Robert W. Walker’s
Chapter TWENTY SIX
Marcus looked like the invisible man in his old gear and camouflage clothing, but even a wounded Cantu, using night-vision, could pick up his movements if he were not careful. He wanted to draw Cantu’s attention away from the lake and the ladies, and that much he’d managed for certain, as he felt the fiend tracking him. Listening in on the device he’d created to track Paco’s movements, Marcus now heard the madman call Paco by the name Big. “Good work, Big…you did good,” the man said in a tone that sounded human, kind even.
Marcus knew he must do more, keep Cantu focused on him. He also knew he must stay alive and to entice the killer away from the lake if he were to save the women and children. To this end, he circuitously made his way toward the old paved road at the end of the driveway.
Whenever he might locate a safe place with cover, he’d take a shot at the tree where Carl’s body remained twirling, giving Cantu the idea that he, Marcus, remained pinned down, and that whoever was making noise from this angle was a second shooter. Would Cantu fall for it? He could not be sure.
Marcus’s night-vision goggles confirmed movement that said Cantu was moving away now, not following as he’d hoped, and in fact, moving toward the house, the dock, and the general direction of the lake instead. Obviously, the uncanny ex-marine psycho had spotted Marcus with his own night-vision. Obviously, he hadn’t fallen for the bait and wasn’t about to follow on Marcus’s heels.
The question now: find the vehicle and fire it, or follow in Cantu’s wake?
Once on a high point on the silent road, Marcus took position, aimed and fired at the moving target now charging the house, Paco at his heels, yelping. To silence the dog, Cantu turned on it and viciously kicked Paco so hard he flew from the porch and crawled up under the boards as Marcus squeezed off another shot. This one hit Cantu full in the chest and the man slammed into the big picture window that’d earlier been pierced by Marcus’s first shot. Cantu literally plunged through the window and into the house.
“That’s got him,” muttered Rydell, feeling good about himself now, having placed two large caliber bullets into the monster. Yet, he’d been moving up those stairs and kicking that dog as if not wounded at all, and another sighting on the window, and Marcus saw the monster’s paw grab hold of the sill to pull himself up, his head and eyes scanning the territory around the road now. How could he still be alive after that shot, wondered Marcus. He must be wearing the very latest in vests, way beyond what Marcus had wrapped about his mid-section and chest.
Marcus fired again, pinning Cantu down.
“What next?” Marcus wondered. “What’s Cantu’s next move when he finds the house empty?”
“Now we got ourselves a game, heh, Marcus?” shouted Cantu from inside the house. “Something to live and die for, heh!”
Cantu might discover the escape route the women and children had taken; might stand out on Marcus’s deck and locate the boat and fire into it. Marcus had wanted to locate Tim’s missing cruiser, perhaps radio for help from it before turning it into a fireball. All so that Cantu could go nowhere except on foot.
But for now, Marcus must stay on the attack, keep Cantu pinned down and away from any possibility of discovering the others on the lake. How long had it been? How far had they gotten over the lake? Were they at a safe distance? With Cantu’s marksmanship and equipment, what was a safe distance? There was none.
Marcus toyed with the idea of using the two-way radio to determine Kat’s distance, but if Cantu had their frequency, he could be setting her up for disaster. Instead, Marcus made a beeline for another location, hoping he could do so before Cantu dared peek out again. He ran for the tree line facing the deck. Should Cantu step out on the deck back of the house overlooking the lake, should he scan the lake with his night vision, Marcus would put a bullet through his head. No Kevlar there.
Marcus made his move now. He raced at full speed, disregarding his still bleeding arm where the arrow had pierced him. In a matter of minutes, he took up the position he needed in order to clearly see the deck. He expected Cantu to at any moment step out. “Come on, you creep,” he muttered to himself, “step out and be killed.”
He cursed himself for not having taken a head shot to begin with, but making a head shot on a moving target was the riskiest, unlikeliest shot of all. This time the head he located in his scope would be stationary, peeking up over the window sill. This time there’d be no body armor and no question of Camtu’s being permanently put down.
“One shot, Lord…give me one shot and together we’ll send this hellion back to where such are spawned.”
# # #
An hour passed and no Cantu. From time to time, Marcus saw a shadow moving about inside, which clearly indicated that the jackal had crawled on all fours to get away from the windows. Now Cantu set a candle burning inside just to cast huge dancing shadow from wall to wall—just to let Marcus know that he was eating his food and drinking what was left of his beer, and going nowhere. Apparently, he’d accepted the fact that Marcus had gotten the women and children out to safety.
Just to let the creep know that Marcus had gone nowhere, Rydell intermittently shattered a window here and there with a .223 bullet.
Marcus wanted to believe that at least one of his shots had hurt Cantu; that Cantu’s body armor had been pierced. He wanted to believe the other man was hurting more than he let on. It would explain why Cantu hadn’t ventured out again, not on the deck, the porch, or anywhere. Part of his shadow dance within might actually be a play about searching out Kat’s medical bag and wrapping himself in a bandage. Marcus could only hope that he’d indeed wounded the beast.
The TV flickered on inside the house. Lights came up. The creep had restored power to the house, which meant he’d at some point reconnected the wires he’d cut. To do this, he must surely have crawled out a back window and remained out of sight and in the shadows. Paco had begun barking at one point from a position he’d taken up below the porch, no doubt barking at Cantu’s movements, but the dog had gone silent now for some time.
Iden Cantu had taken up house.
# # #
Cantu continued going about drinking Marcus’s booze, smoking his father’s cigars, relaxing, basking in the creature comforts not offered by the forests and whatever cave or car he’d slept in for the past forty-eight hours. Hopefully the fiendish devil was still wondering where the women and children were, and how Marcus had gotten them to safety.
