Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Short Story: Prey for Daughters (Part 3 of 3) by David V. Mammina

Prey for Daughters

by David V. Mammina

Bursting out from the basement door, Kay promptly clouted the half-naked outlaw in the jaw, putting him against the wall.  Dazed, he held his face with buckling legs.  She grabbed him by the belt and flung him down the steps from where she came.  As he tumbled helplessly down the stairs, she carefully shut the door behind her.  He was the only man she smelled in the hallway.  Because of the hour, many were still asleep.  In waiting quietly within the darkness of the hall, she shut her eyes and tried to listen to additional heartbeats.  They were there, but weak.
Following her instincts, she headed down the hallway and turned the corner.  A pulsating emanated from the second floor somewhere.  She headed up silently with the intention of beating answers out of the next person she bumped into.  Down the next hallway, she gravitated towards a shut door with activity behind it.  Kay put her ear up against the wood, overhearing sounds of two other men.  There, from the cracks about the door, emitted the stench of opium.  Attaining all the evidence she needed, a heavy kick bashed in the door.  While the splinters still scattered into the room, Kay scurried in.  One Smut boy was still putting on his pants as the other reached for his gun on the bed stand.  That was a grave mistake. 
She fired on him, waking nearly everyone inside the house, and blew open his stomach.  As he keeled open in pain, she put the gun on the other with dead aim at his forehead.  He put up his hands in surrender, letting his pants fall to his ankles.  Kay then made her way inside, keeping the gun aimed for him all the way.  But as she came in closer, she noticed the Cherokee girl under the sheets breathing erratically.  Her bronze skin was sopping wet, her heart racing dangerously fast.  The other outlaw had begun groaning in agony from the mortal wound, laying in a fetal position by the bed.  Remnants of smoke lingered about the room from previous opium use.
“What the hell is this?”  Kay growled through her teeth.
He knew precisely who she was.  Dead to rights, he uttered, “Ms. Passover.  Holy hell—”
The poor girl, hardly out of her teen years, fought off the effects of a drug fueled rape session at the hands of the Smiley Smuts.  Even though she wanted answers, the sheer injustice of it all reached into her chest and yanked out her cold heart.  There were others in the house to question, after all.  She came in close and grabbed him by the throat with her unyielding left hand.  Kay looked over the Indian girl with a stewing fury, squeezing what little life was left out of the degenerate.  When he fell out of her grip, unconscious, Kay leaned in over the girl’s gaping mouth.  In just three painful breaths, she fluently identified the opiates in her system.
There was nothing she could do for the child now.  More were headed her way and she had five more bullets to donate to the Smiley Smut Foundation.  Voices rung down the hall, sounding like the same caliber of scoundrels.  Twirling the revolver in her fingers, Kay pressed her back to the inside of the room and waited.  There were just three of them.  There were two more somewhere in the house.  She felt them.  When the three positioned themselves about the open doorway, she came up with a simple plan.  One of them called out, “Show yourselves!  Ernie?  James?”
That was when she lifted the paining outlaw with her bullet in his stomach and flung him hard out into the hallway, calling back, “Passover!”
He slammed into the opposing wall and came crashing onto the ground.  They flinched at the abnormal sight.  Having heard a female’s voice, one of the three thought he could surprise and overpower her.  He cried out before firing several shots inside the room, only hitting the wall across the way.  Even as he volleyed in a panicked frenzy, Kay rolled under the spray of bullets and shot the brigand up through the jaw and up out of the skull.  His blood with chucks of brain matter hit the ceiling before he hit the floor.  Kay then dashed out and unloaded a fury of her own. 
She slid out on the floor and fired another shot into her next challenger, putting him out for good.  The last one dropped his gun and lowered himself onto his knees, trembling in fear for his life.  She rose to her feet slowly and placed the hot barrel of her trusty six shooter an inch from his nose.  He was a young one, no older than fifteen.  It was a fine opportunity to ask hard questions.  She hissed over the groveling teen sinisterly, “See your friends here?”
He only nodded his head in fright, sweating out the drugs from the night as she proceeded, “That’s what you’re gonna look like if I don’t get the truth.” 
Again, the boy nodded his head frantically, having firmly woken from his night of perverted ecstasy.  Kay then crouched in to communicate with him at eye level and asked, “The white girl.  Where is she?”
