Commended entry to Mapua Literary Festival short story competition

The Moon Disappeared Behind Dark Clouds

{This sentence was required within the story}

The moon disappeared behind dark clouds, leaving the campsite and campers blind–if they’d been awake. Their campfire had been extinguished when they’d been sent to bed. Bringing flashlights, candles or matches had been forbidden, for this was a Teen Intervention camp, three days walk from the nearest highway, along a dusty, gravelly track.
Seven tents had been pitched in a horseshoe-shape, and numbered from the eastern end around to the western, one to seven. Two strangers to each tent, with the Leader Robert D Raingier (pronounced as “Raing-ee-ay” he had emphasized) in tent four at centre of the U. Once Police Special Ops, demoted to Public Service and the beat, he never revealed he had been retired early. His late career expertise with disaffected youth gave him the cred for running this programme for teen shop-lifters, serial home runaways, drug and alcohol abusers … and those who’d learned the best form of defence was attack.
Within the six teens’ tents, all were asleep–oblivious to the blackness outside. Mr Raingier was not–he was lying belly down on his cot facing the pinned-back flap and its opening. Without shifting his stare through the doorway, he reached under the cot and took hold of his night-vision goggles. Putting them on, he’d be able to see if any left their tent, or lit up inside it.
A-hah! In tent seven, a flick of a lighter gave a quick spark and blacked out again.
Inside the tent, two watchful boys were sitting on their cots facing each other. One, Dobbo, was fumbling blindly down in the foot of his sleeping bag, for his pack of fags.
“Don’t light that again!” He hissed, not realising a hiss travels more clearly than does a whisper or even a mutter.
“But can you find them?” His mate Frank was desperate or a smoke.
“Makes no damn difference whether you flick that bloody lighter or not, idiot! It ain’t gonna shine down inter the bag, is it! Ah, gottem.”
“Got what, boys? Tobacco? Mary-jane?” Raingier’s voice was a deathly quiet murmur “Come on out, you hear? And bring it with you. Now.”.
The lads stooped to get through the low entrance, and meekly handed over the lighter and smokes.
“Follow me.”
The boys heard him move away, and stumbled after him, wondering how his step was so silent and confident, whereas they could not see a foot in front of themselves. If they made any sound after tripping, slithering down the slight slope or banging into anything, his quiet voice made a quick “Fft”.
When he stopped they bumped into him and each other. He made no sound to indicate their noise mattered now, and time had passed enough that Dobbo and Frank knew the hollow they were in was some distance from the campsite.
“Don’t move from there.” Raingier moved off some distance by the sounds they heard of a lockbox being opened, things lifted out, and the lid closed again. They both nearly jumped when his next words came, so suddenly close to them again.
“You–this way”
Dobbo found his arm in a vice-like grip. Raingier drew him away from Frank, and suddenly slammed his back against a trunk–rough bark dug into his skin through his light cotton shirt. Suddenly his arms were behind him around the tree, and the rip of a zip-tie slammed his wrists together.
“Dobbo? What was that? You awrigh’?” Frank heard no reply–Dobbo’s mouth was full of peanut butter sandwich with duct tape sealing his lips. “Gawd aw’mighty! You scared me then, ‘Mr Ranger, Sir’!”
Raingier, his arm now with a tight grip on Frank’s arm, said nothing–infuriated as the quotation from the cartoon Yogi Bear always made him feel. He dragged Frank in the opposite direction, still in this blind hollow, but farther from Dobbo. He tied Frank to a trunk, stuffed his mouth with a sandwich and taped it shut before Frank could blink.
The boys heard his near silent tread leaving them alone in the black. Although each writhed to pull their wrists from the zip-locks, they only succeeded in drawing the bindings tighter into their skin. Dobbo realised his skin had been split when he felt blood dripping down his palm, and immediately stopped struggling. He hoped Frank would wake up and not struggle too.
High overhead, a sky breeze scudded clouds away from the moon, just long enough for the boys to be able to glimpse each other across the clearing in the base of the hollow, and to realise they couldn’t see over the top of the slope enclosing them. They imagined each other’s state, having only a dim sight of eyebrows and wide eyes. This was not good, they knew.
– – –
Jacinda in that same momentary gleam caught sight of Raingier walking towards the camp, scanning each tent. She shrank back, seeing his night goggles. Raingier, satisfied none of the teens were awake, slipped into his tent. In moments he was snoring. She sneaked out of her tent and into his–and within a minute had found and lifted his night goggles. Outside, the clouds re-covered the moon. With the goggles on, she headed out in the direction Raingier had come. She had street-sharpened instincts, and glancing from side to side caught a broken branchlet here, a skid there, and before long was standing on the edge of the hollow.

She half walked, half slid down. Knifing through zip-locks, ripping off duct tape, she stepped back as the remaining moosh of the sandwich gag was choked out.
“Jaysis, guys, what the hell was this?”
“Raingier caught us–smokes and lighter.” Frank glanced around, hoping Raingier was well away.
“Relax, he’s snoring like a pig. Jaysis–if this is for smokes, what if he found me knife!”
In another brief moment of light, they saw her eyes slit.
“Don’t worry guys–this won’t happen again…”

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