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Chapter 40 Cats and a mouse

Lora turned off her tablet and hid it back under the floor plank. “I need to take a look at the last five warehouses, then eat. I'm hungry.” Cracking the door open she peeked out. Grabbing her broom, she started out. Sweeping the curb slowly she studied the building and surroundings. Picking up the pace she turned the corner and swept her way past the next one. “Three more to go and It's time for some food,” she thought.

Looking at the next one, Lora saw two troopers walk out of the building at the end of the street and go to the next one. She turned 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 check the next building. Fighting down her panic Lora saw a recessed entrance next door and pressed herself into it. “They are going to eventually see me close up and question me,” she thought. Reaching into her pocket, she found the round dirty ball and jammed it in her ear. “Celeste, can you hear me?” She whispered, “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 ran down the street and bolted 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 crossed the street swerving around a stalled tractor and turned the corner. “You're safe now Lora. Where are you going?” “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 walked into the warehouse holding some papers. Looking around he saw the two loaders at the lunch table. One's head is laying on folded arms apparently asleep or passed out. 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.”

Both loaders struggled out of their chairs and shuffled to the 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 dragged it off the trailer with faltering jerks onto the loading dock. “Gotta go jakes,” mumbles one of the loaders as he staggered out the door. The other loader looked around with sweat dripping off his face. Listing to one side he left.

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. Lim took a second look around, closed the two big doors and locked them from the inside. Elena found a pry bar and wedged the lid off. “Hammers and pointy iron bars,” she announced.

Lora was waiting at the end of day across from the women's warehouse when Dona stuck her head out the small door and waved at her. “Come in. The loaders are sick and left after midday. We closed and locked the big doors.” Dona locked the small door behind them. “We got the hammers and pointed rods today,” said Lim as she lifted the lid of the crate. On impulse, Lora picked up a hammer and chisel and peeked outside. Slipping out she hid them behind the stairs and came 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 knocked. “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 more than a few good brandies are needed in that order.”