The rocks and gravel tore at JD's skin as he was dragged and tossed along the river bottom. Fighting against the current he managed to break the water's tight grip and re-surface a second time. JD didn't think it could be possible, but the river was flowing even stronger than it had been before he went down the last time. He tried to steer himself, but the water pulled him along, completely overpowering him with it's wrath. Then he felt himself plummeting as the earth suddenly dropped out from under him and tons of water rained down on him.
'Boy...the next time I try this I gotta use a barrel,' JD thought just as he slapped hard on his back, and was pile-driven deep down under the cascade of falling water. Fighting the panic he began to swim up through the water, and then realized he would have to get out from under the fall's before he would be able to reach the surface. Totally disorientated, with the last of his strength waning he changed his angle and started to swim towards a brighter area of water, praying he was going in the right direction. His lungs burning and his vision blurring, JD weakly rose upwards and finally popped his head out of the river. The falls roared down beside him, splashing spray all over him, but instead of a thundering current JD found himself floating in a placid pool surrounded by fifty foot high canyon walls.
His endurance almost gone, he struggled to stay floating on his back and regain some of his strength. His throat felt raw as he wheezed in a whistling breath. Feeling disoriented, he fought through the haze that gripped his mind. Something he needed to remember was evading him. Something important. Or someone!
"Oh geez...Vin!" JD nearly sank again as he flipped over and frantically looked around for his friend.
"VIN...VIN!" JD hollered over the noise of the falls and started fearfully searching, not even sure if Vin had come over the falls. He had lost sight of his friend right after they hit the water; for all he knew Vin made it to a boulder or the river's edge above the falls.
Then he spotted him, laying face down in the water about twenty feet away and not moving.
"VIN!" JD hollered as he swam with all his remaining strength to his companion. Vin didn't move as JD reached him and flipped him over, his lips and complexion were already turning a blue hue as the blond agent rolled bonelessly in JD's arms.
"Oh god...oh god...Vin wake up!" JD muttered as he pinched Vin's nostrils and blew air into his lungs while treading water to keep them both afloat.
JD repeated the motion than started to swim for a small beach, stopping every few strokes to blow into Vin's lungs again.
Hitting shallow water JD pulled Vin towards the shore, crying out in aggravation as his quivering, exhausted legs kept giving out on the slimy rocks under his feet. Finally sitting on his bum, he grabbed the still unconscious Vin under his armpits and dragged him part way up the gravely bank, before slumping onto his back with Vin resting half on top of him.
Grunting and groaning, JD slid out from under Vin. Lying Vin's head back gently in the sand, JD checked for a pulse and respiration, and found neither.
"Come on Vin...don't you do this to me!" JD pinched Vin's nostrils again and started to breathe into his friend's mouth, and then placing his hands on Vin's chest pressed up and down. JD moved back and forth, alternating between pumping Vin's chest and breathing into his lungs, "Damn you Vin...don't you die on me...don't you dare die on me!" JD stuttered as he checked for a heartbeat again.
Even more frantic now, JD's eyes threatened to well up as he continued to pump on Vin's chest. "One...two...three...damn...it...Vin...seven...breathe...damn ...you...eleven...twelve...breathe...fourteen...fifteen!"
A distraught JD placed his shaking fingers against Vin's throat and checked for his pulse again. Maybe? JD snatched his hand away and shook it, trying to get his quivering nerves and chattering teeth to settle down, then replaced his fingers on Vin's throat. A weak, but steady pulse vibrated under JD's fingertips.
"Yes!" JD again bent down and blow more air into Vin's mouth over and over until water started to gurgle up out of Vin's lungs and JD had to flip him onto his side when he started choking and throwing up water.
Dazed and confused, Vin looked up at a relieved JD with shocked eyes, while coughing continued to rack his shivering body. JD quickly pulled Vin's shirt and jeans off to dry in the sun and dragged him up onto a warm sandy stretch of beach where they both sat huddled, staggered to their cores over what had just happened.
Vin held his head cranked slightly to the side as though it was causing him discomfort and for the first time JD saw the bruises that marred Vin's ribs.
"Geez man...don't ever do that to me again! You scared the crap out of me Vin, I thought you were dead!" JD finally managed to say through teeth that were chattering equally from cold and from nervous tension.
Vin brought his fingertips up to his swollen lips, "You thought I was dead, what happened to me?...Hey JD, were you kissing me. My lips haven't been this swollen since I got talked into double dating a set of twins with Buck? And you better hope Sorenson doesn't shoot me wearing nothing but my boxers, this ain't how I want Buck and Chris to find me!" Vin said in a thin raspy voice, hoping to inject some humor into a situation that he did not found at all amusing.
