“Next one’s in her head, Mr. Banned,” Sheila McCraw said, “Now get off my son.”
My hands loosened from around Billy’s neck as I stared at the hole in Cassidy’s leg just below the running shorts. In the pain and shock of the gunshot she must have passed out. Still, her leg spasmed with the pain, giving me a small amount of relief that she was still alive.
Natalie hung beside her, her head also slumped forward, blood drying in her hair.
Billy spit to the side and rubbed his throat as I climbed off of him. Sheila waved the gun behind me.
“Get in the back of the truck, Mr. Banned, we’re going on a little field trip to the library” her mouth twisted around the :”Mr.,” spitting out the word as if it were snake venom she had just sucked from a wound. I looked back and was surprised to see the black pickup behind us in the garage. Odd what you do not notice sometimes.
“Billy, get this girl down off these ropes. Law’s outside they gonna be here in a moment. We gotta hurry.”
“Which girl, mama?”
“The one all dressed up,” Sheila said, walking over to Natalie, who still wore her work clothes from the day before, “Get her in the cab and wait for me. She’s gonna ride with us to make sure Mr. Banned here doesn’t try to run away. Cause if he leaves the back of that truck I’m gonna shoot her in the head. You hear that Mr. Banned?”
I climbed into the bed of the pickup and sat on the cold metal between two tarps covering barrels. I could smell gasoline in the canisters and edged myself away from them as far as I could while still staring at Billy as he pulled Natalie down and threw her over his scrawny shoulder like a piece of meat. My ears strained for the sounds of the police outside. My head thumped with the sustained abuse I had taken, even the small amount of concentration causing shockwaves through my body.
Shelia put the barrel of the pistol to Cassidy’s head, “I asked you a question, son. Or do you want me to shoot your little slut again?”
“I heard you,” I said, “We leaving or you gonna keep bullshitting? I’m tired.”
Sheila smiled and lowered the gun. “Well, I do like a man that gets to the point of things. You’re just like your mama when we was growing up-”
As she spoke she walked toward me, her back to Cassidy. Cassidy, waking a moment before, used the opportunity to kick out at the woman, a gesture more of surprise than actual offence. Sheila sprawled forward as the feet planted in her shoulder blades and pushed, throwing the older woman off her balance. Cassidy screamed and blood flowed from the gunshot wound in her leg. Sheila caught herself in the fall, her foot planted forward in confusion as if she had stepped down where no step existed.
I was on her. Moving on instinct, I flung myself out of the bed of the truck, knocking over at least one barrel as I jumped through the air. I caught the old woman on the shoulders and used gravity to bring us both to the ground.
Sheila managed to squeeze off a few shots before I pulled the gun from her hand. She clawed at my face and eyes, raking her old hands across me like a cat that does not want a bath. I pushed her away from me and she stood, running to the truck.
I reached out and grabbed her ankle, bringing her to the ground once again.
“Mama?” Billy said from inside the bed of the truck.
“Billy! Go, son, go! Burn that library to the ground and put that little bitch in there with it! Go, boy, go!” Sheila screamed, kicking back at me.
The black pickup roared to life and shot forward without hesitation. The power of the automobile filled the space to capacity and pushed it out the door, smashing the wood to splinters and causing sunlight to stream in.
Sheila cackled and held a fist in the air. Several gunshots rang out, then a bright white light and the sound of an explosion filled the air.