She's going to get herself killed. But if anyone is going to kill her, it's going to be me. I reach for the kitchen door handle and try it. It moves. I slowly pull down the handle, then push the door inwards. Through the gap, I hear two male voices discussing something in rapid Spanish. Another one of those subjects I should brush up on. The door creaks alarmingly, and I halt when the voices go silent.
"Hallo? Is dit Victory Hall? Kunt u mij helpen?" Mom yells, showing off her language skills. It sounds like German or Danish, only worse. Dutch perhaps. Our German teacher once stated that the Dutch are just Germans who in another language claim they are not. I think he's a little biased, but there's a pinch of truth in there somewhere.
I use the distraction Mom provides to open the kitchen door in one smooth movement. There's an unseen bucket directly behind it that topples over. Empty boxes, tins, and cans roll over the floor. Someone forgot to throw away the garbage.
I curse under my breath and hurry inside. Kitchen, old, messy. Little in the way of cover. When I look at the foodstuff I have an inspired idea. I grab two open boxes and throw those out the door. Long stripes of white something follow as if someone, something, an animal perhaps, has dragged the boxes outside. Next, I throw half of the foodstuff, pans, cutlery, and whatnot on the ground, making lots of noise. Dust and baking powder hangs in the air. I'm hunkering down, staying as low as possible right next to the door that leads further into the cabin, my gun in hand.
This shouldn't work.
Someone pushes the door open, slowly, but doesn't enter at first. When there's no reaction he takes another step into the kitchen. On the other side of the cabin, Mom keeps yelling something in Dutch.
Her noise and the mess I made distract the visitor just long enough for me to shove the barrel of my gun into his crotch. He looks down in surprise and freezes. I smile up. Then the wall explodes. A hail of bullets rips through the wood, rips through my prisoner. Pieces of wood and pieces of flesh fly through the air. The bullets ricochet from the pots and pans, and whatever was left on the table explodes into dust and bits. The shooter must have seen my captive freeze, then decided this chance was as good as any. He then shot through the wall, shooting at whoever might have been there. His buddy was mere 'collateral'. He will now change position, reload, and follow up with a second burst aimed a little lower. Or he'll wait to mow down whoever steps out of the kitchen.
Before I can act another weapon barks. Something much lighter, a small-caliber handheld. Two shots, a little pause, then another shot. I'll have to make my move now before he - or she - starts thinking.
I dive over the dead body, through the open, into the cabin. It's one large space with a rough wood staircase near the front, a few wooden tables and benches spread through the room, and a fireplace in the rear. But nothing that provides proper cover. I roll, get up on one knee, and… Oh.
I look straight into the barrel of the small pistol aimed at me, and I have to force my finger away from the trigger so I won't accidentally shoot the wielder.
"Mom?" I say, lowering my weapon.
It's her. She changed her outfit, going for short trousers. Extremely short trousers that look like her camo pants, except the trouser legs have mysteriously disappeared, leaving behind nothing but ragged edges. Mom's black polo shirt, all top buttons undone, has received a similar treatment. The edge of her bra peeks from under the improvised crop-top. She did put up her hair, and topped her outfit with her bulletproof vest, letting it hang open and loose. Well, at least she has kept herself in good shape, I have to admire that. She might attract admirers if she could let go of that stupid teacher's outfit.
It's a good thing she cannot hear my thoughts, or she might not have lowered her weapon.
Mom steps up to the gunman who shot up the kitchen and kneels next to him. She shakes her head when she looks up. "Hi, honey. I hope you kept someone alive. This one's leaking on the carpet."
I shrug. "This one just killed my prisoner. What are you doing here, anyway?"
"I thought you could use some help."
"I was worried about you when I heard the explosion and saw the smoke. That SUV was armored, and not the cheap stuff, for heaven's sake. What did you get us into?"
"I know," she says, "but hitting a tree at sixty miles an hour is still lethal when you're not wearing seatbelts."
"A tree wouldn't have stopped that tank."
"It was quite the landmine."
"That was the explosion? You actually did bring a landmine?"
"You could say 'thank you'."
I stare at her, not entirely sure to tell her she's completely mad. Well, she obviously is, but… "Thank you," I say. It's hard.
"At your service. Unfortunately I only brought one, and the woman in the truck escaped. When I saw all the red and green and yellow smoke I thought you could use a little help, so I decided to provide some distraction."
"By walking in naked."
"I beg your pardon? I'm decent! Well, fairly decent. I assume this is yours, by the way?" She holds her weapon up.
I recognize the Beretta. It's the gun I took from the fat guy at the gas station, in what feels like a week ago. The door pocket might not have been the best place to hide it. I look away, a little embarrassed. "I euh… I can explain."
"Explain later. Is there anybody still alive, other than the old man outside who's crying over a dead woman. I assume that isn't one of yours? Did you find him?"
"The man in the photo ain't here. And no. And I still need to check upstairs though, I think -"
Mom suddenly jerks her head up and her eyes go wide. She opens her mouth to say something but I know it's too late. Time slows down. The air seems to ripple as the shockwave passes, and then it hits her. She's blown off her feet and thrown backward, ending up in a heap on the floor.
The air feels like molasses when I turn and scream and fire at the man at the top of the stairs. I empty all that's left in my clip into his face, his head, the top of the stairs, until my weapon runs dry. I drop the magazine, slide in a new one, then aim and wait.
Behind me, Mom's body lies silent on the ground.