Fortunately, Miss Gabriella and the old man didn’t realize that we are hiding in the next room. My heart was thumping fast and loud, I wanted to simply turn invisible before they realize four sets of eyes are watching them.
The old man looked tensed as he walked back and forth in that room. Miss Gabriella stood at the corner, watching him.
“Are you sure it is safe for them to move in?” His voice was deep and rough.
Miss Gabriella took a step forward, “Yes, this would be the perfect time. He’s not around and many of his people went away with him. This will be the only chance to go in.” She assured him but he didn’t look convinced.
“This is their first mission. I couldn’t afford to lose young tyros and at the same time this golden opportunity. All our hard work had come to this.” He stated as he clapped his hands together without making any sound.
“Only two tyros, Hugh had completed his trainings and been to five missions. He’s skillful enough and had filled me in his strategy earlier this morning. It’s very tactful and discreet. If it goes with plan nobody at the D’s will even know them coming. The team is prepared. They’re waiting for your final word, sir.” Miss Gabriella advanced and held a silver gadget to the old man. The silver material looked as if a phone but too small in size. It was as small as our palm. What brand is that?
The old man took the phone and stared at it for a few seconds before answering it. “Start the mission.” That was all he said and then he hang up. Miss Gab smile brightly and nodded at him. He sat on a wooden chair and stared right at us. I panicked for a moment thinking he spotted us but no, he was lost in his thoughts.
“I hope I made the right decision.” He glumly stated. There was a change in his voice, but his face stayed the same, fierce and stern. He sounded as though he’s tired but not physically.
“It was the right thing to do. We had enough interference from the police force. They lost more men than we did. If we could pull this off, we could go back to our independent system without the government breathing down our neck. We no longer need to answer them for our every action.” Miss Gab said as she stared down at the floor.
“Natasha, there’s no secret in this world, especially from Drago. He will eventually find it out and it will be a matter of time before he strikes. We need to be extra careful and caution the others.” His voice was grave but there was fondness in the way he addressed her. “I agree, sir.” Miss Gabriella’s voice mirrored his.
They left the room after that. We stayed quiet for the next ten minutes, processing what we had just witnessed. Then, we made our way to the tent. Thank god, nobody was around when we ran to our tent.
That was a very strange scene, I thought us breaking the rules was the highlight of the day but turns out the event took place in the room was much epic. I mean what’s with the strange attitude and dialogues. It looks like they were on to something, something big that involves the cops.
“Natasha, that’s her first name.” Ivy stated as soon as we settled in the tent. I lied on the sleeping pad in between Naomi and Ivy.
“What were they talking about?” Naomi asked in curiosity. “I don’t get it but they were dead serious about it, as if it was life or death.” Jane responded.
“Did we stumble upon some national secret stuff?” I wondered out loud. My friends had no answer for me. My mind was running wild, thinking every connection I can make to the scene unfolded. We speculated further about the whole day. I thought summer camp would spike up spirit of young minds but well this is certainly not what I expected. I went to sleep bracing myself for the next day. According to the schedule our heavy practices and fitness work out would start tomorrow.
“Let me sleep.” I begged, not wanting to leave the not so comfortable sleeping pad. I covered my head under the pillow. “Hello Miss I Love Summer Camp, we are ten minutes late. If you’re not up in 30 seconds Miss Gabriella is going to pour cold water on your face.” I heard Jane saying.
“What? Serious?” I sprang up like a spring that I had a serious head rush. “Damn it, my head.” I had a momentary blindness as I groggily step out of the tent. It was unbelievably cold that I hugged myself. Jane and Ivy were wearing the boots given by the camp. Naomi was struggling with the shoelace. I saw a huge group had assembled at the open hall. It was still dark, no sunrise yet. I looked at my watch and it showed 6.10 am.
“I hate early morning activities.” I said as I look for my toothbrush. “We all hate it.” Naomi retorted quietly. After we were done getting ready, we head to the hall and thanks the god, half of the camp were late as us so we got through without any punishment. There is a saying, start your day early and the rest of the day would be great. Well, that was not the case here, we had a great dose of yelling and scolding as all the campers gathered. I tried to tune it out and sleep standing but were instructed to do sit up and push up for 50 times.
