Royce Dillon turned off the rumbling '68 Chevelle SS and got out stiff legged. It was hotter than the four walls of hell itself and had been for a couple of weeks now. Spring seemed to have lasted about two days this year in the piney woods.
His favorite black shirt, the one with some fine, red stitching and big, pearl buttons had been clinging to him like a wet washrag all day. Royce billowed it out away from his skin a few times and sighed.
He looked at the shack and then slid his hand over the smooth roof of the car, his dark green baby. The car could still whip almost anything around, unless they were riding a damn missile. It was a blur off the line and good on the top end too.
"Never gonna give you up."
A man came striding around the corner of the small cabin zipping up his pants. He stopped, looking confused, and curled his lip. "What'd you say to me?"
"Wasn't talking to you."
"I guess not." He huffed and pointed at Royce's car, "Nice ride, son, but they're too light in the ass end. Had one, but never could keep it between the lines comin' out of the chute."
"Gotta know how to drive is all."
The man stared up at him, then walked to the shack and opened the door. Turning back around he said, "We're filled up, boy. No vacancies."
The door shut and there was a rattle and clunk of a bolt being thrown. A tattered drape moved in the door window and an open card was flipped over to the 'No Vacancy' sign. It swung back and forth a few times and then stopped.
Royce shook his head, looked down, and put his hands on his hips. He stretched and arched his sore back. Taking his hat off, he rubbed the sweaty inside band with a handkerchief.
Above the cabin door was a faded wooden sign announcing that he had arrived at the Mill Pond Fishing Lodge. Caddo Lake State Park. In smaller print below that was Uncertain, Texas, Four miles. An arrow pointed the way.
He shifted his gaze toward the woods. Blocking the crowned dirt road was a sturdy metal cow gate. There was a heavy-gauge chain link looped through and around a post. Big padlock too. An old, rusted metal plate declared 'Private Property, No Trespassing.' It had more bullet holes in it than Clyde Barrow.
On each side of the gate was a tangle of thick brush and mossy growth. That was backed up by small and big trees clumped tight together on marshy ground. No going around the gate.
It was getting toward dusk and in all these trees, the shadows were even darker. The bugs and frogs were in full swing. Royce had always liked the humming and buzzing, it was soothing to him.
Deciding, he knocked on the door and then took a step back. He heard a chair scoot back inside and the hollow sound of boots approached.
The bolt was thrown and the door swung open. The guy looked up at Royce and cocked his head. "Which part of no vacancy are you not understandin'?"
Royce moved forward, put a big hand on the door and shoved it wide open. He moved good for such a big man.
"Don't like your attitude much, you old bastard." He frowned and walked straight in, pushing the man aside as he came. He shut the door behind him without taking his eyes off the gatekeeper. That old feeling was coming back.
The man put his chin out and stared hard. "The name is Wilder. Trev Wilder ... and this is my place, boy." He looked at Royce defiantly. "Just what the fuck you think you're doing? We're all full up I said. Go on, now."
"I ain't looking to rent one'a your flea-bit cabins. Looking for some people. Two fellas. White Silverado 350, extended cab. They're brothers ... there's a girl with them too. Tracked them here."
"I only got five cabins. All full. No brothers, no white truck, no gal." He bugged his eyes out. "And I would know."
There was a tense pause. A small fan in the corner was clicking and whirling, blowing hot air around as it swung back and forth in slow motion.
"They ain't." Wilder's chest came out a little farther. "Probably in town. Lots of fishermen stay at a couple a lodges up the road in Uncertain."
"I been in town. A lodge fella there swore to me they're here. Said he was full up too and told 'em to come here." Royce pulled his Ka-Bar straight edge from the sheath strapped on his left thigh. "He was under an awful lot of pressure to tell me the truth."
Wilder looked into the pale blue eyes of the giant in front of him. "You're a crazy bastard."
"I'm takin' my little sister home. Those boys took her against her will. You need to open that gate, old man."
"Go on and head out now. Leave and there won't be no problems." Wilder's voice was angry but it had no steel to it. His eyes hadn't left the seven-inch knife.
"There won't be no problems?" Royce smiled at him. "I need the keys to that gate lock now. Then, there won't be no problems. I'm done dancin' with you."
