Danger in Deep Woods

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Requiem for Christy Bryant

"Christy," Jonathan breathed softly, staring at her through a crack in the shed's wall. He was appalled to see her tied up and covered in explosives, shaking in fear. No one as pretty as her deserved to be treated that way, he thought furiously, watching the men lifting her into the back of the ranger van. One of them, though, seemed to be approaching the shed. "Well kid, so long," he said firmly at the shed, not knowing Jonathan was standing there watching him, "Here's what happens to heroes, but at least you won't be the only one who goes out in a blaze of glory."

Jonathan heard a match striking. He gulped at what was going to come. It was now or never to get out of the shed. He barreled back over to the door. Using the bulk of wood as a de facto crowbar, he'd jerked the hinges on the shed door slightly off, but they still had some way to go, and right now there was a low pop as the far wall of the shed caught fire. He had less than five minutes at most before he'd be burned alive, he knew.

"Come on, come on!" he cried out loud, jamming the wood under the top bolt and straining against it for all it was worth. The flames were now engulfing the far well and spreading rapidly across the ceiling towards him. Jonathan started coughing from the smoke. He pushed with all his might against the hinge, which finally after what seemed like an eternity cracked off. Now for the bottom one...but the air was now thick with smoke, and he could barely see it. Coughing harder, he bent down and fumbled around with it. He couldn't find it at all, and the flames were everywhere now. The heat was getting unbearable. He was almost out of time before he'd be incinerated to death.

"No good, you've got to get out now, the hard way," he knew, backing up to near the back wall, trying to see the door through the smoke, "Please God, let this work!"

He held his breath to keep out the smoke, closed his eyes, and charged straight at the door. It cracked off the remaining hinge and toppled to the ground, Jonathan rolling over it. He continued rolling to get any flames out that may have sprung up on his clothes. Coughing severely, he glanced at the shed, now completely engulfed in flames and looking ready to collapse. He had been extremely lucky. But that wasn't all he saw, for the cabin itself was on fire too. He realized that since Christy's friends hadn't been loaded into the ranger van with her, they likely were in the cabin themselves. Panicked, he glanced into the distance, where the van's tail lights could barely be seen in the night. If he let it go, he might never know where they were taking Christy. But on the same token, he couldn't let her friends' lives be snuffed out in turn.

He knew full well which choice to make. Taking a deep breath, he ran towards the cabin and crashed through the unlocked front door. His shoulder now ached hard from the repeated crashings, but he tried his best to ignore it as he glanced around the burning cabin. "GIRLS!?" he called out as loudly as he could, coughing again, "DAWN!? JACKIE!? YOU GIRLS IN HERE!?"

He came to a stop and listened as hard as he could. And sure enough, underneath his feet, he could hear groans and coughs. "You girls down there!?" he bent down and shouted at the floor as loud as he could, "Hang on; I'll try and find the way...!"

He hastily leaped out of the way as half the ceiling almost caved in on top of him. Time was desperately of the essence; the cabin looked like it was going to come down at any second. Then he saw it out of the corner of his eye: the edge of a trapdoor partialy covered by a rug to his right. He hastily kicked it open and scrambled down to the space below, where he could see the girls bound and gagged and squirming wildly as flames danced across the ceiling of the room above them. "Dawn, hold on!" he ran to her first, "I'll have to...!"

"Rrrrppddrrrr!" Dawn cried at him through her gag.

"What!?" he coughed severely; the smoke was filling up the room fast.

"Rrrrrpdpdrrrrr, Nnnnntttthnnnnnn!" she jerked her head wildly to the right side of the room.

"I'm sorry, I can't under-!"

"Zzzzzzzz rrrrrpdrrrrr vvvvrrrr rrrrrrrrr, Nnnnttthnnnnn!" Bobbie shrieked through her own gag to his right, jerking her own head so far to the right that she toppled to the floor, as Jackie in her panic already had. It was then Jonathan just managed to make out the outline of another trap door in the area the girls had been gesturing. "Right, I see it!" he exclaimed, picking up Dawn, chair and all and carrying her own towards it. He lifted it up with his foot and stared at the cavern floor below. "Hope you don't mind an abrupt fall down, Dawn," he asked her.

