Welcome to The Book of Bones, a weekly adventure story. If you’re just joining the story, click here for Chapter 1.
Bones yanked the truck over to the side of the road and brought it to a skidding halt on a patch of hard-packed dirt beneath the shade of an old oak tree. To their left, a high chain link fence topped with razor wire ran as far as the eye could see in both directions. To their right, on the other side of the street, lay a mobile home park.
Jessie moved to cross the street but Bones grabbed her by the arm. “No. That’s where they’ll expect us to go and there’s no cover.”
“Where else is there?”
“Follow me.” He clambered up into the bed of the pickup truck, then up onto the top of the cab. Directly above them hung a fat tree limb, which extended beyond the fence. “Can you make it?” he asked.
“I was a gymnast in high school. I think I can handle it.”
“That’s what I’m talking about.” He cupped his hands and gave her a boost.
Jessie swung up onto the limb with a strength and grace Bones could not help but admire. She quickly scrambled along the length of the limb, well past the coils of razor wire, until the limb began to sag beneath her weight.
“Aren’t you coming?” she called back.
“As soon as you’re down. I’m afraid it won’t hold both of us.”
Jessie didn’t argue. She swung down, dangled in midair for a moment, and then dropped to the ground. As soon as she let go, Bones followed. He had just crossed the fence when Jessie called out a warning.
“Here they come!”
He didn’t’ need to look back. The screech of times and hum of the engine told him all he needed to know. There was no time to climb a safe distance. He dropped down as soon as he cleared the fence line. The impact sent sharp pain lancing up his legs and along his spine. He forced himself to his feet, knees screaming in protest, and took Jessie’s hand.
“Down the hill. There are some trees and bushes that will give us some cover.” He took her hand and led the way.
They scrambled and skidded their way down the steep embankment. Up above, their pursuers screeched to a stop. Car doors slammed and voices rang out.
“Which way did they go?”
“Try that way.”
Bones hoped “that way” meant the trailer park. That would hopefully buy them some time.
At the bottom of the slope they hit a thick stand of brush and trees. Bone forced his way through and let out a cry of surprise when he stepped out into open space.
“Crap!” He snagged the nearest bush, a scraggly juniper, and steadied himself. He stood at the edge of a concrete moat a good fifteen feet across and twenty feet deep. “What the hell?”
He didn’t have time to inspect his surroundings any farther because Jessie banged into his back, knocking him forward.
“Hold on, chick!” he said, steadying himself again as he teetered on the edge of the precipice.
“Uh oh.” Jessie’s head peeked out under his outstretched arm. “End of the line. What is this place?”
“Some kind of drainage ditch, I guess. It doesn’t matter what it is. We have to find a way across.” Bones’ eyes searched the gray, concrete channel. On the other side lay another stand of greenery. More cover if they could only make it to the other side.
The voices from the street rose again, closer this time.
“Do you think they went over the fence?”
“Damn!” Bones took Jessie’s hand and inched along the edge of the channel. A few agonizing feet along, he stumbled.
“Hey, don’t take me down with you,” Jessie said.
‘I tripped.” He looked down and smiled. An old, aluminum extension ladder peeked out from the thick undergrowth. “But I think we’ve found our way across.” He took hold of the ladder and heaved, and it tore free with a sound of ripping vegetation that was too loud for his liking.
“We’re going to climb down and back up again?” A note of doubt hung in Jessie’s voice.
“Too slow. We’re going to make a bridge out of this baby.” Carefully, he stretched the ladder out to its full length. He could see now that it was a sixteen footer. It might make it across. Might.
Carefully, he extended the ladder across the precipice. It clanged down on the concrete lip at the far side of the moat with six inches or so to spare on either side. He heard the rattle of the chain link fence at the top of the hill. The idiots who were chasing them hadn’t figured out to use the tree to get across. At least, not yet.
“Okay,” he said to Jessie, “go for it. You’re a gymnast so just pretend it’s a balance beam and you’ll be okay.”
“Why am I going first?” She eyed the ladder with suspicion.
“I weigh two hundred pounds. If that thing breaks while I’m on it, I’m down in the pit with a broken leg and you’re stuck on the same side of the pit as those assclowns.” He inclined his head in the direction from which they had come.
“Makes sense, but if this thing doesn’t hold me, I swear I will haunt you til your dying day.”
“If the ladder doesn’t hold, my dying day will be here in a few minutes. Go!”
Jessie squeezed past him and stepped a tentative foot out onto the ladder. It gave an inch and then held. She let out a breath he hadn’t known she’d been holding, extended her arms to either side, and stepped out with her other foot.
“Don’t look down,” he cautioned.
“Shut up. You’re distracting me.” He grinned despite the dire circumstances and watched with admiration as she made her way across.
“Hey, we can climb up on the truck and climb over on that tree limb,” a voice shouted. Oh well. They had to figure it out soon or later.
As soon as Jessie stepped off the ladder, Bones mounted it. It creaked under his weight but he didn’t hesitate. He made it across or he died. He took another step and then another. The ladder sagged and he felt it collapsing beneath him. He took a big step and then leapt forward. His makeshift bridge gave all at once and dropped with a noisy clang to the floor of the moat.
“Somebody’s down there!” one of the men at the top of the hill called. A bullet pinged the wall of the ditch and ricocheted wildly as the report of a pistol reached their ears.
“I really wish I had my Glock,” Bones muttered. “Come on.”
He turned and forced his bulk into the dense stand of foliage and found themselves at the top of a ten foot wall. Down below lay an open, grassy area interspersed with a few dirt patches and boulders.
“A park,” Jessie said, peeking around his shoulder. “We need to get across before they catch up with us.”
“I don’t think this is…whoa!” He was cut short when Jessie gave him a hard, unexpected shove in the small of the back and he found himself flying through the air. For the second time, he hit the ground hard, every joint screaming in pain. He was going to break something if he kept this up.
He turned to see Jessie dangling from the lip of the wall. He tried to call out a warning, but she dropped to the ground before he could form the words. She grinned down at him.
“Get off your butt and let’s move before those guys find a way across the…” Her words died on her lips as the blood drained from her face.
“That’s what I was trying to tell you,” Bones said. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two large, tawny shapes padding toward them.
“This isn’t a park. It’s a zoo.”