Not much of a town, even when Turville had the other exciting locales in West Virginia to compare it to. Right here in…downtown… half-a-dozen or so businesses stretched on both sides of the narrow road. Drug store, car-wash, hardware store. Hardly any traffic: they’d seen four moving vehicles in the last three hours, all of them trucks or SUV’s, all of them built for this kind of nasty weather and terrain.
At least the town itself had been plowed—most likely by the residents, given that there wasn’t much of a functioning county or state government. There was still no power or operating phone lines. The LT had borrowed a satellite phone from the clerk in the drug store in order to call into headquarters.
Turville leaned, shivering, against the outside of the drug store, where he stood with Tillman and Santiago. Across the street Corporal Meigs stood with Turville’s old fire team. Turville’s old slot had been filled by Private Matt Rodriguez. A relief—Meigs and Turville had never gotten along.
“Hey, hey, lookie here,” muttered Santiago, inclining his head down the street. Turville glanced in that direction. Two girls were walking toward them, both of them bundled up in heavy coats and wearing snow boots. A wisp of dark hair had escaped the hood of the girl on the left.
“Knock it off, Santiago,” Turville said. “We’re not supposed to bother the natives.” But, Turville thought, the short one sure is pretty.
Tillman, another rifleman right out of basic training, said, “Hey, do you hear that?”
Turville listened. He could just hear the fluttering of helicopter blades.
“Yeah. They’re coming.”
“It’s ‘bout goddamn time,” said Santiago.
Turville opened the door to the drug store and leaned inside. Lieutenant Blake was standing at the counter, grinning and chatting with the clerk behind the counter.
“Sir, I hear a chopper,” Turville said.
The lieutenant looked back at him, then walked to the door, waving to the clerk in the store. “Good. All right, everybody up. They’ll be here shortly.”
Turville looked around. The girls were about half a block away now as the men gathered together in front of the drug store. They were a mis-matched pair, one tall and blonde, the other short, brunette. The blonde wore dark mascara and a heavy pink winter coat, giving her eyes a sunken appearance inside the hood. The dark-haired girl had no makeup, and wore a navy pea-coat with a matching knit cap. Short-Girl and Tall-Girl.
In the distance, Turville saw the twin dots in the sky. Helicopters, coming in low over the mountains. Short-Girl turned around and pointed at the approaching helicopters.
They were older ones, Black Hawks, and the first one came in close over the town and started to descend. As the rotors flared, snow washed into the air from the street below.
Turville heard a whoosh, and a streak of flame lifted off from the woods, followed by another. Turville stared in disbelief. Not again. Not. Fucking. Again. He still couldn’t sleep without the nightmares of the ambush outside Harper’s Ferry, when half the company had been killed or injured—and he himself sent on a two month vacation at Walter Reed Army Hospital.
Two more streams of smoke and flame appeared from the woods on the opposite side of the town. All of them sped up into the sky toward the slowly moving helicopters.
Turville shouted, “They’re firing at the helicopters. Get down! Get down!” He ran for the two girls, shouting. Tall-Girl screamed, and Turville hauled both girls to the ground.
A moment later, both helicopters exploded, then crashed into the street, spewing fire and metal parts all over the place. A metal fragment struck the building above Turville’s head with a loud bang, and the street flooded with the acrid smell of burning plastic and explosives. Both of the girls screamed now, the short one grabbing him by the arm so hard it hurt.
Turville looked Short-Girl in the eyes and grasped her other arm. “Get inside, now.” He had trouble forming the words, and realized, at the rush of copper-tasting blood, that he’d bitten his own tongue.
She nodded, eyes wide, face twisted in obvious terror; despite the fear she grabbed her friend by the arm and hauled her toward the drug store entrance. Good.
The men in the two fire-teams had scattered around the intersection, taking cover behind various vehicles.
Turville ran toward the wreckage, but it was too hot to approach. Shit. No way anyone survived.
At that moment he heard a pop, then another one. A dust of snow scattered at his feet. Holy shit, they’re shooting at us!
He looked around frantically, and then shouted, “L-T, somebody’s shooting at us!”
“Come on,” he shouted at his team, then ran for the drug store. More shots followed as they ran.
They got into the building as quickly as they could. The LT was shouting into the satellite phone, “They’re shooting at us, I need backup now! We don’t have any fucking weapons!” The two girls had crowded near the counter, along with another terrified shopper.
Santiago looked over at Turville and said, “We got to get the fuck out of here before those assholes come down here.”
Turville said, “How? You know how to hot-wire a car?”
Short-Girl interrupted him. “You can take my truck.”
Turville looked at her. She’d taken her cap off, and her brown hair waved a little from the static. Her green eyes looked at him as she held out the keys.
“Yeah. You probably saved us out there—least I can do. I’ll write down my number.” She did, and then pointed to where her car was parked across the street, an old Ford F-150 truck. Turville glanced at the note—Rebecca Mays, 413-9845—then stuffed it in his pocket.
“Sir,” Turville said, tapping the Lieutenant on the arm.
“Yeah,” the LT replied, covering the phone handset with his hand.
“I got us a car, let’s go.”
The squad ran out of the building. Across the street, the truck was parked in a snow bank. Turville jumped into the drivers seat, the Lieutenant next to him. The rest of the men piled into the bed of the truck.
“Get us out of here, Turville.”
As if to punctuate the words, bullets slammed into the front of the truck with loud, popping cracks. Somebody in the back howled in pain.
“Where the fuck is that shooting coming from?”
“I don’t know, sir. The tree line!”
A moment later, the engine roared to life. Turville put the truck in gear, and they raced out of town.