2010-12-24: Into The Woods



Date: December 24th, 2010


The hunt for Alice Forrester takes direction— but the plan veers, runs, tumbles and falls off path.

"Into the Woods"


Into the woods.

Christmas Eve day isn't getting any less unusual for those who are determined to find Alice Forrester and the men who took her and the other victims.

This time the wilderness is even more vast. To most of the police searchers, even the most skilled of outdoorsmen, of which most of them are, all the trees are starting to look the same. Tall trees, brush, shallow pristine snow, rugged, pristine land. It's as beautiful as it is unforgiving; it's easy to imagine how confused someone would be if they got lost. Every turn looks like the other.

The afternoon is cold, and here, where the trees are sparser, the wind finds every opportunity to invade the wood's barriers and remind them of its perpetual existence. Above, the sky is grey and unfriendly. The ominous atmosphere among the searchers isn't only due to their task; it's carried straight in on the wind.

"Why isn't Mr. Forrester with us?" Tobias juggles quiet talking with keeping an eye out. As the only armed member in the buddy system of the group of three that Maggie and Laurie make up the rest of (four, including their canine companion), he'd better. Police tromp through the snow behind them just in sight.

"With another team. Toward a different cave," Maggie answers. Between wary glances into the woods, her head — encircled by a warm grey winter headband that covers her ears against the cold — tips down. She's holding a handheld GPS, enthusiastically — if cautiously — trying to forge them onward by using the map on its screen. It was someone's job at the CPD to plot out all the relevant points on the little system as specifically as possible, including the cave that's supposed to lie to their far northeast. It's the only accurate map among them that doesn't come from Laurie's head. However, accurate might not be quite so accurate, given the way the detective frowns at it and pushes buttons in a way which can only be described as 'random'. Then it again, it may be her first time.

"Spread it out, I guess… I figured he'd want to be with you guys," says Tobias.

"I looked up the caves, and the one he's headed for is less sheltered. It's smaller. It's probably not the one. I convinced him to go there."


Maggie pauses her efforts with the GPS and, soberly, sympathy for the man not present, looks to Tobias. "Because wherever… Alice is — there's no telling how she's going to be when she's found."

"…Ohhh…" That sobers Tobias, too; he keeps plodding on eyes-ahead, where the trees thin out further. There's an uneasy openness to the spot that makes him veer to the left toward thicker coniferous cover.

Maggie seems to agree: "I don't like being out in the open like this." Her attentions turn to Laurie; the grim, but curious question that follows is his. "If they're here, do you think they know we're here?"

Into the woods, you go again. You have to every now and then.

"Yes." Spoken with an ease of confidence, an undevoted, carelessness unbefitting its implications, though, as Laurie tromps along the snow and forest-ridden path designated him, he dips his shoulder in a less iron-clad shrug, "They could. More than that, they could've planned for this kind of eventuality. Meaning," when turned, his gaze doesn't search but hones in on Tobias and his thick cover that hides his environment, "be alert for traps that expect you to take a certain route." Control: driving your target where you want.

The consultant exhibits some of this on his closer companion, the dog Petunia attached to him by a leash unusual to her; it's an unremarkable brown, borrowed from another neighbor for the purposes of not sticking out like a sore thumb. In similar manner, Laurie is outfitted in a tan outdoors jacket that hugs him snugger than his own, stopping also shorter. Hand wrapped up in this leash, he barters between keeping the lab close with a many-looped grip, and leaving her to drive forward if she indicates a lead. When she wanders, he lets out a loose whistle that, at further distances, only blends in with that of the wind all around.

"There's a more sheltered route to this cave," he asides in offering to his loose red rover line of companions, even glancing once over his shoulder to mark the background of police. "But getting there is deeper inside trap territory." Turning forward, his wrist twists, releasing a foot of leash to Petunia's roving demands. He poises to catch it back if necessary, distracted only by stepping around the fallen trunk of one of the trees' former sentinels. Half-buried with snow, like everything else, it sticks out of the white like a ship-wreck, and is avoided, left to its own broken peace, just the same.

Like Laurie, Maggie is wrapped up in an unremarkable coat, hers a woodsy brown; her other fleece jacket still peeks out around her neck, but its blue is less notable than the eyes that trek about, as if looking out for those very traps. She makes no remark to Laurie's reply, only seems to — against the odds of an already sharp vigilance — become more aware of the woods around them. She is, perhaps, bundled in more layers, all of which bury her upper body in warmth — and Kevlar, beneath.

When no one speaks, the radio at the belt of Tobias quietly makes itself known on a low, whispery volume as if to reply instead. "…be on the alert, folks. Truck found parked 'bout five miles out from our start point… Ford Ranger, registered to Bradley Curtis…"

"I'm gonna wager that means we're in the right area…" says Tobias, swiping at his beard. He glances up; snow is starting to fall and be tossed around by the wind, small, wet, heavy and sticky flakes. A greyer tinge to the sky above casts the pristine snow already on the ground into dullness. "That was not in the forecast," he complains; somewhat ominously, all things considered.

