Refuge

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CHAPTER 28 – Tangled Locks

SATURDAY

PETALUMA

By general, unspoken consensus, the meeting in the old Victorian broke up into small groups. A few wound up in the kitchen where they inventoried, arranged and stacked supplies, planned the next meal, and whatever else would help take their minds off the gravity of their situation.

Jason and Adam formed the nucleus of a small group that remained in the parlor discussing potential effectiveness of various battle tactics as well as survival methods in the changed world and its new apex predator. Possible locations were tossed about of unspoiled stores of food and survival supplies. And more speculation explored what life might be like in the immediate and the far future, including scenarios that both included and excluded the presence of the aliens. But, as attractive as the idea was that the invaders would simply stop their destruction of Earth and leave, they could come up with no logical reasons why they should even hope that it would happen. Still, they wished.

And so, the morning wore on.

At lunchtime, steaming cups of instant coffee, served with sugar and generous amounts of powdered non-dairy creamer made a pleasant surprise. The smoke from a wood fire over which the water was boiled would hardly be noticeable in the smoky haze blanketing the town, and any telltale aroma of the brew would hardly be noticeable over the pervading stench of death.

Emmie had a few sips from Erin’s mug, but she decided she didn’t like coffee, after all. She carried her peanut butter sandwich out to the kitchen to find something more palatable with which to wash it down as the conversations continued behind her.

At the second entrance into the kitchen at the end of a long hallway, she bumped into Claire who was backing through the open doorway while talking to someone in the room. Claire deftly avoided disaster in maintaining her balance of five mugs of hot coffee on a tray, and then, with a smile, she turned down Emmie’s offer to help deliver them and went on down the hall to her task.

Emmie edged into the kitchen and worked her way around the room. She scanned counter tops and tables laden with assorted bottles, cans, and boxes, but nothing for her to drink. When a heavy-set woman in a man’s tee-shirt opened the door to a high cupboard, Emmie glanced around the woman at the contents then ducked aside when the woman closed the door, spun and, ignoring Emmie, strode across the room to another cupboard. Emmie followed and discovered this cupboard just contained more boxes of oatmeal and various other forms of cereal that required cooking.

She had just about decided to settle for a glass of water when a wrinkled hand rested lightly upon her shoulder. She turned and peered into a wrinkled face hardly higher above the floor than her own.

In a voice as soft as rose petals, the old woman smiled and said, “It seems the young are ignored as much as the old, I’m afraid. They tolerate you until they step on you, then it’s ‘Shoo! Go on now!’”

Emmie caught a glimmer of sympathy in the pale eyes peering into her own. “I was just looking for something to drink. I don’t like coffee.”

“Tea would be nice,” the woman responded. “With lots of sugar and with a slice of lemon. Do you like tea?”

“Uh...yes, sometimes. I like ice tea.”

“Mmm, yes. Iced tea with a sprig of mint is very good in the summer.”

“Is there any tea here? I didn’t see any.”

“I always make sun tea in the summer, you know. It’s much better than brewed. Not bitter at all.”

“Yeah...I...uh, guess. Is there any...”

The palsied hand caressed Emmie’s tangled, blond locks.

“Long hair is so lovely. But, you know, you really must keep it brushed and clean.”

“Yeah, I know. But I haven’t...”

“My Sarah Ann has long hair. Oh, it’s so beautiful. Why, it’s so long, she can sit on it. And she always keeps it clean, and soft, and pretty.” The gnarled fingers worked through Emmie’s tangles. “She brushes it every night, you know. Seventy-five—a hundred strokes every night. She is so pretty.”

Emmie flinched as each knot gave way.

“It’s naturally wavy, you know. My Sarah Ann will fuss some that it’s always curly when her friends have nice, straight hair they can put up all different ways. But I always tell her, ‘You be grateful you have such pretty hair. All those others would give anything to have curls like yours.’ Still, she frets all the same. But, oh, my, she is pretty. Her hair just shines like a halo around her angel face.”

Emmie tried to back away when the woman’s ministering became painful, but she found herself backed into a corner. And, although the woman didn’t seem to be malicious, the tangles in Emmie’s hair were well set and stubborn. When the woman showed no signs of stopping, or even of recognizing that Emmie was experiencing discomfort, Emmie began to become frightened.

“...a long-handled brush with pretty, blue flowers painted on it. She’s so proud of that brush. Real bristle, it is.”

