It soon became apparent that there wasn’t, but then the man had confided in one of his colleagues, Leanne Harnas — a woman Janklow was having some sort of on-again, off-again romance with — and Anderson knew the moment was coming when he would have to act.
The very next day, Janklow and Harnas had announced their intention to take a weekend trip together. It was a trip Anderson could never allow to happen, and yet he didn’t want to take care of the pair back at the base; there were too many people, too many questions that would be asked.
And so here he was now, having followed them from the base and gunned them down. He would have liked a cleaner method, but Janklow had to be stopped in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. Things would be much easier to tidy up this way, arranged to look like some sort of unfortunate car crash.
His attention was caught by one of his men, waving from the wreckage of Janklow’s SUV.
‘What is it?’ Anderson called over.
‘Janklow’s not here, sir!’ came the immediate reply.
Anderson sprinted towards the car until he could see the bloody remains of Leanne Harnas, half thrown through the bloody windscreen.
‘Check the area! Maybe he was thrown clear.’
Men moved off, torches up to illuminate the snow-filled woods. If Janklow had been thrown through the windscreen, there was no way he would have survived at that speed, and yet…
‘Sir!’ came another cry, over towards the other side of the road.
Anderson went over, saw the tracks the soldier was pointing at with his torch. They were the tracks made by a man on skis, and led downhill, away from the mountaintop and down to the small civilian town at the bottom.
Damn it! Anderson restrained the urge to punch the trunk of the nearest tree. He called over to the crew of one of the vehicles which had come with them, a big ten-ton truck.
‘OK,’ he shouted, ‘get the snowmobiles deployed, right now!’
As Janklow veered in and out of the trees, the pitch dark was almost all-enveloping, causing him on more than one occasion to nearly ski straight into one of the huge trees that made up this sub-arctic forest. He managed to adjust his course every time, at just the right moment; the darkness wasn’t quite complete, sufficient light filtered down from the moon to aid his progress.
His head throbbed from the crash, but the airbag had deployed and probably saved his life. He had known there was no point in checking but he had felt for Leanne’s pulse nevertheless, having to suppress the urge to vomit again as he held back the mop of bloody hair to feel for the carotid artery at the neck. There had been nothing.
He choked back his tears, bitterly regretting that he had got her into this situation in the first place.
Janklow kept skis in the back of the SUV. Shorter than conventional skis, they were designed for cross-country use, a sport he enjoyed and one of the reasons why he had chosen this remote posting. He’d made it across the road with his skis and boots just seconds before Anderson’s team had arrived on the scene, and was off down the mountain before Anderson reached the annihilated SUV.
But now, with the cold wind whipping against his face as he shot down the mountain, weaving in and out of the trees, he heard the sound of engines behind him, high-pitched, straining. Snowmobiles.
He knew they would be able to catch him but he would not give up. The will to survive, to live, overrode his fear, adrenalin pushing him further and faster than he would have thought possible. Part of his mind wanted to give up, to just sit down in the snow and wait for the killers to finish him off. But a deeper part, one he never knew existed within him, spurred him on. And so he continued his run for freedom.
Colonel Anderson piloted the lead snowmobile, leading a squad of four vehicles down the mountain, powerful headlights letting him see all obstacles long before he reached them.
He knew Janklow had a head start, but against engine power, the man had no chance. And the tracks in the snow were as clear as day.
Anderson admired the man for his efforts, and the evening’s action was certainly a diverting change from the normal routine, but it would soon be at an end.
The sound of the snowmobiles was louder now, and the snow around Janklow was lit up by the snowmobiles’ headlights.
And then the terrifying sound of gunfire penetrated the still air once more, and Janklow watched in terror as the soft snow was ploughed up around him, missing his skis by inches.
He swerved in and out of the trees faster, cutting down at an angle across the mountain to a narrow pass that he thought the larger vehicles might not get through.
He saw the lights turn to follow him, bullets ripping up more of the snow. He hit a shelf and jumped, flying through the cold air for what seemed an eternity before landing, taking the shock through his knees and hips, careening up on to a single leg before regaining his balance and carrying on down the steep slope.
He heard gunfire again, felt something hit the back of his arm. Looking down, he saw a gaping wound in his coat at the bicep, and realized he’d been shot, the bullet passing straight through his arm. He felt dizzy, started to lose balance, but then his peripheral vision caught movement, and he momentarily forgot about the pain and shock and turned to see what it was.
His eyes went wide as he saw two small bear cubs. They stopped playing and watched him. Even as he carried on down the hill, his mind processed the information that the bear cubs were scared. And that would mean—
The adult bear came charging towards him, snow churning up behind it, teeth bared and reflecting dimly in the faint moonlight. Janklow’s heart almost stopped, but he aimed himself towards a log with a drift of snow lying up its side. He sailed up it just as the huge animal reached out for him. He flew off the other side in a high arc, hit the ground and stumbled, blood loss from his arm making his coordination suffer, and then he was rolling, the skis striking the ground and flying off into the trees beyond, his body curling into a pain-filled ball as it shot down the mountainside.
Anderson recognized the sound and knew he should avoid the area but he simply didn’t have the time, and before he knew it his headlights picked up the ferocious image of a bear charging through the snow towards him. He pulled off left at the last minute and his snowmobile slammed straight into a tree and sent him sailing through the air.
The bear brought its great paws crashing down on to the front of the second snowmobile, crushing it instantly and sending the pilot tumbling across the snow. The huge beast ignored the man, now curled into a ball on the ground in a last-ditch effort to protect himself, and launched herself at the last two snowmobiles which were trying to take evasive action. One swipe of the bear’s huge paw sent one driver flying into the trunk of a nearby tree. Directly behind, the driver of the fourth snowmobile piloted the craft straight into the animal. The driver was thrown from the snowmobile, but the bear was propelled backwards, letting out a roar of pain and anger as she came down on to all fours.
Anderson, covered in snow, used the momentary distraction to get to his knees. Using the broken snowmobile as a rest, he laid his rifle on the top and aimed at the bear through the weapon’s night sight.
The bear, recovering and still protecting her cubs from the perceived threat, reared back once more on to her hind legs, raising her arms above her head, ready to smash them down into the body of the driver which had hit her. And then her chest erupted in a spray of blood as Anderson opened fire, peppering the thousand-pound mammal with an entire magazine of high-velocity ammunition.