Part 9 continues on directly from Part 7, so it may be helpful to re-visit Chapter 7.9.
It may also be helpful to re-visit Chapter 8.11, as this is also linked to the events in Part 9.
Part 9: Sooner or later everyone gotta take their medicine
Davey and Luna had followed the tracks for a good while and not come any closer to finding the vehicle which seemed to have taken Tia.
Then, like a mirage out of the desert, something appeared.
It started as a low sound, a bass rumble.
It was so loud that, at first, Davey thought they were coming back to the Freelands.
Luna’s hand crept to her gun and pulled it loose.
‘We’re nearly there,’ she said.
Davey pulled his gun too.
There was no such thing as good news these days, so he knew it would pay to be armed.
The bass rumble slowly became clearer, changing into loud rock music.
Drunken whooping and hollering followed it like a shadow.
The beeping of car horns came too.
An occasional gun blast, punctuated with another moronic, ‘Woo!’
The smell of charred meat carried on the wind.
Behind it, more subtle, almost like a marinade, was the metallic scent of freshly spilled blood.
‘If this is where she is…’ Luna trailed off.
Already his gut was telling him this place was bad news.
They moved a little closer, approaching from out of the wastelands at the river’s edge.
They scanned around, saw at least a dozen heavily armed men.
They were drinking and barbecuing, just like men had taken a strange pride in doing before.
Except this wasn’t like before.
There was something distinctly off about it.
They saw Tia in the passenger seat of a dirt-encrusted transit van.
She was asleep for now, but they could see that her hands were bound, her mouth covered with black duct tape.
It certainly didn’t look as though she’d been rescued, judging by the scenes near the other vans.
Low, pained moans drifted on the wind.
It seemed it would have been kinder to leave her for the giant crab.
One of the men – wearing a red bandanna, they noticed – opened the passenger door of the van, catching Tia as she fell out.
She was still asleep, or, more likely, in a drug-induced paralysis.
While they watched from the shadows of the treeline, a vehicle fired up its engine.
‘Shit, we’ve been spotted,’ Luna said.
But Davey shook his head.
The vehicle – a black hearse, they noticed with bemusement – wasn’t headed for them, but the garage.
The hearse tore up the hill towards the garage.
The driver – dressed in black with their features totally obscured – was leaning an assault rifle on the lip of the window.
The gun spat fire, cutting a bloody stripe across the man nearest the speeding vehicle.
Petrol fumes were thick in the air.
Gunfire tore through the other sounds like a wrecking ball.
The men were getting up from their garden chairs and starting to investigate.
Another burst of automatic fire hit the Becks bottle in one of their hands, bursting it like a glass balloon and implanting the green shards into his face.
Davey and Luna heard his bloodcurdling screams as blood gushed from the burst orb that was now his eye.
He fell back, hands cupped to the eye which was oozing a dark jelly that seeped between his fingers.
He was put out of his misery with a perfect headshot that burst his head like an overripe tomato.
Bloody gobbets of brain spattered his friends who hadn’t yet figured out that they needed to use the guns that hung limp by their sides.
Another burst of automatic fire strafed them, carving their torsos to ribbons.
One man fell back, practically cut in half by the high-calibre rounds.
Spools of intestine poked through the bloody holes in his belly.
The first went to bring his gun up but the next burst of gunfire took his arm off at the wrist.
The gun fell, useless, to the floor.
The man next to him was still getting up from his lawn chair, the pile of empty beer cans beneath his seat revealing why his reactions were slowed to a crawl.
The next burst of fire hit him, making him keel backwards.
His finger depressed the trigger, sending a shotgun round uselessly up into the sky.
The driver’s gun clicked empty and the weapon slid back into the car.
Another assault rifle replaced it just as quickly.
Davey would later swear there was no pause in the fire.
The last of the men by the lawn chairs fell, his head gone from the jawline up over.
He fountained blood into the night sky.
Then he fell to his knees, blood already pooling beneath him.
The hearse sped past him, towards the main strip of vans.
One man shuffled out of one of the vans, his jeans around his ankles, a comical look of dismay on his face.
A shotgun blast from the car perforated his abdomen.
He fell, blood pissing from a dozen wounds.
Davey could see that the man in the red bandanna had hidden behind one of the vans, clutching a shotgun to his chest as though it was the answer to all of his prayers.
