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DIMENSIONíS HOPE - Cont'd


CHAPTER SIX

Liz was making a mental list of things to pack as she prepared to meet Roger. In the midst of her clothing requirements she thought about Randi. Her friend was going to be very upset with her. They had shared a most amazing experience a while back. In fact, it was Randiís persistence that had brought Liz back from that dimension. She felt bad about keeping all this from her, but she also knew Randi would never allow her to leave knowing about the attempt yesterday. She would just deal with the rage and anger when she got back...if she got back. And what of poor Roger. She had placed him in a no win situation.... at the mercy of Randi. This would be something else to deal with. In some ways, Liz was being extremely selfish, but she didnít really care. Doing what she and Sam had talked about was the only thing occupying her mind.

The cats were sitting side by side on the comforter, watching their companion move about the room, talking to herself. She was going through her nightstand.

"Jeez...where did I put my passport? Come to think of it...when was the last time I used it? Oh...that trip to Greece." Her hand felt deeply in the back of the drawer. "Ah...there you are." She withdrew the dark blue article and traced the embossed eagle on the front with her finger. All that seemed so long ago. She shrugged her shoulders and walked from the bedroom, placing the passport in the folder with the plane tickets. She still had some last minute things to do before she left, but today she would spend with Roger. Liz grabbed Samís leather coat, the keys and left the interior. It had been a while since sheíd been outside. It felt strange...leaving the safety of her home...and yet it was a relief to be away from all the physical reminders of Sam. She was feeling guilt at leaving the pain of being inside...almost like she was leaving Sam. This whole process was completely awful.

The descent in the elevator separated her from the visual connection. She took a deep breath and prepared to enter the garage. The next goal was to actually get in the car and drive it out into the sunlight. Sheíd hardly been in the thing the last two months. In fact, she wondered if it would crank at all. The doors opened and she stepped into the quietness of the garage. Her footsteps echoed as she made her way across the concrete floor, her palms moist with nervousness, her mouth dry. The feeling was very much like the first time she had to make a speech in public. She had dreaded that, too. Most of the buildingís residents were well into their workday and the Z-3 sat alone.

"This is ridiculous," Liz said aloud, "Itís just a car...it has nothing to do with Sam. I can do this."

She reached the driverís side, put the key in the lock and turned the key. The door swung open and the interior light came on. Liz stood for a moment staring into the cockpit, waiting for an apparition to appear.

"Jeez, Liz!! Get in the damn car!" she admonished herself.

She held her breath and slid into the worn leather seat. Like an old friend, it welcomed her form and remembered the curves of her body. She felt a sense of relief and accomplishment that she wasnít crying. Maybe she could do this after all. The engine roared to life and Liz gripped the custom wheel. She backed out of her space and headed for the exit gate. The bright sunlight emphasized the neglect the auto had endured...it was filthy. Normally, Liz would be having a fit, but now it hardly mattered...it was just transportation.

The Botanical Garden wasnít very far from her home but the holiday traffic made the going slow. She had to go on Peachtree, past Symphony Hall and through the neighborhood where she and Sam had parked that night. The route was so automatic that she didnít realize where she was until it was too late. The shortcut took her down the very street where her life so abruptly changed. Liz tightly gripped the wheel to keep from veering onto the sidewalk.

"Damn it all to hell, Liz!! You had to come this way! Are you out of your furkin mind!? Why donít you just push stakes under your nails? Shit!" She berated herself all the way down the street, looking very much like an insane person...babbling. Fortunately, the Christmas atmosphere made everyone talk to herself in the car, so she fit right in.

She finally exited the neighborhood right in front of the entrance to the Garden. It was a little after eleven. The roadster wheeled into the parking lot and the first thing she saw was Roger, pacing like a mother hen. Liz sighed as she got out, knowing he was going to be on her for being late. She wasnít disappointed...he was walking her way before she even locked the door.

"Where have you been!?" His voice had a very sharp edge.

Liz glanced at her watch. It was ten past eleven. " God, Roger...Iím only ten minutes late. Chill out! Iím sorry...ok?"

He embraced her and held on tight. "Liz...please donít ever scare me again..." Pulling back, he looked into her face, " ...please."

"Ok...no more scaring of Roger. Now can we get on with the afternoonís enjoyment? Oh...where are we having lunch?" She was trying to assuage his fears...which might be very hard to do today. She could only imagine what her leaving was going to him. "How about some really cheap Mexican and margaritas?"

He hooked his arm through hers and they walked toward the entrance to the Garden. "I can do Mexican...but Iím picking the place. The last time you selected a Mexican restaurant I distinctly heard barking from the kitchen. Oooh...it gave me the creeps."

Liz remembered that particular establishment. It was new and they had gone there to try out the menu and margaritas. The food was so-so...the margaritas...awful. In fact, awful was being kind. Seems the bar was woefully understocked...not a decent bottle of tequila in the place. The bartender thought if he substituted Saki for tequila, no one would notice. Just the thought of that drink had Liz making a face. Roger knew instantly what was going through her head.

"Uh-huh...and those Saki margaritas were the worst insult. My gawd...live animals in the kitchen and kamikaze Ďritas. Yes, Iíll be selecting the lunch site today, dearie if there are no objections."

Liz squeezed his arm. "You wonít get any from me. The decision is all yours."

With the food question out of the way, they entered the Garden and itís wonders.


Xena, Gabrielle and Sam stood in the entrance of the temple. The main room was open and an altar was the obvious focal point. It was not as ornate as Sam thought it might be. In fact, she didnít know what to expect. She hadnít been in too many temples...in her realm and certainly not this one. The idea of actually meeting a goddess from Olympus was staggering...but this whole scenario was quite unbelievable. Gabrielle stepped ahead to confer with the attending priestess. She exchanged a few words; the priestess graciously bowed and left the room. Only the three of them were in the space. Sam looked at Xena and posed her questions.

"Well, what do we do now? When will Artemis appear? Do I have to do anything?"

"Whoa...hold on to your centaurs," Xena interjected. "We donít have to do anything. Gabrielle will summon Artemis. Chances are she will speak only to her Chosen anyway." She cast a glance toward the bard and continued, "Which is just fine with me. I donít care much for conversing with the deities."

Gabrielle couldnít help but clear the air for Sam. "The fact is, Sam, the gods donít much care for talking to Xena. She has this habit of irritating the hooha out of them. Which, I might add, always ends up being trouble for both of us. So, Iíd just as soon she didnít open her mouth, thank you. This will be hard enough as it is."

