Artist Wynn McGuire has a problem. An enemy wants him dead.
Sheriff Mick Greene also has problems. Helping Wynn survive and finding the elusive 'Snow Cat' that is prowling outside his small mountain town.
Wynn and Mick have another problem as well--their growing interest in each other. When Wynn disappears, Mick is certain he's either dead or has gone back to where he'd come from. Then he discovers the truth about Wynn, just days before Wynn comes back into his life. Will this truth, plus Mick's ex-lover and another man seeking to kill Wynn, force them apart? Or can they surmount the obstacles and learn that love, indeed, conquers all.
It was cold. The snow lay thick on the forest floor, marred only by the footprints of a large cat. If anyone had been following them, they would have discovered the prints headed toward a cave buried deep in the side of the mountain--a cave whose entrance was practically invisible unless someone knew exactly where to look.
The cat knew. Wary, as always, he approached cautiously. He sensed the presence of a pair of rabbits hidden under the snow-bent boughs of a nearby bush but he wasn't hungry so he ignored them.
Finally deeming it safe, the cat crawled through the small entrance on his belly then stood again once he was through the narrow tunnel that led to the cave itself. While almost invisible against the snow outside, his muscular, white body stood out in stark contrast against the dark walls inside as he paced softly to his den.
Once there, he settled down on a thick pile of leaves that formed his bed. Curling his short tail around his body, he fell asleep.
* * * *
"You're sure she knew what she was talking about?" Mick's deputy asked.
Mick nodded, his whiskey brown eyes scanning the road ahead of them through the falling snow for the accident site. "Ms Lewis said she saw a car off to the side of the road, nose into a tree, just after she passed what sounded from her description like the Miller's place."
"Let's hope she's right. In this weather I for damned sure wouldn't want to be trapped and injured in a wrecked car for longer than necessary. How come she didn't stop and check it out?"
Mick chuckled. "Ms Lewis is eighty if she's a day. I'm surprised she saw anything at all. If she did."
"She did." John pointed to a dark shape a few yards ahead of them.
Mick pulled onto the snowy verge beside the road and the two men got out. The car, an older model Chevy, had indeed plowed into a tree. The front right tire looked like it had blown at impact and one door was hanging open. They quickly discovered the car was empty. Mick took his flashlight from his belt, turned it on, and checked the ground around the door then the interior of the driver's side of the car. There was a smear of blood on the cracked windshield but nothing else to indicate how injured the driver might have been.
"If he took off on foot, and it looks like he did"--Mick pointed the flashlight at some footprints, which were rapidly disappearing under a layer of falling snow--"then let's hope he--or she, I guess--made it to the Miller's place."
"He, from the car registration," John replied after checking the glove compartment. "Walt Murphy."
"All right. Let's get down to the Miller's then and see."
As soon as they got back to the patrol car Mick called in to report what they'd found and ask for a wrecker to come pick up the damaged vehicle. A few minutes later they pulled into the driveway leading up to a neat, white farmhouse. Behind it, through the swirling snow, Mick could see the large barn he knew housed the Miller's few head of dairy cows.
After stomping the snow off their boots on the porch of the house, Mick knocked on the door. It opened almost immediately to reveal a middle-aged woman wearing jeans and a heavy flannel shirt.
"Sheriff Greene, what are you doing out on a day like this."
Mick smiled. "I'm always out, Jilly. You know that. However, this time there's a specific reason. There was a one-car accident a couple of miles from here but the driver wasn't in the car when we got there. I don't suppose he showed up here, did he?"
"Oh my." She shook her head. "He didn't. I haven't seen anyone around except my husband. He's out in the barn if you want to go and ask him about it, though I'm sure he'd have told me if someone had come around, especially if they were hurt."
"Thanks, we'll do that."
They found Fred Miller in the barn, tending to his cows. He came over to greet them and shook his head when Mick asked if he'd seen anyone around. "Ain't seen or heard nothing 'cept the yowl of a large cat. Probably that damned bobcat that's been wandering around here. It ain't attacked any of my cows but I'm still keeping an eye out for it."
"Let's hope the man we're looking for doesn't run into it," Mick replied. "Though they don't usually attack anything as big as a human--or a cow," he added a bit pointedly--a comment that went right over Fred Miller's head.
"Tell you what. I see the man, I'll give you a call. Not much else I can say," Fred told them before going back to what he'd been doing.
Taking that as their dismissal, Mick thanked him and he and John returned to their car.
"I have a bad feeling we won't find Mr Murphy until the snow melts, unless he got lucky and hitched a ride," John said.
"And in this weather, that's probably not too likely," Mick agreed.