This is Issue #76 of Dead Frontier by Walkerbait22, titled Down and Out. This is the fourth issue of Volume 13.
Issue 76 - Down and OutEdit
Roxie stands in front of the Hyatt’s gates, gloved hands stuffed into the pockets of her coat. The engines of the cars behind her shut off, leaving the outside in total silence as the two guards and Hiro wait for her to say something. Anything. A few curious onlookers from inside the hotel, including Cole, Alec, Jake, and Aubrey, finally decide to leave the safety of the lobby to observe the commotion outside. Hiro, somewhat confused, notices that this makes one corner of Roxie’s mouth turn up into a smirk.
“I hope everyone’s having a Merry Christmas,” she says, loud enough for each person in the vicinity to hear her clearly. “I just thought this was the perfect day to pay the acclaimed Hyatt a friendly visit. It is the day of giving, right?”
Cole grabs Hiro by the arm and whispers in his ear, “Who the hell is that?”
“She said her name was Roxie,” Hiro responds just as quietly.
Cole thought that name was old news, that mentions of this mysterious woman would vanish. At least that’s what Alexander told him, but here she stands.
"It's probably not the kind of giving you'd expect at Christmas, but I'm here to give, once someone gets that dickhead Alexander out here." No one moves, each set of eyeballs glued on her. This seems to frustrate her; she sighs loudly and repeats, “Once someone gets that dickhead Alexander out here.” Archie seems to take the hint, and he scurries back into the hotel to fetch Alexander.
"Very nice group of people here. Very nice," Roxie continues, the cold air transforming her breath into a crisp cloud at every word. "I really, really hope I wasn't intruding on any Christmas festivities."
"What the hell do you want?" Hiro asks boldly. Roxie's smirk grows into a full on smile, and she takes a few steps towards the gate.
"Patience is a virtue. You'll find out in just a minute."
After that minute is up, Alexander finally appears outside, his face conveying pure terror and confusion. He barks for someone to open the gate, and when it is he stomps toward Roxie, a little too aggressive for her taste.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Alexander demands. Roxie lifts up her hand, palm forward, directing him to stop, which he does.
"Jimmy and Kris weren't at our meeting spot yesterday," Roxie explains. "That's the second time this month, Alex. I agreed to your stupid compromise that we trade somewhere other than the hotel, yet you don't even have the consideration to agree to that deal. I'm hurt, to be completely honest with you."
"I told you, I needed time...C-can we do this someplace else? Not in front of--"
"I told you: I'm not. Fucking. Around. I am speaking English?" She puts her hands on her knees and leans forward, in the position you'd speak to a child, and says especially slowly, "Can...you...understand...me? Yes?"
"Roxie, please. I'm doing--"
"I've given you various warnings. Very nice warnings. Slaps on the wrist, because I like you, Alex. I think you're a good person. But slaps on the wrist can only go so far." She turns away from Alexander, to one of the ominous black cars behind her. The tinted window rolls down and a gloved hand hands her something. A pistol. She waves it toward Alexander as she walks to the gate.
"Wh-what are you doing?" Alexander asks, following at her heels.
"Just stay there, Alex, and it'll be better for you." When the bystanders behind the gate first take sight of the gun, there are a few gasps and a few try to hurry back inside the hotel before Roxie stops them: "Oh, don't any of you fucking move."
She paces from one end of the gate and back a few times, inspecting each terrified and worried face. Her gaze falls on Cole, but she doesn't seem to give him the time of day. Finally, she stops, her glare fixed on Aubrey. Jake has her arm clutched tight, his knees shaking.
"You. Beluga whale over there," Roxie says, nodding her head to Aubrey. "Out here."
"What? Me? Why?" Aubrey asks, her shaking voice barely audible.
"Does it matter?" Still, Aubrey doesn't reply. "Okay. It's because you're fat and you stand out from the rest of these assholes. Good enough reason?"
"Why---what are you going to do?" Although, she already knows.
Roxie sighs and holsters the pistol. "Who's this?" She points to Jake, whose eyes have since begun watering. "Your kid?" Aubrey nods twice. "Unless you want this kid to find what I'm planning to do first hand instead of you, come out here."
