This is Issue #44 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Deceit. This is the second issue of Volume 8.
Issue 44 - DeceitEdit
Cole sits in the waiting area. He has his pen in one hand and his notebook in the other. He's written another few pages, but his mind has gone completely blank for now. Instead, he looks over his notebook and watches as Hannah sits in a small circle with a few of the kids in the airport, reading a children's book aloud to them. She makes silly expressions and voices as she reads; Cole can't help but laugh when the kids do.
She looks happy, like she almost has forgotten the events of two weeks ago when she stabbed the boy in the chest. But she hasn't. Something like that is impossible to forget. However, it helps for her to be around the kids, teaching them and making them laugh like she did before the dead took over.
After closing the book and shooing the kids away, she gets up and walks to the waiting area. She takes a seat next to Cole and lies her head on his shoulder. It’s unsettling to him how her usual bright, sea green eyes look so dull and uninspired.
“Hello,” he says. “Feeling okay?”
“Yep, yep, yep.”
“You look tired.”
“Sleep hasn’t really been my friend lately.”
“You should ask Jen for some sleeping pills. She should have some.”
“I have. They’re not really working, apparently.”
Cole sighs and scratches his head. “Is it because of what--”
“Yes, Cole, it is,” she says. Maybe, just maybe, if she hadn't stabbed that kid, those guys wouldn't have retaliated. And Elle would still be here.
“You know I don’t blame you for what happened to Elle. No one does. It was chaos; no one could have predicted there’d be other people there. It was just a coincidence that there was, and...you acted on impulse.
“She had a husband and little girl, you know.”
Cole digests this grim fact. He remembers seeing their faces at Elle’s funeral. A confused, fair-haired four year old trying to come to terms with the fact that she’ll never see her mother again. Then, a devastated older man, Jim, holding the girl’s hand. “You wanna know what Jim told me the other day?” Hannah asks. “He said ‘why wasn’t it you?’ He said that to my face."
"He...he said that to you? I'm--"
“I’m going to take a shower or something,” she says, ending the conversation. “I’ll see you later.” She walks away without another word.
Dwight is on the far end of the terminal with Robbie. He continuously adjusts Robbie's fighting stance. "No, like this. No, no. Your hands shouldn't be limp. There you go. Now punch." Robbie punches the air, but there's no power behind it. It's absolutely pathetic. "You're good with that knife, but total shit with your hands. No offense."
"Well, shit teachers have shit students, ain't that right?" Robbie says.
"Damn," Finn says. He was observing from farther away, but walks over. "Dwight, I think there's some burn medicine in the medical room. I'll get it for you."
"Ah, fuck you both," Dwight says. His eyes suddenly focus toward the window. "Woah, woah, woah, woah. Look." He points and squints. He can just make out three figures walking towards the gates. "Someone get Abe!"
People peek out of the tents or stop their various activities. Confused murmurs fill the room. "Is everything okay?" "What is it?"
A few infected chase after the three mysterious figures, but Billie, who’s on watch in the observatory tower, fires off four shots from her sniper rifle. The infected fall, and the three people continue running toward the airport. They’re stymied by the fence.
Abe emerges from his office. “Mulligan, Dwight, come with me.” He makes sure his gun is in its holster and jogs to the parking lot. Mulligan and Dwight follow closely behind.
When Abe reaches the fence, he points his pistol at the three strangers. One has a cut on his shoulder, and the other two look scared out of their minds. But it’s a good acting job, for they’re Dex and two other men from Charlie’s group.
“Who are you?” Abe asks.
“I’m Dexter,” Dex says. “Pl-please, my friend. He’s hurt. We ran out of medicine weeks ago, and we heard your radio broadcasts. Please.” He gestures toward one of the other men, who holds his bleeding shoulder. “He was stabbed.”
Abe eyes them suspiciously. “We cut the broadcasts two weeks ago.”
“We hadn’t heard them for weeks. We’ve been trying to get here for over a month. We kept running out of gas, and food. We ran into some bandits and...Please...we’re dying out there.”
“I’m sorry, but we’re no longer taking in survivors.”
Dex is taken off guard. This isn’t going according to plan. “...What? But you’re the fucking Air Force!” Dex shouts. “You’re supposed to help people. What happened to all of that rebuilding shit you were blabbering about on the radio?”
“There are several events that have led to this decision, and I don’t really have time to explain them to you,” Abe says. “So please, just go back to wherever you came from.” Abe stares Dex down, unflinching.
“Come on, Abe,” Mulligan says. “Look at them. You were the one that said you wanted civilization back.”
Abe turns on him. “After everything that happened with Harry, and with Elle, you want to bring strangers in here? Tell me, how can we trust them?”
“You need to get over this shit, Abe. Not everyone out there is a fucking psycho murderer, alright? So put your fucking ego in the trash for a second and help these people.” Abe stares at him, his mouth slightly agape, but Mulligan doesn’t back down.
“Ah, Abe. Come on,” Dwight says.
Abe takes one last look at the three strangers. He turns around and gestures for them to follow. Dwight and Mulligan open the gate.
