The ongoing mystery among the survivors at Lindsay Creek is who killed Riddick back in the day.
These scenes were cut from the novel and definitely clear it up.
Cody Riddick wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand. He examined it a moment then grinned at his attacker, his teeth stained red. “I’m going to fuck you up for that.” His voice cracked at the end. As he glanced around at the surrounding mob of children, his momentary bravado faded.
“Come on, Cody, get her!”
“Kick her ass!”
His opponent circled just out of reach, knuckles bleeding from the punch to his mouth. Scrawny and pale, cheeks gaunt with passing illness, she was no less reedy than Cody but slightly taller. Her thick auburn hair seemed dull in the afternoon sunlight as she moved in for another attack. Cody tossed his head to clear his vision of the greasy lock of hair falling into his eyes. She had him on height, but he was heavier. When she swung, he ducked like his daddy had taught him, and punched her below the belt for all he was worth. The girl dropped to her hands and knees on the pavement, heaving.
A round of cheers went up from Cody’s three supporters. Nearly a hundred other children, ranging from toddlers to preteens, gathered in the church parking lot, circling the combatants, calling out to the girl on the ground. Cars and pickups filled the lot, dirty children clambering atop them to get a better view of the arena. Several held hunting rifles and shotguns in their hands as they awaited the outcome of this fight. Being outnumbered didn’t detract Cody’s friends from hooting and clapping as their champion turned to pump his fists in the air. Those few who joined Cody’s celebration were cuffed into silence by their friends. A three-year-old wailed at a sharp slap, his cries abruptly muffled by a child not much older.
There was a scuffle on the sidelines, a boy of ten breaking through the barrier of arms and legs to run to the injured girl. He had a head of hair and facial features similar to hers, indicating their shared parentage. Falling to his knees beside her, he whispered in her ear, glaring at Cody.
“Get out of here, runt,” Cody growled, advancing. “Or you’re next. There ain’t gonna be a Loomis left standing when I’m done.”
The girl staggered to her feet with the boy’s help. She pushed him behind her, not giving Cody an easy target. “Cara,” she rasped. “Rick, see to Cara.”
Rick took a reluctant step back. Behind him, a girl his age with the same auburn coloring reached out from the crowd, grabbed his shirt, and pulled him out of danger.
Cody laughed. “That’s right, you little prick! Run away! Let the girls fight for you.” His cheering squad took up the call. He returned his attention to the girl. “Well, Loomis, what do you say? You give up? Or am I going to have to beat you to death?”
She clutched at her stomach, not quite bent double, her complexion more green than gray. Defiant, she spat at him, limping sideways to keep him from approaching too near. “You and what army? You couldn’t beat your way out of a wet paper bag.”
He rubbed his crotch, a feral grin on his face. “When I’m done with you, you’ll know exactly what a girl’s good for.”
“Yeah, Cody! Let’s fuck her good!”
Loomis’s expression didn’t change, but she paled. Pleased he’d gotten any response at all from the bitch, his grin widened. He gave his penis another squeeze for her benefit. All he had to do was overwhelm her enough, get a decent hold on her, and the fight would be over. In her weakened state she’d never be able to get away. He knew none of the kids would stop him and his friends from putting Marissa Loomis in her place once and for all. Hell, some of them might actually join in the diversion.
Not having grown ups around sure made life fun.
Cody rushed forward, intent on grappling her to the ground. She cringed away, turning to present her left side to his attack, bracing her feet. He didn’t see the roundhouse punch from her right fist until it connected with his eye. Cody grabbed at her, more to stay standing than to bring her down. His awareness slipped into darkness, his vision blurring red as blood spurted from his injured brow. She twisted in his grasp. Bringing her knee up hard, she crushed his burgeoning erection. He fell to his knees, hands clutching his groin. Blood ran down his face as he warred with the urge to vomit. Before he could recover, Loomis pulled back one foot and kicked him hard in the stomach.
Many of the children whooped in relief and excitement. As their champion bent double to onto the tarmac, the boys that made up Cody’s gang cried out in anger. Cody’s brother, Travis, swaggered forward like a banty rooster, his face ugly as he rolled up a sleeve. The others pulled out pistols, the weapons huge in their undersized hands. They froze at the clicking of several rifle safeties, eyes wide as they scanned the crowd.
