Son of a Bitch
• • •
It takes the better part of the morning to reach Atacama Lake. Jack Daniels maneuvers along the trailway to avoid the prying eyes of the public. Works like a charm.
He doesn’t bother checking out the half of the lake where the saltless waves crash towards the center of town. That’s all residential, all tight and congested roadways and docks public and private. If that Knox son of a bitch tore through there after his raid on the Compound ‘neath Atacama there’d be a trail of blood deep enough for swimming left in his wake, and Jacky would have sniffed it out by now.
The other side’s woods, all pebbly dirt beaches and garbage dumps. The kids come out here to smoke drugs and fuck under the open sky just like their parents didn’t before ‘em. Not today, though. Every natural disaster brings a mandatory stay-home order, and this morning’s earthquake was no exception. Why should it be? Folks still think it was an earthquake.
Jacky breathes deep and holds it. Gonna be a long morning. Not knowing what he’s after, he starts lookin’.
Nineteen minutes later he finds just what he’s after: prints, a ton of ‘em. Foot, knee, hand. Stomach. Knox rested here, must have tired himself out with all the swimming. Then he got up and walked off into the woods. Made his trail more difficult to follow.
‘This son of a bitch knows what he’s doing.’
Roughly ten steps beyond the treeline Jacky finds a jagged piece of broken glass sticking out of the ground like the fin of a landshark. It’s covered in blood. Dry blood. Totally dry, not even a little bit tacky. The bastard destroys a virtually impenetrable underwater compound and escapes with his life, then he gets cut by a… piece of glass… and the blood dries instantly…?
Something’s not adding up. It must not be his blood.
Jack scrapes a sample and tests it with his wristwatch. No matches on the Socials. ‘Son of a bitch,’ “He’s here…”
Or he was. Earlier on. He got goin’, but couldn’t have kept it with a hole in his foot. A little ways past the glass are a few dots of blood, then a few more, then a few more. A trickle of a blood trail gives way to a full flow, then puddles out in the middle of a little clearing in the trees where luminous beams of sunshine scrape the fertile earth.
“But you didn’t drop dead,” Jacky says, scratching his chin. “No, not you y’son of a bitch. You figured out you were droolin’ a bit, stopped to patch yourself up. So where’d you go next…?”
Leaving the clearing is a rarely traveled path which looks to be carved out by wild animals, a game trail if Jack’s ever seen one. He looks behind him: unmarked woods.
“You didn’t take a trail to get here… but maybe you took one to leave. Trailblazing on a gimp foot is a fool’s errand for most, but you’re no fool. You’re a son of a bitch, Jonathan Knox, that’s what you are. You’re hard to kill… but you’re gonna die today.”
Eyes peeled like pecans Jacky moves down the game trail. It brings him to a log cabin built off-center in a small pasture. On one side of the house the grass grows natural, on the other three it’s cut down to size. He taps his wristwatch a few times and reads what it prepares for him.
“The Doe house. Courtney and Cletus, couple’a off-gridders.”
Maybe at one point, anyhow. Before Jonathan Knox came knocking. Before Jonathan came Knoxxing.
“Let’s end this, you son of a bitch.”
Jacky D moves up to kick the door in, but it opens before he gets there. An undeniably stacked ‘man in a long black dress comes sauntering out carrying iron butcher’s knives, amongst other utensils, piled on a long wooden cutting board. She drops the haul to the grass when she sees who approaches from the forest.
“My stars,” says the evident Courtney Doe as she fans her face with her hand. “It… it’s you.”
Jacky levels a stare at her.
“The Scarlet ‘Slinger.”
“Aye,” says Jacky D. “Your brother home, Miss Courtney? I need to have a conversation with y’all.”
“Y-yes, of course!” She cups her mouth, “CLETUS!”
“GET Y’R’ASS OUT FRONT, WE HAVE A VISITOR!”
A bulbous ‘man dressed like he knows the first thing and the first thing only about jackin’ lumber comes hum-lumbering out of the forest bordering the uncut-grass side of the cabin. He stops before Jack Daniels, looks him slowly up and down with one eye clenched shut.
“I know you,” says Cletus Doe. “Y’r one’a’them Wu Star bois, ain’t ya? One’a’th’bigguns.”
“Aye,” Jacky confirms, extending a hand. “Jack The Scarlet ‘Slinger Daniels, at your service.”
Cletus puts ‘er there and they shake. Then he takes ‘er back.
“So whut’re y’doin’ here, Jack?”
Jack doesn’t answer, just squares the fat ‘man with a steely gaze.
“Came pretty far back in th’woods, if’n’y’r’at’our place. I only ask ‘cause I fig’re it mus’ be important.”
“You folks see the news this morning?”
“No,” says Courtney Doe (Cletus Doe’s sister, just in case that went over your head), “but we saw the broadcast that went up a few minutes ago. Are you here about Knoxxi Boi?”
“Knoxxi Boy? ” Jack asks. He watches as the brother’s hand disappears behind the sister’s back. Then the sister jumps a bit, almost like he pinched her ass… but no, they’re siblings, that’d be off. “Endearing. Strange way to describe a wanted fugitive.”
“Is it?” asks Cletus. “Y’ll have t’excuse me, Mister Daniels. I un’erstan’ he’s wan’ed, but he jus’ ain’t that scary to us.”
“And why might that be?” asks Jacky with itchy fingers.
“‘Cause we’ve got the rat bastard tied up in the bedroom,” as he hucks a thumb over his shoulder. Courtney looks up at him startled. Could be a few muses behind that look; Jack doesn’t draw just yet. “Came crawlin’ out’a th’woods this mornin’. I beat him over the head m’self, tied ‘im up wit’ all sorts’a ropes. Bet he’s still out, the little fuck.”
“Take me to him,” says Jacky D without hesitation. “There’s money on his head I’m contracted to collect.”
“Yessir, raight this way.”
Cletus turns and pulls his sister into the log cabin with him. Jack follows slowly, hands on his belt.
The Does guide Jack The Scarlet ‘Slinger Daniels into their humble loggen abode and tell him to wait on the couch whilst they go into the bedroom and close the door so they can untie all the ropes. Jack obliges, though he refuses to sit on the couch as it is stained like an antique table (though shellac doesn’t look quite so much like semen, but uh, he’ll ignore that for now). The moment they close themselves inside the bedroom Jack vaults the couch and lands with a stealthy roll, coming to a crouched stop with his ear laid tenderly upon the door.
Draws his revolvers.
Flicks the shits to full auto.
And that’s when the shooting begins.
This has been the second subchapter of the second chapter of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
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