dishes-297268_640

~~~

Gina quickly grabbed the shotgun and as many shells as she could stuff into her pockets. She picked up her pack and looked at the ragged remains of her group. They all wore terrified and exhausted expressions as if living from one moment to the next with so much uncertainty had permanently scarred their faces.

“We’ll try to avoid them if we can,” she said. “I’m not looking for another shoot out with these people. Just grab whatever weapons you can carry, your packs, and forget the rest. We’ll try to find another town to forage the remaining supplies we need.” She looked to Meredith as a desperate idea formed in her mind. “Meredith, can you sense them dead down by the lake?”

She didn’t even look up as she packed her belongings. “No, Gina. I can’t. I’ve managed to stay hidden within my own mind and block them out… all of them. I won’t allow us to be tracked again on account of me.”

Gina didn’t know what to say. She would have to address the matter later, if there was a later.

“What are you thinking, Boss?” Frank asked.

She flashed him a wicked little smile and said, “If we can get out of this diner undetected, we’ll make for the woods and follow the dead back to the lake.”

“Isn’t that what we wanted to avoid?” Stephen asked.

“She wants to put the dead in between us and those fuckers coming into town,” Frank said. “We know they’re there, and can sneak around them, but our new friends don’t. Gina wants to draw this group into the woods and let the dead have at them. Hopefully this buys us time to get around the lake.” He looked to Gina and winked. “I’m glad to see you’re still thinking clearly.”

She smiled. “I’m trying, Frank. Everyone ready?”

They all nodded.

“We’ll cut through the kitchen and sneak out the back door,” she finished.

Gina led them downstairs and into the restaurant. She signaled for them to stay low and away from the windows. She reached for the swinging double-doors that led into the kitchen and gave them a push.

The doors would not budge.

What the hell? She pushed again and then tried pulling on the doors. Nothing.

Before she had time to register the trap, Gina heard a gruff female voice from the darkest side of the diner. “Alright, people. You’re not going anywhere, so why don’t you place your weapons on the floor… now!”

Gina spun her shotgun in the direction of the voice and found five rifles fixed on her from various locations.

“Easy,” the voice said. “There’s no need to get your people killed today. Just lower the weapons… all I want to do is talk.”

Fuck! They have us right where they want us. Gina lowered the shotgun with a frustrated sigh. The others also lowered their weapons. “We’re not giving up our guns,” she said. “What do you want? If it’s the town, you can have it. We were just leaving.”

A big woman with short-cropped hair, wearing the remains of a dirty police uniform, stepped out of the shadows with her handgun drawn but pointing toward the floor. “Like I said, I just want to talk. Our scouting party spotted you leaving a park near here. Seemed like you were all in a big hurry so we followed you back to this diner to make sure you weren’t planning on causing my group any trouble. You’re weren’t planning on doing anything foolish with those guns, were you?”

“No,” Gina said. “We saw your group heading into town and wanted to be long gone before you found us. That’s obviously not going to happen now.”

“Obviously,” the woman said. “Is it just the five of you?”

Gina was sick of lying. “Yes. We’re no threat to you. My turn. Did Mother send you to deal with us?”

The woman said nothing at first, and then said, “I’m sorry, but I haven’t a fucking clue what you’re talking about.”

“We’ll see,” Gina said. She was prepared to raise the shotgun at any moment. From her right, Marcus was ready to move, machete in hand. Stephen managed to get behind the counter, ready to use it to fire from. She already knew that Frank was ready for anything from directly behind her. She looked at the woman’s uniform again. “Are you a cop?”

“No such thing anymore,” the woman said. “I used to be… if that helps ease your mind.”

“It doesn’t. What else would you like to talk to us about?”

“Well… I would like to continue our discussion outside in the light, so I can get a good look at all of you. Besides, there’s just too many itching trigger fingers in here at the moment.”

