She stopped at the corner and pressed herself against the brick wall. Her heart pounding, she took a deep breath and tried to compose herself. She slowly stretched to peek around the corner, saw them and immediately pulled back. Their dark blue fatigues hid them well, but they were sloppy.
They no longer cared if anyone saw them. They talked loud, smoked cigarettes, and made jokes. As the wind gusted, she heard their coarse laughter. She peeked in the opposite direction, but as she expected she saw no one. They no longer sent out large patrols – just teams of two to four and these were not professional soldiers or law enforcement or anything. They were just the newly “deputized” hoodlums who not long ago were drinking beers and smoking dope in the parks, now they had a CVP patch on their shoulders. Many were paroled ex cons for which this was rehabilitation-some rehabilitation.The government tried to set it up so that every patrol was led by a union member, but often those found themselves outnumbered by the cons and after a few beatings they just quit.
Though they were pretty worthless at patrolling, they made up for it by being vicious and cruel. If you got caught by one of these patrols, being turned in to the detention centers would be the least of your worries, especially if you were a female. These guys turned few people in to the over-packed detention centers. Instead, the bodies would show up days later and the popo would just file it under whatever. Usually, the MO was to file them as victims of right-wing militias though she really had no clue what that meant as she had never seen any of those. Rumor had it that the government turned a blind eye to the killings and the rapes, because they had no place to put anymore detainees anyway.
She let herself daydream or maybe she was dreaming outright, having fallen asleep at the corner. After all, she hadn’t slept since God only knows when. Anyway, only the stupid got caught by those slobs and if they somehow managed to corner her she promised herself to make it the worst day of their miserable lives. She crouched low, like a sprinter in the starting gates and peeked around the wall again. They were still there shooting the shit. There were more than two, but she couldn’t tell if there were three or four. She’d have to move from there, cross the street and disappear in the darkness on the other side. She waited for a disturbance. The rare passing of an occasional truck, a gust of wind blowing towards her and away from the Civilian Volunteer Force (CVP) patrol, or something else – anything to give her some cover. A couple of blocks away a dog barked and as the CVP patrol hurled curses at it she blasted off strong and silent like a panther. One of the CVP patrolmen thought that he saw something and took a couple of steps towards the intersection, but after staring into the darkness for a while thought better of venturing in. “Nothing” he muttered in response to his comrades’ inquisitive gazes.
She ran without turning around. Too many got caught turning around to see if they were being followed. If you were actually followed, what good would turning around do you anyway? Just run like the devil was chasing you because he was. And if you weren’t being followed, run hard anyway just to stay sharp.
She finally stopped about three quarters of the way up the block and quickly ducked behind the concrete steps of an abandoned brownstone. She peeked to look from whence she came and liked what she saw. An empty, quiet, and dark late December street. No one had followed her. She walked along the driveway of the house jumped over the fence into the small backyard and again jumped the fence out of that yard and into that of the house behind it. She made her way to the street. It was as dark and empty as the one she came from, but she took no chances. Not here. She was too close to home to make a mistake. She crouched down and listened. She didn’t know how long she stayed there and it seemed to her that once again she may have dozed off and woke only because the cold shook her awake . She also thought she had heard a noise. She froze and listened. The noise came back, it was just her empty stomach growling.
The street was still dark and still silent as a tomb. She carefully dashed across and stopped again behind the stoop to listen. Again there was nothing and she thought about opening the locked chain linked fence, but with her fingers numb from the cold she decided jumping the fence was a better idea. So she did, went to the backyard, and walked down to the basement door of the house. She knocked five times, but there was no answer. She didn’t worry. Todd had gone out too and was probably just hung up somewhere. He often stopped to hear the latest scuttlebutt and see who else was around. She had no need for any of that, but never held it against him. Her cold fingers finally opened the door and she pulled out a small flash light. After she closed the door behind her she followed the thin light beam to another set of stairs leading down to a windowless sub-basement, and let herself collapse into the old worn couch and fall asleep holding out hope that when Todd came home he’d bring back food. She made it home.
To be continued.