Nevers sprinted for the tailgate, and dove over it. He misjudged the road, and came down hard on the asphalt. Pain shot through his arms and legs. No time for that now. The other three had run in the exact opposite direction the truck was going. They were already in the tree line. Nevers scrambled to his feet and headed for the nearest tree himself. As soon as he hit the wood line, he looked for the truck.
Ybarovich had seen them but looked away. He saw where most of them had run, but made no move to stop the truck. Did he have a conscious after all?
Nevers took in his surroundings. He was on the edge of the parade field. The others had all run in different directions. Nevers fled the scene as well.
Initially he took off perpendicular to the road but that would be expected. He shifted and ran what he thought was parallel to the road. The ground fell away sharply and sloped towards what had to be a creek.When he realized he had no clue where the road was relative to his position he paused to catch his breath.
The hot, humid air was matched by the thick brush and weeds around him. The insect noises drowned out any other sounds except his own hacked breathing. Checking his path the vines and branches of the bushes vaguely showed where he had come from. From here he’d need to be more careful about that. The ground still sloped downward but there was no sign of any creek.
Cautiously he began to move without bending or breaking the brush. Still headed down the slope he now had his ears peeled listening for any other noises. Within minutes he began to hear the sound of trickling water. Fighting the urge to rush towards it he continued his gentle traverse of the terrain, minimizing his impact, and more importantly his trail, through the woods.
Despite the depth of the ravine the creek was neither deep nor wide. It did however provide both a long, cool drink and a further way to eliminate any following soldiers.
After what seemed like hours of running through underbrush and ravines, he came upon what looked like family housing. Directly in front of Nevers was an inviting deck. The sliding glass door to the house was wide open. He looked around and could not see or hear anything so he jumped the low fence and started to walk through the yard to the house.
While crossing the yard he hastily looked left and right but still saw nothing. He was nearly to the deck when he heard angry yelling in Spanish. He sprinted to the house and flattened himself against the wall. The deck was littered with toys. There were children here. The cozy interior beckoned. The yelling got louder and closer. To his right he saw a woman walking slowly backward. Fearing the yelling might be soldiers he dared to slip inside the house.
As he slipped in he shut the door. He was in what appeared to be the living room. The power was off. He stealthily tried to head for the nearest exit of the room. There were two hallways to on the right and a dining room to the left. The closest hall probably led to the bedrooms so he headed for the hall directly across the room. Glancing down the other hall it did head for the bedrooms. As he entered the hall to the front door he saw a figure enter the living room and panicked rushing the last few feet. At the end of the hall was a door and another room to the side. This one had a window with drawn curtains but he could peek out through them.
The figure was talking, Nevers ducked down by the window. No one was answering the figure. Must be the on the phone. Pushing the curtain to the side he could see blinds behind it. Quickly he looked back in the direction of the hall and saw the woman. Sure enough, she was on the phone. Her jaw fell faster then the phone. “Who are you and what are you doing here?” Before she finished speaking, she had pulled a 45-caliber revolver from under her belt, and aimed it at Nevers.
At least she had not completely freaked out, as Nevers had feared. Or as completely freaked out as he now was. “I'm American; I'm running from the Atlanticans. You've got to help me.” So much for being the nonchalant, macho hero.
“Don’t move,” she ordered. Being in no position to argue, Nevers let go of the curtain. Without taking her eye, or the gun, off of him, she squatted to pick up the phone, and waved the gun barrel at him. “Who are you?”
“Uhh... My name is Everett Nevers. I'm a Specialist in the Army, the American Army. I deployed here about a week ago. Three days ago, we went out on patrol, earlier today we were double-crossed and captured by the Atlanticans. I jumped out of the truck and ran as we passed the parade field. No one followed me, the last thing I want is to hurt anyone, but I sure need help.” Nevers stopped talking, and inhaled a huge gulp of air. His heart was pounding again. No way in hell he would re-enlist for this shit, ever.
“Give me your ID card.”
Nevers felt his uniform’s breast pockets. He found and pulled out his common access card, and tossed it at the gunwoman's feet. She expertly picked it up without dropping her guard of Nevers. She glanced at it, and verified Nevers' name. “Says here PFC.” She tossed the card back.