He waited for the right moment and popped out in front of the car, firing the shotgun into the windshield.
The blast bounced off harmlessly, then the car ploughed through him, turning him into redneck jam on the windshield.
Men were starting to come from the main garage building now.
Some of them looked dazed, as though they’d either been sleeping or were partaking in whatever poison they enjoyed.
They had the sense to spread out and duck as automatic fire chipped the brickwork around them.
The hearse sped past, then screeched into a U-turn and came round the other way.
There seemed to be a trail of liquid on the dirt behind the vehicle.
As the shooters gathered their wits and prepared to launch a counter attack, there was a flat whump, and the ground between two of the vans was hurled into the air in a miniature cyclone.
One of the men fell hard, his lower legs disappearing in a fine red mist.
The shotgun in his hands slowly came round on the car, aiming to take out its front tyres, but a blast from the hearse burst his head like a blood-filled water balloon.
Finally one of the men landed a shot on the hearse, but it only served to clang uselessly off the paintwork.
The hearse weaved as bullets began to fly at it.
Then it quickly reversed, hitting one man at hip height and flattening him in a hail of blood and screams.
The hearse went over him, further crunching his bones.
There was blood in the skid marks as it wheel span away this time.
The moans, screams and confused cries of the men filled the air, drowning out the rock music and depraved sounds coming from the vans.
Another explosion went off, turning two of the men to bloody confetti that was hurled a dozen feet into the air.
Davey and Luna watched all of this with dropped jaws.
A sniper in the window of the garage lined up a shot, seemingly unseen.
But before his finger could depress the trigger, another burst of automatic fire had shattered the window and sent him falling to his death.
There didn’t seem many of the men left.
Davey saw one crouched between two of the vans and another three scattered around the main building.
The man between the vans fell, a shotgun blast cleaving his skull in two.
His blood gave the vans’ paintwork a new lease of life.
The hearse screeched to a halt.
More bullets clanged uselessly off its armoured bodywork.
Before the men could fire a shot, the driver struck a match and hurled it at the trail of petrol the hearse had been leaving around the compound.
As realisation dawned upon them, their faces turned to horror.
Then flames blossomed all around them.
Their bodies were scorched, screaming husks, somehow still walking, like human torches.
They eventually stopped screaming and fell, crackling and popping as they hit the dirt.
The driver got out, flattened the skull of one surviving man with a hard boot stomp.
The assault rifle in his hands cut down the last man lurking by the vans.
Then the assailant was in the first van.
Blast of gunfire, then a blood-smeared, naked woman was turned loose.
Flames burned around the figure, casting them in a hellish glow.
It looked like the reaper himself had come down to earth.
Another survivor had his throat crushed by the reaper’s boot.
The sickly gurgle chilled Davey’s blood.
The next van door popped open and this time a man was hidden inside.
He didn’t get to fire his gun as the attacker’s blade carved a ragged crimson smile in his throat.
He hit the deck hard, a single bullet blowing his brains out into the dust as insurance.
The naked girl came out after a second single shot.
And so this continued.
Any survivors were ruthlessly put down.
The girls were liberated from whatever horror was going on in the vans.
Davey flat-out didn’t want to know about what they’d endured.
All this beneath the spectacular backdrop of the burning building.
The girls were left to their own devices, but they noticed that Tia hadn’t been rescued yet.
The man had done a lap of the compound killing or freeing as appropriate, but he came back to Tia last.
She was slung over his shoulder and carried back to the hearse which sped away into the night, leaving the blaze behind it.
‘What did we just watch?’ Davey said.
‘The medicine man.’
Luna’s awe was writ large across her face.
Davey shook his head.
‘Surely you must have heard of him?’
Davey shook his head again.
‘He goes round, righting the wrongs. Making sure the bad take their medicine.’
‘He sounds scary.’
‘He’s fucking terrifying. He never sleeps. He leaves a trail of spoons everywhere he’s been. And he kills anyone who has been bad. Word is you can ask him t’ kill someone for you… if you can find him. He loves t’ read and asks for books as payment. But if you are the bad one… he turns his twelve gauge on you like.’
‘I like the sound of this guy.’
‘As long as you’re pure of ’art you’ll be fine. But I wouldn’t want t’ be a bad man in this world when he’s around.’
Davey’s mind raced.
‘Say, we’d best get after him, like.’
Next chapter is here