Disclaimer: The Equalizer and all its characters are property of Universal and are used here without permission. No copyright infringement is intended.

With special thanks to Lois and Sam for letting us use and abuse their work!

Chapter 1

Scott dug his paddle into the water once more and stifled a sigh, this was getting boring. The river was moving sedately and the sun reflecting off the water’s surface was making it hard to keep his eyes open. The earlier parts of the trail, where the water had squeezed through gorges, had been fun – if a little tame – in his opinion.

When his dad had suggested a white water kayaking vacation, he had jumped at the chance but should have realized that it would never be a real wild or dangerous trip. His father wouldn’t think he could handle it.

Scott glanced at the other two-man canoe, Jimmy looked happy enough in his bright yellow jacket, which, he had explained, was insurance against being shot by a hunter mistaking him for a deer. Scott looked at the other occupant, he didn’t look bored but Scott was sure that, because he was a spy, Mickey could hide his feelings easily. Maybe he could suggest that the two of them take a detour and find some grade four rapids to go over.

Yeah, Scott felt his spirits rise for a moment; he and Mickey made one hell of a team.

Pulling his Walkman out of the waterproof bag, he noticed his dad’s shoulders drop in despair as he saw that Scott had plugged himself into his music. Well what did he expect? There wasn’t anything exciting going on around here. Scott smiled, well, not since last night!

His dad and Jimmy had stayed with the RV when he and Mickey had gone out for a beer yesterday evening. And fortunately they had been asleep when both of them had staggered back at three in the morning, smelling of beer and wild women. Scott had to squash a smirk of delight. If Mickey hadn’t been in the bar with him, he knew he would never have had the nerve to go back to Paula’s place. As it had turned out Paula and her roommate, Big Evie, had been really, really nice.

They all had a couple more beers when they got to the apartment and, after some whispering and groping on the couch, Mickey and Evie had been the first ones to move to the bedroom. It hadn’t been long before moans and sighs of pleasure, muted by the closed bedroom door, had drifted back into the living room.

Paula had already begun to breathe faster when she took his hand, pulled him out of the armchair they had been sharing and led him over to the couch. As they scrambled to get out of their clothing, it was hard to ignore the rhythmic thumping of the bed and Evie’s high pitched squeals of pleasure coming from the other room. As soon as Paula pushed him down onto the couch, he forgot everything except the touch of her skin against his and the sensation of being engulfed in her heat.

The next thing he knew, Mickey was standing over him, shaking him awake, and telling him they had to get moving or his old man would give them hell.

Nothing had been said the next morning but Scott was too smart to think that the others hadn’t noticed their return. His dad could be biding his time until after the trip before he spoke to him, but Scott thought it was more likely that he would take Mickey aside later and talk to him, one on one, about taking his boy out with him on his tomcatting expeditions.

Scott closed his eyes and sighed regretfully. He and Paula had had a lot of fun but there was no chance of a repeat; they were scheduled to set up camp somewhere in the forest and miles away from town tonight.

Scott was brought out of his reverie when the canoe shook a little. Hoping that there might be some unscheduled rapids to negotiate, he opened his eyes and looked around, but the shaking was only his dad reacting to something that was ahead of them. When he finally focused on what had caused his dad such a start, he felt his eyes nearly bugging out of his head. There on the bank were three women and they were all buck-naked!

Squinting against the glare of the sun, Scott looked more closely at the enticing sight. Their hair was wet, so he guessed that they had all been skinny-dipping and were letting the sun dry them. From the lack of tan lines on their bodies it looked like this was something they did a lot.

Not sure what to do, Scott was shaken out of his trance by a loud admiring whistle from the other canoe. He looked over and saw Mickey grinning widely.

The whistle had attracted the attention of the women because they sat up and looked out over the water. They made no effort to cover themselves and Scott felt himself responding to the view.

Then Scott heard Jimmy's fearful voice coming from the other canoe. “Watch it, Kostmayer!”

Mickey had stood up and was casually peeling off his t-shirt. He made a point of ignoring the women as he bent down and lifted up handfuls of the sparkling river water, which he then poured over his head and chest to run down his body.

What a show off! Scott thought.

“Lord A Mercy!” came a yell from one of the women, as they all stood up and waved at the canoes, “Looka that fine specimen of manhood!”

Pretty much only seeing the three pairs of dark nipples bobbing wildly at him, Scott couldn’t let himself be outdone by Mickey. Trying very hard to keep the canoe from capsizing, Scott stood up and took off his shirt, letting the sunlight play over his body. Too late he realized that there was a hell of a bulge in his cut off jeans that hadn’t been there five minutes ago. What the hell, Scott thought, it’ll impress the ladies.

The three naked women bounced even more energetically as they cheered from the water's edge and Scott hardly knew where to look first.

“Glory be!” one shouted out, “Have mercy!”

“Okay Dad, your turn,” Scott laughed, but remained standing with his eyes plastered on the bouncing breasts. He was conscious that the blond hair on his body was catching the light and he felt as if he was radiating energy.

“Not bloody likely!” his dad seemed annoyed as he looked over his shoulder disdainfully. “A real man does not need to sink to exhibitionism to be admired.”

“Don't even think of me takin' off my shirt. I get chilled easy,” he heard Jimmy complaining from the other boat.

His dad’s voice rang out loudly enough to be heard in the other canoe. “Didn't your mothers ever teach you two about the proper way to act in front of strange women?”

“Yeah,” Mickey weighed in, “We're only asking for trouble.” They all laughed while his dad turned his face away from them, but Scott caught him trying not to smile.

Mickey was the first one to wave good-bye to their admirers and sit down. Scott felt a little victorious that he had remained standing and continued to wave at the delicious females that were energetically running alongside the river, keeping pace with the boats.

As they finally passed the three sirens, they complained loudly, waving their arms and displaying their very evident charms as they urged the men to come back and join them. Before long they lost sight of the women and Scott returned to his music. Those mountain gals had been hot, just like Paula and Evie! He figured it must be on account of growing up with all the fresh air and sunshine.

About an hour later Robert spotted the perfect place to camp for the night and directed the two boats to the shore. He groaned involuntarily as he hauled himself out of his cramped sitting position in the canoe, and then he began walking around to work the stiffness out of his legs.

He looked at the sky and felt the movement of air. “It might be chilly tonight. I think I'll go and see if I can rustle us up a good batch of dry firewood.Can you three manage to set up camp?”

Mickey, who had already done the preliminary clearing up chuckled, “Uh McCall, I think I can handle it. Making camp in a friendly location, with no enemy units searching for us to slit our throats? Piece of cake.”

