The Wind of Lonely Places


Blair stopped when he reached Sunset Trail at the catwalk's end.  He 
looked along the way he had come, trying to slow the heaving of his 
lungs, the hammering of his heart, wondering what it was about the old 
man that had inspired such unreasoning fear.  And what could he say to 
explain himself, when the old man came down the trail?  He waited a 
minute, then three, then five, while the falling snow whitened his hair and 
shoulders.  His thoughts began to tumble around him, uncontrolled.
	Could the old man have taken the Blood Rock, after all?
	Is that good or bad?
	What am I thinking?  Of course it's good.
	Maybe he didn't, though.
	Maybe he's still waiting up there.
	Maybe he walked back up to another run, and went down that way.
	I have to know for sure.
	Don't I?
	Blair waited another five minutes before removing his skis and 
starting reluctantly back up the trail.  He passed beside barrier ropes 
that barred the way to the edges of cliffs, and the Columbine Glade 
trailhead that was itself nearly a vertical drop.  The snowflakes became 
smaller as he walked, and fell faster, obscuring sight.  He came at last to 
the place where he and Kelly had stood.  The old man was gone.  He 
squinted down the slope, at last detecting the tracks that Kelly had left, 
already almost filled by the thickly falling snow.  With slow, wooden 
movements he resumed his skis.
	Follow him.
	No. That's crazy.
	But it's the only way to know for sure.
	Stupid.  He's gone.
	Want to see her.
	Red eyes glowed, low to the ground, within the dark beneath 
the trees.  Blair heard a high-pitched snarl.  He sidled backward, almost 
tripping over his skis, turned and fled in blind panic.
	By the time he was halfway down Sunset Trail, Blair had 
managed to regain some control over himself.  Despite his desire to 
leave the mountain as quickly as possible, he turned aside into Alpine 
Bowl.  The route was longer, but avoided the trail that passed beneath 
the Blood Rock.  It would be there, waiting to scavenge, anticipating its 
	Blair did not relax until he passed the base area lodge.  Two 
vehicles stood in the parking lot, blanketed with new snow: his old 
Volkswagen bug, and the jeep he had noticed that morning.  The dog 
was not now in evidence.  Probably chasing rabbits, he thought, then 
snorted at the notion.  The animal was huge enough to chase elk.  Briefly 
he wondered if he should do something about the jeep, then discarded 
the notion as impractical.  Anyway, the dog would probably oppose 
such a plan if it were still in the area, and Blair didn't feel that was an 
argument he could win.  He locked his skis within the ski rack clamped 
to the back of his bug, climbed inside and started the engine.  He 
switched on the wipers, not bothering to clear the rear or side windows, 
and pulled out of the lot.
	Blair drove recklessly along the twisting, unplowed road, the 
blank calm of his expression betrayed by an occasional tremor in his 
hands where they gripped the steering wheel.  Although daylight had 
nearly altogether failed in the snow-occluded sky, Blair ignored his 
headlights, even after a close brush with a camper van in Hyde Park.  
"Damn fool," he thought, as the anonymous driver leaned on his horn.  
"Where the hell does he think he's going?"  The snow rushed at his 
windshield in shadowy masses, ghosting away into the slipstream just 
before impact.  The lights of Santa Fe swelled below him as he crested 
the last hill; Blair rushed to join them.