Claire woke at 4:00 a.m. on day five, rolled her sleeping bag and stumbled outside to her dogs. Dillon and his team were gone. Powder-fine snow continued to fall in the predawn darkness. Eight new inches covered the sled bag and turned her dogs, curled under their blankets on beds of straw, into breathing mounds with ears.
The peaceful stillness, void of air traffic, made her think of Christmas. A string of multicolored lights hung from the eaves of a cabin at the end of the street. In place of the soft jingle of sleigh bells, the muffled drone of a snowmobile drifted from across the river. The thermometer outside the Laundromat read minus two degrees as she prepared to feed her team one more time before heading out.
Fluffy deep snow meant slower traveling and increased the odds of moose encounters. She hoped Dillon's run-in was an isolated occurrence, for him and everyone else on the trail, but she would make sure she had easy access to her ax and revolver before leaving McGrath. She hoped dropping Bonnie didn't affect Dillon's ability to finish the race.
And she hoped he outdistanced whatever demons rode shotgun with him.
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