Xena just had to add her two dinars worth. "Hey, itís not my fault the gods are so sensitive. If they didnít insist on being right all the time, things would go smoother...."

"Xena...you know perfectly well you do it on purpose. You just donít know when to stop. Oh...and about that Ďalways having to be rightí thing...trust me, the gods donít have the corner market on that..." Gabrielle was about to launch into a rather lengthy discourse when Artemis materialized, shocking everyone. Gabrielle went to her knees and was motioning for Sam to do the same. Xena stood to her full six-foot height, only her head bent in recognition of the goddess.

Artemis circled the group, always amazed at the human interaction. She and Xena had formed some kind of truce, but her arrogance was still annoying. She realized this was as close to kneeling that Xena would ever subscribe to... she let it go. Her attention was on Gabrielle and the woman next to her. In fact, she was somewhat surprised to see this mortal kneeling beside her Chosen.

The goddess spoke in admonishing tones, "Gabrielle...why have you not assisted this mortal to the Elysian Fields, as I instructed?" She held her hand out to assist the bard from the floor. The touch of the goddess always had an effect on Gabrielle. It was hard to describe. It was like touching love and compassion, truly amazing. Gabrielle was trying to formulate her response and make it sound reasonable.

She dragged Sam off the floor with her. "Uh...Artemis, this is...." The sentence never completed.

"I know who this is, Gabrielle. Thatís not what I asked of you. Why is she here?" Artemis peered at the bard and Sam. The warmth from her eyes washed over them conveying a sense of safety...sort of like tranquilizing an animal caught in a trap.

Gabrielle knew stalling wasnít an option and she plunged in headfirst. "Well...itís like this. I know you asked Xena and me to help her transition...and we were right there...just like you instructed...but ...uh...she kinda refused to go." She paused for a reaction from the goddess. Artemis remained silent, allowing Gabrielle to continue. "Fact is, both she and Liz are sorta stuck, if you get my meaning. We...um...I thought you might be able to help both of them...you know...to move on." Gabrielle finished and stood waiting the reaction from her goddess. Her eyes darted toward Xena for some nod of approval, but the warrior gave her a slight shake of the head...one of those Ďdonít blow it Ď motions. Artemis caught every movement and slight gesture. She found it amusing when mortals tried to put one over on her.

"Oh...I see. Then just how do you propose that I help them, Gabrielle, assuming of course, that I would at all?"

Confidently, Gabrielle put forth Xenaís plan. Xena already knew Artemis had seen through the ruse, but it was too late. She sighed deeply and shook her head. Sam was still gawking at the sight and sounds before her. She was sorely tempted to reach out to touch the goddess, but stared instead.

"Well...you see...if Sam and Liz could know for sure theyíd meet again...well...it would be easier for each to let go of the other."

Artemis arched her eyebrow, "Oh, really? And whose bright idea is this? Yours Gabrielle?"

The bard shifted uncomfortably. Lying wasnít her strong suit...skirting the truth worked much well. "I think itís a good idea." And to add fuel to the smoldering fire, she added. " And Xena does too...right Xena?"

The warrior stepped closer to her lover. "Yeah...right Gabrielle, I do."

Artemis looked at the trio and approached Sam. "And I suppose you think this is a good idea, dear? I mean they did consult you, didnít they?"

It took Sam a few minutes to find her voice. She wasnít exactly sure how to address a goddess from Olympus. She opted for conversational English. Clearing her throat, she responded. "Not exactly...which isnít to say I donít think itís a good idea...I guess I donít see how something like that could be possible anyway." She glanced at Gabrielle apologetically.

Artemis decided to put all of them out of their misery. "First of all, Gabrielle, I know this was Xenaís idea from the start...."

The bard made a move to protest and Xena stemmed the ensuing plunge into the pit of falsehood. "Gabrielle, donít. She knows the truth...just let it go."

Artemis acknowledged the warriorís move. "At last the first truthful thing thatís been spoken since you came in here. Donít worry, Iím not angry...just a little disappointed that youíd even consider trying to deceive me." She threw a glare toward Xena as a warning against further such attempts.

"Now where was I?" She turned toward Sam, her features softening. "I already know about the plight of these two. And yes, Sam, it is possible to do what Gabrielle has asked...but it just isnít done. The human condition is one of trust and faith. To show you the ultimate destiny of your lives would negate your growth in searching for that destiny. Iím sorry...thereís nothing I can do. You must release Liz and she must do the same for you. There is no other way."

Gabrielle persisted in arguing the point with Artemis...always a risky venture. "But Artemis...you have intervened more that once in our lives..." She gestured toward Xena, who was nodding in agreement. "I donít see how this is any different."

"Well...It is different. I just canít go around doing this sort of thing. There are limits even for me, Gabrielle. Youíll have to think of something else."

The bardís ears picked up, "What!? You mean if I can find another way, youíll help us?"

"No...thatís not what I meant...", the goddess said backpedaling.

Gabrielle pressed for advantage. "Yes it is...otherwise you wouldnít have said it that way."

Xena couldnít resist the urge to chime in. "Gabrielleís right, Artemis. Your response did leave the door open. Now are you saying that you wonít help Sam and Liz? What about the danger Liz endured to save Gabrielle. Isnít that worth something here?" Xena then went straight to the heart of the matter. "I thought Gabrielle was your favorite. Itís not like she asks for favors from you all the time."

Gabrielle couldnít believe Xena was trying to make the goddess feel guilty. It was absurd to try. Artemis didnít operate within human convention. She existed in a whole other realm...with different rules. The bard was certain this would not go well for them and let Xena know with an elbow to her ribs. She was going to have some serious damage control to do.

"What Xena meant...."

Artemis held her hand up to stop what was surely to be a pathetic attempt to explain. "Gabrielle...I know what Xena meant." She walked toward the stoic warrior and stood before her. They were eye to eye.

"You donít care much for me...do you warrior?" The question hung in the air like an unexploded balloon.

Xena took it all in stride. "I wouldnít put it exactly that way. Itís more like I donít care for most of the gods. You have been instrumental in our lives...whether we asked or not. As I see it, this will be a continuation of the relationship. You are aware that the four of us are connected, right? How could you refuse to assist Sam and Liz? It would be like refusing Gabrielle."

Artemis pondered the logic. "Ok...I can see your point. But I just wonít solve this problem for you. You must try to get Sam and Liz to do this by themselves." She shifted her attention to the blonde. "Sam, you must really try to resolve these feelings without intervention. It is essential for your growth...and for Lizís."

