping through his thick coat and gloves for hours. Thankfully, the boots were waterproof and dry. But it was only the fact that they had been moving steadily that had kept him from feeling the cold to any degree. On the other hand, Chip could only imagine what Lee was feeling with the shock of the gunshot wound and subsequent blood loss. Shock. It was imperative they find a dry place. "And it certainly won’t be until it’s light enough to see."

Crane sucked in a ragged breath, standing up a bit taller. Still, he continued leaning against Chip. The visibility couldn’t be more than thirty feet now. The snow was coming down hard. "I’m your death sentence, Chip," he declared.

"That’s a bunch of bull and you know it, Lee. We’re in this together. We were a team in the academy and we sure as hell have been a team on the Gray Lady! So don’t even think any of that crap."

"Too tired to think…."

"Then let me do the thinking. You just do what I say and we’ll both survive." There was no answer. "I’ve got materials to start a fire. All we need is someplace sheltered from the snow and the wind, so I can make one."

"Go find one and let me sleep," Lee mumbled irritably.

"I can’t do that, either, and you know it. Look, I need your help. Just a bit more and we can both rest," Chip replied, almost pleading. In the increasing gloom, there was nothing except Crane’s harsh breathing and the soft sloughing of the wind through the trees. At least, thought Chip in relief, the wind had eased up. He looked around and saw something that made his heart leap. A barbwire fence! Whether they were actually in Cache Valley or not, they were near someone’s property. Chip peered into the snow-fogged late afternoon. He would be more likely to find a cave or overhang or something like that closer to the slope, and then in the morning he could follow the fence line and find a house.

"Come on, pal, I think we’re near a ranch. There’s a fence just in front of us."

"Can’t climb fence. Le’me go t’bed."

"Not asking you to climb anything. And I’ll let you go to bed in a minute. I promise. Few more feet, please, Lee."

Crane trudged alongside him as Chip walked parallel to the fence, studying the terrain, wishing, hoping for, begging for even a hole in a rock. Then he saw their next piece of good luck. It was an old camp trailer, rusted, the window missing, but still intact. Looked like something that might have once been a sheepherder’s wagon. "Come on, Lee. Think I’ve got us a safe place for the night." Lee didn’t say anything, but continued to follow his lead and plodded along, barely lifting his feet through the thickening snow. Chip left the injured man leaning against the side of the camper trailer, close to the door, which was hanging lopsided by only one hinge. It banged softly against the side of the trailer in the lowering wind. Quickly, Morton stepped inside. He pulled out a key chain flashlight from his pack and examined the floor. There was a hole to one side not too far from the door and the floorboards creaked when he stepped in. Still it was shelter and a darned sight better than he had expected.

It was one room, with a raised platform that Chip assumed had been for a bed. Quickly, he checked it and found it sturdy enough to hold Lee. There were several empty cabinets, the doors swung open crazily. He returned outside where he found Lee slumped to the ground, shivering in the snow. "I found it, Lee. Hotel d’Basque. Nice and snug and warm." Lee just mumbled unintelligibly. "Come on, pal, help me." He could feel his own strength waning. It had been a very nerve-wracking and strenuous afternoon.

Lee held out his hand and Chip grabbed it, pulling Crane to a sitting position and then up to stand beside him. The snow was heavier now, if that was possible. It was almost too dark to see anything. "Okay, let’s get out of this." With great care, he helped his friend to the doorway. "One step up, that’s it. Yeah. Good." The door was narrow enough that Chip had to stand behind the injured man and gently push. "Hang on to the door frame, Lee. Yeah. That’s it," he continued as he slipped around his friend who was leaning against the inside of the doorway. He pulled Lee further into the tiny trailer and led him to the platform. "Sit here and I’ll make this place more comfortable."

"No wind. No snow," Lee mumbled, slumping down.

"Yeah, we really lucked out," Chip concurred. "Let me get a fire going." With the flashlight’s glow, Chip was able to collect pieces of a broken chair and other scraps of wood. He gathered drifted leaves for tinder and then laid the fire on a square of metal that Chip could only assume was the base where an old stove had once stood. He looked above and saw a small hole where a flue had probably once gone. He smiled grimly. At least they wouldn’t be smoked out. A few flakes of snow drifted downward, so he knew that it wasn’t plugged. Bout time for a bit of luck in this misbegotten adventure.

While he worked he thought of Nikki and how she’d be taking the news of his and Lee’s adventures. It would surely have been on the news by now. ‘Two armed and dangerous fugitives in the mountains of Northern Utah.’ She’d be worried sick. She was a smart gal, his Nikki, and when they didn’t show up, she would put two and two together. Chip sighed lustily, knowing that she wouldn’t consider them crazed criminals for an instant, but what about anyone else in the area? Consider what happened to Lee; what had appeared to happen that precipitated the shooting afterward. Unless the feds had stepped in already and figured out who those two really were, there was no telling what might be going out on the airwaves. That wasn’t an issue now. Staying alive long enough to explain was an issue. Just staying alive….

Finally, he had to hold the flashlight in his teeth to finish the job. He pulled out a plain but elegant looking lighter from his pack. The only thing on it was a small plate that said, Salt Lake City with mountains in the background. It was a gift for the admiral, an inside joke that Doc wouldn’t appreciate, but the admiral certainly would. Now, hopefully it would save both their lives. The leaves resisted the lighter’s flame, smoldering frustratingly under the slivers and pieces of wood. Paper. He needed paper.

With cold-benumbed hands, Chip dug through his pack. Some brochures. That should do it. Quickly, he shredded the paper and stuck it under the teepee stack of wood. When he used the lighter this time, the paper caught immediately, igniting the leaves and sending small flames flaring under the wood. Chip blew gently, gazing intently for signs that the wood was catching. Smoke curled under the tiny flashlight beam, drifting toward the hole in the ceiling of the dilapidated structure. The wood caught and Chip scavenged around for more, tearing off the cabinet doors and splitting the very old and dry wood into lengths that would burn good in the growing fire.

After a quick glance at Lee, Chip surveyed the rest of the room. It didn’t look as though there would be enough wood to last the night, even if he completely dismantled the cabinets. Even if he could take them apart. The fire was blazing well now. Chip hesitated putting on the last of his pile of wood right now. If there was dead wood outside he could bring it in and let it dry for a while, then throw it on. Again, he looked at the still form of his commander, huddled on the platform. Morton knew Lee was alive because he was shivering. It was getting warmer in here and hopefully that would help.

