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ou could tell without thinking who was at the festival.

Car gone. Lights thriftily turned off. Dog tied up.

Everybody piled into the vehicle and went together, and nobody locked their door. Or if they did lock it, they left the key under the mat or above the doorjam.

She didn’t even try sneaking, just made DaShawn sit scrunched down, as a black man would be the one thing that would arouse suspicion out here, with the engine idling, then walked right into the house and took what she wanted.

Not the jewelry. None of these dowdy farm wives had anything worth stealing.

Not the money. Money here had already been converted into combines, or livestock, or soybeans.

It was the guns she wanted.

Some kept them displayed in the living room, in a shiny walnut and glass case. If the case was locked, she had no problem grabbing a pot from the kitchen and smashing the case, grabbing all the guns and walking out the door.

If they weren’t in the living room, they were in the basement: red tile floor, pool table, makeshift bar, a couple of stools with black leatherette seats. Her stepfather had set up a bar in their basement like this, spent all his time down there.

That was one thing she’d loved about the houseboat: no basement.

This was the first house she’d been in where she hadn’t found at least one gun proudly displayed in the living room or perched on a rack in the basement.

She might have just walked out but now it was a challenge. There was nothing obvious about this farmhouse that made it any different than any other farmhouse. So where else might they be keeping the guns?

She checked the pantry and the coat closet but didn’t find anything there, which left the second floor. Wooden stairs creaking as she climbed, she stood in the second floor hallway and took in the layout.

Master bedroom, sun streaming in the windows, girly pink and white coverlet neatly on the bed. Sewing room with daybed pushed against one wall. Dinky little bathroom. And room with its door shut tight.

She approached the closed door. She pushed it open. It was dark in there, deep green shades pulled down against the sunlight. A little air conditioner hummed in one window, but still, the room smelled stale, like used towels and dirty socks.

In the bed, something moved.

“Mom?” a deep voice said.

She could just turn around and walk out, close the door behind her. He would probably just go back to sleep. She should do that.

But instead, she took a step closer.

“No, it’s not Mom,” she said.

Her voice, high, soft, got his attention. He half sat up on the bed.

“Huh?” he said.

She could see the gun now. It was mounted on a rack above his head. Although she already had more than 20 guns stashed in the trunk of the car, this was the one she wanted.

If she jumped on the bed and grabbed it, could she leap away and run out of there without him grabbing her, without him catching her? Maybe. But these boys were quick, she knew. These boys were strong.

She was already reaching for the top button on her blouse. Unbuttoning it.

“Hey,” she said.

She sat right on the edge of his bed, right next to him, still unbuttoning. When she was down to the bottom button, she pulled open her shirt. She wasn’t wearing a bra. She knew he could see that. She took his hand and placed it on her breast.

“Oh,” he said.

His hand was big, callused, but his touch was gentle. His mouth was open. He probably thought he was dreaming. Maybe that he’d gone to heaven.

She could push him back on the bed, climb on top of him, do whatever she wanted. And she wanted to. DaShawn, she had no use for. But this big farm boy, oh yes.

And then there was the gun. Maybe he’d just let her take it, after that. Or maybe she’d take it, and blow his fucking head off.

She leaned into his hand, and considered.

Read Taryn’s side of the story.

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