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Cyclops One DeFelice Jim




44

As he reached the road he looked down it to his right. It curved sharply northward; he could see the edges and roofs of buildings beyond.

A figure appeared just taking the turn about two hundred yards away. Dressed in grayish white, the man wore a headband and carried a rifle.

Another figure appeared behind him.

McIntyre took a step back toward the building, then realized they’d look for him there. He ran instead along the road as he’d intended, holding the rifles in his hands. He heard gunfire, trucks, aircraft maybe; he sensed that the commotion wasn’t about him, but knew that if he stopped he’d be caught in it.

Fear overcame his exhaustion, and he ran at a decent pace for perhaps ten minutes, running at the side of the road as it curved first left and then right. A stone wall started abruptly at the right side of the road about ten feet past the second curve. The wall, chest-high, was made of pure-white stones that all seemed the same size. His breath finally failing, McIntyre ran behind it and collapsed to the ground, unable to move.

When his will returned, he saw that there was a house a short distance away. The whitewashed brick facade was punctuated by oversize windows with elaborate wooden frames, as if the glass were part of a shrine. A mountain rose several hundred yards behind the property, its bluish-black flank punctuated by the brown scar of a road.

McIntyre got up, making sure he hadn’t been followed, then began walking to the back of the house. A metal shed sat at the edge of the yard, collapsed on the ground, its roof and walls a bright mélange of rust and white paint. McIntyre went to the shed and examined it: If he had trouble in the house he could retreat there and hold off anyone who came out. He put one of the rifles down, propping it at the back so it would be easy to grab. He hesitated. The gun was easily seen and, if taken, might be used against him. McIntyre hid it under a loose piece of metal siding at the back of the ruins, then went to the house.

There was no door in the back but there were two large windows. Long drapes or curtains blocked off his view of the inside. He went to the one on the left and pushed; it gave way easily.

He stepped inside, heart pounding.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust, and another for him to figure out that he was in a bedroom. There were two thick mats at the side on the floor, blankets; with a start he realized there was an infant tucked on one side of the bedclothes. Maybe two or three months old, it stared at him with one eye, following as he walked as quietly as he could to the doorway.

Not a baby: a doll. He realized that as he put his hand to the slatted door.

Before he could touch the doorknob, it pushed inward. He stepped back as a woman entered. She saw McIntyre and froze.

She had an infant against her chest. He’d already leveled the gun at her.

“Are you alone?” he said.

She didn’t answer. It wasn’t clear whether she understood or not. Her face had paled, and her eyes wore the glaze of a death mask.

Somehow her terror terrified him as well, though he was the cause of it. For a moment, he couldn’t speak.

“Alone?” he managed, voice cracking.

The woman nodded. He pointed with his other hand, motioning for her to back up. She took a step out into what he thought was a hallway but turned out to be a large common room. There was a TV and some upholstered chairs on one side, an old sewing machine, a pile of fabric, something that looked like a shrine on the right. Beads covered another doorway to the front of the house. A slatted wooden door similar to the one to the room he’d come in through sat opposite it. Staring at it, he went to the door, looked at her; neither she nor the baby moved, or even seemed to breathe. McIntyre rapped on it, then reached down and turned the knob. He flung the light door open with his hand. It was another bedroom, this one with real mattresses, though they were all on the floor. He couldn’t see anyone in the tumble of clothes and sheets.

“All right,” he told the woman. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He reached into his pocket and took out his phone.

The woman’s cheeks seemed to implode as the baby began to wail. Tears streamed from the mother’s eyes. McIntyre pushed her to the floor; he tried to be gentle but she collapsed in a tumble. He went back to the front room. There was a table there, a washing machine, a stove, an old refrigerator.

Something had happened to his phone. He couldn’t connect.

He went to the window, tried again.

Nothing.

Cursing, he punched the Power button twice, staring at the corner of the screen where the battery icon would appear. It had about a third of a charge left; it should work.

There were sounds outside. McIntyre turned and saw something moving by the window, then realized there was someone coming through the doorway. He spun around and pressed the trigger on his gun.

