Annika followed Andrew Janssen in silence. Well, she didn’t speak, but the fifty-year old Janssen certainly had a tendency to do so. Annika was content to hear his voice mingling with the sounds around her. Their snowshoes made a clump when they landed and the snow rustled like sand when it spilled off at each forward movement. The wind rattled the leafless tree tops and made Annika’s exposed cheeks ache when she faced fully forward. Two dogs surged ahead with the small sled that held a box of foodstuffs, her duffels of clothing, and the laptop case. Everything else she could need was supplied in the cabin; and the most important items anyway, Janssen said, were strapped to her feet and securely on the top of her head. Their breath fogged out, but all four, including the dogs, enjoyed the outing. The sun didn’t know better not to shine in winter, no matter how fruitless its efforts. The light glinted off each snowflake piled on the ground, glinting like a fortune in tiny diamonds.
“We don’t get many for the cabins this time of year. A few skiers but our best business is in summer for the lake and fall for the hunters. Some ice fishing, but that’s more a day trip. Why drive all the way up here? There’s a thousand frozen-over lakes in Wisconsin. So it will likely be just you out here. My son likes a cabin by his lonesome in the off-season but I haven’t seen him around lately.” Janssen shrugged. “He may or may not come around to say hi."
“Now, the rangers say there’s a wolf pack in the reserve about twenty miles west a’ here. I don’t see ‘em around too much. More likely to get deer. Wolves are awfully territorial and since my dogs roam the woods here, they pretty much stay out of the way. So don’t be alarmed if you hear them at night. Those howls travel quite a distance on clear nights.”
The two big dogs that pulled Annika’s luggage didn’t strain at the harness once it got moving. The well-waxed skids of the sled slid effortlessly over the piles of snow, leaving two flattened runner-marks under its weight, between which were deep-sunk paw prints. The sound of the skids on the snow disappeared beneath the crinkle of Annika’s water-resistant parka.