A loud voice rang out. “If you’re looking for weapons, here they are!”
The children stood very still under the blazing lamplight of the hallway. I stood there in their midst, clutching the body of the Hungarian girl, her throat pierced with the combat knife. For several seconds, no one moved a muscle, nor did anyone say a word.
There were nine boys and girls left. Huey and the Hungarian girl were no longer with us.
The shout had come from the German boy. His heavy-set frame, nearly large enough to be an adult, although he was only fourteen years old, quivered with anger. He grabbed Ree, who had been the last one to arrive, and yanked forward the hand she was hiding behind her back.
I immediately yelled, “Stop it!”
His deep and commanding German-accented voice thundered through the hallway. “Look at her. Here’s your murder weapon! She was carrying it with her!”
When we all saw what he was pointing at, we gasped.
For some reason, Ree was gripping a small knife in her hand. It was long and smooth like an elephant’s tusk, and it gleamed coldly under the lamplight.
“It’s her. She’s the killer!” the boy spat out venomously.
Ree struggled to free herself, which shook loose the knife from her small hand. The German boy bent down and retrieved it, while keeping a tight grip on her.
Ree shook her head, trying to tell us that she didn’t do it. Tears filled her eyes.
Yang stepped forward. “Stop it!” he shouted.
“I don’t take orders from yellow bastards like you!”
“What!?” Yang sputtered in anger.
Another boy quickly stepped in between them. This boy, a tall and muscular Austrian, had been together with the German boy since the beginning, and looked and acted similar to him. He joined the German boy and grabbed Ree’s other wrist. “If we get rid of her, we won’t be in danger anymore. Look at her; she’s the only one hiding a weapon. Damn it, I’ll bet she’s just pretending not to understand what we’re saying!”
“You’re wrong. She really doesn’t understand!” I yelled.
But they didn’t even bother to look in my direction. Now that they had Ree pinned between them, unable to move, the German boy punched her in the head as hard as he could. Ree’s small head bobbed, her long black hair fluttering into the air.
Yang frantically tried to pull him away from her. The other kids just stood there petrified, watching what was unfolding.
“Yeah! And she was the only one with Huey when he died. This bitch locked us up in here, and she’s killing us one by one!”
“Your little game is finished! Now we’re going to kill you!”
The two tall boys nodded at each other, and started to beat Ree. They had lost all self-control. Being locked up in this place and seeing people die right in front of them must have terrified them out of their wits.
Yang yelled, “Stop it!” and tried to intervene, but their difference in body size was too great, and they simply kicked him aside.
Then the German boy shouted, raising the knife.
The children screamed.
He swung the knife down with all his strength. Yang saw that he was aiming directly at Ree’s heart, and slammed into him with his own body. Several other kids surrounding us yelled at the German boy to stop.
The impact of Yang barreling into the German boy deflected the knife from Ree’s heart, causing it to slide lightly along her side instead. The boy had swung down the knife with such force that it made a loud thud against the floorboard as it fell on the red carpet, missing Ree.
The knife must have been very sharp. Bright red blood streamed from the shallow cut on her side, the open wound staining her skin red like a blooming flower.
Everyone held their breath.
Then Ree let out a thin scream, and fainted dead away.
Once the Austrian boy caught sight of her blood, that seemed to pull him back to awareness, and he quickly pulled his hands away from Ree. But the German boy, with bloodshot eyes, picked up the knife again and raised it into the air.
I flung away the corpse that I was holding in my arms, opened the drawer, and took out the small pistol. I lifted it with both hands, and yelled out, “Get away from Ree, or I’ll shoot!”
The German boy froze, and turned around, a look of disbelief in his eyes. He quietly raised his hands up above his head.
The other children stared at me with shocked faces.
Silence engulfed the hallway.
As I held the gun, I could feel my arms shaking. I didn’t know if what I was doing was right or wrong. The only thought that filled my mind was the desire to save Ree. She was a good and kind girl; that much I knew, even if we couldn’t communicate with words.
Yang opened his mouth, and said in a quiet voice, “Alex. Calm down.”
“Where did you find that gun?”
“It was in here,” I said, motioning to the chest of drawers. Everyone’s gazes immediately converged on that spot. “I found it a little while ago. I don’t know why, but there are weapons on board this ship. Ree must have found that knife the same way. Maybe it was for self-defense, or maybe she wanted to tell everybody about it, but either way, I think she was just holding a knife that she found and nothing more than that.”
“What?!” hissed the German boy.
“Get away from Ree. Yang, take care of her wound.”
Yang nodded, and crouched down next to her. He tore off his own shirt and pressed it to her side.
I turned my attention back to the two boys, who were still holding their hands in the air. “I’m not going to shoot you. I’d never do something like that. But … I just want us to stop suspecting each other. We’re all in this together, so let’s just hurry up and get to the radio room—”
“I, I don’t think so!” the German boy shouted, his voice trembling. He was starting to look obstinate again. He grabbed the hesitating Austrian boy and walked away with him.
“Hey!” I called after them.
“So there’s weapons around? Then we’ll arm ourselves, too. You expect us to trust each other? When there’s a girl here hiding a knife?” They shot one last hateful glance at Ree on the floor, then started pulling out drawers one by one from the chests lined up along the walls, searching for weapons.
After they had traveled a ways down the hallway, I heard one of them yell from afar, “I found one!” But they had gone around the corner and I couldn’t see what was happening.
Suddenly, the Turkish boy stood up. He had dark skin and long, graceful limbs. The boy started yelling something in his deep voice, sounding indignant. I didn’t understand what he was saying, but I could guess that he was telling them that it was dangerous, and was calling them to come back. He pointed down the hallway, then pointed at himself, and with a nod, took off running.
The Turkish boy’s slim body rounded the corner and disappeared.
The very next moment…
I heard a gunshot. It was so loud that felt like the floor, walls, and even the air vibrated. Then, in the corner of my eye, I saw the boy’s body reappear from around the corner. He flew backwards and landed on the floor face up.
All was silent.
…A few seconds later, somebody screamed.
I ran up to the Turkish boy, my gun in hand. I was reaching out to rouse him when I saw the gaping hole in his chest. For a instant, I thought I could see the pattern of the carpet through that hole. And then all I saw was blood, oozing out and staining the floor.
I immediately knew that he had been shot by a very high-powered gun. The Turkish boy’s face was frozen in a slight grimace. He had died instantly, without even enough time to realize what had happened to himself.
I looked up and saw the German and Austrian boys running away. The German boy was holding what looked like a machine gun.