Jack woke just before first light, dressed, and put water on for instant Starbucks coffee. He could see Kelly sleeping the sleep of youth. God, she is quite a woman, he thought. Don’t worry Anita, I’ll take care of your daughter. I’m sorry you couldn’t see her as a mature woman. You gave birth to a warrior.
Jack touched Kelly’s shoulder. As she sat up, he handed her a cup of coffee and said, “Well are you ready for another day at the office?”
Coffee, trail mix, dried apples and they were on their way. Jack was on point. They walked quietly on the damp ground strewn with pine needles, talking softly and only when necessary. Jack stopped and checked the map. He kept his eyes forward and said to Kelly, “Get ready for your girl strut. His cabin is just over this ridge. Twenty more yards and we can see down the slope to the cabin. I’ll move left and get in position to see everything in front of the cabin. Try to stay 30 feet in front of the cabin so I’ve a good shooting angle. Keep your eyes on me and when I signal get into your hiking stride and move down the trail.”
Kelly let her hair down, put her light jacket in her backpack, and opened the top three buttons of her flannel shirt. The sun was just coming up but it wasn’t cold, she judged in the low fifties and no wind. Perfect day to play mountain girl on the loose.
Her cover story was simple. She was trekking with some friends and she had a fight with them and left on her own. She was headed east until she found paved roads and civilization. Her cell phone was dead. They had trekked for three days from a campsite in Yellowstone. Her car was in a lot in the park. She was going back there as soon as she could find a highway and get her bearings.
Kelly saw Jack’s signal, eased her double-edged boot knife in its sheath, and started down the path through sagebrush in her best mountain girl flirting walk. She could now see down the slope to the cabin. No one was outside. A thin column of smoke threaded its way up to the ridgeline where it met the slight wind aloft and vanished. Kelly noted the small stream running swiftly in front of the cabin 40 yards from the cabin door. She thought, It would be natural for me to walk down to the stream for fresh water. I might even wash up a bit.