Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Prequel Part 3

Prequel to Reckless Endangerment: Part 3

         Another explosion knocked her forward into the dirt. Spitting soil from her mouth, she looked over her shoulder and saw men outlined by fire running in her direction. She stumbled to her feet and ran through the rubble toward the humvees.  

Air burned her lungs. Gasoline fumes saturated her nostrils. Biting back a sob, she dodged a screaming child. She had no idea where Sally had gone, maybe she’d made it to Marishka’s. Her sense of direction was all screwed up. With another look over her shoulder, she jumped across a ditch and crawled into an overturned humvee. Her gag reflex took over as she crawled over a dead Marine.   

She squeezed her eyes shut and ignored the stench of death that permeated the air. Holding Peter’s backpack and messenger bag against her chest, she prayed for darkness and peace.  

“Anyone alive in here?” she asked, checking the first two men for any signs of life. Dead. “I’m Hope Shane and I have absolutely no business being here, I know. Anyone alive? Please? I really need a Marine right now.”     

     “Hope? What the hell?” A groggy voice answered from the seat next to her.  

     “Oh, my God, Michael.” She could barely recognize his face. Blood oozed from a gash on his forehead. Black soot covered the rest of him. 

        Bile rose in her throat.  

“Never should have left the city. You promised. Glory seeker.” His voice didn't sound like his own.    

“Not much glory here. Now shut-up or they might hear us. They’re close.” She scooted backward until she lay against floorboards. The smell of gasoline and smoke choked her throat closed. Her heartbeat echoed in her ears and pulsated in her neck.  

“We need to get out of here, it's going to explode any minute. I'm stuck,” he said, his voice thin and raspy.  

“I thought you were all dead.” She twisted, tangled with her bag, Peter's bag and tried to free him from the metal bar pushing across his chest.   

“You okay?” he asked, wincing when he straightened his legs out in front of him.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay again." She could barely see him through the tears, but his wound looked nasty. Thank God for the helmet that covered the top of his head.  

“We need to move.  Did you check for survivors in the other vehicles? Did you see any of my unit? No one is responding. I already called for support.” With her help, he broke free and fell against her in a heap.  

      "I didn't check the other vehicles. No time." She rubbed the back of her hand over her face, knowing now was not the time to cry for Peter. She had to find Sally, get home, live another day.  

Michael crawled over her, checked the vital signs of his men and grabbed their weapons. Sounds of hollering and random shots filled the air just outside the vehicle. He motioned for her to be quiet and slithered toward outside. He held a hand out for her, which she took.  

        Staying low and gun in hand, he looked over the edge of the upright tires. "What the hell happened? Someone had to tip them off we were coming. What are you doing here?"

       "A discussion for another day." When he swayed, she grabbed his waist.  

“I don’t need help.”

“You look like you're about to pass out and you're unsteady on your feet. Lean on me.” She adjusted her hold on his waist in order to accommodate the baggage hanging around her neck and maneuvered them down the road. “I need a Marine right about now so don’t pass out on me.”

“I’ll do my best,” he said, a grin slicing through the mud on his face. “I don’t suppose you know how to shoot a gun?”

“I know how.” She guided him off the road. 

An explosion followed by large flames licking up over the buildings made her physically ill. The humvees. She held him tighter, realizing they’d escaped death for the second time in less than an hour.

His weight was heavy against her but—in a strange way—it comforted her. She squeezed his waist. She had him. He lived. He swayed and looked like hell, but he walked next to her. 

         How do I tell a woman eight month’s pregnant that her husband is dead? How do I tell anyone that the person they loved would never come home?  She shook her head to try to rid her mind of the image of Peter's final moments, but the nightmare refused to disappear. 

With every step guilt intensified for pursuing this story, for trusting Nehru, for not worrying enough—as Sally would have said.  

They walked over sandy soil littered with rocks for cover in what looked like a cematery. She shook off the heebie jeebies. No time for hysterics or nostalgia. She dumped out her messenger bag.  

“You’re awfully quiet,” he said.  

