I returned to the cabin to help Laura clean up the mess that Bear had made in the living room. I stoked up the fire and started burning the plastic bags, the towels that we used to clean the floor. Both of us worked feverishly to get the mess completely cleaned up as well as possible.
Feeling satisfied that everything was cleaned up Laura and I developed our story. The biggest problem was that Laura was married to the man out on the road. This could present motive if the cops found out that he and she were in a bad marriage. It would also present a problem with Eddies associates when they found out that he was tracking down his cheating wife. “We’ve got a problem.” I said, after being in deep thought for a while.
“I think I know what you’re thinking,” she said. “But, nobody knows I’m here and with the exception of my body being here right now, there’s no evidence that I was here. No clothes, or anything that I own.”
“If they put two and two together,” I stopped. “Well, it could get bad.”
“So, they won’t find me.” She walked over to me and put her arms around my waist. “I think we got a while before he’s found anyway.” She put her head on my shoulder. “It started snowing again.” She said.
I turned towards the window again. Large snowflakes, the size of a quarter or bigger consumed the view out the window in the reflection of the lamps inside. “It may cover our tracks, and make it look like what it was. An animal attack.”
I said the words out loud, but in the back of my mind, I knew better. The simple fact of the matter was that somebody would find out about Laura being here. Whether she mentioned it, or she was seen on the road, or just bad luck, and I left a trail placing Eddie’s body. I was in some serious trouble, and I knew it. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
Lights in the distance peering through the darkness broke my stare. Their appeared to be a vehicle on the road, and with as hard as it was snowing, I was sure it had to be a large truck or something. It didn’t appear to be moving. “Laura, get into the basement. We’ve got company,” I said calmly. “Move now.”
Laura hesitated slightly, and then reacted. In a flurry of movement, she ran to the door off the kitchen, slung it open, and disappeared into the cold darkness below. “It’s going to be dark, be patient, and I’ll get you as soon as I can.” I tossed the comforter down to her, and then shut the door to wait for what I was sure was an impending knock on the door.
I wasn’t disappointed. The knock came on the front door with a loud metallic thumping sound. I peered out the window to see a man in a green military uniform, carrying a rifle. I opened the door slowly. “Can I help you guys?” There seemed to be an entire platoon of soldiers now standing in my yard.
“Hello Sir.” The soldier stuck out his hand. “I’m Captain Morris with the Pennsylvania National Guard.” I shook the man’s hand. “We’re out checking with everybody we can find to make sure that everything’s ok.” He peered past me to look into the living room. “Are you warm enough out here, got enough food and such?”
I opened the door a little wider, and then, without realizing what I was doing, invited him in. “Well, I’m warm enough, and got plenty of wood.” The captain walked past me after stomping the snow off of his feet. “Food will be running short in a few days. Any idea when this is supposed to let up?” I asked looking out the window. The lights that I’d seen down the road were now changing colors like the lights of a police vehicle, or ambulance.
“Well, our forecasters think it’s gonna be around a few more days at least.” The captain looked around the living room, as if he were looking for something specific. “There’s a car down the road, about a half a click or so from here. Do you know anything about it?”
My heart started pounding. They’d found Eddie a lot sooner than I’d hoped they would. The tracks in the snow hadn’t had time to be covered up yet, and they led right here. “Uh, no, haven’t seen anyone out here for days.” I tried to sound convincing. “I thought I heard a knock on the door earlier this evening, it woke me up, but it turned out to be a false alarm. When I got to the door, there wasn’t anyone there.” I looked in earnest out the window now trying to peer through the falling snow.
“That might explain the tracks in the snow.” The captain said, more to himself than to me. “It looks like the animals got him. It’s a mess.” He started heading to the door. “He was asking for trouble anyway. Who drives a Cadillac in weather like this anyway?” The captain opened the front door to the cabin. We’ve got some rations for you.” He pointed at the boxes that had been stacked up by the front door. “You’ll want to get these out of the cold.” He chuckled. “They’re not good anyway, but they’re really bad frozen.”
“I appreciate the help captain.” I managed. “I only wish I’d have answered the door in time.” I shook my head and noticed another set of headlights pulling up the driveway.
“Yea, he does too I’ll bet.” The captain turned and spoke to one of the other soldiers who took off at a run towards the approaching headlights. “My guys will help you get some wood into the house. He started waving his hand for a few soldiers to join him.
“I think I can get it.” My heart pounded so hard in my chest, I was afraid the soldiers would hear it. “I’ve got a large pile right out the back door already, so, no need to trouble yourselves. There are a few other places down the road that probably need you guys worse than me.” I put my hand on the door, eager to get it closed and everyone out.
“Well, Mr. Um.” He turned to look back into the doorway. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Williams.” I replied. “Jeff Williams.”
“Well Mr. Williams, we’ll be on our way. I’ll send an attachment out in a few days to check on you.
“Thank you captain.” I tried to hide the relief that must have shown on my face. “I’m sure I’ll be fine here.” The captain gave me a quick salute, and then was on his way towards the lights in the driveway.
In a matter of minutes, there was only silence once again. All the vehicles had disappeared, and the only lights left was the flashing multicolored lights emanating from down the road where Eddie’s car was. I shut the front door, and ran to the basement door. “You ok down there?” I almost whispered down the dark staircase.
“I’m ok, is it clear yet?” Laura’s voice was trembling it was so cold down there.
I looked out the window, and a set of headlights was pulling into the driveway. “Not yet, stay put, I’ll have you out of there in a sec.”
