It was a typical December afternoon in Minnesota. The sky was overcast and the gloomy clouds threatened to add to the foot of snow already on the ground. A chill wind whistled through the birch and fir trees outside my window. I looked out from my study onto the frozen surface of Loon Lake. I'd bought the house a dozen years ago with the proceeds from my first novel, and I owned all of the property around the rest of the tiny lake as well. It was a good location, far enough off the beaten path for solitude but not so far out that I missed out on the amenities to be found in Minneapolis.
A flash of color out on the lake caught my eye: A young woman was skating on the ice, moving gracefully back and forth across my field of view. She had long blonde hair and was wearing a black sweater and blue jeans. I didn't have a problem with the local kids coming to the lake and skating on the ice. This girl had probably been skating here since she was old enough to lace on a pair of skates. From a distance, she had the look of one of the descendents of the Norwegians and Swedes who had settled the state in the mid-nineteenth century. My only concern was about the thickness of the ice. I hadn't heard that the Town Council had declared the ice safe to skate on yet.
I continued to watch her skate as I pondered some plot concepts for a new novel. She spun and pirouetted with the natural grace of a ballet dancer. Her breath steamed in the frosty air, trailing behind her like a diaphanous scarf made of fog. She continued practicing her figures, arms and legs moving rhythmically. Then she seemed to hesitate for a moment, as if her skate had caught on something. I saw her stumble and fall to the ice, then disappear from my view. I watched for a moment but she did not reappear.
"Oh, shit!" I exclaimed, "She's fallen through the ice!"
I was already running as I said it. I grabbed my parka on the way out the front door and pulled it on as I ran. No time for the rubber boots. I fumbled with the zipper of the parka, then pulled on my gloves. I took a quick look around, saw a large branch that had broken off a tree during an ice storm a couple of weeks before. I ran to the branch and picked it up, then continued running down to the icy lake.
I could see the hole in the ice about fifty feet out onto the lake. The water was about nine feet deep there. I saw the girl struggling to keep her head above the dark water. I slid out onto the ice, using the branch to keep my balance as best I could. I saw her gloved hands scrambling on the edge of the broken ice, trying to get a handhold.
"Hold on! I'm coming!" I yelled as I ran towards her.
"Help me! I fell in!" she screamed, splashing in the water as she tried to pull herself out.
"Hang on! Don't panic! I'm almost there," I yelled again, sliding across the ice as fast as I dared. In a few seconds, I was almost to the hole in the ice. I pushed the end of the branch toward her and yelled, "Grab the branch and I'll pull you out!"
She tried to catch the end of the branch but it slipped away from her. Then she tried again, caught it and held on for dear life. "I've got it!" she cried. "Pull me out!"
I set my feet as best I could on the slippery surface and pulled back on the branch. Slowly, her upper torso slid across the broken edge of the ice, then her hips and legs followed.
"Don't try to get up until I pull you back to more solid ice," I told her, pulling her backwards away from the hole in the ice. After a few more feet, however, her hands relaxed their grip on the branch. I could see that she was shivering and her teeth were chattering uncontrollably. Her face was a pale white and her lips were turning blue. I ran to her and scooped her up in my arms and carried her back to the house, running as fast as I could.
I laid her down on the the couch and ran to the telephone.
"911. What is your emergency?" the female voice on the line asked.
"My name is Dan Sutherland. I'm at 100 Loon Lake Road. A woman was skating on the lake and fell through the ice. I managed to pull her out. I think you need to send an ambulance."
"Okay, Mr. Sutherland. I am dispatching an ambulance to your location. What is her condition? How long was she in the water?" the dispatcher asked.
"She was only in the water a few minutes," I replied. "She's unconscious, shivering and her teeth are chattering. Her skin is pale and her lips are kind of bluish. She seems to be breathing okay."
"You'll need to get her out of her wet clothes and get her warmed up, Mr. Sutherland. It will take our ambulance about twenty minutes to get there. Take her wet clothes off and wrap her up in as many blankets as you can find."
"But I don't even know this woman!" I objected.
"If she stays in her cold, wet clothes, she runs the risk of pneumonia," the dispatcher said bluntly.
