In conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series I’m writing over on the Go Teen Writers blog, I’m posting the chapters for THIRST on my website. Subscribe by clicking here. And if you’ve just discovered THIRST, click here for a list of previous chapters, if you’d like to get caught up.
More confessions. I’m having a VERY rough week. Too much going on. Trying to get kids ready to start school and stuff too. King’s Blood is due Sunday. Going on a day trip Thursday. Will be at two writer’s conferences next week. All that to say, I did the best I could with this chapter. It needs help and love. But this was always a first draft experiment, so I knew it wasn’t going to be beautiful. Please also keep in mind that I finished this in the wee hours of the morning and did not have time or the ability to keep open my eyes long enough to spell check it. So there are likely many typos. I will fix these later.
Thank you for your grace. I appreciate you, readers!
With that, here is the final chapter of THIRST! Will Eli and his friends make it to Dr. Bayles before Enforcers catch them?
What we were doing was insane. I knew that. But the alternative was to spend six months in rehab—likely longer now that we were about to bust into the Champion’s residence with guns.
A couple blocks away, Dad pulled off the road and around to the side of the pickup bed. “What’s the plan? We can’t exactly waltz into Champion House on a good day, and two guns isn’t going to be enough power to face off with all the Enforcers who work there.”
“If you drive around back, I can lure him out,” Hannah said.
“How?” I asked.
“He has been asking to spend time with me,” Hannah said slowly. “I’ve always turned him down, but I’ll say I’ve had a change of heart and want to talk.”
“Eww,” Logan said.
“It’ll work,” Hannah said. “Trust me. I’ll bring him out to the truck, then you guys have to take it from there.”
“Where are we going to take him?” I asked. “And how is he going to operate or whatever?”
“I have a bag of medical supplies in the back that I stole from the hospital,” Hannah said.
“Then we take him with us,” Dad said. “If we can get past the fence, they might not find us. Chances are they wouldn’t monitor outside the fence.”
“But how to get past the fence?” I asked.
“This truck has a toolkit,” Dad said. “It’s got everything I need.”
“Which is…?” I asked.
“Cable cutters and some thick, lineman’s electrical gloves.
“You’re going to cut through the fence?”
“That’s right I am.”
Seemed like as good a plan as any, so we climbed back into the truck and Dad drove up to Champion House. This time Hannah and I got in the cab with my dad.
My heart was throbbing. Adrenaline pounded in my ears. It was dark, and Dad took the delivery driveway that went around back of the house. He parked close enough to the back entrance so that it wouldn’t look strange, but far enough back that the back of the pickup with Zaq, Lizzie, and the kids would be out of the porch lights.
“Wait here,” Hannah said, getting out.
“What if someone comes out to talk to us?” I asked.
“No one will,” Hannah said. “They don’t patrol outside the fence. How about you guys get out of the cab. I’ll pretend this is my truck and start to get in the driver’s seat. When he—”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “You drive a Waste Management truck?”
“He won’t notice.”
“Yes, he will.”
“When he starts to get in the passenger side, you guys sweep in with your guys and look scary.”
I frowned, thinking this just about the dumbest plan I’d ever heard. Hannah walked away then, and my Dad didn’t stop her. The engine ticked as it cooled down, which made me think of the seconds on a clock tick, tick, ticking as Enforcers tracked us to this very spot.
“This is a dumb plan,” I said.
“It’s all we’ve got, son,” Dad said. “We should get out. And we’ll need Zaq’s help to nab Dr. Bayles.”
It suddenly seemed beyond insane. We were going to kidnap this man. Point a loaded gun at a person to make them come with us. I pulled aside the sliding window on the back of the cab.
“Hey, Zaq,” I said. “Get out. You’re muscles are needed.”
We argued about what to do. Dad wanted us out of sight around the back of the truck, but I thought that was too far and would give Dr. Bales time to react before we could reach him. Zaq volunteered to jump out of the bed, but Dad was worried he’d get hurt. We settled on Zaq in the bed with the rifle. He’d stand and point it. Dad got behind the truck, and I hunched down on the floor of the passenger’s side with the handgun.
