Deborah walked through a maze of rock formations, feeling sweet relief every time she walked from the blinding sun into the cool shade of the towering stone columns. Paler and skinnier than she ever had been, the blonde woman was bundled in light-tight fabrics.
Wrapped around her lower face was a stained red t-shirt, with a faded orange shirt covering her forehead and scalp. The two shirts were tied together behind her neck to keep them tightly in place. She also wore a pair of sunglasses with leather shields around the lenses. Not a sliver of her face was exposed to the sun.
The week-old vampire made her way to the wide mouth of her cave. The jeep from the Red Bone tribe had been backed in to the left side. Deborah only had to bow her head slightly to avoid bumping her head into the tunnel’s smoothed ceiling.
In the back of the jeep, Pina was still sitting in the bed, fastened to the roll bar and faced away from the cave mouth. One bony wrist was handcuffed, the other tied with rope; both were fully outstretched above her head. The tired looking woman was skinnier and shorter than Deborah, with shaved black hair slowly returning, and her tribe’s red paint smeared over her face and bare torso.
Deborah opened the driver door quietly and unwrapped her headgear. “You awake?”
Pina didn’t raise her head, she turned her head just enough to show Deborah one eye.
After placing her head wraps and pale leather jacket in the driver seat, she reached for the canteen on her belt. “Water?”
Her prisoner nodded.
Deborah walked around to the side, checking her knot on the driver side of the roll bar first. “Didn’t try to get loose this time. I’ll let you have an extra swallow, just like I said.”
She uncapped the round, insulated canteen and raised it to Pina’s mouth. The smaller woman tried to play tough, but she failed to hide her eagerness for the water. Deborah made sure she didn’t spill a drop, and permitted an extra mouthful.
Pina leaned forward as Deborah retrieved the canteen. “Just a little more.”
She capped the water and pointed to Pina, “Do you know why I let you live?”
The other woman rolled her eyes and let her head lean back against the jeep’s tarp covered cab.
Deborah stepped on the tire and into the bed with Pina. She crouched in front of her captive and continued, “There’s a few reasons you’re still alive. Number one, you were driving this vehicle, so by sheer luck, you were the most difficult target to reach. Two, you were smaller than the others.”
Deborah pointed to Pina’s bound wrists, “Easier to detain. Also, with all of your water rations combined, you needed less than them. Not that you need to live longer, it’s just that the longer you do, the better my chances that you’ll give in and give me what I want.”
Pina glared, “I’d spit in your face if I could.”
Deborah smiled back, “This is the last canteen. You should be hydrated in an hour or so. That’s how long I’ll wait to drink you, not sure if you’ll survive or not. When’s the last time you ate?”
Her voice was much raspier than a few days ago, “Fuck you bitch.”
Deborah grinned wider, “I have a new idea.” Deborah drew the knife from her belt and pressed it flat against Pina’s jugular. “How about I bleed you a little bit till dusk? There’s a den of wild drinkers not far from here. Maybe if I bring you to them they’ll make me part of the pack.”
Pina’s eyes widened, “But, the canteen’s not empty yet. You said you would—”
She raised the knife until Pina shut her mouth and started breathing in a panic. Was she just buying time? “What’s wrong Pina? Did you think I was just gonna keep draining you for the week until you died? Oh no, I just wanted the blood while it was fresh.
“Those wild ones, I hear they don’t even take the time to taste, they just try to drown themselves with any fluids they can find. So, you know, they won’t care about how… deprived you taste. Shit, you already started to lose your flavor three days ago. I’d say it’s about time to get rid of you.”
Deborah stopped to tilt her head and listen. The two women sat silent for only a moment. Almost there. “We could try something else.”
Pina looked equally curious and frightened.
Deborah released the blade and stood up. “I love to run. At least, back when I could make myself tired. That’s when your brain kicks in with the endorphins. Now when I run, I just… move. No rush of the pain, or the pleasure that follows. I think I need a carrot.”
Pina looked up with a furrowed brow.
“Like when you hold a carrot on a stick to lead a horse.” Deborah put the knife to Pina’s right wrist and cut the rope away.
The woman’s arm fell straight to her lap before she clutched it to her stomach. “Please.”
Deborah dug the key from her black jeans and unlocked the handcuff from the other wrist. Pina’s left arm fell limp as well. “You have half an hour.” Deborah dropped the canteen in the woman’s lap. “Starting now.”
A flash of fear and anger crossed Pina’s face. “No weapons?”
Deborah tilted her head back and forth, “I’ll let you carry what you want, but the jeep key stays in my pocket. As for me, I’ll just carry my knife. Sound fair?”
Pina nodded as she rubbed her wrists. Deborah stepped backwards off of the vehicle, “If I catch you, I’ll drink my fill, and take you to the blood pack I found.”
The Red Bone tribeswoman scrambled off of the jeep to the gathered supplies on the other side of the cave mouth. Deborah watched carefully to see what she’d be up against. Crossbow with nine bolts in the quiver, a machete, the canteen and a grappling hook with enough chain to match half her weight. Probably has a trap in mind already.
