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"Don't come near me!" Dee held her stun baton in front of her as she backed away. "Stop right there!"
The scarecrow took another step, then halted. He looked at her, then at the bodies that littered the road around him. The fact that all of them had been armed with knives and were attempting to kill Dee seemed of little importance when compared to what had just happened. The scarecrow reached down and picked up the blade that the forth man had dropped. He twirled it between his fingers a few times, then held it loosely in one hand. Two other blades hung from his belt. The scarecrow had come into the fight unarmed; now three men were dead and their weapons were his.
He returned his attention to Dee, giving a long, obvious glance at her knife before meeting her glare.
"You... you used me as bait, didn't you!" she hissed.
He nodded, slowly.
"So you could kill them?"
He opened his mouth. He'd wiped his lips clean after biting the fourth soldier, but his teeth and tongue were still red. He seemed about to speak, but all that emerged was a choking sound. He closed his mouth in frustration and started toward Dee again.
"What was the bite about? You bit that man and he went crazy. He was trying to tell me something. About you. He said you were... ridden. What does that mean? Is that the crazy-land word for serial killer? Is that why they had you strung up on that cross?"
He shook his head.
"What does it mean, then!"
The scarecrow pointed at his forehead, then curled his finger in a wiggling motion. Then he pointed at his mouth. He mimed a biting gesture, and made the finger-wiggling motion at an imaginary person in front of him. ...an imaginary person he'd just bitten.
"I don't know what that means. But you know what? Never mind. You and me... we're done. You-" Dee gestured toward wall of plants to her left. "Go back in there and disappear. You leave me alone.
No one moved.
The pit bull had been sitting beside her. At his name, he stood and licked his lips noisily.
The scarecrow nodded and began to back away. He moved slowly, and didn't take his eyes off Dee... even as his right shoulder parted the plants behind him and he slipped out of sight.
Dee stood motionless in the middle of the road, watching the spot where he'd vanished.
Minutes passed with neither sound nor movement.
"Okay," Dee whispered. She slipped the useless baton back into her backpack, and drew the knife she'd been carrying... the one the scarecrow had wanted. She held it in her hand as she walked.
She tried not to look at the corpses as she passed.
The day wore on mostly in silence, and Dee's paranoia only increased as more hours separated her from the scarecrow's killing spree.
He was following her.
At first she just suspected it. She ASSUMED it, despite there being no indication that she was right. She didn't hear any rustling in the fields. Didn't see any furtive movements among the crops. Treach's superior senses didn't detect anything that worried him. But she knew he was there. She'd been walking for about two hours when she saw that she was right.
There was a dark splotch in the road. Several dark splotches, which had collectively drawn a disturbing swarm of fly-like insects.
There were no bodies, but there were footprints, and drag marks, and splashes of blood on the plants. Dee was no tracker; she couldn't look at the prints and reproduce the actions of the people that had made them... but she didn't have to. She already knew.
More soldiers had been taken by surprise. Only this time, their attacker had been armed from the start. She assumed it had gone the same way as it had before... with the same outcome. How many had he taken out this time?
Treach sniffed at the blood and started to lap at it.
"STOP IT!" Dee snapped.
Treach backed away, looking guilty. He was hungry, but this was not food. She had a little food and water left, but she didn't come equipped for camping. And this certainly wasn't a good place to stop for a snack.
They walked for another hour. Dee stopped to divide the rest of her water between her and Treach. She ate an energy bar, and gave Treach a handful of dog food. There was more food, but Dee could have kicked herself for not bringing more water. There were some gallon jugs of it in the SUV, but she sure as hell wasn't going back for it.
"How long have we been out here?" she mused. She looked up and tried to reconcile the sun's position with how long they'd been walking. She couldn't. They'd started walking just after dawn. It should have been just after noon... but it looked later.
Her stomach growled.
And then someone screamed.
The sound came from the fields to her right. It wasn't close... but it was loud. A man's voice screaming in terror. Or agony. Both.
The sound ended suddenly, and the remaining silence pulled at Dee's sanity through her ears.
"It's time to go," she said to Treach.
The next couple of hours brought something that looked like early evening, but the timing was very wrong. As their shadows lengthened, Dee spotted a cluster of birds circling something in the fields. Something had died... or was dying... out among the crops.
Dee felt no urge to investigate, and, thankfully, neither did Treach.
An hour later, the field to her right rolled away, revealing a large, grassy clearing. She saw trees on the far side, but she couldn't tell how deep the clearing went. She squinted...
"Is that a path? Another road?"
It wasn't a warning, it was almost a whine. Dee recognized it.
"I know you're hungry, but-"
Dee paused. She inhaled deep, frowning... then smiling.
Food. Someone was cooking something.
"Okay," said Dee. "I gotta admit, that smells pretty good. And if they've got food, they must have water too."
Dee stepped off the Golden Road and into the clearing, following the scent of roasting meat.