It was not a good fit for my legs.
It seemed like Hannah took forever. I started to worry that they’d arrested her or Dr. Bayles had coerced her to stay for dinner. I pictured her at a fancy table seated between Loca Champion and Tracy, laughing at something Tracy had said.
Where did I come up with this stuff?
I set the handgun on the seat. Then decided to hold it. The cold metal and how heavy it was started to freak me out. Handguns were for killing.
I reached out to set it back on the seat when I heard voices drawing near.
Laughter. Hannah and some guy.
I gripped the gun and aimed it at the door.
“It’s nice that your roommate loaned you her truck, but we can take my car,” the man said. “It’s a Lexus.”
“This will be faster,” Hannah said, opening the driver’s side door.
The passenger’s door creaked open. I tensed, ran my thumb over the safety to make sure it was on.
The doctor was so busy looking at Hannah, he didn’t see me until he kicked me in the leg. He frowned, looked down, and his forehead wrinkled up.
“What is going on—” He stiffened, lifted his hands in the air.
“Back up,” Dad said. He was holding the rifle against Dr. Bayles’s back. Zaq must have handed it to him.
Dr. Bayles backed away from the truck. “I demand to know what—”
“Shhh,” Dad said. “One more word and I hit you with my gun. Eli, get out.”
I squeezed out from my hiding place in a very ungraceful like manner. I climbed out of the truck and Dad prodded the doctor forward.
“Get in the middle,” he said.
The doctor got in and started scooting. Hannah, I saw, had gotten in the bed. She was currently sitting beside Lizzie, rummaging through a backpack.
“Cover me, Eli,” Dad said.
I stood in the open doorway, pointing the handgun at the doctor. Dad handed Zaq the rifle and ran around and got in the driver’s side.
“Cover him through the back window,” Dad told Zaq. “Eli, you sit right beside him.”
Great. I was still the handgun man.
Soon we were on the road again.
“Why doesn’t Hannah have a tracker?” I asked the doctor.
“That’s what this is about? The trackers? Why do you care?”
“We don’t want to be tracked,” I said. “Why doesn’t Hannah have one?”
“Because she’s smart enough to know she’s been injected with one. We didn’t inject trackers into any of the doctors or nurses.”
Dad drove around the U at the bottom of Summit Road. In the distance, a riot of police lights were headed their way.
“Hold on!” Dad yelled.
He slowed and drove right off the road. There wasn’t much vegetation at the foot of this high desert mountain, and Dad drove right over the steppe, four-by-fouring his way around the sides of two condo buildings.
I watched in the rear-view. It looked like the cop cars were going to continue on to the Champions, but then one stopped and turned slowly off the road.
Dad had a great head start, though. On the other side of the condos, he picked up speed in a parking lot, then turned onto Hunter Hill Road. He followed that to Snowmass.
No sign of the cop car. We’d lost him, it looked like.
“They’ll be expecting us to go for the gate again,” Dad said. “So we take another path.”
“What path?” I asked. “The north gate?”
“Well go to the fence. Same place Logan got shocked. But we need to split up. I’ll drop you at the bottom of the slope. Run over to Waste Management, see if the garbage truck is still there. If so, drive it to the fence. I’m going to lure them away.
“I don’t want to split up.”
“I’ll be fine. Trade guns with Zaq. He and Lizzie stay with me. You take the kids.”
Just past the hospital, he drove into the lot at the Crested Butte Mountain Resort and wove his way through the alley roads that outlined each resort. He stopped outside the snowboard rental shop, and I slid out, holding my gun on Dr. Bayles.
Zaq got out and I told him the plan. We switched guns, and before I was ready, Dad, Zaq, Lizzie, and Dr. Bayles were driving down Crested Butte Way. I could hear the sirens, could even see them flashing in the dark sky, but I didn’t know where they were.
“Is that a helpcopter?” Logan asked.
I heard it too. “Come on,” I said. “We need to get out of sight.”
Logan with Davis, Hannah with Shyla, and me with Cree, we each grabbed a kid’s hand and jogged around another set of condos toward Whetstone and the Waste Management building.
