He hit the first right, then an immediate left. Paul was using a steering wheel, something he had only done once or twice in his life, so the vehicle felt like it was careening out of control as he picked up speed. Laura let out a little scream. The kids were grinning and whooping. Laura felt the van start to tilt as Paul dragged the wheel into a sharp left, while hitting the gas. The van kept tipping, tipping, then it fell, sliding across its side, scraping the pavement. The children tumbled, laughter turning to tears. The sound of metal scraping on pavement filled their ears.
Laura unbuckled her seatbelt, falling out of her seat towards Paul. He wasn’t moving, his head bleeding. She let herself down slowly, arms shaking as she went. She could hear sobbing from the back of the van, the kids, she needed to get to the kids. “Hey, it’s okay, I’m coming. Everything’s going to be alright.”
“Please, please, help us. Manuel isn’t moving,” Jude said.
Laura made her way over the buckled frame of the van. The kids were there. One of the boys, Laura guessed it was Manuel, looked ashen and grey. His shoulder was at a weird angle. She checked his pulse, it was steady, strong enough. He was unconscious but not dead.
“Come on kids, I’ll take Manuel. We can’t wait around. We have a path out of the city, it’s close, we can still make it. I just have to check on Paul.”
Paul was breathing. He was starting to come around even, starting to wake up. Laura smashed the windshield out and crawled through it, cradling Manuel in her arms. The heat of the southern evening hit them like a wall after the AC of the van. They started to run, trying to put distance between them and the crash. They could hear sirens approaching in the distance.
Paul wasn’t looking good, and Manuel was surprisingly heavy for his size. Jude took the lea”d, “Where we going?”
“Towne Market Shopping Center. North side.”
“K, I get us there. Keep up.”
They ran through tiny blind alleys, at one point Laura swore the girl took them through someones bedroom. Finally, the mall was in sight. The manhole cover was right ahead when a gunshot cracked through the night air. “Stop, hold it right there.”
Laura held still, Manuel still in her arms.
“Alright honey,” the cop said, “put the boy down. I don’t want to have to shoot you, but I will.”
Paul fell, boneless, the bloodloss and shock finally catching up to him. As he fell the cop fired, putting three bullets in Paul’s chest. Laura screamed and ran, the kids following. The cop swung his gun around towards them, missed his first shot, his second one. Laura grabbed the manhole cover as bullets smacked the pavement around her. She pulled up with all her might and the cover shifted a tiny bit.
The darkest skinned of the boys turned and ran at the cop. The cop kept firing but the kid was zigzagging back and forth. He hit the cop in the centre of his body. The cop went down, despite the difference in size, despite the armour, the cops stance, all of it. The boy, no more than ten or eleven took the grown man in full protective gear of his feet. Laura choked down a sob and pulled the manhole cover all the way off. “Alright kids, down there, quick.”
They did as she asked, the darkest boy running for all he was worth, dropping into the tunnel. Laura followed, as the cop got back to his feet, searching the ground for his sidearm. A shot rang out above her head, but they were in the tunnels, a straight shot out of the city.
They walked, the kids crying from time to time. Nobody spoke. Laura was in shock. Her and Paul had never really liked each other all that much, but they were both dedicated to the work. Now he was dead and she wasn’t. Also, that route in and out of the city was blown.
Finally, they made it to the cave.
Jude could tell the nice woman had no clue what she was doing. That was okay though, they were out. It was too bad the nice man got shot, but that happened. At least Manuel was walking again. It had taken him so long to wake up, Jude had figured he was going to die. They were in a cave. It was dark, the way inside places sometimes are, when no light can get in.
They stepped out of the cave. It was still dark, the light of the city was off in the distance, but the sky… the sky was full of lights, small, twinkling lights. Jude didn’t know why, but she started sobbing at how beautiful it was.