The Wind of Lonely Places
A grey haze furred the sky, promising snow. The pair made silent progress up the shoulder of the mountain, awkward in their ski boots, saving their breath for the trail. They were not now far from the summit; the radio towers atop Tesuque peak had been in view for some time, stretching stark, skeletal fingers against the sky, unfolding further with every step nearer they came. Blair followed in Kelly's wake, his skis held across his shoulder, a toe-piece of his bindings digging into the back of his neck. He was breathing heavily, straining with the effort of keeping up, and he was now fairly certain that the old-timer was moderating his pace for Blair's benefit. The old man must have been a holy terror in his younger days, he thought. They had rested at the midway station, taking their lunch at a picnic table chained to the ground near the ski patrol shack. Blair's face creased with a thoughtful frown as he recalled their conversation there, which had not unnaturally turned to the unfortunate deaths that had led to the area's closing. "Too many accidents," he'd said to the old man. "Vacationers aren't here to be reminded of their mortality." "I'm surprised to hear you characterize the deaths as accidents," Kelly had said then, cocking an eyebrow. "Well, at least I've surprised you," he'd responded, and Kelly had laughed. "So that was the reason for your rather sinister quotation back there. You think maybe we're haunted?" "In a manner of speaking. After all, four deaths in the same spot, in the same manner, following each other at one month intervals, is quite a burden of straw for a tired old camel like Coincidence." "Well, the run is dangerous, which is why it was kept closed in the first place." "Not that dangerous. We've been ducking that rope for years, and in all of that time there have been few serious injuries, and no deaths." Brief silence. "Well?" Kelly had prompted. "Isn't that true?" Blair glanced at the old-timer's back, wincing at the memory. "Irrelevant," he had said. "Your conjectures are purely circumstantial." "Bless me!" Kelly had laughed. "You sound like a lawyer! How many bodies are necessary to put the facts beyond conjecture?" "For most people, apparently four, or we would be riding the ski lift up the mountain." "For most people, but not for you?" "If the deaths were not accidental, then they were purposeful. According to the news reports, no evidence was found indicating foul play, either in the area or on the bodies." "Only if you discount the number of deaths, and that all have occurred during the dark of the moon." Kelly had paused then, before continuing. "There's a new moon tonight, as a matter of fact." Blair had stared at him thoughtfully. "Are you with the police?" "Good heavens, no! While I hate to reveal my character flaws, I am afraid I must confess to a rather morbid sense of curiosity." Blair had smiled. "So you think we may see a ghost up on the mountain?" "And do you not believe in ghosts, Rob Blair?" "I don't buy the idea of evil spirits that lure the living to their deaths." "Let us then hope that you never encounter one, my young friend."