Quinn was floating on a cloud of opioids. From experience, he knew he was going to be hurting later after the adrenaline rush was over and the pain pills wore off. But for now, nothing hurt.
“How are we doing, battle wise?” Quinn asked.
“Holding our own. Maybe a little better.” Gimp said. As far as the radio chatter went, they were doing a lot better than holding their own, but the ambulance wasn’t coming any time soon and he didn’t want Quinn to get wound up.
“That’s good.” Quinn said.
“Don’t you need to be somewhere else?” Quinn asked, after a bit.
“Nope. This is where I need to be.” Gimp said.
The rest of Quinn’s squad was deployed in a perimeter a hundred yards out. They had seen the mushroom cloud and felt the blast. They assumed both Gimp and Quinn were dead.
Moving forward in short bounds, they found only two survivors of the blast: Quinn and Gimp.
Quinn’s body had rolled down the embankment and lodged against a bush. Gimp was tending to him.
Jason radioed in “Man down. Still alive. Send help when avaiable.
Gimp loosened the tourniquet after five minutes and the wound was a seeper. Exterior bleeding always looks worse than it is and interior bleeding rarely looks as dire as it is.
Gimp hoped that all of Quinn’s leaks were of the external variety.
Two fighters and Mr Spagnolo moved the mortar and the remaining ammo to within the perimeter Jason set up.
Seeing who was wounded, Mr Spagnolo enlisted other neighbors who found blankets and pillows for Quinn. A few of the neighbors stiffened up the line. They only had shotguns, but Quinn was one of them.
Perhaps they intuitively sensed that Quinn was smack-dab in the center of the hostile go-to-hell rally point.
Miguel and Scoundrel moved through the woods like twin ghosts. Miguel had a stick to twist rabbits out of holes. It was more of a prop than a tool...but, hey, you never knew.
The first camp he visited promised to keep an eye out for groups of fighting age men drifting through the area.
Walking into the second camp, he noticed two men who did not fit in. They were too young, too nervous and they were both clutching semi-automatic rifles. They were also talking loudly, as if their hearing had been damaged.
Shit! Shit! Shit!
Bluffing, Manuel looked around until he saw the oldest man who looked like he was part of the group. Manuel walked up and said “Hello, Uncle. Here is the food you sent me for” as he plunked his backpack down on the ground.
The word “food” clearly got the man’s attention. He looked inside and saw the cans of honest-to-God, pre-Ebola, Dinty Moore beef stew and hunks of bread. “Thank-you kindly, nephew.” the old man said without missing a beat. “I am glad you made it here before lunch. We have guests.”
One handgun against two semi-automatic rifles is not good odds. Especially since Manuel’s handgun was a Ruger 22/45, a firearm not known for its stopping power.
Manuel did not make eye contact with the strangers because nobody else was.
The food was quickly divvied up by the twenty people in the camp.
Hoping to get out-of-sight, Manuel asked “Uncle, I was out hunting all night and could use a nap. Is there a tent I can use?”
“Uncle” grunted and pointed at a tent that was furthest away from the smudge fire.
An hour later, “Uncle” kicked the bottom of Manuel’s foot to wake him. “You can go, now. Those guys fell asleep.”
“Here is the deal, Uncle. Those are the guys who invaded us.” Manuel said.
“I figured that.” Uncle said.
“I am authorized to promise you five silver dollars a head if you give us information leading to their capture.” Manuel said.
“Well, there they are.” Uncle said with a glimmer of humor.
“Thing is, I am not sure that I can handle them myself. You won’t get anything if they get away.” Manuel said.
“How good a shape do they have to be in?” Uncle asked. “Do you reduce the award if they are a bent up a little bit?”
“Not at all.” Manuel said in a low voice. “As long as they do not join up with their forces, that is the only requirement.”
“Wait here.” Uncle said.
Uncle came back two minutes later. He held a bloody hammer in his right hand. “How much of them do you need? A hand? Their thumbs? Their heads?” Uncle asked.
Miguel choked back the taste of retching. “Just let me look at them and confirm they won’t be rejoining their forces.” Miguel said.
A few minutes later, looking at them, Miguel said, “Most people wouldn’t have thought of hitting them in the head with a hammer.”
The human skull is remarkably resilient but Uncle had crushed theirs as if they were robin nests.
“Yeah, well, I am a carpenter by trade. I couldn’t see taking off without taking at least one of my DOTIC framing hammer. Never know when you might find work." Uncle said.
“Things settle down, come over to Capiche and I will put in a good word for you.” Manuel said. Uncle was clearly a guy who stepped-up and got things done.