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  • Writer's pictureRhiannon Bird

The Stranger

Updated: Jul 28, 2023

Jeremy scuffed his boots against the stairs as he always did and stashed his rifle under the third floorboard of the deck. He raised his hand to knock on the door and froze. It was ajar. The door with five locks was sitting ajar. Jeremy pulled his knife out of the sheath on the back of his belt. He pushed the door slowly and it swung inwards. A very feminine laugh floated towards him and he furrowed his eyebrows. There wasn’t much light inside the house, the boarded windows saw to that, but it was enough to make out two distinct figures on the couch.

“Elton?” Jeremy asked carefully, not moving the knife from out of his hand.

“Jeremy,” he answered loudly bounding off the couch. “We have a guest.” He stood in front of him and whispered, “play nice.”

Jeremey frowned. The girl turned towards him and smiled lightly. The kind of smile that shouldn’t have survived through the war. Her blonde hair swung softly at her shoulders and her clothes sat perfectly. She looked too clean and too perfect to be here, it made Jeremy wary. She battered her eyes and tucked her hair behind her ear.

Jeremy twisted the knife through the air, to make sure that she saw it before tucking it back into the sheath. “I said play nice,” Elton said out of the corner of his mouth.

“This is as nice as I get,” he grunted.

“I’m Rose.” The girl bounced over to him. “It’s nice to meet you.” She held out a hand, he eyed it.

“I’m not sure you should say that yet.” He crossed his arms.

“Just one second,” Elton said and pulled Jeremey away from her. “Dude, what are you doing?”

“What do you think I’m doing she’s a stranger?” He turned away from Elton and roughly relocked all five locks of the door.

“A very sexy stranger who wants our help.” Elton watched her from where they stood.

Jeremy clicked his fingers in front of him. “Pay attention.”

Elton gave him an annoyed glance. “What?”

“We can’t trust anyone.”

“And where has that mentality gotten us so far. I haven’t seen a women in forever and I don’t know about you but I can think of a million things I could do to her.” Elton bite his lip while his eyes drifted back over to Rose.

“Nothing worth dying for. Grow up.” Jeremey rolled his eyes.

“Me getting laid will not kill us.”

Jeremy spun to face the same direction as Elton. “Look at her, I mean really look at her. How does someone live through world war III and still looks that innocent? Plus her clothes are too perfect, no dirt and no rips at all. It all screams dodgy to me.”

Elton sighed. “For once don’t be paranoid. Rose is staying and there is nothing that you can say that will change my mind.” Elton clapped him on the back and walked to the girl. Jeremy crossed his arms and watched them with narrowed eyes.

Jeremy punched the pillow under his head and turned over on the couch. His back was forced at the wrong angle and there was a very mysterious lump under the cushion. He’d moved to get away from the sounds from the room next to him but he still couldn’t sleep. Every time he closed his eyes he swore that he could hear footsteps. It didn’t take long for him to decide that he wasn’t going to be getting anymore sleep.

Jeremy crept down to the basement door and punched in the code. The door hissed and swung open. The bunker was stocked full of more food then they needed. He sorted through all the canned goods. There was dried mango here somewhere.

“What’s this place?”

Jeremy jumped so high that he hit his head on the wire shelving. “Shit.” He turned to see Rose standing in the doorway in Elton shirt. “What the hell are you doing down here?” Anger leaked into his voice as he shuffled her out and locked the bunker.

“There are people out there starving and you have so much food in there,” she said shocked.

It was the first time since he’d met her that she sounded real and genuine. He eyed her for a second. “That’s none of your business.”

The mask snapped straight back into place. “Can’t sleep?”

“You’re a detective.” He rolled his eyes and pushed past her back to the couch.

“Maybe I could help with that.” She slid a hand onto his shoulder. Jeremy jumped up and backed away from her.

“Stay back women.” He glared at her. “I don’t know what you are planning but know that I’m not fooled with this act.” She gave him a long hard look before withdrawing and padding back upstairs.

Jeremy didn’t move until he was sure that she wasn’t coming back. Then he sat back on the couch and waited until morning. At least that was what he intended to do. Somewhere along the way he passed out into a deep sleep, deeper then he’d had in a while.

Jeremy startled himself awake.

“About time, I’ve been kicking you for five minutes.” Elton hissed beside him. His eyes were still bleary and when he tried to move his hands he found them tied together. That pulled him into focus. They were both sprawled in the corner of the lounge room and bound. In front of them stood two burly men with guns while two people sat on their couch.

