Rustles – Chapter 20

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“One of the females is gone.” Tony shouted from the front seat.

She felt freezing cold run down her back. It startled her how they didn’t even use names anymore, turning them into nothing more than test subjects. Turn something into number and everything can be done without morals intervening.

“What happened?”

“She attacked another male. She nearly pulled his throat off before bending few bars aside and pressing herself through.” Silver brought her up to date.

“Tell me,” she felt the anger roll around in her stomach and she turned face to face with this overly exited looking soldier woman, “does it make you feel better if you don’t tell out your friend’s names before you hunt them down?”

William and Silver both stared at her in surprise. They either hadn’t expected this or felt uncomfortable. Either way, they rolled their eyes and turned away.

She felt so angry at them. They were humans, for heaven’s sake! Real people, with families waiting for them and homes to go back to! And here were their only sane friends and they didn’t even save their last dignity!

She brushed her shoulders to get some warmth back in her. At least it cured her fear for the moment, she thought. She indeed wasn’t shivering any more.

Instead she turned her attention on the screens. Something had changed. The loud peeping sound was gone and instead she saw a green screen with lots of circles and one green light blinking near the edge of the scanner.

They had been marked!

“She’s five blocks away.” Nathan broke the silence.

Like animals, they had been marked. She knew she had wished for something like this just hours before, but seeing it now made her sick both for herself and for those, who had actually done it. This wasn’t right!

“Three blocks.”

Like last time, Nathan tried to catch her and get ahead of her before letting them out and telling them about how long time they had got. It felt like a bad dream that kept repeating itself over and over again.

They were in the middle of a park with small square fountain in the middle of it. The entire place was covered with gobble stones and the water was making loud enough sound to disturb her concentration.

She walked few feet away from them and closed her eyes, pressing her hand against the clock in her pouch.

“You better have my back!” she whispered to the imaginary Kenneth she desperately would have needed here right now, by her side and helping her.

In less then a minute she felt seriously sick. Like heart itself had broken off and played tennis in her chest. There were at least twenty people around – children playing, people walking and older people gossiping on the benches on the edge of the stone garden.

“We can’t hunt her here,” she said half loud to Silver, who was closest to her.

“Nathan…”

“Nathan made a mistake! Here are too many people, we can’t hunt here.”

“Then where?” she insisted, lowering her rifle, which was like foreign object in this sunny early afternoon.

People started moving away faster, one by one noticing men with guns.

“They’ll call police!”

“Naah, they won’t!”

“I would! What makes you think they won’t? People with guns forming circle around half of the park? Of course we’ll end up with police!”

“She might attack here!”

“We got to have a better plan for this!”

“What you suggest? Using your drunken panther idea again? It backfired last time, big time!”

“And you gonna shoot the woman in front of all the witnesses? You grave for public attention that much?”

“No we don’t, we…”

“What’s going on?” Isley backed closer, “What are you two arguing about?”

“Bad location, that’s what,” she shot back, “I don’t think she’ll even come here – too much sounds”. If things went public, she was dead and everybody involved in the experiment with her, because there would be no end to that torment.

“And if she attacks here?”

Hell I know! She wanted to shout, but only managed to flap herself some wind.

Nathan waved to Sergeant and broke their arguing.

“She’s changed the direction!” he yelled over the park, drawing everybody’s eyes on them.

In her mind she was thanking god for turning her direction, with her mouth she didn’t manage more than a grin-like smile to all the ogling pairs with their kids. They probably made to top 5 most discussed topics on evening meal.

They got back in the car. She had turned to East, which lead towards massive old forest that was covering the entire eastern side of the city. That region belonged to career climbers, whose home sitting wives were bored and out for each new man, who set their foot in the region. The place was famous for odd murders clashing with social ethics in six-o-clock news. Mostly because some jealous husband caught their feisty ladies with une maitresse[1].

“Two minutes!” Nathan shouted, pulling the car on stop two blocks away from the park.

This place was quiet and no one walking around during the day. Though surrounded by pretty houses, she didn’t see any cars in front of them, which meant they were still at work or doing whatnot daily duties they had.

“Is this place more to your liking?” Silver whined next to her like a school child.

“Shut up!” Twin shouted and triggered his gun.

Her eyes fixed on the gun. “You want to shoot her?”

“No, we’ll lure her in with sweet candy and apple cider!”

“Silver, shut up!”

She felt the familiar cramp in her chest.

“Quiet!” she shouted and everybody froze on their places. “She’s here!”

Nathan killed the motor immediately and sergeant gulped hard.

The rustle came from the street behind her like before, only this time it wasn’t dying out, but followed the soft grass line, pushing through the few asphalt covered segments of courtyard roads.

Besides her crashing through the land there was deafening, even the wind kept its movement in the trees minimum, like everything had died out in the ten feet radius. At the end of the street there was lawn mower screaming, filling the air with smell of freshly cut grass.

“She comes by the grass on the left side.” She said, turning quietly around. Tears started forming in corners of her eyes and she pressed her fists against her sides, trying to keep herself from heaving over.

William cocked his rifle. Others did the same. They weren’t in a hurry like last few times. Nobody was in a rush. Instead they took time to do everything right – checking the bullets, cocking the gun, adjust how it should sit on their shoulders and waiting for the right place to shoot.

They wouldn’t let her live. She knew it. Like a dog that has gone against their master, so was this woman’s faith set for her the moment she went against the other male. For who is an experiment? Nothing that you couldn’t eliminate if they got too dangerous. They do same with lab rats, don’t they? Like a dog, nothing more…

She sensed the vibrations getting stronger until the source of it was only few feet away.

