Authors: e a lake
“But Bob’s going to be a problem if we let him live,” he continued, stroking his facial hair. “And since I’m down to one hired man, I can’t afford to let problems live.”
Daisy pushed Libby to Lettie and inched forward. “Please don’t do this,” she begged, pulling on Carmen’s arm, “I’m sure we can work something out.”
The evil one stared and nodded at her. “Something tells me you’re Daisy, right?” She refused to acknowledge him. “Susan said I should kill you, too. But…” his eyes roamed her thin body as his lips formed into a sneer, “I think I want you alive. You could be a fun one. You and that other taller gal.” His head flipped towards Violet.
“Please don’t,” Daisy continued to beg. “Please let Bob live. I’ll do anything if you’ll just let him go.”
Carmen took a step and peered down into her weepy face. “You’ll do anything if I kill him, too. Wouldn’t want anything to happen to that little girl of yours, now would we?”
“Let’s get this over with, Carmen,” his man stated in a bored tone. “I’m hungry. And I need a nap and someone to snuggle with.” They shared a demonic chuckle.
He spun and knelt next to me. “Okay, it’s time to say goodbye, Bob. Playtime’s over.”
John’s gun rose and my family let out a collective scream. I noticed the man’s brown teeth, his scarred face, the left eye that looked slightly out of alignment with the right. I refused to look at my group, instead facing my executioner.
“Get it over with, asshole,” I spewed, watching his grin grow.
“Gladly.” And the safety snapped free.
This was really happening
, I thought — perhaps my last.
Day 1,030 - continued
The first shot rang out and I flinched, shutting my eyes. I felt a spray of something across my face. Wherever he’d hit me didn’t hurt, which seemed extremely odd to me. A second shot followed the first and more spray. Still no pain. Was this guy hitting me somewhere without nerves? Was this death or torture?
When something hard fell on me, my eyes shot opened. Staring at the face, what was left of it at least, I saw Carmen’s blank eyes staring back. The blood pouring from his head caused me to roll over and push away, jumping up from the ground.
Blood covered my shirt. His blood or mine, I wasn’t sure.
I glanced right, another dead body. Sticking out beneath it was a shotgun. That had to be John. Back to my left was Carmen. Both were dead, both shot in the head.
My group, every one of them still lay sprinkled about on the ground. Lettie was covering Violet and Hope; Daisy was on top of Libby. Strangely, I was the only one on my feet.
I noticed someone approached from the road. Whoever it was had a rifle leveled at me. My hands went up instinctively. However, once I spotted his bald head and long strides, I lowered them back down. Our savior strolled towards us stone-faced: Thaddeus Wilson.
“Johnny told me there was trouble on the road,” he called out, kicking both men to be sure they were dead. “Guess he was right.”
I felt like hugging the man. “Holy shit,” I whopped. “Am I glad you showed up when you did. These idiots were really going to kill me.”
As Wilson helped Lettie and Violet up, I did the same for Daisy and Libby. Instantly Daisy threw her arms around my shoulders and hugged me.
“My God, my God, my God,” Daisy kept repeating. “Oh my God. I am so thankful you’re alive.” She let go of me and hugged Wilson’s mid-section just as tight. “And thank you Mr. Wilson, for saving us.”
Lettie and Daisy smiled and clambered on with Wilson about the events as Violet circled around my back. I felt one of her thin fingers digging in behind me.
Probably nothing good would come of that
, I thought.
“I count five spots,” she cried, a little more hysterical than the situation deserved. “Six — there’s one on your lower back.”
I turned and faced her since she was already weeping. “It’s nothing, Violet. Barely scratches; they don’t even hurt.”
“But that’s a lot of blood,” Daisy said from behind. “We need to get you inside.”
“Really, I’m okay.” I was just so damn happy not to be dead that I didn’t care about a few holes in my back.
“Buckshot?” Wilson asked. I nodded. “But not at close range?” I grinned and winked. “Still needs to be cleaned up. Better get at it.”
Getting another hug from Daisy, I agreed. Lettie led us all inside, including Wilson. He stopped me just before we got in.
“That was a fairly close call, Bob,” he said in a low tone. “I don’t know how that would’ve turned out if I hadn’t shown up.”
