by Tina Stone
This is the chapter with the prison break - ORIGINAL DRAFT
~Into The Darkness~
Hunkered down, waiting for the signal, Nelson ignored the beads of sweat gathered on his forehead and the trickles that slid down his damp back. His nerves were in overdrive and he forced himself not to think of the past. Lark was going to be angry with him, he was sure. At the last minute, he had changed plans and had ensured he was the one that would extract the woman. Lark had made it clear that he held the woman, Cassy, in high regard and there was no room in this mission for sentiment. His piercing steel blue eyes focused on the main gate of Kwan-Li-so, camp twenty-two. His legs began to cramp in his current position, yet he stayed perfectly still. The signal would come at any moment. His partner, Lark, would signal as soon as the guard at the gate accepted the bribe.
A light at the entrance clicked off, and Nelson sprung into motion. With animalistic stealth, he crossed the dirt road and slipped behind a jeep parked by the entrance. He didn’t have to wait long, seconds after he took position, the gate cracked open and Nelson was in the prison. Just as their contact within the walls had said, a cargo truck filled with supplies for the guard’s, was ready and waiting. In a flash, Nelson breached the canvas tarp covering the cargo and slid between crates of artillery and food supplies, headed for the factories.
He didn’t have long to wait. The truck rolled out on time and, Nelson noticed, without a final security check. He was certain Lark had made sure the last security check was scratched. The ride to Haengyong-ri was a bumpy one and being enclosed in a tight, airless cubby hole was stifling hot and sweat slid in rivulets down his body, despite the freezing temperatures. He resolutely ignored the discomfort and focused on the mission at hand.
Finally, the truck hissed to a stop and he heard voices talking and heading away from the truck. He only had a few short minutes to exit the truck and slip behind a dumpster for one of the garment factories. Once out of sight he checked his map. If he went straight down the alley behind the line of garment and food factories, the detention center should be just to the left. He glanced at his watch. He had good time to make the distance. The Alley was scattered with large industrial dumpsters that aided him as he carefully, but confidently made his way to his next target. He approached the end of the alley and slipped behind a stack of empty boxes and crates.
The street was eerily quiet. Prisoners were sequestered in their workshops and guards were busy supervising the prisoners as they worked. Prison transport vans dotted the curbs in front of the factories. Nelson quickly made his way two blocks down the street and slipped once again into another alley. This time, he didn’t have far to go. He was not surprised when he located the side entrance and the guard was mysteriously absent from his post. Nor, was Nelson surprised when the side door opened easily. He eased the heavy, metal door open just wide enough to peer in. The long hallway was empty. Glancing at his watch, he noted that, as usual, most of the guards here at the center were on shift change. He didn’t have long to wait. Panther like movements had him in the hall and darting down its length quickly. The hall led to a stairwell and Nelson descended deeper into the pits of the center.
Deep in the bowels of the detention center, it had a dungeon-like atmosphere. It was cold and damp. A thick musty odor clung to the air so thick, you could taste it. Mingled with the musty smell was the odor of human waste and unwashed bodies. He knew there were prisoners being kept down here, but where? There was no sound. To his left, he discovered the interrogation chamber. Chains hung from beams in the ceiling and there were chains fastened to metal rings on the floor. Any torture devices were hidden from view. Nelson scanned the room in seconds and was again on the move.
On the other side of the chamber, there was a very narrow hall that had a line of thick, metal doors on each side. Quickly, he entered the hall and went to the very last door on the right. Intel had reported this was the prison cell where Lasagne was being held. Nelson took a special metal key Lark had obtained from another guard, and slid it into the lock. As he turned the key, releasing the lock, he heard footsteps entering the chamber. Nelson slipped into the dark cell. Now, if everything went to plan he had nearly an hour to wait before making their escape.
In the cold darkness, sound seemed magnified. He slid the backpack off his shoulders and located the flashlight. It was to their advantage now that none of the cells had windows and they were nearly completely soundproof. That aided in making the prisoners feel isolated and alone. It also worked in Nelson’s favor. He turned on the flashlight and quickly scanned the room. It was very small, and he located Cassy's slumped body easily. It looked as if she had simply been dumped in a heap and left. He closed the distance between them in seconds. Her skin was icy cold to his touch and she was ghost white. The back of her shredded blouse revealed her shredded back where she had been whipped not once, but several times.
Gently, he rolled her over and she remained unconscious. Maybe that was for the best, Nelson decided as his experienced hands removed her blouse and with supplies from his bag, he cleaned and bandaged the worst of the gashes on her back. He slipped a black, long-sleeved sweatshirt on his Sister, and gently laid her back on the dirt floor. He deftly checked for broken bones and other injuries. Her nose had been broken as had three fingers on her right hand. How was she going to make it to the extraction point in such a condition? He was strong, but he could not carry her dead weight the distance they needed to cover. He needed her alert and mobile and time, as usual, was of the essence.
