“These skinny mongrels are the forest firebugs?” I looked into the hard, coal-black eyes of the man in front of me and knew he was the one in charge of all this. He had short, brown hair that sat perfectly on his head. His clothes were clean and his face shaven. This was the face of the organization. This was their Jonas, and I hated him on sight.
“We found them trying to steal one of the trucks, Harold.”
Harold stared in silence for a while before asking, “What should we do with them?”
Since no one answered, I figured he was thinking out loud. Right now, I was watching his every move and picking up on the dynamics of the group. The two guards were following orders and trying to impress Harold, but if he were as smart as I thought he was, we’d be able to deal with him.
I responded though it made my insides itch to do it, “I’m Thomas. He’s Peter.”
“Where did you two come from?”
Peter spoke through gritted teeth, “Ain’t going to tell you.”
His reaction was a little dramatic, but I could use it. “Come on, Pete. These guys are obviously smart. They’ll get the information out of us one way or another. Might as well play along.”
True to his role, Peter looked at me like I’d lost my mind. By now though, he knew me well enough to know I was working to get the upper hand. “You’re just going to tell them?”
“What’s it hurt for them to know?” I sighed loudly. “We were in a school building over that ridge. There are still some people there, and they need medical attention. We were only going to borrow the truck to get them to Mercy. We planned to bring it back. I swear.”
Harold nodded. I could see the plots developing in his eyes. “You’d be better off letting them to die than taking them to Mercy. That place is a deathtrap.”
“We can’t just leave them. They need help.”
“I’ll send a group out to locate them and transport them here. We’ll take care of all of you.”
I knew just how he planned to take care of us. He’d use everyone he found and us for his little operation here. I’d given him exactly what he’d needed—more bait—and he’d given Peter and me a stay of execution…at least for a little while.
“Take them inside. Put them in the room above the stairs. Once their people are here, we’ll get everything settled.”
As the two guards pushed us toward the side door of the warehouse, Harold walked off in another direction. Going to send some of his men out to find the non-existent people holed up in a non-existent school, giving Peter and me an advantage.
Peter whispered to me low, “Hope you know what you’re doing.”
I wanted to reassure him, but I also needed to keep things real. “Me too, dude. We might need a little luck to get out of this completely, but I think I bought us some time.”
The room at the top of the stairs was barely bigger than a closet. Some kind of office at one time, it had windows on all but one of the four walls, but they’d been blacked out with paint. That meant we’d have trouble keeping an eye on those below us, which I intended to do. The minute we got an opportunity, we were taking it. We’d get the truck and get out of here. I was determined, and often that’s all it took. A little sweat equity went a long way. At least that’s what my father used to tell me. I just hoped he was still on our side when we got back. Just hoped the community was still standing by the time we were finally out of this mess.
They’d left us tied up, our hands behind our backs, but this world was full of sharp edges. You just had to know where to look. Sure enough, a filing cabinet in the corner was dented pretty badly—to the point that a jagged edge stood out from the rest.
I signaled with a few nods of my head in its direction. “There’s how we’ll get these damn ropes off.”
A little time and effort later and my hands were free. It took a little longer for Peter, but to give him credit, you had to stand at an awkward angle, backwards to reach the edge. Not to mention how many times I scraped my wrists instead of the ropes against that same edge. But we were free from that nuisance, and I felt a feral smile form on my lips. This could be simpler than I’d expected. These people weren’t exactly criminal masterminds. Just survivors like the rest of us, but they didn’t have a mission they couldn’t fail at, like I did. For my goal, I was willing to do whatever it took, whether I had to fight one man or a thousand, I had no other option but to achieve my aim. Too many were counting on me. Charlie was counting on me.
I approached the window that faced the large open area of the warehouse below this office and scratched at the paint on the window until I had cleared a small spot I could see through. It remained slightly blurred, but beneath us, I could see three men standing in a tight circle, talking to each other. They seemed to be the only ones in the whole place.
After a few minutes, their heads turned in unison, as if they’d all heard something at the same time. With no more hesitation, they all rushed toward the door to the outside.
“Now’s our chance. Come on.” I motioned to Peter and was at the door in three strides, but paused as the handle began to jiggle from someone on the other side of it.
I held my hand up and stepped to the side, motioning for Peter to do the same, so that when the door opened, we’d be hidden behind the door. I grabbed an object from the nearby desk, barely looking at the hard, plastic stapler, but gripping it tight in my fist, ready to use it as a makeshift weapon, though I knew it would do very little damage, but it might slow down whoever was coming through that door long enough to push them out of the way and run.
The lock clicked and the doorknob turned. I raised the pitiful stapler above my head, ready to crash it down or throw it directly at the person on the other side of the door. Yet, the minute I saw the owl-eyed face searching the room, I lowered my improvised weapon and stepped out, curious to see the kid from the truck standing just inside the doorframe.
His gaze finally landed on me, and a determined look covered his features. “We don’t have much time.”
Though the statement was meant to prod us into action, it had just the opposite effect. Peter eased up beside me, his face a study in confusion, the way I thought I probably looked as well.
Peter spoke first, “What do you mean? Time for what?”
“To get out of here. They’ll be back soon.”
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know if I could trust this runt any further than I could throw him, but I asked, “You’re willing to help us?”
“I’ll help you if you’ll help me.”
Always a catch. “We aren’t leaving without the truck.”
He pulled something from his pocket and jangled it in the air. A grin stretched across his face. “Now, will you help me?”
“What do you need us to do?” Peter asked.
He pursed his lips tightly as if holding back bad news, but his eyes hardened again as if he’d crossed a line and could never go back. “I need help getting my brother free, and then I need you to take us with you.”
I stared at him thoughtfully. We didn’t need two more bodies slowing us down, but he showed himself to be useful twice now. Once in giving us a chance to escape and the other in getting the keys to the truck.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“People call me Snap.”
Peter’s face screwed up tight. “What kind of name is that?”
He jangled the keys again. “They call me that because I can get things others can’t, and I can do it quickly.”Satisfied, I nodded. “Well, I’m Thomas and this is Peter. Lead the way, Snap. Let’s go find your brother.”
Hope you enjoyed! Happy reading!