Fighting the Dead:The Last Town #4By: Stephen Knight
“Man, that’s some freaky shit!” said the skinny kid with the glasses. Shaliq, his name was. Doddridge still didn’t know what a kid like him was doing in the federal system, but it didn’t matter. He was part of the posse, now. Doddridge’s Desert Rats.
“Yeah,” was all he said, and Doddridge was glad the guards had let him take a shit in the desert before he killed them all. Otherwise, he would’ve crapped his pants. He decided then that while lizards creeped him out, snakes absolutely almost made him lose his shit. Literally.
“What the hell are these guys doing out here, digging ditches in the desert?” asked the Latin King, Big Tone.
“What the fuck does it matter?” asked Auto. The huge man with the long blond hair shielded his eyes with one big hand and looked at the tractors tearing up the landscape in the distance. They were maybe a half mile away, not far from the traffic-clogged highway.
“Yeah, let’s not worry ’bout that shit,” Doddridge said. “We need to get us selves a place to hole up for a while, plan our next move. Come on.”
The place would be the first house they came upon, right off a stretch of concrete called Substation Road. It was on the southern border of the town, and the house was small but neat. Birdbath out front. Rock garden for a lawn. A carport with a white 1990s’ Caddy in the shade. Pink curtains visible through the windows. Everything about it screamed Old Lady to Doddridge, which meant there likely wouldn’t be much of a fight to be had taking it. The closest house was a few dozen yards away, and it looked a lot like this one: a small wood-frame bungalow-style home with a lot of features that could only be found in the desert, namely no lawn and some hardy trees barely hanging on in the heat.
Doddridge sent Shaliq and Big Tone to scout the back of the place. They came back after only five minutes, reporting that the backyard was pretty much the same as the front. No swimming pool, no hot tub, not even much of a fence. Some flowers and succulents in racks along the house’s back wall. More pink curtains. Another birdbath.
“So what we gonna do?” Big Tone asked.
Doddridge had been formulating a plan of attack when one simply devised itself. The door leading into the house from the carport opened, and a blue-haired old lady shuffled out. She wore a powder blue dress, a big hat, and absolutely huge sunglasses that were probably really fashionable back in the 1970s. She shambled toward the Cadillac Fleetwood sitting in the meager shade the carport offered, rummaging around in a bright yellow purse that was the size of a life preserver she held in one hand. The men were lying flat in the dust only forty feet away, and Doddridge heard the clink of keys as she pulled a key ring out of the purse.
“We taking her down?” Auto asked, and Doddridge thought there was a bit too much excitement in his voice.
“No, man. We’ll let the ol’ bitch drive away, then we’ll take the house,” Doddridge said. “We’ll see what she got, then wait for her to come home.”
“We ought to take her, man.”
“Auto, what the fuck for? Let her go out and do whatever she needs to do. We got all night to deal with her when she comes home. Don’t worry ’bout it. We take her down and the people who might be waitin’ on her could get curious why she don’t show up to bingo or whatever old white bitches do in the desert, and that leads to cops. Forget that shit.”
Auto made a disagreeable noise in his throat, but didn’t press the matter further.
The men spent the next few minutes taking in the rather unenviable entertainment that came from watching an old woman clamber into a big Cadillac. While Doddridge couldn’t see her face, he figured she had to be in her eighties judging by the sluggishness of her movements. Finally, she got herself situated inside the great white beast and started it up. The Caddy had an engine that still had some balls to it, and Auto nodded appreciatively beside him.
“That’s the old seven liter,” he said.
“Great, so we have our getaway car,” Big Tone said.
“Damn, I sure hope so,” Auto said.
“So what the fuck is taking her so long?” Shaliq said. “I got to take a piss.”
“Probably waiting for the air-conditioning to kick in,” Auto said. “She’s old. She probably likes it like a refrigerator.”
For sure, the old woman didn’t close the driver’s door for another two minutes. When she did, she wrestled into her seat belt, and then spent another minute backing the Caddy down the twenty-foot driveway. Carefully maneuvering the big car as if it was a battleship in a tight harbor, the old woman turned the vehicle until its chrome grille was pointed north up the street. She then accelerated away as if she was in the pole position in a NASCAR race.
Doddridge laughed at that.
The dead bolt on the door had been set, but the wood was old, and Auto was almost able to push the door open. He had been right—the old woman liked her environment to be cold, and Doddridge luxuriated in the air-conditioned bliss of her home. The door from the carport led into a small and rather outdated kitchen. It was clean. The old lady apparently took pride in keeping her home spotless, and for a flickering instant, Doddridge felt sorry he and his new crew had despoiled such a pristine speck in the middle of the endless desert. The regret died almost instantly. He wasn’t one to carry much baggage, and he dropped the remorse as if it was too hot to hold onto.