I ducked low and began to run a zigzag course past the house. Rasima shouted in Arabic. Gunfire. Shouts, screams, feet crashing after me. I couldn’t risk turning. My skin prickled, expecting a bullet.
I stepped in a bog, pulled my foot free, swerved right. A stitch in my side, but the crashing and flailing behind me propelled me forward.
The river appeared so unexpectedly that I didn’t have time to stop. I fell forward, face landing on ice, feet in water so cold they were numb almost before I pulled them out.
Brown water, churning uneasily under blocks of ice. I didn’t try to stand but began sliding on my butt across the ice toward the far bank. The block I was on cracked, started to break. I stretched out an arm for another piece and managed to slide across just as the first block splintered.
I saw Kettie’s orange jacket. He was running full tilt, but Mitty grabbed him a second before he fell into the river. Mitty fired at me. My second ice block began to crack, and I slithered, feet down in the water, arms grasping the edges. I twisted, flopped forward. The ice bounced but righted itself. A small branch floated by. My hands were almost useless, lumps of ice themselves, but I managed to grasp the branch and use it as a makeshift paddle.
I was in the middle of the river. The current was strong and spun me around, pulling me toward the big water. I braced myself with my branch and heaved myself to my feet.
“Come for your Dagon, Kettie: it’s going to be in Canada in five minutes.”
I swung the sock over my head in a loop. Mitty started to fire again, but Kettie shoved him away – if a bullet got me midriver the Dagon was gone forever.
I turned my back on him and began a clumsy steering of my ice sheet. It was shrinking, water was sloshing over my feet. I banged into a tree that the river was carrying. The impact knocked me off my feet. I grabbed at the tree as I fell and managed to straddle it. The tree slammed against an ice mass that heaved with the swollen water. An unstable dam of ice connecting the United States to Canada sixty feet away. I can go sixty feet to Canada. One inch after another, it’s how we get there, get to safety, to freedom.
River fog rose in front of me. Cold owned me. I turned and saw Kettie’s orange jacket, coming toward me fast. He’d made his way to the American end of the ice dam and was almost running toward me.
“It’s yours, Gervase, you win,” I screamed, and hurled the wet sock toward him.
Kettie lunged and grabbed the sock as it hit the water. He pried it open and stuck his hand inside. When he realized all he had was wet wool, he roared with fury and flung it into the river. Mitty fired again, a rifle spraying bullets across the ice. There came a sudden roar; the ice dam broke and the river hurled billionaire and bodyguard out toward the big water.