Tate laid at the back of the trailer, dangling his feet over the edge. His hands were propped behind his head to help him look out at the stars ahead. Leaning forward a bit, Tate could see the North Star. What did dad call it? “Hey Linda, do you know what the North Star is called?”
The older woman laid on the bench to Tate’s left, “Polaris, or so I’ve heard.”
“I heard my dad say it a few times, but the first time he told me about the stars, I wasn’t paying attention.”
“Was he long winded?”
“Oh, no. We rolled a small merchant band earlier that day, one of the survivors pledged her freedom for her life. I claimed her, but someone else in my tribe challenged me. Little bitch named Gonzo. But yeah, I beat him down and got the girl.”
“You won a slave. You didn’t get the girl.”
“True. I was young and dumb enough not to know the difference.”
“Long time ago, huh?”
“Yeah. We fucked in the back of my jeep. Just enough shade and space to be comfy. The noises she made… Sounded like she enjoyed it. Then she made me kiss her legs. Never had a woman do that since. Anyway, she used those, damn legs to knock me out. She got away, and she was all I could think about for the rest of the day.”
“Smart girl. Consider me a fan.”
“I know, right? Every pair of legs I see, will never be as sexy as hers.”
“The one’s that get away are always the best.”
“If you never see them again, you’ll never be disappointed.”
“You’re a wise old woman.”
“You could just say wise.”
“I feel like we really bonded Linda. Hopefully I don’t have to kill you.”
Aidan walked over, “That’s not a bad idea.”
Tate sat up straight on the edge of the trailer. He narrowed his eyes as the taller, paler, beefier version of himself entered the little bit of interior lighting from the trailer. Tate wasn’t sure if he could beat Aidan as a human, but Tate didn’t let it show in his voice, “I thought Neal wanted as many blood bags as he could get?”
The broad athletic man smiled wide, “Willing bags take priority.” Aidan slung his rifle to the side and drew his sidearm, “You may as well prove yourself now.” He cocked the slide back halfway to reveal a shell was loaded, and then ejected the clip before handing it to Tate. “Make your choice.”
Tate didn’t hesitate to take the gun and put the gun up to Linda’s head. She gritted her teeth and narrowed her eyes down at him. He pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. “Oh, shit, sorry.” Tate flicked off the safety and repeated the gesture.
Linda spat, “Fucking idiot b—”
Tate put the gun into her mouth, “Been nice knowing you.” He pulled the trigger again. Linda’s skull exploded into the wall of the trailer behind her.
Tate spun the empty pistol back to Aidan, “Recoil’s not bad.”
Aidan laughed, “Sorry I doubted you!”
Kim charged over and decked Aidan in the mouth, she didn’t yell, but she was angry, “The fuck are you two doing? You’re giving away our position.”
Aidan pushed himself up, reloading his pistol, “It’s one red eye out there. There’s no cover for kilos, and she’s alone. What possible advantage could she have over our six people?”
A distant gunshot rang to the right. Tate turned in the direction of the shot, just as something thudded next to him. He looked left to see Kim fall to her knees.
Aidan screamed, “Contact!”
Tate crouched down to grab Kim by her vest and pull her to the opposite side of the trailer. Leaving the lighted interior of the trailer immediately blinded Tate with pitch darkness. Aidan followed suit while keeping his rifle aimed in the distance with a single arm. With his other arm helping Tate, they were behind the trailer before a few more shots rang out.
Aidan knelt down to Kim and grabbed her by the jaw. “Kim! Son of a bitch! How the fuck did she do that?!”
Tate chimed in, “Deborah doesn’t fuck around.”
Aidan sounded doubtful and angry, “Bitch just got lucky. If there was just a breeze Kim would be fine.”
Tate strained his eyes. It was tough to see, but it looked like Kim’s face was melting apart between her eyes. Yeah. Lucky. Tate started to grab Kim’s rifle.
Aidan grabbed the barrel, “The fuck you doing?”
Tate winced at a stray bullet hitting the trailer, “I’m helping dipshit.”
