The Yard by Samuel Durr
Allies in Waiting
Jack’s boots crunched over gravel as he approached the old man and his three female slaves. The Yard was especially hot today. The air waved off the road as far as Jack could see. Sweat drooled off the jungle leaves and fanned heat onto the crumbling interstate on both sides. Why is he out here? No caravan, no body guards to speak of? Nobody walks in the Yard alone and lives, Jack thought.
He halted feet before the master to get a better look. The old man crouched behind three girls, using them for some crude defense. The first, the one closest to the old man, had languid, dark hair and circles under her eyes. Strangled around her neck and the neck of the two others were thin, plate-iron disks, necklets the Townies called them. Next to her, their arms almost touching, a stunning girl with similar features that was clearly her sister. The two looked like different shades of the same color. Despite the facial geometry the siblings shared, and Jack wasn’t exactly sure how he knew, there seemed to be integral differences between the two. Then there was the last on the line with thick, auburn hair, full breasts and a porcelain complexion. Jack was taken aback by her. In fact, he startled when he first noticed her, like his physical form recognized the perfect picture before him and choked on the image. The two sisters were dark and mesmerizing, but this girl was so beautiful she was nearly incandescent.
A long curved bar, the Townies called it a daisy chain, connected all three necklets, all three girls and at the very end, a leather strap leashed the bar to the old man. He held it tight fisted in front to keep the women between himself and Jack. Jack had met a good many slavers. Any man, woman or child that broke the law or was broke ended up a slave. Naturally there were a lot of slaves and a lot of slavers. The general understanding was that it was harsh but fair. Jack didn’t share this attitude, especially when it came to sex slaves, which these women clearly were, high class by the look, but sex slaves all the same.
The old man dug around in his belt and the wispy hair on his head shook. Jack realized he was fishing for a weapon.
“Wooa, just looking to do a bit of business?” Jack held his hands higher and higher the more the old man rummaged.
Finally, the man pulled an ancient .38 wheel gun in the slowest draw Jack had ever seen and set it over the shoulder of the first girl. “Stay where you are.”
“Just business, just … looking for business.” Jack’s arms were high above his head but his thoughts slid down to his own high caliber revolver on his left thigh and that large bore, sawed-off, side-by-side shotgun holstered perpendicular to his right. “Just looking for a piece.” I’m such a liar. I’m so desperate I need a few wholes, Jack thought. His eyes refocused on the black well of the old man’s revolver.
The man laughed in that – you’re a piece of shit that must be joking - way, slid a little to the crumbling concrete on his left and tore at the leash. The first girl snapped closer and the rest came. Jack noticed her eyes roll and understood that she was getting the brunt of the old man’s abuse from her position on the bar. Disgust swelled in Jack as he met eyes with the tear-blind girl. He knew she would likely die before the old man reached his destination, wherever it was.
“You look lost, just trying to help out a fellow traveler. I’ll be on my way,” Jack explained. The redhead quietly adjusted the necklet from the old man’s recent yank and Jack spied a strange bare spot in the shift the slave wore and under, smooth scars that rolled over the girl’s shoulders onto her back. Maybe it was odd against the back drop of such beauty but the old burns or wounds, whatever they were, were a strange sight.
“I don’t need your money. You’ve been slipping your dick in the mud if you don’t see the caliber of this lot,” the old man frothed.
“But … you’re out here without the caravan.”
“What’s your point?”
“I guess I don’t have one. I’ll be on my way then, as I said.”
The old man swallowed. “You think you could afford these women. You have no idea how valuable they are.”
“As you’ve said, they’re all stunning.” He doesn’t want any business? Why won’t he talk to their value? Most masters jumped at the opportunity, it was a great way to ask for a higher price. It was often difficult to get them to stop. “But … you’re not open for business,” Jack responded cordially as he took steps away, steps that were really only gestures. He had business with this man, whether the old man liked it or not.
“Fine, whatcha got?” he finally snapped holding the pistol firm. The first sister moved slightly and the old man tore at the line like he’d caught a fish. This time she choked out a cough, her sister’s eyes slid over and her face fumed with hatred. She said nothing.
Jack cringed deep in his skin, “How’s a quarter bottle?” The words were hard to say.
