Time became measured in distance between potholes. Jack found his thoughts and emotions bouncing and twisting as much as his body. It seemed hotter under the canvas. So either his fever was rising or they had been traveling for quite a while.
Jack was having difficulty focusing as his thoughts drifted. ‘The Slinky Mission.’ That’s what he was going to call this trip when he and Frank got home and he was writing his report. It had a nice ring to it.
God, he had loved that Slinky his grandpa had given him when he was a kid. Grandpa figured it might keep him entertained and out of trouble when it was raining and they couldn’t go fishing. At first it was enough just to watch the coiled spring rock back and forth in perfect rhythm, the unique sound, the balance, all working in a basic principle of physics. He had no interest in understanding why it worked, he just loved that it did what it was created to do.
Before long he was searching for new uses for the toy. Walking the Slinky down the stairs proved to be the catalyst for the opportunity to push the toy to its limits as he created new obstacles and scenarios.
And suddenly without warning the inevitable happened and Jack found his toy twisted and tangled into an impossible knot. It was never the same and try as he might he could never achieve the perfection it had before.
It was the perfect picture of this entire mission. He and Frank working together with perfect timing and understanding until suddenly everything had twisted and coiled around them and now he found his emotions as hopelessly tangled as his reality.
Would things ever be right again?
Jack’s confused musings were cut off as the truck suddenly lurched to a stop. The soldiers spoke softly among themselves and Jack gathered from what they were saying that it was much too soon to have stopped.
Four of the guards climbed out of the truck and Jack caught a glimpse of heavy jungle surrounding them before the cover was dropped back in place.
For a brief moment there was absolute silence, which seemed odd considering the normally noisy birds that inhabited the area. But before Jack’s exhausted brain could process the implications, the silence was broken by the unmistakable sound of gunfire.
Shouts were heard outside and an occasional sharp plink sounded as a stray bullet hit the exterior of the truck. The captain of the guards began issuing rapid orders and the soldiers quickly began to file out the back of the truck to find shelter in order to return fire. Jack caught an occasional harried word in the muddled chaos of orders.
“Contra Rebels… ambush… gas tank… explode… ”
As Jack knelt there, trying to force his brain to sort out what was happening a bullet pierced the canvas barely missing his head. A young Sandinista soldier wasn’t so lucky and his body fell heavily next to Jack, a look of shocked innocence irradiating the fierce hard expression he had been schooled to wear.
Just as the last of the soldiers piled out into the battle another bullet penetrated the interior near the place he was trapped. Survival won out over pain as Jack threw himself to the floor.
He lay there listening to the sounds of the battle as it raged around him and prayed that by some chance a miracle would occur and he would survive. Beyond that he could only hope that it was Frank out there in the battle. Because if he was then they both had a fighting chance. And if he wasn’t, then the last card had just been dealt and the royal flush he had been holding tightly to since Alvaro’s whispered message had just carried him right down the toilet.