I walked through a snowstorm for the better part of the morning, and when the snow stopped falling around midday, I heard the snap and jingle of a harness approaching.
Taking cover behind a deadfall, I listened and watched and waited.
With the sounds of the harness came the voices of children, the breaking voice of a teen, and the deeper, tired voice of a man. As they drew nearer, I thought I recognized the man, and with my heartbeat quickening, I stood up, hands on the butts of my Colts.
A sled, drawn by a pair of horses hove into sight, and I recognized Mike Savage standing on the back of it beside one of his sugar vats for his maple syrup. Alongside him was one of his younger boys while another was in the snow wearing snowshoes. His eldest son, Timothy, was a few steps behind.
Upon seeing me, Mike pulled the team up short, and conversation among the Savage men faded. Mike spat off to one side, narrowed his eyes and asked, “Duncan?”
I nodded, unsure if I was truly in Cross.
Mike spat again, shook his head and said, “Damn, you look like hell. Where you been this past month?”
I cleared my throat and answered, “Got lost in the Hollow.”
The boys stared at me with wide, disbelieving eyes, and Mike Savage chuckled as he shook his head. “Only you could get lost in the Hollow and find your way out again, Duncan Blood. You smell like death and pigs but you’re more ‘n welcome to climb up alongside me for the ride back down to the North Road.”
“I’d appreciate it.”
When I was on the sled, Mike got the team moving with a snap of the reins and he glanced over at me. “Bad?”
I looked at his sons, then back to him, and nodded.
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