The Bobs tended a small fire in a corner of the vacant lot across from a QuickFill. A warm front came in with the night, but the air was damp and “warm” is a relative term in January. A small hillock sheltered them from the wind and direct observation, and the surrounding weeds gave them at least an illusion of cover. Neither spoke for a long time in the dark. A colony of peepers in a nearby creek or pond began singing of springtime. The fire popped and hissed, smoke smelling of treated wood and trash. The wind, perhaps, made a scuffing noise — a noise one could imagine made by a black-clad youth, carrying a loaded pistol and a mind for vengeance — but imagination wasn’t the Bobs’ strong suit. In fact, Jared was the only one of them who’d had much imagination at all, for what good it did him.
“Did we do the right thing?” one of them said finally.
“You mean not staying and getting shot down like the others?”
A long pause. The peepers sang. Finally, “Yeah. We did. That guy was nothing he said he was.”
“Led astray.” The silence took over again, broken only by the peepers.
“Someone on their side knew what they were doing,” the first one said after a while.
“Jesus, yeah. Sucked us right in.”
“And that skinny queer again! Where’d he learn to shoot like that?”
“At least I got that sumbitch.”
“Yeah. Y’know, I was thinking: they prob’ly figure we’re halfway to Oklahoma by now. We could slip in and take ’em tonight. Go big, or go home?”
“We have to find some ammo first. Maybe tomorrow night. With their sharpshooter gone, we might have half a chance. I wonder who he was.”
“She was my wife, you worthless fucks.”
“No!” Cleve rasped at the others, gathered at the gate. Several people had heard gunshots toward the freeway, and Cody was nowhere to be found. “Stay here! Those other two could be frickin’ anywhere. If Cody’s out there, Tim and I will find him!”
“It’s dark!” Kelly looked wild-eyed. “We can help look, they’ll never see us!”
“Hush, child,” Elly said; Kelly glared at her. “Cleve’s right. We get a bunch of folks runnin’ ’round out there, Cleve and Tim won’t know who’s us. Those bad men just have to stick together, and they can shoot anything else that moves. Who knows what’s goin’ on out there? You gotta know how to not be seen —”
“Sssh!” Tim hissed. Under the wind, they could hear a rhythmic clacking noise, approaching the gate. “For God’s sake, get out of sight!” Cleve and Elly slipped into the shadows along the guardhouse; the others dived into the bushes on either side behind the gate. The noise drew closer, then stopped.
“Hey,” a familiar voice said. “It’s me.”
“Shit!” Johnny gasped, standing. “You okay, Cody? Where the hell were you?”
Cody joined them, carrying an armload of guns; his jacket and face were covered with something, hard to see in the wavering flashlights. “Takin’ out the trash,” he said. “These are Sondra’s trophies. I want them buried with her.” He laid the guns at their feet.
“Cody!” Tina snapped. “What happened?”
“There were two left,” he said. “I took care of them.” He glared at the others, challenging them.
“What?” Kelly gasped. “You could have been killed too!”
Kelly gaped for a moment. Tim rescued her: “Where were they?”
“I figured they’d go back toward the freeway, so I just hiked up the road until I smelled smoke. You know all that lumber across from the QuickFill?” There was no humor in Cody’s smile. “We left the barricade out there in the vacant lot, and tossed the busted ramp over there too. That’s where the assholes were camping out, in the far corner. I kinda figured they would be. They were using the lumber for firewood. I heard ’em talking about getting some more ammo and coming back tomorrow night, they weren’t paying attention to nothing else.” He smirked. “They thought Sondra was a dude. So I took out the trash, and I was gonna dump ’em in a truck, but they would have just dropped through. I laid ’em out where they were, puked my guts out, then I got a shovel from that gravel place up the street and threw some dirt over ’em. Then I pissed on their grave.”
“Cody!” Tina gasped.
“What the hell, they’re dead anyway,” Cody said. “Like they had a right to say anything. I’ll get rid of the other assholes the same way, so don’t go lookin’ for them in the morning.” He turned away, then turned back. “Well, I guess that’s it. After I’m done, I’m goin’ to bed. Not that I’m gonna sleep much. I guess I was supposed to be alone all along.” He turned and walked away, disappearing into the night.
“You want some help?” Johnny called after him. “Y’know, we can do this tomorrow.”
“We’ll be scraping ’em off the pavement by tomorrow, the way the damn’ trucks keep running ’em over,” Cody called back through the dark. “Yeah, I guess you can help. I was gonna drag ’em all down to the vacant lot. You got any better ideas, I’m all ears.”