Anders's Angel:Heroes for Hire, Book 16(7)

By: Dale Mayer


“No regrets?” Anders asked Harrison. “You guys have found some pretty special women.”

“We have, indeed,” Harrison said. “We’ve been very lucky. And more single women are out there for you single guys, and we’re quite happy to have more couples join the fold.”

Dezi smirked as he walked to the fridge. “Good thing you got beer.” He brought out four and popped the caps on all of them. “I’m okay to meet up with somebody. But, with my luck, it won’t happen to me.”

“Why is that?” Harrison asked.

“Because it’s never me,” Dezi said. “Probably will be Reyes next.”

Reyes shook his head. “Nope. This job is Anders’s assignment. It’s his turn now.”

Anders held up his beer bottle and clinked it with the others. “We’ll see.” Inside he smiled. If they only knew.

*

Angelica pocketed her phone once again. The storm was coming in. On a clear night they sometimes could get reception up here, but the minute the storm arrived, they lost all telecommunications. She walked the few steps back to where the team was. The wind howled enough that they could hardly hear their own voices.

They were roped together and looking for the turnoff they needed to get down to their hut for the night. They hadn’t expected the storm to appear so hard or so fast. She was in the lead, taking over a good hundred yards back. It was just the three of them today as they took the turnoff to where they would stay for the night, to join their fourth team member.

And Angelica couldn’t wait to get inside. As much as she loved her work, she had to wonder sometimes about the psychotic nature of always working in such harsh winter temperatures. But thankfully she did a nice balance of field work versus lab work. If she could keep the report-writing at bay, she’d be even happier.

The wind picked up again, howling and whistling. With the ropes between them keeping them steady, they made their way slowly down the trail. They’d done this trip many, many times over the years. But this time she had a fourth person on her team, who had stayed at the cabin. Hannah hadn’t felt well that morning and had decided to stay in the hut rather than stress her body more in the extreme temperatures. She stayed inside the cabin, cooking meals and keeping the place warm for them.

Up ahead the smell of woodsmoke tantalized their nostrils as they headed toward the cabin. But the way was treacherous. Angelica had picks and spikes keeping her moving forward steadily. She kept the line taut behind her, not dragging anybody but not allowing any slack either. It was too hard to rein in a researcher when the slack picked up and someone fell.

They walked at a steady pace as the fog rose and the storm raged in. In whiteout conditions, this mountain was a killer. It was too easy to get lost and to freeze to death in minutes. But she had a great internal navigational system, and she had already taken stock of where they were going, so she kept her feet pointed in the right direction, and they trudged forward. As long as she kept the cliff edge to the right of her, she held steady.

And just enough of an indent remained in the snow from their morning trek to give her a bit of a trail to follow as well. She could hear somebody yell something from behind her, but the rope hadn’t jerked, so she didn’t worry about it. She kept moving. If the rope had been jerked back hard, that was a different story.

Up ahead the smoke smell got stronger and more welcoming. She could almost feel the heat reaching for her. Finally, after another fifty yards, the cabin came into view. The relief coming from the two men behind her was almost palpable. Continuing forward, she made it alongside the cabin. There they untied the ropes around their waists and then kicked their heavy boots to knock off some of the snow before she entered the initial part of the cabin, which was mostly a boot room. It was a necessary space to take off the snow gear before stepping into the inner recesses of the cabin.

The huts were small and compact, and they packed in a lot of people with multiple bunks up and down the walls. Climbers came here and stayed overnight. The only rules were to be kind and to help each other as needed and to leave the huts in good shape for the next occupants. Most of the time the system worked well. As she stepped in, she lifted her nose and sniffed. “I can’t say I’m sorry you weren’t feeling 100 percent today,” Angelica said to Hannah. “Nothing like coming back to a hot meal at the end of the day.”