Author’s Note: For those of you just joining us, go read Prologue Installment #1 first…
Her heart climbed into her throat. She looked in alarm at Korey. “Pay day? What’s this about?”
Moses didn’t even wait for Korey to reply, but bolted into action, snapping off the lights in the room to plunge them into relative darkness. The only light now was coming in through the kitchen at the back of the house.
Korey ran his hands over his short black twists. “A letter was waiting for me on my desk at work when I arrived today. Of course, it wasn’t signed. They said they would be stopping by for a ‘conversation’ tonight about the man I fired last week. I guess this is their way of talking.”
Rough voices were shouting outside. Even with the smashed-in window, Isabella couldn’t make out all of what they were saying. The wind seemed to whip their words away. But a few words came through loud and clear.
“Torch it!” and “Inside!” along with a few names, who could’ve been anyone or no one.
She dashed toward the living room windows that looked out on the front lawn, stepping on the shattered glass with her tennis shoes and hugging herself against the blast of icy wind.
What she saw took the air from her lungs- people, no an angry mob, dark shapes running up and down the street carrying long, brightly-glowing torches. It was too many for her to even count. They were everywhere – on the street, the sidewalks and even walking on some of the lawns. As she watched, her car was lit afire on the street in front of the house. It was her prized possession, her birthday present from her parents last year, a bright yellow VW bug. A muffled sob escaped her lips reflexively.
“Kill the rest of the lights!” Moses shouted from over her shoulder where he had been perched to assess the situation. She hadn’t even noticed him coming up behind her he was that stealthy.
Korey and Mrs. Reynolds began running around the small ranch home, turning off the other lights. Moses opened the hole in the window further, using a brass candlestick from the side table, glass spraying outward. Not even a minute later, Mrs. Reynolds emerged from her bedroom, her face fixed in angry defiance, three handguns in her arms.
“Isabella, keep your head down in front of that window and you three listen good,” she ordered.
Korey and Isabella ducked under the windowsill and waited for her instructions, while Moses’ eyes remained fixed on the scene outside. Mrs. Reynolds handed a gun to each of her sons. “You three, get out of here. The cars are torched by now, so you’ll have to go on foot.”
Moses and Korey both opened their mouths to protest, but she shushed them with a hand held up in a stop sign. “Ah ah. Just listen boys. And don’t argue. Go out the back before they figure out where the alley is. Take Isabella to her father’s house. Moses, Korey, don’t come back here for at least a week. Hide somewhere, anywhere. Moses, take all the money from under my bed. Do me a favor and live great lives and don’t do anything that would dishonor the memory of your father, God rest his precious soul. I’m ready to join him. Lord, I still miss him.”
Moses clenched his jaw as if biting back words, even as he rose to go get the money his mother mentioned.
Korey’s dark face had paled several shades. No one ever really argued with Mrs. Reynolds. It was pointless. But it looked like Korey was going to try.
“Mom, please, be reasonable. You can come too. Moses can take you with us to Bella’s house. Her parents will protect and shelter us. I know it! Please, Mom, I’m begging you. Come with us. Those people outside are out for blood! My blood, really! They’ll absolutely kill you without a second thought,” Korey pleaded, wrapping his hands around his mother’s arms, his entire body trembling. Isabella had never seen Korey terrified before. But the thought of his mom staying here clearly terrified him.
Mrs. Reynolds wrapped him into a tight hug and planted a kiss on his forehead. “I’ve lived a long life and I have no desire to continue living now that the world’s gone upside down. I’m gonna join your father where peace reigns. I’ll distract the mob outside. You all escape out the kitchen.” Mrs. Reynolds turned away, embracing both Moses and Isabella and giving them similar kisses before heading for the gaping hole in the living room window.
She held her gun ready and her eyes scanned the situation outside. “Go on! Get out of here! Goodbye and I love you all.”
Moses shook his head at Korey, muttering under his breath, “she’s set on this. And I don’t really blame her, do you? Now go to the back door, Kore.” Moses shoved the paper lunch bag stuffed with bills into a backpack, pausing long enough to also dig out two knives, one of which he gave to Isabella.
“Tuck it into your belt like this,” he said, demonstrating. She felt stronger, less vulnerable now that she had a weapon, even if she had no idea how to use it. Guns terrified her, but she knew she would shoot someone if it meant surviving.
I wish I had a gun. Isabella blanched at the very thought, but knew it was true.
Gunfire erupted from the street, bullets hitting the bricks and siding of the house and blowing out the other living room window. They all threw themselves to the ground. The sound was deafening and Isabella threw her hands over her ears. Movies didn’t capture how loud and terrifying gunfire really was, she thought.
When the gunfire had stopped, Isabella began crawling back toward the kitchen, trying to ignore the deaf feeling in her ears, following Korey as he wove by memory through the furniture. Moses had joined his mother at the window where both of them were now returning fire. By the screams coming from outside the house, it sounded like at least a few bullets had found their targets.
“I’m serious, Moses. I’ve got it,” Isabella heard Mrs. Reynolds yell.
“But, Mama…” Moses pleaded. Moses’ begging Mrs. Reynolds made Isabella realize just how dangerous this situation was for them all.
“Do me a favor and survive this, ok? I love you, but they need you. They won’t survive the night without you. Now go!” Mrs. Reynolds yelled, admonishing Moses.
Isabella heard heavy footfalls behind her and Moses joined them in the kitchen, his face set like stone in a scowl. Korey took his ball cap from his head and roughly shoved it over her thick curly hair, bringing her in for a quick kiss as he did so. Isabella savored the feel of his lips on hers.
“Wear this,” he said, pulling away. “It will keep people from realizing you’re Hispanic, at least until you open your mouth.” Isabella was amazed he could joke right now, but wondered if maybe he was doing it to try to calm her nerves.
Isabella tugged the hat further onto her head, tucking loose strands of her hair up into it, then slung on her winter coat from where it had hung on the back of her chair at the kitchen table. She was thankful this coat was black instead of her usual hot pink or baby blue.
“All clear,” Moses said, moving the kitchen curtain back into place and opening the back door. He turned back to them, two fingers pressed to his lips.
As if I could even talk right now.
Moses grabbed Isabella’s hand, dragging her out of the house and through the backyard to the alley at a run, his gun ready to defend in his other hand. Korey was behind them a few steps, having silently closed the kitchen door behind them.
to be continued….