Doctor Andrew Moore clenched the steering wheel and squinted as he scanned the horizon of the desert landscape for civilization. After seeing none, he checked the truck’s rearview mirrors for any signs that he was being followed. He had known the risk he had accepted when he had remained at the site of the dig after the government lost control of the area to criminals. He had not expected the risk to be realized and to find himself fleeing in a truck filled with whatever he could hastily gather.
Andrew reminded himself frequently to slow down. He pressed the gas pedal down when he thought about getting caught and taken prisoner. However, he slowed down when he remembered why he had stayed in the first place. In the back of the truck, he transported a mummified chief and a few artifacts that provided clues to his identity. He had carefully, but hurriedly, prepared the precious cargo for the trip by truck and plane. However, the desert road he traveled upon was bumpier than he remembered it and he was afraid he would break something.
As Andrew scanned the rearview mirrors again, he saw a cloud of dust behind him. Not from his own truck, but from another vehicle. It grew in size as it closed in on him like a ravenous and monstrous grub. At the mouth of this threatening worm he saw a black sport utility vehicle. People who lived and worked in the area did not drive such expensive and polished vehicles. Such vehicles were usually employed in nefarious business.
The SUV was close enough for Andrew to see four men inside. The driver and the passenger sat normally in their seats, but two men in the second row leaned toward the center. They obviously studied his truck. They noticed him looking at them through his rearview.
The driver flashed his lights as he motioned with his right hand to Andrew to either move over or pull over. Andrew could not tell which of the two options the driver wanted to communicate, so he slowed down and drove as far to the right as the road allowed. That must not have been the response the driver wanted because the front passenger leaned out the window and fired an assault rifle at him. Each pop of the rifle was followed by thump or something breaking in the truck. One round hit the rearview mirror and made him unable to keep track of the SUV. Then, he saw the SUV pull up beside him. He saw the front passenger’s brown and bearded face stare coldly at him. He saw the assault rifle’s muzzle raised and pointed at him. The muzzle flashed.
Andrew felt the worse headache he’d ever felt. It felt like someone had put a screwdriver against his head and hit it with a hammer. He allowed the truck to slow to a stop and lay his head on the steering wheel to let the pain pass. The spot where the bullet hit his head felt hot. Then, it developed its own tiny heartbeat. The bullet had struck his head and he had felt the pain, but it did not break his skin. He did not feel swelling either.
Andrew heard two sets of feet grinding desert stones beneath them as they approached the truck. He could tell that one walked up on his side and the other walked up the passenger side. He was an Archeologist and had only ever fought other people with words at conferences. He did not know how to physically defend himself. He had no idea what to do.
Andrew held his breath as a man opened the door. He felt the man’s eyes on him. The cold muzzle of a gun was placed against his temple. Andrew grabbed the gun and simultaneously thrust his head back and pushed the gun forward. The man pulled the trigger and fired the gun as he tried to keep hold of it. The bullet hit the second man as he looked through the passenger side window. Andrew bit the man’s hand without restraint. The intense pain caused the man to pull back his hand. As he did, he dropped his gun and fled.
Andrew was driven by impulse. He knew one man was down, but did not realize what that actually meant. He straightened out the gun in his hand, pointed it in the general direction of the fleeing man, and fired multiple shots. He did not know how to properly use a gun, so the bullets whizzed away safely into the desert. When the gun clicked and no longer fired, he regretted his reaction.
As the man approached the SUV, the driver and front passenger stepped out. They both went to a place behind the truck where Andrew could not see them. He heard one of the men move quickly up the side of the truck. The man tossed something that looked like a black aerobics dumbbell into the cab. As he looked at it, the dumbbell burst into a blinding light and made a deafening sound.
Andrew was disoriented. He felt himself dragged out of the truck. As he lay on the desert floor, the men kicked and stomped on him. He felt some discomfort, but they were unable to do him harm. His sight and hearing returned as the men grew tired of kicking him.
Out of frustration, one of the men pulled out his gun and shot Andrew’s head. He felt severe pain again, but the bullet bounced off. The men were shocked. They looked at each other and an argument broke out about the gun. Andrew took advantage of their distraction and tackled one of the men. He knocked the man to the ground, but did not know what to do with him after that. He tried to restrain the man’s arms, but his attempt was so awkward that the man did not fight back. As he withdrew the hug he was giving the man, he felt a pin like the one he had seen on the device the man had thrown in the cab. He pulled it, got up, and ran.
Andrew’s plan was to run in one direction until the device flashed and banged. Then, he would change directions and find somewhere to hide. He did not expect to see the flash, but he would know when to change directions when he heard the bang.
Instead of hearing a bang, he heard a loud explosion. He dove to the ground and did not look up until everything was quiet and debris stopped raining down. He peeked back to where he had left the men. They were no longer standing. Based on what he saw, the pin he had pulled belonged to a grenade.
Andrew picked himself up and dusted himself off. As he walked back to his truck, he pulled out the necklace he was wearing and kissed a red jewel set in it before tucking the necklace back into his shirt. The red jewel he had found at another dig had made him bullet proof. He got into the driver’s seat and just stared at the road ahead as he felt the weight on his heart of what he had done.
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