Cheesy artwork by Sascha Darlington
Previous “Mouse” postings can be found here.
There’s something to be said for adrenalin. On a normal day, if I were up after two a.m., I’d be whining for my bed. I haven’t yawned once. Bed, unless it represents safety, is about the farthest thing from my mind.
I’m pleased with myself, strangely, at how little noise I’m making following Tom through the brush. On the other hand, that’s evened out by the thought of how many ticks I’ve probably acquired and how much fun it’s going to be pulling the bloodsuckers from my body. My thoughts are all over the place and I’m not quite as alert as I could be to Tom. He stops and I plow into his back, which is kind of like a gnat hitting a windshield.
I peer around him and realize we’ve come to the road again, but much farther along, near the hairpin curve that I remember from my previous ventures.
“Stay here,” he says.
A couple of minutes later he returns, his movements like shadows, silent.
“I think there’s an abandoned house across the road,” he says.
“No. There’s someone living there. I know where we can go,” I say.
“Let’s just say that when I have downtime, I explore.”
He seems to accept this at face value and I’m not providing more.
Here the woods are level with the roadway so we aren’t sliding down an embankment, which is nice. I’ve done that on this mountain and it isn’t comfortable. Some of the rocks can be sharp digging into you, even through your blue jeans.
There’s no traffic. No headlights from approaching vehicles.
I lead the way beyond the house, Tom thought was vacant, through a field and up an incline where a dingy old cabin is hidden by a stand of scrub pine. I can feel his questioning gaze on me, but don’t yield. Under a planter of dried up marigolds is a key for the front door. I use the flashlight app on my cell to illuminate the inside. It is just the way it was the last time I was here. How do I know? Maybe I’ll share that with you later.
“You’re surprising me, Mouse,” Tom says.
I grin. He almost sounds like he is complementing me. “Even a Mouse can know things.”
“I never doubted that,” he says.
In the kitchen I find the oil lamp and matches. It provides an amazing amount of light. On a previous visit, I knew that it couldn’t be seen from the road. With light I can find the floorboard that when I pound on it with my heel, eases up. I reach in for the automatic I’d left there the last time and hand it to Tom.
“In case you need it.”
“What are you doing with an automatic when you can’t shoot?”
“That’s a really good question,” I say.
“One you’re not going to answer.”
“I don’t suppose you have any food in your magic resources?”
I narrow my eyes at him. “What do you think?”
“I think that we have all underestimated you.”
“Most people do.”
Fifteen minutes later we have baked beans, boiled potatoes, and greens. It’s not gourmet, but it tastes like one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
Tom keeps stealing glances at me. I know the questions in his mind. Maybe when I’m sure I can trust him, I’ll share.