Chapter 3

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                "...guy?" I venture. The door has been left wide open, but our guest is nowhere to be seen. Thankfully, he didn't steal any of my CDs. "What a jerk," I mutter. "I told you we'd scare him off, dad."

            "Did he steal something?" Dad asks anxiously as he rapidly takes a visual stock of the RV's contents.

            "I don't..." I am interrupted by gunshots. The telltale ping of ricochets and perforations of the RV's stainless steel hull reaches my ears.

            "Shit," Father and I both say. Like a spooked spider he's up the ladder, scanning the area with the periscope. I resume my position against the wall with my shotgun. Father flashes me a series of signals: Two men. Armed. 50 metres east.

            Mister Disappearing Act returns, vaulting himself into the RV and slamming the door. "It's the League!" he wails.

            "What are you doing?" I scream. "You're screwing up the contingency plan!"

            "The what? Quick, give me my rifle back, they're coming!"

            "Auugh," I moan.

            "Regan!" Father shouts. "Drive."

            "Toward them, or...?" I ask as I rush up to the cockpit.

            "Nobody puts holes in Charlotte," he says. I chuckle as I start up the vehicle. Dad is back up the ladder, getting ready to unleash precision justice on the League jerks or whoever they are.

            I see them down the road, two men with assault rifles. They make for the ditches when Charlotte begins picking up speed, and I thank pre-Doom engineering for bullet-proof glass.

            "Sorry boys," I say. "When you shoot first without asking questions...we shoot back."

            I feel a tug at my belt holster and I tense up. In my right ear I can hear the telltale clickof the safety and the mechanical grind of the hammer pulling back.

            "You sly asshole," I say. My knuckles are white on the wheel.

            "Those are my friends your dad is about to shoot at," he says.

            "They shot first," I say, cursing myself for having more wit than sense. Charlotte continues rolling toward the shooters, who have begun firing at us from their entrenched position. "Plus it looks like they're trying to hit you, too."

            "They know what they're doing. If you know what's good for you, you'll drive exactly where I tell you to drive."

            I can hear my heart thumping in my chest. If Father is aware that something is amiss, he has made no sign. However I haven't heard any shots from the hatch yet.

            "You might put a hole in my head," I say. "It's a chance you could take. But seeing as how my hands are on the wheel, when I go, this RV is going to careen out of control and you'll fly around like a pinball."

            "What's a...?"

            "Plus there's still this scattergun in my lap. I hear people's nerves twitch quite a bit when they get their brains blown out."

            "Plus," I hear Father say behind me, "If you do anything other than put that gun down, you're dead anyway."

            My sigh of relief and the hum of the engine are the only sounds for a moment. I don't know how it's possible to feel shaky when my hands are so tight on the steering wheel. I can see him lower the gun out of the corner of my eye, and I'm expecting to hear Father's rifle next.

            The guy gets the butt of the rifle in the back of the head instead. His face strikes the glass and he falls backward, howling. There is a bloody spot where his nose smashed against the windshield. Then Father lays into him, fists swinging.

            "You fucking bastard!" he shouts, his voice at a fever-pitch.

            "Dad!" I shout. The road ends in a cul-de-sac, and the other two assailants are still behind us.

            "What?" He looks up, fists bloody. Our prisoner is still alive, sobbing again, blood and tears and snot all mixed up on his face.

            "We still have two guys with guns out there," I remind him.

            "Right." The utility cable is out of his pocket in a flash. He ties knots around our prisoner's wrists, then loops the wire through the passenger seat's frame, pulling it tight. Meanwhile, I start turning Charlotte around, scanning the road we'd just come down for signs of the other two men. All I can see is the cloud of dust and debris we've stirred up.

            "What's the plan, Dad?"

            "We go."

            "Umm...the truck?"

            "I'm not sticking around for a pointless gunfight, kiddo. We can get a new one in the city."

            "What about Mr. Backstabber over here?"

            Father spares a glance at him. He's breathing through his mouth because his nose is smashed in, staring at us like we're horrific monsters of some kind.

            Lay off it, I think. It's not like we'd leave you for the wild dogs.

            "He stays with us until I get all the information I want out of him."

            I hit the gas. The men are lying in wait in the ditches up ahead. They take another few pot-shots at the RV, to little effect. One of them heroically attempts to run alongside us and make a leaping grab for the door handle, but his attempt fails. I don't hear the crunch and scream when his leg goes under the back tire, but I imagine it in my head and grin.

            "Nice people, the Kawitzen Tribe," Father remarks as we reach the intersection and turn the corner.

            "I'm not with them," the guy manages to mumble between the bloody froth and spittle in his mouth.

            "Who are you with, then?" Father asks. "The League?"

            Our young captive stares at the floor, as though he thinks we're going to torture him or something.

            "Hey what's your name, guy?" I ask.

            "Mason," he says. I'm surprised he actually told me.

            "You're named after the jars? Or like...someone who builds walls?"

            Mason doesn't answer. He's too busy blubbering again. For a moment, I almost forget that he's a back-stabbing, CD-crushing gun-thieving liar.

            "Cheer up, you're not going to die," I tell him.

            "Yes I am," he insists.

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