"Mom, no. You don't have to listen to her," Jake says, and his grip on his mother's arm tightens considerably.
"This is absolutely unnecessary," Alexander says. "You'll get everything you want, just please don't do anything drastic. Aubrey has a son, for God's sake."
"So you're saying you want me to pick someone else?" Roxie says.
"No, of course not!"
"Okay then. 'Aubrey,' past the gate please...Holy shit, lady, are you deaf?” Roxie turns to the cars once again and claps her hands together twice. Two men dressed in black, one bald and one with close cropped blonde hair, exit the car to the right and calmly, and with a sense of intimidation, barge past the still open gates and grab Aubrey by both of her arms. They rip her away from Jake’s grasp and, instinctively, he runs after them, screaming for his mother. One man turns, leaving the other in full control of Aubrey, and punches Jake in the mouth before he can cross the gate. Jake falls and his head ricochets off the concrete. Cole runs to his side; he kneels down and inspects his bleeding lip.
The man carrying Aubrey throws her to the ground a few feet in front of Roxie; she tries to stand, muttering unintelligible pleas for her life, but he slaps her across the face, and she hits the ground, clutching her cheek.
“Make sure he doesn’t do anything,” Roxie orders her two men, and she nods her head towards Alexander. They each place a hand on one of Alexander’s shoulders, and the bald one presses the tip of a dagger between Alexander’s ribs.
“Dare you to try something, bro,” the bald man whispers maliciously. Alexander stares at the people behind the gate, pleading with their eyes for him to do something, at Aubrey, whom Roxie grabs by the collar and lifts to her knees. Aubrey stares at Alexander, her eyes never leaving him as the barrel of Roxie’s pistol is pressed firmly against her temple.
“This is what I'm giving today: a warning...a little preview of what’ll happen if you don’t get your shit together, Alexander,” Roxie declares. “Trust me. It’ll be a lot worse the next time. And kid, sorry about your mom.” Jake sits up, blood from his lip staining his hands, and he gets his first glimpse of the horrific sight. Roxie smiles at him and cocks her head to the side before pulling the trigger. A bit of blood spatters her pants and boots, and Aubrey’s body smacks the concrete.
The two men let go of Alexander and he falls to his knees, the tears in his eyes barely being held back. His mouth is slightly agape as he stares at Aubrey’s body, as are the onlookers behind the gate. Jake mutters something, ignoring the pain in his lip, and then he screams. He pushes Cole away and slowly crawls toward his mother’s body, nothing but sobs filling the frigid air.
The barrel of Walter's shotgun taps against the frosted window as Roxie and her group drive through the icy roads, a few stagnant, frozen infected lining the sides of the streets. Roxie has a content smile on her face as she sits in the second row of seats with Walter, Sterling driving, and Savannah sitting in the passenger seat.
"We headed to Martin's now?" Sterling asks.
Roxie thinks for a moment before responding: "Yeah. I'm up for it. Might as well get it over with while we're out here."
"Fine by me." Sterling takes a sharp left, and the cars behind him follow close behind.
"So, how'd you think I did out there? Practically shit their pants, right?" Roxie asks.
"Practically," Savannah mumbles.
"Wouldn't be surprised if they double their givings. Fucking Alexander...such a priss."
"And if they don't?" Walter asks.
"Double their givings. They don't take the hint and chicken out. We can't just take them out...their our main supply of--of meds, gas...valuable shit."
"The thing is, they won't. I promise you. I know Alexander, and as big of a bitch he is, he's not stupid."
Walter shrugs and leaves the issue to rest, putting all of his faith in Roxie. The rest of the thirty minute ride goes by smoothly. Roxie counts her bullets over and over again the closer they get as she hopes to get a few kills in herself at Martin's camp. Martin, the one man who pushed his luck too far and overestimated the degree of Rosie's leniency. And now he pays the ultimate price.
The road leading up to the camp is littered with frozen infected that crunch under the cars’ tires. The guards at the gates have no time to react as a few of Roxie's men lean their sub-machine guns out the window and open fire.
“Jake, calm down!” Cole shouts, he and Alexander running after him through the lobby where people stand frozen in place as news of what just happened outside trickles in. It’s only been around ten minutes since Aubrey’s demise and Roxie’s subsequent departure from the hotel, her message ringing as loud and clear as the gunshot she delivered to Aubrey’s head.
