In hindsight, my showing up Josiah in front of his troops didn’t go as well as it should’ve. As I slept in the bed from last night, a rough hand touches my shoulder. I look up into the raged eyes of Josiah.
“You got all the answers don’t ya,” he asked. I look at him and stifle a yawn with the back of my hand.
“What are you on about, Josiah?”
“You couldn’t tear me down in private could you? No, you got to turn it into a show in front of the entire council. Well, guess what? They chose to go with your plan.” Veins creep across his forehead, his voice is a narrow whisper in the dank caverns.
“You misunderstood what I was trying to say. I have no desire to one-up you, Josiah. Feel free to bum rush a main camp in broad daylight, but don’t volunteer me to do it.”
The look he sent me was one of pure hatred. His fists clench into rock-hard weapons. I prepare to receive several blows before I can leave the bed.
“Someone must rescue our hostages. Who’s going to do that? You?”
“No. I don’t want to rescue people either. You still don’t understand. I don’t want you or anyone else to be making plans that include me, unless we speak about it beforehand. You respect me, and I’ll respect you. Simple, right?”
His eyes show no sign of comprehension, but he nods his head anyway. Without another word, he turns and walks out of the open room. “I may as well get out of bed. There’s no telling what else may happen,” I thought to myself.
Councilwoman Bowers meets me in the hallway. Her eyes reflect her inner storm. Sweat dots her head, her silver hair is damp from the perspiration. She waves me down.
“The council chose to go with your plan. We have sent out scouts to watch the main camp from the ridge. Do you have any suggestions on where to stage the ambush?”
“It’s difficult to plan an ambush when pertinent information is missing, Councilwoman. Does the council have graphics?”
“Do you mean maps?”
“Yes, ma’am. I need a topographical map, and a protractor/compass.”
“We should have that material somewhere in one of our office spaces. I’ll send for you when we have it ready to go.”
She struts off into another part of the cave. Sound carries throughout the open area. “There’s no such thing as a private conversation. I’ll have to remember that tidbit in the future. Although it’s weird for people to be silent for this long.”
As I walk to the wash area, people huddle together in small cliques. Whispers are the new form of communication. I start to clean up, when a young boy, no older than 9, rushes into the latrine.
“Are you Michael Finny?”
“Yes,” I respond. He looks at me and tells me to follow him. I walk behind him, and he leads me to the council room. Mrs. Bowers, Josiah and Terry sit around a table. A large map is in the center of the table, the three of them gesture and mumble in low voices.
“Thank you for joining us, Finny.” Terry nods at me, Josiah scowls, and the Councilwoman crosses her arms.
“Yep, you’re welcome. Thanks for inviting me, Councilwoman Bowers.”
“We have the, uh, what did you call it in the hallway?”
“Right. So, where do you think we should set this ambush?” Josiah glares at me. I look at the graphic and point out a narrow canyon. If they head south, we can take them in this canyon. We could have a team in place to kill the lead and rear vehicles. Both teams will have fire superiority from an elevated position. That will seal the fate of any enemies in the killzone.”
Terry, Mrs. Bowers, and Josiah stare at me in shock. I look at them and wait for the question that is bound to drop any moment. Josiah licks his lips and asks the question:
“Have you done this before?”
“Yeah. A long time ago. In another life before I became a history teacher.”
“You said we can do this if they take the hostages south. What happens if they move them north?”
I point at the graphic. The contour lines on the map are very close together, reflecting steepness.
“It’s going to be hilly, which means more than likely we will be on equal terms. Any advantage we have in an ambush would vanish with the use of vehicle machine gunners.”
“So, it’s hopeless,” Councilwoman Bowers said. Terry and Josiah look at the floor. “We will have to pray that they take them south.” I shake my head no.
“It’s not hopeless. We may catch a break, and we can hit them at night. Although, the odds of our hostages surviving a fall down the mountain would be nil. Still, it beats what the future may hold for them in this concentration camps.”
“The media calls them indoctrination camps. They say it’s to bring us back into the fold.”
“Uh-huh. I’m sure we can ask the Holocaust survivors about their stay in said camps. Or the Japanese held in camps during World War II.”
Josiah and Terry begin to fold the graphic when a scout bursts into the room. He doubles over and pants. His fellow scout is hot on his heels.
“What is going on? Why are both of you here and not gathering intel?”
“They are moving the hostages.”
