Monday, July 23, 2007

Forty Seven

Amalia's confident words didn’t match her feelings. With her nerves near the breaking point, she put on clean clothes, found a freshly charged lantern and sought out Harley.

She found him in his room studying a map and plotting things in pencil. A letter lay open on the table beside him. He looked up when she drew the canvas tarp aside and came to sit beside him. "I've missed you," he said.

"I was only gone a couple days."

"You know what I mean."

"Playing nurse hasn't left much time for other interests."

"That's all right. How's Diana?"

“She was speaking nicely to people and showing some curiosity about her surroundings before we left."

"Seems like a pretty poor thing to consider progress."

"We take what we can get." She looked over his shoulder. "What are you doing? Tracking Bonham?"

"This is our embedded man's latest dispatch. Sputnik said when we find them to make sure we talk to someone called Ellie Mae." He showed Amalia a page of numbers, letters and symbols, with translation between the lines of code. "I'm not so concerned with where Bonham's group is now, as with how to make sure we intercept them at the best possible place for us." He pointed to a spot on the map. "This area would be ideal. Lots of escape routes. They can't possibly cover them all. But our information doesn't indicate they'll come that far. Our next best option," he pointed, "Is over here."

"Can you get there fast enough? It looks close, but that's some rough country. It'll add as much a day or more to your travel time."

"That's why I like you, Amalia."

"Because I've got sense? All this time I thought you liked me for my charm and good looks."

"That too, of course." He kissed her and then returned to poring over his map. "Since you're here, I could use a second opinion. I was thinking of taking my men this way. . ."

They studied the map for half an hour, puzzling over routes, trying to remember obstacles that might not have been charted, considering the talents and handicaps of each of the young men he would be taking, and finally coming up with a plan that seemed reasonable. "All of which," Harley said as he folded the map with an air of resignation, "Is likely to end up being the only plan we can count on not happening."

"The best laid plans of mice and men. . ." Amalia sighed and rested her head on his shoulder. "I've missed you. I've been spending way too much time with my children. It's nice to talk with an adult."

"Just talk? I was hoping you came here with other motives."

"A woman can have more than one motive, can't she?"

"As many as she likes."

"Good, because I'm worried about this mission."

"Cid approved it, and I trust his judgment."

"Speaking of Miguel. . ."

Harley looked at her sharply.

"I suppose I should tell you he offered me a job teaching at his school. I'm thinking of accepting."

"Right now?"

"No. Spring or summer, perhaps. Whenever they select a permanent commander and he goes back to Estrella."

"I know you have some affection for him."

"He was a friend of the family, but that's not why I'm considering his offer."

"Tired of the game? We haven’t gotten Strecker yet."

"I know, but I’m beginning to wonder if that really matters so much. Diana was my responsibility and I let her get hurt. My children need a safe place to live."

"You realize, of course, that Will and Diana are no longer children? I don't claim to know them better than you, but what evidence do you have that they want a different life?"

"They should at least have options. Everyone needs a home."

Harley chose his next words carefully. "I think, Amalia, that you may be surprised at how much this sort of life has become the norm for them. The idea of living in one spot may be as foreign to them as this way of life seems to you."

"What's wrong with giving them a real choice?"

"Nothing at all. I'll miss you if you go away."

"I'll miss you, too." She kissed him. "And I'll miss you tomorrow when you take our boys to intercept Bonham. You'll be safe out there, right? And if Coyote. . ."

"Yes, I'll listen. He's been right too often for me to ignore him."

Amalia settled deeper into Harley's arms. "Okay, then. I'll try not to worry."

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1 comment:

Alice Audrey said...

I hope she doesn't settle down for the kid's sake, but for her own. I can see her taking up the teaching position, then being frustrated as she watches them both happily ride off without her.