17 RIVERSIDE ENCOUNTER
The sound of the crunching gravel became more rapid as Teplan and Terah picked up the pace. “Let’s cut through here,” Terah said, grabbing his hand and pulling him into the forest. “I think it’ll take us close to our first spot at the river.”
In the distance, the faint sound of vehicles approached.
“Let’s get out of sight,” Terah insisted. “The forest looks like it thins out after we get through this dense stuff.”
The smell of fresh green maple filled the air, as the roar of the engines quickly grew louder. Instinctively, Teplan crouched beside Terah as three big black pick-up trucks zoomed past. Who-the-heck are those guys?
“That’s an odd looking group of trucks,” Terah remarked. The trucks drove out of sight.
The sun was much lower in the sky now and the leaves were almost glowing in a soft haze. Teplan and Terah remained in their crouch position a few moments longer.
“Let’s get mud from the river and get out of here - those trucks are freaky,” Terah said.
Both weaved their way through the forest at a quickened pace until they came to a clearing. As they arrived at the river, the engines’ roar returned somewhere back through the trees. Then the sound suddenly stopped.
“Did you hear that, Teplan?”
“Yeah. I can’t see anything through the forest though,” Teplan replied, looking back through the trees. “But they sounded like they turned off their engines. Let’s make sure we’re really quiet.”
“And let’s hurry,” Terah said uncomfortably as she fumbled for a water bottle from her backpack.
Teplan immediately lifted a couple of rocks beside the water to access mud. As Teplan put the first scoop of the riverbed into the bottle, the sounds of sticks breaking and leaves crunching came crashing towards them at a fierce pace and commanded their attention. Both spun around to see in the distance six large, dark, outfits bobbing and weaving through the trees at lightning speed and heading straight toward them.
“Quick! Hurry! We have some serious-looking company!” Teplan stammered as he scooped up some mud and shoved it into his backpack.
“Hey, you two kids! We want to talk to you!” shouted one of the men who was running toward them. “Stay right there!”
“Think they’re from the barn?” Terah asked.
The men barreled through the forest, “Don’t you move an inch!”
“Maybe. But they don’t look happy, that’s for sure!” Teplan replied.
“What are we going to do?” Terah exclaimed, grabbing Teplan’s arm. The men rapidly gained ground, jumping over logs and bushes, dodging trees and moving through the forest like animals.
Without an answer, Terah yanked on Teplan’s hand. “What are we going to do, Teplan?” Terah looked to see Teplan staring up river. She followed his eyes to a small motorboat chugging straight for them. The sole occupant of the boat, sitting at the back with one hand on the throttle of the little outboard motor, was shouting and wildly waving one arm in the air.
Teplan stared. What’s going on?
They were trapped on the river’s edge, looking back and forth between the men running towards them and the little boat edging its way towards them. Terah screamed at Teplan — Teplan felt sweat piling above his eyebrow and he could hear the sound of his heart pounding in his chest.
“What are we going to do, Teplan?”
Both the men, and the boat, were moments away.
The man in the boat yelled over the motor in a quick and calm voice, “Teplan! Hop in!”
Am I seeing things! How is my uncle here?
Terah grabbed Teplan’s arm and shook it, “Teplan!”
The boat raced to a stop right in front of them.
Teplan snapped to it, “He’s my uncle! Get in the boat!”
One of the jumpsuits was only seconds away when Teplan and Terah ran into the water, soaking their pants, again. Teplan swung both his legs onboard and heard Terah behind him scream, “Aaaaahhhhh!” The jumpsuit dove into the water behind them and grabbed a hold of Terah’s ankle.
“Terah!” Teplan shouted, lunging for her arms. She reached out and the two of them managed to lock onto each other’s forearms. Teplan flailed his feet around inside the boat trying to find a foothold to stabilize himself. “Uncle Ian! Help!”
Terah kicked and flailed as hard as she could and screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Heads down!” Uncle Ian shouted as he leaned over Terah’s shoulder and sprayed from a bottle in his hand. Suddenly, Terah’s leg was free and Teplan yanked her into the boat, both landing with a thud.
Ian hit the gas.
The little boat tore into the middle of river and sped away, leaving six men behind shouting and waving their fists, “We know who you are! We’ll find you! You won’t get away!”