“Don’t try it, Travis.” Dwayne Walker sighted down the barrel of his father’s hunting rifle. His voice had yet to change, but it resonated with authority. “Loomis won, fair and square. We stayed out of it because that’s what she wanted. There’s nothing stopping us now.”
Loomis staggered away into the arms of her family and friends. Travis stared after her a moment, his friends warily eyeing the weapons aimed at them. “All right.” He watched as Loomis was escorted back inside the church. “We’ll go. Let me get my brother and we’ll go home.” He jerked a chin at his friends, and they put their guns away.
Walker nodded slowly, lowering the rifle but not letting down his guard. His “men” did the same. They watched as the three came forward to collect their unconscious companion. Despite the fact that Cody Riddick deserved what he’d gotten and more, Walker frowned. “If you want, Simon and a couple of guys can escort you to the clinic for first aid stuff.”
Travis snarled. “Fuck you, Walker. You pussies might be whipped by Loomis, but we’re not going to join your little hippy dippy commune. You stay out of our supplies, and we’ll stay out of yours.” He helped get his brother off the ground, and the boys trudged down the street toward the village limits.
Walker sent two of his boys to trail after them. Their departure catalyzed the gathering to disperse. Children drifted away, some to nearby houses and others into the church, leaving behind a parking lot of empty cars and trash blowing in the breeze. Yards had become overgrown in the last month, weeds sprouting in decorative flowerbeds and grass inching its way up to preschooler kneecaps. Walker kicked past a plastic bag full of empty candy wrappers to watch the Riddick gang shamble away.
“That ain’t going to last long.” James Kipfer slung his rifle over his shoulder, the butt of the weapon dangling to his calf.
“Sooner or later they’re going to run out of stuff. Then what?” a girl asked.
“We’ll deal with it when it happens,” Walker said.
“That’s begging for trouble, man.” Kipfer’s blond hair hung in his eyes. His mother let him grow it out every summer. There was no one left to give him a proper haircut any more.
Walker scowled at him. “What else are we going to do? Murder them? Our folks wouldn’t want us to become killers, Jim.”
Kipfer blushed and shrugged, abruptly shifting into the eleven-year-old he truly was.
Sighing, Walker looked down the street at the disappearing Riddicks. They wouldn’t stay away. Their parents had been the town bullies. They’d carried on that fine tradition in grade school. Kipfer was right. Sooner or later things were going to get a lot messier.
Cody watched the township of Lindsay Crossing through his binoculars. Even with no adults in residence, the place was a hive of activity. It seemed that every kid for ten miles had made the trip into the village. He and his friends had circled the place, checking outlying cabins and houses to discover no one in residence. Even the kids from nearby McAdam had gone missing. Somebody had to have gone around and invited them to town, yet all he could think about was Marissa Loomis retching in the street. That bitch was somewhere down there right now, gathering her forces, teaching “classes” to the others. “Classes!” he snorted aloud. Just for fun, he and his friends had torched the high school in McAdam, and here these morons were having school. Rumor had it that the Loomis family had been survivalists. Was she raising her own private army down there? “What the hell are they having classes for? School’s out for good now that the grown ups are dead.”
The sobs behind him had abated. He glanced over his shoulder at the townie his friends had caught. The boy had been stripped, and tied with his back against a tree. Bruises and welts marked his thin chest, and blood trickled from a series of shallow wounds across his body. He shivered against the autumn chill, tracks of tears smearing the dirt and blood on his face.
“I asked you a fucking question,” Cody said. “What kind of classes are you talking about?”
Travis lazily slapped their captive, rocking his head against the tree trunk. “Answer the man.”
The boy’s voice shook. “4H classes,” he whispered. “How to plant gardens, how to raise a cow, that kind of stuff.”
“How to raise a cow?” Cody burst into laughter, his cronies dutifully following his lead. “Christ, why would anyone want to know that? I can shoot any cow I want for dinner. They’re all over.” His buddies laughed, enjoying the joke. “And Loomis is in charge of this?”
The boy winced away from Travis, not wanting another attack, and shook his head. “No. All the farm kids are teaching us. All those from 4H.”
Cody stepped forward until he was inches away from the boy. He basked in the fear radiating from his victim, liking the smell of sour sweat. “But Loomis is still behind it, isn’t she?”
“Yes,” the boy squeaked, eyes squeezed shut.
“What do you think?” Cody looked at his brother.
