Haven Page 23


I took my gun and t-shirt full of shotgun shells and stepped out of the water, following the path through the trees that would lead me to the hut. I paid no mind to Bodo behind me. He could go or stay as far as I was concerned. I was on a mission.


Using the techniques taught to me by Kowi’s mate, I made my way soundlessly towards the murderers. All the lessons Coli had tried to teach me suddenly fell into place, rendering me a ruthless and silent assassin. A killing machine. And I wasn’t going to stop until I’d taken them all out.


I am Nokosi, and you are done today, canners. Done.


***


The idiots had a fire going in the middle of the hut, not caring at all that it would likely burn the place down eventually. They were too busy eating and drinking something alcoholic to care about anything but themselves.


I moved into position behind a large cypress tree. Bodo came up behind me a few seconds later.


“What is da plan?” he whispered in my ear. There was no danger of anyone overhearing us, they were being so loud.


“I’m going to kill every single one of them.” I put my shells down on the ground in front of me and got busy untying the knot that held them all in my t-shirt. Once they were free, I hurriedly put my shirt on, making sure to stay ducked down so they wouldn’t see my arms come up over the branch and the part of the trunk that kept us hidden. I shoved the shells in my pockets when I was dressed again, giving a few more to Bodo.


“I will go around, and we can get dem in a cross-fire,” he suggested.


I nodded. I wasn’t sure I’d wait for him to get to his final spot before I started, but whatever. As long as we took them down, it didn’t matter to me where he was.


He left without saying another word and without a kiss goodbye. I didn’t know if I was relieved or sad about that or if I would even accept a kiss from him if he offered it. There were too may unanswered questions swirling around right now.


I waited a minute or two after Bodo left, trying to figure out how many canners there were. Using a peephole made by the high and strangely shaped tree roots, I counted ten in the hut; but that didn’t mean there weren’t more close by. The assholes were drunk, and I already knew from my ball-biting incident that they tended to wander when they were that way.


A crunching of leaves off to my left caused me to freeze in fright. I turned my head ever-so-slowly, my eyes nearly falling out of my head when I saw a guy passing just to my left. If he turned to look at me, there would be no way he could miss me. My gun was hanging at my right side.


I quickly weighed my options. I could lift the gun, twist, and shoot him, starting the war between me and the rest of them right then, right now before Bodo got in position. Or I could wait it out for the few seconds it would take him to pass by. Maybe he wouldn’t look. I needed more time to plan this attack. I wasn’t ready yet. Please God, let him go and not see me!


All of my hopes and prayers were for nothing. No sooner had I decided to wait him out, than he turned and faced me.


He stopped walking for a couple seconds, frowned, and then opened up his mouth to shout, “Hey! What are you doing over there?”


A shot rang out and his body jerked hard as it was flung back into the leaves. Two seconds after calling me out, he laid there motionless, crimson spreading across his chest from a gaping wound, put there obviously by a shotgun.


Bodo!


Bodo had very possibly just saved my life.


And now the war was on.


I lifted my gun up and stepped onto a root, elevating myself so I could shoot between some branches.


Another boom came from across the clearing and a canner standing near the fire went down, landing right in it. He screamed bloody murder as sparks flew up everywhere, but his efforts didn’t last long. He stopped moving before he was fully free of the flames and soon his shirt was on fire. The smell of cooking human made my stomach roll.


Canners who’d been sitting nearby dove out of the way, yelling and scrambling for nearby weapons. Smoke from the burning body started to fill the space, choking them until one of them got smart enough to drag his former friend free by his feet. Bottles were flying into the trees and smashing into pieces as they hit branches or trunks. Apparently the drunker canners thought launching empty beers would save their lives. It was utter chaos.


I wasted no time in the ensuing panic. Taking aim at the closest guy, I pulled the trigger. The kickback was harsh, but not as bad as I’d expected. He fell forward, landing on top of the burned guy.


I took another shot without stopping to consider what I was doing, bringing another kid down. I forced myself to ignore the awful realization that I’d just taken two human lives into my hands and snuffed them out without a second thought. It was them or me and my friends. It was an easy decision. It had to be.


Two more shots came from across the hut, taking down one more kid, but missing the other intended victim.


I quickly pulled my gun back and split the barrel away, lifting it up and tipping it so the spent shell casings could fall out. I grabbed two more shells out of my pocket and slammed them into the empty chambers, pushing the gun back together when I was done.


Sighting down the end of the barrel, I took aim again. The canners were harder to take out now, hiding behind trees or dead bodies, but I picked two more off without too much trouble and watched with sick satisfaction as they fell down into the trees.


“Who’s there?!” came a shout, slightly off to my right.


I reloaded and put my gun back up, swinging it over to try and find the source of the yelling. I knew it wasn’t Bodo, and I didn’t recognize the voice as one of my friends.


I said nothing in response.


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“Come out and play, why don’t you?” yelled Bodo, sounding way too happy about what we were doing. He seemed like he was enjoying being caught up in the battle. It was probably just the adrenaline talking.


He was almost directly across from me now. I couldn’t see him, but his voice was coming through the trees, near where the Miccosukee used to put the food.