Ignoring the card for now he said, “They don’t like you to update them for silly reasons like promotion if you’re less than an E-4. Look, I came in because I heard soldiers outside, all I want is to take a shower, change clothes, and look for a quick way out of this hell-hole of a country. Not necessarily in that order.” If she had been doing something besides holding a gun on him he would think she was attractive enough to overcome his shyness in talking to women. Well, she must be married, too. And the kids, there were kids in the way. But still, mostly just the gun.
The gun relaxed a bit, “You're a regular steely-eyed killer, huh? Get up.” As Nevers stood, she put away the gun, concealing as before so no one could tell she had it. “I'm Margaret, everyone calls me Maggie. Make one wrong move and I pull the gun out again.”
He reached down and picked up his card, “Uh. . . About that shower?”
“The bathroom's down the hall; I’ll get some of my husband's clothes for you. But right now, I have to try to call the embassy again. I'm trying to get out of here myself.”
“Thanks,” Nevers mumbled as he headed down the hall once more. He began unbuttoning his uniform blouse. Three days in the tropical heat and humidity was more then enough for Nevers. You know you stink, if you can smell yourself.
He entered the bathroom and sat down to take off his boots. Maggie came by with a candle and matches. She had the phone to her ear. “The power's off, but the water heater's gas. No one's answered this damn phone since this things started.”
Nevers took the candle and lit it, and then stood, “Thanks, I appreciate that.”
“I'll bring the clothes in a second.” Maggie left. Nevers watched her walk down the hall, and felt sure that some airman was missing his wife tonight.
“No damn pinger deserves a woman like her,” he mumbled as he pulled off his boots and socks. As he emptied his pockets and removed his belt Maggie returned with the clothes. She handed them to him but was focused on the phone. As he shut the door he could hear her talking, someone had finally answered. He started the water, and stripped the rest of his soiled clothes.
Before he could get completely refreshed, the air raid siren went off. Hurriedly he shut off the water and stepped out of the shower. As he reached for the clothes, his thoughts turned to his friends. How had they fared? Had they found someone to help them, or had they been recaptured? Surely, they were still alive. Hope was all Nevers could allow himself to have for their fate.
The clothes were a little too big, but they would do for now. He entered the living room and saw Maggie sitting on the couch. She had the phone to her ear, but, as before, was talking only to herself. “What do you go by, Everett, or Nevers?” she asked.
“I used to go by Everett, but after I joined the Army I went by Nevers, here lately my section started calling me 'Ever Nevers'. Kind of a sick joke.”
“Well, then, Everett, while you were showering, the air raid siren went off. There weren't any airplanes around; the Atlantican's only have something like two aircraft. Someone came on the base public address system and told us to watch the TV tonight at six o'clock.”
Nevers glanced at the clock on the wall, it read three forty. “Six, o'clock? With the power off?”
“Who can tell? They'll probably turn it on for a while. Must be something important.”
Nevers sat on the opposite end of the couch from Maggie. “It feels kind of weird to not be in my uniform.”
“I could've brought one of those, but I figured you'd had enough of them.”
“You're right.” Nevers glanced around the room. Over the television were several pictures. He stood and looked at them. He noticed a familiar face in them. Again, he used tact and said nothing. “So how long have you been married?”
“Oh, about two years. The children were his from a previous marriage, but I love ‘em like my own. They’re back in the States with the grandparents. Lucky for me.”
Nevers walked around the room. He saw several Air Force certificates on the wall. He got closer and examined them. His worst fears were confirmed, he was in the house of Master Sergeant Mark Ybarovich.
An involuntary jerk awakened Nevers. He looked around; he was in a strange bed. It was much softer then his cot had been. The room was lit by an ugly government light fixture hung from just off center of the middle of the ceiling. Muffled sounds came from beyond the door. Smelled like food.
Nevers stood and went to the door. Before he could open it, the lights flickered on and off twice. The third time they stayed on. The clock in the den struck six. He headed toward the den and the static spouting television.