Scott studied him with what looked like worry in his eyes, “Want some company Dad? Wood can be heavy.”

He really didn’t want company, and the last part of that sentence chafed at him. He knew wood was heavy, did the boy think him unable? “No, Scott. I do think I can still handle the job of gathering firewood. Your father's not all that feeble yet.”

“If you say so,” Scott said distractedly as he watched Mickey put one of the tents together. “Mickey, I think you're doing that wrong.”

Mickey slowly let his deadly gaze set on Scott. “Yeah, Scott? Really? I bet I can get this thing up faster than you can get the other one set up.”

“Oh yeah?” Scott said, “You've got a bet!”

Robert stood next to Jimmy as they watched the two young men scramble to outdo each other. He nudged Jimmy’s arm. “Try to keep the two of them from challenging each other to a duel to the death whilst I'm gone,” he said, barely controlling a laugh.

Jimmy looked down to the ground and grinned, “To tell you the truth, McCall, I've never had it so easy. I don’t mind it a bit if they fall all over each other to get everything done. I'll just sit on my keister, drink a beer and enjoy my free time.”

Robert saluted Jimmy, and started to whistle as he walked away.

Robert walked around in the thick woods for a while. The light was just dimming and he was feeling calm and refreshed. The enforced close contact with three other men reminded him a little too much of past missions, and he enjoyed the solitude for as long as he dared. He gathered a large load of firewood, to show Scott he still could handle himself, and started to walk back toward the camp. He chortled, wondering if Jimmy had needed to separate the two younger men yet.

Suddenly, and not for the first time since they had floated by the three women flaunting their bodies, he felt a low-grade sense of uneasiness come over him. Once again he tried to dismiss it as just his fatherly concern for his son rearing its head.

He was still some distance away from the camp when the soothing sounds of the woods were pierced by the bawl of a squealing pig.

Putting the wood down, Robert silently went closer to the campsite. Jimmy, who had lived through a bad jungle mission, had insisted that they bring enough portable lanterns to light up their camp. To Robert, whose eyes had adjusted to the dark while he gathered the firewood, the camp site looked as bright as day. He moved in a crouch and made his way almost to the clearing. Still on his knees, he peered through a thick bush that stood just on the edge of the encampment.

To his surprise, he saw three shapely, denim clad feminine rear ends right in front of him. Standing in front of the women, Scott was protectively holding a small pig in his arms. He was squealing to it, seemingly to try and calm it down. Mickey and Jimmy were on either side of him.

“Ah thought we could all have a real fine meal together,” the tallest of the women said.” From his position behind the bushes, all Robert could make out of her was ample hips, broad shoulders and wild brown hair on a very tall frame.

“You'all seemed to be sooo nice and friendly,” another woman, standing next to the first, cooed. That one had dark hair and was quite petite.

“We should have known that city folks would get squeamish at the thought of slaughtering a critter and eatin' it,” the third woman, a blonde, who was the closest to Robert's hiding place said. “Ever'body here does it all the time. We three especially like...”

With a relieved sigh, Robert stood up, “Ladies, excuse me. I hope I haven't frightened you...”

The three women, turned around and that was when Robert saw that they were holding shotguns on the others. The tall brunette aimed it straight at Robert's chest.

“We was wondering where you had got to.” She waved her rifle in the direction of the other men, indicating that Robert should join them.

“As I was saying,” the blonde continued, “we're from 'round here and we kill all the time. My sweet sisters and I especially like...” and then she leered, watching Robert walk across the campsite, “fresh meat.”

Chapter 2,

An hour later Robert's feelings of unease were growing. He had yet to find out what the women really wanted with them, although certain unsavory ideas had come to mind. He had tried to talk to the other members of his group earlier but the blonde had told them to be quiet. Then, while the brunette had covered them with her shotgun, the other women had tied their hands in front of them and bound their ankles.

Straight after, the tallest of the women had slit the throat of the piglet. The women had all cheered at the sight of the dying animal, yelling out that there’d be good eating that night, but Scott had blanched at the squealing and looked away at the sight of blood and still twitching carcass. Robert had whispered reassurances to him while the women made a show of hanging and butchering the hog.

Robert knew that if he were just with Mickey and Jimmy he would be reacting quite differently. Having Scott as a prisoner alongside him was limiting his options as effectively as if he were wearing a strait jacket. Worry for his son was hampering his thinking.

Some caution was necessary in this situation, the three women handled the guns with familiarity and they obviously weren't adverse to bloodshed. While the smaller, dark haired woman looked after the dinner, the other two had taken position a little way distant, holding their guns and watching their captives carefully.

Mickey had put some distance between himself and the rest of them, and by crudely smacking his lips, he was no making no secret that the smell of the roasting piglet was stirring his appetite. Robert saw that he had a plan; they had worked together for too long for him not to recognize that light in Mickey’s eyes

Not sure whether to be grateful that he had an idea or worried that it was a Kostmayer plan and not likely to be influenced by anything minor like damage limitation, Robert moved closer to Scott. He knew he had best be ready when the time came. Mickey’s strategy was likely to be as explosive as his ‘grenade without a pin’ nickname implied.

Jimmy was sitting quietly, his eyes moving back and forth between his two colleagues, waiting for instructions. Robert knew that Jimmy was used to following their lead and would back them up to the best of his ability.

Scott shifted awkwardly and Robert's attention was instantly transferred to him, “Are you all right?”

His son tried to smile bravely at him. “Yeah Dad, I'm okay – just hungry.”

Robert had to smother a small grin – Scott was always hungry. “Just keep quiet, I sure they will give us something soon.”

“I don't think I could eat the piglet though, Dad.”

Robert had just opened his mouth to tell Scott that food was food when you were hungry, when he heard a snort of disgust from Kostmayer’s direction.

“She—et! God dang spoiled baby boy’s crying fer the damn pig!”

So that was the idea! Mickey's accent had changed and the faint Texan twang that was always evident was now much more pronounced. Mickey was working on a high-class/low-class split between them. Immediately he played along with his partner and said in his most upper crust accent, “Is there something bothering you, Kostmayer?”

Mickey put a fierce sneer over his face. “Nah, I shouldn't've expected any different.”

“And what precisely do you mean by that?” Robert asked in an icy tone while his mind was racing, trying to figure out exactly where Mickey was headed and which kinds of answers he could give that would help the ploy.

The blonde came over and waved her gun threateningly at them, “We said no jawin'“

“Tell him,” Mickey muttered, pointing at Robert with his chin. “He's the one who's bein' a jackass.”

“How dare you!” Robert bellowed angrily. “You were hired to lead this trip, not to pass comment on me or my son!”

