By the time the moon was high in the sky, Nicole had hiked back down to where she’d first crossed the river - a stream then - somewhere behind Patrick’s cabin. She considered trying to find the cabin in the dark just to see if she could catch Patrick sleeping, but something told her he was smarter than that. He’d probably rested while she was out cold, which meant he was undoubtedly nearby, watching.
Waiting for her time to run out at dawn.
She filled the water bottle from the stream and found a narrow place to cross, wanting to keep as much distance between her and the cabin as possible. If she stayed near the water, she’d have a sense of direction and could make sure she wasn’t going in circles. But that made her easy to track, and since Patrick clearly saw this as a game, she didn’t want to give him more of an advantage than he already had.
She also didn’t want to wander around in circles. But judging from the moon as it moved across the sky, she was heading west. She just had to pay attention to the moon and sun, and follow them to continue in the same direction.
Her head continued to throb, though an almost pleasant numbness took over her body as she continued to walk, her pace steady as she moved farther away from the water and deeper into the forest. Checking with the moon frequently, she kept moving west, until it sank below the treeline leaving her without direction in the darkest part of the night.
Choosing a tight group of three trees growing close together, she climbed into the middle of the three trunks and sat down to rest and snack on some of her supplies, wondering what to do next. Daylight would break soon. Was he following her? Did he know she wouldn’t be at the cabin to meet him? Or would he have to wait there to find out, buying her precious time to keep moving?
How had he known where she would climb out of the river? And for that matter, how had he known she was in the river to start?
He was watching her, for sure. She just didn’t know how.
Then she remembered the black cable - the one she’d wanted to follow, and the reason she’d gotten in the water in the first place. The random whirring sounds, and quick, tiny flashes of light in the night.
Not eyes, as she’d assumed. Or rather, electric eyes.
Slowly she tilted her head back, peering up into the utter darkness above her. Searching.
There. A tiny green spot moved a mere inch high above where she sat, that almost familiar whirring sound accompanying the motion. She couldn’t see the device itself, but she knew. It was a camera, mounted near the top of the tall tree. She could imagine the lens was zooming in on her face, broadcasting her every expression and movement back to wherever Patrick was watching from.
Son of a bitch.
She’d heard the low mechanical sounds on and off all night, and she wondered just how many cameras he had out here, all recording and relaying her every move. He was watching, even if he wasn’t close, and there was no way to avoid his digital eyes, it seemed.
For a moment, she gave up. How could she ever get away from him if there was nowhere to hide? She stared up at the green light, her skin prickling as if she could feel him staring back at her. Daring her to come to him, to let him have the victory that he’d known from the start was his.
Lowering her gaze, she tried to decide whether to just wait there for him to come, or whether to meet him on her way back to the cabin. She was tired, and frustrated, and knew that either way, she’d lost.
Deciding to stay put, she closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the tree trunk at her back. He could come and get her, the bastard. Might as well make him work for it.
As she dozed, an idea came to mind. It would never work, of course, but maybe...
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