"Oh, that's it...next time I'll let you drown. You're as full of crap as Buck, I swear to god."
With a tired grin, Vin laid back onto the sand, "Just give me a minute here JD, I ain't feeling quite up too snuff yet."
The warm sand felt comforting to him, though his chest burned and hurt like blazes every time he coughed and he could feel a knot developing on the top of his head. He must have hit it on a rock; the last thing he remembered was falling and then water choking him. "We have to keep moving, can't stay here," Vin thought, but could not get his body to respond for love nor money. Exhausted and battered, he closed his eyes and started to drift to sleep under JD's watchful care.
"JD," he murmured.
"I'm really glad it has been you watching my back."
Startled JD searched Vin's face, but saw nothing but sincerity, "Ya, well I'm glad you're watching mine too. Beside I owe you."
"You do? I think we should just call it even.
'What is that annoying buzzing?' Vin waved his hand past his ear and the noise went away only to return a second later and tickle his face. And why did it feel like he was lying on steel wool? Slowly he opened his eyes and lifted his head up off the rough sand, moaning from the effort.
"You okay Vin?" Vin turned at the sound of JD's concerned voice and saw the kid sitting right beside him, watching him closely. "Your color's looking a lot better, at least you're not blue anymore."
"Yeah...I think so. What the hell happened?" Vin wheezed out.
"We went over some waterfalls and you banged your head. How do you feel, can I do anything for you?"
"I got a samba band jumping around in my head, but I'll live. Pass me my clothes would ya? How long was I out for?" Vin asked as he drew on his damp jeans and gingerly pulled his tee-shirt over his head. He wasn't sure if the pain on his stomach was still from his shock treatment yesterday morning or from his ride down the rapids, he just knew he hurt.
With the fog slightly lifting from his mind, he took in their surroundings. High rock walls, that the river cut a path through, rose straight up above them. On either side of the river small sand and gravel beds jotted out into the river, but all were separated by stretches of running water, so unless they swam most of the way, they could not stay dry and follow the river down any further. Also, Vin doubted the river was as calm further downstream as it was right here, and he definitely didn't relish the idea of swimming in any more rapids today, or maybe ever.
With his sweater dangling from his hand, Vin walked over to the rock wall above the beach he and JD were on and examined it closer. Reaching up he tested a few handgrips.
"How long did you say I was out for JD?"
"I'm not sure, maybe about an hour."
"We gotta get out of here. I ain't sure how much distance we traveled down the river, but you can bet Sorenson is hot on our trail. There's no place to hide down here, you think you can keep up with me climbing?"
JD and Vin hit the climbing walls at Vin's gym regularly, but while Vin had been mountain climbing most of his life, JD had only been out on real rock maybe a dozen times. Cautiously, JD approached the wall and felt around for handgrips.
With more bravado then he really felt, JD nodded his head, "Sure, it looks a little harder than what I've been climbing, but you said after our last climb I was ready for more of a challenge."
"I would think of something else if I didn't honestly believe you could do this, JD. You trust me, right...you can do this!"
"Well, let's do it then." JD grinned and nodded his head, then waved his hand towards the wall for Vin to lead the way.
Vin tied his sweater around his waist and took a deep breath. Warily, he rolled his sore shoulder around in its socket. He would feel a lot better about this if his shoulder didn't hurt and his head was not pounding so hard. Vin reached up and tested his first handhold, then stepped up with his foot and started to climb. He felt stiff and unsure of his first few moves then became lost in the task as his muscle memory returned and he climbed without thinking. Soon he was back in his rhythm, all moves deliberate, confident and made with purpose; free climbing with one hand and one foot anchored to the rockface for every move.
JD moved over to Vin's right so he was not directly underneath the other man, in case any loose rocks fell, and started to climb. Vin had purposely picked a harder route so JD could take the easier way, but even so the younger man was attempting a climb that far surpassed his skill level. JD tentatively reached into a handhold to test the rock and then satisfied it would support him, he too started to climb.
The fall air was warm with a slight breeze blowing, but the heat radiating off the rock wall from the sun was scorching and soon both men had sweat dripping down them, making their hand grips slippery.
Vin quickly ascended the rockface to a narrow ledge that cut into the cliff about half way. Grunting from the effort, he scrambled up the last few feet and collapsed onto the rock-strewn ledge, panting hard.