Chip could afford a quick look outside. He needed to fix that door so that it would close more tightly anyway. Two steps were about all it took to get outside, the trailer was so small. The snow was still coming down fairly heavily, but it didn’t seem to be any worse. He stepped into the accumulated snow, noticing that their tracks were already half obscured. Ruefully, Chip thought that someone tracking them now might very well be a good thing. It might get Lee the help he needed. Of course, no one would be out in this. It would be morning before anything happened. He hunched his shoulders and walked away from their shelter. Then Chip stopped and looked around. It was almost dark now, the snow was still coming down and he couldn’t afford to get lost. To his consternation, he could only see vague outlines of the structure behind him. He judged the distance to be less than twenty-five feet.

Okay, so he couldn’t go more than twenty-five feet from the trailer. Right in front of him was a fence post. He followed the wire, kicking for any limbs, but there were none. They would keep stuff cleared away from the fence, he surmised. On the other hand, that told him this was a working ranch. So he shuffled back to the trailer. There was nothing on this side, he found. He poked his head in the door and saw that Lee hadn’t moved, but the fire was still burning well. Chip knew he couldn’t take too long with this search. There was a small thicket of trees and snow covered bushes on the other side and he plowed into the middle of them, trying to feel limbs and branches with his feet. Whatever he found would have to dry near the fire for a few hours, but if it was already dead, it wouldn’t take long.

His boot came upon a branch and he kicked the worst of the snow away and picked it up. It was long, but appeared brittle enough to break in the trailer. Chip searched for a few more minutes and then headed back. Lee had been left alone far too long. Even dragging the branches, it didn’t take long to return. He laid them as close to the fire as he could, adding a bit more of the broken up cabinet wood, then he checked on Lee. Feeling for a pulse, there was a moment of panic until he found it. Then Chip noticed that Lee was still shivering.

"Hands cold," Lee mumbled almost inaudibly.

"Sorry, Lee. Just checking on you. I’m going to figure out a way to get that door to stay shut, cover the window and then I’m going to stoke up the fire."

"Kay."

Chip went ahead and tossed a few more sticks of wood on the small fire, turned off the flashlight to conserve the battery. He studied the door. The remaining hinge was rusty and looked ready to give way any moment, but he pulled the door closed. There was no bolt; nothing that would catch on the frame and keep it in place. He felt along the door with his free hand. Wait! His fingers explored again in the dimness and he felt a hook. On the frame was an eye. He latched the hook and took his hand away from the half rotted rope that served in the same capacity as a knob. The door held. Next to be tackled was the window. Chip could feel the wafting of cold air in through the orifice. He had to do something to close it off.

"Hey, Lee. It’ll soon be warm in here," he said as cheerfully as he could. It would be if he could close off the window. There was no response, but Chip dug into his pack and pulled out the extra pair of jeans. They might just do the trick, he thought. At the top corner of the window frame there were two small nails. "All the better," he murmured, hanging the pants on the two nails. It helped, even though it couldn’t keep out all the cold.

Gazing at the small pile of firewood, Chip knew that it wouldn’t last until morning. There had to be more. In desperation, he jerked and pulled the small cabinets until, with a groan of protest, they came off the walls. One of them was easily kicked and pulled apart. The other one he threw on the fire without trying to break it apart. Then he strode back over to Lee, jerking off his glove. This time when he checked for a pulse, he found it quickly enough, but there was no response to his touch. Again he felt that fleeting of panic. He was losing him. Chip shook Crane slightly, then more vigorously. A soft moan greeted his efforts. "Lee!" he called. "Let me know you’re still with me."

"Le’me ‘lone," the injured man muttered, his teeth chattering slightly at the effort.

"You can’t go to sleep just yet," Chip responded.

One eye opened, gazing at him indignantly. "Why th’ell not?"

Chip grinned. "Because Nikki would kill us if we died here."

Both eyes opened; a bit of curiosity in their depths. A grimace touched the slightly blue lips.

Chip took it as a half-hearted smile and continued, "I’m about finished getting this place as, um, weather-proofed as I can and I put more wood on the fire. Even if it warms up, we may have to take turns keeping watch so the fire doesn’t go out."

Lee sighed deeply and moaned as he tried to move. "Don’ know if I can."

"Stay with me a little longer. Keep me focused while I try to get it warmer and then we can buddy up on your bed and keep each other warm if we do both go to sleep."

Lee barely nodded his head and then shivered violently, the action causing him to bite his lip. "Wad’ya want me t’do?"

Chip could tell Lee was trying hard to keep his teeth from chattering. He was only half succeeding. "Talk to me. That will help me stay more fully awake."

"’Kay." He blinked several times and Chip knew the effort was extremely difficult. "Can’ think wha’ t’say," he stuttered next.

Chip couldn’t help it; he chuckled. "Sorry, Lee. I wasn’t laughing at you." Chip began breaking up the branches he had brought from outside. "So what were you going to fix for New Year’s Day?"

"Ribs."

"Oh, man, that recipe you got from my dad?"

"Th’one you can’t fix right."

Snap! The first branch was fairly old and dry, despite the winter precipitation. "Yeah, rub it in, Skipper." Snap, snap! "I still say Dad forgot one of the ingredients when he gave it to me. I still want to look at what you got from him." Crack!

The injured man’s soft chuckle heartened Chip. He continued working on the branches. The second one was greener and harder to break apart. "Where were you planning on getting ribs?"

"Store, Chip," Lee said simply, wry sarcasm in his voice.

"Yeah, well, I guess we’d have found some open if we had made it to Logan."

"Yeah."

Chip started breaking the last branch.

"Shh!"

"Huh? What?"

"Quiet!" Lee hissed.

Chip stayed still and then he heard it. It was a scratching at the door. A snuffling, whining that was definitely not the wind.

"Wolf?" Lee asked.

Wolves didn’t attack people. "Coyote, most likely." Chip didn’t want to think of the alternative. Like a bear; one of those big ones that he had seen in Yellowstone Park one time. He kept a tight grip of the branch in his hand.

"Gun. Got one in my pocket," Lee told him, his voice soft.

Chip had forgotten, but he quietly got up and retrieved it from Lee’s coat. Then he crept toward the door.

 

******

 

Chapter 5

 

Just coming in from the field to an almost empty office, Trooper Jeff Allred sat down at his desk. There was a message written in large sharpie by Jeanine. He smiled, then noted more closely just who he was to call. ‘Call Adm. Nelson NOW!’ it said. There was a number written below the note. Somehow he wasn’t surprised. Allred wouldn’t be surprised if Crane’s companion was another member of Seaview’s crew. And there was Hartsfield or Harker or whoever the dead man was. Somehow, Allred figured that the man was not only not in law enforcement; he wasn’t in Naval Intelligence, either.