Pina cocked the crossbow string, loaded a bolt and aimed at Deborah. The trembling woman looked like she had something to say, but decided to start running away in her weathered cowgirl boots.
Having scouted the surrounding area the last few days, Deborah knew the best places for ambushes and the like. She had also waited out a few days for better weather. There hadn’t been any strong winds all morning, and it was looking to be still for the evening as well. Should be able to follow her tracks pretty easily.
Pina climbed to the top of the highest stone column she had found. She pushed herself to the tip of the rounded spire with her dirty, bloody hands. The sun was at its peak, hindering her ability to discern her heading.
Breathe. Think. She tried to remember how much sunlight had entered the cave mouth in the mornings and evenings. More light in the morning, didn’t last very long… Probably southern exposure. Pina had ran as quickly as she could when the vamper had let her go. She concentrated to retrace her steps.
Right now, I’m facing… north-ish. The small woman swung her legs around until she faced west by northwest. Home. Pina’s breathing steadied, then she quickly searched her surroundings below for movement or a dust trail.
The vamper was following Pina’s tracks, and approaching her column. Pina’s eyes widened and her breaths quickened again. Calm down, I planned for this.
Pina quietly unrolled the heavy metal chain from her shoulder, wincing with every little clink it made. The vamper was getting closer, but hadn’t looked up from the tracks yet. Pina had waited until Deborah found the crossbow she had left at the base of the pillar. All or nothin’.
She leaned over the edge of the peak and after a quick rush of warm air, landed on top of her former captor. Deborah had looked up in time that Pina pinned her on her back. The tiny scrapper roared a guttural scream as she pummeled Deborah in the face with left and right hooks.
Satisfied for the moment, Pina rolled the vamper over and over until the chain had looped her arms and waist three times. Pina fought Deborah’s struggling until she hooked both ends of the chain together.
Pina clambered to her feet to kick the vamper right in her nose. Then she shuffled to the cocked crossbow and shoved the bolt into the back of Deborah’s knee. “Suck this bitch.” Pina pulled the trigger, and started slapping Deborah’s pockets until she finally retrieved the jeep key. “Yeah!”
The woman laughed over Deborah’s screaming as she ran back to the cave. “God praise Tate!”
Running from the cave had been exhausting. Running back was excruciating. Pina had planned on running back to the oasis on the off chance she could actually make it. Immobilizing Deborah had been easier than expected. Cocky bitch.
The wind had been fairly subtle all morning. Following her own tracks back was even easier with Deborah’s own footsteps shortly behind. Pina nearly collapsed when she saw the jeep still sitting in the cave opening.
Pina took another step before she became lightheaded and dizzy. Her cottonmouth suddenly became her focus. Bringing her canteen to her mouth, she started with a sip, careful not to waste a drop. As the canteen rose, the sip turned into a mouthful, nearly drowning herself.
With a violent cough, Pina dropped to her knees. The woman barely kept the water from spilling as she coughed into her free hand. Stupid, slow down. Pina licked up the water from her hand after finishing the canteen. Just to be sure, Pina tapped and shook the container over her open mouth.
The Red Bone tribe was spoiled by their oasis, and Pina was never more aware of it then now. Still, the thought of going home gave her a second wind. She pushed herself up and forced her legs to take her to the jeep. Stepping up into the driver seat was a struggle, but sitting down in the shade was the best feeling she had had in a while.
Pina fumbled with the key, having to resort to dragging the tip into the ignition. She turned the key to start, but only the radio turned on. No. She turned back, and tried again. Too tired to punch the dash or scream, Pina just dropped her forehead to the wheel. Of course she’d make sure only she could drive this out of here. Vamper bitch.
Turning the key one click turned the radio on, the channel already set to the home tower. Heavy static sounded through the speaker, Pina grabbed the handle and pushed the talk button, “Attention Red Bones! This is Pina, repeat, this is Pina of the Red Bones! Anyone listening?”
She hadn’t realized how hoarse her voice had become. Yelling over the radio made her throat hurt even more. Pina waited for a response, with only a vague whisper over the air. Shit. With little options left, the petite woman put the vehicle in neutral and sighed.
With the little strength she had left, Pina stepped back out of the jeep. Her knees and thighs burned, and her panting breaths worsened. She leaned into the frame and tried to push the jeep ahead. Her boots slid over the sand covered cave floor. Come on!
Sweat already coated her body, but now Pina could feel the salty sweat come out. She felt dizzy again, but kept her head down and put everything she could into it. The vehicle finally budged and slowly rolled ahead into the light.
Pina almost cried when the radio blared, “Pina! This is Brody! Where are you?”
The jeep was still rolling out of the cave to the flat terrain. Pina threw her upper body on the driver seat and barely grabbed the radio handle. “Brody! I fucking love your voice right now! Um, I think I’m southeast-ish from home. Can you track me?”
“Damn right we can! Not sure what you did, but that signal’s coming in loud and clear. We’re comin’ for ya.”
“Hurry! There’s a vamper—” Pina felt an arm wrap around her neck and squeeze. She tried to slip out or pry the arm away, but the grip was too solid. Can’t breathe. Her lungs convulsed but failed to draw air.
Deborah’s voice whispered, “Thanks.”