I shut the door to the basement just as there was a knock on the front door. I opened the door to a man with a badge on his jacket. “Evening sir,” he said, “I hate to bother you, but do you know anything about the Cadillac down the road?”
I opened the door a little wider “Come on in officer, it’s cold out there.” I shut the door after the officer entered. “Uh, no, the National Guard captain mentioned that it looked like an animal attack, or something.” I motioned with my hand for him to take a seat.
“Yea, the poor bastard, Looks like he got stuck, and tried to walk around for help, then got just about eaten alive.” He wrote a few things down on a pad he was holding. “The thing is, that it looks like his tracks go around your house. You sure you didn’t see anything?”
Once again the pounding started. My first inclination was to run. Shortly after that passed, I wanted to scream. I was trying so hard not to look nervous that I’m certain that I had a neon sign on my forehead that read “LIAR” “I told the captain that earlier in the afternoon, I woke up and thought I had heard a knock on the door. When I got up, there wasn’t anyone around.” I fidgeted with my hands. “Like I told the captain, I sure wish I would have answered the door in time.”
“Are you alone here?” he asked looking around.
“Yep, just me and the dog.” I looked around and realized that Bear hadn’t come back in. “He’s outside.” I mentioned.
“Ok sir, I’ll get out of your hair. You ok out here all by yourself?” He shined his flashlight into the corner of the room that had just been cleaned. “You seem to have it warm enough in here.” He said. “Got enough food?” He flashed the light into the kitchen.
“Yea, the captain gave me some.” I motioned to the front door. “Gotta get those inside.”
“Well Mr. Williams, Looks like you’ve got it under control out here.” He finally headed toward the door. “The roads are pretty much impassable unless you got a convoy of National Guard trucks breaking the snow for ya,” he chuckled. “So I’d stay put if I were you.” He stepped out the front door and started tossing the boxes of rations inside. “We’ll come back out and check on ya in a few days.” The last box of food hit the floor of the cabin. “You have a good evening now.” He tipped his hat, zipped his jacket up the rest of the way, turned, and headed back to his truck.
I watched the headlights disappear down the driveway, and then down the road. The moment the headlights disappeared, I ran to the basement door. “Ok Laura, it’s clear.” I called down the stairs. I saw Laura hobble up the stairs wrapped in the comforter. Her teeth chattering loudly, “What took so long?” she managed to say.
I explained what had happened and did my best to get her warmed up by stoking up the fire and rubbing her shoulders. “Wow, what a day huh?” I said heading to the window’s to make sure that the shades were all drawn.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I got the remainder of the curtains and shades drawn in the living room. “That sheriff isn’t going to take my word for any of this crap.” The last shade hit the sill with a thud. “He’ll be back, I know he will.”
“What then?” She asked flopping on the couch still making shivering noises.
“I don’t know.” I put more wood on the fire and sat down next to her on the couch. “I don’t think he’ll be back tonight anyway.” I glanced at my watch and noticed that it was after midnight. Laura was still shivering slightly as she leaned her head against my chest trying desperately to soak up any warmth that my body had to offer.
“I know it may sound morbid,” Laura spoke, while staring blankly into the fire. “And while I know that you didn’t plan on anything like this happening, but I feel like I owe you my life.” She looked up at me with almond shaped, ice blue eyes that literally made my heart melt.
I could tell that her gratitude was genuine, but it still made me feel slightly un-easy given that the outcome was her husband’s death. “You’re welcome,” I said “I just wish that the outcome had been different.”
Laura nuzzled her face into my shirt like a little girl would cuddle up to her father. She seemed to find comfort, a safe feeling. I’d just hoped that it wouldn’t be short lived. If Eddie told anyone where he was going, or where he was, there may be some people out looking for him. I’d hoped not. It seemed as if she’d been through enough. I had too, for that matter. My life, so far had been a hapless collaboration of mistakes and misfortune that seemed to fall apart at every turn. I’d grown accustom to living alone, but right here in that moment, I couldn’t imagine ever being apart from her, ever again. Women for me, since college, had been an inconvenience. Something to stick my cock in for a moment of pleasure, then discarded like an empty coffee cup out the window on the freeway. I’ve paid hookers for the pleasure simply because of the anonymity and non-committal way of the oldest profession. Even if the girls gave their real names, it didn’t matter. They were faceless, nameless pieces of meat, meant for momentary gratification. That was, up until now.
Laura was different. She didn’t seem to have a hidden agenda. She wasn’t after his money, which he had none of anyway. She needed help when he found her, but it wasn’t because she was needy in any way, just needed help at the time. She seemed to feel safe around him, and he wasn’t trying to get rid of her. Maybe that was it. The fact that he made her feel safe could be magnetic. The fact that he hadn’t been in any kind of a meaningful relationship for a very long time had left him a bit hollow. The lack of caring for someone had made him slightly bitter. Perhaps that had all changed now. He looked down at his damsel, her eyes closed, her face peaceful in the firelight. She looked angelic, so peaceful, so safe and calm in his arms. It made him feel special in a very special way. He’d done a good thing today in a bad way. But, it was still a good thing.
He gently shifted her to slide out from under her. He put another few logs on the fire, and made a final check of the doors and windows, ensuring that all was locked up. He returned to the sofa to find Laura sleeping soundly. He scooped her up gently in his arms and carried her to the bedroom. He laid her down on the bed, covered her and climbed in beside her to sleep, to dream of better days and better things to come. Things that he’d hoped would include Laura.