Jibber and Miss Foo were restless inside the school van. Jibber whimpered as she clawed at the corner of the van’s door as if she were trying to dig a hole to escape.
“They need to go to the bathroom,” Georgie said, rising from the backseat. He stooped toward the door, hovering over the anxious pooches, ready to let them out.
“Wait a minute, Georgie,” Sarah said. “If we let them out, the birds will attack them.”
“If we don’t let them out, they’ll stink up the place,” Jack said. “How long do you think they’re going to hold it?”
Miss Foo was now getting into the act, scratching her claws against the plastic door panel.
“We could try letting them out,” Clare said. “Maybe the birds won’t attack the dogs; they aren’t attacking other seagulls.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jack said, reaching for the door lever. “Besides, most of the birds have left.”
“Okay,” Sarah said with a sigh. “But you have to get them back in the van if the birds go after them.”
Jack glanced at Sarah, his eyebrows raised. “Yeah right. They’ve already kicked my ass once.” He turned back toward the door and began sliding it. He had barely started opening it when Jibber, then Miss Foo, shot out into the parking lot. Jack slammed the door shut behind them. Everyone watched, worried the gulls would swarm down onto the helpless dogs. Instead, they fluttered their wings and flew away.
“I don’t believe it,” Jack said, leaning back, and then jumping forward when his sensitive wounds touched the seatback. “Damn it, that hurts.”
“Maybe it’s okay for us to go outside,” Dawn said. “My legs are getting cramped back here.”
“It looks like it might be okay,” Clare said. “As long as the dogs are outside, it might be safe for us to go out there.”
“I’m going to try it,” Jack said. “Keep your eyes open for incoming gulls.”
Jack tried to open the van’s sliding door quietly, but the door still rumbled along its track. He took the Kimber from his back waistband, paused, and stepped outside, leaving the van door open. “I’m going to walk to the end of the building so that I can get a better look at Walmart.”
“Be careful,” Sarah said, sliding along the seat toward the open door.
Jack walked toward the end of the strip mall, twisting his head upward, backward, and sideways, looking for flying birds. He did not notice any until he reached the last store. He poked his head around the corner and saw them. The whole flock blanketed Walmart’s parking lot. He turned around and walked back to the van.
“What’d you see?” Clare asked.
“Those man-eating birds have Walmart surrounded.”
“Great,” Sarah said. “What do we do now?”
Jack stood outside with his hands on his hips. He looked up at the hazy sky then over at the dogs that were now sniffing around, hot on the trail of a rodent or something to fill their stomachs.
Clare leaned toward the door. “We could just drive the van through the birds to the main entrance.”
“That’s a good idea,” Jack said. “Until we open the door to get out, then those birds will swoop down on us and follow us into the store. Not to mention, those kids with guns will shoot at us.”
“I heard a car squealing its tires a while back,” Georgie said. “Maybe they left.”
“That could’ve been anyone,” Clare said.
“I have an idea, but you’re not going to like it,” Jack said, looking at Sarah.
“What?” Sarah asked, narrowing her eyes.
“I agree with Clare and her idea to drive the van through the birds and up to the store, but we should take the dogs and have them get out first,” Jack said. “Hopefully, the seagulls will fly away when they see them.”
Sarah did not say anything. She did not want Jibber, or Miss Foo, attacked by the birds, or shot by the kids; but right now, it seemed like the only way to get Max, Tony, and Father Mitch out of the store. “I suppose. But you have to rescue the dogs if something happens.”
Everyone jumped when Professor Dillon belted out, “It’s a good plan, do it.”
“You scared the shit out of me,” Jack said. “I thought you were sleeping.”
“I was,” he said. “But you guys make enough racket to raise the dead . . . not that I was dead.”
“Okay, it’s settled,” Clare said. “We’ll do what Jack says so that we can get the guys and dad’s medicine.”
“Clare, you stay in the van with your dad,” Jack said. “Sarah, you and the dogs are coming with me in Father’s car.”
“I’m going with you,” Willis said, picking up his Winchester.
“Get in the car, then,” Jack said, motioning for Willis to get out of the van.
Sarah looked at Jack, who was staring at her, waiting for her to veto his decision. She did not.
They called the dogs into the sedan’s backseat, where they jumped in next to Willis. Jack started Old Nelly as Sarah got in. She placed her shotgun across her lap and closed the passenger door.
“Is everyone ready?” Jack asked as he put the car into drive.
“Let’s do it,” Willis said, holding his rifle in one hand and little Miss Foo in the other.