Last night it seemed like it would be simple enough. Soon after dark, we took up our positions around the warehouse. After awhile, a woman who looked like just an ordinary plastic-picker came by. She gave the signal and we didn’t bother her. She went into the warehouse, then after awhile, she shuffled away, dragging her bag behind her. A little later, a man signaled us and walked past, leading a burro with panniers and bundles on its back. Time passed, and he came out and went on his way, too. A few more people went into the warehouse and came back out. It was beginning to become routine.
Then a woman in rags, draped in an old blanket, signaled us. She seemed like just another dirty refugee, and she carried what looked like a baby in her arms. I can’t say what it was about her that bothered me, but something didn’t seem right. It wasn’t that the baby didn’t make any noise. Of course it wasn’t a real baby. We all knew that. But there was something else I didn’t like.
I didn’t challenge her, since that wasn’t my job, but I signaled Gitana. She didn’t respond. I tried again, and when I got no answer, I signaled Ozone, who was a little farther away. After a minute, he came over and I told him my concern.
“I didn’t see anything suspicious,” he said.
“Neither did I. It’s just a feeling I have.”
He smiled indulgently, like I was a kid looking for monsters under the bed, but before he could say anything, the refugee woman emerged from the warehouse. Ozone frowned. “That didn’t take long.”
“And where’s her fake baby?” I asked.
The woman started running and Ozone and I had barely enough time to signal the rest of the group and drop to the ground before an explosion tore half the warehouse apart.
As soon as we knew we were okay, we started running toward the building, looking to see if any of our people were hurt. We found Fausto with a chunk of shrapnel sticking out of his shoulder, and a few of our other people had cuts and scratches, but nothing too serious. What worried us more was the warehouse, which was now on fire and would soon attract the cops.
Vince appeared from somewhere out of the smoke and started giving orders. Most our people were accounted for, except Peru and Speedball. In the confusion, Vince gave me no specific instructions, so while most of the others scattered, I tagged along with him, Ozone, and Gitana to find Peru. He had been near the warehouse when it blew up, but luckily we didn’t have to go inside. We found him a few feet from a side door, lying on his side, covered in blood and chips of concrete and glass. We were scrambling to get him away when we saw shadows heading our direction.
“Police?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” Vince said, picking up Peru’s M16 and ducking behind a wall. He motioned for us to get Peru out of the area. “Go on. I’ll cover for you.”
I didn’t like the look of things. There were five men approaching us, and Vince was going to take them on alone, when we couldn’t tell what they were armed with? Fausto had left his gun behind, so I grabbed it and joined Vince. I wish I could say we intimidated the bastards and they ran off, but it didn’t turn out that way.
I swear, I really am trying to get out of the business of killing people. I guess these things take time.
Once we were sure the guys were dead, Vince and I took off. We weren’t two blocks away when we came upon Speedball. He had chased down the woman who had blown up the warehouse and was hacking at her with a hunting knife. He didn't respond to Vince’s order to leave her and come with us, so Vince pulled a pistol, and that did the trick.
We got back to base, shaken up by the whole thing. Vince banished Speedball to the office to calm down, and told Gitana, “Fix yourself up fem and go get Sara.” The rest of us were put on guard duty.
There’s not much left to say about last night, except that I didn’t get to sleep until nearly dawn. Sara did a good job bandaging up Fausto, but she recommended Peru be taken to the hospital. Vince wasn’t too crazy about the idea, and neither was Peru, so she did what she could for him, then promised me she’d see to Ishkin’s breakfast and not to worry.
So I slept late this morning, just like a city person. Now all I need is proper city clothes, which is exactly what Vince told me this morning when he called me into his office. He gave me some money, which he said was a loan, and told me Sara or Gitana would know where I could get the kind of clothes I needed, cheap. I thanked him and was about to leave, when he called me back. “You’re good in a fight,” he said. “You don’t get scared.”
“Yes I do. Only idiots don’t get scared.”
“You don’t let it stop you.”
“If you let it stop you, you get killed. I’m not afraid to die, but I don’t really want to, you know?”
Vince didn’t answer. He just rubbed the blue tattoo on his face and said he’d have a different type of assignment for me next time.
I spent the day doing errands. I still had no message from Robert, so I asked that it be sent again. Then I went to the hospital and spent some time with Ishkin. I gave him a massage, which seemed to help, but I was worried by some congestion in his lungs. When the doctor stopped by, I tried to ask him about it, but he said it was just a side effect of lying in bed, and that Ishkin needed to spend more time sitting up.
I asked Sara about this and she didn’t seem to agree with the doctor’s assessment. But since Ishkin wasn’t jerking around so much, we propped him against some pillows and strapped him in. I hope it helps.
Then I asked Sara to recommend a place to buy clothes. She drew me a map and told me the types of things the girls who have come and gone in Vince’s group have usually worn. And so I spent the afternoon shopping for clothes, just like a city girl from the twentieth century. It was a weird feeling, but kind of fun. I even bought a used dress and some flat ribbon-tie shoes, in case I need to do some spying or go incognito, the way Gitana did when she went to get Sara. I wonder if I should write to Auntie about this? She’ll be amazed that I spent money on a dress. I didn't even want to wear one for my wedding, until the preacher’s wife made me. I guess I am changing, just not very fast, and not in ways that matter much.
Tonight Vince called us together for a meeting. There’s no mission tonight, thank goodness, and we talked about what went wrong last night and how we can do better next time. Although he didn’t name names, he said we have to take each other’s warnings seriously, which I’m pretty sure was a reference to Gitana ignoring my signal. I guess Ozone said something, because I didn’t mention it. Now I’m worried Gitana is going to think I go telling tales.
But I’m too exhausted to think about things like that right now. I haven’t read my book in a couple days, so I’m going to try to stay awake for a few pages, and hopefully the next few days will be a lot less exciting.
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