I belly crawled towards the fence. Only a few guards were around and they were as fascinated as the prisoners by whatever spectacle they were watching. I had no idea what was going on but knew I needed to find out. I was slithering around the fence edge when a voice hissed at me from inside it, “I should spank you!”
I nearly yelped with joy. “Abel! I was so worried!”
He was very angry but still trying to be as quiet as possible.“Silenciele mujer loca! This was not the plan.”
I whispered back, “Neither was you getting caught so stop complaining.”
“Shhh. You will attract the guards. Now listen to me carefully. This fence is electrificado. It is very strong and will do more than sting should you touch it.”
Thinking that over I asked, “What’s everyone staring at?”
Obviously frustrated Abel answered, “Hakim and another man are fighting. Hakim is winning so …”
“Uh … maybe I can do something about that. I still have some of those grenades left.”
I could just make out Abel’s face and he looked like he was having a heart attack. “When I get out of here I swear I will spank you.”
“Not in this lifetime you won’t Mr. Macho, not if you want to keep your skin intact. Besides I oughta spank you for getting into trouble like this. Look at you, you’re all beat up and stuff.”
If Abel could have pulled his hair out he would have. His frustration reached a peak and then something strange happened; his head fell forward and his shoulders started to shake. I asked, “What’s wrong?”
He answered, “Usted me ha conducido obviamente insano. I cannot believe I am agreeing to this.”
“I didn’t drive you insane, you were already crazy. And what are you agreeing to?”
A deep southern drawl came from behind Abel and I jumped though Abel’s reaction told me he’d known the guy was there. “I hope thith fella here ith agreeing to let you do thomething that ith gonna get uth outta here.”
The voice was deeper than I remember it being but the speech impediment that came with the words was the same as it had always been. “Benji?”
Another boy told Abel, “Told you she’d remember us.”
“Us” turned out to be a few of the boys I had gone to school with. Abel said, “Shhh. Now is not the time for the reunion like old friends. Day-cee, how many grenades do you have left?”
I told him, “Half dozen of the real ones and nearly two dozen of my other goodies. I’ve got some napalm left as well.” Before Abel could say something I added, “But whatever it is we better get a move on because, well, like I went and started a … um … few fires and the wind kinda seems to be blowing this way.”
Benji muttered, “Daffy Dathey.”
I growled, “Call me that again Benji and I’ll leave you here.”
Abel broke in and said, “Day-cee, I will happily die a crazy man if you can blow up the shed that houses the generator.”
“Sure, where’s it at?”
Another voice muttered, “Oh sure … she’ll just go blow it up. No big deal. There’s only like several men with machine guns guarding it.”
I didn’t recognize the voice but I wasn’t worried about it. I guess their voices had changed since I’d seen them last but they were still the same boys and still more than a little ornery. That told me they probably hadn’t been Hakim’s prisoners for too awful long. In the general direction of the boys I said, “Shut up and leave the mayhem to me.” I took some of the matches and extra lighters I had and shoved them into the crocker sack with the BB grenades. “Heads up,” I told them right before I tossed the bag over the fence.
Abel caught it and I caught it from him. “Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”
I ignored his overprotective streak and whispered, “Stay low to the ground because if one or those real grenades will put you on your hind end, then the two I plan on tossing at the same time will do it even quicker I guess. Share those things out with the boys; they’ll know what to do with them.” Whispering to Benji I told him, “Them are some non-standard toys right there; not just plastic BBs but some metal ones in there too. Be careful none of you take out your own eyes.”
I was about to crawl away when Abel said, “Querida … be careful. I could not live with myself if you were hurt because of me.”
“And I couldn’t live without you period so plan on escaping and following the rest of our plan … K? Daniel and I both need you.” I crawled away to the sound of gagging which was just plain typical of boys of a certain age which is why I’d never been partial to them in the first place as anything other than friends.
I was getting tired of slithering along the ground like a snake but since it was the safest place to be I kept any complaints to myself. I wasn’t real sure how far away I should be when the two grenades went boom but I knew I needed to find some place where I could avoid as much flying debris as I could. It didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for.
The guards on the generator shake weren’t nearly as oblivious as the prison guards had been. They were nervous and as a result their eyes seemed to be going everywhere at the same time. And the shack or shed wasn’t really either one of those things, but more a small concrete building. I realized it was actually the old bathrooms for the city park. I was almost exactly at the spot I had been three years ago … and that is what reminded me it was my birthday.
That thought cleared my head. Too many things had changed forever since that night and this wasn’t a game. Abel and I were fighting for our lives. My focus sharpened and then I felt a shark grin grow on my face. I took out one of the penny bombs I hadn’t given to the boys and I lobbed it on the other side of the guards’ positions.
Sure enough it startled the guards enough that they all ducked and then turned in that direction looking for the enemy. I stepped from around the corner of a concrete memorial plaque and rolled one grenade like I was bowling all the way into the generator shack and then the other so it fetched up at the door frame.
