IF you haven’t read Part 1 of Brothers, please click here.
If I think about this too long I’m going to realize just how crazy, and maybe stupid, I am.
Delta coughs and blood spots the floor.
“How are you doing, buddy?” I pat his back.
He shrugs, rolling his eyes. “I’ve survived two bruised lungs before, this ain’t anything to worry about.” He nods toward my hands as I work. “I want to do something. I’m useless as a bump on a stump sitting here.”
“You won’t do me any good if you pass out half way down the hall.” I hand him one of the stone blades I’d been working on for the past hour. “What do you think?”
He turns the crude weapon over. “I think we might have a chance if Alpha hasn’t been moved and if he knows where they’re keeping Juliette. I don’t want any more mothers to hear about their dead baby boys.” He presses his thumb down on the edge of the rock. “It’s not the sharpest tool around, but then neither am I,” he smiles with all gums, “and I do alright.” His head tips back and the blade slips to the floor.
“Hey,” I shake his shoulder, “stay with me, Delta.” I press the butt end of the blade into his palm. “The guards are getting restless—”
“Well, so am I,” he says as I help him to his feet and grab the other blade, “I’m ready for another dance with the guy that took me for a waltz earlier.” He touches the bloodied corner of his mouth.
Delta stays put and I take my place behind the door. My heart picks up its pace as Quinn’s face flashes through my mind again. I shake my head to push her away. I swallow as the guard’s shuffling grows louder. I grip the blade tighter and clinch my teeth.
The guard inserts the key.
The lock clicks.
I shove the blade between the man’s vertebrae before he knows I’m there. He collapses onto the floor, slipping through the harness of his rifle as I grab it. The earthenware tray shatters at my feet.
The second guard comes through the door and Delta throws himself at him as he tries to fire off a shot. As he and Delta struggle over his gun I get him into a headlock from behind and twist until I feel the crack. He goes limp.
I help Delta back to his feet and hand him the gun. His shoulders sag as he whispers a prayer.
“What is it?”
He nods to the two on the floor. Their faces are covered by acne, and beards that haven’t begun to grow yet.
“I’ll never get used to war becoming a game for children.”
Delta slaps my shoulder, hard.
I nod to the door and he falls into step behind me as we enter the empty hall. I motion for silence. I clinch my jaw tighter to keep my teeth from rattling as we inch our way down the hall. Of all the things in war, the moments before a conflict will always be what I hate the most. The farther we move, the quieter everything seems. Where are the guards?
When I round the second corner I come nose to nose with another pimple platter. In his moment of shock he drops his gun. I twirl my rifle and introduce him to the butt end. I sling his rifle over my shoulder and bind and gag him with strips of my shirt.
Delta shuffles out a thought in our strange Morse code. “I thought they trained their kids to be fighters.”
“Lucky for us,” I say, “we must be at one of their academy dorms. First year knuckleheads and easy take outs.”
I raise my gun to the ready and keep moving. My gut screams that something isn’t right here. “How much further to an outside door?”
“Two more lefts, then another right.”
“Get ready, the closer we get to getting out—”
“The closer we are to being taken out.”
Down the hall someone moans. I motion for Delta to stay put. Five feet in front on the right a door is ajar. I peek through the crack and see Alpha lying on the floor. Delta guards the door as I do a sweep of the room. Again, we’re alone.
Alpha moans louder, his eyes swollen shut, face covered in chemical burns. “Can you walk, man?”
“Yankee?” He winces as he speaks.
I check his pulse. “Do you think you can walk?”
“I’m here too.” Delta says, looking over his shoulder.
Tears pour from Alpha’s eyes. “I thought you two were dead. He said he’d killed you.”
“Who did?” Delta says.
Delta and I exchange a glance as I help Alpha to his feet. Alpha keeps mumbling and I wonder what they’ve done to him. I press one of the crude knives into his hand.
“The voice,” Alpha says, “I knew that voice.”
“We’re not far from a door,” I try to take his hand, “if we can make it outside we might be able to make it over the wall and get out of here.”
“No!” Alpha claws at my shirt as I try to turn.
I put his hand on my elbow to lead him, but he stays planted. He’s unsteady and I pray he’s not about to ask to be left behind.
“Yankee, Delta,” his grip on my arm makes me jump, “you know this doesn’t feel right.”
“This is war,” I try to urge him forward, “none of it makes sense.”
He shakes his head. “Even war has its ways. Where are the guards?”
I can see Delta’s mind falling into line with Alpha’s. “All that matters is that we get out of here, and to do that we have to keep moving.”
Holding up his hand, Delta checks over his shoulder again and steps into the room, closing the door behind him.
“Yankee, you know he’s right. We’ve all been thinking it, he’s just the only one to say it. You’ve seen the enemy up close, and this isn’t how they operate. Why take us the way they did? Why hold us this long without demanding anything? I’ve never heard of torture without it being a means to an end.”
I purse my lips, fighting down the gnawing feeling in my gut. “If this isn’t war, then what is it?” I tighten my grip on the rifle. “Why did they kill Echo? What sense does any of this make if it isn’t one country against another?” Quinn’s face comes to me again. This time I see her in her wedding dress. I turn away to clear my mind. “Whether we understand this enemy, or not, we need to locate Juliette and get the heck out of here. Our families are waiting for us, and I’m not ready to have Quinn be a widow.” I take a deep breath.
“What’s the plan, Yankee?” Alpha squeezes my shoulder.
“Do you think this place is wired to blow?” Delta says.
“No. Think about it, guys. The kids we’ve run into, they’re not trained and they’d be scared. They wouldn’t have been bringing us dinner.”
Alpha cocks his head. “You guys didn’t save anything, did you?”
“You’ll eat soon enough.” I pat his shoulder.
The ceiling creaks.
“Is someone walking up there?” Delta says.
I nod. “Alpha, go with Delta. Get to the door, and stay low. I’ll meet you there.” Delta begins to argue, but stops. He knows and order when he hears one.
I pass the extra rifle to Delta and make my way to the nearest staircase. I can feel my shoulders relaxing the longer I go without running into anyone. This scares me more than anything. To be relaxed is to be dead.
At the top of the staircase I catch a trace of Juliette’s voice. I freeze. He’s talking to someone, and they’re both speaking English. The knot in my gut tightens. I inch closer holding my breath.
“Are Delta, Alpha, and Yankee dead yet?” Juliette says.
I look through a crack in the door and see he’s talking to Twig, the tall man I’d thought was in command.
“No.” He says. “We will not kill anymore.”
Twig stomps his foot. “Our deal was not for my sons to see death. Our deal was for honor.”
I have to fight to keep from dropping my rifle.
Juliette picks up a handgun on the table beside him. “You don’t know anything about honor.” He laughs. “If you did, you never would have agreed to help me kill men you’ve never met.”
“What choice did you give me when you took my wife?”
“You thought you’d be her hero by helping me?” Juliette shakes his head. “No. The only hero here will be me, when I kill the band of terrorist outcasts that took me and my buddies hostage. If only the others would be there to tell the tale of how hard I tried to save them.”
Before Juliette can pull the trigger, I do.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Have a question you’d like to ask Yankee, aka Albert? Leave it in a comment below and I’ll be sure to add it to my next character interview!