As I ran I tried to formulate a plan and realized there were just too many variables. I heard Reggie call Ginger on the hand held and tell her to batten down the hatches and to head to the storm cellar if things got too close to the house. I was thankful that Jax had convinced me that, ugly or not, shutters on the exterior doors were needed. The bad guys would need explosives to get in. But I was going to show them some explosives before they could show me if they had any of their own.
I ducked behind a tree and then down, pulling out smoke bombs from my vest pockets three at a time. I ran, lit, and dropped which blanketed the woods in a nauseating kaleidoscope of colored smog. Reggie was doing the same thing; it was a common tactic during the many paintball battles we’d both been combatants in.
I heard a sudden gagging on my left followed by several vulgar expletives and the question, “What’s that smell?!”
Finally getting a whiff I realized that Reggie had added stink bombs to his mix. The smell was an eye watering combination of rotten eggs, brimstone, and rancid cow flatulence … powerful enough to gag a maggot. The complainer and his companion stumbled in my direction and the Bushmaster welcomed them to my forest and then sent them to their Judgment.
I ran forward and rolled them off the path and into a depression created by a fallen log. I didn’t want their buddies finding them too soon and helping themselves to any ammo. In this battle of attrition we needed every advantage we could scrape together. I changed magazines and realized I would need to be more cautious; burning too many bullets on each target would leave me empty with too many targets left.
Then I heard a horrible series of screams from the direction of one of the most wicked boobies we’d set. The directions for it had come out of one of Dad’s multitudinous number of military survival manuals (http://www.stevespages.com/page7c.htm ) and we’d set it in a small gravel pit created by the leftover stuff we’d bring in from the rock quarry to smooth the road. Basically it was a cross between a land mine and a napalm bomb. The results were not nice at all … but then again we hadn’t been trying to for nice.
Then there was another scream this time from the direction of a large hole left over from where a tree rotted leaving a pit where its root ball used to be. We’d filled the hole with punji sticks and then camouflaged it. The result would be worse than a bear pit for whoever fell in. Either the men had accidentally stumbled into the boobies or Reggie was going crazy on ‘em. It turned out to be a bit of both and I knew it was passed time for me to join the dance in earnest.
I headed for one of the hunter’s blinds built into the trees and scrambled up the tree – my shoulder thumping wildly – to get above the smoke. Reggie was still lighting and tossing every chance he got so the smoke was thick but I still saw barrel flashes shooting the direction I’d spotted him running. Time for another claymore.
It blew before it hit the ground in the midst of a small group of baddies with predictably dire effect. I grinned a little madly, glad that I’d shorted a couple of fuses. The three that survived that blast stumbled away in opposite directions; one of the men straight into a homemade landmine and the other two straight into Reggie who gave them a short burst from the AR15 he’d liberated after the Caulderman Cache Raid as we had begun to call it.
A bullet hit the tree right next to my face sending splinters into my cheek and I nearly fell from my perch. At the last second I was able to grab onto the tree with my boots and slide down the trunk rather than fall onto my head. If I hadn’t had gloves on my hands would have been ruined but they did so I didn’t ruminate on it. Ducking into an animal tunnel in the adjacent briar thicket I crawled out of the other side with only a few scratches. While my attacker was still looking around the tree trying to find where I had got to, I popped up and put two bullets in his center mass. He wasn’t immediately dead but he would be shortly.
Loud noises to my left startled me … and the two men that had been trying to sneak up on me. At their yelp I pivoted, the Busmaster still leveled in the right direction, and burned too many bullets out of fear. As I fussed at myself for being stupid, and changed clips once again, I finally recognized what the noise had been after I heard another one; Reggie had set off a couple of our homemade flash bangs.
I flattened myself on the ground because I had heard multiple pairs of boots running in my direction. I saw Reggie come out of a cloud of smoke and reached up and yanked him off the path. That was dumb because he’d fallen on me and the impact tore hard at my already sore shoulder. I covered my own mouth to keep from making any noise. Once Reggie saw the problem he put his hand over mine and I breathed through my nose as the bad guys ran passed us.
Through the tears in my eyes I saw Reggie’s questioning look. I nodded my head to let him know the yell was under control. Then we both belly crawled to a depression about twenty feet away while the bad guys stumbled around in the trees cursing and in general giving their positions away without what seemed like a fear in the world. Then we both froze as three of them stopped practically right on top of us.
