(If you want, buy their previous rampages for $2 by clicking on the covers below.)
Cassidy and Lloyd open their eyes and groan in unison before they have time to take in their surroundings. Large windows let in the late afternoon light, but there are plenty of gaudy lamps that are on throughout the expansive room. Staring outside, the groggy pair see nothing but thick forest for miles. Plush couches the color of caramel and hardwood chairs are around the many tables, all of which have been recently polished. An empty fireplace is built into the far wall, a cart of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate set up next to it. Hunting trophies line the walls, each one mounted and stuffed to look fierce. Two bears stand in opposite corners, both of them giving off the appearance of being killed in mid-roar. Using the windows to help see behind them, it takes a moment to realize that a stuffed bull elephant is against the far wall. As their senses return to full strength, Cassidy and Lloyd pick out more exotic trophies that range from a giant panda to a pangolin. Unnerved by the display, they try to find something else to look at, but every direction has a dead animal locked in a macabre display of unnatural aggression.
A door behind the prisoners swings open and slams against the leg of a giraffe that straddles the entrance. Motors hum beneath the chairs that they are tied to and the circular rug spins to make them face their captors. All five men are dressed in matching khaki pants that are tucked into hiking boots. Their shirts are different colors of plaid, the blonde-haired one in the leading looking the most like a beardless lumberjack. Only one of the hunters has a gun, which he is constantly shifting from one hand to another. With a yelp, the brunette trips and tries to make it look like he was jumping onto a couch. Gripping his rifle tightly, he accidentally fires a bullet into one of the taxidermized bears. The others give him a wide berth as they take their seats, the one wearing a bulletproof vest checking the straps to make sure his protection is in place. Before they can speak, a phone goes off and one of the blonde twins tosses the satellite phone to the fake lumberjack. He sighs as he takes the call and sits on a nightstand, which threatens to collapse beneath him.
“Yes, we have them, Grymer, and we’ll take care of them. Let us enjoy our vacation before father calls us back to Vegas. Fine, warn me all you want. Go do whatever it is you do and we’ll have our fun,” the man says before slamming the phone down. With a smarmy smile, he turns his attention to the prisoners and moves a chair closer. “I guess we should introduce ourselves before the hunt begins. I’m Johnny Custer and these are mostly my brothers. The one with the gun is Gordon and he’ll be killing you if you try anything. Thomas over there is our brother-in-law, but he was smart enough to take our last name. Over there are the twins. I believe Mark is from our dad’s fourth mistress and Mack is adopted. Always get that mixed up for some reason.”
“I’m still trying to get past your ugly shirt,” Lloyd interrupts while he struggles against his bonds. He takes the punch to the face and gives Johnny’s fist a little kiss before it is out of reach. “Tastes like daddy issues and overcooked ham. By the way, nice job on these knots. You don’t see much in the way of quality bondage outside of certain establishments. It’s tight enough to keep us in place, but not enough to cut off circulation. Makes me think you need us in good health for something.”
“I think we should just execute them,” Thomas argues, earning an angry glare from the others. He takes a puff on his inhaler, which makes him shiver and cough from the sudden burst of adrenaline. “They already took out a bunch of people. Grymer and Elaine might be right that we shouldn’t test our luck. I mean, how often do those two ever agree? Best not to test our luck this time.”
Gordon laughs and pounds his gun against the floor, the weapon going off and shattering a window. “They took out a teacher, an old man, and a bunch of untalented idiots. Dad calls them fodder for a reason. Even to some of their faces, which they proudly accepted. Our side is better off without them. As for these two, I doubt they’re as tough as their reputation says. We all know how easy it is to cover the truth and make a fake reputation. For example, everyone here is aware that we didn’t kill that elephant. Found it dead in the forest, but we spread the rumor that we did it. These two have been doing the same thing.”
“You talk too much,” Cassidy growls as she slips her hands free. Knowing that she cannot move quicker than Gordon can shoot, she stays in her chair and relaxes. “Believe whatever you want, but we earned every fucking story. I’d even go as far as saying many of them have been watered down for the faint of heart. Now, what exactly do you idiots want from us? More importantly, where’s my jeep?”
“I admire that you get right to the point,” Johnny states while grabbing the back of Cassidy’s chair. He drags her to the window and points at a garage, which is on the far side of the former ski lodge. “Mark and Mack were a little rough with it, so our mechanic is doing the repairs right now. Impressive vehicle considering the hellhole this country has become. I especially like the dome that can be put on top and the mounted machine guns. We’ve actually decided that whoever kills you gets the jeep. Your friend didn’t have anything nearly as exciting to use as a trophy. Now, excuse me while I get a visual aide to help explain what we’re going to be doing tonight.”
“Nursing an impacted testicle if you don’t get your hand off my shoulder,” the mercenary threatens with a twinkle in her eye.