I agreed as he gave me a hardy pat on the back and I let out a whine. Okay, these pellets hurt a little. But I was still alive, and that’s all that mattered.
Inside, Wilson explained how he had come to save us. Though I expected a great tale of running and chasing ending with him steadying against a tree for good shot, it was nothing that exciting.
He had posted Johnny up the road a mile north of Lettie’s property since the day after his return from Covington. His reason was simple; he didn’t want anything happening to his granddaughter or her mother. Violet’s protection saved me.
He claimed he was a half mile from us when the first shots rang out. Instead of sprinting to our rescue, like I thought he might, he only picked up his pace a little.
“No sense in running if I was going to find you all dead,” he reasoned.
He only arrived when Carmen’s gunman drew his final bead on my lying body. Settling his sights on John’s head, he squeezed the trigger. Once sure he was dead, Wilson disposed of Carmen.
Problem solved, Thaddeus Wilson style. Thank God.
He left to fetch some medicine for me. Even before he hit the blacktop, Lettie pulled the last of the seven pieces of buckshot from my back.
“Now let’s clean these wounds,” she said, the last piece of metal clunking into the white dishpan. “I don’t think any of these are life-threatening.” She slapped my back, a little too hard it felt. Or maybe I was being a baby.
“I’m fine,” I said, eyeing Violet, who was eyeing me. “Give me a few days to heal and I’ll be ready to get back at what I need to do.”
“Yeah, right,” Violet spewed. “Once again, your blood is flowing. How about you take a break from all this crap and just sit around for a while.”
Daisy circled behind me, rubbing my shoulder. “Maybe that’s a good idea, Bob. Let yourself heal up before you think about doing anything else.”
She kissed my cheek and I smiled at her. “Sure, I can do that. It’s probably a good idea.”
My two conspirators exchanged a knowing, almost devious look. But that was okay. I lied to them. I wasn’t sitting around for a second longer than necessary, no matter what they might have thought.
I finished throwing up in a bucket and flopped onto my back on the couch. Bad idea. The pain shot me back up into a sitting position.
“And here I was worried about Clyde Barster killing you,” Lettie laughed above me. “Hell, the infection will get you long before Barster gets his hands on you.”
I rubbed my forehead, feeling the heat pour from my body. This was crap, 130 percent crap. I thought I was in the clear after Lettie removed the shot from my back. A few days on the couch and I’d be fine.
Little did I know that even with the penicillin Wilson brought as a precaution that an infection would follow. That was not some little run-of-the-mill, come-and-go infection. No, it was a grand-mal infection.
Daisy trotted up with a glass of water and more pills. “Here, sweetie. It’s time again. Maybe that nasty infection is finally getting out of you.”
I pointed at the bucket. “Only thing coming out right now is lunch,” I moaned. “When is this going to pass?”
“When it passes,” Lettie crowed, “or when you finally die from it.” Her suppressed laugh didn’t help.
“You’re better today,” Daisy continued, rubbing a bare shoulder. “And I’ll bet you’ll feel even better tomorrow.”
This sucked big time. Not only was I devoid of any energy that would’ve allowed me to get up from the couch, I couldn’t even stomach the idea of going outside. If attackers ambushed us right now, the best I could hope for was to be killed first.
Violet came out of the bedroom and shut the door quietly. Seeing me in my suffering state, she smiled. That little bitch.
“And how’s our patient today?” Her voice, dripping with honey, her smile fake and wide. As she stepped through the doorway, she paused. Her smile faded and she covered her nose as she got close enough to get a whiff of the bucket. Grabbing its metal handle, she made toward the door. “I’m sorry,” she called back through a smile. “Maybe next week you’ll be well enough to get up and move around. Maybe.”
I’d be getting on my feet again, and soon, if I had anything to say about it. Then another wave of nausea ran through me and I puked on the bare floor.
Libby let out a loud “EWWWW!” and Daisy hustled over with an old red plaid dishtowel and another cup of tepid water.
Maybe another day, two at the most
, I thought, sinking onto my side.
Sitting in the warm summer sunshine, I let Libby chase flies away from my scabbed bare back. They could bite me for all I cared. Daisy didn’t appreciate the loud bursts of profanity that followed each shovel-nosed extraction by the black and deer flies though. We compromised: I’d let Libby swat me as much as she wanted and I wouldn’t swear…much.