Travis sighed. “I think they’re in it for the long haul. And why the hell do we care? Let’s head down to the city and catch some decent action. This farming shit’s for the birds.”
Cody growled. “Because I swore I’d fuck Marissa Loomis up, and I ain’t leaving until I do. Got it?”
“Yeah, okay! I got it.” Travis raised his hands in surrender. “But none of them have left town since the fight. They’ve got guards all over the place, and a lot more guns than we do. How are we going to get to her?”
“We’re going to wait.” Cody focused on his naked prisoner. “And while we’re waiting, we’re going to have some fun.”
Cody scowled at the industrious activity going on at the valley’s only large grocery store. Four delivery trucks from three different businesses sat near the doors. A string of kids loaded them as they cleared the shelves of remaining product. Nor was this the only place such action occurred. From his position on the roof of the six-room Log Cabin Motor Inn he saw four other businesses on Main Street being systematically ransacked. From what he saw, they took everything that wasn’t nailed down.
“They’re getting all of it, man,” one of the others said. “They’re cleaning the town out.”
“What are we going to eat?”
“What are we going to do, Cody? Shit, they have to have found our place in the country store by now. All of our stuff’s there.”
“Shut up,” Cody growled at his brother, glaring at the interlopers as his mind worked on the problem.
Travis wasn’t impressed. “We can still get to the city. The snows probably haven’t closed off the canyon yet, and Cascade’s only the next county over. We can grab wheels from any house or parking lot here, be in the valley by tonight. They’ll have food and gear there.” He paused. “Come on, what do you say?”
Cody rounded on his brother. “If you want to be a chicken shit, then go. I’ve got an ass to kick here first, and I’m not leaving until it’s done.”
Travis rolled his eyes in exasperation, but wisely kept his mouth shut. It had become a constant sore point between them, this unnatural urge to destroy Loomis.
“So what are we going to do?” one of the boys questioned tentatively.
Cody returned his attention to the grocery store. “We’ll go check the country store, get our stuff if we can. If not, we’ll scavenge ahead of them and replace it. They ain’t going into any houses, so we can find someplace else to hole up.”
A battered green truck pulled into the parking lot, its bed layered with propane tanks. Four kids got out of it, several with familiar auburn hair. Cody’s heart leaped with anticipation when he saw Loomis and her family. Getting close to her had been all but impossible the last couple of months. He grabbed his rifle, swiftly bringing it to bear on the bitch. She had stopped to talk with one of the kids loading the truck. He peered down the sights, lining up a perfect shot with the back of her head. With one squeeze her brains would be all over the boy next to her and the storefront windows. Behind him, he heard the whispered commands from his brother as Travis got the others ready to run. Once he pulled that trigger, the wrath of Lindsay Crossing would be upon them all. They would have to find a quick place to go to ground until nightfall to avoid the vengeful manhunt that would ensue. His finger began to tense.
He didn’t pull the trigger. This was too easy, too quick. The bitch needed to suffer first. He yearned to see the terror in her eyes, to taste her blood on his lips, to listen to her beg for him to kill her after he was done having his fun. Maybe he would torture her little brother first, let her watch him die in agony before starting to work on her. Then there were her two cousins hanging with her now. Cody bet that little blond kid would squeal like a pig with the proper incentive. He pulled his finger from the trigger and clicked the safety back on, watching her clap one of the workers on the shoulder before moving behind the truck and out of his sights.
“What the fuck, man?” Travis’s voice was rough as he attempted to keep quiet despite the urge to yell. “You had a clean shot! Why the hell didn’t you take it?”
“I got special plans for Loomis.” Cody crawled back from the edge of the roof and stood. He slung his rifle on his shoulder and dusted off his belly. “I want her to hurt in every way possible before I kill her with my bare hands.” The look in his eye was enough to cause his brother to subside. The others, their complexions waxy with fear, wouldn’t look at him.
Disgruntled and resigned, Travis ran his hand through his greasy hair. “Let’s go, then. It ain’t going to be easy to get to our stash with all this activity.”
“Let’s go,” Cody repeated.
The others quickly made for the rooftop hatch they had used to reach their vantage point. Cody remained behind a moment more. He stepped closer to the edge, seeing Loomis at the propane refill center at the front of the store with her brother and cousins. Holding out his hand, he mimed shooting her with a pistol.
