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“Found a beer, too,” Denny said, rattling around a small bottle of pills in one hand while brandishing a can in the other. “To wash it down.”
Betsy and Kelly shared a look, and started to peel back the shirts. Lark whimpered. “You're scabbing nicely,” Betsy reassured.
“Okay, Lark,” Kelly started, “we need to get you up. When we do, we'll give you some painkillers, then Denny will get the rest of the shirts and ropes, and we'll improvise something to keep pressure on your back.”
“I'm not ready,” she protested.
“You won't fall this time. We've got you. Denny, you take her shoulders, we'll get on either side. Lark, if you can help us, do a push-up onto your knees.” They got into position. “On the count of three, one, two, three.”
They lifted together, and Lark cried out, but they pushed until she was sitting on her legs. Betsy kept a hand on her shoulder to steady her, while Denny handed her the can and bottle. Her face remained contorted with pain, but she took them.
Then Denny ran back to his tent, the tent he was going to share with Alan, the place he last kissed him.
“What do you think your mom will say, Denny?” the detective called from the trees. “You don't have to think, do you? She told you. She said she'd rather your bloated, mutilated corpse wash up on the shore than you come home with a boyfriend. Hell of a thing to tell a ten year old.”
Denny pulled the Colt from his waistband. It was lighter than before, and he remembered it was empty. The detective laughed.“I'm shaking- no, wait, you're the chihuahua here. I bet those snapshots kill your aunt, literally. I know, she meant it hyperbolicly, but she ain't a spring chicken any more; I mean, I'd pluck her, but any chick this side of fried, I've always said.”
Denny slid the gun back in his pants, and opened the tent. The ropes were hanging from the top, and he gathered them, mostly dry, and the remaining clean clothes.
“Took your sweet time,” Kelly said, when he got back to Lark. Something in her eyes told him she wasn't just talking about the clothes.
“You're right,” he said. “I should have fired faster.”
“You shouldn't have fired at all-” Betsy snapped, “at least not in the head.”
“I think maybe I should interject,” Kelly started, “to point out that this isn't something any of us could possibly be prepared for. People freeze. Even professionals. Cops and soldiers train relentlessly to get over that natural reaction- and none of us have. I mean, maybe, Bets, you have, a little, since martial arts do kind of the same thing- training so defense becomes second-nature.”
“I couldn't save him,” Denny whispered bitterly. “I don't know if any of us can be saved.”
“The fuck did you expect from a fucking pansy?” the detective said from the shadows.
“Son of a bitch,” Betsy said, drawing her own Colt.
“Don't,” Denny said. “He's smart, smart enough to keep moving around, always in the shadows, always just out reach. He's toying with me, at least for now. Which is why... could I have another bullet?”
“I fired all of mine.”
“Into my boyfriend.”
“Yeah. To save Lark. I don't need more than one. We have his gun... and he had ample opportunity to use that on me before we took it from him. No. He wants me to suffer. He wants to see the look on my face when I die. He'll be close when he tries. Probably with a hold-out knife we missed. But I'll only need one. So you can either give me a bullet- one lousy, measly fucking bullet- or the next monster that comes to our camp I'll just have to fling the gun at him.”
Kelly sighed. “There's a gun for each of us. Just give him the bullet. You want, I'll give you Angel's. You're the better shot, anyway; might make sense for you to have more than six shots.”
“Okay,” Betsy said, opening the gun and tilting it so a single bullet slid out. “Choose your next shot wisely.”
“I will,” Denny said. He loaded it into the Colt, then rotated the cylinder so it was ready to fire.
“You ready to move?” Kelly asked Lark. The other woman frowned. “We want to get you some place to lay down where you can let the scabs reinforce, and where we won't be subject to the elements, if those pissy looking clouds decide to soak us.”
Kelly and Betsy each got a hand under one of Lark's arms, and helped her to her feet. She gasped, and Denny ran ahead to unzip the tent. He rolled out her sleeping bag, and helped them lower her onto it.