Wilder slid his eyes to the small desk where he'd been sitting and then back to the towering man in front of him. There was a phone on the desk, an open newspaper, and a half empty Shiner bottle. A small, old desk radio with a bent aerial was on. "Amarillo by Morning" drifted from it soft and easy.
"I'd just soon shoot you right now, but I don't want the noise. Imagine you can understand the need for quiet. Last chance." Royce's voice was smooth, like he was talking about the weather.
"I already told you"
In a flash, the knife went through the ring of flab on Wilder's right side. In, out, fast.
"they ain't here." Wilder finished the sentence then looked down at his side with a confused expression. Royce Dillon had always been quick with a knife.
"Hey, now ... what ..." Trev stared at his own blood.
"My little sister is with Merrill and Dink Henderson. We all come from over near Tyler. She don't belong running with those two. They're not nice men."
Wilder clamped a hand on his side and his eyes got wide. "Hey, uhh." Still not believing what was going on and sliding into shock, his eyebrows drew together. "You cut on me."
"I went easy. Your scrawny neck is next. Do what I'm tellin' you," Royce held a hand out. "Keys."
"Okay. Hell. Okay now." Wilder moved to the desk favoring the wound. Royce moved with him.
He grimaced as he rummaged inside the center drawer, then with a relieved sigh said, "Here, here they are, okay son, here you go. Got 'em." He raised a Taurus .45 from the drawer, but Royce was fast again. He slashed the side of Trev Wilder's neck. An arc of dark red jetted out before the man even had a good grip on the pistol. The .45 clattered onto the top of the desk.
Wilder staggered backward and hit the wall hard, left hand gripping his throat. He did a slow slide down to the floor and then rolled onto his back.
"Them Henderson boys your relation or they just pay you a little extra?" Royce had a small grin on his face.
The man's eyes stared at the ceiling at first, then they slid over to the man in the black shirt and black hat.
"Ya ... bassterr ..." Wilder gagged and coughed, his hands clamped even tighter on his neck. His right boot did a slow drum on the wood floor.
Royce nodded his head slowly and then turned away. "Alrighty then, no matter."
He scanned the office, noticing that the light was fading fast outside. The gurgling from the old man behind him stopped, just as he found a large ring of keys in the same drawer where the gun had been.
He walked outside to his Chevelle and got the Mossberg and a bandolier full of shells from the trunk. He opened the road gate and then locked it back up behind him.
He took it slow watching where he stepped, just like they taught him to walk point at Paris Island. Royce kept low, moving like a ghost down the rough road that weaved its way through the dense trees and marshy swamp.
The first cabin came up quick. Empty, no lights, no vehicle. It didn't take long for him to pass three more empty cabins. As he went, the water table kept getting higher and the ground got flatter. The next cabin would have to be right at the water's edge.
If the old man had been telling the truth about five cabins, the next one would be it. Made sense. The meth head brothers would've picked the one farthest down the trail.
There was only a soft reflected glow from Mill Pond coming through the swamp trees. A lighter shade of dark is all it was. His head hurt bad all of a sudden. He reached into the front pocket of his jeans but the bottle of pills wasn't there. He'd forgotten them back in the car. No matter.
He kept moving, quiet and quick. Ahead was another sharp bend in the road.
Something caught his eye though and he froze.
A flash of white. He'd seen it through the trees. Had to be the truck. He was holding the Mossberg by the pistol grip and flipped the safety off with his other hand. Patting the Colt Delta that was in a Velcro holster on his hip, he moved forward slightly and the white came into view again. The roof of a cabin, too.
A wild scream. A girl. Then laughter came drifting over to him through the trees and tangle. He moved ahead, lower and slower.
They were sitting on the porch, passing a bottle back and forth. A dim light through the window of the cabin lit them up just enough. Merrill and Dink, a little older since he'd seen them last, but it was them. He was close enough now to hear their voices.
A moment later, Merrill stood up and swayed. "Gotta piss again, little brother." He didn't move though.
"Well do it then, what you wanting me to do, hold your other hand?" Dink laughed.
He stumbled a little coming down the two steps and leaned against the rail, trying to work the zipper.
Royce moved out from behind a tree and had closed within twenty feet before Dink saw him.
"Merrill!" Dink pointed.
"Hey ... hey," Merrill said as he looked up and weaved around to face Royce.
Royce kept coming, shotgun leveled and ready. "You two boys just stay still now." He paused about ten feet away from the porch.
