Authors: e a lake
Libby won, whether she liked it or not. Since she was happy and not complaining, I was learning a lot.
I changed my game plan and sneaked forward in a new direction, more at the back end of the cabin than my previous attempts. The little turd would be listening for me coming straight at her. Now we’d find out if I could sneak like a mouse.
One step, two steps, three steps. I paused.
So far so good,
I thought. No word from my target…yet. Another two steps and a small piece of brush cracked under my left foot.
I scolded myself. She had to have heard that.
Kneeling again, I waited for her to call me out. Nothing. Good. I was getting better with each trail run. Finally on this fifth try, I was making progress.
Another dozen carefully placed steps and I spied the back end of the cottage. It was yards away, and still no word from Libby of being discovered. I was ready, I just needed to crawl out of the woods and slither around the far end of the place. This time, I’d scare the living crap out of her.
Safely out of the woods, I dashed to the north side of the structure. Still, nothing from my spotter. I rested against the cool logs, deeply breathing in their musty odor.
Maybe I should treat the wood,
I wondered, but the thought passed quickly as I refocused on the task at hand.
Standing on my tiptoes, I inched my way to the front, hugging the logs. I paused and could hear Daisy speaking, but not Libby. Maybe her mother had distracted her. That was okay, I figured. There would be distractions with the Barster gang.
Peeking around the corner, I spied Daisy. She was wringing her small hands together and pleading with someone, perhaps Lettie or Violet?
“You don’t need to do this,” she said, her voice soft but nervous. “We can give you what you want.”
That didn’t make any sense. She must be talking to Violet. What was that damn un-agreeable teen up to now?
I gave myself up and rounded the corner. It was only then that I saw them all.
Daisy, Libby and a strange man wielding a knife, the sharp tip held against Libby’s throat.
Playtime was over.
Day 1,014 - continued
Slowly I raised my hands above my head, palms open towards the scene and the man with the knife.
“Let’s take it easy here, friend,” I managed calmly, inching toward a shaking Daisy. “No one needs to get hurt. Just tell us what you want and we’ll take care of it.”
His threatening dirty grin shook me to the core. “Yeah, play nice and no one will get hurt,” he replied in a gravelly tone, “especially this sweet little girl here.”
He stayed behind her, the knife held firmly to Libby’s throat. “Have someone fetch me a big old plate of food,” he continued, licking his lips. “And fill me up a bag of goodies for when I leave.”
He waved the knife at Daisy and me. “Why don’t you turn around nice and slow like, buddy. Let me see if you got a weapon on you.”
I did as requested, knowing my 45 was exposed on my belt behind me.
“Give that gun to that pretty little mother there,” he continued. “And have her hand it to me.”
We did as ordered. Daisy’s hands shook as she gave the gun to the intruder.
“Please don’t hurt my daughter,” she begged. “Please.”
His grin broadened as he studied Daisy. “I ain’t gonna hurt her. Not if I get what I want, sweetie pie.”
Daisy moved back beside me, wrapping her arms around my waist.
I felt Daisy trembling. Nodding my understanding, I moved slowly for the front door. When I turned to open it, Violet stood on the other side with the plate of requested food. She stared at me stone-faced.
“I’ll give it to him,” I whispered.
Violet stared past me and flinched. “I’ll take care of it,” she replied, pushing her way outside.
When I turned, I noticed the man putting something around Libby’s quivering throat. She wasn’t weeping yet, but her cheeks were streaked with tears.
“This little necklace is going to keep us all honest,” the stranger continued, snapping it shut behind her head. “If you give me what I want, I’ll release it from her, down the road a little bit. If you try anything funny…well, you won’t be able to take it off without killing her.”
I studied the maniacal device. Two dark strands of thin wire ran parallel around Libby’s neck. Every two inches or so, two thicker pieces of wire stuck up. It looked like something modified from a small-game trap. The wires that stuck up from the device made my stomach flip nervously.
“If you try to take this off,” the man continued, rising from behind Libby, “it’s gonna spring these wires. And they’re going to shoot into this little sweetie’s neck. And then you’re gonna have a bloody mess on your hands.”