As he stuttered an incoherent answer, Kay smelled it.  She had to get this close to notice it, but a dash of Julia’s scent was on him.  Only, it wasn’t Julia’s.  It belonged to her blood, her sister.  This was the “boyfriend” she spoke about.  Of this, Kay was dead sure.  So close now, she put the heat of the barrel on his forehead, compelling him to cry out, and barked in his face, “I don’t need you alive, boy.  You have just one more chance to lead me to that girl you lured to this hell show.”
Terrified, he answered slow and in a few words, “Last door on the left behind you!  Please, ma’am!  Please don’t kill me!”
“Shut up.”  She said, pulling the barrel away and lifting him up by his wet shirt, “I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me.  I have no mercy.”
She pushed him ahead as they moved down the hallway, extending the revolver over his right shoulder.  He knew that he was only alive to serve as a slab of meat.  Kay kept the pace and kicked open a door to her left.  Nothing.  She kicked the door to her right, revealing a walk-in closet.  Further down the hall, she shoved him ahead.  As they neared closer to the door he described, he yelped, “There!  That door, right there!”
The door was already opened, a result of him running out after hearing Kay’s gun-shots.  As Kay approached the door, a surprise attacker emerged from the corner of the den up ahead and fired his flintlock rifle.  In a flash of light, the boy took a hole the size of an orange in his chest and Kay dove to the side, shooting as she hit the ground.  Her shots were on point, placing holes in his left shoulder and mouth.  Feminine cries sounded from the floor above as the abrupt violence ended.  When it was all over, she hurried to her feet and rested her back against the wall, covered in the boy’s blood.
A virtual bloodbath in just that hallway alone, Kay caught her breath and gazed into the opened room with the hopes of finding Kit alive.  Like the Native American girl before her, Kit lay naked under the sheets with strained breathing.  She felt her heart beat, as low as it was, and forced her eyes opened by the eyelids, all in an attempt to snap her out of her opiate stupor.  She shouted over her, “Kit!  Your sister sent me to rescue you from this place.  She’s just outside.  I’m going to take you there!  Hold on!”
Her skin wet and on fire, she uttered in a lethargic gasp, “Julia?”
Wrapping her up with the sheets to clothe her, Kay started to lift her up, but then heard Kit cry out, “Skin…burns…Julia—”
It was going to be a risk moving her like that.  She had seen morphine overdoses in opium dens and Kit had many of the symptoms.  Drug paraphernalia was left on the bed stands.  To avoid carrying her out and driving Julia into a maddened panic, Kay came up with a different solution.  If the doctor was truly here, then he would be the only one to save her—if it was even possible.  Her mind made up, Kay patted Kit’s face dry and said, “I’m coming back with someone who can help you.  I’ll be back real soon.  I promise.”
She made her way out the door and closed it just a crack, intent on saving her at any cost.  Listening in for heart beats and sounds of movement, Kay slowly moved into the den and pinpointed five additional bodies.  She removed her hat and let it fall behind her, quietly heading up the stairs with her revolver at the ready.  The second floor was a mess, a drug fueled bedlam.  Sensing three fretful bodies up the way, she raced down the hall and elbowed the door into shards of shattered wood.  One black man and two women of mixed race screamed out in fear, huddled together in the corner of what appeared to be an opium lab.  They were sure that death had come after looking at the bounty hunter stand in the doorway.
“The doctor.”  She commanded in an angered desperation.
While the women sobbed together, the man pointed back out the door, saying, “The gang leader has him held up in the office!”
And off she went, saying under her breath, “We’ll see.”
Just heading down to the doctor’s so-called office, a high-pitched shout called to her, “Drop yer guns and come in with hands up!”
“How ‘bout I just blow your face off?”  Kay returned, leaning against the wall next to the doctor’s office.
“Try it and I shoot the doctor dead!”  The outlaw cried back, unnerved by the rapid raid on the home, “Who’s that—a woman?”
Trying to keep the peace if only to save Kit’s frail life, she cried back, “Just want the doctor!  Let him free and I’ll let you live out one more day!”
“No kidding!”  He cried back among the doctor’s petrified mumblings, “How many of my boys did you kill to get here?”
“Started with McCarthy and I’ll finish on you if you don’t let him go right now!”  Kay screamed back, losing her patience by the moment.
Once he heard that, there was a worried pause.  He finally met the infamous Ms. Passover for himself.  The bounty on the Smiley Smut gang was high and he knew it.  In a rattled comeback, the outlaw said, “Glad you killed that snitch!  You did me a favor!”
Never the negotiator, Kay dashed into the doorway and grunted, “Let me do you one more!”