Gina felt cornered. What fucking game is this? She tried more honesty to buy them some time. “We were attacked when we first came here,” Gina started. “There was a vicious little group that took shots at us from the rooftop of that tall building down the street. We watched one of our friends get killed… and so we killed them.”

The woman said nothing.

Gina let her words sink in. She continued, “You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t seem eager to hand out trust at the moment. If you and your group are associated in any way with those murderers from the rooftop… then you and I have a real problem.”

“I see,” the woman said. “Let’s try to ease some of this tension. My name’s Samantha. Who am I speaking with?”

“Gina.”

“Well, Gina, I can assure you that if we wanted to cause you harm, we’ve had several opportunities to do so already. The fact that we didn’t open fire on all of you the moment you cleared those steps should earn us a little trust. Don’t you agree?”

“No… I don’t.”

“Okay. Let me put it another way: While we’ve been having this casual chat, my people have had time to surround this diner. You shoot us, we shoot you… maybe some of you are skilled enough to make it outside. Either way, people are going to die, and the rest of you will certainly die the moment you step out into the light. I would very much like to avoid that whole unpleasant possibility.”

“So, we either comply or the bullets start flying. Does that about cover it?” Gina asked.

“Yes,” Samantha said. “Again, I just want to talk. If everything checks out, you and I will have no problems being civil in this shit-hole town we’ve found ourselves in. We’re not here to rob you and we’re not here to avenge the deaths of those murderers you mentioned. So I’ll ask nicely one more time: Would you please step outside?”

Gina looked into the woman’s eyes and knew that she meant to get her way… or kill every one of them in an attempt to get it.

There’s only one choice to make, she thought. We either die in this fucking diner or get shot the moment we step outside. If this woman is telling the truth, we might live longer out there.

“Okay… Samantha,” she started.

“Please… call me Sam.”

Gina ignored this. “Hopefully that uniform you’re wearing wasn’t stolen off a corpse from the last group you killed. We’ll trust you… a little bit.”

“That’s good to hear, Gina.” Sam laughed at the corpse comment and finished, “Just look at me. I’m a big girl. Back in the world, I had to special order these fucking things to fit. I haven’t come across a female officer yet, either dead or alive, that isn’t wearing uniforms several sizes smaller than me.”

Gina allowed a brief smile to surface. She pointed toward the front door and said, “You first, Sam. We’ll follow you out… and that’s not negotiable. I want five minutes to talk to my people.”

Sam looked like she was about to protest and then nodded. “Fine. You’ve got your five minutes. But you will leave your weapons in the diner… and that’s also non-negotiable.” She signaled her shooters to step out from cover and they all promptly exited the diner.

As soon as the diner was clear, Gina took a deep breath and steadied herself on the counter. “Fuck, that sucked.”

“You did good, Gina,” Meredith said. “That could’ve ended badly… for all of us.”

She nodded and looked them over. “What do you think? I’m too damn tired to make this call. We can still try to run for it, guns blazing, or we can choose to trust them.

“I’m not ready to stop trusting everyone,” Stephen said. “That’s a lonely road away from ever becoming a society again. I’m for going outside and reasoning with these people.”

“Me too,” Meredith said.

Marcus simply shrugged his shoulders and said, “If all we’re risking is our lives… than let’s meet death head on. I say we go outside.”

Gina turned to Frank.

He refused to look at her.

“Frank?”

“Of all the people who survived…” he trailed off, shaking his head.

“What was that?”

Frank looked up at Gina and said crossly, “What are we waiting for? Let’s get this over with.”

She gave him a puzzled look and then stared at her shotgun. “Okay, big guns on the counter… but you all keep your handguns on you. She tucked her 9mm in the back of her pants and concealed it with her shirt. Everyone else did the same.

“If this goes sour,” she said, “we start shooting. We’re not going to be gunned down in the street without a fight.”

