The fog was wet, thick as cotton, and the headlamps were next to useless. Might as well have been penlights. The road no help, either, one switchback after another—appearing without sense or warning. Who’d engineered the damn thing, a road builder or roustabout? The idiot in the back moaning like a sick cow, garbled noises through the tape over his mouth. A fine state of affairs…a helluva state. Should never have come to this. A little shoving around, sure. That part had seemed inevitable. Some people needed physical intimidation; there was nothing savage about it. Yet the man had remained obstinate, proud of his arrogance. Matters could have been settled easily enough—but no. A next step had to be taken, then another, and now there was all this, a place beyond the furthest point imaginable, instinct taking over somewhere along the line—though where was unclear. Yes, the power remained, but focus had blurred. This damnable road! This maddening fog! If the ridge didn’t appear soon all these actions taken so confidently would be reduced to memory, embers dying as quickly as the fire had burned hot.
Then around yet another switchback the fog broke. Just like that! As if surfacing from a deep dive, an interminable ascent, lungs about to burst, then the deliverance of sweet, life-giving air.
Above the fog line, the full moon burnished the stump-strewn logging operation a bluish white. In the surrounding ravines, banks of fog had settled over the adjacent ridge tops, spreading into the distance like black islands on a gray sea. Here was a magical kind of beauty that few ever saw, the art of pure nature—moon, landscape and silky fog.
The yarder lay ahead—by comparison, a jarring vision of technology. Yet incongruous as it might have been, it was where the driver steered, legging down on the emergency brake before reaching a full stop, jostling the idiot in back.
Bam! he kicked with bound legs. Bam! A desperate man now. He’d damage something if he wasn’t attended to—no time to savor the transcendent beauty.
Hatch door hoisted up, body rolling out like a barrel, falling funnily, a bark of pain—muffled by tape.
“What to do?” the driver muttered, though the answer came quickly. The knife was available, as was the pistol, but something more interesting, too.
Grasping the shoulders of his captive’s jacket, the driver began dragging him toward the steel spar pole. Under the spotlight moon the coupling lay brightly lit a few feet from the yarder—where it should have been left by a competent crew.
Now if there was only rope…