With a barely audible groan, Travis dropped his head to the back of the overstuffed armchair. The fire burned high to fend off the icy November evening, and one of the guys wrestled with a half burnt chicken hanging over the flames, turning it to torch the other side. The remaining two boys sat quietly together on the couch, beers in hand, listening to Cody carry on his rant about what he was going to do with that Loomis bitch. They had eaten nothing but canned or burnt food for weeks, and he was getting sick of the shit. What they needed were some girls to do the cooking and cleaning and bed warming. Hell, he didn’t care if they couldn’t cook or clean worth a damn, so long as they spread their legs when he wanted a fuck. A man had to have priorities. Getting a girl anywhere around here was never going to happen. Everybody left in the area stuck mostly within Lindsay Crossing town limits. Those few that had returned to outlying farms and ranches had gone as groups of ten or more. It was like a freaking cult or something. He and his boys had almost gotten their asses handed to them getting that stupid chicken for dinner tonight.
Cody took another swig from his whiskey bottle. He had been drinking all day and his eyes were bloodshot, but their intensity hadn’t lessened. “I think I’m going to keep her alive. Make her put out for all of us whenever we want.” The two on the couch gave a bleary chorus of pleasurable agreement, more out of habit than any belief that their leader’s wild dreams would come to fruition.
Travis yawned. “Christ, Cody, why can’t you just let it go? So what that they backed a girl over you. Who gives a shit anymore?”
“I do!” Cody snarled. He took a dangerous step closer, hovering over his seated brother.
The others stopped their half-hearted chuckles, observing with fierce interest, jackals watching the pack leader take on a challenger. Travis knew he couldn’t count on any of them backing him. “Then fucking do something about it.” It was time his brother shit or get off the pot. Staying here all winter listening to him bitch was going to be the death of them. At the very least, he would eat a bullet to get away from the noise. “Dad always said you were a whiner, always talking, never following through. You’re pathetic.”
The witnesses held their collective breath, an air of mixed horror and glee settling over them as his words registered. “What the fuck did you say?” Cody whispered.
Travis pushed himself to his feet, forcing his brother to step back. “You heard me. You’re pathetic, a fucking loser. That Loomis chick beat you in a fair fight, and you’re a pussy because of it. Just because you’re not man enough to follow through ain’t no reason to force all of us to rot here in the middle of nowhere. Not when we could be in the city partying our asses off.”
When it came, the blow knocked him on his butt. He fell to the floor, upsetting his armchair and spilling his beer in the process. He knew better than to remain down, and scrambled back up, barely avoiding the thick boot that swung to catch him in the ribs. “What the fuck are you attacking me for? I’m not the one you want. You’ve been talking shit for weeks about what you’ll do to Marissa Loomis… You even had a clear shot at blowing her brains out. What the hell’s stopping you?”
Cody fairly seethed, panting and red-faced as he stared at his brother, one hand wrapped around the whiskey bottle, and the other clenched into a fist.
They stared at one another for a full minute. “What?” Travis asked softly. “You chicken? Is that why we’re stuck here?” He didn’t like fucking with his brother, but something had to be done before he went stark raving crazy.
Cody swallowed, his face going pale. The only one who ever got away with accusing either of them of being chicken had been their father. The words usually presaged a horrible beating if they didn’t immediately take action to prove him wrong. He licked his lips in a flash of uncertainty before his eyes hardened again. Sneering at his brother, he glanced around the room at the others. “Get in the car. We’re going to visit Marissa and have a little party.”
The boys whooped in joy. Finally they were going to take care of the last thing holding them here. They jumped to their feet and gathered rain jackets and boots, scooping up a case of beer and a couple of bottles of booze to take with them. Cody bared his teeth at his brother, and Travis conceded the game.
“Let’s go kick her ass.”
The five of them left the house in a rush of sound and emotion that was nearly drowned out by a roll of thunder.
A particularly hard gust of wind rattled the windows, freezing rain ticking off the panes loud enough to drown out the sound of the flames in the fireplace. Rick looked up from the Legos scattered around him and tried with little success to peer past his reflection to the darkness. Though it wasn’t cold in the cabin, he shivered and returned his attention to his project.
