In the back of my mind it made sense that we would have to leave before we were ready. Sun still up, a beige RV our escape vehicle, miles of open country surrounding the little farm house Izzy’s family had called home. A perfect cluster of brilliantly placed problems- of course the people we were trying to avoid would, in their way, force our hand. I didn’t even grumble as I sat in the driver’s seat and started our new home’s engine. It felt right to have such a situation thrust on my shoulders. Everything going perfectly would just be TOO easy. I half expected the tire to blow out, or the engine to stall- you know, to keep things interesting. I shoved a handful of honey roasted peanuts in my mouth- wondered briefly where they had come from- and started down the driveway.
The setting sun cast long shadows surrounded by orange light, and I hoped that the odd colors and elongated shadows would help hide our movement. As I turned the RV onto the dirt road I blanched as the dust started to kick up. The wind was still, and the road was dry which allowed the cloud to rise spectacularly into the air. I imagined what was visible from mile distant- how much of an arrow the cloud must have been. I stuffed more peanuts into my mouth, and eagerly anticipated the blacktop.
“Maybel, come up here,” I yelled to the back of the RV.
“Yes,” she said from over my shoulder a couple seconds later.
“Look on the map, find the nearest town along that road.”
She sat in the passenger seat, and opened the map to the right spot. I had already marked where the farm was located, and I had oriented her with it previously in the day. She was sharp, and in only a few seconds had located it.
“Let’s avoid that town,” I said. “Find us a good route west.”
Figuring things out on the fly wasn’t what I wanted, but the alternative was sitting idle while we figured out what to do.
“Turn left at the next intersection,” she said, her face in the map.
I did as she said, a little voice in the back of my mind warning me of trusting her too readily. I acknowledged it, and found myself driving on asphalt. The cloud of dust gone, I eagerly awaited her next direction.
“In about two miles, there will be a small county road, take a left there.”
Confused, I acknowledged her direction, and felt the urge to stuff my face. Her sudden calm and sense of purpose perplexed me, and to a degree unsettled me. The idea started to form in the back of my mind that she was helping them- leading me and Izzy into an ambush. I pushed the feeling down as far as I could, and devoted my mind to driving. I could trust her, and if that wasn't true, well, I'd deal with that when the time came.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and chanced a glance. It was Izzy, a worried look on her face.
“What,” I asked.
“I have to potty again,” she said.
“Well, you’re going to have to wait, ok?”
“But I gotta go NOW,” she said in the sweetest little pleading voice she could muster.
“Take the next right,” Said Maybel.
“Sit down, sweetie,” I said.
“What’d you say to me,” asked Maybel.
My head snapped reflexively toward Maybel’s accusatory tone. “I was talking to Izzy.”
“I gotta pee NOW!”
“Oh,” said Maybel.”
“Go sit down, you can pee when we stop,” I said.
I took the right.
“Can you see the other vehicles,” I asked.
As we turned, Maybel said she couldn’t. I noticed a farm a ways down the road. Big grove, short driveway. A good place to regroup (and let Izzy pee). I made the call, and pulled the RV in, and parked in the grove.
“I’ll pull security if you take her to go potty,” I said.
Maybel nodded, and took Izzy to the bathroom in the back. I got out of the RV, and scanned the area. The sun was almost below the horizon, and I could just make out the glinting of the other vehicles in the distance. I let out a sigh of relief, figuring the worst was behind us when I heard the sound of crunching gravel. I spun toward the sound and saw the car I had shot at, and behind it was a pickup with two men in the back.
“I think I see them in the trees,” came a voice through the evening air.
“Holy sweet damn,” I whispered.
“Holy shit,” said Maybel from behind me.
One of the men in the back recognized Maybel, and pointed yelling, “There’s the dumb cunt- GET HER!”
None of them had spotted me as in my meandering I'd instinctively placed myself in a clump of bushes. Wearing cammies, I was more or less invisible in the failing light of evening. The sun was to my back, and I was entirely in shadow. I never planned it that way- my subconscious must have been looking out for me. Whatever the case, I had the drop on them, and they were well within my engagement range. I brought my rifle up, the reticule coming to rest as the truck screeched to a halt. The person who had spotted Maybel stood and tumbled backwards as two rounds entered his chest. A look of terror stricken surprise was the last expression I saw on his face as I transitioned to my next target.
Shock and awe can be a wonderful weapon if capitalized on correctly. Against barely out of college kids with zero training, the effects of my fire were magnified. When I shot the second man in the truck bed, the two in the cab started panicking and trying to go in reverse. I ignored them for a moment and focused my attention on the car. It too had come to a full stop, and the passenger was poking his own rifle out of his window. I started moving, my weapon up, toward the car. I squeezed the trigger every time my left foot struck the deck, sending two rounds toward the car with each grounding of the foot. The passenger shrugged backwards, trying to shoot at me while trying to hide behind the door.
The driver got hit first- not what I wanted. His arm shot to his shoulder, and the car started edging forward and toward me into a tree. Soon my rounds found the passenger. As he slumped in his seat, one of his rounds found my carrier, causing a loud PING as it struck the steel plate. The sound was somewhere in the distance- all my attention focused on the task of ventilating my adversaries. My brain processed the hit for later and I kept advancing. The truck was pulling out, its tires spitting gravel as the driver attempted to flee. It spun out onto the road, and stopped for a brief second as the driver put it into drive. I loosed a couple more rounds shattering the back window. I thought I saw the passenger get hit, but couldn’t be sure.
In a few seconds, the fight was over. I scanned the area. One man had fallen out of the back of the truck and was flopping around like he’d been run over. The driver of the car was slumped over the driver’s wheel, the horn blaring a long continuous death honk. I moved to the car, and looked inside. The passenger was just holding on, blood soaking his shirt and gun. His breathing coming in short gasps as his body descended into shock. I opened the door, and yanked him out. He fell like a puppet without strings to the ground. I grabbed his weapon, and saw movement out of the corner of my eye. I instinctively shouldered my weapon and swung over to the movement.
A blanket lay across the backseat, lumpy as hell- it moved. I moved to the back door, opened it and yanked the blanket back forcefully. What I saw allayed any doubts as to the voracity of Maybel’s claims, and caused a terrible shudder of rage to course through my body. There was a young girl, maybe 15, bound and gagged with multiple bruises on her body dressed in nothing but a bra and panties. She was silently sobbing, her eyes locked on mine in fear and confusion, her breathing panicked. My heart sank as my rage flared. A switch flipped in my mind. I turned and started down the driveway toward the man lying on the ground. He had stopped flopping, and apparently regained his bearings.
I strode down the driveway silently, the ringing in my ears from the short firefight mixed with the pulsing of the blood in my ears and the distant crunching of gravel beneath my feet. I let the rifle hang from its sling and drew my pistol as I neared him. He reached out for his rifle, and I put a slug through his hand. The report of the shot and his scream seemed muffled- the sight of the young girl bound and gagged filled my mind and pressed all else far and away into the mists of the unreal. I closed the distance to a few feet, and brought the pistol level with his face.
“Mister, please, I-“
The shot rang out and his head snapped back. There was a pause in his movements, then the hind brain took over and he began to thrash. I put two more rounds into his chest, holstered the pistol, turned, and walked away.