Firing her last shots at him, one spinning bullet nipped the doctor’s shoulder and blasted through the outlaw’s throat.  He fell back against the wall, spurting blood from his mouth as he fired recklessly.  Dr. Barley hit the ground moaning, but he was alive.  Kay then strolled in, reloading her six-shooter unafraid of a counterattack from Sully “Smut” Codey—the gang’s illusive leader.  She had never seen him in person, though if she had before, he would have been dead earlier.  Yet, now, he faded away with his head against the doctor’s blood-spattered wall, leaking from his gullet.  Just as he left the world, Kay spun the cylinder and hissed, “I’ll live a free decade on just your bounty alone, Codey.  Good riddance.”
As the doctor crawled away from her, holding his wounded shoulder, Kay stared him down with eyes of hatred.  She walked closer as he crawled further away.  Grasping that there was no escaping the reaper, he let go of the floor and turned around, yelling out, “Aw hell, please don’t do this!  Don’t—”
Stepping on his ankle, reveling in him writhe in pain, Kay pointed the barrel of her busy pistol for him and said, “What kind of doctor are you?  You know, I should feed you to the dogs like you did that Indian.”
Frantic, he cried from the floor, “I didn’t do any of this!  I swear I—”
“Your home is a front for a drug den!”  She tried roaring sense into him, “All those people who are dead because of you!  Those girls!  The addicts roaming the wild!”
“No!  The Smut boys took my house right out from under me!”  He screamed for his life, his voice cracking, “They abused my morphine supply!  That’s what I specialize in, morphine!  They took it all and did what they did here!  There was nothing I could do, I swear on my life!  There was nothing I could do!  They were going to kill me!”
Kay heard everything he was trying to tell her.  Maybe she was wrong about him.  Maybe her instinct was off for once.  Perhaps he was telling the truth.  After listening in to his heart beat and smelling the odors of his sweat, she knew.  He was lying.  Putting her gun inside the holster within her duster, she grabbed him from the collars and lifted him off the ground.  He finally cried in fear of what she was going to do to him.  Kay brought his face close and growled through her teeth, “You listen to me, you sick lying prick, if you think I’m another crooked lawgiver from Mainstay or Blackwell, you’re in for a hostile surprise.  Your dirty business is over starting from this very second.  Now, do you still want to stay off the hounds’ dinner menu?”
The doctor needed only to nod his head in surrender.  She shoved him down the steps and ran him into Kit’s door, throwing the criminal doctor onto the ground.  Seeing her lay motionless in the sheets, he covered his mouth and put out an exaggerated gasp.  Kay then unsheathed a long serrated knife and took but one step closer, sensing that his usefulness was nearing an end.  Forced to check her pulse and condition, Barley went to work on her, but only for a moment.  Soon hanging his head, dropping her lifeless arm back onto the sheets, the disgraced doctor began to tremble in fright.  Kay knew why, standing there in stiff dread.  He finally had to bear the news, “She—she’s dead.”
Beginning to squeeze the handle of the knife with a quashing ire, Kay griped, “Resuscitate her.”
Fearing what she might do to him if he didn’t try, Barley feverishly worked on the girl.  Again and again, he tried to revive her, pressing down on her chest.  Lasting for over fifteen seconds, Kay began to lose faith in him.  Sensing a faint pulse, the doctor finally pinched her ear and spurred a reaction.  Kit jerked from under the sheets, then crying out in a paranoid shock.  As if God gave him a second chance at life just the same, Dr. Barley yelped, “I need my staff to tend to her, okay?  She didn’t overdose.  It was her first time.”
Walking in closer to him, knowing that Kit’s wellbeing was the only thing keeping him alive, Kay snarled, “Was it worth it?  Is this the legacy you were looking for?”
Defensive, he stood up and said, “I already told you—”
“When you are charged for this and find yourself in a Blackwell prison cell,” Kay hissed as she slithered dangerously close to his moistened face, “I’ll be sure to pay you a visit to remind you that, if you ever escape that elusive hanging you rightfully deserve, I’ll be waiting just outside in the dead of night.  You hear me, doc?  If justice isn’t served cold in court, I’ll serve it bloody.”
Message received.  Later, as Kit was vomiting into a bucket provided by the doctor’s staff, Kay leaned over and told her, “Julia is waiting for you.  I’ll tell her the bittersweet news she’s been hoping to hear.”
Taking Kit’s dress with her to prove that she was alright, Kay emerged for the front of the doctor’s opium den and headed back to her wagon.  With dress in hand, she made it over the hill, seeing her wagon just down the way.  Morning was close, but a half-hour away.  The gory encounter was not expected, but it went as good as it could have gone considering the grim circumstances.  It had been a long time since she was able to give good news.  So trigger impulsive, Kay had almost forgotten how to save lives as opposed to greedily taking them away.