Below him, JD clung to the rockface, slowly moving his feet and hands to find grips when suddenly he found he found himself stuck on a smooth surface, "Vin...I can't find a handhold, what do I do?" Vin heard the early note of panic in JD's voice.
Vin laid down on his stomach and looked over the edge to examine the smooth rock below him, "JD move your left hand above your head six or eight inches, with a little work you should be able to get a handhold there."
Pushing his weight flat against the rock, JD reluctantly released his left grip and reached up to find some loose rock that he pried away at. The sedimentary rock started breaking apart, with fragments falling silently for a long way before clattering on the rocks below. Cautiously, he gripped his fingers into the broken rock vein and found a solid hold. Struggling, he pulled himself up to the ledge, where Vin was able to reach down and yank him up. JD shimmied around, and placed his back against the rock, leaving his feet to dangle over the edge.
"So, what do you think of the view so far?" Vin asked.
"I don't know...I'm not opening my eyes till I get to the top!"
Vin grinned at his friend's response, "You're doing just fine. I don't know if this is any consolation, but it was years before I made a climb like this. You're a natural. Keep it up and you'll be out climbing me in no time."
'Yeah, well right this second that is not a great consolation, but thanks anyway. I just want to get out off here and put my feet on solid ground again. So, how do we get off this ledge?" JD asked as he nervously stood up and turned back to the rock wall with his feet braced wide apart, and his hands pressed tight against it. The urge to stand on horizontal ground growing stronger the longer he was suspended in the air.
Vin again led the way as he confidently traveled across the jagged ledge until it narrowed into nothing, forcing them to halt. JD peaked around Vin to see what the hold up was, only to see a six feet wide chasm split the ledge in two. Vin nudged him back a few feet then turned to face the gaping hole.
"No...please don't tell me we're going to jump it!" JD shook his head as he looked at the chasm, then down to the rocks and river below.
"Okay...I won't tell ya!" Vin said with a grin as he concentrated on landing on the other side and leapt. Leaning forward and stretching, Vin landed lightly, kicking some loose shale down the cliff behind him.
JD looked at his partner with disgust, "I ever tell ya how much I'm starting to hate this vacation, Vin!" JD said as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet and then with two running strides and a holler, threw himself into air, stretching for all he was worth. Arms reaching to grasp anything solid, JD landed on his hands and knees on the loose shale rock and dug in. He froze, not moving a fraction of an inch as the sound of falling shale hitting the rocks below came up to meet him.
JD sank onto his backside and resumed breathing, his skinned hands and knee's trembling, while sweat gathered on his brow and upper lip.
"Yeah...that's intense! You can't tell me you didn't find that a rush, JD." Vin plunked down on the ledge as well and looked back over the chasm they had both just jumped. "Even my headache is going away."
"You are one sick puppy, Vin. When we get back, I think I am going to start hanging out with Josiah and Nathan, at least they haven't tried to get me killed yet."
Vin grinned and got back on his feet, "Just ain't been their turn yet, give them time. You ready to move yet? We have most of this canyon licked."
"Yeah, I guess." JD climbed unsteadily to his feet, and again followed his agile partner.
Vin leaped blithely over gaps, never hesitating, always sure of where his feet were going to land, until the ledge melted into the rock face and Vin had to start climbing again.
JD tried to mimic Vin's moves, but soon his inexperience was shown and he was forced to drop behind, as he moved slower on a particularly difficult section.
Vin disappeared into a chute. He figured they could use the chute to chimney up to the top and after peaking his head around its edge to check on JD's progress, he sat patiently waiting. After a few minutes of sitting, Vin worked his way around the chute to see what was taking JD so long.
"Oh damn it!" Vin cursed as he found JD spread-eagle against the rockface that Vin had just passed at a scrambling run. JD's complexion was pale and he was hanging on with every fingernail; his knuckles white from the effort and his face pushed hard against the cool rock.
The kid climbed the hardest part and suddenly froze now! Vin picked up a pebble and bounced it off JD's head, "Damn it JD, open your eyes and get your butt over here! We don't have time for this."
"Shhh..." JD said anxiously.
"What are ya shushing me about?...Oh crap, I see them...JD don't move!" Vin whispered as he spotted Sorenson and his men surveying the river below the falls, searching for them. Thankfully the early evening shadows had drifted across JD helping him to blend in with the rock, but he was still out in full view of the men if they scanned the rocks closely enough.