“I swear I’m going to kill Anna for bringing me here.” Ivy gritted through her teeth.
“You should kill him and not me.” I said, trying to defend myself. I cursed Mr. Hans for ruining my early morning. After the dreadful workout, he gave us two minutes break before starting the normal warm up exercises. We were on our third set when Miss Gabriella came to the hall. She looked like a sports magazine model in her plain white tee and black tracksuit. She pulled aside Mr Hans for a brief conversation. We took that opportunity to stop and rest. Last night’s incident was still fresh in my head. I watched Miss Gabriella and wondered who she is.
Mr. Hans were sort of having arguments with her but at the end he asked us to stop the exercise and announced that we will be heading to the woods. He asked us to break into our five groups and all the facilitators would join us to guide. Many kids complained about going into the wood early in the morning, the sun is not fully up and it could be dangerous. He convinced us that it would be interesting to explore the nature while warming up. We formed a long queue. Though we were asked to be in our group, when the queue was formed four of us ended at the last end. Miss Gab was standing behind us as the last person. We didn’t say much since she was there. It took us awhile before the queue start moving. As we started to enter the woods the girl that was standing in front of me screamed. She was trying to hold her now unconscious friend.
“She was having breathing difficulties during the warm up.” She said worriedly as she crouched down next to the unconscious girl. They were both looked younger than us.
Miss Gabriella instructed a few girls including Ivy and Naomi to carry the girl to the van. She wanted to bring her to the nearest medic. The young girl, Ivy and Naomi carried her as they follow Miss Gabriella.
We were asked to continue the activity. Since the walk was very slow, Jane and I decided to stay back for Ivy and Naomi. Nobody noticed us standing at back, not following. After about five minutes, the young girl returned. We looked for Ivy and Naomi but they were nowhere to be seen.
“Hey, where is the other two?” I stopped the girl. She looked at us dumbfounded, then behind her. “I don’t know. They were behind me just now. Maybe they went somewhere.” She said in confusion. She then realized the whole group is not around and started to panic. “Where are they? Did they leave us?” Her big brown eyes almost welled up.
“Don’t worry. If you jogged forward you can catch them, they are not far away.” I assured her. “You’re not coming?” She asked. “No, we will wait for the two girls.” Jane said. “Okay, then.” The young girl ran quickly into the woods. I looked at Jane and she was staring at the campsite with a frown on her face. “Where they could be?” I asked her. She shook her head, “I don’t know, let’s wait for few minutes.” We waited almost fifteen minutes.
Both of us decided to go and look for them. The hall and canteen were empty, even our tent were just the way we left in the morning. “Don’t tell me they…” Jane didn’t have to finish her sentence, we rushed to the hall again and went straight to back room but it was closed as last night. “Where else, did they go?” We begin to worry as we search for them. There was no one around, which was strange, because yesterday, we saw many workers, instructors and facilitators. Shouldn’t they suppose to be stationed somewhere in the camp.
“Maybe they are hiding in that store room again.” Jane suggested.
We went to the long house and crept slowly as we pass the old man’s room. We opened the store room and found those two in there playing with their handsets.
“What the hell?” Jane yelled out in frustration.
“What are you guys doing here?” Naomi asked, a small smile playing around her lips.
“We were dead worried because of you two. Did you take the phone? You guys are unbelievable, what if you got caught.” I shook my head in disbelief. “We didn’t.” Ivy said, smiling brightly as she held her phone like a trophy. “We are so screwed this time, they going to notice four missing girls.” Jane said, as she sat on the old chair. “Let’s hope for a miracle.” Ivy said, not looking up from her phone. She was busy texting someone, probably the Tony guy she mentioned last night.