Allred leaned back in his chair, pushing back from the desk with his long legs, stretching, his mind rehearsing the chaos of the past four or five hours. A glance outside the window showed only snow in a dark sky. He glanced at his watch. It was after sunset. Allred picked up the phone and looked at the number. At the same time he wondered at the claim of the one or two witnesses who swore up and down that Crane had shot the dead man without provocation. He didn’t fault the Logan deputy any. The idea that a cold-blooded killer might be loose in the hills would spook anyone. However, too many things were beginning to add up to something quite different. There was the pistol under the dead man’s body. Hartsfield/Harker’s, he presumed and it was out, not in a holster. It wasn’t Government Issue either. Had he been pointing it at Crane or his buddy? The large man had one, too. An assassination attempt? Allred started at the idea. Then he thought about it. That made much more sense than two respected Navy men going berserk and starting a killing rampage against policemen and civilians.

He dialed the number and wasn’t surprised to have it answered after the first ring. And by the person who answered.

"Nelson here. You’re with the Utah Highway Patrol?"

That didn’t surprise Allred either. "Lieutenant Jeff Allred, sir. Yes, with the Utah Highway Patrol. The secretary left me your number and instructions to call. I just got in."

"Have you found Crane and Morton?"

Morton was the second man, Crane’s companion, Jeff presumed. "No, sir. I was second on the scene, ordered the investigators to examine everything in the area, and we all only finished our work in Sardine Pass about half an hour ago. Finished during the beginnings of one darned monster storm." Allred heard the sucking intake of breath. Yeah, the admiral understood the implications of what he had just said.

"What happened, Lieutenant? What I’ve received has been sketchy at best. And what’s most annoying is the feeding frenzy among the media out here."

"As I said, Admiral, I wasn’t a witness, but I can tell you what others told me." He paused to gather thoughts and breath.

Nelson wasn’t patient at the moment. "Well?"

He smiled. Nelson hadn’t gotten where he was—one submarine having operated successfully for, what, six years now, and another being built—by waiting for things to fall in his lap. "I understand, sir. I have made some of my own conjectures based on what I saw and what I was told. This isn’t courtroom fact."

"I appreciate you being candid with me . . . and for giving me your thoughts, as well."

"I’m not going to give you any tripe, Admiral. We’ve both been around the block a few times. But I hope you won’t pass along what I’m telling you, either, because most of it is not backed up with any kind of raw evidence. It’s a holiday and the boys were only going to get what they had to and will examine and process things more closely on the second."

"I understand," the gruff voice conceded, but Allred could hear the impatience.

"What I was called in for was a shooting on Highway 89/91 north in Sardine Canyon, about a mile and a half past a little town called Mantua. I was told on the way up that a man had shot and killed a policeman and wounded another."

"I didn’t believe it when the investigators called me and I still don’t believe it," Nelson growled. "Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there wasn’t a shooting, but I am questioning what the witnesses thought they saw."

"I agree with you, Admiral. I don’t think it was what it seemed, either." There was a silence on the other end of the line and Allred continued. "When I got there, one man in a Utah policeman’s uniform was dead and another was wounded. Your two men had taken off into the mountain, either heading east or back to Mantua. That couldn’t immediately be determined. From what I found later, it seems that they headed due east. But anyway…." He took a deep breath. "I figured immediately who one of the men was because his overnight bag was still in the rental car. That was Crane. I was told that he and his companion had stopped on the side of the road because of a problem with their vehicle. A police car stopped to help them, presumably…."

"Presumably?"

Allred smiled. "I’ll get to that, sir." Nelson only grunted an assent. "Your men were already out of the car. A witness had stopped to help at about the same time. He claimed that one of the two supposed policemen had gotten out of the car—the one who was injured, not killed and was approaching Crane and—Morton, did you say?"

"Commander Chip Morton, my executive officer on Seaview."

"Yes, sir. Well, anyway, the larger man was talking to Crane, quite close to him, I was informed, when the other man got out the car. I can only guess that your man recognized him. Called out a name—Harker or Hartsfield, depending on who’s telling the story."

There was a sharp intake of breath. "Hartsfield?! Lieutenant, was Hartsfield killed?"

Interesting question, Allred thought. "Yes, Admiral. The witness claims that as soon as Crane called his name, he shot him. Clean shot; immediate death."

"Was the man somewhat short to average height? Slender, with a deformed left hand?"

"Yes, Admiral. You knew him?"

"I knew of him, Lieutenant Allred," the voice answered grimly. "He was an operative in the Office of Naval Intelligence, but he was also working for at least one enemy spy agency when he was uncovered. He was specifically working on assassinating or discrediting Crane and me; and possibly trying to capture my boat. He had Crane’s mother murdered about two and a half years ago. Hartsfield disappeared and has been missing for almost that entire time with only hints of his whereabouts."

The information had been delivered almost bullet-like, very tersely. Allred was stunned. "That explains a lot, Admiral."

"Still, Lee wouldn’t have shot an unarmed man."

"That’s what was witnessed."

"But you have doubts," Nelson said evenly.

Allred was impressed. "Yes, sir. There was a gun under the body. A gun with a silencer."

Nelson paused. "They were trying to assassinate my men," he finally said, his voice hinting at tightly controlled anger. "And Lee and Chip took off because they had no way of knowing who was foe and who was friend."

"You know them better than I do, Admiral, but that would definitely explain their behavior after the shooting."

"And they haven’t shown up anywhere?" Nelson continued before Jeff could continue. "Chip’s, I mean Commander Morton’s wife is in a place called Bear Lake. I was going to meet them there tomorrow, but had so much unfinished work, I wasn’t sure I could." Another pause. "I will now."

"There’s more, Admiral."

"What?"

"The deputy who arrived on the scene said he told them to halt. Crane had fired at a forestry man who had stopped and tried to prevent them from leaving the scene."

"Did he hit him?" Nelson asked.

"No, Admiral. He put a nice neat hole in the bed of the man’s truck."

"I told you Lee wasn’t out to kill anyone."

"Considering how easily he killed Hartsfield, that is a possibility. But there was no way for any of the witnesses to know that. Anyway, with the information the deputy had, he felt he had to keep them from escaping. He said he was aiming over their heads, but he thinks he may have shot one of your men." Allred heard Nelson sucking in his breath.

"But you don’t have them in custody," Nelson replied, his voice tight. "And . . . and you didn’t say you had a body other than Hartsfield’s."

"Mark was beginning to think he hadn’t hit Crane, but…."

"But what?"

"About the time the storm blew in, Mark and I got about two/three miles into the mountains and found a small thicket where your men had rested. There was a trace of blood evidence," Allred told Nelson.

"How do you know it was Lee?"

"Crane was the shooter, sir. He would be the main person to stop." Nelson didn’t say a thing. "All law enforcement and hospitals in the area have been alerted. I’m sorry, Admiral, but they are considered armed and dangerous."

"Dangerous with what?" Nelson snapped. "Morton had a rifle he had been given by his wife’s family at Christmas. No ammunition."