“Th-this is his fucking f-fault!” Jake screams. His fists are clenched and shaking at his sides as he looks for someone, something, to vent his rage on. The nearest thing is a lamp set on a stand next to a recliner; he grabs it forcefully, pulling it out of the electrical socket and slams it to the ground. He next eyes one of his paintings of Alexander advertising the Hyatt and he stomps toward it. “Fuck this fu-fucking place and fuck you!” He pulls the painting from the wall and throws it to the floor, where the frame shatters into miniscule pieces. He retrieves the actual painting and stares at Alexander as he rips it in two.
“Jake,” Cole repeats, and he grabs the boy by the arm, firmly but gently. “Listen to me. Calm down. Freaking out like this isn’t helping anything.”
“Calm down! You’re t-t-telling me to fucking calm down!? My--my mom just g-got shot and she’s fucking dead, and you want me to calm down? He’s the r-r-eason my mom’s dead,” he shrieks, pointing at Alexander, “and you want to tell me--” Suddenly, like a video on repeat, he continues to visualize his mother’s collapsing body and how powerless he was, unable to do anything. He wipes a mixture of tears and blood from his face and backs up until his back hits the wall. He covers his face with his hands and slides to a sitting position. “She’s dead, oh, God, no...What am I g-g-gonna...”
It takes a few hours for Jake to calm down at least somewhat. Cole makes the short trek to his room and stands in front of his door for a few seconds before deciding to knock. There's a few rustling sounds, then Cole hears feet sliding across carpet.
"Who is it?" Jake's congested voice asks through the door.
"It's, um, it's Cole. You probably don't want to talk, but I wanted to make sure you're doing alright, buddy."
There's a few seconds of silence before Jake retorts, "I'm not fucking d-d-doing okay, so thanks for visiting."
"Look Jake, I understand what you're going through, okay? I get it."
Jake scoffs. "You s-s-saw your mom get shot in the head by some psycho bitch? Right."
"No, I didn't. But I understand more than you think. I lost my mom, too, and I wasn't that much older than you. For six years, I pretty much watched her die. So sick near the end she could barely move. Couldn't even talk to me for the last few months because she was so weak. And then I had to watch that fuckface called a father blame her the entire time for putting a dent in his wallet. So yeah, I know the anger you're feeling right now. I know it.
"And all I wanted the entire time was someone to talk to, someone to tell me everything was gonna be fine, eventually, but I shut everyone out. It's hard, but I know you'll be okay. It sounds like bullshit now, but it's true." There's a silence on the other end of the door that, a few seconds later, is broken by the sound of weeping. "Jake? H-hey, I'm in room 532 if you ever need anything. I'll be there."
"And that's it for the broadcast today...anyone that might be listening," Alec says into the microphone in Regency Radio's studios. "We're back on at 9:00 tomorrow. Merry Christmas. Sure as hell wasn't very merry for us." With that, the bright 'ON AIR' sign above his head goes dull, and he pulls the headphones off his ears and places them around his neck, as do Devon and Duke.
"Good show, guys," Lienne says solemnly. She sits on a stool in one corner of the room after listening to the last hour of their broadcast.
"Thanks," Devon says, and, sitting between them, she pats Alec and Duke on their shoulders simultaneously. "Good show."
There's a few seconds of silence before Duke asks, "Have, um, any of you planned to talk to Jake? I know you all are pretty cool with him..."
"Nah," Alec says. "He probably wants to be left alone for a little while. I know I would."
"You sure?" Devon asks. "If he wants to talk to anyone it'd probably be you. You can...you can serenade him.”
“Ah, yes, me singing him some Marvin Gaye will cheer him right up.”
“Try Al Green.”
“No Michael Jackson?"
"Oh, my God," Lienne gasps. "You two are too cute with your banter. When's the wedding?"
"Yeah, Alec, when's the wedding?" Devon teases.
"Um...no comment," he responds, and his eyes dart to the other side of the room as he begins to whistle nonchalantly. He suddenly stops and props his feet up on the table in front of him. "Speaking of weddings and cute banter, Lienne..."
"Um, yes?" Lienne responds with raised eyebrows.
