Kennels of corrugated polymer homed all manner of abused foxhounds and gundogs in the compound where the captives were held. Shrill barks warned of the movement of anything for miles over the flat harrowed plains of rice straw and brushwood. All before a farmhouse whose windows were shuttered with slats salvaged from dismembered pallets.
Annie worked the soles of her feet bloody in her silent flight across that miserable terrain. She had smelt food but seen none in her week of captivity and she followed a dirt road that cut a narrow path between the paddies until she had lost sight of the farmhouse altogether. At a coppice of trees she stopped and bent herself in the shadows and frozen earth for breath and there she spied the lanterns swaying like censers.
A caravan of brigands carrying weapons of cavernous bores and knives the size of baseball bats. They flanked a pack of cart-laden ponies whose hooves pounded the road affront a legion of collared porters burdened with luggage some with hard suitcases initialled by owners whose bones waited in the ground and others wearing baskets bound in rope and blood-shaded linen. Out in front a pair of greying mules hauled a single covered wagon and its drivers sat with reins in hand and wooden rifles laid across their laps and the flag they flew was a jacket scalped from a police officer and still tracked with blood from its prior owner.
Back at the farm a baying broke the night air and Annie considered from which direction came the worse fate. Her nails raked the scars on her chest, and she attempted to forget the last time she charged a wall of shot.