THE AMTRAK DOWNEASTER PULLED noisily into the Portland terminal. Bill grabbed his overnighter and briefcase and followed the stream of passengers hurriedly exiting the train. The sun was bright and he had to squint due to its reflection off his glasses. He had a bitch of a headache.
Grimacing, he walked rapidly toward the parking lot.
"BILL! OVER HERE!"
He stopped and turned, surprised to hear someone calling his name.
Susan stood in front of the entrance to the train terminal, waving as she yelled to him.
"What are you doing here?" he asked as he approached her. "You know I have my car. I don't need a ride."
Susan frowned. "Nice greeting. I think you can do better than that, can't you?"
Despite his headache, Bill managed a laugh. "Okay," he said, wrapping his arm around her waist and giving her a lingering kiss. "That better?"
"Yes, it is," she laughed. "Much. Now let's get a cup of coffee. I don't have a lot of time and I want to let you know what's been happening."
Reluctantly, Bill followed her into the terminal. He didn't want to be with her now. All he wanted was to get home, take a pill, and lie down. But Susan was a force and he knew it would be better to accede to her demands than to fight.
Once inside, he purchased coffee from one of the many vending machines that lined the back wall. The place was now almost deserted and they sat down on one of the benches to talk.
"They bit!" she exclaimed. "They're going to look for the bodies on Puffin. And, I've enlisted the support of the Anthro Department at State for grad students to help."
"You mean the police will be going to Puffin? That's good news, I guess. Why the students, though?"
"Yes, the police and forensics. And, the kids from State - they've been on archeological digs and know how to sift through debris and dirt for artifacts. A rep from the Coroner's Office will be coming along, too."
Bill sipped his coffee, thinking. "Do you really expect they're going to find anything? I mean, it's a long shot."
Susan smiled. "I've got a hunch on this one and my hunches are usually right. Yes, I think they're going to find one, if not all, of the six missing men." She glanced down at her watch. "I've got to get going. I'm on the air in an hour, but I just had to tell you the good news."
She reached over and squeezed his hand, then stood and started for the door. Halfway across the room, she stopped and looked back over her shoulder. "Oh, Christ, I almost forgot. Saturday. Keep Saturday clear."
Susan grinned. "That's when it's happening. That's when we're going to Puffin Island!"
She blew him a kiss, turned, and hurried out the door to the parking lot.
Bill sat immobile for a moment staring after her as three words screamed across his consciousness, "Saturday ... Puffin Island."
Without warning, black shadows crept into the corners of his vision and the quiet terminal was abruptly filled with the vicious sound of the winter wind raging relentlessly across the ocean.
The words "Puffin Island" echoed repeatedly, bouncing off the walls and slamming into his mind over and over again. But nothing could blot out the never-ending, icy howling of the wind that threatened swallow his soul alive.
His hands were shaking violently with imagined cold, causing the hot coffee to spill over the front of his pants. The steaming liquid burned, but he was not aware of it. The shadows clouding his vision were growing larger and he feared they would soon erase all that he was or once had been, leaving his mind and his soul lifeless, devoid of all humanity.
And only one word triumphed over the roar of the bitter and relentless wind: survive.
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