"It's always in the forecast," Maggie answers more idly as she hikes on, though the inconvenient weather as her looking further unsettled. A flicker of uneven lines wobble past the GPS screen in her hands, drawing a fraction of her attention down to it and marking the moment when she wants nothing more to do with the piece of technology. She shoves it in Laurie's general direction, as if he can make it behave.

Petunia stops pulling, leaving the long leash slack to slowly worry around a set of tracks ever-so-slowly being covered with new snow. The imprints are large… but not human, no evidence of any hunters; and then— SNAP, she's at attention, her ears perking toward a sound nonexistent to her companions in the same second that her brawny muscles spring into action. The dog is off like a crack of lightning at a diagonal, bounding toward the thicker tree cover ahead with no thought of the leash.

"It's a white— mmf, Christmas— thank you?" Instinctively, Laurie's right hand leaps up to stabilize the odd bit of technology being presented into his chest — also decked, beneath, in Kevlar — and his left is only steps behind as he recovers from light surprise. But the leash that had been so allowing of this before snaps taut, yanking his hand away, his arm whipping diagonally. Cracked by that lightning to a violent stop, he has no leverage against the brown loop, the sole one around his palm, prying his fingers open with the dog's momentum and then flying away after her like a freedom flag.

For a couple of steps, Laurie is taken with. They're the two, bounding paces of his own that he can keep his grip from being completely lost, but it's all inevitable. Leash goes free, steps stutter, and former dog-walker consultant tips threateningly forward. A forceful and speedy reestablishing of his balance keeps him from tipping over, but not from the forward part. While the first two steps immediately following — one more sideways — are not the movements of a steady man, there's a nearly seamless transition between stumbles and sprinting. The moment he isn't falling, he's running, and it all pushes him to that diagonal all the same.

"Oh— " Whoops; Maggie starts and stops, even physically coming to a quick halt as the opposite occurs in Laurie and Petunia; concerned eyes widen, both for the dog's sudden jaunt off and the way in which the dog's new friend runs after her.

"Hey— buddy system, buddy!" Tobias calls out without, truly, raising his voice as dog and man take off one after the other. It's leave no man behind out here, and as such, his pace automatically picks up to plod more quickly over the uneven snow-covered ground until he's jogging. Maggie is next to him in a flash, and then they're running; they too take up chase.

The bounding Labrador Retriever tears into the woods, picking no easy path. She started out straight as a gunshot, but now she weaves like she's hunting an invisible animal — and it's getting away. She's flashing in and out of sight, the wayward leash catching, but not staying, on branches of trees that bear in around her. She leaps over fallen logs, scrambles over rugged, rockier terrain; Petunia is on a mission.

She doesn't care that the wet snow that had begun to fall is becoming as thick as the forest itself. It concerns those who chase after her more; Tobias and Maggie, at least, bear grim faces against the heavy snowflakes that take up a threatening dance in from of their eyes.

Running happens even before breath has returned, but when it does, a piercing whistle streaks through the wind's noise after the pursued animal. An animal that has a fabulous advantage in the stormy woods region where ground is beginning to meld with sky under snow's fall. Footsteps that softly crunched before crackle and stomp, jumping, but sometimes cracking logs where a human can't weave so nimbly a trail that the dog blazes.

Branches tear by, gripping, each one dark— dropping snow as they're disturbed, some broken under his hands as they reach to push barriers out of the way— until all that remains is a maze of potential attackers— he catches onto an overhanging one as ally instead of enemy, swinging up over a questionable rocky barrier. It's a task to watch where feet are falling while also tracking the retriever, whose yellow fur is quickly becoming just patches darting out from between grey landscape here and there. Swirls of brown and white tip and wash together in a way that blurs in and out.

Running; once a hobby… his chest rises with controlled breathing, harsh with every suck of freezing wind… pumped full of adrenaline, where fear fills in for nutrition— the sense of being watched, followed— pushed even by your own foot step once in front of the other where some ominous controlling presence wants you to go. Heaved breath visible not only as white puffs of air that are blown by, but through somebody's scope.

The goal of Petunia's coat wanes. Not chasing, chased.

Not hunting; hunted.

The moment the dog slips out of priority, the moment the shift from hunter to hunted seems to happen for Laurie, Petunia is gone. Low-hanging pine boughs are rocked by her tail; she leaps onto a rocky outcropping up ahead and she just disappears.

Tearing over the terrain, they're on Laurie's trail— heavy boots threaten to slip on slick rocky ground; a branch shoved out of the way by a gloved hand way becomes purchase, and the chase is launched ahead again.