That is when we heard it. A shot rang out. We felt silent. Then another shot. The sound was really loud, close-range fireworks kind of loud, but doesn't sound anything like a firework. “Was that gunshot?” I guessed. My words barely escaped my mouth. Naomi was staring at me wide eyed. Ivy and Jane went pale. I tried to calm my accelerating heartbeats.
I told myself maybe someone in the campsite is practicing shooting but my instinct told me otherwise. I felt as if we were in great danger.
We heard a loud crack in the next room. Four of us stared into the room in between the planks. The room was twice the size of the room we are in. Unlike last night, we had the full view of the room. Now rising sun gave out enough rays for us to make out the scene. Two men dragged in a body into the room. They were dressed in black attire and their face was covered with black masks. They looked as though they are going to rob a bank any time soon. Ivy inhaled sharp while Naomi clamped her mouth from screaming. They kicked the man before they placed him on the chair and tied him up. The man’s arms and legs were bloodied. One of the men in the black ninja like suit lifted the unconscious man’s head to take a good look at him. I had to bit my lips from screaming when I recognized it was the old man, the leader of our camp. His silvery hair was now dark gleaming with blood. His left side of the jacket was blood stained. They shot him, I realized. But he was not dead. He struggled weakly when the two men searched his pockets. His wrists and ankles were bleeding as tough they were slashed with knife. “You thought my boss would be a moron to let your little kids into our hideout. How oblivious you think we are.” The other yelled at the helpless old man. He punched him in the stomach. The old man grunted in pain. Both of them laughed at him, “Look at you, weak and rusted. You should have retired when you had the chance long ago.” The old man was no longer moving.
“We watch your every move. We know your every strategy. There is no way you and your little team could bring us down. You targeted for his men but we simply targeted you, the head of the Angels. With you gone, it’s just a matter of time for us to bring your useless little organization down.” He went on. The other guy slapped the old man right across his face and noticed him not responding. He looked dead. They waited for awhile then one of the men’s phone rang. He answered the call while the other guy brought in a white bottle filled with some liquid. They poured it around the room. We watched in horror as he took out his lighter. They lit the room on fire.
I could not believe what I had just witness. The two men left in rush leaving the old man in the middle of the room. We were scared as hell but we could not race outside, unsure if those men will be out there. We waited for about 5 minutes. I knew we had to get out before the fire spread to the room we are in.
The old man remained still on the chair.
“He’s dead.” I heard Ivy’s voice. Tears started to well up in her eyes. “Oh my god!!!” Naomi shook her head non-stop, as if trying to get the image out of her head.
“Let’s get out from here.” Jane ordered. I couldn’t look away from the old man but the fire was fast spreading.
Jane and Naomi slowly cracked open the door and peered outside. I prayed those guys are gone for real. We moved in a group out from the storeroom. I couldn’t run. My legs felt very weak. As I pass the now open door, I saw the old man on the chair was now on the floor, it looked as if someone toppled the chair.
“Guys, look at this.” I called my friends. They hurried to my side. “The chair?” Naomi wondered. Suddenly the old man moved. We jumped in shock when we saw the sudden movement.
“He’s alive.” I said.
“We should help him.” Ivy moved forward but Jane dragged her back. “No, we should not get involve. This is serious. Let’s get out of here and pretend we do not know anything.”
“But, he’s alive, Jane.” Ivy said. Her voice was shaky. “Please guys, let’s go.” Jane ushered us to follow her. Her eyes were pleading. Obviously she was scared to be involved in this. I was battling myself between leaving as Jane said or stay and help him. I looked at the old man, he was struggling to undone the rope but unsuccessful.
“I’m sorry Jane, I could not live with the fact that I left a man die when I could have helped him.” Naomi said and she went into the smoky room. Ivy went in as well. I could see Jane struggling whether to stay or leave. Finally she looked at me and said, “I will stay out here and watch out for those guys. If I yelled, please, please drag the two idiots out.” I nodded and went in the room.
