Othana was quite simply put; a city in chaos. Wherever Dillon looked he saw armed bands of looters, soldiers in jeeps, houses burning unchecked with no one interested in putting them out. On more than one occasion he had to go out of his way a quarter of a mile or more to circle entire blocks that were ablaze.
He attracted some attention but the Remington 870 Modular Combat Shotgun in his gloved hands was a formidable weapon and Dillon moved with the easy confidence that only came from years of experience surviving in the wildest times and places of the world. Any attention he drew quickly turned away and looked for prey with fewer teeth.
And the shotgun wasn’t his only weapon. His compact MOLLE style backpack was literally stuffed with lethalness. But Dillon felt that between the shotgun in his hands and the Jericho in his holster he could repel any significant attack. None of the bands he ran into numbered more than half a dozen and they were looking for easy pickings. And the soldiers of both sides had more important things to concern them than one lone man who was obviously concerned with staying out of the way and hunting a way clear of the madhouse this once prosperous city had become.
Dillon intention was to make his way to Othana’s Eastern District. There were a number of small private and commercial airfields there. His plan then was to use his satellite phone to contact one of his friends and ask them to fly in and pick him up.
Dillon’s sensitive hearing picked up cries and curses coming from a darkened alley to his left. He pushed back the black and white keffiyeh he wore on his head so that he had a completely unobstructed field of view. The cries came from two distinctive female voices. One that of a grown woman and the other was unmistakably a child. Dillon pumped a shell into the chamber and turned into the alley. His eyes quickly adjusted to the gloom of the alley and what he saw disgusted him.
Two men held a woman down on the filthy ground while a third tore at her clothing. She wasn’t taking it passively. She fought like a rabid bobcat and even though the three men were physically fit and obviously strong they were having a tough time holding her. A fourth man stood off to one side, laughing while holding down a girl of about nine or ten years old with one booted foot. The girl futilely tried to push the foot off her stomach.
Dillon fired off a shot into the air, which got the attention of the four men right quick. He pumped another shell into the chamber and aimed the shotgun in the direction of the four men. “Let them go.” Dillon’s calm voice resonated with the tone of a man used to being obeyed with he spoke.
The would-be rapists ceased their efforts and turned to look at the tall figure standing in the alley’s entrance. More importantly they saw the shotgun pointed at them.
The woman scrambled free and ran over to the fourth thug, pushing him off the little girl who she snatched up in her arms.
“Come on over here and stand behind me,” Dillon ordered. She did so, her tear-streaked face grateful, eyes seemingly as wide as the headlights of an eighteen wheeler. Dillon nodded as she passed him and then he turned his attention back to the four men. “Okay, fellas, let’s just chalk this up to everybody having a bad day and we all go our separate ways…forget this happened, right?”
The thug who had had his foot on the little girl snarled at the others, “we can take ‘im! He’s just one man!”
The shotgun whoomed and the thug flew backwards ten feet to crash to the ground, his chest turned into a gaping crimson crater.
Dillon pumped another shell into the chamber as he brought the shotgun back to bear on the remaining three. “And the population of the world’s stupidest bastards has just been reduced by one. Anybody want to help me reduce the population even more?”
The remaining three certainly did not. As one they turned and ran in the opposite direction as fast as they could.
Dillon turned to the woman and the little girl. “Sorry you had to see that,” he said in his regular voice. The rough ugliness was gone now that the threat had evaporated. “But with men like that, sometimes it’s the only way they understand what you mean.”
The woman’s face had no sympathy as she snapped; “They got what was coming to them! They were nothing but pigs! Filthy pigs!”
“No need to insult pigs, miss. My name’s Dillon. You are…”
“Monique Turnbull. And this is Salena.”
Dillon had cocked his head to the side while she was speaking as if he were trying to hear better. A slight smile played on his lips as he said; “Australian, right? Matter of fact I’m going to go out on a limb and narrow it down: South Australian.”
Monique Turnbull blinked in honest surprise. “Why, why…yes! That’s remarkable! How did you-“
“I spent some time in
Australia. Lived with an aboriginal group for a
while.” Dillon motioned for them to
start moving. “We’d best get acquainted
while we walk. Even if those
knuckleheads don’t come back there could be others.”
Monique said to the little girl, “Salena, can you walk? We’ll make better time if you can.”
“I can walk,” Salena said in a voice of such maturity that it was almost unnerving. She never took her eyes off Dillon as Monique set her on her sneakered feet. The three of them started off down the street.
Both Monique and Salena were dressed similarly in jeans and hoodie sweatshirts. In Salena’s case, her hoodie was two sizes too big and she kept pushing up her sleeves. Both of them looked as if they’d been rolling around in dirt and muck. Monique made a half-hearted attempt to clean Salena’s face with no noticeable improvement.
“I can’t thank you enough for helping us out back there. I prayed for God to send an angel to save us.”
Dillon chuckled. “I’ve been called many things but never an angel. Where in the hell did you come from and where are you trying to get to?”
“We’re going to the American Embassy in The Western Quarter. We’ll be safe there.”
“I highly doubt it. When situations like these happen, American embassies close up tight. Unless you’ve got valid papers-“
“I assure you, we’ll get in.” Monique said this with such conviction that Dillon’s curiosity was now thrown into high gear.
“You seem pretty sure of yourself, lady. You wouldn’t happen to be affiliated with the
U.S. government in some way, would
“Would you help us get to the embassy?”
“Whoa.” Dillon stopped and held up one hand. “I’m going to the Eastern District where I’m going to call a friend of mine and have him come with a plane and fly me out of here. It would make more sense for you to string along with me. I’ll take you anywhere you want once my friend picks me up.”
“That’s simply not acceptable. We absolutely must get to the American embassy.”
“Okay, who are you? Why the American embassy? Wouldn’t any embassy do? How about the Australian embassy?”
doesn’t have an embassy in Harak.”
Monique’s eyes pleaded as she continued.
“You simply can’t leave us alone.
We may run into others like those pigs back there.”
“But I’m not leaving you. You can come along with me. I’ll keep you safe, I promise.”
Monique shook her head adamantly. “We can’t go anywhere except the American embassy.”
“Then I’m afraid we’ll have to go our separate ways. I can let you have a gun and a couple spare clips of ammo but-“There was suddenly something in Dillon’s hand. He looked down and saw Salena holding his bigger gloved hand in her small, pudgier one. She looked up into his perplexed face and smiled.
Monique was also smiling. “I think you’ve made a new friend, Salena.”
“Oh for the luvva little fishes…” Dillon muttered. There were a few other things he would have liked to have said but after all, there was a little girl present. A little girl who looked up at Dillon as if he were the most wonderful thing she’d ever find in this life.
Dillon sighed. “Which way to the American embassy?”