"I will note that, but even if Commander Morton hadn’t bought ammunition—and there is a large Army/Navy surplus store on 89 that sells weapons and ammo—Captain Crane had the pistol he took off the other so-called policeman. It still contained several rounds." Nelson swore under his breath. Allred continued, "But I will also add what you told me, sir."

"You said something about a storm?"

"Yes, sir, snow’s coming down quite heavily now."

"About how long is it supposed to last?"

"Until tomorrow afternoon before clearing out. This one is a big one. A record breaker. Supposed to dump more than a foot, up to a couple of feet along the Wasatch Range, including the area your men are in."

Nelson swore under his breath again. "Which airport would you recommend for a small, private jet?"

"Need a long runway?"

"I’ve landed FS1 on an aircraft carrier if that helps any. If there aren’t any airports in the area, a lake with a thirty, forty foot depth would do."

Allred paused. "A lake, sir?"

"My flying submersible can land on a runway or in water," Nelson explained.

"Oh." Allred considered. "My office is in Brigham City and there is Willard Bay, but with your men in Cache County and the search mainly in that area, I would suggest the Logan Airport, or if Commander Morton’s wife is in Bear Lake, I would suggest that lake."

"Where would my men be taken if they were found soon?"

"With one of them injured, I would say Logan. There’s an excellent hospital there."

"Thank you, Lieutenant. As soon as the weather clears enough to safely fly in, I’ll be up there. I will also contact Chip’s wife and tell her what you’ve told me."

"Admiral, we’ll look for your men as soon as we can. I assure you, we aren’t on a ‘shoot-on-sight’ manhunt. We want to find them alive."

"Thank you," Nelson said. "Please let me know as soon as you hear anything."

"I will, Admiral. Let me give you the number for the Cache County Sheriff’s office, as well."

When they had hung up, Jeff looked out the window at the heavy snow and pondered the odds of anyone being able to find them alive. He wasn’t optimistic.

 

=====================================

 

"Would a coyote come calling like that?" Chip asked, feeling a renewing of anxiety. After the kind of luck they had had these past couple of hours, he wasn’t surprised that something would come along to burst the bubble. Chip could see that Lee had his teeth clamped together to prevent them chattering. The fire had brought the temperature up in this little sheepherder’s camp wagon, but it wasn’t enough to make them comfortable by any means. The scratching was punctuated with a whining. Then the creature began barking. "It’s barking! Wolves and coyotes don’t bark—at least not like that!"

"I . . . think it’s a d . . . dog," Lee stuttered, pushing himself up on one elbow.

"What the hell would a dog be doing out in this?"

"Fi . . . figuring out who the id . . . jits are in the tr . . . trailer."

That elicited a grin from Chip. At least Lee had a little of his sense of humor intact. "Well, do I let it in? Sounds persistent."

"Ch . . . check it out, but be…."

"Careful. Yeah, I know." Chip walked softly to the jury-rigged latch and loosed it, opening the door just a crack. A large muzzle of something that looked to be a cross between a Chow, a Golden Retriever and a St. Bernard poked into the space and pushed the door open and out of Chip’s hand. It whined and then bounded in, shaking snow from its thick fur. It was reddish brown as best as Chip could determine with a dark muzzle. The tail wagged a tattoo on the doorframe as he stood gawking at it.

"Sh . . . shut the door!" Lee cried out, shivering even more violently at the cold, powdery stuff the big beast had brought in and scattered in all directions.

"With or without the dog?" But Chip didn’t wait for an answer. He re-‘latched’ the door as the dog pattered a couple of paces toward Lee and sniffed. It gazed at the small fire blazing nearby and then back at the two men. It walked closer to Lee and nuzzled him on the chest enough to overbalance him from the precarious stance he had on his elbow. "Oh, jeez!" he cried out in pain.

Chip was by his side in an instant, pushing the dog aside. The animal didn’t seem to mind too much. He just stood nearby panting. "You okay, Lee?"

"Jus’ hit the d . . . deck wrong," he gasped, glaring at the dog. The dog whined, sitting on its haunches as though this was its normal home.

"Guess I ought to get rid of it, but . . . I wonder," Chip mused, gazing at the dog. It continued panting, slobber dripping from its tongue. Chip felt its neck and found a collar. There was a tag hidden under the thick fur. Butch. The dog slobbered on his hand, but despite being outside, Butch was warm. He remembered the rock group—Three Dog Night. What was it? Cold was determined by how many dogs it took to keep you warm at night. If that was the case, they each needed about four, but this one, if he would stay, would help keep Lee from suffering any worse from hypothermia and/or shock.

"What? Gonna want t’leave . . . soon." The dog got up and approached Lee again, breathing its doggy breath on him. Crane gazed at the dog. "Warm."

Chip smiled. "When I was staying with Rrarkgrrr I didn’t have a problem staying warm near her," Chip said, referring to his Bigfoot acquaintance of a few years back. (Visions of the Night) "Maybe with the door shut and tied off, he’ll stay."

"Maybe." Lee wasn’t glaring at the dog. Instead he had reached out, scratching beneath Butch’s chin.

"Let me put some more wood on the fire and by then he’ll be dry. He can sleep next to your chest and I’ll sleep between you and the wall."

"Y’ll b’cold," Lee pointed out, yawning.

Chip could tell it was getting harder and harder for Lee to keep his eyes open.

"Any water?"

"Yeah, a little," Chip said as he put some more of the wood, old and new on the fire. He dug in the pack and pulled out the water bottle. He pushed the dog aside and held it for Lee to drink from.

Crane pushed it aside after several large swallows. "Thanks…." He blinked to stay awake and gazed at the dog.

Chip noticed that Lee was studying Butch, even as he tried to stay awake. His friend had understood the necessity of keeping the dog nearby. "Here, boy…" Lee tiredly patted the space in front of him.

"Butch," Chip said. "On the collar."

"’rij’nal," Lee murmured. He tried to snap his fingers, but couldn’t manage it. "Butch," he whispered. Amazingly, the dog seemed to understand what was wanted and climbed up on the platform, plumping down in front of the injured man. Lee laid his left hand on the dog’s coat and promptly fell asleep.

This time Chip didn’t try to keep him awake. He tended the fire a little while longer, finished the water in the bottle and then eased behind Lee to keep his friend’s back warm. The skipper’s shivering eased to something sporadic and Chip was satisfied. Then he found himself dozing off and fought it, thinking about Nikki, the boat, and the day’s adventure. It became harder and harder to stay awake. Only for a few minutes, he told himself, yawning. The dog snored softly and Chip drifted off, wondering if the combination of the dog and the fire would keep them from freezing to death during the night.

