The Wind of Lonely Places
For a short while, by a morbid inversion of values, the news of the death at the ski area produced a slight increase in lift-ticket sales. However, by the time the third body had been discovered, business had fallen off badly. While one corpse is apparently an ornament, reflected Buck; three are considered in poor taste. Buck Lucero stood his post above the Blood Rock with ill- humor. For the last month a ski patrolman had been assigned to this spot, to keep people away from the area. The owners wanted no more accidents. He'd been standing here for two hours now without a relief, with nothing to do but stare at the cold, tree-shadowed slopes and brood about death. The sky was a frozen blue depth above the tree- tops, sparsely clotted with cumulus that seemed each one to catch a limb of the sun, adding to the chill. Buck had been skiing at Santa Fe since childhood, learning young how to abandon himself to gravity without fear. Sensitive to the moods of his mountain (as he thought of it), he knew how it regarded skiers: sometimes with good-natured condescension, other times with amused contempt, most often with remote indifference. Never before had he felt this slow, brooding anger, this sense of malice. He found it unnerving. "Shit," he muttered, disturbed by his imaginings. He swung his arms and stamped his feet against the chill, glanced up the catwalk. Someone was coming. In his three seasons with the ski patrol, Buck had come to know most of the regulars by name. This did not include the tall, quiet fellow with the salt-and-peppered hair and beard who now approached. Buck had noticed him first during the Thanksgiving holidays, primarily because the man's ski equipment was identical to the model he himself used, stuck upright in the snowbank beside him. Twice today he had skied past Buck's post. They traded nods as he passed, as they had done each time before, but now the man stopped at the catwalk's edge, staring intently down the slope. Buck cleared his throat. "This area is closed, sir." The man glanced at him sidelong, wearing a thin, crooked smile. "Is it, now?" Buck did not care for the man's mocking tone, but kept his voice polite. "Yes sir," he said. "We've had some accidents down there. We can't allow anyone through." "No one?" the man asked, still smiling . "Who is that, then." He pointed down the slope. Buck looked, saw movement between the trees. "Son of a...HEY!" he yelled. "HEY YOU!" He pulled his skis from the snow bank, snapped his boots into the bindings. "How the hell did she get down there?" he swore angrily, as he snatched his ski poles and pushed himself over the edge. The smile slipped from the face of the man on the catwalk as he turned away. They searched for Buck through the night, but it was nearly dawn before they found his body on the reef of stone below the Blood Rock, despite having looked there several times.