“How many?” I yell out at him.
“Four armed!” he calls back. He fires again. “Make that three!”
There’s an additional blast from the rifle.
“Just two!” Christine’s aim is good. “I can see some others coming around!”
She fires two more shots as Chuck makes his way across the street, and two more men fall. I can hear the shouts of others coming around the bend, and I have no idea how we’re going to get away without being seen.
“You’re fucking awesome, babe!” Chuck yells as he grins up at his wife. His eyes are full of admiration, and he raises his arm to give her a thumbs-up. A sharp pop from near the building echoes off the wall of rubble. Chuck’s expression changes suddenly, and he drops to his knees.
“Chuck!” Christine’s scream is followed by her unloading the rest of the rifle's clip into the man at the edge of the street. His body jerks several times before he falls backward to the ground.
I pull Hannah the rest of the way behind the trailer.
“We gotta go!” I yell up to Christine.
“We can’t leave him!”
“Come get Hannah!”
Christine drops from the top of the trailer, tripping slightly as she lands but manages to keep herself upright. She runs to my side and takes Hannah from my arms.
“I’ll get him,” I tell her. “You follow Marco. Get Hannah and yourself out of here.”
Christine nods. I check the clip of my Sig and then step out from around the trailer, firing. There’s a group coming out of the alleyway between the building and the wall of rubble, mostly holding blunt objects in their hands. Only one has a gun, and I take him out quickly before firing on the rest. They scramble, running back toward the main entrance.
Chuck is on his face in the street. I crouch down, gun still raised, and roll him over. He blinks at me a few times but doesn’t speak. There’s a trickle of blood at the side of his mouth, and his shirt is soaked in it.
“Come on, big guy,” I say quietly. I glance up at the building, but all of the men have taken off, presumably to better arm themselves. In the distance, I can hear Caesar’s voice, shouting commands, but I can’t hear the actual words. “Let’s get you out of here.”
I loop my arms under Chuck’s shoulders and drag him off the street. He’s a big guy, and the dead weight isn’t easy to haul, but I get him behind the trailer and check him out.
There’s a huge hole in his stomach. He’s losing blood so fast, I don’t know why he’s still conscious.
“Chuck? Can you hear me?”
He looks toward the sound of my voice, and I can tell he’s trying to smile. He raises his hand slightly and gives me a thumbs-up. He opens his mouth as if to say something, but a bubble of blood comes out instead. His chest heaves, and I place my hand on his shoulder to try to hold him down.
There’s nothing I can do.
“Fuck, man,” I say quietly. “This wasn’t supposed to go down like this.”
Chuck closes his mouth and his eyes. He raises his arm a little more, thumb still extended, and then it drops back to the ground.
I close my eyes for a second and then push myself back up onto my feet. I can’t take his body with me. I’ll never be able to carry him and get away fast enough. Caesar and the rest of his crew could be out here at any moment.
“I’ll try to come back for you,” I whisper. “I swear. Thank you, brother.”
“We can’t stay here.”
The group looks at me. We’re barely a mile from Caesar’s compound, and we need to move fast. Everyone’s face holds the same expression of shock as we stand one fewer than we were. Christine is actually more composed than any of the rest of them.
“I should have stayed,” Marco says. “I should have covered him better.”
“You were exactly where you needed to be.” I step up to him and place a hand on his shoulder. “There is nothing—nothing—you could have done to change this. You can’t go back. You can’t ‘what if,’ and you can’t blame yourself for that bastard getting Chuck. You trust me when I say I am not done with those guys yet.”