Breathing deeply, Sam spoke softly, "Yes, I know. Iím just not ready to turn loose."

Artemis placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I know, dear. You will find a way...when itís time." She added a warning. "But I suggest you try a little harder. Your essence cannot remain in this state much longer."

Gabrielle was relieved that the goddess had somewhat agreed to help them. She needed to know what they should do next. "What are we to do now, Aretmis."

The goddess had returned to the center of the room, and was preparing to leave. As her form shimmered, her words filled the temple. "You must go back for your friend is about to do something very foolhardy."

Gabrielle needed more information, "What!? What is she going to do!? Artemis, come back! We need to know!" Her plea fell into empty space...the goddess was gone. Samís eyes were wide...now out of fear of what Liz might do next.

"Gabrielle...what did she mean? Is Liz in danger? " There was panic in her voice. Xena took control of the situation.

In very even tones, she laid out her thoughts. "I suggest we return to Lizís place and just see what is going on. No sense reacting to the situation until we know what it is." Xena was already headed out of the temple.

Gabrielle and Sam knew the warrior was right and followed quickly. There was a real urgency in their steps now. The three hit the bottom of the stone steps and proceeded out of the village. Time was running out...for Sam and for Liz.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

Liz and Roger stood in the parking lot of the Tex-Mex eatery. They had spent a leisurely afternoon walking the Gardens and having lunch. To Roger, Liz appeared more her old self...laughing at lunch...providing a running commentary through the Garden...generally just being, for lack of a better description, Liz. He was feeling somewhat better about the prospect of leaving her alone this evening. The subject of her trip never came up in the dayís conversation...of which he was thankful. Foolishly, Roger thought Liz had decided not to go. As they prepared to go their separate ways, they embraced.

"Thanks, Roger for getting me out today. I really needed it." Lizís comment was sincere.

"No problem, sweetie." He drew back to look at his friend, "You going to be all right tonight?"

Liz placed her palms on either side of his face, "Yes...Iíll be fine so stop worrying, ok?"

Roger nodded, "Iíll try, but you know what a Jewish mother I can be."

"Oy...do I ever! Now...off with you...Iíve got things to do this afternoon. Iíll call you tomorrow." She gave him a quick peck and headed for the car. Roger waved as he pulled out of the parking lot, the car finally disappearing down Piedmont. Liz settled behind the wheel, her mind continuing her trip checklist. The Z-3 roared to life and she prepared to pull into the stream of traffic. The conversation with herself went unnoticed by the other vehicle inhabitants.

"Hmmm...lessee...I have the tickets...transfers...car rental lined up. What about clothes? Need something really warm...sweats...sweaters...down jacket...insulated boots...gloves...sunglasses...lip balm..." Her discourse was rudely interrupted by the annoying ring of the cell phone. No matter how many times she got a call in the car, it always startled her. She reached for hands free headset and wrestled the earpiece into place. Now she looked like a mission control specialist.

"Yeah...hello..."

Randiís voice purred on the other end. "Liz ...honey, I hope Iím not interrupting anything." She chuckled into Lizís ear.

"Oh...no...just trying to navigate through this traffic...nothing important." The car next to her decided it was in the wrong lane and veered sharply in her direction. Liz voiced her opinion of the driverís decision. "Hey!! Idiot!! This lane is already taken! Get your own!!" She laid down on the horn, scaring the guy back into his own space. Being quite the gentleman, he gave her the finger and sped ahead, cutting off a less aggressive driver. Randiís voice filled her ear.

"Are you ok? Whatís all that yelling about?"

"Randi...Iím trying to drive here, ok? You know Iíve never mastered the art of talking on the phone and driving at the same time. I can do one or the other...but not both...I suck at multi-tasking. Make this short before I have a wreck."

"Well, Iím glad to hear youíre back to your sarcastic self. So if this is a problem for you, why do you have the damn thing in the first place?"

"Oh...jeez...a discussion question. If you must know I have it for emergencies...not to while away the hours while stuck in traffic. So...was there something you wanted?"

Randi let a little of her irritation vent. "Oh...no...I thought Iíd call you so I could actually hear you have a wreck."

"Ok...I get your point. Iím sorry about being so pissy. Itís been a while since I was out. Iíd forgotten how ugly the holiday traffic could be. Now, what is it?"

"Thatís better. I just wanted to touch base with you and I knew youíd be out all day. How about dinner tomorrow? We could go to that new little bistro in the CNN Center."

Liz knew sheíd be well on her way to Calgary then, but wasnít going to tell Randi. "That sounds fine with me. Iíll call you, ok?"

"Well...I thought we could have a drink at my house first and then take the train to the Center. Sorta make an evening of it, what do you think?"

Obviously, Randi wasnít going to leave anything to chance. Liz let her have control. "Ok, thatís good. What time?"

"How about you be here around six. That good for you?"

Liz smiled, "Yeah...thatíll be perfect. See you then. Bye, Randi."

Randiís tone was one of relief, "Ok, six it is. See you, hon. Bye, now."

The line went dead and Liz took the earpiece off, laying it in the passenger seat. Randi was going to be absolutely livid with her, but it couldnít be helped. She inched the roadster forward imagining the yelling that would ensure on her return. Once again, she spoke to herself, "It doesnít matter. This is for you, Sam...and for me."


The three otherworldly figures were heading into the forest with a quick pace. Xena was leading the way; Sam and Gabrielle following close. Their conversation was centered on the warning Artemis had uttered about Liz. Gabrielle tried to brainstorm the implications.

"Do you think Liz will try to...well...you know...again?" Her question was directed toward Xena.

"I donít know, Gabrielle. I certainly hope not, but sheís in a lot of pain right now. Anything is possible and...."

Sam interjected her thoughts and convictions, " No! She wonít do that again! Liz just doesnít operate that way, in spite of what almost happened. Sheís a lot like you Xena...she will find a way to work through this. Sheís not a quitter...I know this. She must have meant something else."

Xena continued the discussion, "Ok...so if we assume that...." She made little quotation marks with her fingers in the air "...she wouldnít do that again...what would Artemis have meant by Ďfoolhardy?' Sam, you know her...just how foolhardy could she be?"

Sam stopped and pondered that question. "Oh...you have no idea. Liz has done plenty of things I consider...well...not quite right. Hmmm...skydiving....scuba with sharks....hang gliding....base jumping. She even bungeed off the tallest bridge site in North America once."

Gabrielleís interest and curiosity were not to be held in check a minute longer. "Uh...Sam...whatís all this skyscuba...hanging bases and bungee thingy? Are they games...like that golf thing Liz told me about?"

