Thomas Wolffe was in a foul mood. His jacket had been burnt in the fire and his jaw ached from where Sydney had punched him. Instead of chasing after her, Christopher made them break camp and start out for the Dragon’s Teeth in the dark. As the first light of day colored the sky, Thomas; cold, hurt, humiliated, and angry, muttered curses under his breath well aware his older brother could hear them.
“One more word outta you, Tommy, and I’m gonna whack you upside your head with the Louisville,” Christopher said finally, with a motion to the baseball bat sticking out of his pack.
“Just can’t believe you let her go, Chris.”
“Me neither,” Byron chimed in. “Especially the way you were going on about her after that night at Magpie Jack’s.”
“Plenty of other bitches out there,” Christopher muttered.
“Bullshit!” Thomas snapped. “You took to her because she was Lazarus Lankin’s girl! And now you’re afraid ‘cause he’s coming for her!”
Christopher roared and punched his younger brother, sending him sprawling across the ground. In a single fluid motion, he pulled the baseball bat from his pack and twirled it in his hand before pointing it at Thomas’s face. He grinned with satisfaction as his brother bared his jugular in submission.
“Fuck you and fuck Lazarus Lankin!” Christopher growled. “I’m not afraid of him, but of course he’s gonna come for her. In fact…” he paused to sniff the air. “Yes! We’re being followed.”
He began walking in slowly-growing circles, twirling the bat. The other Wolffe brothers started to fan out, flanking Christopher. In a voice laced with homicidal malice, he began to sing.
“The cat came back
the very next day,
The cat came back
they thought he was a goner,
The cat came back
he just wouldn’t stay away…”
There was nothing but the early-morning calls of birds. Christopher growled again, the head of the bat smacking absently across his palm. He scanned the lessening shadows, knowing someone was out there.
“Here kitty, kitty…”
“Such a lovely singing voice you have there, Christopher,” Lankin appeared at the top of a rock outcropping. He hopped down, landing inches from the eldest Wolffe brother, his trek pole held down like a baton. “A crooner like you could’ve seduced Just Sydney with your voice instead of resorting to savaging her arm with a baseball bat.”
“That why you’re here? Tell me how to pick up a woman?”
“We’ll discuss that later,” Lankin said off-handedly. “What I really wanted to talk to you about was your assault on the Queen of Marrakech.”
“Ira got in the way,” Christopher said coldly. “Collateral damage is all.”
“Same goes for Connelly?” Lankin inquired, his voice dropping to a low growl. “Just got in the way?”
“Fuck Connelly!” Christopher snapped. “He had it coming from when he was with the sheriff and they busted me for shoplifting.”
“You were fourteen when that happened, Christopher,” Lankin shot back. “Holding a grudge like that for over twenty-five years isn’t healthy.”
“After that, him and the sheriff; they were always after me! Me and my brothers.”
“It is not as though you didn’t give them reason,” Lankin’s gaze shifted to Thomas and Byron, assessing their positions. “Any of you! Would you like me to cite particulars from your respective records?”
“Fuck you!” Christopher snapped. “You got it coming too, you know!”
“Because I was sharing my company with a girl you took a shine to?”
“Because you let our father die!” Christopher roared. “You didn’t even try to rescue him!”
“Your father went skinny-dipping in Deneb Gulch at the height of runoff!” Lankin retorted. “He was the kind of drunk that made Donnie Tabor look like a teetotaler! What he did was suicide; plain and simple, and you fucking know it!” He chuckled. “It’s really no wonder your mother ran away to Arkansas the first chance she got.”
“I’m tired of this shit and I’m tired of you, Lazarus Lankin, you self-righteous cocksucker!” Christopher snarled as he closed the distance between them. “It’s just you and the three of us out here now.”
There was a deafening crack as Lankin’s forehead smashed down across the bridge of Christopher’s nose. He drove his trek pole into Christopher’s belly, and snatched away the baseball bat before the man had hit the ground. Already, Thomas was coming at him.
Using his trek pole, he caught Thomas behind the knees. He fell backward, his head crashing against a rock. Upon seeing Thomas was unconscious, Lankin chuckled. Something which sounded like a growl bubbled in the back of his throat as he started to stalk toward Byron.
“When faced with greater numbers, go after the mouthy one first,” Lankin said casually. “That is most likely the brain, and the body cannot function without the brain. Although, the muscles might still spasm, which is why you go after the biggest one next. That leaves the heart; seat of the soul and the well of emotion.” He raised the bat as he got closer. “How about it, Byron?”
Byron dropped to his knees, baring his jugular. Lankin was almost satisfied with the thought of surrender when he noticed a glint in the other man’s eye. Spinning around, he saw Christopher coming at him. It was the sudden thrown rock smacking into his temple and dropping the Wolffe to the ground that stopped him. Sydney stepped out of the shadows with Tarot following close behind.
“Very nice, Just Sydney,” Lankin said. “I am impressed.”
“Didn’t I tell you I was the pitcher on my high school girl’s baseball team?” She asked somewhat playfully. “Good thing I’m a southpaw.”
“Holy shit, I can’t believe this is happening!” Tarot said. “But we got them!”
“Oh, it’s not finished yet, Jimmy,” Lankin said, once more turning his attention to Byron.
He stopped. There was the distant, but familiar thwock of a helicopter. Lankin turned back to Sydney and Tarot with a puzzled snarl.
“I got a signal and I let the sheriff know,” Tarot said, not backing down from Lankin’s stare. “You know, ‘Beware the monsters we fight’...”
“Lest monsters we ourselves become.” Lankin finished. “You did a good thing, Jimmy, although it is unfortunate…” he looked at Sydney. “…for us.” Then he looked back at the Wolffe brothers. “But exceedingly fortunate for them.”