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Old Jimmy had moved to Serenity as soon as he’d fled the Freelands.
After having seen his brother and his friends brutally executed, he had sought salvation among Serenity’s religious community.
He’d not told anyone about his past, for fear of incriminating himself, had just kept his head down and observed what went on.
He’d heard on the village grapevine that King Solomon had proposed a truce after Reverend Cross’ death and the sight of his old rival was enough to ignite a raging fire in his belly.
The kid was with him too.
He longed to run up to them both and stick a knife up to its hilt in their backs, but he was loathe to do something so blatant to disrupt the peace.
That would no doubt earn him a one-way trip to the crucifix like the poor bastards that surrounded the village green.
He had no desire to end up like that – self-preservation was one thing at which Old Jimmy excelled – and had formulated a plan to put the bastard King in his grave.
The King had arranged a truce with Cross’ wife – spineless bitch that she was; Old Jimmy would have put Solomon on the cross as a sign of his dominance if he’d been in charge – and Jimmy knew that to be seen to be disrupting this truce would be deserving of capital punishment.
So when he’d been certain that everyone else had disappeared into the church for the ceremony, he had snuck out from his hiding place and made off for the medicine stores.
As he’d spent some time in the Freelands, he knew that they were managing to scavenge food and basic supplies, but they were direly in need of medicine.
He’d taken a large quantity from the stores and planted it in Solomon’s bulldozer.
Then when the vehicle was searched upon them exiting the village, they’d be found to be stealing and thus breaking the truce and Bang! Crucifixion time.
Old Jimmy grinned as he pictured them hanging limp and tormented from the huge crosses.
Payback for my brother, you murdering bastards.
Security was still on patrol around the key areas of the compound – the food stores, the allotments, the main gates and, of course, the medical stores.
Still, there was only one guard there now. He felt certain he could sneak past him and get what he needed.
Sneaking was another thing at which Old Jimmy excelled so it wasn’t long before he had the bag of stolen meds in his grubby hand.
He crept over to King Solomon’s bulldozer and tucked the bin liner under the front seat.
Then, smiling, he went back to the medical stores and waited for the shit to hit the fan.
‘I’m gonna cut your fucking heart out, you sick bastard,’ Davey shouted, hoping he sounded braver than he felt.
His legs felt like they weren’t strong enough to support him now.
The barn began to spin and move in and out of focus.
He crouched as he came out from behind the tractor and immediately hit his belly as bullets once again opened up the walls.
They whistled over his head.
I don’t know how many more times I can throw myself down and get back up again, he thought, forlorn.
As many times as it fucking takes.
The exertion was forcing more blood out of his arm.
He crouched and ran to where the gunshots had just come from.
He strained his ears to listen.
The old bastard gave himself away with his sickly laugh.
Davey pinpointed where he was and moved quickly to the left as another hail of bullets ruined the barn.
Davey looked over to see Deborah’s face had become even more worried.
The King was showing no sign of reviving, in fact, he looked as though he was already choosing his seat up among the Gods.
Davey moved into the doorway at the edge of the barn.
He tried his best to quiet his footsteps, aiming to catch Old Jimmy unawares.
The scythe suddenly seemed to treble in weight as his body again threatened to succumb to blood loss and exhaustion.
‘Alright, enough fucking around. I’m coming in to finish this,’ Old Jimmy said.
Davey prayed that Old Jimmy was coming in through the door that he was hiding behind, but life wasn’t that fair these days.
Old Jimmy came in from the far door.
Davey circled round the outside of the barn to the window nearest the tractor.
‘Where the fuck are ya, boy meat?’ Old Jimmy called out.
He fired a few bursts into the hay bales nearest him.
‘Nope,’ he laughed.
More bullets devastated the hay bales.
‘Nope,’ Old Jimmy laughed.
He quickly reloaded.
Davey moved to the window furthest away from the tractor.
He figured that Old Jimmy would soon figure out that this was where Deborah and Solomon were hiding.
Davey rapped hard on the wall.
Ducked as a stream of bullets tore through the walls near him.
‘Where’d you go, you little prick?’ he heard Old Jimmy mutter.
Davey crept round to the other side of the barn and knocked.
Another burst opened up the walls.
‘Ah,’ the old pervert chuckled, his face twisting into a hideous grin. ‘I getcha now. You’re trying to stop me seeing what’s happening behind yonder tractor.’
He fired at the tractor, hitting the wall behind Deborah who was still frantically pumping on Solomon’s chest.
She cried out in alarm.
‘Ah, there y’are,’ he grinned. ‘Say, I’m gonna do this close range, see the whites in your eyes.’
As he stepped forward, Davey pulled himself up onto the windowsill nearest the tractor and dived towards Old Jimmy’s back.
He spun fast, firing a wild burst, some of which hit Davey in the chest and stomach, further knocking the wind out of his battered body.
Davey managed to swing the scythe but he’d misjudged the distance and his blow caught Old Jimmy on the bicep.
Blood stained his shirt immediately and Davey took heart from his cry.
Davey landed on him, and they both hit the deck.
Davey’s wrist was twisted in the fall, forcing him to release the scythe. It landed, its tip facing up, among the hay.
Old Jimmy rolled immediately and tried to pull the gun around to fire, but Davey clamped his good arm on it and flung it across the floor.
He managed to get back on top of the old man.
‘Happy to see me?’ Old Jimmy grinned, sticking his tongue out and licking Davey’s cheek.
Davey threw a hard head-butt that burst Old Jimmy’s nose all over his face.
Davey took heart from his pained cry.
Old Jimmy’s other hand was sneaking down to his side and Davey belatedly realised that he was going for a knife.
He clamped the hand to his side.
Old Jimmy let go of the knife and his hand came up, his thumb jabbing hard into Davey’s eye.
Davey’s vision blurred and white hot pain lanced through his skull.
He looked over to Deborah, who seemed to be in a trance, robotically pumping her arms and counting to herself in a seemingly vain attempt at saving Solomon’s life.
You’re on your own, Davey lad, he thought.
He tried to reach for the scythe but knew he couldn’t take his weight off Old Jimmy’s chest too much or he would roll him off.
And just like that, inspiration hit him.
Davey let Old Jimmy roll him to the side.
Old Jimmy began laughing as he ended up straddling Davey’s chest.
Before his weight settled properly, Davey rolled again.
There was a strange noise and Old Jimmy exhaled hard, forcing reeking air and warm drops of blood onto Davey’s face.
‘Surprise, motherfucker,’ Davey grinned.
Old Jimmy looked down to see the sharp end of the scythe protruding from his stomach.
Dark gore dripped from the end.
While Old Jimmy stared at the scythe in disbelief, Davey grabbed the handle and shoved with all of his might.
The blade sunk right in.
Davey twisted and pulled the blade across the old man’s stomach.
Old Jimmy’s steaming guts plopped from the wound and landed in the hay by his feet.
The old man fell away, mouth twitching weakly, blood spilling from his flapping jaw.
While he struggled to make sense of the situation, Davey grabbed the assault rifle.
Grinning, he rolled to a knee and emptied the magazine at point-blank range.
He wanted no trace of Old Jimmy to remain on the earth.
He blasted his skull into dust.
Blew off his hands and feet.
Turned his torso to patty.
He fired the final burst into his groin.
Then he turned to check on King Solomon.
Deborah was sweating heavily from the exertion.
It was clear she was on the verge of giving up.
The maelstrom of bullets and blood that had swirled around her had seemed like it was happening in a different time and place, so intent was she on reviving the fallen King.
She saw Davey, blood-spattered, pale, and on the verge of collapse, shuffle over to her.
Tears filled her eyes.
She sadly shook her head.
Davey closed his eyes, feeling the weight of yet another soul on his conscience.
When Davey next opened his eyes, he was back at the Freelands in the hospital.
He remembered nothing of the ride over here, but Solomon was lying in the bed next to him.
His big chest didn’t seem to be moving.
He was as still and as pale as a corpse.
Davey hurled himself out of bed, ignoring the way the room spun madly, and ran over to the King’s bed.
His hands began pumping the King’s chest.
Solomon sat up, his good eye comically wide, his expression one of utter bemusement.
‘What the hell are you doing, Davey lad?’ he asked.
‘I thought I’d lost you,’ Davey said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
‘Na, I’m far too busy to die, lad,’ he laughed, a gormless grin plastered across his chops.
Davey dived on him, squeezing him with all his might.
‘Fucking hell, Davey lad, go steady will ya?’ Solomon winced.
One of the primitive-looking machines next to the King began emitting a high-pitched squeal.
Armed guards – it wasn’t clear whether the guns were loaded or not – burst into the room.
Half a dozen doctors followed them in and began fussing all around Solomon’s bed.
‘Is he going to be ok?’ Davey asked the doctor who was standing over him.
‘I’m fine, you just pulled my fucking heartrate monitor off,’ Solomon grinned.
‘He lost a lot of blood but he will be fine,’ the doctor confirmed. ‘He just needs to rest. Same goes for you. You were both lucky you got treated when you did.’
Davey winced as pain raced through him.
‘It’s ok. You’ll be tender for a while. There are stitches in there.’
Davey felt his stomach heave.
The after-effects of adrenaline and the whizzers they’d given him as anaesthetic kicked in.
The doctor hastily shoved a cardboard sick bowl under his chin just in time to catch the horrid gruel-like substance that oozed from his lips.
Looks just like the Grim gruel from the bait cabin, he thought with a grin.
He retched again, emptying his stomach with deep wracks.
When he’d done, he slumped back to the pillow, drained.
The next time he woke up, Deborah was standing over the bed, a smile on her face.
‘I had a hell of a time getting past the guards,’ she grinned.
‘I can imagine,’ Davey smiled.
‘They didn’t believe that I’d come with you to help. They thought I was to blame.’
‘You kinda were,’ Solomon muttered, opening his good eye slightly.
Deborah laughed and shook her head.
A single tear oozed from her eye. ‘I’m so sorry you had to endure that. He had come to us saying he had been chased out of the Freelands.’
‘He was,’ Solomon said. ‘He and some of his sick ass friends beat the shit outta Davey and tried to do some horrible fucking things to him. We executed his friends but he got away.’
‘He seemed harmless,’ Deborah said.
‘I know what you mean. He sucked me in with it too,’ Davey said.
‘Water under the bridge now,’ Solomon said.
‘How are you anyway?’
‘Feel like deep-fried shit. Might finally be time for me to take a rest for a few days.’
Deborah nodded. ‘You rest up. We brought antibiotics over. And think of this as a get well soon present for you both.’
As Deborah went to dig in the huge basket of fruit she’d brought, the guards all went for their guns.
‘Chill,’ Solomon said, his voice lacking its usual bombast.
The guards all put their guns down as one.
Davey marvelled at the display, especially with the kaleidoscopic effect the whizzers added to it.
‘You seeing this shit, Davey lad?’ Solomon grinned. ‘Goddamned sparklers every time they move.’
‘Guns up,’ Solomon said, grinning dopily at the hallucination. ‘That’s cool as fuck.’
Deborah offered a basket of fruit to them.
It looked freshly picked, and, like most of Serenity, scrubbed to a high shine.
There was also a bottle of wine for the King – Davey had a lovingly-labelled bottle of ginger beer – and even a couple of bars of handmade chocolate.
‘Thank you,’ they said in unison.
‘Least we could do after what happened,’ Deborah said. ‘I’m just pleased it didn’t spark a war.’
‘As I told you, we have no war with Serenity now,’ Solomon said, smiling weakly.
‘I’ll let you rest anyway,’ Deborah said. ‘You both look like shit.’
‘Well thanks for that,’ Solomon grinned.
‘You need anything, let us know.’
‘Will do, lady. Thank you.’
‘Best get some kip, Davey lad. Only chance we’ll get for a bit of r and r.’
Next chapter is here