Line of Descent chapter 19
The medical supplies were kept upstairs in the control room. Krupmeyer and the guard dragged the wounded Drayton in there. Krupmeyer pulled the work desk away from the wall and cleared the top of it with one sweep of his arm before they laid him face down on it. His arms hung down on either side of it. Krupmeyer pulled out Drayton’s shirt tail and ripped it all the way up the back to examine his injuries properly. There was a massive spreading bruise on the right side of the back from the impact of the shotgun pellets on the bullet proof vest. He probed the ribs tenderly. None of them appeared to be broken. There were a few puncture holes in the back of the bicep and thigh muscle from stray pellets but otherwise he looked OK. He ripped open Drayton’s right trouser leg clean up to the crotch. The wounds there were minor, but the pellets were still embedded in the flesh of the muscle.
He left the room before starting work on Drayton to wash off the dirt he had spread on his face and hands. When he came back, he rooted through the meagre box of medical supplies that Harting had produced. To his disgust, there wasn’t much to deal with gunshot wounds. He finally picked out some dressings and a germicidal fluid.
‘I’m going to take some of these pellets out’ he said to Harting and the guard. ‘Find some tweezers and something I can use as a probe’ he ordered, rubbing some of the fluid on his hands. While they searched, he poured more of it onto a dressing and started dabbing it on the entry holes. Drayton had been semiconscious on the way back from the shed but he was starting to come to properly as Krupmeyer worked on him. Walters, who had hovered around in the background, approached.
‘What happened?’ he enquired, staring in horrified fascination over Krupmeyer’s shoulder at Drayton’s wounds.
‘Not now’ said Krupmeyer brusquely, elbowing him back without even looking at him as he continued to work on Drayton. Walters was clearly offended to be treated in such an offhand way but retreated back to the other side of the room to talk to Harting. The guard had found a small set of tweezers and a thin pointed metal rod that Krupmeyer decided would do as a probe. He set to work digging the pellets out. The pain rapidly brought Drayton fully awake.
‘What happened?’ he asked through gritted teeth as Krupmeyer worried at a pellet deeply imbedded in his thigh. His hands took a grip on the legs of the table as Krupmeyer probed deeper.
‘You got shot’ replied Krupmeyer simply.
‘I gathered that. Did we get him?’ he asked, irritated at the flip reply.
‘We winged him’ replied Krupmeyer.
‘How many did we lose?’
‘Three’ replied Krupmeyer concentrating on the leg. ‘It was my fault. We closed in too soon. He started throwing home-made grenades or something. We walked straight into it’ he finished, on a low note. Drayton digested the bad news as he tried to control the nausea caused by Krupmeyer’s probings. His leg started to twitch uncontrollably.
‘If we hadn’t done something, we’d be here in the dark’ said Drayton. The guard moved over to hold his leg still while Krupmeyer worked. Despite his best efforts, Drayton could not stop it jerking as Krupmeyer worked the probe deeper into it.
Krupmeyer finally worried the pellet to the surface. It popped out and fell on the floor with a metallic click. He leaned down and picked it up. It was jet black and very hard. Teflon coated, he guessed. No wonder it’d stripped the rendering off the generator shed wall. Drayton was a lucky guy.
‘Here, a souvenir. You won’t be dying of lead poisoning’ he said, handing it to Drayton. ‘You can say you survived being shot by armour-piercing shot.’
Drayton rolled it between his fingers as Krupmeyer finished off the leg. He taped up the holes and moved up the table to start work on the arm.
‘I suppose you know what you’re doing?’ enquired Drayton relieved at the break while Krupmeyer changed ends. His face was pale and sweaty.
‘Just be glad I’m not picking them out of your butt’ replied Krupmeyer lightly as he threw a soiled dressing across the room at the waste paper bin that stood on the floor beside the console. It ricocheted off the side and went in with a very satisfying thunk. Krupmeyer smiled, pleased at his own marksmanship. Throwing things at paper bins was a pastime that gave him great pleasure.
‘Nice to see someone around here is enjoying themselves’ commented Drayton through gritted teeth as Krupmeyer started work on his arm.
