Using the flashlight, Liv read the page of the small journal in silence. Several minutes passed before she looked up, her face filled with emotion. "Dad knew he was dying so he wrote me a note." Her hand brushed over the page gently as she showed it to Finn.
I love you very much. I am sorry I cannot be there for you anymore. You are the
star of my life and I left you something that will take care of you, if you decide. The
fire is dying so I must keep it short. I only wish I could see you grow up. In
order to find the answers, you will have to look close to home. Love dad.
"Wow" was all Finn could say as Liv clutched the journal to her chest. "You think he's talking about the other mine?"
"Probably." Liv nodded, focusing the beam on her father's mummified form. "But all of the rest of the pages are written in some kind of code, so it's hard to tell. God, it's so weird to actually see his body. We buried an empty coffin, but now, ten years later, here he is. He even has his Go Bag," Liv said with a faint smile. She reached over and gently removed the canvas bag from his shoulder and placed his journal in it.
After a moment, she paused, and then tweaked the brim of her father's hat. "I'll be back, Dad. Thanks for everything." A faint breeze brushed over her face, causing her to shiver.
"You want a little longer?" Finn asked.
"Nah. I've already cried all the tears I could a long time ago. It's really surreal. In a way, it's like finding an old picture of him that I didn't know existed. It still makes me sad, but it's not heart wrenching. And right now we need to get out of here. Where do you think that breeze is coming from?"
"From that pile of rocks over there." Finn pointed. "I think a rock slide may have covered up an entrance to this cave. Looks like we're gonna be digging."
"Damn. I was hoping for an escalator to the exit." They spent the next half hour pushing rocks too big for a single person to move. Their arms and bodies were aching, but finally, they had created a hole large enough for faint hints of overcast daylight to creep in. With renewed energy, they dug harder, sending rocks flying. As the hole grew, blasts of icy air and snow swirled around them. At last, the opening grew large enough for the two of them to squeeze out of the cavern, which they did enthusiastically. They found themselves on a hillside, just below the main road, in the middle of a fierce snowstorm.
"Well, at least it's warmer than the water." Finn shivered.
"Yeah, no joke!" Liv said grimly. "Speaking of which, I wonder what happened to Mitch and his buddies?" At the thought of their earlier ordeal, she reached under her jacket and dug the Steyr out of its holster. "Check Dad's bag. See if there's a gun in there. Those assholes might still be around."
Finn nodded, opened the bag, and pulled out a stubby .32 caliber Smith and Wesson J frame. Two of the bullets were spent. He found a speed loader in the bag and traded the empty shells for fresh ones. "Hope these little guys still work." He snapped the revolver's cylinder into place with a single, skilled movement. Together, they pushed their way through the raging storm, weapons extended, until, more than an hour later, they reached the mine's snow covered parking lot.
Surprisingly, the Starfire was exactly where they had left it hours earlier. They approached the car cautiously, searching for any sign of movement. Still clutching the J frame with one hand, Finn fished the keys out of his pocket, and started unlocking the car. Abruptly, he froze and then dropped to the ground. The keys tumbled into the snow next to his face.
Liv noticed the guard a split second before the man opened fire. He was holding an assault rifle and had been hiding near the mine's entrance, over a hundred feet away. She whipped out her Steyr and dove into a mound of snow behind the Starfire. A buzzing stream of lead passed just over her head. She could hear the tiny pops of Finn's pistol, but knew it would be almost impossible for him to hit their assailant with the short barreled weapon at such a range. Fighting her fear and tiredness, she gathered her courage and waited for the right moment. Like a mole, she started burrowing through the deep snow, desperately trying to get as far away from the car and the last place the man had seen her.
The pistol clicked on empty, and Finn cursed as he dug into the Go Bag, searching for another speed loader. The guard was not firing in his direction, but it was only a matter of time. He popped opened the revolver cylinder and dropped the spent shells into the snow. He used the speed loader to reload, then snapped the pistol shut. The snow behind the car erupted as the guard poured a fresh clip into the spot where Liv had dropped to the ground.
Time was running out. Bullets were nipping at her heals, forcing Liv to hug the frozen ground. Her assailant didn't know where she was, but he seemed to have an unlimited supply of ammunition. He was bound to get lucky eventually. She knew she had to make her move, now.
Simultaneously, Liv and Finn sprung up and crouched in a shooters stance. The automatic firing stopped as the lone guard tried to decide who to target first. Neither Liv nor Finn hesitated. Liv chewed through the Steyr's ten round magazine one bullet ahead of Finn's five round cylinder. The man dropped to the ground, turning the snow around him a bright crimson color.