Noah couldn’t accept that Sky and Sharlee had been killed by wolves. Maybe it still wasn’t too late to save them! He rushed towards the entrance of the cave to go and find them!One of the searchers moved into his path blocking the exit! He grabbed Noah’s arm! “No, Mr. Hall! We can’t let you go back out there! The storm will be starting soon and you’ll freeze to death.”
“No. It was just the three of us.”
“Well, they weren’t taken by the wolves. The wolf tracks end on the other side of the fire, and it was just one wolf. Presumably the dead wolf near the entrance. I’m guessing that your wife killed it. I see another pair of tracks here as well, heading to and from the entrance. It’s a male’s bootprints and I’ve eliminated yours and ours. It looks like someone found them before we did and took them from the cave. Can you tell if anything is missing?”
Aaron called headquarters on the satellite phone to see if any other team had found Sharlee and Sky. He was told that all of the other teams had been recalled because of the storm, and no one had reported finding the woman and baby. The three searchers puzzled over who could have found Skylar and Sharlee.
Ogden went outside and shined his light outside the cave on the ground. It had begun to snow, but he could still make out the tracks of a horse. Noah had mentioned Sharlee’s hurt ankle and so she couldn’t have walked any great distance. Brandt checked the fire and it was still warm. So they knew that Sharlee and Sky hadn’t been gone for long. Ogden came back inside and told them about the horse tracks. He wracked his brain trying to think of where they could be and then he thought of a place.
“If we go quickly. Do you think you have enough energy to walk there tonight Mr. Hall?”
As his answer, Noah headed outside.
“I made a big pot of stew earlier. I always cook a big batch to last for a while. Cooking isn’t my favorite thing to do. Can I get you a bowl of stew or anything for the baby? I’ll add more wood on the fire so that it’ll be warmer in here for her.”
Skylar started crying and asking for Noah again. Sky had never been away from Noah or not talked to him for such a long period of time. Sharlee picked her up and tried to comfort her. As Ryan walked to the door, a piece of paper fell out of his pocket. Sharlee immediately recognized it. It was the note that she had left in the cave for Noah telling him where she and Sky had gone! She recognized it because it was her special stationary that Isabel had given her as a gift. Why had Ryan taken it?
Sharlee felt very uneasy. Should she ask him about it? Should she take Sky and leave? There was no way that Sky could survive out in that cold weather! Besides, Sharlee had no idea of where she could go. She didn’t even know how to get back to the cave from here. It had started to snow again. She’d have to stay. However, she would remain on her guard and do whatever she needed to do if he became a threat.
Ryan returned, and he saw the paper on the floor. He quickly picked it up and wadded the note into a ball. He looked at Sharlee, but she was busy with the baby. He placed the wood on the fire, and then he threw the paper into the fireplace. He stood with his back to Sharlee blocking her view of the fire until the paper had completely burned.
He had been coming to the cabin ever since he was a small child. He’d spent a lot of time up here with his Dad and his grandfather. They had enjoyed hunting, fishing and horseback riding.
His grandfather had felt that life was too easy and cushy in the cities and he’d lived here year round. After his death, he’d left the cabin to Ryan. It had been a while since Ryan had been there. This was the first time in two years!
Ryan had written a couple of books that had sold very well. His publisher was waiting on his third book and threatened to drop him if he didn’t send in his manuscript by the deadline. Ryan just couldn’t seem to find any inspiration for this book! So he’d come here to clear his head and hopefully regain his muse.
He thought about how he’d found Sharlee and Sky. He had taken the horse out for some exercise and to get some fresh air himself. He was passing the cave on his way back to the cabin when he smelled smoke. He’d dismounted and realized that the smoke was coming from inside the cave. He had started moving the rocks at the opening to investigate when he heard Sharlee screaming at him to go away! She couldn’t hear his response.
He’d been shocked to find her and Skylar inside. She’d explained how they had come to be there. He didn’t have a television at the cabin. He did have a radio, but he hadn’t turned it on since he’d been there. So he didn’t know about the search that was being conducted to find the Halls. The whole point of going to the cabin was to clear his mind and get away from it all. He’d been there for the past three weeks.
Of course he couldn’t leave Sharlee and Skylar there in the cave. After settling Sharlee and Skylar on his horse, he had told her that he needed to go back inside the cave to make sure that the fire was out. He had checked the fire, and then on impulse, he had removed Sharlee’s note. Subconsciously, he’d thought that he might get a story out of Sharlee’s situation.
