Louisa had come to him yesterday afternoon, running through his potato fields. Robert put down his tools and winced as he watched her bruise the external image potato_field_1536x1024.jpgleaves of his carefully tended potato plants.

“Robert!” she hollered. She skidded to a halt in the mud before him.

“Louisa? What on earth has gotten you so riled up?”

Louisa bent over, supporting herself by putting her hands on her knees. She gasped for air.

“I had to come as soon as I heard. It’s Alicia. She’s come back.”

Robert froze. Alicia. Not a day had passed when he hadn’t thought about his wayward daughter. He hadn’t seen her in eight years. He grabbed Louisa’s shoulder.

“How do you know? Are you sure?”

“Positive,” she spluttered. “Dugal told me. But – it’s awful. They’ve got her, over at the Outback – “

Robert staggered backwards as if he had been struck. “Shit,” he hissed. “How did she end up there?”

“I heard she got mixed up with some bad stuff outside the city. The vigilantes brought her in and they’re holding her there. They’re talking about bringing her to the Tower.”

Robert ran a hand through his sweaty hair hot from the sun. “Dammit! How much time do we have?”

“Maybe a day. They took her over this morning; if they’re moving her, they’ll be doing it at dawn.” Louisa clutched at her frayed jean skirt. “Robert, what do we do? She’s in the vigilantes hands now; there’s no way we can – “

Robert composed himself. “Louisa, I need you go and run back to Dugal’s. Tell him he’ll get a year’s worth of potatoes if he returns the favor he owes me. He can meet me outside the Outback tonight at midnight. Once you’re done, you go home and pretend none of this ever happened.”
Louisa gaped at him. “But – what are you going to do?”

Robert thought of the old rifle stashed under his bed that he hadn’t touched in years. “I’m going to go and get my daughter.”

***

Robert picked at a bit of dirt lodged under his nail. It was a cold night, and his breath fogged in front of his face. He shifted his weight, and grimaced as his joints creaked. He knew he was getting old, but that couldn’t be helped. It was nearly one in the morning, and Dugal still had not shown. Candles flickered in the windows of the dilapidated house they called the Outback.

A cough sounded from behind him. Robert jumped and spun around, shakily pointing the gun at the intruder. A grinning Dugal McPherson held his hands in the air, a shotgun strapped to his back. Louisa stood behind him, wringing her hands and not meeting his eyes. Robert lowered his gun.
“Dugal, you son of a bitch. You just like to keep me on edge, don’t you?” The two clasped hands.

“Aye, Robert, that’s part of my payment; making you squirm. What’s this I hear about a year’s worth of potatoes?”

Robert nodded gravely at him. “That’s the agreement; if you can help me rescue my daughter.” He looked over to Louisa. “What are you doing here, Louisa? I thought I told you to stay home?”

Louisa looked up at him, defiance shining in her eyes. “Alicia’s my friend. I want to help, too. I’m not completely useless.” She carried a sling and a pouch of stones. Robert smiled at a memory of young Louisa and Alicia sitting in the potato fields, slinging stones at birds.

“Fine. Just don’t get hurt.”

The three of them crouched in the brush, waiting for a sign of movement. When there was none, the three crept closer, until they were right below the window. Faint sounds of conversation floated through the window. Robert craned his neck until he could see into the open window.

A woman sat slumped in a chair in the center of the room. Her back faced Robert, and he could not be sure of their identity. Three men and one woman were in the room, all holding guns of some sort. They all looked incredibly bored. Two sat at a table playing cards, one slouched against the opposite wall, and the other paced the room, pausing to shake pills into his mouth. Robert crouched to the ground again.

"Dugal, me and you will go around front," he whispered. "Louisa, you run back to those bushes back there. When I give the signal, you're gonna send stones at that window until they're dead. Got it?" Tight-lipped, Louisa nodded. She scurried off into the brush like a squirrel. Dugal and Robert circled around to the front of the house, positioning themselves within view of the door behind some old benches. Robert grasped at the wooden cross hanging from a string around his neck and mouthed a wordless prayer. He saw the moonlight reflecting off of Louisa's eyes anxiously peering out from over the brush. Robert raised his hand in the air, then dropped it.

Thunk.

A stone hit the wooden frame of the window. Then the tinkle of glass shattering rang out into the night. Robert heard voices within the cabin raised and the shuffling of feet on old wooden floorboards. Robert and Dugal took aim.