Jack sat in the driver’s seat of Old Nelly, gripping his Kimber pistol next to his thigh. No one moved as four children, appearing to be between the ages of seven to fifteen, walked out of Walmart’s front entrance, next to the three parked vehicles. Each held a rifle and was dressed in plundered hunting clothes. Red and blue bandannas covering the lower half of their faces, made it clear the three boys and one girl were not playing war.
The kids stood on the sidewalk, next to three-foot tall yellow security poles, with their weapons pointed at the cars’ occupants. No one moved, however, Jack could see Tony reaching for the Bowie knife in his boot. He doubted if Tony knew that it was children, and not adults, who had fired upon them.
The oldest boy spoke. His blue paisley patterned mask bellowed with each breath. “You’re trespassing. This is our building and our land.”
Max and Father Mitch had their hands raised high as if they were cowboys caught by a bandit. They said nothing while the oldest boy walked up to the vintage Mustang. Max could tell by the boy’s eyes that he wanted his car.
“Get that van and that car out of here, now!” the boy shouted. Then he looked at Max. “Except you, the pony car stays here.”
Max nodded. He was not sure what was worse, zombies or a gang of kids with guns.
Sarah looked at Jack and whispered, “What should we do?”
Jack let out an exasperated breath and quietly said, “I’m afraid if we don’t do what they say, a gunfight will break out and someone will get killed.”
Then the second tallest boy fired a shot into the air and yelled, “Get out of here before you regret it. If you come back, these two die.” He pointed his rifle at Max and Father Mitch.
Jack paused only a moment before pulling around Max’s car and past Tony, who was still sprawled on the ground. He followed the van out of the parking lot. They turned left, and when they were out of sight, they pulled into an area behind a strip mall. Hiding behind the building would make it appear as though they had driven away, while staying close to Max and Father Mitch.
The hooligans admired the Wimbledon white refurbished body and red interior of the classic car. As they began to walk around it, Tony jumped up and attempted to grab one of the kids, but they all turned their guns on him and his inadequate five-inch knife blade.
“Drop it,” the oldest said, with a voice not quite low enough to be that of a man’s.
Tony slowly sat the knife on the pavement, next to Max’s gunshot shredded pop can, and then raised his arms. He looked at the gang; they appeared to be a cross between brutal thugs and innocent kids playing a game. Given all they had been through, Tony knew they were dangerous and not to be taken lightly.
“Get something to tie them up with,” the oldest said, his gun still aimed at Tony’s chest. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill you.”
Tony was still in a state of shock; he was not expecting such young opponents. “What do you want?”
The girl looked at Tony’s muscular arms and the form of his pecs underneath his tight olive drab T-shirt and stainless steel dog tags. “We can use him for the heavy lifting. He can lift the metal panels for our Hummer.”
The youngest of the gang returned with a bag of plastic zip ties. He approached Tony, and with a high-pitched child’s voice said, “Turn around and put your hands behind you.”
Tony knew he could overtake the boy, but the others probably did not have their gun safety catches on and would likely shoot him, either on purpose or by accident. He turned around and lowered his arms. The child’s little hands grabbed his wrists and restrained them; then the boy leaned over and picked up the Bowie knife.
The oldest boy looked at Max and his dirty beige work shirt. Max’s eyes darted about behind his Coke bottle glasses. He was unsure whether to focus on the boy or somewhere in space.
The bags under Max’s eyes and scruffy beard prompted the oldest to say, “You don’t look so good.”
Max did not say anything. He felt like he might wet his pants.
The girl said. “He looks like a mechanic. He must’ve fixed up this car.”
The oldest asked Max, “Are you a mechanic?”
Max was unsure how to answer. He was not a mechanic; he was a scientist. However, the thought crossed his mind that he had better tell them he was a mechanic; a mechanic was what they wanted for that car of theirs. The lie would keep him alive; at least until they found out he was not mechanically inclined and had paid to have the Mustang restored.
Max nodded to the affirmative.
“He’s an old man and a priest,” the second boy said, looking at Father’s clerical collar. “What would he be good for?”
The girl said, “It would be bad karma to do anything to him.”
“Okay then,” the oldest said. “Tie them up and take them inside, so I can drive this baby.”
Max’s jawline and lips tensed. No one drove his Mustang but him.