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Authors: Jason Halstead

Wanted (33 page)

BOOK: Wanted
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Shelby was closing a storage door on the outside of a trailer that she and her boyfriend shared. From her Carl learned that Jessie had stormed off to the north after she had come outside and saw her staring at her from across the road. He thanked her, then headed north, acting on instinct. A few minutes later he saw her, standing at the new barb wire fence that he had put up earlier that day. She was staring to the north, towards the direction they had come in on.


Ain’t much out there, remember?” he said once he had closed to a dozen feet or so. He had been sure to walk loudly, scuffing his boots against the dirt to make certain he was heard as he approached.

Jessie turned to face him. Her eyes were red and her face slightly puffy. “This is hard,” she mumbled, then turned and looked back to the north, hugging her across her chest. “It was easier out there.”

Carl stared to north as well, looking at the same thing Jessie was, which was nothing but an excuse to not look at each other. “Look, I ain’t interested in Shelby or nothing… and I sure as hell ain’t going after Tanya!”

Jessie smiled a little at his words. Carl had a hunch she was amused at his discomfort more than at what he said.


I… aw, hell,” Carl muttered. “The kid’s right, I ain’t any good at this.”


Carl, shut up,” Jessie said softly. She turned to face him and sighed. “I’m not worried about Tanya. I’m not even worried about Shelby. I got no right to be worried about anybody. I’ve acted like a kid with a crush on you, I don’t own you and you don’t owe me anything.”


Right... Um, I mean,” Carl let out a breath of frustration. “What’s hard?” he asked, changing tracks.

Jessie smiled again, softly but sadly. “Being clean,” she whispered. “It was easy out there, we were so busy, so tired… now I’ve got time on my hands, time to think. Time to feel. Time to remember. It hurts and I don’t want it to. I never wanted it to. I wanted to forget it all. I couldn’t, so I found a way to make it hurt less.”

Carl nodded a few times then realized she might not shut up if he didn’t do something.


Booze, drugs, whatever. It all helped,” she continued without breaking a stride. “Even sex was a drug that helped me forget. The more I could do to hide from my past…. Oh Carl, the things I’ve done. I don’t know how I can ever look at myself! I keep remembering more and more. Every time I had to do something to forget, whatever new thing I did was a new moment of shame. I-“


Your turn,” Carl said, stepping up to her and grabbing her shoulders to spin her around to face him. “You shut up.”

Jessie did, shocked to find herself suddenly in his arms. She stood there, trembling, and then broke down and sobbed yet again in his protective embrace. After several minutes of catharsis, she looked up at him and, sniffing back the latest tears, she said, “You were right, I couldn’t stop talking about my past.”


You just can’t stop talking,” Carl muttered back to her, his tone low but with a good natured tint to it. “You ran out of current events, so you had to fall back on that.”

Jessie smiled and laughed. She reached up to him and grabbed his head to tilt it down. She kissed him on the lips. If Carl was surprised, he hid it well, even as Jessie deepened the kiss and communicated her emptiness and need through it to him. Finally she pulled back and Carl looked down at her, his own pulse racing faster than he would have wanted it to.


You’re not a bad kisser, Captain Buzzkill,” Jessie said to him.

Carl scowled at her. “Had to find some way to shut you up.”

Jessie laughed again and put her head against his shoulder for a minute, drawing strength from him. She backed away and turned to look at the wastes of northern Needles again. “Oh Carl, what’s going to happen to us?”

Carl shrugged, unseen by her. “I ain’t staying much longer,” he said after a minute. “Too many people, I don’t like it.”


You really are a hermit,” Jessie said, turning to look at him again.


These people ain’t fighters, not real ones anyway,” he said. “You think they want to take on what they took on, sheltering us like this? Those mercs’ll come back after Tanya and Dusty again. Sooner or later, they’ll find out we’re here. Safest thing for them is for us to be gone.”

Jessie tilted her head as he talked, one corner of her mouth twitching upwards into a smile. “Why Carl, are you turning into a softy on me?”

