The sloop was more luxurious than Carl had imagined. Recently refurbished, the forty-two foot Bavaria interior boasted gorgeous wood paneling, and soft leather upholstery. The galley was spacious, equipped with top of the line yacht fridge and gas stove. There were three cabins. The largest one, was a suite they prepared for a pair of British newlyweds, Justin and Joyce, who were footing the bill for the charter as part of their honeymoon. A small basket with flowers, chocolates, and a bottle of champagne, were arranged at the foot of the bed, along with a set of white towels, and two terry cloth bath robes. Smaller cabins at the opposite end of the sloop were for the crew, which consisted of Captain Jim and his first mate Carl. The quarters would be cramped, but Carl figured he could manage for a week. There was a seven-inch LCD video monitor built into the wall across from his bunk, with a collection of DVD’s neatly filed on a shelf below it. Carl put his Bible on the pillow and flipped it open to the Psalms. Though Captain Jim wasn’t the best character to be working with, Carl somehow had peace concerning the arrangement, that this was part of God’s grand design for his life. As they set sail he whispered a short prayer, and committed their way to God, so nothing would happen to them like it did to Jonah or Paul with the whale and the shipwreck.
* * *
The galley quickly became Carl’s domain. His culinary skills earned him the nickname, Iron Chef. Cooking up delicious pizza, cannelloni, chicken fajitas, and salads, the passengers grew anxious at every mealtime to discover what Carl had thrown together. They usually waited until later in the evening to have desserts. On deck, under a canopy of stars, they would end the day enjoying the remains of their coffee and whatever sweets Carl had prepared.
At certain places along the route Jim veered the anchor to let the newlyweds use a twin kayak he’d had strapped to the sloop. It offered them the freedom to explore the coastline with more intimacy. At certain places they came upon sandstone cliffs, fifty to seventy feet high, where rain and wind had carved intricate designs into the precipice. Seals, and cormorants, sometimes came near to where they were and would paddle about within an arm’s reach.
The day of Carl’s funeral came and went as the sloop moved along at a steady five knots, passing through Discovery Passage, and Seymour Narrows. They spotted a northern pod of killer whales while traversing Johnstone Strait.
During their third day, Jim, who was a certified CYA instructor, was busy training the newlyweds in the pilothouse. Carl had it easy most of the day. After making the beds, and doing some dusting, he was only called upon twice, once for about ten minutes to help hoist the mainsail and a second time for fifteen minutes to heave the anchor. As the afternoon dragged on Carl went back to his bunk for a nap, where he dozed off while watching an espionage thriller DVD.
They stopped late in the afternoon, at Alert Bay, to have some shore time. Jim took them to see the tallest totem pole in the world (173 feet), and they stepped into the museum/library, housed in a renovated turn of the century jail, with just enough time for a quick look around before it closed. They decided to dine at the Nimpkish Hotel, a rustic looking place with an enthusiastic crowd gathered inside. A couple of local musicians jammed on guitars, singing on the corner stage. This taste of tavern life brought a flood of memories to Carl of nights he had spent at the Eagle’s Nest drinking the hours away. Now they seemed like such a waste. After an hour Carl began to feel uneasy. The Spirit of God inside of him was grieved.
“We should get going.” Carl nudged Jim, who was sucking back his fourth beer.
Jim laughed. “Come on, things are just getting started.”
“We’ve got an early start tomorrow.”
“I-I’m the Captain. A-And I say we stay.”
Justin and Joyce were happy dancing with a couple of other romantics over by the band. Carl gestured toward them. “Jim. You’ve got clients to think about, responsibilities.”
“Responsibilities! Responsibilities! I’m the most responsible guy I know. You have no idea ‘bout my responsibilities.” Jim fumbled for something in his pocket. “Here, I got us a room at the hotel up the road. We’re staying there tonight. All of us are, so don’t you worry.” Jim passed a worn plastic key chain to Carl, and then turned his attention back to his bottle resting on the bar.
“I’ll see ya later.”
Carl paid for his burger and Coke, and then left. The din from the pub echoed up the deserted Alert Bay main street. Carl quickened his walking pace. There was a chill in the air that he wasn’t prepared for.
When he woke in the morning, Jim was sprawled out, snoring heavily, on the single bed next to Carl’s. An opened bank deposit bag sat at Jim’s feet and money was strewn all over the sheets. It appeared to be several thousand dollars in fifty and twenty dollar bills.
