3 December 2022

01 – An eye for an eye

The ballet of the two planes dancing in the blue sky had been going on for some time. The two jets, barrelling and looping, would have been a rare and beautiful sight for the people of Holland Valley, had it not been for the deafening gunfire. After many minutes and many rounds, Seed’s plane, chased by the deputy’s one, caught fire. The pilot ejected and opened a parachute.

The deputy did the same and landed not far from the fugitive, in the middle of the vegetation. She ran towards him by drawing her handgun.

Wrath ! We meet again !

John’s face was barred with a smirk as he held her at gunpoint. She narrowly avoided the projectile and rushed on him like a bear. Destabilized, he dropped his rifle while she tackled him to the ground using all her weight.

Immobilized, he was no longer a threat. All she had to do was finish him off at point blank range or press her knee against his throat so that he stopped breathing. He was at her mercy.

Time seemed to stand still as she was overwhelmed with conflicting emotions and thoughts. Am I as evil as he is ? If I don’t neutralize him now, I’ll never get the chance again. Putting him under arrest is useless. The only assurance that he won’t repeat his atrocities is to take his life. But I am a police officer. My job is to defend people, not to kill them.

Coming to, she grabbed the key tied around the man’s neck and pulled as hard as she could, ripping off the cord that held it.

— I’ll let you live, Seed. But one day you’ll pay for everything you’ve done !

His eyes widened as she raised her hand above him, gaining momentum. So she can talk ? That’s the first time I hear her voice ! Her gun butt slammed into his temple. The night caught him.

* * *

She was used to dragging bodies a few feet to hide them to avoid being noticed, but carrying the body of a stunned individual for several miles, even loading and unloading it from a pickup truck, was a superhuman effort. Holy shit, he’s so heavy !

She arrived at John Seed’s bunker with difficulty, exhausted. The place was deserted, his henchmen were certainly looking for the remains of their herald on the scene of the crash and in the surroundings.

The deputy crept into the fortified building, dragging the still sleeping body behind her by the collar of his coat. She had to get deputy Hudson out of there, fast. Reaching the control room, she had no trouble locating the cell where she was being held, thanks to the screens and cameras that were everywhere in the complex. She glanced at her prisoner. He was still unconscious and did not seem inclined to wake up by himself. She hesitated a few moments before taking the risk of leaving him unattended, the time she joined Hudson.

Once in the room where her colleague was held, she untied her and removed her gag. Joey, terrified, threw herself at the deputy, trying to hit her. She tried to calm her down by identifying herself.

— Hey, it’s me ! Hudson! It is me !

Reassured, the young woman apologized and briefly summarized the ordeal she had lived, locked up here for many days and questioned relentlessly about the resistance. She had then been threatened, while Joseph Seed, the leader of Eden’s Gate, regularly came down to admire the “show” while keeping silent. This asshole of John Seed had tortured her for free, to extract some imaginary sin which she had not confessed to him, despite the exhaustion and the pain.

— OK Hudson, everything’s gonna be fine, I’ve come to get you out of this. Now you need to get out, hurry !
— What about you ?
— I still have something to finish here. Go to Henbane River Prison, the resistance has taken up residence there and organized a militia. I’ll meet you as soon as I’m done.
— What about the others ?
— What others ?
— There are other prisoners here !
— Shit… I opened all the doors from the control room. Go get them out and get out !
— Got it. Good luck !

* * *

Once Hudson left to search for the other hostages, the deputy returned to the control room. Seed was still lying on the floor and knocked out. She dragged him back by the collar to the nearest interrogation room, the same one he had used to hold her twice.

As the pressure was off with the release of Hudson and the hostages, she found the turn of events almost amusing. Realizing that a surveillance camera was filming the room, she ripped out the power cables, cutting the light signal. She sat her prisoner on a seat and removed his heavy coat to bind him with more ease using the recovered wires.

Once he was out of harm’s way, she picked up a basin filled with stagnant water to sprinkle on his face. The Baptist woke up with a raucous grunt. As soon as he saw her, he slyly laughed, his mouth twisted into a mocking sneer.

Wrath, you again ? My men will soon be coming for you !
— What men? You don’t seem to know that they think you’re dead and are looking for your corpse around Fall’s End… too bad, you bastard !

It was the deputy’s turn to smirk and provoke. Seed had a forced laugh, he didn’t seem to be a smart ass anymore. Furious, she resumed.

— I want to offer you a small gift, in thanks for yours.

She seized the toolbox perched on a workbench in the back of the room and threw it violently to the ground. Some of its contents scattered on the grimy concrete, but the coveted object was not among them. She rummaged around inside the gutted box until she found it. It was one of the dermographs he used on people he wanted to see confess.

Since arriving in Hope County, she had encountered an incredible number of people with the horrific tattoos made by John Seed. The deadly sins of the locals were displayed on various parts of their bodies including their torsos, necks, arms and legs. Some Eden’s Gate’s devotees even had its hideous symbol on their faces. While each person had an individual sin, all of Seed’s “works” had in common a clumsy line, poor quality ink, and excruciating pain prior to “confession”.

She switched on the device and held it up proudly to the prisoner. Seed was no longer laughing at all, halfway between amazement and anguish. She reached into her backpack and calmly pulled out a first aid kit, without a glance for her captive.

