Friday, February 8, 2013

Prompt: Rescuing Children

Sharon and I lay hidden under the thorny bushes on the ridge. Sweat trickled down my neck and tickled my ribs. Gravel ground into my elbows and my belly where my shirt rode up over my jeans. At least the big black flies were keeping the mosquitoes at bay. She handed over the binocs and I scanned the valley below. She poured some lukewarm water from her canteen on my neck bandana, and I grunted thanks.

I could see the woman on the porch. She had two little ones in her lap, reading an oversize picture book. There was an older girl, maybe ten or so, lying on the porch swing, engrossed in a book. Most of the kids were playing in the big grassy yard, under the bossy direction of a red-headed boy who looked about nine or ten. Three of them were taking turns riding and pushing a tire swing under the enormous live oak that shaded the house; four more were running through a sprinkler, shrieking at the water. There was a trampoline that must be set in a pit, flush to the ground, and three little ones tumbled on it, too small to get much bounce going. They all looked happy and healthy, having fun on a steamy summer afternoon.

I still didn’t have a clue how we were going to rescue those kids. I knew we damn well couldn’t rely on official forces, so it was up to us to get them out. Trouble was—well, one of many troubles, frankly—I wasn’t sure they would go easily or quietly.

“Do you see him? I couldn’t see him,” Sharon hissed. I kept looking, but I didn’t see anyone who might be Charlie. I shook my head slightly.

“He might be inside, out of the sun. I count thirteen. That’s at least three missing. Be patient, Sis. Hang in there.”

I put my hand on her back for a moment, then handed her the binocs. I could see the layout well enough without them. Let her look for Charlie for awhile. The place was ideal for privacy—and security. Nestled in the cleft of two steep, rocky ridges, there was only one long, dusty drive into the valley. Behind the house was a garage and another outbuilding. All three buildings were two stories. I bet there might be some underground space as well, and maybe even connecting tunnels. I wondered if there might be a tunnel leading farther away. Next time I patrolled the ridge, I’d keep an eye out for anything like a hidden entrance. As far as I’d seen, though, there was no sneaking up on the place.

We’d have to go in and out the front, which meant giving the woman lots of warning. Lots of time. Trouble was, I didn’t know how she’d use it. Would she attack us? Hide the kids? Or kill them in some crazy Jonestown scenario.

Sharon’s body stiffened, and she moaned. I knew right away it was Charlie. That white hair and skin would be hard to miss. I squinted my eyes and saw him. He’d come out on the porch and cuddled up with the girl reading on the swing. She had her arm around his shoulder, and he tilted his head so he could see the book, too. They each had a foot on the porch boards, pushing the swing.

I hadn’t seen Charlie in three years, since the night he disappeared. I always picked him up from daycare on Tuesdays and Thursdays, cause Sharon was taking night classes. She stopped to get him on her way home, and I kissed him goodnight while she carried him out to the car. She called me in hysterics five hours later. She’d checked on him before going to bed, and he wasn’t anywhere to be found.

My heart pounded and I could hardly keep from racing down there right this minute. I couldn’t imagine what Sharon was feeling. I looked over and put my hand on her back again. She shuddered.

“Hang in there, Sis. We can’t blow this, now. We’re going to get him. We’re going to get all of them. I need you to be strong for this. Charlie needs you to be strong. So you keep it together, you hear me?”

The sun sank behind the other ridge. We’d stay put till it was too dark to be seen. Then we were going in.

Dogs in house:
Houdini, Brindle

February word count:

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