The thrashing of the man by the driveway had stopped by the time I reached the car. I motioned for Maybel to join me, being careful to stay out of the young girl’s view. When Maybel reached the car, I motioned for her to look. Her hands went to her mouth, and her face went white.
“Tammy,” she whispered.
She glanced at me, as if asking what to do. I was at a loss. I didn’t dare touch her for fear of causing undue fear, but I knew she needed to be unbound and moved into the RV. I felt Izzy wrap her arms around my leg, and I instinctively patted her head and looked down. I wanted to send her back to the RV, to shield her from what was happening, but there was a part of me that knew she had watched me kill at least one of the men in those vehicles. If that were the case, the simple fact that she trusted me enough to come to me for comfort comforted me as well.
An idea hit me just then, one that in any other circumstance wouldn’t have occurred, and it appeared that Maybel had the same flash of inspiration I did because she motioned for Maybel to join her by the car. Izzy looked up at me, fear in her eyes, and I smiled down at her too young face.
“It’s ok. I’ll come with you and keep you safe.”
She nodded, and we went to Maybel.
“Izzy, this is Tammy,” said Maybel. “She needs our help. Can you help me?”
“Yes,” came the child’s reply.
“Ok, can you go get a blanket from the RV?”
Izzy nodded, and ran back to our home. Maybel looked back at Tammy.
“Tammy, I know you’re scared and confused, but this man is going to help- he’s not like the others. He’s a good man. He’s rescued me and a little girl named Izzy.”
She leaned into the car, and I walked around her to get the rifle still lying on the ground next to the passenger’s body. I was careful to stay out of sight of our new addition as I searched the two bodies and kept an eye out for trouble. Izzy returned with a blanket and the two of them worked on freeing Tammy and the escorted her to the RV. I finished searching the dead, unloaded their weapons, and stored them in the RV. I knew that the group these vermin had belonged to would come back, and I wanted to ensure that they got the message loud and clear that we weren’t to be trifled with.
Then I thought of how I’d found Tammy in the back of the car, the fear and the bruises and suddenly I didn’t want them to leave me alone. I wanted them to hunt me down, to come to me at a time and place of my choosing so I could end them all. The idea was tantamount to suicide, and as soon as the idea crossed my mind, I discarded it. Better to leave them in the dust and get clear. As I watched Maybel and Izzy walk Tammy back toward the RV, I started wondering about anyone else those jackasses had under their control. The urge to do the right thing pushed against the urge to follow the correct course of action. Protecting the people in my charge was fighting against rescuing people in need. I couldn’t do one without sacrificing the other, and the choice was tearing my mind and heart in two. I wasn’t sure whether I should go left or right, and decided on a third option.
The sun had almost set by the time we were rolling again. There were two new rifles, and a couple pistols with some ammo for each in the back along with another mouth to feed that came with a soul to mend. I lit the car on fire and thought about the note I had decided to leave for the men who had shown themselves to be so evil. I drove west, letting the moon illuminate the way as we drove, hoping that the darkness outside would hide us from prying malevolent eyes. I wished, not for the first time, that I had night vision goggles. It was about the time I had eaten my fifth candy bar that Maybel came forward and sat in the passenger seat. We rode in silence for a while, both of us watching the country side pass by in the stillness of the night.
“Is this how our lives are going to be from now on,” she asked after a while.
Her voice sounded distant, full of disbelief and worry. We rode for a few minutes while I contemplated her question. I hadn’t really had a chance to give the idea of a future much thought, and here she was asking about just that.
“I honestly don’t know,” I said. “If you’re asking if we’re going to keep driving around in an RV, then the answer is, for the time being, yes.”
I chanced a glance, and saw her nod. She rested her elbow on the door, and propped her head in her hand.
“How are the other two doing,” I asked.
“They’re asleep,” she replied sleepily. “Izzy is sleeping above the cab, and Tammy is on the bed in the back.”
“Ok. When we stop, I’ll take a nap up here, and stay clear of her. I think the last thing she wants right now is a man anywhere near her.”
“She said as much. But I think she knows she’s safe. The last week has been hard for us- harder for her than me. She fell in with them sooner than I did. Was already pretty abused by the time I was picked up.”
My knuckles turned white as my hands squeezed the wheel. I really didn’t want to hear the details. She didn’t elaborate any more than that, and I wasn’t going to ask just then. I just kept on driving, wondering what my role in what was happening truly was. Part of me figured that I was going to have to fill the role of dad for the two younger girls, at least for the time being. Help them heal in their own ways from their own hurts. Maybel though, I wasn’t sure. She seemed to be getting over what happened to her fairly quickly. Maybe the situation was forcing her to cope, or maybe she was tightening up inside, screwing her emotions deep within her, creating a gravity of pain that at some point would cause her to buckle and implode.
I couldn’t have that. If I was going to succeed at whatever my role was, I needed her to help. I needed her to stay in the game as it were, and be a team player. I needed her as a partner in this endeavor- at least for the time being. I’m but a man, and can’t do it on my own. Especially with girls- and especially with one that probably wouldn’t trust a man after what she’d been through.
I glanced back at Maybel, and found her asleep against the window. I let her rest, and continued the drive. The night was clear, the moon full, the road like a ghostly spectral trail before me. I grabbed a candy bar from the bag sitting next to me, and chewed as I wondered what was going to come next, and what potential situations we might find ourselves in.