Everybody still with me so far on this short fiction? Awesome. Now for the second half of Easy Money. I have also posted the short story in its entirety to a newly added page: Short Fiction. I hope everyone enjoys this as much I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to let me know what you thought about it, remember honesty is always best. Thanks for reading.
I again apologizing for splitting it into two parts, but I felt that a 5k+ word post might have been a little too big. Read the full short story HERE.
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Easy Money (part 2)
By Joseph D. Stirling
In the morning, Tucker tried to sit up but his head felt heavy. His body was full of aches, and pains and there was a sharp cramp in his guts. Something wasn’t right. Their were vague memories of voices and cruel laughter, a woman screaming, engines shredding the quiet night. He did his best to push through the fog that clouded his mind and slowly eased himself up. As his hat fell away he immediately saw that the roller was gone. The tent that Doc and Sara slept in was still there, flaps open and moving with the breeze.
He tried to stand but the numbness in his legs dropped him back onto the ground. He found his speeder missing as he doubled over, the pain in his guts causing him to wretch violently. He’d been poisoned, followed by the group from the saloon. Then it hit him. Back in the town at the table, the spike-headed fellow had bought him a drink. Clumsily he staggered to his feet wobbling as if he were still drunk and made his way to the tent. He tore the unfastened flaps open, it was empty.
“Doc! Sara!” His ragged voice trailed out into the wasteland, unanswered. “You gotta be kiddin’ me,” he muttered quietly.
The ground, he noticed, was covered in footprints. At least a dozen, and no effort was made to hide the deep ruts from the roller’s massive tires. Tucker’s hands fumbled at his belt. Empty, both guns gone, his bandolier too. He flashed a glance at his bedroll, no rifle. He swore loudly, screaming into the desert. It was a small comfort that his knife was still at his side, it was at least something. His mind vaguely wondered about Doc and Sara, but his biggest concern was his bike and his guns. The pistols he got from his first bounty, they could easily be replaced. His rifle was custom on the other hand. It took him a year to build and he loved it, loved it like other folks loved family.
Tucker snatched his hat from the ground and pulled it on. He scanned the tracks on the ground and started to follow where they led, one woozy step after the other. By all that was holy he would get his rifle back, the safety of the folks paying him would just be an added bonus. The tracks were easy to follow, plus from the sweet stink of the roaches still hung in the air. Roaches didn’t leave much for tracks, but Tucker knew their scent all too well. When he was young he got his first taste of real work on a ranch, taking care of trained roaches. Seven-hundred pounds of sugar and feces, it was a smell he’d never forget.
Hours under the hot sun passed. Tucker was still stiff from whatever poison he had been shot up with and he had a terrible thirst. To him it felt as if he had been swallowing sand all morning. The tracks were leading him into a canyon that dipped into the rocky ground. Large boulders clustered around the entrance and he found himself wishing for a pistol in case a rock shell hid in the pile. As if in answer a large boulder amid the pile stirred slowly. Tucker found that the choice to avoid the boulders and follow along the top of the canyon had been made for him.
The canyon deepened as he walked the ridge and he kept his eyes open for a way to climb down. At last a narrow slice in the wall gave him his chance. Despite his best effort to climb down quietly he found the rock slick and crumbly and dropped most of the fifty feet to the ground. He coughed in the cloud of dust around him as he made sure he hadn’t broken anything. Luck seemed to be with him, only scrapes and some heavy bruising. He sat in the shade of the wall a moment catching his breath. The stink of the riding roaches was thick here and he knew he must be close. The faint echo of voices from deeper in the canyon confirmed his thought.
Tucker fixed his hat and moved along the wall, staying in the shadow and keeping his steps light. Close to a hundred yards down the canyon a few buildings came into view. A couple of low, flat roofed structures packed tightly against an old decrepit church. The stained glass window were all broken out and the bell tower looked to be a watch post, the bell long gone. From within one of the side buildings he heard a muffled scream of protest, a woman. Tucker pulled his knife and crept up to one of the shuttered windows.
“If’n you ain’t gonna fix him up doc, we can do all manner of terrible shit to yer lady here,” he heard from inside. “See we need you, doctors is hard to come by an we had you pegged back in that little outpost. She’s jes’ some bit o’ sweet meat, what they call exportable…”
“Leave her alone.” It was Doc. “I swear if you hurt her or she comes to any form of malicious behavior you’re friend here will die. I’ll see to it! And actually I think you mean expendable.”
There you go Doc, thought Tucker. Don’t budge an inch, you jes’ keep ‘em busy for me.
“But yer all alone here. That gunslinger o’ yers is dead. My boys fixed him up good, he ain’t never gonna wake up. Probably gettin’ ate already.” Tucker could hear two men laughing.