“Exactly,” Mickey shouted back, his voice cracking with fury, “White trash hired help! That’s how you've treated me – you and your spoiled brat of a son. You stuck-up city types are all the same. Me and Jimmy here have spent the last three days waitin' on you two, hand and foot.”

Jimmy responded by looking intently at his feet and putting a hangdog expression on his face. He had also figured out what Mickey was doing.

Scott’s mouth was wide open in surprise and Robert hoped he wouldn't give the game away with an ill-judged remark. Robert had just started to make a cutting retort back at Mickey when there was an explosion of sound and the wind of buckshot passed above his head.

“I said, no talking and I meant it.” The tallest woman snapped. She then narrowed her eyes at Mickey, “What d'ya mean hired help?”

Mickey chuckled noisily “That old fancy pants hired me ‘n Jimmy to come on this trip and make sure they didn't have to do nothin' that might make them break a sweat. I ask you - look at them! City types, neither of them has ever got their hands good and dirty in their entire lives. The kid there even plays the vi-o-lin, he told me so hisself.” He spat out the side of his mouth, “I don't know what you've a mind to do with them,” he tilted his head towards Robert and Scott, “but I’m God damned if I’m a gonna be tarred with the same brush as them kind.”

Then he looked at the three women standing around him, openly ogling their figures. “Besides, I was thinking maybe I could help you fine examples of the female persuasion out with somethin'.” He leered at them. “If’n I’m heading on to meet my maker, I’d a just as soon as I had me some fun before I go.”

The small dark haired woman who had been staring hungrily at Mickey giggled as she stuck her hands deep inside her pockets. She wiggled her hips and said, “What you got in mind?”

Mickey smiled at her, “Well honey, I see a jug of corn whiskey over yonder and I’m wondering if you ladies and me could have a drink or two and get to know each other a little better. Maybe then I could help you decide what you’re goin' to do.”

Robert held his breath – he knew this was the most difficult part of the plan. It all depended on Mickey being able to persuade the woman to untie him. Robert knew that Mickey was carrying a well hidden automatic in his pack and once his hands were free he would make short work of these murderous women.

The women looked at each other and then gathered together in a tight group. From time to time one or other of them glanced over to make sure that the men hadn't moved.

Finally, their whispered discussion finished, the shortest of the three came over to Mickey. She produced a wicked looking knife from her belt and moved closer to him letting the flames of the campfire play off the long blade. Kneeling in front of him, she touched the sharp end of the knife to the crotch of his pants. Mickey drew in a sharp breath as she pushed the very tip of the blade through the cloth. Then slowly she smiled, withdrew the blade and sliced through the rope around his wrists and ankles.

Mickey instantly sprang to his feet and took the woman's hand, “Ah surely am grateful to you miss... “

“Er – Bobbie Jo,” she crooned at him, looking a little flustered at his good manners.

“Well, Bobbie Jo,” Mickey said, using the deep voice that Robert recognized as the one that seemed to be irresistible to women, “thank you very much.”

Robert permitted himself a silent cheer. Bobbie Jo’s eyes never strayed from his young friend’s. Right now, Mickey had the brunette eating out of his hand.

As the night wore on, Robert was beginning to worry. It was getting very cold and Scott was still only wearing his shorts and a t-shirt. Feeling his son’s body being racked by convulsive shivering, Robert worked harder to free himself from the ropes around his wrists.

The women and Mickey had eaten their dinner gathered round the blazing campfire, while the rest of the party had sat cold and hungry. Robert had overheard some of the fireside conversation. The women were all half-sisters. Bobbie Jo was the small brunette; Allie Jo was the blonde middle sister, in age as well as height. The tallest, and the least intelligent of the three he noted, was the brown haired Pattie Jo. Pattie Jo was sitting watching them now. She had her rifle propped handily on her lap and, in her thickly padded jacket; she seemed immune to the cold.

Mickey was making sure the other sisters were drinking heavily from the jug of whiskey and the more they drank, the louder their raucous laughter became. Both women seemed charmed by Mickey and Robert hoped that his young friend could find an excuse to get into the tent and retrieve his weapon soon.

But tonight, Mickey was showing admirable restraint. From the moment Mickey had been freed, apart from when they were eating, at least one of the women had stood guard on the captives. Robert guessed that Mickey was biding his time and waiting for a chance to disarm the women without any shooting.

There was more laughter and as Robert watched, Mickey whispered first to Bobbie Jo and then to Allie Jo. Slowly the three figures climbed to their feet. With Mickey in the middle, his arms around the shoulders of each of the women, they stumbled over to one of the tents. Halfway there, Mickey turned and directed a self-satisfied smirk at him.

Robert had no trouble reading the message he saw there; it said be ready, we only have one chance at this.

Scott was feeling really uncomfortable. It was cold!

When he figured out Mickey’s plan, just in time to keep his mouth shut earlier in the evening, he had gone from admiration for Mickey’s easy talent for lying to the women, to anger that he hadn’t made sure that he, Jimmy and his father had also been fed. He knew he shouldn’t complain, but he was getting colder and hungrier.

Just before Mickey had gone into the tent, Scott saw him direct a pointed look at his dad. Now, he tried not to think about what must be going on inside with the threesome, but his curiosity got the better of him and he exclaimed breathlessly, “Is he really going to – you know – with both of them?”

His dad’s voice was flat as he snapped an answer into his ear, “He is a professional and will do whatever needs to be done to get us out of this mess.”

Scott clamped his mouth shut and thought about what his dad had said for a few minutes. He guessed that it made sense. After all, Mickey was single with no ties. Scott knew he’d be willing to do the women himself, if it came to that act of bravery.

Then the idea that maybe his dad had done stuff like this for his job entered his head. Would his dad have done that? Screwed other women for an assignment? Even when he was still married to his mom?

Scott looked towards his dad again, sizing him up. His dad’s expression when he turned, the slightly embarrassed look, the hope of understanding gave it away. He had done exactly what Mickey was going to do and probably worse and all in the name of patriotism. The idea hit Scott like a blow to the gut. His father had cheated on his mom!

“But...” Scott’s mind was whirling with questions and flashes of lewd pictures.

“Scott, shut up!” Robert whispered sharply. He lowered his voice to a faint murmur, “Mickey has a gun in his bag and this is the only way he can get to it without getting us all killed.”

So many things were going on in his head and he was so deep in thought that he nearly didn’t hear the biggest women call over to his dad.

“My sisters like younger men. Me, I prefer the older, more mature type.” She winked and licked her lips, “It's my turn next for a little fun.”

