The Aftermath

Jessica ran all the way from the cafe, where she had taken Braun and Mr. Gallin, back to the ski lift and the control room. Guilt chased her. She should have saved all three of them, she kept thinking: for in her mind, though she had saved two men, she had sacrificed her greatest soldier.

Running in skiing boots is never easy, it was dark, and cold, and several times Jessica found herself face down in the snow. By the time she was at the control room, her ears and nose were burning. She looked over the edge, her breath held, expecting to see the mangled remains of Marcus...

But he was intact. He was sweating, and panting, and covered in blood and flecks of froth, but he was alive. It was the wolf that was in the snow, bleeding, and dead.

Jessica felt very emotional, which was somewhat surprising, as she had never cared for Marcus before today. "Marcus. Are you all right?"

"Fine," panted Marcus. "Just...fine."

"Marcus," she said. "We managed to force an entry into the cafe, and it still has Wi-Fi and signal. We've called somebody." Marcus did not stir. "Marcus, come on. You've got to get up and join the others." He reclined his head, but did not move. Jessica decided to employ impatience tactics, now: "You're not a baby!" she snapped. "Get up!"

"All right, all right!" said Marcus. His voice was the half-sob of utter exhaustion. "Just give me a hand up..."

His 'hand-up' involved Jessica manually hauling him up the remainder of the slope and onto the precipice, where he pulled himself up. As he walked, he winced. "Snow...down my boots," he told her, and she smiled, for she had believed it to be something more serious.

"Come on. We opened the skylight," she said, marching ahead of him. "We managed to open the door from the inside...took a bit of doing, but we managed it."

"You called someone?" asked Marcus.

"Yes. The Mountain Rescue Service. Everything'll be sorted out tomorrow. They're sending a helicopter to take us back."

"What about the bandits?"

"What bandits?" Jessica frowned.

"The bandits that the man in the control room told us about."

"Aha," said Jessica. "I mentioned them as I talked to the Mountain Rescue man - and he explained them." She stopped, and waited for him to catch up. "What we weren't told, or what Mr. Gallin neglected to tell us, anyway," she continued, "was that there have been a group of terrible thieves in the area, who have attacked ski resorts and suchlike in the past. Robbed, and not murdered, note," she added. "They'll send police up to investigate. We're in an 'area of risk', said the man on the phone."

They reached the door of the cafe. "D'you think they have first aid?" asked Marcus meekly.

"Almost certainly," Jessica replied.

"D'you think they could fix...this?" he asked, tearing off his darkened ski glove to reveal a wound that profusely bled.

"I'm sure they could," said Jessica, somewhat surprised. "How did you get that?"

"I was fighting the wolf," Marcus explained sheepishly.

"You're all brawn and no brain, aren't you?" Jessica grinned unexpectedly.

"And you're all brain and no brawn," Marcus retorted, smiling broadly.

And, unexpected to them both, and though later they would both attribute it to the stress and exhaustion of the day, her lips met his at last, as the snow began to fall, as inside, Mr. Gallin slowly came to with the aid of hot chocolate and Big Ifram's Kit-Kats, as, far away in the distance, a Mountain Rescue helicopter flew in the ink-black sky, with the summit cafe as its final destination.

The End

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