The trailer kitchen is a fog of gun smoke; dirty food and garbage are splattered all over me. The screaming heffer in the corner is Ethel. Everything about her is stained, from her teeth to her soiled nightshirt to her blackened, dirty feet. Mike is slumped on the linoleum floor clutching his collarbone and looking up at me with these big, wide eyes and letting out this high pitched groan.
I keep my gun on Ethel and radio dispatch for a med evac. The radio crackles back their response time as I grab Mike’s hand and plug it in the hole under his neck.
“Mike? Mike, you gotta hold it, man. Press down”
“I’m shot, Neal.”
I move over to Ethel. Her fat ass has slid down onto the floor.
“Ethel, you gotta stop that goddamn screaming.”
Every time she moves there’s this stink that explodes off her, like rotted meat and vinegar.
“Does he have her with him? Goddamn it, Ethel does he have her with him?”
She nods her fat face. What I wouldn’t give to punch it in. I turn to Mike.
“Keep pressing on it.”
“I’m shot, Neal.”
His face is white and he’s dropping into shock.
“I know, man. Keep pressing, buddy. I gotta go out there.”
I’m through the door and sprinting across the snow and over to their rusted Ford. I can hear Ethel yelling inside the trailer.
“He’s commin’ out, Emil! He’s commin!”
What a fat bitch. I take off for the woods. I’m no runner. Christ, I was a lineman in college. We don’t run.
I’m hunching now and something pops and zips past my ear. Snow starts kicking up at my feet. More pops. I slip and fall and I start grabbing at the snow and pull myself to a tree. Shreds of tree bark spit in my face.
I squeeze off six rounds into the air and move up a bit before he starts firing again. The pops are louder. We’re close. I’m on my gut, face in the snow, breathing heavy, lungs burning, everything going light. I see something, about fifteen yards out. It’s Emil’s skinny ass, but I don’t see the girl.
I roll out from the tree like a beached whale and start firing. The slide kicks back and I rush to my knees and I drop the empty magazine. Emil dives, or falls, into a thicket of fallen branches. I slap the new mag in and empty it just as quick into the thicket. Emil’s just fine; not a scratch. He fires back. Jesus, am I that shitty a shot?
I crawl up to a thick stump and something bites my shoulder. It jacks me up and I spin around. I flop around on the ground like a bitch from the pain. It saves me from a bullet in my skull.
I hear crunching. He’s rushing me. I scramble for the gun. A pop. Another bite. More bites, sharp in my back. I grab the gun and turn. A bite in my leg now, my stomach. I see Emil right on me, scared shitless but blasting away. Something slams into my chest.
I fall back and raise my gun and just squeeze. I keep squeezing. My head is in the snow now but I keep squeezing. I feel the slide kick. No more popping. No more sounds, just pain and even that starts to fade.
I lift my head up and everything’s white and my ears are clogged. Something heavy sits inside my chest, I can feel it. Emil lies in a heap and I barely notice that he’s all jammed up. I spit something up at him.
“Where is she?” I yell at him. “She run?”
He gurgles something out and he’s gone. I hear crunching. I look up and I see a frightened girl, pretty and dirty and shivering. She’s alive and that’ll have to do.
I think I hear sirens. Those are sirens. Maybe she won’t be scared and she’ll run to them. Maybe then she’ll forget all about Emil and Ethel and the duct tape and the squeaky, stained mattress. Maybe I will, too.