Danger Comes Close-Segment 1~by Nikki Walker
Jayde stood looking through the window as the white snow seemed to fall like sifted flour over the mountain contours surrounding her log cottage. The snow started with gentle flakes the morning before, continued non-stop and overnight had become a wintry mix, now taking on blizzard like conditions.
The ranger—the attractive six-foot bronze complexioned ranger-she corrected mentally, had come by the day before to persuade her to come down off the mountain and take a hotel room in town. She declined. That had been hard because his voice was like velvet over rocks; gritty in just the right places, doing things to her insides she hadn’t felt in years. Staring in his clear cognac colored eyes nearly had her mesmerized. But none of that changed the inside of her wallet. She didn’t want to tell him her money was extremely limited and what she had left for the month wasn’t enough to be caught down the mountain with an obligation to pay for an unknown number of nights in a hotel room. His main concern was there weren’t many cottages in walking distance and of those that were, they’d been boarded up for the season. The majority of owners only used the cottages as seasonal homes. To him this meant there would be no one around to help her. It concerned her as well. However, the best she could do was go down the mountain behind him and pick up some items from the grocery store.
Besides, her uncle always kept the cottage well stocked with emergency supplies. She had more than enough battery operated lanterns and she’d ordered some extra loads of wood should her electricity go out. The funny thing was, now that her choice to engage with others seemed taken from her, she found cabin fever beginning to set in. She’d been content in her solitude for weeks, but the idea of being stranded made her begin to feel slightly desperate. And she couldn’t help but wonder if the ranger had left the mountain or if he’d stayed. Suddenly that thought began to take on some significance in her comfort level.
Jason Carter had been tracking the four men for hours. He’d gotten a B.O.L.O. on four escaped convicts that might be hiding in the area of the Catskills he patrolled. The weather was a blessing. The few out of season visitors heeded his door-to-door warning and had promptly packed up and left. There was only one straggler, the woman in Mr. Jenkin’s cottage–the beautiful 5 inch something caramel package with wavy brown hair and green eyes to be exact. Because of her, he started tracking in her area. It unnerved him to see evidence of several footprints within a 5 mile radius of her cottage. Coming across some blood not long after heightened his senses. One of them was wounded. That meant they would seek shelter. Pivoting, he moved quickly in the direction of her cottage. He only hoped he got to her before they did.
“I told you to stop!” Manny, the tall, husky man wheezed while bearing the weight of his brother, Kyle.
“How was I to know it was a bear trap?” The younger man whined.
“All you had to do was stop when I said stop. Now I have to drag your sorry behind all over God’s wilderness—in a snow storm no less.”
“At least I’m thin.”
“You think that matters after a couple of hours when it’s nearly dead weight!”
“Well leave me then! I’d rather that than to hear you continue to complain!” Kyle said softly.
Manny used his arm that supported him around his waist to squeeze him tighter. He whispered gruffly, “You’re my brother. I would never leave you—do you understand?”
Kyle nodded and stifled the sob that gathered in the back of his throat.
“Shut up the both of ya!” Jack, the gray-bearded older man walking beside them snapped. He was cold and hungry and had been listening to them go back and forth for hours. It started as soon as they’d cleared the correctional facility and it made him wish he escaped alone. They got on his nerves but they weren’t the ones that kept him alert. He saved all of that for Norm, the stocky red headed man among them that shot a store clerk in cold blood after the man cooperated. The clerk had agreed to let them take a change of clothes and as much food as they wanted. He’d even volunteered his car keys—anything to get them out of the store as quickly as possible. Just as they were walking through the glass door, Norm turned around and shot the clerk. They hadn’t waited around to see if the man was dead. It was hours later that they heard on the radio they’d snatched, that the man lived and had given a description of each of them. Now the police had a target area to search; something they were hoping to avoid at least for another day.
“We need to find some shelter soon. Between this snow and the waning light, we won’t be able to continue,” Jack finally said beside Norm.
For a minute Jack wasn’t sure if he would respond and after a moment he did in a voice that sounded strained—as if it hurt him to speak.
“Yeah, I know. Even the tents in the backpacks won’t be enough to keep us through the night. I thought I saw fire from a chimney in the distance. Hopefully we will get there within the next thirty minutes.”
Jack tilted his head over his shoulder at the two straggling behind them. “I hope so. I don’t think those two will be able to make it much longer than that.”
Norm’s face remained impassive. “That only means more money for me.”
Jack felt a chill, different from what the cold weather was causing. He had no idea this was a cold-blooded killer and now he was rethinking the idea to follow him in search of the money hidden in some obscure cave nearly ten years ago. For all he knew they’d end up with that cave being their grave. He made a mental note to get a hold of his own gun as soon as possible.
The scent of onions and spices wafted through the air. Bending down, Jayde peered through the oven window at the meatloaf cooking within. The red glaze and chunks of carrots, celery and potatoes adorned it. The mere sight had her stomach doing back flips. She leaned down and with her oven mitts anchored at both ends, lifted the Pyrex dish and placed it on top of the stove. She’d poured bottled water in the tea kettle only a few minutes before. Its shrill whine pierced the air startling her. She walked over to the cabinet, reached for her large mug and placed her favorite brand of green tea inside. It calmed her to pour the boiling water over the bag. She sighed anticipating sipping her tea while reading her latest mystery novel. The wind was picking up, whistling against her windows. Her head snapped up at the sudden bang against her front door. Now who could that be?
Check in next Tuesday for the next installment from author Cassandra Baker-Durham