After the Ambush

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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