~~~

Gina was the first to step out through the glass doors. Samantha had not exaggerated. The diner was surrounded by guns. Most of them took position behind parked cars across the street. Some, like Samantha, were standing out in the open.

As the others exited the diner behind Gina, Sam’s eyes went wide when she saw Frank. She turned to a black man who was standing on her left and they both showed Gina’s group their backs as they appeared to be engaged in a heated discussion.

“Gina,” Frank whispered.

“What is it?” She refused to turn her eyes away from the female cop who was raising her voice while the black man placed his hands out to keep the peace. Gina decided that if the situation deteriorated, she would shoot the cop first, before she was blown away.

“Gina… whatever happens next is on me,” Frank finished.

Before she could inquire about his cryptic remark, the black man started toward them.
Sam remained where she was with her back still turned. To Gina, it looked like she was trying to calm herself down.

The black man made a show of putting his gun away as he slowly approached. He put his hands up and flashed them a toothy grin. “Good afternoon,” he said. “My name’s Orosco. It’s a pleasure to meet more survivors. We haven’t seen many on the road lately.”

Gina simply stared at the strange man. She didn’t know whether to shoot him or invite him to lunch. “So what’s the deal… Orosco? Do you always greet new people with smiles while you’ve got guns aimed at them?”

“The guns are just to keep everyone cool. Nothing’s going to happen as long as we all stay… reasonable,” he said with another smile.

Gina shook her head. She looked past Orosco and toward the cop. “What gives?” she directed her question toward Sam. “One minute you want to talk, the next minute I’m talking to this guy.”

Sam shot her a dirty look.

Orosco looked back at Sam nervously. He turned back to Gina and said, “Okay… like, here’s the deal: You are all free to go, except Carman… no harm, no foul. Just turn over the big guy and walk away. He’s the only one we’re interested in.”

Carman? Gina started moving her hand toward the back of her shirt.

Meredith gave Frank a worried glance.

He ignored her and focused entirely on the female cop.

“You want to run that by me again, Orosco? And who the hell is Carman?” She looked back at Frank who was as still as a stone.

It was Orosco’s turn to look confused. He looked at the big guy and said with a sigh, “You didn’t tell them anything, did you?”

Frank ignored the black man.

‘Well of course you didn’t,” he said with a laugh. “In light of the apocalypse, I would have done the same thing if I were in your shoes. That adds some complications.”

“Orosco,” Gina said, “no offense, but step the fuck back and bring the cop back here.”

“Enough!” Sam said, spinning around. She stormed toward Gina, drawing her gun. She pushed Orosco out of the way. “We tried it your way and I told you it wouldn’t work.” Sam lifted her gun toward Frank and said, “You all just stay out of my way so I can put that criminal in the ground where he belongs!”

Frank let out a sigh and let his shoulders droop. He never drew his weapon. I suppose I had this coming, he thought. Talk about your fucking karma.

And then Gina was standing in between them. She drew her gun and pointed it at Sam. “Stand down, bitch! NOW! Or so help me God, I’ll waste you!”

“You don’t want to do this, Gina,” Sam said with an amused expression. She looked at Frank and said,
“What’s the matter, Carman, you act like you’ve just seen a ghost?”

Frank let out another heavy sigh but refused to say anything.

Sam addressed Gina again. “Let me tell you who you’re traveling with: This man escaped my custody at the Eastlake Police Department where he was being held long enough to arrange his maximum security prison transport. When all hell broke loose, he threw me off a fucking roof, and then he got an injured man killed when he fed him to a mob of zombies to buy himself escape time.”

Gina was stunned. “Frank, do you know this woman?” she called over her shoulder. “What is she talking about?”

Frank remained silent.

“That’s right you piece of shit, I ruined your game. Now your friends know who you really are!” Sam enjoyed seeing the big man at a loss for words. He seemed much more menacing at the police station, but now, he was just another survivor willing to do anything to stay alive.

Sam turned back to Gina. “This man is a drug dealer and a murderer… and a fugitive from the law. So stand aside and let me end this.”

Gina tensed up. “No. Stand down or I will shoot you. I don’t care what he was before. The world is different now and so is everyone in it.”

Sam was getting hot. “Bullshit! No one gets a get-out-of-jail-for-free card just because the zombies took over. Frank Carman is an escaped convict… and still my prisoner. So, for the last time… GET… THE… HELL… OUT OF MY WAY!”

Gina aimed at Samantha’s head. “You are not executing my friend… not if you want to live.”

Sam smiled and aimed at Gina. “I gave you fair warning.”

“Sam, stop this,” Orosco said. “This is getting us nowhere.”

“Gina, I’m going to count to three,” Sam said. “If you’re still standing in the way when I’m done, this is going to get messy.”

Gina would not back down. She would not let this woman murder her friend… no matter who he truly was.

“One… Two… ”

“Hey!” boomed a man’s voice coming from up the street. “What the hell is this, Sam?

Samantha rolled her eyes and lowered the gun.

“Now you did it,” Orosco laughed.

“Everything is fine, Tony. We’ve got this under control,” Sam shouted back.

Gina also lowered her gun, but not because she was conscious of doing so. When she followed the sound of the familiar voice to its source… she was staring into the eyes of a dead man.

Tony froze ten feet from the dueling women when he saw the red-headed storm with the scar running down her cheek. All time suddenly stopped as recognition kicked in. “Gina?”

~~~

Next Episode (25-2):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/chapter-25-2-reunions-and-departures/

Previous Episode (24-6):
https://freezombienovel.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/chapter-24-6-blood-required/

~~~

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________________________________________________
“Chapter 25-1: Reunions and Departures” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr. From the Novel “Don’t Feed The Dark” Copyright © 2014 Scott Scherr.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission by the author.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental

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