Children's Crusade
Chapter 14

Copyright© 2011 by carioca

The trees sped by, much too fast for Eileen to feel safe, especially with so many people packed into the van. She didn't know how Mrs. St. Clair would live with herself if something happened to the rest of the kids. There was no way Miss Simpkins could take care of them, not as hurt as she was. But the older teacher hadn't even hesitated, insisting she should go with the first group. Miss Simpkins had agreed to it, even when they'd tried to convince her to go instead. She'd just stared at them with too wide eyes and said. 'I'm staying, I can't leave my kids behind.' Nothing anyone said convinced her, and they'd been too afraid to move her without at least her passive cooperation.

Of course that had led to a chorus of 'I wanna stay with Miss Simpkins.' Most of them had come around when she'd told them to go, but quite a few of them refused to leave her. The result was there'd been room for everyone who wanted to go. Eileen didn't understand why Jenny didn't want to go to the school. Surely it would be safer there than isolated at her house.

Mrs. St. Clair slowed, looked at a road sign and turned left. They hadn't seen anyone yet, even though they were back on a maintained road. They sped past the Johnson house. Even though Eileen knew where it was, she didn't spot it through the trees. Their windmill spun in the breeze, just visible over the intervening trees. A tumble down shed and a gravel turnout marked their driveway. They passed several farmhouses, and she saw a couple with kids hurry them into one. She vaguely recognized the old woman that held the door open.

Not much later they spotted the lights, flashing red and blue. They were visible only for an instant, then vanished as the van went down into a dip. At the top of the next hill, she got a good look, two police cars and some black suburbans, all with lights, parked outside of a farmhouse. Closer, and the police were visible, guns pointed at the house. Mrs. St. Clair sped up, ignoring a pistol waving man in a dark windbreaker. As the scene flashed past, Eileen caught a glimpse of men with FBI and BATF in big letters on their backs breaking down the front door.

Not much later, they had to dodge around an old man in overalls. Half his face was missing. Eileen wiggled her arm so her sweater sleeve dropped down to cover all but her fingertips. Her hand didn't hurt anymore, it only felt kind of numb. Maybe it was getting better.

Finally, they pulled into town. There was a roadblock set up and one of the deputy sheriffs waved them into the school parking lot. It was crowded with buses and army trucks, and someone had set up a chain link fence around most of it, reinforced with those concrete highway dividers they used for construction. The fence seemed to link up with the one around the ball field and stretched out of sight around the library.

A construction worker in hard hat and orange vest waved them to a line of vehicles pulled up to one side, near a group of army trucks. Mrs. St. Clair pulled up behind a station wagon smeared with bloody hand-prints and parked. A cop came up, and rapped on her window with his gun. She jumped, flinching away, but rolled down her window when he gestured. As it came down the faint pop, pop of distant guns echoed from the school walls. "Turn off the car," the cop said. "Nobody gets out until the inspection team tells you to, got it?" The teacher nodded. "I asked you if you got it."

She seemed to recover her composure. "I got it, I want to talk to my husband, Deputy St. Clair. Where is he?"

The cop's expression softened a little, "I don't know, but I'll pass the word. Seriously, don't let anyone out of the car, we'll get to you as soon as we can."

A mixed group of police and federal agents moved to a city bus near the front of the line, guns drawn. The ordered the passengers out searching them one at a time before sending them to join a line of people at the front doors of the school. Eileen saw them take stuff from the refugees and toss them in a wheelbarrow they'd brought. Knives, guns, and a crowbar, but also cell phones and food. One man with his family let them take his gun, but tried to argue with them over a cardboard box full of food. A man with a BATF jacket on clubbed him down with a rifle butt and kept him there at gunpoint while his wife and kids screamed. Another man handcuffed him and led him to a tent set up by the trucks. Other people, those who seemed hurt, were sent to a different tent set up on the lawn by the doors, other injured people were taken around the library by soldiers who seemed to be taking orders from guys in FEMA jackets.

A group of them went together around the library, and a little while later she heard gunshots. The soldiers and FEMA people came back and carried away half a dozen people on stretchers.

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