Monday, September 19, 2005

 

the child, ninety-eight


Dreaming, though - that she didn't do. It was full night when Maccabees woke them both. Quietly he brought them up-to-date on what had been happening while they slept. The camp was now settling in after their supper - little of which had been shared with the captives. Two patrols had been sent out to keep watch round the perimeter. And round the corral itself, five guards had been stationed.

'Do they know anything about us? Do they suspect a rescue?' asked Stone.

Mac shook his head. 'Hard to tell. With the way they have set up their guard round our friends, I would say that getting past them will be very simple. We need only remove one guard to get in.'

'And to get out?'

Mac smiled. 'I will see to that,' he said.

They started out, Mac leading the way, Starr just behind him, and Stone guarding their back. It took all of two hours to work their way down the mountainside and around to the hindmost part of the corral. Mac waved them to cover, and the three of them studied what there was to see.

'That one,' Mac pointed at the nearest guard. 'Once he is out of the way, the two of you can enter easily. Set Malachi and Morgenstern free first, and they will help to release the others.'

'And you?'

'I will make sure the other guards see nothing.'

'How?' asked Starr.

Maccabees only smiled. 'When all are free, I will rendezvous with you. And then we will make our escape.'

Stone nodded. Quickly he shrugged off the two packs he'd been bearing most of the day, along with the two canteens. Starr did the same, laying it all at Maccabees' feet.

'Ready?' Stone asked.

'Wait,' said Starr. Turning to the angel, she asked again the question she had asked Stone earlier. 'The guards - are they people? or demons?'

Maccabees regarded her, fathoming what lay behind the question. 'Do not be afraid,' he told her. 'When you look into their eyes, then you will know.'

Not exactly the answer she had expected. Not exactly an answer that made sense to her, either. But the only answer she had at the time.

'Let's go,' Stone said to her. 'No talking. I'll take the guard. And Starr...'

'Yes, dear?'

He touched her cheek fondly, his eyes lingering on her sweet, wide-eyed face. 'I love you, darling,' he said.

He could see her glad blush even in this darkness. 'I love you too,' she breathed.

He nodded. Holding up his hand, he counted off his fingers. One. Two. Three.

And they were away. Crouching, moving as silently as possible. At the edge of the brush, they stopped. Stone waved for her to keep concealed here, while he would slip up on this one guard and remove him.

But before Stone could move out, to their complete surprise, the guard made a quick furtive glance left and right - and removed himself.

That is, he placed a hand on the fence stake behind him and leapt over the corral fence, landing inside that area where the captives lay, each of them still bound to a stake. The guard, himself crouching, hurried cross the empty space between the fence and the nearest prisoner. As he ran, he put one hand to his belt, then drew it away again.

There was something in his hand now. Something long and slender. Something that, in the rising moonlight, reflected a sudden glint of light back to Stone's and Starr's eyes.

Stone's breath sucked in with a sharp hiss. 'He's got a knife!' he whispered.

A knife! And he was quickly closing in on one of their helpless friends!

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