The first guy gibbered, “I’m tellin’ you Risky we gotta go. This place is worse than the other ‘un. No tellin’ how many guys they gonna put on us. They got bombs man! And Reaper came outta da woods with his face meltin’ right off man! This is just messed up!”
The one called Risky answered, “We can’t you idiot. If Suicide finds out we bailed on him he’ll kill us.”
The third guy shook his head and said, “I vote we don’t go back to that pissant little hole. They ain’t got nothin’ left but some hoes and I already done most of ‘em twice … a few a whole lot more ‘n twice and I’m bored wid ‘em. Let’s go get some new hoes that ain’t all wore out.”
Risky said, “Now whoa man. They got that dude that says he can get the power on.”
The complainer asked, “You heard how much work that’s gonna take?! F*** that s***. Let’s just head south like we talked about, pick up some jack and a couple a sin nor ritas – fresh young ones – and hang on the beach all winter drinking mojitos. Let the cops and pansy soldiers do they jobs and clean this s*** up. It ain’t our problem and ain’t no way I’m gonna bust my a** like that brainy freak wants. I can’t believe Suicide put him in charge. I know they white and think they run the world but who the f*** does that pasty faced piece o’ jail tail think he is?”
Reggie and I were both all ears and as tense as a sheet of concrete board. They shut up when a fourth guy ran up and joined them. “C’mon. Dingo says head to the rides. We’re leaving.”
The guy who’d already warned about “Suicide” once asked again about him. The newcomer said, “Dingo done said he’s gonna do for Suicide and take over. Says that weird kid told him where to find some supplies left by the military and then we’re gonna sit pretty ‘til it warms back up. By then all this crap’ll be over and we’ll need to get back home so we can hook up with some ol’ ladies what’ll qualify for some fat checks and are looking to make some kids to replace the ones they lost.”
Jittery guy says, “Yeah, I’m done playing in the woods man. I heard some of them punk kids talkin’ how there’s these real bunch of redneck freaks that live out here and they get off on hunting people and skinnin’ ‘em.”
Risky shook his head and said, “Ijit … that’s only in the movies.”
Jittery shook his head and stuck his hand up like he was swearing on the Bible. “No man … I heard it all. See, this is where they got that idea for those moves. These people have been livin’ around here for like a long time and they’re like the result of experiments and s*** by the government. Like that Tuskegee place my momma’s preacher was always talkin’ about. That’s why you never hear about it on TV. It’s like a conspiracy or something. I heard they like to bring brothers down here and they …”
Their voices faded and I elbowed Reggie who was twisting and turning like a worm in hot ashes trying not to laugh. I hissed, “Knock it off. This is our chance. If they’re going to leave let’s try and use the Bangalore on them.” Reggie sobered slightly at my words but didn’t bother wiping the tears that made tracks in the dirt on his face.
We took the safest route down to a hollowed out tree not too far from the blind and pulled out some prefab devices that looked a bit like poles from a cyclone fence … these fence posts however were filled with explosives. Each “torpedo” was basically two lengths of twenty-gauge pip joined in the middle with a coupler, stuffed with a few sticks of dynamite, then capped at both ends with one of the ends drilled to allow for a fuse.
Even stopping to get the Bangalore’s we still made it down and in position in the ditch with the torpedoes all lined up before the bad guys came stumbling and gasping out of the road entrance looking a bit like worn zombies. The reason being that obviously they’d gotten turned around and run into a couple more boobies, at least one of them one of the splatter type that had been full of sulfuric acid we’d harvested from old car batteries.
Seven men … well six and a half if you counted the one that was badly wounded … stumbled out of the end of the road and ran and limped for the two vehicles at the end of the pile up. Reggie and I stuffed ear plugs in our ears, lit our fuses, then dived for the culvert just in case we’d miscalculated. There was this strange WHUMP and then an explosion almost too loud to hear. Stuff started raining down all around us, not all of it glass, metal or plastic if you know what I mean.
The culvert pipe hadn’t been the brightest idea; it echoed the explosion nearly knocking us out. Thank God for earplugs but we could still barely hear at first. When we could hear again what penetrated first was the sound of a couple of gunshots.
“Should have left them to suffer. And look, you’re bleeding again.”
“Can’t descend to their level. Won’t. Besides until …” Coughing preceded a harsh gasp of pain.