Chapter 9: Hidden Exposure

Jule's stomach compacted beneath the pressure of the thick, surrounding silence that held a tangible warning of certain peril with the decision Gray Man had made for both of them.

Lost in the maze of barren trees, Gray Man led Jule into a thick grove of evergreens. Wasn't this obvious cover? Whoever would be looking for them would certainly search here. The fog that once covered them had lifted as the daylight hours moved forward. Catching a glimpse of the sky through a break in the dense tree canopy, Jule saw thick gray clouds covering any sign of the sun.

Tredding farther into the ancient forest, Jule lost count of the hours. Thankfully, the combination of snow and pine needles covering the ground padded any noise that would reveal them. Still, Jule carefully avoided broken branches and pine cones occasionally interrupting her path. Intently cautious with each of her steps, she nearly collided with Gray Man as he came to an abrupt stop.

Feeling Jule brush him, Gray Man turned his head to give her a scathing glare. Turning back, he exhaled and bent toward a pile of brush laying in front of them.

Stopping was not good. The cold air penetrated Jule's thin outer layers. With each inhale, she felt the cold consume more of her thin body. Her shivering evolved into rapid convulsions fatiguing her muscles.

"Here it is," Gray Man gruffly mumbled to himself.

With his arm deep in the brush, Gray Man slid a previously invisible panel to reveal a deep hole. An aged ladder clung just below the space where the panel had been.

"Go. Now."

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