"How's your love life going?"
"My 'love life?'"
Alec nods. "Uh," she continues, "I don't believe that's any of your concern."
"Oh, come on. When was your last girlfriend?"
"At a time when I didn't know you."
"So a long time ago?"
"Wait, hold on a hot second," Duke says abruptly. "'Girlfriend?' You're gay?"
"Pretty much," Lienne says, nodding.
"Shoulda known as much when you turned me down..."
"Anyways," Alec says, grinning at Duke, "you should get back in the game."
"I'm perfectly fine staying out of the game," Lienne responds.
"Okay, Lienne. To be honest, you're kinda sorta hot," Devon says, and Duke nods. "It'd be easy pickings for you here. We'd even set you up."
"Oh, God, this sounds like the beginnings of a sitcom."
"Or the blossoming of love," Alec counters. "Look, it'll be fun. You can go on dates, see how things work with a few girls...it'll be cool."
"Alec, you are the last person I'd want as my matchmaker--"
"Ha. Damn," Duke interjects.
"--but, okay. I guess. No harm done."
Alec bolts up in his chair. "Okay? Yes! I'm going to find you the hottest, sweetest, funniest girl here." He takes a quick glance at Devon. "Besides Dev, of course. Otherwise, we'll hook you up."
Dinner is quite solemn that night, but everyone is gathered around a table: Cole, Adam, Billie, Chloe, Griffin, Devon, Alec, Lienne, Duke, Tora, and even Hiro, whom Tora convinced to join. He sits next to his sister, silent and scooping a tasteless, lumpy substance into his mouth.
"Lienne's gonna have her a bitch before the night is over,” Duke says with a nod.
“‘A bitch?” Tora scoffs.
“Oh, excuse me. A date is what I meant to say.”
“Don’t push it, Duke. I’m only agreeing to it so you guys can have some fun,” Lienne says.
“Why don’t we start now?” Duke taps his finger on his chin, thinking. “Devon’s taken...Chloe’s banging Griffin...Tora’s too old--”
“Oh, wow. Thanks,” Tora says with a smile.
“Duke, don’t even go there,” Billie says, laughing.
“Aw, come on! Don’t even want a taste of the other team, pun intended?”
The table erupts into chuckles as Billie shakes her head and says, “I don’t know. But I know the other side would appreciate--”
She’s suddenly cut off when Hector says from behind her, “Billie, I need to talk to you.”
The entire table turns to him, expressions of disbelief reigning across their faces. “Look who left their room...” Devon remarks.
“Excuse me, but I don’t have any dealings with the rest of you. I’d like to talk to Billie alone. If you’d please...?” He gestures for her to rise, but she stays planted in her seat.
“Why would I want to fucking talk to you?” Billie asks.
“Now that that...woman has arrived here, there are some things I’d like to explain to you. And only you.”
He leans in close and says, “Because you know me better than any of these idiots here. I know you would ignore me if I found you alone, so I came here. Please, just listen to what I have to say, and maybe you will understand why I did what I did. I just need you to forgive me. For someone to. Come with me. Please.”
Billie scoffs in his face and turns in her chair. “Just go away, Hector.” He stands up straight, and his blood begins to go hot. He glares at the disapproving faces at the table, and, in his rage, grabs Billie by the wrist. She nearly falls out of her chair, but she recovers by holding onto the table.
“Why won’t you just fucking listen to me?!" he shouts, spittle flying in her face. "Why won’t any of you?! I am trying to help you!”
Adam stands, his chair falling to the floor behind him, and he places a conciliatory hand on Hector’s chest. “Hey, hey, hey, chill with that,” he warns. All eyes in the cafe turn to their table in the center. Yet Hector doesn’t loosen his grip, tightening it instead, and he bores his eyes into Billie’s.
“This is the last chance you will get. The last time I will try to help you. You know I’m a good person, Billie. You saw it. Give me a chance.”
She doesn’t even have a chance to respond before Devon delivers a slap to Hector’s face so hard he’s forced to let go of Billie’s arm. He stares at Devon, that slap emphasizing the fact that they’re not going to forgive him. Not now, and not ever. And that’s where their biggest mistake lies.
- Happy Birthday, KuT (May 21st, 2013)