The Battle – Teaser

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Edgar was whimpering with fear and Gigi was still draped over Percy’s shoulder. He stood frozen in the middle of the destroyed train car while the machine gun fire continued outside. Instinct took over.

“Percy,” I said, tugging at his arm. “Lie her down underneath the seats so only her legs show.” He did as I asked, and I turned to Edgar. He was staring at the broken bodies of Sasha and Phillip and I knew he was in shock. I turned his face towards me and heard a few more shots being fired, but fewer screams.

“You have to listen to me. No matter what happens in the next ten minutes, I need you to be absolutely still.”

I pushed him down onto the floor of the car and hid as much of him as possible behind one of the seats, hoping he understood me. My legs, still covered in blood, were going to provide me with camouflage for all four of us. Running my hand down the length of my leg, I swiped it across the back and sides of Gigi’s legs that stuck out from underneath the armrests of the broken seats. Pushing Edgar underneath the seats on the other side of the car, I tugged at his pant leg until his leg stuck out where a window used to be. I wiped my bloody hands across his pant leg quickly.

We could hear voices coming and occasional single shots being fired which, in my mind, could only mean one thing. People were being shot, execution style, while trying to escape. Running was not an option.

“Percy,” I whispered fiercely, and pointed to the far corner of the car, “get down and back.” Before he could go, I swiped my hand across my other leg and then on his arm. My blood smeared bright red over his forearm and I pointed to the floor. “Have it sticking out from under the seat. Go!”

Knowing that by now my legs looked like an autopsy and my hands were covered in blood, I crawled three seats down from where I’d hidden Edgar and draped myself backwards and upside down over the edge of a seat so that my legs would be really visible to anyone who crawled up on top of the car to see inside.

My heart pounding in my chest, I heard the sounds of footsteps on the rocks coming close to our car. Edgar whimpered and I silently pleaded with him to be quiet. If someone volleyed shots into the car without crawling up, we were all four dead. I was taking a calculated risk that they wouldn’t waste ammunition unless they saw a bunch of Americans hiding, cowering. I didn’t intend to give them the satisfaction.

The car shifted as someone hoisted themselves up over the edge of the car. I could hear their footsteps as they walked up and down the car, scanning for survivors. With any luck, the only thing he’d see was a very dead Sasha and Phillip, and a few bloody limbs from under some seats. My face was the only thing someone couldn’t see, as I’d slid my face behind a cushion. I was contorted so I wouldn’t have to fake the face of a corpse. I squeezed my eyes closed and waited to hear machine gun fire.

I thought about Camilla, and the necklace that I wore. I thought about Ano and Jazz thousands of miles away. I thought about Matt, and Carrie and Charlie, having picnics where it was safe; and about Carlie, possibly fighting for her life right this very minute as I was.   I thought about anything that would keep me from moving, anything that would take me away from where I was right at this very minute. Oddly enough, as my body lay across the broken seats of our train car, I thought about my parents.

The footsteps walked up one side of the car, the entire length, and down the other. We could hear foreign voices yelling, calling to each other, and I held my breath. I couldn’t open my eyes. If I opened them we were dead. If I opened them, everything happening around me was real and I would scream. I shut my eyes tighter until the footsteps stopped. The car shifted and we heard him jump down from the top of our car.

Footsteps from all around us echoed and I wondered what was happening. Surely they had no need for a wrecked train in the middle of nowhere. Where were we? How long had it been since we’d left the station? An hour? Two? Fifteen minutes went by and the voices got softer, as if from a distance, but I didn’t move. From next to me, Edgar’s soft whimpering continued and I shushed him as quietly as I could.

After another fifteen minutes my legs and back were aching from the odd angle. I felt the dried blood on my legs and resisted the urge to move them. Another fifteen minutes and all we heard was silence. No voices, no gunfire. I wasn’t sure that we were alone, wasn’t sure it was safe to move. Someone could be posted to remain behind to make sure no survivors escaped. If that were the case, we were dead.

I swallowed; my mouth felt like dried cotton, and yet I kept still. The seconds ticked by and I wondered how long we should wait before moving. From where I lay, I could make out Gigi’s legs underneath the seats. She hadn’t moved, and it wasn’t a good sign. Although I’d never been big on praying, I silently asked God to spare her life, for the sake of the two grandsons who could not lose another member of their family.

From across the car, Percy called in a low voice. “Kate?”

“Yeah?”

“What’d you think?”

I hadn’t moved. I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure. We’d have to find out eventually, however, and it had been nearly an hour since we’d crashed and at least a half hour since we’d heard any movement or voices.

“One of us will have to go check it out,” I whispered. “I’ll go.”

“No, Kate.”

Edgar whimpered from next to me, and we both shushed him before he got too loud. “Percy,” I hissed, “think.” Like I had back in the cave, I reminded him of his responsibilities as opposed to mine. “Stay here,” I said quietly. “Take care of Edgar and Gigi.”

“No.” His voice was above a whisper and I knew I’d have to reason with him quickly or someone would hear us.

“I’m not strong enough to lift Gigi out of here if something happens to you. Please…” I implored, and from the silence, I could tell he was thinking about what I was saying.

I was thinking through my exit of the train car. There was no easy way to do it. I’d have to climb up and lift myself out, making my body visible from any and all angles. Even if I hopped down fast, the noise alone would alert someone that I was here. And they’d come looking for more survivors. Oh, God.

“Percy,” I whispered, knowing he would hate what I was about to say, “if you hear a shot…”   My throat was closing up, knowing that I was likely spending the last minutes of my life right now with him.

“Stop,” he said quietly but firmly.

“Stay put until you’re sure they’re gone.”

He was quiet for a minute more, but finally responded, “I will.”

“Call Carrie. Tell her what happened.”

His voice was hoarse and it broke when he answered, “I will.”

I sat up slowly. My head spun from being vertical, and I swayed for a moment before moving my legs from the armrest. Edgar’s eyes peeked out at me from where I’d stowed him.

“Kate?” he whispered. His voice sounded as if he was five, and I put a finger to my lips.

“Ssshhh. Quiet, Edgar.”

Before I climbed out of the bus there was something I needed to do. As quickly as I could, I reached back and unfastened the clasp of Camilla’s necklace from around my neck. I walked to the rear of the bus and Percy slipped his upper torso out from underneath the seats to reach for me.

“No, stay down. Stay there.” It was going to be harder for me to leave if he came out, and I could touch him. I placed the necklace into his hand. “Keep it safe.”

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