Chapter 39 Cats and a mouse

Lora turns off her tablet and hides it under the floor plank. Standing up and stretching she thinks, “I need to take a look at the last five warehouses, then eat. I'm hungry.” Cracking the door open she peeks out. Grabbing her broom she heads out to the next warehouse. Sweeping the curb slowly she studies the building carefully and the surroundings. Picking up her pace she turns the corner and sweeps her way past the next one. “Three more to go and It's time for some food,” she thinks.

Looking at the next one Lora sees two troopers walk out of the building at the end of the street and turn into the next one. She turns around and starts to sweep in the opposite direction and two more troopers leave a building at the other end of the street, walk towards her, and enter the next building. Fighting down her panic she looks around, sees a recessed entrance next door, hurries over and stands in it. “They are going to eventually see me close up and question me,” she thinks. Reaching into her pocket she finds the small round dirty ball and jams it in her ear. “Celeste, can you hear me?” She whispers, “I need help if you can. I'm trapped.”

“I'm here Lora. I see the troopers on the street near you, or rather I see their stunners. I have deactivated them. Stay where you are if they can't see you. When I say go, turn left and run two buildings down. There is a narrow walkway between the buildings. Turn in there and stop. Go now.” Lora runs down the street and bolts into the walkway. “Lora, this time walk quickly like you're on an errand across the street on a diagonal, then head towards the corner and turn right. Hold for a few more seconds. Go.” Lora with her head down briskly crosses the street swerving around a stalled tractor and heads for the corner and turns right. “You're safe Lora. Where are you going now?” “To the square. I need to eat.” “Leave your earpiece in. I'll warn you of any troopers, and we can talk some more.” 

The tractor driver walks into the warehouse holding some papers. Looking around he spots the two loaders at the lunch table. One has his head laying on his folded arms apparently asleep or passed out, and the other sits motionless with a vacuous look. “Hey you dolts, I have a crate for you to unload. I've got a lot of extra deliveries today, get to it,” yells out the driver.

Both loaders struggle out of their chairs and shuffle to the loading dock. “It's that wooden one. It's heavy so don't drop it.” The loaders attempt to lift it but don't have enough strength. They drag it off the trailer with faltering jerks onto the loading dock. The tractor driver shakes his head, climbs into his cab and pulls out. “Gotta go jakes,” mumbles one of the loaders as he staggers out the door. The other loader looks around with sweat dripping off his face. Listing to one side he also leaves.

Dona looks at the crate still sitting on the loading dock. “Could this be the hammers and iron bars Celeste drew the pictures of?” Lim takes her broom and starts to sweep near the crate while looking up and down the street. “It's clear, drag it in.” They all rush out and in seconds the crate is shoved inside the warehouse. Lim takes a second look around and closes the two big doors and locks them from the inside. Elena finds a pry bar and wedges the lid off. “Hammers and pointy iron bars,” she announces.

Lora is waiting at end of day across from the women's warehouse when Dona sticks her head out the small door and waves at her. Lora crosses the street to her. “Come in. The loaders are sick and left after midday. We closed and locked the big doors.” Stepping in Dona locks the small door behind her. “We got the hammers and pointed rods today,” said Lim as she lifted the lid of the crate. Lora looks at them and on impulse, she grabs a hammer and chisel and walks to the door. Peeking outside first, she steps out and sets them behind the stairs and comes back in. “Just in case,” said Lora. “Celeste said we have to start telling our women which warehouse to go to, and we have two more days to get this done. Our tablets show each of us where they are and the address. They have to be there before first light. There will be more people ill tomorrow, and some really sick. This means there will be fewer troopers patrolling. We should start tonight. Leave the door unlocked, and we can meet back here in the morning.”

The Sargent sticks his head in the door. “You wish to see me, Marshal?” “Yes, any sign of Ungar or his daughter?” “No, sir. We have checked almost every building in the city and if we have enough troopers tomorrow the search will be finished in the late morning. What's puzzling is how his tractor disappeared. I would bet it isn't in Eauland at all. One of the troopers might have spotted his daughter, but she was far away and turned around a corner.” “Thank you, Sargent, keep looking.” The Marshall stood, “The jakes and some good brandies are needed in that order.”