“Not with that.” Aidan drew Kim’s sidearm and tucked it in the small of Tate’s back.
Tate slapped his forehead, “I can’t kill her with round nose lead!”
“You can’t kill me either. Come on.” Aidan spun Tate around by the back of his neck and forced him to walk back out to the rear of the trailer. “Play along. Hands behind your head.”
Tate held his arms up behind his head to flip off Aidan.
He shouted past Tate’s left ear, “Ceasefire!” The shooting abruptly stopped, and he yelled out, “Show yourself, or we start killing hostages!”
Tate listened for movement. There was no wind blowing. He couldn’t even hear the other two vampers walk in closer, but he could see them in the corner of his eye. He glanced down to the right of the trailer. The two wounded vampers weren’t moving, but in the dead of night, Tate had no idea if they were faking or not.
Aidan whispered to the others, “Anyone have a visual?”
One jumped into the trailer, the other replied, “Negative Major.”
Aidan ordered, “Shut the door.”
“Yes sir.” The vamp who had stayed outside jumped up and did as he was told.
Tate couldn’t see anything at all. Will Deborah just shoot straight through me? Bright stars atop a black and blue horizon were the only objects his eyes could focus on. Not the worst thing to stare at before I die.
Aidan whispered, “Tate, do you think she trusts you?”
“Fuck if I know.”
“Okay, will she at least refrain from shooting you to get to me?”
“I was just wondering that.”
Tate sighed, “Yep.”
Aidan yelled in the direction Deborah’s shots had sounded from, “You gonna make me count, or what?”
Only silence followed.
Aidan yelled out again, “Just give me a shout so I know you’re there. I’d hate to kill your people without talking terms at least.”
Tate listened to the silence before chiming in, “What’s the incentive, exactly?”
“I’m not exactly a negotiator.”
Tate jumped when Deborah’s naturally hoarse voice yelled out, “Name you terms.”
Aidan whispered to Tate first, “How bout that?” Then he yelled to the darkness, “Drop your guns and walk up where we can see you.”
She yelled back, “I can see you just fine.”
“I really don’t have to keep these people alive. Time’s on our side sweetheart.”
Tate heard a solid ‘thunk’ in the sand somewhere. The other vamper snapped his rifle to his shoulder and said, “Possible visual.” A similar ‘thunk’ sounded in the air, just before Tate heard something hit the man beside him. “What the fuck?!”
The man’s voice quickly withdrew away from the trailer. A few wild shots fired as his scream disappeared farther away. Tate instinctually dropped to his stomach as random bullets whizzed in their direction. Another burst of automatic fire ended the first wild spray.
Aidan’s voice emanated beside Tate, “I’m not bluffing bitch!”
Tate reached out, fumbling for Aidan in the dark, “Wait! Wait! You can’t kill them yet.”
Grabbing Aidan’s shoulder, Tate had a good idea where to put the barrel of his pistol. He fired the first shot after jamming it into what felt like an eye socket. The muzzle flash barely registered outside of Aidan’s face, but it was enough.
Tate rammed the pistol down a little farther, hearing the clink of metal on teeth. Aidan grabbed Tate’s gun hand, but the trigger was already being pulled. Something splattered over Tate’s face as he counted six shots.
Aidan landed a few solid punches on Tate’s face and ribs, but the way he was throwing them seemed desperate. Tate rolled himself onto the other man’s back and locked Aidan’s left arm behind his back. The two men grunted in their struggle, but Tate’s leverage was better than Aidan’s strength. Tate jerked his right shoulder ahead, but Aidan’s elbow didn’t snap as expected.
Tate twitched his head, he heard Aidan’s other hand scratching some sand together. Tate grabbed Aidan under both sides of his jaw and pulled back as he sat on Aidan’s spine. Aidan’s hands gripped Tate’s wrists, slowly pulling the teenager lower to the ground.
Something was running towards the trailer. Tate could barely make out the silhouette against the starry backdrop. Please be Deborah. Please be Deborah.