 

 

******

 

 

Chapter 6

 

Don Farnsworth gazed at the large snowflakes settling themselves on his shoulders as he left the milking barn. It was going to be a real pain getting to the barn in the morning. Of course, that meant the cows would probably stick close, even staying in the outer barn to stay warm, but still….

He walked through the entranceway of the ‘mud room’ of the farmhouse, hurriedly closing the door behind him, and reveled in the warmth that greeted him. Quickly he pulled off his boots and outer work coveralls, hanging them on a hook to put back on in the morning. Then when all outward vestiges of his time in the milking barn were gone except for the slight residue scent that marked his occupation, Farnsworth walked into the kitchen. He settled his feet into the slippers waiting by the kitchen door and sighed as his body realized and relished the impending downtime. Sniffing, he found himself anticipating nachos and salsa and other delectables his wife, Julia had made for New Year’s Eve enjoyment. Her barbecued meatballs made him wish for New Years all year long.

A mug of hot apple cider was waiting on the cabinet by the stove and he grabbed it gratefully, letting its warmth take the chill from his hands before he let it warm his belly. There were two more mugs waiting for the boys when they finished their chores. "Don?" his wife’s voice sounded from downstairs in the family room.

"Yep, the boys and I are finished, and Mark and Will are feeding the cows. I am ready to relax the rest of the evening," he called down the stairs. "Whether I make it to the dropping of the ball or not remains to be seen." He chuckled. It was a family joke. The ball in New York City fell at ten o’clock here. It was still difficult at times to make it. When you had to get up at four thirty in the morning you just didn’t last too late at night.

"That big lummox come in with you?"

"Butch?" he asked, knowing even as he asked, that it was a redundant question. "Nope. He’s out playing around in the snow, I guess." Farnsworth started down the steps to the basement that had been made into a large family room, entertainment center and library. A bathroom and the boy’s bedrooms were the only things that decreased the large area. The other bedrooms were upstairs.

"He’s getting too old for that," Julia muttered.

"He’ll probably come in with the boys," Don said reassuringly. He plumped down on the couch next to his wife and sipped his cider. "Heard from Leesa and Tommy?" he asked, hoping his daughter and son weren’t going to come home tonight if the weather continued as it was. There were several of their friends in Hyrum they could stay with if need be.

"Yes, Brother Mortensen* is going to bring them home by seven thirty in his four by four," she replied.

"Hmm," was all he said and then he sighed. "Well, if they get here by then, they should be okay."

"Snow still coming down hard?"

"Yeah. The kids are going to have a ball sleigh riding at Hardware Ranch**, but they’re going to come home cold and wet," he said, chuckling. "I believe you will need to heat up some more cider in a while."

She just snuggled closer. "Got an hour before that."

"It’s going to be a pain tomorrow morning, but it’ll sure be good for the snow pack," he replied. She snuggled closer and didn’t say anything. They listened to the stereo and cuddled until the older boys came tromping into the house. The couple was still stealing kisses when their sons galloped down the stairs and joined them.

"Hey, Dad, Butch show up?" Mark asked, totally ignoring his parent’s preoccupation with one another.

Don reluctantly pulled himself back from his wife’s lips. "No, he didn’t come for you?"

Mark and Will shook their heads in unison.

"He’s okay, boys."

"Yeah, but he’s old," Mark replied.

Julia just glanced at him smugly.

"And you want me to do what, when and in what weather?" Don asked sardonically.

"Dad!"

His look froze the boys’ next protest. "Now boys, I am not going out in this looking for a dog that could find his way home from St. George if he wanted to."***

The boys sighed and clumped back upstairs. The couple heard the back door open and then Mark and Will calling for their beloved dog, their voices muted. The door closed and soon their sons were slowly stomping back down the stairs. Neither one of them said anything, only plopped down on two beanbag chairs near the fire.

The crackling fire and numerous deep and seemingly heart wrenching sighs broke the silence for the space of three minutes. Then Will said, "Dad?"

"Mmm?"

"If he’s not back by the time Leesa and Tommy come home?"

Now Don sighed. "Do you realize how tough it will be to go out in snowmobiles in the middle of a storm even over land we know well?" The boys just looked at him. "No, there will be no going out until tomorrow morning. I can’t risk it. Not even for Butch." The boys started to speak but something in their father’s look stopped them. "There are no cows calving this time of year, so Butch should be home before long." If he hadn’t known better, Don would have figured the dog to be related to Nana, the nanny-dog from Peter Pan. During the spring, Butch was constantly finding and playing nurse-maid to newborn calves and lambs—that is when the mothers would let him. Don had to admit, the dog had saved several of his calves and a few of the neighbor’s lambs when they had been abandoned.

"Maybe he found someone’s ewe to play aunt to," Mark suggested. "And when you go out, I’ll go with you, Dad."

Don snorted. "I’m not going alone. So indeed you will."

The family lapsed into an uneasy silence for a few more minutes before anyone spoke again. "Can we turn on the TV?" Will asked.

"Sure, we can watch an old movie."

They all watched in companionable silence, munching on goodies and drinking hot cider. When the two younger children came home the ‘poor old Butch’ litany was renewed. By ten o’clock, with the snow still coming down, albeit without the brisk wind of earlier in the day, Farnsworth was checking out the snowmobiles for a run in the storm the following morning. By eleven, he was in bed, asleep. Four-thirty a.m. would come very quickly.

 

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Lee pulled out of a fog of pain and lethargy, hearing the whining of some system going critical. There was smoke everywhere and it was hot. Even as he began coughing, the whining grew louder and more insistent and turned into a protesting bark. His mind tried to pull what his senses were telling him together with the hazy recollections of what had happened before he had fallen asleep. They weren’t on Seaview. They had sheltered from a storm in a trailer. He and Chip were running from Hartsfield’s cronies and the law in northern Utah. He had been shot and was sharing space with a dog. Dog! "Chip!" he cried out. At the same time he heard coughing from behind and Chip’s voice calling to him. The dog was not lying in front of him now, but he was barking incessantly.

Opening his eyes, Lee saw the end of the trailer engulfed in flames. The dog was running frantically between him and the door. He realized that Chip was behind him, his hands trying to push him off the platform they had been laying on.

"Out!" Chip kept calling in between fits of coughing.

His own coughing caused pain to flare up and down his back, but that was shoved to the background as he scrambled to get away from the fire. Lee stumbled toward the door, feeling Chip’s hands still behind him. The dog was yelping, and pushing, then clawing at the makeshift latch Chip had constructed. Just as he and Chip reached it, the door gave way and precious, if freezing air hit them, clearing the last of the cobwebs from his mind.

"Get away from the trailer," Chip shouted the obvious. They got.

Butch kept barking, running ahead of them, prancing through the snow. He would occasionally stop and turn back, barking his encouragement. Lee stumbled over something under the snow, but pushed himself back up. Chip grabbed his arm to help.