He snuck around the side of the building and saw the corral, at least a dozen roaches penned in. A crook of a smile played along his dry lips as he checked for anyone near the fencing. When he found it clear he made his way to the gate and cut the tie rope, easing it open a bit. He took up a few small rocks and made his way to the rear of the pen and hurled the stones at the roaches. They spooked and surged away from the scattering of rocks, pushing on the loose gate and breaking free. As they tore the small courtyard several shouts rose up and Tucker moved quickly back to the building with Doc and Sara.
It sounded quiet inside. Tucker popped the shutters open and took a peek. Sara was tied to a bed in the corner and Doc stood over a bloody figure on a table. A wrinkled man with a drawn gun stood at the door watching the other bandits desperately try to catch the loose herd. He slipped in and crept up behind the man, placing a finger to his lips when Doc and Sara spotted him. It was quick work to cover the mans mouth and bury the knife into the back of his neck. Tucker dragged him away from the door and took his gun.
“Tucker? We thought you were dead, they said you were poisoned,” Doc said.
“Shoulda gived me a double shot I guess.”
He cut the ropes that bound Sara and she rose, hugging him tightly. “They were gonna-”
“Don’t think ‘bout it. Y’all gotta get ta that roller and pound sand. I gotta get my rifle.”
Doc was squeezing the throat of the injured man on the table, killing him as he answered. “There’s a fellow with a tail and spines down his back. He’s got your rifle and your pistols.”
“You two jes’ get ta that roller. I got some folks to kill,” said Tucker spinning the cylinder and checking the rounds in the pistol. “Get to it.”
Tucker peeked through the door and jumped out, rolling in behind an empty water trough as the robbers shouted after the roaches. Across the canyon, with the head of a roach held in his arms, he saw the man with his rifle slung across his back. He raised up and took aim as another man with a thick heavy plate of bone covering his back and head came out of the church.
“Hey!” The man shouted. “We got us a-”
Tucker fired, the crack of the gunshot loud and echoing from the canyon walls as he put a chunk of lead into the mans chest. He cried out and dropped in a puff of dust as all heads spun to look. Tucker was up and running for the church doors, firing as the robbers sprinted for cover. Sprays of blood misted into the air, he hit at least two of them. Tucker slid in the dirt next to the shelled man and yanked his gun free, dropping the empty pistol. Shots rang out around him as he got his feet and dove through the church doors. He could feel a burning in his leg and looked down to find blood flowing freely from his thigh. Tucker ripped a piece of his shirt and tied it tight around the bullet wound. He only hoped he could finish the killing before the chunk of lead in his leg tore something important.
Tucker was suddenly aware of being watched and spun to face the inside of the church. A tall man with white color stood at the podium staring at him and sitting throughout the pews were at least another twenty folks. Eyes atop fleshy stalks, snarled sharp-toothed mouths, scaled faces, all watching him. Tucker slowly stood as he heard several clicks of gun hammers locking.
“Ah hell,” he said.
Tucker spun and bolted back through the door. As he entered the courtyard again, shots erupted around him. He swore as he hit the ground and rolled the shelled man up for cover. Shouts came from the church as Tucker fired over the dead man. He was almost relieved as the deep throaty growl of the roller’s engine fired up and in a cloud of kicked up sand and dust ripped into the yard. Sara sat atop the roller and with a smile unloaded the repeating rifle.
As the rapid fire crack from the gun filled the canyon, joined by Doc’s wild laughter, Tucker jumped to his feet and fired into the crowd rushing from the church. He ducked into the narrow alley between church and one of the other buildings heading for where the roller had come from. As he rounded the corner at the far end he heard an all-too-familiar sound. A large chunk of the building, closer than he would have liked, exploded from the shot. The splintered wood peppered his face and chest, thin rivulets of blood drawing lines through the dirt on his face.
“You sum’bitch! That’s my rifle,” he shouted as he looked across to the spinney bandit.
He fired shot after shot at the man as he watched him reloading the single shot rifle, racking the bolt closed. Shit, he thought as he desperately looked for cover. Just then a man came thundering through the alley behind him. Tucker watched as the spinney man aimed and fired. Tucker grabbed the charging robber and spun him around using the momentum to launch himself back into the alley. As he hit the ground the man popped loudly, spraying the area with meaty chunks and fluids.
Tucker got his feet again and sped around the corner as fast as his injured leg would allow. He fired two more shots and the gun was empty. He dropped it and tackled the man as he tried to reload the rifle. Tucker felt a knife blade slice across his ribs and he screamed out as he hit the man’s face. Tucker grabbed the man’s knife hand and grinned as his stubbed third arm took hold of his throat. He rammed his knee hard into the mans groin. Tucker let his other arm drop and took one of his guns from the mans belt, firing into his gut.
He shakily rose to his feet stripping the gun belt and bandolier, his belt and bandolier, from the gurgling spinney bandit. He lifted his rifle and slid the revolver back into its holster, spying his bike sitting beside the nearby building. He could hear the concussive shots from the repeating rifle dying out as he flipped the turbine on and geared it up, rising off the ground. He ripped forward, a pistol in each of his free hands.