"Zzzzzzztt ggggtttt eeeeeee ttttttt vvvvvvv rrrrrrrr, Nnnnnnnnnttthhnnnnnnn!" she begged him in terror. Scared himself, for the ceiling of the room was starting to collapse above them, Jonathan lifted Dawn over the opening and let go. She cried out as she hit the floor below, but at least she was alive. He rushed over to where Bobbie had fallen and dragged her over to the edge, accidentally sending her flying down on top of Dawn when he tripped over something he hadn't seen on the floor sending that crashing below as well. He heard the creaking of roof joints above; the cabin probably didn't have too much longer to stand. He barreled for Jackie and pushed her as quick as he could through the trapdoor before diving down it himself. He landed hard on the cave floor, sending even worse pain through his shoulder, but he knew he was safe now, as were Christy's friends. Trying to ignore the pain in his shoulder, he rushed to them and dragged them down the tunnel one at a time, well out of harm's way should the cabin finally collapse. "It's OK girls, it's OK now," he still had to shout to be heard over the flames above as he pushed their chairs upright on the cavern floor, "You're safe now, and...Jackie, Jackie, I said you're all right now," he put his hands on her shoulders as she continued shrieking in terror at the top of her lungs into her gag, her eyes bulging wide out of their sockets, "You're not going to die now, Jackie. I'm going to untie you and your friends now, OK?"

He gently pulled the gag off her mouth. "Bombs!" Jackie all but screamed at the top of her lungs once her mouth was free, jerking her head downward at the explosives on her chest, waist, and legs. "I see," Jonathan nodded solemnly, "OK, I'll do what I can with those in a minute."

He turned to Dawn and pulled off her gag. "Dawn, I saw them leave with Christy; they locked me in the shed," he told her breathless, reaching over her to ungag Bobbie as well, "Did they say where they were taking her!?"

"No!" Dawn coughed from the smoke she'd inhaled above, "They didn't say a thing about where she was going, but now that her ransom's being paid, they're going to kill her, I just know it, just like they tried to kill the three of us now! Oh thank God you were so close, Jonathan; we'd be dead now if you hadn't been!"

"Glad to help," Jonathan said, worried gravely for Christy now. "Um," he examined the explosives on the girls closely, "I guess none of you are familiar with explosives, because I'll be honest, I don't know which wires are which," he confessed to them.

"I'm not a rocket scientist; don't look at me for help!" Bobbie snapped, clearly still in a deep fear mode from her close scrape with death. Her eyes glanced upwards at the inferno still raging in the cabin above. "Hey, I think that looks like a toolchest over there," she exclaimed, gesturing with her head at an object on the cavern floor near the edge of the trapdoor. "I see," Jonathan nodded, recognizing what he'd tripped over above, "Well, hold on a moment, then."

He bustled over and grabbed the toolchest just before a large section of the floorboards collapsed into the cellar, making him jump. He rummaged through it by the light of the fire till he found a pair of pliers. "OK, who wants to be the volunteer?" he asked the girls, nervous deep down knowing he was shooting in the dark with what he was about to do.

"I'll do it, Jonathan," Dawn spoke up, looking more than a little scared, "If it goes wrong, at least I'll be with Christy in the next life if we can't get to her in time."

"OK," Jonathan bent down and examined the explosive vest she was wearing carefully. The explosive belt and the dynamite taped to her legs he knew he could take off and get rid of, but the vest was locked on and had to be disarmed. And there were multicolored wires everywhere. "Tell you what; I'll let you pick, Dawn," he told her gently, "Which one do you want me to try?"

Dawn gulped audibly and scanned over the wires carefully. "Yellow," she said nervously after a long pause.

"OK then, wish me luck," Jonathan's hand was shaking as he maneuvered the pliers into place around the yellow wire. He closed his eyes snapped them shut-and breathed a huge sigh of relief when the vest beeped and went off. "Good call," he commended Dawn, untying her upper body from the chair and taking off the explosive vest and tossing it aside once all the ropes were off.

"Very," Dawn still looked faint from the tense moment, "Don't get rid of those pliers just yet; they put tape over the ropes on my hands, as you might have noticed."

"I see," Jonathan nodded. He stepped behind her chair and clipped the pliers over the tape until they had sliced a hole down the middle of them. "How did you get out here, Jonathan?" Dawn asked him, staring right at him, "What made you think of coming this way, when no one had...?"

"Christy," he told her, quickly untying her hands now that the tape was off and bending down to take off her explosive belt, "I've been...well, the truth is...what's so funny?"

"I knew it," Dawn was laughing now, "I just knew it, Jonathan Hilbert; you're in love with Christy; I could just see it in your eyes every time you've come face to face with her over the last few months; you've gone completely blank around her, the sure..."

