Monday, May 28, 2012

THE RIVER ALWAYS FLOWS--Chapter 9

9

     Nice to see you all made it,’ Luden began in a hushed tone. ‘I hope you have the lookouts placed where we discussed they should be at the last meeting.’ He looked pointedly at a large man in the shadows.
     ‘We--- won’t be---- making the same mistake twice,’ the man said awkwardly. I wondered at his strange speech.
     Luden offered an explanation. ‘This is Tama. He arrived here form the back country about three months ago. Tama is in charge of security for our meetings, but last time we lost two of our people as we left. It’s them who we are planning to rescue tonight.’ Tama glanced at the ground, seeking to avoid the accusing eyes of the men and women gathered.
     ‘I don’t know how many times we have to remind you Tama, that no one’s blaming you for that night. It seems that we have a mole in our organization, just like we have infiltrated the Reclaimers and New Police.’ Luden turned to address the meeting as a whole. ‘That’s my point for tonight. I can’t stress the importance enough of getting the two men back. We think they are in that new facility they’ve converted from a bank in the old main street. It’s a solid structure, but we’ve been working towards a way in from the neighbouring building. We’ve been secretly tunnelling under the storage area at the back. That is where our men are imprisoned. We’ve heard from our sources that they won’t be able to put up with much more of the treatment they are receiving. One of them is sure to break soon.’
     Tama shuffled nervously, attracting the attention of those around him. ‘Look, Tama---maybe you shouldn’t be going on the raid tonight. We know that your brother is one of the men we’re after. Stand down man and just look after our backs.’
     ‘No way----I can’t—sit around while you’re-- risking your asses for one of my family. I’m--- going – whether you like it or not.’
     Tama’s words silenced the meeting. Luden nodded in Tama’s direction and continued. ‘Right--- we leave here in three groups of five. There’s no reason to make it more--- we’ll get in the way of one another and with the element of surprise on our side, we should be able to in and out in a matter of minutes. Everyone’s got their orders so let’s go. MIck and Tom--- I want you to stay here with the others and after we’ve been gone for about ten minutes, you’ll be taken to another safe house until we can work out our next move.’
     I doubted that anything Luden said was going to surprise me anymore. I resigned myself to a continuance of the day’s crazy events, not just one, but a series of ‘dreamable’ fantasies.
      The building slowly emptied as the three groups left. Soon I was alone with Mick and two ‘minders.’ Ted was one of them and neither he nor Grumpy  looked too happy. Both radiated resentment at being left to look after Mick and I. Grumpy soon made his feelings apparent. ‘Come on you two. If we must babysit you, then I’d rather get it over and done with so we can return to real work.’
     Mick reacted immediately. ‘Look asshole---!  We didn’t ask for any of this so how about you lose the bloody attitude. If you don’t, I’ll kick that sorry excuse for a butt you sit on and piss off back to where we came from.’ Mick must have realised pretty quickly the hopelessness of our situation because he switched tack. ‘OK---How about we start again eh? You take us to wherever it is then you can get back to the stuff you want to do. If I was any use, I’d be with you, but I think I better stay with the boy.’
     Ted took the opportunity to soothe Grumpy’s mood. ‘He’s right Grum--- I mean Peter. ‘
     Grumpy changed in an instant. ‘Stay with the Grumpy--- I know it suits me and actually, it sort of works for me in other ways too.’
     With the tension dissipating, we waited for a few minutes. We were alone after the remainder of the group had melted into the darkness. Outside, the rain started. At first it was a gentle whispering sound on the roof and then turning into a constant torrent. It was going to be a miserable night as neither of us had anything resembling crap weather gear. We slunk out not the tempest, and within seconds we were drenched. Thankfully it wasn’t cold. In fact the rain was warm. Just a few minutes ago, we were trying to get as close to the drum fire as possible, but here we were in a tropical downpour. Mick noticed too and he yelled out to Ted and Grumpy. ‘What’s with this Singapore weather? One minute it’s bloody cold and now--- this!’
     Ted laughed and motioned for us to shut up He signalled—‘later.’ We worked our way further from the port area and were soon at the edge of the older city, near some huge tanks. If anyone was about, they were keeping their heads down. Just as I was thinking that we were going to drown in the deluge or caught up in the ever increasing torrents of water sweeping past us down the steep street, the rain suddenly stopped. The silence was a total contrast to the sounds that had accompanied our journey so far.
