This is Issue #69 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Two-Face. This is the third issue in Volume 12.
Issue 69 - Two-FaceEdit
"He was in my office?" Alexander shouts. He slams his fist against the granite counter, accentuating his fury. "W-what was he doing? How did he even get in there?"
"He was just standing there," Lucy answers. She sits in the leather recliner a few feet away from where her father stands. "But he told me he looked through your papers and stuff."
Alexander rubs his temples and groans. "This fucking guy..."
"Want me to talk to him? I think I can get him to stop being so Goddamned nosy."
"Please do. Or I'm going to have to deal with him one way or another."
Walter’s fist hovers over Roxie’s door. When he finally builds up the courage, the three knocks echo throughout the peaceful area outside. He whistles a repetitive tune as he waits for someone to answer.
The door opens, and in the dim lighting of the room, a woman’s dark figure stands in front of him. Her body language emanates impatience.
“What is it? It’s late,” she says. Her voice is tired, but sultry and inviting.
He steps inside warily. “Sorry, it’s, uh, it’s Walter.”
“No luck again, I’m guessing. Can’t say I didn’t expect it.”
“...This is the third time in a row.”
“I fucking know that. And Martin denied us--again.”
“That’s two strikes. Have you told him...?”
“Yes, I’ve told him,” she says. “I’ve told him too many times to count. One more time, and he’s out.”
She blows out the nearest candle, leaving them in almost total darkness. He clears his throat, though he’s rather surprised she hasn’t exploded yet. Now, he can actually detect the tiniest bit of fear.
“You look...a bit tense,” he says at last.
“That’s because I am. But it’s good you’re here then, right?” She grabs him by the neck and pulls him in for a deep kiss.
“So, Jake,” Billie begins. She sets her elbows on his desk in the library and leans forward. He gulps audibly and preoccupies himself with a pen. She takes it from him and sets it back in the mug with the other writing utensils, and he’s forced to look up at her, lest he look like an idiot staring at the surface of an empty desk. “You’ve been here for a pretty long time, yeah?”
“W-well, yeah. Almost s-s-since th-the beginning,” he says, stumbling over his words more than usual. “S-sorry, I’m just kind of...kind of nervous. A little. Not r-really. Whatever. Pretty girls usually d-don’t usually talk to me alone. Or go n-near me.”
She smirks and decides it best to use this fact to her advantage, choosing to not break eye contact with him. “A little birdie told me, maybe you know something that Alexander’s not telling us.” His eyes shift to the left for a fraction of a second, so she takes this as a yes. “I’d appreciate it if you told me whatever you know.”
“It’s not my place to t-talk about it anyway. It was a m-mistake, honestly.”
“What was a mistake?”
“Nothing. N-nothing was a mistake. Forget I s-s-said anything.”
“You could be helping a lot of people, Jake,” Billie says.
He sighs and looks down to his hands, fidgeting with his fingers. He’s silent for a few seconds, and she waits patiently for an answer. “You c-can’t tell Alexander I t-told you.”
“Okay. It was a f-few days ago. I saw Al-Alexander taking tons of food from the pantry. Like, stuffing it in this bag non-stop. I-I was confused, so I followed him. Fr-from the window, I saw him meet up with these tw-two guys--I couldn’t s-see their faces that well--and give them a bunch of stuff. They started shouting at Alexander; I don’t kn-know why, though. He--he kept shaking his head ‘no.’ Then, they left.”
“And he caught you?”
“I asked him what he w-was doing out there. He fucking gr-grabbed me and threw me against the wall. Th-thought he was gonna kill me. But he told me to go t-to his office later, and he warned me not t-to say anything. That’s it. Scary thing is, he’s never been like th-that. Angry and violent. Never. Not as l-long as I’ve been here anyway.”
“Jake, you are the best,” she says at last, leaving him there to curse his big mouth.
Lienne can’t keep the smile off of her face as Robbie continues with his childhood story. She leans forward in one of the lobby’s recliners and sips on her water.