“Kick rocks!” He shouted as he sped towards the roller.
Doc throttled the roller up, the engine roaring, and took off through the canyon. Sara spun the gun turret, facing behind them as Tucker trailed closely flashing glances over his shoulder. The remaining raiders were already mounting up, roaches tearing across the ground after them.
“They can’t catch us can they,” asked Sara yelling over the engines.
“Jes’ shoot the damn things!”
Tucker fired a few shots behind him, blasting holes into the carapace of a riding roach. Goo spit into the air and the thing tumbled head over thorax, crushing the rider. Bullets ripped through the air, buzzing passed his head, pinging off the roller’s heavy plating, chipping stone on either side of him from the canyon walls. The stone blurred by him and it was difficult to see how many gave chase in the clouds of dust rolling up behind them. Sara ripped off shots is short bursts, the sound clattering loudly all around them. Not too much farther, thought Tucker, if we can just make it out.
Tucker glanced up, the walls of the canyon were shrinking as the trail rose, they were getting close. He looked behind him but there was far too much dust to see. He knew they were still chasing, the crack of gunfire was all around. He replaced one of his revolvers, using his two stronger arms to steer and leaving the stubbed arm holding the other pistol.
“Hold fire, Sara! And stay down!” Tucker sped up and shouted through the window to Doc,
“When you get outta the canyon jes’ keep rollin’! Don’t wait fer me!”
“Fantastic!” Doc shouted back, his eyes were lit up and a smile split his merry face. Crazy sum’bitch, thought Tucker.
Tucker dropped back and watched for the canyon mouth. He found himself grinning as it rapidly approached. He took aim on the largest boulder in the cluster and fired three shots at it. The boulder lurched violently, a rough snarl rising above the scream of engines. Tucker throttled up, keeping pace behind the speeding roller. A mass of barbed tentacles spilled from beneath the boulder as the rock shell reared up, flailing wildly. The roller tore through the mass of sand coated limbs. Tucker wove his way through feeling barbs rip into his shoulder and almost throwing him from the racing speeder.
He hit the brakes hard and slowed with a long skid, killing the engine and dropping to the ground. He holstered the pistol and pulled the rifle free, his third arm cracking the bolt and loading a round as he took aim on the canyon mouth. The first roach and rider came through and amid the screams from the man and squeal from the roach, both were pulled into the greasy maw of the rock shell. The dust cloud rose, gurgled screams replaced the sound of gunfire, and the horrid smell of the roaches mixed with the rotting earthen scent of the rock shell filled the air.
Tucker was just about ready to stow his rifle when he watched a roach scurry the canyon wall and bypass the ruin of the dead smeared through the sand. Tucker took bead and fired. The shot rang loudly as the rider and roach splattered with a loud cracking boom. In a flash, Tucker’s third arm racked the bolt and reloaded, slamming the receiver shut. He waited for a few long moments. Nothing. The rock shell had dragged itself into the canyon mouth, roaring and moaning.
With a grin, Tucker pated his rifle and slid it back into the sheath along the seat of his bike. The turbine whistled on and he sped off after the settling rooster tail of dust, chasing down the roller. He glanced at his bleeding shoulder, broken barbs protruding from the skin, and sighed. At least I know a good doctor, he thought as he pulled the barbs free with his stubbed third arm. He reached into his shirt pocket and took a cigar out, wedging it between his teeth.
By late afternoon he slowed and pulled up to park next to the roller. Doc and Sara stood by laughing as he climbed off the bike. Sara was on him in a flash, hugging him tightly, her tail coiling around his waist.
“Damn girl, watch my bleedin’ parts,” he winced with a bit of a smile. He dug a match from his pocket and struck it as she pulled away, inhaling deeply through the cigar with a content sigh.
“Haha, Mr. Tucker you are amazing! Simply incredible, Sir!” Doc spun circles on his steely peg leg, wheezing through his snorkels. “I thought that was the end of us for a moment back there. But then there you were back from the dead! The way you roughed up those braggarts, nasty business, but well played.”
“Still bleedin’ here Doc.”
“Oh, quite right.” Doc leaned into the roller, digging around for his medical supplies.
Sara smiled at him, taking his arm and leading him to a small rock and helping him sit. She leaned over and placed a soft gentle kiss on his cheek.
“Thank you, Tucker.”
Tucker felt his cheeks tingle and flush, and with a tip of his hat said, “Ma’am.”
As Doc stitched up the knife wound on Tucker’s side, Sara piled wood together and lit a small fire near them. The sun was drooping in the brown sky and the stars slowly spread from the east. As Tucker puffed on his cigar, doing his best to ignore the stabbing needle and pulling thread, he found himself thinking that he just might get some real sleep tonight.