“When,” Josiah shouts. Both scouts look at him. “Spit it out, you worthless scouts.”
“Tonight. The guards said they would roll out at 1930.” I clap a hand on each scout’s shoulder. “Did you happen to hear what direction they would be traveling?”
“South, Finny.” I smile. “Awesome. Great job, guys. Thanks for bringing us this information.”
Councilwoman Bowers walks the scouts out. Josiah looks at me. “Do you want to go to the armory. We have a party to plan.”
“You bet. Let’s go check out the party favors.” Together we walk down the hall.
In the armory, cases of ammo lie stacked against the walls. Weapon racks hold M-4s and M-16s. There are boxes of bullets, boxes of claymore mines, and crates of 40mm grenades everywhere in this small room. “I like it!”
We load what we need into packs and head out. Upon arrival to our ambush site, I call the group together. I lay out the plan so we are all on the same sheet of music.
“Josiah and a six man team will take out the lead vehicle. Terry will lead the second team and take out the rear vehicle. I will be the floater. Which means, I will help out where I can. Once we have taken out the convoy, focus on releasing the hostages. Then we can scavenge. “
Together, we set the claymores up to disable the vehicles. Then we climb to our fighting positions. In the distance, headlights break through the evening darkness.
As the vehicles draw close, the claymores detonate. At the same time, the teams aim for the machine gunners. Rapid shots ring out in the canyon. Those who were still alive in the vehicles dismount. “Bad mistake, you should’ve kept to cover.” Bullets rip their fleshy bodies to shreds. It’s over before it ever gets going.
Terry and Josiah take their teams and sweep through the wreckage. The hostages hug their saviors and together we scavenge what we can use from the victims of our assault.
Then we make our way back to our hideout.
A smattering of applause greets our return. “Jesus, we left over twenty bodies in that blood-filled canyon. It’s not something you should applaud.” I kept my peace, though.
“How did it go,” Mrs. Bowers asked. “Who did you rescue?” I shake my head. “I don’t know, ma’am. I wasn’t in the search party. Some of the team members seem to know who they were.”
“Did you see Tim or Beth,” she asked.
“At least we have some of our people back.”
“Yes ma’am, that’s important.”
We walk to the dining area and I pour me some Corn Flakes. She watches as I pour warm milk over the dry breakfast food.
“Do you think Beth is dead, Finny?”
“If she isn’t, she may wish she was,” I thought in the quiet of my mind. “Nah, she is still alive.”
“Do you believe that or are you trying to comfort me with kind words?”
“I don’t know what to believe, ma’am.”
“Okay. In your experience, do you believe my children are suffering at the hands of the wicked doers?”
Tears fill her eyes as her imagination runs rampant with different scenarios. “My poor Beth. God only knows what those heathen have done to my sweet child.”
I nod and stay silent. Her tears trickle down her cheeks, but she doesn’t sob or wail. Instead, she is a mother who fears her children’s demise in a world gone mad.
“How do we free Beth, Finny?”
“I don’t know. We need a lot of intelligence before we can launch an attack to free her.”
She shakes her head no. “We can’t wait, Finny. We go and get my daughter. I don’t care how much it cost me, or how many we have to sacrifice to do it.”
“That’s grief speaking,” I said. “You don’t mean that. These folks look up to you, they seek your guidance. You won’t throw it all away on some foolishness.”
“I don’t want her to suffer. She is only 21.”
She looks at me, there are no tears left. She pats my hand and walks away. I watch her go.
In the evening light, I take a 45-70 lever action rifle with a 3 X 9 X 50 Leopold low-light scope and creep out into the night. Snow drifts down as I make my way to the main camp. Huge lights burn away the dark, I stick to the shadows.
“Jesus, what are they doing to people here?” Across the yard cages are in a row. People fill the cages and the snow continues to fall. Guards stand around and torment them.
“Go get the girl, you know the pretty one, Beth.” The guards laugh as the people in cages sob. I lie in the snow and wait. A guard brings Beth out and throws her to her knees.
A guard stands in front of her and smirks. “Hello darling, I’m about to ruin you for all mankind. When I’m done, no one else will ever replace me.”
Two guards hold her down. I move the rifle scope to where it would be most effective. Then, I pull the trigger. The bullet struck Beth between the eyes and tore into the guard center mass. Blood and brain matter color the snow red.
I move out in the darkness as the sirens wail. The lights drive the shadows away, as I run for the darkness.