“I thought he was gonna wring my neck he looked so damn angry. But I couldn’t gonna let that happen, no way. I had a date the next day, with this cute girl from the car shop.”
“Oh, so we’ve got a player over here,” Lienne says with a smile. “Did your dad catch you or what?”
“Shit, he caught me. I couldn’t sit for a week that belt stung so bad. Had to ask my teacher for a pillow just to sit at my desk.”
Lienne almost spits out her water in her laughter. “Oh, my God. That’s embarrassing.”
“Yeah, you’re laughing now, but you don’t know the pain I felt that day, girl.”
“It’s so hard to believe you were such a bad kid. You’re so...nice and everything. And all into Jesus.”
“I was a little asshole. I look back on it and feel bad for my mom and pop. I changed though, I changed. You wouldn’t believe me in my twenties, either,” Robbie says. “I was a damn mess. But as soon as I get my life together, all this craziness with the dead people happens.”
“Seriously? What was your deal?”
“I was just...it was a time I’m ashamed of. Don’t like looking back on it, to be honest with you.”
Lienne doesn’t feel right with the darker turn the conversation’s taken, so she prods Robbie to tell her more about his bad-ass teenage antics. As she listens about the time he stole his father’s cane and sold it for a few bucks, a door slams from behind them.
Marsh emerges from the door to the basement, clutching his left hand. A bit of blood seeps through his fingers as he speeds through the lobby.
“What happened?” Lienne asks, legitimately concerned.
“Don’t worry about it,” Marsh responds harshly and goes to ascend the escalator.
“Geez. He’s sort of a dick...”
“He’s been having a tough time lately,” Robbie says. “I don’t blame ‘im.”
“Ugh...But is it just me, or has he been in the basement a lot? Everyday for the past...week or so he’s been creeping around in there.”
“...Hm. I think we’d make a good Holmes and Watson,” Robbie raises his eyebrows and smirks.
They wait a few hours, into late evening, when the lobby is mostly empty. At the basement door, Lienne hands Robbie a bobby pin and he leans in front of the door handle. Surprisingly quick, he picks the lock and pushes the door open.
“Aye!” someone calls from a few feet away, the quick patter of footsteps accompanying the yell.
Robbie turns and sees the friendly smile of Duke. “What’s goin’ on?” Duke asks.
“We’re just...we had a great interest in the basement all of a sudden,” Lienne says. “Very nice place down there.”
“Uh huh. Come on, man, I ain’t gonna rat on y’all. Ain’t like that. Tell me what’s up.”
“We’re...investigating,” Robbie admits.
Duke knits his eyebrows together and follows them at their heels.
The basement isn’t a conventional basement; instead of stairs, it leads down on a slope to a dimly-lit corridor with several doors on each side. There’s a small amount of garbage littering the concrete floor that they step over.
“What are you up to in here, Marshy...” Lienne mutters to herself. She has to admit, this place makes her uneasy. She was never a stickler for enclosed spaces, either. “You two check the doors on the left wall, I’ll get the right.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Robbie replies.
Most of the doors won’t budge, but a few are unlocked; however, their contents are unexciting, with most only containing empty boxes and spiderwebs. They don’t even know what they’re looking for--or if they’ll even find anything--but they venture to the end of the basement corridor anyway. Towards the end, something on the floor catches Lienne’s eye; she bends down and makes out a dark-red spot on the floor. She looks up, and sees that the trail stretches farther back.
She follows it absentmindedly to the end. The blood trail ends at the last door and she goes to open it.
Her hand hovers over the door handle when she hears that unmistakable noise. Muffled groans seep through the door, and she slowly backs away.
“What the fuck...”
Cole, Adam, and Billie have congregated in Cole’s room once again, this time along with Lienne, Duke, and Robbie. Dark circles have managed to creep under Cole’s eyes. It’s the third day in a row he’s been up until the dead of night, and it’s taking a physical toll. Now with the accusation of Marsh housing infected in the hotel’s basement, he begins to wonder if getting involved in all of this was a mistake. But he can’t take it back now.