“Ow! That hurt!” Emmie’s cry of pain was reflexive when a particularly tight knot cost her several strands. She saw that the old woman had become completely immersed in her memories and was probably no longer fully aware of Emmie’s responses.

“...the color of a summer sky with a white lace collar. It rightly sets off her lovely, blue eyes. But the way it goes with her hair—my, oh, my...”

Emmie glanced quickly around the room for someone that might help her, but everyone was busy sorting, stacking, counting supplies, or similarly engrossed in other important tasks. She didn’t want to call out for help, not unless she really had to. What they were doing was truly important, she knew, and she wasn’t truly in peril. Not yet, anyway. But—OW—it does truly hurt. I guess I could push by her. She’s so old and weak, it wouldn’t be hard at all. But what if I hurt her? It probably wouldn’t take very much to break something. Ow! Maybe if I pushed her just a little. Ow! Or maybe a lot! ...Nah, now, that’s not nice.

“...every dance. But mostly it was Jimmy Caruthers. I knew she had feelings for him. I ’spect he did, too. But she was...”

I wonder if Sarah Ann is her granddaughter, or maybe a niece. She sounds lots older’n me, so I probably don’t know her. Ow! I wonder if she had all of her hair pulled out! I never heard of any bald girls at school! Aw, that’s not nice. She doesn’t really know what she’s doing. But—DARN!—that hurt! I’m going to have to...Hmmm, maybe....

“Well, it’s been nice—OW!—talking to you, but I’ve got to go now and tell Sarah Ann they’re all out of tea.” Emmie’s hand gently gripped the tremulous hand, and with a firm, continuous pressure that seemed to go unnoticed by the old woman, gradually eased it free of her hair.

“Sarah Ann?” The old eyes blinked several times as they worked back into focus on Emmie’s face.

“No, Aunt Gertie, that’s not Sarah Ann.” A middle-aged woman placed an arm around the bent shoulders and gently turned the old woman away from Emmie. “Why don’t you come back over here where I’m working? That’s it…watch that drawer sticking out behind you. Okay, just sit here, and I’ll be right back.”

The aged body turned and eased down on a straight backed, wooden chair beside a small table piled high with boxes.

“I’m sorry,” the woman said to Emmie. “I hope she didn’t hurt you. She didn’t mean to—she’s just not aware so much, anymore.”

“No, I’m all right.” But a slight quiver in Emmie’s voice belied her bravado. “Honest.”

“Can I get you something, honey?”

“Could I have something to drink? Water would be okay.”

“How about some fruit juice? There was some...right up here somewhere. Here it is. I knew I saw a can here earlier. It’s fruit punch. Is that all right?”

Emmie took the proffered single serving can and smiled back. “Thanks. It’s my favorite,” she lied. “Does Sarah Ann... Was she... I mean, is she here, in the house?”

The woman’s eyes glistened as she replied, “Sarah Ann was my sister. Our parents died when we were small, so Aunt Gertie and Uncle Byron raised us. Sarah Ann was two years younger than me. She was nineteen when she died in a car wreck a long time ago. Since Uncle Byron died day before yesterday...well, Aunt Gertie’s been kinda living in the past. She really didn’t mean to hurt you, but—”

“Heck, I know she didn’t.” This time Emmie’s smile was weak, but sincere, and her voice was firm. “And she didn’t hurt me, really. I pull my hair just as hard, sometimes, when it’s good and tangled like this.”

As she was going through the doorway with her can of warm Hi-C, Emmie turned and said, “I’m sorry about Sarah Ann and Uncle Byron.”

The woman’s glistening eyes smiled at Emmie’s retreating back.

By the time Emmie reached the end of the hall and stepped into the intersecting main hallway from the front door, she had opened the pull-tab on her can of juice and washed down the last traces of peanut butter coating her mouth. She sipped the remainder of the contents as her mind worked half-consciously at her encounter with Aunt Gertie like a probing tongue on a chipped tooth. She ambled toward the parlor and her father’s impassioned voice.

The sound of her name brought her out of her reverie just before she stepped through the doorway.