And yet, when she reached her wagon, Julia was not there.  She smelled her scent in the open air, but not hers alone.  There was another—one she had breathed in before.  The dress becoming hot in her hands, Kay was just about to call for Julia when a direct bullet punched through her chest.  It took her by surprise, inducing her to drop Kit’s dress into the dirt.  While it fell, Kay put pressure on the critical bullet wound and limped backwards in disbelief.  That was when Julia’s horrified cry resounded from behind a cluster of trees.  Kay looked up to find the source of her scream as she fell to her knee.  Deputy Lee had then surfaced and unloaded seven shots into her torso.
He fired with two Colt pistols, advancing towards her with every next shot.  The lead pierced into her, spraying blood and pushing her into the ground.  She fell in agony beside Kit’s dress and her wagon.  Seemingly breathing her last, Kay lifted her head in discomfort and watched Lee come to stand over her.  He said something, but she had already begun to lose consciousness.  At her final moments breathing the Oklahoman air, Kay dreaded leaving Julia in deep sorrow.  All went black.

Lee’s men frisked Kay’s person as she lay lifeless and riddled with bullets, taking her pistols and knives as evidence.  Being decent agents, they searched the blood-spattered home of Dr. Barley and marveled at what was left of the Smiley Smut gang.  Lee ordered one of his men to remain with Julia outside while he went in to see the mayhem for himself.  It was worse than he could have anticipated, for the gang had dropped in on the doctor by surprise.  Having realized that the doctor finally bit off more than he could chew, Lee ordered his three officers to remain at the house to take the doctor’s statements on what went down and safeguard the victims inside, including the Native American girl and Julia’s sister.
But, against her wishes, Lee forced Julia to ride out with him for Mainstay to alert the sheriff of the deadly showdown.  Julia, however, fought him tooth and nail.  It was as she thought from the start.  He had connections to the doctor, and with Kaiya Kay shot down she couldn’t even see her sister to know she was alright.  His word meant nothing.  Kit’s dress falling from Kay’s hands replayed in her mind as she struggled to leap off Lee’s moving horse.  And yet, with her sheer power alone, Julia pushed Lee back enough on the horse for her to lean to the left and escape.  As the horse galloped on, she fell off to the side and rolled into the dirt, bruised and scraped.
“Dammit, girl!”  Lee shouted, turning his horse back around to pick her up.  He could not know how much she learned about the doctor’s underground opium and morphine business.  He just couldn’t risk her causing a stir.  While Julia, as determined as she was trying to make it to her sister again, nearly took a bullet in her leg.  Lee’s one good shot pounded the soil and brought up dirt into her face.  That was a warning.  She halted in her tracks and held her arms out at her side, anxious of what he was going to do.
“Get back here!”  He hollered for her off his horse, “You ain’t runnin’ back to that house!  You can bet on that!”
Turning around to see him hold her up with the same pistols he killed Kay with, Julia considered the area she dove into.  The creek was to her far right, light trees were scattered about and just open soil around for miles.  She was in the middle of nowhere with a corrupt Mainstay deputy.  Julia, on the other hand, had come too far to give up on her sister now.  Watching Kay die under a barrage of Lee’s gunfire was a stake in her heart.  She never knew what the hunter had uncovered inside the revolting house.  No matter what Lee was going to try on her, Julia was resolved to defy him at even the cost of her life. 
Julia glared at him and countered, “I knew you were bad.  You’re poison—you are poison if you don’t let me even look upon my sister!”
“You should’ve gone to Blackwell then!”  He called back, nearing closer with slow steps, “You just don’t know how to follow a man’s orders!”
“Why?”  She cried out, unable to hold in her impairing tears, “What could make you be the devil that you are?”
“The devil?  Really, girl?”  Lee riposted, obviously affronted, “The sheriff and I fought and bled in the war!  You couldn’t dream about the things that happened to us.  What do you think we got for it?  Without morphine, we’d be sad sacks of nothin’!  You know that Doctor Barley gives us doses for free?  He’s a model American.  And so, if we take a little bit more on the side, is that so bad?  I’m entitled to it!  We’re entitled to it for what we paid in Lincoln’s war!”
“My sister is not liable for your crappy sob story!”  Julia screamed back at him as he continued to come closer.
