This story is by Cassie Rybka and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
I should have stuck to the plan to lay low. Sisters’ intuition or no, walking into a dive bar wearing a white t-shirt and armed with only a knife is a rookie move. Blood is a bitch to clean. Now I’m going to have to go shopping.
“I hate shopping,” I say to Faith. My sister stands next to me breathing heavy, her eyes bright with excitement. She looks beautiful, raw, and a complete badass. Perhaps she should have gone to war instead of me.
“This is pretty fucked up, as far as reunions go,” I say, nodding towards the corpse at our feet.
“Language, Serenity. Mama would wash your mouth,” she says. I laugh and am rewarded with her famous glare.
“Considering the situation, my mouth would be the least of her concerns.” I look closer and see her hand shake. It won’t be long before the rest of her body follows suit. Unexpected relief hits me; my sister is still human after all.
“Sit,” I say, pointing to the empty bar. All the patrons left once the fight broke out, leaving spilled liquor and broken glass glistening over the dark wood. I move to sit down not looking back. Metal clangs to the floor as Faith drops her knife. Reaching over, I grab two dirty glasses half filled with beer. Waste not, want not. I feel her sit next to me and take a glass of her own. She drinks the contents in a single gulp.
“Better?” I ask. She nods, eyes closed and fists clenched in an effort to stop trembling. Best to get on with it.
“As much as I appreciate a good revenge plot, how the hell did I walk into a bar and find you seducing my captors?”
She has the decency to flinch.
“I’m really sorry about that. But it was the only way,” she says.
I give her a look indicating her bull stinks.
“You checked out, Serenity. I haven’t seen you in months. You come home to accept that award and then disappeared.”
“It’s called the Medal of Honor,” I say. I get up before she can see how much her ignorance hurts. I need tequila if we’re going to talk about this. I walk around the bar and pour two shots.
“Whatever. The point is you disappeared. You wouldn’t even return my calls. What was I supposed to do?”
“Stay safe,” I say handing her a shot as I down mine. She sticks her tongue out at me.
“Did you know I am only the second female to be awarded it?” She nods, her throat too raw from drink to speak. I continue, “Congress took it away from her later, claiming there were too many given.” I pour another. “She had balls, though. She wore it until she died.” I look down at my empty glass. “You can’t take something away like that. It shouldn’t be earned in the first place. When people die in the name of valor, how is that an award?” I feel a buzz starting.
“No one doubts you were brave,” she says. She sounds sad which pisses me off.
“What the fuck does that mean?”
“I never stopped looking, Serenity. Once I found who kidnapped you, I had to do something to help you get over it.”
“By yourself?” Nauseousness hits hard.
“I’m not stupid! I had backup.” She reaches for the bottle as if to prove a point.
“Stop cussing and talk normal for once.”
We glare at each other. Some things never change. Before I continue, I see movement from the restrooms. Instinct kicks in and I grab the gun under the bar. In one motion I’m over the counter, pushing Faith to the floor. The man is upscale, looking out of place for a dive like this. He’s not seen me yet, his eyes round, staring at his partner drenched in red.
“Get a good look?” I ask.
His reaction is faster than I expect. In a breath he has his gun pointed at my head.
“My desert rose. Your bloody thorns suit you.” He speaks low and seductive, all surprise gone. “Did you miss my hands? You always responded to my touch.” His sneer turns my stomach. This man haunts my darkest hours. No restraints or duty hold me back this time. You’re dead. He must see my resolve. His hand grips his pistol tighter. Without thought, my finger squeezes the trigger.
A bullet shatters my shoulder and I stumble back against the bar nearly dropping my gun. I blink to clear my vision and see my captor crumple, a pile of fine clothing and useless flesh. Blood and brains ooze out of the hole in the back of his head. I feel dizzy from adrenaline and alcohol.
“Drop your weapon, Sergeant. You and Miss Johnson need to move.”
Looking past the body, I see a man in dark clothing leaning against the wall, a gun in his hand.
“No time to chat. The boy scouts will be here in sixty seconds with questions you’ll want to avoid.”
I lift my gun again, wincing. Faith jumps up and rests her hand on my arm.
“Please! Don’t shoot. He’s my backup.” She talks softly, as if to soothe a cornered animal.
“Who are you?” I say, gun still aimed center mast.
The man lets out a bitter laugh. “Faith wasn’t joking. You’re a pit bull. ‘Names Beattie. Detective, if you care to know. Look, if you want to spend the rest of your days in a government holding facility, stay right where you are. Otherwise, I’ve got two tickets to South America for you and baby sis, but the choice is yours. I’m leaving in ten seconds with or without you.”
I look at Faith to verify and see the pleading in her eyes. Cussing under my breath, I lower my gun and follow them out the back door. So much for shopping.
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