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Deborah began blindly firing up at the roof of the barn, where the shot seemed to have come from.
Davey grabbed Solomon by the shoulder but the King was far too heavy to drag.
Reggie held him under the arms and they both began to drag him inside the barn.
‘What the fuck’s going on?’ the King said, his usually happy face twisted into a pained grimace that saddened and terrified Davey. He’d always seen the King as invincible.
‘Shh,’ Reggie said.
It was hard work dragging the King, especially since he had gone limp.
Deborah’s gun roared again, then they heard her curse.
A gunshot hit her hard in the gut, but it seemed she’d been wearing body armour.
Still, the impact doubled her up.
Davey and Reggie got the King safely into the barn.
Davey turned and saw Deborah still crouched, her face twisted with pain.
She screamed out, voice shrill.
She began to stagger towards the barn, but the speed at which she was moving made her a sitting duck.
Davey ran out and grabbed her, as bullets began to draw clouds of dust from the ground at their feet.
He took a shot to the stomach, but it was absorbed by his body armour.
Still, it was enough to knock some of the wind out of him.
‘Holy shit,’ Deborah said.
‘You fucking double-crossed us,’ Davey said, fists balled.
Deborah looked genuinely stunned at this accusation. ‘I swear I…’
Solomon shook his head. ‘I trust her, Davey lad,’ he said.
It worried Davey how pale he looked.
The thick ribbon of blood streaming from his mouth and tangling up in his beard was cause for concern too.
Davey’s face dropped as the King’s breathing began to labour.
‘Shit,’ Davey hissed. He turned and snapped at Deborah; ‘If you’d let us have our guns we could have killed him by now.’
‘Not the time,’ Reggie said, pointing to the King. ‘He needs your help.’
They began to gather round King Solomon, but then there was a bump from the roof.
‘Shit, now where’s he gone?’ Deborah said, her eyes scanning around.
The barn was maybe thirty feet long.
A pile of rusted tractor parts stood in the corner, hidden by torn hay bales.
There were perhaps a dozen windows in each wall.
It would be very hard to spot anyone peering in before it was too late.
They heard boots outside.
Deborah grimaced, her seemingly perpetual brave face cracking for the slightest hint of a second.
‘What’s the matter?’ Davey said.
She shook her head, eyes scanning the far wall where the footsteps had been. ‘Nothing.’
‘What’s the matter?’
Leant in close.
‘I’ve only got three bullets left,’ she revealed, her face ashen.
‘Fuck,’ Davey said.
His eyes scoured the environment for a weapon.
Coming into Serenity unarmed had certainly come back to bite them on the arse.
Davey saw a scythe in the far corner, among the shredded hay.
There was also a pitch fork over there, three rusted prongs on it that looked like they couldn’t penetrate butter.
A shot came through the window behind them, narrowly missing Deborah and embedding itself in the wooden wall.
‘Do we close the windows?’ Davey said.
Deborah thought about it. ‘No, I might get a shot at him.’
‘How many shots ya got left, girly?’ said a voice that sounded familiar to Davey though he couldn’t place it.
‘Enough to puncture your sorry arse,’ she shouted.
Davey took the right wall.
Deborah the left.
This sinister game of whack-a-mole had begun.
Reggie was trying to resuscitate King Solomon, with seemingly no luck, judging by the panicked look on his face.
Another shot rang out, hitting Davey in the back.
Startled, he jolted forward, crying out.
A sinister laugh came from outside the barn.
Deborah had only had a slight glimpse at their assailant and hadn’t deemed it worth wasting the bullet.
Reggie came up from giving Solomon mouth to mouth.
The blood smeared around his lips made him look like an extra from a cheap vampire movie.
The panic hewn into his face told Davey that saving the King was a long shot.
A face popped up at the window and a muzzle flash illuminated their peripheral vision.
The shot hit Reggie in the leg, drilling through his outer thigh and emerging near his knee.
He fell on his left side, screaming, blood pumping everywhere.
‘Shit,’ Davey said.
Ducking another wild shot from outside, he darted across the barn.
He tested the pitch fork, and, as he had thought, the blades were rusted enough to be useless.
He picked up the scythe instead.
This had a nice weight to it and was pretty sharp.
It would have to do.
Davey saw a head pop up at the window nearest him.
Deborah’s gun went off before their unseen assailant could fire a shot off, but the bullet merely blew the window sill to splinters.
‘Fuck,’ she hissed.
Reggie fell on his side, already pale from blood loss. His body was beginning to convulse and he was letting out a sickly gurgle.
‘He’s in a bad way,’ she said. ‘I’m going to have to try and bring the King round. Unless you know CPR?’
Davey shook his head.
She fired off another shot as the head popped up at the window again.
Davey took heart from their enemy’s pained cry.
The return fire came a split second later, making them both frantically duck.
It ricocheted off the old tractor in a shower of sparks.
‘Davey,’ Deborah said. ‘I’m going to have to save the King. You’ll have to fight him off on your own.’
Davey nodded, eyes wide.
They heard a clicking from outside.
‘He’s out of bullets too,’ Deborah grinned.
But then they heard a sickly laugh from outside.
‘Now it’s time for the real fun.’
The unseen assailant fired a burst into the air, as if to toy with them.
‘Fuck,’ Deborah said.
‘That was an assault rifle.’
Deborah became more worried than Davey had ever seen her.
‘Holy shit, we’re going to die,’ he thought he heard her mutter.
But once again, her composure returned within seconds.
‘Davey, listen to me very carefully,’ she said, her face growing pale. ‘He’s got a machine gun. His chances of missing us now are pretty slim. We need to get the King over behind the tractor for shelter. OK?’
They grunted with the effort as they dragged the unconscious King along.
They were maybe ten feet from the tractor when daylight appeared through dozens of holes in the wooden barn walls.
Bullets clanged off the tractor and the walls on the other side.
Davey, thinking fast, threw himself over Solomon to protect him with the bulletproof vest he wore.
A bullet tore through his forearm and sent white hot pain spiralling through his nervous system.
Deborah hit the ground near them and did her best to hide behind a tattered hay bale.
‘We bleedin’ yet?’ their assailant chuckled. ‘No? Well don’t worry, there’s plenty o’ time for that yet.’
Davey’s world was a haze of panic and pain, but he tried to focus.
Deborah’s words were distorted and seemed to wriggle around his brain.
‘Davey, concentrate. We’ve got to get him over there. Now.’
Davey nodded, got to his feet again and began dragging the King.
This time, bullets came in from the other wall, letting in daylight.
Reggie, seemingly dead already, twitched like a puppet with an epileptic master as bullets slammed into him.
He lay, mouth open, in a dark pool of blood that soaked into the straw beneath him.
‘Woo, one down. Nearly two,’ the man hollered.
They got back to their feet, bodies aching from the effort.
They were almost at the tractor.
Davey’s arm pulsated and he found it almost impossible to concentrate on anything other than the pain, but he forced himself to think.
If you don’t do this the King is going to die.
Deborah is going to die.
You are going to die.
Is that what you want?
Then fucking move.
They grunted with the effort, their backs and hamstrings blazed, but they managed to get the King behind the tractor.
Deborah frantically began giving the King CPR again, her face a grim mask.
Another hail of bullets came in, this time clanging off the tractor harmlessly.
‘Woo! Y’all ain’t dead yet I hope,’ the voice came. ‘Cos I’m having fun out here. I could keep this up all day.’
‘Fuck you,’ Deborah shouted between frantic pumps of her arms.
Davey grimaced with the pain.
The blood that raced from his arm seemed to have a hypnotic effect.
He felt himself beginning to close his eyes, as though ton weights were attached to the lids.
But he slapped himself harshly across the face.
‘Snap out of it,’ he hissed. ‘Do you want to die?’
He realised that his wound had put a time limit on the confrontation.
The more he bled the weaker he’d get.
His chances would be better if he finished this quickly.
He peered out from behind the tractor, seeing no sign of their attacker.
Everything had gone eerily quiet.
The only sounds in the world seemed to be Deborah’s arms pumping and her hushed counting as she continued her attempts at reviving the unconscious King.
‘You still alive in there?’ came the mocking voice again and Davey shuddered as he finally realised who was attacking them.
Next chapter is here