Peter sat at the table with a needle and thread working two pieces of leather together. After stowing his own bedding, Joaquin wandered the short steps to the table. He glanced over his shoulder at Peter’s bed and saw it in shambles. The fire in the fireplace had been stoked, and an empty bowl with a spoon sat on the edge of the sink with a box of cereal open on the counter.
Peter was stuffing odd pieces of hide and fur into the leather construct. He sewed the end closed and held up the oblong leather up for Joaquin to see.
“A football?” queried Joaquin.
“My son was never really interested in sports before he was taken from me.”
Peter tossed the crude football in the air, catching it a few times. Joaquin walked to the counter and picked up the box of cereal, not taking his eyes from Peter.
“Eat up, son,” Peter smiled. “Let’s toss the…” he looked down at the football. “Elkskin around.”
Joaquin waved his hand encompassing the dirty bowl on the counter. “What about chores?”
Peter shrugged. “The chores will keep for a little while.”
“A man keeps his home…”
Peter pushed air through his lips. It was half sigh, half raspberry. “I know what it takes to be a man, Joaquin.” Peter smiled. “I’m glad you do too. Eat up!”
Joaquin nodded and ate his daily share of cereal. Despite Peter’s impatience, Joaquin cleaned his and the old man’s bowls before returning everything to their proper places.
* * *
Kristof studied the cabin from his vantage point to the south. The smoke drifting from the chimney seemed almost welcoming. He looked across the clearing, past the deadfall traps and into the tree line. He didn’t need the enhanced vision he had before to see a pink figure peeking out from behind a tree. He counted six figures among the trees, their forest camouflage doing little to hide them among the dreary trees.
Kristof’s thoughts were inundated with strategies, angles of attack utilizing the rising sun and methodologies to lure the figures into the deadfall traps. He started to move towards the tree line, a plan hastily forming. As he got closer and his plan solidified, the door to the cabin opened and two figures emerged.
* * *
“Team leader, this is Delta. I have one tango south of the cabin.”
“Report tango’s movements, Delta.”
“Affirmative, team leader,” a pause, followed by rustling as Delta moved into position. “Tango advancing, cover compromised. Permission to engage tango?”
“Affirm, Delta. Team leader to Omega, secure your package and await instructions.”
The rifleman worked the bolt on his rifle and withdrew something from his pocket, inserting it into the breach. “Chemical round loaded,” he spoke, the throat mic transmitting his words to the team leader. He squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened.
When the rifle didn’t bark, his attention was drawn away from the little girl, Bree. When his attention returned, Bree was staring at him, shaking her index finger back and forth. He started to report the situation, but found he had no voice. His vision faded and he slumped over, his rifle falling beside his useless “Oh shit!”body.
* * *
“Oh, shit!” Justin muttered as he pulled his gloves off with his teeth. He lurched forward, stumbling on numb legs toward the closest mercenary.
“Justin, stop!” Anne hissed, but Justin had cleared the boulder they were hiding behind. He jumped over a fallen tree and came down behind one of the mercenaries. The merc had already started to swing his rifle around and Justin’s hands landed on the exposed arm. But nothing happened.
* * *
Peter stepped off the porch, throwing the football into the air.
“Look out!” shouted Joaquin as Kristof emerged from behind a tree.
Peter spun. “What the fuck?” shouted Kristof. “You deny me, your own flesh and blood to what?” Kristof pointed at Joaquin. “Play with this thug? This fuckin’ criminal?”
Peter opened his mouth to respond, but the sound of small arms fire ended the confrontation.
* * *
Anne stood over the dead mercenary, her Smith and Wesson 460 revolver pointed at the ground as she stooped to Justin’s body. She watched the even unfold with a detached sight. Justin’s hands grasped the mercenary’s exposed arm, but his grip pulled up some sort of skin-toned fabric. The merc swung around with his other arm and the four-inch bowie knife landed into Justin’s neck. A fountain of blood erupted and everything it touched wilted. As Justin’s body slumped, he reached to his wound to stem the tide of blood.
Justin’s spatter struck the mercenary and it was enough to stagger him as Anne’s gun hand operated without her consent. A single shot felled the man and the Bowie Knife tarnished as Justin’s life faded.
* * *
The five remaining members of the kill squad advanced from the tree line. No longer attempting to be subversive, they shouted commands to each other. Two immediately fell into pitfall traps, while the remaining three moved across the trap filled in by Peter with two bodies lie broken at the bottom.
A shot from one of the three felled Kristof while Joaquin and Peter stumbled back through the door into the cabin. One of the mercenaries stopped to bind Kristof as the two remaining ran up the steps to the cabin.