Xena threw her a look at the mere mention of Ďgolfí, and it prompted a stern warning, "Gabrielle...donít even go there, Iím warning you."

The bard grinned at her warrior remembering Xenaís introduction to the term Ďtaking relief.í "Ok..."

Sam tried to explain some of the terms to the inquisitive woman, smiling warmly, "Well, the term is skydiving...you jump out of a flying machine at about 13,000 feet and uh...dive into the air..."

Even Xena was intrigued by this explanation. "Let me get this right...you jump into empty air from 13,000 feet? And how does one survive the landing?"

Sam was thinking how to best describe a parachute. "Letís see. You have this uh...pack strapped to your back containing a device that will slow your descent. At a certain elevation, you deploy this cloth sail and it catches the rushing air, filling and gently allowing you to land unhurt. Ingenious really."

Xena shook her head and snorted, "Sounds unbelievable if you want my opinion."

Gabrielle ignored the warriorís skepticism and probed further. "Ok...that sounds pretty foolhardy if you ask me. Whatís that bungee thing about?"

Sam remembered watching Liz dive off that bridge, into the river gorge below. It had scared the wits out of her. She didnít speak to her for two days after that blatant disregard for sanity. "Umm...bungee...you stand atop a very high structure...a bridge span usually..."

Gabrielle attempted to finish the scenario. "Let me guess, you jump into thin air with a pack on your back, right?"

"Well...you have the jumping into thin air correct...but without the pack. An elastic cord is secured around your ankles and you just go off headfirst into the space below. At the bottom, the cord rebounds and you sorta bounce up and down."

Sam was getting a shiver up her spine seeing Liz suspended above the raging river again. The guys had slightly miscalculated her weight, so instead of just nearing the water, she actually went in headfirst. Of course, Liz thought this to be a special treat. The operatorís, however, were seeing lawsuit with every wet bounce. It actually could have been a disaster. The river was low and there were many exposed boulders..., any of which could have resulted in a serious head wound. Hence, the silent treatment for two days.

Gabrielle wanted to be sure she had heard her correctly. "You mean she jumped on purpose...head first...with nothing but a cord around her ankles to stop her?"

Sam nodded, "Uh-huh...thatís right."

Xena added her observation. "Hummmpf...at least she did it over water...not a river of lava. Remember, Gabrielle...Callisto and Valeska...you...me and that bridge...?"

"Oh, yeah...you sorta did a bungee thing yourself. But still...you and Liz were seriously not right. There, something else you two have in common. In fact, the more I think about it, the more similar youíre becoming." She winked at Sam, "This is very scary, Xena. Now I see why you and I were picked to oversee this little venture. Liz could be you...in the future."

The warrior raised her brow in that special way, "Donít push it, Gabrielle. But it does sound like Liz has an affinity for dangerous excursions. Which leads me back to our original question. What could possibly be more foolhardy than what she has done already? Sam...any thoughts?"

Sam took a deep breath, "I havenít a clue. All I know is I have this bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. We have to get back as soon as possible. Once Liz gets an idea in her head, nothing can stop her. Itís not one of her more endearing qualities."

Gabrielle concurred, "Yep...just like you Xena...more and more."

"Gabrielle...." The tone was serious.

"Hey...just an observation..." The bard was pushing it.

"GABRIELLE!."

She backed off, "Yeah...yeah...I know...donít go there."

Sam quickened her step and urged the two bickering parties to do the same. "Girls...can you argue and walk at the same time...or are they mutually exclusive?"

Xena couldnít resist, "Ah-ha! Seems you also have a counterpart, Gabrielle. Samís words could have come right out of your mouth."

"Uh-huh...and they would have been on the money, too." Gabrielle said, trying to have the last word.

Xena gave the bard a playful nudge in the behind with her foot. Gabrielle responded with a shove on Xenaís shoulder. Sam shook her head at the childish exchange and smiled. She so missed that same playful interaction with Liz. The three continued down the path toward their destination.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

Liz pulled into the parking garage, relieved to be home yet dreading the return to her space. She wondered when these conflicting emotions would resolve themselves...if ever. She tried to focus on the trip...the packing...the act she and Sam had discussed. Her mind was actively running the sequence of possibilities...her body moving of itís own volition... the two not really communicating...operating on different levels. It wasnít until she stood before her door, that the two converged. Liz slid the key into the lock and entered her home. The silence was deafening...if that sort of thing were possible. Once again an invisible hand closed around her heart, applying unseen pressure. It was so familiar now; she barely acknowledged its presence. Her hand only momentarily went to her chest as she peeled the coat from her person.

Liz stood before the coat closet preparing to hang Samís worn leather jacket back in its place. She stopped, burying her face in the soft lining, breathing deep. The faint scent of Samís perfume still lingered in the fibers. She wrapped her arms around the aroma of her lover, not wanting to release it, tears welling in her eyes. Slowly, Liz turned and swayed, securely holding the memory of Sam in her arms. Softly, she whispered into the recesses of the leather, "I miss you so much...."

Hearing the sound of their mother, Brie and RG jumped off the bed and strolled into the living area. They could sense the emotional upheaval emitting from Lizís very cells. They neared her, rubbing insistently around her ankles, drawing her out of her pain for the moment. Liz lifted her tear-streaked face from the coat, looked at the cats and sat on the floor, still grasping the coat. The two furry intruders climbed in her lap, nuzzling and purring. All of them sat for some time exchanging comfort. She was amazed at the connection they had with her and her moods. It was as if they really understood and knew what would ease her suffering.

"Ok...I get the point, girls. I just had a sinking spell...thatís all." She rubbed the fleece lining of the jacket next to her face. "I canít help it right now." Liz gently shooed the cats from her lap and stood up. She put the jacket on a hanger, placing it in itís spot and closed the closet door. Turning toward the kitchen and the hungry felines, she made an observation. "Perhaps I shouldnít wear that coat right now." Brie and RG agreed with a chorus of loud meows.

Liz put the nightly repast out for her discerning children, started some Columbian decaf and went into the bedroom to start packing. She pulled the large duffel from the back of the closet.

"Hmm...Iíll be gone a week or so...probably no place to do laundry...need lots of undies...socks...tees for starters. Then a couple of heavy sweaters, sweats, flannel shirts, thermals." The duffel quickly began filling out with the bulky clothing. Sheíd have to be careful not to overpack. Lugging this thing in snow and ice wouldnít be any fun. A few more extras, just in case, finished the apparel list. The only thing left were the few toiletry items she would need. Those she could pack in the morning. Liz heaved the duffel off the bed and pulled clothes out for the morning. For the trip sheíd wear faded jeans, a tee, her Xena sweatshirt and her insulated hiking boots. She wouldnít need the real cold weather gear until she arrived at the inn.