Her smile of anticipation and the way she eagerly looked his dad over made the hair on the back of Scott's neck stand up.

Gasping for air, Mickey was flat on his back and being ridden hard by the blonde woman. “I’m coming, I’m coming,” she yelled as she roughly thrust her pelvis once more against his groin, gave a deep moan of satisfaction and collapsed against his chest for a moment. “He’s all yours Bobbie Jo,” she mumbled drunkenly, as she lifted herself off him, “He’s still full at the ready fer you. I tol’ you I wouldn’t take that long. Jess hearing this pretty boy talk, brought me half way to heaven all by itself!” Satisfied, she winked at her sister who had been impatiently watching and waiting for her turn. The blonde rolled to her side, put her head down and started to snore, already fast asleep.

Before Mickey could catch his breath the brunette was moving astride him. If the night continued at this pace, Mickey thought, he’d be the one worn out and too feeble to work his plan for escape. He had to get the upper hand.

Mickey propped himself up on his elbows and spoke, “Hey darlin’ hold on one minute! I’ve got me an idea on how we can have some different fun.” He smiled and winked at her. “You want to do it doggie style?”

Frozen in position, she looked confused and then angry, “Doggie style? Now you see here mister, neither me nor my sisters have ever done anything with no animals. There was Cousin Elmer, but he didn’t do nothing with no dawg. It was a she-goat and as I recollect Grandma telling me, Cousin Elmer and the she-goat was right close. They kept company for years.”

Mickey tried not to think much about what he just heard. “No sugar, I didn’t mean with a dog, I meant on your knees with me behind you.” He let his voice get soft and caressing, “You mean you never done it like that? It feels real good.”

“Oh,” she shrugged, “Is that what you call it?”

“Yeah, wanna try it?” As he let her think about his suggestion, Mickey ran his hands over her full breasts. Her nipples hardened under his fingers as he continued the gentle stimulation.

The woman swallowed hard. “Okay.”

The quietness of her reply took him a little by surprise. Looking over at the other woman, who was still snoring gently, he hoped this sister was as easy to wear out. He needed them both to be too tired to stay awake.

Guiding her onto her hands and knees, he knelt behind her and stroked her tanned ass and hips, making a point of paying teasing attention to every responsive inch of her. She had the most curvaceous body he had known in a long time and he had to remind himself to keep his objectives in the forefront of his mind: get these two women out of the picture, get to his gun and get his comrades the hell out of the woods.

When Bobbie Jo’s legs started to quiver he positioned her to receive him. With a long deep thrust he slid inside her. Neither of them would be able to hold on for long.

He slipped his hand around and began to stroke between her legs, rubbing hard as she began to moan loudly. Almost there, he grabbed her hips, holding her still as he pounded harder and faster into her, continuing the movements until they both collapsed with strangled cries of pleasure.

He curled up on the sleeping bags on floor of the tent with the satiated women sleeping on either side of him, and faked falling sleep. They would notice if he moved now, but when they were sleeping more deeply he would tie them up, go for his gun and get the rifle away from the last sister.

The blonde stirred and huddled closer; the evening was growing chilly despite all the heat that had been produced in the tent. Mickey stroked her shoulder to soothe her and send her back to a deeper sleep. He could have easily killed both women but, when he thought about it, they hadn’t done more than hold a gun on them; no one had been actually harmed. He laughed softly to himself; McCall probably wanted them dead for daring to threaten his son!

He would make his move in just a little while, when the women were deeper into REM sleep.

Half an hour later, Robert had finally managed to free his hands and Scott had fallen asleep against his shoulder. Keeping the fact that his hands were untied secret from the woman with the shotgun, Robert was waiting for Mickey's move when the sound of a nearby gunshot split the night.

Scott jolted awake and mumbled “What was that?”

Quick as a wink, Pattie Jo was on her feet looking towards the source of the shot, then she went over to the tent and poked the barrel of her rifle between the door flaps and looked inside.

Chapter 3

While Pattie Jo looked in the tent, Robert reached over and managed to get to the ropes binding Jimmy’s hands. Unhappily, Robert knew that Scott would never be able to keep up the charade that he was still tied if his hands were freed, so he had decided to keep Scott bound, delivering his son’s safety into the hands of his colleagues. He knew how Scott would react if he thought he was being looked after, so as he loosened the rope he spoke very quietly. “When Mickey makes his move, I want you to get Scott out of here.”

Jimmy nodded. “I’ll do my best, McCall.”

Suddenly, there was a hullabaloo in the trees and two men appeared at the campsite. Pattie Jo turned away from the tent to face them. “Well now, fancy seeing you two. I should've guessed it was you when I heard the shot.”

Both youngish men were dark haired and deeply tanned, one was of medium height and build, but the other was a mountain of a man – he had to be at least six and a half feet tall. Their clothes looked as though they hadn’t been changed for a long time.

The smaller one spoke, his gap toothed mouth in a wide grin, “Howdy, Pattie Jo. What in the world are you all doing in the middle of nowhere?” He glanced over at Robert and the others, “Who're they?”

“Aw, Billy Ray, they're strangers. Me an' the gals were setting sunnin' ourselves down by the river this afternoon, and four of them came by in their fancy canoes. They was real rude an’ didn’t stop and visit with us, so we decided to follow them to learn them some manners,” she chuckled deeply, “and to see iffen they had any money. These city types usually have a whole mess a money when they’re on vacation.”

The other man, the huge one, spoke up, and Robert was surprised to hear that his voice was high and childish.” You still robbin’, Pattie Jo? Shame on you. What would Grandpappy Bramlett say?”

Billy Ray laughed and patted the big man on his massive shoulder. ‘That’s OK Jeb-boy. Remember, as long as she’s with her sisters, it’s okay. Grandpappy done told you that you should never steal anything if you is alone. We don’t want no more trouble with the po-lice like what happened the last time you took it into yer mind to take a fun ride in that old ladies’ truck. Remember?”

Jeb nodded slowly and then looked at Robert and the others as if he was concentrating, “You said four strangers Pattie Jo. I count three. One. Two. Three.” He looked around the camp. “And where're Allie Jo, an’ Bobbie Jo, are they visitin’ with the other camper?” His eyes lit up with a simpleton’s joy. “Is it a girl? Is there a female too? Is there?” He began to hop around, “Can I have her? Can I Pattie Jo? Pleeze?”

