Crossing The Mississippi


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Scene Title Crossing the Mississippi
Synopsis David Cardinal and his accomplice continue their journey into the deep south.
Date August 29, 2018


The expletive echoes up through a canyon created by desolate skyscrapers. Birds scatter at the shout in an otherwise silent place, and a small family of squirrels scatter into the grass growing up around the rusted chassis of an old car. In the middle of the cracked street, where green grass grows up through gray asphalt fissures, a pickup truck rests inert, its hood up and black smoke belching out of the engine. Both the driver's and passenger's side doors are open, allowing a little breeze through in the sweltering mid-day heat.

Lounged across the entire bench seat, a white-haired young woman holds a single hand aloft to allow a monarch butterfly to perch on her fingertip. Her eyes remain focused on the insect, rather than the crumbling remains of skyscrapers looming overhead, with their fire gutted windows and artillery-demolished walls. It's only when scuffing bootfalls start making their way to the driver's side does she move her hand, letting the butterfly alight into the air. "Kyla," a voice comes from the door, and the white-haired woman looks to the man standing silhouette in it, grease smudged across his brow and a frown spread across his creased face. "We blew an oil line, been leaking oil for… fuck knows how long. Engine's seized."

David Cardinal rest shis hands at the top of the door, leaning in to the truck. "Grab the bags and guns out of the back and whatever else you can carry." He eases out of the door, tugging a kerchief from around his neck to daub sweat from his brow and jawline.

"We're walking."

One Day Later

Baton Rouge, LA

August 29, 2018

6:27 pm

Gulls and herons rule the city that was once Baton Rouge.What of the city hasn't sunken into the swollen Missippi River was demolished by fighting during the civil war. Many of the city's tall buildings lay in ruin, much as they had back in Covington the day before. Roads are monuments to dead automobiles; rusted hulks of civilian and military vehicles in stationary rows surrounded by long-overgrown grass and reeds. Wildflowers bloom in a vermillion carpet where the crumbling street meets fire-gutted buildings.

Out of an alleyway, circumventing a concrete block and rusted razorwire barricade, David and Kyla make their way out into the waist-high grass. Each carries a hiking backpack, stocked with a rifle and jingling boxes of ammunition, water bottles in elastic mesh netting. Kyla watches as David hops up onto the hood of a car to get a better look down the rows of stranded vehicles, one hand raised to shield his eyes from the sun setting ahead of them down the end of the road.

"Horace Wilkinson Bridge is up ahead," David says with a look back to Kyla, who is likewise shielding her eyes with one hand and squinting against the bright sunlight. She's fared worse in the sun over th elast day, face flushed red with a mild sunburn, sweaty and frustrated. Hungry. "You wanna stop?" He asks with a raise of one brow.

Kyla says nothing, save for what the slow shake of her head communicates, then starts to walk around the car David's perched atop. Her forward progress arrests when the grass rustles and a deer pokes its head up from the tall grass, fully grown antlers covered with soft velvet. The dear's ear twitches, and as Kyla stands slack-jawed and wide eyed, David slowly drops into a crouch and unshoulders his rifle, drawing back the bolt and chambering a round with a soft click. The noise is enough to send the deer bounding off between tall, rusted wrecks of city busses, and out of sight. David exhales a sigh through his nose, remembering that he never was much of a hunter.

Turning around, Kyla looks up at him with still-wide eyes. "It's just a deer," David says, hopping down from the hood of the car. "They don't have deer where you're from?" She looks away, then slowly shakes her head, rolling forefingers and thumbs together on both hands. Coming up beside her, David motions to the dark silhouette of the bridge up ahead.

"Other side of that bridge is Port Allen," David explains, looking from the sunset on the horizon to the young woman at his side. "We cross there, and follow the Missippi all the way north to Arkansas. I'd say… another three, maybe four weeks, tops." Kayle flicks a blue-eyed stare up to David, then nods and closes her eyes as she feels a familiar pressure behind them. Her hands flex open and closed, and David recognizes the subtle change in facial expressions that come when she uses her ability.

"David," Kyla says with an inflection not her own. "Can you give me a status update? The Director is… quite displeased with our progress." There's a look from David to Kyla, and he regards her less as the person she is, and more the person who is using her as a mouthpiece.

"Shit's on fire out here," David explains, "literally if you count those Georgia gas fires. It isn't easy going and we're down a truck. You wanna send us a private jet, I guarantee you we'll be done by dark." David's golly gee attitude earns no amusement from the voice on the other end of Kyla's psychic link.

Instead, he's chastised. "We had a deal, David. But we can't follow through with it, without Caspar Abraham." Nodding, David takes a few paces away and stows his rifle in his backpack again. The voice on the other end isn't through with him, though. "Your son is— "

"He's not my son." David barks back at Kyla, eliciting a recoil from the young woman and a wide-eyed blink. There's a rather immediate look of regret on David's face after that reaction, and he's forced to differentiate between the messag and the messenger. "I'm sorry," is more for Kyla, though the apology doesn't seem to hold much weight, given the wary look she affords him.

"Richard is sniffing around where he doesn't belong." Kyla relays in that bitter tone. "He's turning over rocks he wasn't meant to, and opening doors that need to remain closed. When all this is said and done, we may require that you put this disenchantment you have with him to the test."

A fire rises behind David's eyes, and he reaches out to grab Kyla by the straps of her backpack. "We had a deal, Erica! One job!" He screams into Kyla's face, and only when he realizes that she's even more terrified than she was before does he relent, and she scrambles backward, tears in her eyes and face flushed with color. She backs up so far that she bumps into the side of an old, rusted Buick, hands flat on the coarse metal, eyes wide, lips parted in heavy breaths.

David looks away, then back again. "Erica— "

"She's gone," Kyla says in her own voice. "I— I couldn't concentrate to…" She shakes her head a few times in shallow, frightened movements. "I lost the link." David slowly closes his eyes and scrubs a hand over his face. He's quiet for a short while, turning to walk away from Kyla and give her some space. He needs the time to think about Kravid's renegotiation of his terms.

It takes several minute for Kyla to walk back over to David, and that she's taken the small-caliber rifle off of her back is either out of practicality or self-defense, and he isn't sure which is more likely. Leaning off of the car he'd come to slouch against, David says nothing, just jerks his head in the direction of the bridge and takes the lead on the mile-long hike down the overgrown and car-lined street.

As the pair approaches the Horace Wilkinson Bridge their long strides shorten the more the structure comes into view against the misty haze coming off the Mississippi and the setting sun behind it. The bridge's struts are twisted and crooked, and any hope that the crossing is intact dies when they reach the broken end of the bridge, where concrete and steel gives way to a yawning gap nearly two hundred feet across, dividing the bridge into two sagging halves. Cars slope toward the river on both sides, the the flooded wrecks of those that fell into the Missippi are vaguely visible below.

Sucking in a slow breath, David Cardinal draws one hand down his face and lets his shoulders slouch deeply.


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