Up ahead, the ground cuts away into a steep but gradual, rocky incline a dozen feet down to the ground at the bottom, littered with snow, and paw prints.

Laurie is fast. They're fast. Boots underfoot crunch and crackle and stomp, ever-present behind him. Lungs overwork in the cold, thin, subalpine air to pump bodies one after the other, propelling ahead— further— faster.

"Miles!" The shout of one such predator … not so threatening.

Tobias proves, again, faster than he looks, but the long-legged woman who shouted has proved more agile. She's gained and shot ahead, attacking the bumpiest terrain like an obstacle course she's aiming to pass with flying colours. Except, of course, the the finish line keeps moving — and she hunts it: the moving form of Laurie. "Slow down, we're getting wayyy," the word is forced out through a puff of cooling breath, " — off track!"

Pursuit is pressure building, slamming as hard as the physical barriers of the woods, needling at the heels of feet and the corners of the mind. Danger spurs the fast to go faster. Laurie's sense of being followed eliminates caution, bundling him past unsteadier routes and ignoring the miniscule grievances of scratches or bumps along the way. Without Petunia to spot, spinning increases.

The pitter-patter of heavy footfalls behind him, the bland forever of forestry wilderness ahead. As he nears what could be an oncoming leap of faith, the cause is unclear. Running, running for life; hunters; Petunia— Alice.

A stone caught before his boot flies out from the kick of a galloping footstep. It sails over untouched and marred snow alike, leaping the great divide of that decline and dropping heavily right into the drifts of white, plunking beneath against its similar kind, making up the slope. Laurie throws the clutch; puffs of snow flying underfoot as the gait goes from long and loping to a staccato of slowing.

Thud, thud thud, the consultant veers off at the edge of that drop, his sorer right arm bent at his side, hand grasping for balance as if it were merely sitting there in the air. He grinds to a halt, staring down, already even evaluating the prospect of taking the slope. That right foot skids just over the border, backtracking to hang there while, glancing, he spreads his left arm out to aid Maggie in the same halt.

Thud, thud, stop. The advancing pursuer heeds the sign to halt at the last second; Maggie's strong run only slows when she's almost upon his heels, momentum coming to a sudden slamming-of-the-brakes full-stop at the edge of the steep hill next to Laurie. Looking down over the breakaway in the land, she seems almost dizzied — not because it's lofty; it's not. A hard-pumping heart and overworked lungs catch up in the sudden stillness while, around them, wind rebounds off of every available surface, including them. It blows thin drifts of snow up the slope like crashing surf against the rocks.

Radio chatter — not mincing words in asking where in the hell they've ran off to — catches up to them before Tobias does, off to their far left. He's winded, slower now that the chase seems to have become less frenetic a rush through the wilderness. "Nothing like a good chase through serial killer territory to get the blood pumping… I don't figure anyone happens to know where we … arehey." His appearance happens to be timed just so — he points across the more open space at the foot of the slope to the figure of blonde fur weaving in and out of trees in the distance. There and gone.

Something else catches Maggie's attention, however: just now, as the wind whips about at the bottom, it uncovers a hint, barely visible through the blowing snow, of something. A vague, hazy something on the ground, flapping in the wind like fabric, tangled in a mess of fallen boughs. Maggie heaves a sigh as if to say well, we've come this far — or it could be a heavy exercised breath. Her expression tells the truth. Determination rises. Adrenaline. Alice. "There's something down there! Maybe Petunia's found something. Come on."

Nowhere to go but down, and approached cautiously, it doesn't look so treacherous. Right foot first, a sturdy-gripped boot finds a rock to stand on and she begins a cautious descent — but the snow hides more than more rocks. Ice. A sharp spike of adrenaline has Maggie reconsidering — and twisting her shoulder to throw her right arm back at Laurie as the hill reveals itself to be an icy slip 'n' slide.

Laurie's arm is caught halfway between motions, as Maggie's haphazard grab bypasses it for the purchase of his jacket bunching near the shoulder. A "Shh— " of some half-aborted exclamation is absorbed into the effort of trying to stay full-stop against someone's weight. Sweeping up from underneath hers, his arm aligns, hand gripping around her elbow as securely as he can in wintry gear already slick from the mesh of weather conditions.

The slope isn't any better; it's worse. His foot already hovering at decline's edge plummets harder than he'd planned, rocking him towards the treacherous hillside. Boot catches on overgrowth, but, there, twists, both anchored and influenced by the dragging of holding onto the slipping detective. Lips ground together, his whole face the same taut tenseness in all his muscles, he heaves carefully upwards. It's enough to rescue his own ankle from turning completely around, but when he can't pull up anymore, she just slides down — and, this time, with added momentum. He's forced to sacrifice a step in, one that puts his other foot now also over the edge, pounding down on — ice.