Pattie Jo laughed, “No Jeb, it ain’t no girl, and after what you done with the last female we gave you, you ain’t getting’ no other! Lordy, that one didn’t stop a screamin’ the whole time you was on top o her, and then she didn’t make no noise at all afterward until she throwed herself off the mountain. You done ruined her for anything.” She then spoke to Billy Ray. “The other one we caught turned out to be the rich fella's hired hand. One 'o them purty lookin’ boys. Bobbie Jo and Allie Jo took a shine to him and they’s having some fun.”

Just then, the tent flap was thrown back and the tall blonde crawled out slowly. “What you all jawin and making a racket out here for?” Over her shoulder she called back into the tent, “I say leave him be, Bobbie Jo. He hardly woked up when we heard the gun go off! He ain't fit for anything else right now. I think we done wore him out.”

A female voice floated out of the tent, “I’m jess gonna see iffen he has any more good ideas. That last one was real nice.”

The blonde shrugged, then looked at the two new arrivals. She smoothed her hair and walked to the campfire, swinging her hips provocatively. “I see the trash come in,” she said, then sat down and started to poke the fire with stick.

Robert looked around at the kidnappers. The hope for an easy escape was getting dimmer. Even if Mickey took out the woman in the tent, he couldn't take on four heavily armed people with his one automatic.

Billy Ray walked over and sat down next to Allie Jo. “Don’t be like that sister. Lookie, see what I brung you?” He showed her another jug of corn whiskey and he opened it, offering the bottle to her. She grabbed the jug out of his hands and took a quick slug from it. After setting it down, she stretched her back and fanned herself with her hands, “What you doing here, Billy Ray?”

“We been out setting some more traps.” Billy Ray answered as he slid closer to Allie Jo.

“And granddaddy was worried when you three didn't come home last night. Wasn't he Billy Ray?” Jeb, the hulk of a man asked, a note of worry in his voice.

Billy Ray laughed loudly, “Yes he was, Jeb! You surely is sharp as a tack today!” He got up and walked to the huge man, clouted him hard on the shoulder. Jeb rewarded Billy Ray with a toothless grin.

Then as Robert watched, the big man began to wander around the campsite rummaging through the supplies. When he got closer, his eye’s widened as if he hit on something that interested him and Robert realized with alarm that it was Scott!

“Pattie Jo?” Jed called out as he studied Scott closely. “If there ain’t no females here in this group, can I have me this one?”

Robert felt his stomach turn. Trying to maintain the fiction that his hands were still tied, Robert nevertheless worked to put himself between Scott and the lumbering giant.

Billy Ray grimaced. “That ain’t for the kinda playing you interested in Jeb.” He turned to Pattie Jo and Allie Jo. “He been at hisself ever since we see them rabbits a goin’ at it yesterday.”

Jeb crouched down next to Scott, who tried to move away but didn’t get very far. Jeb put his enormous hand on his hair, fingering the blond strands. The giant twisted round and looked at the others, “He’s pretty!”

Robert had to use all of his training to counteract the primitive parental urge to protect his child that was welling up inside him.

Billy Ray glanced over and shrugged, “You sure you want him, Jeb?” he looked toward the women. “That’s a strong lookin’ young’un. He might be able to take what Jeb’s a mind to do with him. But anyways, it don’t matter if Jeb kills him with lovin’ now or we kill ‘em like we always do later on.” He called out again to his brother, “You sure you want the boy as yer playmate there?”

Jeb nodded sincerely at his brother, “Yes!! Uncle John showed me just what to do if I can’t get no female.”

Bloody hell! Robert thought, what kind of madness is going on here?

“Hey, Allie Jo!” Pattie Jo shouted, distracting everyone. She had moved closer to Robert and was licking her lips, staring at him with unconcealed lust, “It's your turn to keep watch over these en's. I want me a drink and some fun now with this here gray fox.”

Stinking animals, all of them! Robert muttered to himself. And where the hell is Kostmayer?

“All right, hold your water,” Allie Jo called out as she took another drink of white lightning,” I'm coming. I’m coming!”

Billy Ray sniggered loudly when he heard her.

“What you laughing at?” Allie Jo rounded on him.

“I jest wondered how many other times you said that tonight.” Billy Ray then collapsed, overcome with his own cleverness. “You always say that when you’re about ready to pop!”

“Shut up Billy Ray!” Allie Jo yelled.

In a move that left Robert stunned, Jeb suddenly sat down next to his son, grabbed him by his t-shirt and pulled him into his lap, Scott’s back to his chest.

Pattie Jo moved closer to Robert and stuck the end of the shotgun into the side of his face. “Don’t you move old man,” she whispered. “Poor Jeb don’t get to have much fun, and I’m here to make sure he gets his fill for a change. Don’t you worry none, your turn’ll come.” She pressed the gun painfully into his cheek for emphasis.

Scott tried to fight, but Jeb circled his neck with one massive hand. “Be nice,” Jeb whimpered, “I just wanna play.” As Scott continued to struggle Jeb squeezed until Scott’s eyes started to roll up into his head.

“Scott! Scott! Don’t fight him,” Robert shouted out, “Stop fighting! Go limp and he’ll stop choking you!”

Scott immediately went still and Jeb removed his hand from his neck. From the way he clenched his jaw shut, Robert could see the effort that Scott was exerting to control his fear as the large man then wrapped his arms around him, pinning his arms tightly to his side.

Robert was having trouble breathing, he was enraged, but he remained in his place. He knew that without any weapons, not to mention the proximity of Pattie Jo’s gun to his head, that he wouldn’t be able to get very far to stop what was happening.

Then the big man moved again.

Robert watched in horror as Jeb slid his large hand to Scott’s crotch and started to slowly stroke and squeeze his son’s genitals through the denim of the cut off jeans.

Scott’s eyes widened in horror and he looked into Robert’s eyes, wordlessly pleading with his father to help him.

The large man’s panting voice was thick as his mouth hung loosely open. “Don’t worry, I’ll do you just like Uncle John used to do me when I was little,” With one brawny arm he positioned Scott’s rump over his own tented lap and began to grind his hips as he opened the zipper on Scott’s pants. He slipped his large hand inside and began to move it feverishly.

Robert’s agony increased when he saw the abject misery that enveloped Scott’s face.

Pattie Jo slid the barrel of the gun to the back of his neck. “Quiet now, old man,” she mumbled as she watched the scene play out in front of her.

By now Jeb was grunting in pleasure as he moved against his captive. Scott’s face was contorted with the effort to keep from crying out; he grimaced, trying to not respond to the insistent stroking by the ham fisted mountain man.

Robert tore his eyes from his son’s agony and saw that Jimmy had already turned his head away from the obscenity taking place in front of him.

