The body was a small broken thing from a distance. Seen across the snow field there was little more than a coloured smudge against the white.
They couldn’t go for it now, it was too dangerous. There were fissures out there, hidden and lethal. If there had been any chance of life, there would be no option, but they couldn’t justify the risk. Witnesses said that he fell from the summit and there had been no movement since. No reason for him to fall they had said. He had made it to safety, removed the roping and then just fallen back. It was inexplicable, a tragic accident. Maybe a dizzy spell caused by the altitude. Jake had listened to all the radio communication. The panic and distress.
They had called his mobile of course and the helicopter had hovered overhead for a long time, powder swirling upwards in the wash but there was no visible sign of life and so he would stay out there. The dark would hide him and probably more snow would cover him as the season progressed. In a few weeks he would be invisible, nothing but a hump and a sad memory for his climbing mates.
Jake moved away. He wouldn’t come back. Not then, not in the spring. If the season was very cold the body would be well-preserved and if they got to it before the wolves and birds there would be something left for the family but Jake didn’t need to see it. The hullabaloo, if they found the bullet might reach where he was and he would smile at the fuss, but he’d be long gone.
He pulled up the warm fleece around his face and bent to retrieve his ski poles. He had already tucked the rifle into his backpack. As the sun slid away the summits turned pink, and Jake turned to the East and moved off. He loved the snow, the chill and the clear cold air but it would be nice to feel the sun warm on his bare skin and he smiled under his face mask. Life was good when the jobs came up this way. When he got back to the hotel, he needed to call his contacts in Hawaii and organise things ready for his arrival. Another few years working at this pace and he could retire. Maybe he’d come back then and ski with no interruptions.