The Desert Ch. 06byHillbilly_one©
Joe spotted the old, rickety pickup first. He hadn't seen a car in working condition for a long time and at first thought his eyes were playing tricks on him. But as it came closer and closer there could no longer be any doubt to that what he saw was an actual old pickup truck. Though it sounded like it could use a good overhauling and probably belonged in a scrap yard, it was indeed running under its own power, and that in itself was quite an accomplishment for the old, worn out machine.
When Jackie spotted the truck she immediately froze, feeling a cold shiver going down her spine. She was unable to move, unable to do anything but stare out the window of the door at the old, beat up piece of shit that was now almost upon them. She knew that truck! She had fixed that truck numerous times over a couple of months. How the hell did they find her here?!
Joe heard the thud as she fell to her knees and hurried over to her. He took her in his arms, trying to hug her, but she pushed him away. She tried to stand up but her legs refused to obey her. Finally she accepted Joe's help and he took her over to the counter and lifted her on to it. She immediately slumped down on her elbows and hid her head in her hands.
"What's going on?" Joe's voice was shaking with concern and he wasn't sure what he should do next. "Are you sick? Can I get you anything?"
Jackie struggled to steady her breathing and try to find her voice. "It's them," she finally managed to gasp. "It's them! They've found me!"
Joe still didn't exactly get who the 'them' were but he assumed it was some of her previous captors. The realization made his blood ice cold in an instant and he turned slowly back towards the door.
"Can you walk?" Joe's voice was not as cold as an ice. When he saw Jackie nod slowly he stepped over to the door and looked out. "Get naked and then go get something I can tie you up with."
The first bolt embedded itself right next to Joe's head with a loud boom as it penetrated the thin metal that covered the window. Shocked he turned around just in time to see another one being launched from Jackie's crossbow, this one headed straight for his head. He ducked out of the way just in time, throwing himself in behind a shelf filled with an assortment of canned goods.
"Jackie! What the fuck?!" He tried his best to sound authoritative, but it came out mostly as a frightened shout.
"I should have known!" Jackie was clearly furious, her voice a good four octaves higher than anything he'd ever heard from her before. "I can't believe I trusted you! You're no different from them!"
Still not quite sure what all this was about, Joe stayed ducked down as he tried to find out. "What are you talking about? I love you, you know that!"
"I thought I did!" was the response, followed by the tip of a bolt through the shelf he was hiding behind. "I should have known when you whored me out to that creep back at the cabin!"
"What?!" Joe felt like he just got kicked in the gut by a mad donkey. "I didn't... I mean... I thought you wanted to. You never said anything."
He felt like the world's biggest ass. First he had rescued her from a life of being a whore for entertainment and profit, then he had made her a whore for entertainment and, if not profit, at least as compensation. At the time he had just thought it would be a fun way of putting her in her place and had never thought of the implications of the thing. Now, however, he could see what he had done in another light. With that realization came a slightly better understanding of why Jackie was trying to kill him now.
"Jackie, I can explain." He slapped himself across the forehead as soon as he had said it. That line never lead to anything good. "I mean, come on. I am not going to give you to them, okay? But we need to trick them into thinking I am. Are you with me?"
The silence that followed seemed to last forever. Joe was hoping that wasn't an indication of Jackie relocating and going around the shelf to kill him, but he didn't dare put up his head to look. Where she had gotten that good at shooting that crossbow he had no idea, but now that he'd seen her skill with it, he definitely didn't want her against him.
"Explain then." Jackie's voice was calmer now, but he could still hear that she was more than a little upset with him.
"Well, first of all, I'm so very sorry about, you know, making you blow that kid. I realize now that it was a bad idea and I wish I wouldn't have done it. I should have known something was up with him and I'm sorry that I put you back in that position. I really am. Please forgive me. I do love you." He paused for a moment, not hoping for an answer, but rather to let his words sink in to her. "And about now... I'm not going to give you, or sell you, or trade you, back to these assholes. But I do need something to make them relax and lower their guard until we can assess the situation and decide on a plan of action. Are you with me?"