Cara sat by the fireplace in her mother’s rocking chair, the one they’d taken from her home in town. She frowned in concentration as she fiddled with a pair of knitting needles and some yarn. A book lay open in her lap and she gave it a cursory examination every so often as she followed its incomprehensible directions for an afghan. Her brother, Terry, had finally crashed for the evening on the loveseat. Rick was relieved. At least the little brat wouldn’t pester him anymore to play. Since returning to the cabin a couple of weeks ago, Terry had been nothing but an annoyance, always underfoot, always demanding to join in whatever Rick was doing. Delia Hansen slept fitfully in the family crib, close enough to the fireplace to keep warm through the night. She was over a year old, and the crib was almost too small for her. Pretty soon she’d need a big kid’s bed, which meant they’d have to move back into the bedrooms.
Rick glanced at the doorway leading to the lower bedrooms. He and one of his brothers had slept in one of the lofts overhead. His sister, Marissa, had lived in the other. The bedrooms on this level had held their parents and two of their older brothers. Nathan and Bobby hadn’t been home when the sickness came through Lindsay Crossing, though Bobby was able to make it back to die in his room. Justin and his wife Debra had been here, as had their parents, bringing the Loomis death toll to six if he counted his unborn niece. It had almost been seven when Marissa got sick, too. Rick was glad she’d survived. He didn’t want to think about life without any of his family. He wondered if he’d have to move into one of the lower bedrooms instead of reclaiming his own. Would his brothers’ ghosts haunt him?
Another rattle from the windows made him jump and brought his sister out of her book. She sat up on the couch and peered into her reflection as he had done. Then she stretched, looking around. “I’m going to go check the stock.” She reached for the boots she’d taken off earlier.
“You want company, Marissa?” He rolled his eyes at her expression. Since their father’s death, his sister had become head of the house and never let the rest of them forget it. She’d insisted from the beginning that she be called by their last name, just as their father had. “Loomis, I mean.”
She grinned. “Naw. Stay inside and keep dry. I won’t be long.” She pulled her jacket from its hook. “I think winter’s finally here. Bet there’s snow in the next couple of days.”
Rick had a sudden vision of pegging Terry with a snowball. “Cool.”
“Keep an eye on things. I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
Loomis went through the door into the small, unheated entryway. A cold current rushed across the floor as she shut the door, causing Rick to shiver again. He returned to sorting through his Lego collection, looking for the right piece for the plane he built.
“I’m going to make some hot chocolate.” Cara set aside her knitting. “You want some?”
His cousin left the living area for the kitchen. Several moments later he heard her fighting with the hand pump. He remembered she wasn’t strong enough to work the mechanism. “Need help?” Terry muttered in his sleep and rolled over, but didn’t wake at Rick’s raised voice.
The kitchen was dark. It took a bit for his eyes to adjust, but he saw her standing by the hand pump, shoulders slumped in dejection. A pail already hung from the hook, and he quickly pumped the handle until water gushed out the spout.
“It’s no use.” Cara’s voice was thick with unshed tears. “I’m just a wuss.”
“No you’re not.” Rick gave the pump a couple of more good goes before stopping. “You’re just not used to it, yet. It’s not your fault your parents had running water and electricity. You’ll get stronger, you’ll see.” She sniffled, and he stood next to her, wondering what to do or say. Girls were a puzzle, crying ones downright scary. His eyes looked everywhere but at Cara, seeking a distraction he could use to jolly her out of her tears. A flash of light by the driveway provided him with the opportunity he sought. “Who’s that?” A car slowly followed the drive toward the barns. Rick saw sheets of icy rain in the headlights. What fool would be out driving in this weather? A chill ran up his spine.
“I don’t know.” Cara went to the window to peer outside. “I don’t recognize the car.”
If it were someone coming because of an emergency, they wouldn’t be going to the barns; they’d have kept coming straight and drove up to the cabin. “I don’t like this.” He tried to see through the storm. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the headlights went out, though he still saw the taillights as the driver hit the brakes. “This isn’t good.”
“Who do you think it is?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to go check.”
The wind cut through to his bones, the wind ripping his jacket’s zipper out of his hands. A thin film of ice had already accumulated on the ground, and Rick fought to remain upright as he turned away from the wind. His hands shook so bad, he was barely able to get his jacket closed, sighing in relief as he zipped it to his chin. Grinding his teeth and squinting against the driving rain, he forced his way around the garden. By now the car had come to a complete stop right in front of the horse barn. As he neared, he saw a number of people climb out of it. Someone yelled and waved at the barns, but Rick couldn’t make out the words. Two figures went to the barns, one to each. Three others had flashlights, raking them across the homestead. Rick didn’t know what they were looking for and didn’t think he’d like it if he did. When one beam flashed closer to him, he dropped to the ground behind the raised bed of the garden. There was another yell, and he eased out from behind his concealment, trembling with cold. One of them stood in the open door of the sheep barn, a struggling Loomis in his arms. There were more shouts, and the bunch of them descended upon his sister, dragging her back inside. She didn’t go willingly, and there was a mad fight. In the ruckus, one of the flashlights swept across the boys gathered there.
