Molly put her hand over her eyes as the sunset washed the desert wasteland an ugly livid red. Peter had sent his men, but she guessed he would. You didn’t get to command the largest militia on the Eastern Seaboard without being willing to do tough shit for power. Molly had wanted to live out her days, quiet in the face of eternal disaster.
She had not wanted to give up what she had found in the desert. A piece of Visitor technology, which pulsed and breathed when she touched it. A press of a button produced a wave of kinetic energy which broke a man’s spine from sixty feet away.
Someone had seen it, told Peter. He had called her in to see him, sat in the desiccated, sad chamber of a bar in daylight, grilles on the windows and the musk of despair in the air. Peter sat in his high-backed chair, wiping at the white eye which never stopped weeping, with a yellowing handkerchief.
She knew his reputation. Saying no was suicide but out there, you kept what you found.
‘You were right, honey.’ she said.
Garrett came outside, buckling his gun belt around his waist with one hand whilst lighting a cigarette.
‘I’ve put the shotgun by the door. I want you to stay inside.’ he said.
Garrett kept his voice low, but Molly felt the tension in it scratching at her. He maintained a quiet, collegial air about him, made ammunition and custom weapons for whoever had the cash. They had met when he came to the territory, with letters of introduction from five chiefs, vouching for his credentials. He had made a beeline for her on his first night and they had been together ever since.
The situation made Molly wild with new fears atop the many she held already.
‘What about the piece?’ she said.
He shook his head and turned around, picked up the bokken from where it rested against the wall of their house.
‘Don’t. We deny it exists until confronted with evidence of otherwise.’
She got to her feet and went over to him.
‘DId I do the right thing?’ she said.
He kissed her full on the mouth. He had soft, thick lips and each brush of them against hers lent her courage. He drew back, pupils dilated with desire and appreciation.
‘I’ll tell you afterwards.’ he said.
She stood there as he walked down the steps.
‘Molly. Please go inside.’ he said.
The truck pulled up, a reconfigured utility with oversized tyres designed to negotiate the rough, harsh desert. Three guys got out, thick and bristling with muscle and faded tattoos. Craig and Jesse, with Nick carrying a length of studded pipe across his body.
A white trash tetsubo.
‘Guys, we weren’t expecting visitors. I was about to turn in.’ he said.
Garrett’s voice had the right pinch of concern added to it.
Molly held the shotgun close, watching Garrett stand in front of the three men.
‘We want to talk to Molly.’ Craig said.
Garrett shook his head.
‘She’s resting. You know she made it out to one of the test sites last week. My girl’s exhausted.’
Craig stepped forward, jabbing his index finger at Garrett’s chest.
‘Get her or the fucking thing she found. Now.’
Molly bristled with fear. Garrett had his arms down by his side, fingers loose as he took a small step backwards.
Not in retreat, but gauging, giving way to something else.
Garrett brought his right hand up, clamped it over Craig’s wrist and whipped it around. The crack of snapping tendons was loud in the evening air. Not as loud as his screams and the shouts of surprise from the others.
Nick swung the iron pipe in a practiced, tight arc and Garrett picked up the bokken, swung it across so the tip bit into the left side of Nick’s knee. He folded, the bar slipping from his hands and slamming into the top of his head with a dull thump. He writhed on the sand, clutching at his face with the shine of blood welling up between his fingers.
Jesse pulled a tomahawk from his belt, screamed and came running at Garrett, eyes bulging in their sockets. Molly toed the door open and fired at the ground.
Jesse jumped to one side, allowing Garrett to bring the bokken into a two handed grip and chopping it down into Jesse’s collarbone, stopping short with the blow as his discipline allowed.
He looked over his shoulder.
‘Thought I told you to stay inside.’ he said.
She pouted and threw back the bolt on the shotgun.
‘You asked me. Big difference.’ she said.
He chuckled. Craig tried to sit up but Garrett put the point of the bokken to the bridge of his nose and shook his head.
‘You can tell Pete whatever you want. But if I see you again, I won’t be so polite.’ he said.
Craig clutched his damaged wrist and spat in the dust.
‘Fuck you, you’re dead and so’s she.’ he said.
Garrett looked up at Molly, raised an eyebrow and a pang of regret raked at her insides.
Garrett stepped backwards, turned the revolver in its holster and pulled the trigger, turning with each shot. The three men laid out.
‘So, you never told me?’ she said.
Her voice wavered, head throbbing as it crammed in the new reality of things.
He came back over to her. His hand brushed against her cheek.
‘Judge me by my actions, not what I say.’ he said.
She rested her hand over his and kissed the inside of his wrist.
They had little to leave behind. They took the truck, left the bodies and the desert rolled out before them.
He took her hand as he drove, squeezed it between his as the night swallowed them up.