As they continued searching, Nigel considered their situation. It was imperative he keep a close eye on June to protect her and he was amazed at how much her safety mattered, above and beyond the usual considerations.
June had a sunny disposition but underneath he noted a strong character and stronger constitution. She’d need both before this was finished.
Concentrated on every step while wending their way toward their next stop point before nightfall, they didn’t talk much but it was a comfortable silence, a comfortable comradery.
For her part, June was pondering the situation over too. While she was afraid of what might come, what they might find, she had to know, had to do her best for Roland and Jackson. She knew if their positions were reversed, he would stop at nothing to find her.
Every now and then Nigel would halt long enough for an update or to send one, she wasn’t sure which, but it didn’t matter. She had every confidence in his abilities and by extension, his crew. If they were hand picked as he’d suggested, he’d acquired the best for his team. That gave her confidence that they’d find both men and bring them home safely.
It also humbled her. While she and the rest of the world sat in their sheltered homes, far away from drama, there were men out there ready willing and able to do what was necessary to bring the lost home. She couldn’t help but think of the similarities to her grandfather and others who’d served in the military and whose motto was “leave no man behind” and they meant it; they lived it.
Nigel touched her arm, then held on firmly while pointing a couple of feet ahead. He moved close and whispered, “They’ve been here, and recently. Those broken branches haven’t closed over. They aren’t so green as to have been broken in the last 12 hours or so, but I’d say within the last 24. They are beginning to form a crust.”
“We’re on the right track then?”
“I’d say so. Can’t imagine too many others that would trek all this way to find a waterfall. Unless they were heading toward the caves, there wouldn’t be no reason for them to be here.”
“Could be someone heard there might be gold, minerals some sort of treasure out this way. From what you said, that is a distinct possibility.”
“Yes, but why now? I haven’t noticed any other broken branches twigs or campfires to suggest anyone has been here recently. They won’t dare draw attention with a fire, it would lead directly to their location which means they’ve been existing on other rations and food. They are knowledgeable enough to leave nothing behind, careful not to misstep, just careful.”
“I’m nervous, excited, scared. A whole boatload of emotions crawling through me right now,” June admitted.
“We’ll continue as long as we can, then we camp. No fire tonight. Too close, they could catch a whiff. Not willing to take that chance. If necessary, we’ll huddle together.”
“Got it!” The look on June’s face reflected all the emotions she’s spoken of, and more, perhaps some she wasn’t even aware of as yet.