Barricade | 041

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She fought with the blankets that surrounded her to get away from me, but I took fast steps back to the bed, standing over her.

She managed to wrestle herself free and fell out of the bed, landing on the other side, the bed the only thing protecting her from me.

I held myself poised, still. She couldn’t make it to the door without passing me. The window was too high up to try and jump – and it was closed. She’d never get out in time.

For each card in my upper hand, she felt the blow. I could see it in her face, her deathly calm expression. The face of someone too lost to feel afraid, too far gone to panic.

I found myself pacing my side of the bed, unsure what to do. The memory of Jay’s broken words hung in the air.

“Annie’s gone.”

God, I hated her.

I could feel the knife in my hand, my grip steady and confident. I could sense another, darker version of myself, taking control. I could almost see the other me, raising the knife, finishing her.

I struggled to gain control of my rage, my absolute hatred of her.

She spoke.

“Charlie… Please,” Her expression not so calm now, my stillness unnerving her.

We were both unravelling.

I looked away from the desperation in her face, her trembling figure in the shadows.

“Charlie…”

Still I looked away. Silent.

“Where’s Jay?”

“He’s not here.” Rage made my voice rumble. “Are you alone? Where are the others?”

“It’s only me.” She slumped against the wall as she spoke. “They – ”

“Where’s Annie?” I interrupted her, making a move around the bed. Inching closer to her. “Is she okay?”

“She’s… she’s safe. I swear.”

“That doesn’t mean a fucking thing! You brought Colin here! Why did you…” I could feel the anger ebbing away, making room for a crash of pain.

I knew, then, that I couldn’t kill her. Not to save her.

To save myself.

“I had no choice!” She was openly crying now, sobbing as she tried to choke each word out. “Colin knew… That fucking bastard… We followed you.”

“There’s always a choice, Rachel.” My voice betrayed no hint that I would let her live, each word laced with blind hatred.

“Colin…” She gasped between thrashing sobs. “He said if we followed you, if we got her back, he’d let Danny leave the camp, let him live. I had to tell him what I’d done, Charlie! He’d worked most of it out, it was only a matter of time, but I couldn’t let them kill Danny…”

I stared at her, not speaking, not moving.

“They killed him anyway.” She whispered. “We took the child and by the time we got back, my brother was dead.”

I spoke before sympathy could get the better of me, could weaken me. “So now what? You thought you could just come back here? What do you want, Rachel?”

“I don’t want…” She moved away from the wall and near collapsed on the bed, sitting with each hand gripping the edge of the mattress. “Harvey moved them from McKenzie’s. We were just about ready to go… He told me not to bother. If I tried to follow them… I’d be joining Danny.”

“Jesus Christ,” I sank on the bed, near her but not next to her, keeping myself braced for another betrayal. “Where did he take them?”

“I think I could work it out,” She replied carefully. “They didn’t tell me exactly… I was on the outer by then.”

“And you would take us there?”

She nodded.

Her word meant little. I considered her still part of Harvey’s inner circle, someone who could be led to betray.

“I want that fucking bastard to pay.” She said, filling in my silence. Her voice quivered with rage and hatred, her fists clenched at her side. “He didn’t… I don’t even know what they did with his body.”

It was her anger that swayed me. She was reckless, hellbent on taking her anger out on Harvey. It was dangerous, risky, but we could use her.

My mind was working overtime.

Rachel was valuable. We had no idea where Colin and Harvey were, where they could have taken Annie.

“Okay.” I said finally. “Okay. I’ll take you to Jay. You’ll take us to them – to Annie – and then Jay can deal with you. Once we get her safe.”

“What will he – ?”

“I don’t know.” I was angry at her for even asking. “You’d just better hope we find her.”

“I understand.”

“We leave when it gets dark. I need to sleep. Did they give you any food?”

“No. Nothing.”

I hesitated, then rummaged through my pack and put a tin of tuna on the bed between us.

“Thanks,” Her voice stumbled awkwardly over the gratitude.

“Right.” I said. “I’m going to another room. Just… leave me alone until I tell you I’m ready to go.”

I backed out of the room, not prepared to turn my back on her. From what I’d seen she was unarmed, completely empty handed. They really had left her with nothing, then.

Still, I found it impossible to believe a word she said.

I headed to another bedroom, away from her. There was a small dresser near the door that I managed to drag over after some difficulty, barricading the door.

Nervously, I pulled a wooden chair over and pushed it up against the dresser.

Even if it didn’t keep her out, the noise would alert me.

I shrugged out of my pack and put my weapons beside the bed. I stood at the window for a long time, watching as the bleak darkness gave way to sunrise.

I felt nothing but exhaustion in every bone, every joint. I had been so sure that enlisting Rachel was our only option to get Annie back, but as I watched morning come, I doubted myself. I was more afraid of Harvey than I was even of the zombies.

We had to face him again, that much was certain. He was our only way to Annie. But knowing that Rachel was just down the hallway, Rachel who had once been considered part of his team…

I shivered in the cold light of dawn.

I wondered what they’d done to Danny, if his body had been at McKenzie’s when we’d looked for Annie. I knew our fate would be the same if we played our cards wrong, if we faced Harvey again and lost.

I had to think of a plan, some way of getting Rachel to Lakes without giving away the location of my aunt’s house. I worried that Jay had managed to set the house up for us and my leading Rachel there would ruin everything. We needed her, needed to use the information she had for finding Annie, but I expected her to doublecross us.

I wondered as I watched the empty fields around me if Danny was even dead.

But if I didn’t believe her about that, how could I believe her about Annie being safe?

I closed the curtains against the sun and stood as close to the door as I could get, listening. It was so silent elsewhere in the house that I felt assured Rachel was asleep.

I pulled the blankets back and huddled into bed myself, putting the knife as close to me as I could without actually having it in bed.

I closed my eyes and listened for the sounds of any movement, my distrust of Rachel taking the edge off my exhaustion.

Eventually I dreamed of Annie.

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