“Get out of the car,” the second boy said, “and keep your hands in the air.”
With sweaty palms, Max and Father Mitch slowly opened their doors and got out. With rifles pointed directly at them, the youngest tied their wrists behind their back with zip ties from his bag.
“Get inside,” the second boy said, motioning with his gun.
As they walked inside Walmart, they heard the Mustang’s tires squeal and the engine roar. Max cringed as the odor of burnt rubber filled his nostrils.
“Juvenile delinquents,” Max mumbled.
“What’d you say,” the girl asked, nudging Max with the muzzle of her gun.
Max jumped. “Nothing . . . just clearing my throat.”
Once inside, the armed children ordered them to face the wall across from the checkout aisles, next to a coin-operated pony. The kids lowered their bandanas and looked at each other.
“Should we put them to work right now, Vin?” the girl asked the second boy.
Vin shrugged, then said, “Half-Pint, keep an eye on the doors. I have a feeling those other people are coming back.”
“Sure, Vin.” The boy sat the zip ties on top of a self-checkout counter and walked to the entrance, like a Civil War drummer boy too big for his britches.
“Shoot ‘em if you see ‘em,” Vin said, looking at the backs of the three men standing in front of him.
“You know the nuclear power plant is going to meltdown at any time, don’t you?” Father asked the kids, standing behind him. His voice cracked as he stared at the white wall in front of him.
“We know,” the girl said, not surprised.
Then the oldest boy came in. “That’s some car you have, Man,” he said toward Max. “Too bad we can’t take it with us.”
“Should we get started, Buddy?” the girl asked, seeming impatient.
“Jewel,” Buddy began as he walked over to her and put his arm around her shoulders, “I think that’s a good idea.”
“What are you working on?” Tony asked, trying to sound unthreatening, hoping to win their trust.
“We have a Hummer but we need it fortified,” Buddy said. “We need to be able to plow through zombies and we need you guys to help fabricate it.”
“If we help, will you let us go?” Tony asked.
Vin laughed. “Do you actually think we’d take you with us?”
In a low voice, Max said, “We might as well help them so that we can get this over with.”
“That’s the spirit,” Buddy said, walking up behind Max. “Help us out, and maybe we won’t kill you.”
“Why would you kill us?” Max asked. His legs felt weak as if they would give out at any moment. “Just let us walk away; we’re nothing to you.”
“Okay,” Buddy said, sounding cocky. “If you get armor on the Hummer, we’ll let you walk away, and if you don’t help us, we’ll line you people up and shoot you, execution style.”
“Enough talking,” Vin said, abruptly. “We need to move.”
“Jewels, you help Half-Pint guard the doors while Vin and I take these guys back to the garage,” Buddy said. He kissed Jewels, their lips made a loud smack.
“Turn around,” Vin demanded.
The three turned around and looked at their captors. Baby-faced hoodlums.
“You don’t need to point guns at us,” Father said, sounding harmless. “We’ll help you. We only stopped here to get medicine for a friend who’s sick.”
“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talking . . . you talking to me? Well, I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”
Buddy laughed so hard he could barely speak. “Good one, Vin.”
“There’s no reason to be so badass,” Tony said. The kids were getting on his nerves.
Vin charged up to Tony and pointed his rifle directly at Tony’s face. “Why not? Who’s gonna stop us?”
Tony said nothing. With his hands tied behind his back, he at first thought of kicking Vin’s feet out from under him, but decided it was better to just do what the kids wanted. This was not the opportune moment to be a hero.
“This is World War III, man,” Buddy sneered. “We make our own rules. We can do whatever we want.”
Vin backed away and pulled Buddy aside. Their words were indiscernible as they seemed to disagree about something.
“I’m not a mechanic; I won’t be able to do what they want,” Max whispered, while Buddy and Vin were preoccupied in their discussion. “I don’t think they’ll be happy when they find out I lied to them. I’ll probably end up in the dumpster next to outdated gray hamburger meat.”
Tony whispered back. “I know a little . . . we’ll just fake it. I don’t think they’ll shoot us, they’re just trying to intimidate us.”
“It’s working,” Max said, his knees shaking.
“I think the second seal has been opened,” Father said with a voice so low it was difficult to hear.
“What are you talking about?” Max asked.
“The second seal of the Book of Revelation . . . the second horseman . . . the red horse,” Father whispered. “It brings about war and civil unrest. People will fight against each other. I suspect these children may be under its spell.”
Max let out a breath, irritated by their circumstances. “I think they’re just punks who need a good ass-kickin’.”
Vin and Buddy stopped talking, appearing to have reached an agreement, and then looked at the three of them, standing with their backs to the wall.
Buddy walked up and stood squarely in front of them. He pointed his rifle at Father Mitch. “You, priest, go with Vin.”
Father looked over at Tony, then at Max, before looking back at Buddy. “Where is he taking me?”
“You’ll see,” Buddy said. He grabbed Father’s arm and pushed him toward Vin.