“Peter was killed back there. Sally’s missing. She was with me one minute and gone the next. I grabbed his wedding ring, tried to piece his head together...he was in pieces...Sally pulled me out, told me to run, Nehru was with me and then...I was alone.” She used the green head scarf and a bottle of water to wash off Peter’s blood as she spoke.  

“Damn, Hope, I’m sorry. Peter was one of the good guys.”  He sank to his knees next to her.
Hope handed him the rest of the water before jumping to her feet. The blue door. Marishka’s house. They might be safe there. Maybe that’s where Sally and Nehru were. Nerves skipped beneath her skin. She wanted to sit but felt like she should keep going. Find help. Get the hell out of here.  
  
When she noticed Michael swaying again, she cursed beneath her breath. She needed to do something about that gash in his head. He looked as if he were about to faint. That would be a problem. The amount of dirt and blood covering him made him look like a corpse. Frowning, she touched the gash on his forehead.

“I should bandage you up.  You’re a mess.”  


“I’m fine.” He flinched away from her touch. 

Flipping onto her stomach and pushing sunglasses over her eyes, she looked back in the direction where they’d come. She needed to focus. Remember. They’d driven past the house with the blue door, but not far, up around a corner, she thought.  

Concentrating, she stilled her breath and remembered the path.  She needed to get them both to Marishka’s. Being in the open like this made her nerves jump like lightning bugs.

“I know where we need to go.” She half-fell, half-crawled back to Michael who had fallen lifeless against the sand. “Michael. Hey.” She shook him. “Oh, no, you don’t. I need you alive.  So much for my yoga breathing, damn it. Michael.”  She opened another bottle of water and poured it over his face. Although he didn’t exactly jump in reaction, his eyes did blink open.  Relief shuddered through her. 

“I know where we can go. I know what to do. You have to walk, though. Please. When we get out of this, I’ll buy you a bottle of oozo.”  

“Wait until dark. An extraction team is coming.” He tapped his vest. “I’m being tracked. Wait until dark.”

“I hate being exposed like this.”

He shook his head, eyes drooping.  Do what I say this time.”

“Keep your eyes open. You keep drifting away from me, please try to stay awake. I can’t stand the idea of being alone out here. Please.” She shook him when his eyes closed.  “Please, Michael. We’ll talk about Greece, okay? Dancing naked in the moonlight, doing shots until dawn, sleeping ‘till noon.”

“Getting married.” He smiled.  

“Yeah, getting married. Let’s talk. Stay awake.”

Again using the head scarf, she washed his face clean. Although his eyes had closed again, she felt better seeing his skin. Hands fumbled with the bandages that she plastered against his forehead.  The gash was deep and long.   

“God bless oozo.” He pushed himself back into a sitting position.  

Grateful for something else to focus on, she forced a grin. “To heaven and back.”

“Best sex I ever had.” 

       “Amen.”  

“I should have had you locked away this morning.” 

“Never would have happened.” But when she looked at him, she didn’t like what she saw. 

His eyelids drooped. Blood stained the bandages. He checked the ammunition in his gun before glancing into her face.  

She looked away from him and hugged her knees to her chest. For the first time, she noticed the amount of blood on her jeans and arms. Blood that belonged to others. She closed her eyes and exhaled. 

Breathe. Concentrate. Deal it with it later.  

He yanked on the floppy hat she wore over her braided hair. “I’m going to be fine, Hope. Trust me. I’ll get us out of here.”

Blood trickled from beneath the bandages now stained red. She didn’t like the glassy look in his eyes.   

        “We can’t stay here. You know that. You need help.” She glanced back toward the town. “We can go to Marishka’s. I know where to go.” 

Or at least she hoped like hell she knew.  

When he swayed again, she knew she needed to get him up now or not at all. With both hands on either side of his face, she knelt in front of him and leaned her face close to is. “Listen, I know I shouldn’t be here, know I screwed up, but right now I’m glad we’re together. Do you understand?  I need you. I need you to walk with me. I need you to trust me. Can you do that?”

