DW is a veteran, a father, a husband, and a teacher. He's published 9 YA/NA novels thus far. The story you're reading might be next.
Five More Souls for Hell
A male voice called out in Spanish, “Hey, Arturo, don’t shoot. It’s me, Carlos, you drunk bastard. We’re here to get the girls.”
Carlos didn’t wait for an answer. Mort didn’t wait, either. As Carlos began to pull the door open, Susan sensed the same feeling she’d had in the cell just before Mort knocked the door down the hall. She watched him reach out toward this door and fling it open violently enough to throw Carlos to the ground hard enough to split his skull like a melon thrown against a rock.
Susan watched as Mort stepped past the shattered doorframe and heard his shotgun speak four times. There was no return fire.
Reaching the top of the stairs, pistol at the ready, Susan found herself outdoors, in a small clearing surrounded by a dense green growth of trees she didn’t recognize. Looking back over her shoulder, Susan saw that the building she’d just come out of appeared to be a small shed. Just beyond the shed, the ground dropped off steeply. Susan realized the cell they’d been in must have been built right into the side of the hill.
Mort was standing over the bodies of Carlos and the four men who’d accompanied him to retrieve the girls. A hint of the feeling that preceded Mort’s action with the door faded as Susan took in the grisly tableau. The effect of Mort’s shotgun on the four men at such close range was devastating. Their chests were nothing but mangled masses of blood, bone, cloth, and flesh.
Mort muttered as he looked at the carnage, “That’s six.” Then he looked up and noticed Susan standing by the doorway watching him. “They didn’t feel much. They were dead before they hit the ground. Never had a chance to cry out for …”
“For help,” Susan finished for him.
“No,” Mort corrected her with a grim smile. “For forgiveness.”
Mort motioned toward the stairs. “You’d best get the rest of them up here. We need to get moving.”
Susan called down the stairs to the other girls, “You can come up now. Mort says it’s time to go.”
Tessa came up first, holding the machete like a saber. The other girls followed more slowly.
Tessa looked at the carnage Mort had wrought. “Jesus!” she hissed through clenched teeth.
Mort shook his head. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t bring him up again. He doesn’t exactly approve of our methods.” He turned to Susan and nodded approvingly. “You do know what you’re doing with that pistol, don’t you?”
“My dad’s a Texas Ranger,” Susan explained. “He taught me a thing or two about guns.”
Mort pointed to the M-16 lying on the ground near Carlos's body. “Know how to use one of those?”
“Damn straight,” Susan said. She picked up the automatic weapon, set the fire selector to safe, ejected the magazine, and checked the load. Then she pulled back the charging handle, caught the round that ejected while it was in the air, and inspected the chamber. After tucking the rifle under her arm, Susan loaded the ejected round back into the magazine, inserted the magazine back into the rifle, slapped the bottom of the magazine to make sure it was properly seated, pulled back and released the charging handle to load a round into the chamber, tapped the forward assist to ensure the round was ready to fire, and set the selector on semi-auto.
I don't work for Lucyfer
“Damn straight,” Mort echoed. He turned his attention to Tessa. “Think you want to give the revolver another shot, so to speak? It’ll do a better job than that machete.”
“It’s just…I’ve never fired a gun before,” Tessa said. She laid the machete on the ground and reached for the pistol. “What do I have to do?”
“Simple,” said Mort. “Point it at the middle of what you want to hit, hold tight, and squeeze the trigger.”
Tessa took hold of the revolver, turned it over and back to get the heft of it, and then looked Mort in the eye. “I can do that.”
“We’ll see,” Mort said. “Let’s move.”
“Do you know where we are?” Abby asked as she and the last two girls finally exited the stairwell. She eyed the bodies and clamped her mouth shut, trying not to be sick.
Ella had no such luck. When she saw the bodies, she fell to her knees and deposited what little remained in her stomach onto the bloody ground.
Maria looked at the shattered corpses, smoke still rising from the burnt cloth that once was their shirts, and with a heroic effort managed not to join Ella. Her dark eyes ablaze, Maria seared Mort with her gaze and demanded, “Just who in the hell are you, hombre?”
“Not in hell,” Mort replied. “Though that’s where those I collect wind up. But I don’t work for her.”
“Her?” Susan asked. “Satan? The Devil? What do you mean you don’t work for her?”
“Hades – you can call her Satan, The Devil, Lucyfer - manages Hell for the Big Boss,” Mort explained. “You did know Hell is run by a woman, well a female angel. The souls I collect get sent there. But I don’t work for her.”
After a glance down the narrow forest path Carlos and his henchmen had used to reach the private prison, Mort said, “We can go into this later. Right about now someone is starting to wonder why Carlos hasn’t returned with the merchandise.”
“What merchandise?” Abby asked.
“Us,” Ella croaked. She raised her head and spit to clear her mouth. “We’re the merchandise.”
Susan evaluates potential targets
Mort nodded and stepped off up the trail, Susan a couple steps behind on his left, Tessa to her right. Abby and Maria got Ella up off the ground and walking.
They’d moved a couple hundred feet up the trail when Susan noticed it began to widen ahead of them. Mort held up his hand to signal the girls to stop, and then motioned for Susan to move up beside him.
“I’m gonna go up and see what’s ahead,” Mort told Susan. “You cover me from here.” Susan nodded, assumed a kneeling firing position and adjusted her hold on the rifle. Mort nodded approval and, staying low, moved up to the edge of the clearing.
From her concealed position Susan knew she couldn’t see everything Mort could see from where he’d moved to at the edge of the clearing. Still, she could see the back of what must have been a huge house - most would call it a mansion – higher on the hillside.
Two guards were visible, standing by the stone railing of an expansive patio Susan suspected ran the full length of the back of the house. She could hear splashing water and guessed there was a pool or fountain on the tier below where the guards were standing. Stretching from the tree line to the bottom of a set of stone steps Susan could just see leading down from the tier Susan believed held a pool was a manicured lawn. Spaced across the part of the lawn Susan could see were a variety of statues and benches.
Whose place is this? Susan asked herself. Drug-dealer or sex-slaver? Whoever he is, Mort’s obviously here to take him down. And that’s fine by me.
Susan scanned the area beyond where Mort crouched to see if she could spot any other guards Mort might not have seen. Other than the two she’d noted on the patio, there were none. Looking at Mort, she saw him watching the same two guards.
He’s seen them, but he’ll never hit them from there with those scatter guns of his. I could take them, though, if I’d had a chance to zero this rifle.
Mort's story continues in Episode 19
- Soul Collector, Episode 19, Lead Storm
Mort and Susan shoot their way back to her friends.
© 2021 DW Davis