At the top of a long rise, Detective Niemi leaned heavily on his ski poles, sweat dripped down the side of his face. A vapor of mist formed on the exhale of his deep rasping breaths. He mumbled to himself, “Two miles! Only two miles and I feel like I’m going to die. How did I get so out of shape?”
Niemi’s thoughts turned to two years prior. He knew how it had happened. He had given up. He had wanted to stop living. He stopped running, skiing, just sat in the recliner watching tv, anything that happened to be on, too lazy to change the channel, eating. He let himself go, but who wouldn’t after the loss of an only child?
An oak groaned against forced movement as a strong wind pushed itself east. Niemi looked at the horizon. A low cloud cover was heading in with the threat of more snow. “Well, I told myself I would do the six mile route and I’m going to do it. It’s time to move on.”
As he passed the five mile marker, Niemi told himself, “Only one more mile, then home for a hot sauna.” The thought of sitting in the heat of the sauna, sweating, totally relaxed, gave Neimi a renewed energy. He thought, “When I get to the car I’ll call home and ask the wife to turn the heater on, so that the sauna is hot when I get home and then maybe I’ll have a nice salad for dinner. Now that sounds like a plan.” He smiled to himself, “Maybe this fitness thing won’t be so bad after all, but I have a long way to go.” He padded his stomach. “No more ice cream and sweats for you big fella.”
Niemi pushed forward for the last half mile. It was mostly down hill, so he was able to push, get into a crouch and glide. A bright yellow sign warned of a sharp curve head. “Damn,” he thought, “I’m not going to fall, I refuse to fall.” He crouched, balanced himself over the center of his skis.
As he rounded the corner his right ski came up in air, he leaned precariously and then, then the bullet struck, Niemi flew backwards. His skis pointed skywards. He looked upwards, and mouthed, “David, dad’s coming.”