ADVENTURE THE 37TH: ACROSS THE FROZEN DIVIDE
For those unfamiliar with the posting structure of a blog: postings appear in the order they are made by their author, not necessarily in the order that would most benefit an ongoing series such as the one you are about to read. Since the purpose of this blog is to be an ongoing thriller, simply removing the previous chapter to alleviate confusion is not an option – since no one coming to the series after the first chapter had been removed would be able to follow the story line.
Therefore, if you scroll down or visit the archives in future months, you will be able to read this continuing drama in the manner and order it was intended to be read. For this reason and purpose each subsequent adventure in the ‘Eddie Mars’ serial will be marked by a number. If you follow these numbers marked at the top of each chapter in their numeric order - eg ‘Adventure the 1st’ - you will be able to follow this continuing saga.
For those savvy to the blog world – this disclaimer may seem redundant, and for that no apology is made. This disclaimer is meant to better acquaint new readers in how the entries in this blog will be posted and how best to follow the series from this point on. And now…
ACROSS THE FROZEN DIVIDE
Angela Buckner was the girl I should have married. She wasn’t flashy or fine, but she loved me dearly…well…at least more than I did myself. I met her at my first job. Her old man was a tyrant who liked to put his hands on her when she wasn’t looking. I wanted to put mine around his neck. But Angie was trusting girl, alright. She didn’t mind anything anybody did to her. That was her saving grace and her most perverse downfall. But I loved her too, I suppose. She encouraged just about every crazy thing I thought up on the fly.
“Get up, Edward,” she used to whisper in the mornings, before her old man knew what we had been up to the night before.
Funny, she was the only girl who made my Christian name sound sexy. In her arms, I was a solid citizen – someone to come home or write postcards to. Her lips used to taste of that cheap strawberry balm you get across the counter of any drug store. But there was little else that was generic about Angie. No, she was a rare find…especially for a guy like me and then – someone who thought all women were as evil and misguided as his own mother.
“Edward, you have to get up.”
There it was again; her tender inviting nibble on my ear – ticklish but forewarning that the old bugger would be stirring for some action of his own. Funny, how real she was to me now – not lying in six feet of earth turned prematurely under by some drunken fool who hadn’t realized he’d run a red until her shattered head went through his windshield. Then again, maybe it wasn’t so funny. Maybe it was more than a dream. Maybe – just maybe I was the one who was dead.
“Edward! Get up! Get up! Edward!”
I opened a lazy eye to see Migrya frantic and plucking the restraints loose from my body. She was here. So was I, in what was left of the fuselage; snow pouring in from the gaping hole that had once been the cockpit. Where the pilot had ended up was anybody’s guess, but the solid block of gray granite only a few inches away – with its unusually red splatter of violent sunburst set against the new fallen snow gave little leeway to alternative speculations.
Lucky bastard. Maybe he was the one chasing Angie now, darting in and out of those white fluffy clouds until I could get my hands on him someday for putting us both in a spot. I’d’a killed him myself if Mother Nature hadn’t done the job quite so neatly.
“I don’t have time to save your ass,” Migrya explained, giving me a solid smack across the cheek.
Her confidence had come back. Good thing too. I wasn’t particularly looking forward to playing the part of the gallant rescuer. When it comes to damsels in distress, I’m an equal opportunity employer. It’s every broad for herself. Pack light, travel light. That’s my motto. Shouldn’t it be everybody’s? I decide quickly that it should, wrestling loose of my jammed seatbelt.
Still, I’m more than a tad disorientated and stumble around for a few awkward, useless minutes like a one-legged break-dancing chicken on crack.
“Here!” Migrya says, tossing me a deflated rubber life raft she’s retrieved from what’s left of our cargo hold.
She’s a flurry of activity and most of it a blur, weaving in and out of wreckage with a back pack slung over one shoulder and a coat loosely tucked under the other arm.
“We have to find the box!” Migrya tells me.
“What box?” I stammer.
I may have struck my head but my noggin’s still in tact. This is the first I’m hearing about any box and I don’t much care that I haven’t been told about it until now – particularly since there seems to be some importance attached to the item in question.
Migrya disappears out of the large gaping hole at the front of the plane.
“Here!” I hear her declare a moment later.
I stumble to the edge of where the front exit should be, sticking my head into the raging storm just beyond and getting a face full of sleet. It’s sticky and cold, but it brings me to – enough to make out Migrya digging like a Bassett Hound on all fours until she manages to loosen a wedge of metal and plastic; prying out the dark black case, shaped like an oversized almond with a strap fastened to the top.
