Writer’s note: this is a follow up to my short story “A Good Day”
It had been two hours since the last truck left the cabin. He tucked the binoculars into his pack and stood, grimacing as he stretched his cramped legs. Stepping from behind the bowl of the yellow pine, he picked his way down the mountainside. The ease with which he navigated the rocky descent spoke of a long-ago familiarity.
Fifty yards from the edge of the cabin’s clearing, he paused and scanned the area again. Instead of heading directly to the front entrance, he circled around to the back. Satisfied, he finally cleared the woods and approached. Why they hadn’t left some kind of surveillance was curious but he shrugged it off. He knew all their tricks anyway.
Stopping at the wood pile, he picked up an ax and turned back into the woods. With the cabin barely visible over his shoulder, he stopped at a worm-eaten stump. One blow from the ax caved in the fake side, revealing a metal ammo can stashed within. He shouldered the ax, tucked the box under his arm, and returned to the cabin. As he stepped onto the porch, he glanced into the darkening sky. Orion was just beginning his evening journey. He rubbed his temple and stepped inside.
At the kitchen table, he flicked on his small flashlight and cracked open the box. Inside was a folded paper wrapped in a plastic bag and a slim frame Glock 22 with silencer in a waterproof carrying case. Laying the pistol aside, he spread the paper out on the table. The familiar code stared up at him. After reading the note once, he turned off the light. In the darkness, he leaned back and closed his eyes.
“I miss you too, Dad.”
The words jarred the empty stillness of the cabin.
“Sorry it took me so long to get here. I’m just glad my note got to you in time.”
He waited; somehow the cabin seemed to answer in its own quiet way, breathing back the spirit of the man who had spent so many years there.
“Claire would have loved to see this place.” A smile crept into his voice. “She loved you like crazy, and I know you loved her too. Even though both of you didn’t know how to show it.”
The smile disappeared. “She’s gone. You would have been proud of her. Sometimes, I think she was stronger than me.”
He pushed back from the table and paced in front of the kitchen window, watching the full moon pour shadows down the broken ridges of the mountains.
He leaned on the kitchen counter. “You had a grandson, too.” Tears streamed down his face.
Resting his forehead against the window, he let the frosty glass cool his brow. “He had Claire’s eyes but your face. I saw you every time I looked at him. He was a fighter.”
He took a long, steadying breath. “Why didn’t you come? We wanted you there. I guess you proved your point. I don’t know why I ever expected you to leave this place. I should have known better. We’ll have to agree to disagree. Deal?”
Silence was the only answer. The quiet mountain night lulled him and his eyelids drooped. Sleep was a weapon. He needed rest, but not now. He forced himself awake.
The flash of headlights climbing the mountain road fractured the darkness.
He crossed to the table, screwed the silencer onto the Glock, and placed the note in the can before sliding it into a cabinet. Watching through the window, he saw a SUV pull up to the cabin. A lone figure emerged. Pulling a radio from his belt, he spoke into it.
“Whiskey One, this is Raven One. Come in. Over.”
The radio crackled in response.
“I’ve arrived at the cabin. No issues to report at this time. Will update at 0100 hours. Over.”
“Copy that. Raven One out.”
He silently crossed the living room as Raven One’s boots crunched across the gravel and creaked up the stairs. The handle turned and the front door opened slowly. The beam of a flashlight cut into the cabin as the man leaned to look inside. Rocking back, he waited for Raven One’s face to clear the jam before kicking the door. He felt the heavy wood splinter the man’s jaw, and he stumbled into the cabin yelling in pain. Reversing his grip on the pistol, he brought it hammering down on the back of the man’s head, and he dropped onto the living room floor.
He flicked on his light and checked the man, a kid really. He wouldn’t know anything useful. He pocketed the radio and tied him up. As a last thought, he threw a blanket over him. Retrieving the can from the cabinet, he left the cabin, taking one moment on the porch to stop by the old rocking chair.
“I’ll find out what happened, Dad.”
Without looking back, he climbed into the SUV, gunned the engine, and disappeared into the night.