Spear’s chin dropped and his eyes diverted to the ground. His fingers were loose and without feeling as they choked his firearm. It was heavy suddenly. A few of the passengers expressed interest in his actions, tilting their heads and shifting their yellow eyes to his hands. Most, however, maintained their hollow stare at him. Vaporous clouds tumbled out of their wet, crimson lips every time their chests moved. Their eyes were gaping mouths, longing to consume him. He took a steady step in reverse. They followed with one step forward. Their faces were vaguely childlike, displaying an inscrutable fascination with him.
"Spear, come in…"
Washington’s voice startled Spear, which drew several of the passengers’ attention. He exhaled and carefully touched the radio on his shoulder with his thumb. "I’m here."
"How are the mules?" Washington inquired with a satisfied ring in his tone. Spear felt guilty at having to sully his commander’s pleasant mood. The man was most likely smiling for the first time in days.
There was a pause.
"How many?" Washington asked. His tone was flat.
"All of them."
Washington’s exclamation rang loudly in Spear’s ear, causing him to twitch. Several of the passengers mimicked the action. The others continued to stare. A longer pause followed, making Spear uneasy. Perspiration leaked from his pores, loosening his grip on his weapon. His eyes leapt from mule to mule. Fear was now rapping against the inside of his forehead. His breathing was heavy and loud. With his mouth closed it was almost deafening.
"Do what you have to do," Washington finally commanded, defeat in his voice.
"Sir…" Spear hesitated. "I am significantly outnumbered."
"I can’t send any backup, Spear. You know the drill."
"Sir, I don’t think you understand the situation I’m in."
"Believe me, son, I understand your situation far better than you understand mine."
There was another pause.
"Look, they’re afraid of gunshots," Washington stated confidently. "They’ll scatter as soon as you open fire."
Washington was lying, and Spear knew exactly why. He swallowed. It needed to be quick, he told himself.