From this distance it could have been a limo or a hearse. All that was clear was the length and the colour curving around a bend in the road near the bottom of the mountain, sun glare bouncing off the blacked out windows. Lydia watched it through the scope on her rifle, following it as it crept closer.
‘Visitors?’ Jeremy asked. He sat beside her, body wedged between the jagged boulders on the outcrop, one hand still wrapped around the tether that joined them to the rest of the team above. Despite the cold, his cheeks were grey and Lydia could feel him constantly shifting beside her.
‘I don’t think so,’ she answered. The vehicle had ground to stop and the passenger door popped open. Two figures emerged and swept around to the bonnet, waving at the windscreen for the driver to release the latch so they could lift it. ‘Looks like car trouble,’ she said.
‘Should we help them? It might be something easy and then they can be on their way.’
Lydia shook her head. ‘No, you know the rules, we don’t interfere with others. They can fix it themselves or find out what it’s like in these mountains at night.’ Something cold ran across the back of her neck as she spoke. ‘Look, they’ve fixed it already.’
The two figures had closed the bonnet and were walking back towards the open door.
‘They’re leaving,’ Jeremy noted, breathing out with a small smile.
They watched until the vehicle was out of sight again, Lydia’s rifle tracing the road while they waited to see if it would come back. Two hours later the road was still empty and Jeremy was starting to doze.
‘Come on.’ Lydia uncurled her legs and reached across to shake him awake. ‘We need to head back.’
Nodding Jeremy followed suit, bracing himself against the rocky cliff-face as he stood.
‘After you,’ Lydia offered, standing aside so he could reach the ropes they’d use to climb their way down in the first place. ‘Take your time,’ she said softly, ‘there’s no rush.’
It took longer to get back up to the camp then it did to climb down, but that was always the case no matter who was making the trip. After six years Lydia had stopped noticing the way the sunset made the mountain tops look as if they were alight. She focused on her hands and feet instead, made sure she fall prey to loose stones or slag.
When she reached the top, Jeremy wasn’t there, instead he was standing beside the doorway to one of the cabins. There were five in total, circled around a small well and clustered close together in order to fit on the tiny patch of semi-level ground.
‘Jeremy?’ Lydia came up behind him, hand shaking as she reached for his shoulder. ‘Jeremy what it is?’
In the fading light she could see what it was, she could smell it too.
‘How?’ croaked Jeremy, ‘we were watching the road, they couldn’t have got past us without us seeing?’ He stumbled back from the open door, catching himself against the lip of the well.
Lydia swallowed the bile rising in her throat and moved to check the next cabin, and then the one after that. They were all the same, all filled with bodies and blood.
‘We have to move,’ she said, forcing herself to push past the smell and salvage whatever she could from the camp. ‘We don’t know when they’ll come back to finishing raising this place to the ground.’ Silence greeted her from outside but she turned instead to the larder, sorting through the items that would last the longest and cramming them into a worn rucksack which she slung over her shoulder. ‘Jeremy? Jeremy I need you to carry some of this?’
The space outside the cabin stayed quiet.
‘Jeremy?’ she called.
Outside the area around the well was deserted. Cursing she made her way towards the open cabin door where Jeremey had lived. There had been people she loved here as well but that didn’t mean she was wasting time crying over their bodies.
A flash of red caught her eye. The stones around the rim of the well were stained, the blood bright and fresh. New.
‘No,’ she whispered, her voice catching. ‘No, no, no, no, no.’
‘Oh yes,’ said a unfamiliar voice. ‘I’m afraid so.’
The man in the black suit emerged from behind one of the cabins, cleaning the knife in his hand with a white handkerchief.
Lydia glanced towards the ropes leading down to the outcrop but she could see the frayed edges that showed they’d been cut.
‘This is the end of the line,’ said the man. ‘Let’s not embarrass ourselves by trying to run shall we?’
‘No, let’s not,’ said Lydia. She was still holding the rifle but that was only a single shot and the time it would take to bring it into position in such close range. She dashed the idea completely as two more figures came out of the shadows. She let it hit the ground.
‘Time to make your peace Jasmine,’ said the man in the suit.
‘I don’t think we really have time for that,’ Lydia shrugged. ‘But you might just have time to make yours.’
The man in the suit frowned.
‘Sorry boys, this isn’t my execution. ‘It’s yours.’
Written for the OLWG prompt ‘a long black car’ I went over the time limit suggested but all in all I don’t think this turned out too badly for a piece of free write fiction on a Sunday.