‘Did you leave a guard on the shed?’ he asked with a grimace as Krupmeyer started pinching the back of his bicep, hoping to pop out a pellet embedded near the surface. It moved it upwards just enough, and he levered it out gently with the probe. After dabbing the area with ointment, he started work on another one.
‘Yeah, two’ he finally answered after getting it out. Drayton had been lucky, he thought. He’d only been caught by the edge of the spreading shot. Drayton emitted an involuntary cry as Krupmeyer hit a nerve.
‘Sorry. There’s some painkillers here if you want something to chew on’ offered Krupmeyer.
‘Better not’ said Drayton. His face was pale and drenched in sweat. ‘We’re going to need all our wits about us tonight.’
‘Go on then, be a hero’ said Krupmeyer with a grin. He liked this Limey. He stopped and surveyed his handy work. There were two more pellets remaining but they were too deeply embedded for him. He’d have to leave them to the professionals. He took out the ones he could and doused the rest liberally with the fluid. He taped them off. Drayton sat up on the desk. It was slow and painful.
‘My back’s killing me’ he said.
‘You’re lucky you’ve still got one’ commented Krupmeyer tidying away the dressings. Drayton noticed the state of Krupmeyer’s jacket for the first time.
‘What the hell happened to you?’ he asked.
‘Have you seen yourself lately?’ countered Krupmeyer. ‘We must be going to the same tailor.’ They both chuckled, though in Drayton’s case it came to a painful halt as he got a jolt of pain from his bruised back.
‘Well, what do we do now, Boss?’ enquired Krupmeyer when the moment of humour had passed.
Boss, thought Drayton looking at him. Krupmeyer should be running the show. He was the only one here with real combat experience and it showed. Drayton’s knowledge of small-scale infantry manoeuvres had been purely theoretical until tonight. They were something he had listened to at lectures and carried out in dull practices on Salisbury plain. He was getting all his practical experience right now.
‘We wait’ he said to Krupmeyer. He sat up and slid off the desk, straightening up painfully as he called Harting over.
‘Hunt up some clothes for us’ he said indicating to himself and Krupmeyer. He limped over to the control console and sat down in Harting’s chair tenderly. His wounded leg started to tremble uncontrollably again and he felt empty and sick. He gripped the thigh with a hand, trying to subdue the spasm.
Harting returned with some clothes he had been given by the domestic staff in the kitchen. He was also carrying a thermos of coffee and sandwiches.
‘How are things down there?’ Drayton asked him. The leg was starting to relax, he thought with relief.
‘They’re mildly terrified’ he answered. ‘I wouldn’t rely too much on them as runners, if I were you.’ Replied Harting. Drayton shrugged. He could not blame them. This hardly fell within the terms of their contract of employment, he thought.
While he and Krupmeyer put the clothes on, Harting poured coffee into plastic cups. They sat there at the console, eating the sandwiches and watching the monitors idly. The food and hot drink made Drayton feel slightly better. Walters asked again what had happened. Between them, Krupmeyer and Drayton filled him in.
‘Not very successful’ he commented waspishly when they had finished. Krupmeyer swivelled his head in his direction, instantly outraged at the man’s insensitivity.
‘Why don’t you pop out and have a go?’ he enquired in a menacing voice, half rising from his seat. Drayton put a restraining arm across his chest and looked at Walters with a pained expression. He had shrunk away from Krupmeyer, momentarily scared that the looming giant was actually about to attack him.
‘Let’s just settle down’ said Drayton, looking at Krupmeyer reprovingly. He need not have bothered, Krupmeyer had been more than satisfied by the look of sheer fright that had crossed Walters’ face. They went back to the coffee and the sandwiches.
‘Why isn’t he showing up on the detector screens?’ Drayton asked Harting.
‘He’s inside the sensor fields. He came up the road, you see. No sensors on it’ he finished with a helpless gesture of the hands.
‘Some hole’ commented Drayton.
‘The whole thing was not designed for this situation’ explained Harting defensively.
Just then, the intruder alarm went off. A red light appeared on the sector board. Harting’s hands danced over the console. His face lit up. Canfield was finally running foul of his beloved system.