They got the upper hand and shoved her into the barn, quickly following and closing the door behind them.
Shit! The Riddicks! What was he supposed to do? He huddled in the freezing wet, staring at the barn, hoping he’d see Marissa escape, wishing he could run inside the cabin and tell his dad. Marissa didn’t appear, and he remembered Cody Riddick threatening to kill her if he ever caught her again. He recalled how battered she’d been after their fight. That had just been the two of them, one on one. No way would Riddick let that happen again. All five of them were probably kicking his sister’s ass right now. She’d never survive it. Rick swallowed the lump in his throat. She’d fought to stay alive for him, to not leave him alone when everybody else had died. After that, she’d fought to get everybody in Lindsay Crossing together, to teach each other the skills they all needed if they were going to live. He had to do something to save her. He was going to take out as many of them as he could, even if it meant dying. She’d do no less for him. Pale and shaken, he stumbled back toward the cabin.
“What’s going on? Who is it?” Cara’s freckles stood stark against her cheeks.
“Wake up Terry.” Rick went to the fireplace. He had to stand on tiptoes but he was able to reach the hunting rifle there. Taking the box of shells from the mantle, he fumbled them open, the brass rattling in his hands. “Get Delia and get over to the Fabers’ cabin for help.”
“Why? Who is it?”
“It’s the Riddicks, and they’ve got Marissa.” He didn’t like the pleading note in his tone. “Now go! I don’t know how long she has, but you can bet when they’re done with her, they’ll be coming for us.”
Cara ran to the door to get jackets, returning to roust her brother from sleep. As he complained, Rick loaded the rifle and stuffed an extra handful of ammunition into his pocket. His fingers were red and wet from the weather, and they burned from being so close to the fire. A clock ticked in his head, the minutes of his sister’s life steadily dwindling as he prepared to save her. “You remember how to get there?” he asked Cara. She and Terry were bundled into their jackets and she wrapped Delia in blankets, picking the toddler up in her arms.
“Yes. Take a right at the road, and go to the first driveway.” Delia began to cry, and Cara awkwardly tried to calm her. Terry stared wide-eyed at his cousin, yellow hair sticking up in a clump.
“You follow your sister,” Rick ordered him. “Don’t give her any lip. Just go with her to Annie’s house, okay?” The little boy nodded mutely. “And help with Delia. Hold on while I check if it’s safe.” He waved them all into the entryway, closed the interior door. He scooped up a coat that had belonged to his brother, Nathan, and draped over the rifle to protect it from the weather. Then he cracked open the outer door, peeked outside.
The only movement he saw was wind and rain. The ice burned his cheeks as he opened the door further. From the looks of things, they were still in the barn with his sister. While that may have afforded his cousins a shot at escape, Rick knew Marissa was paying the price. “Go! Run!” He waited until he saw them reach where the driveway crossed the creek and headed for the sheep barn.
“I’m coming, Marissa. Just hang on a little bit longer.”
Loomis was halfway to the barn door when someone pulled it open. She hadn’t known what to expect when she’d heard the vehicle approach, but one of Riddick’s boys wasn’t on her list of potential visitors. Terror shot through her. Rick! Cara! They had to have seen or heard the oncoming car. She needed to buy them time to escape. She’d beaten Riddick once, she could do it again — she was a lot stronger and healthier this time. If she could get him to fight fair.
The boy yelled out into the storm. “I’ve got her!” Before he turned back, Loomis rushed him, trying to push her way out the door and into the darkness. If she won free, she could lead them on a goose chase around the property while her family fled. The closest homestead was Annie Faber’s, the most likely place Rick would head toward. She only needed to last twenty minutes, a half hour at the most. She nearly succeeded before another boy joined the first. They overpowered her and forced her back inside the sheep barn, crowding her as three others shoved in behind them. The door slammed shut, the wood-on-wood sound of the latch loud despite the anxious blatting and rustling of sheep, and the sound of her pulse pounding in her ears.