“Fuck,” he breathed out and the two turned to stare at them. A girl stood up and it was a moment before he recognised her. Rose looked very different in practical clothes, the flowy dress now gone. Her face had a raw hardness about it that only came from years of fighting for her life and her hair was pulled back into a sloppy bun to keep the hair out of her face. Her combat boots slapped on the ground as she walked over to them.

“What’s the combination for the bunker?” she asked.

Jeremy turned to Elton. “This is your fault, if you didn’t think with your dick this would not have been happening.”

Elton just shrugged sheepishly.

Rose kicked Jeremy’s foot to get his attention again.

“I don’t know.” He said slowly.

She nodded. “If you aren’t going to cooperate that’s your own agenda.” With that she turned on her heel and walked back over to the couch.

“I liked her better before.” Elton grumbled.

“I respect her more now.” Jeremy said as he tested the strength of the knots around his wrists.

“Little late to say that,” Elton muttered sarcastically. He slid himself closer to Jeremy and began to untie the knots. “Almost there,” he whispered. The other one on the couch glanced at them and for a moment Jeremy felt his heart stop. Then their eyes glided away from them. “Done.” Elton slid smoothly back to where he had been sitting.

“Did you have a plan beyond that?”

“That’s where you come in.” He flashed Jeremy a smile.

Rose walked over to them and Jeremy tensed holding his arms completely still.

“Why are you doing this?” Elton said tightly the hurt leaking into his voice.

“Sweet Elton,” she smiled at him, “we live in a world of thieves I don’t know what you expected.” She then dragged him up and towards the bunker door. Jeremy chewed his lip. This was just getting harder and harder. One of the gun men followed Rose and Elton, leaving only one standing with his back to Jeremy.

He sucked in a deep breath and kicked out a leg. The gunmen fell unceremoniously to the floor and Jeremy dived for the gun. He scooped it up and fired. One in the thigh of the gunman and then another into the stomach of Rose’s friend. He scurried across the room ducking as bullets whizzed past him. He sat on the floor with his back against the couch, two seconds. He had two seconds to recollect himself. One. He breathed in and out rapidly. Two. The other two intruders still lay on the floor groaning.

Jeremy rolled out to the side of the couch and fired straight into the shoulder of the second gunman. The man fell quickly and Jeremy scrambled forward grabbing the gun away. Rose faced him smugly. Elton in font of her with a knife pressed to his neck.

“You recognise this knife?” She asked.

Jeremy remained on his knees with the gun cocked and ready. “Yes.” He ground out. It was the same knife he’d attempted to scare her with when she first got here. “It’s not right to seduce people then rob them.”

She shrugged. “I use the gifts I was given. It’s not my fault that people are gullible. All you need to be is beautiful and people assume you’re innocent.”

“Let him go.”

“But I was having so much fun just chatting.” She smiled deviously. He pursed his lips and didn’t reply. “Fine,” she sighed, “if you don’t want to be any fun. Give me the code and I’ll let Elton leave in one piece.”

“No.” Elton’s eyes widened.

Rose laughed. “Aren’t you cute. You think I’m bluffing.” She pressed the knife harder and a thin layer of blood ran down Elton’s neck. He squeezed his eyes shut and his body was starting to shake. “I grew up in this world, I hardly remember what it was like before. I have seen things you wouldn’t imagine, I am a thief who steals from other thieves. Do not underestimate me, house boy.”

Jeremy narrowed his eyes and there was a tense silence. The only sound was Elton’s rapid breathing.

“8673” he said finally, and Elton slackened in her arms.

“I’m checking that,” she said and pulled Elton with her down the stairs. Jeremy walked to the top of the staircase, his gun still as the ready. She punched in the numbers and the door hissed opening.

“Let him go now,” Jeremy said his finger hovering over the trigger.

“Of course.” She said and pushed Elton onto the stairs. Jeremy pulled the trigger and the bullet pinged off the bunker door as it swung shut. He pounded down the stairs, leaping over Elton and entered the code. The door didn’t move.

“Shit,” Jeremy hit his fist on the wall.

“What happened?” Elton asked pushing himself to his feet.

“She’s changed the code from the other side of the door. We aren’t going to be able to get in there.” He bent down to pick up his knife and clicked his tongue in disgust. She was taunting them. He used it to cut Elton’s hands free and then tucked it back into his belt.

“We should get out of here,” Jeremy said glancing one last time at the locked door.

“But this is our home,” Elton said as they picked their way out of the house.

“We had to face the music some time, we’ve been locked in that house for far too long.”

“Then what are we going to do now?” Elton asked as they stood on the deck looking out at the barren landscape.

Jeremy sighed. “You heard the women, it’s a world of thieves,” he pulled his rifle out from under the deck and handed it to Elton. “To survive we have to become them.”

First published by Black Hare Press in Lust

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