Satisfied this portion was complete, she went back into the kitchen for her coffee and then to the filing cabinet. She pulled all evidence to her where abouts from the folders along with her tickets and various reservations. These with her passport went into the carry-on bag. She knew the first thing Roger and Randi would do is try to find out where she went. She couldnít have that. The fact that she had shown Roger the general overview really didnít bother her. Her final destination hadnít been listed and Canada was a very big place. So what if something happened. Her affairs had been in place since that trip to Greece, all the details had been taken care of. Her demise wouldnít present a logistical problem, she had seen to that. She sipped her java, looking over the room. Had she forgotten anything? No...all was ready. Her flight was non-stop leaving Atlanta at 8:00 the next morning. All she had to do was get through the night.

Liz put the sounds of Sarah on the stereo, curled up on the sofa and peered out on the city. The cats, having taken a break from noshing, joined her. She felt very close to Sam at that moment...very calm...very focused. She felt Samís love wash over her, warming her skin as it had done many evenings. She closed her eyes and remembered.

It was a December night much like this one. The house was filled with the smells of the season...the cypress tree filling the space with an intoxicating aroma. Sarahís voice and words mirroring the lovers. The only lights were the soft glow of candles, casting flickering shadows on the walls. From her position on the bed, Liz looked up into the face of her lover. Sam was sitting astride the dark haired woman. Both were wearing only tee shirts, the warmth of Samís thighs caressing Lizís. For a long time they just looked at one another, eyes moving over features, hearts racing, a light sheen of moisture beginning to bathe their bodies. Sam supported herself by placing her hands on either side of Liz, leaning forward and gently placing a kiss on her loverís forehead. Lizís hands rested on Samís thigh, feeling the smooth skin react with thousands of tiny goosebumps. Her fingers applied gentle pressure to the muscles.

Samís lips moved across Lizís face... her brow...the bridge of her nose...her eyelids. Liz lay in a state of sheer anticipation of her lips finally settling on her own. She took an excruciatingly long time to capture Lizís mouth. The result was a wave of rising passion sure to consume both of them. Samís kiss was the most sensuous communication Liz had ever experienced. She was able to climax just by kissing her. It was an amazing exchange. The two savored one another for a long time...only lips touching lips...Samís weight resting across Liz...a fire building within them both.

......And I would be the one
To hold you down...Kiss you so hard....

In slow motion, Sam pulled her lips from her protesting lover, and sat back on the top of Lizís thighs. Her fingers trailed across the front of the prone womanís tee shirt, finding the exposed skin at her navel. She traced the outline of her taut abdomen and ran fingers, light as feathers along her side, back under her shirt. Lizís hips instinctively arched toward Sam wanting to be close to her. It was sublime torture.

......Iíll take your breath away....

Strong, expressive hands caressed Samís thighs, moving lightly over the tops, thumbs trailing along the inner portion, and disappearing under the end of Samís shirt. Liz peered into her loverís eyes as her fingers danced over the silken, damp curls coming to rest along that warm crease on either side of her folds. She could feel the heat radiating from Samís most secret place. Fingertips moved just barely over the very center, causing the desire within her to seductively rock against the touch. No words were spoken, only the language of touch and breathing.

......My body aches to breathe your breath
Your words keep me alive....

Sam was the most beautiful woman...her features strong yet delicate...her eyes intense and piercing. Liz had fallen into her and wished no escape. She was so certain they would grow old together...so certain...

......Would I spend forever here
And not be satisfied....


The bedside alarm was buzzing, waking Liz in the living area. She had fallen asleep in the chair, thinking about making love with Sam. It had been so real...she had felt their skin touching...Samís lips on her once again. In her near waking state, she put her arm out to touch her love, as she had done so many mornings. Brie nudged Lizís hand and grasped her fingers with her claws, giving her a nip on the thumb. Liz opened her eyes and gazed sadly at the feline. She gave her a gentle rub on the head.

"Good morning, Sweetheart. I hope you slept well." The words hung in her throat as reality intruded. She glanced at her watch...the time was 5:30am...time to get up and get going. Slowly, she sat up on the edge of the sofa, rubbing her eyes and running both hands through her hair. She remained for a few minutes, head cradled in her palms, fighting the urge to start crying. Finally, she stood and made her way to the kitchen to feed the cats and put on coffee...then it was into the shower.

Liz didnít linger under the water; she wanted to finish packing and needed to call a cab. She wouldnít be taking her car to the airport...just in case. She quickly dried off and pulled on her tee and underwear. A detour by the kitchen was next for her cafe, the cats were still snarfing that nasty kibble. Remembering the other morningís experiment made her wince. She looked at Brie and RG who were totally focused on the meal. She shook her head in amazement.

"Sorry, girls, but that is some nasty stuff youíre eating. Euwwww...really!" She grabbed the cordless and dialed the stored number for the cab company, moving back into the bedroom to finish dressing. She had one leg in her jeans when the dispatcher picked up.

"Yellow Cab Atlanta..." the young, bored voice said.

"Yes...I need a cab at Peachtree Lofts in about 30 minutes...going to Hartsfield. Iíll be out front." She had the phone cradled in the crook of her neck and was pulling her jeans over her hips.

"Ok...gotícha...Peachtree Lofts...out front...30 minutes...going to the airport." The line went dead.

Liz clicked the phone off, irritated at the sorry state of manners these days. She spoke into the idle handpiece. "Uh-huh, and thank you so very much!" She continued her conversation, "And people wonder whatís wrong with the world now a days. Iíll tell you what...no manners...no one says please or thank you anymore. Itís gimme that or gimme this...just once I wish.... Oh, hell...it doesnít matter. Does it, RG?" The sleek black member of the family was sitting in the doorway, cleaning her whiskers...totally ignoring the babbling woman.

Liz shrugged and finished dressing. She packed the last of her stuff and zipped the duffel, carrying the bag into the living area. A quick check around the condo was made...the coffeemaker turned off and the computer shutdown. She knew the cats had plenty of food and replenished the water bowl.

"Ah...ok...right. I think Iím ready," she said double-checking by sight. She collected the down jacket from the closet and moved toward the door. Brie was sitting on the back of the sofa, staring at her.