"Okay," I answered. "Anything else?"
"Yes," the dispatcher replied. "Check her hands and feet for frostbite. If you see whitish patches on them, don't rub them. Otherwise, you need to rub her feet and hands to get the blood circulation flowing."
"Got it," I told her. "I'll be waiting for the ambulance."
I hung up the phone and went to the closet for a towel and then grabbed the extra blankets and spread them out on my bed, one on top of the other. Then I went back to the shivering blonde-haired woman on the couch. She was still unconscious, but she was breathing fine. She was pretty in a bland, clean-cut sort of way, the type of girl you see by the hundreds at the Mall of America, although her water-smeared mascara ruined the effect. Her eyebrows and eyelashes were blonde, so her hair color was apparently natural. She looked to be in her late teens. I unlaced her skates and pulled them off, and then pulled off her gray wool socks and her black leather gloves. I quickly inspected her hands and feet and was relieved to see no signs of frostbite. Then I picked her up and carried her to the edge of the bed. I felt awkward about undressing this perfect stranger, but the dispatcher had made it clear that the wet clothes had to come off.
I reached underneath her and grabbed the bottom of the black sweater and pulled it up over her head and arms. Underneath, she wore a gray sweatshirt. I pulled it off, revealing a white sport bra. Next, I unzipped her skin-tight jeans and tugged them off. Underneath, she wore white bikini panties. This girl was a hardbody, perfect in the way that only a young woman who has never borne children can be. Both her bra and panties were soaked from her time in the water. They would have to come off. I rolled her over onto her stomach and unfastened her bra. Then I rolled her back onto her back and pulled the bra off. Her breasts were a pale, milky white and her nipples were red and hard from being in the icy water. Finally, I pulled her panties off, revealing a neatly trimmed blonde triangle. I quickly dried her off as best I could with the towel. Then I picked her up again and placed her on the edge of the blankets, reached under her and rolled her up in them like a burrito.
I started to work massaging her feet. They felt like blocks of ice. I rubbed them for a couple of minutes until they started to warm up and more color came back into them. I tucked her feet inside the blankets and moved my attention to her hands. She had long, slender fingers, and I rubbed first one hand, then the other. I noticed that she wasn't wearing any jewelry. Soon her hands were warmed up as well. I put them back inside the blankets, then went to the bathroom and brought back a towel to dry her hair. I sat her up and toweled her hair off.
Who was this young woman? I looked through her pockets but found no identification. Then I had an idea. I grabbed my parka and went back outside and looked along the edge of the lake to where it met the road. Sure enough, there was a bright red canvas bag by the edge of the road. I trotted over to it, my breath steaming, and picked it up along with the white boots and pink quilted Gore-Tex jacket next to it, then ran back to the house.
Inside the bag was a sweat suit and another pair of wool socks, and a wallet. I opened the wallet and found her Minnesota driver's license.
"Kristen Lund," I read aloud. "Born 5/12/82." That would make her eighteen. I noted the address, then went to the phone directory and looked through the Lunds for one that matched the address on the driver's license. Ah, there it was: Erik and Julia Lund. I jotted the number down, then called it but only got an answering machine.
"It's three-fifteen. My name is Dan Sutherland," I told the machine. "Kristen fell through the ice at Loon Lake but I managed to pull her out; I think she will be okay. I called 911 and they are sending an ambulance. I will call you again once I find out to which hospital they are taking her. My number is 555-9012, if you get this message before I call you back."
I had just finished the message when I heard the sirens of the ambulance approaching. I checked on Kristen, who was still out of it. I went to the front door and greeted the EMTs as they entered.
"Her name is Kristen Lund," I told them. "Here's her address and phone number. To which hospital will you be taking her?" I asked.
"Hennepin County Medical Center," one of the EMTs replied. They unwrapped Kristen and gave her a quick examination, then, satisfied that her condition was stable, they rolled her back up in the blankets and placed her on a gurney, then took her out to the ambulance.
"I'd like to come see her at the hospital and bring her things to her," I told the EMT as they were preparing to leave.
"That will be fine," the EMT replied.
.... There is more of this story ...