Slipping, losing, another inch is forcefully made as slow, as controlled, as possible. Laurie's lean backwards to counteract the natural tip has put him nearly horizontal against the steep anyway. His right arm launches backwards, fingers scrapping at anything that projects out further than the straight ice. It aches in protest to be stretched so soon after the leash-snapping, but holds.

It's the hand wrapped, fisted around as much of Maggie's sleeve and body as possible, that works against him. In a flash of overly flexed muscles and desperate purchases, there's a chance he'd scramble himself back up. Himself, only. His fingers widen— and tighten again into a better grip. Determined. His expression, like hers seconds ago, says the same.

So when something breaks — the questionable rock under his hand, or the crumbling blockade under her foot — it doesn't matter, because, suddenly, gravity is king. One increment of change in the balance of power — and balance — and it's all lost, with Laurie's leg tipping up and away from the ground. His back makes the very small drop to smack the icy ground, and then it's down, down, down.

"Ah— " And switch. As Maggie makes slipping, sliding fights at traction with her boot-heels, her knees bent down as she tries to brace a grip on Laurie (which, truly, works against the both of them) in the midst of her fall, she finds her bastion of steadiness going down. All that momentum and weight originating from her shaky descent have a sudden exchange; Laurie falls, she twists toward him out of concern for both of them, and everything gives 'way.

There's no other direction; all hail to gravity.

Her fingers dig unhelpfully into Laurie's arm past layers of clothes— she's falling on her back— she's pulling him toward her with a jolt of strength and the momentum that's nobody's friend— "So— orry!" — they're rolling together, an inelegant, rough tangle of limbs sometimes together and sometimes not, all at the whims of the steep, uneven hill. The snow and ice that made for dangerous footsteps going down makes the journey falling down easier, however — and faster. It's a spiraling tumble to the bottom. One, two

Pushing to a slant against the hill, Laurie's riding his shoulder down— then Maggie's pull intervenes, dragging the arm and same shoulder to her level — eventually into her. An unfriendly bump, and he's suddenly arm over other arm, over hers. Verticality is a lost art, with scant to ground a body, except a whitewash of snow when heels become head, or any other combination of loose pieces in motion. Churned like yesterday's items in the washer, hope of purchase transforms into hope of dodging bulkier outcroppings.

In the accidental intertwining, and occasional parting in the tumble, Laurie's sole grappling is for her; a swathe of tossed limbs attempting to keep hers from the same. Fruitless at times when the propped up ice-rink dashes them about, but in various spurts of the cycle, his hand is behind her head, or pulling her arm to safety.

What he can't protect is his own pockets, the jacket flailing here and there out to his sides, riding up from the slide, and now sailing with each tumble— earlier on, there was a direct crack as he rolled onto his side too hard— a piece of gray something that might be missed later flushes out during a fall, sinking into snow and never to be seen again.

Jostled forcefully about, but perhaps without grievous injury, they should begin to slow on safe, flat ground. Rolling, they strike earth that doesn't seek to send them tumbling further; it's only their own momentum— Laurie is above Maggie in what, to her, is a blur weight and snowy blur of movement who she holds onto in trying to assume some kind of efficient position on the rapid route down. Tobogganing along ought to mean an eventual stop to their fall. In what feels like an illogical jolt to both body and senses, a stop simply doesn't happen. Instead there comes a sudden DROP—

And nothing is where it was. An icy slant of a hole in the ground is designed to do exactly what it does: trap.

With a crackle of flimsy, breaking wood, Maggie is first to crash into it, past camouflage mesh tangled with branches that falls down behind. Flung inside, her would-be continued tumbling is put to an abrupt end when she's slammed against one side of the shallow grave-like structure. A shoulder against the earth wall marks the end of her downward travels, the other shoulder against the ground beneath, she's come to rest — loosely speaking — half against the curved wall and half on the floor. Bent knees have been propelled in equivalent manners: wall, ground. Exactly nothing is comfortable. Beside her, barely half a foot of moving room.

Maggie's eyes are shut against a rain of snow and earthy debris. She's become familiar with the jagged rocks litter the bottom of the pit; her jaws clamp shut tightly and she gives her back a strong arch. "Mmmmmmmnnnnd— " begins a pain-fuelled and rather irate groan through grit teeth, becoming half-filled with words that never quite make it to fruition.

Her sudden stop is the brake-slamming that speeds Laurie that extra distance into the looming aft of the unforeseen resting place — swallowed by earth, and its snow, that rush to fill the opened land. It's a short distance; one instant, he's hovered above her plummeting form, and the next, arm digs into ground, tossing the back and shoulders and neck into compacted, frozen soil. Impact, and then rebound, and both are more unpleasant than the other. Anchored by Maggie, this toss is orchestrated partially by her weight, his left arm twisted beneath her in aborted protection, fingers done up in her hair and headband. His elbow's become just another jab into her back from its awkward bend.

