Chapter Fifty-Seven

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Scott and Nathan climbed back into the old, navy coloured van, which seemed to be held together by duct tape and rust.

"Four down, two to go," Nathan said as he turned the key. The aged engine groaned and then stuttered into life.

"Wait. Turn the engine off. Now!" Scott scanned his side mirror as Nathan did as he was told. "Get down."

The two men ducked as several vehicles drove slowly passed them.

"What is it?" Nathan asked.

"Armoured patrol. Just wait."

A line of vehicles continued to pass them by. The dash board vibrated and a faded, now scentless, air-freshener suspended on elastic, swung about beneath the rear view mirror. As the sound of their engines disappeared into the distance, Scott put his head up, followed by Nathan.

"There must have been ten of them."

"Twelve," Scott corrected, "the last three were troop carriers. Here come some more."

The men ducked down again.

"One, two, three, four..." Nathan stopped counting and still more vehicles passed by. "What the hell is going on?"

"I would hazard a guess Briggs knows that Hannah is missing. We'd better go on foot."

"Why?"

"Because that's the biggest deployment I've seen in a while. They are about to lock the area down and we aren't going to get anywhere in this. Come on, let's go."

As the sun began to slowly dip in the sky, Scott and Nathan moved cautiously along the streets, sometimes walking together, sometimes apart. On a number of occasions they came across road blocks and saw two others in the process of being set up. By cutting through passage ways and across back yards they'd avoided being seen.

As the two men rounded a bend, they heard a woman's scream, the piercing sound bounced off the walls around them. Scott pulled Nathan into the dark doorway of a disused store and peered round the corner. Pairs of armed soldiers were moving door to door. A large van with side widows obscured by metal bars drove slowly along the centre of the road. Scott saw a woman kneeling on the edge of the pavement, hugged by two small children, her right hand stretched out towards the van. Further up, a front door opened and a soldier dragged a man out of the house. The van stopped and the rear door was opened. Out of sight, they boarded the van and then the soldier disembarked without his prisoner. A second soldier stood at the door, fending off an elderly woman, who cursed and hit out at him. He responded by shoving her back into the house and slamming the door behind him.

"What can you see?" Nathan asked.

"Nothing good, we've got to move now. Try the handle."

Nathan tried twisting the handle but found it wouldn't budge.

"It's locked."

The sound of the engine was getting closer. They could hear the soldiers a couple of doors down.

"Move out of the way, I'll force it," Scott instructed.

"Not with those ribs you won't."

Scott reluctantly moved to the left. Nathan braced himself and then charged at the door with his shoulder. The door flew inwards as the frame splintered a little. Luckily the window pane remained intact.

Scott followed Nathan into the room and they scanned the area, as their eyes adjusted to the darkness. The shop was virtually empty, except for a few boxes. Nathan picked one up and used to it to hold the front door closed. It would be very easy to open, but as a temporary way of avoiding immediate attention it would suffice.

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