“Did you have to wear shorts?” Pete asked, not loud enough for anybody else to hear.
“I wanted to be comfortable,” Arly said. “Why?”
“You’re chumming the waters.”
“You know, sharks. And those look good on you, too. They fit a little too well, if you catch my drift.”
“Why are you looking at my ass, anyway?” she teased. “You’re a married man.”
“It’s not me you should be worrying about.”
“Pete, come on.”
To be fair to him, though, Pete had only noticed the obvious. Saint couldn’t seem to take his eyes off her. She didn’t think the shorts were too tight. They were comfortable. And she’d worn a loose shirt over a tank top, had her hair tied back and was wearing no makeup. She hadn’t tried to dress alluring. (Yes, damn it, she had thought about it. But she’d made a deliberate effort not to look sexy.) In fact Pete had worn pretty much the same ensemble, only with jeans instead of shorts.
“It’s making me uncomfortable, the way he keeps staring at you,” Pete said.
Saint didn’t seem to be paying attention to anything else. Nor did he seem at all interested in slowing his pace so that Governor Roth (who looked silly out in the woods in dress pants and shirt with polished black shoes) could keep up. They were moving up a gradual incline and had been for some time. Pete, who never exercised, seemed a little winded, too. Arly loved to go hiking in the woods (just not these woods) so the exertion didn’t bother her.
It’s not bothering him, either, she thought, watching Saint (instead of the other way around for a change). Didn’t this guy spend the last few years locked up? How’d he stay in such good shape?
Saint caught her looking at him.
Saint hadn’t dressed for a hike, either. He wore jeans and a T-shirt, a baseball cap over his blonde locks, but he’d worn a new (at least they looked it) pair of cowboy boots. Not good footwear for the present circumstances.
“What’s this, now?” Saint said. He had, for the moment, shifted his attention away from Arly. They had come out of a cluster of trees—(Pine, elm, hemlock, maple, the rough boles of which ranged from as thin as a broomstick to a foot or so around, and some of them twenty or thirty feet high, with most of the foliage near the tops and several of them couching twiggy squirrel nests in their branches.)—into a natural clearing. The ground underfoot remained unchanged, with lots of limestone shards poking up out of the muddy ground like rotted teeth, coated with moss. But the trees here grew farther apart, offering a grand view of the blue sky where a trio of crows was circling.
What had captured Saint’s attention, though, was the wall on the rim of the bank in front of them. About waist-high, the wall had been fashioned of rocks of various sizes stacked together with precision, obviously a man-made structure.
“I didn’t realize we were so high on the mountain,” Arly said.
“You know where we are?” Roth said, puffing.
“Fort Mountain,” Arly replied.
“What’s this wall for?” Saint asked.
“According to legend, the Moon People, or the Welsh, if the two aren’t one and the same, built it for protection. Hence the name of the place. The Moon People had a village or something here, and the wall was to protect them from the Cherokee, so the story goes. A lot of people from the Tribe, though, say that the wall was already built before our people even got here. Nobody knows if it’s true. But it is true that the Cherokee aren’t known for building edifices like this.”
“Makes you wonder what they were afraid of,” Saint said, “if it wa’n the Indians.”
“I’m sure this is fascinating,” Roth said, “but are you any closer to an idea as to my granddaughter’s whereabouts, Mr. Saint?”
“I told you how it works, boss. I’ve got ta’ wait till my gut starts speakin’ ta’ me, an’ all my gut’s sayin’ ’bout now is, we need ta’ be lookin’ for a cave.”
Arly took a breath.
What were you waiting for, anyway? she asked herself, and answered herself: Hoping that he’d find another cave, of course. There’s supposed to be caves all around these parts, right? Then you wouldn’t have to go back there. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, so…
“I know where there’s a cave,” she said.