When Robert could no longer keep his eyes averted from his son’s suffering and turned back to look, he was aghast to see that tears were freely flowing from Scott’s now tightly closed eyes. His son’s blond head was slowly moving back and forth as he mouthed No! No! No! while his breathing went from a shallow pant to fast, deep whimpering. Scott’s hips began to undulate uncontrollably, responding to Jeb’s rough manipulation.

Suddenly, from inside Mickey’s tent, the scream of a female voice sliced the air. The sound was raw and intense, hinting at primal animal passions. But even before the woman’s voice had faded, Scott cried out his own strangled climax, which ended as a howl of humiliation and fear as he realized that he had succumbed to the mountain man’s sexual stimulation.

That heart wrenching sound galvanized Robert into action. Even though he was hindered by the ropes around his ankles, he elbowed Pattie Jo’s kneecaps, sending her off balance, her shotgun tilting up toward the treetops. Robert propelled himself forward toward the monster who was abusing his son, ramming his head into Jeb’s shoulder. The simpleton reeled to the side and lost his grip on Scott as he used his arms to right himself.

At that same moment, from the corner of his eye, Robert saw Mickey come hurtling out of the tent, his automatic clutched in his hands.

Robert shouted in his most forceful voice, “Scott! Stay down!”

In a reflex action to his father’s command, Scott fell face down on the ground, just as Mickey half turned and fired once.

Standing over Robert, Pattie Jo had almost regained control of her rifle when a bullet hit her and she dropped like a stone.

From his position on the ground, Robert grabbed at a long bladed knife that he saw hanging from Jeb’s belt, but before he could grasp it he felt the giant’s hand come down over his with bone crushing power. Jeb bellowed Pattie Jo’s name in misery, intent on revenge. Without releasing his grip, he clamped his other hand over Robert’s throat and began to squeeze. Sure his windpipe was about to be crushed Robert heard another shot ring out and something warm splattered over him.

It only took a second for him to realize that the blood was Jeb’s. He reached up and wrenched the dead man’s hold away from his neck.

Disregarding the soup of brain and blood that covered him, Robert took possession of the knife and sliced the ropes binding his ankles. As he reached over to free Scott he heard more gunfire. The shots seemed to be coming from all directions. He hugged the ground, covering Scott with his body as he looked around. Billy Ray had taken cover and was returning fire at Mickey. He turned to see that Jimmy had crawled closer to him, and it only took a moment for Robert to cut his ankles loose.

“Run.” Robert yelled to Jimmy and Scott, his one concern was to get his son away. He permitted himself one moment of elation as he saw Jimmy grab Scott and bolt for the trees.

Using Jeb’s substantial corpse for cover, Robert pushed the remains of Pattie Jo aside and grabbed her shotgun. Mickey had taken cover behind a tree and was firing sparingly, conserving the ammo from his solitary clip. Surprisingly, two of the lanterns were still alight, illuminating the camp. Movement caught Robert’s eye and, as he watched, the other sister began to push her way out of the tent.

Robert fired the shotgun twice, once at the tent and once towards Billy Ray. Using the thunderous noise as a distraction, Mickey headed into the densely growing trees. Throwing the now useless shotgun aside Robert dashed in the opposite direction, following the route taken by Scott and Jimmy.

He ran full throttle, knowing that the best he could hope for was that the kidnappers would stay where they were, seeing to their dead kinfolk. If he had any luck at all, the remaining kidnapper’s desire to make a profit from the camping equipment would outweigh their need for revenge and keep them busy so that Robert’s group could get away.

He ran until, at last, he had to stop and rest. As he regained his breath he cursed himself steadily. What a bloody brilliant idea he'd had, a quiet weekend in the country. He should have known that nothing about his life was ever quiet. Praying that Jimmy had managed to stay with Scott, Robert began to make his way towards their car, knowing that it was the obvious rendezvous point; he just hoped that Jimmy could keep Scott with him and find the way.

He had no worries about Mickey; moving unseen through this sort of territory was second nature to him.

Several strenuous hours of half-walking, half-running had passed when Robert arrived at the car and he grunted in relief at the sight of Mickey already there standing lookout. Mickey was at the peak of physical fitness and must have double-timed it. All the two of them had to do now was wait for Scott and Jimmy to arrive and they were home free.

The instant the thought made its way into the forefront of his mind, Robert cringed. Nothing had gone right on this trip so far. Why should he suppose that would change now!

Chapter 4

Mickey was trying to keep himself calm and focused. He always hated waiting when he was in a difficult situation but he had learned over the years to concentrate on something, anything to keep his mind busy.

He looked up from his contemplation of the river, lit by the first light of the morning sun. It had only been a day since they had set off from this very spot, but it seemed like weeks. Robert was still pacing anxiously by the parked SUV

Mickey took a deep breath; this wasn’t going to be easy. Whatever else was true, he had made the decision to wait to subdue the women. He cleared his throat. “Robert. I want to explain why I took so long to…”

Robert turned away from him quickly. “No explanation needed, I assure you. The blame for this weekend rests squarely on my shoulders. You did what you thought best.”

Mickey tried to clear his mind of all emotion. “I thought that I didn’t need to use excessive force to disarm three women. At that time, no one had been hurt and I didn’t think that their deaths were warranted. I was going to take care of the two in the tent and then it would have been a simple step to get the drop on the one guarding you outside.”

“None of us could have foreseen what would happen later on,” Robert said, his voice filled with repressed emotions.

“I was just about to make my move when I heard the shot outside,” Mickey said, “both of them woke up and I knew that they would be expected to react somehow. I didn’t know what we’d be facing, so when the big one stuck her head through the tent flaps, I let the blonde leave. I wanted to gauge the additional people and how the weapons situation had changed.”

Robert kept his face averted, so Mickey couldn’t figure out what his friend was thinking. When Robert didn’t comment he decided to continue, if only to unburden himself of any regrets. “After the blonde left, I knocked Bobbie Jo out right away and got dressed. Listening to the talk outside the tent. I knew that we were completely outnumbered and we only had my gun. At that point I had to consider you three as unprotected targets. Then, when I heard what was happening to Scott, I knew that I was gonna have to kill them.”

Robert glanced back at him, an expression of pain on his face. “It’s all right Mickey. You made a judgement call…”

Mickey found his words flowing out of him before he even realized what he was going to say. “Bobbie Jo woke up and screamed just as I was going to move. I should have taken them both out when they were sleeping and the hell with restraint.”

Mickey found that he was angry, very angry, and the source of the anger was just occurring to him. “It won’t happen again. I swear it. Jesus! I thought I was on vacation, but people like us never do get time off, do we?” The words tasted like bile in his mouth as he spat his thoughts out. “When the hell did I begin to go soft, McCall? It’s the last time I worry about the punishment fitting the crime, I guarantee it.”