“Hold her.” Cody leered at Loomis as his friends pinioned her between them. “I told you I’d get you, bitch. Think you can just kick me in the nuts and I’d run away? That might work with that pissant Walker, but not with me.”
The tremors in her knees made Loomis perversely glad of the extra support of those restraining her. She glared back at Cody. “I didn’t think there was enough down there to do any damage.”
He backhanded her with a speed she didn’t see coming. One of the boys nearly lost his grip as her head whipped violently to one side. Stars sparked her vision, and she grunted, tasting blood. A warm trickle along her chin told her he’d split her lip. The air was fragrant with whiskey fumes as Cody leaned forward to grin in her face. “Let’s see how you like it.” She gasped for fresh air as he pulled away, making the connection in their conversation a split second too late to twist her hips. Excruciating pain exploded in her gut as he planted his sturdy work boot between her legs. She barely heard the whoops of glee from the others as she collapsed in upon herself. The agony continued forever, overriding the aches and pains of other injuries as Cody kicked and pummeled her. She wasn’t certain when the attacks stopped, too immersed in her torment to notice. The respite allowed her to curl into a tight little ball that somehow eased the pain.
She panted, concentrating on slowing her breathing, using the focus to fight the anguish. Opening one eye, the only one that now worked, she tried to calculate how much time had passed. Not enough. Cody stood over her, hands on his hips, a look of satisfaction on his ugly face. Travis watched from the door with grim countenance. The other boys’ expressions held horrible fascination.
“How’s that feel, cunt?” One of the boys giggled at the forbidden word.
Loomis swallowed blood. It took a couple of tries before her mouth worked properly. “Is that the best you can do? What a weakling.” Her words didn’t anger Cody. She felt a hollow open in her stomach at the evil smile he gave her.
“Grab her. Get her clothes off.”
If she thought she was scared before, she was mistaken. Regardless of her pain, she fought her captors, fought them hard. She tasted blood not her own, heard cries of pain not from her throat. Her panicked struggle couldn’t defend against the overwhelming numbers. Ripping cloth gave way to groping hands on her arms and legs. And then Cody was on top of her, his weight holding her down, his hand fumbling between her legs. Loomis could deny her voice no more as he thrust into her for the first time. Her scream pierced through the air, drowning out his animalistic grunting and the shouts of the others urging him on.
When he finished, he stayed in her, using one hand to force her to look at him. “Told you I’d show you what a girl’s good for.”
Wood on wood and a blast of chill rainy air heralded the opening of the barn door. An overwhelming sense of relief flooded through Loomis, followed quickly by shame at what her savior would see. She closed her eyes, turning her head away, not wanting to see Annie Faber’s face.
“Get away from her, you bastard, or I’ll kill you!”
Loomis’s eyes shot open. Rick? Despair washed over her as she searched past Cody’s shoulder. Rick hadn’t gone for help. He stood there with their father’s hunting rifle waving back and forth as he tried to cover all five of the intruders. Loomis grunted as Cody shoved off her. She reflexively curled into herself, holding her abdomen.
“Well, if it ain’t Itty Bitty Loomis, come to save his bitch of a sister.” Cody ignored the threat of Rick’s rifle, pausing to tuck himself away and zip up his pants. “Where’s that little cousin of yours? Loomis is pretty damn tight. I’m betting your cuz will be even tighter.”
“Shut up!” Rick aimed at Cody. He slid along the wall, leaving the door clear. “Get out, all of you. The Fabers will be here any minute.”
One of the boys made a noise of mock fear, and Travis feigned shivering. “Annie Faber’s a sweet little thing, too. We can have a real party here at this rate.” The others chuckled.
Loomis forced herself to pay attention. The boys were spreading out, making it too difficult for Rick to focus on any one of them. As they taunted him, his rifle jumped back and forth across the room. She tried to speak, tried to warn him, but a low groan was the only thing that came out of her mouth. Coughing, she cleared her throat. “Rick. Get out. Run!”
It was the wrong thing. As Rick turned toward her, one of the boys grabbed the rifle. A shot went off, scaring the sheep and tearing a chunk of wood out of the wall near Travis’s head. Five adolescent boys had no trouble taking the ten-year-old down. The rifle was thrown aside, landing behind a bale of hay.
