Missoula County, Montana
With a flashlight from the bag William had given him he made a quick sweep of the building. There was a lobby with some literature about the area and to either side were fairly long hallways that led to large bathrooms. The ends of the hallways led to a couple of exits. He made a note of that.
The place was empty. And dark. Cell coverage was not only spotty, but service also came under rationing orders. It didn’t make any sense to him. That seemed more like a control move by those in charge. But the point was, he was truly alone. Unable to seek help, he hoped he would make it through the night.
After raiding the vending machines and stuffing his already full bag, Julien decided to settle in the far end of the men’s restroom. This way he was not so easily noticed and he would be near the back exit.
Aside from his winter gear the only thing he had to keep warm was an emergency blanket from his bag. The kind that crinkled and woke you up and was so thin and harsh that it provided no emotional comfort whatsoever.
He drifted off somehow, curled up next to a dirty toilet. The silence helped. And the occasional scuttle of what he assumed was a mouse was oddly comforting.
Sometime in the night he woke from a dream of Mayra that made his heart ache a bit. He was suddenly too aware of how far away she was and what might have happened to her.
He also became aware of the squeaking of the building’s front door. It sounded intentional. As if someone knew that he was here and was trying not to alert him. But that couldn’t be the case unless they had been standing out in the snow for hours. Unlikely.
Either way, he had to leave now. He slowly slid the noisy blanket off and decided to leave it behind. Someone would definitely hear if he tried to take it.
With his bag in one hand and gun in the other he maneuvered under the stall door and stood before the entry, listening. He heard hushed voices. At least two. His heart was pounding now. With his shoulder he edged open the door and peeked out.
Flashlight beams played across the lobby casting eerie shadows. The men’s hushed voices echoed throughout the building.
He was safely out of the restroom but entirely exposed in the hallway. He couldn’t help but think that Providence guided the intruders to the other side of the building as he made his way to the back exit. And just as silently as he had escaped the restroom, he made his way out the back door. Only to be confronted by a young man wielding a particularly deadly looking knife.
Acting as quickly as he could he pointed the gun at the stranger and told him to be quiet. He looked to be a kid really. He wore a grungy hoodie with a ball cap underneath and some dirty jeans. The look on his face was one of surprise but also of daring mischievousness. As if he wanted to test Julien in this game of chicken.
“Go,” Julien said in a low voice as he pointed his gun towards the woods.
The kid looked at him like he was crazy, but Julien put the barrel to his chest and took the knife from him. The boy had no choice. He may be a troublemaker but he wasn’t looking to die tonight.
They entered the tree line and Julien made him stop. He used some rope from his bag to bind the boy so he couldn’t be followed and took off into the night after leaving him with some coke and snacks from the vending machines. He didn’t want to hurt the kid, just get away from him. And he knew his buddies would probably come to save him.
After Julien was out of sight the boy considered calling out to his friends, but didn’t. He noticed how loose his bonds were and squatted down to reach the knife he had in his boot. He made quick work of the rope, gathered it up with the food, gave one last glance towards the rest stop and made his way after Julien.