"I’m okay," he reassured his friend automatically.

"Yeah, but now we don’t have a shelter," Chip growled in self-recrimination. "Shouldn’t have let myself go to sleep."

They plowed through the almost foot and a half deep snow farther away from the old trailer and then stopped and looked back. The dog sat on his haunches, his long tail clearing snow in a fanlike swath behind him. He looked up at them and whined. The fire made the animal look even redder, almost like a tiny extension of the flame itself. Butch’s eyes were large round mirrors of the catastrophe.

"Chip, how long did you stand watch after I went to sleep?" Lee asked pointedly.

"I don’t know. Last time I looked at my watch it was a little after midnight."

Lee thought quickly. "Full watch after the hike. You did more than your share." He heard Chip sigh. "Quit beating yourself up. It’s been a helluva night." Lee gazed up at the snow that continued to drift down on them. He was still tired—very, very tired, and still cold. He could feel the bullet grating against his shoulder blade and radiating pain across his back. However, for the moment, he was awake and aware of what was around him. How long that would remain, he didn’t have a clue.

A tiny light switched on and Lee was amazed to see that Chip still had his flashlight. Not only that, but his friend still had his pack, too. Chip saw his gaze and just gave a rueful shrug. "Was close and I grabbed it on the way out."

Lee gazed at the fire again. The trailer was fully engulfed now. The heat was almost uncomfortable. Roasting on one side and freezing on the other. "So I guess we hit the trail again, right?"

"Can’t just stand here," Chip agreed. "But it’s going to be hard going in the dark. We walk until we find something to hunker down in. A thicket or something."

Lee nodded wearily. Some of the lethargy was settling back in now that the rush of danger was over. "Well, let’s go." He turned slowly and looked into the darkness. The dog, sensing their decision, barked and bounced into the darkness, danced back, looked over his shoulder and barked again.

"What did we do, get Lassie or Rin Tin Tin?" Lee muttered as he watched the dog.

"Well, he has a collar. We’re near someone’s place, if the fence is any indication," Chip observed. He followed the dog, which had easily slipped between the bottom and middle strands of the wire, but stopped at the fence. "I think we should follow him. He’s going in the direction we need to be heading anyway."

"I don’t know if I can make it over the fence, Chip."

"I’ll help you." Chip held one strand down with his foot and lifted the other up with his hands.

Still, it was difficult to bend enough to go between the strands and Lee almost slipped and fell before he got through. He couldn’t believe that someone who was so adept at crawling through access panels and air conditioning ducts could be so clumsy now. It was with difficulty that he straightened up. By the time he had, Chip had somehow wormed his way through the strands of barbed wire and was standing beside him. Butch barked just inside their line of sight. "Maybe he’s looking for a place to hunker down, too," Lee suggested. He felt warm wetness on his back and knew he had torn loose the bandage Chip had applied so many hours ago.

"I’ll use my flashlight as long as I can to follow Butch and then we won’t have a choice; we’ll have to find a place to stay until light. At least that won’t be more than a couple of hours."

Lee only nodded and followed. He realized Chip had the harder task, plowing through the snow and making a path for him, but right now, he couldn’t argue the point. They trudged along, the dog bouncing ahead of them, sometimes coming back and barking his request for them to hurry.

"You’d think he had to be somewhere before daybreak," Chip grumbled.

"Think he’s going to turn into a bat?" Lee countered, not the least bit caring either way. He didn’t even look up, simply watched the dim tracks by the slight glow of Chip’s tiny flashlight.

"Well, if so, that means he’ll lead us to his mansion."

Lee didn’t respond, only concentrated on following Chip, who was closely following the dog. Hopefully, the animal wasn’t taking them on some kind of wild goose chase. The snow continued falling, but there was no wind at the moment. The flakes were large, coming down thickly. They forged ahead. The world narrowed to individual steps, one after the other. One weary foot and then another, over and over again. Interminable trudging.

"A thicket ahead, Lee," Chip said, stopping so suddenly that Crane bumped into him.

The cold was seeping back into his body, numbing his hands and feet. He was shivering again and didn’t trust himself to say more than necessary. He just murmured, "Okay." Chip began walking again, but Lee found it impossible to take a step. Chip walked toward their next shelter. The dog bounded back toward him, barking his disapproval. That was when Chip turned and saw him still standing there. Without comment, he returned and then draped the injured man’s arm over his shoulder. Only then was Lee able to move. "Sorry, Chip."

"Just a little more and we’ll bed down where the snow won’t reach us," Chip encouraged.

"’kay," Lee mumbled.

The thicket, when they reached it, was a line of trees and then bushes that seemed to grow almost right up against the side of a steep, rocky hillock. A slight overhang gave some protection from the snow and that was where the two men finally rested. Lee collapsed against the side of the hill with a grunt of pain. Chip dropped beside him. The dog followed and whined his disapproval.

"You’re warm, join us," Chip coaxed. The dog came in and nuzzled them, then whined again.

Lee watched wearily. "Think he’s hearing somethin’?" Despite the chill of the stone and earth behind him, the injured shoulder burned. The rest of his body felt like a block of ice. Lee realized just how good he had it back in that trailer between the dog and his friend with a warm fire nearby. He also realized again, just how stupid this little venture had been. Why the hell had he allowed his old ONI paranoia to surface like that? Now they were both in danger, not from his past, but from the elements. Lee shuddered and let the last of his sparse energy seep away.

 

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Chapter 7

 

 

When Farnsworth woke up the next morning; he noticed two things in quick succession. First, the electricity had gone out sometime in the middle of the night. That meant he’d have to start up the diesel generator to run the milking machines. The second thing he realized as he woke Mark and Will to help him, and then tramped out to the barn was that the old dog hadn’t returned home in the night. Butch not only wasn’t at the door, he hadn’t curled up to sleep in the barn. Don felt the niggling of worry, but couldn’t help that right now. Milking came first. He powered up the generator and then prepared everything for the morning ritual. The cows were waiting under the roof of the holding shed and the dairyman let them in to eat while he milked them.

The boys dashed in as the last cow came through the door. They knew the routine and one began to wipe down the udders as the other one supplied the feed to the hungry cows. Mark and Will seemed to work with increased speed this morning and he knew that they were eager to go hunt for the dog. You could only speed up the process so much, but still, they set off on two snowmobiles before the sun rose. The snow and low clouds delayed the sunrise and even when it became a bit lighter, it was difficult to discern anything with clarity. The going was extremely slow. The boys called every time Don slowed his snowmobile to listen. By now, the wind had picked up again and the snow was more biting than it had been last night. The temperature had dropped as well and the clouds of their breath puffed like steam from an old train engine.