Dex and his two friends from Charlie’s group, Miles and Quinn, sit in a corner of the cafeteria. Miles has a bandage around his shoulder. “You didn't have to stab so deep, man,” he says to Dex.
“We had to make it believable,” Dex replies. “So stop being a little bitch.”
“You’re not the one that was stabbed, so I think I have the right to complain.”
“So how are we doing this?” Quinn asks.
“We’ve just gotta gain their trust, and then we go from there,” Dex says. “Get to know the girl. See what she’s about.”
“Yeah, I’ll see what she’s about,” Miles says, raising his eyebrows up and down comically. “That’s her, right?” He points to Hannah grabbing a plate of food from the kitchen and taking a seat at the far end of the cafeteria.
“Not like that. And stop being so Goddamn pervy, Miles. You’ll scare people off. Be...friendly.”
“Friendly. Not pervy. Okay. But, there’s gotta be another piece of ass somewhere...her.” He nods his head toward Chloe.
“What the hell did I just say, Miles? You keep that shit in your pants while we’re here.”
“Do you even know how long---forget it. Asshole.” He takes a bite of his granola bar as Quinn laughs. “Shut up.”
Weeks go by, and Dex, Miles, and Quinn fit in well. Besides Miles trying to make a move on almost every female in the place but being rejected harshly each time, they blend in with the rest of the residents. Eventually, Abe stops observing them with his watchful eye, able to shake the feeling he gets about them and moves back into his routine. Quinn is able to keep in weekly contact with Charlie, using a walkie talkie he manages to hide. Everyday, he gets more frustrated he doesn’t have his hands on Hannah.
Miles sees Hannah moving a large basket of linens and blankets from her tent. He rubs his hands over his hair, slicking it back, and trots over to her. “Need help?” he asks, matching her stride.
“No thanks, Miles.” She forces a smile and tries to pick up the pace.
“No, really. Looks heavy.” He takes it from her and walks with her to the laundry room. So far, so good.
“Why doesn’t Cole do the laundry? Like, I mean, it’s the apocalypse, and he’s still enforcing gender stereotypes? What’s that about? Right?”
“It’s not a big deal. Seriously, we just play rock-paper-scissors for laundry duty. And he happened to win this time.” He uses his knee to help lift the basket as he opens the door to the laundry room for her.
“Well,” he says, setting the basket near the large tub of water, “I’d do laundry for you any day.”
“Now that you say that, I might just think about leaving Cole for you. Thanks for the help, Miles.” She takes a seat on the stool next to the tub. She picks up a shirt, and smiles at him, expecting him to leave, but he stands there longer than he should.
“I heard he cheated on you.”
Hannah inhales sharply, too sharply, and she begins to cough. That hasn’t been mentioned in--what?--almost 7 months? “Excuse me?”
“Yeah. Gossip spreads fast, right? So, is it true?”
“This really isn’t something I need to be discuss--”
“Is it?” he presses. She nods, and he smiles. “It hurts, right? I can tell. Every time he says ‘I love you’ or some other bullshit, you have to question it. Don’t you?”
“No. No, I don’t because that’s the past. And we both realize it was a mistake, and he admits it.”
“Man, you’re so full of shit. My God, it’s amazing.” He crosses his arms and leans against the door, which he’s closed long ago. “Ever wanted to get back at him?”
“I think you need to leave,” she says, back to focusing on washing the clothes. She curses herself for allowing the blood to rush to her cheeks.
“Just the tiniest part of you. Have you? Just to see what it felt like with another guy, to get even with him, you could say.”
“Holy shit. Are you really...? Whatever the hell you’re suggesting...forget about it. Because you’re the last person...” She takes a deep breath and wipes her wet hands on her jeans. “You really need to go.”
Miles shrugs, considers this a small victory. He saw her drop her guard, it was barely detectable, but he saw it. The trepidation that flashed over her face. “Think about it.” And he’s gone.
The next day, Dex and Quinn are gearing up for their a run in the waiting area. Only recently gaining Abe’s trust and showing their skill, this is only their second time outside the fence. Lucky for them, too, for they learn this is Hannah’s next rotation, along with Dwight and a young woman named Darcy. Dwight kicks their tent. “Come on, boys, let’s roll.”
Dwight drives along the nearly deserted road, where only a few stray cars change the otherwise monotonous scenery. He taps his fingers along the steering wheel to a classic rock song, then pulls over once he reaches a road lined with similar looking buildings. They grab an assortment of weapons from the back--Dex, an axe; Hannah, a hatchet; Dwight and Darcy, a knife; and Quinn a crowbar.
“Alright,” Dwight starts, scanning over the rows of stores. “How should we split this up?”
“Ummm, me and Hannah could take this one?” Dex says. He points to a small clothing store. “You guys, that big one over there?”
“Sounds good.” They separate, and Hannah follows Dex into the store. He opens the door for her and smiles.
“So gentleman-ly. Thank you,” she says. “Maybe I could find something nice here. Wardrobe’s getting kind of outdated, y’know?” She looks through a few of the racks and pulls out a red blouse, holding it over her torso. She’s looking in the mirror, observing herself, when she sees Dex emerge from behind her and smash the butt of his pistol across her temple.