Before Johnny can reply, Gordon’s gun goes off and one of the twins topples over. The brothers hurry to check the fallen man, all of them turning away once they see that the bullet has gone through his head. With a tired sigh, the surviving twin drags the body out of the room and comes back with a well-used carpet cleaner. The noise stops every attempt at talking, but the only thing being said are muttered curses and threats. Seeing an opening, Thomas snatches the rifle away from Gordon who shrugs and pulls out a handgun to play with. Once the weapon goes off and breaks a lamp, Johnny wrestles it away and repeatedly smacks his brother in the head until his hand hurts. Placing the gun on a table, he pulls out a map and hands it to the final twin to hold up.
“This is the area that we’re currently in,” Johnny explains, pointing at the crudely drawn forest and building. Done in crayon, the map gives the prisoners no real idea of the terrain other than there being trees and possibly a blue snake to the north. “Now, it took us a while to come up with a plan this original. You’ll be very impressed by this. You two are going to be released in a bit, which gives you thirty minutes to get some distance. The fi . . . four of us will set out with our guns to hunt you down. We win if we kill you, which is obvious. The ways that you can win is by killing us, surviving until noon tomorrow, or getting across this line into Wyoming. Very simple and it should be fun for everyone. Any questions?”
“Did Mark or Mack get shot?” Lloyd asks, cutting off Cassidy. An awkward silence overtakes the room as all of the brothers avoid looking at the surviving twin. “Worst part is that even he doesn’t look like he knows. Blank expressions are cute, but not the answer to everything, buddy. Anyway, your plan is to Robert Connell us? If that’s the case then we each get a machete, right?”
“Like we’re dumb enough to give you two a weapon,” Thomas states with a chuckle.
“You’re stupid enough to give that animated wax figure a gun,” the serial killer retorts, sticking his tongue out at Gordon.
“Don’t make me shoot you,” the brunette snaps, pulling out another handgun. He pulls the trigger only to find that it is not loaded, so he drops it to the floor. “As much as I like the original plan, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t just kill them. Neither of them look like much more than punks that can’t function outside of a city. They don’t stand a chance against seasoned hunters like us.”
“Why couldn’t you be the deaf-mute that this chapter is missing?”
“Go fuck yourself, asshole.”
“But it’s not Thursday.”
“What does that mean?”
“Sorry, but my jokes don’t come with a translator.”
“Shut up!” Johnny shouts before smacking Lloyd in the face. Storming over to Gordon, he shoves his younger brother into his seat. “Remain calm and don’t let this man get under your skin. He wants you to get so angry that you make a mistake. Unlike you, Gordon, I believe that these two are as dangerous as the stories say. That’s why I’m not giving them a weapon or more than a thirty-minute head start. As for you, Mr. Tenay, I’ll drop it to fifteen minutes if you keep talking.”
“He’ll behave,” Cassidy promises before her partner can speak. Gingerly getting out of her seat, she holds up her hands and turns in a circle to prove she is unarmed. “I’m assuming you already searched us. Hard to tell since I’m still achy from the crash. Besides, we can find rocks and sticks out there to use. Unlike a band of pampered pricks, the two of us know how to survive regardless of our equipment. You fuckers need every advantage you can get. Probably explains why you’re sending us out hungry too.”
“There are squirrels and pinecones out there,” Thomas says in a mocking voice. He cuts Lloyd free and shoves the man toward Cassidy, who steps out of the serial killer’s way. “You two seem pretty cocky considering you’re outnumbered and unarmed. I’d say it’s false bravado, but something in your eyes tells me it’s not the case. You know, we’d be willing to talk Johnathan into forgetting all of this if you want. He can be very forgiving if you have something that he wants. I’m sure he’s taken a liking to the woman, so we can work with that and make it a package deal.”
Putting her hands on Thomas’s shoulders, the mercenary nods her head and proudly declares, “Go suck your wife’s dick since it’s obvious she’s the only one with real balls in this marriage.”
“And now we’re going to start the hunt,” Johnny announces, catching Thomas’s arm before he can hit Cassidy. He takes the prisoners by the arms and guides them to a door that opens to a wooden staircase. “It’s a steep descent, which takes about ten minutes. Once you reach the bottom, you’re free to do whatever you want to survive. Although, I will tell you that there isn’t anyone who can help within walking distance. Everyone you find works for us, which means we have eyes and ears out there. I promise that there are no traps or landmines in the forest. We attempted that a month ago and it led to some . . . accidents. All I can say is that there used to be more of us and dad got angry. Good luck since that’s the only thing that might be on your side here. See you in about thirty or forty minutes.”
Not wanting to lose a second, Cassidy and Lloyd hurry out the door and are immediately hit by a wave of heat. Sweat pouring from their brows, the pair do their best to get down the stairs without losing their footing. Faint laughter can be heard from above before the door closes and they move behind a bush that blocks them from view. Going a little further down, Cassidy puts out her arm to stop Lloyd and points at a long overhang. Without a word, she clambers over the railing and makes her way along the fragile stone. Taking a look at the far drop, the serial killer swallows a lump in his throat and faithfully follows his grinning partner.