Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Leadership (03/14/05)
- TITLE: Finding Somis
By Kyle Chezum
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“Not a drop left,” he said, tossing the ignition key onto the hood. “I guess we’re walking.”
Jenni nodded, folding her arms across her chest against the bitter wind that swept the ravine. She didn’t look at him. “How far to Somis?”
Shane shrugged. “From Stillwater, about two hundred miles. But we’ve come at least that far, and—” He hesitated, eyeing the grim wilderness. “I don’t see Somis.” He shook his head and sighed. “That’s the last time I trust a map to lead me anywhere.”
Jenni grabbed his arm. “Shane, look.” She was pointing back the way they’d come, back along the dusty road that stretched for miles through barren foothills toward home. Far away, a tiny fleck of light was creeping amid the windy darkness near the edge of the basin.
Shane swore. It was Damian; had to be. He’d followed them somehow; he must have known they were low on fuel—
Jenni’s eyes glistened wet in the moonlight. “He’ll kill us.”
Shane looked around. At the bottom of the ravine, there was nowhere to hide the truck. Damian would find it, would know they were on foot, would hunt them down. Shane ran a hand through his hair, let his gaze shift to the steep embankment that sloped up beside the narrow lane. The hillside was thick with trees and ivy—good cover. An idea began to form in his mind. Damian would expect them to follow the road, but if they left the path—
Shane moved toward the hill. “Come on; we’ll hide up here till he’s gone.”
They kept to the trees, moving from shadow to shadow. Dry brambles quivered in the wind around them, groping at their feet. It was slow going, in the dark. Jenni stumbled, slid back down toward the road. Shane grabbed her hand and pulled her up. The distant vehicle had drawn closer; its beams glimmered through billows of dust that gusted over the asphalt. Too close. Shane felt a knot tightening in his throat. He glanced over his shoulder, toward the trees that loomed and swayed around them. It was too dark—
There was a light.
Shane blinked. A light, like a porch lamp or something, flickering among the trees. It was a long way off, but if they could—
The sound of an engine came on the wind, abruptly, echoing off the cliffs. Damian had reached the ravine. Shane pushed Jenni to the ground and dropped down beside her, peering between the leaves, watching the road. A black jeep crept into view, moving slowly, as though searching for something.
Jenni was breathing fast, her eyes wide. “Shane—”
He clamped his hand over her mouth. “He’s found the truck. The engine’s still hot; he’ll know we’re nearby.” He looked over his shoulder into the darkness. The light hung in the distance, leading a way through the darkness.
A flashlight sifted over the trees, throwing huge shadows across the ivy. Shane ducked into the vines, hiding, holding his breath. A door slammed, somewhere below. Footfalls on the gravel—
Shane tensed. If they didn’t run now, they’d never get a chance.
He leapt to his feet and slid behind a black oak, grabbing Jenni’s hand and pulling her with him. The flashlight lingered over the tree, searching. Shane turned to Jenni. She clasped his hand.
Shane heard a shout; running footsteps. A gunshot cut through the wind, behind them, and Shane felt his shoulders tighten. Adrenaline screamed through his veins. But he kept running toward the light, pulling Jenni along behind him, praying that someone there would be able to help them—
They stumbled into a clearing, an empty space paved with blacktop. A parking lot. Houses stood nearby, among backyards and fences and driveways barely visible in the shadows. The light was a lamp behind a window, and Shane could see people inside. A man stepped out onto the veranda and looked toward the forest; he had no doubt heard the gunshot. Shane felt Jenni’s hand relax.
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