He pulled out a small, thin vile and held the smelling salts under her nose. She started with a jerk and instantly began to thrash and fight off the oncoming assault.
“Easy girl, it’s OK, Wayne sent me. I’m a buddy of his, my name is Nelson,” He gently but firmly held her flailing arms to her sides and waited for her eyes to focus on his face. The sound of her attacker’s voice is what first penetrated Cassy’s foggy mind. It lacked the harsh angry tones she had become accustomed to.
“Cassy, open your eyes!” The voice sounded very close and she realized it was speaking English. Her eyes flew open. Nelon’s face came into focus and she stared at him wordlessly.
“There you go. I’m Nelson. Wayne sent me,” Nelson’s voice was deep and laced with amusement. “Come on, let’s get you set up.” Cassy clamped her jaw tight as Nelson used his strength to raise her to a sitting position. She instantly felt light-headed. Her back was stiff, but not as painful as it had been the last time she had tried moving. Nelson held a water bottle out to her. Her shaking hand fumbled slightly, but she held tight and eagerly held it to her parched mouth and drank. Oh, that water was so good! It took a moment to realize Nelson was speaking. After another long gulp of water, she focused her eyes on his face.
“What?” Cassy handed the water bottle back to him and Nelson took the bottle and placed it next to her on the floor.
“Here.” He took a protein bar from his pack, took off the wrapper, and handed it to her. He watched as she polished it off in two bites. He doubted she had even chewed or tasted it. Without a word, he took out a second bar and again opened it for her, and again she finished it off in two bites. Nelson was not surprised. He doubted she had been fed in days.
Cassy’s mouth burned from the salt in the bars getting into the open cuts but it sure felt good to have something in her stomach. She picked up the water bottle and drank the rest of the water. She saw Nelson taking another bar from his pack, and she spoke for the first time.
“No more,” Cassy’s brain was starting to function again. She noticed for the first time, she was in a clean, loose-fitting black sweatshirt. Her broken fingers had splints and she couldn’t bend them. Gingerly she explored her bandaged nose. “How long have you been here?”
“About twenty minutes,” Nelson made sure there was no sign of his presence and put the wrappers and canteen back in his pack. “Can you stand?” she nodded.
“I can stand, my legs are OK,” Cassy replied. “Help me up.” She held out her uninjured hand he grasped it firmly and pulled her up. Sure enough, her legs held, but he could see she was a bit wobbly.
“Sit back down and conserve your energy,” Nelson instructed and helped ease her back down. He couldn’t help but notice her hands were cold. “In about 30 minutes the guards are going to change shifts. Lark will ensure there is a trash truck at the rear exit for us to slip into. The plan is to ride the truck out of the west gate then, when the truck is out of the gate and a mile or so up the road to the landfill, we will exit the truck and once in the woods we are going to head west as we move up as high into the mountains as we can get, as quickly as we can. I know it’s going to be hard Lasagne, but can you do it?”
Cassy slowly nodded her head. “By God’s grace, I can do all things.”
Nelson smiled in the darkness. “I’ve got something for you” He dug into his backpack and withdrew a pair of hiking boots. Cassy watched as he also produced a pair of very thick socks. “Let me help you get these things on.” She didn’t resist but it felt very odd having a strange man put socks and boots on her cold feet.
A soft click jerked Nelson from his thoughts. He silently touched Cassy and put his finger to his lip to signal for her to be quiet. He slipped further into the darkness. The heavy metal door swung open and a large man filled the entrance.
“Move out folks, we have only three minutes to get to the truck,” Lark said in a clipped tone. “Chop Chop!” He turned and disappeared within seconds. Nelson led the way as he and Cassy double-timed it down the narrow hall, through the interrogation room and up the flight of stairs. A guard lay on the stairs, out cold. Lark was clearing the way for them.
At the rear door, Nelson cracked the door just enough to peer through. Sure enough, a waste truck sat idling just a few paces from the door. It was dark and Nelson noted the security light was cleverly covered. He grabbed Cassy’s hand and sprinted to the back of the truck and as they got to the back, Lark appeared and reached down to assist Cassy up. Nelson followed instantly.
Whew! The stench in the back was overwhelming! The three carefully, quietly worked their way to the back of the dump truck bed. There, they hunkered down and waited. As the truck began to roll, the three stowaways covered themselves with the trash so the guards in the towers could not look down and spot them.
At the west entrance, the truck was stopped. The driver and guard exchanged greetings in Korean. Two other guards did a walk around inspection, flashing beams of light under the truck and in the cab. Bright beams flooded the bed of the truck from above in the lookout towers. They heard the All Clear shout and a few moments later, the truck rolled through the gate of Kwan -Li-So, Camp 22. The truck picked up speed as it cleared the prison compound and turned onto the main road that led further into the wooded area. They would have to jump before the truck made it all the way to the dump.