Chapter 38 Golden Seeds

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Bravo and Belle turn to the grounded two remaining. They're merciless, but quick, as they unload. I didn't even bruise my knuckles. I'll have nothing to brag about in the story that comes outta this. The crew turns to each other, everyone checking everyone else—like we just got here.

"Guys..." Nightmare calls, "throw every 'nade we have into that fucking pond..."

I rush to his side and reach under his torso to drag him back. His pointy shoes leave twin trails in the muddy bank like reverse tire tracks. The dawn-light rising with the sun reveals the madness that took this place.

"Dahl..."

"Yes... brother?"

His head falls back. I ease him onto a lounge chair. My crew looks grim like they've guessed the score. I nod. Three grenades splash into the pond. Three seconds later a white bulge froths up. There's no sign of the giant lily. The crew's in no hurry to get next to me, switching between hope when looking at me and despair when eyeing him.

"Tragic..." Bravo folds his arms and shakes his head.

"Don't move him, we'll get the car over here." I suggest.

"Guys, what happened just now?" Ti Guy leans in close like the answer's on my face.

Belle says nothing, she drapes her arms around me and places her head on my shoulder. Tears drop on the back of my neck, yet her breaths tap my hair like laughter. I see a phone that matches mine on the white side table and know we won't find one of our friends.

"I'll drive, guys." is all I can offer.

Belle's head nods twice against my neck. Bravo and Ti Guy follow.

Angelle wipes her eyes and leads the way. I reach for her hand. She smiles back when she notices. We never even see the manhole-sized abyss waiting around the corner. Her hair flies straight up as it sucks her in. A shrinking scream measures it out—thirty feet at least. It echoes inside my sinking heart.

I kneel at the edge as my heartbeat skips. Ti Guy's curls his hand around my shoulder to pull me back.

"Dahl," Bravo speaks from behind, "There's no returning from that. Sadly, we must go if we still wish to save Javier."

The truth hurts. She'll be crushed or asphyxiated before help arrives. There's no coming back from it—but I'll follow anyway—'cuz she's all I care about. My last play is to not let her die alone. Let me at least be good for a promise—if nothing else.

I backslap free from Ti Guy's grip, "Fuck it then!" and hop in.

My organs feel like they're floating.  I reach out to slow myself. The light dims like a fade switch. I sink deep as my feet splash. Belle releases a gasp as I thud.

"I'm hear, baby."

"John?" her searching fingernails find my hair and she pulls me close, "Why?"

The sound feels muffled and water drops echo as they fall around us.

"I'd rather be here with you, than alive up there.  I love you."

"My feet are snared, John. I can't bend over—there's no room."

A suctioning sound accompanies her knee pressing into my groin as she struggles to free her foot.

"Okay, lemme check."

I can't bend either. A vine or root pulls against my back. Squatting down, I feel around in the mud. Leather straps, like 'U'-shaped handles, overlap around her ankle like a snare. Leaning forward is impossible. I can't get a decent grip. The pulling against my back becomes taut. Overhead it rumbles and mud rains down on us.

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