“No!” Loomis cried. “Leave him alone! He’s got nothing to do with this!” No one paid her the least amount of attention.
They had Rick circled. Cody, riding the high of his success, let the others have their fun. They played keep away with Rick, shoving him between them, tripping him, laughing when he got angry enough to start swinging back. When one of Rick’s wild punches hit a boy, he was rewarded with a sharp punch to the gut, and the game continued. Ignored, Loomis realized they thought she was vanquished. Had she been alone, she would have agreed, but her brother was being beaten and her cousins were in serious trouble of worse. If Rick had come here with a gun, had he at least gotten Cara, Terry and Delia away first? Or had he been too frantic to save Loomis, leaving them inside the cabin, defenseless prey for Cody and his friends? Loomis bit back a hiss of pain as she began moving. It took several minutes for her to crawl to where the rifle had landed, precious minutes in which Rick received several fists to his face and abdomen.
Cody, rested from his exertions with Loomis, stood to join the fun. “C’mon, out of the way. I want a shot at the little shit.” His friends accommodated him, and he gave Rick a roundhouse punch to the jaw, dropping the little boy instantly. The others whooped in excitement.
The sound of the rifle cocking quieted them. They turned to see Loomis propped against the hay bale, sighting down the barrel at Cody’s head. “I said leave him alone.”
Rather than expressing fear, Cody laughed. He took a step closer as his companions eased away. “Don’t let her scare you, assholes. She’s a girl. She’s probably never killed anything in her life. She won’t pull the trigger.” He grinned at her, taking another step closer. “Will you, bitch? You’re too soft.”
“Back off. Get out!” Loomis visibly tightened her grip on the rifle. “I mean it!”
Cody snorted, striding toward her.
The report of the rifle rang in the barn followed by the sharp smell of gunpowder. Cody stopped, mid-step, dropping his foot with absurd deliberation to the ground. He slowly toppled forward, blood gushing out the hole at the back of his head.
Loomis chambered another round and aimed at Travis. “You’re next.”
The boys stared in horror at the massive pool of blood growing before them. Unlike Loomis, they had all been townie kids. None of them had ever slaughtered an animal for food, and the reality of death that a sheepherder dealt with on a daily basis shocked them. Travis stood frozen as he gazed at his older brother’s corpse.
“Get out! Now!”
There was a mad scramble as the intruders ran for the door.
Loomis didn’t relax until she heard their car start, heard the clatter of gravel as the tires spun out and the roar of the engine lessening in the distance. “Rick.” Her brother twitched. “Rick!”
Rick weakly shoved himself to his hands and knees. “Marissa?”
Crying, Loomis crawled toward her brother, avoiding Cody’s body. They fell into each other’s arms and wept, the rifle forgotten beside them. “Where are Cara and the others?” Loomis finally asked.
“Sent them to the Fabers.” Rick wiped tears from his face, whimpering at the tender bruise on his chin. He caught sight of Cody and turned green. Coming out of his grief, he suddenly realized his sister was naked and bleeding. “Did he–?”
Loomis looked away, released him, suddenly shivering. Another factor of life on a working farm — even children had an understanding of natural biology. There was no way to hide this from him.
Rick swore, speaking words Loomis had only heard from their father after injuring himself. He took off his jacket and pulled it around her. It did little to cover her. “Where are they?”
The sound of a vehicle approached. Eyes wide, Rick grabbed the rifle and inexpertly reloaded it. “You sure? You think they’d come back?”
Loomis didn’t know. She huddled beneath the scant comfort of her little brother’s jacket. “I doubt it.”
Rick staggered toward the barn door, peering out into the rain. “Looks like a pickup truck.” His shoulders slumped. “It’s the Fabers!”
Before he could step outside to wave the reinforcements down, Loomis called his name. “We tell no one about this, Rick. No one!” Something in her demeanor muffled his relief at rescue. Somber, he knelt before her, and she took his free hand in hers. “Promise me!”
His eyes flickered down her half-naked body, then at Cody. He nodded. “I promise. But we have to tell Cara.”
Loomis heard vehicle doors slam, the voices of friends calling hers and Rick’s names. She fought the indecision, chewing her lower lip.
“We can’t lie to her, Marissa. She’s family, too.”
Running footsteps neared the barn. Just as Annie peered inside, Loomis nodded. “Okay,” she whispered.
Rick squeezed her hand, and stood, taking the rifle with him. “Annie! In here!”