“I can’t believe it’s still here,” I said. “Keys too.”
“That’s what you get when you make Enforcers out of untrained civilians,” Logan said.
“They were too busy chasing us,” I said. “And why would we come back for this truck?”
“Can we all ride up front this time?” Shyla asked, pinching her nose.
“Yes we can,” I said. “But first let’s get some of our stuff out of the back in case we don’t have time again.”
We rearranged, piled in, and I steered away. We were golden all the way to Gothic. Then I figured we had maybe five minutes before someone saw a mysterious dump truck heading north.
Try thirty seconds. I swear, even with ten Enforcers on the trip to Dallas, Enforcers were trailing after our garbage truck like bees chasing a pot of honey.
“Papa Bear to Cub, come in.” The walkie talkie squawked.
“Logan, answer that. It’s my dad.”
“I hear you loud and clear Papa Bear,” Logan said. “This is Chewbacca Slim. What the word? Over?”
“Chewbacca Slim?” I asked.
“It’s my call sign,” Logan said. “It’s a cool name.”
“Change in plans,” Dad said. “We’ve got too many enforcers in the way to keep the plan going. Head back to our old homestead and take the Gunsight trail.”
“Tell him okay,” I said.
“Affirmative, Big Daddy, over and out,” Logan said.
What followed next can only be described as a car chase. Through the tiny town of Mount Crested Butte, some two dozen Enforcer cars chased one big blue dump truck. We headed north on Gothic, but I could see a major roadblock in the distance. Thankfully, I was able to veer right on Cinnamon Mountain Road and wind through the back streets just a bit. Cinnamon Mountain Road to Anthracite Drive, to Winterset Drive, and back onto Gothic.
No sign of the road block ahead. I whooped. “They set up that road block too early.”
It was tempting to just keep going on Gothic and try for the main gate, but my dad and the others were back by our old house and I didn’t want to risk losing them. I took a sharp right onto Prospect Drive and punched the gas. The dump truck took a moment to pick up speed, but once it got going, it really cruised.
Gunsight Pass crossed Prospect Road just before the second major switchback. I slowed some as I ran down through the ditch. Inside the cab, we rattled about inside the cab, and I had to slow down to fifteen on the narrow dirt trail.
I bounced through the rutted trail, and when I came to a copse of thick spruce trees, the branches of which scraped the sides of the truck, I stopped .
“Get out, quickly. I’m leaving this to block the road.”
We exited into a tangle of branches. I heard the Enforcer cars behind, still revving their engines over the rutted trail.
I swung the tent over my shoulder and pulled Cree with me. My heart was beating so fast I could hardly breathe. I saw the fence up ahead, saw that it had been cut open. Beyond the curling, severed wires I could see Lizzie, and Zaq with the rifle trained on Dr. Bayles.
Where was my dad?
I handed Cree’s hand off to Hannah’s free one. “Get through!” I yelled. “Hurry!”
Hannah and Logan ran ahead, but I turned around, gun gripped at my side, scanning the land behind me for Enforcers, my dad, anything else that might be a problem. The empty police cruiser.
It was on the ground, hidden by the backside of the copse of trees I’d driven through. It looked empty. No pilot. No passenger. Enforcers were working their way through the trees. They’d be here soon enough. Where was my dad? We needed to get out of here.
“Stop right there, Mr. McShane.”
The voice pulled my gaze back to the police cruiser. Mr. Tracy was standing behind it with Jaylee, a gun trained on her head.
“You look surprised.” Tracy grinned, then lifted a walkie talkie up for me to see. “I found this in my office. It didn’t take my techs long to repair it. Then I heard everything you said. Payback isn’t so great, is it?”
“What are you doing with Jaylee?”
“She’s the one you like, isn’t she?” Tracy asked. “I remembered she had wanted to go along with you when you searched for your house. You were going to leave her behind?”
“I told him I didn’t want to go,” Jaylee said.
“Oh, but I can see it in his eyes, girl. He wanted you to come.”
“What is the matter with you?” I asked, sickened that he would haul Jaylee out of her house to try and use her against me. “Am I really that big of a threat to you?”
