Gustav saw the gun in Pike’s hand.
“Throw it down”
Pike didn’t move. Gustav pulled a pistol from his holster. It was a Ruger 3301. He aimed it at Gemma.
“I only need Dr. Crassberg,” he said. “It will not trouble me to kill the other one.”
Gemma was a little pale, but otherwise showed no emotion.
Pike tossed Drake’s gun to the ground.
Helton took a step toward Gustav.
“Hey, asshole,” the pilot said, “are you the reason my plane is on fire over there?”
“Yes,” Gustav said. He shot Helton. The pilot doubled over, clutching his stomach. He fell to the jungle floor.
A whimper came from Elizabeth. No one else made a sound until Pike spoke.
“I’ll remember this, Gustav, and I’ll make it right.”
Gustav holstered his pistol. “Very good, yes. You remember me, and please mention my name to St. Peter. You’re on your way to meet him now.”
Pike grabbed Drake’s arm, pulling the other man into the deep jungle growth. As soon as they were hidden, both men dived to the ground..
Bullets crashed above them.
“They’re aiming where we would be if we were stupid enough to still be standing,” Drake said.
“I was counting on it,” Pike said.
Before the enemy could rush them, Pike and Drake crawled to a group of thin trees. Drake did pretty well with his inured arm.
When they were behind the trees, Drake whispered, “Not much protection.”
“They’re papaya trees,” Pike said. “The jungle’s thick with them. Hopefully, they won’t have to stop any bullets. We just need the shelter for a minute.”
The shooting stooped. Men were coming. Someone used a machete to cut away the thick cover.
Two of the men in white appeared through a freshly-hacked opening in the green vegetation. The man in front held a machete in one hand and a lightweight machine pistol in the other. The man in the rear used both hands to carry his M249.
The path of the two Brotherhood agents took them next to Pike’s hiding place. Pike let both men pass by. He stepped from cover and got an arm around the throat of the second man. The second man made a sound that was somewhere between a shout and a gurgle. The first man spun around, raised the machine pistol and squeezed off a three-round burst. The bullets stitched a bloody line across the chest of the man Pike held. Pike reached around and clasped the trigger hand of the now-dead Brotherhood agent. The sound of the M249 was enormous. The man with the machete was nearly cut in two by the fire from the light machine gun. Pike held onto the gun and let the dead man drop. Drake bent over the other victim, recovering the machine pistol.
Pike headed back toward Gemma and the other Brotherhood men.
“Too many of ‘em,” Drake said.
“Not as many as a minute ago,” Pike said.
Pike followed the rough path that had been hacked by the machete. At the edge of the path he peered through the brush. Gemma and Elizabeth were gone. So was Gustav and most of the Brotherhood soldiers. Four men remained.
Pike stepped from cover and raised the M249. He held the machine gun steady until the four men were cut down.
Drake appeared at his side as the last shot was fired. Pike’s ears rang.
“Didn’t leave any for me,” Drake said.
Pike dropped the machine gun.
“Empty,” he said. “And too damn heavy.”
“Hard to keep the barrel down?”
“A little.” Pike examined the dead men. Two of them wore holsters like Gustav’s. The guns were also Rugers. Pike stuck one of them in the waistband of his jeans and carried the other.
The sound of a helicopter came from nearby.
“Shit,” Pike said.
“Where’s Helton?” Drake said.
The pilot’s body was gone.
“Maybe he survived and crawled away.”
Drake examined the spot where Helton fell.
“He was gut shot. You see a blood trail?”
Except for the area around the four dead agents, there was no blood.
“It doesn’t matter,” Pike said. “It doesn’t help us find Gemma and Elizabeth.”
Pike walked back to the jungle path.
“Got a destination in mind?” Drake said.
“Wherever there’s a phone.”
Pike retrieved the machete from the dead man in the jungle. As it turned out, he didn’t need it for long. They soon stumbled across an old path, created by centuries of footfalls.
“Maybe this leads to an Aztec cell phone store,” Drake said.
“I liked it better when you were the strong silent type.”
Neither of them spoke again for almost an hour, when Pike noticed Drake’s ragged breathing.
“Let’s take a break,” he said.
“Don’t...need a break,” Drake huffed.
“Sure. But I do.” Pike sat down at the edge of the path and leaned against the trunk of a papaya tree. The butt of the Ruger dug into his back, so Pike pulled it out and set both guns on the ground next to him. Drake settled next to him, resting the machine pistol across his lap.
When Pike found a phone, he would call Pug on the Triton. Depending on where the ship was, they could hook up with him at the coast or Pug could send a plane for him. Then the search for Gemma could begin.
Drake was silent, until his breathing evened out.
“This what it’s like for you?” he said.
“Running around the world, pissing people off. Hiding in the jungle.”
Pike nodded. “Pretty much, Except for the hiding. I’m not a big fan of that.”
“Why do you do it?”
“Run around the world? Or piss people off?”
“You’re a rich kid. Shouldn’t you be clubbing in Miami or dating Paris Hilton?”
Pike didn’t answer for a long moment.
“I’ve only loved two things,” he said. “My freedom. And excitement. The only thing the money means to me is I get to live my life the way I want.”
Drake made a sound that might have been a chuckle.
“There was a time you loved something else.”
Pike stared at Drake, then shrugged.
“I was young. Gemma wanted to follow her dad into the business. I didn’t.”
“You always were a restless kid, Donny boy.”
“We need to have more of these heart-to-hearts, Dr. Phil. Really. I feel so much better.”
Drake stood up.
“Nap time’s over. Let’s move out.”
Pike stood, and the walk resumed.
They continued on the path until the sun went down. In the twilight, the path ended at a barrier of green.
Pike pushed the machete into the vegetation. It encountered an obstruction.
“A wall,” he said. He jammed the point of the blade in the ground and shoved the Ruger into his waistband next to its mate. He used both hands to feel along the wall. When he found the gate, he used the machete to hack through the undergrowth.
The gate was metal, flecked with rust, and locked.
“Doesn’t look very sturdy,” Drake said.
Pike kicked it. With a squeal, the latch broke and the gate swung open.
“They must not get many visitors from this side,” he said.
Pike let the machete fall to the path. He carried both Rugers as he stepped through the gate. Drake followed with the machine pistol in his good hand.
They were on the lawn of a large estate, standing on perfectly manicured grass. A massive house was in the distance, perhaps 300 yards away. A light shone from every window.
“I’d hate to mow this yard,” Drake said.
Pike headed for the house.
“Let’s knock on the door,” he said.
They had covered perhaps 50 yards when they heard the vehicles. Big trucks. Maybe Hummers. It was hard to tell. All they could see were headlights. Three vehicles stopped 10 yards away. The trucks were equipped with big spotlights. Pike squinted into the glare. He heard the familiar sound of a shotgun as a shell was racked into the chamber.
Pike looked at Drake. Drake shrugged. They both dropped their guns.
A voice on the other side of the lights shouted in Spanish: Who are you?
“Our plane crashed in the jungle,” Pike replied in the same language. “We just need a telephone.”
Someone else replied. In English. The voice was deep and guttural, as if the speaker had endured an injury to the throat. It was a voice Pike recognized.
“Donovan Pike? Is that you?”
Drake made that sound again, the one that might have been a laugh.
“Pike,” the voice said. “You have balls to come here, you son of a whore.”
“Of all the people I could get stuck in the jungle with,” Drake muttered, “I end up with Mister Charm.”
To be Continued
© Mark Justice 2010