Lilly, Mr. Hill, and Manchu did not turn around. Through the trees and down the slope they went. The wind whipped their hair and clothes and the tree limbs kept biting at their exposed skin, seeking to impede their ferocious progress. Within a few minutes, all three reached the forest’s edge. A body of murky water stood before them. Bo’s helicopter hovered in the air above them.
“We’re below,” Mr. Hill reported to Bo.
“Copy that,” Bo confirmed in their earpieces. “The rope is coming down. Are you being followed?”
“No. I don’t believe so,” Mr. Hill said checking behind them.
As they watched the rope being lowered, Manchu suggested Lilly go first. Mr. Hill seemed to think it was a great idea, but Lilly objected. “If we go up and something happens causing you to get left behind, everything will be in vain.”
“Oh, he was only suggesting that you go up first,” Mr. Hill said. He stood with an arm wrapped around Lilly’s shoulders. She scowled much to his humor. “But you’ve got a point,” Mr. Hill assured her.
By now, the rope was lowered, and Manchu, conceding defeat, was lifted up first to safety. Lilly and Mr. Hill breathed a collective sigh of relief. A movement in the trees caught Lilly’s eyes. She spun around to see the unhinged train compartment come barreling towards them.
“Watch out!” Lilly screamed. She and Mr. Hill dived in different directions. Fortunately, the train piece came to a riotous halt, thanks to a particularly dense patch of trees. An officer brandishing a gun and baton leaped from the wounded train part. A disoriented engineer carrying a flashlight followed him out. “Halt!” the officer shouted. “Don’t make me shoot! I know you stole the prisoner. You’re doing illegal–,” the officer barked.
“Bo! Now!” Mr. Hill said, urging him to get the rope lowered again faster.
The officer flung his baton aiming it to whack Mr. Hill’s head. Mr. Hill ducked. The baton narrowly missed. Lilly picked up a thick tree branch and swung it at the officer. It snapped in two after hitting the man’s chest. The stick didn’t slow him down much. Mr. Hill grabbed Lilly around the waist and held on tight. He wrapped his other hand fast around the dangling rope. By the time the officer stumbled to the shoreline, Lilly and Mr. Hill were inside the helicopter. The officer fired one bullet at the chopper, but it ricocheted and fell with a splash into the water below. He called for help.
“Everybody up and in?” Bo asked from the pilot’s seat.
“Yes, sir,” Lilly answered.
“Not unless we want to bring a few of those officers along and pummel their heads a little bit,” Mr. Hill kidded. He breathed a sigh of relief. Lilly laughed heartily.
“Naw,” Bo said. “Let’s turn the other cheek now. I’m not good at hand to hand combat anyway. We don’t want to play with fire and get burnt.”
“Thanks to you, we did play with fire just now and escaped with zero burns,” Mr. Hill said.
“Yeah, sorry about the train thing,” Lilly smiled. “I had no idea some armed people would pour out of it like orcs in Lord of the Rings.”
Mr. Hill chuckled. “As you say, ‘No biggie;’ a train’s gotta do what a train’s gotta do, especially if that train was taken apart by the likes of a brave girl named Lillian Charlotte Hill. I am so proud of you. You did fantastic!” He engulfed Lilly in a hug.
“Did you get hurt anywhere, kid?” Bo asked Lilly.
“Just a little scrape from the trees.”
“Not bad for a rookie, kid.”
Lilly flashed a smile. She found a seat and looked around. The two strong guys who had lowered and lifted the rope sat next to Lilly. Facing them were Pastor Manchu and Sarah, her stomach bulging with their unborn child. Pastor Manchu and Sarah were in an embrace quietly crying tears of joy, in shock about the rescue mission. Lilly turned to look out the window. She silently thanked God for His protection and for all He had done during their trip to Beijing.
By the time the lone officer’s requested back-up arrived, the helicopter was flying far and away, long having vanished out of sight. And the dawn was breaking.