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Authors: Jason Halstead

Wanted (24 page)

BOOK: Wanted
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Carl nodded and motioned for her to follow him. She did, climbing to her feet and grabbing the M24, then stepping over to where he had moved. The wind had died down some, but it was growing more and more chilly. Carl gestured for her to turn around then he untied the bandage and unraveled it from around her chest as soon as she removed the shirt she had worn over it.


Oh wow, it feels good to breathe normal again,” she said as the last of the bandage was free. The chilly of the night set in quickly, causing goose bumps on her skin and likewise twisting her nipples into hard buds.


You did a good job today,” Carl told her, gently touching her spine with his fingers to check on her recovery.

Unseen to him she blushed. “Carl…” she trailed off, stammering a little. She shivered as his fingers tickled her neck, though it was far from intentional on his part. “I liked it,” she gushed out, admitting her guilty sin.


You liked it?” he asked her, pushing a little harder to check her spine.


Yeah… not that I was killing people. I mean that’s… well… that’s wrong, right?” She asked him.

Carl chuckled darkly. “I done a lot of wrong in my life. You saved my ass, your brothers, and Jessie’s. Ain’t nothing wrong about that.”

She nodded. “I know, but it just seems like I should feel worse than I do.”

Carl shrugged behind her, then gave her a pat on the back. “You must not have been that bad.”


Oh, I missed at least three times,” she said, misunderstanding him. “I had to reload once too. We’re running out of bullets.”


No, I mean your back must not have been that bad. I don’t think the bones were broken, just a slipped disc or something. I can’t find anything wrong with it now,” he told her.


Oh… you mean?” She turned around slowly and faced him. “I don’t have to wear that stupid lawnmower blade anymore?”

He smiled. “No more blade,” he said, tossing it off to the side.

Tanya threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. After a moment she realized she was topless and she let go of him, blushing furiously. “Sorry,” she stammered, quickly pulling her shirt back on.

Carl blushed a little too, but the darkness hid it from her. “It’s okay,” he grumbled. “Been a while since I had a naked girl throw herself at me. I ain’t complaining.”

Blushing furiously, Tanya could not help but laugh. “Try coming out of the desert more often. You’re not so bad once you get to know you.”

He smiled but let the matter drop. “How many rounds you got left?”


21,” she said. “Any chance we can find more?”

He nodded. “It’s a .308 Winchester round, lots of people in the parts have hunting rifles chambered to that. Just got to find one is all.”

She shook her head. “It’s scary, how much you know about all this.”


All this?” he asked her.


Yeah, about guns and survival and…and… killing.”


It’d be a better world if nobody needed that kinda sense,” he admitted in a rare moment.


Yeah, maybe,” she agreed. A moment later she added, “I’m glad I don’t live in that world though.”

Carl looked at her, eyebrows scrunched as he tried to figure her out. “Go get some rest, I’ll take watch,” she said.

He nodded and turned back to the others. Checking on Dustin and Jessie, he noted how Jessie was shivering and panting in her sleep. She was moaning a little too. With a sigh of disbelief, he stripped off his jacket and settled in behind her, spooning himself to her body. She was already curled up into a ball so it was easy for him to maximize contact with her body. He laid the jacket over them and felt her relax slightly as he placed his arms around her protectively.

Sleep took a while and seemed to have only just reached him when Tanya and Dustin were waking up Jessie. Sluggishly she came to her feet, wincing as she did so. She tried to leave the jacket with Carl, but he pushed it to her and settled into the crushed grass bedding to find another couple of hours of uncomfortable sleep. He was awoken again by Jessie. She was crouching next to him and gently touching his shoulder.

Carl was awake instantly, reaching over to grab his rifle. He looked around but then saw Jessie put her finger to her lips and beckon for him to follow her. Warily, he climbed to his feet and followed her as she moved over to a small stand of some evergreens.


Carl… I wanted a chance to talk to you alone,” Jessie said softly to him. She wore his jacket still but it did little to cover her long legs that stuck out from beneath it.

Carl relaxed a little, realizing there was no trouble. At least no external trouble. He looked to the east and saw a faint pinkness to indicate dawn would be approaching soon. He nodded to her, letting her go on.


I wanted to tell you I’m sorry,” she said, looking down and around and everywhere but at him. “Sorry for what a stupid bitch I’ve been.”


You telling me this because you’re afraid I’ll dump you the first chance I get?” He asked her.

She looked up at him, surprised and hurt. “No!” she said, then hung her head again in shame. “I mean I’m not… but I guess I do deserve that.”


How long it take you to get back on the shit?” Carl asked her. His tone was hard and merciless, but soft enough to keep from carrying beyond the trees.


It’s not like that Carl!” she said, looking up at him with tears running down her cheeks now. “I swear! I didn’t want to touch it, I didn’t. Eddie… he slapped me and punched me and kicked me. He tried to sweet talk me and when that didn’t work he threatened me. I took it all, I let him hurt me – it was nothing new to me, I been beat and raped and hurt before. I could take it – I can take it.”

Jessie fell silent for a moment and shuddered. Fresh tears fell and she tried to sniff them back. Finally she turned away from Carl and let his coat fall from her shoulders. “It doesn’t matter, does it?” she asked him. “Nothing I say or do, it’s never going to be good enough for you, is it?”

Carl stood there expressionless and motionless while her shoulders shook. Finally he bent down and picked up his coat, but aside from standing back up, he made no move. “Where does Jizzy end and Jessie begin?” he asked her in his gruff voice.


What?” she asked, turning around to face him. “You think I’m acting? What have I done to make you hate me so much?”


Got nothing to do with hate, darling,” he said. “It’s about trust.”


