Jason walked the trail, lazily kicking aside rocks and branches. A cigarette hung from his mouth, but kept going out from the cold. He reached the far end of the enclosure and paused to re-light when the hairs rose on the back on his neck.
Dr. Thaddeus Adams, owner of Flinch Ranch, sat on a picnic table. A rifle lay across his lap, and a coffee can sat by his side. Jason smiled, but his brow furrowed. He had a soft spot for the older man, although he could be so stupid, so blind. Adams was never there; He rarely visited the ranch, and never on a weekday.
“I’ve always wondered why there was a picnic table here,” Jason said. He lit his cigarette, then picked up the coffee can. It was empty and rusting. There were at least five bullet holes through it in a tight grouping. “No one ever uses it for picnics, even when the temp isn’t in single digits.”
Adams smiled up at him. “I’d love to show you,” he replied. He pointed to three posts standing in the ground between the table and the fence.
Jason tossed the can from one hand to the other as he carried it to the posts. “And I always thought those were for horses.”
Adams barked a laugh. “No, never.” He pulled the magazine from his rifle, then popped it back in. “This table is the fifty-yard mark.”
Jason flinched at the sounds the gun made. Standing in front of an armed man made him nervous, even if it was a man he trusted. He had seen Adams pick off a coyote running at full-speed once; He knew what the doctor was capable of. “We weren’t expecting you until after Christmas, Doc,” he called.
“I know,” Adams replied. “I wasn’t expecting this, either.” He raised the rifle to a tree and peered through the scope. He adjusted for the gentle breeze that rattled the empty branches. “Ginny called me.”
“Doesn’t she call you all the time?” Jason laughed. “I mean, you are her boss.”
“Oh, no, no.” Adams shook his head. “Ginny runs Flint Ranch. I own it. She only calls me when something goes wrong.” He turned the bolt and chambered a round. Jason jumped at the noise.
“What… What’s wrong?”
“I was hoping you would tell me.”
Jason’s mouth went dry. He turned slowly and placed the coffee can on the post nearest him.
“Not there,” Adams said.
Snatching the can back up, Jason moved to the next post. “Here?” he asked, voice shrill with fear.
“No, no, no!” Adams scolded. “Put it on your head!”
“You heard me!” Adams raised his rifle.
If Jason didn’t know any better, he would think it was aimed directly at him. He looked around, swallowing. The woods beyond the fence seemed very far away. With shaking hands, he rose the can to his head. When it slid, he dove to retrieve it.
“Ginny says she found one of the pro bono girls crying in a closet yesterday,” Adams said. “Any idea what she was crying about?”
Panic tore at Jason’s throat. Despite the cold, he began to sweat. How could he have been so stupid? He had warned Matt about getting so rough. He had seen the bruises on Karyn’s wrists; He should have said something to sweeten her up. “N–No…” he stammered.
The can flew from his head before the shot reverberated around them. He threw himself face-down into the dirt. “It was Matt!” he screamed. “I barely touched Karyn!”
“Again!” Adams yelled as if he had not heard.
A sob tore from Jason’s throat. He crawled on his belly to retrieve the can and held it in front of his chest as if it would protect him. Tears streamed down his face. He forced himself up to his knees. His legs shook so violently, it took him several attempts before he could stand.
“I barely touched her,” he sobbed. “I… I barely touched her…”
“Whom did you touch?” Adams demanded.
Jason was shaking so hard, he couldn’t keep the can on his head for more than a few seconds.
“Who?” Adams pulled back the bolt.
“Joy…” he whimpered. Joy was eleven years old. The can slipped from his fingers. A lump formed in his throat, making it difficult to breathe. He sank down to retrieve it.
Jason put the can back on his head, mouth-down, like a hat. “And–and–and…” He couldn’t get the name out. Adams chambered the round. “And Natalie!” he cried.
Adams jerked the rifle down and stared at him in disbelief. Jason had never seen the man look so pale, or so angry.
Natalie was only six years old.
Jason raised his arms to grab the can, but before his fingers could touch the cold metal, he was thrown back against the post by a force like a hammer. The air was knocked out of him. His back burned just below his ribcage. Had he hit a nail? He twisted around. There wasn’t a nail, but the post was covered in blood.
Looking down at his torso, he found cotton poking out of a hole in the right side of his jacket. Slowly, red crept up the fibers, saturating them. Blood seeped through in patches. He pressed his hands over the hole. With a groan, he sank to the ground.
“These children come here to feel safe,” Adams yelled, “in a world where those closest to them have hurt them!” Adams left the rifle on the picnic table and stormed toward him. Jason attempted to drag himself away, but his limbs were weak and heavy. Adams pinned him with a boot over the exit wound. Jason screamed. He felt as if there were fire slithering around in his gut. “Safe from men like you… and me.”
“What?” Jason cried. He tried to push the boot away, but the pain from the movement was crippling. Adams didn’t reply, but unbuckled his belt. “No! Help me! Help!”
Adams knelt and forced Jason’s pants down. Jason pushed at his hands weakly. When that failed, he attempted once more to drag himself away. Adams dug his knee in the back of Jason’s leg. Jason’s screams faded into sobs.
“I’m sorry,” he whimpered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t cause the bruises, Matt did. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I didn’t.”
“Oh, but I do.”
Jason’s words pitched into a scream as Adams tore into him. As the reality of the situation sank in, he became paralyzed. Dr. Adams was raping him! Adams, who was a fool for horses. Adams, who never showed any sexual interest in anyone. Adams, who had put so much time and money into this charity that was the perfect picking ground for easy–albeit young–pussy. Adams had always seemed so weak and homely, yet he pinned Jason effortlessly with a hand on the back of his neck. There was a line of fire, burning pain, from where Adams thrust into him to where he had shot him.
The pain behind him faded, but the pain in his belly only grew. It spread like lava. Jason’s tears mixed with the dirt, streaking his face with mud. He flushed as Adams paused and grunted.
“I’m sorry,” Jason whimpered. “I’m sorry. Please… call an ambulance. Please… it hurts so much…”
“That’s because…” Adams tugged at Jason’s briefs to wipe the shit from his cock, “I shot you in the liver. The bile is leaking out and eating away at your internal organs. You have about fifteen more minutes.”
“You would let me die?”
“After harming a child?” Adams pulled up his pants and secured his belt. “You betcha.”
Jason wailed, clutching the burning hole in his belly. He turned his head and his eyes shot wide. “Help!” he shrieked. “Help me! He’s gone crazy!”
Adams spun. Ginny dismounted her horse and looped the reins around the board of the table. She slid the rifle off. Adams frowned. He stood perfectly still. She paused by his side, looking Jason over with an inscrutable expression.
“Please…” Jason begged. “Please… help me. I didn’t hurt anyone.”
“Matt is in the stables,” Ginny told Adams in a low voice, “shining saddles.”
Adams nodded and headed back toward the stables. Ginny stood by Jason’s side and stared down at him.
“Oh, thank God. Please, please, call me an ambulance.”
Ginny tilted her head. She turned the bolt in the rifle, chambering another round.
“No!” he screamed. “No, I didn’t hurt them!” He pressed his hands over his face. “They wanted it! They told me they liked it!”
“They were lying,” Ginny said.
She pulled the trigger. Jason’s pain disappeared.
For more, read COLOSSUS, now available as a Kindle eBook on Amazon!
Click the link to check it out: geni.us/Izb