A small child, a boy of four or five, had come out from hiding near the closet where McIntyre had missed him earlier. By the time McIntyre realized what he had shot, the boy’s neck had been cut nearly in half by his bullets. In the next moment the child’s mother ran into the room, screaming, a knife in one hand and the little baby in the other. He took a step to the side as if he were a matador, pushing her slight body to the floor with his left hand. She rolled to the floor, the knife clattering away as she collapsed in a convulsing heap over the baby.

Blood from the dead child flooded around her. McIntyre took a step back, his head pounding. The whole house seemed to shake.

It was shaking: A helicopter was flying nearby.

Chapter 18

Duke trailed along the south side of the road just a few yards behind the man who had the point. Their man had called from a point about a mile up the trail, near what passed for a highway here — right in the path of Indian troops pursuing a small band of Muslim guerrillas.

Poor bastard’s luck was holding.

He hadn’t called back yet, a bad sign. They had the building where he’d called from pinpointed about a quarter of a mile away. There was a village along the highway to the right; to the left the road switched back and forth like a snake, gradually making its way up a mountainside beyond. There were a few small houses in that direction; they’d check them after the building, then take stock before reconning the village.

Assuming the Indians and Pak guerrillas hadn’t started taking shots at them yet. The Osprey had let them off a quarter of a mile behind in a sloping field, then taken off. Duke had left one of his men and Fisher aboard to play cavalry if needed.

Duke came to the edge of the field behind the building. McIntyre had picked a good spot: It would have been easy to make a pickup here.

Poor dumb bastard. Just had horseshit luck.

“Let’s take a look,” he told his point man. But before they could approach the building, two figures dressed in dark brown clothes emerged from the opposite side of the field and ran toward the highway. Duke and his trooper ducked down, watching as the men — obviously guerrillas — checked the road and then crossed. Two others appeared from near the building, running up near the road and setting up a position there.

Trucks were coming down the road.

Chapter 19

McIntyre fled in the direction of the helicopter, running toward the building he’d been in earlier. He got maybe a hundred yards before his lungs started giving out and he felt stitches in his side like knives. He stopped, then abruptly fell to his knees. Bright dots of red covered his knees; he stared at them, thinking for a moment that they were paint.

Then his stomach started to turn. He felt as if a fist had taken hold of his insides, punching upward. Vomit spewed from his mouth; for a minute, maybe more, he retched uncontrollably, only vaguely aware of his surroundings.

Deep instinct took hold of him then, made him wipe his mouth on his shoulder, forced him back to his feet. He left the idea — the absolute knowledge — that he was a murderer in the pool of puke and began walking toward the road. His legs shook; he was far past his limits of endurance. But the instinct that had picked him up would not let him stop. He walked to the stone wall, paralleling it for a short distance, tripping in the loose dirt and vegetation. Realizing that he could make better time on the road, he put his hand on the wall and went to hop over. He didn’t have the strength nor the balance; his legs landed awkwardly, but he managed to get both on the ground and, though stumbling, kept himself going.

Sounds were jumbled in his ears: vehicles — tanks, maybe — and gunfire. He walked a bit farther, maybe twenty feet, then realized something else was coming up the road from behind him. He climbed back over the stone wall and hunkered down, waiting for what seemed like an eternity. As he waited he realized he’d left the other gun behind at the wrecked shack; for a moment he actually considered running back to get it.

Instead he decided to try the phone again. He turned it on, waiting this time as the small screen flashed.

He thumbed the menu, selected, hit Send.

Nothing.

Chapter 20

One of the guerrillas fired a bazookalike weapon at the lead truck as it rounded the corner. The missile plowed into the engine and exploded, but most if not all of the men in the back managed to get out before the fire really got going. In the meantime other troops surged up from behind, fanning out in pursuit of the guerrillas.

44

Жанры

Деловая литература

Детективы и Триллеры

Документальная литература

Дом и семья

Драматургия

Искусство, Дизайн

Литература для детей

Любовные романы

Наука, Образование

Поэзия

Приключения

Проза

Прочее

Религия, духовность, эзотерика

Справочная литература

Старинное

Фантастика

Фольклор

Юмор

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