Ryan studied the rear license plate, but the short man yelled, “Help me with this!”
Ryan felt the heat from the explosions, and the smoke made it hard to breathe. He yanked the bike loose and watched the short man throw it aside.
“What’s wrong with that kid?” Ryan said.
“The one with the duct tape.”
The man looked at him menacingly. “You didn’t see nobody, understand?” The man jumped into the van, and it sped off.
Suddenly it stopped and screeched back right at him. He ran to the hill. The van was right behind him as he neared the top. Flames and smoke rose into the air. Before Ryan could see what was on the other side, the van slid to a stop in the grass, and both men jumped out.
“Get him!” the driver yelled. Before Ryan could react, the short man was on him. They threw him into the back of the van. Ryan banged his head on an armrest and lay on the floor. From there he could see only the kid’s hands. Riding boots. Long fingernails. Weird, Ryan thought.
The men held Ryan down and taped his hands and feet. He kicked and screamed with all his might, but they were too strong. They laid him sideways beneath the seat “Sorry, kid,” the short man said as the van sped away. “Can’t take no chances.”
“You’re king of the double negative,” Ryan said, “you know that?”
The man ignored him and wrapped tape around the back of Ryan’s head and over his mouth. Getting this off is really gonna hurt, Ryan thought. Before the man tied the blindfold, Ryan could see only black smoke out the window. He wondered if he would ever see Bruce or his friends again.
* * *
The police, as usual, put Lionel on hold. Finally a cop came on and said, “Your friend will show up, okay?”
“You don’t understand,” Lionel said.
“No, you don’t understand,” the officer interrupted. “World War III just broke out, in case you didn’t notice. We got fires, we got people trapped in rubble, looters, more bombs. Now stop buggin’ us. Find him yourself.”
Lionel wanted to scream.
“Don’t call the police again,” Judd said. “All we need is them snooping around here.”
“We should at least try to find Ryan,” Lionel said. “He’d do that for you.”
“I wouldn’t want him to,” Judd said. “That puts everybody in danger.”
“Then why’d you go out this morning?” Lionel said. “That put us in danger.”
“That was before the bombs started,” Judd said.
Vicki and Chaya pleaded with them to calm down. “We need to pull together,” Vicki said.
“I don’t even want to survive,” Chaya said. “Going to heaven has to be better than living without my mother or Bruce or Ryan.”
Lionel crossed his arms and shook his head.
Vicki put a hand on Lionel’s shoulder. “We all want to find him,” she said. “It’s just hard to even think straight.”
“He probably went to his stash of Bibles,” Lionel said. “He could be there hiding—or the place could have been bombed and he’s trapped.”