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They were bedded down not far from him, with two fires going that he could see and a sentry sitting almost facing him. That was better. He worried more about peripheral vision. His head was in deep shadow and he could watch the sentry. The man was sleepy, and from time to time his eyes closed briefly.

Some of the soldiers had been raw recruits, young men from cities and towns in Russia. That would not last. He would soon encounter some from the forest, from Siberia or the Urals or from somewhere in the wilderness. He moved off into the darkness, headed west, running steadily along the ghost of a trail.

Joe Mack had been taught that by an old Sioux who was his uncle. The old man had taught him many things, still a warrior at heart, as unreconstructed as Joe Makatozi himself.

Where was Alekhin? Certainly, he would not be idle. His reputation as a manhunter was at stake.

Glimpsing the smoke of a campfire ahead, he turned deeper into the timber, swinging wide around it. On a sparsely forested ridge he looked down and back into the valley of the smoke and saw a cluster of men around two fires.

Westward and north he fled, keeping to the cover of trees whenever possible, using paths only for brief periods and with care. Hunted like a wild animal, he had become as elusive as one. He must, he told himself, be like the mountain lion. In all his years in the mountains, the only lions he had seen had been treed by dogs. They were there; he had seen their droppings and their tracks, occasionally a kill. Of the big cats themselves one rarely caught a glimpse. If they could do it, he could also.

He faded into thicker woods and worked his way further west and south before swinging back to the north. He would find the Chersky Mountains somewhere ahead and lose himself in one of the canyons of which he had heard.

The sentry's head nodded, and with scarcely a whisper of sound Joe Mack eased himself from the hollow tree and stood up. Quickly he stepped around the tree, putting it between himself and the sentry.

That was a mistake many made. To stare into a fire destroys one's night vision for that important moment when one has to adjust to darkness, looking quickly from the fire toward an enemy out there. A good sentry should sit with his back to a fire, never looking into the flames. Yet it was a temptation and a very natural reaction. One that could cost a man his life.

Joe Mack had been taught that by an old Sioux who was his uncle. The old man had taught him many things, still a warrior at heart, as unreconstructed as Joe Makatozi himself.

The man rubbed his eyes, chuckled at some vagrant thought, and then leaned against the bole of a tree, smiling into the flames.

He faded into thicker woods and worked his way further west and south before swinging back to the north. He would find the Chersky Mountains somewhere ahead and lose himself in one of the canyons of which he had heard.

He had been lucky, so very, very lucky. Such luck could not hold. He must find a way to escape this search, a place to hide.

I hope it's a good thought, damn you, Joe Mack told himself. Now go to sleep, for God's sake

Leaving the Kolyma River well guarded, he started a line of one thousand men, at thirty-yard intervals, to make a sweep of the forest, meadows, and hollows south of the river.

The detachment of troops he had narrowly eluded could not be the only one. At any moment he could encounter more. From each ridge and hilltop he studied the terrain before him, always lying down or crouching in cover, letting his body merge with his surroundings. Only when he was sure nothing awaited him did he advance.

Dare he try it now? He waited, doubting if he could move fast enough or move without being heard. Finally the sentry sat down again.

He had been lucky, so very, very lucky. Such luck could not hold. He must find a way to escape this search, a place to hide.

Joe Mack waited. He stretched again to get life into his muscles, and then again he dropped to a knee, and this time he thrust his head out far enough to see.

The sentry went into the darkness to gather fuel, and Joe moved again, further away. The man came back, adding sticks to the fire, his concentration on that, and Joe Mack slipped into the trees and was gone.

That was a mistake many made. To stare into a fire destroys one's night vision for that important moment when one has to adjust to darkness, looking quickly from the fire toward an enemy out there. A good sentry should sit with his back to a fire, never looking into the flames. Yet it was a temptation and a very natural reaction. One that could cost a man his life.

Joe Mack waited. He stretched again to get life into his muscles, and then again he dropped to a knee, and this time he thrust his head out far enough to see.

The sentry went into the darkness to gather fuel, and Joe moved again, further away. The man came back, adding sticks to the fire, his concentration on that, and Joe Mack slipped into the trees and was gone.

He moved suddenly, swiftly, to another tree, melding his shadow into that of the tree.

Like a ghost, he merged with the forest, moving out, down a slope through the trees, free once more, but for how long?

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