By ANDREW FLYNN, Storyteller
The dark-colored late-model van moved at a steady rate, shimmering and jolting as any van containing more than a few people would. Outside, very few cars existed on the road. Odd for a Saturday night near the outskirts of Kansas City, but appropriate enough given the immediate situation that Dale and Levi faced.
Inside the van was a different story. The scent of fresh sweat pervaded the air inside the cramped quarters of the moving vehicle. And the scent came from more than just the two whose fates were questionable at best. Two assault rifles pointed at his head, Dale began to calm down enough to realize the facts at hand. And they weren’t truths that were in his favor by a long shot.
“You’ve got no reason to hold him,” Dale instructed to the other men in the back of the van.
“Why don’t you just shut the fuck up, Kravitz?” the squad leader said sharply.
A short pause delayed Dale’s next words, as he wanted each of them to be crystal-clear and without stutter.
“Well, gosh, it’s partially because you really have no reason to hold him.”
“Sure, the other part being that you should really just focus on how exactly you’re going to get off when torturing me, or whatever the hell your immediate plans are.”
The squad leader grabbed Dale’s mouth forcibly, and shook the mouth that his hands grasped.
“I’m in no mood to hear anything you’ve got to say at any time, you miserable asshole. Especially now.”
Releasing the fierce grip from Dale’s mouth, the squad leader settled back into his position, sitting just to the right of Dale on the long bench seat along one of the van’s sides. While it was easy to tell he was agitated, this didn’t stop Dale at all from egging his captor on.
“There’s no way Snares is paying you shitheads enough. I mean, to actually track down and find a target like me, there’s no way the risk matches the reward.”
Silence was met with Dale’s most recent quip. Away from that tension-filled quiet a mere ten feet away lay Levi’s seemingly unconscious body, horizontally flat against the van’s floor. The immediate attention of the armed crew was more to the jabbering man sitting upright, just opposite of him.
While Dale was certainly up a certain type of muddy creek without a paddle or a prayer, it is prudent at this time to mention that a necessary pat-down wasn’t exactly administered with maximum efficiency, leaving the area under Dale’s right armpit left unchecked. And inside of this certain area kept his only hope. You could identify it as something with a pin, and it only served one purpose once that pin was removed.
Levi carefully appeared to remain dead to the world, or at least those inside the van. He was outnumbered in bullets and guns and knives, but there was one department where he had them all beat. So in using this wit, he had to retain all the variables that he knew of, and guess correctly at all of the ones he couldn’t immediately account for. So he lay still, his head bumping at inconsistent intervals against the backdoor of the moving van.
“You all proved yourselves, the second you pulled the trigger on that rocket launcher,” Dale said. “And it’s nothing that you can train for, in all reality.”
“Let’s talk about reality, Kravitz,” the squad leader said. “You’re part of us just as much as we’re a part of you. We all have this undying wish to make this country as best it can be. It is the Society that comes first. And you’ve damaged it by pussying out like you did yesterday.”
The squad leader leaned forward to punch Dale square in the jaw. The hit landed with an audible “THWACK”, sending Dale into a very fateful position where he was able to dive between the Kevlar vest on him into immediate access of the pin. The very pin that was attached to the motherly grenade which it was housed to. Upon a careful yank of this pin from Dale’s incisors, he had to still be mindful that the pin needed to remain in his mouth and nowhere else.
And this is just where the pin stayed: out of sight. A master of his craft, Dale tucked the grenade pin under his tongue so that he would still be allowed to play his last hand effectively while also being able to talk.
So Dale began, “Tell you what, since you’re all here with me, I’ll cut a deal with you. All of you. Because I’m such a nice guy. I’ll double whatever Snares and the douchebags of The Precipitation Above are paying you.”
Silence again. None of the men were having any of it. They’d soon realize the err of their verbal unresponsiveness. Dale scoffed, but then went on.
“And on top of that…I’ll do this. And keep in mind, I’d never do this in any other circumstance. Once I’m out free and clear, you’ll all receive ten million dollars each as an incentive for freeing one of the men who actually had the balls to nuke one of our great American cities. You know, like a kickback.”
There was no rehearsal. Only father-son intuition. Upon hearing “kickback” from his father, Levi performed a gymnastic feat, throwing his flat body up, legs first, all the way behind him enough to reach the exit.
Besides not taping up Dale’s mouth, another layer of incompetence was only revealed when Levi was able to thrust open both of the van’s back doors with his carefully-placed kick as he made his move. A split-second before, the armed men all thought that he was out like one of Edison’s first filament bulbs. Levi and his quick thinking proved them all wrong.
What resulted after this incredible move could only be described as a precisely-timed escape of such desperation, that only fate itself could have stamped the ticket of admission for it to pass through as a momentous actuality.
Levi vaulted out of the van, meeting the unforgiving pavement with a harsh but welcome series of skips and rolls. Flesh was battered on this escape, cuts were opened, but Levi was making his departure as only he could.
Back inside the van, the armed men were dealing with what they had just witnessed. Guns drawn and safeties off, they too were now ready for their own exit. It just wasn’t the one that they wanted.
Dale Kravitz sat up straight for the first time since being shoved into the van as a captive person. In the three seconds he had left as a living, breathing person, on this planet, he imagined selfishly what it would be like to puff victoriously on a freshly-lit hand-rolled Cuban cigar. Of course, this was a selfish thought. But it was his, just as the stealthy actions he and his son had just taken were. He owned it. The cigar was lit.
And those three seconds later, the grenade exploded inside of Dale’s armpit. First, the flash. But right after, everything else. Dale, the armed squadron, and the dark-colored van all went with it. Luck would strike again as it was now forty yards down the road from where Levi ended up.
Magnificent colors lit up the street where the grenade went off. The quiet night in Blue Springs had yet again been interrupted.
Levi sat up after a good twenty seconds to attain the best sight of what lay down the road from him just a bit. There was satisfaction in this, but the bitter sweetness of the moment quickly set in. He could only say to himself, Dad…you son of a bitch.