     A flash of bright light pierced the darkening sky followed by a rumbling booming sound that put stop to the silence. Ted looked anxiously towards the town centre. ‘That would be our boys doing their thing. Some would have broken through in the tunnel. I helped dig some of that,’ he said proudly. He encouraged us to move on further away from the scene of the explosion. On this side of the town, there was no sign of guards, but we could hear a vehicle starting up from a nearby building. It coughed twice before struggling into life and then chugged past us as we hid behind a huge pile of rubbish. From the smell of the mess, it appeared to be an attempt to tidy up a rough area of the town.
     An alarm began blaring from the scene of the explosion and a few small arms weapons added to the noise, but a more unusual sound punctuated what was becoming a boisterous mêlée. My face must have shown my confusion.
     ‘I don’t think you have heard one like this fire before, have you?’ Grumpy offered as he pointed to his weapon. ‘It’s a version of what you used to call a stun-gun, but this one kills on the high setting and has a much bigger range---sort of sounds like those old Star War movies you used to watch.’ Grumpy almost sounded friendly.
     By now, hardly anything surprised me so I smiled and followed Ted as he called us forward to the last building before the town merged into an ugly no- man’s land again. He kept looking back over his shoulder as the sound of the distant battle grew louder. Even from our position we could hear the odd scream. ‘I don’t think that we are having it all our way somehow,’ Ted opined. ‘Best we get to our next safe house.’ Above us I was sure that I heard that sound I had noticed when we first left the tree place. Grumpy did too.
     ‘Damn--- they’ve got a ‘bird’ up again. The sooner we take them out of the picture, the better. Our life will be a lot safer.’ Grumpy aimed his weapon in the direction of the whistling sound and let loose a pulse of purple light. The ray searched the sky and a popping noise ended the intrusion. ‘Yes’, Grumpy whispered, looking around to see if the central control for the New Police had sent any of their men to find us. ‘I may have got it, but the message would have gone through as to our whereabouts. We better get out of here fast.’
     We had moved along another twenty metres before we heard the unmistakeable sound of the vehicle we had observed earlier returning, this time moving at speed. To make matters worse it sported a powerful spotlight that sent a probing beam across our pathway. ‘Down!’ Ted ordered.
     I fell to the ground and was swallowed up by the reeking mud. I wished for the warm rain to fall again, but for now I had to remain immobile, as the vehicle shuddered to a stop about ten metres from us. At least three figures climbed out of the vehicle and spread out while the light probed the now completely darkened landscape. A swish of purple light soon fixed that, but it also gave away the position of the weapon’s owner. Gunshot rang out. The New Police obviously had older weapons at their disposal.
     I heard Grumpy scream out as he was riddled with bullets. I lay, rooted in the revolting mud. ‘Run!’ Ted yelled. It was hopeless. I had no desire to meet Grumpy’s fate. What the hell was I to do---act like a hero? No, I shouted out.
     ‘Stop--- I’m only a kid!’ Stupid or cowardly--- it worked.
      ‘Stand up boy and you’ll be safe. Anyone with other ideas can kiss their asses’ goodbye.’ The voice belonged to a large man, almost on top of me. He leaned down and pulled me up. ‘Now who have we here then?’
     Ted and Mick surrendered. It was either that or sharing Grumpy’s fate. The will to resist had gone and in the beam of the searchlight, I could see that Ted was way beyond being scarred. Perhaps it was just as well I didn’t know what he knew. Not that I got much time to adjust to my new situation. I was bundled into the back to the vehicle. Mick and Ted were thrown in after me and two men with guns pointed at us, sat watching. It was definitely shut-the-stuff-up time. There was no escape, and anyway--- where to? Mick pressed his knee up against my leg as if to say--- I’m here.
     The jolting of the vehicle did nothing for our comfort level. We were soon back in the main street, heading down towards the far end of the area where the shops still existed, if you could call a couple of dozen untidy excuses for a shop that name. A truck rushed past us, heading towards the sound of the continuing melee not far from the main street. I had the feeling that it wasn’t going well for Luden and his band.
     Our journey came to an end when we pulled up in front of a large old building that was surrounded by barbed wire fencing and blocks of concrete. Several men barred our entrance to a roller door that was slowly opening, revealing yet more men holding guns aimed at us. More reason not to try anything stupid.
     Once again we were dragged out of the vehicle. I shouted at the men. ‘I’m coming--- don’t bloody pull!’ I received a vicious kick for my troubles. ‘You’ll talk when we say kid--- get the message?’ I did.
    Several men dressed in the New Police gear accompanied each of us. Grumpy’s body was taken to another part of the building while we were locked in a room with bars for windows, allowing a nasty wind to penetrate the space. The door slammed shut, with a small observation slot remaining open. A face appeared and even from my position, I could see a pair of eyes widen in shock. The door opened again and I started at the guy--- he was dressed in a uniform that cried out--- officer. He was also my dad.