Part 1 - Chapter 24 - The Showdown

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I awoke in the back of what appeared to be a delivery truck, lying on the floor, hands zip tied to my ankles. My backpack lay beside me. It still bulged, so I figured that nobody had taken the twenty-thousand. Not yet, anyway.

A partition separated the cargo area from the cab. I called out, "Hello."

A hand parted the partition. A big, white-toothed grin beamed at me from the driver seat. "What's it been, Sing? Two years? After they arrested you, Bio class was never the same."

"Hello, Pockets." My mind raced trying to figure it out. This was totally out of context. Why was I in a delivery truck with Pockets?

He bellowed with laughter. "Back then you were a skinny ass, and you're still a skinny ass. Ain't you ever gonna fill out, boy?"

"Where are you taking me?"

"The desert."

"Why?"

"You'll see." He went quiet.

We rode on for about an hour, and then I felt the van turn. A dirt road because the bumps bounced me all over the place. Being hogtied prevented me from getting comfortable. After about another half-hour the truck stopped. I heard Pockets open and close his door.

The truck's rear door opened and the sun streamed in making me squint. Pockets stood over me and popped open a switchblade. I stiffened, "You don't have to do this."

Pockets laughed. "If I was going to kill you, you'd already be dead." He sliced the zip ties.

I sat up and shook out my arms and legs, got the circulation going. "Now what?"

"Step outside and see."

I stepped from the van. Two other vehicles had followed the van. Stepping out of those vehicles were Boone, Larry, Grant, Kristi, and Stina. All of them carried long barreled shotguns except for Stina. She was unarmed. No way could she be hiding a gun in the skimpy outfit she wore.

I spun around in a slow circle. Nothing but desert scrub and far away mountains. No civilization.

Pockets walked away, maybe twenty paces. He pulled a handgun. It looked like a Glock.

The Heralds circled me and kept about thirty feet distant. After everyone got into position, the scene resembled a clock face with me at the center. Pockets and Boone stood together behind me at the twelve o'clock position, Grant at my two, Larry at my ten, Kristi at my eight, and unarmed Stina at my five. She stood there playing with the ends of her hair, eyes downcast. One of the cars remained parked at my six o'clock.

The Heralds chambered rounds into their shotguns and leveled them at me.

I automatically raised my hands and pivoted to face Boone. "What's this about?"

Despite the desert temperature being north of ninety, Boone stood there cool as a frosted mug in a white shirt and tie. He said, "Do you really think that you're the first kid to think serving his country was beneath him?"

"Tell you what, Dr. Boone, if I want to serve my country I'll join the Army."

Stina said, "There's a toolbox in the back of the truck. Open it."

I saw the toolbox. Opened it. My Vaquero and holster.

"Wear it," Boone said.

"Careful, Sing," Larry told me. "You're fast, but there are four shotguns aimed at your torso. Don't be stupid."

I took my time, buckled the holster, secured the rawhide tie down. Looked at the gun in my holster. "Mind if I check?"

"Yes, I mind," Boone said. "If your hand touches that gun, we will cut you down where you stand."

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