Back rounded something uncomfortable at the shoulders, he nearly fills what spare space there isn't, even while some of that is shared. The arm that isn't under her is over her, not quite all the way, with a hand knocked onto her stomach and then ridden up higher in the last haul of that jolting dive. A leg is all tied up around hers, joined in similarly bent knees, but while hers is pulled groundward, his ranges up the slanted entrance, sitting on top of her along the ankle. The other leg jutting out is part of hip and thigh snugged against their female counterparts, near her rear, and almost propping that leg of hers partly up on him — all only serving to brace that leg — hers — tighter, more cramped against the one — his — wrapped around.

Cradled in a bedding of serrated earth, the spikes of planted rocks, their spaces close, and his body turned onto hers, they're in the single most painful looking cuddle.

Those ridged surfaces have not quite spared the skin of his cheek; though nestled into her splayed hair, near the top of her head, the barbed rocks persevere. So one puff of hot breath teasing her forehead and then he tries to rock his head another way — only to knock his temple against the wall his shoulder hit. Weight vanishes off her chest first, his hand reaching over his body to the opposite side of the pit, feeling out any room at all to roll himself into. The knee of that leg coming up smacks into her lower leg. A grumbling grunt follows the failure of that maneuver in making things any better, as every ache possible flares to make him uniquely aware of each unnaturally crooked joint. Stabbing against his gut is just one on the list; but, rather than tighten, his jaw slackens, dropping for a very deep breath through twisted, struggling lungs.

Not good; his wandering hand finds only immediate dirt, and loose gatherings from above continue drizzling occasionally down. Dirtying skin on a hand that's lost its glove, smattering snow in uncomfortable places, and encouraging a cough that he suppresses to spare them both the further shuddering.

Even while his eyes are half-squinted shut in combined denial and pain, and how his teeth come to bite his lip, he convinces the arm under Maggie to get palm up, under her back and shoulders where she stretches up; support, until his grasping hand can dig into the solidly cold wall to pull.

Cold and remarkably icy, in a way that can only be on purpose.

Up above — distant, calling from another world through a storm — is the voice of Tobias. "Well that looked like a lot of fun!" Yet he's not immediately there to help his companions who have fallen into the mouth of the earth.

A shift of Maggie's body on takes stock of her new spot — and Laurie's — before her eyes blink open. By the wall, her hand, still gloved, has found leftover purchase between his neck and shoulder, and now she flings it to the side to her nearest wall. Hair escaped entirely from its elastic tangle in rocks and the same dirt that mars her face her and there, turned muddy by mingling with snow melting on her skin.

As he moves about, Maggie lends attention to where they've gotten themselves, sending unsettled — but, mostly, just annoyed — glances from side to side. Ultimately, his pull rocks up and toward him; her hand presses into the wall, trying to brace. Reddened cheeks become taut with a harsh pull of her features— pain; this is just not going to work for her. Unsteadying the support, Maggie once more arches her back, at its lowest point, and rocks her hips up, away from the rocky ground beneath; legs briefly come vigorously to life and she tries to move at some angle that doesn't exist in her confined arrangement. Her other hand, trapped beneath Laurie digs into the ground, only serving to send sharp knuckles into parts unknown. All things considered, her efforts gain her very little safe ground.

"So— alright," she says through hard breaths, looking up — then down and once more up again — at Laurie in their cumbersomely close quarters, "…did we just chase… ourselves into a trap…?" That faintly cynical note is softened away as she goes on, "Are you o— " a wince all her own, " — kay… how do you need to move— "

"Slowly and with more attention," he quips in a manner only forced because teeth are planted in his lower lip — and perhaps, in part, because there are knuckles digging where knuckles should never be. "Hold on— hold on." Thick visual breath melts deceivingly gentle snowflakes as they pitter down after the heavy deposits of collected banks from above; cold air is sucked through in return, slamming overworked lungs. But a general assessment is made. "Alright," his pulling hand surrenders to the slick of the wall, dropping near its former post, beside Maggie's stomach. It causes him to rotate to more of his own old spot which, in turn, bats his eyes towards her and his mouth to form an apologetic but determined outlook. "I'm going to try and— get up. Don't— " Move? Panic? Freak out.

Any could be applicable; his next step involves the hand trapped below her to tug down, driving his knuckles against a field of unfavorable jagged edges. His other hops over her form, nestled between wall and her side. It all tips him over her, his weight beginning to bear against her as he hoists up onto his left shoulder. "Lift," he murmurs. Fingers below have reached the small of her back, digging, pushing upwards; her hips are recalled to their raised position, only now, in the space, they're right into him — his.