Seeing that Carl was awake, Jim slowly raised his head from the pillow, one eye half-open “Hah! Not bad for a day’s work eh?” Jim shoved a pile of bills toward Carl. “Go ahead, help yourself to a couple of hundred, you earned it.”
“Where’d all this come from?” Carl took four fifties, and added them to the wad of money in his pocket.
“Don’t worry yourself about that. That’s my job.”
“You didn’t rob a bank?”
“No, no, nothing like that. Just business.”
Carl checked his watch. “Shouldn’t we be on the boat? It’s almost ten.”
“I told the honeymooners they could sleep in.”
Carl went to the cramped bathroom, to shower a shave. He turned the faucet, waiting for the water to heat up. “I give you this day God. Go before us. Please make our way perfect.” The anxious feeling he wrestled with lifted after the mumbled prayer.
They purchased extra provisions from the Alert Bay general store. Carl ended up having to carry them in a cardboard box waling with the newlyweds down to the wharf. Jim had run off for a few minutes. He came back smiling with two bottles of wine tucked under his arm, joining them as they gathered in the pilothouse. Joyce and Justin were wide eyed with excitement. The exotic atmosphere surrounding the tiny West Coast port had them mesmerized.
“Core! Would you look at those mountains!” Justin gestured to the horizon.
Joyce handed a small digital camera to Carl. “Let’s get a photo of us, Iron Chef, do you mind?”
He snapped a quick telephoto shot of them embracing at the helm: Alert Bay, and the distant mountains, loomed in the background.
“Thanks. Good on you.”
“Prepare to cast off.” Captain Jim interrupted their photo shoot.
Carl knew the routine: check the engine compartment, the oil and transmission fluid, start the engine at ¾ throttle, let it run for fifteen minutes, and then if all levels are reading fine, the Captain will take her out. Once out into the wind they’d hoist the mainsail and adjust the jib.
This day however, was far from routine. Twenty minutes into the journey Jim still had the sloop running under diesel power. And Carl thought it was odd that they were heading west toward Port McNeill on the far shore, dead ahead.
“What are you doing?” Carl asked Jim, getting in his face. He could smell alcohol on his breath.
“We’re supposed to be going to Port Hardy.”
“I know. I just want to take our love birds here on a little detour to do some site seeing.”
“What’s to see in Port McNeill?”
“You should know.” Jim winked at Carl, nodding his head. “I’ve got a little business,” he whispered, slurring his speech.
“Yeah, Uh. Well they have a bus to catch in Port Hardy, tonight.”
“Why don’t you go and fix us a nice lunch, Iron Chef. Make up something special.”
Carl had his hand on the hatch leading down aft to the cabin. He stopped and just stared back at Jim in cold silence.
“Go on,” Jim said, motioning with his hand, dismissing Carl.
The newlyweds were at the table reading paperbacks. Carl entered the cabin. “How bout some tea?”
“I’d love a cuppa.” Justin looked up from his book.
“Me too, please,” Joyce added.
“Great.” Carl unlatched the galley potable water faucet, letting it fill a kettle. “So you two are catching a bus tonight in Port Hardy?”
Joyce thumbed through some papers in a zippered section of her black carry-on bag. “Yes, half-past-seven. It’s taking us back down to Victoria.” She read from the back of a Greyhound Bus schedule.
Carl lowered his voice. “You might have to change that.”
“Cause Captain Jim wants to do some business in Port McNeill first. But it’s already so late in the day, I don’t think we’ll make it to Port Hardy on time.”
Justin closed his book, loudly slapping it down on the table. “But we have to get back to Victoria. Our flight is leaving the next day. Please, you’ve got to talk to the Captain and get him to change his mind?”
Carl set the kettle on the stove. “I’ll try. Anyhow don’t worry. I’ll make sure you don’t miss your flight,” he said, reassuringly, though he hadn’t yet formed a plan.
Captain Jim suddenly descended into the cabin. He was holding a half-empty wine bottle in his hand. “What’s all this jabbering going on down here?”
“We need to get to Port Hardy tonight.” Joyce pleaded.
“You do? Oh.” Jim took another swig from the bottle.
Justin raised his voice, getting annoyed. “Yes. We’ve a plane to catch tomorrow. It was all in that itinerary we faxed you, remember?”
“I agreed to take you to Port Hardy, and I’m going to take you, but first we’re going to do some site seeing in Port McNeill.”
“We’ve seen enough sites. Thank you.” Justin snapped back.