"Itís ok, Roger will be around this afternoon...believe me. Iíll be back...I promise." She blew a little kiss toward the feline, opened the door and stepped into the hall. In a few minutes, she had made her way to the front entrance, past the lobby guard and to the curb. The cab pulled into the circular drive stopping at Lizís bag. She stepped into the backseat while the driver heaved the duffel into the trunk. In the early morning light, the transport moved away, toward the airport.


Roger was sound asleep when the phone rang. It was Sunday and he was going to spend a lazy day doing nothing. The idea that someone would call him at this hour rankled him. Pulling the silk sleeping shades from his eyes, he snatched the receiver to his ear.

"Uh-huh...and this damn well better be important!"

Lizís voice flowed into his ear, "Feeling a little testy this morning, dear?"

"Liz? Is that you? Is everything all right?" He had pulled himself up in the bed, back resting against the ornate headboard. He tried to focus on the clock, squinting to see the numbers. "What time is it?"

"Yes, Roger, itís me...and itís about 7:30. Look honey I need for you do something for me..." The sounds of the terminal were all around Liz...flights being called...passengers being paged.

Roger turned his head slightly, trying to figure out what all that noise in the background was. "Liz...where are you?"

"Listen...I want you to take care of Brie and RG for a week or so...ok?", she said completely ignoring his question.

"What!? Take care of them...Liz...where the hell are you!?" Rogerís faculties finally kicked in. "Christ! Tell me youíre not about to go to Canada. Liz...please...."

"Ok...Iím not about to go to Canada...now will you take care of them or not?" The gate attendant began the boarding call for her flight.

"Attention all passengers on Deltaís flight 377, non-stop to Calgary. We are now boarding all first class and Medallion Level passengers...please have your boarding passes available for the attendant..."

Roger didnít hear the specifics of the flight, but he knew she was about to do the very thing he feared. "LIZ!! You said you werenít going to do this!"

"Uh, Roger...I said Iíd think about it.... did and Iím going. Now I left plenty of food for the cats...and the keys to the Z-3. Knock yourself out...oh...and would you mind telling Randi I wonít be able to make dinner tonight? I gotta go, hon. Iíll call you...bye, luv." She hung the phone up before Roger could utter further protest, slung her carry-on over her shoulder and got in line to board the L1011.

Roger was yelling into the phone before he realized Liz wasnít there. "LIZ!! You canít do this to me!! Shit! Randiís going to have my hide.... Liz ?? Liz??...Damn you!!" He slammed the receiver back in the cradle and threw a fist into the pillow. He continued his rant, "Shit...shit...and double shit!! How could you do this to me!? Jeez...now Iíve got to tell Randi...oooh...Iíd rather wear white after Labor Day." For a moment, he seriously contemplated hiding all this from the archeologist, but decided it would be worse on him to do so. He was, however, going to wait till heíd made some hot tea and had a shower. What difference would a few more hours make? His butt was still going to be in a sling...he might as well be clean for it.


The three forms entered through the glass front wall. Brie opened one green eye, yawned and repositioned her head between her paws, falling into blissful sleep again. Gabrielle was the first to state the obvious.

"I donít think anyoneís here, Sam. Itís too quiet."

Sam was headed for the bedroom. "Maybe sheís still asleep...it is Sunday you know." She entered the room and found nothing. "This isnít right. Where could she be?" She called out to the livingroom, "Xena...you find anything?"

The warrior yelled back, "If by Ďanythingí you mean Liz...the answer is no...not unless sheís hiding in the closet."

Sam joined the two, looking around the area. "I donít believe Liz was ever in the closet, Xena." Gabrielle totally missed the true meaning of the exchange. "Well, maybe we should look just in case...."

Xena smiled, "Gabrielle...sheís not in the closet...figuratively or literally...Iíll explain it to you later. Right now, weíve got a real problem on our hands. Sam, do you have any idea where she might have gone?"

"Not a clue, but she canít be too far, the car keys are still here. So wherever she went, she walked..."

Gabrielle added, "That or got a ride with someone..."

Xena and Sam looked one another. That possibility hadnít occurred to them. Samís heart began to race. "Sheís right, Liz could be anywhere...weíll never find her now." Xena tried to offer encouragement. "Oh...weíll find her...even if I have to get Artemis to help. Their conjecture was interrupted by the sound of a key in the front door lock. Sam fully expected to see Liz stroll in.

The door flew open followed by Randi and Roger. She was in the throes of a bona fide snit. "I cannot believe she did this! And you knew this was on her mind? Why in blue blazes didnít you tell me?" Randi had taken her coat off and was proceeding to go through the condo.

Roger closed the door, removed his coat and prepared to defend himself. "Why!? Have you ever tried arguing with Liz once sheís made up her mind?"

Sam nodded, commenting to Xena, "See...I told you...the woman is very stubborn..."

Gabrielle opened her mouth, "See...just like yo...."

Xena glared at the bard, "Gabrielle!!"

Randi was in the bedroom now, looking for anything to tell them where exactly sheíd gone. "Roger what the hell prompted this irrational decision?"

The boy took an even deeper breath, knowing he should tell Randi everything. "Uh...Randi...I need to tell you something else that happened."

The doctor stopped in mid-search, knowing this couldnít be good. "Something else? You mean thereís more?"

"Uh...yes...you remember the other day when you were here?" He didnít wait for a reply, " Well, I came over early and found Liz...um...in the tub with a razor on her wrist...." He let the last part trail off and waited for the explosion...he even held on to the footboard of the bed for support.

Randiís face went pale and she sat on the edge of the bed. "Omigod...Roger why didnít you call me?" Her eyes were filling with tears. He sat next to her, placing an arm around her shoulders.

"Oh...I wanted to, but Liz asked me not to...not at that moment. Randi, she was so distraught...I didnít know what to do...so I didnít call you. Iím sorry..."

Gabrielle watched the woman carefully. Sam was standing next to Xena, waiting. The bard was curious, "Sam, are Randi and Liz very close?"

"Oh...yes...they have know each other for a very long time...they were even lovers once long ago. Iíd say Randi knows Liz even better than Roger."

"Hmmmm...she seems to be taking all this rather well." Gabrielle was closer to Randi, studying her features.

Sam cracked a smile; "Really...you think so? Trust me, sheís processing at the moment. Iíd stand back if I were you."

Puzzled, the bard looked at Sam and Xena, "Huh?"