‘He’s in the north-east sector. He’s tripped one of the beam alarms.’
‘Get him on a screen’ ordered Drayton urgently.
‘There’s no cameras in the forest’ replied Harting. ‘It’s too dense to use them.’ The light on the sector board winked out. They relaxed.
‘At least we’ve got a fix on him. Warn the men on that side of the house’ Drayton ordered the guard who had helped carry him up from the generator shed. The guard left the room to relay the message. Drayton looked at Krupmeyer.
‘Maybe you did a bit more than wing him’ he suggested hopefully.
‘Maybe’ conceded Krupmeyer thoughtfully. ‘The dogs had a go at him as well. He might be hurting.’
A few minutes later the alarm went off again. The sector board gave a location further out than the first one.
‘He’s moved out into the vibration sensor zone. Is he leaving?’ wondered Harting aloud. As he spoke, his fingers flew over the console, trying for a camera to pick up Canfield. The screen came up blank every time.
‘The cameras in that area aren’t working. He must be shooting them out’ said Harting.
‘What if it’s one of your squirrels?’ Drayton asked him. Harting shook his head and answered quickly.
‘No. I don’t think so. They usually set off alarms on the way in, not on the way out. We’ll know for sure if he wanders into the pressure sensors. They only trip on a man’s weight.’
The light flicked out. They waited. Within a minute, another red light flicked on.
‘That’s a pressure light’ said Harting in triumph. ‘It’s definitely a man, and it looks like he’s retreating.’
‘Can you tell how fast he’s moving?’ asked Drayton.
‘Very slowly’ answered Harting. ‘I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s crawling or dragging himself along.’
Krupmeyer imagined Canfield dragging himself along painfully in the dark, wounded, maybe dying. He’d come to bring him home and ended up shooting him. There hadn’t been a choice, he thought, but the idea was no comfort. Maybe he could be taken peaceably now.
‘He’s turning back towards us’ said Harting. A new red light shone on the sector board. They watched as it winked off and another one glowed into red life.
‘Maybe he couldn’t make it over the wall’ guessed Krupmeyer. The image of a wounded Canfield trying to climb the wall and falling back to the ground painfully filled his mind. He was out there somewhere, maybe in agony. Pangs of guilt started pricking his conscience.
‘And maybe he was just picking up some fresh explosives for us’ countered Drayton darkly. Their eyes stayed glued to the sector board. They watched his progress on the board as he entered the forest.
‘He’s back inside, out of the sensor areas. We won’t be picking him up any more’ said Harting after no light had come on for a few minutes.
‘We settle down and wait’ said Drayton wondering what surprise was coming their way. He searched his mind, looking for any further measures he could take. Nothing new occurred.
Suddenly, the alarm went off again.
‘He’s heading out again’ said Harting, turning to them in astonishment. ‘What is he doing?’
They watched his progress in and out of the vibration sensor and beam zones. There seemed to be no purpose to the movement, except for a general movement around the house towards the eastern side.
‘We know where he is now. I’m taking a team out to get him’ said Drayton raising from the chair. He pulled up to an abrupt stop as the pain from his back and leg hit him.
‘Sure you are’ said Krupmeyer sardonically. ‘You’ll just limp up beside him and offer to share the same hospital with him. He’ll go for it ‑ you can help each other into the ambulance.’ He helped ease Drayton back down into the seat.
‘I’ll take them out’ he said, putting his hand on Drayton’s shoulder. Drayton looked up at him. He was in no condition to go after Canfield himself, and he knew it.
‘Why?’ he asked Krupmeyer.
‘Maybe now I can take him alive this time.’
It was the answer Drayton had expected and dreaded. He looked at him steadily for a moment before saying anything.
‘You can go, but on one condition.’ He paused but Krupmeyer said nothing. ‘Don’t go in there with the idea of saving him. Treat him as an enemy. Give him an opening and he’ll have you.’
‘Don’t worry’ replied Krupmeyer earnestly. ‘He scares me too much to make that mistake.’ They eyed each other carefully. Drayton smiled. It was the one answer Krupmeyer could have made to reassure him.
‘OK, I believe you. Let’s get it organised.’