Sitting back to survey the land around us I took a moment. God it was just a different place altogether on that lake. All around us the water lay still and once we killed the engines there wasn’t a sound, just stunning silence. Surrounded by tall grass and trees we had the privacy we needed to conduct the fuel transfer, not that anyone was watching. The cove wasn’t a hundred yards wide and we plumbed it at just forty yards, but it served its purpose. Looking over the edge of the boat I glared into the water, it was crystal clear. The afternoon’s light capped the tiny waves as they rippled from the boat as its natural motion played with the water. It was such a simple pleasure to watch those little waves, like a child playing in a bathtub. I just sat there for a moment until L2 came up to me and dropped a bombshell in my lap.
Turning back around I could tell straight away by his face it wasn’t going to be good news.
“What is it, Junior? What’s happened?”
“Sir. It’s Longshot, Sir.” he said, then paused.
“What!? Spit it out, L2!”
He took a deep breath and said, “Sir, I regret to inform you that Tony is no longer with us.”
“WHAT!? HOW! How could we not know this? Dead or missing? What happened? Report!”
“Sir, it appears we thought he was on the second boat and they thought he was with us. It must have happened during the scramble to get aboard in Kyzylorda.”
“FUCK!!! FUCK!!! FUUUUCK!!!!!” I roared and slammed my firsts on the rail of the boat, then kicked it with impunity, heaving out my rage on the inanimate wood. L2 stepped back and heads turned. I don’t think my men had ever seen me get angry like that. Fuck, I’d never seen me get angry like that. I was an incredible blow, my best man gone.
“L2, get everyone, right now.”
I turned back as he walked off to execute my order and the pain in my hands and my left foot registered. I was too angry to let it sink in and wracked my mind. Jesus Christ, Tony, of all people. This changed everything, I knew I’d have to promote another man and the blow to morale could be detrimental. God!
“Everyone take a knee. Gentlemen, Tony is unaccounted for,” the news was acknowledged with the visible discomfort of all present. “At this point we don’t know if he’s a casualty or not so I want to know who had eyes on him last? Big Brin, Kegs and Glynn, exactly what happened at the oil depot?”
Kegs began. “Sir, we jumped the three guards, sabotaged the remaining boats by slicing up the tubing in the engines and got the hell out of there on these two vessels, Sir. I was with Big Brin and we took the rear guard. I assumed Longshot was still on point with Glynn when we left the depot. I didn’t hear any shots fired but it was a scramble to get out of there and rendezvous with the rest of you.”
“Aye, aye, Sir,” added Big Brin.
“When did you see him last Glynn?” I asked.
“Sir. I thought he was with Brintock and Kegs. I swear I saw him jump aboard their boat. That’s why I moved off alone, Sir. What are we going to do?”
“We’re going back.”
“I volunteer too Sir.”
“And me, Sir.”
“We’re all going back! But thank you, Gents. What I need right now is for these gentlemen to be watched over while the rest of us go back to the ridge five miles southwest of Kyzylorda. Whoever stays will need to feed and water these men, and will have to do it on foot in the scrub. It’ll be a shitty job, who wants it?
“I know you all want to get to Tony but watching these men is as important as turning back.”
“I’ll do it, Sir” said Al with a distinct resignation in his tone.
“Thank you, Al.”
“Gentlemen, every second we waste could cost Longshot his life, if he’s still alive. Get that police boat prepped and sank, they’ll be looking for it, and help Al & Co. ashore. I want them set up with a good spot with shade and cover. Out there in the middle of the long grass will do. Al, you can make shelters out of the reeds while we’re gone, you’ll have plenty of time on your hands. Just remember your training and keep fires low and at night only. And watch your back. The rest of you back here in two, tooled up and ready. GO!”
“SIR, YES, SIR!!”
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey