St. Regis, Montana
They had doubled back a little way down the road before they were noticed, and found an access road to stash the truck. For several hours they talked about how to resupply without being caught.
It seemed obvious they were going to have to walk into town, but the outpost was within sight of the gas station they planned to loot. Though Julien was actually prepared to pay for what he took.
The “Lights Out” order would help conceal them because the entire town was dark, but it was also going to make this incredibly difficult. There was no way to no how many Lawless there were or where they were currently lurking. Not to mention they couldn’t use flashlights, at least not as much as they hoped. A brief flicker here and there to get their bearings was the best they could hope for.
“Ok, kid,” Julien started, as they hunched over in the tall grass, “you ready?”
Mark nodded and tried to hold back a smile. Julien shook his head. He couldn’t understand the boy’s eagerness to help him out, but it was growing on him. He patted him on the back.
“Let’s go,” he said and let go the first flash as low as he could while also gauging the terrain. It was flat enough but there was a copse of trees ahead. Good cover, he thought to himself.
The two stumbled along in silence, following the flashlight beam every 30 seconds or so. Julien had run into a couple of trees while his eyes adjusted to the light. He was already losing his patience with this whole thing. He wasn’t even out of the state yet and he’d run into too much trouble.
Thoughts of Mayra calmed him and took his mind off of the current drudgery. Even in danger the thought of her smile warmed him. He missed her so much.
“Hold on,” the boy said suddenly. Julien tensed up, expecting to see a band of hooligans. Why had that word come to mind? He was getting old.
“What is it?” he looked at Mark.
“There’s a house up there,” the kid pointed ahead and slightly to the left.
Julien didn’t dare risk a flash now. The kid had better eyes than him, that was for sure. But he could faintly make out a screened in front porch.
“Listen,” Julien said with notable anxiety. “We’re going to go around the back and try not to be noticed. Follow me.” He was off before the kid could acknowledge him.
They were nearly past the house when Mark stopped and loudly whispered, “hey, something is wrong.”
Julien looked to the house and noticed the back door was open and swinging slightly.
“What’s the problem,” said Julien, “it’s just a door, c’mon.”
“No,” said Mark, “something’s wrong. Folks don’t leave their doors open like that. ‘Specially at night. ‘Specially when Lawless are around.”
But before Julien could ask what they were supposed to do about it, the kid was already creeping towards the house.
For a second he considered leaving him, but he couldn’t. Instead, he followed him to the back door.
It was very dark inside the house. No lights of course, but no candles either. No flashlights. Dead silent too.
“Hear that?” Mark asked.
“What?” replied Julien. But he did hear it then. A low muffled voice. It sounded desperate and pleading.
Julien thought he knew what was going on. Those punks were preying on whoever owned this house.
“We gotta do something,” Mark said.
Julien didn’t like it but he agreed. He pulled out his gun and reached in his bag.
“Here kid,” he handed him his knife back that he took from their first meeting. “Stay here and try to avoid anyone coming out.”
Mark nodded and Julien crept inside, keeping low with is gun ready. The muffled voice was to the right. He listened for any movement. There was none. He moved toward the voice. It sounded now like it belonged to an older lady. His anger rose.
The man in the bedroom turned towards the door just in time to be tackled by Julien and thrown backwards. The force of the hit knocked the wind out of him and he let a shot off from his gun.
The flash was almost as blinding as the retort was deafening in the small room. Julien’s ears felt compressed and they were ringing with a terrible high pitch.
Before the man could regain his senses, Mark came rushing in from behind and landed his foot across his jaw. There was a sickening crack and the intruder fell still.
Julien grabbed the old woman who had been laying on her bed and rushed her outside. Mark followed closely. They all knew that the shot was heard around town and more of the thugs would be on their way to check it out.
After running a way into the woods away from town, Julien allowed them to stop for a moment. He realized the woman still had a gag in her mouth and quickly untied it for her. She fell to the forest floor in a fit of tears and loud sobbing.
“Mam,” Julien said in a frantic whisper, “mam, I know, I know but you have to be quiet.”
Mark took his arm and faced him.
“What!” Julien said a little too harshly.
“He-, her husband,” he stammered. “They killed him. I saw his body in the living room after you told me to stay outside.”
If he was angry before, then he was livid now. Julien’s face was set in a hard glare. His throat tightened at the thought of the old woman’s loss. He was going to get his supplies. But first, he was going to make the Lawless pay.