Joyce continued. “We paid a considerable amount of money for this charter. You have an obligation.”
Jim smiled, scratching his unshaven chin. “I’m still the Captain of this vessel, and my word is final. Sit down, enjoy yourself, Iron Chef here’s going to cook you a nice lunch.”
Carl tried to put an end to the argument. “Captain! Who’s steering the boat? You better get back up there.”
“Hah! I got her on auto-pilot.” Captain Jim mumbled under his breath, tripping back up the steps to the pilothouse.
Carl made sure that the Captain out of earshot before he spoke again. “There’s no use in talking to him when he’s like that. But don’t worry.”
Carl stepped into the heads, to regain his composure. He felt anxious, and worried. He splashed water onto his face at the small aluminum sink. Running his hands through his hair, Carl prayed out loud, “God, Jim’s getting out of control. You’ve got to do something. Please, in Jesus name. Give me strength.” Peace suddenly settled upon Carl, and he heard the same voice he had heard on the balcony in Comox that morning in mid-July. There was no need to worry about Jim.
“He’s in my hands,” God said.
Carl imagined the great I-AM smiling.
In the galley the kettle was at a full boil. Carl made a pot of tea, and set it with a tray of cream and sugar on the table.
The newlyweds served themselves. Justin went back to reading his book.
Carl took several sips of his tea, gazing out the portal, when he noticed something strange. The view of the horizon kept changing. First, there was open water, then mountains, and then open water again. It appeared as if they were going in circles. Carl was half done his cup of tea when he left for the pilothouse to check on the Captain.
Jim had fallen, bumping his head, and was drooling. He was passed out, slumped onto the deck with one arm caught in the helm.
“Jim! Jim!” Carl hollered, trying to rouse him.
Captain Jim had no signs of consciousness. The empty wine bottle gently rolled to-and-fro on deck. Carl heaved, lifting Jim off the wheel, and then dragged him to a padded bench aft of the pilothouse. He lay him out into the recovery position, on his side, with an arm and a leg bent at an angle across the torso, something he had learned to do taking Firs Aid in the Army.
Carl knew they needed to be heading Northwest, so he stepped behind the helm and slowly turned the craft to the proper bearing. He confirmed this with the GPS. Malcolm Island soon appeared to the east. After about forty minutes, they passed its northwestern tip, travelling at a steady five knots, heading out into the open waters of Queen Charlotte Strait.
Carl hollered down into the cabin for the newlywed’s help. They could now hoist the mainsail since they were past the windbreak of Malcolm Island.
Carl felt the wind on his face as they picked up speed. “Thank you God!” he sighed.
* * *
Six hundred meters or so from the shores of Port Hardy, Justin emerged from the cabin lugging up onto deck two suitcases. They had little rubber wheels on the bottom corner and an extendable handle grips. “Joyce, I left your carry-on bag on the table.”
“Did you get the toiletries?”
“No, Sorry Luv.” Justin set the luggage on the deck of the pilothouse next to Jim who was still dozing. “You think we should wake him?”
Carl replied in a hushed voice. “No. He looks so peaceful. Let him be.”
Justin placed a tip of twenty dollars under Captain Jim’s limp hand. “Core, he’s nackered.”
They maneuvered the sloop into an open mooring spot at the Port Hardy wharf, around four-thirty, giving the honeymooners plenty of time to catch their bus to Victoria.
“Thanks Carl, it was a great trip.” Joyce gave Carl a quick hug, and pressed a role of bills into his hand. “Keep that luv.”
“Uh, you don’t need to do that.” Carl insisted, holding it out to them. But Joyce and Justin were half way across the wharf by the time that he saw it was a hundred-dollars in twenties. “Thanks. Bye!” Carl waved.
* * *
Half-an-hour later Captain Jim bolted awake. “Huh! We at Port McNeill?” he mumbled squinting up at Carl.
“What?” Jim was mad. “Why are we in Port Hardy?”
Carl was relaxing, stretched out on one of the cushioned deck benches, sipping a Coke. “I dropped off our guests. They had a bus to catch.”
“But I told you I had business in Port McNeill – important business. What time is it?”
“Ahhh,” Jim cursed. “I missed it.”
“I was supposed to drop off the money.”
“Can’t you phone who ever it is and explain?”
“The guys I deal with don’t like to leave a paper trail. Phone calls, e-mails, and letters. They don’t use anything like that. We gotta go.”
