After a deep breath, a quick prayer and a firm clench of my butt cheeks, I ran around the front corner of the shed and toward the house. The two Rorys were already there, one crouched at the door, the other standing at the window with his rifle poised. I joined the Rory crouching at the door, my heart racing.
“It’s empty,” whispered the Rory at the window, with a look of suspicion.
“Check the door,” said the Rory beside me. “It might be booby trapped.”
The Rory at the window slammed the butt of his rifle through the glass. As shards fell and clinked on the floor inside, he levelled his gun and watched. After waiting a moment, he stuck his head through the window. He stood back.
“All clear,” he said.
The Rory next to me stood up. I stood too. He nodded at me, put his hand to the doorknob and then looked to the Rory at the window. That Rory nodded. In one swift manoeuvre, the Rory next to me flung the front door open, raised his rifle and stepped into the house. I went in after him just as he, or perhaps the other one, had instructed me earlier. Swivelling one way and then the other, he checked the corners of the room, then moved forward. The loungeroom and kitchen were dim, with only moonlight through the windows and a splash of light from the games room guiding us. Rory rushed through the lounge room, while the other Rory entered the house behind us. The kitchen was also empty and quiet—the Rory in front of me made a quick scan and then we moved on. Passing the staircase, Rory aimed his rifle upstairs. He made a hand signal which I interpreted to mean the other Rory and I should watch for any of Jimmy O’Shea’s men jumping out from the upstairs hall and trying to shoot us from the top of the stairs. None did. We continued through toward the games room. Its door was two inches ajar. Rory paused just before it, then kicked it open and leapt through with his rifle ready. His feet made a splash. I followed and bumped into him, for he had stopped just inside the doorway. He lowered his weapon. I peeked over his shoulder. The Rory behind me jabbed me in the side. I turned around and he furrowed his brow at me.
“What is it?” he whispered.
I didn’t know what to say. He poked his head through the doorway then squeezed past the first Rory and I and stepped into the room.
“Bloody hell,” he said.
“Something like that,” said the first Rory.
Inch-deep in blood, with butchered bodies strewn everywhere, the games room was like the Colosseum arena after all-star weekend. The stench was horrendous. The Rorys walked in and looked around. I stayed by the wall and watched.
“It’s a massacre,” said one of the Rorys.
“Have a look at this,” said the other, standing in front of a body slumped against the bar fridge.
The deceased’s face was swollen and purple and sickeningly disfigured. I could only look at it for a second. Rory next to the body leaned down and picked up a fourteen-inch-wide cast-iron frying pan. The pan was battered out of shape.
“I reckon I know what killed him,” he said.
Gunshot wounds, stab wounds, broken bones, crushed tracheas, severed limbs and a hip dislocation I would not have thought possible. Guns, knives, broken bottles, a guitar string noose, a house brick, billiard balls and a broken wooden shield. A horror movie villain could not have produced such carnage, with such a variety of implements, with such imaginative cruelty, and with such precision as did the perpetrator of this bloodbath.
And there he was.
The Rorys gathered at the pool table and studied in astonishment the little clone with the narrow head. On top of the table, with his rump in the air and his stunted legs splayed and dangling, the clone balanced perfectly upside down. Beneath him lay his final victim. It appeared the little clone, in a kamikaze finale, had forced his entire baguette-shaped head into the man’s mouth and down his throat, asphyxiating him. It was hard to imagine the struggle that would have taken place, but the look on the victim’s face—his eyes frozen wide open in pure horror—gave the gist. The two Rorys tallied the bullet marks in the little clone’s vest and arms and legs.
“Thirty-six,” said a Rory.
“One of those was LaShawn’s,” I said.
“LaShawn shot him?”
“No, I mean LaShawn got shot while wearing that vest.”
“Oh. Thirty-five then.”
Thirty-five. Thirty-five bullets had struck that rugged little clone, and he still eliminated at least nine of Jimmy O’Shea’s men.
At the back of the room, footsteps came up the basement stairs. The Rorys and I aimed our guns. A whipbird called.
“Ezra?” I said.
“Yeah. Who’s there?”
I blew a relieved sigh and lowered my gun.
“It’s Miles. And Rory.”
Ezra came up the stairs, his sword drawn.
“Ezra!” said one of the Rorys.
Rory went over to hug Ezra, but Ezra held him at arm’s length and stared at him.
“You okay, Ez?” said Rory.
Ezra grabbed Rory’s sideburn and yanked it.
“Ah! Damn it, that hurt,” said Rory.
Ezra nodded, then hugged him.
“Thanks for coming,” said Rory. “Were you in on this?”
“This wasn’t me,” said Ezra, looking around the room. “It was like this when I got here. The little fella must have gone nuts. He’s a berserker.”
“Where’s Budgie?” I asked.
“He’s in the tunnel,” said Ezra. “He’ll be safe there.”
“How are his eyes?” I said.
“Well, he’s not blinded, but there’s some damage. I washed out his eyes and bandaged him up, but he’ll need proper treatment.” Ezra noticed the other Rory. He looked suspiciously at the two of them. “Are… are you…?”
“I’m Rory,” said the Rory next to him.
“How ya doing, Ez?” said the other Rory.
“Rory?” said Ezra.
Ezra stood silent for a moment.
“Check the tattoos,” I said. “Optimus Prime’s legs are blue on Rory, and red on the clones.”
The Rory next to Ezra showed him his forearm; Optimus Prime’s legs were blue. Ezra stepped over to the other Rory.
“Show me your tattoo.”
The other Rory looked confused but held his forearm out for inspection. Optimus Prime’s legs were red.
“Right,” said Ezra.
He bent down and dipped his hand in the blood on the floor, then stood and slapped his palm on the Rory clone’s bare scalp, smearing a thick red handprint.
“Ah, damn it, Ez!” said the Rory clone, trying to wipe the blood from his head. “What did you do that for?”
“I need to know who is who, and I can’t keep checking your tattoos.”
The real Rory smiled.
“Is LaShawn with you?” asked Ezra, wiping his hand on his pants.
Rory looked at me, then back at Ezra. “He’s taking care of something else.”
Ezra looked at Rory with concern. Rory nodded that all was in order.
“All right then,” said Ezra. “Next move?”
“Upstairs,” said Rory.
The clone raised his rifle with a fierce grin. “And settle the score with Biscuits O’Shea.”
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