Cayo Elina 57
Elina heard the gunfire in the bar before she reached the beach door. Bracing herself she moved forward until she could see what was going on inside. The Cubans were all facing away from her firing on another soldier, another one wearing the black armband with the wasp on it.
“Now Ambros!” she yelled stepping into the room and gunning for the men who’s backs were turned to them.
Ambros didn’t hesitate, he was on her heels as she commenced firing, sweeping one side of the room with short bursts. The gunfight was over quickly, the Cubans took too long to realize they were being fired on from behind. Only one man managed to flee through the open doorway past Gus, the others were all down, dead or wounded
“Max?” Yelled Elina. “Max?”
No one responded.
“Jeezus, this wasn’t what I was expecting.” Elina said, “I thought there was going to be a huge fight here or something.
Ambros looked around at the half dozen dead and dying, shrugging his shoulders he said, “If you say so.”
A speaker sounded from behind the bar. “Who is up there?” It sounded a lot like Max.
“It’s me, Elina.” Where are you?”
“Hiding, waiting for everything to die down. Who’s with you?”
“Ambros, he’s from the German Navy.”
“Look Max, can you just come out here?”
“Is the fighting over?”
A burst of gunfire sounded from outside and Elina answered hesitantly, “Er, yeah!” Another explosion sounded from the beach.
“No way, uh-uh. I don’t believe you.”
Elina had walked over to behind the bar, where there were two short range radios, one had duct tape wrapped round it, holding a button down, the other was just lying on the liquor shelf and appeared to be powered off. Upon closer inspection Elina saw that both of the devices had tape covering their ‘status’ lights, preventing the casual observer from seeing if they were on or off. Speaking into the one with the taped button Elina said, “Okay, where are you? I’ll come to you.”
“Are you sure you’re alone?”
“Oh for fuck’s sake Max, grow a pair! It’s just the two of us.”
“Go through the right door behind the bar, step back past the kitchen access to the freezer, go in. There’s a trapdoor on the floor near the far end. We put a pallet on it before we lowered the door down.”
Elina followed Max’s instructions and found the setup as he described. Lifting the pallet she saw the trapdoor underneath. “Okay, Max I’m not sure if you can hear me but I’m opening the door.” She knelt down and grasped the large round ring and pulled the door up, revealing a very low drop to some dirty concrete below. “Max?”
“We’re here.” Came his voice.
Stepping down the three steps she found herself in a square three-foot high passageway that ran east and west and appeared to go well beyond the boundaries of the hotel. The tunnel was filled with people. Near the back Elina heard the dog, Paul, barking energetically.
“What is this place?” she asked.
“Drainage, we had a helluva time with it whenever a hurricane push the water up, but the city installed baffles that helped about a decade ago. It runs all the way to the storm drain, but that’s where the first baffle is so we can’t get out that way.” Max said.
“How many of you are down here?”
“Pretty much all the locals. It seems like the safest place to be. The soldiers thought it was a good idea, but they only let us bring in a few hundred civilians and no weapons. We scrounged what food we could get though, which wasn’t much. Is this Andrew?” Max asked.
“Ambros. Ambros, Max. Max, Ambros. He’s from the Feist, trying to drive off the Cubans.”
“Why would the Germans do that?”
“Perry got the parts to make engine repairs to their ship, I guess they were sitting in Puerto Rico for a few months, dead in the water.” Elina answered.
“Still…getting involved in this seems a bit much.”
“Oh, only a few of their guys came to shore, the fighting is going on with the people from the island, the Germans gave us a ride.”
Max shook his head, “You sure got some good connections, Elina.”
“I’m sure you knew some of this already.”
“Not as much as you might think. I thought our rescuers were going to be zombies. I heard Perry cut a deal with them.” Max said.
“What kind of a deal?”
“Peace, co-operation, our first born. I don’t know, it’s not like I’m the mayor of Miami Beach or anything.”
“There’s a mayor?”
