With a gentle tug, the name tape pulled free of Xu Guan’s uniform jacket. Xu Guan stood and gathered himself for a sprint to the maintenance shed. The name tape fluttered in the breeze and then fell to join the carpet of leaves on the floor of the woods. Xu Guan’s mind was elsewhere as he raced for the door of the concrete block structure. The door was locked!
“Amazing after all this time,” Xu Guan thought to himself. “How could a building like this have gone unnoticed? How could it still remain as it had been months before when the world came to a screeching halt?”
Xu Guan only let the thought nag at him for a moment. He needed a pry bar to break open the padlock. The shed was lined by 55 gallon drums along one outer wall and a tangled mess of scrap on the opposite side. Xu Guan hunted through the scrap for a piece of steel that could be used to break open the lock. He cast aside several pieces of junk until he came across a rusted shovel with a broken handle. Perhaps the handle could be used as a pry bar. Xu Guan ran around to the building’s door once again. The handle was too large, but the shovel gave Xu Guan another idea.
He peeked inside the building through the crack between the double doors. The floor of the shed was packed dirt. Xu Guan stepped back and sized up the building. He knew little of the climate of the area, but assumed that the foundation would be several feet deep. He had precious little time, but if he could put his idea into action ….
Xu Guan ran around the corner of the building to the side where the 55 gallon drums sat in a row. Near the back of the building Xu Guan tested the drums. When he found one that was empty, he moved it aside and began digging as fast as he could in the spot where the drum had sat. The hole was just over a meter deep when Xu Guan found that he had dug down below the foundation. Xu Guan dug a little farther back and then down underneath the concrete footings. The job became more difficult as Xu Guan attempted to tunnel beneath the concrete and back up into the dirt floor of the shed. After nearly an hour of furious digging, dirt collapsed onto Xu Guan from inside the building.
He was in!
Slipping back out of his tunnel, Xu Guan paused and listened. All was quiet except for the sounds of birds singing in nearby trees. Xu Guan took the time to haul away his dirt pile and toss it onto the muddy banks of the nearby creek that ran through the woods.
Next, Xu Guan moved the large black drum back to the edge of his tunnel. He slid into the tunnel feet first and then pulled the drum back over the entry hole. The drum was just barely larger than the entry hole, but Xu Guan figured that it would hide his tunnel from all but the most intent searcher.
Once inside the building, Xu Guan took stock of his surroundings. The building did, indeed, appear to be a maintenance shed. It was filled with all manner of containers with flowers, grasses and weeds on their labels. Xu Guan could not read the English labels, but he could guess at what was inside based upon the pictures. There were numerous hand tools and a riding lawn mower like Xu Guan had seen used on the large lawns at the military bases where he had been stationed.
In one dark corner, Xu Guan found a double-barrel shotgun. He was unfamiliar with this style of weapon so he hefted it carefully. Rust covered the barrels and action. The stock, formed of what was once beautifully-grained wood, was now dented and scratched. Xu Guan recognized the trigger but was unsure of the purpose of the lever on the top of the gun’s action. He pressed the lever to the side and the old gun’s break action opened a fraction of an inch. Xu Guan forced the action open farther and peered down the bore of the barrels. Much like the gun’s exterior, the bores were rusty and pitted.
Xu Guan shrugged his shoulders. He’d fired plenty of rusty rifles in his relatively brief military career. The long barrels were unwieldy in Xu Guan’s opinion, however. The gun had originally been designed to hunt waterfowl. The 34” barrels were fully choked – perfect, if you wanted to bring down a goose at 40 yards. Xu Guan figured he would likely be at closer quarters if he needed to use the gun. He looked around the shed and spotted a hacksaw hanging from a nail. It was just as rusty as the shotgun. The blade appeared to be worn nearly smooth. Xu Guan began looking through the drawers of the shop bench and then the large tool box sitting on the bench near the door. In the third drawer down in the toolbox, he found what he was looking for – a dozen unused hacksaw blades. Xu Guan tossed the blades on the bench near the saw.
Near the spot where Xu Guan had found the gun, he found a musty canvas bag. Inside the bag were three full boxes of #2 shot 12 gauge shells and a partially empty box of #6 shot shells also in 12 gauge. The boxes turned to mush in Xu Guan’s hands. Most of the brass on the shells was corroded.
As he plucked the shells from the bits of cardboard and dropped them into the canvas bag, Xu Guan eyed the shotgun. It could be a source of food as well as a defensive weapon he realized. But, to discharge the gun to kill an animal would be to invite notice. Above all else, Xu Guan wanted to remain unnoticed.
“Perhaps it would be better to set traps,” Xu Guan muttered to himself.
As a boy, he and his brother had learned to make snares. They had captured birds and rats with a few grains of rice. Xu Guan didn’t yet have any bait, but the shed certainly contained the materials to make snares.
“Much better,” Xu Guan nodded to himself as he replaced the blade of the hacksaw.
Outside the shed, just a few yards away, four men were making their way through the woods. They moved in a rough diamond formation, the lead man’s eyes were glued to the ground. The three remaining men all carried semi-automatic rifles with 30-round magazines. Their heads moved as if on swivels. The lead man suddenly held up his hand and balled it into a fist. All three of his cohorts stopped short and waited for the next signal.
The lead man squatted down looking intently at something on the ground. As he pushed a few leaves aside, he revealed a United Nations name tape.