Daisy wept beside me; Violet shook uncontrollably next to her. Lettie must have still been inside, watching Hope. We had a problem, and as far as I could tell, the only solution was to give this drifter what he wanted. No matter how badly it set us back.
He nodded at Violet and the plate of food. “I think I’ll eat now.” He motioned at Daisy and me with his free hand, the other still holding the knife close to Libby. “You two go fill me a big ol’ bag with more food. This young woman can keep me company while I eat.”
I started to reply, but Violet shot me a look. “Do what he wants,” she said calmly. “Let’s get this over with.”
I watched as she led Libby to the bench and sat her down. Studying the necklace, Violet spoke softly to the young child in a comforting tone, “Now, you just stay here and we’ll have that off of you in no time. Don’t play with it.”
“Come here, young lady,” the man called out, holding up a spoonful of stew. “You take the first bite so I know this ain’t poisoned.”
Violet did as asked, wiping some of the slop from her chin when he tried to feed her too large a spoonful. I noticed his eyes wandering about on her body. For a moment, I considered charging him and pummeling him into the dirt. But the necklace warned me not to.
His dirty hands slid over Violet’s hips; I saw her blanch. Recovering quickly, she pointed away from the cabin. “Not here,” she said aloud as I followed Daisy inside. “We need to do this away from the girl, okay?”
Again, I wanted to charge him but something told me Violet was just doing what she had to, all to protect Libby.
The two stopped near the road. I stared through the front window, watching as Violet laughed and turned away slightly. When he reached for her breasts, she playfully slapped away his approach. More giggling followed and I became stupefied.
“What the hell is she doing?” I asked. Behind me, I could hear Daisy digging through the cupboards.
“She knows what she needs to do,” Daisy replied. “She’ll keep him at bay.”
Again, he pulled Violet in close, attempting to kiss her neck. She resisted, but not enough for my liking. His hand rose on her back, pulling her near, causing my stomach to twist. When that same hand slid down to her rear and patted it, then squeezed, I lost my patience.
“Give me that damn bag,” I shouted, turning to face Daisy. “I gotta get out there before this gets any worse. She doesn’t need to go this far.”
I grabbed the bag from Daisy’s outstretched hand, only for her to drop it before I could get a good hold.
Her sharp inhale and hands shooting to her mouth caused me to spin.
That’s when I saw the attack.
Day 1,014 - continued
I hadn’t seen the initial plunge, the one that caught Daisy off guard. However, I did witness the next two. And they were as brutal as anything I’d ever done myself.
The plate was in mid-air when I turned around, the man’s hands now off Violet’s body, clutching at his midsection.
Her arm twisted behind again, and I saw the glint of sun gleam off of the steel blade. A second time, or perhaps already a third, Violet thrust the blade into a free spot that wasn’t guarded by his hands. The drifter fell forward to his knees, his hands searching for the weapon. But it was in vain; the damage was done.
With another blow, Violet plunged the blade just below his left shoulder as I sprinted from the cabin towards the melee. Pulling it out, she leaned in for one last cut - the kill shot to his throat.
By the time I got to her, she was kicking the nearly dead form, screaming obscenities.
“It’s over,” I shouted, wrapping my arms around the seething teen. Still she pushed at him. “Violet, he’s dead. It’s done.”
She loosened in my arms, dropping the large pocket knife to the dirt. Leaning past me, she spit at him. “Piece of rotten, no good, slimy shit,” she spewed.
I held her for a few moments more, making sure he was dead. The gurgling from the bloody froth coming from his neck ceased, as the last semblances of life did as well. Only then did Violet nod and look up at me.
“We need to drag him across the road so your wild pets can have him for dinner,” she said, her words scarily calm for someone who’d just killed a guy.
She glanced back at the cabin, frowning for a moment. “I hope Libby wasn’t looking when I stabbed him,” she added, pushing away from my embrace. “Ah, whatever. She needs to learn how to survive.”
She grabbed one of the drifter’s lifeless arms and stared up at me. “Are you gonna help me? Or are you going to make me do this all by myself? I’m just a girl, ya know.”
I felt my head moving from side to side. Though she had solved one problem, a bigger one still loomed.
“What are we going to do with that device around Libby’s throat?” I asked, grabbing the loose arm. “You didn’t think this through, Violet. We got a real problem.”
