Glaring lights pierced the dark spaces between the tree trunks. The officer paused and gave the nearest trunk a speculative inspection. It wouldn’t be hard for him or any one of his comrades to blindly crash into one of the sturdy walls of oak. It’d probably knock them out cold too. The officer snorted and flicked his own flashlight away from the tree, moving deeper into the forest.
Despite the amount of bodies that had fanned out to search the area, the night was eerily silent. No one spoke and the sound of moving fabric just barely whispered as the men ducked between the trees. The moon and stars were covered over by dense gray clouds.
The officer cursed as the toe of his boot hooked on a slightly elevated root. He nearly tumbled to the ground, saving himself by flinging out his hands to clutch at the nearest tree trunk. The flashlight fell to the ground with the motion. He cursed again as he bent to pick the heavy duty law enforcement issue light from the ground.
My hand closed around it first. Before the officer knew what was happening, I lifted the light above my head and whacked him hard on the back of the head. The officer crumpled to the ground at my feet without so much as a croak. I switched the flashlight off.
“Graham?” a voice whispered from nearby. His light darted over to the tree that Graham had caught himself on only moments before. “Are you there?”
I stepped to the side keeping to the shadows as the beam of light tracked away from the tree. Its orb was concentrated too high to see Graham’s body on the ground. A twig snapped underfoot as the second officer came towards me.
I glanced back. More lights danced around the trees behind me. I would run into someone no matter which way I ran. It would only be a matter of time before they caught me. No. I couldn’t let that happen. My grip tightened on the cool body of the flashlight as I hefted it to my shoulder, melting into the darkness nearby.
“Graham!” the second officer called again, desperate this time.
He shifted his flashlight back to that tree. Something wasn’t quite right about the trunk. He stepped towards it, tilting his head and squinting his eyes as he did so. Reaching up to his face, the officer attempted to push his glasses up the bridge of his nose, hand coming away a moment later when he realized that he no longer had his glasses. They had been lost in a skirmish earlier before the search in the woods had begun.
The tree trunk was less than a foot away when his foot kicked up against something soft. The beam of light trailed warily down the base of the tree. It stilled for a moment when the light just barely brushed the dark blue of a police jacket. Graham’s took shape then, as the second officer moved the light farther down. The orb was shaking. Not just the orb. It wasn’t just the light that was shaking. It was the second officer.
Then, he too went down as I brought the wide end of the flashlight down on the back of the second officer’s head as well. He gurgled as blood exploded in his mouth. It was the last sound he’d ever make.
I stepped away from the body pile, bringing the end of the flashlight down slowly. I brought it down to my free hand and cradled the whole thing against my chest, glancing around. Light still bobbed through the trees, all very distant than Graham’s and his partner’s had been. My own limbs grew still and I only just then realized that I had been shaking too. No one seemed to have heard the second officer go down.
A sigh escaped my lips. I looked at the two officers for a moment before turning my back. It was just two more to add to the expansive body count that was piling up under my name. Crouching low, I began weaving my way back through the tree trunks, heading in the direction that Graham had come from, back towards the highway I could only assume. Behind me, the lights were growing distant.
B. Valdez 2.27.14