“...or Emmie. I’m afraid she’s in for a difficult life. And she’s going to have to be stronger than she’s ever imagined—stronger than any of us were at her age. I know I can’t protect her every minute. No one can—only herself. She can’t afford to make all the mistakes we made growing up. None of us can, anymore. But the young ones coming up...well, she’s just going to have to grow up awfully damned fast—too fast. She’s ten years old—almost old enough to be a woman in some cultures. And now...well, it looks like the best of all possible worlds that we can even hope for will be one of those cultures. And there’s damned little I can do about it except try to help her be ready. How many like Vic and Vince are there out there? How many more will surface as things get worse?”

“Jason,” Delmar put in, “ain’t it like you’re worrin’ about rotting floor joists while the house is burnin’ down? We got to concentrate on fightin’ them Martians. If we don’t whup ’em, we’re prolly all gonna die pretty soon, anyway.”

“Whip ’em?” Jason echoed. “How the hell can we whip ’em? We tried with the best we had and got the hell knocked out of us. I saw how ineffective our best fighters and missiles were against them. I tell you, Delmar, there’s just no way we can ever hope to beat them in battle. It would be like a tribe of primitive, cave dwellers going up against a modern-day army. We can’t even understand their weapons, let alone whip ’em.”

“Well, what the hell choice do we have? Huh? Are we gonna just sit here a shakin’ in our hole and wait for ’em to leave?” Delmar stomped about the room for a few seconds then stopped in front of where Jason sat. “They prolly won’t, you know.”

Jason gazed up at Delmar’s stern face and nodded his assent. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I just can’t get it out of my mind how easily they swatted our planes out of the air like so many pesky bugs. And, all the while, they were burning down San Francisco and Oakland and every other city around the bay. If they don’t leave on their own accord, or for some unforeseen reason like being deathly allergic to butterflies or something, I just don’t see how we can—”

“Jason’s right, too, about having to worry about someone like Vince.” Nate stood up while he spoke, but he didn’t move away from the chair he occupied at the table. “Believe me, someone like Vince can be every bit as deadly as those other monsters. Maybe even more so, ’cause he looks like one of us, and we might invite him here into our refuge before we know him for what he is. We can’t ignore men like Vince. And, like Jason said, Emmie and any other kids still alive are gonna have to grow up real quick, whether we like it or not. How long do you think a girl like Emmie would last if she was to come across Vince on her own, unless she was prepared to do whatever she had to?”

When the judge stood, they all sat and silently waited to see what other frightening words of wisdom he would speak. “What Nate says is true. The survivors, those best able to survive, and this applies to everyone, will be those prepared to not only meet a threat, but to meet it with deadly response. It would be even better if it were reflexive. If you have to think about it too much or for too long, you may lose whatever chance you had. You may not survive the encounter. Seldom did a person before just a couple of days ago have to be so lethal in responding to a threat. Normally it would not have been justified except for infrequent situations encountered by police officers, and, of course, soldiers in battle.”

Yeah, Jason thought, like if he’s coming at you like a Ninja swinging a shovel handle. Just how close did I come to dying that day? How close was Emmie to becoming an orphan? Christ! What if I wasn’t with her now, Beth? What if she were on her own?

He had carried doubts since his gunshots shattered the stillness of that afternoon. And with all the second-guessing from the press and the various agencies, his own doubts still gnawed at his conscience. Now, with the clear logic spoken by the judge in the amber light of the world suddenly turned violent in the extreme, he could feel his doubts and misgivings slough away and evaporate. I was justified. It’s a good thing I didn’t take my baton out of the car with me. I would have tried to use it to disarm him, and he probably would have killed me. At least the odds sure would have been against me. A two-foot baton against a five-foot staff is no match. Of course, a shovel handle against a Glock is no match either, but he called the game, not me.

“Are you all sayin’ we should teach little girls to kill?” Charlie was incredulous. “It’s a man’s place to protect women and children. Just as it’s a woman’s place to give a man a home to protect.”

Erin couldn’t restrain herself. “Oh, is that our place? Barefoot and pregnant—is that what you mean? Keep us in the kitchen and the bedroom while we aren’t out plowing the fields. But don’t let us have the power to protect ourselves. Oh, hell no! We just might decide we don’t care for things at home and look around over the next hill. And what the hell makes you think a woman—or a girl—can’t kill? We damned well can when we’ve taken all we can take—and feel bloody damned good about it, too! Does that shock your masculine sensitivity?”