“Stop it!” Robert spoke harshly, “Don’t over-compensate for a few moments of thinking like a human being and not a Company drone.” He turned around and Mickey saw the worry for his son’s safety written on his face, yet Robert’s voice remained toneless. “We’ll discuss strategies after we get everyone to safety.”

As bad as he felt, Mickey saw that his friend was hurting worse and he thought he should say something, anything to make him think that it all would turn out all right. “Don't worry, McCall. Jimmy will get them here. He’s always claiming to have Indian blood.”

Robert smiled briefly, “I'm not so sure. He always looks much more at home when his feet are on concrete. I think we ought to give them another twenty minutes and then...”

Whatever Robert had been going to say was lost as two disheveled figures burst out of the trees and, visibly exhausted, headed towards them.

“Scott! Scott!” Robert ran forward to gather his son in his arms and hold on to him in a long hug.

Mickey helped Jimmy to lean on the car. “How’re you doing?”

“Fine, I’m fine,” Jimmy said, his face even more deeply lined than usual as he worked to calm his breathing. “Sorry we took so long to get here.”

“It was my fault,” Scott interjected, “I insisted that we take a wrong turn a couple of miles back.” He was close to tears.

Jimmy raised a hand to stop Scott. “Look kid, like we discussed, stuff happens in life and all we gotta do is get back on the right track.” He shrugged, “Hey, you can’t help it if you aren’t part Indian and can’t track as good as I can.” Jimmy smiled reassuringly. “You did good. You kept your head and once we got back on the right track, you kept me going.” Jimmy looked at Robert. “He did real well, McCall. He saved me from breaking my neck more than once.”

Mickey started to feel a growing unease as he looked around at the trees surrounding them. “I think we’d better get moving now, we’ve sat in this spot too long as it is.”

Robert handed out the water canteens, and Jimmy and Scott both took one as they climbed into the back seat of the SUV.

“We’re going to chance going back to town the way we came in.” Mickey explained as they settled in the car. “We checked the map. The only other way is over an unpaved road.”

As Mickey started the engine, Robert turned to speak to his son and Jimmy in the backseats. “We’re hoping that our friends will remain at camp, tending to their relatives and consoling themselves with all of our expensive equipment. When we get back to town I’ll report this to the Hilltop White Water Rafting Company representatives right away. Their people will be expecting us at the mouth of the river later this morning and when we don’t show, they would be bound to send out a search party. I don’t want any unsuspecting people to wander into the path of those killers back at our camp.”

“Dad?” Scott asked, “Do you think we’re safe? They won’t follow us, right?”

“We’re almost safe,” Robert shouted back over the roar of the motor, Mickey wasn’t wasting any time getting them back to town, “This is the only good road to town. But don’t worry, we have a contingency plan in case we run into them again.”

“Glad we have a plan,” Mickey muttered to himself, “’cause we only have a few rounds of ammo, and that won’t go very far against shotguns.”

“McCall!” Jimmy almost stood up in the car as he pointed ahead of them, “In the tree, ’bout a mile down! I see a guy hidin’ in the trees!”

“I don’t see anything!” Mickey shouted, his voice reflecting the annoyance that coursed through his body. “Where?”

“On the left side of the road, about fifteen feet off the ground, wearing a red shirt! There!” Jimmy was using his finger as a sight. “Jesus, long dark hair! I think it’s one of the women!”

Robert took his glasses off and squinted, “I can’t see a bloody thing, Jimmy, are you sure?”

“I got eyes like a hawk, you know that, McCall.” Jimmy insisted.

“I see her!” Scott shouted out, his voice high and panicked “In the tree and the two others are there too, just off the road in the tall grass! They’re there all right!”

“Good enough for me!” Mickey shouted as he made a hard turn, “Hold on! I’m going off road here. McCall, take the map and talk me towards that side road.”

Robert smothered a curse as the tumbled down bridge loomed in front of them. The only thing that Robert was pleased about was that they had seen nothing more of the hillbilly family. They stopped the car and Robert was the first to exit to inspect the structure. In a minute Mickey joined him.

They exchanged looks. Kostmayer obviously agreed that the word bridge was a glamorous description for something this old and rickety. The wood looked rotten and there was more than one place where timber was missing. The only reassuring factor was that the water wasn’t that far beneath it and the river ran relatively quietly in this section. Robert reckoned that, if they fell, it was easily survivable.

Scott and Jimmy soon got out of the car and joined them in looking at the decrepit bridge. They all took stock of the situation. “We could all walk across and then head for the road and try to hitch a lift into the nearest town,” Scott suggested doubtfully.

“Right, kid. It’s still miles to town. Those crazy hillbillies know this area much better than we do and it would be our luck to meet them as we’re strolling down the road.” Mickey replied, his voice dripping in sarcasm.

Scott’s face turned a bright red. “Hey, I was making a suggestion damn it! Don’t you Goddamn dare treat me like I’m some sort of pussy!” he bellowed.

Mickey stared at Scott, his mouth open in surprise. He was just about to say something when Robert lifted his hand to silence them both.

“We will keep the vehicle with us for as long as possible.” He checked with Mickey, “How do you feel about walking across in front of the car with Jimmy while I drive it over? Scott can either come with me or walk behind, using the car for cover.” Seeing Scott start to protest, Robert explained, “Mickey and Jimmy are trained and Mickey has a weapon. They at least stand a chance of driving the killers off if they are waiting on the other side.”

With a sullen expression, Scott quickly looked away in frustration, but held his tongue.

“Sounds like a plan McCall.” Mickey took the gun out of his pocket and held it out to Jimmy.

“No, Kostmayer,” Jimmy said shaking his head, “ I don’t like guns, you know that.”

Mickey grabbed Jimmy’s hand and slapped the gun into his palm. “I know you don’t, but if I’m taking the first steps on this rotten bridge, I want the gun up here with you, not down in the river with me. You can hand it back when we’re on the other side.”

Jimmy nodded and slipped the gun into a plastic bag and then into his pocket. He looked up embarrassed, “I don’t want it to get wet or slip outta my pocket. It’s safe here.” Jimmy patted his coat’s inner pocket. “I ain’t much on the quick draw anyway.”

Mickey shrugged at Jimmy and turned to the bridge and started across. Jimmy scooted to the side and picked up a large stick that was on the ground. Robert didn’t know if it was for balance or for protection, but he admired Jimmy’s presence of mind, it was a good idea.