"Hey, what about us!?" Jackie cried at him, gesturing with her head at her still active explosive vest.

"Oh, yeah, of course, sorry, Jackie," Jonathan bustled over to her, put the pliers into position over the yellow wire on Jackie's vest, prayed that this vest was the same as Dawn's, and cut. Fortuitously, Jackie's vest disarmed as well. "There, you're good," he told her, snipping through the tape over her wrists. "Here, Dawn," he handed the pliers to her, "Finish untying yourself and go take care of Bobbie. I'll get Jackie untied."

"Right," Dawn starting working on her remaining ropes. Jonathan returned to Jackie and untied her as quickly as he could. "How are you, you OK?" he asked her gently.

"Well, my ribs hurt like mad from when one of these guys that grabbed us kicked me, and my leg still hurts from where I got shot earlier, but I guess I'm fine," Jackie said softly, the color starting to return to her face. She breathed a huge sigh of relief when Jonathan removed her last batch of explosives. "Like Dawn said, thanks so much for being nearby, Jonathan; I was sure that was the end for us..."

She sniffed loudly. "It's all right, Jackie, you're OK now," Jonathan gently helped her up once he'd gotten her loose, "All we've got to do is find Christy in time before something terrible happens to her." He glanced up the tunnel. "Did any of you three remember how you got here from down there?" he asked the girls.

"In fact I do," Bobbie rubbed her ankles once Dawn finished untying her. "It comes out not that far from here," she bent down to retrive her cap, which had fallen off when she'd been pushed into the cavern, and plopped it back on her head, "I can lead us out."

"OK, you do that," Jonathan told her, "Somebody's got to have seen this fire up there," he gestured up at the burning wreck of the cabin above them, "Once we're outside, and I've got an idea which way is which, you girls wait outside the cave for the authorities to come; tell them which way I've gone, so they can back me up-hopefully in time."

"And if you don't get there in time?" Jackie raised an eyebrow.

"Well at least...at least I'll've tried," Jonathan conceded, knowing full well there was a chance he'd be unable to reach Christy before the kidnappers do whatever they had planned to her.

"I guess that's the best we can ask for. Actually, I know how to make absolutely sure. The rest of you, up the tunnel," Bobbie shooed everyone away from the trap door. Gathering up all the explosives, she took a deep breath, tossed them upwards towards the flames, and rushed for the safety of the tunnel just as a tremendous explosion rang out above. "Good thinking," Jonathan commended her.

"I don't like to brag, but I earn my honor roll spots," she bragged a little now that the danger was over. "Can you walk, Jackie?" she asked her friend.

"Pretty much, but it still hurts a little," Jackie did grimace a little when she tried to take a few steps.

"OK then, I'll help you again," Bobbie put an arm around Jackie and gently led her up the tunnel. Jonathan glanced back at the cul de sac behind them, still burning. There was no way the authorities could have miss the explosions that had just gone off. Hopefully they'd be at whatever was left of the cabin in time for the girls to direct them to follow him.

"Jonathan," came Dawn's hand on his shoulder. She looked deathly worried. "Just please promise me you'll find Christy and bring her back alive. She's my best friend; I need her, so just promise me, please!?"

"Promise, Dawn," Jonathan took her hand, "I'll do what I can to save her."

"Thank you," she nodded softly, "Here," she handed him back the pliers, "Christy was wired as well; you'll need these for her."

She bustled to catch up with her friends. Jonathan still felt nervous as he raced after her and the others. Time was already of the essence, and while Christy's friends had certainly needed saving, he'd taken a lot of time doing so. Hopefully not enough time to make a difference had gone by...

Christy heaved in misery, sobbing intensely as the van bumped along to wherever the kidnappers' destination was. She felt like dying right now. The guilt of knowing her friends were likely dead now weighed brutally on her soul. She had let them all down. She didn't deserve to live.

Thus, she paid little attention as the van slid to a stop at last. The kidnappers got out, but left her inside at the moment. "Got it?" she heard Leo ask.

"Pretty reasonable, acutally," Vinnie sounded excited, "It's not twenty million, but it is at least five. The Bryant girl was certainly worth using as a hostage in the end."

"No one saw you?"

"Nope, I snatched the money up right after they threw it in the lake."