Charlie had backed up under Erin’s onslaught until he touched the edge of the table where he silently withstood the barrage. When Erin paused for breath, he said, “No! That ain’t what I meant. Not at all. Sure, if a woman—or a girl—got caught out alone, you have to do whatever you can. What I meant is, it’s up to a man to see to it that the women under his protection never get caught alone. That’s all.”

“Oh, ‘under his protection’? Meaning, I suppose, that every female must live ‘under the protection’ of some man. And if the man providing the protection is killed, or if he’s away on a hunt or some other manly task—then what? Or what if he is someone we protection from, someone like Vic? Are we supposed to just passively sit there and wait for another suitable man to come along? And what if Vince comes along first? Then what? If no one else will teach Emmie to kill—I’ll teach her myself.” She made eye contact with Jason before she added, “And I’ll also teach her whatever a woman should know. Like you said, she may become a woman a lot sooner than anyone expected a week ago.”

The Judge nodded solemnly and said, “It may not necessarily be from an attack, either. Assuming we survive the next few days, and weeks, and months, whether the invaders are still here or not, we are going to have to re-think what we have thought of as marriageable age. With modern medicine suddenly becoming a dream of a distant future, a normal life expectancy will certainly become considerably less than what it has been. So, like in those cultures Jason mentioned, everything will have to move backwards, including acceptable child bearing ages. We must accept that even in the most adverse circumstances, biological urgings continue. There are strong arguments that such circumstances actually spur these stimuli in an attempt by the species to ensure its own survival through increased propagation.”

“Huh?” It was Delmar.

“What I mean, Delmar, is that—”

“Emmie!”

Jason had just noticed his daughter standing beyond the doorway with a frightened look on her face. Before he could say anything else, she turned and ran up the staircase.

Jason rose to his feet. “I’d better go talk to her.”

Erin stood, too. “Would you like for me to go?”

Jason thought for a moment and shook his head. “Let me see what I can do first.”

He found Emmie on the third floor at the window where Adam had taken him the day before. She was just standing quietly and looking out while the fingers of one hand interlaced with the strap of the binoculars hanging there. He knocked on the open door to get her attention, but she made no response.

As he entered the room, he said, “Better not stand too close to the window. Something might be looking back.”

She paused for just a moment before taking a step backwards. She still didn’t turn or speak to him even when he stood next to her and loosely draped an arm around her shoulder, but she didn’t move away from him, either. She just stared out the window. Then, after a long moment, she asked, “Do I have to have a baby?”

“Huh?” Her frankness was startling. He tightened his arm around her shoulder. “Why do you ask a thing like that?”

They stood looking out at at the smoking remains of the town that was to have been their new home, their future.

“Down there you said I was going to have to be a woman. And in the movies, when someone says a girl has to become a woman, it means she has to have babies. And now most of the people in the world are killed, so we’re going to have to fill the world up again with people.”

“Oh, Emmie.” He pulled her to him and put his other arm around her. After a few moments of trying to think of a good way to phrase it, he said, simply, “No, you won’t have to have any babies. Not ever. Not if you don’t want to. It’s true; the world we knew is gone. And it’s probably true there aren’t many people left. But I don’t think we need to be in a hurry to replace them. We wouldn’t want to wind up with lots of new people and no food or shelters for them, would we? I’m sorry you heard us down there. I don’t take back or deny most of what was said, but I’d like to have said it to you in a different way.”

She hugged him back and said, “S’okay, Dad. Besides, I’m not a little girl anymore, you know.”

He couldn’t suppress a chuckle. The bizarre absurdity of the entire situation had suddenly struck him. How could his little girl who saw the nearly complete destruction of the earth as something out of Hollywood be considered a woman? And, yet, even expressed in her simple, naive way, she appeared to have grasped the heart of it.

Emmie pulled back enough to look up into his face to see if he was laughing at her.

He kissed her on her forehead. “Sweetheart, even if you live to be ninety, and I’m a doddering, old wreck of a hundred and...whatever, you will always by my little girl.”

As he pulled her to him again, the ragged nerves that had propelled him into a spasm of laughter switched poles, and he found himself engulfed in tearful despair.

He gazed at the ceiling and muttered. “Oh, God, Beth, what kind of obscene, preposterous world has this become where our child should have to worry about having to have babies…or to be chased down and slaughtered like an animal by alien monstrosities?” His voice no longer mumbled, and a shading of rage laced each word. “Or, dammit, Beth, what if she were caught by a man like Vince Morgan? Huh, Beth, what if she was put to the nightmarish abuse and death we know he’s capable of? Does she have to be able and willing to kill him first?” The tears rolled down his cheeks and dripped onto the top of his daughter’s head as his body heaved with half-stifled sobs. “Why does our daughter have to become a killer in order to live?”