“Salt Spring Island.”
“What about the sloop?”
“It’s too slow.”
Carl had no idea what was going on. “Shouldn’t one of us at least stay with it.”
“I’ve got to get to Salt Spring Island before they do, or I’m dead.”
“Cause I got fifty-thousand dollars in this sloop that belongs to them. And you’re going to help me take it to them.”
“Who does the money belong to?”
“The Fallen Angels”
The last people in the world Carl wanted to meet again. “No way.”
“Yes, cause I missed the drop off, they’ll think I’ve split. We gotta clear my name and tell ‘em it was all a mistake.”
Jim pulled a revolver out from where it was tucked into the back of his pants, covered by his life jacket. “You think you have a choice?” He waived it in Carl’s face.
“Whatever you say Captain Jim. I’ll help you. But who are we going see?”
“The top guy, Mister Big. We’ve got to get there before he gets word of my missed drop.”
“Mister Big, Who is he?”
“You’ll find out.”
* * *
They left Port Hardy by Greyhound bus early the next morning. Carl had the yacht’s sat-phone tucked into the side pouch of his backpack. He had managed to grab it as they hastily cleared the sloop of their belongings the night before. Under overcast skies the bus followed the Island Highway, south, winding past evergreen forests, and rugged mountain ranges. Every now and then a motorcycle would creep up on them, and rumble by. Even though the windows were tinted, Carl and Jim would sink lower in their seats, turning their faces to the aisle.
Some seedy characters rode the bus along with them. One of them was hung-over, and hogged the washroom, causing a lot of discomfort for the other passengers. Jim was tempted into dealing with him, but he held back his fist to maintain a low profile.
Jim nervously tapped his foot. “I can’t believe I missed the drop. All these years, I’ve never missed a drop.”
“No, you don’t understand. This isn’t Fedex I’m working for. They don’t have any three-strikes-and-your-out policy. With the Fallen Angels, one strike, and you’re out.”
“Oh. I see.”
“We could’ve been followed.” Jim leaned closer to Carl. “If we stay in public places, follow the crowds, we’re safe. These guys will take you out when you’re alone, isolated, the same way that wolves kill an elk or a deer when it strays from the herd. They don’t want any witnesses”
“How do you know this?”
“Cause I’ve helped them do it.”
Five hours of travel brought them to the edge of the town of Crofton situated on the calm waters of Osborne Bay in the Cowichan Valley of eastern Vancouver Island. With a population of less than three thousand, it seemed a tranquil place. Most of their residences were retirees. A few hundred others were laborers working at a nearby pulp and paper mill, considered an eyesore by some, with its numerous smokestacks, metal towers and conveyor belts, stretching north along the coastline on the outskirts of the town.
Carl and Jim planned to catch the next ferry from Crofton to Salt Spring Island. They were glad to be off the bus and out into the sun. Dropped off at a small bus terminal, a room at a nondescript industrial complex, across from a hobby farm, they were within walking distance of Crofton. Five young lady backpackers from New Zealand, got off the bus with them, and joined them as they hiked the half-kilometer to the Crofton Wharf.
Having missed the next ferry by five minutes, Carl and Jim decided to go to a café, just up from the terminal, and settled into a booth for a late lunch. Several retirees and two couples with young children occupied the other tables. Jim ordered two coffees, mulling over the menu.
“The lumberjack breakfast looks good.” Carl scanned the other options.
“Yeah,” Jim stirred a spoonful of sugar into his coffee. “I’ve had it before. It’s alright.”
“I wonder if they use real maple syrup?”
“I doubt it.”
“Order me the Lumberjack Breakfast. I gotta go use the men’s room.”
“I didn’t get a chance on the bus. That nut case was hogging it the whole way.”
“Yeah.” Jim glanced down to his hidden revolver, “but don’t try anything.”
A narrow hallway next to the kitchen led to a bathroom with a single toilet at the back. Carl locked the door once he was inside. He began to pray, mumbling under his breath. “Oh God, help us...”
He took a Sat-phone out from where he had it tucked inside his leather jacket pocket on the way out of the yacht. Fumbling with its thick antenna, he turned the phone on and punched in Michael’s number.
“Yes. Carl! How’s the trip going?”
“Not so good. I just learned that Captain Jim’s part of the Fallen Angels.”
“Listen, I don’t have a lot of time. I need you to do something for me.”