There was no way she could make them change their mind. She had breached the boundary and had to be eliminated. Too dangerous for her own good.

She took a quick breath, sick in her stomach and not even daring to say the last pray for her already lost soul. God would not forgive – not for her for pointing the finger nor Tony, who would shoot the next soldier from his ranks nor the woman for killing another soul.

She took two steps to her right, standing exactly on the road she was building for herself. She watched her getting closer, watching the nearly unnoticeable changes in the grass, how it moved up and down as the woman gathered speed and closed in.

She was only few inches away, when she finally sighed, jumped up and landed flat on the ground, forcing the woman to stop. Her eyes were filled with tears, but right now, she couldn’t afford letting the pain play with her heart.

For a long moment she stood on top of her and sensed how her fingers moved in the grass, pushing out and falling back together to feel that sudden sound above her head.

She brushed back of her hand over her nose and teary eyes. Wishing good bye, she stepped two steps away from the spot and showed men exactly where to shoot.

Bullets flew past her, penetrating the soft grass, tossing pieces of it up and far from their original place in the big pattern. It took two shots from William and Tony before she heard her scull crack and saw blood oozing out from the small crater Tony’ bullet had created. As it pulsated to earth, so did it disappear back in the ground.

They set the safeties on with click that was just as alien as the rest of the scene had been against the idyllic newly rich neighborhood.

She stood there for longer than others cheeks wet and stared at the crater and the woman she never met face to face.

She gulped hard. She had once witnessed the wet killing one of their horses. She promised then that she will never send another animal to die through shot in their head. No matter how delicate and fast death it would be to a suffering animal. And now she was standing here and judging herself rightful for helping capturing a crazed experiment. She filled up with anger which she had to control or their entire operation flew out of the window.

She brushed the tears away. Nathan had come out of the car and stood next to her. He rubbed her shoulder to ease her pain. It wasn’t helping.

“Her name was Eva.” He said after a while. “She was a nice girl once.”

“Did you know her? Before she was brought there?”

“She wasn’t like this when she came here,” he said dreamful, “none of them were!”

He glanced over his shoulder towards Tony and Silver, who were coming closer. He nodded fast and patted her on her back. He then searched out her handkerchief and quickly wiped away his tears.

She whispered her sorry before they reached behind her.

“You’re learning.” Tony said with appraisal, which nearly punched Nathan over and cut her raw wound deeper.

She stared at the bloody pool in front of her while in her head Hunter’s image mixed together with Tony’ face.

“Sometimes we can’t save them and we must accept their deaths, we like it or not.”

Choose your battles, she told herself and repeated it like mantra. This wasn’t the place to start moral fight over who had the right to kill who. There were too many around her lately, who took willingly that right.

“I’ll call the team.” William sighed and went farther down the street to call the cleaning team. If they hurried, they still had at least an hour before the rush hour.

How terrible way of calculating someone’s time left on this earth.

“Come, we’ll take you home.” Tony nudged her to move.

Oh how she wished to set her foot down and tell she’ll walk, but her lips wouldn’t form the protest. Instead she nodded and went back to the car like proper dog. They had all sat back inside and waited for Nathaniel to start the car, which he seemed very reluctant to do.

Tony’ phone rang. It was nasty heavy metal piece that in reality was nice, but the way it from the speakers of the phone – it was terrible enough to wrinkle everybody’s noses in the car.

“Hello?” He listened tensely what the man on the other end of the phone was telling him. He didn’t say anything himself, but for half a minute his face expressed all the disappointment and she knew the cause of the call before he even opened his mouth.

“James didn’t make it.”

“I need a drink.” William growled, turning his eyes out of the window.

For him she had no tears left. For once it was someone, who she hadn’t met and thus felt no connection with.

“I have bottle of scotch hidden in my kitchen.” Silver offered with a shrug.

Nathan sighed and started the engine. “Hide it after you give me one.”

She thought they’d take her home first, but after staring her fist for half an hour, she found herself from the driveway of already familiar suburban twin house on Ellinger street.

“You’ll need it too.” Tony said before he helped her out of the car and they went in.

They sat their guns in the firearm closet in the living room and headed straight to the kitchen, where Silver brought out half full scotch from under the table. It was neatly taped under the dinner table with silver tape and brought a bit of white color with it, when she ripped it off.

William brought plastic shot glasses from somewhere and sat five of them on the line in front of Silver. Then he looked over their heads and saw the scientists standing in the living room and lined up four more. Silver filled them all up and they all took one.

“It’s been a shitty day.” Said Tony after they had stood there for a minute staring the liquid in their glasses and they gulped it down on one go. That five word speech probably said more than any President before the war. It pulled everything together.

Her mobile started singing in her bag and she stepped away from others to take it. She cringed, seeing it was her brother.

Are you there right now?”

“Well, hello to you too!” She tried to keep her voice steady and cold. “And no, I’m nowhere right now. Doing grocery shopping. How is your nose? Better now?”

Will need more ice.” She heard through the phone crackling sound of the ice bag. “Where are you? Are you alright?

“I’m ok.”

Who were these guys?”

“My friends.”

“Your friends? They were attacking you!”

“You’ve noticed, huh? I don’t have much of a taste in men, do I?”

“Who is it?” Tony came after her and she covered her mobile up. “Nathan will take you home now.”

“Ok.” She turned back to the phone. “Look, um… I’ll be staying with Sofia for the night. In case my ex comes back.”

Don’t get yourself killed, sis, you’re my last one.”

She didn’t say anything at first, but managed a weak ok when he was already hanging up. She was the only one as far as she knew. But with their father’s behavior – who knew? Perhaps there were more Jakobs hiding somewhere.

[1] French for mistress

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