Authors: Lloyd Tackitt
Table of Contents
Copyright © 2013 by Lloyd Tackitt. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: April 2013
Cover and Formatting:
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
ining up the front sight
just below the kidnapper’s chin, he knew that at this short distance the bullet would enter slightly above the man’s eyebrows, centered between them. He gently squeezed off the first shot, not waiting to see if the bullet hit its target or not; he knew it did, he didn’t miss at this range. Instead of watching the first man go down, Adrian swung his rifle slightly to the left and shot the second man in the chest, no time for pin-point aiming now that the action had started.
The third kidnapper dove behind a downed tree. The tree was too small; Adrian had a good view of the man’s back and shot him in the near-side shoulder blade, the bullet exiting at an angle that took out heart and lung.
The three shots rolled out like one long extended shot, the third echoing through the forest and into silence.
For a long, long moment, nothing stirred. No birds flew or sang, no squirrel scampered up a tree. Every living creature had frozen in place. Then the older of the two girls stood up, holding up her hands, showing they were tied, having the clarity of mind to try to keep from being shot by someone that might be overly excited.
She needn’t have worried. Adrian wasn’t excited. He had merely executed an action that needed to be performed. He watched from cover for another thirty seconds, waiting to see if anything else needed to be done.
The second girl stood. She was much younger, maybe seven or eight. The older girl looked to be in her early teens, maybe fourteen. They weren’t trail dirty, their hands and faces were clean. Their clothes weren’t new, but weren’t torn or soiled. Adrian noted that the two girls’ facial expressions were those of scared girls, not of victims.
They couldn’t have been captured more than a few hours ago.
He thought to himself.
Adrian signaled Bear, his wolf, to move ahead. Bear would let him know if there was anyone else about.
Moving slowly from cover, Adrian allowed the girls to see him for the first time. He kept his rifle at the ready position just in case, but smiled as largely as he could as he approached.
“What’s wrong with your face?” asked the older girl. “Stop that, you’re scaring my sister!”
Adrian stopped smiling. He was relieved to do so; it didn’t feel any more natural than it apparently looked. He said “Sorry, I was trying to smile, so you would know I wasn’t going to hurt you.”
The younger girl said “If that was a smile, it was the scariest one I ever saw.”
At this Adrian grinned, a genuine expression of amusement. The older girl said “Now that’s tons better, mister.” The little girl nodded and grinned back at Adrian.
“Ok, where’s your family? I want to get you home before dark, if possible.”
“No family.” the youngest one said. “Our family died long time ago.”
The older girl spoke up. “Our parents died three years ago, both of them. We’ve been making out pretty well on our own since. Until these assholes showed up.” The way she used the word asshole so naturally made Adrian raise an eyebrow.
The girl continued. “They snuck up on us while we were asleep. They must have watched us for a while first. That was early this morning. They wanted to get away from our homestead in case any family or friends showed up. I think they were getting ready to rape us when you shot them.”
Adrian paused for a long while before speaking again. He thought the best thing would be to take them back to their home, check around for any reliable adults that would keep an eye on them. “My name is Adrian.” He said. “What’s yours?”
“Adrian?” the older girl asked. “You wouldn’t be Adrian Hunter, would you? You look like the description we’ve heard of General Bear, what with that scar on your cheek, and that pet wolf.”
Adrian, surprised at being recognized by two girls in the middle of nowhere, said “Yeah, Adrian Hunter. How in the world did you…”
“You’re famous. Everyone knows about you, they talk about you all the time. How you defeated all those cannibals in Colorado by yourself with just a sharp stick, and killed all those raiders from Louisiana, hundreds of them. Mostly they talk about you sleeping with grizzly bears and having cubs by them. They don’t say that right in front of us, of course, but we hear them when they think we don’t.”
“How could those stories travel like that?” Adrian wondered aloud.
“Ham radio operators.” The younger girl answered as though he was asking her. “There are a lot of ham radios, and there isn’t much for them to talk about on them except stories of what’s happening in their areas. Most of that stuff is dull as ditchwater. Had some rain, need some rain, wish it would rain…stuff like that. When a really good story comes along, it gets talked about a lot. You’ve been making some really good stories for folks to talk about.”
“I might as well have a tattoo on my forehead,” Adrian said, shaking his head. “Well ladies, how about I escort you back home? Do you know the way back?” Then bowing in a mock courtly manner he said, “Oh and by the way, you seem to need no introduction from me, but you have me at a disadvantage. May I ask your names?”
“Lila.” stated the older one, “and this is Rita. Sure we know the way back, follow us.”
