After the Ambush (Day 2)

The bodies of the three Jesuit commandos lay in a tangled sprawl at the cave’s entrance. He had been more or less expecting them, but even with the element of surprise neutralized, Roger had been unable to drop them all before one of them got off a couple shots, and one had caught Roger on the left side of his chest. He didn’t think it had hit the lung, but it hurt a lot, and he couldn’t really get it to stop bleeding. Sitting on shelf of rock he reached around, painfully, with his right hand to grope his back, but he could find no exit wound. The bullet must have hit a rib or something. This was not good.

Roger staggered to his feet, almost fell, then found his balance and lurched slowly to the back wall of the cave, about thirty feet from the entrance. The black duffel bag was right were he had left it, stashed in a deep crevice in the floor. Given the probability of a firefight, Roger had wanted to make sure it was sheltered from stray bullets. With an agonizing effort he reached down, caught hold of the webbing handles, and hauled it up.

He tried to be even and smooth, but failed: with a gasp he had to drag the duffel over the lip of the crevice and thump down onto the floor. A fresh streak of hot pain shot through his wounded side; he hoped he hadn’t made it worse, but he didn’t have time to stop and find out. From inside the bag came a muffled crying. The baby was probably hungry, and he had miles to go yet before he reached the pickup site. He hoped he could still make it in time.

Sliding the straps of the bag over his right shoulder, he pressed his right hand over the wound and shuffled back to the cave mouth. He managed to pick his way through the obstacle course of bodies without too much trouble and stepped out into the gloaming. He could see the Jesuits’ Jeep parked at the bottom of the butte. It was tempting to take it, but it would most likely have tracking equipment on board, and he didn’t have the time to find it and disable it right now. Turning to his left, he began to stumble down the faint trail to the valley, and the river, and — hopefully before moonrise — a successful end to his journey. He just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and not drop the baby.

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