“I’ll give you some time to consider what we’ve spoken about.” Harvey said, breaking the stretch of silence that hung in the air. “It’s not a difficult decision if you can remove your emotions from it. You want what’s best for her, or so we assume.”
Jay’s expression was hard, unmoving. He stared at Harvey wordlessly, every line on his face etched with hatred. Fury.
I stood quickly, if only to divert Harvey’s attention from Jay. Not wanting to give Jay a chance to speak, I spoke up in a level, quiet voice. “Of course. Is there somewhere we can go to discuss this privately?”
Harvey seemed pleased with my calmness, causing him to display another bout of what could only be uncharacteristic generosity. “Certainly. You may stay here in my office, I’ll give you some time to yourselves.”
With that he left, clicking the office door shut but not locked behind him.
“What the fuck?” Jay had moved Annie off his lap and was pacing our new prison furiously. He was red in the cheeks and his fists were clenched so tightly his knuckles were stretched and white.
“I don’t want to stay with them.” Annie stood in front of Jay, blocking his pacing. “I want to stay with you, and Charlie. Don’t leave me with him, he’s scary.”
“We’re not leaving you with these assholes.” Jay snapped. “Sorry, Annie, I’m not mad at you, okay? But there is no way in hell I am leaving you here.”
“We need to do this carefully.” I sank back into the chair. “We have no idea what these guys are capable of.”
“You think they – ?” Jay’s voice trailed off and he nodded, answering his own question. “You’re right. There’s something fucking wrong here.”
“There has been since we got here.” I said. “I don’t know what he’ll do to us if we say no.”
“He has to just let us go. I mean, we’re not the fucking enemy here. Jesus Christ.” Jay sat back in his own chair and pulled Annie back on his lap.
We had no idea what they might do to us. Harvey seemed dangerous, if only because he seemed to hold his power here like a trophy. He had some kind of survival plan, one that included Annie with a strange kind of reverence, but didn’t extend to even consider offering us any kind of shelter. The way he looked at Annie, like she was a thing he wanted for his master plan and nothing more.
We still didn’t know what they’d done to Danny, if anything.
As if she’d read my thoughts, the door slowly opened and Rachel entered, clicking it shut and leaning against it for a long moment.
“Harvey told me what they want you to do.” She said finally.
“We’re not doing it, so just forget it,” Jay spat. “I don’t know who the hell he thinks he is, but he’s not getting my sister.”
“Harvey can provide a decent home for her. Shelter, food. Protection from the zombies. We haven’t had any enter the compound since we arrived.” Rachel’s tone was almost pleading, reminding me that we had no idea whose side she was really on.
“I really don’t give a fuck.” Jay had stood again, pacing the office once more. “We only have each other, and I’m not letting that asshole take her away from me.”
“You know how we feel.” I said, my voice careful. “That’s why you’re so worried about your own brother.”
“I don’t know what they’re going to do to him.” Rachel tentatively took a seat in Harvey’s normal chair, her small frame out of place where his enormous one usually held power. “I don’t even know if they’ll let you go without the child.”
“Why does he want her so much?”
A harsh, bitter sound escaped Rachel. It took me a moment to realise it was a twisted kind of laugh. “Harvey and Colin have been talking about rebuilding. Repopulating, claiming some more land and defending it. Harvey seems to think the zombies won’t last long, and there won’t be many other survivors left.” She hesitated. “He doesn’t want to… hurt her. Just raise her, have another female in the group on his side.”
Repopulate. Rebuild. He wanted Annie because she was young, unrelated to everyone already here. An angry nausea bubbled in my stomach.
“You have to help us, Rachel.” Jay’s anger had ebbed away and he spoke now in a calm, rational tone. “Please.”
She didn’t speak for a long time, just stared at Annie, who looked back at her with enormous eyes. Finally she stood.
“Do any of you have a watch?”
We didn’t. She unhooked hers from her wrist and handed it to Jay. “Ask Harvey for more time. He wants her badly enough that he’ll give it to you, provided he thinks you’re going to do what he wants. Let him think that.” She paused. “It gets dark about 6:00PM. Danny isn’t allowed to run sentry anymore, so Colin has put me on the first night shift. We’ll have two hours.”
“What do you need us to do?” Jay had hidden the watch in his pocket.
“I’ll get Danny to distract Harvey, and hopefully Colin. About 6:15. You need to be ready to slip out the front gate. I’ll let you go.”
“What will happen to you and Danny? If they find out you helped us?” I had to ask. I still wasn’t sure whose side she was on, but if she was being honest, she was putting herself and her brother in danger. All of us feared Harvey, but none of us could be certain what he was actually capable of.
“I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. They probably won’t let Danny stay here much longer.” She was at the door now, hand poised over the handle. “6:15.”
As quietly as she’d come, she was gone once again. We sat in silence, lost in fear of what was to come.
“Annie.” Jay broke the silence. “Annie, we have to make him believe we’re letting you stay, okay? You have to just play along.”
She nodded just as the door swung open again. Harvey was back. We stood dutifully before him, my heart pounding in my chest. We had to fool him. He had to think we were doing what we wanted.
“I trust you’ve had enough time to consider my offer?”
I wanted to speak, but my throat was locked, my heart racing so fast I was sure everyone could hear it, feel it.
“I think we have.” Jay said, his hands on Annie’s shoulders. “We’d just like to spend the day together first. Charlie and I will leave during the night. Once it’s safer.”
“We won’t take any of your supplies,” I added hastily. “We understand what you said – about your stock here – we just want some more time together.”
The sick delight on Harvey’s face sent my mind into a spin. He looked as though he’d won some kind of prize, his shining eyes resting on Annie, a crazed sort of joy written all over his face. “Fantastic!” He cried. “Fantastic!”
“Can we have some more time, please? Alone?” Jay prompted.
“Of course. We have another small room set up, it’s quite private, I’ll see to it that nobody bothers you. Follow me.”
He led us to a tiny room on the other side of the sleeping quarters. It looked as though it had once been another office – a very small one – but it had been all but entirely cleaned out now. There was a desk that was bolted to the ground and I set Annie on it while he watched us, silently, towering over the room, his enormous frame consuming the entire width of the door.
“Do you have a plan?” He asked finally. “What time will the two of you leave?”
“9:00PM.” Jay answered quickly. “Charlie and I have worked out our next location. Leaving then will give us plenty of time in the dark to get there.”
We had no next location, of course, but thankfully Harvey didn’t ask any questions. He still had that odd, delighted look on his face, one that intensified each time his gaze crawled over Annie.
“Of course. I will come by just prior to that, to see the two of you to the gate. Thank-you for making the right decision for all of us.”
With that, he was gone. Jay clicked the door shut, leaving the room only dimly lit by the sunlight that peeked in through the small window overhead. He pulled Rachel’s watch out of his pocket.
We huddled together on the desk in silence. Once again we were waiting for darkness to fall. Our old friend, our security.
We didn’t speak. There was nothing to say. We had pinned all our trust and hope on Rachel, who could be just as crazy as Harvey and Colin.
As Annie leaned into me and I leaned into Jay, I saw the illuminated watch face one last time before I fell into troubled sleep.