Heather looks dubious and I see her point. These little cabins fit six in theory, but with all our bags it'll be a squeeze. It doesn't help that she's brought a bloody suitcase.
Brent folds his tall frame to enter. "You can sit on my knee, Mills. Give us your snowboard bag."
"Dale can sit on your knee," I say. "I'm sitting here."
Heather ends up on Dale's knee, beside Curtis, with me and Brent opposite, bags jammed in around us. Dale looks so strange without his dreads. With his Nordic coloring, he used to remind me of a Viking. Now he looks more like a game show host.
We speed across the plateau. Such emptiness below. I forgot how huge this area is. Walkers hike here in summer and trails zigzag up. It must be beautiful—a mass of Alpine flowers—but all there is to see today is straggly brown grass and rocky scree. No sign of life, not even a bird. The land looks barren.
No. Sleeping. Waiting.
Like something else up there. I swallow and force the thought aside.
Curtis's knee bumps mine as we rattle past a pylon. He seems unusually quiet, but I can understand that. If this is hard for me, it must be a hundred times worse for him.
The invitation made no mention of it but it's obvious why we're here. In the news the day before his email arrived:
BRITISH SNOWBOARDER MISSING TEN YEARS DECLARED DEAD IN ABSENTIA AFTER LEGAL BATTLE
The others can't have been any keener to come than I was, but how could we refuse? It's natural that he'd want to commemorate it.
There's snow beneath us now, glowing lilac in the twilight. Far above are the towering cliffs that give Le Rocher its name. The Panorama building perches on top, a squat, dark shape hunkered down against the elements.
"So how did you manage this, Mills?" Brent says.
"Manage what?" I say.
"VIP access to the glacier. Private cable car ride and all that. Pretty swish."
I stare at him. "What do you mean?"
"This is the shut-down period. Can't be cheap."
"Why do you think 'I' organized it? Curtis did."
Curtis gives me a funny look. "Sorry?"
What are they playing at? We pull out our phones. The last time I brought my phone up here, I smashed the screen on my first run, leaving a nasty phone-shaped bruise on my hip. After that, I didn't bother taking it up with me.
I show them the email I received and Brent shows me his. His invitation is the same as mine, except it's from M and there's a PS: Lost my phone. Email me.
"Here you go." Curtis flashes his—identical to Brent's.
I never could read Curtis. Is this his idea of a joke?
The cabin rattles as we pass another pylon and my ears pop. This is where it starts to get steep. We've begun the long, long climb up to the glacier.
I turn to Dale and Heather. "What did your invite say?"
"Yeah, same as yours," Heather says.
"From M or C?" Brent says.
"Um, M." Heather glances at me.
Why do I get the feeling she's lying? "Can I see it?"
"Sorry," Heather says. "I deleted it. But it was just like theirs."