“Wait up a second.” Adrian said. “Let’s get whatever is useful from the bodies and camp.”
It didn’t take long to gather the kidnappers’ weapons and food. The weapons were of poor quality and in poor condition, but would still be useful to someone. Rifles and ammunition were the best items to trade for food, and these would be useful for at least that much. The kidnappers’ food supply was mostly home-canned vegetables. No meat. Vegetables were good for the nutrients they held, but poor on calories.
Better than nothing, but not by much.
Adrian thought to himself.
Without a backward glance at the three bodies, the two girls climbed onto Adrian’s horse. He took the reins and started walking east.
These are tough kids; they don’t seem fazed by being kidnapped or the sudden violence of three men dying ugly deaths right at their feet. It’s a cinch they’ve not led easy lives.
After several hours and just before dark Adrian called a halt. “Let’s camp here ladies. Are you hungry? I have food.”
Rita said “Yes, please. We ate supper last night, but they got us before we woke up, so no breakfast or lunch. I would really like a drink of water, if that’s okay?”
This little girl talks like an adult, she must be extraordinarily intelligent. In fact both of them seem to be.
Adrian passed his canteen, then dug into his backpack and removed a cloth-wrapped package that contained a bag of deer pemmican that his Aunt Sarah had given him for the road; he’d been on the road for nearly three weeks, so there wasn’t much left in the bag. He also had some of the battle rations that had been made up for the fight with Rex’s Louisiana raiders, but while they were nutritious, they didn’t taste at all good. Adrian thought the girls would like the pemmican better; it was fairly tasty, besides being loaded with calories.
“You girls set up camp, gather wood and start a fire,” said Adrian. “There should be a creek at the bottom of this slope. I’ll water the horse and be back in a little bit. We should get to your house sometime tomorrow morning.”
Lila and Rita nodded their understanding; their mouths too full of pemmican to speak.
After he returned from watering the horse, Adrian stoked the fire, then spread his bedroll out for the girls to share. It was the middle of spring and the nights were cool but not cold; Adrian would nap off-and-on during the night leaning against a tree.
He watched as the girls finished eating and there was nothing left to do but go to sleep or sit and stare into the fire and talk.
Either they are exceptionally cool, or they put on a great act. If it’s an act it will probably break down around bed time. Once they stop moving, the reality will sink in extra hard.
The little one fell asleep almost immediately. Lila stayed awake, sitting up and holding Rita’s small hand. She looked up from the fire at Adrian and said softly, “We really don’t have much to go back to. We planted the garden and put in a crop of corn, but grasshoppers have pretty much done it in. We’ve about used up our root cellar supplies, and those assholes destroyed what they couldn’t carry, and they couldn’t carry enough to amount to nothing.”
Adrian asked just as softy, not wanting to wake Rita, “Do you have any relatives or friends that’ll take you in?”
“No relatives at all. Friends? Sure, some. But not any that can afford two more mouths to feed. I think some of them might try, but we’d just drag them down. That’s why we were living on our own. Thought we could make out and not drag some poor family down trying to help us. We came close to making it. Hadn’t of been for the grasshoppers and the assholes we would have scratched by somehow, this year anyway.”
Adrian thought for a long time before speaking. Lila seemed to have decided Adrian wasn’t going to talk any more that night because she jumped a little when he did. “It’s quite a dilemma,” he said. “I can’t take you with me, and I can’t leave you behind. I’m on a trip to nowhere in particular, other than a stop in Corpus Christi to look around.”
“Are you going to marry Linda when you get back?”
Surprised, Adrian asked, “How do you know about Linda?”
“Everything you do gets talked about on the ham radios and then spreads. You and Linda are one of the best stories about you, and everyone is talking about it. It’s like a soap opera, only real”
“Well sh…crap. This has gotten ridiculous. Everyone knows my business better than I do. Look, I can feed you two, but who knows what dangers lay ahead? Trouble seems to find me at regular intervals; going with me could get you badly hurt or dead. But staying behind…doesn’t sound promising either. We’ll take a look at your house tomorrow, maybe visit some of your neighbors. Hopefully something will work clear by then. You go on to sleep now, tomorrow could be a hard day.”
Could be a difficult day for all of us.
Adrian woke the girls the next morning when he built the fire up and put tea on to boil. Using a small camper’s coffee pot he boiled water, then carefully measured in tea leaves that his uncle Roman had grown and cured. He missed coffee, figured he would probably miss it the rest of his life, but the strong, bitter tea was almost as good.