As Farnsworth and his sons approached the western-most reaches of his land, he slowed his snowmobile and gazed around. Not that there was that much to be seen in the snowstorm, but still, he looked and then pulled the hood of his parka back and listened. The boys supplied the lungpower to call the old dog.

"Dad," Mark called, suddenly by his side. "I was sure I saw some kind of light over that way when we started out." The boy pointed toward the boundaries of the Farnsworth land.

"I did, too," Will corroborated. "About where the old sheepherder’s camp trailer is."

He nodded and they headed off in that direction. It only took another quarter of a mile to realize that something was not right. When they slowed down near the fence line, Don was startled. Where is the trailer? he wondered. They should have seen it by now. He faced the direction where the old wooden structure had laid peacefully deteriorating for years and saw—nothing. No, not nothing, there was a pile of debris. Then it struck him. It was a pile of debris not covered with snow. Then he was able to detect some deep orange glow under the mound of blackened wood, winking a dying light, even as the daylight strengthened. The boys had truly seen a light—the light of a fire. A fire that was the old structure burning. But how could a fire start out here during this kind of weather. The storm had begun with a couple of booms of thunder, which would denote lightning, a thunder snowstorm. But as rare as that phenomenon was, even rarer would be lightning striking something during a snowstorm. And besides, if by some chance lightning had started the fire, that old trailer would have burned and the embers died hours ago.

"Dad, the trailer burnt down. That’s what we saw before. Butch wouldn’t have been in it, would he?" Mark asked, his voice almost plaintive.

"No, he wouldn’t get that close to a fire."

"But the only way a fire could have started would be if someone . . . started it," Mark continued. "And if there was someone out here, Butch…."

If there was someone out here, Don thought, it could only be those two fugitives that Brother Mortensen had told him about when he brought the kids home last night. The two who had killed the cop out in Sardine Canyon. Jim had said the news people had made a big to-do about the entire thing. The men were Navy from that big civilian submarine out in California. One of them had been that guy released by the People’s Republic at Christmas.

If they had made it this far—and at the time he had heard about them, Don hadn’t given them much chance of that, being submarine jockeys…. But if they had made it this far, could they make it farther to the house? Julia and Tommy and Leesa were there alone and these men were supposed to be armed…. Now he wished he had taken time to see the ten o’clock news last night.

He turned to Will and Mark. "Get out the rifle. Keep it ready, Mark, while Will drives. Safety on, but ready." Even through the masks he could see their questioning looks. Apparently the kids had not been told. Of course, the weather situation had made that unnecessary, he figured.

And now wasn’t the time or the place to explain it to the boys. There were rapidly filling depressions in the snow around them, but it was impossible to see where the fugitives might have gone. Don was still amazed at how far the men had come, but then the only obstacle were the mountains themselves, not the distance. It wasn’t that far from Sardine Pass, only about seven and a half miles. He felt the need to return home and make sure his wife and daughter were all right. Butch would have to take care of himself.

He pulled out the walkie-talkie and called the house. "Julz, we are at the western end. We’re going to come back in." He heard her relieved voice, and then her worry. She was picking up his anxiety. "We’ll be back soon, dear," he reassured her. "You just keep the doors locked until we get there." He could hear her sigh and then her acknowledgement.

"Follow behind me," he instructed the boys after he had cut the communications. He made as tight a circle as he could in the new snow and headed back toward the house by the fastest route he could take. They couldn’t go as fast as he’d like because of the condition of the snow, but still, they were heading home and he wasn’t seeing any new tracks.

It was when they were nearing one of the small mountain streambeds that he almost flipped the machine in shock. Dancing out in front of him was a big wooly shape. It was Butch, bouncing up and down, barking wildly, whirling like some kind of mad dervish, scattering powdery snow everywhere.

"Butch!" the boys cried out together, stopping their machine and jumping off toward the old dog.

"Boys! Will, Mark!" he called out, suddenly feeling the hairs at the back of his neck prickle. "Get back to your snowmobile. Get the rifle."

They paused and looked at him quizzically.

"Now," he said more calmly.

"But why?"

"I’ll explain later. Just do it." Don saw movement in the brush from which Butch had appeared and a tall figure emerged into the dusky light.

The man paused with his hand in front of his face to shield from the intense beam of the light and then moved forward a few more steps. "You c . . . can’t believe how re…."

"No closer," Don commanded. The man stopped. Don could tell that he was in the beginnings of hypothermic distress. Not only had he slurred the beginning of his sentence, the man was shaking with cold. He could also see that the stranger had no weapons in his gloved hands. Still….

 

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Chip and Lee huddled together under the overhang for warmth; the former hoping the dog would stay with them. Lee was again floating somewhere in and out of consciousness. Butch whined every once in a while, but at Chip’s urging, he continued to lie across their legs, providing some measure of warmth. This time, the hardness of the ground, as well as the cold kept him from doing more than doze periodically. That was only as it should be, Chip thought. He needed to be more vigilant. Maybe if they hung on till dawn, he could start a fire. Of course he’d have to have some dry wood. Chip wished he could start one now. At least if he had been able to start a fire, there wouldn’t be a structure to burn down. However, since the flashlight had died about the time they had reached here, he couldn’t do anything until the sun came up.

After a short time in which he had fallen into a restless doze, Chip consulted his watch and saw that it was after 0700. The dog began whining again, and then sat up. The warmth dissipated almost immediately. Lee groaned softly as the dog shifted from his position. "Stay, Butch," Chip coaxed. The dog whined in the soft darkness, but didn’t leave. He didn’t lay back down either. Had he heard something? Chip shivered as the chill seeped even deeper into his bones. Soon. He would have to go looking for firewood soon.

The dog whined louder and then moved away from them and out of the thicket. Lee mumbled something. "Shh!" Chip commanded and strained to hear what Butch was hearing. Very distant, very soft he began to hear something like an engine—but what kind, he wondered? It ebbed softer and louder, telling Chip that the wind had picked up. The dog whined again from beyond their shelter and Chip knew someone was approaching. He had to try and make contact. For Lee’s sake. For both of them….

He pulled away from the injured man and stiffly got to his knees, then to his feet.

"Wha’?"

"I think there’s someone out there, Lee. I’m going to check." There was no response from the other man. "I’ll be right back."

"Bring s’ coffee w’ you," came the slurred response.

A brief smile touched Chip’s lips before he resolutely clambered out of the thicket. He shivered violently as the colder air hit him. The sound of engines came louder and closer and the dog was dancing in the growing light beside him. Butch knew these people, but how would they feel about him and Lee, he wondered.