Roger patted Randi on the shoulder, trying to be comforting. What he should have done was get the hell out of her way. Randi took his hand off her shoulder and slammed it into his lap. "God.... Roger!! I didnít think I could be more pissed at you but...you know what ...I am!!" She stomped out of the bedroom, Roger trying to catch up.

"Listen...Randi...Iím stuck in the middle here...so go ahead and yell all you want! It wonít change anything, ok? She did what she did...I did what I did...and now we have to find her. So can we hold off on my execution till all this is over? Iím tired of being the whipping boy! Hell...I donít even have my whip thanks to Liz...and Iím still pissed over that."

Sam leaned toward Xena, "What did he mean by that?"

"Oh...itís a long story...Gabrielle can tell it to you later."

Randi wasnít through. "Yeah...whatever. Now what exactly did Liz show you that night?"

Roger went to the filing cabinet and was flipping through the folders. "It was in a folder labeled ĎCanadian Rockiesí...I know it was in here...I saw her pull it out." He was going through every file carefully. "Ah...here it is..." He lifted the manila file out and handed it to Randi.

She opened the cover and held the file by either side, turning it upside down. "And I suppose when you saw it, there was information in it, right?"

Roger swallowed, "Uh...yeah...lots of stuff. There has to be another one..." He returned to the cabinet, feverishly thumbing the tabs. He saw the second folder, neatly labeled. "See...I told you..." He retrieved the folder and closed his eyes as he opened it. It was as empty as the first. "Damn!! She must have put the information somewhere else. She knew weíd be looking for it." He returned to the drawer. Randi went into the kitchen and pulled a beer from the fridge.

"Roger...give it up. Itís not here, trust me. " She took a long drink from the cold brew.

He wasnít ready to toss the towel in just yet. "How do you know that?"

She rounded the island and plopped on the sofa, " Because...she knew we would come looking for it. Itís simple...Liz does not want us to know where she went."

"But we canít give up...we could try the airlines...someone has to know..." He was beside himself.

"Roger, dear, listen to me. The airlines are not going to give out that information. We canít even file a missing personís report for 48 hours...and honey, Canada is verry big. Besides...Liz isnít technically missing...sheís just hiding...not the same thing. Even if we knew what city she flew into, weíd never be able to locate her. Iím afraid weíll have to sit on this one till she sees fit to call us." She turned up the bottle and added, "Iím not at all pleased with this, but Liz has the upper hand right now. Itís out of our control...so grab a beer and weíll chat about other things."

The boy sighed, slammed the filling drawer closed and took Randiís advice. As he sat on the sofa, he offered a subject for discussion. "So...just how shall we punish her?"

Sam had moved to the front window, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. There was a faint smile on her lips. Xena and Gabrielle stood on either side of her, Gabrielleís arm around her waist.

"Try not to worry, Sam, weíll find her." She squeezed her for emphasis.

Samís voice was very calm; "Oh...Iím not worried. I know exactly where she went and what sheís going to do."

 

CHAPTER NINE

The flight to Calgary was non-stop and, for the most part, uneventful. Lizís biggest decision was whether to sleep, write in her journal or listen to music. She wasnít sleepy...exhausted, yes...but not sleepy...writing was even painful...too many emotions kept flowing through her to keep up with. Perhaps later she would write all this down. And the music...well, it had a torment all itís own. She opted for staring out the window.

She peered out of the L1011. Even at 38,000 feet, it was apparent the landscape was covered in white. The snowfall had been unusually heavy this season. The forecasters were blaming El Nino and the split in the jet stream...bringing warm moist air to the southern part of the US and bitter Arctic cold to Canada and the northern states. The results had been devastating. It brought horrendous rain and flooding from California to the East Coast along with warmer than normal temperatures. The northern regions had already seen record snowfall and bitter cold. This was evidenced by the latest weather update for Calgary. Normally, the December temperatures stayed in the 8-29 degree F range. So far, the high had only been 5 above zero...harsh even by Canadian standards. Going into the Canadian Rockies during this time was truly foolish, but Liz had only one thing on her mind, and she would soon deal with the consequences of a foolish, hurting heart.

"This your first time to Canada, eh?" The passenger next to her was curious about this Yank.

Liz drew her attention from the window. "Uh...yes, it is. You live there then?"

The man had a pleasant way about him. He was probably in his mid-forties, graying slightly with a medium build. Heíd been working non-stop on his laptop since leaving Atlanta. ĎA salesmaní, Liz thought.

"Yes...just outside Calgary. Been in the States for a month now, promoting my software company. Iím ready to be home. Where you headed? " He had pale gray-green eyes and a very warm smile.

ĎHmmm...I was close...a salesman of sorts,í she quietly mused. "My ultimate destination is Jasper National Park, but Iím going by Lake Louise then up toward Bow Pass through Baniff. You know the area?" She was always open for more information.

He closed the laptop, thankful for some more interesting conversation. "Oh...yeah...know it very well...beautiful places. Bow Pass is the highest driveable pass in all the Canadian Rockies national parks. At 6700 feet, itís spectacular, when you can actually see."

"What do you mean by that? Is there some problem with going through there?" A slight twinge of anxiety sweep over her.

"Not normally, but the weather has been really bad...lots of snow...some avalanches over some of the roads. I have a friend who works for the parks, and she says itís the worst she can remember. Some of the roads wonít be open till the spring thaw." He stopped for a moment, dredging up information. "I donít think the Icefields Parkway is effected though, and that would be your route, correct?"

"Umm...Iím not real sure. I think I remember something about that from the travel agency. Iím sure the car rental folks will have a more detailed description and maps." She was almost sure they would.

The man held his hand out and introduced himself. "Oh...Iím sure they will. Nameís Jules...Jules Moore...nice to meet you...uh..."

She took his hand in a firm shake, "Liz...Liz Remington. So...uh...Jules...are you a native or transplant?"

"I guess Iím a transplant. My wife is fourth generation Canadian. Iím originally from Minnesota. Because I spend so much time in the States, I have duel citizenship. It can get kinda tricky some times...but I love living in Canada...and the Canadian people are wonderful. And we have the most impressive array of beer." He winked and a smile washed over his face.

Liz relaxed and returned his smile, "Oh...I think I remember something about that...and you say Ďehí alot."

He chuckled, "Oh...sure...thatís part of our charm. So, Liz, let me buy you a beer, eh?"

He flagged the flight attendant in first class. The pert woman stopped at their seats. "Yes, can I help you?"

Jules put forth his request. "My friend and I would like an ice cold beer. What choices do we have..." He peered at the polished brass nameplate, "...Michelle?"