“Well maybe your poor sister should’ve been a bit more picky in boyfriends!”  He barked with his guns still up, “She hung around some bad boys and that’s on her!  You know, girl, this world ain’t no place for lonely daughters!”
“I ain’t no lonely daughter!”  She came right back at him, feeling like this was her last big moment before he took her, “My father’s dead!  My mother’s long gone and I’m the proprietor of their farmstead!  Me and me alone!  Have been for eight years since!  I ain’t no daughter!  I’m everything you’re not!  You needed drugs to sleep?  I’m more of a man than you are, ya’ damn child!”
About ready to take pistol-whip her over the head, Lee groaned through his teeth, “I’ll show you what I am, girl!”
But then, behind Julia in the distance, he saw a horse come running forth.  It was not quite morning yet and Lee couldn’t make out if it was one of his agents’ mares.  As it galloped passed them, Julia easily recognized Phobos.  Equipped with saddle and stirrups, Phobos dashed by without a master.  Lee watched him go, mystified.  And after him, Deimos came running just seconds behind.  Lee cursed the unmanned steeds, because they belonged to Kaiya Kay.
Julia stared at them hypnotically as they rode away unhitched, racing free into an open world of peril and choice.  And as she and Lee looked on, a dark figure had rushed in and tackled the deputy into the dirt.  The force was such that Lee dropped his guns and slid on his back without air in his lungs.  Kay then, as a savage demon, sunk her razor teeth into his throat and tore it asunder.  He gurgled helplessly in a bitter torment, being eaten alive by the true to life monster of darkness.  Kay chewed and tore at his jugular, gulping the spurting blood from his arteries.  Julia, feeling as if she would faint from the horrific sight, collapsed to her bare knees and dizzily watched it all.  Lee’s horse had already run off, spooked.
In only seconds, there was close to nothing left of his neck but bone and champed muscle.  Julia held her mouth, wanting to gag, but the fear prevented her from doing anything else but keeping still.  Kay then rose from her meal, better restored from the curative feast, and turned to face Julia with her face and chest covered in Lee’s blood.  Julia couldn’t say anything after what she witnessed, though dry heaves unhappily hunched her over the ground.  Kay tore off a piece of his shirt and wiped her mouth.
“Oh God!”  Julia heaved some more on her knees, traumatized, “Kay?”
The revitalized hunter then proclaimed, “You owe me fifty dollars.”
Phobos and Deimos finally reappeared at Kay’s sides, as she anticipated.  Julia could only look up at them, thunderstruck, for it eerily made sense.  There was always more to the bounty hunter than she could hold in a realm of God and reality.  Kay had shared her dark secret with her—one that no other person would ever believe.  But, as she swore to herself that night, Julia would have summoned a vampire if it meant saving Kit.  As long as she was on her side in the matter, Julia was able to make it back on her feet unafraid.  Deimos came up to her with the intention of riding her all the way back to Dr. Barley’s place.  Kay easily climbed into Phobos’ saddle and petted his crest. 
Together, they rode back for the house side-by-side.  Because Lee never lived long enough to make it back to Mainstay, Sheriff Delaney would not learn of the rout of the infamous Smiley Smuts this night.  At last, the sun began to rise from the east, bringing the long awaited morning.  Reunited with the woman she found a liking for, Kay said to her, “When your sister recovers, do yourself a favor and give her more to do on the farm.”
Nodding her head, indebted to the supernatural hunter, Julia replied, “Agreed.”
“And if I needed to say it, keep clear of Mainstay.”  Kay said, “They’ll be out of a sheriff for a while.”
Julia shook her head, hearing more than she wanted, and brought it back to their present business, “Well, you still haven’t earned your last fifty yet.  The job isn’t done until my sister is out of that house.  That was the deal.”
“That’s true,” Kay replied, “but curly wolves with badges weren’t part of the deal either.  You’ll have to play your part this time.”
Bargaining with the hunter, Julia had to ask. “You didn’t kill the doctor, did you?” 
“Not yet.”  Kay uttered, “I don’t put down a man until they’ve served their purpose, no matter how long it takes.  A hunter must be patient, but a scavenger must also eat.”
Catching on to her new ally’s baleful world, Julia found what she had been lacking for all her life.  It stung her like Kay’s own retractable fangs.  There was a force within that longed to be unleashed.  Watching her lips move, still tinged with Lee’s blood, an awakening took place of her fears and qualms.  Kay sucked her into the reassuring shadows of the feminine predator.  Julia prepared to kiss the hot sun of a man’s will to the desert, for there was prey in the dead of night.

Prey for Daughters
by David V. Mammina

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