The room was hot and full of smoke. I saw Naomi and Ivy had already untied the ropes around his hands. My head swam in dizziness as I inhaled the smoke. The fire was hungrily burning everything on its path. I had to look away from the fierce fast approaching fire in order to help my friends. I helped them with the legs and finally we carried him outside. The room was half burnt. The woods were not slowing them down. We went to the back of the house into the woods and placed the old man in the ground.
“Now what?” I asked, looking at the girls. “Bring me to the house.” The old man answered in raspy voice. I was surprised to hear from him. I crouched beside him, “Are you alright?” I asked, aware that I asked such an idiotic question, of course he’s not alright. Look at him, Anna, my inner voice said sarcastically.
“Take me to the house at the far east in the woods. Leave me there and stay away.” He mumbled. I barely heard him. He said something else too. I had to lower my head to him to hear him better. “What?” “Don’t let yourselves be seen. Stay away.” That’s it he went unconscious. Great.
Once again we battled between to help him or abandon him.
“We should call the ambulance.” Ivy took out her handset.
Jane quickly snatched it away. “No, that’s risky. We do not know who we are involved with. Looking at the last night conversation and today’s event I’m sure we are stuck in a very bad situation.”
“But what else could we do?” Naomi asked. She was coughing badly due to the fire. Her eyes were watery and red. I was not sure whether she was crying hard or simply affected by the smoke.
“Take him to the house he mentioned.” I said. They stared at me as though I went crazy and it was Jane to break the silence, “But can we trust him?”
“Jane’s right, what if it was a trap or it was a dangerous place with more men with guns?” Naomi asked.
I stared down at him and saw the amount of blood that had pooled on the forest ground. “He is dying. I don’t think he’s trying to trick us. It doesn’t make sense, who are we and why would he mean to cause us any harm. He even cautioned us to stay away.” I tried to reason them. I wanted to bring him to the place he stated. Probably he had what he needed there. I was pretty sure we are dragging his time, his chance of survival. Immediate action should be taken. He could be dead any minute now. But I can’t act alone, I need my friends, as I am they’re conflicted with their own self-righteousness. “Then, maybe we should listen to him and stay away.” Jane countered.
Though part of me agreed with Jane, I knew that would not be the right thing to do since we had already helped him. It would be pointless to help him to get out of that room if we leave him here.
“Oh god, look at him. He’s losing so much of blood. We need to do something quick.” Ivy cried. “Let’s get him to the place he asked us to. Jane?” I said, Jane bit her lip but nodded. No matter how scared she was with whatever that’s happening around us, she was not heartless to let a man bleed to death. We struggled to move him to the east forest. Thanks to the medic classes Naomi and I went during high school, we had some clues as to how to carry an injured person. We tried to balance ourselves as we bear the weight of the old man. The house he mentioned was not that far from the campsite, it was only almost fifteen minutes away but since it’s located downhill it was barely visible from the campsite. Ivy and Jane stayed with the unconscious old man while Naomi and I braced ourselves to get a good look at the small abandoned wooden house. We were too scared that we threw a couple of stones at the wooden door but there was no movement. After a while, we took the courage to open the door. To my astonishment, the house was dark and dusty. There were even dried leaves all around. There was no sign of people staying in there.
We carried the old man into the dirty house and placed him on the floor. He was still unconscious but his heart was beating. We were grateful that he didn’t die. “I think this is the place he meant but there is nothing here.” I said, still looking around the house expecting to see someone appear out of nowhere. “Maybe he wanted to die here.” Ivy suggested. “This is a strange place to die.” Jane said as she walked around the place. We waited for few minutes but obviously we had nothing to do here. “We should leave now.” I said grimly, still wondering why he wanted to be here, far away from other’s eyes.
“Yeah, we should, this is the most we could do.” Ivy and Naomi said. As we got out of the place, Jane stopped and gave the place a last look. “Maybe we can do one more thing to make sure he survives.” She said, unsure of herself.
“Ivy, since we will not be with him why not you just call the ambulance here.”
“I was thinking about it but well from what we heard last night, these people seem to be powerful people, what if they traced my number.” Ivy said. She looked terrified.