JD never felt so helpless in his life as he hung by his fingertips half way between sky and earth. Muddy sweat ran down his brow and dripped into his eyes and his underarms tingled from nervous perspiration soaking his tee-shirt. The muscles on his back cringed as they waited for the touch of a slug to rip into his body and knock him to the rocks below.
For the first time, Vin experienced a deep, almost paralyzing fear. He felt totally helpless as he slid back into the chute and watched Sorenson and his men move around on the other side of the river scouting for signs of them. Even if he could cause a diversion for JD, all Sorenson had to do was maneuver his men over to the right of the falls and then he too would not have any protection in the chute.
Vin frantically searched around the chute for a weapon, or some quick way he could get JD off the cliff, but there was nothing.
JD pressed harder into the rock as his quivering arms starting to give out and a cramp suddenly attacked his left calf muscle, almost jerking his leg out of it's foothold.
"Hang on, JD...just hang on a bit longer!" Vin hissed out encouragingly, as he noticed JD's strength quickly wilt.
"Are they going?" JD whispered hopefully, locking his eyes on Vin.
Vin shook his head no, and silently mouthed the words for JD to hang tight.
The muscles in his arms and legs were trembling so hard, JD could barely keep his grip on the rockface. He would not be able to hang on much longer.
Sorenson said something to his men and they started to move down stream, while he came to stand on the edge of the canyon and stare out over the river towards them. Vin held his breath and willed the man to leave. As if reading his mind Sorenson turned and followed his men.
"JD, they're gone. Get over here fast!" Vin waved at his friend to start moving again.
JD groaned as he straightened his stiffened fingers and struggled to feel for new handholds. Moving as fast as he dared across the rockface, he reached for Vin's outstretched hand and slumped into the chute beside Vin, his body sagging against the rock.
Sinking to the ground he wrapped his hands around his calf and shut his eyes tight as he gritted his teeth against the pain of the cramp. Vin pushed his friend's hands out of the way and started to massage JD's leg. Offering no resistance, the kid leaned his head on his knee, he was almost completely spent physically and emotionally.
"It feeling better?" Vin asked, as he felt the tightly bunched muscle start to relax under his gentle rubbing.
With his eyes still shut, JD lifted his head up off his knee and let it fall back against the wall for support. "Yeah. Thanks," JD managed to wheeze out through his trembling lips.
Vin let him rest a few minutes then touched him lightly on the shoulder, "I'm sorry bud, but we can't stay here. I'm sure they will be backtracking looking for us."
With a resigned sigh, JD nodded and staggered to his feet, "How are we supposed to get up this thing?" he asked pointing up the chute.
Vin moved into position and started to chimney upwards, "Keep to the front of the chute, brace yourself with both legs and hands pushing outward on both sides of the rock walls. Then press one foot against the back wall and your hand from the same side on the wall in front of you. Move your butt and back up the wall, pushing with your legs." Vin demonstrated the technique and waited for JD to follow him.
"Yeah right!" JD said dubiously, "Can't I just wait for the elevator? I know, I know, shut up, and start climbing." JD said before Vin could answer him and pressing against the rough rock inched his way to the top.
The alpine meadows they skirted were still a vivid emerald green and sprinkled with multitudes of bright wildflowers. The tall groves of golden leafed aspen swayed in the cool autumn breeze, and the little spring that bubbled out of the earth was pure and clear nectar to their parched throats. A golden eagle soared above the trees on a warm wave of thermal air and a five point buck watched them nervously, before bounding off into the forest. The ground was covered with ruffled grouse so thick they had to watch where they were stepping so not to trounce on them or their nests.
In this most remote part of the Rockies, every direction was breathtaking-rugged, untamed beauty. Majestic snowcapped mountains jutted up through the blue skyline with glittering glaciers careening down their slopes, surrounding them on all sides.
Vin sat on a moss covered log and just stared at the vastness. He could not remember ever feeling this tired; they had already crossed one small mountain range only to find it replaced with a half a dozen larger, more impassable ones. Pools of sweat soaked through his tee shirt and beads ran down the dark bruises that marred his handsome features.
Exhausted, JD lay spread-eagled on the ground with his eyes closed in his filthy, torn clothes. All his flesh hurt! Moaning, he tossed his arm over his eyes and tried to block out even more of the never-ending wilderness before him, until a distant rumble of thunder brought him quickly to his feet. A great mass of clouds were coming in fast, riding on a blustery northeast wind.
"Guess we better find some shelter if we don't want to end up soaked again," he said, pulling Vin up, "Which way should we go, oh master of the woods?"