“No. I was joking. Where’s Gus? I thought you two were inseparable.”
Elina took a moment to try and tell him that Gus was gone, which is when Ambros spoke up, “He went to find Hector.”
“What?” Elina asked.
“Yeah, he pulled me from the truck fire and said he had to find Hector.”
“I thought he died at the back of the truck, why didn’t you tell me?” Elina said.
“I thought you knew.”
The gunfire through the open trapdoor intensified, as did the screams of the men and women fighting and dying in the streets around them.
“Up or down Elina, but that door needs to be shut. I got kids down here.” Max said firmly.
“Up.” She handed Max her rifle and dropped a couple of spare magazines to him as well. “There’s a few more out in the bar, I’ll grab a new one.”
“Is it…is it fucked up very much?”
“The bar? No, it’s fine. You might need more chairs though.”
“Chairs, it’s always the chairs that go.” He said as Elina lowered the trap door down.
“They will be okay, yes?” Ambros asked.
“Sure.” Elina said, putting the pallet back on top of the trapdoor to conceal it. “Let’s go get me a new gun.”
The made their way back out of the freezer and into the hallway that led to the kitchen and bar. Elina cautiously poked her head out of the doorway and saw bullets tracing trails on the pavement outside. Ambros knelt down and pointed his gun at the beach door and gestured at Elina to head in and get herself a weapon. Instead of walking in she knelt down and headed behind the bar towards the main kitchen door, there were bodies near the far side of the bar and one or more of them should have useful weapons.
As she crawled behind the bar a stray shot punctured the façade in front of her and continued through the wall behind, leaving a hole the size of her thumb nail in the back concrete wall. ‘Shit! That was close and these guys aren’t even shooting at me.’ Before she lost her nerve she scrambled forward to the end of the bar. Someone had dismantled one of the heavy tabletops and rolled it behind the bar to provide additional protection. ‘Not that it would help against the shot that just missed me.’ She thought, looking out at her options for guns. Towards the door were two bodies, but they were out from behind the concealment of the bar, opposite of them was a body in a doorway, it was closer, but Elina didn’t see any gun on it. When she and Ambros walked in the soldiers in the bar had been firing at the man there, ‘So he must have a weapon of some sort. Plus he’s closer.’ Looking at him she saw he was dressed in mis-matched clothing, the boots looked like the ones the Germans had given her and the pants as well, but from what she could see of the jacket it was Cuban. In fact it looked…like Gus.
Elina rushed over to the man and turned him from his side onto his back. “Oh, shit. Gus!”
“Eh?” Ambros called from across the room. “What?”
“It’s Gus!” She yelled back at him.
“Is the man Hector with him?” Ambros sounded relieved.
“No! He’s hurt, Ambros, he’s…he’s dead.” She said, shaking Gus’s body. With trembling hands she unbuttoned his jacket and revealed the mess of his torso, it was a sodden mess of dark red blood. Elina reached for his throat and felt for a pulse.
“Drag him here!” Ambros urged, he had come up behind her and was waiting at the bar. “At least it’s better cover.”
Elina pulled Gus to the bar, putting him squarely behind the table and again tried to feel a pulse, she felt nothing. Looking around she saw a scrape of filthy cloth on the floor that Max had probably been using as a dish rag and laid that over Gus’s chest, she pressed her ear against it and tried to hear a heartbeat over the noise outside.
“Did you get a gun?” Ambros asked nervously as Spanish speaking voices tumbled into the bar from the street entrance.
Elina shook her head, but reached down and pried a pistol from where it was locked in Gus’s hand, as she pulled it out his hand convulsed. “He moved!” she yelled tumbling backward. Spanish voices yelled out asking who was there.
Ambros scowled at her and shook his head. “My Spanish is not as smooth as my English.”
Elina called out in Spanish, “Who wants to know?”
A fusillade of gunfire was the response. The hardwood table top shuddered under the impact of bullets that passed through the bar, the rest of that short alley of sanctuary was filled with splinters and dust as the soldiers peppered the entire length of it with shots.
