Content warnings all in the title
The boy was crying in the back seat.
He’d tried swearing and begging for a while. When that had gotten tiresome, Andy had applied a gag. That had been two hours ago. He’d muttered and complained and cursed his way through the next hour, but he could see out the window, even if the sun was almost set. He could see they were going nowhere good.
He had held out a long time before the tears came. He wasn’t too old – maybe nineteen, probably not old enough to drink legally. His beard was still weedy although he’d made the clever decision not to grow a mustache; his cheeks were still young-looking and he had no wrinkles. If Andy had been hunting for traditional reasons, he would have been a perfect specimen.
For what Andy was looking for, the boy was equally perfect, but that had more to do with location and the ability to get him into the car.
He was still trying to hide the tears, too, rubbing his face against his shoulder, not looking at her anymore. He was scared. Terrified, if Andy had to hazard a guess. He’d heard the stories – everyone in the area had to have. They told the tales to college kids and passing tourists; they told the tales to everyone who’d listen.
It still didn’t stop teenage boys from getting in the car with a pretty woman, of course. And here he was, an hour out into the desert and nothing in sight but sand in every direction.
If he got dumped here, nobody would find his body for years. Andy had tried that once, as an experiment. By the time a lost hiker found the tibia, there wasn’t enough left to identify it as a lab cadaver.
That, of course, was where the rumors had started. Andy had supplemented the over the years with found and stolen bodies and the occasional portion of someone who needed to die.
“They say somewhere out here, way out in the desert where nobody comes if they know where they’re going, there’s this killer. And the killer will pin people to the rocks and wait for the sand and the sun to kill them. Or he’ll dismember them while they’re still alive, yanking the limbs off with some sort of crane. Or maybe he’s just that strong.”
He looked at her in the rear-view. She looked back at him. “They say a lot of shit, you know that?”
His mouth worked around the gag. His face was filthy, except the streaks of tears, like rivulets through the desert sand. He’d fought Andy tooth and nail, and they’d both have the bruises to show for weeks to come. He’d fought more than anyone in recent memory.
He made a sound that could have almost been words. She raised her eyebrows at him, but she had to keep most of her attention on the route. Out here, if you slipped too far in either direction, you’d end up spinning your wheels in sand until the vultures found you.
“I’m not going to kill you. Not saying you won’t end up dead, but it won’t be at my hand. Besides,” and now Andy chuckled. “You let yourself get in a car with a pretty woman when half the rumors say that the way to end up as skeleton pieces in the desert is just that. I figure you’re pretty brave.”
The laugh was clear, even gagged. Andy let him see her grin.
“So here’s the deal. I need people who have more guts than sense. People who fight hard and keep on fighting. There’s a war on – don’t try to argue. There’s time for that later. There’s a war on, kid, and I need fighters.” She pulled off, down the road that didn’t show unless you knew exactly what you were looking for. “And you, brave-and-stupid, you just got drafted.”
The kid wasn’t crying anymore. Andy figured there was plenty of time for that later, when he found out who they were fighting… and why.
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