"JD, ya don't have to call me 'master', I consider you my equal, but out of respect, ya best walk ten paces behind me," Vin said with a tired grin.
Bone-weary, the two dragged their tired, aching bodies through the woods searching for suitable shelter from the elements. Once off the apex of the mountain, the forest swallowed them up under her canopy of trees, forcing them to slow the trek through heavy green, dew-laden ferns and across tangled downfalls. Branches hung up around them clutching at their clothes and limbs, slowing their process even further.
"Vin, what are you looking for? We just keep walking and not getting anywhere," JD asked as he slipped off another wet log.
"I'll know it when I see it, JD."
"Great!" JD said as he yanked his sweatshirt sleeve away from yet another branch that he had been caught up on.
"And there it is!" Vin said pointing, to a huge mound of dirt where a tree that had literally been ripped out of the ground by it's roots.
"There what is?...I don't see anything but a pile of dirt."
"Exactly, start digging."
Soon a cave immerged. Once they pushed the dirt over the entrance away a huge hole appeared from where the roots had been buried in the earth. Vin cleaned out spider webs and JD collected spruce boughs to use for bedding.
The little dirt cave was not tall enough to stand erect in, and had a moldy, rank smell. JD held his nose as he spread out the sweet-scented spruce and hoped it would help freshen up the cave.
Their shelter was surrounded by soft green moss that bounced back after being stepped on, so Vin just had to patch up a few spots that had been ripped and all signs of their whereabouts disappeared.
The two just finished when the first big raindrop splashed on them, and lightning struck the mountain closer this time, with the vibration shaking the ground under their feet. They crawled into their home for the night and arranged the brush over the entrance, blocking out the dusk and the now, torrential downpour. Exhausted and hurting, they huddled against each other to fight off the night chill and listened to the rain.
The two men sat in the large, dry, canvas tent on folding chairs and listened to the rain belt down outside. Their stomachs were full from the meal they cooked on a propane stove, and a hot cup of coffee in their hands kept the chill away. A sleeping bag and foam pad lay rolled up in the corner of the tent.
Watts sat with his hands wrapped around the mug of hot coffee and stared at Sorenson with bitterness in his eyes, "I was told you were the man for this job. From what I saw today I'm not so sure I made the right choice. I am paying you a life's fortune and yet these two are still out there running free from all you professional hunters. When I hire professionals for any job, I expect the job to get done quickly and properly. Yet with all your high references, those two ATF agents who's combined ages don't add up to yours, are able to outsmart you. Unless they died in the river this afternoon, and without finding their bodies we can't stop hunting for them.
"They are still alive, the river didn't get them. Tomorrow is as good a day as any to shoot a couple of ATF agents."
"How do you know that, and why didn't you kill them outright when we had the chance?
Sorenson leaned over into Watts space, forcing him to retreat back slightly. Few men had the power to make him fell uncomfortable, but Sorenson wasn't like most other men. Watts was ruthless in the business world; Sorenson was just plain ruthless. For him the nature of man was the trait of stark cruelty; he pulled wings off butterflies to watch them suffer before death brought them relief.
"The young one might perish accidentally, but Tanner won't go down so easily, no, he's a survivor and smart. A good adversary is hard to find, I was not ready to end the chase at the river this afternoon. He is making me think and challenge my skills, something that hunting animals the last twelve years has diminished. I have an innate intuition about these things, those two are still out there and alive, at least for now. With all the money you are paying us, I thought you would want to have the opportunity to finish at least one of them off yourself. Tomorrow I will get you in closer for a good clean shot."
Watts nodded, then ducked out of the tent and headed back to where his own tent was set up. Sorenson made him very uneasy, there was an intensity in his eyes that went far beyond that of a hunter. It was the look of murder. Watts had thought he was more than equipped to deal with a man like Sorenson, now he was not so sure. This man did not follow the rules, he had no boundaries as to how far he would go. Watts just wanted to finish these two agents off, so Larabee and Travis could experience a quarter of the pain they caused him, then he would go back to his successful and somewhat secluded life.
Chris sat in his office with his phone clamped between his ear and shoulder, as he rifled through some papers scattered across his desk, and listened to the storm rage outside. Wind and rain were pounding against his window so hard it vibrated in its casing. Were his men out in this? Were they still alive? Chris didn't even want to think about that possibility, he only wanted to concentrate on finding his two missing agents and friends.
A quiet rap on his office door brought his head up.