No moving, no panicking, no freaking out. Instead, acquiescence. Bracing, but moveable, Maggie clamps her jaw down even more strongly, determined to steel away any such reactions. It isn't wholly successful. As she lifts, rocks toward Laurie and her back tensely drifts away from the sharp and treacherous ground toward the most awkward of entanglements meant to — eventually — disentangle, she bites down. What follows as hips meet hips can only be described as a sound of relief; she's off the ground again. However, after the breathy ah… — that release of defenses lets a show of pain slip in, a wince and an abrupt moan.

Eyes that had rolled upward to squint out at the grey portal above now shoot to Laurie with apology that seems out of place given the fact that she's the one saying: "Mmn— mmmmove your hand, for a second," she mumbles lowly. The hand digging there at the small of her back, below the curve of the bulletproof vest, where layers winter gear bundle up and away from her belt. A substance warmer than the wet snow that clings to them both starts to make itself known there upon Laurie's efforts as it gradually soaks into her shirt and makes slippery the skin beneath.

Charting body parts as they work into one another raises— concentration on his face, distracted inside his task. Where partial freedom is given his arm, he slinks it out from under her, eventually getting the elbow to begin to do a share of the balancing. In the interim, propped only by the length of his upper arm on one side, and barely naught by the other, it's one filthy cheek to another. Mouth slightly parted, his pants go right to her ear, while eyes stare down at ground broken by tendrils of curling blonde hair.

"That's— mm, the plan." Chin thrust down, against his own chest, he's muffled. Tumble tossed arms that strain to keep him from flattening her hold strong against wear, even as he pushes the extra mile: shifting all of his weight to one, in order to weasel his hand up to his neck. Wrestling fabric and deftly looped folds — portions tucked into tight Kevlar — with another grunt, he gets freed the scarf wrap from around his neck. It's bunched loosely and stuffed below, stored where his hand had been, between Maggie's new wet spot and the less forgiving ground.

"… You know," now muttering that travels right to her as his head lifts; his nonchalance hardened around the edges by effort. "This— okay, down— " counterbalanced by the elbow, the bare hand at her side is able to jump towards her shoulder — into rocks, but at this point, what isn't. "Could've been avoided," up onto that hand, he thrusts, pulling his face away some from hers, "if you'd stayed with the officers like you were supposed to." Still not meeting her eye, he gets to settling straight over her… to find that, somewhere between hips, hands, and turning, his wrapped legs have navigated her knee to a very personal location.

Blue eyes follow some very obvious sensations to the inevitable visual, his body halting all movement in the powerful freezing of self-preservation. "… okay," he voices, remarkably calm while stuck halfway doing the world's most unusual push-up. His eyes travel back up to a point above her head. "How… do you want to move your leg."

Up to a point, Maggie is single-minded. Waiting it all out, she stays still, save to shift here and there with Laurie's movements. By the time their particularly sensitive arrangement is noted with a rather worried glance, her very serious visage starts to crack — her tightly pressed together lips stretch and fold into a smile. She tries to repress that, too, only succeeding in making a topsy-turvy expression. "Um— " Her eyes hop up to the same meaningless point Laurie focuses on above her head. "I'm sorry," she says, and though she sounds awfully sincere, it seems more directed to the fact that she seems like she may actually start laughing at the ridiculousness of it all in the midst of a very grave, imminent situation in the middle of the woods. After all, after a certain point, if you're not crying

"You're the one who ran off after the dog, but this is— " Nope, she has to stop to get that rare, burgeoning laughter under control — it never quite makes it to the surface — lest she start shaking with it. More. " okay, this this is," she starts to say lightly, with totally accepting guilt, her voice then dipping lower, silly, to add, "compleeetely my fault." Maggie takes in a breath and assesses their tangle. "Move— yours," she instructs cautiously. Throughout: "It could— be worse, you know," she notes through the effort of slowly raising arms now slightly freer to dig elbows amidst jagged rocks, though it's not that she winces at as she tries ease backward to aid her efforts to flatten. "It could have been— " She slowly attempts to straighten her knee in its trap. " — Tobias in here with you. Remember you're — hang on! Sorry — in no position to argue."

Laurie remained calm while she remained calm; this crack in the dam, trickling of amusement, is not going to let that fly. As much as lips clamp together at the beginning stages of — perhaps stress-induced — mirth, a shaking, breath of laughter puffs out of him when, of all things, she apologizes. "Whatever you do," husky, wrapped in false nerves — and some real ones, "Don't think about all the times I've annoyed you." Or elephants, as the trick goes. But their problem, being quite in the open despite being about closeness, is a bit more apparent. Arms shuddering, cold and strained, his biggest challenge of that moment is keeping the chuckles from thumping unhappily paired body parts together.

Cautious, so very carefully measured, tugs of one leg seek to unravel it from hers without bolting her knee higher. "At least— " Before she can flatten, he has to twist away, "Tobias would have appreciated— " — only partially possible; the dropped leg on her behalf sets it along the inner thigh of his other one, locking him in place even while gaining a level. "The precariousness of my position." Trying for scolding, he's not quite there. Too many half-done breaths catching in his chest when he funnels every ounce of being into depuzzling. Though she gets points — in the form of him shaking his head, eyebrows creating double arches — for her delicate reminder.