“Everyone accepts me. Everyone but you and your little group. You think you’re better than me, but you’re not. And I will make you submit.”
I saw my dad then. He was behind Tracy, creeping closer. I kept talking, hoping to further distract the man. “How are you going to do that? You going to shoot Jaylee? You think—”
Dad lunged at Tracy and grabbed his arm. “Go, Eli! Now!”
Jaylee screamed ran toward the enforcers. “Help!” she cried. “Please help me.”
I wasn’t leaving my dad. I trained my gun on the men, but they were too close for me to take a shot.
“Eli, go!” Dad yelled.
I couldn’t go without him. Was he nuts?
A gun fired.
My heart jolted. Both men went down. I ran toward them just as Enforcers crested the hill.
“Catch!” Dad pitched something at me over the cruiser. I had to jump to the left to catch it.
The walkie talkie.
Dad stood up, hooked Tracy’s arm around his neck. “Elias McShane, don’t make this a waste,” he said. “You go take care of your friends. I’ll catch up soon. I promise.”
“Dad, come on. You don’t have to do this.”
“Yes, I do, Eli. And you have to go. Now.”
“I love you, kid. Now, get out of here.”
He hobbled toward the first Enforcer, waved one hand. “Hey! I need some help here.”
I turned, picked up the tent, and ran.
We hiked just inside the trees by the East River. We’d used the walkie talkie to call Reinhold and tell him what happened, but he didn’t want to talk over the radios. Instead we made plans to meet in a few days. We only had the one six-man tent, but it was a chilly night and a pile of eight bodies packed like sardines wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
Lizzie had finally stopped crying, but only because she’d fallen asleep. She said she didn’t blame me, but I wasn’t so sure. Dad had only stayed behind to wait for us. And then he’d sacrificed himself for me.
Where was he right now? Had Tracy died? If so, what would they do to my dad?
“We need some logging blades,” Zaq said, drawing me back into conversation.
Everyone was asleep but the two of us. We talked about how we might try and build a house. Zaq thought logs were the way to go, but I’d rather find some lumber. Not that I knew how to build with lumber.
I wanted to talk about going in to get my dad back, but I knew what Zaq would say. I’d just have to wait and see. Dad would find us eventually, right? It had to be a lot easier for one guy to break out than nine people.
“I want to marry your sister,” Zaq said.
That got my attention. “Are you nuts?”
“No. I talked to your dad about it once. He seemed to think it was a good idea.”
Zaq’s voice went soft. “You think it’s a bad idea?”
“No. That’s not what I meant. I just… How? It’s not like there’s any churches or anything.”
“I’m asking for your blessing, Eli. And I’m trying to ask if you will marry us.”
“Me?” The fool was exhausted. That had to be the problem. Tomorrow morning, I doubt he’d remember this conversation.
“Lizzie’s got a Bible. You could wing it okay. Plus, well, you’re el presidente, man. There’s no one higher. Will you lead us?”
I sighed. Oddly, I wasn’t scared. I felt safe in the forest by the river. Out here, I knew what to do. “Yeah, I’ll lead us,” I said. “But not by myself. This isn’t going to be like Tracy. We’re a team. And I need every one of you to help me.”
“You got it, boss,” Zaq said.
It was the first time in a long time that Zaq calling me boss didn’t bother me. I could do this. We could do this. Together.
The [Temporary] End
Jill here. I realized at 1:32 this morning that I completely forgot Dr. Bayles!!! and the trackers in their arms. [Gah! So sad.] Clearly I am too tired to be writing climactic endings to books. THIRST needs a lot more work. Welcome to the world of rough drafts! Stories have never come out perfect for me on the first try. Rewrites are magical.
Also, I’ll likely write an epilogue of some kind for the final book. I’m not sure what exactly I want to show yet or how far in the future the epilogue will go. Just know that there will be one. But it’s very late. And I need to go to bed. So it will have to wait for the rewrite.
Thanks so much everyone for hanging in there with me and reading along! I apologize for the very messy last few chapters. They need a lot of work, and I’ll get to rewriting them eventually. Probably not until late this year or early next. I’ll keep you posted here on my website.