“You need me. I got it. Where?”  He staggered to standing and fell against her. “I can’t see.” 

Well, fuck, fuck, FUCK. She bit the inside of her lip to stop a frustrated scream. 

Arms around him, she struggled to stand under the extra weight. “It’s gone from pure chaos to utter silence, so I have no idea what that means, but we’re going back. If she’s still alive, I have a place to stay. Marishka will hide us until help arrives.” 

“Marishka?”

“A woman, my story. It was her son who drove us here.”

“Not safe.” He shook his head and stopped walking. “If anyone knew you were meeting with her, then she’s dead.”

“No. She isn’t. Sally might be there, too. I can’t just leave her, you know. I need to find her.”      She shook her head and prayed her words were true.  She urged him forward. “Trust me on this.  I have a feeling.”

“A feeling?”

“Don’t mock.” She forced a grin and glanced up at him. “You passed out on me back there. Don’t do it again.”

“Sorry, ma’am.”

“We passed the ma’am stage after an hour of knowing each other.”

“There’ll be an extraction team…we have to…”  His words trailed off into silence.

“Of all the Marines in all of the deserts, I’m glad I found you.” Alive, she almost said but thought better of it under the circumstances.  

She steered them toward the alleys and hoped she remembered where to go.  She ignored the shouts and the random gunfire, her mind focused entirely on reaching Marishka’s home alive. 
Michael dropped to his knees several times, bringing her down with him.  Each time she feared she would lose him, but each time he stood again.  

“I think that’s it,” she said, pointing toward a house with a blue door several feet away.  “Wait here.  I’ll check it out.”

“I’ll go with you,” he whispered.

“You slow me down. Wait here. I’ll be back.”  On impulse, she stood on tiptoes and kissed him with all the emotion she had pent up. He moaned and opened his mouth beneath hers. Warm. Alive.  Heaven amidst disaster. She pulled away and grinned against his chin.  “Don’t move. I’ll be back.”

“Promise?”

“Hell, yes, I promise.” Without another word she ran toward the house, careful to keep to the shadows. One look inside the window affirmed her belief that this was Marishka’s home.  

Slipping through the door, she listened to the quiet voices coming from the back of the small house.  Her heartbeat echoed in her ears as she crept toward the sounds. She held her breath, worried that the slightest sound could get them killed. Marishka leaned over one of her children, singing him a song and smoothing back his hair.  

“Marishka,” she whispered loud enough for the woman to hear but as to not wake the other children.  

The woman whose veil had been removed turned in shock at the voice. Brown eyes widened in disbelief. “Miss Shane?  You’re alive.”

“For now. I need a place to hide.” She followed Marishka into the front room, away from the children.

“Of course.”  

"I know how dangerous this is for you. I wouldn't ask but--" 

“You are here because you trusted me enough to come. Where are your friends?”

“Dead or missing.” Her voice hitched on the words. Her throat felt as if it were lined with rocks and dust. “I have a wounded Marine with me. Do you have a place for us?”

Marishka’s eyes filled with compassion. She nodded and led Hope to the back of the house down a narrow passage and pushed on a what looked like pantry shelves that revealed a small room complete with a cot. Paradise. She thought it best not to ask why Marishka had a room that had obviously been designed—and used—for hiding. She knew why.  

“I’ll get Michael.” She dropped her bag into the room and ran outside. At first she didn’t see him because he’d slid down the wall to the ground. “C’mon. This is it.”

“Too dangerous.”

“Like sitting out in the open feet away from people who want us very much dead isn’t dangerous?  Get up.” She grabbed his arm and pulled until he stood. When he staggered forward and fell to his knees, she bit her lip.  

Marishka darted outside, veil in place to cover her hair and reached for Michael’s other arm.  The two women looked at each other with silent understanding and guided him inside.

Keep reading...


1 comment:

Molly Davenport said...

I am liking the "action" parts. Very nice and very well written. I wanted to turn the page, I guess I get to tomorrow!