“Hey, there’s an opening back here!” And then Dwayne’s gone—disappeared through a crack in the rock and into the black beyond it.
Colby swears. One, Carter’s a fucking moron for running off like that. Two, Colby’s almost too big to squeeze through after him. They could be walking into an Al-Qaeda weapons cache or… He can’t think of a good ‘or’. Command had heard rumors from the locals that this cave was cursed—strange disappearances, weird shrieks heard at night, that kind of thing. Figuring the noises were just a Scooby Doo-style effort by Al-Qaeda to keep civilians away, they’d sent Colby’s unit to investigate.
Only now Dwayne had decided to go charging off on his own. Idiot. Colby’s flak vest snags on a protruding piece of rock, and he’s hung up for a moment as he tries to wiggle loose.
Caves make him claustrophobic (not that he’d admit it to anyone) and the idea of being wedged between two rocks sends a trickle of cold sweat down his spine. If this was anyone but Carter, he’d let them go…but he owes Dwayne his life. Dwayne had pulled him literally out of the fire, and that was the kind of debt you never repaid.
The dank cave air is laced with something rank, like rotted meat. Colby tries not to gag as he pulls free from the stone, stumbling out into the cavern on the other side. To his right, there’s sunlight filtering in from a second entrance. To his left, an oil lantern fallen to the floor, a screaming child in a red party dress, a ruined face carved from the cave wall itself…
No Carter, but the air is thick with danger. Colby doesn’t think—just acts—scooping up the little girl, and running for sunlit safety.