He leans over the counter and rubs his eyes, eliciting a tired groan. “What the fuck is going on?” he says to no one in particular.
“This doesn’t make any sense,” Adam says. “Why would he have infected? Here?”
“You’re asking the wrong people,” Robbie adds.
“M-maybe we were just hearing shit, I don’t know,” Lienne says. “There could be tons of explanations for this. And we can’t just oust him. It was quiet; it could’ve been from outside or something.”
“You know what? I’m goin’ to bed. Let’s all sleep on this. Sound alright?”
They agree, and he, Lienne, Duke, and Adam head to their respective suites, leaving only Cole and Billie.
“You’re not going to bed?” Cole asks as she props herself up onto the counter.
“No. Because sleeping on it is wasting time,” she says.
“Time for what?”
“I’m assuming we’re not going to just sit here. We make our move and tell Alexander and Marsh we know what’s going on. If they don’t do something about this Roxie chick, we start telling people that their leaders are lying to them. Simple.”
“Billie, we don’t even know if Alexander’s actually giving them shit. We could just be drawing our own conclusions from this.”
“Then what else could it be? You saw his papers; we’re running out of supplies, fast.”
“And this is why we should sleep on it. Think things through,” Cole says.
“Oh, don’t tell me you’re thinking about backing out now. You started all this.”
“Of course not. Something’s gonna be done, I promise. But now, I just want to relax. This is all a lot to internalize.” He moves from the kitchen to the television and bends down to look at his meager selection of DVDs. “Wanna watch a movie?” he asks, lifting up a copy of Pulp Fiction.
To his delight, she ends up loving the movie as much as he does, though he does have to stop himself from quoting along with it the entire way through. “ ‘...And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee!’ ” Cole says with conviction a few minutes after they finish watching, imitating one of his favorite parts of the entire film.
Billie laughs and nods. “Holy shit. That’s impressive.”
“Oh, wow. Look at that.”
She knits her eyebrows together. “What?”
“You’re actually laughing. You don’t do that enough anymore, y’know.”
“Can I take this as a sign you’re feeling better? A little better, at least?”
“I guess you could take it that way. Whatever happened, happened. You can’t change the past, yada yada. I’m good, Cole,” she says.
“Good? How good?”
She shrugs. “Good enough that...I’ve even started seeing a guy. Hector. It’s nothing serious. He’s just nice. Really nice. And French.”
“Oh, shit. French? Accent and everything?”
“Yep. Accent and everything. Maybe it goes somewhere, maybe it doesn’t. Who knows?” She stands and smoothes down the front of her shirt. “I...should probably get to sleep.” They say their goodbyes and goodnight’s, and she’s off to the next room over.
The next day, Lienne finds Marsh storming through the lobby once again. She catches up to him and matches his stride. “So, what happened to your finger?” she asks.
He sticks his bandaged hand deep into his pocket. “Didn’t I tell you yesterday not to worry about it?” he spits back. He tries to quicken his pace, but she does the same.
“Any interesting stuff in that basement?”
He stops abruptly, leaving them both standing in the middle of the lobby. “What?”
“Just an innocent question.”
“Come with me. Now.”
Under the impression that he’s actually going to fess up about the infected in the basement, she follows him to the back lot. A few cars and jeeps sit, but it’s empty of any life. In the chilly air, Lienne rubs her hands together.
Before she can even utter a word, he has his uninjured hand wrapped around her neck. She tries to call out, but her words catch in her throat as he squeezes harder. Looking into his eyes, the light irises filled with rage and, as far as she can tell, a bit of fear, she’s contemplating the fact that he might actually kill her.
“I swear to God,” he seethes, “if I find out you said a word, one fucking word, I’ll crush your windpipe. So get your Goddamned nose out of where it doesn't belong. Do you hear me?”
She lets out a small whimper and nods. He responds by throwing her to ground, causing her to scrape her elbows on the rough asphalt. She wipes a few tears of anger and fear from her face and glares at him as he returns to the hotel without saying anything else.
- First appearance of Roxie.