Weād not made it to where Clarissa and I had dropped off the ridge last night when the distinctive snap of a high caliber bullet stopped me in my tracks. The following crack of the rifle tripped a coiled spring in my head, the one that demanded instant action. I was packing Conor, so I just grabbed Clarissaās hand and sprinted for cover.
Twenty feet before the tree line the grass got sparse and we had to really run for it. I pushed her ahead and zig-zagged back and forth. The distance seemed like a thousand yards. A dozen rifles opened up. Bullets pflunked into the rain-soaked dirt around me. One took a chunk out of my leg and though it didnāt immediately hurt, blood flooded down into my shoe like a West Texas oil well. The pain would come later and Iād soon have to stop the flow, but the important thing was that Iād kept their attention long enough for Clarissa to escape. That was all that mattered.
When I reached the safety of the jungle, I shoved Clarissa down behind a boulder, then dove in after her. That didnāt go well as I had Conor in front of me. I landed on my left side and grunted with pain when my broken arm skidded into the ground. Conor of course, started bellering like a branded steer. I clapped my hand over his mouth, which only made him madder at me and his whole life situation in general. Clarissa tried to jolly him into silence, but that didnāt work either. As fast as we could, we crawled further down into the rocks. I scanned the surrounding area to see if I could spot Diego, but I saw nothing. Cautiously, I raised my head higher to see whether heād been shot. There wasnāt a body out in the grass, so he must have escaped. An immediate bullet clipped my ear and I dove for cover, though I kept an eye on the ridge. The guns opened up again as three of them scrambled down the slope. I knew others would be trying to circle around to cut us off.
There was only one thing to do. I turned to Clarissa. āGet out of here. Find Diego. Iāll catch up later.ā
She shook her head. āNo, we have to stay together.ā She shoved my pant leg up and examined the wound. It wasnāt a bad oneāas long as we could get the bleeding stopped. She bound it up with a piece of clean diaper. She even had tape in that bag, though why, Iāll never know.
I reached over and touched her shoulder while I gazed into her eyes. āHonā, do what I say. If we stay here, we will dieāConor will die. Theyāre working their way down the slope. Within minutes theyāll have us surrounded.ā
āBut Lon, I donāt trust Diegoāand neither do you.ā
āWe donāt have a choice. Give me a couple of hours and Iāll be right behind you. The only way I can hold them off is if I move now. I canāt do that if I have to take care of you and Conor. Trust me sweetheart, this is what we have to do. By this afternoon, you . . . weāll be in that chopper and out of this nightmare. Now go.ā I squeezed her arm.
Our eyes locked. She reached for my face, and I tangled the fingers of my good hand in her hair. Time stopped. The guns were silenced as my lips met hers.
āI love you.ā
āI love you too Lonnie Bowers, and if you get hurt again, Iāll kill youāor something!ā Then she picked Conor out of my arms, held him close, and ran for it while I laid as much lead over that hillside as a nine millimeter can manage, which doesnāt even begin to compare to AR-15ās and AK-47ās. I was badly outnumbered and outgunned, and when I tried to leave, they let me know with an answering barrage. Though Iād not told Clarissaāleaving was no longer an option. My family had escaped at the last possible moment.
Minutes later, I peeked around the side of the mossy rock I was bellied up to just to see if any of those killers were trying to creep in close and finish me off. What I had for brains escaped by two inches, but they sure ruined my expensive tourist hat, and the truth slowly dawned on me. This grassy niche behind a black chunk of volcanic lava would be my last stand. Iād not see another dawn.