“Don’t talk no more.” Ambros said, taking up position looking towards where they had come from moments before.
In a few seconds he was rewarded as two heads sprang up to look down behind the bar. Ambros shot them both, one a clean head shot the other soldier, a woman, was hit in the neck and fell back with a wet scream.
“They’ll throw grenades…” Ambros started as two heavy lumps of metal clattered over the bar to drop behind it. He picked one up and threw it back; the other was too far down the bar for him to reach. Elina had been watching and she shifted the tabletop to shield them from the explosion.
The force of the blow knocked them both back prone in a tangled mess on top of Gus. Ambros managed to push his way free fast enough to get his rifle up and fire at the two soldiers near the far end of the bar, they ducked back and he yelled, “Watch above!”, just as Elina grabbed Gus’s pistol. She turned and pointed the weapon at the top of the bar where she saw a rifle poke over. Whoever was on the other end of the rifle didn’t try and see anything; they only pulled the trigger and sprayed ineffectively behind Elina and Ambros.
Elina could see through the gunshot holes in the bar now that the table was out of the way, noting where the holes were blocking the light from the street she put two shots through the bar before the pistol jammed. Loud screaming was the result and grabbed Gus by the collar and ran as fast as she could for the doorway where she had originally found him. “C’mon, Ambros!”
He was already moving as another hand grenade landed behind the bar. They beat a hasty retreat into the kitchen and Elina immediately regretted her decision; she wasn’t familiar with the layout. “I should have taken us down the hallway, at least I know where that goes.”
Ambros didn’t hesitate, he pushed her further in and then pulled a metal table down across the swinging door they had just come through. “That door leads to Max.” he said pointed towards the one that led to the freezer and the other end of the bar, it was also a swinging door. “So we take that one.” He pointed to the far end of the room, to a regular door that looked worn from use.
More gunfire erupted out in the main barroom, with a couple of bullets passing through the swinging door to the side of them. They moved towards the far door and then stopped. Behind them the fighting intensified.
“If we can hold out here, I bet our friends will drive those guys out.” Elina said.
“We must keep the soldiers from securing the bar. If they can’t they will fall back.” Ambros nodded, assessing their situation.
“No, we hold them at the swing doors. Those walls look like…rock?”
“Concrete. Yeah, hard.”
“The pistol?” Ambros asked.
Elina still clutched it in her hand, she brought it up and looked at a shell jammed in the ejector, she tried to cock it back, but couldn’t get enough leverage on it to do so.
“Here.” Ambros said, putting out his hand.
Elina handed the pistol over and he tilted it upside down and slammed the gun parallel to the metal stove top, catching the brass with the cooking surface by the grease trap. It popped free and the slide returned home. Elina pulled it back and caught the bullet that came out. The gun was coated in blood, probably Gus’s.
Ambros nodded and headed towards the door leading towards the freezer. Elina crouched and pushed Gus up onto the empty stainless steel shelves close to the back door. He grunted as she did this and she said, “It’s alright, Gus. You’re going to be fine.”
“Elina.” Gus said, eyes closed, face set in a grimace.
He spoke so softly that she almost thought she imagined it.
“I’m here, Gus, but I gotta go watch the door.”
“Elina. Everthing’s changed. It’s all different now. I can see…I can see so clearly.” He whispered.
“We’ll talk later.” A burst of gunfire came from the barroom and a man started screaming.
Gus reached out blindly, yet somehow caught Elina’s wrist, his eyes opened a crack and she stared at him in shock. His eyes were solid gray, no pupils, they were almost silver. “Gus…what...what happened?”
“I need to tell you…”
Ambros fired through the door on his side of the kitchen, “Elina! They come!”
The responding fire passed through the door, but didn’t penetrate the wall Ambros was hiding behind. “Gus. Later!” Elina said, detaching herself from him and heading towards the front of the kitchen.