Anchors No More #10: Seven To GoMar 24, 2014
The sunset brought the chill, placing a frosty edge on the moist air. Holly pressed her body into Gary, his arm wrapped around her tight trying to keep her warm. Still lying in the tall grass as they had been for the past four hours, they watched the red then orange and then purple brilliance of the sun sliding behind the horizon and fade into a dull grey. In the growing dark, Gary pulled Holly closer, her hip touching his, “Do you think he’s coming?” he asked, looking up at the first star he could see in the sky. She didn’t reply, just nestled her head into his shoulder.
The soft sound of an engine in the distance drew their attention. They pressed themselves down onto the ground, their excitement tempered by the instinct to be safe instead of sorry. The vehicle drew closer; it was a military jeep driving slowly down the road. As the jeep creeped near they could hear a voice periodically calling out, “Doctor Marshal,” “Doctor Neff,” and “It’s me, come out!”
Optimistic smiles came to both of their faces, but when Holly moved to stand, Gary grabbed her arm. “Wait one second,” he said protectively, climbing to his feet. Under normal circumstances Holly would have scolded him for his paternalism, something he displayed from time to time, opening doors for her or offering to carry groceries up the stairs to her apartment, but right then the thought did not cross her mind. She was too overwhelmed and disoriented to be offended. Holly watched him stand and step towards the road, waving an arm in the air at the jeep ten yards away. The vehicle pulled to a stop beside him and Restrepo leaned out the window, “Get in,” he said, checking the side mirror before looking impatiently at Gary.
Gary saw Restrepo was alone, the interior of the jeep empty except for the driver and a pile of something in the backseat covered with a grey tarp. Gary turned back to where Holly lay and softly said, “Holly, it’s all right, come on.”
Down the small road they sped, the sparse forest on one side and an open grassy field stretching into the distance on the other with a tall security fence separating the ARLIS compound from the horizon. After a long silence of awkward uncertainty on all of their parts, Restrepo said, “Under the tarp, on top, there’s two uniform jackets and hats, put them on.” In the backseat, Holly did not ask or hesitate, she quickly lifted part of the tarp and grabbed the uniforms off of a couple blankets folded on top of a stack of four large file boxes. Tucked in beside the boxes was a dozen half-liters of water and, much to her unbelieving eyes, their backpacks. “Oh my God,” she blurted out, holding her gaze on the packs a moment longer to be sure she was really seeing them, “You got them.”
Gary turned to see what she was speaking of but Restrepo had no patience for distraction, “Worry about it later,” he said sternly, “put on the uniforms now. We’re gonna hit a pass house in about one minute.” This received their full attention. Holly handed Gary his clothes and they quickly dressed, buttoning up the long sleeved military shirts over their wetsuits and pulling on the brimmed caps. In the front seat, Gary looked nervously at Restrepo, “What are we going to do?” he asked.
Restrepo did not look at him, keeping his eyes focused on the small concrete kiosk ahead and the barbed wire fence stretching across the road just beyond it. He pursed his lips tensely, “You are going to do your best to not have to say anything and I’m going to try and make this quick.” That was good enough for Gary. He sat back in his seat, tried to relax and offer the appearance that he was right where he belonged. Holly settled back into her seat and straightened her shirt as she let out a slow breath. She could see two pass house guards step into the road in front of the gate, one of them waving his arm in the air to hail the jeep while the other stood behind him holding an assault rifle at the ready.
“All right,” Restrepo muttered, slowing the jeep to a stop beside the guard who had hailed them. He pulled a few forms from the sun visor and handed them to the guard. “How’s it going?” he casually asked.
“Good,” the guard said, looking up from the forms to Restrepo. Giving Gary and Holly a glance, he cast a questioning expression at Restrepo. “Little late for this isn’t it?” he asked.
Restrepo smiled, “I thought so, but hey, I just work here.” He gave both guards a nod, “You guys want anything?”
The guard handed him back the forms and sized him up for a moment before looking over to his partner and loudly asking, “Hey, you want anything from the truck?” The guard holding the rifle gave a nod and held up four fingers. The guard turned back to Restrepo and said, “Seven tacos, two horchatas.”
Restrepo grinned and turned to Gary, “Don’t forget,” he said.
Gary stiffly nodded, “Got it, seven to go,” he clumsily saluted, garnering an odd look from both driver and guard.
Restrepo quickly moved the conversation forward, “Okay, give us about forty minutes, we have to fill up the jeep.”
The guard continued his long look at Gary, almost asking him a question, but he didn’t, he turned back to Restrepo. “All right, thanks,” he said, waving at the second guard. “You get that twenty from Gibbons yet?” he asked Restrepo.
Restrepo laughed as the second guard walked to the small console beside the pass house and pressed a button, “No,” he said as the gate slid open, “He still owes me fifty from the Super Bowl three years ago.”
The guard shook his head, tossing Holly and Gary a wave. “The bastard,” he said, acknowledging them. “Make it quick,” he told Restrepo, “Howard’s going to eat his gun soon.”
Restrepo gave a last smile and pulled the jeep into gear. “He’s an animal,” he said, stepping lightly on the gas, giving Howard a wave as he passed him at the console, driving through the open gate and speeding up, eyes tight on the dark road as he got them the hell out of there.
© David Edward Wagner 2014. All Rights Reserved.