Tate heard a dull thud, followed by a deliberate grinding motion. Aidan’s body wriggled. Deborah’s voice whispered from the dark, “Earbud.”
Tate let go of the right side of Aidan’s face and squirmed the earbud out of the other man’s right ear.
“Tell the other one to open the door.”
A similar sound of dull grinding vibrated through Aidan’s head, then another. Deborah told Tate to let go, and as soon as he did, a grating snap made Tate jump. Aidan’s body fell limp.
A rifle cocked; Deborah repeated, “Now.”
Tate twisted the bud into his own ear.
The vamper inside sounded like he had been repeating himself. “Major? Sergeant? What’s the order? I repeat, Major? Sergeant? Is anyone out there?”
Tate waited for a pause before tapping it, “Open the gate, we got her, but she got the major. Aidan looks like he really needs a blood bag.”
Tate’s eye quickly adjusted as the trailer’s rear gate flung open. Deborah was covered with streaks and splatters of red and white. She had been aiming the rifle from a crouching position before the door completely opened.
Deborah fired a controlled burst inside the trailer. Tate flinched as the last vamper fell out beside him. Deborah slung her rifle to her back and offered Tate a hand up. She looked inside the trailer as she spoke, “I was too late. Linda.”
Tate brushed himself off, “Yeah, I was beginning to like her too.”
Still staring inside, she asked, “Jake, Tess, are they dead?”
He looked inside to see the other two hostages still passed out. “They’re good. The vampers just took a lot of blood to heal up. By the way, that explosion that almost killed me, and the blood you took from me, after all that, I guess it was enough for them to trust me.”
Deborah finally made eye contact, “Yeah.” She climbed into the back of the trailer and knelt in front of Linda. Her head dipped low, signaling a moment of silence.
Tate crouched down to Aidan and examined his handiwork. The first shot from the pistol had removed most of Aidan’s right eye socket. Aside from that, black powder smoke was still wafting out of the vamper’s mouth and nose. Then he looked at what Deborah had added. A knife stuck out of the left eye, and both ears. The snapping noise seemed to be from the snapped neck, which she had used the ear-knives for.
He glanced back at Deborah, still taking a moment. Tate nonchalantly removed Aidan’s rifle, cocked it, and checked the magazine. Silver tipped two twenty-three rounds. He slapped the clip back in place and yelled over his shoulder, “Probably a stupid question, but did you kill the other six?”
Deborah sounded mildly offended, “I took care of them.”
Tate turned around and aimed loosely at Deborah, she was too close to use the scope.
“What are you doing Tate?”
“You think I’d just fuckin’ forget about how you tied me up to watch my people die?! How fucking stupid are you?”
Deborah was still looking at the floor, shaking her head. “I told myself that the infection made me that cruel. It didn’t. I was always like that. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry? Sorry?! Why couldn’t you just stay in that fucking cell and die a fucking miserable death like I wanted?”
“You gonna shoot me, or blab some more?”
Tate felt his eyes bulge as he pulled the trigger. Deborah already had Linda’s corpse up for a shield, shooting around her with a pistol. Tate backpedaled as a few shots twisted his torso into knots. He fell on his ass, realizing his rifle was on the ground. Tate reached for it.
Deborah grabbed the barrel and slid it out of reach.
Tate felt some blood pooling in his mouth; he spat it out. “Fuck.”
Deborah sat in front of him, laying the rifle to the side. She checked her pistol’s clip as she apologized, “I meant what I said. I am sorry for what I’ve done to you. I don’t expect that to change anything, but I took my wrath too far.”
“Just fucking kill me.”
There was just enough light to see some remorse in Deborah’s red eyes. “I promise to keep Megan, Tommy and Angelica safe.”
Tate leaned forward with wet eyes. He felt the blood drip out of his mouth. Looking back up, he smiled, “Thanks. See ya in Hell I guess.”
Deborah grimaced and nodded. “Ready?”
Tate scoffed and returned the nod. As she raised the pistol, Tate looked up at the stars. Not the worst thing to stare at before I die. Bang.