Chip saw a couple of lights wavering, highlighted, in the fog of the still falling snow. There were two of them. ‘Cats or other snow terrain vehicles. Snowmobiles, he finally figured, coming, he thought from the direction of the burned trailer. He shivered again and clenched his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering. He laid a hand on the dog’s back and he stayed with him, even though Butch danced and whined impatiently at his side. Chip suddenly began to worry that the machines would speed right past them. He didn’t dare go too far from their shelter for fear he wouldn’t be able to find it again in the blowing snow. "Go on, Butch," he said, giving the dog a slight push.

The animal shot forward, needing no other urging, barking and yapping. It worked. The snowmobiles stopped and Chip heard shouts of joy and laughter. This was some loved dog, he thought, that would have the owners out in conditions like this looking for him. Good for him and Lee, though. Still, he suspected they weren’t going to stick around long. He needed to take advantage of the opportunity before it abandoned them. The people weren’t too far ahead of him. He tried to give a shout, but his voice came out wavery and weak. Chip walked toward the blurry forms of the snowmobiles and heard the voices more distinctly. Boys or young men. He would have to be careful. If they had heard about him and Lee, they might be a bit trigger-happy.

Suddenly he was in the glare of one of the snowmobile’s lights, and Chip threw up a hand to shield his eyes. "You c . . . can’t believe how re…." he began and was interrupted.

"No closer," a man commanded.

Chip complied, slowly lowering his hand from his face as his eyes became used to the glaring light. "My friend…." The man didn’t stop him from talking. "He’s hurt." His teeth began chattering. "N . . . needs medical at . . . tention," Chip forced out. "Please."

"You got any weapons?"

Weapons? Obviously the guy had heard about their little escapades. The gun Lee gave him. "Yeah, but it’s in my pocket, safety on." With effort, he was able to prevent his teeth from chattering. Chip could only feel the urgent need to get Lee out of here and someplace warm. "However you want me to deal with it, I will. But my friend…."

"Mark, keep the rifle trained on him," the man told his companion.

"Sure, Dad," Mark said, even though there was a hint of question in the young man’s voice.

"You stand very still with your hands away from your sides," the man commanded again.

Chip stood still while the man took away the gun.

"Nothing else?"

Chip shook his head and felt the muscles in that little movement protest. He realized that he was feeling the effects of the cold more drastically than he had thought. "No. My rifle was burned in the fire. Wasn’t loaded any . . .way."

"Your partner is close by?" the man asked, even as he walked back to his snowmobile.

"Yes, sir. He’s injured…. The cold…."

"Broke something?" The man’s voice was closer again.

"No. Shot."

"What? Did you say he was shot?"

"Back in Sardine Pass." Chip stopped. Now wasn’t the time. "Please, he’s not doing very well."

"Mark, you come a little closer and then turn your machine around. Will, you come with us." They approached the thicket and the man stopped. "You picked a good one," he murmured.

"Not as good as that trailer," Chip said, the relief almost choking him now that they would be getting help. It seemed to warm him, too, giving him extra strength. "Lee," he called out in a loud voice. "Calvary has arrived." There was no reply and Chip, suddenly alarmed, plunged between the branches, not caring about anything hitting his face. "Lee!"

"Bout time," came the slow response. Lee was still alive, Chip thought, relief flooding through him.

The man came right after him and knelt next to Crane, a flashlight examining the injured man. "Where?" Concern seemed to be the only thing coloring the man’s voice now.

"Back, up near the shoulder," Chip replied tersely. "Lee, we’re going to get you out of here. I know it will hurt and I know you’re tired, but we’re finally going to get some help."

"You get on his injured side and I’ll take most of his weight on this side," the man said, not wasting time.

Chip grabbed his pack, handed it out to the teen-aged boy just outside the thicket, and then he squatted down next to his friend. "Just a little bit more of this and then we’ll be safe."

"Y’have th’ conn," came the mumbled response and then a soft groan as Chip and the man lifted Lee from the ground.

"How in the world did you two make it this far?" the man asked incredulous as they emerged from the thicket.

Despite his fears for his friend and captain, Chip felt curiously buoyant. They had been found. Lee would be all right. "Still trying to figure that one out ourselves. Lots of luck, I guess," he said and then paused, sobering. "We’ve been through some hard things before. This is another one."

"And you two work on that submarine out in California?"

"Yes, sir," he replied, sucking in a cold breath of air. Lee was trying to take steps, but the snow had to be close to two feet in places by now and it was hard to move through it. Butch greeted them all with a bark. "Seaview."

The man grunted but didn’t say anything else. It was obvious to Chip that he was curious, but any questions would have to wait until they were someplace safe. The sky was getting lighter, making the flashlight unnecessary.

"Do you think your friend could ride between my boys on their snowmobile and you ride behind me?" he asked as they reached the two machines.

"I don’t know about Lee…."

"Yes," Lee gasped out.

"Okay," the man began, "Mark, put the rifle away. You’ll drive. Will, you’ll help…." He paused and then addressed Chip. "Who did you say you two were?"

"This is Lee Crane and I’m Chip Morton."

"Don Farnsworth and these are my oldest boys, Mark and Will. This is part of my dairy farm. Near the south end of Cache Valley."

"Thank you, Mr. Farnsworth, Mark, Will," Chip replied solemnly, feeling somewhat vindicated in his navigation over the mountains. When Lee was settled between the two, very capable looking young men, Chip shuffled over to Farnsworth’s machine and got on behind the dairyman. He felt exhaustion settling over him. They had been found, they were going to be safe, Lee was going to get the medical attention he needed. He would hopefully be able to get back to Nikki soon. That was all that mattered right now. He put his arms around the man’s waist and they took off, the boys right behind them. The dog bounced through the snow after them, barking at first and then concentrating on following in the tracks the machines made after a while.

 

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*I tried to make the conversational tone as accurate as possible. As I mentioned in the introduction, most of the time the Farnsworth’s would refer to fellow members of the LDS Church as brother or sister so and so. BTW Don Farnsworth is based on a real family that I once knew. They lived between Avon and Paradise and had a very large dairy. Sometimes we’d buy milk directly from them. Allred (the highway patrolman) is another common name in that area. The ancestry in that part of the West is British, Scottish and Scandinavian, predominately the latter in northern Utah, southern Idaho.

**Hardware Ranch is a sort of refuge in a canyon directly east of Hyrum, Utah. In the winter there are sleigh rides into the canyon where migrating elk are fed hay every winter. Hyrum is about halfway between Paradise on the southern end of Cache Valley and Logan, which is about midpoint in the valley. It’s a favorite place for church groups to have outings….sleigh rides in the winter and hay rides in the summer.

***St. George—the joke here is that St. George is on the very southern point of Utah. It takes about 7 hours (depending on traffic in Salt Lake City) by car to get from St. George to Logan. It’s actually not that far from St. George to Las Vegas, NV.

 

 

 

Bear River Rendezvous, part 3
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