Another long silence followed while Jackie tried to decide if he was just trying to trick her into trusting him or if he was sincere in his apologies and with his plan. Eventually she decided to go with the latter, partly because time was running out and she had better odds with Joe that she did alone, but also because she did actually love him. Even if he had hurt her in the past, and he had hurt her badly, he had also made her feel like the most important woman in the world to him and that did count for a lot.
"Alright, you can stop hiding behind that shelf now. I'm not going to kill you... yet." She felt she had to add that last bit. She was still a little mad at him.
Joe stood up slowly, nervously checking the counter to see if he still had a pointy steel rod pointed at him. He did not, so he stood completely and walked over to Jackie and gave her a kiss on the cheek. She didn't respond but she didn't pull away either. He guessed that was as good as he could have hoped for, so he saw it as a small victory of sorts. He didn't try repeating it as time was running out and they needed to come up with a plan, and do it fast.
"Okay, I know you don't really look forward to getting naked and shown off for them, and I understand that fully." Joe was talking cautiously, as much because he didn't really have a plan as to not get Jackie upset again. "I don't really have any other ideas but if you do I'm more that ready to hear them."
Jackie thought for a minute, but had to admit she didn't really have any valid ideas either. And as much as she really didn't want to get naked and tied up in front of her former captors, she could see the upside to the plan. Much as she hated to admit it, her being the bait would indeed both catch them off guard and probably relax them enough to give Joe the upper hand.
"Fine, I'll get some rope." Jackie gave a little sigh, but did lean up and kiss Joe before she scurried off. "Just remember this. I'm trusting you more than I've trusted anyone with anything ever. If you cross me on this, in any way, you'll be sleeping with one eye open for the rest of your life."
She heard how ridiculous it sounded as soon as it came out of her mouth, and it was perhaps a bit unnecessary, but she wanted him to know just how far out on the proverbial limb she was going for him. Actually, she corrected herself, she wasn't doing it for him, she was doing it for them. That fact did make her feel a little better, but it didn't make her feel one little bit better about getting naked and tied in front the same people who had raped and beaten her and killed her friends.
"I know Jackie." There was something in Joe's voice that made her shiver, but not out of fear for her own safety. "I promise you, I'll do everything in my power to make sure no harm comes to you." He didn't really know what else to say so he just didn't try.
When he looked out the slit in the metal again, he saw the pickup just pulling up on the yard, next to the pumps. As it came to a complete stop two men climbed out of the cab and got up on the flatbed. Joe couldn't tell if they were armed, but if they were it was not with anything bigger than what their pants or jackets could hide. He watched as they stood bent over something on the trucks bed, clearly struggling with whatever it was.
"I'm ready." Jackie's voice caught him by surprise and he jumped a little. "Oh, did I scare the big bad policeman?" Jackie giggled and made an innocent face, biting her lower lip and fluttering her eyelashes at him.
He was glad to see her in such a good mood, though a bit surprised. What she was about to do must be hard for her and he would understand fully if she would have been somewhat apprehensive. But he didn't see any such tendencies in her. Instead she just handed him a couple of lengths or rope, turned her back to him and put her hands firmly behind her. As Joe started tying her up, he made sure that she could reach, and release, all the knots by herself, and that she was fully aware of this fact.
"Okay, here's the plan." He hoped to God that he sounded more confident than he felt. "I've tied you up as loosely as I can without it being too obvious. You can release the knots on your hands by just pulling on the stump by your left thumb. Do that and you will be free almost immediately. I will gag you next, but I will put it too loose enough so you can just spit it out when the time comes. Are you with me so far?"
Jackie tested the ropes, pulling on them carefully. She was confident that he was right and that she would be able to free herself without any real trouble. She turned back towards him and kissed him before he stuck a piece of cloth in her mouth and tied a bit of rope around her head, holding it in place. When he was done he let his hands play over her naked body a little, eliciting small moans and groans from her. He grinned, kissed her on the nose and, just to tease her a little, let his hand graze over her mound. He could feel she was a little damp, and the moan she gave him told him that they would have to play around with rope a lot more, albeit under more pleasant circumstances.