The old man stopped yanking, “They’re worth a whole. And if you’re offering up the old it’s illegal. We could deal in alcohol … but being illegal, you’d have to make it worth my while.”
Jack had heard this enough times to make him sick, every time he put up bottles of the old people mentioned that it was illegal and supposedly hard to trade. It didn’t stop them from drinking it, but they used the tactic to bring down his prices. Jack didn’t like losing money but stupidity really bothered him, and what sense did that make? That’s illegal, so you’re going to have to give me more of it if we are to do business. The sad part was that it worked with so many, but it didn’t work with him.
“Well a quarter’s what I have to offer.”
“Wait … wait,” the old man said. One eye brow creaked a little higher, “I know you. I’ve seen your poster. You have quite the price on your head, much more than quarter a bottle, much more for sure.”
“You have me mistaken for someone else. If that is some strange attempt to bring up your price forget it. Way I see it, you’re stuck out in the Yard. My business would be doing you a favor. You might need my trade if you want to make it to Turington or Easton.”
The old man’s face knotted, “Well the way I see it, I have a gun and don’t have to sell shit. I could kill you, rob you, and take your head in for two hundred times what you offer me. In fact, the idea is sounding better and better.”
Jack thought about drawing. After all, the geezer could hardly get his weapon out, he didn’t own much by way of reflexes, but Jack knew one of the girls would be wounded if bullets were exchanged, “You could do that, but my friends would stop you,” Jack replied his hands still held in the air. The old man lit up and yanked the girls closer.
“Bullshit.” His head snapped toward the Yard but quickly came back. “You’re alone.”
“My friends are here. Close to you, closer than you think. They’ll protect me and they’re waiting for my signal.”
The old man stared straight. He seemed to long for the freedom to look left and right, to pan the Yard for any of Jack’s allies that might be hiding, but he held himself and stared straight into Jack’s eyes. He doesn’t want to give me the idea he believes me.
“Your friends don’t care much for you if they let me put a gun on you without making so much as a sound.”
“You might have me there; they might not care much for me, but enough to stop you. They’re here and await my signal. Let me show you my trade. It will take this foolishness off your mind. I’m going to reach into my bag.”
The old man hesitated. “Go ahead, why not?”
Jack swung his leather satchel around and pulled out a green, cloudy bottle. A smile dawned across the old man as the liquor slosh around within the muddled glass.
“What do you say?” Jack asked shaking the bottle.
“I say that’s a beautiful bit of the old resting in your hands. And I say that is you on all those bounty posters.
That’s what I say. Throw your guns over there. Then hang that satchel with the bottle on that branch there and then … well, you know what happens after that,” the old man replied licking his scaly lips.
“Then you rob me?”
“Barrels down, right over there.” The old man nodded to the left of the redhead. “I don’t want to fire, what with the glass but don’t think that won’t stop me from pulling the trigger and popping your gut if you give me cause.”
Jack took a deep breath and stared at the man for a long moment. Here we go. He slowly slid the bottle back into the satchel. His hands creaked down to the revolver on his left leg and he teased it out, barrel down and limply tossed it toward the spot the old man indicated. The weighty metal clinked against the ground and sat. “You sure about this? I told you about my friends.”
“And I told you … you’re full of shit,” the old man chuckled. “Do it,” he snapped as if he was mad for some strange reason. Then, he began a mocking whine, “Your friends are here, closer than I think.”
Jack shrugged and stretched down for his shotgun. He limply took it from the holster, barrel down and tossed it. It was such a small detail the old man hardly noticed at first. The weapon didn’t fly straight; it sailed just to the redhead. The thing hit her sideways across the waist. She didn’t even open her arms to catch and it fell to rest against the instep of her foot. Her stunning eyes met Jack’s in a peculiar look.
The old man began to chortle. “You think they are your allies? They don’t,” he fumbled through the words trying to suppress his laughter, “They been with me since they was little girls.” He righted the revolver to aim.
The redhead kicked and flipped the gun up to her right hand without even bending over. She weaved the large weapon between herself and the girls and set it on the old man. Her arm blew back and the sawed-off reared up as the old man blasted into him self with the force of a star collapsing. Buck shot skipped off the cement and rang a few waxy leaves behind the old man. He peered shakily up in surprise, one, blood soaked hand holding his chest as he came to his knees. He coughed out nonsense and fell over.