“I think we could solve that problem, what if it’s not our phone?” Naomi said brightly. She ran towards the campsite and we followed her. Nobody was back from the jungle walk. We stopped running as we notice the whole wooden house on fire. I was stunned to see the blazing fire so big and close. There were some trees around the now burnt house caught on fire. “Shit, we should have called the firefighters.” I muttered, feeling guilty for not doing anything about the fire. “I will be back.” Naomi ran to the room at the back of the hall and quickly opened the door. She rushed in and came out in few seconds. “Here use this.” She produced an old branded phone. “But?” I was not sure if we could use someone else’s number. “It was in one of the facilitators’ jacket.” She explained. “We have no other choice but to use it.” Jane added. “Okay then, I took the phone and called the emergency line. I simply introduced myself as one of the member of the camp and let them know about the angry fire and the injured old man at the house not too far from the campsite. They noted the details and stated that they will be here in ten to twenty minutes. I hang up and looked at my friends. “Okay, they’re coming. Should we wait and tell them everything?” I asked them. My friends looked dazed and tired. “I don’t know but I don’t want to be involved with those criminals.” Jane said. But all of us are involved, my mind whispered. I shook my head. “Let’s get this phone back in there and should we try to put off the fire.” I turned and looked at the wild fire. “No way, we could put off that thing. We need more manpower or more water. I don’t see any water tank here.” Naomi said while trying to look around the campsite. “Let’s stay out of sight. It’s still dangerous for us to stay here, I’m scared if those guys with guns come back to check on him.” Ivy said.
“Yeah, let’s hide somewhere.” All of us looked at the burnt house, “Too bad, our hiding place is gone now.” “How about the tree house?” Ivy suggested. I remembered the tree house we saw yesterday.
We got to the place and each of us climbed up the ladder built. The tree house was large enough to fit us four. I was afraid that it would break and fall but my friends assured it was safe. As I sat in there, I noticed the small house where we left the old man was visible. We could see the entire campsite from here. I was too focused on the fuming fire that I almost didn’t notice the black jeep that drove to the small house. “Please, let it not be them.” Naomi prayed as we watched the jeep stopped at the front of the house. Two guys in black too but their attire were a little different from the previous guys. They were not wearing any mask but it was difficult to see their faces from here. They rushed in and got out carrying the old man. They put him in the jeep and drove off. “That’s it.” Naomi said. It’s obvious each one of us is worried about the old man. We do not know if those guys were there to harm him or help him. If only the ambulance got here early. I sighed.
Just then a fire truck and an ambulance pulled up at the campsite. The firefighters rushed to the fire while the nurses walked to the place we told them. We were watching them from far until the kids came back from the walk. The facilitators were shocked to see the campsite, the kids panicked and the whole place got messy. That’s when we got down. We moved unnoticed until we reached the tent area. Many kids were busy packing their things and making sure they are safe from the fire. We joined them and started packing as well. I thanked the god a million times to be able to get out of the mess and blend in unnoticed. Nobody saw us or suspected anything that would lead to us. Of course the instructors were looking for the old man. We watched everything while shivering. Though we didn’t do anything wrong, I felt guilty to keep the information we knew to ourselves. Somebody needs to know the truth but we kept our mouth shut. All the campers were instructed to go home since camping program is canceled. We too, went back as soon as they let us go. On our way back, we didn’t talk much. “Do you think he’s alive?” Ivy asked in a small voice. None of us had the answer.
We remained quiet for the rest of the journey while Naomi drove us home.
I felt asleep before reaching home. Naomi dropped us all before heading back. I didn’t say much to my parents. I just told them that there was a fire and the camp was canceled. My mum was relieved to see me home safely.
The next two days was hell. I kept on checking the net and the news to see anything related to the camp incident. I saw none, it was strange. I reread the pile of newspapers I bought early in the morning, hoping to read articles related to the fire or the death of the old man. I found nothing.
After a week Naomi texted me, ‘Wanna do something normal like shopping?’ After what happened last week, normal is the only thing I want to do.