***

She awakened long before he was directly below her on the highway.  The rest of the men were on horseback, and the horses did not care for the grind of metal.   They bucked some of their riders off, leaving the filthy men to chase the beasts and remount, continual metal shrieks notwithstanding.  This fact only made Jack ram his contraption into the cars harder and faster.  As June peered over the edge of the landing with Howard, another figure came into view behind Jack, carrying a lit stick of what appeared to be dynamite.  The figure tossed it, and the stick bounced against a yellow Acura Integra, a navy Honda Civic, a black Jeep Cherokee, and in front of Jack’s machine. 

Howard shook at the sound of the explosion, and she had to hold him down by the reins, petting him comfortingly.  The two of them rested a comfortable few hundred feet above the commotion, but Jack’s floodlights had made them seem much closer.  When the dust settled the machine’s gnarled remains began to show under the peeking moonlight.  The metal blades were twisted beyond recognition, and the body of the Hummer had slammed into an unsuspecting school bus.  The frame very closely resembled that of some sort of carnival food product.  The windshield in front of the driver’s seat was covered with blood.  Jack’s pursuers were already at the door, yanking him out.  He looked unconscious, but from this distance she couldn’t see any more blood pooling on the highway’s ashen concrete.  It seemed possible that he could have survived the crash.  Although he wouldn’t have much to live for afterwards.

The marauders were stripping the machine clean, piece by piece, ripping out the guts of the dashboard, unscrewing lug nuts to pull the hubcaps and tires off.  They yelled obscenities about each other’s mothers, their supposed sexual orientation or lack thereof, and the status of their testicles.  In minutes they had stripped the car, all but the paint, and retreated back the way they’d come.  Towards civilization.

Covered in lesions, Jack lay on his back on Welch’s Road.

After an hour or so, once the clouds had cleared away from the shine of the moonlight, June descended to the road.  Howard waited for her above, head bobbing to and fro as if he heard music in her footsteps.  She stepped onto the concrete and her boots skidded against the gravel and debris.  So close, she could see more blood than she cared to.  It seemed that the entire inside of the cab and Jack’s boyish face was bloody.  She came to a halt twenty feet from where he lay.

“Hey!” She shouted.

Jack didn’t stir.

She cocked the pistol she’d stolen off Renfield in Salt Lake.  As she cautiously approached him, she wondered to herself why she didn’t just walk on.  Odds were that this man wasn’t interested in help, if he could be helped, and that he wouldn’t bring her anything but trouble.  But her parents would have stopped.  And it would probably cost her nothing because he was probably dead.

He moaned and it made her jump.  Up on the ledge she heard shale begin to fall but when she looked up Howard was still poised at attention. 

The bleeding man in front of her began to emit sharp moans and twist with agony, then drift off for a few minutes.  After a tortuous few moments June couldn’t keep her feet from approaching him.  She rested her empty left hand on his red chest.

“It’s alright,” she cooed, “you’re-”

The man twisted away from her sharply and his arm came up to box her in the ear.  Before her face slammed into the concrete next to him, June was able to squeeze the trigger once and the bullet ricocheted off the highway and harmlessly away from Jack’s face.  The concrete of the road that had been dislodged in the process, however, bounced across Jack’s jaw, hitting him once in the ear and again across the temple before bouncing into the darkness.

Instead of hitting the road and stopping, June bounced as Jack lifted a hand to his face and cursed.  Free for only a moment, she kicked the pistol away from him, grabbed it and stood over him. 

She aimed at him and her finger went to attention but she hesitated.  Covered in blood, open gashes, glass, what would soon become bruises, and clutching a mangled ear in one hand, he looked positively pathetic.  And yet he stared at her and said nothing.

“Where did you come from?”

He said nothing.

“Why were they after you?” she asked, motioning in the direction that Jack’s pursuers had retreated.

He spit out blood and dirt over his shoulder, “I wasn’t going to hurt you.  Well, I was going to hurt you.  But I just wanted the gun.”

“You can’t have my gun.”

“Yes,” his head bobbed furiously but he didn't look at her, “that’s what I thought you’d say.”

They stared at each other for a minute.  The sky was growing more orange than blue in the east. 

She tilted her head from side to side, taking in the condition of his legs, “Can you walk?”

The End

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