“I need you to contact the director of national security, that Christian MP in the Conservative Party – David Knight. I need you to tell him about my situation, but make sure he keeps it confidential. I’m being taken now to one of the top guys in Fallen Angels on Salt Spring Island. Captain Jim says he runs a bed and breakfast in Ganges. Once I find out his exact location I’ll contact you again.”
“What’s going on? Where are you now?”
“I can’t say anymore, just that I know that they will kill me if they find out who I really am. Can you contact that MP?”
“Sure. Don’t worry.”
“Thanks.” Carl was about to hang up when Michael spoke again.
“Hey. Guess what?”
“You’re wife’s getting married.”
“Huh?” Carl suddenly felt sick in the pit of his stomach: a righteous jealousy rising. “She can’t do that…” he blurted, and then he thought out loud; “oh yeah I’m dead – I guess she can.”
“Well, I figured I’d let you know.”
“Thanks.” Carl pressed the power button. “She didn’t wait long,” Carl whispered.
The jealousy faded as he washed his hands. He had compassion for her, imagining her managing the tavern on her own, trying to keep everything organized. He knew it was too much work for one person to handle. That’s probably why she found someone else so quickly. He was sure of it. One phone call could let her know the truth. The Sat-phone still had enough power. Carl seriously considered it, but he didn’t have any peace. It wasn’t the time. He dried his hands, and tossed the used paper towel into the plastic garbage can. Maybe Naomi already knew the truth, that he was still alive, and she was doing this just to bring him out into the open. Carl tucked the Sat-phone away and went back out to sit with Jim in the restaurant.
“That’s better.” Carl sighed, taking a seat, reaching for his coffee.
Carl tried to make small talk. “So, how long have you been sailing for?”
Jim was hesitant to answer. “As long as I can remember. My parents raised me on a sloop ‘til my father died.”
Carl cut a section of beef sausage, dipped it in syrup with his fork, and brought it to his mouth. “How old were you when that happened?” he asked before chewing.
“I was ten at the time. My Dad and I took a sloop down to the Caribbean for a couple of months. This bad storm hit us. He tied me to the mast so I wouldn’t get blown off.”
“He tied you on? For how long?”
“All night. The wind driven rain and waves kept thrashing us for hours...” Jim paused. The memory was too painful.
The loss and darkness of that night had cut a deep wound. “When the storm had died down, my father was gone. He had remained onboard long enough to send out a distress signal.” Jim appeared uncomfortable, fidgeting. He turned to face the window. “After that, I vowed to never sail again.”
“What happened to your mother?”
“She turned to drugs, and ran from her pain. She’s in prison somewhere down in the States. I haven’t heard from her since I was a teen.”
There was a long silence at the table with only the sound of scrapping knife and tapping fork and on plates as Carl finished off his pancakes and sausages. “So, how come you’re sailing now?”
Jim leaned back in his chair. “Because I learned something: life sucks. Once you accept that life sucks, you can make the best of it.” He leaned closer to Carl speaking in a hushed voice. “Lie, steal, cheat - even kill, as long as you can get some pleasure out of it. I’m just trying to get my piece of happiness like everyone else.”
Carl swallowed and wiped the sides of his mouth. “But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can have true joy and peace through Jesus Christ, regardless of your circumstances.”
The horn of the Salt Spring Island ferry sounded in the distance, interrupting their conversation.
Jim swallowed the remains of his coffee. “We should get going.”
* * *
They walked onboard the ferry up to the front where several other backpackers stood in the sun. Filled to capacity with cars, the ferry slowly churned backwards, its diesel engine causing the metal hull to vibrate beneath Carl’s feet. Obviously the ferry had seen better days. Several fresh coats of white paint were unable to hide the rusted wear and tear. Good thing the trip was short. The crossing of Osborne Bay only took fifteen minutes. The BC Ferries dock on Salt Spring Island came into view after they churned past the Crofton peninsula, out into the bay. No motorcyclists had boarded with them. The occupants of the cars appeared to be mostly middle class vacationers who had kayaks, and mountain bikes strapped to their vehicles.
A few minutes before they docked, Jim found a retired couple, in a Nissan Quest van, who were willing to give them a lift into Gagnes. Carl climbed into the back seat, as Jim rambled on, telling them some lame story about how they were backpacking together across Vancouver Island, that they were going to see some old school mates who had settled in Gagnes. Carl just nodded his head and sat speechless. The couple said they had made reservations at a bed-and-breakfast for two nights. They were hoping to get some hiking done later that afternoon in the provincial park on the island, maybe visit some of the art studios (which Carl soon discovered, were plentiful on Salt Spring Island).
