by Joe Zabel
Summoned by phone, the search party converged on Sally's room.
'I don't think she's a deprogrammer,' said the attendant who'd been tossed to the floor. 'I think she's a lunatic!'
'I've seen my share of flip-outs,' said Chrissie, 'but she was perfectly calm before...'
They all heard the thumping on the closet door.
One of the party opened it, and the bound and gagged attendant came tumbling out.
Just as they were pulling the towel out of her mouth, Walter entered. 'Have you caught her yet?' he demanded.
The head of the search party replied, 'No, group leader.'
'Then stop wasting time! We've got to find her-- she's been inside the North Wing!'
The search party dispersed. The second attendant who'd been attacked lingered behind. 'Go with them, Denise,' said Walter. 'You can help them spot this girl!'
'Yes, group leader,' said Denise, hurrying from the room.
Walter untied the other attendant's wrists. She rubbed them.
'Brenda, keep watch on our subject here, and don't let anyone else in.'
'Yes, group leader,' said Brenda.
Walter stepped into the hallway. He watched the search party going from room to room up and down the halls. Walter turned and started down the corridor.
Then, only a few paces away from the door, he noticed something White sprinkled on the carpet. He knelt down to pinch some of it between his fingers.
He looked up. There was a trap door in the ceiling, and a ladder built into the wall that led up to it.
He climbed up and lifted the trap door. The cold winter air greeted his face, and snow from the rooftop sprinkled down into the room.
Walter climbed onto the roof. It was a wide rectangular expanse of dazzling white, broken only by a few randomly-scattered ventilation pipes... and a trail of footprints.
Walter followed them to the edge of the roof, and peered down at the ground. There was a snowdrift that had been pulverized in breaking the woman's fall. Footprints led off from it, and following them, Walter spotted a fleeing figure in the distance.
Kathy was having a rough time of it. In the city, the snow was hardly more than five inches deep. But these fields had accumulated over a foot, with snowdrifts that came up to her waist.
On top of that, she'd left her coat behind in the compound, and with it, her gloves.
'Does this way lead to the road?' she thought. 'I lost track with all the twists and turns we took before reaching the compound.'
She glanced back. 'They're probably on my trail by now. Would they shoot me? I'd be a sitting duck in this open field!'
She spotted a stand of pines and struggled over to it.
Hiding in the shadows of the trees, she gasped to catch her breath, and began trembling from the cold.
She peered through the branches, and saw that two figures were working their way across the snow after her. She hurried off in the opposite direction.
'Only two,' she thought. 'I wonder if they have another party to intercept me from the opposite direction!'
She tried to move along more carefully-- but found that she was making a lot of noise, no matter now stealthily she crept. She devised a compromise of dashing forward in spurts, then stopping and listening for movement up ahead.
She followed the twisting course laid out by the coppice, afraid to venture back out into the open. She hoped the pursuers behind her wouldn't be able to track her in the scattered snow patches where her footprints betrayed her.
She saw her frontward pursuers before they saw her. They were crossing an open field, and they'd shot wide of her position by a good hundred yards. It was barely possible that she could sneak past them without being seen!
She heard the thrashing of the pursuers behind her as they moved through the trees. She had to keep moving forward, or they'd be upon her.
She hurried to the edge of the coppice, and had no choice but to break out into the open snowfield.
She claimed fifty yards of the virgin snow before her pursuers looked to the left and saw her. Hearing their shouts, she continued in a mad sprint across the field.
She had some advantage by not being weighed down by a heavy winter coat; but she was so tired and cold that her speed wasn't matching her pursuers. She could hear their footfalls now in the snow, and even their gasping breaths. Her own breath came now in ragged cries, her lungs exploding to take in the arctic air so she could keep running, lifting her legs above the snow and running...
There was a noise up ahead.
First, the sound of a car engine. Then an incessant beeping that was getting louder. She saw ahead of her a raised slope and a flattened top where a road twisted. And over the road a car was racing towards her.
With her last ounce of strength, she printed up the slope. The car swerved on the road as it hit its breaks, and then the driver and passenger were out of the car and coming over to grab Kathy.
Her pursuers were no more than thirty feet behind her, but not close enough to prevent her from being dragged into the car, which promptly skidded off. One of the pursuers crossed the road in front of the car, but jumped out of the way as it speeded past.
Margo hugged Kathy, who sat trembling in the middle of the front seat. 'My God! You must be freezing! she said.
Dr. Yang glanced over at them from behind the steering wheel. 'We've spent all afternoon driving up and down these roads, waiting for you. We were starting to get worried!'