Better Than That

It was all over so fast that Stacey was barely aware of what was happening. A shot rang out. Kerr released Wanda. And Reb was on top of the moaning, whiny, pleading man. He used the same rope that had been wrapped around Wanda’s wrists to secure her husband’s.

“Shit, he’s bleeding too much. I must have hit the femoral artery. Stacey, I need you to find me something to stop the bleeding.”

Reb pressed his hands into the man’s hips, leaning his full weight forward. Kerr just lay there. Was the man even conscious? He had destroyed so many lives. Not just hers. Wanda’s. His daughters’. Hell, who even knew how many people had been hurt by this man’s avarice, greed, hubris, and lust? A whole damned town at his mercy.

And it came to this? All those years of fantasizing about killing this man? And one shot? That she did not even fire?

“Stacey, listen to me. I need you to come here. I can’t move my hands, or he’ll bleed out. I want you to take my belt off and wrap it around his leg. Do you understand me, sweetheart?”

The woman on the ground next to them had been sobbing. If it weren’t for the color of her hair, Stacey might not recognize Wanda Kerr. He had done a real number on her face. The woman moved slowly. Her whole body must be riddled with pain. But even through the nasty swelling, Stacey saw the determination and hate in the woman’s eyes.

“No! Don’t. Let him die. It’s the only way any of us will ever be free.”

Reb looked at the woman, then back to her. His warm brown eyes seemed to plead as much as his words, “Please, darling, help me here. Not because he deserves it. But because you’re better than that. We aren’t like him.”

It was the truth of that, which Stacey saw in those eyes, that finally broke through to her paralyzed brain. She kept as far away from the man as she could. Unfortunately, that was not very far, as she unbuckled Reb’s belt and pulled it from his jeans.

“One of us needs to wrap that around his leg above the wound. While the other keeps pressure on it. I’m sorry, Stacey, but that means you’re going to have to touch him. I know how hard that will be, sweetheart. You decide which.”

Wanda moaned and shook her again. But it was thoughts of her granddaughters that gave Stacey the courage to do what she had to. She had spent over a quarter of a century letting this man control her.

Even after the rapes stopped, she lived in fear and hate. But no more. She wanted to be the kind of person those babies could look up to. The type of woman that this man believed she was.

“You’re already applying pressure. Makes sense for me to do apply the tourniquet.”

“That’s my girl,” he smiled at her, and those words felt better than they should. “There’s a limb over there. We’ll need it to tighten the tourniquet.” Reb motioned to trees just a few feet past Wanda.

Stacey stood up to walk there, but she felt something tug her ankle. She looked down into the bloody and pleading eyes of the woman that she had once hated almost as much as this man. A woman who had lost even more than she had at this man’s hands. “I’m sorry, Wanda. But you know he’s right. We have to do the right thing. Or we’re no better than he is.”

The sob from those swollen lips tore at Stacey’s heart. The death throes of a wounded animal. Were her front teeth missing? Was that why her words sounded so slurred? Or perhaps she had head injuries?

She and Reb had to stabilize both of them and get an ambulance here as soon as possible. It broke something inside of her to shake off the woman’s hands and pleas. But she kept her mind focused on what needed to be done. As a supervisor at the computer factory, she was required to take first aid courses. She focused on the steps she had learned in those, rather than on the man and woman on the ground.

Stacey found a limb that was sturdy enough not to break under pressure. When she returned, she kept her eyes from either of their faces. Trying to pretend Earl and Wanda were random strangers.

She knelt on the cold, damp dead leaves and leaned forward around Reb. She picked up the belt from the ground next to him and lifted the man’s leg. Kerr moaned, and before she could stop herself, Stacey looked at the man’s face.

It was a mistake. That face. Contorted in pain. This was no random stranger. This was her rapist. The man that had stolen what little hope she had left after her daddy and Iggy were finished with her.

Reb didn’t know it, but she had gone into that bedroom, looking for more blankets to warm the girl. She had stared at the blue-black death mask of the old man who had once been her… But looking at Iggy’s body had not brought her the satisfaction or closure she had thought it would.

And neither would this man’s death.