Carl’s first response he managed to avoid using. It involved suggesting something hard she might like, but he realized the consequences of that discussion were not something he wanted to deal with. Instead he said, “These seem to be decent folk, no reason to drag them into our problems.”


What makes them your problems too? What made you change your mind?”


Tanya and I had this talk a while back,” he said. “I done my share of things I ain’t proud of, no way to make up for that, but maybe this makes me sleep a little better anyhow.”

Jessie stared at him for a long moment, then blinked away some fresh tears. She nodded and said softly, “I understand… it’s like… well…” Jessie sighed, frustrated at how she had trouble putting her thoughts and emotions into words. “I get you Carl,” she finally said with a shrug and a weak smile.


So what you doing out here?” he asked, happy to change the subject again. His life was his life, sharing it was just not his style.


Waiting for you,” Jessie said with a smile that twinkled in her eyes in a way that Carl knew she had meant to tease him.


You’d of had a long wait if Tanya hadn’t been so stubborn about me coming out here.”

Jessie winked at him. “Us girls know when to stick together.”

Carl’s grunt was hardly approving, but it still caused Jessie’s mood to improve.


How come you’ve never asked me about my past… don’t you care? Aren’t you at least a little curious?” Jessie asked. “I’ve made such a big deal out of it, but you never ask. You’re not exactly Mr. Sensitive, so what gives?”

Carl smirked in spite of himself. He considered his answer carefully before responding, and ended up beginning it with a shrug. “I don’t care,” he finally said. “None of my business and none of my concern. You got your own shit to deal with and I got mine. We all got our mistakes, that’s what makes us who we are. I got no right changing you based on what my life learned me, and vice versa.”

Jessie considered his answer carefully, then nodded. “I like that, that’s respectful and fair. But don’t you ever wonder? I mean, I want to know what gives you nightmares. What stupid things have you done?”


Trying to blackmail me?” Carl asked with a chuckle.

Jessie shook her head emphatically. “No! I just… Carl, you fascinate me. You’re so…so… well, you’re just so interesting. I don’t know anybody like you. Somebody who doesn’t negotiate. You don’t compromise. It’s your way and only your way. I don’t know how you can do that – how anybody can do that.”

Carl shrugged. “Why you think I live by myself?”

She laughed. “Okay, so it’s a lonely life, but at least it’s all yours. Nobody to screw things up for you.”


Yeah, at least not until somebody shows up on my doorstep with a couple of stray kids she pulled out of a plane wreck.”

Jessie grinned in spite of the red flush coloring her cheeks. “Yeah, well, I’m not sorry about that. Otherwise the three of us would be dead by now.”


Yeah, well, at least I’d still have a home,” he countered.


Carl, that wasn’t a home, that was a hideout,” Jessie said. “We get these guys safe and I’ll show you how to make a home.”

Carl raised an eyebrow, too afraid of what she might answer if he asked her what she was talking about. Instead he dodged the issue by raising another topic. “Tanya don’t want to go back.”


Oh?” Jessie asked, surprised. “Dusty hardly talks about anything else but getting back. He hates it out here.”

Carl laughed, “Yeah, I noticed. We all noticed. Come on, it’s getting late and I’m tired.”


You have to work extra hard to keep up with Shelby today?” she asked.

Carl barked out a quick laugh, “She did work me pretty hard,” he admitted. “But no, dealing with you and Tanya was worse.”

Jessie stuck her tongue out at him then promised, “You think that was hard? You just wait…”

Carl watched her walk past him and head back towards their cabin. He admired her figure for a moment in the fading sunlight, then shook his head and sighed. Every step of the way he knew what he should do, how he should distance himself and get away as soon as he could. Yet in spite of that, he just got himself mired in deeper and deeper every time.

