The bit for today has been sitting in my notebook since I rode the bus up to New York on the 12th to see Allegiance thanks to a generous birthday gift from a dear friend. Really awesome show, by the way. I know Broadway tickets aren’t cheap, but it really is worth every penny. Go see it if you can. In any case, this has been languishing in my notebook in longhand and now it’s here, 698 words more in the adventure of Clara and Sophie. I’ll explain more about my prolonged absence in the next post, hopefully tomorrow.
The old woman seemed pleased that there was a way she could be of some use. Her name was Delores and she found an ancient sticky peppermint in the bottom of her pocket and gave it to Sophie. Sophie rolled it in her fingers for a moment and then tucked in her own pocket for safe-keeping.
The plan was set. Delores would exit the tunnel and attract the attention of any Nightkind there might be. She would head straight down the tracks as best she could, leading them away from the best escape route, the trees off to the right. Stacey looked uncomfortable and kept patting her hand and asking her if she was sure.
“Of course I’m sure,” Delores finally snapped and yanked her hand away. “It was what I was going to do anyway and this way someone besides the Nightkind gets some benefit from it.” Stacey blushed.
“Okay folks,” Joe said, breaking the tension. “Time to get moving. No sense lolly-gagging now that we know what we’re doing.”
“We don’t know everything,” Bat said in a quiet voice.
“What do you mean?” Joe frowned.
Bat nodded her head to Stacey. “She can’t run. How are we going to handle it?”
“I’ll carry her,” Joe growled, his eyes boring into Bat. She didn’t flinch.
“That doesn’t seem like the best use of resources considering, one, you’re supposed to be leading us considering you know the ground best. And two, you’re one of our best shots and we might need that.”
“I’m not leaving her behind.” Joe’s voice came out in a strangled whisper.
“I’m not asking you to, Cap.” Bat’s voice was smooth and calm. “We just need a good plan in place if we’re all going to make it through.”
Joe drew in his breath to speak but was interrupted by a stocky Hispanic man who’d sidled up to their circle.
“Excuse me,” he said, waving a hand to get their attention. “I couldn’t help but overhear your situation.” He paused and looked at all their faces for an answer. He swallowed hard when all the encouragement he got was stony silence and he continued. “I’m on my own and I don’t stand much of a chance. But I’m strong and I could carry her.” He gestured to Stacey. “I need to get to Baltimore. I’ll carry her all the way to Baltimore if you let me join your group.”
There was still silence. He pulled the pack off his back and held it up. “I even have my own food. I wouldn’t put a strain on your supplies. Hell, you can even have it if you want it. Please. I don’t want to go out there alone.”
Joe gave a curt nod. “I should at least know your name if you’re going to carry my wife for 40 miles.”
“Alejandro.” He shouldered his pack and held out his hand. Joe shook it and turned his attention back to Bat.
“We good now?” he growled.
“Almost,” she said and turned to Clara. “Do you think you can carry your daughter and run at the same time?”
Clara frowned and crossed her arms across her chest. “If I have to. Why?”
“In that first sprint there are going to be things you really don’t want her to see, trust me. It would be better if we blindfolded her.”
“Sophie was born into this world. It’s not like she doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Bat shook her head. “Knowing what’s going on and seeing it are two different things. And it’s been getting worse. It’s gotten worse than you can imagine, Clara. The Nightkind are getting hungrier. That’s why they want to take the cities now. What if she gets so scared she freezes? I know you’ll stop, but we won’t. We can’t. We can’t sacrifice the whole group for just one. You’ll both be dead. And depending on what’s waiting for us up there, it could be very painful.”
Clara clutched Sophie to her side as the blood drained from her face.
“I’ll carry her,” she whispered.
Bat gave her a nod and a smile, then turned back to Joe. “Good to go, Cap.”