Robert climbed into the car and Scott followed. He was soon easing the big vehicle up onto the swaying timbers, inching forward carefully, allowing the bridge to gradually take the weight of the big SUV. From time to time there was an alarming screech from the timbers, but they held up.

After what seemed like hours, they were almost at the other side. Jimmy was around ten feet in front of the car and Mickey, another twenty feet in front of him, was almost at the end of the bridge.

Suddenly, three shots rang out.

Just before the windscreen shattered into a starburst of cracks, Robert saw Mickey and then Jimmy plummet off the bridge.

Mickey went face down into the very shallow water at the edge of the bridge, and lay frighteningly still. Jimmy tumbled head first into deeper water and Robert caught a quick glimpse of his bright yellow jacket as his body was pushed along by the current.

Paying scant attention to the remorse that cut through his heart at the sight of his friends’ fate, Robert opened the door, motioning for Scott to do the same, and headed for the rear of the SUV. As he moved along the opposite side of the car, he looked behind, just in time to see Billy Ray Bramlett scuttle over to the river’s edge and crouch by Mickey’s limp figure. Crabbing back to the undergrowth, Billy Ray hauled Mickey out of the shallow water, giving Robert the hope that Mickey was still alive. Billy Ray dragged Mickey deeper into cover until Robert couldn’t see any sign of them at all.

Robert met Scott at the back of the car. “Get back across the bridge, Scott. Head along the trail as fast as you can, find yourself some deep cover, and stay there.”

“What about you?” Scott’s eyes were filled with terror.

“I think Mickey is still alive and I can’t abandon him or Jimmy. I’m going after them.”

Robert saw Scott’s mouth set and groaned to himself. Why can’t the boy follow instructions? Before they could get into an argument there was a shout from the bank.

“Hey there! You on the bridge!” The familiar voice of Billy Ray rang out over the water.

Holding Scott still, Robert called out, “What do you want?”

A female voice, Robert couldn’t make out which of the remaining sisters it was, spoke out then, “We jess thought you would want to know that your friend here is still breathing. The bullet only grazed him.”

Robert had a glimmer of hope. “So? What do you have in mind?” he called out.

A female voice sounded, “We was wondering iffen you wanted to make a deal.”

“What kind of deal?” Robert asked suspiciously. At this moment all the cards seemed to be in the hands of the hillbillies.

“Well now, figure that your hired hand here is goin’ to die fer killin’ sweet Jeb and Pattie Jo. The deal is that you leave that big car behind, we’ll let you and the boy go.” A chorus of crude laughter swept out of the trees. “You forget everything that happened here an keep yer traps shut, we’ll let you go. Jus, come on out and we’ll set you and yer boy on the road back to town.”

Mickey’s voice rang out suddenly, “Don’t trust them, McCall. Leave me! Get yourself and…”

His voice was cut off mid-shout and instead there was a scream of agony that left Robert cursing. When he looked at his son, he could see that Scott’s face had gone a pasty color.

“What’re we going to do?” Scott’s voice was high with fear, “We can’t give ourselves up to them and we can’t just stand here and listen to them torture Mickey!”

“I know,” Robert saw that the boy was going into hysterics. “Hold on, hold on. There must be something we can do.”

Bobbie Jo’s floated towards them once more. “I don’t think he liked what Billy Ray just did with his skinning knife. If you come out, we’ll set you on your way. I don’t think you wanna hear what’ll happen when Billy Ray gets to carvin’ the hide off your friend here.”

“Or make him into a gelding!” The other female voice called out, and again harsh laughter was heard.

Suddenly, another scream came from the bushes, followed by a long drawn-out moan.

Next to him, Scott had lunged toward the far side of the bridge and was gagging into the river.

“Scott,” he said quietly, “I’m going to attract their attention and I want you to run and find cover.” To himself, he vowed that he would kill his son before these animals could get their hands on him.

Scott had stopped heaving and Robert heard him spit into the river once again. “I’m not leaving you or my friends Dad.” Scott’s voice was calm and determined. “Tell me how to help damn it, not how to save myself. I’m not turning tail and running, not this time. I couldn’t live with that memory on top of what happened in camp.”

Abruptly, the blast of a gunshot rang out up on the bank. Robert looked around, desperately searching for the source of the shot. He couldn’t see anyone else.

He heard a scream come from the direction of the hillbillies and then there was the sound of a skirmish. Scott had thrown himself face down onto the rotten wood of the bridge and Robert moved quickly covering him with his body. Another shot rang out and then there was silence.

Robert lifted his head and tried to make out any sound or sight from the last place he had seen Mickey.

“Hey, Robert!” Suddenly a figure dressed in a bright yellow jacket rose up from a rise directly behind the hillbillies. “You can come out now, they’re all dead.”

Scott gasped, “Jimmy!”

Relief rushed out of Robert’s lungs. “I know.” Robert hugged his son once and the called out, “Good show Jimmy! Well done!”

The bedraggled figure walked over to the end of the bridge and waved. “Thanks McCall.”

“What about Mickey?” Robert shouted as he stood up and helped a shaken Scott get to his feet.

“Under control!” Jimmy said and then looked behind him, “He’ll keep till we can get him to a doctor. Can you get the car over here now?” Jimmy swiped a hand over his eyes and suddenly sat down. “I’m feeling kinda shaky myself all of a sudden. I could use a ride to town myself.”

Relieved, Robert waved Scott over to the car, “Drive the car the rest of the way, will you?” Then he got in the passenger side.

Surprised, Scott acknowledged his father’s confidence in him with a nod and drove the car the rest of the way over the bridge. “I thought Jimmy wasn’t any good with guns,” he said as they pulled up onto land.

Robert smiled. “No, there’s a difference. Jimmy doesn’t like using guns, but that doesn’t mean he’s not any good with them. He does have eyes like a hawk, you know. He’s a damn good marksman.”

In less than an hour Mickey was being looked over by the local doctor while Robert, Scott and Jimmy were with the county Sheriff, writing out their statements.

Sheriff Pascoe was a big man with a quiet and thoughtful expression on his face, “I guess them crazy Bramletts finally bit off more than they could chew, taking on you guys. We know they’ve been sneaking in from the mountains for years round these parts, robbing, kidnapping and Lord knows what else and then hiding back in the hills. But we’ve never been able to get any evidence or catch them before.” He turned to Robert, “What was it you said you did in New York?”

Jimmy looked at Robert who shrugged, “We’re insurance salesman.”

Scott smiled, “And I play the violin,” he offered.

Sheriff Pascoe chuckled, “Must be right rough up there in the big city, if folks like you can take out a parcel of killers like the Bramletts.

“You wouldn't believe how brutal,” Robert smiled.

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