Sunday, July 4, 2010
Watery Grave, Part Four
Continued from Part Three
When Alexa stepped outside, the sun was below the treetops, casting an orange glow across the sky and turning the bare trees into black skeletons. The temperature had barely made it into the single digits all day and was plunging back below zero. The wind was picking up, too, and it whipped stinging bits of ice against her cheeks. She pulled her hood close, thankful for the warm clothes Jonathan had left, and wondered what had become of those she’d worn the night he’d dragged her from the river. He’d likely burned whatever hadn’t been torn from her body by the tangle of branches and boulders along the riverbank. The rushing water would probably have torn her apart as well without Jonathan’s help. She hoped everyone, especially Michael, believed that was exactly what had happened. Any doubts he had would put her plan at risk. She’d spent months keeping secrets, telling lies, building a distance between them. He had to believe she was not coming back.
Alexa walked a few yards away from the cabin to get her sense of direction. She'd roamed the White Mountains of New Hampshire long before roads like the Kancamagus had been constructed and dotted with scenic overlooks for the tourists. Their intrusion into her world every year was unwelcome, but she couldn’t deny the appeal of seeing the mountains in their orange and yellow brilliance. Now, covered with several feet of fresh snow, most tourists would stay on the ski trails rather than risk being lost in the frigid weather. She could easily avoid the few who ventured into the forest, but tonight she felt no one near enough to bother.
The storm had been a strong one judging by the number of freshly fallen trees that had rearranged the landscape, but it took her only moments to find the right direction. It wasn’t a marked trail, just a familiar walk through the spaces between the trees that would eventually lead into town if she followed it to the end. Tonight she wouldn’t be going that far. Alexa lost herself to the sound of the wind and the feel of the snow crunching beneath her boots. As the sun set, long shadows stretched out from the trees like clawed hands and consumed the forest. The darkness was complete by the time she stopped. She closed her eyes and breathed in the cold, clear air. It filled her lungs just like the water from the river, and she felt them. They were still here. They were close. She quickened her pace.
To be continued in Part Five