Chapter Ten Part Three - Evie

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Gunfire!” Annalise hissed, her voice just audible over the noise of the engine.

“We're almost back at the boat yard where...” Verity allowed the sentence to trail off. Annalise did not need reminding that they were approaching the very place that Simon had been shot.

“Not any more,” Annalise replied, “Harry, turn us around. I noticed a road just before that last bend in the river. We're going to have to go by land.”

“You want to head back to the hotel?” Helen asked. “I suppose it's the only option, really, and we know there are boats there.”

“We hope there are boats there,” said Verity, quietly, as Harry did as he was asked and pulled as sharp a U-Turn as possible.

“What the Hell do you want me to do, V?” Annalise snapped at the woman, though she instantly regretted doing so. It was not Verity's fault that their way was blocked, nor was it the woman's error in judgement that had resulted in her capture and Simon's death. One good thing to come out of that was the rescue of the twelve girls, although that would have been for nought if she failed to get everyone to safety.

“Look, I'm sorry,” she said in much quieter tones. “That was massively uncalled for I just...”

“I know, 'Lise,” Verity replied with a weak smile. “I know, we all do. Listen, I'll go below deck and make sure the girls are ready to go. You coming, Johnny?”

“What?” Hearing Verity speak his name snapped the youth out of whatever daydream he was enjoying, and he nodded his head. “Yeah, yeah... Sure.”

“Don't worry about being gentle, Harry,” said Annalise as Johnny and Verity disappeared below deck. She pointed towards a suitable spot upon the bank. “See that patch of sandy shore there?”

“You want me to run aground, 'Lise?”

“Aye. Ain't like we're gonna' be using this boat again.”

“Might want to let them below to hold onto something, Helen,” Annalise said as she followed her own advice and grabbed a hold of the rail.

Helen ducked her head into the reasonably sized cabin below deck, using the stair-rail to steady herself as she instructed everyone else to hold something quickly, seconds before all on board lurched forwards as Harry grounded the cruiser upon the bank.

“Everybody OK?” Annalise shouted as the engine spluttered and died. She had jarred her shoulder during the grounding. Thankfully, she realised as she cricked it, the joint was not dislocated.

“Nothing more than a few cuts and bruises,” was Verity's shouted reply.

“Good,” said Annalise. “Harry, you're with me. Verity, Helen; it looks like a track runs through the woods a couple of hundred yards dead ahead. Get to it and start walking away from the river. If you get to a junction head south. Harry and I will be as quick as we can with a couple of vehicles.”

“What about the water? You almost died for that and Simon did.”

“I know, thanks for reminding me,” she replied through gritted teeth. “Have anyone capable of carrying a bottle do so, but none of the pregnant girls. We'll have to leave the rest.”

She hopped over the rail with Harry following close behind her, ignoring the branches and brambles as they whipped at the exposed skin of her arms.

They were soon through the trees and found the going much easier upon the track. Heading away from the river they covered ground quickly and within five hundred yards reached a long-abandoned farm.

“Looks like no one's been here for a long time,” said Harry. “Not to live, anyway.”

“Aye.” Annalise nodded. Harry was definitely right. There were a few buildings all of which were in need of serious renovation. Most were missing at least two walls and there was one that had only a single wall remaining.

There were signs of life though. Parked in an area almost shielded from the farm buildings by an extremely overgrown copse of birch were several vans and a couple of cars, the former of which all sported decals declaring they belonged to various river-based companies and organisations.

“More transit vans?” said Harry with a chuckle. “I'm sensing a theme here.”

“At least we'll be able to fit everyone inside a couple of these pretty easily,” Annalise replied, though she did agree wholly with Harry. “Just gotta' find some keys.”

“Nothing here, and the doors are locked,” Harry shouted, having made his way to the nearest of the vans and checked the top of each tyre, just in case whomsoever had previously owned the van had thought to leave the keys in the proper place.

“Same here,” replied Annalise. “Just going to check this other one before we start to break...”

She ducked, drawing her sword as she did so, as the crowbar embedded itself into the transit's door panel. Glancing up she saw a girl, struggling to retrieve the crowbar with a single arm. The other was quite clearly broken and she held it awkwardly.

“Hey, hey,” Annalise cooed. “It's all right, we're not here to hurt you.”

“Then you're here to take me back!” the girl yelled in reply as Annalise slowly straightened. Tears streamed down her already salt-streaked, decidedly grubby face. “I won't go back, I won't! I'd rather die!”

“Luckily, neither of those things is going to happen,” said Annalise, smiling gently as she turned to Harry. “Hot wire one of these things and head back towards the river. Bring everyone here and then we'll load up. This might take a while.”

“We don't have long, 'Lise.”

“I know,” she replied. “Just get back here quickly.”

It took Harry a few moments to successfully hot-wire the vehicle but he did manage to do so and sped off in a cloud of dust. He and Annalise had passed a track that headed south before they reached the farm, and he wanted to catch Verity, Helen and everyone else, before they headed in the direction that Annalise had told them to.

“I'm Annalise,” she said. “I'm going to sit down right here, why don't you join me?”

“Evie,” the girl replied, seemingly quite grateful for the opportunity to sit, albeit on the incredibly uncomfortable and dusty ground.

“It's very nice to meet you, Evie.” Annalise paused for a moment. She recognised the name though she was struggling to think whereabouts she had heard it. Then it hit her. She had not heard the name at all; she had read it upon the noticeboard in Minstead. “You need to get to Jersey, right?”

“Ye... Yeah,” the girl stammered. “How did you know that?”

“I saw the letter in Minstead,” she replied. “Leanne, wasn't it?”

“My girlfriend,” Evie sobbed and through the tears she continued. “Are you going to Jersey?”

“Yes, well... no,” she replied. “Not exactly. We're heading to Sark, which is near Jersey. We have people who should have arrived there a few hours ago.”

“You could drop me off?” the girl asked, sniffling and wiping her nose with the back of her hand.

“We can, I have no problem with that but we'll be heading to Sark first. Apart from anything else we have pregnant women among our number and we want to make sure that Jersey is entirely safe before we go there.” Annalise paused, noting the despondent look upon Evie's face. “You wouldn't want me to put pregnant women in potential harm's way, would you?”

“No,” Evie conceded. “No, I wouldn't.”

“OK,” said Annalise, smiling as she stood up and slapped her hand against the recently attacked door panel. “Now what do you say to helping me get this van running?”

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