I am outside smoking a cigarette. The screams from inside still reach me and I look down at my hands. They are shaking and sweating again and I shift on my feet. I need to get out of this place cause I am losing it. The dead girls, the one still hanging from that lamp, the smell of blood, the screams. And then there’s Tamie.
Those minutes when she walked up to me in her room, I saw through her act, going from innocent girl to seductive vixen in seconds. But still... She was so fucking irresistible, I lost sense of who I was and what I was doing in this fucking shithole. For a second there, I wanted her like all these fuckers here to fuck her for a price. I was one of these scum, all I saw was that luscious stunning body, those fucking huge eyes and the ready lips. I wanted her, Iris’s sister, a tortured, brain-washed girl. I am a motherfucking asshole. A sick fuck. That’s who I am and look at me playing hero.
“Done,” Rage is right behind me. “Now what?”
I turn and he is covered in blood like a wolf that has devoured some poor prey. I glance over his shoulder but Tamie is not there.
“Now, we get the hell away from here.” I go in to find her.
She is standing exactly where I left her, looking at Freddie. I come close and I hiss through my teeth. Rage has done a real number on that fucker. His jaw is open, his tongue torn, his eyeballs crushed before him, his whole body a map of lacerations, his guts spilling, his dick cut off. Fuck, Rage lost it. But I know that in his fucked-up way he was doing it for Tamie, doing her a favor, showing her she is safe with him, asking for forgiveness.
I turn to her and her eyes are still focused on Freddie’s deformed body, blood spilled on her flawless skin. She is shivering lightly but there is no fear or disgust on her face. Just...relief.
“Are you telling me the truth?” Tamie asks her eyes still on her captor’s corpse.
She looks up slowly and I swallow as her big eyes captivate me. She pierces through the layers I have hidden myself behind, burning them with that blue flame of her eyes little by little. I can’t withstand that look so I raise my chin looking away.
“I trust you,” is all she says and lets her head fall down.
I sigh and my jaw twitches. She shouldn’t fucking trust me. I should be going around the world with a big fucking sign that would warn people not to trust me. But I can try. I will fucking try to keep her safe. I can do as much for Iris. I can do this for Tamie.
“We need to get going. Clean up and then take all you need.”
“I need nothing. Only to see Iris again.”
“You will. I promise you will. Do you have more comfortable clothes? Shoes?”
“I’ve got one long dress that might do,” she shakes her head. “And high heels, only high heels.”
I am hit by her voice, that hurt, broken voice. Iris was scared and broken when she first came to the Riders but Tamie’s voice carries more pain, more regret, more...Guilt. I recognize it. It’s guilt that torments her. She accuses herself of every shitty thing others did to her. I know how that is.
My arm moves on its own, without a conscious decision. I see it go to her, touch her shoulder, tighten the fingers around her flesh. I want to reassure her, to tell her that it is all over, that she will be protected. When she recoils and steps away instinctively, I gather that insolent arm to me in seconds.
Tamie looks up and searches my face in agony. She has let her guard down. It was her, her true self those few seconds she stirred away, not that trained monkey they had forced her to be, not that smiling sex-doll. And shitty as I feel that I scared her, I am glad she felt comfortable enough to be herself around me.
Or it could just be the fact that she is in a room with a dead girl and maimed men. People tend to get jumpy around those.
"Uhm...Our car is a bit further through the desert. High heels are a bad idea. I’ll...I’ll go and bring it here till you get ready. We’ll stop to buy shoes and clothes on the way.”
That’s all I say and walk away and out of the compound. Rage is there, his head held high, eyes closed against the sun.
“Brother,” I get his attention.
“I did good, didn’t I?” Rage asks me. “She asked me to kill him and make him suffer and I did. I did good.”
“Good” is not what I’d call the sight he left back there but in his mind, he did his best. Still covered in blood and red pieces of meat, he eyes me like a kid looking for assurance. Who would think that Rage and I would be here, together, him asking for my approval?
“You did good, Rage.”
“Iris’s sister is no longer scared of me?”
More now than ever, probably.
“I need to bring the car around. Keep an eye on Tamie.”
“I will. And Wood?”
“You did good, too.”
I want to tell him that the saving of that tormented soul has just begun but I keep my mouth shut. Who am I to judge?
A few minutes after I am leaning against the SUV smoking a cigarette while watching Rage bleach the whole place under Vince’s instructions before setting up a fire. The door opens and Tamie walks out in a long black dress that is simple but wraps her curves in all the right places. It takes all that I have to keep my jaw from dropping and I have the wisdom to put on my dark glasses so that she won’t have to deal with me drooling like a weirdo over her.
Tamie stops right before me and I see her bare toes from under the seam of her dress. For the love of fucking god, stop! I fuss with my beard and I turn to her. Her eyes look me and the SUV and I know how anxious she must be feeling.
“Tamie? You ready?”
“I am. I just...” She turns and looks at Rage that drags one of the guys I shot back in the compound. “Rage?”
The man turns and comes up to us, shaking his head violently as if trying to hush the voices in his head. He stands before Tamie and looks nervously at me as if imploring me to keep him in check if he loses it.
“I...” Tamie’s voice is still heavy with fear. “I wanted to thank you.”
I have never seen Rage look so dumb-stricken for anyone else but for Iris. I guess it’s in the genes. He says nothing just drives his fingers through his bloodied Mohawk again and again, then raises his chin and goes on taking care of the fuckers I shot. Rage has cleaned up more scenes like that than any other man I know.
Tamie says nothing, just goes to the passenger door and slips in her seat. I toy with the handle for a few seconds, not ready to be in such close quarters with her. But I promised I’ll take her to Iris and I can make good on that one fucking promise in my fucking worthless life. I take one deep breath and get in the car. Longest ride of my life.
Never in my life have I ever wished for a drive to be shorter. I like driving and riding. It keeps the shit in my head out just like cooking does. But this time, with Tamie in the passenger’s seat looking out the window, I wish we were closer to Berkeley and not a good 25 hours away.
Rage stayed behind to clean his mess and make sure this doesn’t come back to us. I asked the Riders to find a way to let these girls’ families know about them one way or the other. And don’t tell Iris, not yet. So, it’s just me and Tamie, on the way back, in a deep silence none wants to break, riding through the desert.
The silence is broken and I shift on my seat.
“Can I turn the radio on, please? I haven’t heard music for... a while.”
I turn to see if she is fucking with me but she isn’t. She has a fake smile on her lips once more but her eyes reveal more than she’ll ever know. It makes me fuming inside to see her like this, this scared shell of a woman.
“Tamie, you can do whatever the fuck you want. You want music, put music on. You want to stop cause you got to pee, you tell me to. You want to fucking eat, we’ll go eat.”
Her mouth falls open as if I revealed a deep secret. The same way a kid would look at me if I told her Santa isn’t real. Try talking like motherfucking human being next time, I growl inside.
“You got it, Tamie?”
“I got it,” she says finally. “But what if you don’t like what I’m asking you to do?”
A faint smile forms on my lips. For some reason, I think I will do whatever the fuck she would want me to do. She could ask me to carve my lungs out so she could breathe my last breath and I would do it. Just because she looked me with those eyes.
“I won’t hurt you, Tamie. I promise.”
And then I see it. It’s almost non-existent and weak but it sure as Hell looks like a genuine smile. She nods and presses the button to the radio. She shuffles for a while through the local station and I am praying that she won’t stop to listen to some country music. I can’t stand that. Not that I would tell not to. She could listen to cats scratching on plates and I’d keep my mouth shut. But when she stops to some blues rock song, I sigh in relief.