 

 

 

 

Chapter 19

 

Carl woke up, instantly alert. Something was wrong, something he could not put a finger on. A moment later, he heard a scuffle of stones shifting under a boot outside. He rolled smoothly out of bed, grabbing his rifle as he did so. He moved to the door and waited a moment, listening. He heard two more footsteps on the hard packed ground then the sound of a boot on wood. Whoever it was, they were climbing onto the porch of the cabin.

He listened and waited, having already counted the timing of the steps. He paused a moment longer, setting his rifle behind him and against the wall. When he saw the latch twitch he knew that the person on the other side had grabbed it and was fully committed. Carl grabbed the latch and yanked the door open, pulling the trespasser off guard and aiding their momentum with his other hand. The invader made a muffled grunt as they collided with the bunk beds, then tripped and fell to the floor, stunned.

Carl was there, his knee in the back of the prone figure and the gun held against the back of his head. “Don’t breathe,” he hissed. “Talk. You got three seconds to live.”


Carl!” gasped the suddenly frantic Shelby. “You’ve got to run!”

Carl’s eyes narrowed. He did not look anywhere but at the muscular woman beneath him but he was aware of Jessie and the kids rousing themselves groggily from their bunks. “Bought yourself another three seconds,” he told her.


Some guy showed up,” she wheezed, “brought a bunch of mercs with him. Said they were looking for you, a couple of kids, and Jessie.”

Carl swore.


Fuck!” Jessie echoed. “How’d he find us?”

Carl eased up on Shelby and let her twist around. She massaged her elbow, which had been trapped in a twisted position beneath her. “How long?” He asked her.


I heard Aggie and Harold talking to him while I was taking a shit,” she said. “They played dumb until the guy bragged about the men he had with him and all the guns they brought. Then they made a deal…”

Carl watched her eyes go to Jessie. He shook his head and looked away, disbelieving it even though he knew it was true. “You’ve got to run!”


What deal?” Dusty asked as he slipped down from the upper bunk and wiped the fog of sleep from his eyes.

Shelby looked at Jessie again, then looked back at Carl.


I get to stay,” Jessie said venomously. “That’s the deal.”


Let’s go,” Carl said, slipping his boots on and yanking the strings up to tighten and tie them. He slipped on his jacket and looked at the others. They were slower to act but Jessie had begun getting dressed and so had Tanya. Dusty hesitated still, his eyes on Jessie as she got ready.


You don’t need to go, you can stay?” he sounded confused.


No I can’t,” Jessie said, shaking her head. “I won’t leave you guys, specially not for some fuckwit that thinks he can buy my friendship.”


They love you here,” Dusty said, still not understanding.


They don’t know me Dusty,” she told him. “They know a drugged out slut that had a makeup crew, rehearsed lines, and as many takes as it took to get the right look.”


Still, you’d be safe…”


Enough!” Carl snapped, grabbing Dustin’s shoulder and giving it a shake. “Ain’t got time for this shit. Get your gear. You got five seconds.”


Then what, you going to shoot me?” Dusty asked defiantly.


Fuck this,” Carl spat. He lashed out, driving his fist into Dustin’s jaw and dropping him like a sack of floor. Tanya squeaked in shock and started toward him, but Carl was already bending over the boy and tossing him over his shoulder.


Tanya, get his rifle,” Jessie intervened.

Tanya started a little, then nodded and grabbed Dusty’s weapon. She grabbed his spare clothes and shoved them in a small bag they had acquired since arriving at the camp. She looked up at Carl to see if he had anything else he wanted. He turned from her to Shelby, then nodded. “Strip.”


What?” Tanya asked, stunned.


Take your clothes off!” Carl repeated. “Now!”

Moving automatically, she slipped her shirt off then dropped her pants. She hooked her fingers in her panties and was about to drop them when Carl told her that was enough. “You too,” he said, turning to Shelby. “You’re similar height and in the dark, wearing a jacket…”

Shelby’s eye widened. “Look, I just came to warn you, I’m not-“


Shut up,” he snapped. “Yes you are. You came here, you risked it all and you knew it. Can’t back out now.”

BOOK: Wanted
7.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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