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By´╝ÜTiffinie Helmer

Shit. He was hoping not to run into his former childhood comrade.

“I can’t believe it,” Lynx said. “I thought the boy was suffering from exposure when he told me you were here.” Air puffed from his angry mouth. “Didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”

“Can we get me out of this trap before you lay into me?”

Lynx looked him over. “You’re not much competition at the moment.” He lifted a brow and indicated Fox behind him. “If the kid wasn’t so concerned about you, I’d be tempted to leave you.”

And he’d be justified.

“If you’re going to leave me, shoot me first.”

Lynx laughed. “Don’t tempt me. Fox, hand me those clamps.” He looked at Aidan. “This is going to hurt.”

“Worse than stepping into the damn thing?”

“Wait until the blood gets flowing again.” Lynx smiled as though enjoying the picture he painted.

Aidan rose into a sitting position. Fox kept quiet, glancing worriedly at Aidan every few seconds. The kid actually seemed to care. Aidan studied him. Was he Lynx’s son? There seemed to be a resemblance of sorts.

Lynx tightened down a C-clamp to the front spring and then attached another to the back. “Fox, you tighten this clasp, and I’ll do the other. Harte, get ready to pull your leg out. These traps are ancient. It could spring back at any moment. I’m surprised you even attempted to come here, knowing Earl like you do.”

“Didn’t Fox tell you? Earl’s dead.”

Lynx paused then continued twisting the clap. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. I hope it was painful.”

A bullet to the chest. “Yeah. He felt pain.”

“Glad to hear it.”

The compression on his leg started to lessen. He reached out to help pull it out of the trap, as he’d lost most of the feeling in it. The pressure decreased but he couldn’t get his leg out. The teeth were caught in the leather of his boots.

“Come on, Harte. Pull.” Lynx tightened his jaw. “Who knows how old this trap is. It could go off again at any moment. I don’t want the kid hurt.”

“Don’t worry about me,” Fox said. “I’m quick. Let’s just get him out.”

The kid was wise. Listen to the kid. Finally, the jaws released enough of their hold and he scraped his leg out of the trap. As soon as he was free, the trap sprung, snapping into the air.

“Shit,” Lynx said, jumping back. “Your fucking father should have been shot for laying traps like that around here!”

Aidan grabbed his lower leg as feeling began pumping through his veins like hot oil.

“Do you think it’s broken?” Lynx asked.

“Don’t know. Hurts too bad to tell.”

“Fox, bring that sled over here.”

Fox positioned a sled next to Aidan and they both helped him into it.

“Let’s get out of here. This place always gave me the creeps.” Lynx pointed at Fox. “You and I are going to have a talk later on how you know where the booby-traps are hidden.”

Fox gulped and looked away.

“Lead us out of here, Fox.” Lynx grabbed the rope tied to the sled and pulled, following Fox’s trail. They reached a crew-cab 4x4 pick-up with the National Wildlife Refuge seal painted on the side.

Aidan stood with Fox and Lynx’s help, using the door of the truck as a crutch. He climbed in, clamping his mouth shut as he bumped his leg.

“Working for the State?” Aidan asked when they were under way. The snow came at them so hard there was no visibility.

“Yep,” Lynx answered, concentrating on keeping the truck on the road. How he could tell where it was, Aidan hadn’t a clue.

Aidan turned around to Fox, sitting quietly in the backseat studying Aidan. “Thanks, Fox. I owe you my life.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, giving Aidan a hesitant smile.

They pulled into the heart of Chatanika. An old gold mining dredge sat like a metal monster to the left, the main tourist attraction. The old lodge cabin squatted across the street on the right. A few outlying cabins dotted, circling the center of town, vague shadows in the rapidly falling snow.

“We won’t be able to get you to Fairbanks in this weather,” Lynx said, parking the truck and switching off the engine. He turned to Fox. “Run and get Eva. I’ll get him into the lodge.”

Fox jumped out of the truck and took off.

Aidan wanted to insist they drive him to Fairbanks. He didn’t want to meet any more people from Chatanika. At least he didn’t recognize anyone by the name of Eva. She must be new. But if he went into the lodge, memories where going to swamp him. “Who’s Eva?”