Canyon:The Traveler Series Book TwoBy: Tom Abrahams
“As far as the east is from the west,” he whispered to himself, “so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” He repeated the brief offering at each of the three remaining bodies.
“Seriously?” Lola called out. “You’re praying for them?”
Lola was on the arena floor between the card table and the motor pool.
“I was praying for myself,” he said. “It’s too late to pray for them.” He put his hat back on his head and reached down to take the weapons the dead men wouldn’t need anymore.
Lola looked past him at the bodies and then refocused on Battle. She folded her arms across her chest, rubbing her arms with her hands.
“You cold?” Battle took the last of the grunts’ weapons and walked past her to toss them into the back of the Humvee.
She shook her head. “No. Just wondering.”
“What?” He reached the Humvee, placed the weapon inside it, and slammed the driver’s side door of the Humvee shut.
“How did you do this?”
Her eyes widened with incredulity and she opened her arms to reference the carnage on the arena floor. “This. How did you kill four men like that? How did you do everything you did at your home?”
“I dunno.” He shrugged. “I just did.”
“I’ve seen a lot of bad things,” she said, lowering her voice. “I’ve seen a lot of bad people. They did horrible things. They were horrible people. None of them could do what you do.”
“I was in the Army,” he answered. “I was—”
Salomon Pico emerged from a wide vehicle entrance at the far end of the arena, behind the motor pool. “I found the loading exit,” he said. We can get out of here pretty quick. Get our bags from the horses and do what we need to do.”
“Good,” Battle said. “Let’s go.”
“Why are we taking this one?” asked Pico. “Why not the box truck? We could carry more. Lola and I could hide.”
Battle rolled his eyes. “This isn’t a democracy. We’re taking the Humvee because that’s what we’re taking.”
Pico frowned. “I was just asking. I thought the truck was—”
Battle waved him silent. “The Humvee is armored. The box truck isn’t. The Humvee is a four-speed automatic. The box truck is a stick. The Humvee has all-terrain, cross-country tires on it. They can go for thirty miles with a flat. The box truck doesn’t and can’t.”
Pico raised his hands in surrender. “Okay. Okay. Fine,” he huffed. “The Humvee’s better. I get it.”
“Lola, hop in,” said Battle. “Pico, you guide me out. I’m driving. Once we clear the building and get to the horses, you’ll drive and I’ll ride in the back. Got it?” Battle climbed into the driver’s seat as Lola buckled herself into the front passenger seat of the desert tan vehicle.
The Humvee, nicknamed for its High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle designation, was the Army’s workhorse in Syria. For close to fifty years, the United States military and some of its allies had deployed the HMMWV into the worst places on Earth. If he’d attempted to add them up, Battle figured he’d probably spent more hours in a Humvee than he had in any car he’d owned. They were as safe as any personnel carrier available, they were reconfigurable based on the mission, and they could move at a pretty good clip for something that weighed anywhere from six to eight thousand pounds. The official top speed was seventy miles per hour. Battle knew they could exceed that in the right conditions. He hoped he wouldn’t need those conditions.
He reached to the left side of the dash to the rotary start switch and looked at the three-position switch, turning the key to “run”. A “wait-to-start” lamp above the switch blinked off, and Battle turned the switch to the “start” position. He released the switch lever and it popped back to the “run” position automatically. He waited for the glow plugs to activate, and the six-and-a-half-liter, eight-cylinder turbo engine rumbled to life.
He looked at Lola. “You ready?”
“As I’m going to be.”
Battle shifted into drive and rolled the Humvee toward Pico, who started back toward the wide loading entrance.
The Humvee was utilitarian and not built for comfort. Despite its wide front compartment, Battle shifted as he would in the worst coach seat in a commuter plane.
He rode the brake, slowly trailing Pico through the loading entrance and down a slight decline to a concrete ramp. Pico raised his hands, stopping the Humvee short of a large rolling galvanized door. He reached up and tugged on a chain at the side of the door, raising the door as it coiled upward.
Once Pico had the door fully raised, he waved Battle through the opening. Battle let his foot off the brake and accelerated out of the arena and up an incline onto a gravel road that ran along the loading side of the arena.
“We’ve still got a couple of hours until daylight,” said Battle. He spun the wheel to the left, driving around the southern side of the complex to avoid driving near Highway 36. “I think sunrise is around oh-seven-thirty.”