Effort rewards, rolling him to a firm, weight evenly disturbed between arms, hover above. His untangled knee pounds into the ground between her legs, with his foot up the incline, but holding. "Officer Tobias— " position escaped, the matter-of-fact lecturing returns, lending a studious air to the proceedings that transcends accepting the harsher reality of it, "should have known better, too. Would you— okay, roll that one in, so I can slide out— jump off a bridge because I did?"

"Officer Tobias clearly did not think that you going off alone was a good idea either. Would you— oh," Maggie's attempt to rebuff is interrupted not by a realization between them, but by the stabbing of a rock in some unseen place as they scrape beneath her as she follows instruction. "Would you… jump off a high railing into the water because I did?" she counters; such a thing is not unlike a bridge, if incident in question was quite unrelated to jumping. Her eyes easily find Laurie in the nearness of space, and send him a pointed look and little matter-of-fact arch of her eyebrows, their dark blonde muddied. A small smirk matches, wavering as she fights off another wince.

Maggie forces herself back a touch more, preparations to, at some point, get up and out of this as well. She tucks her chin up nearer her chest, one cheek turned away, slightly, from Laurie. "I wonder— " she goes on despite, slightly laboured, and more serious — these words not prone to laughter," — where he is. Tobias— I would have thought he'd be here helping us by now."

Bland cynicism — of the oh ha HA variety — shifts some of the red and dirt on his cheek, but steadily it's ironed out by suspicion — a zen focus beyond their predicament, to the woods it originated from. No arguments from him; he's dropped into a silence that cancels out his own breathing. Past it, ghastly shrieking of a wind gearing to get only worse, and a crackling separate from that forcefulness. Caused by man's interference — probably. The vagueness smoothes out lingering humor, regard, even exertion from Laurie's face. As he becomes more fixated, he appears more calm.

For the first time since they tumbled, he lifts his head up, stretching to gauge the distance above him before he'd break the surface of the manipulated earth they fell through. Wrestling his other leg out from under her has secured him with the full scope of a crouch, and leverage off every limb. But he does not instantly utilize it. Rather than pushing up, he dips down, risking one hand off of the dirt to raise it reassuringly at Maggie — a new, silent instruction. Getting an arm around her shoulder, at the Kevlar and above her sensitive lower, he sidles his knees forward and his feet in. Immense clenching at the stomach and arms and he's both rising, and he's bringing her with him; while she's aided in starting to sit up, she's also manipulated backwards, towards the support of the back wall, and slouched enough to keep her head below ground-level.

Coming off of nearly being on her lap, he rocks to his ankles, resting upon them. Hands out to either side, having slithered away from Maggie as she gained her own control, he plants them just below the underground horizon line on either side of him — after a side-trip of one to his pocket. Braced, he appears poised to spring up; he doesn't. He waits.

Silence is contagious. Keeping her head down, Maggie pushes herself into a crouch not unlike Laurie's; poised but unmoving. Her alertness, though it also makes a side-trip to Laurie's pocket, has also extended up, out of the hole and into the storm beyond. She listens with a growing concern than smoothes out of own face. It is not a zen-like calm she attains, but one of acute seriousness. Staring up only provides a view of hazy treetops and a whipping snow. Even as she stares, more is blown from the ground into her eyes; she shuts them, blinks hard and resumes her watch. It only serves to further press the reality that it's cold down here, next to the frozen earth, even with the increase in warmth two struggling bodies has provided. Maggie wraps her arms about herself against a shudder.

Little sound is carried on the raging wind. Tree branches shake, whispering their needles together. Save for Mother Nature, all is silent. It seems like a lonely world up there. It shouldn't be.

Unsettled, Maggie's hardening features cast somber angular shadows within her dirtied cheeks. She reaches a purposeful touch out Laurie, fingers nudging his elbow and curling in to give a little tug in a sort of look at me gesture. Blue eyes travel to him — silently, intently questioning — up to the opening above and back. Plan?

There are only mere moments between Maggie's query towards what to do next — at least what Laurie is thinking to next — when a crackle of distant noise interrupts the steady whistle of the wind. It's easily missed, but traveling on that wind is a male voice. Murmuring, barely there, existing as something ghostly and directionless. Half of an impassioned word breaks through— accidental. " — ops!" the voice says in one-sided argument, placing its speaker, in that one second, up beyond the crest of the hill and to an imprecise far right of the man and woman in the hunter's trap. All other words fall away into quiet. It's once again relative silence.