“You’re gonna die, asshole,” came the canner voice. “Show your face so I can blow it off.”


A shot was fired, and I waited in tense silence. Did someone just kill Bodo?


“Dare! I just shot your friend. Now you can come for your turn,” Bodo taunted. His voice was a little to my left now, but still across the clearing.


I breathed a sigh of relief. One more down. That left five more. At least of the ten I’d originally seen, but that didn’t count any canners hiding in the trees or camping out somewhere else in the swamp.


I heard nothing for a while and no one showed his face near the hut anymore. I was struggling, trying to figure out what else I could do to flush them out when I heard someone shouting and a single shot fired.


“Back to the fire, guys!” yelled a stranger. “I got the shooter.”


Branches were moving a little to the left, in the last place I’d seen Bodo.


No! Not Bodo!


“There’s more than one!” shouted another guy. “Don’t go out in the open!”


Bodo came stumbling out into the hut, his face bleeding on one side, a wound somewhere near his temple. My heart stopped beating for a few precious seconds as I evaluated our position. The five remaining canners came out slowly to join their friend, every single one of them holding a gun pointed at Bodo.


“Come out, or we’ll shoot him!”


The canner nearest Bodo raised his gun and pointed it at Bodo’s heart.


***


I had no time to come up with a plan, but the math was easy; there were five of them, one of me, and Bodo was dead meat if I didn’t do something fast. They would probably kill us both eventually, but they’d definitely kill Bodo if I didn’t get my butt out there. Maybe I had a chance of negotiating something if I could just talk to them. And then maybe I’d get a chance to break their faces if I could find out a way to separate them from their guns.


“I’m coming out!” I yelled, putting my weapon against the side of the tree. I was breaking my own rule: leave to live another day, leave your fallen comrades behind. I couldn’t do that to Bodo, even when he was being a turd to me. I hoped I wouldn’t live to regret this decision. The image of Kowi taking his last breath did nothing to help me. All it did was make me want to run out there and kill the whole bunch of them, but I had to be smart and take my time, wait for my moment.


“No! Don’t come out!” yelled Bodo.


The canner standing behind him hit him over the head with the butt of his gun. It didn’t knock Bodo out, but it did make him stumble. More blood poured down his head as he swayed and fell to his knees.


“Put your guns away, and I’ll come out!” I yelled. It was worth a shot. Come on! Think, think, think! Come up with a plan!


“Dude, it’s just a chick,” scoffed one of the canners. He stuck his gun in the front of his pants. He faced my general direction, looking out into the trees. “Well! Come on then! Don’t keep us waiting!”


“I’m not putting my gun away,” said one of the smaller guys. “Could be the ball-biter. I like my balls where they are.”


“I’m not the ball-biter!” I yelled, thinking maybe I could make them believe I was harmless so they’d let their guard down. They were afraid of a tough-as-nails girl, so I had to be the opposite.


Time to turn on the sexy. It was my only hope of survival. I knew their credo: Rape before murder. They were savage but predictable. I had to get them to think of me as a piece of ass and not a hunk of meat. And definitely not a ball-biter.


“I’ve heard of her, though, that ball-biter girl,” I continued. “That’s just gross, all that ball-biting. I don’t do stuff like that. Balls are my friends.” I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity. Flirting with canners did not come naturally, apparently.


“Just stop talking and come out. I’m running out of patience.” The guy behind Bodo shook his gun towards Bodo’s head, and I could tell from his tone he wasn’t kidding.


I quickly flipped the bottom of my t-shirt up through the neck hole and pulled it down, making a lame type of halter top, hoping it would make me more appealing to these rapists. Buying time until I could come up with a plan was the only thing I could think to do at this point. I pulled my shorts down a little too, exposing my hips as best I could. They were bony, and my six-pack abs probably did away with any femininity I was going for, but what the heck … it was worth a try. I pulled all the shells out of my pockets and left them on the ground under some leaves.


I stepped out from behind the tree and picked my way over the roots and dead branches towards the guys, acting as dainty as I knew how and making sure to squeal a little every time I slipped intentionally.


“Oh my god, this swamp is so icky! How do you guys stand living here? My nails are totally ruined.” I stopped about ten feet away from the closest canner and looked at my fingers in disgust, making sure not to share eye contact with any of them. I didn’t want them to feel threatened; the more they bought into my helpless girl act, the better off Bodo and I would be, at least in the short term.


I pouted. “Dang it. I wish I had some nail polish.”


One of the guys snorted. “Are you kidding? Nail polish? Out here?”


I held up my hands, nails out. “Do I look like I’m kidding?” I dropped my arms to my sides and bit my lower lip for a few seconds, making sure they all saw my damsel-in-distress act. I blinked a few times rapidly. “Wow. You guys … you look serious. Are you going to let us go or what?” I was a little disturbed at how easily the air-head thing was coming to me. I was totally channeling the girl in Clueless. They couldn’t possibly believe I was this stupid.


Guns lowered, and all but one canner put their weapons in the waistbands of their pants. Only the one holding Bodo kept his out and aimed at the ground near where Bodo was still on his knees.

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