She hugged him tighter, at first. But when he began talking to her mother as though she were actually in the room with them, Emmie pulled back and looked into his tortured face, her own tears unstoppable, as well. “Daddy, stop! Stop! Mommy’s not here. Mommy’s dead! She’s dead, and she can’t come back! So, stop talking to her like she’s not! ’Cause she is dead! She is!”

The heat of Emmie’s reaction had the effect of dumping a bucket of ice water down his back. He jerked himself back to reality and found himself looking into Beth’s eyes, angry eyes, eyes filled with tears of anguish. But they weren’t Beth’s. They were Emmie’s, and she was right. Beth’s were gone forever, to be recalled only in memory and in the echo of her face in Emmie’s.

Unmeasured time passed, and despair threatened to overpower him. Despondency had begun on that morning of death two days ago when he had realized that few, if any, others had survived in that little valley with the lake. He had, so far, managed to hold it down. He had been too busy or too tired since then for it grab him until now. And suddenly it was like a battered dam crumbling under the weight of the flood behind it, and the torrent of suppressed emotions inundated him.

How long could a man maintain his struggle in a world disintegrating about him? Why waste his waning energy fighting against a fate that was as unstoppable and as inevitable as the onrushing tide? Why not just sit down in comfort for the minutes or hours left to them? But, his answers were as close as the precious bundle within his arms, and he held her tighter.

They clung to each other, each reluctant to let go of the anchor that held fast. Finally, they could ease the desperate grip that held them and stood relaxed.

After a while, Emmie said, “I’m glad mom died when she did.”

Before his sudden rage could turn to murderous action, weakness engulfed him. In that instant, his love for his daughter, for their daughter, become fiery hate, and it sucked every ounce of energy from him. He suddenly detested her. Her very touch repelled him, and this repelled him even more. His whole world had revolved around Emmie since Beth was taken away. But her words of such evil—

Emmie evil? Beth’s Emmie? Evil? How could that be?

Then, before his mind could send irretrievable words to his tongue, Emmie continued. “I wouldn’t like to see her now—here. It would be so hard for her now, all the changes—the dying, the killing. She was so good and so kind...I loved her so much... But she couldn’t have...changed with everything. I mean, she would have cried because everyone was dying, but she wouldn’t be able to do anything to stop it or to keep herself from dying too. I... I don’t know how to say it.”

What Emmie had said was outrageous, but also, it was true. He hadn’t had time to think about it, and probably wouldn’t have allowed himself to if he had. But, now that she had actually voiced it, that it was better that Beth had died when she did, he forced himself to face it. How much more of a nightmare would it be if she were with them now? How much of a distraction would she have been to his mind-boggling task of looking out for Emmie’s safety? In trying to save them both, he would probably have lost them both. As wonderful as she was, Beth was not self-reliant and capable of carrying the load if he faltered—not like Erin.

“That makes me sound like a monster, doesn’t it?” Emmie’s voice was small. “I’m sorry.”

And just as suddenly as it had engulfed him, his hate melted away. In love’s welcome warmth, he felt Beth slipping ever farther from his reach. For three years, her memory had been an overshadowing presence. She receded, now, into a shadow-land where she really belonged, the serene glens and dells of memory.

He took a deep, shuddering breath and said, “No, honey, it doesn’t. And I agree with you, but I don’t think that makes either one of us monsters. I can...we can remember her the way she was and love her the way she was, a wonderful, kind, gentle person. But she belonged in the other world. She couldn’t have survived here. Some of us won’t be able to, either, but many of us can. I think you can. But I know your mother couldn’t have.”

After another comfortable pause, Emmie asked, “Do you like Erin?”

“Of course, I do. She’s a very nice person.”

“No. I mean, do you...like her?” She released her grip on Jason’s waist and leaned back so she could look up at him. “I did from the first time I ever saw her.”

Jason cupped Emmie’s face in his hands and kissed her forehead and hugged her again. He said, “Are you talking about liking her...or love?”

She stammered, “Uh...well...you know. In the movies...”