On the outskirts of Gagnes Jim leaned toward the driver, tapped him on the shoulder, and said: “anywhere here’s fine.”
“Are you sure?” the white haired, rotund, retiree questioned. “I don’t think so.” His voice took on a sinister tone.
Suddenly the auto-door-locks dropped. The driver’s wife reached into the glove compartment, and grabbed a pistol. She quickly swung around, pointing it at Jim’s head.
“Give me your gun!” she sounded like a grandmother who had just caught a child with its hand in a cookie jar.
Carl felt a streak of panic flash through his body. He prayed quietly. “Send an angel, please.”
Jim carefully removed the handgun he had tucked into the back of his pants. “Here. Take it easy.” He tossed it onto the floor mat in front of the passenger seat.
A minute later they turned off the main paved road, onto a winding narrow dirt lane, heading north past a lake to their left. This went on it seemed for several kilometers.
The old lady turned back. She moved her head closer to Carl adjusting the glasses on her face. “Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”
“That’s what the papers say.”
“I can assure you, all my life I’ve been alive.”
“Well, you won’t be for much longer.”
Her threats had no effect on Carl. A new strength had risen in his heart. “You don’t want to mess with me.” Carl replied.
“Because if you fight against me, you fight against God.”
“Hah!” she scoffed.
“God and I are best friends.” Carl couldn’t believe what he was saying. He had a new courage.
They turned up a hill and then back down a steep incline. The driver sped through the hairpin turn at the bottom.
Suddenly, a deer bolted across their path. There was a loud thud. And as if in slow motion, the creature smashed through the windshield. The van left the road, careening; rolling numerous times until it came to rest in a shallow riverbed, a ball of crumpled metal. During the crash he had felt an invisible force push him back against the car seat.
When it was over, Carl still had on his seatbelt and was conscious. There was stinging and bleeding a few places on his arms and face from the shattered glass, but nothing was broken.
Jim moaned. “You okay Carl?”
“Yeah. How are you?”
“My leg’s stuck.”
Carl crawled out the hatch back, which was twisted open, hanging by one hinge.
“Looks like the old guy’s gone. Uh, unconscious.” Jim forced all his weight back against the rear passenger seat. “My leg’s stuck under there. Give it a push.”
Carl reached through the window and pushed the driver’s seat forward, straining with all his might. “Try it now!”
Jim was free. He scrambled out the windshield, keeping his jacket draped over the sharp edges. “I know that woman. She’s Grandma Simms, an infamous gangster.”
“Is she alive?”
“She’s still breathing. Hard to tell how she’s doing though. That air bag’s covering her. I did manage to get my gun back.”
Grandma Simms stirred beneath the wreckage. “I’m still here boys. Now don’t you run off anywhere.” She used the pistol to pry the airbag away from her line of site. But by the time she had it cocked, Jim and Carl had already scrambled over some boulders by the edge of the stream. She shot off two rounds to scare them, which ricocheted off a nearby rock in a blast of dust.
“Run! Run!” Jim cried.
They rushed frantically, tripping over the thick underbrush, trying to crawl back up the ravine to the road.
“I’m coming after you!” Grandma Simms shouted.
They couldn’t see her, but they heard her cursing and swearing echo through the forest.
Carl and Jim had a good head start on Grandma Simms by the time they reached the hairpin turn near to where the van had left the road. Bloody and sweaty, they limply jogged along, trying to increase their lead.
That’s when Carl thought he heard the voice again. It said, “Let’s dance.” He felt they should leave the road again. “Go this way.”
Carl dove into the underbrush followed by Jim, pushing through ferns and sapling coniferous growth. They continued their descent of the ravine, heading back to the stream. It had to lead them somewhere eventually, maybe to a farm or some cottages. After several minutes of wading they stopped to rest near a waterfall, where the stream fell a couple of meters into a waist deep pool. They couldn’t hear Grandma Simms anymore. Carl tossed his backpack onto a sandbar, and went to wash off his wounds, leaning against a boulder where a narrow stream of water showered down. He caught his breath.
“I think we’re safe.” Jim looked around. “She’s probably up by the road now.”
“We’ll keep following this, see where it takes us.”
“Okay. Do you still have the money?”
“It’s a little wet, but it’s all here.” Jim patted the rucksack slung over his shoulder.