They continued west. Don and Kru discussed tactics while Finny sat, still clutching Joe's briefcase, and wondering what the heck was happening.
She tuned into the conversation going on between Kru, next to her and Don, in the back seat.
"They're going to know we're coming for fucking sure." Came from the back seat. Finny turned her head. Don was checking his pistol. He noticed Finny watching and smiled.
Reaching down to his boot, his hand came up with a small semi-automatic pistol which he held out.
"You want it, Boss? It's gonna get hairy when we get to Flag."
Kru glanced into the rear-view mirror to see what was going on.
"Don, fer fucks sake, she's a kid."
Finny stared at the weapon. The last time she had held a pistol she'd had to sleep the following night face-down on her tummy.
She shook her head, forcefully.
Don shrugged and slipped the small pistol back into its boot holster.
Don and Kru discussed tactics, Don continuing with his theme that the Diesel Town gang they had just ripped off would have people waiting at the roads into New Flagstaff.
"My guess is, they'll hit us as soon as the Union guards stop us at the checkpoint. Probably use full auto, make sure no one survives."
Kru had other ideas.
"And what the hell use will just killing us all be? They're going to want their merchandise back. No, they'll hit us after we get inside.
Probably ambush us on the way to the lock-up, hit us from all sides."
Finny followed the conversation like a spectator at a tennis match.
"Yeah, maybe." Don was saying as he checked the load in yet a third weapon that had appeared from what Finny thought must be a really uncomfortable place in the small of his back.
"I still reckon they'll use AK's or similar. Kill us quick and then get the hell out before the Union patrols turn up."
It went silent for a few seconds before Kru replied.
"Well, if we can hold out long enough for the Union to show up, then we might at least survive. Probably do jail time though. Bummer."
Finny, who had been listening with mounting horror at the realisation that she might actually get shot to death, found her voice.
"What about our gang? Won't they come and help?"
The two hoodlums shared a brief smile. Kru answered.
"They won't even know we're coming until we can radio them when we get into town. It'll all be over by the time they get their collective asses in gear."
Don followed this up with another gloomy thought.
"If'n I was them; I'd be waiting at the lock-up. Take out the patrol and just sit and wait for us to show."
The car lapsed into silence. One by one, Kru passed her own mini arsenal back to Don in the back seat who checked each gun before giving it back.
Finny drew her knees up and rested her chin on the edge of the briefcase to think. She wished she was back in Flag. Four ock-lockers would be over by the time they got back.
She wished Casper was here. He'd know what to do to get them out of trouble, and it wouldn't involve getting all shot up either.
So, what would Casper do? What would she do, if it was her and her friends? The conversation still going on around her faded out.
Whatever Kru and Don were talking about was interrupted when Finny, still with her thinking head-on, asked a question.
"What about a telephone? There's a telephone in the orphanage office."
"Yeah," Don answered dismissively. "They only work inside Flag, cost too damn much to fix up the network, and you know how stingy the damn Union is."
Kru was nodding agreement. The union's tight-fistedness was famous. She stopped nodding when a thought struck her.
"The Union have a phone at their office in Blaine. Joe used it once to call some guy."
Finny felt a happy warm buzz whoosh slowly through her body. A solution started to line itself up like her soldiers when she was attacking the flag in the dump.
The Union, 'some guy', the way in, the...
"Guys. I've gorranidea."
Don and Kru looked at each other and then at Finny in that condescending way grown-ups do.
"Sure kid," Don said. "Why don't you let us worry about it, huh?"
Kru patted Finny's knee.
"Don't worry Finn. We'll drop you off at the Union checkpoint, then take the briefcase to the lock-up. You'll be safe and sound."
Finny brushed the hand off her knee.
"While you two drive into where you're both gonna get shot up an' probably killed, AND maybe lots of other people as well, AND lose Joe's briefcase."
Being reminded that they were unlikely to survive the coming encounter gave Kru and Don pause for thought. Don leaned forward.
"Look, kid, Finny. Joe told us to keep you safe."
Finny rolled her eyes in frustration.
"An' he also said that I was in charge, right? And I've gorra plan where nobody ends up dead."
Don and Kru had a silent conversation of eyes and eyebrows. Finally, Kru shrugged.
"Okay, let's hear your idea."
Finny sat back with a smile on her face. It's just like with Casper, and Onetooth and Worms, she thought. They're just bigger is all.
"Okay," She turned to Kru. "First off. I need to make a call from that office you said about."
They arrived at Blaine at just that time when the late afternoon sun was making everything look hot and tired,
which pretty much summed up the three occupants as they stretched their limbs after climbing out of Joe's, by now, very dusty car.
After going through numerous checks by Blaine's very keen security people, Kru led them to a tiny office located, like an afterthought, between two run-down stores.
Inside were two Union workers in shirt sleeves sitting at desks and one very bored looking Union guard slouched half asleep on a chair behind the door.
Finny walked straight up to the nearest desk, the one with the antique telephone sitting in pride of place on its own little pedestal.
Kru and Don stood, arms crossed and stony-faced, right behind her.
"Hi," Finny said, all smiles and freckles. "Please mister, I need to make a telephone call to Union Headquarters."
Eric Small put down the receiver and stared at it.
It was only when he realised that his fingertips had become sticky that he stopped scratching at the already red and inflamed flaky skin on his neck. Dammit.
Dammit! Children shouldn't be allowed to use phones.
They certainly shouldn't be allowed to call him up and casually ask for something that could get him instantly fired, and probably sent to prison.
He was still cursing the existence of children in general and one little red-haired girl in particular as he skittered down the dreary grey office corridor inside Union Headquarters,
leaving a floating trail of flaked off skin behind him.
His mother had warned him about redheads but he hadn't expected it to include the miniature variety, until Joe had introduced him to this one that is.
He found the office he wanted and quickly checked up and down the corridor to make sure he wasn't being followed. Then he knocked rapidly on the door even as he was opening it.
"Hank, I need a favour..."
The door closed behind Eric, cutting off his words with a woody thud.