"Sorry I was gone so long", Andrea apologized. "I'll get back to that roof right away."
"Sorry! Is that all?" With decidedly curious eyes, Holger looked at his twin sister. "Is that all the explanation you have for literally disappearing into thin air without leaving any message, any trace?"
"Yeah, right, where have you been?", Michael joined in. "I went down to the dock to remind you about your work but only your stuff was there. I looked around and called until I got tired of it."
"Sorry", Andrea said again. She could tell by the look in Michael's eyes that he had been seriously concerned about her.
Indeed, Michael had worried about her. He just couldn't imagine where Andrea could have gone. Of course, he didn't really think that something terrible had happened to her but you never knew. Then, when he noticed a boat out on the lake, he figured that someone had invited her for a boat ride. He couldn't make out what kind of boat it was. It had been too far away.
Holger, on the other hand, had noticed the radiant look on his sister's face right away. As her twin brother, he could read every emotion on her face. "Oh-oh! She met somebody at the dock and followed him", he stated in good-natured mockery.
"You think she met HIM?", Michael grinned. He always had great fun teasing Andrea because it was so easy to make her explode.
Holger looked at his twin sister, tilting his head. "Absolutely! It's written all over her face", he observed, matter-of-factly. "That radiance in her gaze, that unearthly smile on her face …"
"Right, now I notice that too." Michael's grin grew even wider. "And who is the new Loverboy?", he prodded.
Andrea felt her face redden and got annoyed about it. She got annoyed with her brothers as well. "What kind of nonsense have you dreamed up, you dickheads?", she flared up like a rocket. "You are totally nuts! The heat must have gotten to you or something!"
"Come on, baby!" Michael let his long legs dangle from the roof of the chicken house. "Spit it out! Who's the guy that's keeping you from working? Tell me, and I'll nail him to the totem pole!"
"She's too embarrassed to tell the truth", Holger called up to his brother. Behind his hand, he said "It's probably that fat Gregory. Or the egghead from the Johnson-Clan."
"Really, that's enough now!" Andrea took her towel and slapped her twin brother's head. But she did it more in fun than in outrage.
Of course, the news that German immigrants with four kids had ended up in the remoteness of Eagle Creek and wanted to settle there spread rapidly in the small town. After they moved in, many people from town and from around the valley had come to introduce themselves and brought useful little gifts. The Hartmann's had been delighted by all the attention and the kindness of the people. They had been a little worried, at first, about how people in this remote area would accept strangers, especially foreigners. But their worries were proven to be unfounded. They'd recieved a warm reception and after a few weeks at the Arrow Lake they had settled in and were included in the community life.
"Yes, the people were wonderful", Andrea agreed with her brother. "I'm growing more and more fond of Eagle Creek and it's people. Except for some guys I absolutely can't stand", she added with a grim face. "The Johnsons, for instance!"
"Aw, there's a few black sheep in every herd", Michael dismissed. "Nobody in the valley likes the Johnsons. But we don't have anything to do with them, thank God."
"Nothing to do with them?", Andrea erupted. "Of course we have something to do with them! It stinks to high heaven how they vandalize the beautiful forests! If we want to be part of this community it sure concerns us as well. It's our obligation to do something about it!"
The Johnsons were a family clan that owned the sawmill at the outskirts of the village. They aquired permission from the forestry office to log part of the forests in the Eagle Creek area. As the rumour goes, there was something fishy about that permit, concerning bribery of local politicians and so on. Since the Hartmann siblings were standing up for enviromental protection, they couldn't accept the way the Johnson-Clan was clear-cutting in the area. If they kept on going like this, the entire area around the Arrow Lake would soon be one huge pile of logging debris. The natives, especially, were outraged about it and put obstacles in the Johnson's way wherever and whenever they had the chance to, but in the end, they where powerless against this clan.
Michael was done with his work and came climbing down the ladder.
"Okay, Andrea. you're right", he gave in. "But the Johnsons are not our personal problem, they are the problem of the whole community. We share our resentment with many other people. If it'll come to any actions whatsoever, we certainly should be part of it."
The twins totally agreed with him. All of them were willing to fight for their new home, whether it was against the forest fires or against the ruthless exploitation of nature.
The sun was setting and cast it's last rays on the mountain tops. Everything was tinted reddish and reminded Andrea of the Alpen glow that she had experienced many times when she was vacationing in Austria or in the Dolomites with her family. But in that same moment she noticed that the reddish shine wasn't only from the setting sun. The fires behind the mountain ridge were flaring up again. You could clearly see the blazing flames in the thick and dark clouds of smoke. It seemed as if the fires had eaten their way closer. Dangerously closer!
"Did you see that?", she called, alarmed. "The flames just flared up again!"
Her brothers also had concerned faces as they looked over toward the fires. It looked very threatening.
"We haven't been listening to the news this afternoon", Holger said.
"What you don't know won't hurt you", Michael recited. "If they really decided to evacuate Eagle Creek we would know by now anyways, even without listening to the radio." He turned to his sister. "Didn't Craig have any new information?"
"Not much. He only said that it could get critical for us if the wind picked up or if we get more thunderstorms without any rain." Andrea tried to banish the fear that was creeping up inside her again. "Maybe we're doing all this for nothing", she said gloomily, meaning the renovations on their farm. What if the forest fires destroy it all?
"Aw, it won't come to that", Michael pretended to be confident.
"If they do evacuate, it'll be mostly because of the smoke, not so much because of the fire hazard itself", Holger interposed. "Little kids and old and sick people are moved out first. If we do get evacuated it doesn't mean, by a long shot, that our farm will be burned down. It's only for safety."
Michael nodded. "Sounds logical. So, of course we continue working. What else should we do? Sit around and wait until the danger is over? That could take weeks!"
Pensively, Andrea stared out in front of her. Her brother's words had reassured her a little. She could understand the concern about the fumes, but if the people get evacuated just because of the smoke, how could they defend their homes against the fires? Once again, Andrea resolved not to abandon their new farm, but instead, fight for it to the bitter end. She admitted to herself that she had a very unpleasant feeling about it all.
"Actually, what's become of Mom and Dad and Nicole?", it suddenly struck her. "Didn't they want to be back a long time ago?"
"Yeah, about six o'clock, they said." Michael checked his watch. "Hey, it's past eight now!", he exclaimed. "Boy, they're sure taking their time!"
The three of them looked at each other, worriedly.