...the six men stood absolutely still, waiting and listening. Harry had his hand clamped over Tony’s mouth. If they were found out it was all over; at best they would never get another chance to escape, at worst they would end up with nooses around their necks.
After what seemed like an eternity Alec tapped Mark’s shoulder, “Better go check it out.”
“Me?” Mark shrank back.
“Yes you,” Harry said. “Go check it out and maybe I’ll let you bring along your play clothes.”
Mark blushed, “Fine.”
“Hush hush, keep it down now,” Ken warned, “voices carry.”
Pressing into the shadows Mark tip-toed out of the motor pool and peered around the corner; he willed himself to be invisible. There was another pair of soldiers standing between two buildings, they were talking lazily while smoking cigarettes.
One turned to the other and asked, “You see that gallows they’re building?”
“Yeah,” the other shook his head, “some of the other guys were telling me about it. They say it’s quite a thing to see.”
Mark shuddered again. Can’t they realize how crazy this all is? They’re committing murder just because some crazy old lady is saying so! Stephen King should totally sue her ass.
Miss Blackwood had told her captive flock the gallows were a mercy, a sign of Christ’s love. Everyone went along with it, even Mark’s parents. Miss Blackwood’s reign was barely two weeks old but there had already been four purges; anyone and anything that struck her or her fellow crones as ungodly had been consigned to the bonfires. Now however that wasn’t enough, Miss Blackwood wanted a spectacle, a lasting one.
Mark tiptoed back to the others, “Guards.” He said, “They’re gone now.”
“Right” Harry said, “Pete, get the LAW.”
Pete grabbed a stunted metal tube. Alec jumped into the back seat of the four door Hummer, “Here we go.”
Ken grabbed the 12-gauge Smith and Wesson and climbed in beside him, “Hey little sister shotgun!”
“LAW?” Tony spluttered and climbed in next, “Do you just intend to blow a hole in the wall and drive out?”
“Exactly,” Harry said.
“But the zombies will get in.” Tony said, “The people…”
Harry rounded on him, “People? They’re not people after what they did! Those girls were strippers- God’s most innocent creatures!”
Egypt, Candy and the other girls from the Silver Dollar had been burned at the stake, victims of Miss Blackwood’s ongoing righteous fury. Mark could still hear their screams echoing in his head.
“I know…” Tony started to say but then quieted. Mark climbed in the back seat beside him. It wasn’t easy getting the Humvee’s door to close but they managed it.
“Let’s get out of here,” Harry said.
“The more you live, the faster you will die,” Ken said confidently.
The Hummer’s engine roared to life as Harry tightened his hands around the steering wheel. Pete leaned out the rear passenger side window, the LAW rocket cradled against his body. There were butterflies in Mark’s stomach, he couldn’t believe this was really happening. Sometimes he couldn’t believe the last three months had happened.
The first rifle shot nearly took Pete’s head off. “Augh!” he screamed.
A second shot shattered the passenger side window.
“What’s happening?” Mark yelled.
“We’ve got company,” Alec replied.
There was a group of blank-eyed soldiers blocking their way, they had their rifles at the ready. They were led by Miss Blackwood and three of her fellow spinsters. Their ragged clothes and powder blue hair made them almost look like clones.
“Sinners!” Miss Blackwood said, “Sinners with treason and murder in their hearts!”
One of the officers ordered, “Get out of the vehicle Sergeant!”
Harry stayed where he was, gunning the engine, “As a matter of fact we were just coming to see you.”
“We were?” Tony said.
“Let me do the talking here.” Harry whispered.
The officer’s voice became a shout, “I said exit the vehicle Sergeant Shaffer!”
Harry cleared his throat before speaking again, “This is all a big misunderstanding, you see we were going to ask to go outside to look for bibles and canned food.”
“You have to admire initiative like that,” Alec added.
“Your last name is Shaffer?” Tony asked.
“Don’t. Talk.” Harry whispered again.
Miss Blackwood was ranting now, “Lies. They’re all liars, fornicators, idolaters and sodomites!”
Ken shook his head, “Can you hear them? They talk about us!”
“This is your last chance Sergeant Shaffer,” the soldiers trained their weapons on the vehicle, “if you confess your sins the Lord’s love will redeem you.”
“Uh-oh.” Pete said.
“Now just a minute…” Tony looked around inside of the crowded Humvee, “Which of us does she think is a sodomite?”
Harry turned around in his seat, “Will you be quiet?”