I’d lost track of time since my latest losing gun battle. The others reminded me how happy they were I was alive. While that helped a little, I hated being an invalid. Honestly, I was the worst patient in the history of No Where.
For 10 days I laid on the couch, sometimes of the world and sometimes not. For the first seven, I couldn’t keep anything down, not flatbread, not water, not even spit. Everything came up within 10 minutes of ingestion. While that was lots of fun, my focus was on the fever that gave me the strangest dreams of my life.
The world came to me one morning, alive and full of sun and warmth. Someone had put me in my bed, the twin in the back room. Why the baby wasn’t there I wasn’t sure. But everything was quiet, clean, and warm, and the world felt good.
My scars had healed. Probably all of the coconut oil Lettie had rubbed on my body. My left side looked as new and fresh as my right. Gone was the ugly wound and raised flesh born when the shotgun slug tried to tear me in two.
I checked my back in a mirror. Those marks, too, had disappeared. Not one of the seven remained.
, I thought. A little rest and some much-needed sleep had really done the trick. I needed to thank everyone for their help.
Opening the bedroom door, I flexed my left hand. Slowly I raised it before my face and discovered something wonderful. Against all odds, and everything I knew to be possible in nature, my left pinky had grown back. I marveled at its perfection, how it moved in harmony with the others as if it had never gone missing from the gunshot wound.
This was going to be a great day.
Golden waves of sunshine filled the main room of the cabin. The air temperature was perfect and allowed me to roam around bare-chested. My feet felt anew on the wood floor, sensing every crook and crack. And they didn’t hurt, not one bit.
I was refreshed and ready for whatever needed to be done. And I knew what came next. I was certain now was the time to go after our attackers and right the wrongs they’d brought upon us.
But that’s what made me stop. Where were the rest of
I listened for voices; perhaps they were just outside, working in the garden.
That would make sense on such a wondrous day
, I thought. Peeking out the window, I saw no one. And that bothered me.
If they had taken a walk together, the group ran the risk of running into road scum. That would make them vulnerable and that was not a good plan.
“What are you looking at?” a voice behind me asked. I turned to find Violet and a young lady standing behind me, hand in hand. At first, I thought it was Libby. However, the young lady had dark hair and looked to be six or seven years old.
“Where is everyone else?” I asked, confused by the girl and the dress that Violet wore. The long green and blue plaid sleeveless dress hugged her now mature form. She wasn’t 15 any longer. She looked more like that of a 20-something woman.
“Everyone else is gone, Bob,” she answered, releasing the girl’s hand and walking towards me. “It’s just you, me and Hope now. It has been for a while. Probably will be forever.”
She hugged me tightly. “I’ve missed you while you were gone. I was worried you might never come back.”
I didn’t understand, not a word of it. “Where’d I go?”
She looked up at me, stroking my clean-shaven face, running her fingers through my short hair.
“Oh, here and there,” she replied, standing on her tiptoes, gently kissing my lips. “But everything’s okay now. Everything is as it should be.”
She kissed me again, more passionate this time. As if…
“What are you doing?” I asked. Why I didn’t try to pull away, I didn’t know. But I didn’t.
She kissed me again, this time with an opened mouth. This caused me to think about pushing her away, but still I didn’t. I had no idea why I allowed it to continue.
When the passion ended, she led me to the table. But not a table I was familiar with. This was a large, beautifully set table with dishes of orange and gold and a stark-white tablecloth. A tall glass of cold beer waited at my spot.
I sipped the IPA, enjoying the mild taste, allowing it to swirl in my mouth before I swallowed. I almost cried as the familiar taste tickled my throat. It was perfect.
Hope sat a plate in front of me. On it was a large steak smothered in mushrooms, just as I liked. Next to the steak was a pile of baby potatoes, covered in melting bright yellow butter. At the top of the plate sat a pile of bright green Brussels sprouts with hunks of bacon.
Everything I loved, cooked perfectly and served with a smile.
I stared at my hostesses as they stood over me. “Where’s yours?” I asked, cutting my first bite of bloody steak. Somehow, Violet knew just how I liked it.