I ducked just in time. Two short explosions followed one on top of the other. The first grenade pulverized everything inside the shack and most of the roof. The grenade at the door destroyed most of the front wall and the guards standing directly in front of it. The pressure and debris took out the other guards but I wasn’t sure if they were dead or not, but they sure as heck were down for a while. The huge sound of a transformer blowing followed the two grenades and what lights had been lit around the camp immediately went out plunging everything into pitch darkness. It was only that dark for a moment however because the glow of the structural fires quickly replaced the artificial light.
I was dazed and banged up. The memorial plaque hadn’t been all that great as a place to hide. My ears were still ringing when my brain finally got the signal through to my legs that they needed to move.
And move is definitely what I needed to do. I could hear all sorts of people hollering, I just couldn’t make out what they were saying. I think it was partly due to my clogged up ears but some of it was because not all of the people were speaking English. I slowly made my way back to the fence section to find Abel and the boys trying to help the weakest prisoners over it.
I reached into my pack and threw a multi-tool at Benji who went to town on the fence, clipping out just enough wires so that people could go through rather than over. Abel took the tool from Benji, obviously not inclined to trust him any more than necessary. I grabbed Benji as he ran by and told him to take people towards Amish Town. “They aren’t going to just going to give charity away – you can’t expect them to put their families in danger – but those that need it can get patched up.”
“Don’t tell me how to thuck eggth Dathey. We were living in them construction portableth at the new thchool thite before we got taken for getting into a fight with thome of Almanzor’th people that came to take what thupplies we had thtashed. We’d left town when Richard King thowed up and my dad figured out what hith game wath. My mom and dad thould thtill be out that way if they’re alive and I plan on finding out. We’ll take thethe other guyth with uth and bury the oneth that don’t make it. You’d better run and find a hole too.”
So saying he grabbed the arm of the guy nearst him and hauled him down a path that lead in the general direction of Amish Town. I almost called to him to tell him about the foot bridge but it would have been a waste of my breath, Benji was even worse about mischief making than I was. If he couldn’t get where he was going one way he’d get there another. I wasn’t the only one that had reason to know where you could cross the river without using the bridges.
Abel picked me up and started walking at a fast but limping clip away from the prison yard. “Hey, I can walk.”
He stopped and put me on my feet behind another building. “Are you sure Querida? You … you do not look so good.”
“Yeah, well you don’t look like you’ve had a walk in the park either.”
He shook his head, “No.” Looking into my face to see if I was fibbing about being OK he said, “We need to get to the warehouse. My gear is there and there are other things that are … useful.”
“Fine,” I mumbled.
Concerned he asked, “What is wrong?”
I told him, “This isn’t going the way I expected it to. I don’t know if people are going to the interstate or if they’re going into the woods. I don’t know if we’ve done any good at all. I lost crazy Richard in the crowd and now we don’t know where Hakim is at.”
We began limping towards the warehouse in question when Abel said, “Battles never go exactly as planned. And this one is not over yet so do not give up.”
I tried to remember that as we got near our destination. Men were running every which direction and in and out of the warehouse too. I sighed, “Looks like we’ve started a war for real.”
After a moment Abel said, “No. Look. Men go in but they come out with only what they can carry and then run off. I think we’ve done it Querida. Hakim’s men are deserting him and taking what they can before they flee.”
That is when several men ran up and started shooting and punishing those that had been taking stuff out of the warehouse. I heard Abel give a sharp, indrawn breath. I knew one of them must be Hakim but I didn’t know which one. Abel was cursing the lack of a gun. I knew what I had to do. I took my compound bow off my pack and took out three broadhead tipped arrows.
In a calm voice I said, “Tell me which one he is Abel.”
“What? Day-ce …”
I shook my head. “We’re wasting time. This way we’ll know for sure and won’t have to hunt him down again.”
Abel closed his eyes briefly then nodded once. He pointed out a man that looked just a little younger than my father had been. I had expected someone imposing looking but he just looked … ordinary. He was short, maybe five foot seven. His skin looked like old leather and his hair, or at least his beard, was streaked with gray. He was dressed in faded military fatigues but he also wore one of those strange scarves on his head. He was just a no-body that had gone and tried to be a somebody for a while. Well his time was up.
The glow from all of the fires gave me enough light to shoot by but the shadows were bad. The first arrow took him in the leg, well below what I was aiming at, spinning him away into a crouch. The second arrow caught him in the back and he stood back up, arching, and spun to face me again. He was reaching for the arrow in his back when the third arrow sunk deep into his heart. He jumped like someone had goosed him and then fell forward burying the shaft even deeper into his chest.
The men all around him had finally noticed his death dance and there was silence for a moment and then they grabbed what they could and ran just like the others before them.