Just before Joe opened the door to go out and greet their guests, he placed the crossbow in Jackie's hands. He made sure she held it so that her body covered all of it, the crossbar fitting in very well behind her shoulders.
"Now then, are you ready?" He asked himself just as much as her. She nodded to him, a determined and firm nod. "Okay good; there are two of them that I could see. There might be more around but let's focus on them to start. I'll take the bigger one when the chance is there. When I start whatever it is you be ready."
She nodded again, confirming that she understood the plan, and Joe unlocked the door. As they stepped outside, Jackie staying a couple of feet behind Joe. They saw only the two men. They were clad in raggedy old army pants, worn out shirts under even more worn army jackets. No guns were visible but Joe could clearly see a big hunting knife hanging from the bigger guy's belt. Both men stood in front of the truck, arms casually crossed across their chests.
"I see you have my whore," the bigger man stated almost nonchalantly. "I'll be needing that back."
Joe didn't acknowledge his demand and didn't flinch at the mentioning of Jackie by the man as his. Instead he lowered his shotgun so that he used it almost as a cane and leaned on it. He had played this game many times before, both in his professional career and after. It was the game of 'who can act like they care less'.
For some reason it appeared that men didn't want you to not want what they wanted. If you acted like you wanted what they had, it gave them an edge, and they could manipulate that edge to their advantage in whatever confrontation would inevitably follow. It was easy to turn in your favor if you knew what you were doing and were able to keep your cool.
"This slut?" He made a halfhearted gesture towards Jackie. "Well, not that I have much use for it, but I'm not in the business of giving my goods away for free."
Hearing Joe talk about her like a piece of meat, an exchangeable commodity, a pet even, made Jackie's blood boil. It wasn't really the things he said that pissed her off, but more how easily he could act like she was nothing to him. He was actually almost convincing enough to make her believe him. In the end she decided to trust him, but she made no attempt to hide the way his words affected her. She figured it would sell the charade better if they could see her hurt by his words.
"Of course not." The smaller man spoke up. "And, we do have something for you, in exchange for the whore."
Both men then went back to the truck bed and pulled down a fairly well conditioned motorcycle from it and rolled it up in front of the truck. Joe recognized it instantly, as did Jackie. That was Trudy's bike. By the look of it, it hadn't gotten roughed up very much, so she probably hadn't crashed it. That did present some other quite disturbing possibilities though. Joe hoped his fear didn't shine through as he decided to try one of those theories out right away.
"Is that it? You really expect me to trade a piece of tits and ass like this one for a busted up bike that won't run?" He gave a short, cynical laugh, adding a little shake of the head for added effect.
"Oh, this bike runs." The bigger man gave a grin that made Joe's skin crawl. "And you know it runs, don't you Joey?"
Before Joe could react to having been called by his own name, the smaller man was back on the truck bed. This time he came back down carrying something in a burlap sack. He set it down hard on the ground in front of his companion. Joe thought he heard a small whimper as the sack landed on the ground but he wasn't sure. As a precaution he thought it best to get the shotgun ready, so he raised it and mantled it for added effect.
"Now, now." The bigger man had an annoying, mocking tone. "Before you do anything stupid, don't you want to see what you've won?"
Joe didn't answer. He just stood there, face blank and barrel pointed towards the two men. They apparently took his silence as compliance as the smaller man started untying the sack, opening it slowly. As he pulled the burlap away a woman crawled out. She was covered in bruises and Joe could clearly see fresh blood around her mouth and nose.
Though the woman had been beaten to within an inch of her life, and probably on more that one occasion, there was no mistaking who it was. Jackie would recognize that face anywhere, and when she saw Trudy crawling out of the bag, whimpering and crying, she just couldn't hold her hate in any longer.
Joe felt the sudden change in the air and turned his head quickly, just in time to see Jackie shed her bonds and draw her crossbow. He knew she only had one bolt now that she was naked, so he would have to make sure he could take care of business should she miss her target, and take care of his own man even if she hit. He turned back to the men, who were staring at Jackie in disbelief, and aimed his shotgun towards the bigger one.