"Well, I'll be damned. Royce? Hey Dink, it's Royce Dillon. Last I heard you was still penned up in Jester, you big dumb motherfucker," Merrill said, grinning over at his brother now.
"Yeah, Jester's a nut house ain't it?" Dink chuckled at that and took a swig. "Or, wait a minute, sorry, what is it? Oh yeah, a place for housing the criminally insane!"
"I got out last week ... and I ain't crazy, there's regular criminals in there too."
"Sure, sure, Royce. Whatever you say, you fuckin' loopy bastard."
"What you gonna do with that?" Merrill lifted his chin toward the Mossberg and then spit. "Don't be pointing that thing at me."
"I came to take Kacy home ... call her out here. Now."
"Kacy?! Kacy? She ain't here, you dumbass. You takin' your medication boy?" Merrill was still grinning like a monkey. Just like he always had.
"We got us a girl but it sure as hell ain't Kacy." Dink, the older one, wasn't grinning anymore.
"Dink you come down and get next to your brother." Royce didn't take his eyes off Merrill.
"Fuck you, retard."
"Do it, Dink. He ain't fuckin' around this time."
"She ain't here. You know that. What the fuck are you thinkin' man?" Dink came down the two steps and spit. He was the tougher of the two brothers, but growing up they had both had their fun beating the shit out of the younger Royce.
"Kacy! It's me. C'mon girl, we're going home!" Royce yelled. His voice sounded like someone else to him. His head was pounding now and he was having bad thoughts again.
"She ran off to Shreveport three years ago. I couldn't hold her down. Too wild. I tried though." Merrill pointed at Royce. "You know that. She never came back, Royce." Merrill just kept shaking his head.
"You're lyin'. She's here."
"Hell, she's probably dead by now. Either whorin' or drugs got her."
"Shut your mouth, Dink. Both of you ..." Royce looked at the cabin. "Kacy!" His head and thoughts were swimming now.
The door creaked open. She poked her head out and then opened the door all the way. It was dark now but there was a full moon coming in through the trees and the light from inside the cabin was behind her. It was Kacy alright. Blonde, short. Royce could tell, just by the way she was standing there. It was her.
"Kacy, c'mon now. I ain't mad, but you don't belong with these boys."
Merrill grunted and laughed. "Look closer boy. This here's Melinda. Ain't she somethin'?"
The girl didn't say anything. She just stood there. Fidgeting, scratching her arm.
"She likes crank." Dink laughed. "A lot."
Royce's thoughts cleared for just a moment and he knew. Knew the truth. He heard the brothers laughing, saw them pointing at her, then at him. He blinked slow and heard his own breathing. The Mossberg came down, and he half turned away.
"She ain't as good as your sister was, but, hey, you know ..."
It had been Dink who said it, who never could keep his mouth shut. Even Merrill stopped laughing.
When Royce turned back to the brothers, they stood shoulder to shoulder staring at him. He took two quick steps forward and pulled the trigger. The Mossberg roared and bucked. The brothers were knocked down like bowling pins. It felt good. Made his head feel better.
The next thing he knew he was standing over Dink who was somehow still alive. A weak hand came up to stave off the next shot but it dropped when the next boom rang out.
The girl still on the porch dropped flat to the floorboards, trembling. Eyes huge in the bad light behind her. The light was shadowed even more as another figure appeared in the doorway. She pointed back at the cabin door with a shaky arm, and in an excited, drugged-out voice she said, "Don't shoot me! There's your sister."
Kacy staggered onto the porch, strung-out as bad as Melinda. She looked out at the two bodies on the ground and screamed, "What the fuck have you done, Royce?"
Copyright © 2014 Jim Wilsky.
recent release, Closing the Circle. He’s finishing a new book coming out in late summer 2014, as well as a collection of his short stories.
His short story work has appeared in some of the most respected online magazines such as BEAT to a PULP, Shotgun Honey, All Due Respect, Yellow Mama, A Twist of Noir, Rose & Thorn Journal, Pulp Metal, Plots With Guns, The Big Adios and others. He has contributed stories in several published anthologies, including All Due Respect, Kwik Krimes and Both Barrels. He is supported and strengthened by a wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters. Visit him at http://hardboiledpartners.blogspot.com/.
Jim Wilsky is a crime fiction writer. He is the co-author of a three book series; Blood on Blood, Queen of Diamonds and the most