She shook off those thoughts as she pulled the leather strap through the buckle as tightly as she could. Then she wrapped it around that stick and began to turn. After the third revolution, the man lifted his upper body from the ground and screamed.

Those ice-cold, lifeless gray-blue eyes met hers, “Bitch.”

She smiled and nodded as she turned the stick tighter, “The bitch who’s saving your worthless ass.”

Reb nodded and smiled at her as he began to release the pressure. “I’ll call 9-1-1.”

Stacey turned her attention to the woman. She didn’t even know where to begin. Head-to-toe, her training kicked in. She was as gentle as she could be as she began to feel for the extent of Wanda’s injuries. Her eyes were closing fast, the swelling around both of them was extensive. Stacey was pretty sure that the left cheekbone was broken. And yes, both front upper teeth were missing.

She noticed movement in her peripheral vision and turned back to see Reb stand and walk towards the back of the SUV. He was holding the phone up and cussing as loudly and profanely as Jack.

She looked at the man on the ground, but with this hands tied and the tourniquet around his thigh, the good sheriff was not much of a risk. So, she turned back to the man’s wife.

“You should have let him bleed to death,” the woman mumbled as Stacey went back to checking her injuries.

Wanda screamed when she barely touched her right side. Her ribs were likely broken, too. But at least the woman was not having any trouble breathing. That meant none of the bones had punctured her lungs. That was a small blessing, at least.

Stacey noticed then that the woman was not wearing the t-shirt and jeans that she had been earlier. All she had on was an extra-large shirt, likely his. She did not need to feel the woman’s legs for injuries. She could see no apparent deformities and only bruising on her upper thighs.

“Fuck,” Stacey cussed under her breath as she noticed the sheen of something wet on Wanda’s inner thighs.

Perhaps Wanda heard her or noticed where she had been looking because the woman closed her legs tighter and grabbed the shirt pulling it down. Stacey held out her hand, “Can you sit up?”

Wanda kept her eyes down as she nodded. But before she could help the woman up, Reb let loose another of Jack’s infamous incantations, “Shitpissdamncockcuntmotherfuckingsonsofbitches.” He was almost as good as Jack at turning the tirade into a single word without so much as a breath.

Even before he came to kneel beside her, she knew it was not good news. “I can’t get a signal, darling. I need you to take my phone and go back to the truck. Maybe you’ll be able to get one there.”

“But if not, there’s a damned CB in Chad’s truck. Maybe you can reach someone, the emergency channel? Hell, if you have to take the damned thing and drive until you see somewhere, that might have a phone, or you get a signal. We need ambulances here. Now.”

Stacey shook her head, her eyes meeting his, trying to tell him without words. “It’s best if you go, Reb.”

Her telepathy powers must be improving around that new-age mumbo-jumbo that his mother and sister preached because Reb looked from her to the woman on the ground and nodded. “Okay.”

“But I need you to help me get them into the cabin first. Shock is going to set in, if it hasn’t already. And being out here will make it harder for me to keep their body temperatures up.”

“Where did you learn so much, woman?”

“I told you Clara Barton was my hero growing up. I might not have ever fulfilled that little girl’s dream of going to nursing school, but my job sends me on first aid courses.”

“Damn, woman, that’s sexy,” Reb brushed a quick kiss on her cheeks.

“Oh, sweet on the slut? Hate to disappoint you, but she’s a terrible fuck, almost as bad as the other one.”

Reb turned back to the man on the ground, his fist raised in the air. “We might save your sorry life so you can rot in prison. But that doesn’t mean I can’t rearrange your pretty face if you say one more word about my woman.”

Stacey reached out and grabbed Reb’s wrist. “We don’t have time to waste on that piece of shit. Carry her inside. I’ll handle this one.”

Reb looked from her face to the man’s several times before he finally nodded. “Where’s your gun, woman?”

Stacey reluctantly pulled it from the waistband of her jeans. She didn’t think the man was any real threat, but she understood. She scooted back out of the man’s reach and took the safety off. “Now, go.”

Reb lifted Wanda, “I’ll be back for him.”

“Don’t worry about us. I’m sure the good sheriff knows better than to mess with me. I’m a better shot than my daughter.”

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