Jackie released her bolt with dead-on accuracy, hitting the smaller man square in the throat. He went down like a felled tree, not quite dead, but getting there rapidly. As he saw his companion fall, the bigger man quickly pulled Trudy to him, holding his big knife to her throat, using her as a shield. Joe knew he couldn't shoot, or he would most definitely hit both of them. Jackie, however, had no such restraints. She had been able to carry three more bolts with her, fastened on the side of the crossbow, and had just loaded another one. She stepped past Joe, making sure the man holding her friend hostage saw what was coming, and aimed carefully at a spot right between his eyes.
"I'll give you one chance and I will not repeat my offer." Jackie's voice was like ice. Joe had dealt with many people in various states of distress over the years, but he had never heard a voice so void of emotion. And he had had to deal with his fair share of psychopaths and sociopaths. "Drop the knife and let the woman go and I might not kill you."
Joe watched the scene develop before him like he was a spectator at some weird sort of live theater. Everything had happened so quickly that he hadn't really had time to take in what was going on. Now that he was a mere bystander in this Mexican standoff he noticed Jackie's shivering. She was in no way as calm and collected as she let on but she was doing a very good job of acting the part. He had definitely been fooled, and he could see in the big man's eyes that he was buying it too. It took only a couple of more seconds before the knife hit the ground and Trudy was released, falling to the ground.
"Good boy." Jackie forced herself to remain calm. Just a little longer and it would all be over. "Now drop to your knees bitch."
The big man just stared at her, unable to comprehend what he had just heard. Instead of repeating her command, Jackie fired her bolt right into the man's thigh. He fell to the ground with a scream, desperately clutching the hole in it.
Jackie stepped up to the man, loading another bolt into her crossbow. As she stood over him, he made one last effort to regain some control. He reached out with his hand, trying to grab hold of her leg, but she gingerly stepped out of the way and planted the heel of her foot on his hand as hard as she could. That resulted in a blood curdling scream from the bleeding man who quickly pulled his hand to him, massaging it with the other.
With an act of pure willpower, Jackie managed to keep her calm just a little longer. She aimed the loaded crossbow down, right at his head and just held it there. She desperately wanted to kill him. She hated him. She wanted to make him suffer like all the men like him had made her suffer. But try as she might, she just couldn't pull the trigger. She had done enough killing on the count of this creep. Killing him would only turn her into what he had tried to make her. Just as she was about to lose the battle against her own inner strength, Joe came up to her and put a hand on her shoulder.
"Take Trudy inside and put her in our bed." Joe's voice was calm and warm but there was an underlying tone to it that made Jackie cringe. "Don't leave her alone, no matter what, understand? I will be in once I've dealt with... this."
Jackie didn't bother answering. She rushed to Trudy, helped her to her feet and supported her trembling, aching body as they slowly made their way inside. Once they were gone, Joe turned his attention back to the bleeding man on the ground. He had tried to crawl away but the wound in his leg didn't permit him to go very fast.
"How long do you think you will last in the desert with that hole in your leg?" It was a rhetorical question. Joe didn't expect an answer nor did he get one. "I'm going to give you a choice. If you want to take your chances with the desert in your condition, that's fine with me. You'll die in unimaginable pain and I don't really have a problem with that. However, if you don't want to die in horrible agony out in the desert, I can end you right here. What do you say?"
Joe hoped that the man would choose the desert, he really did. Not because he wished that kind of agony upon any man, but simply because then he would not have to actually shoot him. It was one thing to kill someone who was going to kill you or hurt someone you loved, but it was another thing all together to shoot a man in cold blood as he just lay helpless on the ground in front of you.
"You don't have the stones to shoot me." the bleeding man wheezed. "You're not man enough."
"You mean like you?" Joe asked calmly. "You, the big man, beating up women, enslaving them and making them do your dirty work for you. Yeah, I've heard all about what kind of man you are. Now, what's it going to be, big man?"