Home > Jonas (Minnesota Marshalls #2)

Jonas (Minnesota Marshalls #2)
Author: Susan May Warren

He had to get off this mountain.
Because, if Jonas read the skies correctly, a doozy of a storm was headed his direction.
And Jonas Marshall, with his PhD in atmospheric science, always read the skies correctly. Or at least, with a 99.8 percent probability.
The other point-two percent were simply those God moments that no one saw coming. But then again, that’s when people died.
So yes, barring a divine intervention, the altocumulus clouds that had chased him most of the morning, now morphing into dark gray, ragged nimbostratus clutter, would turn this day hike into a soggy, freezing fight for survival.
“C’mon, we need to go.”
He said this to his buddy Nixon, who held his cell phone up, taking a panoramic view of the Julian Alps. “Just another minute.”
The wind cut through Jonas’s Gore-Tex jacket, and he shoved his hands into his pockets against the chill. But he got it.
He could take just another moment to soak in the glorious view from atop the 2,864 meter high Triglav Mountain. Craggy granite spires, high pockets tufted with white, rumpled the horizon from here in Slovenia to Italy to the west, and across the Austrian border to the north and east.
Gray cliffs fell down to green valleys pooled with moraine-blue lakes and countless spectacular waterfalls. Feeding them were roiling rivers that twined through a thick northland forest, ripe with cedar and pine and the sense of a world untouched.
Probably it was, because Slovenia was largely hidden from the popular tourist hotspots. Jonas had only found it because of Tarek—and, of course, the footage from Walter 01, one of his weather dirigibles, a solar powered, directed balloon soaring over the northern border.
Walt hadn’t quite captured the scale of the mountain, the crisp, thin air, the heady feeling of flying as he stood at the top.
Sort of felt like he could just take a step off and soar.
Sometimes, lately—especially since the accident—he wished it.
Shouting in Slovenian turned him, and he spotted a kid, maybe age twelve, sticking his head into the giant white canister at the apex of the mountain.
“Can’t believe that kid made it up here.” He said it to himself, mostly, but Nixon made a noise, even as he kept filming.
“Next time you invite me to visit, maybe let’s not do it on summer holidays,” Nixon said.
“Right.” He expected the holiday crowds down in the Alpine town of Kranjska Gora, on the banks of the river Sava, where Slovenes escaped with their families for the August holiday. But families and day adventurers clogged the trail through the Krma Valley, despite the technical challenges near the top, with him having to use carabiners attached to cables.
A tiny red flag on the apex of the canister whipped wildly in the wind.
Get off the mountain. He wanted to wave his hands and yell, but probably they had hours left, and maybe he shouldn’t be the crazy American on top of the mountain scaring everyone.
But still.
“Got it.” He pocketed his camera, grinning at Jonas. “Wait until Geena sees this.”
Jonas tried to keep his smile, nod, but he just…aw. “How is she?”
“She’s good. They have her hooked to a machine that moves her legs, and she sent me a video just a couple days ago of her upright and ‘walking.’” He finger quoted the last word with one hand.
Everything inside Jonas burned. “That’s great.”
“You’ll see. She’ll be walking again this time next year.”
He searched Nixon’s face for guile, but only found honesty in his friend’s brown eyes. Or maybe faith.
“Here, let’s take a selfie.” Nixon held out the camera and stepped up to Jonas, lifting it high to catch the breathtaking terrain behind them.
Jonas managed a smile, the camera and sunlight glinting off his mirrored sunglasses.
“She’ll love that,” Nixon said. “I’ll send it when we get to the mountain hut.” He pulled on his backpack.
“No internet there, Nix. You’ll have to wait until we get off the mountain.”
Jonas also shouldered his pack, glad to see the family with the kid had already left the top. Still remaining were a young couple and two women who’d just arrived at the peak.
He walked by them wanting to offer a “Don’t stay too long,” but opted to keep his mouth shut.
Mostly because he couldn’t speak the language, but also because it wasn’t his…nope, he couldn’t stay silent.
He stopped and turned to one of the women, her brown hair pulled back in a long tawny braid down her back, her eyes shielded by aviator sunglasses. “It’s going to rain. Don’t stay long.”
He wasn’t surprised when she just ignored him. But her friend, shorter with a pixie cut to her dark hair, looked past her. “Thanks.”
The couple was leaving, so he followed Nixon off the mountaintop, clipping into the line that led down the ridgeline.
An hour later, he’d descended nearly a thousand feet and found himself sitting inside the small gathering room of the Kredarica mountain hut, rain pelleting the windows, shivering as a man stoked a fire blazing in the black stove in the middle of the room. Around him, the family he’d seen shared sandwiches, and the couple had heated up some soup, all of them eating their dinners at the rough-hewn picnic tables. Many were still shivering.
“You were right,” Nixon said, handing him a cup of tea, then scooting in beside him. “That mountain is socked in. Hope those women got off it.”
He did too.
“Good call to book a night here.”
“Sorry about the shared room.”
“Hey. It’s a hostel. I expect bunk beds. As long as I don’t wake up to some kid drooling on me.”
Jonas laughed, picked up his tea. “Could be worse. We could be sleeping in a car under an overpass.”
Nixon’s smile tightened into a thin line. “Yep.”
And oh, the air between them stilled, tightened. Nixon looked away. Jonas stared at his cup. Why had he said that? Because of course, yes, they’d been there, done that, but in the case he hadn’t been referring to, their car had been thrown by a twister, landed upside down in the ditch, and they’d been trapped in the freezing rain for hours, waiting for help.