In the immediate aftermath of the explosion Emily was surprised but not afraid.
Surprise was okay. Fear was not.
It wasn’t the first time she’d seen a bomb explode, and it was far from the largest bomb she’d ever seen go off. In Syria the militia used to pack two-ton trucks full of C4 and drive them in formation toward army checkpoints. If one got stopped or the driver got killed there would be the others. All it took was a single truck. One truck carried enough explosives to demolish an entire city block.
People unfamiliar with explosives always expected fireballs. That wasn’t how it worked. Maybe you’d catch a flicker of flame when something particularly combustible went up, but for the most part when a bomb went off you got choking black smoke and dust. Particularly dust. More cloud than fireball.
Here the narcos preferred a standard car bomb (explosive + tilt fuse + time-activated detonator).
A bomb’s explosion wasn’t particularly dangerous. The shockwave and the pressure did most of the killing. Depending on the force of the blast and your distance from it you might break every bone in your body. Or your brain might turn instantly to jello — a gruesome smoothie all bound up in skin and bone.
Bombs were not to be taken lightly. Even under the best of circumstances.
This particular bomb wasn’t as powerful as a Syrian truck bomb. Emily knew that instinctively because she hadn’t been killed outright. The blast shattered the SUV’s bulletproof windows. Spidery cracks formed up, down and diagonally across the bulletproof windows. They flexed in place, bowing in and then out again.
Emily had time to observe all of this. In her business you either made time for details or you died. Flapping around hysterically wouldn’t do anything but get you killed.
Beside her Fulton doubled over in his seat. Probably thought he was dead.
The driver swerved the SUV hard left. A concrete wall loomed in the windshield. It took on a menacing look the closer the SUV came. Almost grinning. As if it were ready to eat her alive.
She let her body go limp, doing her best imitation of a rag doll.
The SUV hit the wall. Emily lurched forward. She got to about an inch from the seat in front of her before her belt caught and slammed her back. Then she was out of the belt with the door open and one leg headed that direction. Then she was outside the vehicle all together, spinning in place struggling to get her bearings.
Back in the direction they’d come from a whole block’s worth of corrugated metal shanties had been reduced to smoldering ruins. A plume of smoke rose up from the destruction. Bits of corrugated metal fluttered down from the cloud of smoke, the smaller ones spinning furiously end over end and the larger ones lilting gently from side to side.
No screaming, which Emily found strange.
There was always screaming.
Unless no one was home.
Awfully kind of these narcos to hit their target with no one at home. Added to that the scene looked wrong. There was no evidence of a blast outside the building. No wreckage. No demolished car. No crater in the dirt road. She would have expected something with a car bomb. Unless it was not a car bomb and they had rigged the place to blow from the inside, which didn’t add up, either. oo much trouble for narcos. Slum dealers weren’t mad bomber types. They wielded violence like a heavy blunt instrument – clumsily, but with purpose.
She became aware of a wetness along the right side of her face. Emily touched two fingertips to the spot. Both came away bloody.
She glanced back at the car.
No movement. She doubted the others were dead but this was no time to play nurse. She patted up and down her coat.
Right, El Commandante kept it for a souvenir. There would be other weapons in the car. Emily struggled to her feet. And as she did she caught the faint whoosh of a jet engine.