With a warm smile, he said, “Oh, Emmie. If only things were as simple as they are in the movies. I know, in movies, right in the middle of everything, with all hell breaking loose around them, the guy and the girl fall in love. Well, Erin is a wonderful, strong, beautiful woman. And it would be really, really easy to fall in love with her. But I’m afraid she and I have both had other things on our minds. Besides, after what she went through with Vic, she may never be able to love a man again. And if she could, since she’s the beautiful heroine in this flick, she’d go for the ‘hero’, some young, brave, good-looking guy like Adam. You know, the ‘hunk’. I’m afraid I’m just one of the older characters in this saga, not the guy that gets the girl. Us characters might dream of a girl like Erin, but this nightmare we’re in now is no dream. And it’s no movie.”

“What do you mean, ‘old’? You aren’t old,” Emmie said, then with a smile, “Well, not real old, anyway.”

“Oh, thanks heaps. That’s right kind of you.”

Jason dug his fingers into the flesh between Emmie’s ribs, and she squealed. She started to spin around to get at his unprotected back, but she froze when she saw Erin standing in the doorway. “Oh! Hi.”

Jason turned to see who had come in and saw Erin’s laughing eyes. He stammered, “Uh...hi. Come in. Uh...been there long?”

Erin sashayed into the room and stopped with her twinkling eyes within inches of his reddening cheeks. She winked at Emmie and said, “No. I just came up to see if you’d found Emmie, and if she was okay. She seemed pretty upset down there. And I wanted to be sure you made it up all those stairs okay...old fella.”

His cheeks turned a deeper shade of red. He mumbled, “You heard.”

“Uh huh.” She wrapped her arms around Emmie and pulled the grinning girl to her while Emmie’s encircled Erin’s waist. When she continued, she spoke to Emmie, but her eyes peered over the top of Emmie’s head into Jason’s. “Why is it that men are always trying to tell us women-folk what we want and what’s good for us? I don’t know. It doesn’t appear to be a lot of difference between one and another, and all with Charlie’s chauvinistic views. And, as far as Vic turning me off men—well, he wasn’t a man, just a mean, little boy in a man’s body. What he did to me had nothing to do with men. But, your father was right, Emmie. He certainly is a ‘character’.”

Emmie twisted around enough to grin at her father without leaving Erin’s embrace.

“But, you know, hon, he did have a good point. About us being pretty busy lately, I mean. Everything has been happening so fast, I can hardly believe it hasn’t been at least a month since I met you two instead of just a day. No—two. Or, is it? Oh, I don’t know...see what I mean? Anyway, it hasn’t been a very long time for people to decide how they feel about other people they didn’t know before. But, I will tell you one thing—I love you, sweetheart. And as for your dad, well, I would like to get to know him better. I think—just from a quick evaluation, you understand—but I think he’s definitely got some hunk potential. And if—OH!”

At the look of terror that suddenly stiffened the soft lines of her face into a rigid mask, Jason spun to search out the window. It was not with surprise that he spotted a loose group of six alien soldiers trudging up the street in the direction of the house—and no more than a block away.

“Downstairs! Quick!”

He had to fight the temptation to shout a warning to the others down below. There was still the possibility that the aliens were just passing through the area and didn’t know about the house and the people there. So much care had been taken to avoid showing any signs of occupancy to the outside. Although it had looked like they were coming straight to the Victorian, it was always possible they were simply coming up the hill on their way to somewhere else. There were enough other houses in the area that might attract them. But would the guards out front have the sense to hunker down in cover and wait for them to go one past, or would they open fire as soon as the creatures came in range?

As they ran down the hallways and down flights of stairs, they banged on every door they passed. By the time they reached the last flight, nine frightened and confused men and women stumbled down behind them. Adam and Nate met them at the foot of the stairs, alerted by the commotion of their descent.

“Invaders! A group—close—coming this way!” Jason gasped as his feet pounded down the last few stairs.

In the next moment, two shotgun blasts and one scream seconds later from just outside eliminated any questions or arguments.

Adam jumped onto a chair and waved his arms to get everyone’s attention. “Everyone—get out! Now! Go, go! Quick—out the back! Take nothing!” he emphasized as he herded them past while urging greater speed. “Small groups—and get away! Don’t hide close by.” Then, waving his arms as though sweeping everyone out the door, he urged, “Go! Now—GO!”

Adam jumped down to join Nate who was following Jason, Erin and Emmie in their rush to the back door.

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