She smiled at his polite gesture. She was used to passengers treating her like their personal slave. "Well...we have the usual American domestics. For European imports...Amstel, Beckís, and Bass. Canadian...itís gonna be Rickards Red or Blue Light."

Jules looked at Liz, "So...whatíll it be...wanna try something local?"

"Sure, what do you recommend?"

"Hmmm...depends on your mood. Rickards is a deep, red coloured brew...very thick on the tongue. Blue Light is more ... uh...refreshing...light and bubbly on your senses."

Liz thought for a moment, and made her decision, "I think the heartier of the two."

Jules nodded approval and turned to the waiting Michelle. "Make that two Reds, please."

The attendant smiled and disappeared into the forward galley, returning promptly with the brews and glasses.

Liz and Jules poured the thick beer into frosted mugs...one of the perks of first class...but hardly worth an additional $400. The two toasted their individual agendas...Jules, to going home to his wife and family...Liz, to her date with destiny. If all went as planned, she would do the deed on Solstice Eve...under the clear, winter sky.

She tapped her glass with his, "Hereís to going home." He nodded and both took a long, cold drink.


The L1011 touched down in Calgary a little after 11am. Flying cross-country always amazed Liz. She had been on that plane for nearly five hours...and it was still early morning. That was good for she had a very long drive ahead of her. She would try not to think about the time difference, needing to focus on driving in a strange country...on roads covered with snow...in an automobile she would have to get used to.

Liz gathered her carry-on bag and her coat. Riding first class had some advantages; she could exit almost immediately. She bade Jules goodbye and stepped through the planeís doorway. Even in the covered rampway, the low temperature was very noticeable, her breath visible and the cold knifing through her thin jeans. It was a welcome relief to enter the heated terminal. She really wasnít much of a cold weather girl, preferring the warmth of the Keys.

Having moved through customs, Liz made her way to the Hertz counter. She had requested a sport utility for her stay and to navigate the snowy terrain. The agent was very efficient, something of a surprise. She took Lizís reservation number and entered it on the keyboard.

"Yes...E. Remington...one 1997 Jeep Cherokee 4WD. All ready for you Ms Remington. Take the Hertz shuttle to the lot and give the attendant this confirmation slip. Heíll get you on your way. Enjoy your stay."

Liz moved to the side as the agent helped the next person. Now all she had to do was go to baggage claim and then to the rental lot. All was proceeding well. With the duffel hiked over her shoulder, she moved toward the sign that read ĎGround Transportationí...in English and French. Mentally, she wished sheíd taken French instead of Spanish in college. Fluently ordering a margarita in Spanish here wouldnít be very impressive.

The auto doors opened to the outside and the full extent of the cold made its presence known. Although she had the down parka on, she had neglected to take the gloves out and she was without head covering. Her eyes were watering and her face literally hurt.

"Jeeez...now I remember why I like Key West so much!" She was still mumbling as she climbed aboard the shuttle. There were six other people already on, each fully decked out in arctic gear. They looked at Liz like she was nuts walking around in nothing more than a light parka. Indeed, she felt kinda nuts. The shuttle lurched from its parking space, assisting Liz to her seat. The view from the bus windows revealed blowing and swirling snow. She could hardly see further than 50 feet in any direction. Silently, she hoped for better driving conditions away from the airport.

The shuttle pulled into the covered shelter, the doors swung open and once again the cold ran itís icy fingers over her. Hurriedly, she grabbed the duffel and moved toward the interior of the building. There were several people in front of her, but she welcomed the time to warm up and to stop shivering. In a few moments, she was standing at the counter, sliding the confirmation slip to the agent. He entered the number and retrieved a packet.

Sliding the envelope to her, he recited the same line heíd been doing all day, inserting her name at the appropriate spot. "Here you go, Ms Remington, keys to the vehicle, rental agreement, roadside insurance documents and road maps. Remember to obey the posted speed limits, wear your seatbelt, and use the headlights at all times. We drive on the right...just like the States. Speed is noted in kilometers per hour and petrol is dispensed in liters, not gallons. You will return the car right here, under the canopy. Enjoy your stay." Without hesitating, he announced, "Next."

Liz moved toward the outer door, almost dreading the onslaught of biting air. The outside attendant looked like an animated cartoon. He or she, for Liz couldnít discern gender, had on so many layers she was sure a trip to the restroom had to be planned well in advance of a pee crisis. He/she looked at her car number and pointed out the correct vehicle.

"Ok...itís that Cherokee right over there. Itís all fueled and ready to go. You know how to operate a 4 wheel drive?"

Liz was peering into the lot, "Uh-huh...yeah sure. Where did you say the car was? I donít see it."

The attendant laughed. "Oh, thatís because in this blowing snow itís hard to see a white car. Címon, Iíll walk you over." It waddled in front of her, making way to the still invisible car.

"Did you say...white car?" She was shaking her head.

They were almost on top of it before Liz saw it. The attendant opened the hatch and took her duffel, placing it behind the rear seat. He showed her the emergency road kit containing jumper cables, roadside flares, a Mylar thermal blanket, some waterproof matches and a hand shovel. She pulled her gloves from the duffel before closing the hatch.

Liz opened the driverís door, threw her shoulder pack across to the passenger seat and climbed in. The attendant asked one more time if she was set.

"Ok...now is there anything else you need?"

Liz looked through the windshield. "Yeah...how do I get out of here to highway One?"

"Itís easy...turn right out of the lot and follow the signs to the highway. You canít miss it." He/she shut the door and hurried back to the safety of the canopy. Liz pulled her maps out and surveyed the cockpit of the Jeep.

As she prepared to pull out, she made an interesting observation. "Oh, yeah, easy for you. Youíre not driving an invisible white car in a snowstorm. Cripes...now I know how Wonder Woman felt flying around in that plane of hers. Hmmm...now how much insurance did I take out? Well at least it has a CD player." She pulled a disc from her case, slid it in and slowly pulled from the lot. Had she turned on the radio, she would have been advised of a major storm moving in from the east...the worst one of the season so far. The authorities were advising no traveling unless it was absolutely necessary. Liz turned up the music.

The Jeep made itís way onto the airport frontage road. Visibility did seem better, much to Lizís relief and she was able to clearly see the overhead signs indicating the various routes to the north, south, east and west. Maneuvering the vehicle over a lane, she made the transition onto highway one west, happy that she was finally on her way. The mileage to Lake Louise was approximately 114 miles. Traffic was moving at a brisk pace, even with the continuing snow. She estimated a driving time of about two hours.


Chapters 10 - 13