This had to be a blow to his enormous ego.
Then noise erupted from inside. Banging, tearing, stomping.
From the dancing shadows in the interior, Cantu appeared bent on destroying the place in an effort to find a false wall, any hiding place. His shadow self moved to the second floor. As he moved by one window, Marcus saw that he held up Kat’s PowerBook, the Mac laptop. Held it up and danced it before the window just to taunt him with the fact he had hold of it.
Marcus didn’t have time to do anything but react. He sighted his weapon on the lit up apple logo with the single bite taken out. The .223 bullet from his weapon ripped an enormous hole through the titanium plated Mac, resulting in a clean by jagged-edged wound radiating out from the now obliterated bitten apple image.
Cantu was an able hacker. Still he could get past any firewall; he’d break in and cancel the one SOS they’d managed to get out to Atlanta. He knew that destroying the Macintosh, while his only option, wasn’t going to set well with Kat.
It still beat the alternative.
The sudden explosion of the Mac sent it flying against a wall, and it sent Cantu and his shadows scuttling for cover. It made Marcus laugh aloud to see the creature he hunted hurtling to the floor and crawling on his belly where he belonged.
Soon there was no sign of Cantu upstairs or in the main rooms.
Marcus remained vigilant but there was no sign of the infinitely patient psychopath. Then a faint flicker of shadow came at one of the ground floor basement windows. Cantu had managed to get to the basement rooms. A large utility and Marcus’s special childhood place, defiled by Cantu’s presence. Again the sound of rampage filled the air.
No doubt the monster would soon discover the crawl space beneath the bed.
Marcus corrected his position to fire on the bastard should he carelessly step from beneath the deck where the escape route would take him.
Marcus scoped out the precise spot where the man, necessarily on his knees, would show himself in an opening in the deck grate. Marcus had weight on the trigger, awaiting the exact moment when the head of Iden Cantu would come through that dark portal. He recalled a childhood joke, one which combined five words that began with D and E–Deface of deduct went over defense before detail.
“Show your ugly face, duck,” Marcus said to the night. “God, let him come this way.”
Then he saw the white forehead appear. He put pressure on the trigger, readying to fire in the next millisecond, hoping to find a slightly larger target when suddenly the white forehead turned to black. Paco had come around and was licking the monster’s face, his tail wagging.
Marcus believed he ought to shoot straight through the back of the dog’s head, knowing the high-powered caliber bullet would easily move through Paco’s brain and into Cantu’s face. He hesitated only a moment and made up his mind when he saw through the scope that Cantu’s hands were polished with red nail coloring and his face wasn’t his but a mask—Katrina Mallory’s features.
“Holy shit, it’s Kat!” Marcus’s gasp might well have caused the shot to be fired, but he eased off the trigger, taking in great breaths of air. Cantu would’ve loved nothing more than to know he’d blown Kat’s face off along with the dog in a single blast.
And what the hell was she doing still here below the damn deck? When she emerged, she did so with his father’s bow and arrows. She looked for all the world like a lovely, dangerous Amazon wood nymph save for the fact she was dressed in camouflage gear.
He watched her push her way out past the dog, and she raced for cover, and behind her came Cantu in pursuit, working his way on all fours beneath the deck.
She’d no doubt done as he’d said; she’d gotten the others to safe ground across the water, but she’d come back. Damn her, Marcus thought. Damn her for a fool. But at the same time, he fired blindly and repeatedly into the underworld below the deck where the satanic Cantu must be howling now.
Marcus’s rounds tore the wood paneling to splinters, the sound of his gunfire like a 4th of July fireworks.
Even as he fired to cover Kat’s tracks and to hopefully kill the predator after her, Marcus remained angry with her for placing herself in jeopardy this way. He tried to imagine her plan as it’d taken fruition in her mind’s eye even before leaving with the others. She’d hidden the bow and arrows beneath the deck, had gotten the others to safety, had returned and had gone back up under the deck, searching for the weaponry when Cantu had burst into the house. If Cantu proved patient, Kat proved even more so. She’d been below the deck for some time and until Cantu discovered the crawl space.
Marcus was still recuperating from having almost killed her.
She was young, strong, and hopefully as good with a bow as she’d claimed. But he hadn’t cranked down the pressure on that thing as she’d asked. As it was, the weapon most assuredly was useless until she could find time and energy to set it to her size and weight. Why hadn’t she instead taken the Remington?
Marcus retreated, inching back into the darkness, attempting to locate Kat, but he had lost track of her. Still, he heard the yelping dog as it followed Kat, seemingly far more taken with her than with his master at this point. But the dog acted as a beacon directing Marcus straight to her, and if he could find her in this inky blackness thanks to Paco, so could Cantu.
Marcus kept one eye on the house. Cantu had not at any time come out from below the deck on this side. Perhaps his rain of bullets into the underside of the deck had killed the snake; then again, perhaps not. Cantu may well have kicked out the other side of the deck to find safety.
’No doubt Cantu, if still alive, might be bleeding, hurt, and feeling foolish—as if he’d been tricked, drawn into a trap. Marcus prayed the bastard had died in the “rabbit hole” beneath the deck.
But he knew better than to assume anything with regards the demon Cantu; he knew that of all the creatures that’d ever crawled out of Hell, this one was the hardest to kill.
That was the problem with this prey, Marcus thought. As much as he despised the man, Cantu was well trained and cunning, a deadly combination. In fact, he made the fictonal Rambo seem a mere boy scout by comparison. Marcus knew that however well-meaning she might be, Kat was no match for this son of Satan. Certainly not with a bow and arrow she could hardly pull beyond her elbow.