"I brought you a cup of coffee." Josiah said as he placed a mug of hot java in front of his boss and sat in the spare chair. Seeing the back of a picture frame on Chris's desk, Josiah picked it up and turned it over. Seven smiling faces looked back at him. It had been taken at a local lake where all seven men spent a day fishing together after finding themselves with a rare day off.
Vin and JD sat in the middle of the pack; Vin proudly holding up a fish and JD making bunny ears over Buck's head, all grinning like fools. Vin had won the bet for who would catch the biggest fish and JD had won the bet for who would not catch anything at all, but in all fairness he had spent most of the day being tossed overboard by the rest of the team. Buck told him you always throw the small ones back, so they all did...several times by the looks of JD's soaked gear and wet hair that hung plastered against his head, partially covering his dark eyes.
Vin with his lopsided grin, was so infallibly foolproof and trustworthy. He was also the team's number one prankster, a fact he kept hidden under his easygoing, mellow exterior. The past two years he had been with them he had also become Chris's confidant and closest friend.
JD, who's eyes were almost slits he was smiling so hard at the camera, had a quick, inquisitive mind and a daredevil attitude that drove the older members of the team too distraction, especially Buck. Behind the smile could be found a hot temper, but it was usually overruled by his peculiar sense of humor.
Josiah looked up into Chris's tortured eyes and held up a file, "Chris I'll tell you the same thing I told Buck, then we have to talk business. Those are two very adept agents. You can't get into as much trouble as those two always seem to manage without learning some intense life living skills. They both have an abundance of spirit that is too strong to go down without putting up one hell of a fight. Stop feeling responsible for this, the only one responsible is Sorenson. You can bet your life neither JD nor Vin are blaming you right now. They both have had great teachers, and I have every faith they will be fine until we can get to them."
Nathan's excited voice broke up the last of Josiah's sermon. Both men got out of their chairs and entered the outer office. "Ezra and Buck found a guy who used to work for Sorenson, they are bringing him in right now. He said Sorenson has a hunting lodge somewhere in Montana, but he was getting bored taking city folks out to hunt Bambi. He wanted to up the risk and excitement level, so last year he started to talk about hunting humans. He has a real hate on for anyone in the legal profession, so who better to hunt than cops. He figured he can get rid of some of us, and because of our training, have a good challenge at the same time, so this guy split. He said Sorenson is crazy and the guys who work with him are almost as bad."
Josiah waved the file he had been holding in his hand, "And now the business I wanted to discuss with you. We did some more research on the files you and the judge had passed over. Sorenson might have had a beef with the judge, but you never even heard of him so we figure Sorenson is involved, but not the mastermind. Someone must of hired him. I don't know if this has any bearing on this case, but Thomas Watts was murdered three weeks after he started to serve his jail term. He started to throw his weight and money around the minute they closed the bars behind him, stepping on toes right from the get go. Someone apparently wasn't happy with him, because he was stuck in the belly, and he bled out before the guards found him."
"I never heard anything about it. Josiah, find out what you can on the Watts family, especially the dad. Wake people up if you have to, just get some answers."
Vin shifted restlessly under the branches and sighed. Rotating his sore shoulder, he struggled to find a more comfortable position.
"You awake too, Vin?" JD whispered through chattering teeth.
"Yeah," Vin answered and sat up, resting his back against the tree trunk.
JD sat up as well, and pushed closer to Vin, trying not to lose any of his body heat, "Cripes, it's cold." he said as he saw his breath in the night air.
"Yeah," Vin said pulling the branches tighter against them.
"Vin...you okay?" JD asked his quiet companion.
"Yeah...sorry, JD. I'm just thinking about things. How are you doing?"
"The truth is I am cold and hungry and I feel like hell. Don't think I have a joint or muscle in my body that's not hurting...and I'm scared. First seeing you laying face-first in the river this afternoon and then when I was clinging on that rock while Sorenson and his men were standing right across from me. One bullet...that's all it would have taken. They had me dead to rights and there was nothing I could do to prevent it!"
"I know JD...it ain't fair what they are doing to us, especially because we didn't do anything to ask for it."
"But you know what I feel the most?"
"Mad...I am as pissed off as I can ever remember feeling. We're sitting here cold, hungry, hurt, and those guys have us running ragged. I think I've had enough of playing the victim. I think we need to cause some havoc of our own!"
"I'm glad you feel that way JD...I was thinking the same thing. Starting tomorrow morning I think we will exact a little revenge of our own!"