Prologue



        A pair of legs is walking; a pair of eyes is watching. Green-needled 
trees sag under heavy snow, and the ground is thickly coated in white. Crunch,
crunch sounds as the man walks, breaking the snow’s crusty surface. The sun stands
low in the sky. The frozen pond he crosses over is networked by crisscrossing paths large and small, a Morse code of dot-dot-dot-(dragged foot) dash. Though no
wind blows now, low drifts lie like frozen ripples on the surface of the pond. In
the region of the trees, protected, the snow cover is more sparse. The legs have stopped by the edge of the pond; the sun has moved by an
imperceptible degree nearer to the horizon. Within the guarding circle of trees,
the pair of watching eyes has moved nearer. No other life stirs. The thaw has been
abnormally late in coming, after an abnormally harsh winter. Food has been scarce.
The legs are still motionless. They eyes still wait.
Chris Schroeder lives alone far from civilization in the Northwest
Territories. He is not yet 30 and has lived here his entire adult life. Nobody has
ever visited him, or knows exactly where his cabin lies. Nor have they ever tried
to find out, though he is known in the nearest towns from his occasional trips to
buy supplies or sell furs. He is not a very good trapper, so it is generally
acknowledged that he must have money of his own. The fact that he is clearly well-
educated, as can be determined from his speech, reinforces this idea. One would
think that this would make him a clear target. So far, it has not. Chris has never feared for his life in these woods. What would he fear?
Moose? Hares? There are wolves, but wolves are shy creatures who prefer to slink
away unseen whenever humans are near. In fact, no unprovoked wolf attacks on humans
have ever been recorded. Bears can be a little more dangerous, particularly if they
smell food in your cabin, but they too prefer to avoid confrontation. In fact,
everything in these woods that doesn’t prey on you- and nothing preys on humans
except insects- follows the live-and-let-live rule; even the vicious, not-to-be-
trifled-with wolverine. The only exceptions are the occasional rabid fox or skunk-
so rare that Chris has never encountered one, even though he’s lived here for over
ten years- and humans. It’s on account of the two-legged menace that Chris always
carries his revolver wherever he goes. Otherwise, he is quite secure in his mind. If
he has ever felt nervous or edgy while walking in these woods, if he has ever jumped
at the slightest sound, glimpsed some movement out of the corner of his eye which
melted away as he turned, or shied away from shadows, it is purely his own
imagination. Nothing more.