Mike ducked, instinctively, as a bullet slapped against the siding of his house.
“I’m taking fire!” he yelled at Will. “What’s your status?”
“Nothing back here,” Will reported.
“OK, keep your eyes open, I’m going to see if I can drop a couple of these guys,” Mike flicked off his rifle’s safety.
As he scanned the area through his scope, Mike spotted a man with a rifle low-crawling across open ground. Mike estimated the distance at a little over 200 yards, made a Kentucky Windage adjustment and squeezed the trigger. As he rode the scope back down from the recoil, Mike noticed that the guy was kicking convulsively.
“Hit!” Mike yelled.
A hail of bullets smashed against the house in response to Mike’s shot. Mike ducked down below the concrete blocks and moved down the hall to a bedroom window. He cranked the window open slowly hoping that it wouldn’t reflect the sun as it moved. Bullets smashed into the glass testing the resiliency of the bullet-resistant film.
Mike dropped to the floor and swore quietly to himself. This attack was worse than any they had seen previously. It seemed far more coordinated. The fire seemed much more accurate.
“Survival of the fittest,” Mike gritted his teeth and peeked over the edge of the window sill. “The less-skilled gangs are history. Only the strong will survive.”
Mike questioned whether they would survive this attack. They had plenty of ammunition but they were out-numbered. Mike found himself wishing that he and Will had taken the risk and planted booby traps outside of the tangle-foot wire. They needed a force multiplier … or several force multipliers. Mike guessed the gang’s numbers at roughly twenty.
“One down, nineteen to go,” Mike murmured as he sighted in his scope over the window sill.
About 400 yards away, Mike spotted a guy that looked like he was in charge. He was walking around between the vehicles, gesturing and pointing and apparently barking commands.
“Take out the leader ….” Mike’s thoughts trailed off as he sighted on the man’s chest.
Mike looked out across the distance trying to gauge the wind. It seemed calm. Mike saw no movement in the trees or shrubs. As Mike assessed the windage, his mind calculated the trajectory of his .30-06 caliber bullet over the 400 yard distance. Mike moved his crosshairs up to the man’s throat, exhaled slowly and squeezed the trigger. The rifle thundered inside the small bedroom. Mike looked over the window sill for a split second to assess his shot and then ducked back down behind the cinder blocks for protection against the return fire. Mike had noticed the man clutching his abdomen before he dropped to the floor.
Bullets again slapped against the side of the house and smashed the glass of the windows. The bullet-resistant film held the glass together but the window was now a mass of spider web cracks. Several of the concrete blocks moved slightly as bullets penetrated the house’s siding and frame walls.
“Must have gut shot him,” Mike growled. “Probably a little over 400 yards.”
“You OK?” Will called from the dining room?
The return fire had subsided.
“Yeah, I think I hit the leader of the group in the belly,” Mike shouted back.
“Good going!” Will let out a “whoo hoo”.
Silence settled over the house. Mike peeked over the window sill again. Several figures seemed to be moving in retreat. The apparent leader of the group had disappeared. Two of the vehicles fired up and headed back in the direction of the highway. Two other vehicles remained. Mike could barely make out people moving around on the far side of the SUV’s.
A man in ACU’s stepped out from behind one of the SUV’s with something on his shoulder. Instantly, Mike realized what it was.
“Basement!” Mike yelled at the top of his lungs.
He and Will dove down the staircase side by side.
The tube resting on the man’s shoulder made a faint “whoomp” as an anti-tank missile sailed toward Mike’s house. The missile struck between the front door and the window of the bedroom that Mike had recently vacated. The carefully-worded warning sign attached to the house vanished in a shower of debris. The explosion rocked the house and created a hole the size of a small sedan in the home’s front wall.
Bits of 2X4 and drywall rained down the staircase creating a rubble pile near the door to the basement. Mike and Will lay on the floor covered in debris. Mandy, Jenny and the children screamed and rushed over to pull the two men out of the pile of rubble and into the relative safety of the garden-level basement.
Mike blinked his eyes. They were filled with drywall dust. His ears were ringing. He could see his wife’s lips moving but he couldn’t hear the words.
Will groaned and rolled over onto his back. He felt a sharp pain on the left side of his torso and reached down. He felt something odd and drew his hand back covered in blood.
Mandy caught a glimpse of the blood on Will’s fingers and then looked down at his side. A pointed chunk of wood, perhaps ten inches long and three inches in diameter, protruded from just below Will’s rib cage. Blood was smeared down to his thigh.
Small arms fire picked up again focused on the hole in the house. Bullets riddled the remnants of the kitchen at the back of the house.
Mandy and Jenny herded the children into the back of the laundry room and then returned to help their husbands. Mike was on his feet in a low crouch. He was bruised but not bloodied. As he twisted to help Will, a flare of pain lit up his ribs. Mike groaned and caught his breath.
“Broken ribs,” Mike mouthed the words to his wife, but wasn’t sure if he had made a sound. The ringing in his ears was starting to subside but he still couldn’t hear anything else.
Mike, Jenny and Mandy moved Will into the back of the laundry room as carefully as they could. None of them were medical professionals but they could all see that the hunk of wood in Will’s side had most likely caused considerable internal damage. Will was having difficulty breathing and coughed up pink, frothy blood as they lay him down on the linoleum floor of the laundry room.
Will’s eyes were wide with pain and panic.
“What happened?” he asked.
“You caught a piece of shrapnel in the explosion,” Jenny tried to remain calm as she explained.
Mandy looked panicky as well, “Is he going to be all right?”
“I don’t know, Mandy,” Jenny was a gentle and frank as she could be. “If we pull out that chunk of wood and aren’t prepared to patch him up, it could be really bad.”
Mandy seemed to be having as much difficulty breathing as her husband.
Will’s skin had turned white and clammy. He pushed himself up from his prone position. That seemed to make breathing easier.
“Get the surgery kit,” Will instructed, gritting his teeth in pain. “The wood probably punctured my lung.”
Will wiped more frothy, pink sputum from his lips with the sleeve of his shirt.
Mike was trying to read Will’s lips as Jenny went to one of the metal shelving units to retrieve their medical kit. Bullets continued to riddle the house from outside but the pace had slowed.
Jenny returned with the medical kit and laid it on the floor next to Will. Mike unclipped the buckles and tore the Velcro closure open.
Far from a doctor, Mike was the closest thing they had. He had been attached to a local medical Army Reserve unit as their active-duty executive officer. Every soldier in the unit had been required to complete 40 hours of emergency medical training each year. Mike had watched countless videos on field surgery but had never performed it himself.
Mike inhaled through his nose and then exhaled slowly out of his mouth as a bullet shattered one of the small daylight windows on the far side of the basement.
“They must be approaching the house and trying to make us keep our heads down,” Mike thought as he realized that his hearing was returning. “Doing a darn good job of it too.”
Mike washed with anti-bacterial soap in the laundry sink as he instructed Jenny to douse Will’s wound in iodine. Mandy turned away and moved the kids to the far corner of the room.
As Mike pulled on a pair of sterile gloves and Jenny removed a scalpel from its packaging, they both turned their heads toward the front of the house as a deeper “whump, whump, whump – whump, whump, whump” overrode the sound of the sporadic small arms fire.
“Ma-deuce,” Mike said as he ducked unconsciously in anticipation of the .50 caliber rounds.