I must have been in some kind of shock or fugue state because time passed without my registering it. I had fallen to my hands and needs and hadn’t heard Reggie’s clicks on the radio trying to get a status update. He’d heard the explosions and gunfire through the open window of the cupola … then the protracted silence. He’d called Ginger to man the radio – I didn’t know it at the time but Jax and Aston weren’t responding either – and then took off to find out what had happened to me.
A foot sensibly kicking my LCP out of my reach snapped me back to awareness; Reggie had called my name twice with no reaction but he later told me he’d decided not to take any chances revealing more commonsense than he normally showed. I rolled over trying to pull the Bushmaster into my hands only to see Reggie jumping back and saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!”
I stopped and then fell back to my knees. Reggie ran forward asking, “Are you hurt?”
All I could do was shake my head. Then I realized he was where he wasn’t supposed to be. “What’s wrong? Why are you out here?”
“What’s … what’s wrong?! You never called in! You didn’t respond to my clicks! Is your radio out?”
In what felt like slow motion I checked my radio then handed it to Reggie who looked at it then gave it back to me irritably. I croaked, “Sorry.”
His voice still an octave or two too high he asked, “What happened? I was seriously freaking.”
Tossing a thumb back in the direction of the trucks I gave him a brief explanation. Reggie called in to Ginger. “Odd Man to Big Red. Odd Man to Big Red. You copy?”
I could hear the strain in Ginger’s voice when she answered, “Big Red to Odd Man. I copy.”
“Situation stable but requires hands on attention. Maintain your position. Relay as necessary. Do you copy?”
“I copy. Big Red out.”
Reggie turned to me and with more understanding that I was ready for asked, “You OK?”
Shaking my head to try and get rid of the buzzing in my ears I told him, “Yeah … or will be. What’s the word from Jax?”
He gave me a closed look then admitted, “No word, not yet. Doesn’t have to mean anything though.”
Ever the realist I said, “You know it does. We just don’t know if what it means is good, bad, or neutral.”
Patting my arm awkwardly he tried to reassure me by saying, “Ginger will let us know if something comes in. Let’s check the trucks.”
We took everything out of the trucks worth salvaging at that point and stuck it in the blind. We also stripped the men. In the middle of this Reggie jumped back, dropping the upper body of the corpse he’d been turning over. “Double D!”
Looking over yet trying not to see I said, “He was going to kill me Reg. He was cursing me … he … I … I saw his eyes. He knew who I was and he still was going to kill me.”
Reggie shook his head. “Double D?! But … but …”
Badly troubled as I hadn’t considered being forced to turn arms against those I’d once considered friends I snapped, “I know. OK?”
Reggie took a close look at me and then reached out. “I … OK … I … sorry Lydie. Just …”
Sighing in regret I nodded. “I know.”
We finished the rest of that task silently and then stood contemplating the trucks. “We gotta get them out of the way. Pray they’ll start ‘cause they are too freakin’ big to push and until Jax and Aston are home safe I don’t want to break out a tractor.”
Climbing into the first truck was almost more than my stomach could handle. Despite that fact, it did start up after a couple of tries but ran so rough that all we could do was move it off into the trees a little ways. We talked about it and if worse came to worse we’d push it a little more and send it down the ravine after we’d drained the fuel tank. The second truck wouldn’t even turn over. Reggie looked underneath and said, “Fluids and truck guts all over the ground. This one isn’t moving unless we help it.”
Too wiped to feel much of anything – Ginger related that she’d heard noise from the Houchins farm but there was still nothing from our guys – I was ready just to sit down and give up. Reggie though still had his brain in gear and told me, “Put it in neutral and then try and straighten the wheels. We’ll use the little bit of incline here to roll the truck back to the black top and into the ditch to get it out of the way.”
Putting it in neutral was easy; turning the wheels not so much as the power steering had been shagged by the claymore. The rims bogged down in the clay and gravel of the entrance road and it took both Reggie and I to turn the steering wheel. When I was to the point of swearing Reggie said, “This isn’t just a fluid loss. Bet you bent something too.”
“I don’t give a frell,” I growled. “Let’s just get this done.”
Reggie stopped and had me get out of the truck and then handed me a canteen of water and told me to take a break. Normally I would have told him where he could stick his canteen but I was way beyond that and just desperately needed someone to be a good friend. “Lydie, I know why you’re rushing but we can’t go looking for them so … so don’t flip a switch. I know you want to … heck, I want to … but we could walk in to the middle of something and make a mess of it.”
Calmly I handed Reggie his canteen and then lost it a little and kicked and punched the truck several times. I finally stopped, heaving to keep from puking again … and to keep myself from crying. When I had myself as under control as I was gonna get I took a deep breath and turned to Reggie to say, “Let’s get this done so you can go back and relieve Ginger.” All he did was nod as he understood my tantrum was a form of acceptance. Soon enough we had the truck in motion but Reggie had to jump in the cab to steer it and keep it from going off the road too soon.
Like I’ve said before, anything that starts out too easy is usually the prelude to something really hard. The truck moved smoothly then as it hit the bottom of the road, tailgate first, became the beginning of the next phase of Lydie’s very bad no good day.
The truck shot onto the blacktop immediately in front of a 1979 El Camino. The El Camino t-boned the truck so hard it nearly turned the truck over on its side. The front end of the El Camino was buried in the truck’s side panel. Its front passenger hung half way through the windshield. The driver wasn’t coming out without a giant-sized industrial strength can opener … and a scoop. Four people had been riding in the back of the El Camino and were all ejected on impact and were little more than bloody skid marks on the road.
In shock I ran forward and was helping a shaken Reggie from the truck when another vehicle, this one a small Toyota pickup, came around the curve and hit the back of the El Camino slamming both Reggie and I to the ground. Reggie’s forehead clipped the hood of the truck on the way down, knocking him into my right side. As we started to go down, I tried to break our fall with my left arm and as we hit the pavement I felt a wrenching pain. I didn’t have much time to do anything but feel it because the three guys in the Toyota had piled out cursing right as another vehicle nearly barreled into the back of them.
It was at that moment that one of the bad guys spotted us as I was trying to pull Reggie into the trees and back to the blind to hide. “Dang it! Move Reg!” I told him. “They’ve seen us!”
It was at that moment that I realized Reggie was more than just shook up. Blood was dripping from a gash on the side of his head. I would later find out it was where the seat belt has slung around during the initial wreck and connected with his noggin’. “Hey Reg,” I huffed as I dragged him. “Hug this tree.”
“Wha …?” he slurred as he tried to blink the blood out of his eyes where it was already making his lids and lashes sticky.
I turned to the men whose brains had finally caught up with their backsides and were in the process of chasing us. I took out the first couple in the lead with the Bushmaster. That made the rest dive for cover which gave Reggie and I some more time to beat feet.
Reggie was finally back in the same dimension as me and shook off my arm as he tried to jog and tie a khaki colored bandana on his head to keep the goo off is face. As we ran he said, “Separate and try and keep them away from the house.”
Some might wonder why I automatically obeyed a guy that had just nearly had his brains scrambled but it was instinctual. I’d already followed his lead several times when we’d have big paint ball battles between different cliques from school and I knew that Reggie was a strategizer and could already see a possible repeat of his old tactics. So I nodded and said, “We’ll use the boobies. I don’t know for sure how many there are. I stopped counting after thirteen.” He nodded his understanding and we split up right as the whole group of them came whooping and hollering into the woods like a bunch of baying hounds on the scent of a coon. Well this bit of prey was gonna try and turn the tables on the hunter.