Authors: J.D. Rhoades
Tags: #Romance, #Thriller, #Mystery, #north carolina, #bounty hunter, #hard boiled, #redneck noir
I didn’t say nothin’,” Raymond called
back. “But your girlfriend’s still alive.” He coughed. “So is
Sanchez, but he’s a little worse for wear.”
Raymond held the door open and backed up,
inviting Keller into the darkness beyond. As he passed through the
doorway, Keller could detect another smell, a sickly-sweet odor of
decay that seemed to hang around Raymond. He stopped through the
front door into the living room.
The place was a slaughterhouse. The body of a
man lay on a blood-soaked couch. Another corpse lay in a puddle of
blood a few feet away. Angela was sitting tied to chair in the
flickering glow of the television. Keller glanced at the TV. Elmer
Fudd was stalking across the screen. “A-hunting we will go,
a-hunting we will go...” Sanchez was sitting up on the floor next
to Angela. His leg was wrapped in a blood-soaked homemade bandage.
His face was drawn with pain.
Sit over there,” Raymond said,
indicating the couch. His face split in an ugly grin. “You can move
Antonio. He won’t mind, I reckon.”
I was listening to the radio on the
way over here,” Keller said. “Sounds like somebody’s trying to burn
the whole county down.”
Raymond grinned again. “I reckon I showed a
few people what’s what,” he said.
And what would that be?”
with me!” Raymond exploded.
my family! Couple of damn
ignorant crackers think they can kill some old Indian never hurt
nobody a day in his life, and walk away with the money he sweated
his ass off to get?
The only person who’d do anything about it was
!” He grinned then, the drawn rictus of a
walking corpse. “We’re Lumbee,” he said. “We take care of our
You’ve killed more people than the
ones who killed your father,” Keller said. “People who never did
anything to you. That how you carry on the tradition?”
I got my own tradition,” he said. “Two
eyes for a fuckin’ eye.” He came over and stood over Keller on the
couch. He fished something out of his pocket and held it over his
It was a disposable cigarette lighter.
The gray dawn light from the window
fell on Raymond’s face as he raised the lighter over his head. His
thumb was on the striker. He began laughing in hysterical triumph,
the sound eventually mutating into a high-pitched ululation, a
Hollywood version of an Indian war-whoop. “W
....” The chant was cut off
suddenly as a bright red splash appeared in the center of his
chest. Keller felt fragments of glass shower on him as the big
picture window blew inwards. He leapt forward as he heard the
report of the rifle. He grabbed the arm holding the lighter and
bore it down, his body crashing into Raymond’s. The two of them
fell together to the floor. Keller raised up and drew his fist back
to smash it into Raymond’s face. He stopped. The face was slack and
relaxed, the head lolling limply. A trickle of blood ran from the
corner of Raymond’s mouth. Keller gasped with relief. He stood up,
tottering on his feet. He staggered over to where Angela and
Sanchez were. He dropped to his knees by Angela’s chair, his
fingers plucking at the knots of the ropes. It was futile, they
were too tight. “I need a knife,” he muttered. He got up and
staggered to the kitchen. He rummaged through the drawers until he
located a butcher knife and returned to the living room. He stepped
over Raymond’s body and cut Angela loose from her bonds, then
Sanchez. Angela staggered to her feet, leaning on Keller’s
shoulder. Sanchez tried to rise, but cried out in pain as his knee
refused to take his weight. Keller hauled him up and the three of
them stumbled towards the door. He yanked the door open and the
light of dawn streamed in. Marie Jones was coming up the front
steps, holding a deer rifle in one hand.
Nice shooting,” Keller croaked, his
throat raw and burning from the gasoline fumes.
Some skills never leave you,” she
said, slipping an arm around Angela to support her. They started
down the steps. Keller heard a noise behind him. He
Raymond Oxendine was in the doorway. He had
dragged himself to his knees. He held the cigarette lighter in his
Keller turned to Marie and Angela.
!” he yelled. There was an
enormous sound, like God himself sighing in pain as all the air in
the immediate area was sucked into the vortex of igniting gasoline
fumes. The light of the rising sun was momentarily reduced to
insignificance by the flash of the explosion. The pressure wave
knocked Keller and Sanchez forward onto their faces. The air was
filled with flying debris, the wood and brick of the house
transformed into deadly shrapnel as the house disintegrated. Keller
didn’t look back for fear of catching a fragment in his face, but
he could hear the crackling roar of the flames behind
Come on,” Keller grunted. “We’ve got
to get away.”
I can’t run,” Sanchez groaned. “Leave
No, goddamnit,” Keller grunted. “Not
this time. This time,
.” He hoisted Sanchez onto his shoulder. He
stumbled down the steep driveway, falling several times but always
rising up with Sanchez beside him. Suddenly his burden felt
lightened. Marie was on the other side, supporting Sanchez on her
shoulder. Together, the three of them reached the car.
They looked back at the house. The flames had
already almost consumed the structure. There was another huge
explosion from inside the house and a chunk of roofing blew off,
arcing through the sky like a magic carpet. They could hear sirens
in the distance.
I don’t know how safe it is here, even
with Oxendine dead,” Keller said. “He said some of the cops
reported to him. We need to get out of here.”
Only if I get to ride up front this
time,” Marie said. “That damn trunk gets pretty cramped, air holes
or no air holes.”
You made her ride in the
?” Angela said, arching an
eyebrow at Keller.
Well, not the whole way,” Keller
And he did re-connect the trunk
release so I could let myself out,” Marie said.
He’s a fun date, isn’t he?” Angela
said to Marie.
He’s never boring, that’s for sure,”
If you ladies are done discussing me,”
Keller said, “we really need to go.”
Is he always this grumpy in the
morning?” Marie asked.
Pretty much,” Angela replied. “But
he’s been getting better.” She opened the back door. “Saddle up,
cowboy,” she said. “Time to ride off into the sunset.”
Sunrise,” Keller said, climbing into
the driver’s side.
The sun was rising over the desert, heat
waves and dust devils swirling and shuddering in the rising wind.
Keller stood by the burned-out, blackened hulk of the Bradley. He
reached out a hand to touch the beast’s metal skin. It was cold to
the touch. He looked in through the blown- out hatchways. The
fighting vehicle was empty. He turned away and began walking into
the desert, towards the light of the sun.
Keller opened his eyes. He
rolled over and looked at the clock. 4:00 A.M. He looked over at
Marie’s sleeping form under the blanket next to him. He reached
over and wrapped his arms around her. He slept without dreams for
the rest of the night.