"Good, load it up. Harvey and I will prepare our guest for her last trip," Leo snickered. Moments later, Christy heard the back doors of the van opening. "OK sweetheart, time to get you ready for the last part of our clever escape," Harvey told her, lifting her chair down and carrying her in it, "Since you can't see a thing, for your benefit, Leo managed to secure a plane after we set up our hideout out here, to be used in emergencies. Well, I'd say leaving the country constitutes one. You'll be coming with us at first, but in the end your trip will be a whole lot shorter. Let's get you packed in here."

Christy heard the legs of her chair thump on wood as she was set down. "You know, the thing about explosives, they need to be done very delicately if they're to work properly, my dear Christina," Leo whispered softly in her ear, "Luckily we're the type of people you can trust with it; we each had overlapping stints in the army before they threw us out and we went into business for ourselves, so to speak. So don't you worry, because the arrangement we're going to set up right here will work smoothly and kill you in an instant at the exact moment we want to detonate."

Christy went numb again as something heavy was slipped around her neck. Something else was forced into her hands behind the chair. More explosives, she knew with a sinking heart. Even feeling guilty over her friends' deaths, she was terrified that they intended to do this to her, to kill her this way. She was frozen in fear as more explosive apparatus were set up and wired up underneath her chair, taped to her chest on top of the explosive vest, attached around her neck like a necklace, and otherwise stacked around the enclosed space she now seemed to be in. "That'll do," Leo proclaimed, "About fifty pounds of explosives for you, my dear. But there's always the chance they won't go off, even though they are waterproof. So, I hope you don't mind a little more weight to make sure you sink straight down when you leave this plane..."

Christy shook her head frantically; the explosives were more than enough! But what felt like a pair of concrete blocks were promptly placed under her feet and tied to her ankles, while iron weights were slipped over her head in increasing numbers until she had no choice but to bow forward under the weight. More weights were locked into place under the seat of her chair and around her wrists. "There we are, another twenty to thirty pounds; this'll sink her either way," Vinnie proclaimed confidently when it was over.

"Yep. So all that's left for us to do is nail her into this crate and we'll be ready to put her out of her misery," Leo snickered, "By now you'd appreciate that, wouldn't you, Christina?"

Christy felt him rub her face. She jerked her head away in revulsion. "Oh don't feel bad; you've done us a great service, my dear," he was mocking her now, "Thanks to you, the three of us can enjoy our retirement, so you've done us an awful lot of good. Unfortunately, now that your folks have paid up, we have no further use for you. So before we take off, you're going into the lake, which means the question will be, will drowning in the water or the explosives kill you first? It'll be interesting to muse that on our way to South America. OK boys, nail her in."

He stepped away. There was a thud as the crate's lid was put into place, and then loud bangs as it was nailed shut. Christy miserably weighed her options. Would drowning or being blown up be the better way to die? The latter seemed at least painless, but she wanted to have a body for the police to find, so her family could give her a proper funeral-they deserved that much. Whichever way she died, hopefully her suffering would be minimal.

The nailing stopped. She felt the crate being lifted up and carried into the plane, wherever it was. She was set down inside and pushed to the right-close to the door, she wondered? She couldn't even shift around in her chair to get more comfortable for her last few moments on earth, the combined weight of her explosives plus the ropes far too much for her to move an inch. She begged they'd just get it over with so her suffering would end.

The door was slammed shut next to her. "Ready in there?" Leo called to her inside the crate. Christy heard a click outside, and seconds later every piece of explosives around and on her buzzed to life. "You now have exactly four minutes to live, princess," he taunted her, "Start 'er up, Harvey."

The plane's engine sputtered to life. It's loud rumble plus the ticking of the bombs drowned out most sound to Christy. She hung her head in defeat as she felt the plane starting to move forward. After what felt like an eternity, she heard the door pop open next to her. It was time. "Ready?" Vinnie shouted to be heard over the engines, "It's showtime, Miss Bryant."

She merely nodded inside the crate as it was pushed a few inches to her right, likely on the edge before the drop into the lake. "Have a nice afterlife," Leo gave her one final taunt, "We'll remember you always down in South America. Now."

Christy fell absolutely sick as she felt the impression of tumbling head over heels through space. The fall to the lake probably only took a second, but it seemed like an eternity before she hit the water with a loud jolt. The crate cracked under her slightly from the impact, then slowly began sinking. Christy felt the water lapping against her sneakers; seconds later it had risen almost up to her knees. "Goodbye everyone," she shook her head sadly as she sank rapidly downwards, the bombs still ominously counting down to oblivion, "I'll miss you all..."

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