The power of Yes. Remember, you bastard ? Let’s see if you say yes…

She unbuttoned his vest and shirt and spread the flaps to gain access to his chest. She soaked a strip of gauze from the kit with disinfectant, then applied it to her victim’s sternum, with more care than he had shown her when he had tattooed her that same morning.

When they reached his skin, the vibrations and prickles of the needles surprised him. He was used to tattoos since he had many of them. It was painful, yet pleasant. If he liked the pain, having learned to live with it since his childhood, he could hardly bear the fact that this woman could have control over him.

He observed her while she tortured his chest. Her features were tired, yet a flame still shone in her eyes. She didn’t look resigned. Her skin was covered with the remnants of dried dirt, as was her long brown hair tied in a ponytail. Although they had been physically close on several occasions, he had never looked at her closely. Yet, he had carved the horrible word Wrath under her collarbones that morning, driving her crazy with rage. If that cursed pastor Jerome hadn’t hidden a gun in his bible, the atonement of all those sinners would have gone smoothly, and we wouldn’t be here.

The burning of the needles on his dermis took him out of his thoughts, stronger when it brushed his collarbone. The intense pain inflicted him shivers of pleasure and a rise of uncontrolled desire. Then suddenly, the silence. The stop of the dermograph brought him back to reality.

The policewoman had finished and raised a Machiavellian smile. She repeated the summary disinfection of the wound and moved back a few steps to contemplate her work, as he had done against her. Imitating his behavior of the morning, she whistled of contentment by articulating :

— Perfect !

He tried to decipher the word, but his well-trimmed but full beard obstructed his vision on his chest.

— What did you write, little miss devil ?
— I’ll let you be surprised.

She applied a strip of sterile gauze to his flesh and secured it with medical tape. She then buttoned up his shirt and vest. She contemplated her work for a few moments. Now what ? I have no backup. If I arrest him, I’ll have to drag him to Henbane River Prison, which will take me hours if he doesn’t cooperate. Killing him would be immoral.

He stared at her with a puppy dog look. He looked totally harmless and innocent. Seed’s eyes told a completely different story than the monster he had exhibited until now. The story of a distraught man with no bearings, desperately trying to find his place in the world. Of a human being overwhelmed by events. A wave of compassion seized her and, in a thoughtless and uncontrolled movement, she threw her lips against those of her prisoner in a brief but intense kiss.

The amazement passed, the rage seized him. How dare she ? He was used to pleasing women, but he and only he was the one to decide. Since he had joined his brothers, those days were over and he had given up all that. He had to walk along the right path now and not let his past vices catch up with him. He supported even more badly that this dirty cop granted herself the right to kiss him. The Baptist was furious.

The deputy re-equipped herself with her bag and turned her back on him.

— See you, Seed !
— Hey ! Where are you going ?
— I hope for your sake that your men find you quickly. Or not.
— Come back here ! Untie me ! Wrath ! Hey ! Deputy !

She could still hear him yelling from the hallways. A huge smile spread across her face. For once, she had the wrong role and she had loved it. He had deserved it, but she still had been merciful in sparing his life.

She walked back outside, took a deep breath of fresh air and stopped a vehicle that took her to the prison to join the resistance. The drive to Henbane River gave her the opportunity to rehash recent events.

She quickly questioned her behavior. It was obvious. She had lost all self-control and had let herself be carried away by circumstances. She had indeed given in to wrath. Then to desire. Yes, she had wanted to kiss Seed, for a reason she couldn’t explain. Maybe because of his big blue eyes on her. Or just because he reminded her of a lost child, and she wanted to reassure him. Be honest with yourself, girl. You noticed him as soon as you walked into that damn chapel the night you arrived in Hope County.

* * *

Joseph and Jacob, informed of the crash of their youngest brother, had deployed all possible means to find him. They also had sent troops to the bunker to retrieve the hostages. John was freed in the early evening and returned to his ranch. Despite his brothers’ questions, he had been careful not to recount the full story, mentioning only the escape of Hudson and the other prisoners. He had claimed that the hostages had tied him to a chair before they fled. He could see that Father knew he was lying, but Joseph certainly had no idea of the extent of the lie or how the incidents really unfolded.

Once back in his overly luxurious home, John hurriedly took a shower to recover his senses. He removed the bandage, and the bite of the hot water chafed his chest, reminding him of the deputy’s burning gaze on him as she etched his chest.

He wrapped a towel around his waist and wiped away the fog covering his to finally see what horror this pest had written. “Dana”… you bitch ! It was certainly her first name. It was worse than any other word, any hideous design. He was nobody’s thing. He would never belong to anyone, and this tattoo was an unacceptable mark of ownership. The irritation passed, he contemplated the letters a few moments, perplexed.

He thought again of her, leaning on him. The vibrations and the sting of the dermograph. Her kiss, unsentimental but which had burned his flesh and his soul. What a bitch ! I’ll beat the shit out of her, whatever it takes.

He had to explode, one way or another. He had to exorcise those painful moments over which he had had no control. He brandished his fist, intending to break his reflection in the mirror. Then he changed his mind. The muscles of his hand relaxed one by one, before it moved towards his waist to undo the knot of the towel, and to finally relieve what he was containing with difficulty for many hours.

Next chapter

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