This follows You’ll never know the murderer sitting next to you…. in theme and character, but is several years later, very soon after the apocalypse.
This story involves threats of murder, rape, and other violence against women, children, and men. It involves actual murder and violence, mind control, and stone-cold bluffing.
Three people greeted Devin’s gang at the gate: a preteen boy, a twenty-something young man, and a woman not much older than the man.
The woman was carrying a shotgun slung lazily on its strap over her shoulder, a sawed-off baseball bat resting on the other shoulder, and a hunting knife on the other hip. The man was pacing slowly back and forth, clearly itching for a fight.
Devin had twelve fighters, all of them armed to the teeth. There was nothing this rag-tag group could do, and the fence wouldn’t hold for all that long.
The woman raised her eyebrows at him. “Well?”
“Give us your food and blankets and you’ll live.”
“If we give you our food and blankets, we’ll die,” she pointed out calmly. Way too calmly. By this point, she should have been negotiating.
“Not my problem. You fight us, you’ll die.”
That eyebrow quirked. “All of us?”
Oh, she was negotiating. Devin was unimpressed. “You’ve got kids. You cooperate, I’ll leave you enough food for the kids to survive. Otherwise, I’m killing all of you, now.” He could always come back and get the rest of the food when the parents had weakened themselves or starved themselves.
She turned to the man. “Go get the crew. Don’t run.” She turned to the boy. “Get your brother, drill 2. If you find his sister and her kin, tell them the same, but you get your brother and keep him safe.”
The two looked like they wanted to argue. Neither of them did.
The woman turned back to Devin and waited until they were both out of sight. “You threatened my family,” she said, calm and cold. “You’re going to die. If everyone else leaves right now, they might survive.”
She was a single woman, she was barely armed; she was bluffing.
Three of Devin’s crew ran off anyway. He could kill them later.
“You.” She pointed at one of the ones who’d remained; Tabby, a hard-ass fighter, former biker, three-time felon. She said something in some foreign jabber. “You go, and you tell anyone who might be interested, you do not mess with Boom. You do not mess with the Ranch.”
She pointed to one more person, Jimmy, a homicidal little shit even at fifteen. She repeated her jabber. “You, go the opposite direction as her, and do the same.”
They weren’t going to leave. They were Devin’s most loyal fighters. Tabby might be a girl, but she was deadly. Jimmy might be a kid, but he was insane.
“Are you done? Because you know we’ll find the kids, wherever they hid. And you know what my men will do with a pretty girl like you. You might ever survive. Put a leash on you and keep you around the camp, might even give you another baby.”
He leered at her, and she smiled. “You know, I was hoping you’d say that. Smile, asshole, you’re on Candid microphone.”
“…What?” He didn’t even notice when Jimmy and Tabby slunk away in opposite directions.
His words repeated back to him from some hidden loudspeaker. ”Put a leash on you and keep you around the camp. Might even give you another baby.”
Devin shook his head. “What, you think the police are gonna care? The police are gone, bitch. The law is gone, ain’t no law left but us.”
“You’re mistaken,” she smiled. “The law that’s left is us. Boom. Run, bitches.” Her shotgun swung up. A snarl sounded somewhere to Devin’s left. At the last minute, he realized she’d been stalling.
“You fucking bitch, you were buying time!” He aimed his pistol at her head.
He never got a chance to pull the trigger; he never even saw the horns that gored him.
The bodies of his crew fell, gored, beheaded, shot, turning purple and green and chartreuse. Six people fell while Devin bled out, their glassy eyes staring at him. Nobody had time for accusation. They hardly had time to see the whirlwind that attacked them.
As the ground opened up and swallowed him, Devin saw the woman pick up one more of his fighters — Pete, Pete, who’d been loyal even though he hated violence against women. “You’ll live,” she declared, against all sense. “Go. Tell them. You do not fucking mess with Boom.”
The dirt covered Devin, and he died.
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