“Here!” she calls again to me, struggling to wade through thigh high banks of snow, swinging the odd attaché for leverage against the wind.
I grab hold of the jagged edge of the metal cabin and lean into the storm with my hand outstretched. When she’s close enough, I hook my fingers around the carrying strap. It’s only then that I notice where we are – teetering precariously close to a mountain precipice. The ice beneath Migrya’s feet breaks out from under her, creating a large gaping hole leading hard and fast down the mountain side. She dangles from the other end of the strap.
There must be something wrong with me. Back in her sunny home and in her stocking feet, I’d swear she didn’t weigh more than a hundred and five. But now, she’s like a dead anvil. I can feel every muscle in my rotator cuff stretch to its raw limits.
“Climb up!” I tell her, as she blows about like a wind chime.
“I can’t!” she hollers back.
“Then to the devil with you and your box!” I shout back, “Now climb!”
It’s no joke. I’ll drop her to save my arm if she doesn’t pull herself to safety. But self preservation kicks in and I watch as she claws her way up the strap, digging her fingernails into my arm and shoulder until I feel confident enough to lean only with my feet, using my free arm to pull her close to me at the waist. We fall into the fuselage, the box landing a few feet away, in tact and without a scratch. I sure as hell hope it was worth it.
“There’s no time,” Migrya tells me.
The sound of more cracking ice, this time directly beneath us, leads me to the right conclusion. We have to leave the wreck and fast.
Migrya runs to the cargo area, grabbing two parkas and a small leather tote.
“Come on, then!” she reasons, tossing me a coat, scarf and pair of mitts.
For a gal who grew up knowing perpetual summer, she’s pretty familiar with the winter of our current discontent. I can tell. She’s done this before.
Ripping open the leather tote, Migrya pulls out a climber’s rope and claw, tying the loose end about her waist before clipping another rope to hers. She tosses me the almond shaped case, then the rope. At least now I know which one she regards as more of value. I’ll pay her back for it someday, because in another moment we both feel the plane beneath us slip loose from the icy ledge beneath.
Migrya hooks her climber’s claw into a craggy outcropping of rocks. The two of us slip through the fuselage like a pair of slippery maggots in a sausage casing. The last bit of shelter, gone tumbling around us, then down with a thunderous clang, spiraling between slabs of mountain rock, like an oversized pinball en route to its inevitable ‘tilt’.
The wind cuts through – bitter, hard, unrelenting - leaving me breathless. I feel like a piece of Swiss being fed through the grater. We pull ourselves up to the safety of a solid rock ledge twenty feet or so above. There’s a cave and some broken pines we can use for shelter and fire.
“The box!” Migrya commands.
Only, I’m not about to part with it so easily.
“What’s in it?” I ask.
She’s not amused, reaching over and taking the case from my hands.
Under the circumstances, I do as I’m told. It’s either that or become some polar bear’s frozen fish stick.
The cave is fairly large; high ceiling with only a few stalactites dripping down. Inside the leather tote I discover some flares and matches. I set about collecting some loose debris from nearby to form a formidable lump of kindling. After I’ve managed to ignite the dry stock into a minor blaze, I notice that Migrya has opened the combination lock on the almond case.
“Clever,” I suggest.
Our eyes lock. She knows that I know and I’m not about to look the other way.
“Right,” I admit, kicking her to one side without even feeling it in the pit of my stomach.
Inside I find something I was never expected to see – the list: that Holy Grail everyone’s been searching for, fighting for, killing for. It was already ours. We had it all along.
“You bitch,” I mutter, looking about the cave for anything to strike her.
I’ve had it. I’ve been a punching bag and a sucker. I’m bruised, maybe, but I’m not licked – yet. I’ll beat it out of her. I swear I will. She has it coming.
I make out the faint lumpy traces of a pair of rocks lying nearby. I’m all set to make one a battering ram when the arrangement of several other rocks in a semi-circle inside the cave leads me to believe that we’re not the first weary travelers to discover this place. In fact, the human skull I uncover a few moments later from just beyond the flickering shadows of our fledgling fire is confirmation enough that at least one other dumb son of a bitch wasn’t quite so lucky up here. It’s going to be a long night, but I’m going to get the answers to a lot of burning questions…or else.
Not when it’s getting good!
EDDIE MARS will return in his next adventure –
FLAME OF DISCOVERY on February 28th, 2008.
@Nick Zegarac 2008 (All rights reserved).