Interstate 95 south of
“Now what’s that going to be about?”
“What?” asked Jon starting to look back.
“Trooper behind us.”
The gold and black cruiser
had put on its flasher.
“So where in
“So I’ve been falling in love
with cousins all these years. That’s
“I’ll stick with cousins, I think.”
“Of course science tells us we have been around a lot longer, but we’re still all cousins to one degree or another.”
“So how does this take us to
“Well Ivan’s friend and mine,
“The last thing Terra did was send the message I showed you. We looked it up and found that, if you believe all the stories, our friend was exactly a hundred and twenty generations after Adam.”
“Was she pretty?”
“Terra was a man. We checked the atlas, and if you go west from
“It sounds far fetched.”
“It is, but Terra was from Cuthbert.”
“Well that works. But when is the wedding?”
“No wedding. The word “bride” probably means a
church. The church being the bride of
Christ is an idiom that any
“Why not just say it?”
“For some reason he thought somebody would intercept it, and if they weren’t in the culture it might throw them off. The ‘don’t go to the authorities’ bit is an unfortunate red flag. Nothing gets the attention of authorities like thinking they’re being left out.”
“So you think the authorities are after us.”
“I’m afraid so. The code wouldn’t even slow a professional down. If they glanced at web traffic around the time of the attack they’d check that one out for sure. So I guess that’s why we’re sitting here.”
“So the rest of the night we face bright lights and say we don’t know anything.”
“Yep. And we look so innocent and sincere and our stories are so consistent that they think we must be really tough nuts to crack. Sorry.”
“We could make up stories.”
“Probably not a good idea, seeing as how we have no idea what it’s all about.”
Presently the trooper returned. His manner was more relaxed.
“Sorry for the inconvenience, ma’am. Somebody reported this car as stolen. But your paper work is all right. You don’t know what this could be about, do you?”
“No, officer. Probably some honest mistake somewhere.”
Jon cut in. “Officer, can you tell us the best way to get
“Sure. Take the next exit but one. Take the road all the way through town and
after you’re through
The trooper went back and
waited with his flasher going until
Ivan spoke from the rear seat. “Why did you ask about the national forest?”
“Well I figure that if
somebody called in that the car was stolen, somebody knows where we are. So we make like a jackrabbit and do a couple
of right angle turns. We’ll go into
“If you want to lose somebody, the forest is not a bad place to do it.”
“All right. We’ll stop there overnight and see how it looks in the morning.”
They followed the directions until they pulled up at a motel called Swamp Fox Inn right next the forest. It was a cluster of little cabins of a kind that had once been much more popular. But the movie “Psycho” had spooked a lot of people about such classic motels, which tended to remain only in places where time moved slowly.
They got a room, found some country music on the television and cleaned up a bit.
“Food,” said Jon. “Let me get on the phone and order us a pizza.”
They had cleaned up and Jon was looking for news on the TV while Ivan stood at the open door listening to frogs piping in the wilderness not many yards distant.
Ivan said, “It’s a little
over an hour from
He made the others lie down under a big steel tank on an iron frame. “Don’t move and the scorpions will ignore you,” he said cheerfully.
They didn’t have long to
wait. Two SUV’s slipped up and men with
submachine guns emerged. They checked
Ivan whispered in Jon’s ear, “Follow me. Pick your feet up very high as you run.”
As the men started to batter the door the three got up and sprinted for the woods.
Jon concentrated on Ivan’s
In an hour they must have
covered a mile. Ivan found slightly
higher ground under some hardwoods. He
rustled around a bit and then there was the sound of him fishing in his
pockets. Presently there was a click and
a few sparks. Then there was a rasp and
a flare as
“Won’t they see the fire?” Jon asked.
“If we keep it small and stay close it should be all right.” Ivan started to sniff the air. “Wait a bit.”
Ivan melted into the night. He sniffed cautiously. The warm moist air carried the unmistakable smell of a snake. It was the same as the smell of a dying man, the smell of a large amount of fresh spilt blood. He searched the forest floor for the trademark undulating shape. After a time there was the unmistakable sound of a predator striking. A few minutes later he emerged into the firelight carrying the skinned serpent. He hung the skin on a bush to dry and prepared a green stick for cooking.
Jon said, “Ivan. You know these woods well.”
Ivan grunted. “It is shame to tiptoe in your own stamping ground. But sometimes one must. We will have to sleep on the ground. Making a sleeping platform would make too much noise. We sleep in turns. Someone has to keep the fire going to keep the bugs and snakes away.”
They didn’t awaken Jon. Tracy and Ivan sat up a long time whispering by the fire. Then they swapped three hour watches. Jon was awakened at dawn by the sound of Ivan burying the fire.
That morning they continued
to follow Ivan as he picked his was in baffling loops and doubles through the
forest. Great oaks and cypress grew
overhead, hung with festoons of grey Spanish moss. Occasionally
A jeep rattled up. A forest ranger hailed them.
“You folks shouldn’t wander around where you don’t know where you’re going. They raise marijuana around here. Some of their bushes can bring a thousand bucks on the street, and they’d just as soon shoot you as wonder if you are going to land ‘em in jail.”
Ivan said, “A thousand bucks a bush. That must beat moonshining.”
“Now you three just follow on out. There ain’t no law against your being here, and that’s the good news. The bad news is there ain’t no law at all.”
“Sir, can I talk with you a moment?” Ivan inquired.
The two men, ranger and Ivan, strolled off a few yards. From where the others stood watching, there was a subtle sense of a change in rank that occurred over the next few minutes. The ranger was smiling a little less, looking a little less relaxed and no longer looking straight at Ivan. He didn’t actually squirm. At the end of the conversation he squared his shoulders proudly, grinned, bounded into his jeep and sped away.
Ivan said to the others, “Lets get some fresh water. There’s a spring near here.” Sure enough, within a mile the dry flat ground dropped away into a tiny glen. A clear stream bubbled out of the earth and then wandered irresolutely away in the general direction of swampy land beyond. They drank, washed their faces and drank again. The water was cold and delicious. Splashed on the skin it was the best ointment there was for the scratches and bites of the past day. Then they were making forced march again.
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