Now he was regretting his rash action. What if her husband returns and doesn’t find them? Her husband might go back out into the cold and search for them. Who knew what might happen if her husband did that! The man might end up freezing to death while looking for them.
Ryan sighed. There was nothing that he could do about it now. He turned on the radio and heard about the storm that was expected that night. The snowfall had already become heavier. As he listened, he stared at Sharlee. She looked back at him.
“You’re a very beautiful woman, very decorative even without any makeup. I’m sure your husband tells you that all the time. Very few women would look as good as you do after what you’ve been through!”
“No, I’m sorry. I come here to get away from everyone. My Grandpa believed in roughing it and so this place has just the necessities. Usually it was just me, my Dad and my Grandpa. My mother did come up here with us a few times though and so my Grandpa and my father added a loft up that ladder. There are bunk beds and a couch up there.
The bathroom is in that other building next to this one. It has a shower and even a steam room. It feels great going in there on a cold winter night. Would you like me to carry you over there? You can take a shower and bathe the baby. Or I could bring in the old hip bath that my mother used! I can fill it with hot water for you! Then you could bathe in here. I’m sure my clothes won’t fit you, but you could maybe wear one of my shirts to sleep. You and the baby can sleep down here and I’ll take one of the bunks upstairs. Can I help you off with your boots?”
He was being so hospitable and helpful. If Sharlee hadn’t seen the note, she would never have suspected that something was off! Something was off with him though. She didn’t know what he wanted from her, but he did want something. Sharlee decided to keep her boots on just in case she had to flee quickly or to fight.
“No thank you. I’m fine. If you could give me some warm water to bathe Skylar, I’d really appreciate that.”
“Sure, I can do that, but you really need to take those boots off so that I can take a look at your ankle. Please forgive me for rambling. I’ve been alone for a good while.”
“That’s okay. Thank you for your help, but not right now. Just the warm water for Skylar, please. How do you get your supplies?”
“I travel by horseback and bring what I need with me. Sometimes I use a wagon. Usually at some point after a storm, a ranger will come by and check on me if they know I’m up here. Let me heat up that water.”
He turned and got the water started heating up. Sharlee pulled out her cellphone. It was out of power.
Ryan brought a bowl of warm water over to her. She thanked him and gave Skylar a sponge bath. Then put her into a fresh outfit and blanket. She’d be glad when she could give her a real bath again and take one herself. Now wasn’t the time. Skylar was sleepy but didn’t want Sharlee to put her back down on the bed. She wanted to be held.
Sharlee felt exhausted, but there was no way that she could relax enough to go to sleep under the circumstances. She knew Noah. If he found the cave empty when he returned, he’d search for her and Skylar. She prayed that he’d found help and was safe. Otherwise…, she wouldn’t let her mind go to otherwise. He had to be alright!
“You look familiar. I’ve seen you somewhere before.”
“Maybe on a billboard or in a commercial. My husband and I are spokespersons for the Harley Davidson company. Actually, that’s the reason why we were traveling in this part of the state.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m trying to be a writer. I’ve written a couple of books. They weren’t bestsellers but they sold pretty well. That’s why I’m here. I’m working on another book, and I came to the cabin to get back to the basics. I’m even writing this one out by hand instead of using my laptop.”
“Part fiction and part non-fiction.”
“That sounds interesting. I’ll have to read one of your books.”
“So, how did your family end up in this situation? What happened to that wolf that was inside the cave?”
Before Sharlee answered, Ryan looked towards the door as though he’d heard something. “I’ll be right back.”
He went outside the cabin and it sounded like he locked the door behind him! Sharlee laid Skylar on the bed and rushed as fast as her ankle would allow over to the window. She looked outside. The snow was still falling. Sharlee saw Ryan talking with some men and she recognized one of them! It was Noah!
She hit her palm against the window, but she could tell that they couldn’t hear her! The glass pane was too thick and well insulated. She went to the door and tried to turn the knob, but it was definitely locked! She grabbed the rifle, but it wasn’t loaded! She searched for shells, but she couldn’t find any to load it! She hung the rifle back on the wall.
Aaron asked Ryan if he’d found Sharlee and Skylar and brought them back to his cabin. Ryan hesitated. He’d really boxed himself into a corner. He hadn’t thought anything through! Why’d he lock that door! Noah saw the hesitation and was immediately suspicious.
Ryan walked over and unlocked the door.
Ryan and the search team came into the cabin. Aaron used his Sat phone to notify headquarters that Sharlee and Skylar had been found!
“No, I’m fine, Honey.”
“Let me take a look at your ankle.”