Trust? It’s about trust?” she asked him. “I’ve been trying to get you to trust me since day one! You saved my ass and I wanted to pay you back. I wanted to show you how much I appreciated it, how much I felt I could trust you. I wanted you to know you could maybe put a little trust in me too.”

Carl shook his head. “Uh-uh, you wanted me to owe you. You wanted something safe until something better came along.”

She stared up at him, eyes wide and wet. Finally she bowed her head and nodded. “You’re right… I did. But I never once wanted to hurt you. I just wanted…”

Carl stared at her as she trailed off, looking for words. “You don’t get it, do you?”


What?” she asked, confused. “What don’t I get?”


What you’re after – you don’t even know what you really want.”


Of course I do,” she snapped. “I want to… I want…”


Jessie, shut up,” he told her calmly. “Stop trying so hard to figure it out, maybe it’s obvious. You pull your weight you can come with us until you decide you got something better to do.”

He turned to go and left her standing there, cold and confused behind him. “Carl… you know why I started snorting and smoking and drinking again? Eddie told me if I didn’t do it, he’d make Dustin.”

Carl stopped for a moment, then glanced back over his shoulder to say, “Stick around long enough you might just earn your reward.”


You stupid bastard,” she swore at him, rushing at him and hitting him in the back with her fist. Carl spun around and grabbed her, holding her still while she struggled. “I don’t want any fucking reward! Don’t you get it? If I wanted one I’d have turned Darrin over to that Garza asshole!”

Carl held her tight until she stopped squirming and swearing at him, then, when he felt it was safe he let her go and asked, “Who’s Darrin?”

What color the exercise had brought to her cheeks drained out immediately. She looked away and shook her head quickly. “Nobody… I… I misspoke. I meant Dusty.”


Darrin was her brother.”

They bother turned to see Dustin step out from behind a tree where he had been eavesdropping. Tanya was there as well, moving behind him to show she heard as well. “He died when he was a little kid,” he added. “She asked me to pretend to be him so we could hide who I really was.”

Jessie stared at him, shocked and hurt by the look on her face. “That true?” Carl asked, looking at her.

She nodded and closed her eyes, unable to speak past the lump in her throat.


How’d he die?” Carl wondered aloud.


He drowned,” Dusty said after a long moment stretched by in which Jessie still could not speak.

Carl grunted and nodded. “We’re all up, let’s get going and see if we can find something to eat,” he said, deciding enough small talk had passed. They needed focus and direction and they would not find it on the side of a hill.

Jessie nodded and stormed past Carl, one hand at her temple. “If I ever touch any drugs or booze again, somebody shoot me,” she muttered to herself.


Okay,” Carl called after her without a second thought. She ignored him and made her way back to their camp, looking to help clean up and get on their way again.

Dusty returned to the camp as well, glancing briefly at Carl but saying nothing. Tanya walked up to him and rested her hand on his forearm briefly. “Anybody ever give you a second chance?” she asked before offering him a smile and moving on herself.

Carl watched them go, pondering the encounter for a long moment. Finally he looked upwards and shook his head slowly, then followed after them. “Here,” he said to Jessie, tossing his jacket to her and surprising her. “Much as we might like staring at your tits and ass, you stick out wearing that bikini.”


I don’t want your help,” she spat at him, getting ready to toss the jacket back at him.


Fine, then you go naked. That sparkly red shit can be seen from a mile away.”

She hesitated even as he arm was cocked back to throw. She glared at him then finally relented and relaxed. She slipped the jacket back on to cover the bikini and was immediately glad for the warmth and cover from the elements.


Alright, let’s get going,” he said, starting out and setting a pace just as brutal as the one from the night before. Furious and strangely silent, Jessie followed. Tanya and Dustin trailed after as well, both uncertain of what was going to happen.

 

* * * *

 

Another ten hours of traversing brutal terrain saw them to I-40. They had been catching glimpses of it for the last couple of hours from high points in their travels, but Carl quickly led them down into gullies and ravines to avoid the possibility of being spotted. Jessie bore up well, considering her shoes were useless for the type of rocks and loose shale they walked on, but seldom did she do more than grunt or hiss when her footing slipped or her ankle twisted.

Now a final stretch of broken ground lay between them and the road, a stretch that Carl had no intention of crossing. He glanced at the sky then looked to the others. They looked to be exhausted and in agony, especially Jessie. She was sweating profusely and from the glazed look of her eyes, might not have been entirely conscious.


We can take cover for the night back a bit. I saw a good camp site,” he offered them, which drew some sighs of relief, “or we can push along I-40 for a while.”


Why not on I-40?” Dustin asked.


Too much visibility,” Tanya guessed, which drew a surprised look and a nod from Carl.


You really think they’re looking for us all the way up here?” Dustin asked, incredulous. “We must have walked forty miles by now!”

Carl looked at him and shook his head, “Maybe 20. Slow going in the foothills here, especially since none of you are equipped for it.”


That was slow?” Dusty asked again, even more stunned. “We busted out asses up there!”


Dusty, watch your mouth,” Tanya snapped at him.

Her brother turned to stare at her, a look of outrage and shock on his face. He tried to snap back at her but he was so stunned that she could be worried about something as stupid as his language at a time like that left him speechless.

Carl stared at the highway then at the rough ground they had covered to the south. Finally he grunted, having reached a decision. “Ain’t who’s after us that bugs me,” he said. “We’ll camp tonight and rest up, some things I got to show you anyhow. Tomorrow we make for Laughlin, maybe catch a ride south.”

Dustin and Jessie both started asking questions. Jessie smiled stupidly, then closed her eyes and clenched her jaw in discomfort. A moment later she was doubled over and fighting to hang her head over a rock in case she suffered more than just dry heaves.

BOOK: Wanted
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ads

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