31 TO STAY OR NOT TO STAY
“It’s going to be okay, Terah,” Teplan whispered as the two men stood a few feet back from the tailgate discussing what to do next.
“What if they open the lid, Teplan? Then what? What’s the plan, then?” Terah stammered with her hands covering her cheeks.
“The plan is not to get to that stage. Maybe we can tie the lid down from the inside?” Teplan said. “Let’s look around, quick!”
Both instantly began opening compartments and checking under and behind their seats for anything useful to tie the lid down. The cockpit was like a well-oiled machine; each compartment housed specific tools like a screwdriver set, flashlights and large scissors. Under the seats were neatly packed solar blankets and slim PFDs.
“There’s nothing!” Terah exclaimed while pulling herself up with her seatbelt. “Actually, how about the seat belts? They’re super strong!”
“Yes! Good!” Teplan exclaimed, and both immediately pulled out their seat belts to its maximum length and threaded the buckle through the handle on the top cover. “But if they get in, even to the front of the truck, we gotta get out of here.”
With renewed purpose, they circled the vehicle again, and then tried to force the doors to the cab open.” “Teplan, I don’t like this.”
“I know — me neither. But do they know we’re even in here?” he replied.
The whole truck began to rock as the two men pulled and pushed it, teetering it back and forth.
Teplan looked at Terah, “I know it sucks to have to think about leaving the truck, but I think we have to!” Teplan spoke quickly. “These guys look nothing but determined to get into this truck. Let’s get out and sneak away. We’ll bring the radio phone and call Ian and Marney from the forest.”
The rocking stopped after a few moments.
Terah nodded. “Fine… I guess we have no choice.”
“Okay… I’ll open the trapdoor. Remember, be silent,” Teplan said. He put his feet to one side and lifted the floor mat to the other side, revealing a square door in the floor. Marney’s kitchen flashed in his mind. Teplan twisted the latch and pulled it. He then pushed downward and it cracked open on a hinge. The men’s voices became loud and clear and Teplan immediately closed the trap door. He looked at Terah, who looked at him. What are we going to do?
Terah quickly found her mouth speaking before she could catch up with it, “It’s our best chance… I think. These guys are so caught up in getting into the truck they probably won’t be paying much attention to anything else,” she whispered. “We’ll be completely helpless if they open the lid.”
“Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. Let’s do it.”
Teplan repositioned himself so his head was at the floor and his feet were braced against the headrest of the chair. He took a breath, twisted the latch and pulled it up. He took another breath, and slowly pushed the trapdoor open. The seal cracked and instantly the voices were louder. As his stomach lay on the edge of the seat, he rested his torso on his elbows and peeked through the crack. The ground was dark. The air outside was cooler. He opened the door a few more inches and popped his head down to his chin, and could see four upside-down legs at the side door.
Teplan pulled his head back in. “They’re trying to pick the lock — we have to go now!”
Terah gasped. “Grab the phone.” Then quickly opened her latch and positioned her body similarly to Teplan’s. “Ready.”
Teplan, and then Terah, opened their latches and awkwardly rolled out of the trap door onto their backs. They pulled their legs out and around until their body lay beneath the truck on the ground, listening. The men clearly did not notice and continued to jimmy the door handles. Teplan pointed a finger towards the side of the truck where the legs were and did a silent ‘shushing’ sound. He then motioned for them to go to the front of the truck.
Teplan slowly and quietly began army crawling to the truck’s front bumper to decipher the next step. The tall trees before him showed no remorse in their unwavering efforts to be dark and scary. Terah turned to check on the men and found both to be around back of the truck now. “They’re at the back now!” Terah whispered super quietly.
“Okay, we need to go,” Teplan said. “Into the forest…can’t have them notice us. Let’s go around this tree,” he said pointing in front of them. “Just stay tight to the tree — follow my lead.” Teplan looked back and confirmed the two sets of legs were still at the rear of the truck. He army-crawled his way out from under the front of the truck, across the dirt ground to the forest’s edge, hugged the tree so as not to disrupt the adjacent shrubs and slipped behind the tree. In a split second, he was gone from sight. Terah waited until she saw his head emerge in the shadows and motioned for her to follow.
Stealthily like a cat, Terah did the same: Out from under the truck, across the dirt ground, hugged the tree and slipped around it in a flash. Both sat on their heels behind the tree, hearts pounding in their chests.
“Okay, I don’t think they heard us. Let’s get deeper into the forest,” Teplan whispered.
“Yeah. Be sure to not step on anything that might make a sound.”
Just then, what sounded like a loud radio crackle rang-out and rattled the evening’s stillness.
What was that! Teplan looked at Terah.
Almost like clockwork, the distorted radio-crackle rang-out again like an invitation for attention. The radiophone! Teplan grabbed the rear-side of his belt and quickly spun the little knob until it clicked off. From their now squat position, they peered around the tree and found the legs were gone.
With eyes like saucers, Teplan and Terah gasped at each other.
Terah grabbed Teplan’s outstretched hand as they popped up and headed straight into the woods. Both ran on their toes as they tried to bob and weave their way through the forest. Terah’s heart beat through her chest and she imagined the two guys spotting them like cheetahs do their prey.
Ian and Marney aren’t far — we have to get to them…