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By´╝ÜTiffinie Helmer

“You could say that.” Aidan clenched his teeth. He was also freezing to death. He struggled to his knee for added leverage and grabbed the jaws of the trap.

The boy put his hands next to Aidan’s. “Ready?” he asked.

Aidan nodded, and as cold as he was, he began to sweat. They pulled, heaved with all their might, but the springs wouldn’t budge. Aidan felt the teeth move but not enough to release his leg.

“All right, break.” He moaned. Any minute now he was going to cry like a baby. “What’s your name?” Aidan asked, trying to concentrate on anything that could help distract him from the pain. This kid might be the last to see him alive.

“Fox. My name’s Fox.” Fox tilted his head to the side. “Are you related to Mr. Harte?”

“Yeah,” Aidan scoffed. “You could say that.”

“Well…are you?” he asked as though the answer meant something. “Either you are or you aren’t. What is it?”

“Earl Harte is…was my father.”

Fox fell back on his haunches. “You’re Mr. Harte’s son? The graphic novelist, Aidan Harte?”

A fan? Clear out here? “Yeah.” He nodded and wiped sweat off his forehead.

“Whoa.” Fox stared at him. Really stared. As though he were looking for something. “What do you mean Mr. Harte was your father?” Fox swallowed.

Could the kid have liked Earl? Nobody had liked Earl.

“He was ki—died this summer. I’m here to take care of his effects.”

Fox’s eyes fell to the ground, and he gave a heavy sigh. “I was afraid something like that had happened when he didn’t come back. Seeing the SUV outside his place…well, I thought he’d finally made it home.”

“Were you and him…close?” Earl hated kids.

“Kinda. It was a weird relationship.” Fox took a deep breath and seemed to collect himself. “You ready to try again?”

“What the hell.” They braced themselves and pulled on the jaws of the trap. They heaved and strained until Aidan couldn’t help the holler of pain. “Stop. Shit.” He couldn’t take any more of this. Just kill him and get it over with. It wasn’t like he had a lot to live for anyway.

“We need help,” Fox said. “I’m strong for my age, but this is bigger than me.” Fox leapt to his feet. “I’ll be right back.” He turned toward the back of the cabin, walking in a zigzagging line to the back door. The kid obviously knew where the booby-traps were placed.

Fox entered the cabin and returned with a fur-lined hat and blankets. “Here.” He gave the hat to Aidan, who immediately put it on, the flaps big and floppy over his ears, and then Fox carefully wrapped Aidan’s legs with the blanket, adding another one around his shoulders.

Aidan fished out the keys in his pocket. “Take the SUV.”

Fox shook his head. “My mom would kill me for driving. Besides, it’s snowing too hard. I’d probably put it in the ditch. My dogs will get to help faster in weather like this. You hang in there. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“If I’m…” He didn’t want to say dead, but that’s where he was headed.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be back before you know it. Think warm.”

Aidan heard excited barks and yips as Fox turned the corner and was out of sight. The kid was gone, and Aidan was once again alone in the arctic night.

He tried to disassociate from the pain throbbing in his leg where the metal teeth were clamped around it. It was becoming easier to do as he lost feeling, either from blood loss or the cutting off of circulation.

He lay down on the hard, frozen ground. Snow fell so thick he couldn’t see more than a few feet above him. Sticking out his tongue, he caught the flakes and swallowed as they melted. He used to love doing that when he was younger. Snow had always been magical. Blanketing everything in white. Softening the edges of the harsh landscape. Glowing blue and green in the dark winters when the Northern Lights would dance like spirits in the sky above.

Would Fox be able to make it back in this?

He no longer felt the cold, either because the kid had wrapped him up or because shock had set in. Snow began to cover him, adding another welcomed layer of insulation. He pulled the hood of the hat over his face and closed his eyes.

He didn’t know how long he’d stayed like that. Maybe he slept. But suddenly he heard a truck’s brakes squealing as it came to a fast stop, then voices and the sound of footsteps crunching through the snow.


Aidan tried to lift his arm to pull back the hood, but someone beat him to it, dusting off snow that was attempting to camouflage him. He opened his eyes and stared into Lynx Maiski’s hard unforgiving face.