Chapter Nineteen

Washington, D.C.

Tom's Journey

Caroline lay dead, her eyes closed, her body relaxed as in repose, in her father’s arms. Tom could not muster a tear for his daughter; he just rocked her limp body back and forth, his forehead against hers. In less than two days he had lost his whole family. The apocalypse had happened for him with her last breath. He lifted her body and walked slowly up the steps, holding her tight against his chest.

“Mr. President, get down!”  Lieutenant Hunt yelled, increasing her rate of fire at the attackers.

The president ignored her and continued to walk, now out in the clear, his direction toward the Pentagon. A new barrage of shots came from the row of fallen trees fifty meters to the North, this time aimed at the President.

Lieutenant Hunt jumped to the top of the steps and began running in the direction of the incoming bullets, spraying her LSAT light machine gun in controlled spurts.

Bill ran toward the President and tried to place his body to protect Tom from the incoming fire, but the President did not stop walking. The incoming fire split between Hunt and Tom and Bill, striking the ground near them and whizzing past their heads.

Allan fell to his knees and began to search Frank Strum and his stretcher, feeling for the officer’s handgun. He found it and unclipped the holster, removing the safety in the same motion, experience guiding his hands. He ran up the steps and began to sprint for Lieutenant Hunt, who was running in a zigzag motion, dropping down every few seconds to let out a spurt of bullets. Allan quickly caught up to and passed her, his direction straight toward the attackers, and the incoming fire now concentrated exclusively on him. He could hear the attackers yelling profanities, panic rising in their voices over the incoming lunatic.A bullet grazed Allan’s shoulder and another hit his thigh, and his body was spun clockwise three hundred and sixty degrees. Allan stumbled but kept moving, adrenaline and pure hatred driving him forward. He raised his pistol and aimed at the closest man when he was within ten yards, putting a bullet through his forehead just below the brim of his Redskins cap.

The man had been trying to reload his rifle, and a mixed expression of frustration, surprise and acceptance were forever frozen on his face.

Allan kept running, jumping over the felled tree trunks and spinning to his right, a shotgun placed firmly against the side of his head bringing him finally to a stop. “You insane little mother…” The second attacker never finished his sentence, a round from Lieutenant Hunt’s automatic weapon blowing bits of his blood and brains all over Allan.

Allan looked at the white matter and red globs splattered on his shirt and thought how he had always expected brains to be gray, not white, and how neat it was to discover that now. His right leg, blood oozing out through his pants, gave out and he fell to his side, the gun still held straight-armed in front of him. Lieutenant Hunt approached him from behind and disarmed him gently, inserting Allan’s weapon into her waistband as she kneeled next to him.

“Allan, where are you shot?” She said, her hands running up and down his body, mentally marking the bloody spots.

“My right leg, bad, I think, and my left shoulder, not bad…” He replied, his face rapidly draining of color as the adrenaline rush subsided.

“What were you thinking? Running at them like that.” Hunt asked as she tore a piece of her shirt and manufactured a tourniquet for Allan’s leg.

“She died because of me. Caroline was just a little innocent girl, and I cost her her life with my little episode. My best friend’s daughter; Jesus, I just want to die…” Allan’s eyes met Lieutenant Hunt’s as he spoke and she could see the pain he felt in his heart.

“Allan, try to stay calm. You’ve lost some blood, but the bullet exited cleanly. I don’t think it hit bone and there’s not enough blood to have hit an artery. Do you think you can stand? We need to move. God only knows if there are more of these guys around.”

He replied as he got up, putting his weight on his left leg and holding on to the Lieutenant with his right arm. “Let’s go; I can move.” 

Tom ignored Bill and continued walking, his body on automatic pilot. After a quarter mile, Bill started to turn back.

He pleaded, “Tom, the firing has stopped. We have to get back and check on the others. Please, Tom, listen to me,” anxiety and fear causing him to stop and go with indecision. “I am going to go back and find them. Please wait here if you won’t come back with me.”

And still Tom walked, oblivious to the world and to his friend. His mind playing through a collage of images; his wife in college sitting on his bed, wearing nothing but a tank top and panties and a come-hither smile; his daughters sitting on his lap as he read ‘Goodnight Moon’, both fighting for his attention by wrapping his arms around them; another image of Caroline wanting only her father  to place a Band-Aid on her boo-boo; Inauguration day, his career reaching a zenith only afforded to another forty-four men in history.  

All now gone.

Replaced by an incomprehensible pain, a pain he knew would never go away, be his time left on Earth long, or as it surely seemed now, extremely short.


Chapter 20