It was a good day.
Rocking back on his heels, he slid another log into the iron stove and closed the grate. The pungent smell of burning pine permeated the room. Standing, he pulled a kettle from the shelf, filled it, and slid it onto the already warming stove. The bag of coffee beans stood neatly sandwiched between the grinder and the french press. Leathered hands moved mechanically, methodically, the practiced ritual of years. Beans rattled into the grinder and sang themselves into redolent dust. He brought the canister up, inhaling deeply, drinking in the scent, eyes closed in anticipatory pleasure before tapping the grounds into the press. The burbling whistle from the kettle whined into silence as it spilled its contents.
The wait. He loved it. The anticipation adding to the joy of the morning routine. He closed his eyes, his face relaxing. He could have been 55 or 75. Iron gray hair topped a face that years ago must have been handsome. Fingers rolled in a slow cadence on his crossed forearms. The seconds ticked by. He was in no rush today. It would be perfect.
Warm steam swathed his hand as he depressed the plunger before pouring the coffee into the waiting earthenware mug, its handle glass-smooth from years of use. Wrapping both hands around it, he brought it up once more. The smell wreathed his face, caressing, a physical entity. Yes, it was perfect.
On his small bed, the letter lay beside the metal can he had pried from between the rafters. It had come late yesterday afternoon, the postman apologizing – he’d never been up this far before. He’d only read it once. Photographic memory. It had come in handy over the years.
Carefully, almost tenderly, he tucked the letter into the container alongside the pistol. Sliding a small wooden box open, he withdrew the contents, snapped it shut, and replaced the can.
The sun peaked over the mountains as he stepped out onto the porch. Crisp fall air ruffled his hair pushing it into his flat, blue eyes. He studied the light: liquid gold pouring down the backs of the mountains, running in ocher stains through the evergreens. Three hawks circled lazily away to his left. The coyotes must have had a good night.
Easing into the maple rocking chair, he sipped his coffee letting the hot liquid fill his mouth and warm his chest, the aroma resonating in his lungs. He looked down into the dark liquid sightlessly for several minutes before raising his eyes to the mountains once more. The sun plowed strongly now through an azure sea, unencumbered, brilliantly dominating the silent landscapes beneath. He smiled.
His eyelids drooped. He was tired. The warmth of the sun felt good through his plaid shirt. He placed the mug onto the small wooden stool beside him. Resting his chin on his chest, he settled back.
It was a good day.
“We’re here, sir.”
“No, he didn’t give us any problems.”
“What’s that? You’re breaking up.”
“How did he know? Uh, I’m not sure, sir. My men found a note hidden inside a can that was jammed up in the rafters, looked fairly recent.”
“I couldn’t tell you, sir, made no sense to me. Maybe some kind of code?”
“Yes, sir, we’ll bring it back.”
The agent slid his phone into his pocket and looked down at the elderly man. So peaceful. He could have been sleeping.
Beside him on a wooden stool sat a mug of cold coffee and a small, empty vial.