Cold travels straight from earth to fingertips where Laurie has them pressed to the trap boundaries, the bulk of his body immediately in front of Maggie's except where she can glimpse over his shoulder to the land from which they fell. Head bowed, he's tormented not by snow but a general blindness to everything else. Watching, evaluating the reactions of her eyes, is the way he determines what can — or, ultimately, cannot — be seen behind him. To the whistling wind, his eyes scan out, grazing the lowest point, scoping scratch marks, things that once could have been footprints, and the remains of debris stuck from the very trap that contains them.

A high-alert has frozen all of his muscles better than the weather; bunched up, he might appear tired — injured — unwilling to bound up to the rest of the world where the wind will cut sharper. Below, in reality, he's gnawing the insides of his cheek and, tugged, very minutely tips his head to her; eyes are right on; he accepts the question and, for a second, doesn't move on it. Then, his gaze jumps to the side, straight and deliberate to his own right hand. There, tucked inside against the trap wall behind the bulk of the rest of the hand, one finger stretches out pointedly. One: word, moment, countdown; a game of charades. It's four fingers next, then all the fingers curl in to form an O. Or a zero. Thumped once, twice. 400. 4:00.

The single forefinger returns, now pointing off over her shoulder, at a diagonal opposing the four o'clock angle that is their more precise far right. To there, the shadows of stretching tree branches beyond open land scoured by swirling snow. He waits only as long as it takes her to look him in the eye a second time. Smooth collectedness leaves no wiggle room for anxiety, only an inescapable command. "Run." Softer, an instant later, "I'm right behind you."

On high alert, Maggie's eyes follow the gestures; she gives a curt, unquestioning — in fact, agreeing — nod. What Laurie says in silence, she understands as if he were speaking plain English; it's what he did say in plain English that inspires the greatest reaction.

She rocks ahead, weight shifting from heels to toes with a faint crunch of stone and misplaced snow, the first step to move; momentum to turn, to run. An arm reaches out toward the same wall Laurie inhabits, bracing, though there's no sign of her wavering. The other follows suit, sturdy barricades on either side of him. In the midst of movement, a quick but purposeful pause.

Maggie has been looking him in the eye; now she looks him right in the eye, inches between, bright and clear. "You will be." Affirmation, question, searching, command, an entreaty; all mingles into one whispered mantra on warm breath. "You will be." She lingers, staring — just a few seconds that seem to impress strongly her own decree — no more time than that to waste in the waiting game inside a trap. With a mightier push against the wall, her legs also push up, and she twists to grab the other edge of the trap. A flash of blonde hair swings over her shoulders, whipped about by the wind, as her head spins in a very quick check of every direction. There's nothing, no one … no one she can see. That's not to say they can't see her. The storm and the deceptive silence of the woods seems to bear down around the open space.

Standing, it seems almost silly that the trap was able to do it job quite so effectively; it doesn't look like much, but as her boots slip on the ice, it's easy to imagine how tough it would be for a lone woman, already run-down and probably hurt, to scramble out of here. What injury Maggie sustained in the tumble is hidden beneath layers, and doesn't seem to hinder her climb — she's okay. A heave up. She makes it to level ground. Expediently, she leaps up from hands-and-knees to run; but not without first looking back.

Corresponding with Maggie's scramble up, Laurie springs; all that prepared energy launching him upward to an immediately steady stand that acts as a tan and black wall against the treeline having an opening on the climbing detective. Hefting a foot in front of him into the ice-clung wall, it's a make-shift shelf to catch Maggie if she slips on the last lap, and somewhere to rest her weight for that last push. It's additionally the first leverage by which he, upon Maggie's out, hoists up off his either sided hands. Not climbing, but physically throwing himself out of the pit, with his other leg cycling up, and hitting solid ground. A risky maneuver; if he hadn't enough force, he would've tumbled straight into the hole; instead, he reaps the reward of starting out already on his feet.

Running comes easy because it has to — not because joints don't woefully complain, shooting achy considerations up and down pumping legs. But a couple of strenuous strides and then tension is pounded out by the searing of all-out exertion. The goal is not a straight line, but a winding one with a constant ticking of added feet; numbers ticker by in his head; one column, the number of feet they've both traveled — the second column, the percentage of chance of a hit for the eight to twenty-seven pellets likely to be aimed at them. The counters spin by in constant relation and opposition, with always the number of Laurie's on the heels of Maggie's.

Maggie remains a constant to Laurie's percentages; her all-out run is nevertheless steady in pace, and when she veers, it's with a calculable consideration for the best possible route to the thickest trees. The snow is another constant, blowing in wicked opposition to their hard-running forms as it mingles into a wet, icy mess, an unpredictable winter rage. Sometimes the path they've cut in their minds whites out from physical reality entirely; they'll have to rely on what they know to be there.

If someone was spying down on the two figures that rocketed out of the earth, they're certainly taking their time about doing something about it.

But it's inevitable: gunfire.


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