Scott took off Sharlee’s boots and removed the bandage from her ankle. It was extremely puffy and swollen again.
Sharlee took the Tylenol. She tried to avoid taking medications since she was breastfeeding Sky but taking an occasional dose of Tylenol wasn’t harmful.
Noah was still staring at Ryan.
“I owe you an explanation. I’m really sorry for taking your note from the cave. I had some crazy idea that I could use your experience as a basis for a new book. I had no right to do that, and all I can say again is that I’m sorry!”
“Please make yourselves at home.” He repeated what he’d told Sharlee about the loft and the bathroom.”
Noah, Sharlee and Sky went out to the bathhouse. The steam from the sauna made it a very comfortable temperature inside. Sharlee undressed and removed the bandage. Then she limped over to the shower and started the water running.
Noah undressed himself and Sky. Then he took her over to the shower. At first Sky didn’t seem sure if she liked it. This was her first shower. She looked up at the water and raised her hand to touch it.
Sharlee reassured her. “See Sky, the water feels good!”
Noah washed Sky’s hair and bathed her. When it was time to get out, Sky started fussing! Noah and Sharlee laughed, and they let her splash her hands in the water a little longer.
Before she got dressed, Noah re-wrapped the bandage around Sharlee’s ankle. Then they shared a kiss before they went back to the cabin. Sharlee felt like crying because she was so thankful to have her Noah safe with her and Skylar again.
When they returned to the cabin, Ryan had left clean clothing for them on the bed. He and the others were up in the loft in order to give the Halls some privacy. Noah knew that his energy was at its limit, and he didn’t even have the appetite to eat. He stretched out on the bed with Sky beside him. They both fell quickly asleep. Sharlee lay on the other side of Sky, but she was wide awake. She was still too wound up to sleep. The other men were asleep up in the loft.
The next morning the storm had ended. Sky awakened and saw Noah and then she turned her head looking for Sharlee. Sharlee sat up and held her. Sky wanted to be nursed, and so Sharlee fed her. Then she put Sky back onto the bed. Before she realized what Sky was doing, Sky popped Noah on the side of his face with her hand!
“I know what you mean.”
The others came down from the loft and Ryan started cooking breakfast. Scott told them that they would be flown by helicopter to the hospital, but that they would have to go to a clearing so that they could be picked up. Noah tried to muster up his energy to get himself and his family there. Both he and Sharlee had been operating on adrenaline for the past week and they were worn out now. Scott continued talking and told them that snowmobiles were being dispatched to transport them to the pick up point.
Ryan suggested that it would be quicker to have his horses take them there on a sled. It had been bought as a special treat for his mother and him during one of her visits to the cabin. Scott agreed that it would be better than waiting for the snowmobiles to get there. Noah was relieved that they wouldn’t have to travel on foot.
When breakfast was ready, Noah and Sharlee couldn’t eat much even though they tried. Scott told them that after going for several days without eating, it was normal not to have much appetite. The stomach shrinks when you go for a steady period of time without enough food. However, he was concerned that they were probably dehydrated. That was especially a concern when it came to Sharlee because she was breastfeeding Sky. The sooner they were treated at the hospital the better. Scott called to see if the helicopter was close to arrival. It was, and so they began the ride to the extraction point.
The helicopter was waiting, but the snow was too deep for it to land. So they had to be air lifted up into the copter. Noah thanked the searchers for their help, and asked them to please thank Ryan again for him when they returned Ryan’s horses and sled.
Scott told him that Sharlee’s family had paid for specialized teams of searchers, but that even if they hadn’t been paid, it was still a pleasure to help Noah and his family. Sharlee’s father, Dale, had even gone out with a group to search near the lodge, but now they knew that their search grid had been way off. Everyone was relieved that they had been found!
Sharlee told him, “She’s in her harness, and she can ride up with me.”
“Believe me. There’s no way that I’m going to let my baby fall!”
Remembering what she had done to that wolf, they definitely believed her. Noah double checked Sky’s harness and the harness that was holding Sharlee into the lift seat to make sure that both were secure. The wind was picking up, and so the pilot decided that it would be better to send Noah up with Sharlee and Skylar. Then the helicopter could leave immediately. Noah and Sharlee were glad of the change in plan.
I know I promised that this storyline would end in this chapter, but it was just too long! It will end in the next chapter and I’ve already started working on it. I hope you enjoyed reading it! 🙂
The rustic, homey cabin was made by Severinka! It was just right for this part of the story. I can never thank the Custom Content creators enough for sharing their work with us! I really appreciate them and their creations!