Dragging the corpse over the road, she laughed at me. “Oh ye of little faith,” she responded. “That’s not a problem,” she shrugged, “not much of one.”
Given the sobbing I could hear from inside the cabin, Violet was sadly mistaken. We had a huge problem, and the only one who could solve it was dead at our feet.
Back inside the cabin, I crouched next to Libby. While she was attempting to be brave, her tears suggested otherwise.
I inspected the device, not liking what I found. It was already tight, far too tight to flip over and render harmless. Furthermore, I could see the tension in the springs, ready to snap at the first wrong move.
“You have to get that off of her,” Daisy whined into my ear. “Please, Bob. Get it off.”
I turned and smiled at the terrified mother. “I’m working on it. Just need to figure it out. Don’t want it going off and hurting Libby.”
Lettie leaned in, studying the device. “Those prongs look like they’re off a squirrel or opossum trap of some kind,” she said. “If they can kill a varmint…”
Yeah, thanks, Lettie. No sense in sugarcoating an already dire situation,
I thought. Beside me, Daisy’s crying intensified.
“Maybe we can put pieces of wood under each jaw, and work on it that way,” I suggested. No one dared offer their opinion, so I thought aloud. “Or maybe we can bend them back. That way when they go off they won’t dig into her skin…too badly.”
“And what happens when they snap while you’re playing with them?” Daisy asked in an appropriately tense tone.
I shrugged, mostly to myself. “Yeah, there’s that possibility.”
Violet pushed her way in close, touching the jaws with her fingers. She used a much less delicate touch than I had.
Straightening next to me, she crossed her arms. “It’s a ruse,” she stated. “From what I see, it won’t go off.”
For all it was worth, she sounded confident. But I sure didn’t feel that brave.
“I say we try the wood option,” I suggested, searching the room for agreement. Still, my housemates didn’t look convinced.
Pushing me aside again, Violet leaned in closer. “Cut the tips off,” she stated. “Then we can do whatever we want with the rest of it. But I’m still betting the thing won’t trip.”
Lettie placed a hand on my shoulder. “You got a wire nippers?” I nodded. “Then I agree. Cut the tips off that damn contraption. That way it will just pinch if it goes off.”
Beside me, Daisy sucked in a short breath, her face filled with horror.
“Little pinch ain’t gonna kill her,” Lettie added, rubbing Daisy’s shoulder.
I waited for Daisy to decide; it was her child who was potentially in harm’s way after all. Finally, after a long, silent deliberation, she nodded her agreement.
“I’ll get the nippers,” I said, heading for the pantry.
“It’s not going off,” Violet replied in one of her snotty tones. I saw her smile at Daisy, uneasy. “At least I don’t think it will.”
Great. Now I was taking Libby’s life in my hands on the advice of an
-certain teen. Wonderful.
Day 1,014 - continued
Carefully, I applied pressure to the nipper handles. But the wire refused to cut. Moving it further into the jaws of the tool only made my group suck in their breaths collectively. Some help they were.
“Put a little of that lack of muscle into it,” Violet whispered into my ear. “At this rate, she’ll choke to death.”
“Not helping,” I mumbled, making sure Lettie and Daisy were out of earshot. “You got any other bright ideas?”
Daisy occupied her time by bouncing Hope on her hip, only nervously peeking at Violet and me every other second or so.
That’s not helping!
I almost said aloud. But the terror in her eyes made me refocus.
“It’s not going to snap,” Violet repeated for the umpteenth time. Reaching forward, she played with the device. “Are there even springs in this thing?”
I popped up and led her out of the cabin. “Be right back,” I called to Lettie and Daisy, who were staring google-eyed at us. “Just need to discuss an idea.”
Outside, Violet chased away one of the first flies of summer. “It’s not real,” she snapped. “Just pull it off her neck and this will all be over.”
I stared down into her eyes. “Are you willing to risk Libby’s life on your hunch? In case you didn’t notice, Daisy is almost at her wit’s end.”
She pushed me away. “Then quit horsing around and cut those prongs, okay?” Scrunching her nose at me, I saw doubt in her eyes.
“You’re not sure, are you?” I asked.
She shook her head. “I was just acting brave for Daisy and Libby’s sake.”