Mar had never been more uncertain of anything in her whole life, which was saying something, since she had lived nearly half of it through a zombie apocalypse.
She looked over as the doctor while he hurried to pack his meager belongings. Keith was a handsome man, even though he was probably three times too old for her. Sometimes she wondered almost as much about why a psychiatrist would be willing to bed a girl that was still officially a minor, as she did about why she would want to be with him.
Since he was older, it did she make her feel safer. He was more than happy to tell her what to do and make the decisions for them, she just wondered if this time he was wrong.
Part of her really thought it could have something to do with her mother telling Mar she would never be good enough to marry a doctor. Mar wished she could show her mom how wrong she had been, too bad she was dead. Mar wondered if her mother stumbled around as a Walker. Never stopping, never resting. Hell, who am I kidding, my mom would just give me shit because the doctor I’m dating is black.
Keith’s voice jarred her back to the present. “Hurry Marry, I spent too much time helping Ann. I don’t want them to leave without us.”
“Why would a psychiatrist think that helping that poor traumatized girl was a waste of time?”
He stopped and took her into his arms for a big hug. “Oh honey it’s not like that. I don’t want you to think of me in that way. I’ll be happy to do everything I can to help her. We just need to get somewhere safe first.”
“Are you sure we’re even doing the right thing leaving? Rollie told me that some of the others are thinking about staying.”
“Then they’re fools. Even if we had enough bullets to stop them, why would we waste all our ammo for such a thing? Our bullets should be used to keep us alive not kill a bunch of Walkers than can be avoided.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“Of course I am, dear. Now finish packing. I know Mitch wouldn’t want to leave his only doctor behind, but it’s best to avoid pushing our luck.”
She fell back into packing without a word. Still, her uncertainty plagued her.
* * *
Devon and Emily had entered the small room that hung from the ceiling of the gym. Most of the equipment the school might have stored there had been removed. In its place three gagged and bound adults lay on a filthy floor. The corner of the room held a hole, which from the looks of things had been the closest thing to a toilet these captives had been allowed.
Drawing closer, Devon took in Haeds’ prisoners. The oldest of them was a man whose hair had lost the battle against grey. He was a taller gentleman and the calmest of the lot. He sat propped up against the wall with relief painting his features.
Beside him lay a man who was probably on the happy side of thirty and still wore his sheriff’s uniform. His brown eyes burned at Devon’s and both he and the woman were trying to shout through their gags so loudly that they drowned out any chance of him catching a word.
The woman might have just turned twenty. Her once attractive waves of brunette hair, hung in tangled dreads. He guessed that she couldn’t be freed fast enough if her screaming and thrashing against her bonds were any indication.
He freed her gag first.
A stream of words came out so fast that he could barely comprehend them.
“Listen, slow down,” he said. “You can relax, but if you want me to free you and these guys here, you’ll need to start making sense and let me know what has happened to you.”
She took a deep breath, eyed Emily for a moment, and then continued. “We were captured by my evil ass brother. Believe me it’s a long story.” She paused. “How many are you? How did you get by the dead? Did you kill them all?”
He rubbed his forehead and then sheathed his pistol. “Listen you’re going to let me ask the questions around here if you want to have any chance of making it through this mess.”
“Sorry, we’ve just been held captive for so long. Can you even guess how horrible it was to be locked up here day after day, month after month? The smell, worst then anything ever and knowing it would never go away. And the moaning.” She began to cry. “How could my brother have become so evil?”
“Oh shit,” Emily said. “Come on, can we just let her go, Devon.”
“Will you and your friends promise not to go screw-job on me or go for my guns or anything? If you do, I can add you to my long list of breathers that I have wasted.”
She looked up at him through red-limed eyes. “I’m sorry. We’ve just been here so long that seeing you feels like a dream. We’ve been hopeless for so long.” The sheriff moved and garbled speech sounded behind his gag. “But yes, we’re safe. We are, or at least were, nice people. I barely even feel human anymore.”
“Crap,” Devon said slowly, while looking at their wrists. “I don’t suppose you folks know where any keys to these handcuffs are? It will be hard as hell to get you down this ladder without them.”
He pulled down the sheriff’s mask as he spoke and the man started talking at once. “No her brother is completely insane and very dangerous. He has the keys. You need to get us out of here before he comes back!”
“Yeah, yeah, he’s the least of your worries. The guy goes by Haeds right.”
“Yes and he-”
“Likes to play with zombies. Yeah, I know the guy. My friend Brown has got him. Most likely the guy’s spilled his guts to him by now.”
“Is he okay?” The young woman asked. “He’s bat shit crazy, but he is still my brother. Actually screw that. I just really hate the son of a bitch and was hoping that I’d be the one to put down his sorry ass.”
Emily had removed the gag from the second man and he joined the conversation. “Hello, I’m Doctor Fosters. You have met Becca and Sheriff Dells. I know we don’t owe you anything less than our lives, but we have been enduring this living hell for so long that we would love to know who you are and what you’re planning to do next.”
“A doctor huh,” Emily said.
“Don’t get too excited,” Dells said, as he awkwardly rose to his feet. “He had his doctorate in Chemistry. He isn’t an MD.”
“That could turn out to me more useful for some of the things I have in mind.” The two men flashed him perplexed looks, but he continued. “My name is Devon and this here is Emily, the best sharp shooter this side of the apocalypse.” She gave them a pretty grin. “We—well we are doing a lot of things. Chief amount them is freeing the city of Tucson from its walking dead problem.”
“Part of our long term plan might involve your brother. So if I release you, you have to promise to do two things. First you must swear to follow my lead until the mess Haeds got us into is complete. And I mean this. If we release you it is in exchange for your aid for at least this one mission. You freedom in return for being mercenaries—you might say.”
The three shared glances, but it was the sheriff that answered for them. “I think we can agree to that, but we’ll have some questions that will need answering.”
“And you have them answered as we see fit. Right now, we just need to get out of this prison of yours.”
“What’s the second thing?” Becca asked.
“For now, at least, I want to keep your brother alive.”
She scowled but nodded. “Okay, I might have a hard time killing him anyway, despite all he has done.”
Dells grumbled under his breath. “I wouldn’t.”
Devon paused looking from face to face. “The real question is, can any of you tell me where this nut-job kept his weapons?”